Scene 11

It was midnight when the first howls woke them up again. Melody, the first to hear it, bolted upright in bed. She sat breathless in the dark, waiting for another vocalization before waking anyone else.

“Where did that even come from?” she whispered to herself. For awhile she wondered if she had just imagined it. Climbing out of bed, she carefully stepped over her snoring father, and pressed her ear up against the door. She listened intently in the direction of the young weird boy sleeping down the hallway in her bed. However, from that direction only came a wet breathing coupled with the occasional cough and snort. Unless the boy was howling in his sleep, the source of the ululation was not Jimmy.

On her knees she walked over to the side window and then to the windows overlooking the porch. The howl sounded again, but this time seemed far off in the distance.

Lonnie suddenly popped her head up. “That sounded like it came from Mt. Tabor,” she said, groggily. Mt. Tabor was an extinct volcano in the center of town. It had its woodsy areas, but there were just as many houses as trees.

“Not far enough away,” Bernie said, also apparently awake.

“But you're right it does sound like it's coming from that direction,” Melody said. “And no it's not Jimmy. I already checked that.”

Lonnie got out of bed, and shook the pillow next to her. “Get up, Melody,” she told it.

“Over here, Mom,” Melody said.

Lonnie yawned. “Oh, yeah. You were talking earlier, weren't you.” She got out of bed, stepped on Bernie a few times, and opened the bedroom door. She was extremely thankful when Jimmy wasn't standing there, ghoulish and drooling. “All clear,” she said. She then walked to the bathroom and closed the door behind her.

Bernie followed. “Did you hear something?”

“No,” she said. “I need to use the bathroom. So kindly turn around and give me a little privacy.”

“Sorry, sorry,” he said, holding out his hands in front of him. “I thought we were in sleuth mode.”

“We are,” she assured him. “But even Nora Charles needs to tinkle sometimes.”

From the bedroom, came a resounding, “Oh, come on!”

“Go and check the backyard,” Lonnie told her husband.

“Don't worry, Dad,” Melody said, stepping up behind him. “I'll come with you.”

“Great,” Bernie said. “Now I feel safe.”

The two investigators navigated the dining room in the dark and paused at the swinging kitchen door where Bernie took a deep breath.

“What is it?” Melody asked him.

“I thought I heard footsteps,” he said. “Little ones.” He looked around, but didn't see anything.

“There's a flashlight in the bureau,” Melody said. She stepped quickly over to the indicated piece of furniture and retrieved her prize. She thought she had heard the footsteps, too, but was not certain of the direction from which they had come.

Shining the light towards the hallway she hoped to possibly find her mother drowsily tripping out of the bathroom. Not finding her quarry however, she shown the beam across the living room.

“Nothing,” she said.

“Check behind the table,” her father said, grabbing the flashlight away from her.

Just then there was a fumbling of the dining room chairs and a scream as if from a tiny dinosaur. “RAAAAARRRR!”

Both Melody and Bernie screamed in terror, but the light beam quickly found its source. “Jimmy!”

Jimmy stood there giggling. His hands were formed into pretend claws, his lips pulled back as he roared at them once again. “I scared you,” he said. “I scared you.”

“Yes,” Bernie said, laughing half-heatedly and patting the boy on the head. “You are a very scary individual.”

Jimmy roared again.

Lonnie entered the room.

“Jimmy's awake,” Bernie told her.

“I see that,” said Lonnie. She bent down to the boy's level. “That's a pretty powerful roar,” she told him, though in her sleepy state the comment sounded more sarcastic than complimentary.

Jimmy agreed.

“Say, have you heard any howling?” Lonnie asked the boy.

Jimmy's face went blank, and he formed his lips into an “o” shape. He then shook his head.

“Like a big dog or a wolf.”

“Wolf!” Jimmy shouted, liking this new game. He howled then like a little, baby wolf. “Hooowooo,” he said, lifting his head up to the sky.

Melody shook her head. “Nothing like last night,” she said. “Which confirms my theory.”

“Possession?” Bernie said, wedging his arm between his chin and his other arm at his waist.

“By the Hellhound,” Melody agreed.

Suddenly, as if queued to do so, another distant howl filled the night air.

“That was close,” Melody said.

Jimmy let out a squeak, and began to shiver. Melody didn't know if this was Jimmy playing around or if he were actually frightened. The boy squatted down and grabbed Bernie's leg, shaking like a leaf.

“Okay,” Bernie said, trying to kick the boy off. “It's okay. The nice Hellhound is outside someplace. We're perfectly safe in here.”

“Dad,” Melody whispered. “Where do you think the howling was coming from?”

“I couldn’t tell,” he said, nervously.

“It sounded like it was coming from the front yard this time.”

So far no one seemed to have been able to pinpoint the exact origin of the howling. It was almost as though it was coming from random locations every time it sounded.

“Okay,” Bernie said, “then we should...”

He suddenly felt a distinct lack of Jimmy's tugging on his leg. This coupled with the front door currently sitting wide-open made his heart leap a little in his chest. “I think Jimmy's outside.” He ran to the door.

While her feelings on the subject leaned a little on the side of letting the boy get eaten by a hairy beast, Melody agreed that this would not reflect well on them as babysitters. “Let's go,” she said, right behind her father.

As soon as they were on the porch, chills ran down Melody's spine. The air seemed to be charged with static, putting her instantly on edge.

“Did you see where he...”

From behind the bushes of the creepy house next door, came a loud angst-ridden howl.

“This is getting serious,” Melody said. “What if there really is a Hellhound?!”

“Where did Jimmy go?” Bernie all but stammered, scanning the neighborhood.

“I don’t see him,” Lonnie said, just as concerned. “Oh my god, Bernie. What if there’s really some beast out here. Why would he go running off? I thought he was scared.”

“He’s an enigma,” Melody said, leaning over the railing. “I don’t know. I don’t understand any of his thought processes.” She whispered into the darkness as loudly as the confines of a whisper would allow. “Jimmy?!”

There was some rustling, and then another somewhat muted snort of a sneeze, followed by the voice of a human.

Melody strained her eyes to see who it was walking down the sidewalk. “Mrs. Muir?”

A tall, slender, almost stick-like figure wearing a yellow pea-coat and large circular glasses looked up at Melody and her father. On a leash in front of her was a small dog, sporting a too-large white cone around its head. Before she could greet them, the dog sneezed, the sound of which was highly amplified by the presence of the cone.

“Good evening,” Mrs. Muir said, waving at them. She seemed in a great hurry.

“Was that your dog that was making with the howls, earlier?” Bernie asked her.

“I'm afraid it might have been,” the woman said. “I do apologize if Herman woke you. He has a scratch on his eye, and well, you can see what I had to do.” She indicated the cone around the dog's neck with her eyes.

Melody smiled. Mrs. Muir was a high-school English teacher. Herman was named for Herman Melville, though the girl felt the scrawny little dog did little to live up to the name.

“No,” Melody told her. “We were already up.” She began to laugh, and pointed to her father. “Dad thought there was a wolf running around the neighborhood.”

Bernie's social-friendly smile faded. “I did not,” he said.

“I tried to tell him it was probably just a coyote or a dog with a cone around its neck...”

At this, Mrs. Muir's expression turned dour. She picked up Herman in her arms. “A Coyote, you say?” Her eye began to noticeably twitch. “You can't expect a Coyote to be running around the city, can you?”

“They've become almost as common as raccoons,” Bernie said. He produced an apple from his pocket and took a harsh-sounding though clearly nonchalant bite from it.

Melody’s eyes narrowed at her father and was at once annoyed with his constant snacking, while at the same time also impressed with his preparedness. If they were ever trapped someplace, it would surely be a long while before the Jackson’s starved to death.

“Seriously?” she asked him, aloud. “You’re not pregnant are you?”

Bernie stopped chewing momentarily, but made no comment.

“Well, how many howls did you hear?” said Mrs. Muir. “Maybe we can reconcile them?” She seemed to consider something in her mind. “Let's see, Herman howled just then.” She pointed to the bush.

Melody and her father looked at each other. “We've been hearing howls all night,” she said. “Herman just howled the one time?”

“Well,' Mrs. Muir started, and trailed off. She seemed to become more agitated by the moment. “He has been sneezing quite a bit. Perhaps you might have mistaken those...” She stopped when the two people on the porch emphatically began to shake their heads. They seemed to be looking past her now at something across the street.

“Oh my,” Mrs. Muir said quickly, grabbing Herman into her arms. With a little squeak, she added, “I've got to go.”

“Dad,” Melody said, unable to look away from the black void in the field behind the weather station. “Do you suppose that's Jimmy over there?”

There came a distinct snort and some rustling of unknown origin.

Bernie simply continued to shake his head, though Melody was unsure if it was still in motion from earlier.

From the blackness came a metallic squeal, like from a massive hinge. The picture that first formed in Melody’s head was that of a circular metal door from a submarine—and an old, rusty submarine at that. She and her mother had actually heard the sound once before, though it was in the daytime and not quite as scary. They had never been able to identify it.

“No slam,” Bernie said.

“That’s what I thought, too,” Melody told him. “Submarine?”

Bernie shrugged. He seemed lost in thought. Then he shook his head and his eyes cleared. “Wait...what?”

“What do you think it was?” Lonnie asked. “I thought it sounded like tearing metal.”

Bernie shuddered. “I seem to recall someone talking about a sound like that on the Spooky radio.” This is what Bernie called his late night radio shows which dealt with odd or possibly supernatural occurrences.

Lonnie descended from the porch and stepped out into the yard. “It sounded like it came from over there, right? But there's nothing over there.

“The only door is on the front of the station, Melody said. “And it’s wooden and light-weight.”

Lonnie shook her head. “Why are we talking about a door?”

“I thought the sound came from the sky,” Bernie said, batting at his lower lip.

Lonnie scowled at them. “It clearly came from the ground.” She then began to scan the yard and called out for the small boy.

Bernie turned to Melody, shaking. “Where could that weird little kid have gone? We can't leave him out here.”

Melody stepped off the porch and began to search the surrounding foliage. She found a stick in the grass and used it to poke around inside the bushes every few feet.

“Pay dirt,” she said finally, and there emerged from the darkness the giggling of the boy. “I found him.” She looked up at her father. “You grab him around the torso, and I'll knock him unconscious with a coconut.”

Jimmy giggled at this as though this were the funniest thing he had ever heard. He then dashed through the bushes in an escape attempt. “You can't catch me!” he roared.

Melody grabbed at his arms, but as the boy was suddenly slipperier than a greased pig she immediately lost her grip. Melody wondered if this was due to some evolutionary mutation.

“Dad!” she said. “I was completely serious about the coconut!”

Jimmy, who was now running wild, darted through the yard towards the street.

Bernie froze.

“Dad!” Melody said, running after the boy. She knew that her father was terrified at the unknown goings on across the street, and it was madness that the only thing Jimmy seemed to want to do was to run towards it. But she needed his help – and fast! “I'm not going to let someone else disappear over there!” she said, in reference to the lost Malika who had been grabbed by the creature during their adventure with the Woman in White. “This one would definitely be on us.”

Jimmy serpentined whenever Melody got close to him, eluding her.

“JIMMY, NO!” she repeated over and over again.

Finally, a blur of motion appeared behind Melody, and grabbed Jimmy under the armpits just as he was about to reach the sidewalk across the street. Melody was relieved to see it was her Mother, and not some slack-jawed, quadruped.

Lonnie Jackson grunted loudly as she attempted to lift the young boy in her arms. “Bernie” she said. “Come help me with the big bruiser.”

Bernie was there quickly, and gasped as he lifted the boy in his arms. “We’ve got to stop feeding this kid anvils for breakfast,” he said.

Jimmy laughed maniacally at this and wriggled and squirmed in his uncle’s arms.

Another loud explosion of tearing metal filled the air, following by a percussive thump vibrating underfoot.

Melody and her mother looked at each other extremely seriously and they both turned to face the cold, unseen emptiness behind the weather station.

“Do you have a flashlight?” Lonnie asked her daughter.

“NO!” Melody was adamant about this. While she did actually have a flashlight with her – she always seemed to have a flashlight with her – her exclamation was directed mainly in opposition to her mother's intention.

From there came a scratching and a rustling in the underbrush.

Lonnie leaned closer, and cupped her hand around her ear. “What is...?”

Melody could clearly make out a snort! and some banging as if on a wooden door. With her free hand, she grabbed at her mother's cupped hand, and forcefully attempted to drag her across the street to their home. “Come on, Mother,” she scolded. Catering to Lonnie's mothering instincts, she added. “It's getting cold out and we don't want Jimmy to get a sniffle.”

Zombie-like, Lonnie uttered, “Yeah, perhaps you're right.”

The two skittered across the street and found Bernie wide-eyed and on the porch, clutching Jimmy as though a life-preserver. “What did you guys hear over there?” he muttered.

“Naught but for the knocking knees of my scaredy-cat father,” Melody said, quickly.

“Hey I did my part once I was able to swallow all of the organs that had accumulated in my throat. I have a broken spine to attest to that.” He pointed with his eyes at Jimmy. “But what are we thinking here?”

“About what?” Lonnie climbed to the porch and sat down in one of the Adirondack chairs. “For me, I was thinking of starting with a beer and not stopping until either they or I was gone.”

Bernie sighed. “That sounds like a great idea, actually.”

“Good plan,” Melody said. “You both get drunk and I’ll protect us all from the massive dirt-marine full of ghost eating Bardos.”

“What I meant is, are we thinking this building might have a basement? I was hearing machinery.”

“We all heard different things,” Melody said.

“But Malika could be down there?”

“Bernie!” Lonnie shouted. “You were there when that thing took her. You know that thing came from another plane of existence. If she’s down there, it’s only temporary.”

Bernie sat down in the chair next to her, still clinging to Jimmy. “There has to be a non-crazy explanation,” he said under his breath. While he was always open to the supernatural and the things weird, when it was staring him in the face logic always attempted to prevail.

“I would love it if there were,” Lonnie said.

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One: Episode One

Melody Jackson

vs. The Hound from Hell

by BMB Johnson

Scene 11

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