Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 10

In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, Kerr remembers the personal side of Sebastian Crevecoeur's life. Sebastian commits suicide on a moonlit night by wading into the farm's pond.

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Chapter 10 
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The moon was nearly full, rising above the tree-line as Cameron and I arrived at the pond, low from lack of rain. Still faintly dusk, everything was shaded enough to require care along the water’s edge. It would take something stronger than either of our flashlights to see anything on the opposite side of the pond, off the pathway. What if he’d gone wandering off into the woods? We looked around, walking carefully past the tall, undisturbed grass without seeing any footprints, any sign of his having been there – or, more importantly, still being there.

It bothered me to think Victor, sensing something disturbing in his father's music, might have come down to the spot where Sebastian had committed suicide so many years ago, some spiritual association like visiting a gravesite. Did he want to "commune" with his spirit, still blaming himself for that argument that he probably feels precipitated his father's final act?

Cameron wouldn't know that much about the family history so I didn't feel, at this time, it was really any of my business letting him in on any of those secrets Zoe might prefer keeping secret. For his part, he stayed fairly close to me, stepping carefully, not asking any questions and saying very little – in fact, almost nothing.

The last to return to the house, we were told no one found Victor or any sign he'd been there – footprints, grass broken down if he'd gone walking off the paths and sidewalks, that sort of thing.

Gathering back in the parlor, no one could understand why Victor would just disappear without saying a word to someone, at least – "Excuse me, I'm just going to step out on the porch for a smoke." Maybe he didn’t want to disturb anyone’s concentration during the performance but wasn’t it odd he'd want to walk away during the performance?

When I’d said that I was the last person to see him, I didn’t mean it to come off quite so melodramatically. Something like that always sounded so final: "the last person to see him... alive."

Kent-Clarke suggested giving in and calling the police: if he’d somehow wandered off, he could already be a mile down the road. Mary was concerned they’d say it hadn't been long enough before declaring someone "missing."

"Maybe he'll be back soon,” Dr. Highwater offered. “He could walk in here any minute now, wondering what all the fuss is about."

So, in the spirit of simply waiting for that moment, the conversation uncomfortably turned to other matters.

Kent-Clarke thought they should add Sebastian's quintet to the chamber music program scheduled next week at the mansion, but Zoe cautiously pointed out she was going to be out-of-town with another performance: in Chicago, she added, when others looked at her expectantly.

Maybe the following week, he suggested, replacing the well-worn Schumann Quintet on the final program? That would be suitable, the musicians thought.

“But we need Victor’s permission, first,” Dima said. “since he owns the rights, basically.”

Dr. Highwater, fidgeting with her purse, wondered if they should perhaps continue with the performance, since that was what Victor had wanted them to hear. Would it be too rude of them to continue without him? Again, Zoe was the first to speak up, too nervous about her father's disappearance to be able to focus on playing right now.

Everyone else hemmed and hawwed uncomfortably, glancing down at the carpet as if too embarrassed to have even considered such an idea, as curious as we all might have been to hear the rest of it.

"I can't understand it." Mary continued fidgeting by the window, occasionally sneaking a peek out onto the driveway. "This is so unlike him.”

I decided to tell them how I’d found the desk drawer unlocked and open, the manuscript Victor placed there before dinner, missing.

Turning pale, Zoe blurted out, "Okay, I think it's time to call the police."

"Why take the manuscript with him?"

"Do you think somebody broke in and stole it?”

“Why would anybody do that – or know…?"

"Why, I’m wondering,” Kent-Clarke asked me, one eyebrow raised, “hadn't you mentioned this before?"

Zoe, quickly getting her phone out from her violin case, punched in a number. We heard the familiar chirp of a near-by cell-phone.

“That’s Dad’s phone! I just speed-dialed him.”

“It’s here,” I pointed, “on Sebastian’s desk…”

“He took the score but left his cell-phone?”

Who would even know where the score was or that there even was one?

While Zoe then called the police, I wandered over to her music stand to take a look at the part she'd been playing from. I didn’t think it would help but it was something to do.

Printed from a computer program, it was too clean and impersonal to be even the best copyist's calligraphy, something I felt sorely missing.

Dima came over and proudly described how he'd printed everything on Finale, after several long weeks transcribing the score into his computer.

"You mean Victor gave you Sebastian's original manuscript to work from?" This surprised me.

"No, " Dima said, “he sent me this photocopy back in April," taking it out of his case and handing it to me.

Immediately, I flipped it open to the back page, but there was no completion date after the last measure that I could see. Had it been covered over or had I, for some off-the-wall reason, imagined it?

"What are you looking for? Anything in particular?" Zoe stood beside me, peering at the score. “Looking for clues in the music?” Her teasing skepticism sounded more light-hearted under the circumstances, a break in her anxiety.

"I'm not sure," I answered honestly. "If your father and your grandfather's score disappear at the same time, is there some possible connection?”

There was something strange about this piece of music, and her father wasn't being very forthcoming about some basic questions – where he found it, and when, or for that matter even when the piece was composed.

Looking at me curiously, she said she had no idea when he wrote it. She would never have been aware of such things when she was a child, then, only six years old when Sebastian died.

She mentioned how, the first time they'd read through it, it sounded so fresh, it could have been written only a year ago.

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To be continued

- Dick Strawser

The novel, "The Doomsday Symphony," a music appreciation thriller written between 2010 and 2011, is the sole supposedly intellectual property of its author, Richard Alan Strawser.
© 2012

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