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.
Neither of us spoke– it seemed pretty obvious what had drawn us from our rooms– as 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...