Scene 3

Melody had been in her room for hours, clacking away on her manual typewriter like a hen pecking at the ground for seed.  Every minute or so, there would be a loud ding! followed by a clatter and a thump!  as she manually returned the carriage to the beginning position.

"Is it horrible," Bernie began, sitting in his favorite chair in front of the television set, "that I really don't want a homeless camp across the street from us?"

Lonnie, who was knitting, didn't look up at her husband.  "No," she said. "Well, kinda, I suppose. I mean it would be nice to do something for the homeless.  It’s just that that little building isn’t big enough to..."

"That's right!" Bernie shouted, jumping to his feet.  "We don't have the facilities! What is she thinking. You just can't put in camp-sized facilities into a small neighborhood!  There's zoning laws to consider, and..."

“Settle down, Bernie,” Lonnie said, swapping out her knitting for a darning egg.  “On an unrelated subject, that girl does own a pair of shoes, right?” She held a twisted, once-white sock up to the light, exposing several holes.

Melody suddenly emerged from the hallway, a handful of papers in her hand.  "What I am thinking is turning this weather station or whatever it purports to be..."

"It IS a weather station," Lonnie said, with an annoyed tone.  "I've seen inside it with my own eyes. It's full of gauges, and computery things.  I've told you that."

"Anyway, this well-disguised 'weather station' of course needs to be demolished, as in my previously proposed plan.  I have edited the blueprint to expand the building in the back to a two-story home where people with no income can stay to get back on their feet."

"Huh?"  Bernie looked at his wife with squinting eyes.  "How did you get a look in there?"

"You know," Lonnie said.  "The guy that comes around every couple of months to check the sensors."

Bernie raised an eyebrow.  "The guy?!"

Melody cleared her throat.  "Stay focused, you two," she said.  “I’m sure mom isn’t having an affair with the fake weather station checker.”

"This is all very well intentioned, dear," her mother continued, looking over Melody’s map, "but there are zoning issues, and all kinds of things to be..."

"Details," Melody said.  "Minor details. I'm sure that the mayor and I can hammer this out tomorrow morning."

Bernie choked.  "Tomorrow morning?  You're going to try for the bus again?"

"Actually," she said.  "It turns out, my hormones were unsuccessful in increasing my bravery sufficiently."  She turned to Lonnie. "So, Mother, I'm going to need you to take me."

"I have to take your Nana to the doctor for her checkup tomorrow," Lonnie said.  "Maybe your father can turn in his 'take your daughter to work day' coupon he never used.  Your site is downtown, at the moment, right?"

"Yes, but...."  Bernie sat down again and slumped dramatically.  "There's really nothing for a twelve year old to do, there, other than make coffee."  He almost added, 'and that's my job', but stopped himself. 

"That's okay," Melody said, brightly. "I can just sit in a corner and read until City Hall opens.  You won't even know I'm there."

"Oh," Bernie said, under his breath.  "I'll know."

"So, it's settled then," Lonnie said.  "Now,” she continued, dramatically tossing her darning egg into a wicker basket near her feet, “what does everyone want for dinner tonight?  Hot dogs?"

"You mean, fake dogs, right?"  Melody looked at her mother, cautiously.

"Melody," Lonnie said.  "For goodness sake do I have to say that every time.  We're ALL vegetarians. I'm not just going to throw some meat secretly into our diets to mix things up."

Lonnie stood up, but before she departed for the kitchen, she leaned forward to Melody’s ear.  “While we all appreciate your giving nature and this desire to create gardens one second, and then help the homeless the next, I've got to wonder why this sudden interest in a building that has existed since before you were born, and which you didn't seem to give a fig about before this morning.  Not that I'm a skeptical person, mind you.”

“No one gives figs anymore, Mother,” she said, sullenly.

“Well, there has to be some reason behind this.”  She gave her daughter a good, sharp glare and headed for the kitchen.  Once the door began to swing she called, “I’LL FIND OUT..." <swing> "...ONE OF THESE DAYS..." <swing> "...YOU KNOW!”

Melody rolled her eyes, and looked towards the television set.  She sighed, dramatically. “There might be one thing.”

With that subtle glance, suddenly Melody had her father's attention.  His eyes radiated up at her like miniature Suns. They patiently waited for her to crack and spill her information as though she were some inferiorly designed Piñata.

“What?”  Bernie raised his eyebrows.  “You have something you want to tell me, I can sense these things.  Is the TV broken? Did the cable go out?”

Melody didn't say anything at first.  She grimaced, and shuffled her feet. “Your precious idiot box is fine, Dad.” She produced two shiny disks from her satchel. "Anyway,” she said. “As long as you aren't in the middle of something."

Bernie’s shoulders slumped as he eyed his daughter, cautiously.  One of Melody's favorite type of activities was creating what she liked to call "the short film".  These unfortunately almost always turned out to be anything but: Unedited stream-of-consciousness outtakes, or what  Melody called "the dailies". She would play these for anyone whom she could sucker into watching.

Bernie however was in no mood, and assumed them diversionary.  "Whatchu got there, Darlin'?"

"Don't worry," Melody said.  "It's not one of my film projects you like so much, I said sarcastically.  It's the security footage of that building across the street.”  

Lonnie emerged from the swinging kitchen door.  "What was that? Please, Melody, don't tell me you've been filming that place just because you get some weird vibe from it.  I'm telling you, there's nothing conspiratorial going on over there."

"So you say," Melody said, pushing a disk into the slot of the video player.  "And, no, it wasn't me filming it. The boys brought this to my attention."

The boys were a group of semi-anonymous male children who roamed Lafayette Street.  Their normal attire was combat gear and the occasional twig attached to their helmet.  Constantly playing at war -- like most boys, Melody assumed -- they were omnipresent and aware of all of the goings on in the neighborhood.  It had taken great effort on her part to become allied with them and gain their confidence.  So successful was she in this endeavor that the boys actually began referring to her as the General.

"The boys?"  Bernie always seemed completely ignorant of the presence of these children, no matter how many times Melody mentioned them.

"Yep," Melody confirmed without further explanation.  "I think they may have dug a bunker near this weather station, and may even be able to access it via tunnels from their backyards for all I know."

"Bunker?"  Lonnie appeared worried.  "You're starting to talk like them now, Melody.  There's something seriously wrong with those boys.  And their parents aren't much better."

"It's the only way to gain their confidence," she said.  "Besides. It's better to have them on your side than against it."

Bernie raised his hands, giving up.  The boys were starting to sound familiar, but he still wasn't sure about who they were or what they stood for.  Apparently, though, they were some kind of primitive barbarian horde who wandered about digging holes. "Do you think these are the same people who have been knocking over garbage cans?"

"No, Dad," Melody said.  "That was probably a dog."

Bernie shrugged his shoulders.  "You said something about a video?"

Melody said, "Oh yes."  She then changed the channel and pushed play on the machine.

The video quality was rough, and also in black and white.  Bernie needed to lean forward and strain his eyes to make out any familiar shapes.

"Oh, I see," Bernie said.  "You hired a convenience store to spy on this thing."

Melody shushed him.  "It's a little grainy because it's filmed in night-vision."  She began to fast forward. "There's a spot here I wanted to show you.  Right, at approximately two-thirty-seven in the morning."

Bernie and Lonnie leaned in closer to the screen.  There was a wavering of the doorknob, as if by an impact,  and then suddenly the door itself began to open. Melody paused the screen here for a moment.

"Keep in mind," she said, "that I've reviewed hours of footage, and no one has entered this building for days and days.  There's only one door, and it has to be a very small room."

She unpaused the film, and the Jacksons watched in shock as a woman in white emerged in the doorway.  The woman looked around as though confused, and walked daintily down the steps and past the camera.

"Also note," Melody continued.  "She never returns to the building, however, six days later, at precisely the same time of day, this same almost exact scene plays out again."

Lonnie began to click in her throat.  "Turn it back," she said.

Bernie seemed skeptical.  "Not that I don't believe the ravings of some unknown security camera owned by some odd boys who wander the neighborhood.  But did you consider they might be hoaxing this, setting you up to look like a chump?”

"I considered it," Melody said.  "Then I discounted it. First of all, the boys don't have any humorous bones in their bodies.  Also they seem to live by a strict code of justice which wouldn't allow for pranking for the sake of it."  She rewound the video at her mothers request. "Besides," she said. "There are no gaps in the film. It's low quality, but each disk runs for twelve hours continuously.  This is no hoax." 

"But maybe...," Bernie began, but was quickly cut off my his daughter.


“Between disks…!”

“You really think those boys are going to talk some classy woman into sitting in a cramped room for twelve hours just to make me look silly in front of your two?”

“Maybe for your Internet connections?”

“I, sir, am no Internet connection.”  Melody was so greatly offended by the inference that she struggled to keep herself from storming from the room.  The Internet was for research only, not for posting videos about possible ghosts caught on film, blabbing about what one was having for breakfast or other such mindless pap.

Bernie laughed.  “That’s almost word for word entirely what the Internet is.  I mean you left out sharing cute cat pictures...”

Melody’s face turned red.  Whenever she was angered or otherwise highly emotional, she tended to speak her thoughts aloud rather than keep them contained.

 She let out a strangled growl of frustration.  “Ignore the thoughts that should stay in my head.”

“Sorry,” Bernie said.  “Like I can tell them apart.”  

Melody pushed play and the film ran again.

"I just wish we could see her face more clearly," Lonnie said squinting at the screen and sitting as close to it as possible.  "Then maybe we could I.D. her in some way." She turned to Melody. "How good is your video camera?"

Melody placed her hands on her hips.  "Why?"

"Well, you said this happens every six days at the exact time."

"I postulated that it happens every six days.  I don't think there's enough data to say if that's a fact or not."

"Yeah, whatever," Lonnie said, not really listening.  "Let's see if there's a good view of that doorway from the front window."  She stepped between the big, unused comfy chairs and the curtains, and squatted down at the level of the windowsill.  She grunted and made “hmm” sounds as she scooted along the three windows attempting to find a sweet spot. “Honey,” she said, finally.  “How do you feel about propping your camera outside on the porch?”

“I don’t,” Melody said, with a grimace.  “You know it only has about a thirty minute battery life, not to mention it’s highly intolerant of dew conditions and theft by passersby.  Also, it has no night vision. You’d need a search light sitting next to it to be able to see anything, and that wouldn’t be suspicious at all.”

Lonnie mumbled to herself and continued to look for a location along the window.

Bernie scratched his head.  “I’m still not sure why you wanted to go to such great lengths to get that building torn down.  I’m assuming, of course, this is why the plan for the garden and the homeless shelter.”

Melody scrunched up her face.

Bernie just stared at her, expressionlessly for a few more moments.


“What’s the real reason?” he said.

“I just showed you the video.”

“It’s a little weird,” he said.  “I’ll give you that. And it’s obviously gotten your mother a little excited.”

Lonnie emitted a muffled "hummina", but this seemed to be more related to her own task then at any attempt to communicate with the two of them.

“But it’s not enough to work out a plan to get this little weather station...”

“...If that’s what it is...,” Melody added quickly.

“Yes, you don’t need to keep saying that,” her father told her.  “To get this place removed from the face of the earth.”

Melody stared at her father for quite a while as if trying to decide if she should elaborate on the subject.  “Well,” she said, finally. “There is this thing.” She removed the first disk from the machine, and then inserted the second.   “This one chronicles two additional event points, which I clipped and compiled for convenience. At each point the scene seems to progress just a tiny bit further along.”  She forwarded it to the event in question. “See, here,” she said, pausing the film. “See how the door begins to open a second time.”

Bernie leaned in close, and called his wife, who was currently framing the scene as though she were a film director, forming the thumb and forefinger from each hand together to make a square.  Once her attention was gathered, Bernie filled her in with the updates.

The video showed the woman in white disappear out of frame as normal, but the camera, still focused on the door, showed the handle rattle a second time and then open a crack.

“It stays open like that for hours,” Melody said, forwarding the video.  The only movement in the shot was the bushes just off to the right of the screen.  At Melody's insistence, they danced around quickly as though a light breeze in the air.  The ever-present clock at the top of the screen, zipped along at a frantic rate as though a very poor rendition of H.G. Wells' Time Machine.

“Then look here,” Melody said, pointing to the door.  “Four hours and ten minutes later. The door simply closes itself.”

Bernie scratched his head.  “You said there’s one more even on this tape.”

Melody winced but decided not to correct his description of an optical disk as a “tape”.  “Yep. Let me get to that point, but I need to warn you that it’s a little disturbing.” She moved the film past the point where the woman usually walks past.  “The door behind her rattles as it did previously, and then opens.” After another few minutes a giant hand grabs the very top of the door frame, and what looks like a massive head peers out from the darkness.  “Eyes emblazoned with undefinable hatred,” Melody said as an added narrative. Although, with the film as grainy as it was, just how emblazoned the eyes were was very much open to interpretation.

“What IS that?” Lonnie said.

“It looks like a bugbear,” Bernie offered, recalling one of the creatures from his days of role-playing games.  “And I’m only half-joking.”

“What looks like the giant hand could just be a leaf that flew over and landed on door frame,” Lonnie said.  “It’s not a very good picture at all.”

“Did the leaf also open the door?”  Melody could sense the tension in the air.  While she found this portion of the video creepier every time she saw it, she knew her parents couldn't not be feeling the same way.  It was common practice, after all, for humans to try to simply explain away spooky things as common everyday, normal things.  That what looked like a giant hand followed by the emergence of the face of a beast could so easily be explained by a falling leaf was congruent with a mind grasping at any natural explanation it could find. It was likely an attempt to preserve sanity in the observer. This was understandable and something that Melody herself was happy to go along with as long it didn't interfere with reality.  The supernatural was not the norm and most things which seemed odd on the surface had roots in the workaday.  However, this particular phenomenon was something different. Casual observation showed that these were facts which couldn’t be denied.  A ghostly woman in white. A beast of some variety lurking behind her. Both trapped in some sort of time loop or matrix. This is something they would have to deal with and could not simply wish away.

“You see now why we need to get this building destroyed?” Melody said.

Bernie found the remote and played the scene back a few times more.

“Even if it is some sort of evil beast – which sounds especially ridiculous when you say it out loud -- what makes you think that destroying this building would stop it from coming?  Maybe destroying its environment would simply make it come out faster. Or even make it angry and lash out at everyone in the neighborhood.”

Melody rolled her eyes.  “Common sense tells us that destroying the focal point will end the activity.  I think you tend to worry about every conceivable outcome no matter it’s likelihood.”

“I just like to look at it from every angle,” said Bernie, a little miffed.

“Not very helpful.”

“Melody!”  Lonnie said crossly.  “Stop pointing out your father’s flaws.  He doesn’t like it.”

“Sorry,” Melody said.  “Though I’m sure you'll agree that Dad worries about everything.”

“Granted,” Lonnie said.  “But it’s always better to tip toe around these things, or at least mock on a more subtle level.  Following proper social protocols, that is.”

“Hey!”  Bernie protested.  “You guys could at least wait until I leave the room before you start talking about me, following proper back-stabbing protocols.”

“Oh, Bernie,” Lonnie said, rewinding the video again.  “We’re just teasing you.”

Bernie pouted, and folded up his arms intentionally dramatically.  “Bernie Jackson don’t like to be teased,” he said.

“So, noted,” said Melody.  “I’ll put you down for back-stabbing only.”

“I appreciate that,” said Bernie, sounding not at all appreciative about the whole thing.

Lonnie threw her hands into the air.  “I can’t get a good read on this thing,” she said, and then turned to her daughter.  “You said that this also happens pretty much like clock-work, yes?”

“Yes.”  Melody gave the response slowly, and mistrustfully.  She didn’t exactly know where her mother was going with this for certain, but she had a good idea that she wasn’t going to like it.

“When’s the next time this lady in white is schedules to depart.”

“Actually, tomorrow morning.  Though even if you do find a good spot for the camera in the house, I don’t think it will be of sufficient quality from this distance, even at high definition.  Plus there’s no timer so you’d have to be up at that time anyway to man it.” She fell silently for a moment, and tried desperately to find more reasons for her mother not to act on what she was thinking.  Finally, she snapped her fingers, or at least tried to. (As Melody had never quite learned this trick, she accomplished the desired effect by saying the word “snap” after sliding her fingers together.) “Also, as I said, my camera doesn't have night-vision, and it’s too dark that time of the morning to...”

“I’ve been thinking of all of that,” Lonnie said, effectively cutting her off.  “And I have the solution.”

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One:  Episode One

Melody Jackson 

vs. The Woman in White

by BMB Johnson

Scene 3

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