AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Vocalist is a rewrite of a story I initially penned in 2001 and consists of eight chapters. With this latest chapter, I’ve trimmed approximately 200 words from the original manuscript. The rewrites are extensive, representing a near completely done over retelling. As noted in the opening chapter of this tale, I believe that the initial story concepts as written in 2001 remain solid, but that the overall execution was weak. With this rewrite I’m aiming to rectify that shortcoming.
AT 8:32 PM THE BLUE-GREY CHEVY Cavalier fishtailed across a rain-slick roadway, tearing through a guardrail before becoming airborne. It sailed for several long seconds atop a grass-covered hill before impacting hood first with the ground below. Nearly 30 yards behind the accident scene, Trevor brought his Honda Civic to a halt. He’d been behind the Cavalier and had watched, mystified, as its driver failed to negotiate what was clearly not a difficult turn. Trevor slowed his car to the side of the road and switched on the hazard lights. He stepped out of his car, the heavy rain stinging his face like angry wasps.
Trevor caught a glimpse of his reflection against the Honda’s rain-soaked windows, the blinking yellow and orange hazard lights creating a frightening dual persona. He hurried to the splintered railing and gazed down the hillside at the wrecked Chevy. Its exterior lights continued to shine, illuminating the otherwise black, rain-soaked slope.
Forgoing any thought of personal danger, Trevor raced down the side of the hill and reached the wreck within seconds. Trevor called out to the driver but received no response. The door was either locked or jammed and the smell of oil and burning rubber indicated a possible fire was erupting within the car’s engine.
Drenched, Trevor stood back several feet from the vehicle and cleared his mind. His vocal chords tensed and relaxed. A low, nondescript sound became audible, initially barely above a whisper. The sound quickly grew and expanded, becoming louder and more focused. B flat. The rainstorm was reduced to white noise against Trevor’s vocal. Were he projecting light, passersby would have been blinded by its radiance. As sound, it shattered the windows of the wrecked Chevy in a series of simultaneous, yet controlled, explosions that nonetheless tossed Trevor to the ground.
Silence followed, but for the driving rain and the sudden inhalation of air as Trevor refilled his spent lungs. He rose, slowly, a sharp pain inflicting his right Latissimus Dorsi muscle. Ignoring the pain, he entered the vehicle through its passenger-side door and carefully removed the driver from the wreckage.
Trevor gazed at the unconscious driver, a pale woman approximately 50 years old, and covered her with his blazer. He cautiously carried her up the hillside as she began to regain consciousness. Seconds later, Trevor eased her into the passenger side of his car and phoned 9-1-1.
“You’ve a nasty laceration on your forehead,” Trevor said, placing a folded-up tissue against the gash. “Hold onto this. Try to apply steady pressure.”
“Are you okay?”
“Good. I’m Trevor.”
“Agnes,” she managed.
“What happened, Agnes?”
“I—I fell asleep.”
Trevor examined the forehead wound.
“You’re going to need stitches, at least a few.”
“I know. Try to hang in there. An ambulance will be here in a few minutes. You’ll likely need a full body MRI scan to rule out internal injuries.”
The wail of sirens signaled the arrival of help, and an ambulance and patrol car soon appeared. The EMTs assessed Agnes as they situated her on a gurney. She grasped Trevor’s hand.
“Thank you,” she said, faintly.
Upon returning home and stripping out of his soaking clothes, Trevor discovered the cut on his left forearm, attributing it to the broken glass around the Chevy’s doors. He washed the wound thoroughly, the shower’s hot water and steam a pleasant alternative to the earlier mud and rain. The scent of citrus filled the air as the shower door opened and closed.
“Hello, love,” he said to Marcia, and continued to rinse the shampoo from his hair. “How was class?”
“Fine. You should have seen tonight’s model. Imagine if Phyllis Diller and Yono Oko had a child.”
“Yoko Diller. I’ll check out your sketchbook.”
“By the way, I heard about your exploits.”
“Heard on the radio. Unknown good Samaritan in a Honda Civic saves crash victim. Had to be you.”
“Always the hero,” she said, smiling.
“More like, wrong place right time.”
“Anyway, you’re a good man.”
Marcia stood in the shower, her front pressed against Trevor’s back, and massaged his shoulders. Trevor exhaled. Her hands moved from shoulders to chest, her fingers caressing his wet flesh.
“Staying in tonight?” she asked.
“I think so.”
“That’s nice,” she said, mischievously. “You know, you can always play the super-hero game with me.”
“What do you mean?”
Slippery hands moved toward the middle of his body. “Up, up, and away,” she giggled.
Mr. Black and Blue pulled a slice of pie free from the cardboard pizza box and held it up in disgust.
“Will ya look at this? This is what’s wrong with this country!”
He held the slice high as if it were a staff, but there was no Red Sea to be parted, merely the audible ramblings of a madman.
“You see that? Do you see that? Do you see how the merger of cheese and cardboard box? How is a man expected to ear this? How can a man eat this I ask ya?”
The Scallion sat on a red-leather chaise across the room, trying to conceal an ever-increasing annoyance. “I really can’t–I don’t know.”
“I tell ya what we ought’a do. We go down to that pizza joint and we waste the lot of ‘em.”
“Certainly would solve the problem,” the Scallion replied, dryly.
He’d been here most of the evening, chewing stale pretzels and sipping warm beer and growing increasingly intolerant of his colleague’s nonstop tirades. Mr. Black and Blue, ever self-obsessed, was oblivious to the Scallion’s agitation.
“I’m tellin’ ya, we ought to quit yappin’ about it and just go down and plug a couple of them dough boys.”
“That would be about as practical as trying to kill a deaf person by assailing them with a wall of sound.”
“You’re not even listening!” His breaking point reached, the Scallion raised his glass and sipped warm beer which he, seconds later, spat onto the red-leather chaise. With a moment’s hesitation he then tipped over the antique-glass serving dish that housed dozens of stale pretzels. The plate shattered on the ceramic tiled floor as the Scallion erupted from his seat. It had been coming to this. The burnt cape and broken TV were mere precursors to what would follow. The two men stood face to face.
“What the hell has gotten into you?”
“Listen to me and listen good you over-sized, ignominious, self-involved prat.”
Expecting a rebuttal, the Scallion paused. But no rebuttal followed. The lack of reply created an unanticipated second break. His timing upended, the Scallion stumbled to regain momentum.
“Permit me to speak bluntly. I’ve been patient, but even my patience has limits. I’ve sat and dined with you. I’ve listened to you chatter on about topics so mundane they’d bore the love child of Salvador Dali and Stephen Hawking. I’ve tried to quench my thirst on this warm beverage which, by the way, is supposed to be served cold. Enough is enough.”
Mr. Black and Blue stared at his associate in amazement.
“We are in a most advantageous position my big-on-muscle-short-on-brains ally, but you seem intent to squander that advantage by prattling on about pizza boxes and the cost of cable television.”
“Cable TV’s expensive. Am I wrong here?”
“You’re not wrong; you’re just an idiot!” the Scallion exploded, shoving his somewhat ally with both arms. Mr. Black and Blue, the larger of the two, barely moved. He intuitively shoved back with twice the force, knocking the Scallion off balance.
“What are sayin’, runt?”
“I’m talking about plans–big plans. Schemes. Ideas. Ways that we can exact our superiority on the insignificant beer-drinking and pretzel-eating masses of the world. Is your brain too infantile to grasp the grandeur, the magnificence, of what I’m proposing? Well, is it?”
With practiced precision, Mr. Black and Blue lashed out at the Scallion, landing a Dempsey Roll that sent Fitzgerald crashing down like a Lincoln Log house.
“Perhaps I was a bit too over zealous—too intense,” the Scallion said, rising from the ground while wiping blood from his nose against a gloved hand. “How about if we begin our association anew. Start over.”
“Yeah. I guess so. But watch with the smart talk already, punk.”
The Scallion arched his spine, heard a low, audible snap, and cried out.
“The pain. Must have…twisted…back…”
Mr. Black and Blue extended a helping hand. The Scallion accepted the offer, but landed an unexpected uppercut. The Scallion leaped onto the larger man’s back, toppling him to the floor. As Mr. Black and Blue clutched his inflamed jaw, the Scallion quickly retrieved an object from his breast pocket.
“I think you’ll find this most agreeable,” the Scallion said, “and a tasty alternative to the pizza you so frequently crave.” He broke open the tiny onion and pushed it into the face of Mr. Black and Blue, who bean to gag and choke.
“That’s it. Breathe and relax, my ape-like companion. You’ve nothing to fear from my hypno-onion. Just breathe deep like a good little monkey.”
Under the influence of the fast-acting inhaled hypnotics, Mr. Black and Blue’s muscles exhibited a rheumatic state. His mind was equally compromised.
“Listen to my voice. It is the only voice whose instructions you will follow. Do you understand?”
“Honestly, I didn’t want it to come to this but you’re quite the lout, albeit a well-connected lout. My plan requires a significant amount of capital, and suffice to say I’m not about to resort to something as pedestrian as bank theft. You will call in markers and borrow from your mob superiors. Borrow heavily. They believe in you, so it’ll be no problem. We will then alter the status quo. Technically speaking, I’ll do the altering. You, a mere monkey of a man, wouldn’t be capable of altering a 2 x 4 even if given the proper tools.”
Mr. Black and Blue nodded in hypnotic agreement.
“Enough chatter. There’s work to be done and done it shall be. You have your orders, so make the arrangements.”
“What’s the dollar amount you’re looking for?”
“It’s a large number. I should probably write it down for you. Meanwhile, I’m going to retrieve a few belongings but shall return shortly. This dwelling suits me much more than my current rat-infested dump, though we’ll have to do something about the dining room. That pink and black motif is simply dreadful.”
NEXT: An after-hours library visit.