The Lost Tapes
(c) 2017 by James Goodridge
“I need more time Ross,” pleaded Sully Grunwald, phone in one hand, 32oz Burger King cup half filled with Old Taylor and slowly melting ice in the other. On the other end of the taunt conversation was Laird Ross. A Merit was burning itself out in an ashtray.
“Look you old Grunge rock fool. I’ve given you more than enough time to find the tapes. I can’t hold off my people any longer on this investment.
The studio has to be demolished so my high rises can go up, time is money in Manhattan. Stop shitting on me bro.” said Ross. The tapes mentioned well a holy grail of the jazz world. Azure Crenshaw’s lost tapes were last seen in 1979, the night Crenshaw walked out of legendary Sound Cave studios on West 52st. He and the tapes disappearing off of the face of the earth.
“Please Ross I’ve made progress. I’ve found a cracked wall in the vault, it looks hollow on the other side,”said Sully a silver haired, slim bodied man sitting on a recliner in a tattered New York football Giants bath robe; the lone glow in his living room ESPN on his HD. Over the decades Sully was the go to man for creating audio music master pieces in all genres,But now in retirement he needed cash to live right. Atlantic City black jack tables had screwed up his savings .
“Listen I don’t have time for this MC rap boy Sully. Plus who the hell listens to jazz these days anyway?” said Ross with the constant music genre belittling of the old man.
“Why you son of…Listen Mr. Ross, let me explain this to you again, Crenshaw at the time of his disappearance in 1979 was a icon in the jazz world like Miles Davis. You are old enough to have heard of Miles right?” the question was forlorn but Sully asked anyway.
“No disco dude.” said Ross to which if Sully could see his millennial indifferent shrug trough the phone he would have punch Ross. Thank god Sully knew nothing about Skype.
“At the time of his disappearance Crenshaw was a jazz icon, the tracks I helped him lay down were going to change jazz which was a crossroad. Take it to another level.” Ross listened to Sully while Googling the information on Crenshaw, found it impressed him. Ross smelled money.
Sully continued. “The day he stepped out of Sound Cave he was to bring the master tapes to GRT records, but when he didn’t show up GRT was pissed off, and after so many years GRT folded, the police made Crenshaw a cold case, and his family had him declared legally dead after so many years. His official work is in public domain no estate. That’s why I need more time.” Sully sensed the hedge fund and real estate mogul must be doing research while they talked. One thing Sully did know was Google. “I got him,” he thought, flipping the bird to the phone in the semi-darkness of his New Jersey home.
“Okay heavy metal bro you’ve got two more days. And that’s it!” Cutting off the phone conversation Ross hoped the old fart would deliver.
After so many impatient knocks on green tinted glass doors taped over with New York city construction permit notices Sully unlocked the doors to let a frowning young man in a gray single breasted suit, blue open collared shirt, and blond man bun atop his head in.
“All right soul man where’s it at?” asked Ross, looking at his Rolex.
“Hey, for Christ’s sake can’t you call me Sully?” asked Sullivan H. Grunwald in a wrinkled olive suit under it a black AC/DC tee shirt.
“Okay SULLY. Let’s just keep this moving,” said Ross snatching the flash light offered to him out of Sully’s hand.
“Follow me. Keep your flash light on the floor at times, the workman have already pulled up some of the carpet,” warned Sully. Leading the business man through the lobby to a door which in turn led to a circular area almost like a second lobby, doors colored and labeled studios: green, pink, ocher, and amber, studios that helped recording artists earn gold and platinum records over the decades; now just a ghost of their musical past. Between pink and amber studios were a bland red door leading to the basement.
“How far down does this stairway go funky man sorry SULLY?” Ross wasn’t uneasy about the tightness of the stairway like Sully but had to wonder how deep down was the basement. Dim neon lights descending like them down the stairways ceiling helped their flash lights. “We’re here,” said Sully.
The vault wasn’t a vault but a glorified storage room, yet solid enough to hold a poor soul prisoner in it for an eternity.
“Bingo, bango, bongo, Ross there they are!” laughed Sully pointing the beam from his flashlight to a hole in a wall four feet by four feet at the end of the room. In front of the small abyss was an old wooden milk create with a Gold Medal Milk logo stenciled on the sides. Inside the long defunct milk company create wrapped in dusty plastic were six TDK reel to reel boxes labeled in sharpie black pen: A. Crenshaw Sound Cave sessions 1978-1979. Yes Bing, bango, bongo was right.
“You can go look them over if you like, then we can bring them up to the green studio, I have a reel to reel deck hooked up in there we can sample Crenshaw and I’s masterwork. Azure’s rendition of Sonny and Monk’s ‘Friday the 13th‘ is a killer diller,” beamed Sully, Old Taylor on his breath.
“Analog man what do you mean Crenshaw and you? You had Jack bone shit to do with those tapes except turn knobs when he told you to or fetch coffee, maybe a pint of wine,” chuckled Ross. “Plus this is on my property. MY PROPERTY. I tell you what I’ll give you a nice wavy fee for this.”
It was then and there both men surmised that a change in plans were in order. Sully’s change was to kill Ross and seal him up in the wall and sell the master tapes and Ross’s change was to tie Sully up in the courts over ownership, until the old bastard croaked. Sully raised his flashlight to come down on Ross’s head, but Ross quickly side stepped him. Flash lights dropped as both men dropped to the floor in a death struggle. Ross’s youth and sadistic force versus Sully’s adrenaline fueled rage. Flash lights rolled around the dusty floor, as a punch from Sully made blood squirt out from Ross’s nose, but Ross threw a fist to Sully’s left jaw, making the old studio worker howl.
“What bro what?! Your dentures loose?! I was going to tie you up in court until you became worm food, but now I think you’ll fit nice in that whole back there you old punk rock turd.” Ross straddling Sully on the floor wiped his crimson leaking nose with his suit sleeve while debating whether to continue pummeling Sully or strangle the life out of him. Sully ended Ross’s debate by blindsiding him on his right temple with one of the flashlights. The sound of the blow cracked like a ball coming off a ball players bat going yard. The man bun Ross wore came loose as he pitched forward on top of Sully dead.
“How ya like me now?! K-pop boy!” Sully wheezed at the lifeless Ross as he pushed him off, then staggered up to stand using a blood spattered metal shelf to brace himself. Digging in his blood and dusted suit pocket he pulled out a soft pack of Merits and after flinging a few broken cigarettes out the pack, one found a Merit still intact to smoke. “Just couldn’t put a filter on your mouth Ross could you!” wheezed Sully.
“Yo! Still bogarting credit for shit I created Sully?” came a voice.
“Screw you Ross!” yelled Sully at Ross’s corpse before realizing there was a third person in the vault the limited flashlight beams showed a shadow moving about.
“Who’s… Aaww I know who. I’m not scared of you Azure. Been a while since we last talked.” Sully tried to be fearless but his hand shook, orange embers from his Merit, flying on to his olive suit and down on Ross’s body gave him away.
Dragging himself into the light was Azure Crenshaw. Afro and sideburns specter gray from cement and sheetrock dust. Skin once smooth mocha brown,now greenish brown and slowly sliding off his facial bones; mushy in texture. A dark spot on Crenshaw’s right temple showed where Sully cracked his skull open with a silver ashtray forty-two years ago during an argument over a raise and more acknowledgment credits on an album cover. A tattered white three-piece suit hung limply off the missing cold case victim.
“You didn’t want to list me as producer Azure.” Sully backed away and up against a wall.
“For what damn it! I was the one playing sax not you! Listen Grunwald right about now yo’ ass is grass. Yo’ got a dead man on the floor yo’ ass got’s to explain. And yo’ done went and opened up the wall where yo’ had my damn body buried damn it. All these years yo’ went around like shit ain’t wrong. Baby doll Ms. Grunwald had to push you out hard at birth cause yo’ balls was so big.I could do yo’ ass in right now, just like in those horror comics my bass player Chucky Briscoe read between takes back then, but nah son it will be too easy on yo’ ass. I have a plans for you Sully.” By now Sullivan H. Grunwald had slid down the side of the wall and was sitting; he was a haunted wreck. Azure sat down next to him a placing a ghoulish hand on Sully’s knee. Sully shuddered.
Once the legal battles ended, Laird Ross’s disappearance was turning the corner into a cold case. The “Azure Crenshaw Lost Sessions” reinvigorated the jazz world. People with no knowledge of jazz at all purchased downloads just to be trendy. Collectors scrambled for the CD and vinyl box sets. Sully parleyed his success into a move down to a nice bungalow down in Key West.
“So what do I do now?” Sully looked as if he was conversing with himself in the bathroom mirror of his Key West bungalow. He waited for Azure’s decayed rancid breath reply to emulate from his own mouth. Neighbors started to wonder about the new neighbor, who mumbled to himself and how one minute he has minty fresh breath and the next minute he needs a breath mint; in fact a fist full of breath mints. “I hate this polyester suit nothing for nothing, you know,” said Sully in the white three piece.
“You don’t know style, my man. Now we go to step two.” Azure’s image was behind Sully to the left in the mirror.
“Step two?” Sully stopped thinking about suicide long ago since Azure was right there in his head.
“Listen, Mr. Funk, Texas two-step, house music, ska, bluegrass man. You’re going to help me get my hedge fund back!” said the decomposing head of Laird Ross held forth by Crenshaw, made courtesy of Sully’s body disposal work, grinned from behind Sully’s mirrored right shoulder.
Born and raised in the Bronx, James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing.Currently, he is writing a series of short “Twilight Zone” inspired stories from the world of art, (The Artwork) and a diesel/punkfunk saga (Madison Cavendish/Seneca Sue Mystic Detectives) with the goal of producing compelling stories