Very nice! Of course, leave it to Alma to spice up the characters love lives haha! Thanks for the chapter Alma!
I'm very pleased that you have started channeling the love-child of James Joyce and Aramis, Alma. Great chapter!
Very nice! Of course, leave it to Alma to spice up the characters love lives haha! Thanks for the chapter Alma!
Only the positive!
Alma, I'm floored! That was great! Why have you held back until now???
OK, folks, now we're *really* cooking! Since Alma's taken the plunge, I fully expect someone besides poor overworked CountessAdele and myself to come up with the next chapter!
So . . . ?
Last edited by Amfortas; April 25th, 2012 at 10:32 PM.
While you may not find too many references to yourself in the novel, your comment has set me thinking. When OperaLively expands into the filmmaking business and we shoot the movie version, which of us will play the various roles?
I do think Aramis is perfect for the talented, tormented John Walewski.
I definitely see the urbane Schigolch, with his vast knowledge of opera, as Detective Alberto Risi.
I'm too tall and skinny, but I do have the shaved head and the warped mind, so I'll put in for Marius Walewski.
CountessAdele would be great as the lovely, feisty Linda Freeman.
Do we have a Joe Green among us? A Robert Freeman? A Karen Lindstrom? A Francesca Crivelli?
Sign up now and avoid the rush!
Last edited by Amfortas; April 25th, 2012 at 06:21 PM. Reason: * I'll see your *third* rate and raise you one!
Oh my, Aramis has edited his post to make us third rate literature, not even second!
And yes, of course we needed more boobs, if we want to be the NYT's best seller!
No, CountessAdele can't be Linda Freeman lest we'll have the pretty female killed off half way through the movie. She needs to be Karen Lindstrom.
"J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)
Um statement retracted, it felt too much like criticism.
Only the positive!
I call chapter 13!
Thanks for picking up Chapter 13, Aksel! Meanwhile, anyone else is welcome to reserve the one after that.
To help us all keep track of the story, I've once again updated the synopsis in the first post of this thread; individual chapters are available for review as separate articles. And to whet our appetites for what may come, here are some questions the novel seems to pose at this point:
* Have we finally learned all there is to know about the descendants of Napoleon, or are there further revelations yet to come?
* Now that the murderous Marius Walewski is dead, will his unstable son John carry on his legacy, or add new complications of his own?
* Will the detectives set their Adriana Lecouvreur poisoned-violets trap for the killer, and if so how will he respond?
* What was the urgent message Amelia Wells entrusted to Linda Freeman shortly before the former's death?
* Will we learn the identity of and dark secret surrounding the father of Linda Freeman's baby?
* What will become of the romantic tension between Joe Green and Karen Lindstrom after their brief, interrupted encounter, or between the former lovers Alberto Risi and Francesca Crivelli?
* And finally, how will Green and Lindstrom react to the message that Risi is not what he seems? Will we have a major reassessment of the latter character, and if so how will it fit with what we already know of his thoughts, words, and deeds?
These are just a few of the questions that present themselves; feel to free to mention more. Some of these questions will assume more importance than others; some won't be answered at all, as different, entirely new ones take their place.
Congratulations, guys, on making this novel so much fun. I can't wait to see where we go from here!
Last edited by Amfortas; April 27th, 2012 at 10:18 PM.
The house stood alone on a hill on the outskirts of the city. A man was standing on the balcony right outside the 2nd story study. It was a cold night, and there was really no reason for him to be standing outside; his arthritis had been acting up lately. He could have sent one of the servants. Still, he had to see it himself. The servants could not be trusted anymore. And they were almost listening. Only here could he be safe. But still, he would manage.
A car was driving up the winding path that led to the house.
After a while, the door behind him opened and a man cleared his throat.
“There is someone here to see you, master,” the man behind him said. One of the servants. His name might be James. Or Rupert. He had never bothered to learn their names.
“Good. Send him out here.”
The door closed.
After a while, the door opened again.
“It is done, master,” a voice said.
“Close the door behind you.” The servants were always listening. They mustn’t know about this. He did not turn. “What about the Crivelli woman?”
“She will be dealt with shortly.”
“That still leaves the last one.”
“Who, master? I thought Crivelli was to be the last one?”
“Never mind. It is not important.”
“Who is it? Tell me! I deserve to know!” The man behind him was getting angry.
“Deserve? Don’t make me laugh. Why should I tell you, of all people?”
The man behind him grew quiet. Finally, he said: “I’ve killed Linda Freeman.”
“Who?” This name was new to him. Of course he knew of her, so did just about anyone. But she had not been part of the plan. This would put the whole operation in grave danger. “Why on earth did you do that?”
“The woman deserved it. She killed my father.”
Now there was a surprise. The two of them had never been trustworthy, but he would never have suspected them to kidnap singers left and right. This could mean trouble.
“You disappoint me, John. I expected more of you.”
He turned to face John, whose expression was at the same time strangely expressionless, yet at the same time deeply quizzical. It reminded him of a puppy.
“Why did you take the Freeman woman? She was never part of the plan.”
John looked bewildered.
“What? I-I-I didn’t know that. I only did what my father told me.” That old fool. Always doing what he wanted instead of what had to be done. It was probably for the best that he was dead. But what about the Freeman woman? She had never been a target. Her death was very bad news indeed. Unless …
“Where did you hide the body?”
“The body is where we’ve always hidden them.” John looked hesitant.
“I sent the head to the police.” Guilt and remorse filled John’s face, like that of a schoolboy having been caught stealing apples.
This was the last drop. John could not be trusted any more.
“Please leave me, John. You have done enough.”
“No but. Go.”
John turned towards the door, now open. Rupert or James or whatever his name was stood in the study. He came out on the balcony as John left the study.
“Is there anything I can do, master?” Rupert looked as if he was smelling something horrible.
“Yes. Kill John Walewski.”
Last edited by Almaviva; May 2nd, 2012 at 12:54 PM.
Great chapter, Aksel! And yet another intriguing plot twist. Now we have a mysterious puppet master pulling strings behind the scenes. But who is he? What does he want? And what will he do next? You've definitely added to my list of questions!
So who's up next? Come on folks, let's keep things moving!
Since no one has signed up, I'll go ahead and write the next chapter (I've got some ideas, so it shouldn't take me too long).
We'll still need volunteers to carry on the story after that! Don't be shy, people!
mi salse al viso un gelido soffio,
quasi di morte.
An icy chill, like an omen of death. Brushing the premonition aside, she opened the box and peered at its contents.
From his usual spot stage right, Risi watched Francesca in the final act of Adriana Lecouvreur, playing the role created by her great-great-great grandmother, the famous actress Rachel. The role the killer would try to make her last.
After much argument, Green had finally persuaded him to set the trap. The theater management, and Francesca, had grudgingly agreed to go ahead with the plan. When word got out, the media was outraged, appalled that with all the recent murders, the performance was still going on.
But the criticism hadn't stopped people from buying tickets in droves; the theater was packed. Had they come to see an opera—or to witness a murder before their very eyes?
Ah! I fiore offerti in un ora d’oblio...
L’avesse negletto, calpestato...
The crowd was silent as the diva held up the faded flowers, a token returned by her faithless lover. The poisoned violets that would be Adriana's doom—would they be Francesca's as well?
Risi peered across to stage left, where Green and Lindstrom watched. The past few days, he had been getting strange looks from those two—ever since the murdered tenor Philippe Duchamp had appeared on Lindstrom's doorstep. The two detectives remained vague about why Green had been there in the first place, or if the victim had said anything before he died. Since then, Risi had several times observed his partners whispering together, then ceasing abruptly when he approached. It was strange, but there was no time to worry about that now.
Green at least was trying to make up for the Tosca debacle. He had studied the Adriana libretto carefully and taken pride in devising the most elaborate precautions. The property flowers had been specially made by only the most trusted technical staff, from factory-sealed materials, under careful supervision. The wooden box they would rest in was built from scratch to similar exacting standards. The finished items were stored in a lockbox, which was placed inside an even larger metal case, which in turn went into a safe, which was wrapped up in chains and guarded by armed police officers nonstop until the very moment they were delivered onstage. Green had smugly proclaimed that the man would have to be a Houdini to get at them.
"I'll stake my career on it . . . he won't come anywhere near those flowers!"
There was no denying it: Green was thorough. Nonetheless, Risi had a surprise for him.
Aggiungere al disdegno l’oltraggio!
E troppo! è Troppo!...
Now Francesca moved stage left as she mourned, overwhelmed by her lover's rejection. The only other character onstage, the old stage manager who secretly loved her, went to comfort the distraught woman. The flowers were momentarily left unattended on the table, but were still in plain sight.
Risi kept careful watch, but felt confident. The stage had been searched thoroughly at each intermission. The table on which the violets lay was uncovered, so that no one could hide underneath. There was no way anyone could approach the flowers without being blatantly visible to the police and the entire audience.
Ma perchè mai discendere a tanta scortesia?
As Risi watched the scene go on, his mind wandered to what had been learned from Linda Freeman's severed head. Along with copious amounts of her own blood, there was a second person's as well. DNA analysis showed it to be almost identical to the blood on the hair pin left behind at the kidnapping—a close family relation. Reconstructing what might have happened, Risi speculated that Linda had killed Marius Walewski, and his enraged son John had killed her in turn.
The method of Linda's death was also troubling. The head had been severed, like in Anna Bolena, but she didn't die on stage. And the autopsy revealed that blood had stopped flowing to the brain several hours before the head was removed. Perhaps John had killed her on impulse, and only afterwards made this clumsy, theatrical attempt to follow the original plan—a belated decision to carry on his father's legacy. That's why Risi was sure John would make a move on Francesca tonight.
Now the diva was back at the table. She picked up the violets lovingly, and the crowd was hushed as she began the famous aria.
gemme de’ prati,
pur ieri nati,
She lamented that the poor flowers, jewels of the meadow born only yesterday, must die just like the vows of a faithless heart. Risi felt a tear come to his eye, both because of her artistry, and because he couldn't help but recall their past, the vows she had broken with her own wayward desires.
o il bacio primo,
soave e forte,
bacio di morte,
Tutto è finito!
"The last kiss, or the first, I press here . . . gentle and strong . . . kiss of death, kiss of love . . . all is finished . . ."
Like the consummate performer she was, Francesca forgot all fear and brought the flowers to her lips . . .
Risi watched intently. But nothing unusual happened. Francesca's distress was entirely in character as she threw the blossoms into the fireplace. The detective breathed a sigh of relief as the scene went on.
The faithless lover, a portly tenor, arrived. Ecstatic reunion; then doubts, recriminations, excuses, pleas, reconciliation. A proposal of marriage; a gentle rejection. Love transfigured to a more rarified level.
Watching the scene, Risi almost felt regret. Yes, they had protected Francesca. But by making the killer's task impossible, they had dissuaded him from the attempt and lost their best chance of catching him.
As the lovers kissed, the diva faltered on cue, convincingly displaying the effects of poison. Adriana cursed her fate, went briefly delirious, then regained clarity and fell into her lover's arms.
Then, as she proclaimed the bright light of love that led her to a better place, Francesca suddenly stopped singing, emitting only a gasping croak. She reeled, then toppled over, well before the blocking required.
The crowd let out a murmur. The music trailed off to silence. Risi, unable to believe his eyes, rushed toward her, with Green and Lindtrom approaching from the other side. Soon a small group surrounded her, blocking the view of the distressed audience.
"Francesca!" Risi said. "Are you all right?"
"Yes," she murmured. "I was just . . . dizzy . . . for a moment. But I'm better now."
As the stagehands continued to mill about her, an angry Green drew Risi aside.
"What the hell just happened?"
"She was poisoned. But she'll be all right."
"How do you know?"
"Because there's a powerful anti-toxin in her lipstick. I had the head of the crime lab mix it up for her."
"What? Why the hell didn't you tell me about this? And how did you know she'd need it?" Green was giving him that look again.
"I didn't. But I wasn't about to take any chances. Besides, it's better this way. Now we can put out word that she died, keep her in seclusion, let the killer think he succeeded. The only question is . . . how did he come so close?"
Lost in thought, Risi turned away and walked over to the table. He examined the smooth surface and the wooden box resting on it, but all seemed as it should be.
Then, looking more closely, he noticed a small droplet on the table top, underneath where the violets had lain. Risi was sure it was poison. But how did it get there? It was impossible—no one had come anywhere near the flowers.
Then it hit him. Of course. It was so simple, so easy. Yes, it probably required sneaking into the empty theater late at night to practice. But aside from that, all that would be needed were a highly concentrated clear liquid poison, a pair of binoculars or a rifle scope . . . and a cheap, dime-store eye dropper.
Slowly, apprehensively, Risi looked straight up.
At first it was hard to make out anything past the blinding overhead stage lights. He had to raise his hand to shield his eyes. Once they had adjusted, though, he was able to see, high above and meeting his gaze, a man in a mask with a shock of white hair. Through the darkness and distance, the detective could just make out John Walewski grinning at him.
Risi gasped. Then he turned and ran toward the others, gesticulating wildly.
"He's up there! On the catwalk!"
Lindstrom watched his fevered approach, then cried out to Green in alarm.
"Now, Joe, now!"
Before Risi could figure out what happened, Green sprang toward him. Like his football-playing namesake, the burly detective speared and tackled the smaller man. Risi ended up face down on the stage floor, with Green kneeing his back and pulling his arms behind him.
"Oh no you don't!" Green cried. "You're under arrest for the murder of Philippe Duchamp," he continued as he put on the cuffs. "And as an accomplice in the other crimes as well."
"What? Are you crazy?"
"Thought you had us fooled, didn't you? But Duchamp gave you away. Just before he died, he said that you're not who you say you are."
Risi groaned in exasperation.
"Listen . . . I do have a secret, OK? Something I haven't told you about myself. But it's not what you think! And while we're sorting all this out, the killer is getting away!"
Just then a voice cried out from high above.
"No! Please! I did what the master wanted!"
Everyone looked up. There was the sound of a harsh clattering, like a struggle on the metal catwalk. Then a harrowing scream.
Almost too fast for the eye to see, a body plunged straight down to the stage floor. It landed with a sickening splat, then bounced a few inches before settling into an ominous stillness. The man lay on his back, flattened against the floor in a way that only shattered bones and ruptured internal organs can produce. In the already spreading pool of blood, it was hard to make out his features. But one thing was immediately clear.
It wasn't John Walewski.
Last edited by Amfortas; May 8th, 2012 at 09:02 PM.