Inez stalked up and down the room, back and forth like a caged animal. It wasn't her bad habit, it was the cat's, but she indulged it when she wanted to. The cat liked to stalk when it was anxious, and if this didn't cause anxiety, nothing would.
“So you are saying to me, Miss Temple, that the body of Mr. Burl Jewel Junior, the youngest son of the mayor of this community, was gone when you arrived this morning,” said Mr. Stoddlemiejer.
“Yes sir, no body snatchin' went down after I got here. I can guaran-damn-tee you that much,” Inez snapped, crossing her arms under her chest. She didn't like the little squirrel of a man's tone. Not one bit. Was he accusing her of something?
“You are absolutely certain that... Never mind.” He shook his head and pursed his thin lips, pinching the bridge of his nose between two fingers. “And what time did you get here, Miss
He kept emphasizing the Miss, as though her age made her somehow culpable for the missing corpse. “I got here same time I always get here, 'round 1pm to clean up after the mornin' funeral.”
Temple, we call them services. It is more polite to the grieving family.” He snapped. Her cat wanted to show it's teeth and hiss, but she refrained. It certainly was not her fault that Burl Jewel's body was missing from it's coffin, but she seemed to be taking the brunt of blame.
then. I reckon I'll go get the sheriff, Mr. Stoddlemiejer. We need to be about notifying the proper folks about what's been happenin'.” Said Inez.
“Now you hold on a minute,” said Mr. Stoddlemiejer, grabbing Inez's arm and holding onto her as though she had bolted for the door. “No one needs to know about this. If you cooperate with me, we can save the mayor from the post-death trauma of having his son's corpse disappear.”
“What are you sayin'? That we should bury an empty casket? Don't you reckon someone might notice?” Inez asked, her huge blue eyes widening in confusion and more than a little shock.
“I'm saying that if you listen to me and do exactly as I say, I get to keep my job and consequentially so do you,” said Mr. Stoddlemiejer.
“That don't seem right to me. Not one bit. Folks should know where their kin rest. That's the way it goes. It's just what's right. This is bigger than our jobs, sir.” Inez reasoned. She shook off his hand and took a step for the door.
“You can't do this. I've taken care of you for years!” He shouted.
“If you call lettin' me live in that run down shack out back in exchange for me workin' my fingers to the bone cleanin' and scrubbin' and cookin' for you taking care of me then you are as insane as you look! If you ask me, it's me who has been taking care of you.” Inez shouted right back.
“If you tell one living soul that Burl Jewel's body is missing then I will tell them you are some kind of witch and you stole the body for a voodoo ritual. Don't think I won't. The population is still primarily elven in the Fingers, Miss Temple. They will believe me over the likes of some trampy human orphan. Do you hear me?” He was thinking fast. “If you breath one word, I will tell people you do things
to these bodies that come into my funeral home, and they will believe me.”
“That is evil. Evil begets evil.” Inez was scandalized. They would believe him. She knew it, most people hated her based on her race alone.
“Threats, as unkind as they may be, are at times quite useful. If you tell anyone, the sheriff, Mrs. Jewel, a roach as it crawls across the windowsill of MY rundown shack that I so kindly allow you to reside in, I will ruin you. I won't enjoy it. I will agonize over it for eternity. I may even shed a tear as I watch them hang you, but I will have no choice. I will say your words are the vomit of a crazy human woman's twisted mind.”
“I cannot stand by and let you lie to that boy's family. It ain't right.” Inez insisted.
“And I cannot allow you to speak the truth.” “
I can't stay here no more then.”
“I am certain that your absence will be a huge loss to our community,” said Mr. Stoddlemiejer sarcastically.
Inez turned and walked away. She didn't know what else to do. She went to her home and packed what little she possessed, not much more than the clothing on her back. She walked away,without looking back on the swampland that had been her home. It had not been an easy life, but it was all she knew.
At first, she traveled alone across the abandoned plains of Carolain, enjoying the solitude. Then northward she went, toward Andoria, until she finally reached the capitol city. As it rained, she walked up and down every side street looking for just the right inn. Inez didn't have much in the way of cash, but she knew how to work, and she planned to get a job as a barmaid to earn her keep. Finally, she stood on the outskirts of town staring at the Bad Moon Inn. Something about it called to her, for some reason it seemed... familiar. And that was how she found herself walking up the steps of the tavern as the last rain drops fell.