The Continuing Adventures of Sam Sonata - Music Detective
Chapter Four


Sam Sonota
Lieutenant Loudon I pulled my car into a parking spot near Hendrix and Page and climbed out of the car still disturbed by my encounter with "Nothing." What I needed was a nice jazz ballad or two. Yeah - a good stiff shot of some smooth vintage Getz would suit me just fine.

Some kids held up a boombox for a listener in a parked Impala at the curb. I could vaguely hear "The Partridge Family" over the street noise - obviously some sort of sicko was inside getting his kicks. Wonder if his wife knows? Well, it takes all kinds. A police car suddenly flashed around the corner - its atonal siren screaming and the muscle car sped off the opposite direction as the kids scattered.

Took a left on Coltrane and turned down the first alley to where a small neon sign signaled the location of the Green Banana nightclub. I knocked on the door and an eye slot slide open.

"Where's your Jazz Card?" the muffled voice asked.

I held up my Music Detective Identification Card and the door opened.

"What'll ya' have?" the bartender asked as I sat down at the bar.

"Scotch - straight, no chaser, and a hit of your finest Bossa Nova."

"You're in luck, my friend," the bartender said as he slid the Scotch and a set of headphones to me over the bar. "We got the newly remastered "Girl From Impanema" - it's now in Surround Sound Plus."

"Whatever happened to plain old Surround Sound?"

"This is even better. It's extra-dimensional."

I shrugged and put the headphones on and fell into a dream of beaches, sun, and tanned and nubile women. Oh Astrid, Astrid - lead me to what I seek. Let your quiet melancholic, flat-as-a-board voice combine with Gil's velvet-tarantula guitar and Stan's light-as-a-fluffy-cloud-in-a-blue-sky-over-a-jungle-waterfall sax to clear my head and renew me.

After a couple Scotches and a double "Corcovado" I felt refreshed and made my way out the exit.

I retraced my steps to where I left my car and was just about to climb in when I saw her. Entering an alley near Clapton Street - a young girl, her red hair tied in braids: Harmony!

I ran across the street in her direction, shouting, but she faded into the shadows as though she were into TM and listening to Yanni and couldn't hear me.

I turned to corner into the alley and suddenly ran straight into the chest of a man of excessive bulk. Two more men emerged and grabbed my arms. "The Rhythm Kings," I thought to myself just as a Pavoratti-sized fist struck me in the stomach and doubled me over.

I looked up and realized I was wrong - it wasn't the Rhythm Kings after all. Another man stepped out of the shadows wearing a trenchcoat.

"Lieutenant Loudon?" I gasped.

"Shhhhh - you don't have to shout - I'm right here. Sonata? What brings you to this concerto grosso and in such con fuoco? Oh I forgot - you're a "music lover." The nosehairs in the ugly man's face quivered as he whispered, his bright fluorescent earplugs visible, as well as the shining metal plate in his head beneath the fedora.

"He's carrying, Lieutenant." One of the other men whispered softly and removed the Three Dog Night 45 from the holster under my arm. The Lieutenant reached for it and then quickly moved his hand away as the disk fell to the pavement and shattered.

"Why you!" I snarled and struggled against the men holding me fast.

"Shhhhh. Don't get upset, dick-head - it was an accident." The men chuckled softly.

"He's got one of these, too," one of the baboons whispered as he removed my Walkman.

"I've got a license for that!" I said.

"Please be quiet," Loudon said with a cringe. "Hmmm, what kind of ammunition we got in here?" The lieutenant removed the cassette. "Eddy Arnold! Well, well - what were you gunning for - bear?"

"Is that even legal, Lieutenant?" one of the cops asked quietly.

"If it were up to me, it wouldn't be, but our soft-on-crime Mayor's the one in charge - so... Let him go, boys."

I shook myself free of the gorillas and replaced the Walkman in my pocket.

"You owe me for the 45, Loudon," I said.

"Keep it down, will you?" he whispered in a pained voice. "You don't have to shout. Play it pianissimo, sotto voce. Use your "indoor voice." And just consider the 45 an occupational hazard." He adjusted the earplugs with a grimace. "Things happen. We've got a mandate to keep the peace and quiet. Freaking music freaks everywhere - making freaking noise - what do you freaking expect?"

I knew that his terrible wartime experience - when a Chinese missile struck a gas tanker outside the firecracker factory he and his men just had captured - had given him both the plate in his head, along with his burning hatred of all sound - especially music. His severe tintinitus had nearly driven him mad over the years since from forever answering phones that weren't ringing. "Why don't we run him in?" asked one of the cops in a normal voice. The Lieutenant flinched.

"Henderson - go wait in the car," he mouthed in pain. As the man walked away reluctantly, the Lieutenant added quietly, "Rookies. No, boys - me and Sonata here are old friends, aren't we, Sam?"

I scowled and felt my knuckles involuntarily, remembering.

"Remember that beautiful sunny day when we first met? When you were committing public indecency with your cello in the park? Believe it or not - this guy used to play with the Symphony - and he gave free concerts for children on Sundays. What a subversive! - hooking their little minds with trash like Dvorak and Vivaldi! So one day - no permit, and well... we had to break his hands. He never played again - ain't that right, Sammy boy?" The crooked grin leered at me.

"Don't flatter yourself, you tone deaf eunuch! I may have quit playing, but unlike you - I can still listen - and at some relatively high volumes I might add. Would you care to come by some night for some "RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE?" I shouted at the top of my lungs.

As the Lieutenant held his head in his hands and fell against the wall, his minions retaliated with repeated blows until I fell to the ground.

"Alright wise guy - enough getting reacquainted. What we want to know is what you know about the whereabouts of Melody Littlesong?" the Lieutenant whispered after regaining his composure.

"What do you care?" I groaned.

"Frankly I don't care whatsoever about the tawdry treble tramp," the Lieutenant raged with a cringe - his voice now louder and hurting his own ears. "I'd prefer to see the wanton little mezzo-soprano bitch drowned in a sea of dissonance with a block of musique concrete around her ankles, but... her father is an important man - one we don't want to make unhappy - so... You will let us know what you find out, won't you, Sam? For old times sake? Hate to have to run you into the mental ward. You should see the guy we got down there now: solid citizen - had a good job, and a wife and kid. One day he goes a little nuts - gets all hopped up on folk music. Now he just sits there like a zombie - humming some damn kiddie tune - "Stewbag" or something. It would make you sick to see it. Hate to see you end up that way, Sam. Come on boys. And remember - we'll be keeping an ear on you, Sontata." He turned to go and shouted at the unmarked squad car. "Henderson - can't you answer that DAMN PHONE?"

The music police left me lying in the alley nursing bruised ribs, a bleeding lip and the black vinyl shards of "Never Been to Spain." Harmony - if indeed that was who it was - was long gone. My thoughts raced. How did the music cops get involved in this matter? Had they been following me? But then something in what the Lieutenant said stuck with me. "Noise." That gave me an idea - a place to look - to find that fantastically melodious spectre - whose absence seemed to be affecting more than I had initially imagined - maybe even the very fabric of society itself.

To Be Continued...
Chapters: One - Two - Three - Five - Six - Seven - Eight - Nine - Ten

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