What They Are Saying...

"This book was a fast easy read, and a fun romp. All in all, the book charmed me."

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Piano, Part 2

Our story thus far... One morning Jack Frost began to play piano in the Witherspoon Mansion. Brilliantly. The staff have gathered around to listen and enjoy his wonderful music. 
There's just one problem. 
Jack doesn't know how to play the piano. 
NOTE: May contain some spoilers for Book 2... but I'm not promising anything.

If you don't mind my asking, Jack,” Jeeves interrupted, “if you don't play, why did you ask for a piano?”
I didn't,” Jack said. “It was just… here.”
Cool!” I stepped forward. “Let me try. I've always wanted to play the piano.” I just didn't want to spend years learning, but simply sitting down behind one and playing sounded like the perfect cheat. Besides, he looked like he could use a break.
I'd love to, ma'am,” Jack said to me, looking right at me and not his fingers. “But there's a problem.”
Oh?” Nathan and I asked in unison.
I can't seem to move.”
The scientists looked at each other. “Be right back,” Mr. Smith called over his shoulder as they left the room.
Jack finished the Joplin piece, so I asked, “Do you know Claire De Lune?”
No,” he said. Then immediately started to play it. “Well, look at that.”
Can you explain your comment,” Nathan timidly touched the instrument, “about not being able to move?”
Smith and Wesson returned carrying some gizmo the size of a loaf of bread with a microphone-looking wand attached to it. Mr. Wesson watched its display as Mr. Smith waved the wand over the piano and Jack, the device whizzing and whirring with the movement.
I've tried to stop a number of times now,Jack answered, but my hands won't leave the keys. I'd really like to. I still haven't eaten anything.”
So, a cursed piano,” Mrs. Black growled. “How the hell did that get in here?” We all looked at Jeeves. He was the doorman, in charge of all comings and goings.
People,” Nathan said, having heard my thoughts. “Not necessarily things, am I right?”
Jeeves scowled at the piano.
That's a new one,” Nathan added.
The scientists stopped waving the wand and busied themselves with whatever data they collected.
Jeeves joined Nathan. “What if we pulled him away?”
Nathan shrugged. “Worth a try, I guess.”
The two men joined Jack, each taking an arm, and attempted to pull him from the piano. Jack winced in pain, but he never stopped playing. The piece had reached its zenith in complexity, and all the while that Nathan and Jeeves pulled on him – lifting him off the bench, his long legs in the air – Jack didn't miss a note.
Jack cried out. “Enough! That's not working.”
They set Jack back down and stepped away. We all looked at the geeks in lab coats, hoping they had some insight or solution.
Well, we only have one question for everyone,” Mr. Smith looked all us over.
How to get Jack away from the piano?”
No.” He looked grimly at me. “Who?”
Who?” I repeated.
Who asked for the piano?”
We all looked at each other. Jack softly moaned, breaking into yet another piece. Malagueña, I believe. No one in the room copped to wanting the thing.
I'll check with the kitchen staff,” Mrs. Black offered,quickly leaving.
Why is that the question?”
Because,” Nathan offered, “only they can make it disappear.”
Oh, yeah,” I nodded, recalling the Hercule and the swimming pool incident. I perked up. “Wait. Can't I do that?”
Recently, I learned that I have a talent to conjure things. Its a limited act -- the item has to be nearby and in use. Which the piano clearly was.
I can go to the basement or gallery, find some corner, and summon the thing.” Or try to.
Jack stood, while his hands kept moving.Then you'd be stuck playing the piano. That's like sacrificing the Queen to save a pawn, ma'am.”
Oh, don't be so dramatic.”
He's right, Winki,” Nathan said. “You'll be stuck yourself.”
Mrs. Black returned with a cockroach on her shoulder. “Nope. No one in the kitchen asked for it. None of the spiders either.”
We all looked at the roach, Hercule. “No! I didn't do this,” he said with his thick French accent. “Although, I sincerely wished I had thought of it. Très amusant!”
Smith? Wesson? You're with me,” I commanded, taking no heed to their warnings. “I'm going to try.”
Winki!” Nathan scolded.
Hey, I want to play the piano. Besides, I just had breakfast, so if this doesn't work y'all will have several hours to find another solution.”
We found a dark corner in the gallery, a room filled with items and portraits, all cursed and wicked. We still could hear the distant sound from the instrument. I closed my eyes, hands forward reaching out for invisible keys, and wanted the piano. Willed to see the piano. Demanded to have the piano.
The music stopped and, at that moment, I raised my hands high, as if I were under arrest. The massive item loomed before me. I didn't touch it, though I sincerely wanted to.
I moved away slowly. The three of us, Mr. Smith, Mr. Wesson, and myself, left the room, backing out, as if keeping our eyes on the thing held it at bay, and we locked the door behind us.
Sooner or later, we will identify who pulled this little stunt. This was a subtle kind of attack, we believe, one that certainly haunts us. Such is life in the Witherspoon Mansion.
You might think you have enemies, but we certainly do.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Piano, part 1

While I drank my morning coffee, piano music started to play.
I sat in my bedroom, having taken my breakfast there this morning (blueberry waffles with Steen's cane syrup, if you must know). The soft notes slipped through my door, distant yet beckoning.
I didn't know we even had a piano.
Cup in hand, I followed the sound, joined in the hallway by Nathan, my brother-in-law, also with a bewildered look on his face.
Louis XVNeither of us spoke– it seemed pretty obvious what had drawn us from our roomsas we headed down the stairs into the living room. There, in the center of the room in front of the large bay window, sat a grand piano. Behind it, playing the soft Nocturne by Chopin, sat the tall and gangly Jack Frost.
Jack was Nathan's partner at their small PI business, Lost Soul's Investigations. He's also my personal valet (yes, that's a good way to explain it).
Nathan and I exchanged glances.
Both of us accepted a piano simply showing up in the house. Such things are not uncommon. Our New Orleans manor simply provides what we need. Or want. Still it can be a problem at times, when room locations change, or items (like a piano) unexpectedly appear.
Someday I'll share the story of Hercule and the swimming pool.
No, what struck the two of us was Jack. When you walk in on someone playing piano, you expect them to be either engrossed in what they are doing (eyes closed, lost in the emotion) or at least concentrating (reading music, or remembering what comes next, or focusing on fingering).
But Jack appeared neither rapt nor focused. Instead his normally sour and frowny face was filled with shock and confusion.
That's really good,” Nathan said to the pianist.
Thank you,” Jack answered in his British accent.
Jack,” I commented, “I didn't know you played piano.”
About that, ma'am,” Jack answered. “I confess that I keep a number of my ambitions and abilities to myself but this isn't one of them.”
Odd thing to say. “You mean, you've played the piano for me before?”
No, ma'am. I mean I don't play the piano.”
And yet he was flawless. Every note, every beat, every movement. We could have been listening to a recording.
Nathan walked behind Jack. From my vantage, maybe a player piano really did the work, and Jack merely sat there. Nathan gave me a nod. “I hate to argue with you, Jack, but you are playing the piano.”
I realize that I'm pressing the keys that are making the music. But I swear to you, I've never done this before. Not in my entire life.”
The piece finished. Within a heartbeat, he started another. I didn't recognize the song, myself. “What is that?”
I have no idea.”
That's a Joplin piece,” Nathan said. “Solace is the title, I think.”
By now, Nathan and I weren't the only audience. A number of other manor staff had joined us; the maid, Mrs. Black, the butler, Jeeves, and my mad scientists, Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson. (Scientists? What? Long story short, they came with the house.)
Wow. He's really good,” Mr. Smith said, folding his arms.
His partner, Mr. Wesson, scribbled something on his slate-style computer. (He never says a word.) Reading over his shoulder, Mr. Smith asked, “Do you take requests?”
Jeeves, (also Jack's father) asked,Jack, when did you learn to play?”
I didn't. I saw the piano when I came down the stairs this morning, came 'round to take a look at it, and sat down. My hands just started... playing.”
Wait,” Mr. Smith said, cautiously approaching the large musical instrument. “You don't know how to play?”
You've never touched a piano before?”
No. Stop listening to the music and listen to me. I genuinely don't know how to play the piano!”

To be continued...