Scene 11

Lonnie and Bernie helped to set up Chazz’s equipment. This consisted of high-intensity lights, both infrared and several other high-definition cameras, as well as various sensors to measure all types of phenomenon.

Bernie stared at the small devices in his hands. “So what does all of this stuff do?”

Chazz grunted, and dropped a large coil of cables at his feet. “Well,” she said, wiping her brow, indicating the object in Bernie’s left hand by pointing at it, “that one senses magnetic changes in the environment, and that other one measures immediate changes in temperature down to a tenth of a degree.”

“Because...,” he tried to find some words to add which might turn this into more of a conversation, “Ghosts don’t like it chilly?”

Melody appeared behind him suddenly. She was carrying a picnic basket filled with snacks. Malika was next to her with some bottled drinks.

“Yes, dad,” she said. “Most hauntings are due to a spirit eternally searching for its lost parka.”

Bernie whispered to Lonnie. “At least she brought snacks as well as her condescension.”

“Ghosts are not physical beings,” Chazz said smiling. “They need energy to manifest, and that usually means pulling it from their surrounding environment. In this case heat.”

Lonnie leaned into him. “See,” she said. “Now don’t you feel stupid.”

Bernie groaned. “I get it,” he said a little too loudly. “No one likes dad jokes.”

“You should write that down,” Melody told him.

Bernie turned and patted his daughter on the head. “I was talking to the nice ghost hunting lady,” he said, in a passable Sgt. Bilko impersonation. “Why don't you make yourself useful and scare us up some lunch, already.”

Melody narrowed her eyes at her father. “What is that character you’re doing?”

“Don’t know, eh?”

“No. Either you’re not doing it right...”

“Oh,” Bernie proclaimed loudly. “I’m doing it right.”

“Let’s not forget you also thought your Jerry Lewis and Groucho Marx impressions were spot on, and they basically sounded fairly similar.”

“I can’t help it if your ear is not finely tuned to pick up subtleties in the human voice.”

Melody narrowed her eyes even further, so much so that they hurt. Finally, she made her guess:

“Woody Allen.”

“Close. Give the little lady a cigar!”

Malika, who had up until this moment been quite shy, smiled suddenly and then began to laugh. It was a very nondescript laugh, and uncharacteristic of what Melody previously assumed was her personality. For a moment, Melody even thought the woman might even be choking.

Bernie smiled back once he realized what was going on. “Are you okay?” he asked her.

When Malika didn’t answer, Chazz took the small screwdriver out of her mouth. “Oh, Mali’s a sucker for Phil Silvers.” She sighed, and shook her head, half-smiling. “Though I’ve never understood the attraction.”

“Ah ha!” Melody pointed her finger in her father’s face and gave him a crooked grin. “That was a horrible impression.”

Bernie raised his eyebrow back at her. “It would have been an even worse Woody Allen.”

“Okay,” Chazz said. “We’re all setup and ready to go, unless your husband wants to continue his Vaudeville act.”

Bernie raised his hands. “I’m good,” he said. “I’m good.”

Melody suddenly felt like she was on the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the part where all of the scientists were poised in the valley and geared up to talk to aliens. She snorted at the thought of it. While it was impossible not to believe in life on other planets given the extreme size of the Universe and number of possible stars containing life-sustaining worlds, Melody thought it preposterous that aliens would ever come to this backward place.

They were all sitting on the ground just on the bordering edge of Mrs. Mendleblat’s house, waiting for the thing, whatever it was, to happen. Maybe nothing. It was still quite possible that the creature had already taken the woman in white, and that was that. Show over.

“You see it,” Melody heard her mother whisper. Although Melody wasn’t certain what she was referring to as she didn’t see anything.

“I see it,” Chazz said. Though she had already been sitting in the shadows, she now rolled into the blackness and quickly disappeared from sight.

Now from the corner of her eye, Melody saw it, too. The white van was sitting in front of the neighbors house just as before, as though it had simply been parked there all night long.

“Did it just appear out of nowhere?”

“Not sure,” Lonnie said. “Probably just slowly drove in with it’s lights off.”

“What are you all talking about,” Bernie said, probably too loudly. He was immediately shushed.

Melody jabbed him in the ribs with her forefinger, and out of the side of her mouth said, “Just look out of the corner of your eye. Our friend, ‘carry boots’, is back.”

Bernie nodded, but didn’t say anything, at first. “Is that where Chazz went,” he said finally piecing all of the puzzle together.

“I reckon,” Melody said.

“Please don’t turn into a cowboy, now,” Bernie said.

There was suddenly a crackling on the doorstep of the weather station, and Malika let out a gasp and covered her mouth.

Melody assured her it wasn’t time yet. “It tends to make these popping sounds for quite a few minutes before it happens. So this is a good sign.”

The entire week she had been wondering if they had done the woman in white an injustice. Now she would find out if Madeline was given another chance.

“OKAY, PUNKS!” came a forceful voice from the other side of the street. “GET OUT OF THE VAN!”

The Jacksons and Malika all turned their heads in that direction as though the All Clear alarm had been sounded, and from here on out all became chaos.

The van lit up like the sun. Not only its headlights, but some massive internal illumination. This light was so intense that the passengers, if there were any, could not be seen. The van began to rattle, and a roar emerged from its engine which made it sound like a once sleeping dragon had awakened after a thousand year nap.

Melody covered her ears, and looked around the neighborhood, certain this would bring everyone on the block to their doors. Oddly, not a porch was alighted, not a dog barked.

The noise continued for a full minute, and then it suddenly shut off along with the lights as though it had never sounded.

“What was that?” Melody asked no one in particular.

No one in particular responded, being too dumbfounded to find any words to convey what they had seen.

Eventually, and very slowly, Chazz made her way over across the street and rejoined the group.

“Before you ask,” she said, raising up her hands as if in protest. “I don’t know what happened. I started banging on the side of the vehicle and it just went off.”

“But what happened to the cowboy and Hairy Mike?” Melody had a look upon her face which conveyed the fear that the van might have turned into some oddly shaped traveling teleportation device which possibly spewed the two men to some other point on the globe.

“I can’t even say for sure that they were ever in the vehicle in the first place. It was dark inside, and the windows were tinted. For all I know that reaction was just some crazy anti-theft device. Although, I can’t attest for the exact state of the vehicle prior, I swear that the light source slightly crumpled the frame.”

Melody pointed out that no one in the neighborhood seemed curious about this car alarm, but her father quickly countered that Lafayette street was populated with secretive “looky loos”.

“They're probably peeking out through invisible slits of their curtains,” he said, “hoping not to be noticed.”

Melody nodded at this explanation, as she had seen him react in precisely the same manner on a number of occasions.

“So the Cowboy could just be hiding behind a tree with a camera somewhere?”

“Or even under the floorboards of his vehicle for all I know,” Chazz added, not having any real answers to the question.

Melody folded up her arms, and thought, What’s the point of having an ex-police-woman here then. For a horrifying moment, Melody was afraid she had spoken this aloud, but she carefully watched the expressions of her parents and they gave no such indication.

Chazz, however, received the message from her none-the-less. She shrugged her shoulders apologetically. “So,” she said, changing the subject. “What’s the ETA on the Ms. White and the Bardo?”

Melody tilted her head. “Bardo?”

Bernie jumped in. “I beg your pardo?”

Chazz laughed. “It’s what Mali and I assume this creature that attacked her to be.” She opened a bottle of water, and drank deeply from it until the contents were gone. “A Bardo is a sort of intellectual Golem gone rogue.”

Melody knew well of the Golem mystery. In the Jewish faith, it was a sort of robotic man made of clay. A defender of he who magically controlled it.

“You think someone sent a Bardo to kill Madeline sometime in the past, and it’s now a ghost Bardo?”

Chazz laughed again. “I don’t actually think either one of these beings is a ghost. I assume a Golem was sent to kill someone else, mutated, and then became a Bardo, and is now following its own agenda. Whatever that might be.”

Melody looked over to her parents who were completely wide-eyed at the explanation. As if cued, Lonnie looked down at her watch, mumbled something under her breath, and then promptly repeated her response louder and more intelligibly.

“Five minutes,” she said, “until whatever this is goes down.”

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One: Episode One

Melody Jackson

vs. The Woman in White

by BMB Johnson

Scene 11

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