“Mournful and yet grand is the destiny of the artist.”
Judith searched in the garage for the small closet safe she purchased earlier. It wasn’t on the organized shelves or stacked against the wall. Was it better to advertise your valuables by locking them up or leaving them among ordinary, everyday things on a shelf?
She removed the strap of her black traveling bag from her shoulder and brushed the hair from her face. Little tendrils of gray escaped back to her forehead. Fatigue swept through her body, settling back down in her arthritic knees. Angelika Hanson unzipped the bag, searching for her keys. She felt them at the bottom and quickly unlocked the door. The taxi pulled away from the curb. Her return was earlier than expected. She was so glad to get back. London had been cold and rainy, which was familiar, but the city seemed to lack the charm it had on previous trips. The piano master classes went smoothly, allowing her time to make some connections with other professors. One of those professors might be coming to Seattle next. Right now a nice hot bath and a nap was all she desired. It was afternoon and Stevie would be at work.
Dragging the luggage through the front door, she turned to collapse in the chair by the front door. She closed her eyes but opened them as it registered. Something was wrong. A strong grip of anxiety caught in her throat. The cushions were askew, some on the couch, others laying on the floor. What had happened here? It was unlike Stevie to leave the house a mess. From her chair she could see into the music room. Something was next to the black pedestal legs of her grand piano. Angelika stood to see what it was. On the floor, yellow chrysanthemums lay splayed in a puddle of water next to a broken, red vase. Red glass shards criss-crossed the stems almost as if their sharp edges had pruned them. They still looked fresh. Who brought the flowers? She saw a music score on the floor next to the flowers, saturated with water along the spine. Avoiding the flower mess, she stooped to pick up the Beethoven Sonata book. There were other books on the floor. In fact, the bookshelves were empty, the contents flung in every corner.
Footsteps from above cut through the silence of the room. Was Stevie home? Without thinking she started into the kitchen and stopped at the bottom of the stairs, glancing up. A large figure stood at the top. Fear clutched her heart. It wasn’t Stevie. In a flash the figure came running down, pushing her aside and knocking her to the ground. She cried out. He ran out the back door before she realized what was happening. Angelika tried to get up but found she had fallen on glass pieces strewn over the floor by the back door. Her forearm was bleeding. Reaching for a chair she pulled herself up. Slowly she made her way to the front hallway to get her phone out of her purse. She called the police.
“I have been robbed!”she said.
Her voice was mute suddenly and she cleared her throat. “I have been robbed and the intruder has just run out my door. I need help.” The words stopped coming and turned to tears instead.
“Hang on Ma’am. Can you tell me your address?”
In confusion Angelika tried to remember the numbers.
“No worries, I’ll stay with you. Where are you hurt?”
“I’ve fallen down and cut myself on broken glass. My daughter is Detective Dangerfield. Could you find her?”
“Certainly. Just stay on the line with me.”
Reggie suggested they stop at the little island downtown to have something to eat after leaving Dominik Horak. He left the scene at the house confused. He didn’t entirely believe the story Dominik told but the professor in Hungary had a motive to get back at Judith. There was more to this story.
A Mexican restaurant across from the theater advertised street tacos. Reggie and Stevie both loved tacos and often stopped on city corners where renovated buses sold great Mexican food.
“Let’s sit back there. I love the bright yellow table.” Stevie said.
In the back they had a view of the main highway through town. People were out walking even though the drizzle of rain looked uninviting.
“The smell of the salsa is making my mouth water. Reg? What are you thinking?”
“I’m just thinking through all the facts we have so far. We need to do some background work today.”
When their food arrived, the small, folded flour tortillas with green guacamole and a sprinkle of onions looked just as he hoped. Creamy refried beans merged with rice and the whole plate lifted Reggie’s spirits. Together they polished off all the food rather quickly.
Stevie’s phone buzzed.
“Detective Dangerfield.” she said, and Reggie saw the slightest spot of beans clinging to her lip.
“My mother? My mother is in England.” Reggie heard the concern in Stevie’s voice.
“Thank you very much. We will be leaving here right away.” She looked at Reggie. “My house was burglarized this morning and my mother came home from a trip to London earlier than expected. She interrupted the thief.”
“What? Is she hurt?” Reggie said. Stevie shrugged her shoulders.
She dialed the phone and listened. “Mom, it’s Stevie. I am on my way home.” Reggie wondered if the phone went to voicemail.
They cleaned up lunch and quickly left the restaurant. When they got into the car Reggie reached into the glove compartment and grabbed the light, placed it on top of the car, and turned on the siren. They sped out of town towards the ferry dock.
“Do you think this is related to our case?” Stevie asked.
“If it is, then the thief was aware of our investigation and he knew you would be going to the island this morning. Are the music documents secure?”
“I think so. I put them in a safe place last night. Look, there’s a boat just docking.”
As they approached her house in West Seattle Stevie saw a police car parked out front. Most people parked their cars on the street but Stevie was lucky enough to have a garage in the back alley. She gave Reggie directions to drive behind the house. As Stevie got out of the car she looked around the yard and back to the alley. She had a feeling they were being watched. The back door, with beautiful beveled glass, was missing a pane and someone had placed a piece of plywood inside. There were still glass pieces in the entry way.
“Mom?” Stevie called as she came through to the front. “Mom. Are you alright?”
Her mom was sitting on the music room floor sorting through music scores. She looked up and smiled sheepishly, “I told you being a policewoman was just too dangerous.”
Stevie sat down and embraced her. “I’m so sorry this happened to you. Can I get you anything?”
“No, the policeman has been very kind. Do you know what this is all about?”
“Maybe. It is a long story and I do want to tell you about it because you may be able to give us some information. Let me help Reggie finish with the policeman.”
Stevie broke away and slowly went upstairs. As she entered her own room she saw that the intruder had been there. Her desk under the bay window was covered with the papers from her drawers. Her closet contents were scattered all over the bed. She carefully climbed over her shoes in the closet to reach inside the hidden wall. Slowly she rotated the peg and it opened to reveal a cavity big enough to put papers and books. Stevie felt a great relief to see that Judith’s documents were undisturbed. She sat still on her floor holding the stack of papers, her eyes closed to center her thoughts. Someone knew she was investigating this murder and found out where she lived. They were after the fragment of music, of that she was sure. Now she had inadvertently put her mother in danger. The documents would have to go to the police station today. She clutched them to her chest and walked back down the stairs.
After picking up the mess in every room Stevie gathered her mother and Reggie around the dining room table. It was time to explain in detail about Judith and her autograph manuscript. Being a music scholar her mother would understand the motives of those desperate to acquire and perhaps even sell it. Stevie took the Liszt fragment out of a folder and moved it across the table towards Angelika.
“This seems to be what the thief wanted. Do you know anything about the original Liszt Hungarian Rhapsody No. 8?”
“The No.8? Hmm..very virtuosic but I have played it in the past. Quite beautiful.” She hummed the melody as she looked at the ink impressions of black and white. “His notation is beautiful, isn’t it. Liszt was an eccentric composer and his music demanding.” Her fingers moved across the top of the table making a soft tapping sound. “The Rhapsodies are his homage to the gypsy influence in his culture. Do you know that the trills in this piece sound somewhat like a Hungarian folk instrument?” Angelika studied the music more intently as if she could hear the sound in her head. “I don’t know about the whereabouts of his original manuscripts. I assume the Hungarians would have them in a museum. Have you talked to Sydney at the university? She likes to think of herself as somewhat of a Liszt expert. Did you say that Ms. Whitesides taught in the music department at the university?”
“Yes, she did.”
“I think I have met her. I remember gossip about a professor coming from a position in Eastern Europe. Where did she get this manuscript?” Angelika asked.
“We don’t know for sure but likely in Budapest or Prague where she taught.”
“Why is it in her possession? Wouldn’t it be placed with a museum?”
“Good questions, Mom. What was your friend Sydney’s last name?”
“Cabine. I can help you get in touch with her.”
The university was the next logical place to ask questions.
Stevie noticed that her mother’s anxiety was abating and she saw her strength returning.
“Could you remember enough about the face and appearance of the thief to sit with a sketch artist and create a likeness?” Reggie asked.
“ I think I can.” Angelika answered.
“Can you go with us now, before your memory gets hazy?” Stevie asked encouragingly. “I need to take Judith’s documents to the police station and have them locked up. I should have done so earlier but I wanted to take my time with them.”
“Yes, I’ll go and do my best to remember his face. It all happened so quickly. But, can you both help me with a few more things? I want to come home to a secure house.”
On the way back into the music room to return some books, Stevie glanced back over the whole room. The wet carpet was dried and the scores of music put back into place. She felt a deep gratitude that the thief had not damaged the piano. She was drawn to the beloved piano. Her hands caressed the rounded ‘cheeks’ on each end of the keyboard. The word cheeks made her smile. If there were two cheeks then the black and white keys in between were like teeth in a rather large smile, all eighty-eight of them. However, there was something missing. She studied the top of the piano. The metronome was there, the notepad, the pens, the candy dish…..wait. The candy dish was empty. She knew very well that she had filled it yesterday morning. That was strange.