Dead Pianists and Trampled Roses: A Tale of Dr Sacheverell E. Ravenswood

Dead Pianists and Trampled Roses: A Tale of Dr Sacheverell E. Ravenswood

Status: Finished

Genre: Mystery and Crime

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Status: Finished

Genre: Mystery and Crime

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Summary

This is the first chapter of the first novella of my detective, Dr Sacheverell Elisha Ravenswood. He is a historian, history professor, and due to the generally botched investigation of his parent's murder, a detective. He is clever, intelligent, analytical, satrical, and everything someone could ever want in a Victorian detective.

In this tale, Dr Ravenswood is dismayed to discover that the body found in a London flat's attic is that of the famous pianist Barthélémy Félix, who had been in London to perform with the visiting Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He must question people from the orchestra, and otherwise, and is led on an adventure through London, and the musical and artiststic society to discover the murderer.
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Summary

This is the first chapter of the first novella of my detective, Dr Sacheverell Elisha Ravenswood. He is a historian, history professor, and due to the generally botched investigation of his parent's murder, a detective. He is clever, intelligent, analytical, satrical, and everything someone could ever want in a Victorian detective.

In this tale, Dr Ravenswood is dismayed to discover that the body found in a London flat's attic is that of the famous pianist Barthélémy Félix, who had been in London to perform with the visiting Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He must question people from the orchestra, and otherwise, and is led on an adventure through London, and the musical and artiststic society to discover the murderer.

Chapter1 (v.1) - Dead Pianists and Trampled Roses: A Tale of Dr Sacheverell E. Ravenswood

Author Chapter Note

This is the first chapter of the first novella of my detective, Dr Sacheverell Elisha Ravenswood. He is a historian, history professor, and due to the generally bothced investigation of his parent's murder, a detective. He is clever, intelligent, analytical, satrical, and everything someone could ever want in a Victorian detective.

In this tale, Dr Ravenswood is dismayed to discover that the body found in a London flat's attic is that of the famous pianist Barthélémy Félix, is in London to perform with the visiting Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. He must question people from the orchestra, and otherwise, and is led on an adventure through London, and the musical and artiststic society to discover the murderer.

Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 24, 2010

Reads: 176

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Chapter Content - ver.1

Submitted: January 24, 2010

A A A

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Chapter I

The remains were laid out on a sheet. The body had been strung up by its ankles from the rafters in the attic of the old flat. All the blood had been drained and now as death had seized him, his skin was similar in colour as the cotton on which it was sprawled, save for the purplish colour of the lips and fingertips.
The body was that of the famous pianist Barthélémy Félix, who was staying in London for a few months, and was to hold a performance two days from then with the visiting orchestra from the Leipzig Gewandhaus. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed, if not exasperated when I was called to investigate the murder. I had a seat in an opera box waiting for me for this performance, and had been waiting for months to see it. And of course, the soloist was now dead.
But not just dead, the skin around his ankles was rubbed raw by the rope used to hang him from the ceiling, his throat slashed, and the word ‘nevermore’ carved into his bare chest. The floor beneath the spot where he was hanged was an irremovable bloodstain about the size of a baby grand piano. The police had done their best to clean it up, but nothing would remove the vermillion blemish from the floorboards.
“What do you think of this,” said I, as I rose to my feet from the floor beside the body.
“What do I think of what, sir?” The chief of police looked blankly at me.
“That was a rhetorical question.” I ran my hand through my hair and stood staring at the body. “Leave it to my favourite pianist to be murdered just before the concert which I was going to go see. Of course.”
“Well,” said the policeman, “who should go tell the orchestra?”
I sighed. “I will.” I placed my top hat on my head and turned to leave. “I’ll meet you at the morgue later this evening, sir. Good day.”
Outside, the wind was cool and foggy, a typical London afternoon. Right now, I wished I was at home, with a good novel and a cup of coffee near the fire place, not investigating a murder, especially not the one of a famous pianist. Though, as I hailed a cab it occurred to me I would be meeting the great Spohr student Ferdinand David, concert master of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and the renowned conductor, Ferdinand Hiller. Alas, I had missed the prolific Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy by only a few months, as the Gewandhauskapellmeister position had changed hands to Mr Hiller quite recently. Nevertheless, Hiller was brilliant and I was ecstatic to have the chance to meet him.
When I arrived at the opera house, I bid the driver good day and left him a tip. Despite my being angered about my now invalid ticket, I still had some charity and goodwill left in my heart.
Once inside, the faint sound of Haydn trickled from the stage and was audible in the lobby. It was Symphony No. 104, ‘London’. How appropriate, thought I as I walked to the hall where the music was coming from. The nearly drudging opening largo section chilled my bones as I saw the lifeless face of Barthélémy Félix on the backdrop of white. The powerful jump at the beginning had returned as I opened the door, the mysterious perfect fifth interval which froze the marrow in my bones, and it resonated off the walls and around in my head as I walked down the aisle to the stage.
Before I could think of how to interrupt this practise, Mr Hiller came through without knowing and threw his arms down in a huff and flipped through the pages on his score. When one of the second violinists motioned to me, he turned around and there was a distinct look of near anger and frustration in his dark eyes.
“May I help you?” He said, a little coolly.
“Well, Mr Hiller, I’m not sure.” I walked to the stage and put my hands down on it and sighed. “I am Dr Sacheverell Ravenswood and I have come to tell you that your soloist, Mr Barthélémy Félix,” I paused, as I could not quite comprehend what was about to roll from my tongue, “is dead.”
A wave of whispers floated eerily through the orchestra as desk partners leaned over and put their lips to one another’s ears.
Mr Hiller’s almost-livid aura almost at once fell to saddened disbelief. “Dead?” His arms fell to his sides, and his baton fell from his grasp and rolled across the floor.
“Yes, I am afraid so.” I removed my top hat.
“Dead,” he muttered again, “what happened?”
“He was murdered, Mr Hiller. Found dead by a friend not two hours ago hanging by his ankles from the rafters in the attic of his flat, his throat slit. Now if you wouldn’t mind, I would like to talk to you, and perhaps some members of the orchestra.”
He nodded. “Yes, yes of course.”
I smiled as sweetly as I could. “Have you any knowledge of a room where we may be alone?”
“Yes, Dr Ravenswood. Please, come up the steps and follow me.” But, as conductors are, he turned around to the orchestra and bellowed in German for the orchestra to practise amongst themselves.
I ascended the steps and followed the conductor. He took me to the green room behind the stage where two tattered old arm chairs at by a fireplace, a piano sat in a corner and a table was stationed near the chairs. We entered and sat down.
“May I begin by saying that I was greatly looking forward to this concert? I already had a ticket and was counting down the days until I could see this orchestra.” I crossed my legs and situated myself in the lumpy chair.
He sighed. “I too was looking forward to it. It was going to be great.” He paused a moment. Obviously disturbed, he said, “have you the slightest idea of who would have done this to Barthélémy?”
I shook my head solemnly and traced the patterns on the oriental carpet with my eyes. “My dear Mr Hiller, I haven’t an idea in the slightest. After I finish here with you and your orchestra, I’m off to the morgue to examine the body more closely and talk with the medical examiner. The only thing that could help to lead us to a conclusion, yet anyway, is the fact that the word ‘nevermore’ was carved into his chest.”
Mr Hiller’s eyes grew wide and he went ghastly pale.
I extracted a pad of paper from my pocket and took the liberty of using a pen and inkwell which sat on the table for my own use. I wrote down Mr Hiller’s name. “I know that you probably are not the culprit, though I need to have a valid alibi for you anyway. Would you mind telling me what you were doing between two o’clock and now, being seven o’clock, today?”
He nodded. “Certainly. Two o’clock, I dined with my friend, the concert master, Ferdinand David. We took a late lunch out at the restaurant down the street from here. The café. You know of which one I speak?”
I loved that place. “Yes.”
“Well there, we had lunch. At three thirty, I came here and situated things with the music director and music librarian. Then at four thirty, we began rehearsal. Needless to say, suspicion grew when our soloist was still absent at six o’clock. We had begun to think he had ditched us for one of his women.” Mr Hiller sat back in his chair and looked at me earnestly.
“Women, Mr Hiller?”
“Yes, Dr Ravenswood,” he paused and looked me straight in the eye. “Women. Barthélémy was a handsome young man, and young ladies adored him. It is well known. A month or so back, he had an affair with the principal ‘cellist’s wife. Hans Blumstein, that is the ‘cellist’s name. Agathe is his wife.”
“Ah. I would like to talk to Mr Blumstein, if you would direct him my way, my good sir. Are there any other people I should know about to have a chat with? In the orchestra or otherwise?”
Mr Hiller thought a moment. “Yes. Miss Violet Hadaway. She and Barthélémy were courting. That’s the only other person though. Here anyway. We are friends, but no one is truly good friends with him. I was, but only me. If you will excuse me, I will go and fetch Hans.”
“Yes of course. Thank you, Mr Hiller.”
In a matter of minutes, a tall, stately gentleman appeared in the doorway. He must have stood about six foot three or so, for he surpassed even me, (I stood at six-one, myself). He was well dressed and had an eagle-like profile, intense blue eyes, and well-managed brown hair. He seemed strong enough at first glance to have hoisted a man up by his ankles, though, something about him made me believe this was not our criminal.
“You are Dr Ravenswood, I presume?” He entered the room and sat down in the armchair adjacent to myself.
“I am. And you are Mr Blumstein if I am not mistaken.”
“That is I. So Félix is dead?” He seemed only slightly sad, perhaps even a little indifferent, but not completely emotionless.
“Indeed. Were you and he on good terms? Or otherwise?”
“Well,” said he, “we we not by any means good friends, nor were we enemies. I admired him musically, for he was brilliant. Even our old conductor thought he was incredible as a pianist. If you are waiting for me to say whether I killed him or not, this is it. I never would have left the world bereft of such talent. He was like a god at the keyboard.”
I nodded. “I’ve seen him live before, he was truly amazing. But a brief moment aside, your old conductor, the old Kapellmeister of whom you spoke, that is Felix Mendelssohn is it not?”
“Yes, sir. You seem learned in music, and up to date with what is going on in the music world right now, so I assume you know that the other Felix is possibly the most accomplished pianist and otherwise musician in Europe.”
“Aye,” I nodded. “I saw him the last time he was here, in London. A brilliant man.”
“Indeed he is. And if he, the good Queen’s own favourite, deemed old Barthélémy a genius, then I must as well. Barthélémy did, indeed, have an affair with my wife, Agathe. It was nothing serious.” He looked at me earnestly. “My Agathe is a beautiful creature, fair as a spring breeze, she is. She is smart, she is kind, and Barthélémy was a handsome young man. I hold nothing against him, for she came back to me, she did not run away with him. He was wrong, and foolish, though he was young and had the rest of his life ahead of him.” He looked quite sad suddenly. “Besides, if you need another good reason as to why I am not his downfall, as Mr Hiller told me he was strung up by his ankles, I have a bad back and weak joints. I grew far to fast as a child, and my joints are very loose. My father raised Thoroughbred horses, so I grew up on a farm, and when I was a young lad, I took a nasty fall from a seventeen hand stud and my back never healed right. I could never hoist someone, even someone as narrow and thin as Félix up over my head.” He shuddered. “Poor fellow. I feel rotten now that I ever felt ill of him.”
I nodded. “I understand. And I am sorry.” I paraphrased what Mr Blumstein had just said on my paper. “Mr Blumstein, it was a pleasure meeting you. Now,” I rose to my feet. “When you leave, would you mind sending Mr David my way? I would like to ask him a question or two as well.”
“Of course.” He extended a hand and shook it kindly. “It was a pleasure meeting you as well, Dr Ravenswood. I will send David in next.”
“Thank you, my good sir.”
The next man who came in was a youngish man of about thirty, though I felt no need to dwell on his appearances, as one who is face to face with God does not dwell on his features. Ferdinand David stood before me like a saint. He was a student of the violin-god Louis Spohr, a composer, the Konzertmeister of the Leipzig Gewandhaus, and was working with the aforementioned Mendelssohn on a violin concerto of some sort, (though I adored Mr Mendelssohn and Mr David, the rumoured concerto gave me no real spark, as they had been working on it since 1838). By ‘they’, I mean, Mendelssohn composed and took technical advice for the violin from Mr David.
And he now stood in front of me in the doorway. Sadness was obvious in his dark eyes. He forced a smile and offered me his hand. “Dr Ravenswood?”
“Mr David!” Said I. “Such a pleasure it is to meet you, my good sir.”
“The pleasure is mine, doctor.” He sat in the chair with a sigh. “So, dear Barthélémy is dead?”
“Yes, Mr David, I regret to tell you he is.”
“How horrible. How am I going to spread the news to my friends, and his, in Paris? In Leipzig? What will his family say? What will his friends say? His admirers?” He put his head in his hands. “The music world is going to turn itself on end over this.”
I nodded. “Indeed. You haven’t the slightest idea how tragic, and even awkward it was to see his body. All I could think of was when I had seen him the last time he was in London. Yes, I recall it was the Bach Piano Concerto, in D minor, and how I enjoyed that. And then there he was. Dead.” I shivered at the thought. “All reminiscences aside, would to attest to having been out to a late lunch today at two o’clock with good Mr Hiller?”
“I would. I do. We had lunch at the café, and then came here to set up for rehearsal, and to obtain copies of the music we were playing. Both of us have been here since just before four o’clock.”
I nodded and quickly wrote it down. “So I assume then, you had no ill feelings for Mr Félix?”
He shook his head. “No such thoughts ever entered my mind. He was kind, Dr Ravenswood. I have never met a man with a bigger heart, nor with a sunnier personality. Even the happy Mr Mendelssohn can be a storm cloud now and then. No such thing can be said of Barthélémy, which could be good or bad, so I advise you to take it for what it is. Though we appreciated his perpetual good humour, it made us wonder about what went on behind those bright eyes, for every human in this world has a bad day now and then. But we could always count on enjoying rehearsal when it involved the presence of Barthélémy.”
“I see.” None of these men were killers, obviously. “Well, my good sir, that is all I needed to hear come from your mouth. You are free to return to your orchestra.”
He stood, as did I.
“Well, my best wishes to you. I hope with all my might that you and yours will find my friend’s murderer. Godspeed to you, Dr Ravenswood.”
I shook his hand again. “And to you, Mr David. One more quick, unrelated thing. How is that concerto coming? The one of Felix Mendelssohn?”
He chuckled under his breath. “You’ve heard of this?”
“Of course! I look forward to a premiere soon, my friend. Alas, I have kept you long. I will be back Mr David. I bid you a good night, sir.”
As he left, my heart fell. A brilliant musician dead, an orchestra in tatters, and unrequited love fell in place around the desolate room, and consumed me in all it’s worth. I gathered my things and left.
Outside, the sun had sunk behind the horizon of clustered buildings, sad and exhausted, filthy in the distance. The blue-black sky settled heavily around everything, and it seemed like the weight of London and its fog was situated on my chest. I hailed another cab and directed the driver to the morgue.


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