Previously: The snooty dame takes our hero to a posh hotel bar. Her dumb baby is there. She says the ring box is actually a music box that plays you the perfect song, and that it killed her husband? What?
Valentina says her husband Geoff (she pronounces it jee-off) found the music box gathering dust among the piles of ill-gotten loot in his family’s catacomb. (She says this like it’s a normal thing that everyone has.)
She then runs Batya through a prolonged litany of origin stories that have been concocted over the years. I’ll recap a few for you.
A fishing trawler caught a gorgeous merman in its net. The crew was about to carve him up for bait when he sang a haunting song, one that sounded different to each sailor but made them all burst into manly tears. The merman said he’d capture the song in a box and give it to them if they let him go. The crew said okay fine, and so he did, and he swam away, and the entire crew was dead by nightfall, having killed each other over who got to keep the box.
Once upon a time there was a magical hellgrammite (the larva of a dobsonfly) who lived in a little box. This friendly critter could take one look at you and play the perfect ditty on his wee wind-up phonograph. He delighted in your delight, but he was also kind of disappointed that you, like everyone else, just wanted to hear a catchy, three-and-a-half minute song with a 4/4 beat and lyrics about feeling lovesick.
A small mechanical device was crafted by a watchmaker/psychopath with the intent of transmitting a series of subsonic tones directly into your head, hypnotizing you. Then the watchmaker could have her perverted way with you, or force you to rob a liquor store, or some third thing. (She only ever had the first two ideas.) But, to her dismay, the machine ended up having a different effect: delightfully tickling your brain, sparking it to create its own ideal melody.
“That one actually feels closest to the truth,” Valentina says, cradling the now-asleep Baby Mitch in her arms. “Your song is like a dream, where your sleeping mind tells itself a story, making it up as it goes.”
Batya feels like she’s been in this hotel bar for thirty thousand years. “So nobody else can hear the song?”
“As I said, it’s just for you. And that can be…” She casts about for the right word. “Alluring. And Geoff, he…well, he’d been going through a rough patch, I’m not going to get into it, it involved a paramour, it involved a flood and…there was hair loss, I won’t get into it, there was a train derailment, and a second paramour, I’ll spare you the details, and then he turned to the music box for solace, repeatedly, obsessively, eschewing everything else—eating, bathing—and then finally he locked himself in the catacomb and listened to his song until he joined his ancestors in the afterlife.”
Bat nods, takes the ring box from her pocket and slaps it down on the table. (In the courier business, it’s generally frowned upon to leave the item out in the open unless you’re officially handing it off to the designated recipient. But Bat is desperate to end this chit-chat.)
“How much?” she says.
Valentina smiles sweetly. “I’m afraid I’m a little low on cash at the moment. Tell you what. Open that up and press the button. The perfect song will be your payment. Then I’ll take the box and your work here is done.”
Bat’s not crazy about that response. And now she’s pretty sure the concierge is looking her way. And maybe the bartender and the waiter and a couple random patrons, too? Anyway she’s definitely sure Baby Mitch is now awake and giving her his creepy stare.
She’s feeling extremely menaced—which is fine, happens all the time—but the shape of the menace is unclear to her. Moments like these are when her partner, her ex-partner, her idiot smug sister, would clock the situation and run the numbers and gab her way through the menace. That’s what she’s good at. But her mean bossy dick of a sister did the thing she did last year, and now Bat’s on her own. And floundering.
Whatever. Here’s what she knows. She knows the box is worth money. She knows she needs money. And she knows an interested party who has money.
So she says, “The perfect song is ‘Get Punchyyyy’ by the Lash. That’s with four Y’s. And I have the album so I can listen to it whenever I want.”
Then she grabs the box and flips the table over and hightails it to the lobby, Baby Mitch’s cries vanishing behind her.
This story continues in an episode called: My Love Dynamo
Won’t you subscribe? It costs nothing but the precious fleeting moments of your life :)
The start felt like a shift in perspective from the last chapters, but I liked it. That picture gives me the idea that the merman just had the microphone on him when caught, which I find humorous. Surprised we're already near the conclusion, but looking forward to it in an I'm going to enjoy it kind of way.
I love all of these stories around the actual whole real deal story. The part about how the husband fell apart made me lol.