Author’s note: This is a continuation of The Pied Harpist of Nashville story. Click here to go to the first installment.
Everywhere a Sign
By L. Stewart Marsden
Terry felt like a complete, idiotic fool. How Melvin could deduce in a few minutes what had stared him in the face for months shook his self-confidence, much less his trust in Sheila.
How could he have been taken in so easily?
Melvin tried to tell him that these things aren’t very obvious. That it takes someone who is inclined towards the spiritual to pick up on the spiritual.
“We don’t even know what’s going on, Terry. It could be that Sheila is as much a victim as you. But regardless, we’ve got to be careful. They can’t know we suspect anything! You must keep poker faced until we know what we’ve been dealt, and what cards to play.”
“Yeah. You got to know when to hold ‘em,” Terry said with a wry grin.
They agreed to meet in a week back at the diner. Each would reveal whatever else they had managed to uncover.
“She can’t know, Terry.”
“I was never good at cards, Melvin,” he said, shaking his head.
“Get good, then.”
* * *
Terry found reasons to go to Marvin’s Musical Museum. To chat about an upcoming tour, or ask Coleridge something about the harmonica.
“So, what kind of wood is this made from?”
“Gopher wood. Hard to come by.”
“Never heard of it.”
“Noah used it to build the ark, they say.”
“Oh, yeah! It’s in the Bible! You read the Bible, Marvin? I didn’t know that. You go to church?”
“Yeah. I go to church.”
“Oh, it’s a pretty small offshoot denomination. Probably never heard of it.”
“Could I go with you sometime?”
“Sure. Sometime. But I want you to concentrate on your career now, Terry. Church can come later.”
“What’s going on with me, you know – this harmonica? It’s pretty special, don’t you think?”
“I don’t think. I know!” Coleridge grinned, flipping through a stack of sales receipts at the counter.
“So, don’t you think God has something to do with this, then?”
Coleridge stopped what he was doing and looked up.
“God – Terry – God helps them that help themselves. Ever hear that? It’s in the Bible. Look it up. And special people like you, well – special people like you don’t need a lot of help from God.”
“That doesn’t sound very religious, Marvin.”
“Well it goddamn well is religious, Terry! If everybody who’s down and out got up off their fat asses and did something about it, there wouldn’t be any need for all these goddamn religions, I say!”
How quickly Coleridge heated up surprised Terry, and he decided he had better back down before the crab man began to get wary. As he continued to wander through the shop, Terry picked up instruments and looked at them. Coleridge cooled and went back to his paperwork.
He found the logo that was etched on his harmonica adorning a number of instruments. On a mandolin, it was embossed into one of the tab turners. He found it etched onto one of the valves of an ancient-looking trumpet.
“How long you been using this logo, Marvin?” he asked, an acoustic in hand.
“Huh? Oh, forever, I think,” came the disinterested reply.
“That’s a really long time,” Terry said with a laugh.
“Well, time flies, boy. Forever ain’t as long as you’d think.”
As he walked about the shop, he kept glancing over at his mentor, looking for some physical thing – slightly pointed ears or traces of webbing between the fingers or unusual hair growth – to point to the demonic side of Coleridge.
Wait! Maybe he could read minds, and was listening in on Terry’s very thoughts!
“I can’t!” Coleridge yelled, slamming his fist on the counter
“What!” reacted Terry, sure he was exposed.
“I can’t get these goddamn receipts to add up!” he said, face reddening again. “Don’t you have somewhere to go? Something to do?”
“Not at the moment,” Terry responded meekly.
“Well get the hell outta here and go find something to do, goddamn it!” he yelled.
* * *
Sheila opened the apartment door and struggled holding takeout Chinese in one hand, and a stretched canvas painting in the other. Terry was sprawled on his back on the couch, his nose deep in a rather voluminous book.
“That’s okay,” she said, “don’t get up! I got it!”
“Um-huh,” he mumbled as she teetered into the kitchen and dumped the bags on the counter. She leaned the painting against the wall.
“I got Chinese. Ling-Fu’s. And I brought this painting over from my apartment. Thought it would brighten up the place.”
“What’re you reading that has you so hypnotized? You never read. Unless it’s fan letters.”
She marched over to the sofa and plucked the book from his hands.
“Hey! I’m reading that!” and sat up as she closed the book and looked at its cover.
“The Satanic Bible, by Anton LaVey? Holy Mother of Jesus, Terry! What the hell are you reading? And where’d you get this?”
“I found it at the bookstore down on the corner. Neat, huh? Did you know that you can actually levitate things by really concentrating on an object? No strings or anything! I thought those magicians on TV were fakes. Turns out some of them aren’t. Makes you wonder about guys like Houdini and where he got his talent, right?”
“Terry! Listen to yourself! Where is this coming from?”
“I’ve just been wondering how I can do what I can do with my harmonica. Did you know that the logo on it is a sign of Satan?”
“Two crosses and the infinity symbol. Stands for Satan. You know there are a lot of stories about Satan and country music musicians. Like all of the tragedy that struck some of the best.”
“I’m starting to worry about you, Terry. Really, really worry.”
“C’mere, you,” he said, feigning a mysterious look, and moving his hands and fingers as if to magically draw her to him. She laughed and walked over, and the two fell back onto the couch, she on top of him.
“So all this stuff about Satan and magic makes you uncomfortable, does it?”
“It’s creepy! Gives me the shivers! And it’s not like you.”
“You ever dabble in the occult? You know, play Ouija? Or Tarot cards?”
He hugged her tightly and kissed her neck, working up to her lips, kissing between words:
“That’s – good – to – know!”
“Ummm,” she purred as his hand moved down along her spine. “What about the Chinese from Ling-Fu’s?”
“Who cares? We’ll just be hungry again in an hour. Let it wait.”
“It’ll get cold.”
“Cold Chinese! Oh, the horror of it all!”
Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 12 November, 2014