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Chapter nine

Strangely the door to apartment 5F was ajar. Completely oblivious, a hunk of a guy was bent over some kind of sound system. Some weird loud music was blasting. I liked what I saw. His longish wavy auburn hair touched his neck. A black tee covered broad shoulders and muscular tattooed arms. He was fiddling around with a mess of tangled wires.

What should I do now? Taking a deep breath, I walked through the doorway calling, “Hi, I’m Zoe.”

He still didn’t move. When I ever so gently touched his wide shoulder, he jumped and turned toward me yelling, “What the …”

I looked into these big, beautiful green eyes. His high cheek bones with and a shadow of a beard made for a handsome face. “Well your front door was open. With all the noise, you couldn’t hear. I’m Zoe, Gwen Donovan’s granddaughter. I’m here to check on Percy.”

“Oh yeah, the granddaughter. I heard there was a granddaughter. I’m Noah. Here sit down. Let me just move this stuff.” His huge hands clumsily pushed aside several white take out boxes, towels and a laptop. I then cautiously sat on the edge of a vintage couch. At least I thought the original color was gray which reminded me of the cat.

“Where’s Percy?’

I called, “Here, Percy kitty.”

I stood anxiously as Noah opened the bedroom door, but no cat was to be seen inside. The tiny bedroom was filled with boxes like he just moved in. Boxes, bags, and even a bicycle piled up high.

“I can hear the cat from the hall,” I said.

“Most definitely. He’s in there but doesn’t want to be seen. Elusive - like me.”

“Wow,” I commented as I turned back toward the living room and saw a huge Steinway

piano taking up every remaining inch of space in the room.

“You don’t often see a grand piano like this these days.”

“Not in an apartment this small?”

“Isn’t a keyboard easier?”

“When I was a kid, I started music lessons on piano. When the hotel down the block was gonna trash this piano to make room for some designer couch, I couldn’t let that happen. It’s kind of where I write my music, smoke my dope, the altar of my dreams. It’s useful, especially on those misty nights when an angel drops by for a little pot and a gig.” With a half- smile, he looked at me and said, “Are you inclined to smoke, angel?”

I quickly shook my head no. I knew I should leave now, but somehow I couldn’t.

Noah went right on talking, “Like I said piano is where my music began, but making music on my acoustic guitar is my gig now.”

“You’re a song writer?” I gasped.

“Yep, now I’m experimenting with country that sends out a message.”

“How did you come to that music?”

“Today there’s a political revolution going on everywhere in this country, from the auto shop to the boardroom.”

He grabbed his guitar from alongside the couch and started strumming. Noah’s large fingers pressed on the chords to produce a strong intense sound. The only place to sit was next to him. I immediately enjoyed how it felt.

“Powerful,” I said because I couldn’t find the exact word to describe his sound.

“Thanks,” Noah replied. “Like I told you, I ’m experimenting with country with a populist vibe. But I like it all - classical, R&B, Hip Hop, Rap, Blues. Yeah, I’m like a musical chameleon.”

As he was strumming, I felt my body relax. The music just flowed through his fingers in a laid back style. When he looked up at me I caught another color in his eyes, like a blue green emerald. He was hot for sure.

I immediately thought of the difference between this easy going guy and Ruiz who was in my face from the minute I met him. Also, Noah had a brain I could relate to.

He lit a joint and inhaled deeply. “What dope does to an appetite! We definitely want something to eat. Let me check the fridge.”

He slipped into the galley kitchen where he searched his fridge. “It looks like a usual day in here. How about a slice of left over pizza washed down with a tall glass of New York City water?”

“I’ll pass on the pizza but will take a swig of that water.”

Handing me the glass of water, Noah grabbed that pizza slice and said, “Your grandmother was one cool lady- a natural story teller with a great ear.”

“She was.”

“What about you?”

Remembering my conversation about books with Ruiz, I quickly answered.

“Like you, I’m into music.” I knew I should have said songwriting. This was a big chance for me to bond with a singer-songwriter. But I was afraid if I told Noah about my songs, he’d ask me to play one.

“Hmm,” he leaned back slowly and closed his eyes.

I quickly tried to fill in the silence. “So tell me more about your music.”

“It’s a fix, and music is everywhere. Just this afternoon I was listening to Percy’s scratches and the sounds kind of jumped out at me. So that’s a song I’m working on now- Paw Scratches.”

“Cool. I’d like to hear that.”

“Sure. Maybe Percy and I could do a duet for you sometime.”

I laughed maybe for the first time since Mere’s death. I definitely could get into hanging with Noah.

With the thought of Mere’s murder pounding inside my head, I needed to escape. “Well, for me, music is not exactly the air I breathe, but it’s definitely a pain killer. I could sure use a sedative now.”

He looked at me in a strange way. He continued playing, slowing the rhythm to a soulful bluesy sound which immediately comforted me. I particularly feel music when it’s live. Noah’s sound seeped into my raw emotions. I closed my eyes and sounds swirled in my brain. Just for a moment I thought I’m going to ask Noah to play at my grandmother’s funeral. With this music there would be no need for a eulogy. When he stopped, my eyes were filled with tears. I realized how ridiculous this idea of asking a stranger I just met to be part of such an intimate moment was.

“Wow, I said trying to hide my feelings. I was embarrassed that I had shown so much emotion to a guy I was meeting for the first time.

Noah seemed oblivious. He talked on. “Like I was saying. Now’s the time to resurrect the themes of some folk music. Like back in the day, songs that sang out against war and our government’s greed. In today’s s world - a poisoned universe, non- stop terror round the globe, super pacs running our government - humongous human error to sing about. I’m even working on a song that laments a tax in cyberspace.”

“You sure got a lot going on musically,” I said.

“Orchestrations and stuff like that just come pretty naturally to me to me. Writing the words is much harder for me.”

I was afraid to say it and sound like I was hitting on this guy, but truthfully Noah and I were the perfect pair. Words come fairly easily to me, but creating a fresh sound was like rocket science. To hang out and listen to this musician was a dream come true. How could this all be happening at the same time of my grandmother’s murder and funeral?

“You know your grandmother helped me out a lot with words. One day I passed by when her apartment door was open. I was blown away by all those books. So she invited me in. Gradually she started loaning me poetry books from all time periods and places as inspiration for my lyrics. See all those books in the corner. They are borrowed from your G ma. Some got fancy covers. Look pretty valuable.”

I ignored my phone beeping. I knew it was Dad. I didn’t want to miss this chance. If I could just get the courage to tell Noah that I could help him write lyrics. My phone kept buzzing.

“Just let me answer this, Noah.” I quickly texted my dad that I was fine and taking care of the cat.

Noah was watching me like he already figured out something about me. He then asked, “So do they know anything else yet? The cops were here today ringing bells, asking questions. I’m out a lot all night clubbing. I’m either at a gig or looking for one. You know the cops - they’re never satisfied with your answers.”

Again my phone started vibrating. My Dad treated it like a GPS for tracking me. I nervously shouted, “I gotta go. You’re sure it’s okay for Percy to hang out here until the funeral is over and we have a chance to get him a permanent home?”

“Like I already said. The cat and me get along. No problem.”

“Thanks, it’s really a big help. Well, here’s my cell number. I’ll be in and out of my grandmother’s.”

“Sure,” Noah replied. “Lately I have been peddling my songs around the city, street corners, parks, Penn Station. My band and I finally got some breaks like next Friday night we’re playing at BB Kings. Wanna come?”

“BB Kings? Wow! Yeah, I’ll come.”

Noah said, “Cool. I’ll let you know the time and details.”

“Well, I’ll not quite sure how long I’m staying.”

Quickly I reconsidered. If I have to walk back from Boston, I had to go to this gig. I then blurted out, “I’d really like to go hear you play at BB Kings. Count me in. “

He looked me up and down.

Another text from Dad: Double Parked in front of the building. Come NOW.

I jumped up saying, “I gotta go. My dad, you know.”

Noah seemed rather amused at my response to my father.

“How old are you?” he asked.

“Eighteen.” I felt embarrassed.

Noah said nothing but I when I reached the door he moved in very close to me. Then he put both of his arms around my shoulders and whispered , “Maybe you want to meet me at that park behind the library tomorrow. I occasionally sit in with a band at Penn Station, so Bryant Park is a convenient place to meet, in the morning around eight o’clock.”

“Noah, my grandmother just died? Tomorrow is the wake.”

“I know.”

I filled in the awkward silence with, “I gotta go. Thanks for taking care of Percy.”

We waited for what seemed forever. Noah remained silent.

“Right, see you then,” I said as I rushed down the stairs with the photos for my grandmother’s wake in my knapsack.

When I passed my grandmother’s floor, I put my ear to the apartment door. I heard her slippers frantically shuffling around the kitchen, I started to put my key in the door but I was too ashamed to go inside. With her murder, how could I be thinking about guys - that bossy detective and now this weird musician? I heard my father leaning on the horn screaming for me to hurry down. So, instead of checking Mere’s apartment, I ran down the stairs to the car.

That night I didn’t sleep at all. Finally, when morning came, I threw on my jeans and tee and went for a walk with my music blasting in my ear. Like a sleep walker I found myself in Bryant Park. Sure enough Noah was sitting at a table guzzling a big bottle of water. His biceps unmistakably defined, but his eyes were hidden behind aviator sunglasses. As soon as I sat down across from him, he moved his chair next to me and stretched his bear like arm around me.

I just laid my head on his massive chest and cried and cried. Finally when the tears ceased, in the most gentle way he raised my chin and kissed me.

All I could say was, “I shouldn’t be here.”

“No need to be sorry, pretty girl.” Then he slowly walked out of the park carrying his guitar case to meet up with the group for the morning commuter concert, leaving me to wonder what was I even doing here. I couldn’t stand the pain of thinking and I just needed to escape .

Around eleven, Noah phoned me.

Embarrassed by my emotional outburst I mumbled, “Thanks Noah for this morning at the park. I’m so crazed with my grandmother’s murder and burial that I don’t know what I’m doing. I just met you and I started a crying jag. I’m very embarrassed.”

“I’m easy.”

Quickly changing the topic, I asked, “What’s it like playing in the subway?”

“Well today I sat in for a guitarist in a group I know from the club circuit. There was some kind of fallout between two band members over the female singer and the guitarist walked. I like this group’s sound-created with horns and a bass. The acoustic in the subway are great. I get a kick out of the people programmed to the work schedule stopping and bopping their heads and swaying their hips. When I play, I am aware of their souls beneath the corporate

mask.”

“Yeah, their souls,” I said in awe, while thinking that some guys do know about the spirit, a foreign idea to that gargantuan detective.

“So Noah, what are you doing now?”

“I was out at a club till 5 and playing in the subway at 8, so soon I‘ll be sleeping on my couch. It sleeps two you know.”

I could feel myself blush.

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