Authors: Tracy Cooper-Posey
“Even better,” she replied crisply.
“Why don’t you do that with the contents of my office here, too?”
“You’re leaving now?”
“I don’t have to be told twice when I’m not welcome,” she told him.
She shut the door gently.
* * * * *
Driving back home to her modest Brentwood apartment seemed to take half as long as the usual morning commute.
Taylor realized that she had more than the odd thought or two on her mind, and that the journey back didn’t include the standard snarl of morning traffic.
She pulled into the cramped car park that served her apartment building, slid into her slot, and turned the engine off and listened to the silence inside her car with something that felt like astonishment.
What was she doing here?
Had she really been fired?
Was she really unemployed?
It was barely ten in the morning and it was a dazzling, beautiful spring day.
Beyond the windows of the car, she could hear traffic, car horns, and the usual murmur of L.A. on a week day.
Taylor gathered up her bag and briefcase, her jacket and cellphone and remembered picking them up from the chair by her front door this morning.
The last thing she would have predicted as she had headed for work just as she had for the last seven years was that she would be here, now, and unemployed.
Oh, and busted up with her boyfriend, too.
That one didn’t hurt nearly as much as the loss of her job.
Her career, really.
She slid out of the car and headed for her apartment.
She would make coffee, then sit and make plans…if she could just get her brain to shift into gear.
She checked the mailbox in the foyer on the way through, but it was still too early for the mailman to have delivered the mail yet.
So she climbed the stairs to the third floor and headed down the long corridor to her apartment.
Even from the far end of the corridor, she could hear the steady beat of heavy metal music.
From there, with the filtering effects of walls, plaster, carpet and more, it was just a heavy throbbing that filled the air.
With most of the apartment building occupants away for the day at their jobs and school or other business, someone was taking advantage of the solitude and had cranked up the volume.
Standing next to the speakers, the sound had to be overpowering.
As she got closer to her apartment, the treble came through and she could hear lyrics.
Because of the filtering of the walls, it was easier to understand the singer’s words than most heavy metal singers…or perhaps this singer simply knew how to enunciate better than most.
Taylor found herself listening to the threads of the lyrics as she picked out her apartment key from her key ring.
“…spears waved beyond thy doors…Foretelling thy doom to me this day of days…I knew of thy love before thee spoke of it to me…Say not of what is in thy heart for it must not be spake.”
The lyrics were Inigo Domhnall.
Taylor stood in the middle of the hall, her keys in one hand, the other held up in mid-air, her mouth open.
She knew her eyes were comically wide with shock.
She turned toward the door where the indecently loud noise was originating and pushed herself into walking toward it. Her legs felt like twin blocks of timber, heavy and uncooperative.
Facing the door, she stared at the metal “310” nailed there.
The zero must have been lost some time in the past and been replaced by another zero that didn’t match – it was larger, cleaner and a different font from the other two digits.
Taylor shook herself, dropped her keys back into her bag and raised her fist to the door.
Knowing it was the only way she was going to be heard, she hammered steadily and heavily on it.
It took twenty very long seconds, then the music abruptly cut off.
Taylor hammered again.
Then she realized what her hammering may have been interpreted as.
“It’s okay. I’m not the police,” she called.
“I’m your next door neighbor.”
The silence lasted another five seconds.
“We turned it down, okay?” came the call through the door.
“That’s not why I knocked,” she called back.
“That music you’re playing.
I have to know the name of the composer.
It’s very important.”
Then she heard whispering.
A hasty conference.
The door cracked open a couple of inches and a single eye, very red, looked out at her.
Are you for real?”
It was a man’s voice.
A young man.
She could spot jeans and a black tee-shirt, and some facial hair, but not much else.
The opening of the door also wafted thick, aromatic air over Taylor.
The musky smell was unmistakable.
She grimaced at the strength of it.
“Listen, I don’t care about your little pot party, okay?
You can stone yourself to death for all I care.
I just want to know who wrote that song you were just playing.
It’s really, really important.”
He opened the door another inch or two.
“You’re that professor lady.
Next door, right?”
She wasn’t going to go into the specifics about university degrees and titles here and now.
Instead she gave him her friendliest smile.
“That song you were just playing…the words to that song are very old.
Whoever wrote the song used the words, you see—”
“They stole them?”
The man’s single eye widened.
The door opened up a little further and she could finally see his full face.
He wasn’t quite as young as she thought.
He was closer to her own age of thirty, with full sideburns and shaggy hair.
He was skinny to the point of organ failure and at the moment, his bloodshot eyes looked sleepy from the marijuana.
“They ripped off the words?” he asked again.
“No, they borrowed them.
You can do that with some very old stuff,” she told him.
His interest flagged.
“Then why do you want to know who did it so bad?”
“Whoever wrote that song had to have access to the words.
That means they know about Inigo Domhnall.
Well, they had one of his manuscripts, anyway.
Or they knew about them.
Or knew about one of his stories.
They heard the words somewhere,” she finished.
“I need to find out where.”
He tilted his head at her and screwed up his face.
She cast about for a simple explanation that he could process in his elevated state. Then she gave up.
“Because I just got fired from my job at the university because no one there believes me that the guy who wrote those words, way back in the fifth century, actually existed.
That song you were playing is the first proof I’ve found,
, that he did.”
It took the man a few seconds to process her words.
Then his sleepy eyes opened a bit wider.
“Oh, wow, hey, you’d better come in,” he said and pushed the door aside for her.
Taylor took a deep breath of the last of the fresh air in the corridor and stepped inside.
The apartment was the mirror of hers in layout, with a small living room and kitchenette separated by a breakfast bar, with an archway that led further into the apartment to the two bedrooms and the bathroom.
She used the tiny second bedroom in hers as an office.
That was where the resemblance to their two apartments ended.
There were three other people sprawled in the living room in various poses and attitudes of the completely stoned.
They stirred themselves when she walked in, but fell back when they saw she was not a cop or anyone in authority.
There was a glass bong on the chipped coffee table, and a bowl full of weed next to it.
Cans of pop and beer and two butt-filled ashtrays littered the rest of the ash-covered table.
“My roommates,” the man told her.
“Hello,” Taylor offered to all three in general.
An overweight man with green eyes lay in an honest-to-god denim beanbag, his arm around a slender woman with a tattoo of a dragon on the back of her shoulder.
The man belched.
Taylor assumed that was his version of hello.
A Hispanic man lay on the ratty sofa, his head on the arm.
He was bare chested, and his jeans button was popped, the boxers riding well above the band.
The guy who had opened the door jerked his thumb toward Taylor.
“She just lost her job.
She thinks the words on the Nocturnal Rain CD will get her job back.”
Taylor opened her mouth to protest over that huge simplification and the need to explain all the steps in between that would be necessary, then clamped her teeth together.
she had heard right, there was no guarantee that it would do anything to help her career.
One step at a time.
The Hispanic guy was struggling to sit up.
“Yo, death metal inspire you that much,
“Can I hear the song again?” she asked diffidently.
“Perhaps…not as loud?”
“It ain’t worth playing if it ain’t loud,” the girl murmured sleepily into her boyfriend’s shoulder.
The boyfriend nodded, his eyes closed.
“I’m not used to it,” Taylor reminded them.
“It just hurts my ears and I can’t hear details.”
The man who had opened the door was already standing in front of a very expensive-looking media center.
He grinned at her as he turned the volume control dial down with a big twist, then hit “play,” then “back.”
Immediately, the same song emerged from the slim speakers placed around the room, but at considerably reduced decibels.
Taylor listened to it, absorbing the lyrics, as the man handed her the CD cover and pointed to the song listed on the back, over the top of a photo of the band playing at a live concert, in front of thousands of screaming fans in a mosh pit.
Kiss Across Time,”
Well, that fit with the lyrics and Domhnall words.
Domhnall lived through years of threat from enemies, and the invasion of his country and the loss of his culture.
His stories and epic poems were all full of death, glory, love, battles, dying and more….or would be, if she had ever been able to catch more than a glimpse of him from the corner of her eye, in research terms.
“So?” the man asked.
“They’re the right words,” she confirmed, lifting her voice up to carry over the sound of the music.
She raised the CD.
“Who wrote these songs?
It just says ‘Gallagher’ on the cover.”
The man turned the player off.
“Andy knows Nocturnal Rain better’n us,” Graham said, from his recline in the bean bag.
Taylor realized he was referring to the man who had let her in the door and she turned to him.
“Who is Gallagher?” she asked.
Andy pointed to the CD.
“Lead singer and rhythm guitar for Nocturnal Rain.
“Then that’s who I need to talk to,” she said.
All four of them laughed, clutching their bellies and chests and mouths, their expressions alert for the first time since she had stepped into the room.
“I know they’re probably aloof,” she began.
“Being a successful band.
They’re probably surrounded by security during concerts.
But all I have to do is explain what I’m looking for.
I’m not a fan.
I’m not a groupie.
They’ll be reasonable, I’m sure.”
Graham sat up.
“You think they haven’t heard every scam in the world before now? They can recognize every bullshit fantasy story coming at them and kick a groupie to the curb before they get within sniffin’ distance of the band.”
He jerked his chin at Andy.
“Tell her what she’s dealin’ with.”
“Nocturnal Rain are kinda famous,” he said apologetically.
“They get mobbed a lot, so they’re pretty tight.
Frustration curled through her.
“This is ridiculous,” she snapped.
“I’m not a fan!”
, you are more out of it than me if you think you gonna meet the great Nocturnal Rain just because you wanna,” the guy on the sofa told her softly.
“Although,” Andy said, “They’re playing in San Bernardino tomorrow night.”
Taylor turned to him.
“Please tell me you have tickets?” she begged, excitement flaring through her.
“Hey, lady, there’s a reason I’m at home in the middle of the day, you know.
I can’t afford concert tickets.”
“Scalper tickets,” Graham said.
“They’ll be out in force for those guys.”
“’coz when I said I can’t afford concert tickets,” Andy told him, “I mean all concert tickets
scalper prices, which go about five times the door price.”
He shook his head.
“I’ll pay,” Taylor told him.
“I’ll buy them.
You want to go, Andy?
Would you like to see Nocturnal Rain live?
Take me with you and I’ll buy you a ticket.”
Andy’s eyes widened.
The girl in Graham’s arms snorted.
“Yeah, she ain’t gonna stand out at
,” she said and laughed, muffling her face in Graham’s shoulder.
Taylor looked down at her silver-grey suit and tugged at the hem of her jacket.
“I’ll even get rid of the suit,” she promised Andy.
His relief was as easy to read as newsprint.
“Deal,” he said.
* * * * *
“And blood-dipped spears waved beyond thy doors
Foretelling thy doom to me this day of days.
I knew of thy love before thee spoke of it to me
Say not of what is in thy heart for it must not be spake.”
Taylor shivered as she listened to the poetic words, sung at a fever pitch, thundering out of dozens of speakers ten feet high, accompanied by the screech of heavy metal guitars, while fifteen thousand screaming fans pummeled and thrashed around her.
She really was here listening to this, she reminded herself. She really had heard the words. It hadn’t been her imagination. She gripped Andy’s arm even harder.
“Told you,” Andy yelled in her ear. “Can we go now?” He was anxious to get her the hell out of here before he was spotted with his uptight, anal and not-cool history professor neighbor.
At least he could give her brownie points for trying to dress the part. She’d squeezed herself into a lace-up leather miniskirt and black leather bustier she’d borrowed from a Goth ex-student, poured on the black eye makeup and slid into black stiletto ankle boots. But she stood out like a flamingo in the Sonora desert here. Mentally, she’d shrugged. At least she hadn’t worn her business suit and put her hair up.
Andy would have been horrified.