Monday, July 18, 2016

The Labyrinth of Klavdia Klangfarben: Installment #21

In the previous episode of The Labyrinth of Klavdia Klangfarben, an installment from Knussbaum's curious Tale, we discover that not only did the Immortal Belovéd, disguised as "Rosa Kohl" and hidden away in a countryside inn, give birth to a daughter, Beethoven even composed a new string quartet which he called the "Giocoso" to celebrate his daughter's first birthday. An old gypsy woman reads the child's palm and says there will be twins in the future and from their union, generations later, will spring one destined, despite the peril, to be as great as this child's father.

(If you've only just arrived and have no clue what's going on, you might find it easier to start with the introductory post, here.

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Chapter Four continues...

Frieda's sitting room, Phlaumix Court: later that afternoon

Frieda explained how, after she'd left Germany for England during World War II, she felt the need to create some sort of new identity for herself. With everything else – a new home, a new language and culture, new expectations – she needed something to do, to keep occupied.

Minona returned with some 'tea things' for us since we had missed everything, once we'd settled into Frieda's private apartment upstairs.

"So, unable to compose, I decided why not try to write a novel?"

Unfinished Melody was her second book, she said, and first to be published. "It only sold a hundred copies, if that."

She dismissed Minona, suggesting she check on Cathie before going on her break.

"But now it's time we get to work. Apparently there is some urgency."

Cameron handed her both messages and stood waiting.

If Schnellenlauter was indeed murdered for this information as Frieda seemed to think, what did she expect to find in them? They might not explain who his killer is but why he was killed. After all, Schnellenlauter thought they were important enough to drag me into this, making sure Frieda eventually got to solve them.

"I could use a little help," she asked, "if you wouldn't mind terribly," pointing out a notebook on her writing desk. Cameron handed it to her, eager to help in any way he could.

It was a long and more intricately involved process than I would've thought, more than Cameron dealt with in Harty's journal. There were three different steps, making it harder to crack it too easily. First, she needed to find which alphabet he'd used – "like a transposing instrument" – which would determine what the actual letters are.

"Unfortunately, this second level does not yet put everything in the proper order but each letter now will have its number. I trust the gentleman who had transcribed this made no errors copying it."

fu Sqygkfu
hr okhh ggutauq
g"sryllv wG dFnh fskfu;x fqauqe
kre ulq ruiM grggglqrsy mguvhuh vhewfkt Qld ffes
kuum hqvl ln lsau k yuu,o aylh' ruaq cyny qfhka eyhf nlowk uulnuuskyfuf

Frieda looked over it very matter-of-factly, with none of the apprehension I'd felt, confirming that that was indeed a smiley face.

"For instance, this salutation contains the key that will help me find the right alphabet to, ah... transpose the message – so. In this case, I know that means Belovèd, one of several possible salutations."

Frieda started scribbling with an old, well-chewed pencil and very quickly came up with what I thought would be the solution.

te Giasote
rh korr ssefyei
s"ghannd cS vTlr tgote;b tiyeiu
ohu eni henM shsssbihga msedrer dructof Inv ttug
oeem ridn nl ngye o aee,k yanr' heyi wala itroy uaret lnkco eenleegoatet

"I've no idea what language that could be," Cameron said, scratching his head.

"Oh, it's not a language, dear," she chuckled.

Then she began explaining how she had to apply "The Rule of 12."

"You take every twelfth letter, find its number, then you re-order them, so."

Minutes later, she had something we could read:

My dearest,
In your absence,
Tending to your friend, Cathie:
May she, like Schoenberg, survive, telling the tale.
Then seek to find a long lost work, your three times great Grandfather's."

"Was your grandfather a great composer?" I asked.

"Yes, you could say that..."

Frieda sat back and took a deep breath.

I reread it carefully but found nothing helpful: who would kill for this? "But it doesn't really direct you to anything."

"No," she said, "but now I know what was on his mind, then."

A few months ago, during Schnelly's last visit, she was looking after Cathie who had just suffered a serious heart attack. "He was here; I stayed at the hospital and I never saw him..." In their brief conversations on the phone – he'd only been here a day – she knew he wanted to tell her something.

"It's like a message from beyond the grave! Oh, Schnelly," she sobbed quietly, running her fingers tenderly over the post-it note. "So now, Terry, it's time to figure out the clue you've just found."

doqqbd."c Btbo
j:q[] cjRde
ujvdf oppp awa wutt(cda ahzaofdo)
n'eahe uzn'o o qztqzv qnjnpuzd jw dwzj.ZzwVZ'h ddzqld
wt,du wpvz ehd gdto pbh Odptphhcq t–ndapm toejvzpl t dzdq hqz w atumud nadx

"Every message he'd send me was slightly different – he was paranoid, that way – but honestly, 154 letters is a bit much..."

She explained how the 'FC' was another hint: this alphabet was symmetrically reflexive where F became C and C became F.

"But this isn't really a Fib, is it?" pointing at the circled word.

"No, that means he made a mistake – uncharacteristic... Don't be so pedantic, Terry."

The first part of the process came easily:

etrrge."f Gogt
y:r[] fyQed
nymec tsss hlh lnoo(feh haihtcet)
u'dhad niu't t riorim ruyusnie yl eliy.IilMI'a eeirwe
lo,en lsmi dae beot sga Tesosaafr o–uehsv otdymisw o eier ari i honvne uhek

"Anyone trying to crack the process would lose patience halfway through," she said, separating 'code' from the 'process' of solving it.

"Not very different from a theorist trying to figure out some complex composition."

"I think that's why Schnelly devised it in the first place," she said. "but was this level of complexity really necessary?"

She stumbled a few times and on occasion sighed, and, once, sounded annoyed. Cameron helped by reading back letters and numbers. This one took much longer than the other, but soon it made... sense?

reading this,
I'm[circled] sorry:
still seek the missing children.
You'll find a letter (fragment) in Unfinished Melody.
Then when you hear his Quartetto Giocoso, remember I love you – always have."

"Terry, was there anything else in that book when you first found it?"

"No, I don't think so – does that mean...?"

I figured it could mean either the killer had already taken the letter or I might've lost it one of the times I'd dropped the book (a possibility I didn't particularly care to suggest). But whoever her grandfather was, regardless whether we had the letter or not, was finding this 'Happy Quartet' worth killing for?

"So that's why he was returning that book to you, now," I asked, "because he had put this letter in it? Why not just say in his message, 'here's where you'll find the quartet'?"

It was a small enough world to realize Frieda grew up around Schweinwald which meant nothing to me before last summer, but now I've discovered she's also a daughter of the House of Falkenstein.

"Had your grandfather been a student at Schweinwald or maybe a teacher there? You're sure this quartet isn't still at Schweinwald?"

"Of course, the Falkenstein's old manor house had been destroyed in the war – how ironic my nephew's bride-to-be's cousin had briefly directed the music festival my cousin, Count Karl August, raised over its ruins – but, no, neither of my grandfathers were composers (we're speaking of earlier generations) and neither had direct involvement with the academy."

Glancing back and forth between Cameron and me, she appeared distant and pensive as if, for a moment somewhere far away, she was recalling a decision she knew one day she'd have to make.

There never was a story possessing any urgency that didn't need some explanation and the more time was of the essence, the more unlikely the story could easily be distilled to its essential facts. As Frieda took a deep breath, sat back and began telling her story, I figured we might as well get comfortable. Once she started with her older sister, Wilhelmina who had married an Englishman who offered her safety when the war began, I knew this wouldn't be a simple summary of twenty-five words or less.

"Before that, when I had just turned 19 and had fallen in love with a handsome young music student in Munich, I quickly found myself in the family way and my boyfriend quickly disappeared. His name was Lief von der Erde – beautiful – though it's really not important: what's important is, I gave birth to twins.

"It was shameful to my family since I was myself an illegitimate daughter and treated 'appropriately' by my cousins at Schweinwald. To appear married, I took my lover's name but shortened it to Erden. Unfortunately, I was unable to keep the twins as things were going badly – Hitler was in power and war was inevitable. There was not enough money to support myself, much less my two children and so I must face a horrible choice. Even today I am haunted by the awful decision I had to make.

"At the time, it did seem like a wise choice, I told myself. With me, we'd probably all starve to death. This way, they would live – without their mother – and perhaps grow up happy. That was when my half-sister, Wilhelmina, found me and invited me to England. I could never tell her about the twins..."

Wondering what had ever happened to her babies, she thought of them constantly, the real reason she could no longer compose. That was when she started writing her novel, Unfinished Melody, about the twins.

"That was when I met a young conductor from Munich named Hans-Jörg Schnellenlauter. He'd also fled to England during the war.

"But this composer that Schnelly mentions, here," she said, tapping the first clue, "they erected a statue of him at Schweinwald..."

Then for some reason she changed the subject: "You know the Immortal Belovèd?"

I shook my head in confusion, wondering where the hell that came from. Looking at Cameron, he seemed just as confused, whatever LauraLynn may have told her about our being at Schweinwald last summer. But we'd never told LauraLynn or anyone else what we found that morning after Rob's killer was caught, everything apparently solved. That maniac looking for the Fountain of Inspiration, the one who kidnapped us, had been killed in a dramatic backstage fall but it wasn't until later we finally understood what that fountain actually was.

LauraLynn knew her great-grandfather's journal about his summer at Schweinwald included the story, a pact between Beethoven and some trusted friends, how, years before, the castle had become home to the woman Beethoven loved. But the journal was incomplete with nothing that would identify the mysterious woman known to history only as The Immortal Belovèd.

The only proof she existed was the letter Schindler found in Beethoven's desk, going through his papers after the Master died: Harty's journal, once it's published, would only inflame the scholarly debate about her.

Then I recalled starting to read the book conveniently left by my bed, Knussbaum's intriguing tale, the one Frieda had translated.

"Well," I said, rather hesitantly, "I wouldn't say that I knew her personally, but I guess we know who she is. Well, not literally, of course, I mean, no – but we've heard of her."

Clearly, if she is familiar with Knussbaum's Tale about Beethoven and his Belovèd, wherever this was coming from at the moment, I imagine she certainly knew more already about the story than we did. It would be unlikely Knussbaum would have written at length about her death and mentioned neither the grave nor her name.

No doubt the whole idea of showing me the copy of Knussbaum's Tale was because she knew we'd read Harty's Journal: we'd already be acquainted with the main characters if not the Belovèd herself.

But after finding the unmarked grave with the touching inscription Beethoven's letter requested – "O, You who are my fount of inspiration" – Cameron and I had sworn ourselves to secrecy: "some things are best unfound."

One question occurred to me, thinking about it: she hadn't published Knussbaum's Tale. Perhaps she had her own secret to keep?

Her index finger lightly placed beside her nose, Frieda nodded knowingly at us and I felt somehow we were being evaluated. I'd forgotten how piercing her eyes had been, even now, well past 90. Folding up the scraps of paper she had used in solving the clues, she had Cameron drop them into the fire.

"It's something Schnelly and I often discussed, lately, something you ought to know, which started falling in place with Burnson's wedding. I'm sure it's something, were he here now, he'd be telling you himself.

"As you presumably know from Mr. Harty's journal, Simon Sechter created the Unsterblichesverein, the 'Immortal Society,' to look after the Belovèd, giving her privacy, even after death," she stressed, "free from the historians' scrutiny.

"They call themselves 'The Watchers,' dedicated to protecting the Belovèd to this day."

I had no idea where this was going.

"There's another faction I must mention," she continued, tugging gently at her shawl, "which began to grow after Simon Sechter's death, people who wanted to know her true identity, and who'd stop at nothing. Knussbaum writes about a great battle blowing up in the halls of Schweinwald in the years he had become increasingly frail.

"More recently, they call themselves 'The Guidonian Hand,' a small but powerful society fueled by our modern-day disregard for any privacy. This is why Schnelly had become so paranoid about the codes we'd use."

From underneath my raised eyebrows, as she paused, I was beginning to sense there might be more continuity to these statements than the mere ramblings of an old woman whose mind wasn't altogether there. As for the logical brain, one might expect some purpose behind Schnellenlauter's murder but how did Beethoven's Belovèd fit into this?

What possible reason would she and Schnelly have to be writing coded messages back and forth about her grandfather's missing quartet?

Unless they were afraid of their being intercepted by some nefarious secret organization...

"When Schnelly lived in Vienna before the war, he was given a letter – never mind how, it just appeared one night – that Beethoven had written to an unknown friend but was torn in two."

It mentioned a new quartet he'd recently completed and sent by separate post, a work he wanted another friend to see.

"But the fragment that Schnelly found," she continued, "didn't mention the friend's name – nor any more substantial information about this quartet."

"Was there a date on the letter, perhaps, indicating when he'd composed it?"

"That's the thing," she said, "there's no proof he'd composed a quartet then, sometime during the summer of 1815, it seems."

There was also no indication who this friend was other than "Dear K" or who Beethoven wanted to see the quartet.

Could this mean that Schnellenlauter had been murdered by some perversely deluded musicologist?

Beethoven had completed his Op.95 Quartet in 1810, delaying its publication until 1816. His next quartet, Op.127, wasn't composed until 1824. The discovery of a quartet Beethoven composed around 1815 would be huge news. Between the violin sonata in December, 1812, and Wellington's Victory that next summer, it's known Beethoven composed barely a few trifles.

"Apparently Schnelly has finally found the missing fragment of this letter," she said, "hiding it in my copy of Unfinished Melody."

"Which he'd return to you once he's found your twins... the missing children?"

Frieda wheeled herself over to her desk, unlocked one of the lower drawers, handing me a sealed envelope she found there.

It contained several loose pages in familiar-looking handwriting written in a familiar-looking code.

"So," I said, "these are the missing pages from Harrison Harty's Schweinwald Journal?

"Wait, but what's the connection with your grandfather?"


A Manhattan apartment: only a few minutes later

Dylan Sprenkle sat alone in his parents' apartment, looking out over the city. It was late morning and as usual his parents were both at work. The morning was cold and windy – bitter, as far as he was concerned – but it didn't matter: he wasn't going anywhere. At least it wasn't snowing here, he thought, like it was in London, where over a foot of snow had fallen. He'd been following Cameron's tweets about the blizzard, almost glad he wasn't there.

Well, not really, because what he really missed was spending time with Cameron, clearly the most important person in his life, since they were rarely apart after having become partners over two years ago. He was beginning to feel a little more comfortable around their new friends but he was still nervous in strange circumstances.

And that was one thing Cameron Pierce certainly managed to get involved in, all these strange, unexpected and often inexplicable circumstances like a simple trip to Bavaria which turned into such an excruciating nightmare. Cameron still hadn't explained everything that had happened after he had been kidnapped, why he could no longer listen to Bolero. No wonder his parents were reluctant to have him going off with Cameron: it was bad enough what happened at home! Even on his own, he managed to get caught up in their adventure.

"But it was a friend's wedding in London," Dylan argued with his parents, "how dangerous do you think that could be?" He'd met LauraLynn when he and Cameron heard that new opera at Schweinwald.

"Okay, so it wasn't exactly Beethoven, but nothing weird happened on that trip." Details of some other trips he never mentioned. It was usually best not to remind himself about Cameron's other trips, either, not that he understood what Cameron told him. And he had no idea what it was that Cameron didn't tell him.

"You'd just never believe it," Cameron told him after he'd made it home, then added, "I can hardly believe it myself." There were aspects of 'the case,' as he called it, he couldn't discuss. Eventually, Dylan didn't bother asking him any more, figuring out when to stop: that's when Cameron would give him 'the look.'

Neither his parents nor his doctor felt good about Dylan traveling like that, afraid his nerves couldn't stand that much excitement, though they were mindful of still treating him like he's an adult child. His going to college in Philadelphia where he and Cameron were living on their own was a huge step for them. But it wasn't the excitement as just dealing with the whirlwind of strangers and all this experience being thrown at him, like some sensory overload where he'd freeze up and be unable to respond.

Cameron didn't try to make it sound scary but he realized Dylan would be outside his 'comfort zone' no matter what, even if he was there beside him all the way: Dylan realized that. But when his parents let him go to Lincoln Center alone that night, didn't he get abducted by that crazy woman?

"Yes," Cameron argued, "that could have happened anyway: the streets of New York are not the safest for anybody, these days." But because it involved Cameron's trip to Bavaria, they still held him responsible. Still, it was Cameron's friends who managed to contact the New York police who were able to rescue him from her.

It would've been a difficult experience for any unsuspecting teenager, held for ransom, especially one who was normally cautious around strangers – and Dylan had to admit they didn't come much stranger than that one...

But the year-end holidays were now upon them and he tried to banish all thoughts from his brain about unpleasant things: and today he was celebrating the most important holiday of all – Beethoven's Birthday. It was too bad Cameron wasn't here to celebrate the day with him, listening to Beethoven's major works in chronological order. He had started before sunrise with the Op. 1 piano trios, several piano sonatas, string trios, the first two cellos sonatas and just finished the Quintet for Piano and Winds, one of his favorites.

He'd spent a lot of time worrying about where to play the B-flat Piano Concerto, written before "No. 1" in C, but decided at the last minute to go with opus numbers, this year. 

Maybe next year he would do a "12-Days-of-Beethoven," specific genres on specific days, but now he'd start the Op. 18 quartets.

At this rate, he'd probably reach the last work Beethoven completed, the second finale to the Op. 131 Quartet, next week. He knew there would be distractions – like meals – but hey, this was Beethoven! This was one holiday where Dylan didn't mind spending hours and hours alone – not really alone: just him and The Master. Very soon Cameron would be home before Christmas and they would have New Year's together back at their apartment in Philadelphia. And it wasn't like Cameron could sit still listening to that much music.

The D Major Quartet had no sooner started – Dylan knew No. 3 of the set was the first to be composed – than he heard Cameron's ring-tone, the "Es muss sein" motive from Op. 135. (*1) Rather than being a disruption, he knew he could now combine two pleasures – his love of Beethoven along with the love-of-his-life.

It was a brief text and a series of attached photos from London – well, not exactly from London, Cameron quickly explained.

"Snowstorm – Phlaumix Court day early. Cool place, you'd love it. Here's some pics."

There were several views of several grand rooms in this oddly ornate castle, clearly a case of Rococo meets higher mathematics. He would ponder its obsessive detail later while listening to Beethoven's 'first' quartet.

But there was something odd about the last photo, taken in a library. Who was this woman? She looked vaguely familiar.

A hallway in Phlaumix Court, a little later

She'd seen that man in the library before and his little sidekick, too. What the hell were they doing here now, at this place and time? Their very presence here was enough to raise her blood pressure, she knew, and certainly did not bode well for her.

"How did he know, the old man? What possibly could've tipped him off?" She'd been very careful, working alone this time. "For that matter, what could he really know? What alarms might've gone out?"

These were just a few of the questions rattling around in her brain as she wandered the halls of Phlaumix Court. The appearance of an old enemy like this one doesn't happen by accident.

"I must destroy them, thoroughly and utterly, before they get in my way. Fate," she thought, "knocks at the door, indeed!"

Then, suddenly, the woman in the shadows stopped and considered which way the Pendulum of Fate might be swinging this time. It could be, she knew, a double-edged sword which required her cleverest skills. In the past when the paths they crossed hadn't worked in her favor, she'd paid a heavy price at his hand.

"But now, with any luck," she thought, skulking past paintings and marble busts, "this time, it swings for thee, Professor Kerr!" Frankly, she felt like snapping her fingers and breaking into an undignified jig.

It couldn't have been any more undignified than the night she had thrown herself into the arms of that maniacal agent – what did he call himself: Dhabbodhú or something? (*2) "Pathetic was what it was." She thought back less pleasantly than she might have done at the time. "Man was definitely in need of a psychiatrist!" It had been a crazy time for her, speaking of crazy, finding after all those years an identity she could assume, having gone from being a vagrant to a millionaire in a single stroke.

Then she had been delighted to find herself even tangentially allied with a man going after Dr. Kerr himself, she recalled. Too delighted to help him, she discovered, alas, Dhabbodhú was "weak as water." But now she's found Kerr all by herself: the third time's the charm! "What matter of kismet brings us together again?"

It could not have been a mere coincidence, she often found herself thinking, how there had to be some Greater Plan, running into Old Widow du Hicquè the very moment she'd had her stroke. Not that she believed in God – at least not in the traditional sense – but what other explanation could there have been?

The old widow had millions in the bank, more than she'd dreamed possible, so while occupying the widow's identity (and her brownstone), she managed to put aside nearly $500,000 cash for an emergency fund.

Keeping it in a tote bag under the sink, she barely escaped with it when the police broke into the house, along with her bag-lady disguise kept for such contingencies: "easy come, easy go."

At least this time she had a sufficient nest egg to fall back on, creating a whole new identity for herself.

And now, here she was, having rechristened herself Melissa Fourthought after a chance encounter with an awful novel nobody would know, with a job in a TV production company filming in an English castle.

As it could only happen in her life – really, what were the odds? – the whole thing seemed, on the surface, miraculous.

It brought her to a hunt for the musicological discovery of the century. But what if Kerr's after the same thing?

"Wait," she thought, hearing someone open a door. "I think I'd better hide."

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to be continued... [this link should become active at 8am on Wednesday, July 20th]

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(*1) the "Es muss sein" motive from Op. 135:  The final movement of Beethoven's final quartet opens with a questioning musical phrase and the words "Muss es sein?" (Must it be?) written over it; when the Allegro begins, the question is answered by a straight-forward, happily extroverted phrase marked "es muss sein," "It must be!"

(*2) Dhabbodhú or something: Iobba Dhabbodhú, who lived in a New York brownstone near Lincoln Center (actually it was a gray stone house, more like a flintstone than a brownstone), was just one identity of the villain Tr'iTone of the previous novel in the Klangfarben Trilogy, The Lost Chord. Many of Dylan's memories in the previous scene were also events from this novel.

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The usual disclaimer: The Labyrinth of Klavdia Klangfarben, which you've no doubt figured out by now, is a work of fiction and as such all the characters (especially their names) and incidents of its story are more or less the product of the author's imagination, sometimes inspired by elements of parody, occasionally by personal experience. Many of the places are real (or real-ish) but not always "realistically used." Other places like Phlaumix Court and Umberton are purely fictional. Any similarity between characters and real people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental, but then, as Klavdia Klangfarben keeps quoting a former professor of hers, "Perception is everything." Yadda yadda yadda.

©2016 by Richard Alan Strawser for Thoughts on a Train

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