Phyllis Esposito: Interdimensional Private-Eye #227

Ms. Moon just stared at me, her wide elfin eyes open with surprise and her mouth held in a tight line.

“What?” I asked. “Did you think I forgot?”

She took a quick shallow breath, and her brows turned downward. “So much has happened. I didn’t…” Her melodic voice tightened, and she trailed off.

“You hired me to find your brother,” I said. “Then we did, but you just got separated again. That thing we just fought wasn’t him. The original Alurian went out the window of my apartment safe-house. You said you thought the nanobots could have kept him alive. Well, I say we go and find out, one way or the other. And maybe, if he is still there…” I watched the glitter of nanobots crawling across the skin of my hand. “Maybe I can help him.”

I saw tears glistening at the corners of her eyes. She released a held breath and then offered a sad smile. “You know, technically I fired you.”

“Well,” I said, “I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but I actually don’t have that many clients. Can’t afford to let one go just because of a silly thing like getting fired.”

She glanced over my shoulder to address Henricks, who had some wide eyes of their own.

“What about you? I know that you and Alurian didn’t exactly get along.”

Henricks opened their mouth to speak and then closed it without saying anything. Then they frowned, looking at their feet while they considered. “Well,” they said at last, looking up to me, “It would have been nice to get an advance warning or some kind of discussion about this plan, rather than having it sprung on me by surprise.”

I shrugged. “We’re discussing it now, aren’t we? We’ll need the portal device.” I pointed at the orange briefcase. “But you don’t need to come if you don’t want to.”

They frowned. “I did not say that I would not accompany you. I just required a moment to… process my emotional response to the query.”

“Oh,” I said. “And how’s that going?”

“It is still in progress,” they snapped, “but I do have an answer.” They turned to Ms. Moon. “You know that Alurian and I did not enjoy one another’s company. However, that does not indicate that I wish for him to be stranded in an empty slice for all eternity.” They paused, and looked down at their tiny hands. “I have never had close familial relationships,” they said. “So it is difficult for me to understand what you must feel for your brother, given all that has transpired. However, it is evident that you feel a powerful emotional connection to him, even now, which I can respect.” They looked up, and there was as much emotion in their eyes as I had ever seen. “So in that spirit, I too would choose to help you find him, and to help him if it is possible.”

“All right then,” I said. “We’re a team. Should we… I don’t know… Do like a go-team or a special handshake or something?” I held out my hand.

Henricks and Ms. Moon both stared at me, aghast.

I lowered my hand. “Okay, never mind. That’s fine. Let’s just go then, shall we?”

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