June 23, 2010

Sewers and Symphony

  Overall, I like my job. Sure, it aint always pretty… sometimes I have to hang outside the windows of shady motel rooms and take pictures of cheating husbands, but every once in a while, I get a real case and I get to do some good. But you know, I think I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes people ask me how I live with myself and I tell’em, “Booze and babes”… It’s what they expect to hear and I don’t bother telling’em different. What’s that you say? I should tell’em the truth? Pff… Yeah right. If people knew I spent my free time reading depressing old Russian books and playing classical tunes on the piano, I’d be out of a job. The truth… People don’t want the truth. In my line of work, I discover a lot of truths people don’t wanna hear. Like what? Well… Fer instance, you know those rumors about people living in the sewers? The ones where they come up at night and snatch babies, or some kind of crap like that? Well let me tell ya, it’s bullshit.

  This really uptight and nasty old lady had hired me to find out if her grand-son was dealing or not. Incidentally, he wasn’t. He was running away from his crazy granny to get married across the border and live in peace. Anyways, it was raining pretty hard –the weather waits for no PI-. So, I was tailing this guy through the city in the pouring rain. I had tailed him all the way to water processing plant where he worked. So I’m doing my best, but the place is a maze, it’s dark and raining like a son of a bitch... Yeah, you guessed it, I lost the fellah, worse yet, I had no idea how to get out of the maze. Next thing I know, these six big dudes are trying to lay the hurt on me and aint lissening to a word I say.

  Well I aint no prizefighter, but I’m fast and I hit hard: you gotta learn to handle yourself in my line of work. I had dropped 2 dudes. I was going to get to work on the others when one of the guys on the ground stopped holding his busted schnoz and grabbed a hold of my legs instead. Next thing I know, they’re lifting my 198lbs (90kgs) and tossing me over a handrail and into water. Yeah, l know, sounds like a rookie’s mistake, don’t it?

  Did I mention, it was raining? Yeah, so this really fast water sweeps me through a big storm drain and into pitch-black sewer tunnels. Was slammed around pretty rough too. At some point, I was going under. I felt too tired to fight my way to the top and I had no air in my lungs. I know what it’s like to get knocked out and I was getting there… that or I was about try my hand at breathin’ muddy water. But then I feel this weird clammy thing pushing me upwards like it meant business. Weirdest thing I ever touched in my life, but I was in no position to argue. So I grab a hold and quickly get pulled to the surface. It’s still pitch black, but wherever I am, the water aint rushing so fast no more.

  The fish, I figured that it what it was… I mean it felt kinda like a big guitar made out of cold soggy rubber. It pulled me for a ways, then shook me off. I don’t scare easily, but let me tell ya, I’ve had happier moments than finding myself paddling in dirty water in pitch darkness. And then I realized I could stand, barely. So I walked up the slope on the bottom until I bumped into a wall. Nearly jumped out of my skin when this dry cracked voice a few feet from my face says, “You shouldn’t be here. Go away.”

  I kept myself from swearing and said “I’d like nothing better, buddy. But I’m a bit lost... Hey you got a light?”
Then there was utter silence, I figured the dude was thinking about my question… But then it dragged on and I wondered if he had left.

  He swore in language I didn’t recognize and then in that scratchy voice of his, “Topsiders…”, he made it sound like insult. Anyways, I heard him move for the first time as he grabbed something from a bag or a pocket and then there was light. He threw what looked like a handful of shining slime onto the ceiling where it stuck fast. So I got my first good look at him. 30 to 35, under nourished male Caucasian, balding(brown?) hair. The dude was scrawny, with a high forehead and big eyes that made him look like an egghead without glasses. The overalls he wore were made of some kind brown rubber and he carried a satchel made of the same material.

  “Follow me.” He says… I still hadn’t pegged his accent.
So he hands me the end of a piece string and says “Hold onto this, if you let go, I won’t come back for you.” And off we went into the darkness of a watery tunnel.

  Well, I whistle when I’m nervous. Being led on the end of string in pitch dark tunnels by a guy I don’t know makes me nervous. So I started whistling the first thing that came to mind… the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

  So Mr.Male Caucasian 30 to 35 first slows down -I could feel him listening- then stopped altogether and started whistling counterpoints and harmony! And we were off again… Both whistling. I went through at least a dozen classics, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Mozart, Vivaldi, Bach, Schubert. And every time the dude made up something beautiful to go with whatever I was whistling. Let me tell ya, I was sore I didn’t have a piano. The dude was amazing. Anyways, after walking for a while, water gave way to dry stone and the absolute darkness was giving way to a less oppressive grayscale. He abruptly stopped whistling and walking.
“I go no further. Straight ahead, you will find a ladder. It will take you to street.”
So I says to him, “What? Oh! Thanks man… Dude you’re awesome! Where did you learn to whistle like that?”
He stared at me for a second as if making up his mind about something.
“There is a dry storm drain at the end of the first alley on the right walking down W 42nd street, along the library, from the 5th street intersection. Be there seven nights from now, at 3am.”, then he handed me a small driftwood carving of something that looked like a strangely proportioned manta ray without a mouth. “Show this to the person you meet, they will take you to me.” he said with an air of finality before turning on his heel and walking off into the darkness.

  Well, after arguing with myself about it, I went to that meeting… and to several others afterwards. I got into the habit of taking a keyboard with me. You would not believe the music we’ve made down there. There’s a whole community of people down, there and there all gifted musicians. They keep telepathic mutant slugs like pets -I seen ‘em-, they look like manta rays and act like dogs. Craziest thing I ever did see.

"What's that? Why am I telling you this? Well, I can trust you, right? Besides, even if you went looking for ‘em you’d never find ‘em. Besides, who’d believe you if you told anyone? Well… I got to go, I got work to do. It was good to see you again…"