Monday, November 10, 2014

The Lost Chord: Chapter 14

The Lost Chord

(a classical music appreciation comedy thriller by Richard Alan Strawser: you can read it from the beginning, here.)

In the previous installment, the explosion unlocked distant memories in Garth Widor's brain and triggered a possible realization in LauraLynn's. Fictitia, standing on the edge of the back parking lot is reminded of another explosion, years ago. D'Arcy and Kerr realize they are not alone...

= = = = = = =


“No time,” he growled at her, “No time – there is no time,” which he kept chanting in between his breaths as he ran past the figure of the girl dressed in black. Annoying, what she had done, rudely taking his picture with her phone, taking it without even asking his permission. He had no time, he kept stressing, to take care of things, to teach her the lesson of rudeness, to seize her phone, her camera, no time to destroy her proof.

He ran down the sidewalk effortlessly, past the girl who’d stepped back as he ran beyond her, witheringly disdainful, bounding with great strides, arms paddling at his sides as if swimming. He took off across the parking lot, headed for the dark woods – no time until he found his safety.

Chasing the woman in the dove-gray dress through the maze of darkness, he’d lunged for her, grabbed her too late as she slipped through a slender crack in the wall and disappeared. Some thoughtless Niebelheimer left a shop door open wide enough for her, too narrow for his own magnificent form.

The door started gliding shut as he reached through to grab her – he barely extricated his arm before amputation. He screamed, egregious and enraged: the wall rudely swallowed his left pants-leg.

He yanked desperately and tore himself away, diaphanous fabric wafting from the invisible rift that nearly devoured his leg when equally unexpectedly there was a reverberant blast that hurled him floorward, as if all the forces of evil pushing themselves against the Gates of Hell broke loose upon the earth.

“Holy Hell,” he screamed, “no time, no time,” as he scabbered against the floor through dust and settling debris, oblivious to the cause but conscious he would without question be blamed.

His beautiful composition, his “Symphony for One Whose Time Has Come,” was not going according to his original plan, that someone – some inconsiderate terrorist – had ruined its performance, inconceivably out-Stockhausened him. This required a pure improvisatory response, inspirational, immensity meeting gesture for gesture, an escalation in the warp of time.

But not now: there was no more time, his mind thought, reeling from the pain, eyes blinded by the dust, his hand smarting in imagined agony from its near-brush with extreme separation. Despite his inordinate strength and impeccable physique, a slender woman nearly destroyed him with a bit of ancient technology. He had been on the wrong side: she had the air-lock with the door’s crushing weight in her favor. One small miscalculation became an oblique resolution, a deceptive cadence – “not tonight!”

Again, he brought himself close to failure, to the very brink of success with all its acclaims and approbation, only to have it snatched by some unanticipated turn of unforeseeable events. Fate, forever rudely knocking at the door—flirtatious and fickle – managed once again to give him the metaphorical finger.

It will be difficult now to retrieve the notebook willingly from the hand of the Interloper’s cousin after her ordeal, too frightened by far to agree willingly to meet with him again. His challenge somehow will be to make her bring them to him, the notebook and the gizmo, both together.

He must find the fountain but it is getting late, too late, with each setback however slight, however discouraging. And so he, Tr’iTone, must fall back, regroup, not defeated – never defeated!

He knew he could no longer wait around until she’d think it safe enough to emerge from her hiding place, in one grand act of surprise seizing the manuscript from her hand. Security, once upon the scene, would automatically blame him for the explosion, the Style Police and their aesthetic profiling. He could not risk getting himself captured even if he could escape – the delay unwise and the outcome, dubious. There must be another way, plus he had to get the gizmo.

He’d hoped to get them peacefully from the Interloper with mere threats, handing them over simply out of fear, until he had found him already dead, killed by someone else's hand. But speaking of performance art, it had turned out so incredibly magnificent, the memory still could make him smile.

Every set-back, technical or emotional, required an immediate and inspired creative response, consciously or subconsciously working out the various details until, as if by magic, everything fell into place, the solution obvious. He must clear his mind, carefully preparing himself both mentally and physically, turning himself into a conduit for creativity.

Like any composer running up against a problem, he realized it was time to return to the drawing board, work out the problems, discover his options, trust everything to his inspiration.

The Interloper had been destroyed too soon by some rude avenging angel, dead when he’d arrived to demand, again only through the use of fear, the notebook and the all-important gizmo. If not there, where could they be, where had they been hidden? No time, alas, to challenge him again.

Hearing no evil, he will enjoy the blessings of inspiration no more; seeing no evil, composing it no more. Speaking no evil, he will no longer delude those who follow him.

Tr’iTone left the Festspielhaus far behind him, turning down the narrow path leading away from the old Falkenstein Farm. The woods grew denser, darker, as he dashed along the Fricken Road.

Soon, he’d arrive at the castle ruins on the Dark Side of the Schweinwald. Who would dare follow him?

* * ** *** ***** ******** ***** *** ** * *

“No time? What the hell did he mean by that?” she wondered, desperately trying to keep from losing her balance: if she hits her head, they’ll just say, “well, that explains it!” But wait a minute, her phone – she’d taken a picture of him – it – whatever it was – with her phone.

“No time, indeed,” she said, “I have got to tweet this ASAP!” fumbling with her fingers in the darkness. “Please, please, please don’t let me delete this by accident, not now!”

She didn’t try to come up with an explanation for the blast much less for what she thought she saw emerging from the hole in the wall shortly after the blast. If she dwelt on explanations, she might lose valuable time and her nerves were still shot from that explosion.

“Yes!” She pumped her fist in success once she saw her photo of the thing appear on her Flikr account, as clear as if he’d sat for his portrait in a studio. Or at least in one of those carnival photo booths – smile! click! “Yeah, he does look kind of surprised.”

She tapped in a caption – “WTF! Is this dude in the opera?” – then hit ‘post’ to Twitter and Facebook. It was so cool, she considered using it for her profile pic.

She tried getting another photo of him but it was too dark, some blur in the distance barely visible. (What did they call that thing – Sasquatch? Were there Yetis in Germany?) Besides, anybody who would see this one would claim it was photo-shopped, even that clear portrait shot she’d taken.

Then she turned back to the building to check out the wall, more dust settling than smoke and flames, and decided to take some pictures of the hole from different angles.

Maybe the explosion didn’t make the hole and this thing came crashing through the wall, escaping from the blast? She’d been standing with her back to the building when it happened. It wasn’t really a “hole,” she thought, more a kind of fissure, a tear in the brick and stonework.

Then she remembered flicking her cigarette butt away, wondering what to do next, how it must've rolled down this drain. The explosion couldn't have been a minute later, as she walked away. Did she cause the blast, igniting gas backed up in the drain? What gas did sewers produce, anyway – methane?

That’s when she noticed the ubiquitous “No Smoking” sign near the drain, but then they were everywhere, weren’t they? She, like most smokers, routinely ignored them, infringing her right to smoke.

Filthy habit aside, as her old Gran never failed to remind her, she tried to be more conscious ecologically, always a rough balance between colliding worlds, her pleasure and her responsibility. But seriously – “I mean, srsly!” – if you’d risk blowing the place up, they should be a bit more emphatic.

Well, whatever happened, she didn’t want to hang around till security arrived, knowing how they’d only blame her for it. There were already two officers running over from the trailer now, anyway.

“Damn,” she cursed under her breath, pocketing her phone, “time to roll,” no time to think of a plan.

So Fictitia took off after this creature, since she couldn’t very well run back into the building, could she? She understood the need to follow him – but at a discreet distance…

* * ** *** ***** ******** ***** *** ** * *

There was a genuine sigh of collective relief once the singers on stage had gotten through this very tricky scene where Old Dr. Bartolo confronted his nemesis disguised as a drunken soldier, which included slicing down a potted orange tree during some animated swordplay, the actor playing Ambrogio barely escaping injury. It was bad enough Septimus Huffington, the young singer making his European debut as Bartolo, was suffering from allergies, barely able to catch his breath during his big aria’s rapid-fire patter.

The audience reaction, till then, had been pure delight, especially for Cora DiLetto’s performance of “Una voce poco fa,” most of which she sang while sprawled precariously across a low-slung divan. Unfortunately, the response to Huffington’s “Un dottore della mia sorte” cooled considerably: perhaps he needed to lose some weight.

Ms. DiLetto was relieved to get through some hectic antics where she nearly got knocked over at the dress rehearsal, but then she felt this unexpected blast, like some deep, distant excavation. There’s a small explosion later, Figaro’s diversion during the up-coming music lesson, but what the hell was this one?

The singers looked uncertainly at each other, catching sight of the alarm on Figaro’s face when he rushed on-stage to warn them all this noise was attracting their curious neighbors’ attention.

Backstage, a look of anxiety passed quickly from one technician to another as they felt this ominous underground rumble which was much bigger than the sound effect for the next act. In the pit, the floor buckled and shook as the conductor took an unexpected pause after Figaro’s climactic “Olá!”

The musicians, seeing Maestro Maéstro’s eyes bugging out, realized this was probably not some last-minute change in the production. The conductor, after a deep breath, continued: the show must go on!

“Save it for intermission, there’s no time to worry about it, now,” Stage Manager Gottlieb prompted everyone on headset. “We’ve got a complex maneuver minutes away. Are the lights still working?”

Like his colleagues, his thoughts were running in all directions at once: perhaps Rita Pagliaccio was up to something?

In the nearly sold-out auditorium, the excitement was running high for Bartlet Sher’s innovative and, so far, well-received production, though there were some old-timers who scowled at what they probably considered typical Eurotrash mayhem perpetrated upon their beloved classics while younger ones sat back bored because it wasn’t going far enough.

Some noted how carefully that off-stage explosion was timed with the music, no doubt the benefit of computerized technology.

“Why,” the mayor said, “I even felt it under my seat! Marvelous!”

Ignoring their concerns, the crew silently rolled the large panel of doors across the back out of the way and a wagon full of pumpkins was ready to move on stage.

“Anvil in place?” Gottlieb, unnerved by the unexplained interruption, tried his best to remain calm. “Okay, everybody – it’s showtime!”

Scarpia, sitting alone in his box watching the stage, wondered what that earth-rattling noise had been – an earthquake? in Bavaria? – then wondered what was taking Fictitia so long in the ladies’ room.

His phone vibrated gently in his pocket – he was sure it was his phone – meaning Fictitia must’ve posted something.

“What the hell,” he wondered, “is this her idea of a joke?” The tracker indicated she’s on the move.

Annoyed, he decided he’d better follow her – but at a discreet distance.

* * ** *** ***** ******** ***** *** ** * *

Officer Mobilé arrived at that storage room where this character wearing a towering wig and harem pants was seen leaving, the room outside Niebelheim – which they noticed Heidi Gedankgesang never emerged from. It was unlikely the perp would still be anywhere in the vicinity but she needed to rescue Ms. Gedankgesang. Her gun drawn, she cautiously swiped her ID-badge through the computerized lock, the door drifting open leaving out a soft creaking noise, a strong whiff of mothballs and something unsettlingly familiar.

But before she could enter the room and turn on the light, wondering what it was she might find, there was a sudden explosion that sent her sprawling across the hallway. The floor seemed to buckle and the walls swayed back and forth as she dashed for the nearest exit.

Captain Schäufel was leading his officers through the underground maze of hallways, making only two wrong turns before reaching Niebelheim. At the entrance, Schäufel gave orders, sliding his ID-badge through the lock.

Suddenly, they found themselves flattened against the floor by a tremendous blast, an over-powering shower of dust and debris.

Gradually staggering to his feet, Officer Sordino couldn’t believe what he saw: the heavy security door ripped wide open.

A strange shadow ran toward a considerable crack in the outside wall.

* * ** *** ***** ******** ***** *** ** * *

The trailer rocked sideways as Cameron went to flush the toilet. “Holy crap!” he shouted, glad he’d just stood up. “What the hell was that,” he wondered, trying to keep his footing. The water in the bowl sloshed back and forth, reminding him of news footage he’d seen of California earthquakes.

Convinced this was Cameron’s attempt to escape, Leahy-Hu rushed into the restroom. “And what exactly, Mr. Pierce, was that?”

“Holy crap,” Officer Martineau shrieked, checking the security cams, “getta loada this?”

Officer Sordino radioed to the security trailer. “You'd better send back-up. There was a bomb. Now there's a hole. And... and… Well,” he hesitated before adding, “you'd better send back-up – fast!”

As they charged out the door, positive it was some terrorist attack, Leahy-Hu knew just who the terrorist was.

= = = = = = =
to be continued...

posted by Dick Strawser

The novel, The Lost Chord, is a music appreciation comedy thriller completed in 2013, and is the sole supposedly intellectual property of its author, Richard Alan Strawser.
© 2014

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