Moving On

a story
flash-fiction
2017-09-17 10:15:47,
2018-05-23 17:58:13
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I wouldn't set foot in the Argenshire district today for anybody less than Arthur Grimwall. When I spot him, he is standing on the opposite end of the street, leaning on one of the lamp posts and frowning at the festivities around him with trademark disapproval. The streets are saturated with people celebrating Discovery Day and I watch a young boy run up to the coroner, handing him a colorful pamphlet and shouting something at him gleefully. Grimwall smiles almost kindly at the boy, then throws the pamphlet to the ground as soon as the boy moves on.

     "Where's your festive spirit, coroner?" I ask when I finally break through the crowd.

     Grimwall looks surprised to see me, despite being the one to arrange the meeting. "It's good to see you," he says, "please, get me out of here before they start dancing."

I have missed the old man.  I lead him around the corner to the side of the Medical College campus that faces the public, and unlock a narrow door in the gate for faculty entry. We reach the archival offices without meeting another soul. The campus is empty, of course. Nobody would miss a celebration like this.

    Grimwall sits in my desk. I make tea in silence.

     "I don't like this, Astrid," he says as I sit in the chair opposite, meant for guests. I am supposed to know what he's talking about.

     "I'm well, thank you for asking," I say sarcastically into my cup of tea. I know Grimwall too well to be offended by his lack of manners. "But if you'd care to elaborate on your last statement...."

     "Things are are changing, they've been changing ever since the Revolution, but it's different this time."

     "Bran thinks so too. I personally don't know what the fuss is about. Though I cannot say I'm a huge fan of our new leader. I was at the announcement yesterday. He gives me the creeps, and that's coming from someone who lives with the man whose idea of a good time is testing new poisons on desert mice."

     Grimwall chuckles and fidgets with the fountain pens on my desk, purposefully skewing them from their careful placement parallel to the left edge of the wood. "I'm an old man, Astrid. I don't think there will be room in this new world for someone like me."

     "What are you saying?"

     "I am resigning as Coroner."

     "Is that so? Is this like the last time you resigned?"

     "I had no choice. Vanderbuilt wanted to make me Chief."

     "Of course, what were they thinking, trying to make one of their best and longest serving detectives Chief of Police."

     Grimwall ignores me. "I've been thinking," he continues, "And it's time for me to serve my city outside of law enforcement. I'd like your help."

     He opens the leather bag at his side and pulls out several large black volumes. There are no inscriptions on the cover, but I know inside them is a vast amount of medical and chemical data from hundreds of the worst criminal acts from the past fifteen years.

     "I'd hoped I would never see those nightmarish books ever again."

     "I want to consolidate everything I have learned. If I can collect my knowledge in one place, teach others how to read blood and bruises the way that I can, how to document a crime scene... it could revolutionize the entire police system."

     I see the fire ignite in the tire old man's eyes. It had been a long time since I've seen him like this without a corpse on his examination table.

     "Where do I fit into this plan?" I ask hesitantly.

     "You know more than anyone else I am not exactly organized with my notes. I want you to help me amass everything, to categorize my notes so that I might make a coherent manuscript from them."

     "You know I haven't been your secretary for nearly a decade?" I say, only partially in jest. "But...of course I will help you, Arthur. On the condition, however, that upon completion I get to keep the original notes for the archives. I may hate these journals, but they will be be valuable to this city one day."

     "I acquiesce, with one exception..."

     I hold up a hand to spare him from bringing up the details. "I understand."

     "Thank you, Astrid. I will call on you again in a few days. We can work out the details."

     I clean up the tea and straighten out my pens.

     "I give it less than a year," I say to the coroner as he opens the door to leave.

     "What?"

     "This 'resignation' -- you'll be back there within the year. You never could stay away from that morgue for long, Arthur."


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