Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #2

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I’d been aiming for reassured, but my smile just broke through her resolve. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen someone on the elfish spectrum cry, but it really spoils the image. It’s not like in the movies, where they remain stoic and beautiful, while a single tear streaks down their cheek.

Maybe somewhere in the multiverse that’s true, but every time I’ve seen it, they cry just like humans, with all the same snuffling and whimpering and scrunched-up faces.

Dealing with emotional clients is a natural part of the business, but being used to it is not remotely the same as feeling comfortable with it.

“Please,” I said, “Ms. Moon. Have a seat. Would you like a tissue?” I offered her the box that I keep on my desk for precisely this purpose.

She recoiled like I’d offered her a wet dishrag and took a handkerchief from her purse instead.

That one, I took a little personal.

I replaced the tissues on my desk, while she took the seat across from me. She lowered herself into the chair with grace, trying to collect herself.

“I’m sorry,” she said, dabbing at her eyes. “I thought I could maintain my dignity, even now.”

Her makeup hadn’t smeared in the least. I wondered if it was a glamour.

“That’s perfectly all right, Ms. Moon, unless you’d prefer to tell me…”

“Yes, of course,” she said, a bit calmer now. The red in her eyes cleared in seconds. “I suppose keeping it from you would only slow your investigation in any case. I am Debralia Moonglow, and as you suspected, I am from another plane of existence.”

“I just call them slices,” I said, “But sure, I figured. How’d you come across? Accident? Magic?”

“I believe it was magic,” she said. “We paid a goblin to make the arrangements, but a wizard was present at the portal.”

I hoped my irritation didn’t show. Magic cases are a pain in the ass.

“You said ‘We’? Husband?”

“My brother.” She took a deep breath, and by now I could no longer tell she had been crying. “He had gotten into some trouble at home, and we needed to leave. The goblin promised to transport us both, but even though we stepped through the portal together, Alurian did not arrive with me. I waited for hours, but he never…” Her voice caught, and she stopped speaking rather than risk more tears.

“How long has it been since you came through?”

“Three days. I didn’t know what to do.”

“Did you try to contact the goblin?”

“He gave us an amulet that he said would allow us to speak with him, but it didn’t work.”

“I’m not surprised,” I said. “We’ve mostly got technology in this slice. Magic stuff sometimes goes wonky.”

She opened her purse and dug around inside. “I still have it, if that would help.”

I had already been playing things out in my head. Have Eddie Truth scry out the slice she came from, head over there to see if her brother really just hung back to let her go on without him, maybe track down this goblin.

But then, Ms. Debralia Moonglow handed me the amulet, and it was a USB Thumb-drive.

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