Scene 14

Bernie chose this moment to amble over to the field. He was almost strolling. His hands were in his pockets. He was whistling. And oddly, he had changed into a plaid shirt.

“Where's Jimmy?” Lonnie said with a confused look on her face.

“I tied him to the back fence post so he couldn't get into any more trouble.”

Mr. Rogers turned around and raised his eyebrow at this comment. Though as far as Melody could tell it wasn't a completely disapproving sort of eyebrow raise.

“Please say you're kidding,” she said.

Jimmy, who had been apparently playing on the porch of the tiny weather station, suddenly ran up to the group. His arms were out at his sides as though he were a single-prop airplane. Sputtering noises erupted from his mouth as if to illustrate this ruse.

“Kidding!” Bernie said, raising his arms. “I'm the opening act for Jimmy, the amazing flying boy.”

Melody rubbed her eyes. Jimmy was wearing the very same shirt now as her father, and she pretended as though she couldn't tell them apart.

Lonnie smirked. “Did you two get up early and get into my Butterick patterns?”

“Nah,” Bernie said. “He just happened to have a matching shirt in his luggage. I thought it would be adorable if we started dressing alike.” He walked over to Mr. Rogers, eyes wide and hungry. “Say,” he said. “Isn't that the XR-40, slim-line Metal-Boy Pro?”

The old man plugged one of his thumbs in his suspenders. “The very same,” he said, proudly.

Bernie nodded his head, licked his lips and held out his hands. “May I?”

Lonnie stepped in. “Okay,” she said. “Nothing to see here. I'm sure that thing is prohibitively expensive, Bernie, so don't get any ideas.”

“And I'm sure new users need special handling gloves,” Melody said, liking the game. “Do you have special handling gloves, Dad?”

“Rubbish,” Mr. Rogers said, handing Bernie the device. “It handles like a dream. You'd be a damn fool to buy any other model.”

Bernie wiped his mouth as though he were drooling.

“Anyway,” Melody said, in an attempt to change the subject. “Mr. Rogers, it seems, just found a large hit.”

“Oh, yes, yes,” the old man said. “I did indeed. Looks to be flat and about five to six feet across.” He placed the detector at his side. “Fairly deep, too.”

Bernie clasped his hands together, and cracked his knuckles like a pianist before a concert. “So, this machine can get to a pretty good depth, then?”

Mr. Roger’s cluckled. “Oh,” he said, rocking on his heels. “A good ten to twelve feet if it could an inch.”

“What do you think it is?” Lonnie asked him.

“Oh, hard to say. Could be some sort of cap or plate to keep someone from breaking whatever is underneath it. Though it's most likely an old oil drum or septic tank.”

Lonnie seemed disappointed in this. “How about a door?”

Mr. Rogers laughed at this. “A big metal door? Unlikely. Nah, my money's on oil tank. Used to be a house here that burned down. They would have back-filled the basement without bothering to clean out the debris. Most of these old houses originally used coal for heat, but some of them were upgraded to oil. Not uncommon. I'm not entirely sure when the old place burned down...”

All three of the Jackson’s, practically in unison, shouted, “Nineteen thirty-three!”

Mr. Rogers seemed taken aback by the quick response of such seemingly obscure information, and seemed a little disappointed that they had broken up his meandering, folksy story-telling timing “Okay then,” he said, but didn't seem to have anything more to offer after that.

“I don't suppose you have a backhoe in that nice garage of yours,” Melody said.

“Don't mind her,” Bernie said, reaching over to cap her mouth with his hand. “She's a monster without her morning coffee.”

Melody broke free and took a few steps from her father, glaring at him.

Mr. Rogers scratched at his head. “Whaaall,” he said, dragging the word out, thoughtfully. “I wouldn't recommend that course of action. First of all you'd need a permit, then you'd need to call gas and power to make sure no lines were going through that part of the yard. Also, neglecting that, since none of us owns the property, digging it up would be downright...” He held onto the pause, seemingly forever. “Un-neighbourly.”

Sort of like calling someone a dumb broad? Melody thought to herself, bitterly.

“Well, thank you for your assistance today, Mr. Rogers,” Lonnie said. “It was very eye-opening.”

“Yes, Bill, thanks,” Bernie agreed, and then leaned closer. “I don't suppose you'd have any brochures lying around for that slim-line Metal-Boy, would you?”

Mr. Rogers smiled. “I think I can rustle you up one or two.”

“Come on, Bernie,” Lonnie demanded. “We've got to get Jimmy ready to go. His mother's picking him up this afternoon.”

Melody smiled crookedly. She knew this was probably a lie, and she normally didn’t approve of such things, but she really wanted to go back home. Also, she truly wanted to believe her mother’s rhetoric.

“Oh,” Bernie said. “I do NOT want to miss that.”

“Swing by later and I'll have the brochures for ya. And then we can talk shop a bit.” He patted Bernie on the back and took his toy back into his garage.

“So,” Melody began. “Is everyone around here secret friends with all of the crabby neighbors?”

“I think maybe your crabby detector just needs to be adjusted,” Lonnie told her.

They walked across the street, which took three to four times longer than necessary as Jimmy tugged and pulled every which way, his attention diverted by anything and everything.

“Even the creepy guy next door?” Melody asked. “I know my detector's not off on that one.”

Bernie raised an eyebrow at her, and indicted with his eyes the house to the left. “Mr. Sheniganses? No, you're right about him. He's pretty much a jerk.”

“No,” Melody corrected, and pointed to the deteriorating house to the right. “That one.”

Bernie's face went suddenly blank, and he seemed to almost refuse to look in that direction. “No one lives there, Melody,” he said, very seriously. “That house has been abandoned since I was a child.” He then seemed to fall into what was apparently a trance. Melody opened her mouth and although her father had already turned away, he said, stopping her: “And I don't want to hear anything more about it.”

Lonnie, who was already inside with Jimmy, added, “What your father said.”

“Alright. Alright!” Although, at least in her mind, Melody would never be done with it. How could she? Especially after that weird conversation. There was something about that creepy old house her parents seemed to be keeping from her, and she was determined to find out what it was. However, today was not that day. The Jacksons currently had two important projects on their plates. One, get Jimmy out of the house, And two, solve the mystery of the Hound from Hell. At the moment, she wasn’t entirely certain either one of them was possible.

It Happened on Lafayette Street

Season One: Episode One

Melody Jackson

vs. The Hound from Hell

by BMB Johnson

Scene 14

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