Short Story: The Last Case of Detective Moore

There was no better example of the phrase “better to burn bright than to fade away” than Detective Alvin Moore. He represented both sides of that axiom. Lined on the walls of his office were the newspaper articles testifying to his ability to burn bright. “Mob Rings Busted” and “Millionaire Murder Mystery Solved” headlines tell the story of how Det. Moore once stood proudly, a crackerjack detective who was even envied by the FBI. Rumors persisted he turned down job offers from the G-Men and Scotland Yard. The magnetic force that was Det. Moore drew in even foreign agencies.
One article though was not hung and framed on the office walls. It was in a desk draw, at once buried underneath supplies and constantly available to be read by Moore. It was the last article written about in a while. The headline: “Authorities Too Late to Save Boy”. The photo: a weeping mother. Not pictured, a family friend, one Det. Moore, bending over a sheet-covered body of a boy no more than six years old. Staring at the face of the boy until the coroner pulled him away. Still staring at the boy in his mind.
On top of that desk with the drawer containing the unhung article was a man fading away. Slumped over, sleeping off his liquid breakfast, which he had ate all of as the empty bottle of gin could swear to, was Detective Moore. His office could use a maid. But she left four months ago when Moore could no longer pay her. His secretary left two months ago, more out of frustration than lack of payment. It wasn’t like Moore didn’t receive customers and cases. His reputation, slipping as it was, still carried a lot of weight in this city. But Moore simply turned them away or, even worse, took them up only to quickly lose interest and drive and abandon the case and the people who were hopeful for his help. The last person who walked through the door marked “Alvin Moore, Private Investigator” left with a black eye. It was a new low for Moore. But then again, it seemed like every day brought a new low. Until this day.
The door bell rung out as the entrance way was opened. A spiderweb fell apart and sent the eight-legged creature away from the bell, onto the ground and into the hallways. The intruder that disturbed its home was careful not to step on the scurrying arachnid. For this, the spider was grateful.
As the door opener stepped into Moore’s office, backlit by the light spilling in from the hallways, Moore dozed lightly. The unknown person took a few steps towards Moore and pondered why Moore was chosen in his current state. The empty liquor bottles, the discarded and overflowing trash on the floor, the unkempt appearance of the lump of mass sleeping on the desk seemed to be indication of the unworthiness of this version of Moore. Surely the Moore from the articles on the wall could have accomplished something, but not this one. Those framed articles burned brightly in the intruder’s eyes. Maybe it was possible for that Moore to still exist. Finally, the intruder called out, in a strong feminine voice.
“Detective Moore? Detective Moore, please wake up…”
Moore mumbled something then slowly blinked awake. He reached for the empty gin bottle, still half-asleep, and knocked it to the floor. It shattered into little pieces. That spring Moore to attention. Instantly, the last mists of sleep were gone.
“Goddamn it! I could have gotten a few cents for that at the plant. Plus there might have been a few drops left…”
The woman started again. “Detective Moore?”
Moore spun around, noticing the woman for the first time. He blinked again in rapid movements, not believing his eyes. Never before had Alvin seen such beauty. Long flowing blond hair, a figure that an hourglass would die for, and her eyes. If eyes were the window into the soul, Moore was sure this lady’s soul was full of wonderful things.
“Excuse me, ma’am, but surely I must be dreaming or you wandered into the wrong part of the city, cause dames like you don’t come around here.”
“I assure you, Detective, I know where I am and you are certainly not dreaming.”
Moore started cleaning up his desk. “Well, Miss, I haven’t had a visitor in a while.”
“Yes, since you punched out a Mr. Brandon.”
Moore stopped cleaning. “You heard about that?”
“There is little I don’t know about you, Detective Moore.”
Moore collapsed into his chair. “And yet, you are still here.”
“Yes.”
“Why?”
“My boss has a case for you,” the woman stated.
“Your boss?”
“Yes.”
“Why isn’t he here?” Moore asked.
The woman moved closer to the desk where Moore was sitting. “He knew you would be more open to listening to me than him.”
Moore looked over the beauty once again. “He certainly got that right.”
“The case is simple. You need to recover an item. An artifact of sorts. We know who has it. We know where he is-”
“Then what do you need me for?” Moore interrupted.
“My boss does not care to interact with these sorts of people. Plus, he is a very busy man.”
“So you get the guy with nothing but time and blood on his hands?”
The woman took a deep breath. “Not exactly. Believe it or not, my boss actually likes you. Liked how you helped those who could not help themselves. He considers this job payment in return for all of that. It is a very simple case.”
Now it was Moore who took a deep breath. “Well, I am at a disadvantage, you see?”
The woman furrowed her brow in confusion. “How so?”
“It seems you and your boss know all about me, yet I don’t even know your name.”
The woman smiled and her eyes twinkled. “It’s Angie.”
Moore got up from his chair, spent a few seconds straightening himself and thinking things over and walked over to Angie. He took her hand and shook it.
“Pleased to meet you, Angie. And I’ll take the case.”
“You’re not even going to ask about the money?”
Alvin smiled. “Something tells me you are good for it. And that you are the sort of person who can’t help themselves.”

Moore arrived at the address given by Angie some time later. Not surprisingly, it was in the rundown section of town. No wonder Angie and her boss didn’t want to step foot here. Doing so would probably lower the property value of where ever their shoes traveled to after, thought Moore. But the detective was used to prowling these sorts of neighborhoods. Filth attracted filth and somehow a chain would appear each junkie or floozy Moore shook down until he reached the person he was looking for.
There was no need for any of that in this assignment. The only thing Moore thought he needed to shake was his leg so he could get this over with and make to his bottle. But even Moore had to admit it was nice to be out doing the good work as he exited his car and the warm light of the sun hit his face. A little thrill went through the detective as he walked on the weedy, broken pathway to the dilapidated house where he was sent.
Moore rapped on the front door. No one answered. He knocked louder. Still no one answered. While contemplated whether or not to kick the door in and if he still knew anyone of the police force that could cover for his lack of a search warrant, the door cracked open.
Meth-head, Moore thought as the little sliver of open door revealed a strung-out man. As soon as Moore opened his mouth to introduce himself, the meth-head started to slam the door shut. Moore quickly put his foot in the door and pushed it wide open, send Meth-Man flying backwards. More stepped into the house with little other fanfare.
Blinking a few times to adjust to the lack of light, Moore began to question Meth-Man. Meth-Man hadn’t bothered to move from his new position on the floor and decided to curl up in a little ball.
“So where is it?”
“Where’s what, you jerk? I have right, you know!”
“Which went up in smoke when you burned those rocks. Where is, well hell, I don’t know, they didn’t tell me. Where’s, uh, the artifact?”
“This ain’t no museum! I don’t know what you are talking about.”
Moore surveyed the scene. He silently cursed himself for not being aware he was being sent on a wild goose chase. Moore blamed the hangover. And the woman. Two things in life he could do without, Moore humorously thought. Nonetheless, the detective felt the old responsibilities coming back into his blood and knew it was his duty to at least look around for something that could be this mysterious object he was sent to retrieve for Angie and her boss.
The room was bare, littered only with drug paraphernalia and little else. No furniture, an air mattress, dirty dished. A step up from homelessness but only barely, Moore said to himself. More was just about to call it a day when he spotted something that didn’t belong. A flash of purple out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Maybe it was just a trick of that eye, maybe that was failing Moore or Moore was failing it. But Moore felt drawn to that purple mass anyways.
He walked over to the object and saw what it was: a stuffed purple bear. A purple bear acting as a drug mule, that’s funny, Moore thought. However, when Moore turned the bear over looking for telltale signs of rips and tears, he found none. Moore had seen a darken splotch. Blood. Dried a long time ago. Moore felt some unknown anger and horror rise in him.
He turned to Meth-Man, who was now crying. “What’s this? You some sort of pervert? Or you just a momma’s boy?”
The meth-head just sobbed louder. He finally choked out some words.
“I didn’t mean to! I just needed some money. The bitch was rich, she just should have paid. No one would have gotten hurt!” Meth-Man broke into hysterics. Moore knew he had found his prize. He was just clueless as to what it meant.
As Moore stepped outside back onto the broken pathway, he had to rapidly blink again to adjust to the new light. When his eyes were refocused, there was Angie again, outlined by sun, standing by his car. She smiled at him and the stuffed bear in his hand.
“Ah, I see you found the item.”
Moore rushed up to her. Angrily, he said, “Is this some sort of joke? This is the ‘artifact’? It’s a stuffed bear, for Chrissakes! Is your boss having trouble sleeping at night and wanted his Bearie back? God!”
“Now, now Detective Moore, you of all people should know the value of keeping around a memento of one’s past. But this item isn’t for my boss. Rather, it is for,” Angie paused, “a mutual acquaintance. And we are going to deliver it to her now. It’s been gone for far too long. Then you can get your reward. Into the car, Detective Moore.”
Moore gruffly followed the orders of Angie and placed himself behind the wheel of his car. He kept the stuffed animal on his lap on the drive. Something inside of him wanted to keep it near. As if the thought of losing the bear now would mean he would finally lose the last grasp on reality he currently enjoyed.

The day was near its end when Moore and Angie finally arrived at the upscale manor. Angie had let the detective drive in silence on the way over. A feeling of dread and anticipation had washed over Moore. He only was dimly away for the drive, despite being behind the wheel, and was even less aware that he was out of the car, bear in hand, and knocking on yet another door when the manor door opened. Detective Moore stood in shock as to who answered the door. In turn, the woman who answered the knocking stood in shock as well.
“Alvin, is that you? What are you doing here? I haven’t seen you since that day…” Tears welled up in the eyes of the woman. Just like in that photo in the newspaper article when Moore failed to find her son in time.
“Cynthia, I don’t know what I am doing here. It’s kinda crazy. I was hired to find something by this woman, see? I had to get something for her. Then I came here with her,” Moore turned around to point out Angie in his car, but the setting sun was too bright to see anything in that direction. “I, uh, didn’t even realize where I was. And-”
Cynthia noticed the purple bear Alvin was holding for the first time. She broke out in fresh tears.
“My god, Alvin, where’d you get that?” She grabbed the bear from out of his hand.
“Well, you see, that’s what I was hired to get.”
“That was Teddy’s bear! It was our secret joke. Teddy’s bear. Never let it out of his sight. It disappeared when he went missing. It gave me a little bit of solace in those first hours that where ever he was, he at least at that bear.”
“What?”
“I thought I’d never see it again. Thank you, Alvin, for finding it. Dear god, I prayed for something of Teddy’s from that day to come back to me. I have his pictures and his old toys, but nothing that was so much a part of Teddy as this bear. Thank you. I have to go now or I am going to turn into a puddle on my front steps. We should talk about this some time soon. I can’t believe this!”
Cynthia slowly closed the door. When Moore turned around, there was Angie again, smiling, her eyes twinkling, as the sun finally dipped below the horizon behind her. The detective smiled back, finally at peace.
“Your boss is one tricky devil. Pardon the phrase.”
Angie just laughed. “He’s been called worse. Once, even to his face.”
“Why me?” asked Moore.
“Because, as I said, you were driven not by the money or the fame or the glory, but by the desire to help. That is not a common trait nowadays.”
“I have to tell you, hearing this from you rather than a burning bush helps it goo down a lot smoother.”
Angie smiled widely. “My boss would like to see you know.”
Moore sighed contently. “I expected as much. And I ready to see him now too.” Detective Alvin Moore, celebrated investigator, walked with the most beautiful woman he had ever seen past his car and into the sunset. Case closed.

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