Saturday, June 09, 2012
The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 38
In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, Detective Milo Smighley interviews Johannes Brahms who, though not officially a witness, is concerned for his safety if someone's out to kill the Great Composers which would clearly include him. Meanwhile, back in the Poconos, Detective Jenna Ste.-Croix decides the heck with it, she's going to go check out what might be going on in New Coalton. This chapter is an almost instant replay of Chapter 36 except this time, Dr. Kerr and Zoe Crevecoeur have arrived in time.
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The news that morning could not have been worse: the newly-arrived battalion from Prussia had easily taken control of the New City and they'd now crossed the Elbe, turning the Revolution into desperate hand-to-hand combat throughout the Old City. Bayonets had become the more effective weapon but more artillery was on its way. The barricades were holding strong but for how much longer? The Frauenkirche's bells had been ringing "three-times-three" all morning and muskets had been firing since before dawn. To anyone standing around inside the church, there was little doubt: the Revolution was over.
In the Neumarkt, the broad market square in front of the church, soldiers ran back and forth, rifles firing constantly – were there snipers? Smoke was everywhere. The noise was relentless.
People shouted at each other, carrying bundles of their worldly possessions as they fled down the Moritzstrasse, then running back as Saxon soldiers swarmed toward them over the barricades.
"How in the hell did we end up here?"
Men tried to drag carriages and wagons through the square, desperate to keep the horses from stampeding in every direction.
That wasn't only fear we smelled.
Zoe and I weren't faring much better. All we knew was we had to find Richard Wagner and find him before Klavdia Klangfarben did.
"And remind me why I decided to come along with you this time?"
"Yeah," I thought to myself, "I didn't exactly volunteer for this little project, either."
We made a dash for the church, looking for cover.
A knot of several important-looking men stood just inside the main sanctuary of perhaps the finest church in Dresden, its distinctive dome – the "stone bell" – visible over the skyline for miles. They appeared to be an oasis of calm in the midst of all this chaos but as we approached them, looking for Wagner, you could see on their faces they were anything but calm.
A huge, disheveled man – perhaps reporting from the front – stood behind them, shouting about the Dutchman and the End of the World. Others, ignoring him, argued about fleeing the city.
The stout bearded man – Bakunin, I suspected – indicating the tall man's ranting, smiled at another whose refined bearing made you wonder what he was doing there. He and the bearded man were arguing with a shorter man, hidden in their midst, "We'll meet this evening in Chemnitz, if the world doesn't end, first. Don't delay, Wagner!"
Wagner! He's here!
"Semper, hurry – it’s time..." the bearded man bellowed at the refined gentleman. They rushed past us without a glance.
"Ah, that would be the architect who designed the opera house," I explained, pointing down the street.
Wagner, clearly absorbed in some vision unfolding inside his mind, waved half-heartedly as his colleagues ran out the church and into the square.
The huge man continued ranting about how the world would be cleansed by a comet that will burn everything to a crisp. Clearly this was something Wagner found fascinating, but this was no time for distraction.
Wagner, looking around confused, didn't see us coming.
"Herr Wagner," I said, panting as if in fear – not difficult to fake – "You must hurry. Come with us, we have a carriage to take you to Chemnitz."
"But I need to find some paper and write this down," he protested in surprise, the man still raving on obliviously behind him.
"That will have to wait, Herr Wagner," Zoe said, taking him gently by the arm and winking at him seductively. He followed immediately.
If logic and fear didn't work, perhaps a little sultry temptation would help.
Hurrying out a side door, Wagner patted Zoe's hand, saying with a smile how happy he was to meet her, under the circumstances.
Just then, we heard a guard rush in, adding to the commotion as he shouted for Wagner.
"He has an important visitor!"
Looking back, we caught a glimpse of platinum blond hair flouncing into the church.
The guard looked around but the only man left was the huge, disheveled man ranting about the world's inevitable demise-by-fire. He began explaining to the hapless guard how a great comet will strike the earth, but the young man could not imagine anything worse than the flames of battle around them as he watched his revolution so effortlessly collapse.
Wearing a great floppy hat, the woman with the platinum blond hair swept imperiously into the nave, shouting at the men, "Where the hell is Wagner!?" Her eyes were like two comets seeking an inevitable collision.
"Ah, my lady, a couple just escorted him out the door to a carriage, leaving for Chemnitz with Bakunin and Semper," he responded deferentially before passionately adding "my angel of destruction, my devil of apocalyptic delights."
Pulling out a Derringer, she shot him in the neck and turned screaming for Kedaver as the huge man fell like a tree.
We pushed Wagner across the crowded square, apologizing that someone must have stolen our carriage.
"Which is the best road to Chemnitz?"
"But what if that important visitor was about a performance for my Lohengrin?"
"It could also have been an agent of the police. Hurry!"
"Perhaps we could find refuge in the Hotel Rome?" Wagner winked at Zoe.
"Well,” I suggested, “who’d think to look for us there."
"That," she shouted, "is not an option!"
"No," I said emphatically, "we must get you to Chemnitz and from there you must go to Liszt in Weimar."
We clambered over the barricades, running towards the Friedrichs Allee which some of the militiamen said was our best chance. In front of the Kreuzkirche we found a wagon with only a couple of people on it, one of them shouting, "Maestro, over here!"
And with that, we climbed up to join them. Wagner introduced us to the flutist he'd recently saved after being arrested by Revolutionary Guards as a spy, caught carrying the score for a cantata by Berlioz they'd planned on performing to celebrate their victory, a victory now beyond hope.
Looking behind us, I saw the billowing mane of platinum-blond hair and knew Klangfarben was in very hot pursuit. Urging the driver on, I said the Saxon police were rounding up revolutionary leaders, no doubt seeing us flee the church.
Wagner patted Zoe's hand as the wagon sped off.
And with that, the horseless Valkyrie faded into the distance.
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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.