Come Winter | First Draft: Chapter 1, Scene 1

©2021 Michael Raven

Tucker only did it for the money. He’d be the first to correct anyone who accused him of taking pride in his work — there was no pride in doing what was, by all accounts, grunt work. But it was his bread and butter, it paid the rent and kept the multiple people he owed debts to at bay. But he hated the work with a passion and any pride he might have had in the distant past had evaporated on the hundredth time he undertook this kind of work. And this particular event was far beyond that marker.

Especially when the grunt work didn’t go smoothly. Take, for instance, this current job.

“Alfred!” his patron shrieked at the upright corpse sitting on the table. “Alfred! I know you think this is funny, but it is a very serious matter.”

Another man and woman sitting next to the wall of his basement office chuckled in their chairs. As far as they were concerned, everything was going just fine. Unfortunately, they were here only in the interest of being witness to work that may impact their future and they had no financial stake in the work itself. Making the corpse’s son and daughter-in-law happy would not fulfill the bread and butter requirements of the job and, when things went awry, customers who had little or no money to begin with were less apt to pay when they didn’t get the results they desired. Things happened to be going awry for the person who would be paying his bill.

“Mr. Kadash.” Tucker used the voice he used when dealing with a stubborn child or corpse. Soothing. Calming. The lingering hint of threat buried under a veil or two. “Please, sir, the time for jokes is over with. Answer your wife’s question, if you would.”

“Mongoose!” Mr. Kadash said with a grin.

The court officer was tapping his foot with thinly disguised impatience. “I was under the impression, Mr. Longley, that you were supposed to be a practiced necromancer. Order Mr. Kadash to answer his wife’s questions so we can be on with this.”

Tucker didn’t bother to tell him that’s not how it worked. He was perhaps the best necromancer within several hundred wheels — something the court officer knew well, having been to one of these events more often than either of them could probably count. If a corpse wished to be puckish or intransigent, well, everyone just had to deal with it until the subject tired of the japes. Which might be minutes or years, depending on the spirit’s inclination. In this case, Mr. Kadash was disinclined to be cooperative and no amount of applied will would change his temperament and no one wanted to wait for years to get to the bottom of Mrs. Kadash’s concerns

To satisfy the officer and his customer, Tucker had to at least make an effort to suggest that he was somehow in control of the situation. “Mrs. Kadash asked you a question, Mr. Kadash. Did you or did you not change your will to make sure that she would be financially cared for in the event of your untimely death?”

The corpse considered the question, or at least made gestures that implied a greater seriousness of the situation: a finger on the chin, a cocking of the head to the side…

“He’s obviously avoiding admitting that he did no such thing,” said the daughter-in-law before the corpse could respond. “She’s nothing but a gold-digger and a possible murderess. The ink on their marriage certificate was barely dry before he died. There are rumors that the wedding was not legal.”

“There was no murder,” Alfred interjected. “I died because of the sex. The mind-bending, animalistic, wild and torrid sex that what done did me in.” He turned to his bride. “That last time was… whew! I have no words for what it was… Just — whew!”

Tucker noticed that everyone’s faces reddened at the shared revelation, Mr. Kadash’s daughter-in-law positively glowed in the dim candlelight of Tucker’s sanctuary. And, though Tucker himself was used to the foibles of the recently deceased, he felt his own face warm a bit as he checked the widow’s reaction and the unbidden thoughts of being in bed with her raced through his head.

He shook those thoughts out of the space between his ears.

The only other person in the sanctuary seemingly unaffected by this pronouncement was the court officer, who was making careful note of the deceased words. Apparently, this was good enough to clear the young woman’s name of any murder suspicion and he was taking note of it. Tucker didn’t think Mr. Kadash’s spirit in particular was lying, but he resisted the urge to remind the officer that a corpse will lie as much or more than the living, depending on their motivations.

“Alfred, dear,” said Mrs. Kadash. “That’s very sweet of you, but I we didn’t raise you from the dead to talk about our, umm…”

“Fucking?” her dead husband offered up.

“…Intimate relations,” she corrected.

Mr. Kadash’s corpse frowned with disappointment.

“I’d rather talk about that. I miss it on this side.”

His wife redirected the conversation with a deft touch that impressed even Tucker, who was convinced he was one of the better smooth-talkers within the same radius as his skills with necromancy.

“We were establishing that you had indeed amended your will to provide for me in the event of your death, but your son and his wife claim that no such document was filed with your solicitor. I know you wouldn’t have overlooked something like that. Would you?”

Tucker had paid good money to block as much sound as possible from the outer world trying to reach the place he raised the dead for such things. Silence wasn’t essential, but it did help keep things focused for the dead and those wanting to talk to the dead. Normally, he could quite easily imagine the world had gone to the Shadowlands outside the double doors at the top of the stairs.

This day, however, normal seemed to have taken a vacation.

[1017 Words]

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