Those Exotic, Inscrutable Eyes

The Blemmya sat heavily on the old wooden chair on the other side of his desk and sighed wearily. He was a heavy sort of a thing, and for a second Crowell worried that the chair wouldn’t hold him up. It would look bad, the chair breaking underneath a client and dropping him on the floor, sure enough, but more than that he couldn’t afford to replace it if it broke. He’d have to go scrounging again – maybe go dumpster diving. The college was winding up for the year and there were always one or two pieces of furniture getting thrown away by students who couldn’t be bothered to resell them.

“Mr. Crowell?” said the Blemmya. He had a deep, deep voice, the sort of voice a building would have. Crowell had to lean far forward over the edge of his desk to make eye contact with the man – Blemmyae don’t have heads, just vague faces spread across their torsos.

“Mmm?” he said, vaguely. “Oh. Yes. What was it you wanted, again?”

“It’s my wife, sir. She’s gone missing, and I’m afraid something’s happened to her.” Maybe the chair wasn’t going to break after all. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to see if he could find something a little sturdier. You never knew – he might have more Blemmyae, if he made a good impression on this one. They tended to be clannish. Where one went, all of them went.

“How long’s she been missing?”

“A couple of weeks, I guess. Twelve, thirteen days. I’m not really sure.”

Crowell raised his thin eyebrows. “You don’t know?”

“Well, no, that’s the thing. She was off visiting her ma, up the Sound, and she never made it. She got on the train all right, I saw her off, and I know she got off at the other end – I called the train station, sir, when she didn’t come back when she was supposed to – but nobody’s seen her since then. She never even checked in at the motel.”

“She wasn’t staying at her mother’s?”

The Blemmya shifted. The chair creaked ominously under his wide thighs. “Her ma’s been dead for two years, Mr. Crowell. This was more what you’d call a memorial visit, flowers on the grave, that sort of thing. So maybe she saw her ma, maybe she didn’t, but either way it’s not much help.”

Crowell leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. He pushed his face around until it looked canny and reflective and made encouraging noises at his client. He was still thinking about where he could dig up some more furniture for his office, letting his mouth run on auto-pilot, trusting to the hidden microphones to remember the answers for him. Missing wives were a dime a dozen – he had a fairly good idea were to go to track down this one – but good office chairs were harder to come by.