“Whoa, Navarre, how did that grab you!”
Drin looks up and his automatic politician’s smile becomes genuine. “You were absolutely right, Engerman, it’s a very nice little orchestra. I’ve got to thank you for the ticket– a truly delightful evening!”
“Soothe the savage beast, don’t it? I’m telling you, these kids work so damn hard, and these fundraisers are nothing compared to what they can do– all nice, polite, safe, yeah. A little Mozart, Bach, a little Corngold, nothing too lush, nothing too modern…”
“And no pressure,” says a white-haired man standing behind them, grinning up at Engerman.
“Oh, there you went!” Engerman exclaims, bumping into somebody else instead. “I was just going to–”
“Engerman, my dear boy, I knew exactly where you were. Nice presentation last week, by the way. Very clear.”
“Oh, thanks! Bud Innes, this is Drin Navarre, who’s running the field audits section these days–”
“Yes, I’ve read the reports. I’ve been out of town a lot, so I haven’t had a chance for a staff meeting down at your office, my apologies,” Bud says, offering his hand and smiling up at them both. Normally Drin would step back a little, but Innes is clearly not a bit intimidated by having to crane his neck in this crowd. Innes is prematurely white, he looks no older than Drin does, and he’s just as fit.
“Welcome to the company, Mr. Innes–”
“Bud, please,” he says pleasantly, waving at the crowd in the lobby around them. “I’ve enjoyed reading your reports, by the way.”
Drin glances at Engerman, who coughs into his hand to avoid laughing.
“You’re such a methodical, consistent, patient cuss. I see those red pencil corrections, I just start cracking up. I know where that’s going.”
“I’m glad to hear that. Not everybody appreciates editing.” Drin says. Bud’s eyebrow signals his appreciation of the dry joke.
“Yeah, yeah, see? Was I right? Is this guy totally made for quality control or what?” Engerman says excitedly.
Bud pats Engerman on the arm. “A lot of auditors prefer getting out in the field to crabbing about other people’s goofs.”
Engerman shrugs. “Gotta have both to make it all work, takes all types, right?”
Bud looks up at Drin. “How did you like the first half tonight?” He nods at the crowd.
“The strings are particularly fine,” Drin says.
“I agree, but I am hopelessly biased,” Bud says.
“Got a hell of a first chair, that Korean kid,” Engerman says. “He came over here on a prize grant. Couldn’t get a better concertmaster, I’m telling you!”
Drin gets several thumps in the lapel with Engerman’s meaty Gameboy thumb, but he doesn’t mind. He’s used to it. Some weekends have been devoted to shouting stupidly at computer monitors while Engerman stomps him at just about everything.
“The improvement in the repertoire is just–”
“I noticed several soloists. He’s willing to share the glory?” Drin asks.
“All to the good, since the man just doesn’t have that star quality, does he. Not like Valerie Philips, for instance. You saw her, the flautist with the red hair, my god what a beauty! She stands up and you just can’t take your eyes off her!”
Drin agrees that Valerie is a woman of exceptional parts.
Bud Innes chuckles. “Excuse me, guys, I’ve got a cellist to pester–” and he’s gone.
“Here they come– let me do some introducing.” Drin lets himself be dragged into their path, to shake hands with the red-haired flautist, and a curly-haired, doe-eyed, wide-browed young man who plays second cello, and who’s already languishing on the arm of Drin’s new boss. More strings wander out. Drin meets many of them, including — “It’s a cockeyed name, but immigrants, you know”– the first violin.
“It is Dance of Knives,” the man says, and his hand is shockingly strong. He grips Drin’s fingers as precisely as he does the arthritic knuckles of the old ladies nearby, paying exact attention. The musician as athlete, Drin thinks in surprise. Drin wants to turn it over, inspect the calluses he feels. But this person is so odd, so self-contained, so subtly forbidding, that he forbears to do any such thing.
“Don Ridcully Innocenzio Navarre,” Drin says, and enjoys the flicker of startlement.
The oddly light brown eyes regard him for a beat, two beats, and the mouth relaxes into a wide smile. He has very white teeth, some with ragged sharp edges. “Perhaps this is not American name either?”
“Most people call me Drin,” Drin tells him, and the violinist says; “I am often called only Dance.”
“We’re bringing Drin into the fold,” Engerman says with his arm possessively over Drin’s shoulder. “Come on, let’s get you onto the mailing list– because to tell you the truth,” and his voice goes warm and confiding, and Drin begins laughing before the words fall out of the man’s mouth, “the Metro needs help.”
“Of course it does,” Drin chuckles. “These little ensembles, all of them are holding on by the skin of their teeth. Engerman, I’d be delighted to become a patron. Who do the checks go to? Do I get to watch rehearsals?”
“Yes, Mister Drin, please come,” Dance says. “Excuse us, please, we must…” he’s already turning away. He pauses. “It is a great pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
“I know he’s an odd duck,” Engerman says after a moment. “But a hell of a violinist.”
“What’re you drinking?” Drin says, and steers his companion towards the bar.