Production No. BPP-605
edited by: Claire and Toni Rae
MEET THE CAST
"It's for Charity."
"So what?" "Who cares?" "Why us?"
Those were the reactions. Not that it worked; not that it mattered. When the word came down from above that every department within the city's employ would provide some sort of 'talent' for the annual 'Cascade for Charity Night' program, there wasn't much to be said. This year, it was Major Crime that got stuck with the assignment for the Police Department.
The previous years had had everything from comedy skits to recitations to magic acts. All of them awful. So far, in the ten years of the Charity Night, the PD had come in at the bottom of everyone's list for 'if they never come back it will be too soon'. It seemed that cops had no talent for anything more than arresting bad guys, not that that was a bad thing. But still, you'd think that at least one cop could have a little talent for something else.
"OK, so, we're the stuckees," Joel Taggart said at the meeting of Major Crime to discuss their possible options. "Any ideas?"
His question was met with silence, as no one was willing to look at anyone else. They'd all heard about the previous 'acts' put on by the PD and knew that it would be hard to do any worse than the others, but still...
"Well, I know that Blair can sing," Jim mentioned rather tentatively.
"So can Joel. He's got a great baritone," Blair countered.
"Okay, so we have a couple of guys who can sing," Simon muttered. "I used to play the clarinet, but that was years ago."
Joel perked up, "Henri, don't you play bass?"
"Yeah, so?" Brown wasn't sure he liked the direction this seemed to be heading.
"Well, Blair plays guitar, I can play the piano, Simon the clarinet..." he trailed off, waiting for any other volunteers.
"I can play the saxophone," Rafe volunteered, a bit uncertainly.
"How about you, Megan?"
"Well, I can carry a tune, but that's about all, I'm afraid."
Everyone turned to a very silent Jim Ellison. Seeing that he was now the focus of everyone's attention, he sighed and admitted, "I used to play drums."
"WHAT?!?" Blair's voice rose more than an octave with the startled question. "Why didn't I know that?"
"You never asked?" Jim was looking into the distance, trying to ignore the excitement building around him.
"Jim..." Blair's tone of voice made his partner flinch.
"Look, it's never come up. I can play the drums. Used to have a pretty good set, too." Seeing the question on everyone's faces, he sighed. "Let's just say that it was something I took up just to annoy my dad, okay?"
Since his friends were well aware of his less than stellar childhood, they backed off on their questions. Instead, they began to get excited over the prospect of their stint as the Cascade PD's martyrs for charity, as it had come to be known.
"But, what kind of music will we play?" Megan asked, causing everyone else to pause in their excited chatter.
"That depends on what we can play, doesn't it?" Simon asked. "I mean, it's been twenty years since I last played the clarinet, and that was mostly classical and jazz..."
"I played jazz," Rafe said.
"I play blues and rock," Brown added.
"I play folk and rock," Blair said.
"I did mostly gospel and ragtime," Joel admitted. They all turned to Jim, wondering what his specialty had been.
"The advantage of drums is that it's fairly easy to switch from one form to another. I played a lot of rock, but I did some jazz, too. But I kind of like H's idea of blues. The instruments we have kind of lend themselves to blues and jazz, and if Megan can manage some of the singing... we might actually have a chance to not bomb out."
"Where will we practice?" Megan asked.
"I think we can probably borrow the rec-room at my church," Joel offered. "Let me call the pastor and ask. The next question is, do we all have instruments?"
Fortunately, it appeared that Blair had a guitar and Henri, an electric bass, Joel had access to a piano, both at home and the spinet at the church, and both Rafe and Simon knew where their old instruments were stored. It came back down to everyone staring at Jim, once again.
He sighed. "I'll have to call my dad and see if they're still around anywhere. Although, even if they are, they'll probably need new heads, but let me call him and see if they're even still around."
"Why don't you call him right now, Jim?" Joel suggested. "And I'll call my church and get permission to use the rec-room. Then, maybe we can find us some music?"
Jim nodded and stood to go back to his desk to make the call. The rest of the group stood as well, heading back to their desks, just a bit excited about the idea of maybe being able to pull off a coup for the department (not to mention for themselves).
"Thanks, Dad. I'll be over in a day or two to pick them up." Jim looked up at the pleased group of his colleagues and sighed as he hung up the phone. "As you no doubt heard, my dad still has the drums. I'll go check them out and if they're still any good, then I'll haul them over to wherever we find to practice."
His friends were all grinning and getting more excited over the prospect, wondering whether they had enough time to get everything set so that they could do well. Knowing the history of the event, the idea that they could possibly do well when the other divisions in the department had all failed so miserably was energizing to the group... now, if only the bad guys would be kind enough to cooperate.
Jim was surprised to find his drums exactly as he'd left them. Still set up in one corner of the basement. They had even been kept dusted. Slipping his somewhat larger-than-when-he-left-home bulk behind the drums, he sat down on the stool that was still there and picked up a pair of sticks that lay across one of the drums. Tentatively, he fiddled with the sticks, until he held them in a comfortable grip. Still tentative, he began to softly tap on the drums, finding a rhythm that he liked, then played a bit faster. Within a few minutes, he was playing with more confidence, but still not nearly up to speed. When he finally tired, he set the sticks back on the drum and shook his head. He looked up to see his partner, grinning on the bottom step. He flushed in embarrassment.
"Hey, sounded pretty good to me. Especially since it's been how long since the last time you played?" Blair said, his tone warm and calm.
"More than twenty years, Chief." He tenderly ran one hand over the old drums, "They don't seem to be in too bad a shape. Do you honestly think that we can put anything worthwhile together in less than a month?"
Blair came down the last step and, glancing around what to him was obviously a shrine of sorts maintained by William Ellison for his long-missing son who sat oblivious to it, came over and stood in front of his friend.
"Yeah. I think maybe we can. You've already demonstrated that you remember the basics. Some practice and you'll get back up to speed pretty fast. Now, Simon and his clarinet, that may be a different story. He hasn't played since high school, either, and he's older than you. Rafe, I have no idea. H... well, he plays weekends at a little jazz club downtown." At Jim's surprised expression, he explained, "Hey, it's a college hang-out, man. I've seen him down there off and on for years. He just never sees the audience, you know?" At Jim's nod, he continued. "Joel, no doubt keeps up with his piano. You've seen that old upright he has in the parlor? Well, you can tell it's been well used. Probably has always done it to keep his fingers limber for working on explosives. As for Megan's voice... that's another unknown. We'll just have to wait and see. It's worth a chance, though. Don't you think?" The last was to elicit a response, wondering if Jim were confident in his ability to get back up to speed so quickly.
"Maybe. Like you said, though, we'll have to wait and see."
William seemed depressed as he watched his son and friend load the drums into Jim's truck. Blair, recognizing the older Ellison's grief over the loss of one more piece of his estranged son, turned back to him.
"Would you mind if we brought them back after the Charity show? I don't think we have room for them at the loft unless we do some major rearranging."
William smiled and relaxed a bit, "That would be fine." He caught Jim's eye as he turned from putting the tailgate up on his truck.
"Thanks, Dad. I'll see you in a few weeks, when we bring them back."
"Not a problem, Jimmy. You know you're welcome here any time?" His tone indicated that it was a question, hoping that his son knew that he wanted him to visit any time and that such visits were more than welcome.
Jim relaxed and smiled, understanding. "Yeah, Dad. I know." Turning to Blair, he asked, "You ready, Chief?"
"Yeah. I'll see you later, Mr. Ellison." He waved as he opened the passenger side door and climbed in.
"Yeah, Dad?" Jim turned back from climbing into his truck.
"Would it be all right if I went to the Charity Show?"
Jim grimaced, thinking of how much could go wrong, but he spotted Blair's insistent nod and capitulated. "Well, if you don't mind watching us make idiots of ourselves on stage. It is for a good cause, after all. Sure. Tell Sally, too?"
"I will. Maybe we'll both go." There was a bit of hopefulness in the elder Ellison's voice as he watched his son get in his truck and back down the driveway, waving at him as he shifted into drive and headed out. He stood with one arm raised in farewell, watching until the truck turned the corner three blocks down and passed from sight.
The recreation room at the church Joel attended was, fortunately, on the ground floor, which meant that there wasn't any struggling to get the drums down any stairs, unlike there had been getting them up from the basement at the Ellison house. Joel was waiting for them when they arrived, the rest of the group appeared shortly, with instruments in tow.
"Good thing the Community Center has a piano available, huh, Joel?" Blair panted as he lugged his amplifier in.
"Yeah. I'd sure hate to have to move a piano. Once you move them, you have to have them retuned and that's a real hassle."
"I'm going to have enough trouble getting these tuned," Jim agreed. "Hopefully, they won't be too bad. I was surprised at how good the heads are after all these years."
"Jim," Blair was using his 'patient' voice, "I realize that you didn't notice, but your dad has kept your drums up, maintaining them like a shrine. Think about it."
Jim paused in setting up his drums and looked closely at them. Lifting his face up to see his friends looking at him, he shook his head in surprise. "You're right. They've been polished recently." He looked more closely at the instruments. "I'll have to remember to thank him," he murmured. He looked up, just before the door opened to reveal the rest of the folks from Major Crime who, except for Megan, were all carrying their instruments. Blair quickly hurried over to where he'd left his guitar and amplifier. Brown had brought his amps as well, and they quickly got their heads together over them to see how they could merge the two systems.
Once everyone was more-or-less set up, Joel pulled out a stack of music. "I dug these out of storage. It's mostly jazz and blues, with some Big Band and show tunes thrown in. I figured we could go through them and see if anyone knows any of them and then narrow it down from there."
Joel had originally been tagged with the task of putting this whole thing together. After all, it wasn't seemly for the captain in charge to lead the band, so to speak. Made it look more like the members had been coerced, rather than volunteering... of course, there wasn't any volunteering, not really. The word had come down from above and they were all perfectly aware of the facts, but with Joel nominally in charge, it didn't give the appearance that anyone was forced to participate. Fortunately, Joel had enough of a musical background to be able to lead them in this endeavor.
"How long will we have to play?" Rafe asked, taking a handful of music sheets to look through, as the others did the same.
"We're scheduled for a twenty minute set. That would be anywhere from six to eight pieces, plus maybe a couple more in case they want an encore." Joel ignored Simon's snort of disbelief as he pulled up a folding chair and sat down to look through the music as well.
Once everyone had gone through his or her pile, they swapped and, in that way, worked their way through the entire stack. Each person had a few pieces picked out that they recognized and liked. Placing the stack of discards on top of the piano, Joel returned and they settled in to discuss their choices.
"OK, so, why don't we list what we've picked out and then vote on which ones we want to work on?" Joel asked.
"Joel? Can we use that rolling white board? Then we could list them on that, discuss them and then just erase the ones we decide we don't want to do." Blair, ever the teacher, acted on his suggestion by standing up and going over to drag the object in question over. "I'll even volunteer to write down the titles, okay?"
"Good idea, Sandburg," Simon agreed, standing and helping him position the board so that everyone could see it without having to twist too far.
The next several minutes were spent with the participants calling out titles and Blair neatly printing them on the board. The list ran the gamut from Count Basie to Ella Fitzgerald and from Glenn Miller to the Dave Brubeck Quartet.
"I think you could probably take off the Brubeck piece," Rafe suggested. "I don't think I can do all that solo work in front of an audience."
"But it's a great piece, man," Blair urged. "We could do it like they did at Newport, with each instrument taking a turn at the solo. I've got the CD somewhere. It's really awesome."
"I still don't know..." Rafe's hesitance was felt by everyone.
"Before we go any further, does everyone read music?" Joel asked. There was a moment of silence before everyone tentatively nodded, except for Megan.
"Uh, I don't. I've tried to learn, but it's just spots on a page and doesn't mean anything," she admitted.
"That's okay, you can learn the songs by rote," Henri said. At her puzzled look, he elaborated, "You memorize the words and music. Joel will play your part on the piano and you just have to sing along until you've got it memorized. Usually it takes less time to learn the music than it does the words, but that's normal."
"Oh, sure, like learning the songs on the radio," Megan agreed.
"So, what do you have that's simple that we can all try out?" Henri asked. "Keep it simple. We don't need to be struggling with music along with everything else."
"Well..." Joel looked first at the board, then turned back to the stack of discarded music. "How about this?" He held out the music for 'A Tisket, A Tasket'. "It's relatively simple and might be a good one to practice on."
With the agreement of the others, Joel headed for the office to make them enough copies so that everyone could have one. He used the original on the piano.
Simon, nervously fingered his clarinet as he sucked on his reed to moisten it before putting it in the mouthpiece, read through the music, grateful that the sheet music had the various instruments scored separately. Reading the music, a bit tentatively after so many years away from it, he started humming his part, just under his breath. Fortunately, he knew the song, which was a definite help.
"Why doesn't everyone warm up a bit, see how much you remember if you haven't played in a while. Maybe do some scales?" Joel suggested, settling down at the piano and running a few scales to warm up.
"Good idea." Brown agreed, adding the accompaniment with bass riffs to underlie the piano notes. Blair, seeing the key Joel was in quickly joined, playing one third above. Rafe quickly joined in, playing a third lower, and Jim simply started keeping time with the drums, getting into the rhythm and moving the tempo around, speeding up and slowing down as they shifted keys. Simon was the last to join in, playing a third above Blair's guitar, the sweet notes of the clarinet taking everyone by surprise, the others stopped to listen. Simon was concentrating so hard on trying to remember how to play, that he didn't notice that the others had stopped. When he did, he immediately stopped as well, looking worriedly at his colleagues.
"What? Am I that bad?"
"No, Simon. For someone who hasn't practiced in over twenty years, you sound real good," Joel grinned. Looking at the others, "In fact, this may not be a bad gig, after all."
"Gig, Joel?" Brown asked, one eyebrow raising, "That doesn't sound like the sort of word you'd know, man."
Joel chuckled, "Oh, I've played a gig or four, although it's been a lot of years. I still remember the vernacular. So, what say we try the song?"
The first run-through was more than rough. They had a problem with the timing, as Jim was a bit tentative about it himself, following instead of leading by setting the beat. They quit by mutual agreement less than halfway through.
"Jim? We're really going to need you, man. You need to set the beat for us. Without you, we don't have any control," Joel said gently. "It's not like we have a conductor to keep us all on track. We need you to set the tempo and keep it steady, all right?"
"Sorry, Joel. Let me give it another try." The others nodded and let Jim practice for a couple of minutes, finding the proper tempo and style to fit the song, then he stopped and looked up at the beaming faces of his friends. "Better?"
"Much." Several voices chorused back at him. Relaxing more, he cast a questioning gaze at the others, who all nodded in agreement. He started again, and after a few beats to set it up, the others joined in.
They played it through three or four times before they were satisfied with it, then they asked Megan to sing along. She knew the song, but was terribly shy about having to perform in front of an audience, even if it was only the guys she worked with.
"Hey, if I can haul this thing out of the attic after twenty plus years and do this, you certainly should be able to sing a little for us," Simon cajoled, "Besides, you're going to need to practice with us every single time, too. Even if we do a few numbers where you don't have to sing. Got that?"
"Yes, Sir," she smiled tentatively and, knowing that they wouldn't be terribly critical, she took a deep breath and nodded for them to begin.
Who could have suspected that her throaty alto would be so mesmerizing? Or that her range was close to three octaves? Since it was a jazz piece, after the first chorus, she improvised, using her voice like any good jazz musician, playing with the notes, doing vocal riffs that left the others staring at each other in shock. The idea of going on stage with their act was suddenly looking like a first step into a new and wonderful world.
Not that the practice was without its problems. There were any number of sour notes, but practice would take care of that. The question was whether or not a month was enough time to prepare. They worked through the list of music they had chosen, deciding to add their practice piece, 'A Tisket, A Tasket' to the repertoire, simply because they sounded so good on it. Blair's insistence on 'Take Five' added it to the list, but only as an encore piece, was one that had Rafe sweating at the amount of practice he'd need to be able to pull it off.
After three hours, Megan was losing her voice, and Joel called a halt. They were all tired, and Simon was starting to form a blister on his lip. Packing up, Joel was happy to inform them that if they wanted to, they could leave their instruments at the church. They would be locked up and kept safe. Jim agreed, not wanting to have to haul his drums back and forth, particularly if it should happen to rain. Brown and Blair opted to leave their amplifiers at the church, but wanted their instruments with them to practice. Simon and Rafe knew darned well that they needed to keep their instruments with them to practice at every opportunity. Jim simply took several pair of sticks with him, in case he wanted to practice. He was certain that he would have no problem finding something to practice on, teasing his partner that the younger man's head would work just as well as anything else to practice on.
"Oh? And why would that be?" Blair's voice held a slight edge to it.
"Because, it's so nice and hollow, that I'll bet it makes a wonderful sound," Jim ducked, as Blair threw the white-board marker at him, laughing gleefully.
"Well, I guess it would have to sound better than that concrete you've got between the ears, man," Blair teased back, dodging around the others.
"Concrete?" Jim growled, "I'll show you concrete," and he sidestepped his captain and caught hold of his partner's jacket, hauling him in and tickling him.
"Guys?" Joel said in an amused tone of voice, "If you want to roughhouse, take it outside, please?"
"Yes, Joel." Jim and Blair chorused contritely, remembering belatedly that this was a church.
Simon rolled his eyes and shook his head at the pair. His stern disapproval invalidated by the grin that refused to stay hidden. "I think we've done enough for one day, people. Since it's Friday, maybe we can meet again for some practice tomorrow? I'm sure we won't be able to do anything on Sunday, this is a church, after all; but if we meet every evening after work and on Saturdays for an hour or two, I think we may just be able to pull this thing off. What do the rest of you think?"
He was met with a chorus of agreement and they parted company with the promise of continuing their practice and meeting the following afternoon at one-thirty.