LIEUTENANT KIM KITSURAGI:
As you open the door, a bell jingles.
With a solemn face, you pause where you are and look up to see the mechanisms in the dusty rafters just above.
Sure enough, it’s not just a simple shop bell. That sound wasn’t just a brief jingle on a utilitarian piece of metal. Someone has rigged a complicated mechanism of at least three separate bells – clearly each scavenged from a different broken device of some kind – to ring one after the other every time the door opens or closes. How … frivolous.
They do not make a pleasant sound together, and you supress a wince as you slowly close the door again behind you, setting off the music another time. How do the people who work in this shop tolerate listening to that every time a customer comes in or out?
Still, as you stop to survey the shop floor of Elysium Records you find yourself, uncharitably, thinking: perhaps that’s not so much of a problem.
The shop is silent, and nearly empty. Rows and rows of vinyl on one side and tapes on the other are laid out in various drawers and shelves, with about a third of the shop boasting “new” goods and the rest dedicated to a questionable collection of second-hand music. Labels that seem to say things like “funkwave” and “post-funkwave” and “hardcore brass” are scrawled in a barely legible handwriting, sometimes properly etched into a shelf and other times just on a faded post-it note. Several of such notes have fluttered to the floor, which itself is not very clean.
But the shop doesn’t seem to be limiting itself to only displaying music. You scan the rows. Odd bits and bobs line the low shelves, like a bobble toy of some old, dead, disco star, and a recipe book supposedly signed by someone famous. There’s a corner with three lava lamps, and for some reason the least interesting one seems to be for sale.
Finally, your eyes rest on the final thing on display. A buttcrack wiggles itself in the air as the attached human being huffs and groans, bent over and apparently fiddling with some wires at the back of the room.
“Aha, gotcha!” the owner of the buttcrack yells, and suddenly a slightly electronic zzp noise cuts through the room and you swear you see a spark or two just before …
“NO ONE REMEEEEMBEEERS / BEFOOOORE THE PAAAAALE…”
THE LOUDEST MUSIC EVER HAS SUDDENLY STARTED PLAYING IN THE SHOP.
IT IS SO LOUD THAT COVERING YOUR EARS DOES NOT APPEAR TO HELP. YOU MIGHT BE MAKING AN AGGRIEVED NOISE OF PAIN, YOU CAN’T TELL. YOUR THOUGHTS ARE SHOUTING AT YOU JUST TO BE HEARD.
IT IS AWFUL.
JUST WHEN YOU THINK THAT THIS IS IT, YOU’RE GOING TO PASS OUT, THIS IS THE END, THE music gets turned down to a tolerable volume, and you look up to see an apologetic face on The Man With The Buttcrack, who has turned round to look at you.
“Sorry about that!” He says, wiping some dust off of his knees and grimacing just a little as he stands back up.
Now that you can see the gentleman properly, the sight is … not at all out of keeping with the rest of the shop.
He is not an attractive man.
A number of different features are bitterly duking it out to grab your attention.
There are the incredibly shiny leather trousers. They are unpleasantly tight, and you make sure to look away from those as fast as humanly possible. Then, there’s the easily recognisable Frittte raincoat, which the man is wearing despite the fact that it he is most definitely indoors and it hasn’t rained in at least a week. It makes an interesting contrast with the oversized sunglasses which are propped up on his forehead against his longish brown hair, keeping it out of his eyes. This means that the man is dressed inappropriately for the weather in two polar opposite directions, somehow. It is neither rainy enough nor sunny enough for his outfit. You’re almost impressed.
The man is middle-aged, perhaps bordering on the upper end of it, and more than a little rough around the edges.
Ok, not just the edges. He looks like he’s been in better shape, but that it was quite a while ago, and he doesn’t look like he sleeps well. His nose is red and his face is blotchy in a way that suggests substance abuse of at least one kind, if not more. The mutton chops on his face look like they belong in a different decade, if they belonged anywhere at all. You’re strangely captivated.
Wait! He’s talking to you.
“… so it’s not been working properly since this morning, and one of the first things I tried was just steadily turning up the volume to see if that got rid of the static? And it didn’t work, but I forgot I’d turned it up so much, which is why when I finally fixed the cable just there it was uh, well, you know.”
You pull yourself together, but thankfully when he stops talking he doesn’t look like he expects a reply. He grins at you, and holds out his hand in greeting.
“Kim Kitsuragi. Pleased to meet you, Mr … Disco?” You flounder, briefly, as you look at the name tag on his raincoat that seems to actually be a post-it note affixed there by a safety pin. It does, indeed, just say 'Mr Disco'. You note that the handwriting is the same childlike scrawl that can be found on most of the music labels.
“Oh, yeah!” Mr Disco / Buttcrack gives a good-natured laugh when he sees your gaze. “It turns out that isn’t my name, but I maintain that it was a good guess, given my condition at the time.”
You think of yourself as a fairly stoic man, most of the time. Your composure has not faced a challenge like this in quite a while. Still, you maintain a straight face. Time to pull yourself together and get on with the job.
“I see. And what may I call you, then?”
Probably best to stop referring to him as Buttcrack in your head. Being professional in your thoughts is the important and sturdy foundation of your outer appearance, after all.
“Oh, call me Harry!” he says, and without waiting any longer for your hand to pop out he grabs it himself, and shakes it thoroughly.
The handshake is not unfriendly, and he doesn’t appear to be offended by your slow reaction to his greetings. He’s not trying to display a show of strength or masculinity or anything as he grips you, he’s just expressing… some genuine friendliness. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.
“I’m here to ask if it’s possible-”
“Wait, wait, I’m really good at this!”
You’ve stalled again, caught off-guard.
Before you know it, Mr Harry has his hand on your back (it’s surprisingly warm) and you’re letting yourself be guided across the room. You dodge a tray of paint and a broken paint-roller, and he starts gesturing at a few of the sections as you walk past.
“Not Graadian Sea-Shanties, of course. Classical is close, but not quite right, I think. Here! Modern Jazz. Be bap booooooow! Puhpuhpuhpuh nyeeeeaaaaaaaw do do dooooo…”
You see yourself standing there as if you’re a third person, watching from just slightly above. Is this an out-of-body experience? Did that loud disco music earlier kill you? What in the pale is going on? You haven’t asked him a single question or made any progress in the case. You imagine that you can see the paperwork building up on your desk with every second that you’re here, then you imagine it all whirling around your office and destroying your furniture. All while you're watching this weirdly endearing man make jazz noises and mime drums with his elbows. He hands you a record, and you miraculously regain control of your limbs in time to take it and have a look.
“What is this?” You ask. Not your best ever question. It doesn’t exactly relate to the case you’re on, but at least you’re asking something.
“Modern Jazz! Mary Scott-Peters, she’s great. Not usually my jam, but still really good. Want to give it a go?”
“I’m afraid I’m not here to purchase music.”
“Ah well, I’d still like to know whether I was close!”
He steps back and looks at you, and you find yourself staring back. His smile is still wide, and genuine. It does have a kind of naive, boyish charm, despite the damage that’s clearly been done to it over the years. You’ve never been an expert at reading people, but he doesn’t seem disappointed in the loss of a sale, even though the place could surely use the custom. There’s also maybe something a little bit warm about the way he’s looking at you.
“I’m afraid this isn’t really my… “jam”… either. Tell me: why is it that you thought I’d like modern jazz?” Another question! You’ll have your mojo back any second now.
He grins at you for a full twenty seconds before he answers. Is there a joke you’re not in on?
“Well, modern jazz is undeniably cool, Kim.”
You feel the heat rising to your ears. Maybe he is making fun of you after all.
“No, really!” He says, perhaps sensing the discomfort in your reaction. “I heard you pulling up just as you arrived. That’s the engine of a Coupris Kineema, isn’t it? Very cool! And I mean, I wouldn’t say you were disco but there’s something very cool about that look, and that jacket. And you’re very nonchalant, you know that? Nonchalant is a cool way to be, Kim. No denying it. Blasé. Suave. But with something significant and substantial behind it all. Just like modern jazz!”
The heat is well and truly lodged in your ears now, which you’re sure are turning red. An alarm goes off in your head. This whole conversation is bordering on being distinctly unprofessional.
“So, what is it you’re here for, if not for music?” He asks. The universe throws your career a lifeline. You might survive this encounter yet.
“Ah, yes, khmm. I’m here to ask you if I can have access to the two large blue bins outside? I’m hoping to check them for a couple of items of clothing and they both appear to be locked, I think they might be the bins for this building and your shop is the only one open on Sundays, so I thought I’d ask.”
Yes. Truly you are a competent detective in the RCM. Your lieutenancy was well-earned.
“Oh, how exciting! Maybe I could grab some clothes from it too, but you can have the first pick, no problemo. I found a huge chain of keys here the other day, one of them is bound to be for the bins.”
You think maybe there was something a bit odd about that response.
He runs over to behind the counter and bends over again, searching through the debris down there.
You can’t, for the life of you, figure out whether this encounter is going well or not.
As you step outside into the fresh air with your new friend, the sun starts to peek out from behind the clouds. You knew it! Finally, the sunglasses are paying off. You pop them down onto your eyes with a very successful wiggle of your brow (no hands!), and look to Kim for approval.
He’s frowning, but you’ll take it. You know damn well how great that looked. He knows it too. You know he knows you know etc.
Kim didn’t look like the type to want to rummage through bins, but you can never really tell, can you? And it’s a great idea, you’ve got to give him credit for that. You’ve been living out of the Lost-and-Found cabinet since yesterday, but maybe it’s time to broaden your horizons. There’s a whole world of opportunities (bins) outside, ready for the picking. What a beautiful day full of possibilities.
I mean, at least you’ve not been living in the Lost-and-Found cabinet. You tried, but there’s no room to stretch your legs, so you slept under the counter instead. The owner isn’t going to be happy if he notices when he comes in later, but maybe that’ll be a good lead into a conversation about whether he knows where you live, and whether he knows where you keep your keys? There didn’t seem to be much time for that yesterday, there was a lot of yelling.
It only takes five keys before you find the right one, and Kim dons some gloves (another great idea! This man is a genius!) before starting to slowly pick out various items, putting them on the ground.
Clearly his glasses are more than just an excellent fashion statement though, his eyesight must not be too great if he just discarded that straight away!
“Hey Kim, can’t believe you missed this!” You yell, gleefully, as you grab it.
“Missed what?” He asks.
“Mfffed muhrrrs!” You reply, the nearly-whole discarded kebab in your mouth, possibly impeding in the clarity of your speech.
If his expression is anything to go by he seems to be horrified by his loss. Should be quicker next time, bino!
“Harry! That was in the trash!”
You swallow. “I know! What a find.”
“Someone already started eating it! That’s not hygienic at all, and you have no idea how long it’s been there.” Jealousy is such an ugly colour on this otherwise handsome man.
“It’s fine, Kim. The newspaper it’s wrapped in is today’s, so it’s not that old. The rubbish bins would’ve been emptied yesterday, I know because the awful noise was the first thing I remember when I woke up. The kebab is only from the shop across the street, it’s not like it’s travelled far. Besides, have you ever been to that place? I mean I’ve been there at least once, and to be honest I’m not confident that a fresh kebab from there is any cleaner than one that’s been fished out from the trash.”
Pleased with yourself, you take another huge bite. Kim seems satisfied with your answers. Maybe impressed with your deductions?? He’s continuing going through the trash himself, anyway, so he can’t be that much above it.
When you finish your kebab (you’ve learned that you don’t like pickles! Every day is a school day.) Kim looks about finished too. He sighs as he replaces some of the discarded trash items.
“No luck I’m afraid, the items I was looking for don’t appear to have been discarded here after all. I will continue my investigations further down the street.”
“Oh, you were after something specific?”
He gives you a look in response. You start to lick the sauce from your fingers and he quickly looks away.
“If it’s alright with you, Mr… Harry, I wouldn’t mind washing up in your sink before I leave?”
You’re a little alarmed, as it occurs to you that your new friend will be leaving soon. You lead him back inside and to the staff bathroom, hanging around and twiddling your thumbs as he thoroughly cleans his hands, and then you dawdle as much as possible as you both head back towards the door.
Maybe he senses your reluctance to part, because he takes pity and starts up a conversation.
“The paint bucket here look fresh. Are you … doing something with the place?”
“Oh! Yes! I got the inspiration yesterday when I looked at this wall for maybe the third time?”
You gesture at the long wall on the left hand side of the shop. It’s got a new coat of cream paint on it, and (like the opposing wall) it is fairly bare – with the racks for vinyl only coming up to about waist height. You wonder if he can see what you see in it: a beautiful canvas for a fresh future and a new start. Something that really gets you in the feelings these days. Well, these two days.
“Oh! Of course, that explains the Frittte raincoat.”
He pauses. “Nevermind.” He smiles.
“I’m stuck on what to paint, that’s the thing. I tried sketching out a few drawings-” You gesture to a few of the pink post-it notes scattered around. He leans down to look a little closer, and from where he is you reckon he can see a number of stick drawings with varying levels of tastefulness on several of them. “…but I don’t think that the world is really ready for those yet. So I’m trying to decide between two slogans: Free Parking or Fuck The Police. What do you think?”
“Fuck… the… police?”
He’s right, it’s probably the best option of the two, but… he looks very disappointed, suddenly.
Dammit. You’re disappointed in yourself, now. It must not be creative enough. Just like the stick drawings. They’re not enough. Your ideas aren’t good enough. There’s a sinking feeling in your stomach.
“Yeah… it’s not great. But fuck ‘em, right?” You say, hopefully, trying to lighten the mood back up after your failure as an artistic mind has been made so painfully clear. Your voice sounds strained even to your own ears.
“I see.” He says. A coldness in his voice that wasn’t there before. He turns to leave, quicker than before. “Well, I really must be going.”
If only you were more creative then maybe he’d have stayed a little longer. Maybe if you do a better job of guessing his music tastes next time then that’ll make up for it.
LIEUTENANT KIM KITSURAGI:
“Come back again soon!” he calls out.
It’s not likely, you think. Not likely at all if you can do anything about it.
Time to get back on track with this case.