Friday, June 29, 2012

The Doomsday Symphony: Chapter 55

In the previous installment of The Doomsday Symphony, the conductor Rogers Kent-Clarke, his cohort Schweinwerfer and their hostage, Xaq, are trying to reach the Time-Gate so Kent-Clarke can return to Earth with Mahler's symphony when they run into the legendary 'Old Man of the Mines.' Meanwhile, we return to the Hague in 1765 as Klangfarben and Kedaver chase Mozart through the royal palace.

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Chapter 55 
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No sooner had I motioned to our friend, Johan van Gyllenhaal, than he turned around to see Klangfarben and Kedaver glowering at us.

“What a bitch on skates she must be! Follow me,” he said, taking Mozart by the shoulder and guiding him forward. “Come, Master Mozart, I want to show you something special – it’s in the Music Room.”

A few words to a servant helped us skirt around the buffet table where Mozart picked up some crème-filled pastries and stuffed them into his pockets, munching on marzipan as we headed toward a back door.

In the hallway, we ran quite literally into the footman again who was about to call other servants to apprehend us and have us expelled, but Sauerbraten explained we were looking for him – to warn him.

“There’s a woman all in black, mounds of silver hair, with a tall thin man – we think they’re going to attack the prince!”

With a gasp, he thanked us, called after some servants who disappeared into the room. In seconds, there was the sound of a scuffle and Prince William was pushed through the door which slammed behind him.

“Ah, Gyllenhaal, there you are,” he said, straightening out his vest. “Does anyone know what’s going on? Brekkerman said something about an attack.”

I explained we weren’t sure what we’d overheard her saying, but she was out to kidnap someone, either the Prince or Mozart. Just in case, we thought it best to get both possible targets to safety.

“Kidnap? Right here in front of everybody? Those French agents are getting very bold – or very desperate.” The prince motioned us forward. “Follow me – if we’re going to hide, let’s hide somewhere good, like the kitchen!”

He explained how his family’s been dealing with threats like this ever since he became the Netherlands’ designated “Stadtholder” when he was three.

“One regent after another,” he said, “and the political issues, not just those inside the House of Orange, get nastier every year.”

Gyllenhaal looked at us in alarm: we’d told him Klangfarben was after Mozart’s father.

“Mmm, oranges,” Mozart said, his mouth full of candy.

“And I shall give you one in just a moment,” the prince smiled.

As we entered the kitchen, Gyllenhaal grabbed me and hissed, “what is going on?”

“My beautiful Katje,” the prince said, giving one of the maids a quick kiss, “how about an orange for the boy?”

Katje giggled.

I told Gyllenhaal how Sauerbraten overheard Klangfarben saying something about killing someone: we didn’t want to take any chances. After all, why kill a mere boy? Perhaps they were using Mozart to get to the prince?

Katje gave the prince the plumpest orange she could find which he then presented to Mozart who marveled at its size and roundness.

Making up some story about Klangfarben possibly representing some creditors from Augsburg, Leopold’s hometown, I mentioned we’d heard they must have run up quite a hotel bill before they left: perhaps it was really nothing more?

“But still,” the prince conjectured, “why would they talk of killing the boy,” whispering over Mozart’s head, “or for that, attacking me?”

“Maybe,” I hinted, “their plan is more sinister, Leopold Mozart’s debts merely a cover?”

Meanwhile, Mozart, eying up a trayful of those elegant crème-filled pastries, stuffed a few more into spare pockets. He pretended to ignore us.

The footman named Brekkerman, eyes bulging and chest heaving, dashed into the kitchen in great anxiety, pressing his back against the door. Everyone in the kitchen hid their amazement, focusing on the business of preparing dinner.

“Ah, Prince,” he barked between gulps for air, “escaped… chasing you… hide…”

Katje held a ladle of cold water to the footman’s lips.

“Come on, then!” The prince bounded off.

Gyllenhaal grabbed Mozart around the waist and raced off after the prince, Katje pointing the way.

Sauerbraten and I could barely keep up, afraid we’d easily lose sight of them.

Back into the maze of corridors, past walls filled with paintings and servants lighting candles against the growing gloom of the day, I assumed we were headed deeper into the center of this vast royal palace. Around the corner, we could hear the clatter of high heels on wooden floors and there, heading toward us, were Klangfarben and Kedaver.

Our only course was through the music room, then back into some other hallway. Could we reach the outside to make an escape or find some inner room to hide in until the footmen caught them?

They were gaining on us as we charged toward the music room. Mozart, balanced on Gyllenhaal’s hip, held his mirror medallion up and threw the crème-filled pastries back at her, one after the other, making explosion-like sounds as they landed on the floor in her path. Unable to stop, she slipped and fell, slamming headlong right into the harpsichord.

With a scream, Kedaver, leaping over Klangfarben, got tangled in her hair. Holding the syringe in his hand, he lunged at Mozart.

But instead of the boy’s arm, its deadly contents emptied harmlessly into the orange.

Nepomuk leaped forward just in time to tackle Kedaver around the knees, bringing him down with a great crash and a bone-shattering groan.

Before he could recover, I grabbed one of his time-devices, going through his pockets till I found the spare, leaving them with only one.

Immediately, each device began to beep their dire warnings.

“That sound,” Mozart said, “amazing!”

“Uh oh, time to leave, folks – your battery’s getting low.” I held Sauerbraten’s home-made device up to show them. “Mine has better batteries.”

Klangfarben struggled to her feet, lunged forward but once more slipped and fell.

“Don’t leave me here, you filthy bastard,” she screamed, barely able to grab hold of Kedaver’s foot before he pressed the Return button.

As a dozen servants barged into the room, seeing the mess, Klangfarben and Kedaver both disappeared, leaving behind one of Klangfarben’s shoes.

I apologized for their escape, but said there was nothing more to worry about.

Holding up the syringe, I tossed the orange to the wide-eyed prince, telling him to have it destroyed because they’d poisoned it. “It’s fun injecting them with vodka – like eating a screwdriver – but this’ll kill you.”

I also apologized – it was time we should be leaving.

“Vodka? Screwdriver?”

Glancing among themselves, they looked back only to discover we’d disappeared.

= = = = = = =

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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