Scene 8

When the doors opened to two unoccupied desks, Lonnie and Melody collectively relaxed their bodies. Death was not standing there to greet them as they had feared. No sign of either Uncle Gordon or Hairy Mike, at least not in the general vicinity.

Lonnie poked her head out, and turned to her daughter. “Looks safe enough,” she said.

One of the desks in front of them was clearly the librarian's station. The other, practically blocking the entrance, seemed to be some sort of check in. On top of it was a sign which read, “Please excuse our mess”. Melody stepped out of the elevator after her mother, and looked around. The “mess” in question was not easily determined. The library was neat, and all of the books were on the shelves. There was no half peeled wallpaper or slightly pulled up linoleum anywhere.

“I don't feel at all silly,” Melody said, “when I tell you that I was very glad that that second fold wasn't waiting for us on the other side of that door.”

Lonnie nodded in agreement, but her commitments were elsewhere. She had caught sight of another museum volunteer: a young man who was simply wandering around with his hands behind his back. She recognized him as a lurker -- someone who was probably meant to be a resource for questions, but was mainly there to gently yell at people who got a little too close to the exhibits. Nose prints and the oils from fingers, after all, were not friends to aging documents.

Melody tapped her mother on the shoulder and pointed to him. “Go ask that guy,” she said. “He's the quiet type, more loyal to the museum than to personal agendas.”

Lonnie nodded. “Way ahead of you,” she said, walking in that direction while Melody went off to explore the research floor.

“Excuse me,” came a voice from behind her, softly.

Melody turned to find a frumpish young man with bleary, blood-shot eyes. He looked as though his head had been buried in a book for the past several days.

“Is this your first visit to the research library?” He seemed insistent, but friendly, while at the same time trying not to sound annoyed.

“Well, yes,” Melody admitted. "It is, actually."

What was this person getting at, she wondered. Hopefully he wasn’t going to try to talk her into some yearly membership scam, because she wasn’t exactly authorized to make such a purchase.

The young man laughed nervously to himself. “Then you'll need to fill out a card with your information and sign the agreement that you will not damage our materials.”

“Oh, we won't be...” The look on the man's face showed Melody that he wasn't about to let her past without following his instructions to the letter. Melody shrugged her shoulders. “Okay,” she said. "I will go and do that now."

The young man smiled, and sat down behind a little desk between them. He then pushed a large card in front of her and handed Melody a pencil.

The girl wrote down her name and address and email as instructed. When she handed the card back, the young man pushed it back towards her.

“And please sign the back,” he said.

Melody nodded. “What's this mess your sign is speaking of?” She was hoping perhaps to get a good deal on a used sign. It would go perfectly with their kitchen decor.

At first the young man appeared confused, and then it seemed to strike him suddenly. “Oh, we recently had a drainage problem which ruined all of our carpets. We've had to pull them up but they've not been replaced yet.”

Melody responded, commiseratively. “At least none of the materials were damaged, I hope.”

The young man nodded, and stared off into space for a moment. “Well,” he said. “Please enjoy your visit, and let me know if you have any questions.”

“I will do that,” Melody said, but the young man had already removed himself from the desk and wandered off.

Melody looked around the library. In front of her, where her mother had run off to, were several shelves of books. The center of which contained displays under glass. To the left, in front of a sort of caged area of bookshelves, were large file cabinets. Unsure where to even start looking, Melody headed in this direction.

She discovered that most of what these file cabinets contained were archival photographs. There were thousands of photos of individuals, and also of buildings and locations. Amazed, she followed the cabinets around the corner where they eventually evolved into microfiche containing entire print runs of hundreds of old newspapers.

“This is incredible,” she said to herself. “Imagine the research I could...”

Suddenly, she heard talking behind her, and the loud clunking of boot heels on the floor. Two men emerged from the microfiche viewing room. One was tall, a little over six-foot, with short, black messy hair. He wore a short-sleeve red and green striped shirt which exposed his extremely hairy forearms. “Hairy Mike,” Melody thought wildly. Though his features were normal, and probably could be considered pleasing to look at as described by Darleen, Melody found him otherwise nondescript. The man next to him was almost a foot shorter, dirty looking, and wearing a worn and floppy cowboy hat. His appearance gave the impression that he had spent much of his life out on the plains, perhaps rustling dogies if such a job still existed. As he walked, the loud knocking of his boot heels filled the room.

The two men had been talking softly to themselves, but stopped when they saw her. Melody quickly spun around and pretended to look at one of the placards on the wall, hoping the motion appeared organic.

The placard in question was about the history of the Lewis and Clark Centennial exposition of 1905, “In 1804...,” it began. Melody couldn’t concentrate, though she pretended to be reading, feigning interest for effect. Come on, she thought. Click away, boot heels.

No response from the cowboy's feet.

What were they doing? She thought wildly to herself. Were they trying to decide if they recognized her, or if she were actually reading and not a spy. She could hear the two of them breathing behind her back. She wanted to turn around and shout at them, and ask them what they wanted.

"Mother, where are you?!" Would she and the volunteer come to her rescue? Or was her mother in danger as well? Would Dad figure out the clues and pop out of the elevator at just the right moment? Was her father even capable of fending off two men? He was kind of old, and likely had never been in a fight. At least now on the winning side. Reminder: ask dad about his fighting prowess.

Why were those two men just standing there staring at her??! She could feel their eyes on her back, daring her to not be reading this placard.

Her eyes began to twitch. “Okay,” she told herself, and began the words again to herself in her mind. “In 1804...” It was no use. She was unable to concentrate on actual words and sentences. It was impossible to read when there was someone staring at your back. Instead she decided to simply bob her head and appear interested.

Then a horrible thought entered her mind. What if they were slowly reaching out their hands to choke her? They could be completely doing that. One of them probably had already taken out her mother, an obvious spy who could not hold her excitement and keep a secret to save her life. Now her creepy-faced, cowboy-boot wearing fake uncle was reaching out to strangle her as well.

She shook her head. “Stop being ridiculous,” she told herself. “You’ll be fine as long as you keep pretending to read this nonsense about Lewis and Clark.”

Melody took a dramatic deep breath. Now these two men were making her turn against Lewis and Clark!


The problem with the placard was that it was only two paragraphs long. She should have finished it minutes ago were she actually reading it. This was going to be her downfall, she decided. No one should still be reading this text. It would be obvious to anyone that she not really reading. “I could be admiring the photo,” she told herself. There was an artist’s rendition of the exposition along the waterfront. “Yes,” she said, and smiled. “I'm admiring the photo. And look down at the text again as if to compare a possible passage of description.” She did this, and nodded to herself. “Yes,” she said in her mind. “They match. Now squint at the text. Maybe there’s a smudge on your glasses preventing you from seeing too clearly, thus taking longer to read.” She leaned forward, and lifted her glasses up slightly above her eyelids.

Suddenly a large group of children stumbled into the room, talking loudly and making disruptive noises. This was followed by the loud booming voice of a female adult shouting, “Quiet children. People are trying to read!”

“Or at least pretending to,” Melody corrected inside her head. The presence of these new people gave her the courage to turn and find another exhibit to peruse and thus extend her charade. However when she turned, the men were no longer there!

Down the hall she spotted her mother who was quickly traipsing up to her.

“Okay,” Lonnie said. “Here’s the ultimate skinny.”

Melody squinted at her mother with revulsion. Sadly, Lonnie Jackson was fond of adding the world “ultimate” to make any phrase sound like it was of slightly greater importance. As a fanatic of old, and no longer used slang, however, Melody did enjoy Lonnie’s use of the word “skinny” to define newfound information. She often used it herself. However, “ultimate skinny”, at least in her eyes, was not an acceptable modern upgrade.

“Go on,” Melody said in a deep, husky voice.

“That nice young man, Derek, I talked to led me to the record room, and we looked up the address in his database....”

Melody’s mind began to wander. Where did those men go, and how long was she worried about them strangling her after they had already gone? With her senses super heightened, she didn’t think there was any way for those clacking boots to get away without her notice. It was like they simply vanished into thin air. Were these men ghosts as well? Unlike her mothers vegetarian gravy, this plot was definitely thickening.

“Researching apparitions,” Melody said suddenly, in a musing sort of way.

“Huh?” Lonnie said. “Were you even listening to me?”

Melody shrugged. “Of course I was. You were talking about the lot across the street and looking up the address with a young man named Derek.”

“Um, that was just the first sentence I said, mixed with anecdotal evidence. I was talking for approximately three minutes after that. I’m pretty sure you faded away at that point, as evidenced by the ‘researching apparitions’ comment which had nothing to do with what I was talking about.”

Melody was about to roll her eyes but thought better of it. She hadn't been listening to her mother, that was a fact. Any arguments against that case would probably net her one nastily placed “you’re just like your father,” comment.

“So,” she said, instead. “What did you find out?”

Lonnie stood there for a moment as though waiting for an actual apology, but since it seemed her excitement could not be contained, she continued. “Well, again, we found that there WAS a woman living there in the thirties named Madeline D’amarite. The house burned to the ground exactly a year after her husband died by mysterious means.”

Melody’s eyes lit up. “Oooh,” she said. “Mysterious means.” She rubbed her hands together as if to say "now we're getting somewhere."

“Are you being sarcastic now?” her mother asked her, placing her hands on her hips. “Because this is a little what’s up.”

Melody cringed again. Whenever her mother spoke to people ten or more years younger than herself, she attempted to use a hipper vernacular for a time not less than several hours after said contact. This time Melody could not keep quiet about it. “A little what’s up? Please don’t say things like that. It’s completely meaningless, and you sound ridiculous. Is that a thing that Derek said?”

Lonnie cleared her throat. “I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe. Anyway, where did your father drift off to? Is he still lurking somewhere in the shadows?”

“Probably,” Melody said. “Although, I'm not entirely certain he ever figured out where we went. He might be prowling around in the basement for all I know. Did you find out anything specific about this Madeline person or her husband?”

“Not really,” Lonnie said. “Derek was pulling up the database of the Oregonian but he got distracted by two men walking through the library in their socks and carrying their boots in their hands. He did show me a link and how to research that on-line, so we can do that from home.”

Melody raised her eyebrows. The men had seen her, and had actually removed their boots to avoid detection from 'her'! That was brilliant, she thought. “So they weren’t ghosts, but in reality were yellow-bellied chickens.”

Lonnie tilted her head to the side. “Okay?” she said, confused.

“Come on,” Melody said. “I want to see if that van’s still parked out front.”

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One: Episode One

Melody Jackson

vs. The Woman in White

by BMB Johnson

Scene 8

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