Chapter 2 "Snakes" 9

Sky looks back at Mayumi.

“Stick with me,” he says, gravely. “Stay in the background and listen. Later, on our way back, tell me what you heard earlier at the station, and what you heard when you were listening out here. All right? And watch out for broken glass.”

Mayumi nods.

Sky opens the door and steps into the café. He can hear two people talking in the kitchen, arguing, their voices too low to be comprehensible over violin music reminiscent of wine, tomatoes and a barely veiled threat. He looks back at Mitzi, sees her carefully picking her way among glass-free spots on the floor, her ears attentive.

The voices become louder as the speakers emerge from the kitchen. Sky calls out, “Hello?” The voices fall silent.

Constable Zeffretti comes into view, looking very nervous. He salutes. “Inspector! I, uh... took the owner’s statement already...”

Sky returns his salute. “Thank you, Constable.” He turns his attention to the plump, pleasant-looking goddess, who despite her present circumstances radiates such an air of welcome and comfort that he finds himself immediately liking her. “You must be Kyri. I am Tuma-Sukai. I assure you, we will catch the people who did this and...is that music?”

“Um... yes, it’s sort of an unfortunate habit I have, there is always music around me; it tends to match my mood and the mood of people around me.” As Kyri explains, the music changes, from the threatening strains of violins to the sunnily optimistic tones of flutes and a celluloid orchestra.

“And is that the only effect you have on reality?” asks Sky, smiling at the tiny goddess.

“Nooo...” responds Kyri, blushing, “if I don’t concentrate, the music changes my local pocket of reality... they call it the Kyri Reality Distortion Effect... You know how in some plays and movies the music reflects the scene? Well, it’s a little bit like that, but in reverse. I try to control it, but it just kinda happens...”

“Actually...it sounds delightful. Now I was wondering if you could tell me what has happened here.”

“I’ve already given Constable Zeffretti a statement, but I’d be more than happy to fill you in. D’you mind if I continue cleaning up while we talk? Only, it means that my reality might get a little more pervasive.”

“Not a problem,” responds Sky. “We can even give you some help if you’d like.”

“Every job is a little bit easier when you have friends to help. Just, remember to duck.”

As Kyri raises her hands to clap, Sky interjects, “Why do we need to duck?”

“You’ll see...but now would be a good time to duck.”

Kyri claps her hands together and the broken glass littering the floor flies like a swarm of bees, back into the window frame.

And that is why you need to duck!” says Kyri.

Just as well he asked, ‘twas a bit of luck,” sings Mayumi, looking puzzled.

Now, why in the world did you need to rhyme?
We’re in a crime scene, it isn’t the time!” exclaims Sky, with a look of frustration and amusement as he finishes his couplet.

Oh dear, it’s worse than I thought,
reality’s chosen a great time to distort!” says Kyri apologetically.

As the cheery music continues to play, Mayumi holds a finger up to her lips and grabs the Guardia issue notepad from her pocket and writes: What is happening?

Grabbing the notepad, Kyri responds, We are stuck in a musical, you will probably be speaking in couplets for a few more minutes, it passes more easily if you sing. On the plus side, you’ll be able to clean the cafe by clapping your hands. On the minus side, we’re probably about to encounter a flock of bluebirds.”

Sky points at “bluebirds” and looks quizzically at Kyri.

Kyri nods, and taking back the pencil – which in Kyri’s hand becomes pink and sprouts feathers on the end – writes, Yes, little singing bluebirds, they’re coming to help.  They’re not real birds, so they are marginally more hygienic than the pigeons outside.

At this point, Kyri looks out the cafe window and suddenly screams “Duck!”

As Kyri and the bewildered investigators drop to the floor, a flock of tiny, bright-blue birds flies through the coffee shop door. On closer observation  it can be seen that the birds are all clutching tiny washcloths and dusters.

Bouncing back to her feet, Kyri sings,
I knew my little friends wouldn’t leave me stuck!
Come now, let’s clean up this dirt and muck!” Chirping happily the birds begin to fly around the room, dusting and cleaning.

Grimacing, Sky mutters, “I can think of another word rhyming with ‘duck!’”

I heard what you said, Tuma-Sukai.
You came to me to find out why.
My shop was tossed and my window did break
After I disagreed with a god who looked like a snake!

A snake?” sings Sky, in a rueful monotone basso profondo. “Who is this snaaaaake?

As Kyri continues to sing, she takes Sky’s hand and leads him in a quickstep around the coffee shop. Mayumi grabs Zeffretti’s hand and follows suit, all the while glaring at the bewildered constable.

He said he came here from the the Dukaine Gang,
Who’ve landed in this town with a bang
The old police in this town weren’t so good,
You had to buy safety in this neighborhood,” sings Kyri.

So, before you had had a run-in with the snake,
You were protected by cops on the take?” responds Sky.

Upon hearing this, Zeffretti’s face blanches, and, breaking away from Mayumi, he rushes out of the coffee shop.

Only one cop, and his compan-etti,” sings Kyri, wincing as she dances, causing Sky to look anxiously to his feet,
With a surname that rhymes with spaghetti.
He means well you see,
only his family
are a mob and they spread a wide net-ti!

Hearing this, Sky turns and looks at Mayumi questioningly, and she nods in silent, non-rhyming agreement, looking downcast.

With a grimace Sky begins to sing, dancing in line with both Kyri and Mayumi,
That sounds like all I need to know,
Let’s clean this place! On with the show!” And with a theatrical clap from Sky a broken chair repairs itself. He theatrically tosses it spinning in the air, catches it, sets it down, and sits on it all in one smooth motion, looking a bit shocked that he managed to pull it off. Then he’s up and dancing again.

Kyri, Sky and Mayumi continue clapping, dodging and dancing for several minutes, until the previously ransacked coffee shop is restored to its former glory.

Pink-faced and panting, Kyri spins away, coming to rest on a newly repaired chair; at the same time, Sky lands on another chair, causing it to slide a short distance, just in time for Mayumi, mid-spring, to land on his lap, leaning back over his arm, arms flung back and one leg in the air. Holding her with one arm, Sky stretches out the other in a TA-DAA pose, as they both grin and loudly sing along with Kyri,
And now the job is done;
we have had a lot of fun,
but let’s stop for coffee and some cake.” This last line is spoken as Kyri reasserts control over her local reality. “I thought you might like a break from the singing, dancing and theatrical clean-up.”

Mayumi looks up at Sky, breathing hard and grinning at each other, then their smiles fade as reality returns to normal. She sits up, lowers her leg, and straightens her skirt as she begins to blush. With a slightly embarrassed smile, Sky takes her hand and helps her off his lap and to her feet, then stands.

“That was...amazing...” Sky pauses, making sure he’s not singing his words, “ahem...but I’m afraid we’re going to have to take a rain check on the coffee and cake.” Glancing at Mayumi, he says, “We need to get back to the station. But I promise to be back, soon and often.” He walks over and takes Kyri’s hand in both of his. “I know you are taking a chance, filing an official complaint against a member of a criminal gang. I want to assure you, we will make sure they know that you are under the watchful eye of the Guardia. If they know what’s good for them, they’ll leave you alone.”

“Thank you, Inspector,” she replies. The tropical strains of ‘ukulele begin to play at the threshold of audibility. “Oh dear,” she says.

“I suppose I’d better leave before you have me singing in falsetto,” Sky chuckles ruefully. “But first, can you tell me the name of the perpetrator?”

“He called himself Eater of Frogs.”

Sky nods. “Thank you.”

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