MELLY MOCKINGBIRD: Prologue

 
 
The rock star called in the middle of the night. Clyde, who was due in Pawtucket at eight A.M. and should have been asleep, picked up the phone in case it was his agent calling to say that the Red Sox had changed their minds.

The voice on the telephone was thinned with terror. Even if Clyde had been familiar with the rock star’s recordings, he would not have recognized that brash protean caterwaul in this stifled gasp. “I have to talk to Melly,” the caller said.

“Who?” said Clyde.

“Melly, I have to talk to Melly, let me talk to Melly. Please,” said the caller, adding the last word in a hollow way.

“Hold on,” Clyde said. He went to the bedroom doorway. “Bron,” he said, not loudly. For a moment she didn’t stir and then she pulled the quilt over her head. “Bron. There’s a guy asking for Melly on the phone.”

Bronwyn woke up trembling, brimful with sleep. She saw indistinctly that someone was holding a telephone receiver out to her. In her confusion she thought it was Melly on the line, ready with an apology at last. Her numb fingers dropped the phone. “Melly?” the voice was saying when she got it back.

“Who is this?”

“Can you hear me?”

“There’s no Melly here. My God,” Bronwyn said. “Jumper, is that you?”

He called her by name in a hoarse whisper. “I have to talk to Melly. Please help me.”

“My God,” she said again, still shaking. She turned on the light. Clyde had gone back into the living room. “Melly? Jesus, Jumper, I haven’t seen her. Not since—”

“I don’t have time,” Jumper said. “I need to talk to her tonight.”

Now it came back to her, the callow conviction with which he had harangued the world. Annoyance woke her fully, with a snap, and she realized that he had no business phoning her at three in the morning—not after how many years and certainly not in the state he was in, the state of fame. “Well, you can’t, because I don’t know where she is,” she said.

“She can help me. I know she can.”

“I haven’t seen her in like . . . Help you with what?” Bronwyn said.

“Putting all the pieces together.”

It came to Bronwyn, slowly, that even in relation to these abnormal circumstances they were not having a normal conversation. She said, “Where are you?” “Austin, I’m in Austin,” he answered, irritably. The fear in his voice had receded, leaving it tinged with reproof. “If I had her e-mail address I could ask her to e-mail me the schematics of the transmitters they put in my legs.”

She moved the receiver away from her mouth. “Clyde!” she yelled.

“I opened up the scars, but I didn’t find anything. They’re a combination of tracker and transmitter. I need a spectroscopic digital camera and then I can enlarge the details with Photoshop.”

“Clyde! Are you saying you cut yourself? Are you bleeding?”

He appeared: her pride, her millstone, solid and broad-shouldered, with his two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand-dollar hands and his studiously blank face. “Can you get me pen and paper?” she said to him. “Wait, never mind. Jumper, just tell me, where exactly are you hurt?”

“That’s what I’m trying to find out.”