Accident Insurance

Here’s a short story about one of my favourite characters, created for collaborative work with my best buddy Gabriel (Brie). This is an early scene in Judecca’s history as a character, but was written looking back from a much more enlightened perspective. Poor guy has a lot in his future.

Accident Insurance

Public bathrooms are not the worst place to get into a fight, but they’re pretty fucking close. Think bathrooms – think any bathroom. Before you even get in there, there’s the fact that usually there’s only one exit. For anybody who has never tried to get out through one of those little grilled metal windows: don’t. That sink that looks so solid, built to withstand a thousand drunken nights, and then a thousand more? Shatters. Same for anything else porcelain, especially urinals. Think metal taps and underneath that metal pipes. Think sharp corners in an enclosed area. You might begin to see why you shouldn’t get into a fight in one of these places. Think panel mirrors where some guy last wiped his snot. You might not see the streak under the sick lights, but you just know. If the architect was being utilitarian, think cement floor. The kind that made it easy to mop up your face. With a little water, the place turns into one giant “CAUTION: WET FLOOR” sandwich sign with you as the little cartoon guy with no face. Don’t even start to think about the germs.

Judecca Matterhorn was only vaguely aware that he had considered such things about public rest areas, but his subconscious had, especially walking into this dump. Judecca’s job title was innocuous. Cleaner was a euphemism for “the guy with the body bags”, and that was Judecca.  He was in charge of his department – the Head Cleaner – so he was first on the scene. He stood under the whining fluorescent lights, in front of the one unbroken mirror, staring into it and reconstructing the scene from what lay before him.

There was something about his face. Judecca had had plastic surgery on his nose. Some people thought him vain for that, but he had a reputation as a guy who knew how to take care of things, and nobody ranked on him too much about his nose-job. Who would dare? The truth was, looking too conspicuous or ugly in this business was a liability. As with all the Underground’s professionals, Judecca was expected to do what was necessary to keep his job as low-risk as possible. So he got his broken nose fixed. J. C. Penney models tended not to cart off bodies.

Bloody public bathroom, he thought to himself, and smiled but barely because it was literal. He had been called to this job by a Mr. Sanrevelle, someone who knew his reputation and worked at the school. When he got there, the bathroom was quite flooded, the water coloured with the sick pink tinge of diluted blood. If one walked a little further in, the dead boy’s body lay loudly silent. His feet stuck out from the stall in which he had fallen. The face was unrecognizable – had been stomped through the ceramic toilet bowl, which was not a bowl any longer. Judecca already knew his name though. It was Innocent Bystander. Surveying the current damage, he marveled at how spread-out the carnage of one body could be. The dead guy deserved a proper burial. His body would get cremated and buried with some other body. Judecca could arrange for it at the nicer funeral home he frequented. There was his first decision made. Now, how hard would it be to match the make and model of the toilet on short notice?

Judecca knew the guy responsible for the dead boy in the bathroom. The chain of events Judecca had put together probably wasn’t even close to what Laurent Cecosta had actually done – what he was capable of doing. This kid had probably just been walking by, thinking he might take a piss before his next class. Cecosta would have dragged him in. People like Cecosta didn’t need any weapons but the ones some twisted evolution had given them: claws rather than hands and feet, unyielding bone and muscle instead of limbs, teeth in place of lips. He was part of their little Underground family, though, and that made him immune to a lot of things. It was nepotism at its finest.  Cecosta would have grinded him against the nearest surface available. He might have raged at the guy for existing. At any rate, something hadn’t gone his way. This wasn’t the first time Judecca had to deal with one of Cecosta’s messes.

Judecca inventoried the equipment they would need to remove the traces of the cadaver that were rubbed into the tiled floor. Ammonia would ruin any blood samples, and it was not uncommon to find in the cleaning supplies of most janitors. Vodka was an excellent cleaning agent as well, especially for fabrics, but this place had no carpet. Despite his plans for cremation, a bone saw would still be necessary to sneak out the remains, along with a sturdy, waterproof bag, preferably black. Oozing, spreading stains were sort of tell-tale. As for the rest of the damage, he would have an Underground plumber there in five. The rest of his regular crew were in transit.

No sense in staying strangers, Judecca thought, and checked the corpse’s wallet while he waited. Maybe Cecosta didn’t like it when other people watched him take his sedatives. Had this Tobias gotten into Cecosta’s face, or something trivial like that? Judecca kept picturing a version of events where Tobias didn’t fight back. Sure – nobody learned to throw a punch anymore, since society was so peaceful. In his mind, Cecosta’s fists tore into Tobias’ face with wet crunches. And that was where the toilet stall came in.

Cecosta shoved him in, then kicked his head into the bowl. Tobias would have been stunned from the earlier battery and just laid there while Laurent Cecosta dropped his foot once, twice, three times, twelve, loosening the moorings. Or maybe there had been no preamble: Cecosta just saw the kid come in, threw him in the toilet stall, and stomped him into the ground regardless of the bowl in the way, or more likely because the delightful obstacle. Maybe that was the whole story, and no provocation needed. Cecosta could have done the rest of the damage without someone to throw around. Maybe he had done it out of sheer spite.

Tobias Redding’s personal belongings would be found in his gym locker, where he would last be seen by Several Reliable Witnesses. His disappearance would not come as a surprise to his teacher and confidant, Mr. Joao Sanrevelle, who would later say in an interview that Tobias had been considering running away from home in the last few days before his disappearance. The teacher would express his sincere hope that the boy be found alive, well, and soon. His parents would grieve, but at least they could still hope for his return.

The knock at the door came soon enough for Judecca to feel a flare of pride in how well-organized his team was. They weren’t many. They were just effective. He moved to the door and unlocked it, opening it slightly to the face of a stranger who had no doubt seen his outline in the window.

“Hey, I really need to go. You the janitor? My teeth are floating.”

Judecca shook his head, and for a minute wished that he could deal with this as unthinkingly as Cecosta had. “Flooded.” He finally said, and indicated the water on the green and white tiles behind him. The young man at the door peered in with a “holy shit.”

“You don’t want to see this.”

“I’ll bet,” said the stranger, neck twisted in his strain. His sincere sheep’s face was hard to hate, but Judecca managed. He had to get this chucklehead to leave.

“This is a construction zone as of now. Repairs. You’re not insured,” said Judecca. He flashed one of his many badges, and shoved the door shut in Baa Ram Ewe’s face. He locked the green door and peered through the frosted panels just once before turning back to his work. It would be ironic if this was the dead kid’s favourite stall – did any of the back wall doggerel belong to Tobias? If so, it was now his epitaph.

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