Truth is a great flirt.
Tomorrow she would finish up the last chapters of her memoir. This was one of her few consolations. She would leave something behind showing the world the beauty of the music of Liszt.
Monday morning the homicide squad gathered around their desks with coffee in hand and pastries on the table in front. Reggie enjoyed the weekly meetings with his colleagues mainly because Stevie made their presentation go smoothly. With other co-workers he dreaded the grilling from his fellow detectives because he wasn’t always in sync with his partner and it showed under pressure. With Stevie he trusted that both of them had the facts well rehearsed and their report would be sound. Captain Monson called for their attention and asked if each group could talk about their open cases. The six partnerships were diverse ethnically but Stevie was the only female in the squad at the time. They were the last to report. He motioned for Stevie to talk. She explained who Judith Whitesides was and the facts of her murder. The other detectives groaned when she told about the two suspects and their connection to Eastern Europe. If the suspects lived outside of the country everyone knew the case might go cold.
“We think someone in Hungary hired two people to come to the States and ingratiate themselves into Judith’s world and to ultimately murder her.”
“Are they U.S. citizens?” A detective with a brightly colored jacket asked.
“No. They entered the United States some time ago. Adrián Szarka is wanted for breaking and entering here in Seattle. We have a witness to that crime, so when we find him, that accusation will stick. He will spend time in jail.”
“Which one is likely the murderer?” Captain Monson asked.
Stevie stood straighter. “We don’t have sufficient evidence to make that statement. Detective Watts and I are looking for both Yolanda Valenta and Adrián Szarka and all of you should have received pictures and descriptions. They have been sighted here in Seattle and on the island where the murder took place.”
“Is Szarka the one who was loitering around the precinct last week?”
“Yes, he is the one we found on surveillance footage meeting with Yolanda Valenta. We hope to have this case wrapped up this week.” Reggie could tell that Stevie felt their work was a long way from being finished. He agreed but he didn’t appreciate the grumbling he heard from several other detectives about her positivity. She wasn’t tough and jaded as many of them were but she had excellent detective skills. His one criticism of her style was her she spent more time asking questions than he thought necessary.
“All right, folks, keep your paperwork up to date. And keep us all in the loop.” Captain Monson shook each detective’s hand and left them to get back to his own stack of reports.
After a day filled with reports and paper work, Reggie and Stevie headed north on Highway 99 towards the University District where they would meet with Sydney Cabine. The gate-house attendant issued them a free pass and instructed them where to park. The weather had cleared and the trees along the streets on campus glistened with droplets of rain. Walking through ‘The Quad’ brought memories to Stevie of the cherry blossoms in the spring, lazy summer days sitting on the lawn, and occasional snow that settled on the gothic towers of the library. As they walked into the School of Music she marveled, as always, at the Romanesque style architecture.
She grew quiet as memories flooded her mind; good memories as well as bad. Music composition classes were her favorite. But the pressures of performing made a lasting shadow on her first academic years. Much was expected of her because she was Angelika Hanson’s daughter.
“Is this where you went to school?” Reggie asked.
“Yup, I have been up and down these halls more than I want to remember. Sydney Cabine’s office is on the second floor.”
They walked down the white hallway with offices on both sides. A few doors were open and Stevie overheard a phone conversation about a struggling student. They found room 204 and knocked.
Sydney sat at her desk with a large screen in front of her. She was conversing with someone on the computer.
“Come sit behind me and meet Professor Roland Kemény.” Sydney turned back to the screen. “Roland, these are the detectives I told you were investigating the death of Judith Whitesides. Stevie Dangerfield and, excuse me, what was your name again?” She looked up at Reggie.
“I’m Detective Watts.” Reggie looked at the computer screen. “It’s nice to meet you sir. We would like to ask some questions about your relationship with Judith.”
The elderly gentleman on the screen had white hair and a white beard. Stevie was impressed with his office in an ornate hall. There was a grand piano behind him. It would be hard to believe he was a killer, he looked more like Santa Claus.
“Where would you like me to begin?” He asked sincerely.
“Tell us please how you met Judith Whitesides.”
“I have known of her for about ten years. She taught in Prague and specialized in the music of Franz Liszt, a famous composer from Hungary. She was an excellent, virtuosic pianist. We collaborated together over the years. She liked coming to Budapest to visit the Liszt museum. Last year she hinted that she had found something very unique. I asked her where she found it and I had the impression she found it here at the Museum.” Professor Kemény looked around him and then continued. Stevie thought maybe he was checking to see if anyone was listening. “She was allowed access to the basement where there are many unopened boxes. I pressured her and told her if she found it here and did not reveal it, she would be accused of stealing. She laughed and said that Budapest was not the only place to find precious Liszt material. I very badly wanted to see what she had and I traveled to Prague to get a look. The autograph fragment looked authentic. It was the first 34 measures of The Hungarian Rhapsody No. 8. I knew something of the original because I previously studied it at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
Stevie interjected, “What do you think she intended to do with the fragment?”
Professor Kemény squinted at his computer screen to see who asked the question. “Judith had a way of holding back information. Over the next few months I repeatedly asked her if I could buy the fragment and she finally agreed. I sent a formal contract to her home in Prague, which she signed and returned.”
“You have a signed contract?” Reggie asked.
“Yes, and then I paid her the first installment of twenty-five thousand dollars. I expected she would bring me the autograph and in my excitement I announced it to patrons of the Liszt Memorial Museum.” The professor’s voice trembled with controlled anger. “That is when her true nature emerged. She publicly denounced me as a fraud and as someone who advertised things that were not real.”
Reggie asked with confusion, “Why did you continue to pay her even when she went to the United States?”
“I know it sounds crazy, but her husband visited me in Budapest and assured me that he would deliver the manuscript himself. He gave me back the check for the first $25,000 as a good faith gesture and said he would be traveling to the United States to get the autograph within the month.”
“Dominik Horak entered into an agreement with you? He told us he knew nothing of his wife’s dealing with you.” Professor Remény remained silent. “So you made another payment without actually having the document?” Reggie asked not quite comprehending.
Looking a little bit offended the professor answered, “Yes, but I had faith the arrangement would end well because Mr. Horak was very eager to receive payment.”
“Tell them who you sent to the United States to check on the arrangements, Roland.” Sydney added.
Roland blanched and looked away.
Reggie erupted with, “Did you send people to steal the music?” Reggie was obviously pushing now to get a reaction from Kemény. “Did one of them kill Judith to get the autograph manuscript back?”
Sydney Cabine turned with shock and held her arm out to Reggie to warn him. Stevie knew she was uncomfortable with him blaming the professor.
With some dignity after receiving the insult, Roland Kemény continued, “I don’t know what you are talking about. I did not send anyone to steal the music fragment. I sent an American piano student to Judith named Tony Chavez, who studied with me for a year and was returning to the States. He was interested in taking lessons and he offered to find out about the manuscript.”
“And did he kill Judith to get the music fragment?” Reggie asked.
The professor got up suddenly from his chair and disappeared from view. It seemed he would not re-appear.
“Professor Kemény? What has happened?” Sydney asked with alarm and shot a warning look at Stevie. A minute passed.
A shadow moved over the screen and then he was back in his chair. “This is most upsetting to me. I believe you would like to blame me for the murder of Ms. Whitesides. I never wanted to harm her and I don’t believe Tony harmed her in any way. The last time we talked he was getting nowhere with his investigation.”
Stevie softly asked, “Why did this music fragment mean so much to you?”
“I wanted this piece of the Rhapsody for the Liszt Museum. We have a deep affection for Liszt’s music and if we had the first section, I hoped we could barter with The Library of Congress for the rest. It rightfully belongs here and I don’t understand why Judith Whitesides could steal it and then try to extort money from us to buy it back. I made a mistake paying her before I had the fragment of music in my possession.” He looked up sheepishly. “Can you tell me where it is and who will take possession of it now?”
“Our job is to solve this murder. We have no idea what will happen to the music.” Reggie said.
“Professor Kemény, we will keep you posted about the music fragment. Thank-you so much for talking to us. We hope you were not too offended by our questions.” Sydney said.
“I’ll speak to you another time. Good-bye.” The screen went blank.
Sydney whirled around in her chair and angrily spouted at Reggie. “I can’t believe your audacity, Detective Watts. I invited you here on good faith that you would be polite to my colleague.”
“Ma’am, I am trying to find a cold blooded killer. I needed to push the professor so he would show his hand. Do you think he is going to admit to murder without being pushed?”
“Well, I don’t want to be part of this. My reputation and the reputation of my department is at risk here.”
Reggie turned to go and Stevie reached out her hand to hold him back. “We so appreciate your help, Sydney. Our conversation did open up a new inquiry. Please forgive our methods. In our line of work ferreting out the truth is always uncomfortable. Thank you again.”
She pushed Reggie out of the door in front of her. Darkness had settled on the trees and buildings as they left the campus. After minutes of silence, Stevie looked at Reggie and smiled. “We did find out that Tony Chavez is hiding important information.”
“So you are not furious with me?”
“Of course I am, but, we have to prepare for a visit to the island.
Reggie threw Stevie the keys and got into the passenger side.
Now that he was sure he was forgiven, he ventured into a longer conversation with Stevie. He looked over at her, watching her maneuver through evening traffic. It was unusual for him to bring up a personal subject. He waffled.
“What is it?” she said quietly.
“I’d like to tell you about my father.”
“Okay, go ahead.” She sounded encouraging.
“My father, Harry Watts, was a homicide detective for thirty years. Some years ago he had a stroke which left him unable to walk and paralyzed on one side of his body.” Reggie stopped and had that recurring feeling come over him of deep despair. He knew if he felt it instead of squashing it down it would subside sooner.
“That’s terrible for him. Where is he now?”
“In a care home which he likes fairly well. When I saw him Sunday he asked me the strangest thing.”
“What did he ask?”
“He wanted me to help a new patient who seemed very depressed.” Suddenly Reggie felt stupid going on with his request. What could Stevie do about it?
“How could you help him?”
“Actually, my father thought you could help him.” He watched her expression to see if he detected any annoyance.
“What can I do?” Her tone sounded like she was asking sincerely with real interest.
“The man is a musician and my father thought he needed music. I mean I don’t expect you would go there and play for him, or anything like that.”
“That is an interesting request because my mother coordinates musicians to volunteer at nursing homes to go and have a singing, listening experience. She has told me how effective it is with Alzheimers and Parkinson disease. I will certainly ask her about it.”
“Really? That would be great. I would like to know more. I apologize for being awkward. It wasn’t an easy thing to talk about.”
“Well, we are around people all the time who tell us awkward things. You are a pro at reading between the lines.” She laughed.