Thursday, April 02, 2015

The Lost Chord: Conclusion

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 unexpected reappearance of Peter Moonbeam, after hiding himself in a basement storage room where he inadvertently found Heidi Gedankgesang's body, proves a distraction following the death of Tr'iTone allowing N. Ron Steele to make an escape after he realizes the CD in his pocket isn't a copy of Rob Sullivan's completed opera, Faustus Inc, after all, but a porno DVD. This gives Kerr an idea where to look to find the CD-Rom of Rob's opera - back at the old castle. It turns out Widor, pinned to the stage floor by the collapse of Tr'iTone's corpse, starts telling the IMP everything he knows. There's not much left to do, now... except...

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Chapter 62

Lionel followed the officers as they escorted him out of the room once he admitted seeing Tr'iTone snap Scarpia's neck – very careful to distinguish between what Tr'iTone did and what Dhabbodhú did. He was only a witness, he assured them, but they still wanted him back at the Festspielhaus for questioning.

When we didn't move from the computer, looking over a file Lionel had opened and started explaining to us, D'Arcy asked if we wanted to be dropped off at the hotel.

"Actually," I said, looking up, "there's something Cameron and I need to wrap up here, if you don't mind, whatever it was Tr'iTone was looking for: give us half an hour?"

D'Arcy nodded and said he'd send somebody back to pick us up. "Watch where you step, though," he smiled.

And you'd better be very careful with that CD," I said, laughing. "It's the only copy we've got, you know. Plus Steele and his agents are still out there looking for it!"

D'Arcy patted his pocket as if checking on the disc and waved, then turned to disappear down the hall.

Cameron and I returned our attention to the realization Lionel made of the Knight's Tour map on Tr'iTone's computer and compared it to what we could read on the statue's base.

"I think this is where Lionel read it wrong – see?" I said, pointing to one of the numerous blocks. "So, the goal isn't where the Festspielhaus is, according to his map. If we start the knight's tour there – yes, see the small 'x'? That's where the old crypt was located."

"But if that was the starting point, where exactly was the goal?"

We followed the path across the screen.

"Look at that," Cameron said, "the goal's actually just outside the castle!"

"Yes! Just across the road from the castle's courtyard," I practically shouted, "opposite where the Beethoven statue originally stood!" I grabbed our priceless artifact, and we hurried outside into the courtyard.

"Remember how Mahler told them he was standing by a tombstone – there! – and looked into the face of Beethoven?"

"OMG," Cameron shouted, "look there!"


"The sun – it's already coming up!"

Our long night was coming to an end! Cameron climbed up onto the pedestal as far as he could go.

The sun's first rays already lit up a spot across the road, deep inside what looked like a cemetery.

According to the brochure this was the old Armenfriedhof: a burial ground for poor musicians associated with the academy. Odd there would be a Potter's Field so close to Schweinwald Castle.

"Who would be buried here, d'you think?" Cameron carefully scanned the horizon.

"More importantly, do you see a fountain?"

"What about a spring? There's a small stream running along the edge..."

He pointed and followed its course until it disappeared into the woods.

"Even in this light, it looks creepy."

The stream didn't strike me as that impressive and if there's no fountain, what was all the fuss about, then? If Harrison Harty kept this secret journal, they were looking for something. Considering the end of the journal's missing, maybe they actually found it? And did Mahler keep the missing part?

"I wish I were taller," Cameron complained. "Those bushes block my view."

Those bushes probably weren't there in 1880.

"Of course! Wait – what is it Beethoven's statue would've been looking at?"

Cameron tried to maintain a line of sight between the statue's pedestal and a point he saw in the distance as we hurried through the bushes and brambles toward who knew what. Looking back toward the barely visible pedestal, I tried imagining how tall the statue was, over 130 years ago.

These first tombstones were from the 1600s but those farther away were relatively more recent, added later in time, the undergrowth unmanageably dense after having not been maintained for several generations.

The birds began to sing in the pale dawn light, reminding me how Beethoven once walked around Heiligenstadt's countryside, translating sounds of nature he no longer heard into his Pastoral Symphony. Perhaps this peaceful view and rural beauty was the inspiration he sought? Was that all there'd be to find?

There it was – a carefully inscribed tombstone, one relatively free of the bushes and brambles that covered everything else.

I parted the weedy grass and saw one line but nothing else:

O du der mein Brunnen des Gedankenblitz bist

a line from the artifact: "You who are my fountain of inspiration."

Had Sechter's society buried Beethoven's Immortal Belovèd here, then erected his statue so he could gaze on her forever? No one knew what bonds they'd broken once they removed that statue.

Brunnen, of course, could mean either flame or source but also fountain, the translation best determined by its general context, though in this case it was not a fountain of magic waters, the 'quick pill' Tr'iTone hoped to find and had willingly killed for, that mysterious unknown, unknowable force of creativity.

I placed the model for Beethoven's statue in front of the tombstone and covered it with grass for protection. Her identity, tantalizing the world since Beethoven's death, should remain a secret.

"Perhaps some things are best left unfound."

We walked back in silence toward the road, listening to the birds.

Climbing out from the brambles, I saw a car driving toward us. It was Harper and Fictitia, here to take us to the hotel.

"Harper says they do a smashing breakfast!"


It was late July when we returned to Germany for the premiere, ready to take in the last week's rehearsals, arriving refreshed but cautious after a brief chance to unwind at home. Cameron and I, bringing Dylan along, decided we'd meet LauraLynn in London and relax a while in the countryside.

At the height of tourist season, half our plane was filled with American college students on a concert tour, a lively if rowdy bunch always ready to break out into song.

D'Arcy met us at Munich's airport where I noticed several faces from Schweinwald Security in the crowds around us. None of them, I'm pleased to admit, looked even remotely like Dhabbodhú.

The train-ride to Kempten was also uneventful beyond our anticipation of seeing all Rob's hard work finally reach fruition.

The weather was often warmer than usual with heavier thunderstorms than expected, whatever arguments you believed about 'climate change' aside. If the storms didn't coincide with rehearsals, they dampened our free time. All in all, they seemed uncomfortably ominous with their frequently intense lightening: we often kept looking over our shoulders. It was not great weather to be rummaging around at the castle, a destination not high on my list, but then LauraLynn didn't care to walk through the Festspielhaus basement, either.

The damage from the bomb blast had all been repaired, D'Arcy explained, the outside wall's hole no longer visible and all the passageways and rooms downstairs returned to a reasonable functionality. Every rehearsal, now, took place on stage, so there was no reason we should have to visit the area. The only thing LauraLynn wanted to do was to leave a rose in one storage room in Heidi's memory, on the blood-stained divan once used in Rosbaud's Zurich premiere of Moses.

The IMP's Director Leahy-Hu, arriving for the dress rehearsal and opening night, kept D'Arcy informed of any developing news but it appeared the people at SHMRG were keeping a low profile. That Steele was prohibited from entering Germany under threat of arrest, though, wouldn't keep others from fulfilling his goals.

Watching rehearsals for the last act take shape was like a revelation, the reward for what we all had endured. It made us feel that whatever we had done was worth it. But it also drew us closer together knowing that Rob would not be there to share in its success. True, Garth Widor had been arrested and charged with committing Rob's murder but still there was no proof of Steele's involvement beyond his complicity in the plot, ordering it or not.

"Adrian Faust went up against Arachne Webb over Daisy's murder and barely escaped her wrath before she vaporized herself one step ahead of the police, leaving her company without an heir. When Adrian awoke to find himself consigned instead to a mail-room job, he was happy enough to be alive."

If there was any connection between the opera and Pansy Grunwald's murder, Rob wasn't one to put anything in writing: any similarities between Arachne Webb and N. Ron Steele were also conjecture. In fact, Rob did explain that Daisy was named 'Daisy' only because Gounod's heroine was Marguerite – French for daisy.

As we ended our dinner at the Festspielhaus Café on opening night, we raised a glass in Rob's memory and all those who'd died that horrible night, even the delusional Tr'iTone.

We left the café after D'Arcy spoke pleasantly with the restaurant's manager, and were about to cross the street to the Festspielhaus in time for a brief official reception before the curtain when I saw a familiar face in the crowd ahead of us – not, mercifully, Dhabbodhú: this was Arthur Lemm.

"What's he doing here," I asked D'Arcy, not sure what drew him other than his old rivalry with Rob. Lemm was surrounded by his usual entourage and a few official-looking businessmen.

Just then, the recently elected Board President, Christopher Babbila, took D'Arcy aside, shook his hand, whispered something to him, then walked away quite seriously after a condescending pat on the shoulder. D'Arcy, looking glum, shrugged his shoulders as he walked back toward us, as if he'd just received bad news.

"Well," he said very matter-of-factly, "the Board's once again passed over me in selecting a new executive director for Schweinwald, thinking it's time for a different direction, looking ahead to the future. Now that it will be a year-round, full-time international center," he nodded, "they've decided to appoint – Mr. Arthur Lemm."

"So that's what he's doing here," I said, "and that's how SHMRG's going to take care of matters, now. With their man in charge, they can control everything. I should've known..."

It was well known that Art Lemm was SHMRG's current Golden Boy, bringing in millions with his flashy, trashy works. One could only imagine the 'new direction' Schweinwald would be taking, now.

"I never thought Lemm had a chance with this board," D'Arcy mumbled. "SHMRG's influence is deeper than I imagined."

Given Lemm's attitude toward traditional conservatory training, it's clear the new Academy would never open as Rob envisioned it. Had his appointment happened earlier, he'd no doubt have canceled Rob's premiere.

"He doesn't take over till the new fall season begins, but I see dark days ahead," D'Arcy said, sadly. "I imagine next year the Academy's space will become SHMRG's international headquarters."

As we walked slowly toward the Festspielhaus, I tried sounding more upbeat.

"One day, the pendulum will swing back."

Not that I didn't imagine for a moment what damage could be done before the cycle would come around again, but yes: it might take a long time but it will happen.

"Think what Beethoven saw in his day," I considered, indicating his statue, "and look at everything that's happened since!"

My philosophizing didn't help D'Arcy who now had new set-backs to face, including no doubt looking for a job.

"And still Beethoven, dealing with his nephew, could compose those Late Quartets!"

It was odd, recalling then how Cameron and I made it home and figured Beethoven's letter was safe, again. Perhaps it was time to release the letter's contents to the world? We thought of announcing how he'd found it at the old castle, even if it was complicated to explain.

But now, if SHMRG controlled the Festival, they'd claim it's their property and that we had stolen it from them, seeking retribution and suing for its return under the International Antiquities Statutes. Such a letter would certainly be worth a great deal of money but what could we do about it?

Considering how Tr'iTone had come close to destroying it – and for what? – we had no idea what to expect. So it was with great curiosity we'd decided to read the thing.

It was addressed to Simon Sechter – later Director of the Schweinwald Academy – asking him to help Beethoven's 'special friend' with the income from a specific fund set up through a publisher, finding someplace to care for her if she became old and infirm, then, ultimately, a private final resting place. He asked some small, simple monument to him be set up nearby so he could gaze upon her grave, in particularly poignant words, that they could then be together through eternity.

Especially the haunting final line: "You, who are my fountain of inspiration – resonate within me – you, my Lost Chord."

"Zenn mentioned that," Cameron said. "We'd read it in the journal, too."

"Yes, and how, when we lose it, we're always searching for it." I knew Beethoven wasn't the only one.

News of Lemm's appointment certainly took the wind out of our sails, coming so suddenly after finishing our celebratory dinner, a direct slap at everything Rob and the festival's founders stood for. LauraLynn wondered if everything we'd been through, including losing Rob and his yet unwritten music, had been for nothing.

The world still got to hear Rob's opera as he'd completed it since SHMRG was unable to stop it. The question was, could they keep other interested companies from performing it?

Dylan tried not to be disappointed how little recognition we were receiving: we're the ones who'd saved the production and he was proud to have played some small part in it. The woman disguised as the old widow had been forgotten, I knew, but I was sorry Lionel couldn't attend.

Beneath the statue of a pensive Beethoven, brooding upon the world's inequities, stood Fictitia LaMouche and her boyfriend, Harper Roytt. They waved to get our attention as soon as they saw us. Harper, excited about playing in the orchestra, was dressed in a tux and Fictitia wore different layers of black.

"So, are you coming in to hear the performance?" I asked her.

"I wouldn't miss this for the world!"

Like seven happy wanderers reunited, we all linked arms and marched inside.

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posted by Dick Strawser

This is the conclusion of the second novel in The Klangfarben Trilogy. The first novel is The Doomsday Symphony and the third novel is The Labyrinth of Klavdia Klangfarben.

I've already begun planning a fourth novel, though without Ms. Klangfarben, one that will continue the adventures of Dr. Kerr and his sidekick, Cameron Pierce, tentatively entitled In Search of Tom Purdue.

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