It’s late at night and the stars twinkle brightly over Three Rats, their and the moon’s faint light cloaking the slums in shadows and masking the grit and grime of the street. In the Copper Pot, Kyri sits at the piano, playing a theme and variations she remembers from a time and place lost to history, the tinkling notes of the piano carrying quietly in the night like a lullaby played for a city. Singing quietly, she leaves the piano, stopping to check the lock on the newly reinforced door before walking up the quiet staircase to her rooms above the cafe.
“Ah! Vous dirai-je Maman
Ce qui cause mon tourment ?
Papa veut que je raisonne
Comme une grande personne
Moi je dis que les bonbons
Valent mieux que la raison.”
“Oh! Shall I tell you, Mommy
What is tormenting me?
Daddy wants me to reason
Like a grown-up person,
Me, I say that sweets
Are worth more than reasoning.”
As Kyri finishes undressing and climbs into bed she smiles, remembering hearing the same melody sung by children on the street only weeks earlier, an old melody with much newer words. Lying in bed, she hums drowsily.
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
How I wonder what you are.”
In Alma’s room a young male bunny sleeps, curled up on the foot of the massive bed. Though he is dressed and well fed, he has never fully woken from his dream-like stasis, going through the world as an unspeaking, unseeing somnambulant, only occasionally stirring at music drifting over from the Copper Pot. Like many times before, the music is carried into Alma’s room like motes of dust in the air to his ears only and the bunny stirs, but this time he does not return to his slumber, lying instead with his eyes open though hidden under a thick mane of sandy hair. As the almost silent music washes over the newly awakened youth he thinks and remembers, eventually deciding that he needs to find the source of the music that woke him and remembering a name. Chime.
Creeping from the bed, Chime silently leaves the quiet sanctuary of Alma’s room. As he stands in the basement of the Guardia station annex he can hear the almost undetectable sounds of the night, the creak of the building settling, and the sounds of the few Guardia officers on duty in the next building. Overlaying it all is the music, a soft, girlish voice which pulls him onwards. Following the music, Chime leaves the station and stalks, almost invisibly through the street before stopping in front of an empty cafe. As he stands in the street the song fades away but the sight of a piano through the window of the locked cafe door tells him that he has found his destination. With a practiced confidence, he traces his way around the building, searching for any opening, eventually finding a small unlocked window high up on a wall.
Having only barely fallen asleep, Kyri is woken by a loud thud followed by a muttered oath. Perplexed, she lies still in bed, knowing that the Dukaines would never bother to be quiet. Suddenly the silence is punctured again, this time by the sounds of the piano as someone clumsily tries to play the nursery rhyme she had been playing and singing before she fell asleep. As she listens the pianist improves, gaining both in confidence and ability, effortlessly replicating the most intricate variation she had played. Gradually, subtle changes develop in the music, and the childlike theme evolves into something more adult, redolent of bourbon and quiet rebellion. Intrigued and faintly concerned by this night time intrusion, Kyri sneaks downstairs, dragging a sleeveless silk robe over her unsubstantial night clothes.
Slipping silently into the cafe, Kyri watches as the pianist continues playing, his back turned toward the door, clearly absorbed in the music. As his large hands move with ease over the keyboard, Kyri notes that his short but muscular frame, while far removed from that of a boy, is not yet that of a man and that a pair of long, rabbit-like ears protrude through his messy hair.
“Does Sergeant Alma know you’re here?” she asks him, startling the young bunny, causing him to turn fearfully to face her.
“No,” he replies, his face no longer showing any fear, but betraying some frustration as he struggles to speak, “Just...just…want find music!”
“Do you usually sneak into buildings to find music?” Kyri asks, curiously.
“To be honest, I’m not sure,
Think I’ve snuck into houses before,
But the music? She used to find me.
I think!” he sings in response, shrugging his shoulders at this obviously confusing lack of recollection and the awkwardness of the sung conversation.
“Ah, so singing’s better for you too?…
I think that I have heard ‘bout you.
I remember hearing that some of Alma’s bunnies hadn’t woken up yet.
Is that true?” she enquires gently, half singing, half speaking.
“Yeah, I think so.
But who are you?
Was that you singing?” he sings back with intense curiosity.
“My name is Kyri,
the song came from me!
And ‘twould be really nice to at least know the name of the person who broke into my home,” she says, a hint of anger suffusing the sweetness of her voice and breaking her out of song.
“I’m Chime,” he sings, the fear and desperation almost stopping him from singing and forcing him to stammer out his last line,
“and I swear, I’ll never break in again!
If you want I’ll never come back here, be gone for all of time
But I’d never hurt you!
Just don’t get angry and please...
please...please don’t tell Alma!”
Hearing the fear in Chime’s voice, Kyri rushes to his side.
“Don’t be scared Little One,
Just don’t sneak into buildings, Little One,
It’s not safe,” she sings, nearly whispering the final line.
“So I can come back?” he sings, his hope as apparent in his voice as in his face.
“Of course that would be fine,
But use the front door next time?” she trills, laughing.
“Yes Ma’am,” he sings in a contrite cadence.
“Please, just call me Kyri! Now I think you had best head home, you don’t want to get caught, and quite frankly, I’m getting a little bit cold!” she says, no longer trying to fit her words into a melody but laughing ruefully at the goosebumps rising on her arms and chest as she walks over and unlocks the front door.
As he stands to leave Chime realises that despite his small Bunny stature he is almost as tall as the diminutive Kyri and how little clothing she is wearing in the early morning chill. Startled by his own observation, he splutters, “I-I go!” and darts out the door.
Laughing quietly to herself, Kyri relocks the front door and heads back to bed.