High Society: Melody Chapter 4

Illustration from Sven Oujla
Illustration from Sven Oujla

Melody’s face couldn’t tolerate a squint; squinting made her look confused and slightly demented. And so she sat in Margarine’s new ultra-modern office in Bloomsbury, so busy not squinting at the bright cavalcade of sunlight streaming in from the uncovered floor-to-ceiling windows, that she barely understood a word her manager was saying.  Margarine noticed this, and swiveled twice in her swivel chair – a sign of frustration.

“Have you heard one word I’ve said?” asked Margarine.

“I heard them all, not just the one,” said Melody. “But could you repeat the last part? It sounded like you may have been speaking in metaphor. Or Swahili.”

Margarine, now flagrantly flaunting her frustration, reiterated that Melody had an audition for the new Jesse Lee movie playing the action adventure star’s buxom sidekick, Ace, in a futuristic Martial Arts reboot of the Miss Marple franchise.  “Okay”, said Melody, now squinting freely. “Let’s skip the whole Miss-Marple-Has-Muscles thing. He’s a ninja assassin; why does he need a sidekick? I just… I can’t wrap my head around any of it.”  “It’s a Hollywood movie,” said Margarine. “Don’t wrap your head around it; you’ll only hurt yourself. Just show up with your headshots, your head and some cleavage. And be prepared!” she warned as Melody walked out the door.

But after a week’s worth of Googling and online research, Melody sat with Albert at a local cheese shop, no closer to being prepared than she was the week before. In fact, she was even more confused. “There’s this whole history of sidekicks,” she explained, spearing a piece of cheddar with a toothpick. “From Chewbacca to Hermione Granger. That’s an awfully big gamut, Albert. Unmanageable,” moaned Melody who – because she was squinting at the sun– failed to notice the tall homeless-looking man standing outside the floor-to-ceiling window, watching her.

Later in the week, Albert found himself vehemently disapproving of the idea. Joe was a stranger. And worse: a homeless stranger. And even worse: A homeless stranger who was probably a murderer. Albert had forgotten his rather pleasant encounter with Joe, several days earlier. Melody tried to explain that Albert had it all wrong, but Albert’s objections grew in proportion to Melody’s trust in the man. He objected so much to Joe, that Melody had to lie and tell him that she’d nixed the plan completely. Instead she’d be spending the day with an old college chum who’d flown in from America. In reality, of course, she wound up sitting next to Joe at a local café as he went over their plan to steal back the gold pocket watch belonging to a mystery client of his. She listened intently, excited to be playing a real-life sidekick and doing real-life research for a part she really, really wanted.  Life was so agreeable sometimes.

“Do you believe in fate?” asked Melody. Joe was studying the linen-bound program for the Knightsbridge Timepiece Auction, trying to find out when and where Denny would show up with the Malberry watch. “I believe we make our own mistakes. And we make up for our own mistakes,” he said without looking up. “We make our own fate.” Melody didn’t know what to say or if she should even say anything. So she ordered a fruit juice.  She needed the energy.

The auction house was more crowded and chaotic than Melody imagined.  But her role was simple enough and depended on Denny, not the crowd: She would get his attention with an irresistible combination of cleavage and sparkling jewellery – fake, of course (the jewellery, not the cleavage). Joe, meanwhile, an expert at silently sideling, would pickpocket the watch and exchange it for a fake.  And all would be well.

And it was. At first…

Denny, ever the magpie, noticed Melody from a mile away, and since he could run a quick mile he was next to her in a heartbeat. That much went well. Melody, who had done her research, also played her role expertly, eagerly talking about the vintage Rolex submariner with original dial she was planning to bid on. This titillated Denny, which Melody had counted on. What she hadn’t counted on – and neither had Joe who, let’s face it, didn’t really know Melody all that well – was the sun. Suddenly, without a hint of warning, it rudely shifted its position from beyond the giant glass window to just in front of it…and right onto Melody’s face. She squinted suddenly and spasmodically, giving her a confused and slightly demented appearance, which completely broke the Hermione Granger-like spell she’d cast over Denny. His eyes bulged in horror. “Well, then! Nice chatting… but I have a watch to sell. Cheers.” And he disappeared into the crowd.

Joe bolted after Denny while Melody, thinking on her feet rather than with her head, tried to slow Denny’s progress by yelling, “Help! That man stole my handbag”. She was sure the crowd would intervene, thereby giving Joe a chance to catch up. But the crowd did nothing, except for Albert, who’d tagged along for a second lunch, and popped out from behind a silver chafing dish and flung a red-hot plate of ratatouille at Joe, mistaking him for Melody’s assailant.  And in a flash, Denny was gone.

An hour after the police had left, Melody, Joe and Albert sat together on the curb outside the auction house.

“I’m sorry,” said Albert. “I thought Joe was the culprit. A criminal.”

“It’s okay,” said Melody in a soft whisper before turning to Joe. “It was fate. Right?”

But Joe, whose eyes still stung from ratatouille and defeat, didn’t answer. Without squinting, he looked straight into the very heart of the sun and let out a deep, deafening howl, which Melody would later remember as sounding exactly like Chewbacca.

Written by Tinsel Townsend | @TinselsTown

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Next Wednesday: Albert

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Previous Parts

Chapter One

Part 1: Charlie Malbery

Part 2: Albert

Part 3: Ernest Malbery

Part 4: Ingrid

Part 5: Dalton

Part 6: Melody

Part 7: Marion


Chapter Two

Part 1: Albert

Part 2: Melody

Part 3: Marion

Part 4: Ingrid

Part 5: Dalton

Part 6: Charlie


Chapter Three

Part 1: Denny Rogers

Part 2: The homeless man

Part 3: Albert

Part 4: Melody

Part 5: Dalton

Part 6: Marion


Chapter Four

Part 1: Charlie

Part 2: Joe