“I foster a sorrowful conception of affection. Make no sacrifices.”
The notes were blurry on the page. Judith wiped tears as she focused to see. She didn’t mind aloneness but she mourned the connection she expected to have when she married. Her consolation was always beauty.
The morning started with a brilliant sun. The east windows in Stevie’s music room sparkled with light. She was dressed and ready to go when Reggie arrived. Today they would find Tony Chavez and ask him some probing questions about why he withheld the information about Professor Kemény.
In the minutes of waiting she played through Liszt’s Consolation No. 3 again. The composer may not have thought of these pieces as consolation for unmet expectations but for Stevie these melodies consoled her for the loss of her father and the other sadnesses that passed through her mind in moments of deep scarcity. The haunting tune drifted through her and onto the keys. She yielded to the question in each phrase and delicately the questions came to be answered in a satisfying conclusion. Would Judith’s murder come to a satisfying conclusion?
The ferry moved through still, blue water pushing white frothing foam ahead of it. Stevie got out and stood by the railing looking at jellyfish floating aimlessly on the surface. It was one week since Judith Whitesides’s death. One week, and maybe they were a little closer to finding her killer. She looked back at the car and noticed Reggie talking on his cell phone. As she slipped into the passenger seat she overheard Reggie excitedly asking someone at what time they spotted Adrián Szarka.
“You saw both of them coming out of Dominik Horak’s apartment? Put a tail on them and keep me posted. We are on the island to follow up another important lead. Yup, thanks buddy.”
Reggie turned to Stevie with a look of understanding on his face. “Adrián Szarka and Yolanda Valenta have been staying in Dominik’s apartment in Seattle. Maybe we have the wrong idea about who sent those two bad pennies into Judith’s life.’
“Shall we go back to Seattle and locate them?”
“My gut tells me to find Tony Chavez. Let’s go to the B&B first.”
“Wait, I have a hunch he might be practicing at the arts center. His purpose for being here is gone and he may be finishing things up.”
“So why would he be practicing the piano?” Reggie asked.
“So why would he be practicing the piano?” Reggie asked.
“Because that is his routine. When life gets muddled musicians stay with their routine. It gives meaning to confusion.”
They pulled up in the parking lot of the arts center. Floor to ceiling windows in the foyer faced out to the street. The light streaming in from outside highlighted the art hanging on the walls. A helpful volunteer greeted them.
“We are looking for a pianist named Tony Chavez who practices here during the day. Have you seen him?”
“Sure, he is in a practice room down that hall. The music will lead you to him.” She smiled and motioned with her hand.
Stevie recognized the passage she heard. It was The Hungarian Rhapsody No. 8 and Tony was missing the steady flow of the rhythm. She quietly opened the door and peeked in. Reggie was behind her.
Tony stopped and continued with just his right hand, his left hand propped on the music stand. His eyes were closed.
Reggie coughed quietly and Tony whirled around towards the door. He turned back to his music without acknowledging them and played the trills one more time. Finally he turned his whole body around and met their eyes.
“Good morning detectives. How can I help you?” His words seemed incongruous with his tone.
“It seems you have neglected to tell us the whole truth, Mr. Chavez. You left out the part about being in Hungary and you left out the part of your relationship with Professor Roland Remény.” Reggie’s voice held sarcasm.
Tony sat on the edge of the piano stool with his head down. “Look, when you saw me at the café a few days back I was scared that you might believe me responsible for Judith’s death.”
“If you are not, then why don’t you tell us about your relationship with her? Start at the part in Hungary when the professor convinced you to come here to spy on her.” Reggie moved a chair closer to the piano.
“Let me lock the door so that we are not disturbed.” Tony secured the door and brought a chair over for Stevie and another for himself. They were sitting in a semi-circle.
“I dreamt of mastering the Liszt repertoire my whole life. In Hungary at the Liszt Academy, I came to a certain level of proficiency. When my school visa expired Professor Kemény told me about Judith Whitesides. He suggested I contact her for a few months of lessons on the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies.”
“Did he also confide in you his problematic relationship with Judith?” Reggie asked.
“What do you mean?”
“He was involved in a dispute over a Liszt manuscript with Judith. Were you aware of that?” Reggie asked.
“What about the autograph manuscript of Rhapsody No. 8. Did the professor ask you to steal it?” Stevie decided she would use Reggie’s tactics and be more direct.
“Steal it? Well, Roland was convinced she took it from the Liszt Museum when she was researching there. But, he had no clear idea where she might have found it. I think he wanted it himself and so accusing and bullying her made him feel like she would give it over to the museum.”
“Did you try to talk to her about it,” Stevie asked.
“When Judith and I were working together I hinted around about her knowledge of the original copies of the Rhapsodies but she did not acknowledge having any information.” He shook his head emphasizing his words. “With her teaching I acquired a new appreciation for the composer I love and for a teacher with sensitivities beyond my own, so, if I had found the autograph I would not have taken it. Professor Kemény was obsessed with the importance of the Liszt Museum and Research Center in Budapest. He was even lobbying to have The Library of Congress hand over their acquisitions.”
Reggie took out his notebook. “Previously you said you were angry at Judith for canceling your lesson last Tuesday. Do you want to add anything to that?”
Tony smiled. “The truth? I was in love with Judith.” He looked at his folded hands in his lap and tapped his fingers together.” Stevie thought he seemed sincere. “She gave me no hope that she would ever feel anything for me but she was a patient, dedicated teacher. Tuesday, early evening, I went to talk with her.”
“So you were her Tuesday evening guest?” Stevie asked.
“Ah, I guess so…..but I found her distracted and unwilling to communicate. I didn’t understand what was going on and I said some things I wished I hadn’t.”
“Like?” Reggie asked.
“Like, I knew she stole the autograph manuscript from Roland Kemény.” Tony looked up with regret. “She was terribly offended by my accusation and basically threw me out of her house. I hurt her feelings but I wouldn’t have hurt her physically.”
“Why did you think she stole the music fragment?” Stevie was curious if he had found evidence to support this allegation.
“I don’t really believe she stole it. I mean, she was passionate about Liszt and talked about his life and his music at length. Would she steal it for money? I don’t think so. She sometimes left me alone to practice in her music room while she answered her phone. I had time to look around and I poked my head into some drawers.”
“And did you find anything?” Reggie asked.
“No, I told you that I did not find the fragment and I told Roland the same thing. I believe maybe Roland made the whole thing up.”
“He didn’t. The Liszt autograph manuscript exists.”
“Really?” Tony looked truly surprised. “And where is it now?”
“We found it as we investigated the crime scene, right there in one of her drawers.”
Tony’s eyes widened and Stevie felt uncomfortable letting him have any more information about the fragment. She purposely changed the subject. “Did you study the Rhapsody No. 8 with her?”
“No, we worked on several others. The No. 8 was too difficult for me, in her opinion.”
“Wasn’t that what you were playing just now?”
“Yes, I’m going to learn it. In memory of Judith, I’m….going to learn it as best I can.”
“Did she ever talk about autograph manuscripts of any kind and specifically of Liszt’s music?” Stevie asked.
“We did talk about the importance of preserving the music manuscripts and she showed me some digital pictures of the Rhapsodies.”
Reggie presented his phone to Tony. “Have you seen these people around Judith’s house?”
Tony looked at the blurry pictures and squinted. “Yes. The woman there is her housekeeper.” Tony scrolled the picture to the right. “And that guy does her yard work.”
“Do you know anything else about them? Did Judith talk about them to you?” Stevie waited for his reply.
“No, but I thought the guy doing the yard work was strange. He was there a couple of times during my lessons. Once he knocked and tried to engage Judith in a conversation at the back door. She was really irritated. I didn’t ask about him because our relationship was very professional and I didn’t pry into her personal life.”
“Did you see the housekeeper there on the same day as the gardener?”
“Well, I think she always came in on Wednesdays. So she probably was there on some of the days he worked. Why? Are they involved in her death?”
“We don’t know for sure. Where did you go after talking to Judith on Tuesday night?” Reggie asked.
“Look, I had nothing to do with her death. I promise you. I went home disappointed in myself. I spent the evening thinking about what I should do next with my life. It was going to be awkward with Judith after my accusation.”
“Can someone verify that you were at home?”
Tony sighed. “Yes, Jacquie, the owner of the B&B stayed up talking to me way past midnight.”
A knock at the conference room brought the conversation to a halt. Tony opened the door to a uniformed Monarch County Police Officer.
“Excuse me? Are the detectives….”
Reggie interrupted and showed them his badge.“Officer, are you looking for us?”
“Yes, I received a call from one of your detectives saying that the two suspects he was tailing boarded a ferry for the island. He said you were not answering your phone so he looked up your phone GPS to let me know where you were and explained you would need backup. We are waiting in the parking lot.”
Stevie stood up and thanked Tony for engaging with them in conversation.
“Are you going after your suspects?” Tony said.
Stevie patted him on the arm and followed Reggie down the hall.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Reggie turned to ask.
“Yup. They are on their way to Dominik Horak’s house. I’m thinking they are making arrangements to leave town. How is this going to play out?”
Reggie opened the big glass doors for her and said, “We are going to stop them.”