"Old Forgotten Words or Ancient Melodies"
"...and that doesn't look at all comfortable... Hello... Your neck will develop a crick in it should you remain in that position... Paul...? I don't pay you to take a nap on my desk, you know..."
Staring from the doorway of his office, Alva couldn't believe it. As evidenced by the sound of soft snoring, Paul had truly fallen sound asleep while sitting in a chair with his arms hanging loose at his sides, curled fingers nearly touching the carpet, and leaning forward with only his forehead resting on Keel's desk. Exasperated, Alva tsked loudly, then trudged upstairs to his cluttered apartment in search of a blanket.
Paul's forehead did, indeed, hurt. He was just becoming aware of the discomfort, and making an effort to force himself to wakefulness, when a chipper male voice startled him internally.
'You really don't want to open your eyes yet, Paul Callan.'
'What...? Why not?' Paul thought groggily. 'Hey, uhh...you're in my head... I'm talking to myself now... That's just great.'
'No, you're talking to me, actually.' The sound of sarcastic laughter filled Paul's mind.
'Oh...okay...' Paul thought as he exhaled slowly in order to tamp down his growing apprehension. 'I'll play along...for now... Who is this?'
'Someone who can help,' the voice snidely singsonged.
'I've...uhh...I've heard that before - '
'Yes, I know you have, you silly boy,' the voice taunted. 'You heard it from b him /b .'
Paul's breath caught and he forced himself to concentrate. He believed that he was awake, so far as he could tell, at least, but was frozen like a statue while in an awkward position of slumber, his eyes still evenly shut. Tentatively, he inhaled, and the almost expected stench of tar suddenly became evident. So, then, this had to be a...
'Yesssss...' the voice hissed. 'You hear lots of things from him, don't you? But not the things you truly wish to hear. Ohh, noooo...he won't tell you about b those /b things.'
'And...umm...what things would those be?' Paul asked cautiously. 'No, wait, I'm not going to humor you...so don't answer that...you're a...after all...ahh...obviously a...merry prankster...or maybe even an unterweimer...I think.'
'You just keep thinking, Paul Callan...' the voice chuckled.
With a cursory glance around his tiny, crammed-to-the-rafters apartment, Alva came to the conclusion that he needed to spend a little extra time with housekeeping, preferably in the very near future. It had taken him well over ten minutes of rooting around through closets and laundry cupboards before coming up with a small, well-used, raggedy lap quilt and a thin, square pillow, both thankfully clean. Pleased with the results of his search, he tossed the lap quilt over one shoulder and carried the pillow downstairs, stopping once more at the doorway of his office to verify if the items were still needed.
Yes, Paul still appeared to be fast asleep, although how he managed to remain so while in the position he was in, Alva could only shake his head at in honest amazement. Gently pulling back on Paul's left shoulder until his head lifted up, Keel deftly placed the pillow on the desktop and lowered his head back down again. Making certain first that Paul wasn't suffocating, and that only his forehead was cradled by the pillow, Alva carefully draped the lap quilt over Paul's back and started to slowly tiptoe back out of his office.
'Awww, how sweet of him,' the voice crooned. 'I may have to make you gag.'
Paul felt a whimper rise in his throat and twitched it away. 'No, don't...what are you? What did you say your name was, again?'
'I didn't say...but others know me as 'Brother Bobo'...others have known me as a merry prankster... I knew 'Mr. Friendly'...who was a true unterweimer...I was his mentor... We were, shall we admit, very close at one time...that is, before he was murdered by that meddling bastard, Alva Keel, over there...'
'He was rescuing a helpless victim! He doesn't 'murder' evil entities, you son of a bi - !' Paul stopped himself from completing the phrase, surprised at himself for his instant and uncharacteristically profane defense of his coworker.
Halting mid-step at the doorway, Alva stopped and turned around to look back at Paul, wondering what all the sudden, whispered hissing was about. He moved back into his office, standing nearer his desk in order to listen more closely.
"Ahh, excuse me, but...who, exactly, are you calling a son of a bitch?"
Paul's breathing stopped. 'He...can hear us?' he thought tentatively.
'Well, he can certainly hear you, since you've been whispering aloud all along,' the voice replied, sounding bored.
'But...he can't hear you, right?'
'Alva Keel possesses many gifts, it is true, but I doubt that telepathy is one of them.'
Caught somewhere between amusement and concern, Alva's eyes narrowed as he bent down to observe Paul more carefully.
"I can hear you...but as to the 'us' part... How many of you are in there, anyway?"
His mouth as dry as cotton-wool, Paul struggled to open his eyes, raise his head and move his limbs, yet remained frozen in place. "Help...help me, Keel," he managed to gulp audibly. "There's something inside of me...one of those... I can't...please..."
"Calm down, Paul," Alva stated quietly. He took hold of Paul's shoulder and shook it hard. "You need to wake up."
Other than a noticeable increase of air intake rate, Paul's condition did not improve and he remained, by all outward accounts, sound asleep.
"It's a merry prankster...it won't let me wake up," Paul gasped. "You'll have to...Alva, please...you must...kill me..."
Alva's eyebrows rose.
"...maybe call Dr. Creed again...just temporarily dead...like before...to get it out of me...you have to kill me..." Paul droned on with each breath.
Keel blinked and his brow furrowed. "The angels themselves would weep," he muttered. He slowly straightened, head tilted to one side, and considered all options.
'I will have my revenge on the murderer, Paul Callan...make no mistake about that,' the voice softly echoed inside Paul's brain.
"He's...seeking revenge...it's...threatening you..." Paul ground out.
"Is it, now?" Alva replied, distracted by his thought-process. He flashed a quick grin and shrugged. "I could always...I guess...locate another crystal bowl and then clock you with it. That seemed to have helped back in Saugerties..."
"That could work...maybe..." Paul panted, sweat by now dripping down his face and soaking into the pillow.
Alva shook his head absently and pursed his lips, still thinking. "Has 'it' given you its name yet?"
'Don't tell him anything...boy,' the voice growled, reverberating as if from farther away.
"Shut up," Paul forced through clenched teeth. "I'm not a boy!"
"I never said that you were," Alva said simply.
"Not you...him...it...calls himself...'Brother Bobo'..."
Keel bit back an urgent need to laugh. "Does it, really?" He crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall, maintaining his complete focus on Paul. "Well, I suppose it's along the same lines as 'Mr. Friendly'...who wasn't, as I distinctly recall..."
The sound of the large outer door unlocking, opening and being kicked shut, the rattling and depositing of keys on a shelf, and light footsteps approaching the office, brought Alva quickly to the doorway; Evelyn Santos, loaded down with a stack of folders, had returned from a research mission in the archives of the Boston Public Library.
"Just a moment, Evie," Alva warned, a hand raised to stop her. "We have a situation here. Paul believes he's been possessed...again."
Evelyn raised one eyebrow and stopped, placing the folders on her desk. At Alva's silent, beckoning gesture, she joined him at the office doorway in staring at Paul's apparently slumbering form. "Possessed by what?" she whispered.
"Paul says it's a merry prankster," Alva quietly explained. "Yes, he can speak...he just can't otherwise move...he only appears to be asleep."
"Be...careful, Evie...stay back..." Paul urged, his voice now a low groan.
"Are you sure, Paul? Has...whatever you think has possessed you...definitely identified itself as a merry prankster...or as an unterweimer...or as something worse? A ghost, perhaps?" Evie asked him directly.
"Something worse... Could very well be a demon, yes," Alva exhaled softly, staring up at the ceiling. At Evie's small cough of dismay, he shook his head in a negative. "But I highly doubt it... I highly doubt, also, that it's a merry prankster..."
"No? Then...what...Keel?" Paul forced out, his jaw beginning to scream in pain from his efforts.
"It's quite possibly a simple instance of sleep paralysis with a side of somniloquy," Alva shrugged.
The voice returned in a flash, amidst taunting laughter. 'Ask the murderer if he has ever seen 'The Exorcist'...'
"He wants..." Paul sighed, nearly spent. "Brother Bobo wants...to know if...if you, Keel...have ever seen...'The Exorcist'..."
"But, of course, I have seen 'The Exorcist'..." Alva replied blithely. "It's my favorite comedy."
"'Brother Bobo'?" Evie looked at Keel. "Wait...I know that name from somewhere..." She thought silently for a few seconds. The memory clicked and she grinned. Hesitant to explain in front of an already distraught Paul, she addressed Alva in Spanish. "El 'Hermano Bobo' era el nombre de un programa viejo para niños aqui en Boston que Paul pudo haber visto cuando era niño..."
"My fingers are...going numb," Paul moaned. His right leg began to visibly spasm and cramp.
"You've been working much too hard lately," Alva observed casually, moving over to stand beside his desk. "And, I'll venture to say, that you haven't had very much sleep, either." With a quick nod and wink at a frowning Evelyn, he placed his hands flat against the desktop next to the pillow and smiled thinly at the back of Paul's head. "I will also venture to say that, should you not open your eyes within the next ten seconds, I will take some measure of delight in picking you up and throwing you bodily out the nearest window."
"You...what?" Paul gasped.
Without warning, Alva smacked the desktop with flattened palms, the booming sound of which was deafening within the confines of the small room. "Wake up, Paul!" he commanded.
Paul's head snapped up from the pillow and his eyes, at last, sprang open wide. Alva tossed the fallen lap quilt onto the desk and helped him to sit upright on the chair and regain his balance, as Evelyn went off in search of some water for him. The fluorescent light overhead was flickering far too brightly, and Paul raised a shaky hand to shield his eyes, waiting for his vision to clear.
Breathing deeply, some time passed before he could finally speak. "How did you...what happened to...what about the merry prankster...Brother Bobo?" Paul stammered, his face just beginning to flush with embarrassment.
Alva patted his shoulder, then gave it a gentle squeeze. "There is no merry prankster...nor any of its counterparts." He moved away to lean against the wall again.
Evelyn brought a large glass of water to Paul and he drained it immediately. "Just take it slow," she said quietly.
Grateful, Paul handed Evie the empty glass and waited for the remnants of fuzziness to leave his brain.
"Are you okay now?" Evelyn asked him, smiling patiently.
Paul shrugged, and shook his head, still confused. "Yes...no...I don't know..." He looked over at Keel, who was all but losing his own private battle to refrain from allowing himself a mild smirk.
"Basically, this is a physical manifestation on your part, Paul..." Alva assumed a lecturing tone, ignoring Evie as she blatantly rolled her eyes at him. "It could be defined as a heterodox of a 'waking dream' syndrome, brought about both by your severe lack of sleep and recently recounted field studies...of 'Mr. Friendly'...'The Ice Man' in Saugerties...et cetera..."
"In simpler terms," Evelyn sighed, "he means that all you really need is a nice, long nap."
Paul glanced down at his still-numb fingertips, his face contorted in bewilderment. "But...I still smell tar."
"Of course you do, Paul. We all do, as it positively reeks of it in here. It permeates the entire building now..." Keel strolled out of his office and over to the large bank of windows on the other side of the outer office and stared down at the streets. "For your information, and as I fully expected, there happens to be a road crew working this very morning, just outside, below us...they're re-paving the street with fresh tar."
"Oh, I see," Paul murmured, the back of his neck becoming a brighter shade of crimson by the second. "So...then...who was Brother Bobo?"
Evelyn giggled. "We must have watched the same TV show when we were growing up, Paul, because you obviously remember him, too... 'Brother Bobo' was the name of the early-Eighties, live kid's show that aired for a short time here in Boston. There were numerous complaints filed against the guy, regarding sexual innuendoes and sly references to drug usage, before he was yanked off the air for good by the show's humiliated network."
"Yes, I remember that now," Paul nodded firmly, as an odd sense of relief washed over him. "And the theme song, something about 'Brother Bobo, the children's buddy, and his good friend, Mary Jane'...and then Sister Agnes Maria telling us all that we could never watch television ever again in our natural lifetimes."
"Well, then, that explains all of that," Alva said brusquely, rubbing together his still stinging palms and turning away from the windows. "Did you dig up the files we needed for the Rodney case, Evie?"
On her way to the outer office's sink to wash Paul's empty glass, Evelyn paused momentarily at the doorway and gave Keel a sardonic look. "Don't I always? They're in that pile of folders here on my desk."
Keel grinned and headed eagerly for the data. A contrite and slowly shuffling Paul made his hesitant way out of Alva's office, clutching the retrieved lap quilt and pillow.
"And don't you make Paul sort through them all just yet, Alva," Evie's voice carried from across the far side of the outer office. "He needs to get some sleep first!"
"I will, I will..." Paul yawned, stretching carefully to help get the kinks out of his back muscles. "Heading over to the sofa now, I promise..."
Bemused, Alva watched to make sure that Paul had made it safely to his intended target before snatching up the topmost folder of the freshly delivered pile on Evelyn's desk. He flipped it open to briskly scan through the first few pages of the file within...
It had been a long time since Alva Keel had literally felt his heart leap to the back of his throat. He swallowed hard, his face a stoic mask of disbelief at what he read on the page before him: i Case File # 378, Possible Demonic Possession (Framingham, Mass. 12/19/82): "Brother Bobo" /i .