Scene 8

Melody smiled to herself. Like old bookstores, record shops smelled musty and inviting. The lighting was usually subdued, and the patrons were usually thoughtful loners who kept their gazes and handshakes to themselves.

This store, Music Millennium, while still a hot spot on the Portland retro scene, was no different.

“This place is so random,” Melody said under her breath as she traveled from area to the next through not quite level passages and stairwells.

“It does kind of look like it was cobbled together by an drunken giant,” Lonnie said.

The entire place seemed like it should be violating at least one city ordinance at any moment of the day. The slight hint of mildew in the air when layered with copious incense, however, made it seem like the hippest basement in the world.

While the store did sell new releases contrary to it's vibe, what the Jackson's were the most interested in was the part of the store which dealt exclusively with used record albums – or Vinyl, as the medias most ardent followers would be sure to tell you.

Bernie, suddenly filled with boyish wonderment, spun around as though he were suddenly transported into a Broadway play, He announced, “Can you believe this? I'm so getting back into music.”

Melody groaned and shushed him, and then warned him under her breath, “That might be something you want to keep to yourself.”

They approached the back counter and Bernie made an inquiry to the young woman standing there.

“Are you, Gina,” Bernie said. “I'm the one who...”

Gina, whose appearance Melody was immediately fascinated with, was singing softly to herself. She had a large, spiky nose ring and was tattooed from wrists to neck, her hair a conflicting blend of purple and yellow. It wasn't readily apparent if she were simply ignoring Bernie, or perhaps because of the age difference, just unaware of his existence.

Bernie looked at Melody, shrugged and then turned back to the woman behind the counter and waved.

She suddenly became aware that there were two people trying to get her attention, laughed and pulled out a pair of wireless headphones which had been hidden by her hair.

“Oh, sorry,” she said. “I'm supposed to familiarize myself with some of these new tunes. Are you into...”

She named what Bernie assumed to be some current bands. He smiled and shook his head politely. “No,” he said. “I know I give off a hip vibe, but...”

He suddenly felt a sharp pain in his side and for a moment thought he might have walked into a hornet's nest. Closer examination revealed it was Melody stabbing him with her mechanical pencil.

“Oh, yeah, you were the guy I talked to on the phone, yeah, right...”

“That's the one,” Melody said.

“Follow me, and I’ll show you. We haven't even put them out yet.” She left the counter and Melody and her father followed her to a small small storage room. “I almost broke my neck tripping on it,” she said. “It's weird that you called about these.”

Melody leaned close to her father. “Why does this story sound so familiar.”

“Maybe it's because I tried to tell it to you five times this morning.”

“Anyway,” she said, pushing the box through the hall and onto the sales floor. “Nothing is marked yet, so just let me know if you find something you want in there, and I'll give you a...”

“Found it!” Melody said, holding up her prize. It was a mint condition copy of The Rite of Spring, 1957 edition, Pierre Monteux, The Paris Conservatoire. “How much?”

“Wow, you totally know what you want and like seize the day, right?” Gina laughed softly to herself, rocking her body as though she were about to start dancing at a moment's notice. She took the record into her possession and examined the cover. She then pulled out the disk from its protective paper sleeve and held it closely to her face. After spinning it around, flipping and spinning it around again, all done with the grace of a gothic ballerina, she placed the record back into the paper sleeve and returned it to its parent receptacle.

Melody attempted to convey the message, “What exactly was that all about?” by quickly raising her shoulders and eyebrows.

Getting it, Bernie opened his mouth and said, “Looking for scratches.”

“Ah,” Melody returned. While this was nothing she was particularly concerned about, she assumed this would affect the price somewhat.

“Okay,” Gina said, finally. “Let's call it two bucks.”

Bernie seemed concerned. “That's it? I think the store just lost money walking us back here.”

“Deal,” Melody said, snatching the record back. “Pay the lady, Dad. I'll be over looking at young people records.” While it was true that Melody was fond of the old fashioned historic gadgetry, when it came to music she preferred the convenience of a compact dis. While this seemingly went against her principals – that newfangledry was a blight on humanity – her reconciliation was that the CD in this day in age was also a dying media. It was easy to play. One didn’t have to flip it over or fast forward a bunch to hear the song you wanted.

Bernie thanked Gina for her trouble and following his daughter closely. “I know it's probably not cool to hang out with your father at a record store – except perhaps as an extension of your wallet – but we apparently pay for all of our purchases near the entrance regardless of where you picked it up.”

Melody leaned forward and examined the front of the album her father was clutching. “I see she put a little handwritten price sticker on it.”

Bernie nodded, with a raised eyebrow.

“Is that binding?”

“Binding,” he repeated. “What are you getting on at?”

“It just doesn't look very official,” she said.

“Well, this place isn't exactly the Piggly-Wiggly.”

Melody stared at her father blankly, and tilted her head in a way that let him know that she didn't get his reference.

Unbothered by this, her father continued. “I really don’t even think we need this,” he said, grimacing at the large square object in his hand. “This is the exact same version I have at home.”

Melody scowled at her father. It was a common trait of his. Whenever he didn't want to spend money, he would say 'we already have that, or something very similar to it in storage' hoping that she would forget about it later. And if she did remember, he would conveniently not be able to find it.

The girl sighed, turned and took the Stravinsky album into her possession. “Well besides the obvious reason that you’re most likely misremembering that you actually have the Disney's Fantasia version or something, there’s also this….” She pulled the inner sleeve from out of the cover slightly, exposing some scrawled notes written there. “I noticed this when Gina was looking for scratches earlier. Appears to be some sort of code, no? May be important.”

Bernie raised his eyebrows and smiled. Melody noticed the familiar twinkle of excitement she saw in him whenever stumbling onto an adventure.

“Also...It's TWO DOLLARS!!”

Bernie was still examining the object as Melody grabbed it back and forcefully slid the record back into its sleeve.

Handwritten there was a long string of numbers in an unknown format.

10T 573417 4755655

10T 567291 4584496

10T 445413 4678624

10T 534680 5038531

10T 531025 5038…

(This last number was smudged, as if from a water stain.)

“What do you think it means?” he asked.

“Obviously, I'm not sure, yet,” she said. “Maybe the numbers point to clues in the music somehow. Or maybe it's something mundane. It is a mystery, after all.”

Bernie liked the game. “So you think one number might point to an exact point on the album, like a B-flat, which would in spell out a secret code of some kind.”

Melody raised her eyebrows. She hoped it wouldn't be something as complicated as all that – finding exact notes on the moment of percussiveness during a symphonic work would be extremely time consuming if not impossible. “Maybe,” she said. “Though if it points to flats and sharps, that might complicate things in a hurry.”

“Oh, if it falls on a rest, there's your space bar,” Bernie said, not listening.

“What if the clue pointed to a chord or a moment where multiple instruments were playing?”

“It wouldn't.”

“This isn't a bassoon solo album,” she said, getting more and more angry as this conversation moved along.

“The clue giver is in control and would find the moments when it would work,” Bernie roared, getting red faced. “Either that or it would indicate an exclamation point!”

Suddenly Lonnie Jackson calmly stepped beside them. She was holding a Yellow Submarine lunch box, and an expression of contained tempestuous calm. She spoke to the both of them in a whisper out of the corner of her mouth.

“Hey, you two,” she said. “You probably don't realize this but your argument...”

“Heated discussion,” Bernie corrected.

Lonnie eyed him as though he were a small child in danger of getting a spanking in the middle of the store. “Your bizarre discussion is attracting the attention of everyone in the place.”

Both Melody and her father pursed their lips in the exact same fashion which could only have come from some sort of shared genetic disorder. They, however, said nothing and failed to meet Lonnie's particularly stabby gaze.

“Just keep it down before I die of embarrassment. That's all I ask,” she said.

“Maybe we did get carried away a little,” Bernie said diplomatically, with a half smile on his lips. “This would, after all, make an exciting murder mystery!”

“Not really,” Melody groaned. “Not with the protagonists mired down in the explanation of needlessly complex puzzles, which need to...

“Okay, okay,” Bernie said, putting up his hands as though his daughter were pointing a gun at his chest. “Let's just pay for this record...,” he paused, as if noticing Lonnie's hands for the first time, “and your mother's lunch box for some reason, and get out of here.”

“My uncle Reggie's birthday's coming up,” she said.

“And he needs a new lunch box for school?”

“It's kitsch,” Lonnie explained.

Bernie shook his head. “Before we go, do you think that's the only record we need from that collection.”

Melody shrugged. “If you want to buy them all, have at it,” she said.

“I just mean, I don't really want to make another special trip over here.”

“It's the only one that was ‘willed’ to me. Trust me, it’s the one we need,” she assured him. “I doubt she meant for us to have her collection of Guy Lombardo records..”

Bernie began to fidget. “Not that I'm not incredibly inspired by your confidence, dear,” he said. He shook his head, and said, “To the counter. I don't like the way these people are staring at me.”

With the family's purchases completed, they left the store and headed back to their car.

Bernie started, “I thought we weren’t doing gifts for your family anymore.”

Melody's attention, on the other hand, was otherwise occupied. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed someone wearing a cowboy hat following them. He stared at them briefly and then turned down the street.

Uncle Gordon, she thought to herself. The man in the cowboy hat along with his friend, whom the family had affectionately named Hairy Mike, had been a very interested pair in their dealings since the first adventure of the Woman in White.

What role they played in that case was also unknown, but now that she saw the man spying on them here outside the record store, Melody had to wonder if that case wasn’t somehow also tied with this one.

She looked back to her parents, was about to say something but was currently encouraged to hurry along by her father's overly wide eyes.

She ran towards them, but before she jumped into the backseat. She turned back to the corner and saw, to her utter horror, Hairy Mike, staring boldly at her, arms folded. Rather than turning tail when meeting Melody's gaze, he stood his ground as if to issue a challenge.

“Yes, I know you see me,” Melody said, in a deep, husky voice. “Now what are you going to do about it?”

“Huh?” Lonnie turned to look at her. “What are you...?

Melody shook her head. “Sorry,” she said, and pointed to the corner. “I was speaking for him.”

By the time her mother turned to look, Hairy Mike was gone.

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One: Episode One

Melody Jackson

vs. The Message from Space

by BMB Johnson

Scene 8

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