Köchel’s Savant

black feather pen on handwritten journal

The wind scales down completely, and there’s things flapping and racketing slowly away, and then the houses creaks and groans in the quiet. Time to talk while we can, Dance thinks. Be quick. Lots of ground to cover now.

“K Numbers,” Dance says, looking up. “Who came up with this?”

“Auren did. With Simon. Together. We’re supposed to, what, play these pieces now? To do what? What happens then?”

“Well, that’s for million dollar two-cent question,” Dance whispers hoarsely, and grins. “I be easy, but I ain’t cheap.”

“Oh yes you are, sweatshirt boy,” Emma says, and yawns, and stretches very carefully, and grimaces. “So where are we, boys, on unlocking this damn thing?”

“We love you only for your mind,” Barret intones, blinking at her.

She yawns at him.

“C’mon, get your geek on,” Barret says, grinning. “We need Köchel numbers linked to the key of the actual pieces.”

She blinks. “So we’re on Mozart? Hmmm. Usually a bad sign. Means we haven’t got a clue what to put in the holiday program, heading back to Mozart.”

Barret cracks up. “Probably right!”

Dance coughs, flapping his hand. “Please hum it. I’ve heard you do it. Remember, she was arguing and singing, Drin?”

Drin tells Emma, “When you complained about Jim Spaede on NPR, poor guy.”

Dance flaps the tail end instead. “Yes, the getting things wrong.”

“You shouldn’t be talking, you’re losing your voice,” Emma says, and accepts a glass of water from Drin, who is grinning too. She sips at it, making more faces. She has pink crumple marks in her cheek from sleeping on her coat.

The tail pokes Barret. “Watch this.”

“Right,” she says, blinking. “I think we’re in the storm’s eye, now. Get chattering while you can, boys, it’s gonna get noisy again. So what’s your first number?”

“You poked me!” Barret says. “With—with–”

Dance grins at him. “With my ass,” he says.

“Is this where we talk about being grownups again?” Emma says crisply. “Will there be fart jokes?”

Barret is staring at her. “I’m in love. I mean, in a totally platonic intellectual relative way–”

“Join the fucking line,” Dance rasps, and chuckles.

Barret gives him a look. “Potty mouth.”

“That’s a title that has to be earned, young man,” Emma says sternly, “and I am the current recordholder in this pathetic bunch. Are you asking for a duel at dawn, with pistols?”

“That’s another come-on line,” Dance wise-cracks at Barret.

“Well, someone who’s not in my nice polite young men line, that’d be you, Dance. You’re about as platonic as a vibrating butt plug,” Emma says.

Barret gazes at her in awe. Then he starts to laugh, hands wide. “I surrender. I know when I’m whipped.”

“God, you are easy,” Drin says.

“Up against a librarian? They start pulling out that Shakespearean fardling and pootling stuff, it’s over.” Barret shrugs, shakes his head. “Hey, we’re just musicians, man. Out of my league. She may threaten me with Scrabble or something.”

Emma tilts her brows up at him. “You’re inviting me to it? Scrabble, at six sharp, is that it?”

Barret gives her a particularly innocent blink-blink, big wide eyes, that fools no one.

pink bubbles in gold fluid
pink champagne bubbles

“It’s on, Emma the Scrabble Queen in the left corner–” Drin says into his cupped hand, and has to stop talking, he’s grinning too wide. It’s like there’s champagne in the air, they’re all laughing, in spite of aches and pains. It’s so quiet, outside.

Emma says, “Die Chronologisch – thematisches Verzeichnis sämtlicher Tonwerke Wolfgang Amadé Mozarts,” she sips some more water, “or the Chronological, Thematic Catalogue of the Complete Musical Works of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart, is the Köchel catalog you’re talking about. Köchel, the cataloguer, included the opening bars of each piece, a so-called incipit. I can give you that, if you like, more if I remember other bits I’ve read or heard with some kind of labeling I can attach to it. I’m not a great singer, I talk too much and mistreat my vocal cords and so I have a crummy midrange, but I’m sure you’ll notice that.”

“She said it,” Drin murmured. “She talks too much.”

Emma ratchets up a brow. “I could stop, and go back to sleep, and let you get on with your Sherlocking here. Why are we doing this, again?”

“To decipher the musical hints to uncode the message that unlocks the mysterious case that apparently holds something that may be a viola and may not, to figure out how to rebuild and play the missing Locatelli piece that Dance is probably one of maybe four people in the world who could figure it out–” Barret says, grinning.

“Oh, there’s at least a dozen,” Emma says, and yawns. “But they won’t talk to each other. Academia. The arguments are so bad because the stakes are so low. There’s always feuds.”

“You looked it up?”

She just buffs her nails on her shirt. “My guy here Dance starts obsessing on a composer, of course I’m going to find experts in the subject. Local, for preference. Now, there’s Optecno–silly name, there’s a corporate logo involved, but then I guess he needs to prove things. His vowels says he’s from Peoria originally, you can hear it when he lectures. He never talks directly to the public, he has mistake-prone blondes to do that.”

Barret is already laughing.

Emma waves her hand airily. “Petersen up at State loves to talk, he’ll talk to anybody, but he never publishes and he can’t remember what grand idea he told you last week. Yes, I checked.”

Barret is rocking back and forth wiping his eyes by then. “I know these guys, I swear. You know, people just like them!”

“I’m so sorry for you,” Emma says. “Russo knows his stuff but he’s an asshole of the first water. Of course he’s northern Italian, probably more German background with him, you can hear that authoritarian crap oozing out of his pores. Catch a Milanese sounding like that, I ask you. Usually I can get round an Italian professor just by putting on my most barbarous Sicilian accent and pretending to be moderately educable.”

“And you’re not?”

“Of course not. You can’t teach me anything. I’ll listen, but I argue too much. I mean, in my head. Gets in the way of really learning new things. I tell you, working out with Dance in the dojo is an experience. So do you have the numbers already?”

“Yes, please, ma’am,” Dance says, grinning. She’s right about the dojo.

“Are you using the original Köchel listing, or the revised sixth Köchelcatalog? The sixth is more often used, it’s more extensive, the numbers include letters as well as digits.”

They stare at her. Then Barret blinks. “It’s just numbers, no letters.”

She nods, waiting.

“Our first one is 381,” Dance says. He glances at Barret. “Modulated from D to A.”

“Sonata in D for keyboard, four hands,” she says, “not a viola piece. Is it a joke?”

Barret points at the Moleskine. “Try the next one. 158. What, I shifted it from F to B? That’s ugly.”

“Quartet, Divertimento, in F for Strings,” she says, and hums a few bars, tilting her head.

“168,” Dance says, and Drin brings him some more water, kneeling to lift his head and shoulders to drink. Then Drin moves away again, restlessly.

Emma says, “The Quartet in F for Strings,” and sips before delivering herself of a piece of it. Also, Dance points out, modulated from >F. This proves to be a consistent trait. The first note of the modulation always matches the catalogued key of the Mozart.

Every last one of them is a quartet, of some kind, except the last.

“441,” Barret says, reading over Dance’s hand, and accepts some water himself.

She blinks. “Trio for Soprano, Tenor and Bass, ‘Liebes Mandel, wo is’s Bandel?‘ They think written in about 1783, in Vienna. He wrote rather a lot, you know.”

“Modulated from A down an octave,” Dance says. “That was impressive, Barret. But what key is it?”

music score on stand
the piano score

She scowls. “Damn, I’m not sure. Not in the catalog listing, you’d have to check the music. I think you can take it that one is probably a joke too. To cut short on description, ‘a friend and student of the Maestro arrives and helps the Mozarts find the wife’s hair ribbon before going for a drive.'” She puts on a silly voice. ‘…The first line, ‘Dearest Almond, where is my husband?’ indicates the level of nonsense present here…’ her voice trails off, and she scowls at Barret. “Your friends have a very silly sense of humor.”

“You’re a savant,” Barret says.

“No, I’m a cyborg,” Emma says. “Of a sort. It’s cheating, anyway. I hope my evil twin Skippy told them so, too. They should have used a real savant. Do you know that hippy vest you’re dribbling on is probably worth about fifteen hundred dollars? It’s not a copy, I don’t think. You can’t find those buttons any more.”

“You should hear her on antique jewelry,” Drin murmurs.

“I had better close my virgin ears, man,” Barret says, “or this vest will lose its awesome thrift store powers, and I will dwindle back into an ordinary boy.”

She tilts her chin. The glasses are there, whether she has them on her nose or not. “I can see that. I hope you sewed on that shadow firmly?”

“Oh, yes, I keep it attached to my hinder,” Barret answers, eyes wide and sincere.

“It’s a nice hinder,” Drin says.

Dance and Emma look at him.

“What?” Drin says.

“Oh man, you are in so much trouble, young man,” Barret says, grinning.

Emma says, reproachfully, “You damn the guy with faint praise. It’s a wonderful hinder, and that’s all you have to say about it? Nice. That’s it? Nice. Oh boy. Dance, I’d be worried if I was you.”

Barret laughs. “Oh oh, there’s that Shakesepearean thing coming on–”

Dance chuckles, with that gravelly noise that hurts in his ribs.

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