Friday, June 7, 2019

Chapter Eleven of The Gymnopédist


Chapter Eleven

It was the tragic fate of Satie to be a humorous composer who takes his fun desperately seriously. He did his musical fooling with the solemn air of fulfilling a momentous artistic mission, and so spoilt the joke.
   Manchester Guardian July 6,1926

Miguel wondered if George would show up to see the walk. He seemed less than enthused with his idea of walking from tower to tower in Highland Park. That seemed odd to Miguel because George was always suggesting more daring feats. When Jorge backed off from Miguel’s ideas George would jump in with agreement. Yes, walk across the river in Highland park from the tops of two trees. But, the tower walk was not to his liking. Oh well, he didn’t need George to support him anymore. He was ready.


Alex Douglas came into work very early the next day. He cautiously unlocked the front door wishing that the fire had been a dream. But the smoke smell brought him back to the reality that it happened and he had given his consent. What had he been thinking? He was in agreement that the gang involvement with the Boys Club was growing and that he wanted them out of his programs but now he wondered if “the boss” could really guarantee that outcome. 
He walked down the hall checking to see if anyone had trespassed into the building through the burned out wall. Everything looked the same as it was yesterday when the police had come again. The new detectives worried him. They were too interested in Boys’ Club financial business. 
He unlocked his office door and opened the two small windows along the top of the room. He could see the trees moving very gently outside and that brought a little breeze through the screen. He dropped his backpack and sat down with feet on the desk. He looked through his phone contacts and stopped at the name “Boss”. He touched the phone number and waited while it rang.
“Douglas? Why are you calling me?” The voice was low and strained.
“We have some trouble. Yesterday two detectives came by to check out the building.” Alex changed his right foot over his left, feeling muscle tension from extending his legs up onto the desk.
“What detectives?” 
“A man and a woman who was very pushy. I thought you told me the fire investigation was over.” He lifted his legs off the desk and turned towards the breeze coming from above.
“What did they want to know?” 
“They wanted the financial records.”
“God damn, interfering idiots. What did you say?”
“I told them they would need a warrant.” Alex listened for a response. The other end was silent. “Are you there?”
“Damn, I’m going to have to run interference. They won’t get the warrant.”
“Okay, are you sure?” Alex was standing now and pacing in his little office.
“Of course I’m sure, you idiot. And don’t call me again at this number. I’ll contact you.” 
Alex looked at his screen and saw that the call was terminated. The black screen of his phone reminded him to get moving. He needed to act on his own behalf before the police blamed him for the fire and whatever else they were going to pin on him. He was innocent. But, it could look like he was guilty of accepting bribes and purposely destroying property to hide incriminating evidence. He needed to check in with George about what he knew about Miguel’s fall from the Highland Park towers. Should he shred some of the documents from contributors? Alex spent the morning looking through the filing cabinets and sorting files. He was determined to protect his reputation.


Stevie arrived at the Highland Park Police Precinct early. She sat on top of a long table in the back of the room. The sun streamed into the room with a vengeance. Four rectangular tables with cushioned chairs faced a podium. Two large white boards hung behind the podium. This room was so much more pleasant than the conference room in Seattle.  Stevie scanned the faces. Reggie was not there yet. Several detectives chatted at the coffee maker off to the side. White cartons of donuts lined up by the coffee cups. Her mind wandered to the night before. The kiss was unexpected. Unexpected but not rejected. She smiled remembering his gentleness. How should she react when Reggie arrived?
Slowly more precinct detectives came in and migrated to the coffee machine. No one greeted her or even gave her eye contact. She and Reggie had fulfilled their assignment to contact the Boys Club manger. This morning she intended to push for a warrant so they could look through the records.
“Morning, Dangerfield.” Detective Mullins came up behind Stevie. He appeared from the other side of the room. “Are you ready to report on your visit to the Boys Club?”
“Yes, sir!” She awkwardly shifted towards the edge of the table and felt the table lift off the ground ever so slightly.
“There’s your side kick now.” Mullins pointed his coffee towards the door as Reggie entered the room. Stevie’s hands felt clammy as she looked towards him. Reggie stared at her steadily with a hint of a smile, then made eye contact with Mullins. He walked towards them and extended his hand. 
“Good morning, sir.” Reggie sat down next to Stevie on the table. His hand made contact with Stevie’s and he placed his pinky finger on top of her knuckles and brushed over them. Stevie pulled her hand away and looked around to see if anyone was watching.
 “Come up to the front, Detectives. We are interested in hearing your report.”
 She sat down closer to the front of the room and Detective Mullins started the meeting.
“Good morning everyone. Let’s get right into the developments on the Cervantes gang case. Symonds, where is Jorge Gonzales right now?”
Symonds stood and came to the front of the room. Stevie saw his discomfort standing before his squad in the way Symonds ran his fingers along the inside of his shirt collar. Mullins was a bully and she guessed this detective was always ready to defend his actions.
“Sir, he is at home, but we have a tail on his house and his older brother Juan.” Stevie saw him shift uneasily from one foot to the other. “We brought Pablo Cervantes in for questioning. He was hostile and uncooperative but he claims to be ignorant of his younger brothers wire walking.”
“Does he believe the Gonzales gang tampered with his brothers equipment?” Mullins asked.
“He refused to answer those questions.” Stevie noticed Symonds paging through his notebook. “We do have some informations back from the tech team after they examined the video that Jorge took just before the fall. The techs reversed the color values and noticed a figure behind Miguel just at the top of the stairway on the bell tower platform. The figure was wearing a baseball type hat with a white Olympics insignia. The rings stood out from the dark hat when they changed the colors.”
A rustle of muffled voices made Stevie glance around the room. Stevie waited to see if any of the detectives made the connection to the Olympic insignia. She looked over at Reggie. He met her glance and nodded his head that he knew who might wear an Olympics hat.
“Okay? Who might this mystery person in the shadows be?” Mullins asked.
“It could be anyone. These baseball hats are part of every teenagers uniform, especially gang members.” The comment came from an older detective named Spencer. “This information tells us that the compromised equipment happened on site, that morning. 
“Has anyone picked up a picture of someone at the crime scene wearing this hat?” Mullins asked the question as a challenge. Stevie shifted her weight and put her hands under her sit bones. She wanted to speak up but she also wanted to wait. She saw Reggie stand.
“Detective Mullins, when we interviewed Jorge at the juvenile detention center we questioned him about how he and Miguel got involved in wire walking.” Reggie paused.
“Well, make your point Watts, we haven’t got all day.” Mullins said.
“He told us that Alex Douglas tried out for the U. S. Olympic gymnastics team.”
“Alex Douglas at the Boys Club?” Mullins asked. “I don’t believe he would hurt one of his boys. That institution has an important place in the community there.” 
“Jorge also talked of a man named George who did the wire walking with the boys. He was also an experienced gymnast. My partner and I had an interview with Alex Douglas yesterday at the Club. He refused us access to his documents. I would like to get a warrant and take a look at their financial records. I have a gut feeling that there might be some incriminating evidence there.”
“I doubt that.” Mullins touched his head as if he had a headache. “Spencer, you look into that please. We will have our Seattle elite here find George the wire walker and see if he wears an olympic hat.” Quiet laughter filled the room. Mullins turned his back on Reggie and continued talking to the group.
“Okay, people. We again need to interview everyone there the morning of the murder. Did anyone see someone with a baseball hat at the scene. Symonds, check surveillance video around the towers and several blocks in all directions. Atkinson, go back to the tower and check for other evidence of metal filings or anything that might tell us more about how someone tampered with the wire that Miguel walked on. Let’s get to work, folks.”
Stevie stayed in her seat. This did not go the way she expected. Why did Mullins take them off the Boys Club angle? She looked over at Reggie and he also sat very still looking straight ahead. 
“This investigation feels weird Stevie. I can’t help thinking we don’t have all the facts.” His voice became more quiet. “Why did the Highland Park Police Chief send for us? Who are we really here to investigate?”

Chapter Twelve of The Gymnopédist



Chapter Twelve 

Most probably, however he was writing that piece for piano, and it would become part of a haphazardly assembled output for the instrument, around eight hours of published music, which is the principle part of Satie’s legacy to us. Like the man, this body of work is far more varied and original and weird and important now than it might appear on first acquaintance.
                                      “The Velvet Gentleman” Pianist No. 90

Miguel woke up unsettled. His mind was playing the haunting notes of the piece “Vexations” by Satie. The single notes in a minor key kept going around his head. Then the single notes joined a minor fourth and marched on dramatically. Mrs. Hanson did not like this piece but Miguel played it as a warm up piece at every lesson. It was like armor. He played it to protect himself.


Reggie and Stevie walked out of the conference room at the Highland Police Precinct. Stevie stayed silent all the way out of the building. Once they stepped outside into the rising temperatures she looked over at Reggie. 
 “What do we do now?” She said. 
 “Follow orders and find George Wassott.” Reggie took out his sunglasses and settled them above his nose. “And, start our own little inquiry into the life of Detective Bart Mullins.” He said.
“I agree. But we can’t do it here. What do you think of driving north and visiting Jay?” Stevie was very fond of Jay, the computer whiz at the Seattle Police Precinct. He always seemed to be able to read Stevie’s mind and come up with the informations she needed. For a short, balding man without much physical attractiveness he was God’s gift to flummoxed detectives. She remembered when they were investigating the Judith Whitesides murder it was Jay’s work on the surveillance videos from the Washington ferry that made the positive identification of Judith’s murderer. 
“What do you think of getting more information from Captain Monson in Seattle about the Highland Park Police Chief’s request to have us transferred here?” Reggie asked.
“He didn’t give us an explanation when he gave us the assignment. I don’t know what he is willing to add. But, it is worth a try.” Stevie said.
When they were both settled into Reggie’s vehicle and she had buckled her seatbelt, Reggie asked, “Are we alright?”
Stevie looked over at his earnest face and wondered what he was really asking. Was the kiss going to change their relationship? 


The night sky was overcast. As Pablo walked with his hooded jacket pulled tightly around his face, he looked carefully in all directions. His job would have been easier had the police kept Jorge locked up. Then there would have been someone to blame. But things were never easy for Pablo. He was the son who had to do the dirty work. While Miguel took piano lessons, Pablo carried out orders from above. While Miguel climbed ropes and walked on wire, Pablo set fires, stole cars, picked up shipments in the middle of the night.————Things happened to him and all in all he felt he wasn’t to blame. A while back he decided not to choose what he wanted in life. If it was his choice then it was his fault. He managed what came his way. Shit happened everyday.
The night air was humid and lights were out in the Gonzales house. He moved slowly and carefully. Pablo was told that a drug shipment had been delivered earlier today and hidden in the Gonzales garage for a short time. Why wasn’t anyone guarding the drugs? He stopped to listen. If he saw someone they would maybe have a gun and he wasn’t carrying. But the Gonzales people were stupid. 
He knew where he would light the fire from watching the neighborhood the night before. Dried bushes and vines surrounded the garage. With the hot weather the brush would go up in flames immediately.  Juan would know that the Cervantes brotherhood was moving against him.
The garage was barely standing. Parts of the roof lay on the ground. No one bothered to gather them. The siding was ripped off on the side facing away from the house. He saw that the door was barred and locked with several chains. He didn’t need to break in, just let the walls fall after the fire ate up the wood. Taking a lighter from his back pocket he touched the long yellow stalks. The flames licked up the dry leaves and started toward the grass. He backed away into the alley behind the house. It wasn’t going to take long before the fire reached the inside walls. Should he wait and watch? No, he wasn’t really interested in the outcome. He had done what they asked, now things would just happen as they should. In the morning he would hear the news. His car was parked five blocks away. He pushed his hands into his jean pockets and pulled the hood even tighter around his face.

The olive drab of the Seattle Police Precinct was still dull and cheerless in the morning but familiar. Reggie looked over the large open room. Computer monitors were flickering on several desks giving a light show in the darkened room. With the thermometer rising to triple digits all sun was blocked in the large room. He recognized Jay, their favorite tech nerd, a little later than Stevie. She was already half way across the room, smiling with a welcome that let the sun flood in. Reggie didn’t remember Stevie having a thing for Jay in the past. By the time he arrived at the desk Jay was entering in the name George Wassot into his terminal. 
“So who is this guy?” Jay asked.
“He is a mentor of sorts to a young boy who died when he fell from a high wire.” Stevie answered. 
“Well he wasn’t hard to find. George Wassott is a CEO of a high profile development company in Highland Park. Isn’t that where you are working right now?”
 Reggie pulled out his notepaper. He liked taking paper notes instead of using his phone. Looking at Jay’s screen he copied down the phone number for the company called Regrowth Evolution.
“Can you find a page giving personal information on this guy?” Reggie asked. An idea was forming in his head. What kind of businesses were being  courted to come to Highland Park?
“Here is a bio on each of the company officers.” Jay scrolled over the pictures until they reached George Wassott. 
  “Look, there is a reference to his Olympic Gymnastic involvement. He was on the 2012 team but did not go to London with them. He was an individual all round competitor. He got his MBA in 2016. Then was hired by Regrowth Evolution specifically to revitalize the Highland Park business community. Does that help?” Jay asked.
“ It does, Jay” Stevie said. She turned to look at Reggie, raising her eyebrows. “What are you thinking?” 
“Well, here is what I see.” He pulled up a chair and sat down across from Jay leaving Stevie to stand behind, looking over Jay’s shoulder at the computer. “We have two rival gangs active in Highland Park. One lead detective who seems bent on getting rid of them. A Boys Club who provide physical activities for many of the boys who are rumored to be gang involved. A volunteer at the Boy’s Club who is very motivated to bring new business and upscale families to this fair city. What motivates the adults more, helping youth stay out of trouble or getting rid of the trouble so that Highland Park attracts new residents?”
“So what are the two of you doing for that police department?” Jay asked.
Ignoring Jay’s question Stevie put a hand on his shoulder. “Could you do a background check on Bart Mullins?” She asked.
“Who is he?” Jay asked.
Stevie looked over at Reggie and she didn’t answer that question either. 
Jay pecked on the keys and suddenly pushed his chair back and dropped his hands off the keys.
“Wait a minute. This is the detective you mentioned.” Jay stood and looked at both of them. “I don’t want to get involved in giving you information on a fellow officer. I’m going for coffee.”
Reggie watched as Jay left the room. He looked back at the computer which Jay had left open. Deftly Stevie slipped into Jay’s chair and starting looking through the open windows. 

Angelika Hanson, Stevie’s mother, was working from from home. She sat at her Steinway Grand, one hand writing in a binder and the other hand repeating a difficult passage of music. She was taking practice notes on a Sonata her student was learning. This was an early Beethoven Sonata which would have been just right for Miguel……had he lived. Grief seized her heart  and stopped her breathing. The silly piece ‘Vexations’ came to mind. It was almost as if Miguel felt his mortality was coming to an end. Angelika pushed the morose music from her mind and came back to Beethoven. As she tried several combinations of tricky fingering she became aware of the sounds of Rosa vacuuming upstairs. The machine hit the wall over and over again. Something was wrong. Rosa always cleaned her home without bringing any attention to herself. The vacuum switched off and peace returned. Angelika brusquely closed the binder and dropped the lid to her piano. She got up to close the windows in the music room to keep the heat from drifting through. A sniffling sound followed by a deep inhale of breath caught Angelika’s attention. She walked out of the music room, through the living room, and into the kitchen. The sound came again from the stairs and Angelika stood at the bottom and looked up to see Rosa awash in tears sitting at the top. 
“Rosa?”
Her cleaning woman did not answer. Angelika sat down and settled her back against the wall on a step below.
“I’m sorry Mrs. Hanson. I have a deep sorrow and need to stop for a few minutes.” 
“That’s fine. I have a deep sorrow today too. I am thinking of Miguel. Are you?” Rosa was a private woman who rarely confided her problems. Losing Miguel was still fresh and this was one of the first days she had returned to work. Angelika reached up to gently touch her knee.
“Maria Gonzales called me this morning and told me that someone burned down their garage last night. She thinks Pablo is at fault. She is worried about more trouble. For me. Someone could burn down my house.”
Angelika took her two hands which fluttered in the air like scared birds.
“Does the police know what is going on?”
“They will do nothing. They never have when our families go to war. The police want us to kill each other so that they don’t have to.” 
Angelika didn’t know what to say. This was a world she didn’t understand. 
“How long have your families been feuding?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, how long has this fighting been going on in Highland Park?”
“Since both of our husbands started bringing drugs from Mexico.” Rosa stopped abruptly. “I shouldn’t talk about it. I will get back to work.” 
She stood and climbed up the rest of the stairs. Angelika waited until she heard the vacuum going again. She pulled her phone from her pants pocket and sent a text to Stevie.
‘Rosa is worried the Gonzales gang is targeting her house. Do you know what is going on?’

                                Back to Table of Contents