On The Dotted Line

The return of the Spirit of Jazz.


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Length: words

Notes: I had the idea for the introduction of this (the mobile phone) a couple of days ago, and last night it developed into a full (gasp) plot. I’ve been working on this all day. My Spirit of Jazz may not be strictly in character, I haven’t watched electro for a fair few months now, and have instead been hearing Uncle Mario from Noel Fielding’s Oblong sketch whenever I think of the Spirit of Jazz. The Spirit of Electro is played by Julian Barratt (which seems only fitting considering Noel is the Spirit of Jazz) Just imagine head shaman from nanageddon with electric blue hair.

On The Dotted Line by cailenbraern

“Where’s your phone?”


“Your phone, where is it?”

“Oh, er…” Howard patted his shirt down, and then the pockets of his trousers.

“You’re so useless! You’ve never got it!”

“No. I had it with me when I came in this…morning.”

“Whatever. I’ll ring it.”

“There’s no point. It’s on silent.”

“Silent? Why have you got it on silent for?”

“I didn’t like the ringtone.”

“I picked that ringtone specially for you. It’s Jack clousteau.”

Howard didn’t bother to correct him.

“It’s too shrill and alien…”

“It’s a realtone.”

“Look…shut up, ok? Just help me find it.”

“Does it vibrate?”


“Well haven’t you got it on vibrate when it’s on silent?”

“Oh, right, yeah, yeah, yeah. So if you ring me, then we can hear where it is by the vibrations, yeah? Let’s do it then.”


Vince rung Howard’s number. After a few seconds, both can hear the sound of vibrating against wood. At last, Howard dived into the sofa and rescued his phone.

“I’ve got a missed call!”

“Yeah, from me, you idiot!”

“Oh, right, yeah. Why did you want my phone, anyway?”

“I sent you a text earlier. It’s got all the details of our gig tonight. Read it if you can remember how to do that.”

Vince headed into his room to start his preparation for the gig that night. Howard pulled a face at his retreating body and scrutinised the text on his phone.

The gig was at 8pm. That wasn’t so bad. That left him around 6 hours to get ready. He began to head into the kitchen when the phone buzzed in his hand. Thinking that Vince had taken to annoying him in sms form, he brought the screen up to his vision with a sigh,

The words, ‘you have a new video message’ greeted Howard. He was intrigued. He never knew he could watch videos on his phone. He pressed the view button, and almost dropped the phone in fright. Gracing the screen of his mobile was now a dark, skeletal-faced man with long, black dreads.

“Hey, Howie, boy.” The man’s (if he could be called a man) voice was raspy and deep. “Bet you thought you’d never see me again, huh?”

“What do you want?”

“What did you say? Speak up!”

“What do you want from me?” Howard shouted at the phone, unaware of how old it would make him look to a random observer.

“Ah it’s no use talking, you idiot, I’m just a message! Anyway, I’ve been away for a while, working on some hot, new projects. I made Jamie Cullum big, but he was a prick and kept going off, doing his own thing. I ditched him quicker than lightning. Now everyone thinks I taught him everything he knows. It’s embarrassing. Anyway, that’s besides the point. Jazz is coming back now, in a big way, and you can be a part of it. I know you’ve been playing again, boy, you’re even playing tonight, and I’ll be there, waiting for you. The audience won’t know what’s hit them. See you at eight!”

Howard gripped the phone tight, as if it were to fly away when he let it go, and come back like a boomerang to knock him out cold. After about ten minutes, he came to and registered what had happened.

“Vince! Vince!”

The door to Vince’s room opened, and he peeked out, straighteners in hair.


“I can’t do the gig tonight.”

“What are you on about?” Vince left his room and crossed the hall to Howard, unaware that he had pulled the plug to the straighteners out of the socket.

Howard looked down at his phone again. Could he trust Vince with the truth? Or would his best friend think he had finally cracked after 11 years?

“ I can’t play tonight.”

“Why not?”

“I’m sorry, I just can’t. I’ve got other stuff on.”

“What stuff?”

“Stuff. Secret stuff? Look, I can’t tell you. I’m sorry, ok?”

“Well what am I supposed to do? I can’t do the gig without you.”

“I know, look, I’m sorry!”

“I don’t believe you!” Vince stormed back into his room like a moody teenage and slammed the door.

Howard sat cross-legged on the floor in the middle of his room. Nervously picking at the carpet, he glanced at his alarm clock. 7:59. Why was he getting so worked up anyway? The Spirit of Jazz said he’d see him at the gig not at home. He didn’t even know where he lived, how could he? There was absolutely no way the Spirit of Jazz would materialise in his bedroom.

A furtive glance at the clock told him that the time was now 8:00pm. He ignored the sound of Vince stomping around and urged the digits to move so that it was 8:01pm, and he could relax. He heard the front door slam and realised that now he was alone in the flat. Naboo and Bollo had gone off for a three day Shaman conference in Blackpool, and judging by the slamming door he could only assume that Vince had gone out.

8:01pm. Howard sighed and close his eyes. He felt a soft breeze blow through his wiry hair and opening his eyes, he yelped and fell backwards.

“You cancelled the gig tonight, Howard.”

“Don’t kill me, I’ve got so much to give!”

“Interesting move, doesn’t keep you safe, though.”

“What do you want?”

“15 years ago you made a deal with me, I got your soul, you got fame. I’m gonna keep my side of the deal. You’re different from all the rest Howard; there’s something about you. I can make you big, and you want to be big, don’t you, boy?”

“I want you to leave.”

“No can do, Howard!” The Spirit of Jazz danced over to Howard’s record player and produced a vinyl record from his white suit.

“What are you doing?”

“Just giving you a little reminder of the magic of jazz!”

The Spirit of Jazz put the record on, and the first few notes of a freestyle trumpet were piped out of the speaker. Howard listened, unsure of what to do or how to react. As more of the song got played, he stopped thinking altogether, listening only to the improvisation that was playing. Soon, he forgot the Spirit of Jazz was in the room, or even that he was in any kind of danger. His hands started twitching as they began to dance to the scatting that he could now hear. Abruptly the music stopped, and Howard felt only anger, as he needed to hear the end of the song. His eyes settled on the Spirit of Jazz, and he remembered his fear, which overrode his anger.

Without a word, the Spirit of Jazz took his record off of the player and slipped it back inside his suit. He tipped his hat at Howard and crossed the room.

“That’s it?”

As he pulled open the door, the Spirit turned his head and grinned at Howard, flashing his white teeth that seemed almost blinding against his black skin. Howard shrunk back at the macabre vision.

“That’s it. You can’t live without jazz, Howard. You’ll see.”

And with that, the Spirit closed the door behind him, and Howard was left alone.

Two hours later, Howard still sat cross-legged on his bedroom floor, trying to analyse what had happened. It had been a trick, it must have been, but what did it do? What the hell did the Spirit of Jazz do to him?

Whatever had happened here tonight, it had not been good. Well, not unless you count that jazz record. That was pretty good. Howard looked over to his record shelf, wondering if he had anything like that in his collection.

Jazz! ‘Jazz is evil!’ he told himself, forcing himself to look away from the record shelf. As soon as he fell under the jazz juju, or picked up his guitar again, or even fondled one of his records (not that he ever did, you realise) he would fall under the Spirit’s control once more.

Movement in his peripheral vision caused him to break his jazz train of thoughts. Looking down at his arm he saw that from his elbow downwards his arm was shaking. Actually shaking. Now his other arm started to shake, this time spreading right up to his shoulders. He felt his entire body convulse, and he fell onto his side, where he lay still shaking. He could feel bile rising up in his throat and fought desperately to raise himself up on his hands so that he wouldn’t choke. He threw up three times, and with a great deal of effort managed to crawl on shaking limbs to his bed, where he leaned against the frame.

He felt a bit ill.

Vince inserted his key into the lock, twisted and pushed the front door open, bounding in with energetic enthusiasm. He’d already forgotten about Howard leaving him in the lurch, and had already moved on to their next potential gig.

“Howard? Howard, you awake?”

Vince climbed the stairs and hung his coat over the banister. There was no reply. No sarcastic “No, I’m asleep, you berk” and no furious shouting over having been woken up.


Still receiving no answer, Vince headed down the hall towards Howard’s room. He knocked twice on the door, and put his ear to the wood, struggling to hear anything on the other side. He could hear faint murmurings and retching sounds and he furrowed his brows, concerned.

“Howard? I’m coming in now, alright?”

Without waiting for an answer, Vince pushed open the door and stepped into Howard’s room. He gasped audibly as he took in the image of Howard leaning on his bed, trembling violently. He rushed over and knelt besides Howard, feeling his forehead for a temperature. His skin felt perfectly normal, he wasn’t even sweating. It was at that point, Vince noticed the vomit in the middle of the room.

“Are you not well? Why didn’t you tell me you idiot? I would have understood.”

Howard tried to shake his head, and tell him that he wasn’t sick, but it ended up looking like a violent tic.

“Yeah, alright, I know. You’re Howard Moon, Jazz Maverick, you don’t get sick, do you? You bend with the wind, swim with the rain, and soon.”

Howard’s ears pricked at the mention of jazz, and the rest of Vince’s sentence melted away into the air.

“Jazz…” he muttered, his lips quivering.


“Jazz…” It seemed the only word that Howard understood, it meant life, it meant the universe, it meant everything!

“Oh! You always go on about jazz. No one ever gets a look in do they? Jazz this, jazz that! You’re like a broken record!”

“Record?” Howard echoed, the word feeling strange on his lips.

“Oh alright, but I’m only doing this because you look like hell.”

Howard looked up at Vince, recognising his presence once more. What was he doing here? Why was he going towards my record collection? He’s taken one. He’s taken one of my records! How dare he! Where are you going? Vince, where are you going? No! Vince, don’t put that on, Vince! No!

Of course, Howard couldn’t communicate any of these thoughts in his current physical state, and could only sit by helplessly as Vince crossed over and put the record on the player.

He needed to do something, anything! He lifted his hands up to his ears. They felt like weights at the end of his arms. He was shaking so badly, they kept slipping down; it was useless.

Vince was oblivious to Howard’s silent protests, and slipped the needle onto the record. Pulling a face at the music that started playing. He couldn’t believe Howard liked this rubbish. From behind him, he heard a groan. He turned around, expecting to see Howard rolling around the floor in pain, however, instead he found Howard with his head leant back onto the mattress of the bed, eyes half-closed and one hand resting on his stomach. He moaned again, but this time there was no mistaking it to be a moan of pain; Howard was clearly enjoying himself. Vince stared at him, horrified. He had stopped shaking, and was now stroking ever part of his body, including the obvious (Vince had to turn away). Howard lowered his head, his features scrunched up into an orgasmic expression, his cheeks tinged with redness. His moans continued and increased in volume as Howard experienced more and more pleasure. Eventually Vince could stand no more, and knocked the needle, distorting the music until it stopped.

It stopped him moaning. Howard dropped his head so that his chin touched his chest, as though he were exhausted. Vince moved towards him, concerned, when Howard suddenly looked back up again, his small eyes blazing with fury. Before Vince realised what was happening, Howard had sprung up from his position on the floor and had wrapped his hands around Vince’s neck, slamming him against the wall.

“Howard! What…” Vince’s sentence got cut off as he lost the ability to breathe. He scratched at Howard’s hand futilely, struggling to free himself from his murderous grip. It was as if someone had found a fire extinguisher and pointed it at Howard’s eyes, the way the fire went out and he seemed to sag, this time completely drained. His hands left Vince’s throat and fell to his sides as he collapsed to his knees.

“Howard? What’s the matter with you Howard?”

“He’s under the spell of jazz.”

Vince looked up at the strange voice, to find a man with skin too black to be believed in a white suit, with a burning hat.

“Your hat’s on fire.”

“I know, it’s my look now.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m the Spirit of Jazz. And this boy here, belongs to me.”

“Get stuffed. He doesn’t belong to anyone!”

“Everyone belongs to someone. Does he belong to you?”

“No, I mean…what have you done to him?”

“A simple spell I do to all of my people who don’t do as I say. The more he hears jazz, the more he enjoys it, and life without jazz becomes a living hell for him. Eventually he’ll forget about everything he loves, everything he knows, to pursue a life of jazz. Ain’t nobody who can stop it. Well. Nice meeting you, lady!”

Vince, uncharacteristically, but hey, he was angry, threw a punch at the Spirit who shimmered into nothingness.

“Bastard!” he yelled at the air. He looked back at Howard, who had curled up into a foetal position on the floor, shaking violently.

His heart broke.

“Howard?” He called tentatively. It provoked no response from the quivering wreck. He knelt down besides him, and squeezed his shoulder gently. “Howard?” Still nothing. This was heavy stuff. There was only one thing for it.

Meditation that evening was interrupted by a pelican landing on his lap.

“Sorry to disturb you sire, are you Naboo?”

“Who wants to know?”

“There’s a telephone call for you sire, down at reception, a Mr. Vince Noir.”

Naboo sighed and thanked the pelican. He stood up, and left the conference room where meditation was still going strong.

“What do you want?”

“Hey, Naboo! How’s your holiday?”

“I told you not to disturb me this weekend.”

“Yeah, I know, I’m sorry.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Do you know someone called the spirit of jazz?”

“Yeah. A couple of years ago he was bothering Howard. I sucked him up in my hoover.”

“Yeah, the thing is, he’s sort of come back.”


“He’s put some sort of spell on him.”

“What spell?”

“I don’t know. He said something about forgetting who he loves and forgetting who he is and only knowing jazz. He’s been acting really strange as well.”

“How d’you mean?”

“Well, I went in his room earlier and he was shaking like a leaf. He’d been sick as well. I put some jazz on for him, and he started having an orgasm over it. I’ll be in therapy for years! Anyway, when I turned it off, he went mental. Pushed me up against the wall and started strangling me.”

“How is he now?”

“He’s gone back to shaking. He’s lying on the floor all curled up.”

“Well, I haven’t heard about this sort of thing before. Leave it with me, I’ll sort it out.”

“Well could you hurry it up? I’m the one who’s stuck looking after a sick Howard. No one needs that.”

“I thought you’ve always harboured a secret desire to take care of Howard. Protect him, that sort of stuff.”

“How do you know about that?”

“I’m a mind reader.”

“Whatever, alright, just hurry up. I’m worried about him.”

“I’m surrounded by shamans. Someone’s bound to know about this sort of thing.”

“Alright. I’ll see you later.”


Vince sighed in exasperation as he picked up the tea towel and handed it to Howard. He mentally scolded himself for getting angry with Howard. It wasn’t his fault he was shaking, wasn’t his fault he couldn’t hold the spoon with his soup on without spilling it down himself. Vince had suggested he eat something more solid, but Howard was adamant he wouldn’t keep it down. And so he was now struggling to eat the soup, refusing all of Vince’s offers of help.

Howard snatched the towel from Vince, frustrated more at himself than the younger mans’ attempts to be helpful. He had never felt more humiliated in all his life. Mopping up the spilt soup, he threw the towel down on the table and pushed his chair back. He stood up and headed down the hall, unbuttoning his shirt as went.

“Howard? Where are you going?” Vince got up from the table and followed him.

“Leave me alone!”

“You know I can’t!”

“I’m not a child!”

Vince got to Howard’s room just as the door slammed shut. He pushed it open and walked over to the bed where Howard sat, trying desperately to undo the buttons on his shirt with trembling fingers. Vince sat down next to him and tried to help him. Howard swiped him away.


Vince sighed, and folded his hands in his lap, feeling useless.

“None of this is your fault, Howard.”

Howard continued fiddling with the buttons, only to keep his hands busy and limit their trembling.

“Yes it is. It’s all my fault. I signed a deal with that monster.”

“That was years ago! Anyway, you didn’t know all this was gonna happen, did you?”

“‘Should’ve read the contract.”

“Listen, don’t beat yourself up about it, all right? We’re gonna help you! Naboo’s finding out about this spell, and then we can lift it.”

“Yeah…look, just give me five minutes alone, yeah?”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“The more you listen to jazz, the more you fall under the spell. You don’t notice it yourself, but sometimes you go into a trance, and just mutter ‘jazz’ over and over again.”

“Do I?”

“Yeah. That’s when you need looking after, I need to stop you listening to jazz.”

“Just one song, eh?”

“Listen to yourself, Howard! Jazz is evil, remember?”

“Evil, yeah.”

“Let me?” Vince reached his hands out, gesturing to his shirt, and Howard nodded reluctantly. Vince’s slender fingers made short work of unbuttoning his shirt, and he pushed the shirt off of Howard’s shoulders.

It took a long time to take in the fact that he was touching Howard’s torso. It took even longer for him to realise he had been tracing Howard’s scars. How had he gotten those?

Vince was brought out of his reverie by the sound of a gurgling sound, coming from Howard’s throat. Howard looked at him with lowered eyes.

“God, Vince!” Howard’s voice sounded breathless, and Vince found himself focusing on his thin lips, now red and full.


“Please, Vince…”

Vince laid his palms on Howard’s chest, caressing slowly up and down…



Vince removed his hands sharply, feeling briefly angry.


Howard began to say something else, but started convulsing mid-syllable. His eyes rolled back and he fell to the side. Vince gasped as Howard’s full weight landed in his lap, but quickly recovered. He laid Howard’s head on his lap, and soothingly stroked his hair.

“God…Hurts so much!”

“Ssh. It’s alright. I’m here.”

Vince felt Howard’s breathing slow, and looked down to see him asleep. He still shivered in his lap. Vince bent down, kissing Howard on his forehead and dug his mobile phone out of his pocket, willing Naboo to call.

Who invited the mice to the party again? Christy? Oh, well thanks Christy, you really know how to liven up a party, don’t you? No! Not the porcelain cat, you idiots!


Vince woke from his dream startled. How long had he been asleep? He looked at the empty space beside him.

“Shit! Howard!”

He looked over at the record shelf, where Howard was now dragging the furniture that Vince had barricaded it with away.


Howard showed no sign of acknowledgement, and got to work on moving a bookcase filled with philosophy books.

Vince rushed over to him and grabbed him by the shoulders. He pulled with all his might, but he was much weaker than Howard was.

“Howard, please! Look at me!”

The bookcase toppled over, the books spilling out onto the carpeted floor. Howard ignored Vince and changed direction, heading over to the bed, where he kept his guitar underneath.

Any attempt Vince tried to make Howard listen to him or stop went unacknowledged. Vince had run out of ideas.

Howard reached underneath the bed and pulled out the guitars. He placed the strap over his shoulder and strummed. No sound came out. He looked down to find the strings had been cut. He roared with rage, (the first sound Vince had heard him made) and took the guitar off, smashing it on the ground. He turned and fixed Vince with a cold, hard gaze. Vince froze, too scared to move. Howard stalked towards him, and walked past him back to the record shelf.

Pulling his last trick out of the bag, Vince went over to Howard, crawled in-between his legs so he could face him, and kissed him. It was delicate at first, feather-light, but sensing that Howard had stopped his automations, Vince deepened the kiss, wrapping his arm around Howard’s neck and pulling him close.

The opening bars of ‘Cars’ bleeped as Vince’s mobile went off. Howard flinched back, yelping as if he had been hurt and scuttled away to the furthest corner from the ringing phone.

Vince rushed over to the bed and picked up the phone.

“Where the hell have you been?”

“Me and the boys pulled an all-nighter. We think there may be a way to reverse the spell.”

“Oh, do you?”

“Do you wanna hear it or not?”

“God yes, Howard’s going crazy.”

“You need to condition him.”

“What? I need to wash his hair?”

“Not conditioner! Condition. It turns out that Electro is stronger than jazz. You’ve got to play Electro non-stop, get him to like it.”

“But Howard hates Electro!”

“I didn’t say it’d be easy!”

“Well, how do I know if it’s worked?”

“The Spirit of Jazz will appear and be destroyed.”

“Right. Cheers Naboo.”

“Don’t ring me to let me know how it went.”

“Whatever, enjoy your holiday!”

Vince ended the call and looked at Howard. He was still cowering in the corner, shaking. If he reacted that badly to a ringtone, how would he react to non-stop Electro glam pop? Ah well, Naboo said it wouldn’t be easy.

“Howard? Want to listen to some jazz?”

Howard dropped his hands, which were covering his ears and looked up, not meeting Vince’s gaze. As far as he was concerned, Vince wasn’t even in the room. Jazz was all that matters. Jazz is, Jazz was. Jazz be.

“Yeah? Some jazz?”

Howard’s head turned towards the general direction of Vince.

“That’s right, come on. Follow me, and I’ll play you some jazz.”

Howard slowly stood up and walked over to Vince. Vince grabbed his hand and led him like a blind, old man out of Howard’s room, and down the hall to his.

Once inside, Vince sat Howard down on his bed, and wandered over to his CD player. Finding the CD marked ‘best of Gary Numan’ he inserted it in, and pressed play. He then locked the bedroom door to prevent Howard escaping.

As soon as the synthesisers kicked in, Howard lay wailing in agony as he thrashed around on the bed. Vince went over and tried to comfort him, getting a fist in an awkward place as a reward.

“It’s alright, Howard!” he squeaked, avoiding the flying fists this time.

Vince could barely stomach the sight of his best friend rolling around in agony as he listened to possibly the best music in the world, ever, for over an hour.

After an hour had passed of Vince struggling to hear the music over Howard’s yelling, an outrageously dressed man materialised inside his room. Vince surveyed his neon-pink spandex outfit with envy. His only accessories was a tie around his neck, which was decorated with the keys of a keyboard, and a mini-synthesiser, attached by a strap. As the man moved his head from side to side to survey the room, Vince could catch glimpses of glitter in the man’s spiked, electric-blue hair.


“I am the Spirit of Electro. I sense you are in need of my help. What’s wrong with your friend?”

“The Spirit of Jazz put a spell on him.”

“I see! Leave it to me.”

The Spirit of Electro played a few notes on his synthesiser which Vince pulled some shapes to. With a yell, Howard sat bolt upright, and blinked a couple of times.

“What’s happening?”

“Howard!” Vince jumped onto the bed and wrapped his arms around his friend, who seemed shocked and bemused. He returned the hug though, feeling a great hole in his soul being filled.

“Man, what the hell is going on around here?” The Spirit of Jazz appeared in the room. “I should’ve known you’d show your shiny ass around here.”

“If I had a hit record for every time I saw your bony face I’d be a more successful genre! Oh wait, I am!”

“You Electro idiot! You think it’s all about the records you sell, don’t you? Mass producing music to the sheep! It’s not about that. It’s about the rhythm, it’s about the style!

“Face facts, Jazz is dead!”

“That’s what you’d like to believe, but I tell you this, baby, Jazz is coming, Jazz is coming back big time. You better fear Jazz, fear the juju!”

“Fear this, you bony bastard!”

Electro pounded the keys of the synthesiser, blasting the Spirit of Jazz out of the room.

“My work here is done, fellas.”

“Cheers, Electro!”

“Anytime. I love those boots by the way!” Electro vanished, leaving a sprinkling of glitter behind.

Vince turned back to Howard who was grinning at him mischievously.


“You kissed me!”