Mike really hated to admit when he was wrong. Especially when his roommate's being right set them back a good chunk of money.
But, he had to admit -- Micky had been right. Using the child's alphabet blocks was a fun and quick way to teach himself Braille. And the collapsible cane that was now more or less permanently parked in his back pocket helped tremendously when "Blobby" moved and left him blind.
"Peter?" he called. "You still here?"
"He just left," Davy said as he walked into the room. "What is it?"
"Did he take our audition tapes to send off?"
"No," Davy chuckled. "Because I sent them off this morning. One to Harold's, one to the Club Cavanaugh, and one to that contest Lloyd Benson is holding."
Mike froze, blind eyes gazing somewhere in the region of Davy's shoulder. "Lloyd Benson? You actually sent one to him?"
"I sure did! He's running a contest for a group to record the theme song for his new show."
"Davy," Mike said, shaking his head. "You've got more guts than me!"
Lloyd Benson growled from his massage table as his diminutive secretary walked in . "Miss Chumsky, please tell me you're not bringing me another blasted audition tape!"
Miss Chumsky snorted at him and strung the reel-to-reel. "You promised you'd listen to ten this afternoon. You've only listened to nine."
"Nine was enough," Benson groaned, dropping his forehead back onto his arms. "Go away."
Instead of replying audibly, Miss Chumsky turned on the reel-to-reel.
The music of the Monkees poured into the room -- "Mary Mary" in full rocking mode.
But, although Benson had no way of knowing, the vocals were distorted. What he was hearing was not precisely what they had recorded that day.
Benson's head snapped up, his eyes huge. "Play that back!"
Miss Chumsky obeyed, and Benson began to grin. "That's it! That's the sound I want! Pure pop, pure rhythm -- and those vocals! Smoky tenor with an ethereal soprano singing harmony -- perfect!"
"Perfect! Mixed-gender bands are all the rage now! Whose tape is that?"
"Uh -- the Monkees, it looks like."
"I've got to find these Monkees, Miss Chumsky! I've got to meet that woman who sings like an angel!"
Mike groaned as he came out of the bedroom, shaking his head as his returning vision let him see the source of the loud sounds that had woken him. "Aw, Peter!"
"I can't -- HIC! -- seem to -- HIC! -- help it!" Peter gasped before returning to trying to drink a glass of water from the wrong side of the glass.
Sitting down beside the hiccuping man, Mike reached over and rubbed his back. Taking note of suspiciously guilty expressions on his other two bandmates, he growled, "Okay, it's too blasted early in the mornin' to be playin' guessin' games. What the hell happened?"
Micky jerked his thumb to Davy, who sighed. "I told him I sent the tape in." In response, Peter gave a very loud hiccup.
"Nerves," Mike diagnosed, rubbing slow circles on Peter's tense back. "Peter, man, you gotta relax."
"I'm -- HIC! -- trying, Michael! I don't -- HIC! -- know what's wrong!"
"Okay, let's relax," Mike said with a smile. "Close your eyes." Peter shot him an incredulous look. "I mean it. Close 'em."
Peter hiccuped, sighed, and closed his eyes.
"Good. Now, imagine yourself somewhere peaceful -- like a meadow!"
"Yeah!" Davy put in. "A nice, green meadow with lots of beautiful flowers...."
A faint flush of red appeared on Peter's nose and spread under his eyes. Micky's eyes widened. "Uh -- guys?"
Peter suddenly let out an explosive sneeze. Bleary eyes opened and he drug his sleeve across his runny nose. "Sorry guys," he slurred. "Hay fever." He followed that up with a hiccup.
"Hay fever?" Davy gulped.
Mike groaned, his head crashing against the back of the couch. "We keep forgetting just how good his imagination is..."
"At least it -- HIC! -- wasn't worse," Peter smiled as the phantom allergy slowly receded. "At least you didn't tell me to -- HIC! -- imagine I was on a ship!"
"Why's that?" Micky asked when no further explanation seemed forthcoming.
Peter's smile was slightly sheepish. "I get -- HIC! -- seasick."
"Sea sick?" Davy yelped, incredulous that anybody could get seasick. The rocking of the boat that had carried him down the Thames the day before he left for America was still one of the most soothing of all Davy's memories.
Peter held his breath and -- mercifully -- the loud, jarring hiccups began to fade.
They vanished completely when the sudden ringing of the phone startled him.
Laughing at Peter's stunned expression, Mike picked up the phone. "Monkees Pad!"
A man's voice replied, "Then I assume you're one of the Monkees -- the music group?"
Mike's smile was audible. "You assume right, sir. Mike Nesmith, lead guitar."
"And I assume I have reached your home at--" There was a pause, and then it sounded like he read off of a paper. "1334 Beachwood Lane?"
"You seem to have the advantage of me, sir."
Laughter. "Stay where you are! I'll be right there!"
"Wait, wait!" But the man had already hung up. Mike blinked as he hung up as well, whispering, "Who are you?"
"Mister Benson! Mister Benson, wait!"
Annoyed, Benson whirled to face his secretary. "What is it, Miss Chumsky! I've got to go hear these Monkees in their natural environment!"
With a similarly annoyed sigh, she passed him a folded bundle of cloth. "You forgot your pants!"
Mike was still puzzling over the strange phone call when he heard Micky gasp, "There's a limo pulling up outside!"
"What – oh, shit, not now!"
Peter was instantly by his side. "'Blobby' move back?"
"Yeah," Mike groaned. "I'm in the damned dark again." He turned his head slightly. "What do you mean, the limo is pullin' up here?"
"Just what I said," Micky called. "This long black limo has pulled into our driveway!"
Mike frowned deeply. "No way. Limos do not pull up here."
"He's telling the truth," came Davy's incredulous voice. "It's a limo all right – two people getting out. A short woman with red hair and a taller man with blond hair. They're both about 45 or 50 years old."
"Huh." Mike's frown deepened.
"And they're heading for our front door!" Davy ran through the house and pulled the door open before the woman could knock. "May I help you?"
"That depends," the man boomed, and Mike gasped involountarily at the sheer volume. "Are you the Monkees?"
"Yes, sir, we are--" Micky began.
And the man literally shoved Davy aside as he breezed inside the house, rubbing his hands together. "Great! Wonderful!" Mike realised this sonic assault was the voice he'd heard on the phone.
The man looked around, seeing only four boys. "The girl must be out. No matter. I'm in no hurry. I'm Lloyd Benson."
What girl? Mike thought, which was quickly replaced by shock. "Wait – Ll-Lloyd Benson?"
"The producer Lloyd Benson?"
"Course, kid! Can't you tell? Million-dollar face, this!"
Silence fell with a nearly-audible thud. After a moment of it, Mike heard Peter's voice, tight with anger. "Mike's blind, Mister Benson. So you'll forgive him for not noticing your face."
"Oh. Geesh, I-I'm sorry, kid. I... I..."
The woman spoke up. "Best quit while you're behind, Mister Benson."
"You're right, Miss Chumsky, you're absolutely right." He drew in a deep breath. "I'd ask you to play, boys, but I'll wait till the girl gets back."
"What girl?" Mike gasped. "We don't have a girl in our group!"
There was a moment of silence, then Benson's shocked voice. "There... isn't a girl in your group? No... no, that's impossible. There's clearly a girl singing on the tape."
"What?" Micky's voice held outrage and Mike could picture his confused, angry frown as clearly as if he could see it with his eyes. "A girl singing on the tape?"
"May I use your reel-to-reel?" the woman asked.
Mike agreed, and there came the sounds of equipment shifting.
"Nice place you got here, kids," Benson said. "Looks brand-new."
"Part of it is," Peter said evenly. "We put it together after the earthquake."
Benson sighed. "Brother, I'm battin' a thousand tonight!"
"I've got it, sir!" The woman flipped a switch, and "Mary, Mary" poured into the house.
Mike's dark, blind eyes grew huge. "Holy shit!" he gasped. "Micky, do you hear that?"
"That is a woman!" Micky gasped. "Singing harmony with me! But-but there wasn't anybody else there!"
"Well, play for me, boys!" Benson ordered. "Let me hear how you sound!"
The Monkees began to play. They played three songs, and at the end, Benson shook his head.
"We're not what you were looking for?" Peter asked, and Mike's shoulders sagged.
"Sorry, boys," Benson sighed. "Your sound was special -- unique -- with that soprano harmonising with you. Without her -- well, you're just another garage band. Sorry. Let's go, Miss Chumsky."
"I'm sorry, too, boys," she sighed. "For the record, I thought you four were incredible."
The Monkees stood side by side, and the three pairs of working eyes watched sadly as the limo pulled away. "Well.... that's that," Micky sighed.
"Yeah," Peter said. "That's one producer's opinion. One. There are others out there. We'll make it someday."
Davy sighed. "I wish I had your optimism, Peter."
"Then let me have it for both of us," Peter smiled. "Besides -- it's not optimism."
"No?" Davy frowned. "What is it?"
Peter's answer made them all smile. "It's faith."
Mike felt his smile fade a little. "Guys, this isn't over."
"Yeah, we just went over that," Micky chuckled. "Other producers and all that."
"No -- that's not what I mean." Mike felt his way to the forgotten reel-to-reel and turned on the tape. The altered vocals rang through the room again.
"Who is this woman?" Mike asked. "And how the hell did she get on this tape?"
On a hunch, Micky headed to the county seat. Dressed in his 'solicitor' clothing and carrying a briefcase, he walked up to a desk.
The woman behind the desk looked up and drowned. "May I help you, sir?"
Somehow sensing this lady would neither appreciate nor cooperate with his 'solicitor' routine, Micky smiled gently. "I'm sorry to bother you, ma'am. I need to find some history of the house I live in, please."
She studied this face, then – amazingly – she smiled. "Honesty. I like that – a lot. What is your address?"
"1334 Beechwood – Malibu Beach."
"Follow me." She stood and led the way down a corridor. "Malibu Beach, huh? How'd you make out in the earthquake?"
"We took some damage," Micky understated. "But we're mostly rebuilt."
She shook her head. "It couldn't have been easy." She worked a key into the lock of an intricately carved door marked 'COUNTY RECORDS'.
The woman led him to a table and brought him several heavy tomes. "These are the books that hold the records of that section of Malibu Beach. Property deeds, land transactions, census records – I've even included an index of birth and death records should you wish to know more about any of the people you encounter in the other records."
Micky beamed at her. "Thank you – uhm --"
"Debbie," she chuckled.
"Debbie. These might be just what I'm looking for. What should I do with these when I'm done?"
"Just stack them on the table. I'll put them up later."
Micky smiled graciously at her and opened the first book. He cross-referenced the deed records with the birth and death records.
Twenty minutes later, he broke into a wide grin as he discovered what he was looking for.
A trip to the library and a search in old newspapers, and he had the complete story.
"Her name was Gloria Russell," Micky began as he settled onto the couch and looked at the three faces surrounding him. "She was a singer and wanna-be actress in the mid to late thirties. She died in this house in 1940."
Peter swallowed hard. "How – how did she die?"
Micky's smile was gentle as he leaned over and gripped Peter's wrist comfortingly. "Don't worry, Big Peter. She didn't die violently." Peter visibly relaxed, and Micky explained, "She was born with a bad heart. It just simply stopped beating one night while she slept. She didn't suffer at all – she just went to bed and never woke up."
Peter nodded – the fact that she died so peacefully comforted him.
Mike frowned. "That doesn't answer why she's showing up on our tapes."
"Sometimes disembodied voices will show up on tapes," Micky smiled. "And since she loved to sing so much...."
"Makes sense," Davy shrugged. "Any ideas as to how to get her to stop?"
After a moment's silence, Peter suggested, "Why don't we just ask her? Before we start to record, why don't we ask her not to sing – just for that one song?" As the other three looked at each other, considering his suggestion, none of them saw Peter frown slightly and raise his hand to his right cheek.
He could have sworn he felt lips brush it...
Mike nodded. "Good idea, Peter. Couldn't hurt to try. Let's give it a shot."
They moved to the bandstand and went through three songs, then Mike hovered a finger over the reel-to-reel's switch. "Uhm...Miss Russell...Gloria? Would you mind not singin' lead for this one?"
"Thank her," Peter suggested.
Mike glared at him, but said, "Thank you." And turned on the tape.
After they played through "Sometime in the Morning", they stopped the tape and rewound it.
Smiles went up all around as Micky's voice was the lone voice singing lead.
Smiles froze all around as a lilting soprano was heard harmonising with the other three voices on the background.
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