The percussionist with the tats rips loose with profanity in the conductor’s office.  Diane Rosey’s voice scales up louder and louder.  “You just try, Mister, you just try it, and I’ll rip your fuckin’ head off!”

“Oh shit,” Amelia mutters.

Dance rubs more rosin gently on his fingertips, and brings them up to his nose, sniffing it.  Then he puts the knob back in its box, and put the box in his violin case, and closes the case.  He sets it on the chair next to her, gives her a warning look, and turns aside.  He walks away from Amelia, satisfied when she stays put. They were both expecting this, ever since Young took a call from Bud Innes, and started shouting then.

“Is there a problem?” he says.

“No problem, Miz Foul Mouth here was just leaving, now she’s vented her opinion.”  Richard Young is certainly looking smug, with the creak of his office chair leaning back.  Strange pose, really–he never comes in his office, never looks at papers in here, except when he’s hassling somebody.  It can’t be called disciplining them.
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“I think you owe her an apology first,” Dance says.

“For what?”  The chair bangs down in place again.

Dance begins quietly quoting what Young had been saying earlier.  Foul accusations indeed.

“You’re making it all up!” Young snaps.

“Oh no.  But I have very good hearing, you may ask anyone, including the percussion section at the back,” Dance says.  Dance shifts his gaze to the girl with the tats.  She’s backed out of the office with her teeth bared, making choked and hissing noises in her throat, sounding more like a wild animal than a person.  “Rosey, forgive my eavesdropping, it was accidental.  Are you all right?”

He sways back slightly out of the way when she leaps past him and runs away down the hall toward the restroom.

“I’ll check on her in a minute,” Amalia says just outside.

“Thank you,” Dance says, making no effort to keep his voice down.  It does not hurt for Young to know that his actions are public–although Young knew onlookers like Dance and Amalia were right there.  They were gathering their things together before he called the girl into his office.

Young is out of his chair then, and walking out of the office, poking Dance in the chest.  The smug look on Young’s face is a bad, bad temptation to smack it off him.  Besides, now he’s got a reaction from all of them, he’s going to keep poking at somebody.  He’ll go after Rosey if she shows her face.  Best make it somebody who’s indifferent to it.  It’s not temper but cold deliberate tactics that prompt what he says to Young.  “You said earlier tonight I lack imagination.  Obviously it takes that, to make things up.”

He gets a hard thump in the chest that pushes him backward.  He lets it, he steps back.  Rewarded, Young gives him another shove.  Dance makes no attempt to avoid it, to prevent him, to stand up to it; he backs up under the pushes.  Young actually grabs Dance’s loose shirt front, pushes him all the way back into a wall, and his other hand comes up and he starts thumping Dance in the chest with his knuckled fist, reciting an absurd litany of petty misunderstandings, mishearings, and forgotten things which Dance told him were resolved.  Young can’t remember any of the information Dance gave him two hours ago, which is sad.  He starts sounding blurry, repetitious, almost drunken.  Young’s fist makes silly meaty thumping noises.  Dance gives way as much as he can.  The force is nothing much compared to guarding on a good hard kick while sparring in the dojo.  Dance looks up at him awhile, puzzling at the strained, operatic expression he sees there, but the stare just seems to make Young feel threatened, and he pushes Dance harder into the wall.  The wallboard gives a weird squeaking noise, and part of it actually crumples under Dance’s weight.

Amalia comes up and snaps her cello bow’s hair hard across Young’s wrist.  “Oh sorry— I tripped.”

While Young is yelling, and recoiling in pain, Dance is twisting away out of his grip, getting more room.  When Young reaches out to grab Amalia’s bow, Dance’s hand is in the way.  His palm gently deflects Young’s wrist no matter which way he jabs it out at Amalia.  Dance actually turns his head away from Young, meets her gaze and jerks his chin in a warning to get back out of reach.  Young is starting to thrash around with both hands, striking with his fists, and Dance keeps on deflecting him, carefully controlling the touch so Young can’t get carried away in his own momentum so hard that he falls down and hurts himself.  It requires a dampening effort when Young is swinging so hard.  He throws big wobbly roundhouse fists that might as well be flashing lights.  Dance’s hands make gentle smacking noises as he redirects the blows.

Amalia starts laughing, watching this absurd display.  Dance really wishes she wouldn’t:  Mockery just makes a violent person even crazier.  Then the girl with the tats has returned, mouth open in shock, with her black goth makeup run all down her face, and then Robert has come running up from somewhere else, and other people.  And the tall figure– Drin.  Such a relief.  Drin can really get over distance in a hurry with those long legs.

“That’s enough,” Drin says.

Dance flings up both hands, stepping wide, and that’s when Young goes deep.  Young lunges with his right fist aimed at Dance’s neck.

He doesn’t get there.

Drin is behind Dance, leaning in.  Dance sways slightly aside, making plenty of room. Drin’s long arm has blocked Young’s strike so hard that it throws Young off-balance, tottering backwards and to the left, his weaker side.  Then Drin’s hand snaps forward, pushes the man’s chest with a slight tap, and down he goes.  Elegant, simple, and effective, if you don’t care whether they bash their head on the floor.

Dance looks down. “I was trying not to do that.”

“Yeah, I know, but enough’s enough,” Drin says.  He pats Dance’s shoulder, and looks down at Young.  “You want me to call the cops now, or do we get a nice plain letter of resignation instead?”

Young snarls, rocking on his bottom, and holding his head, and clutching his arm.  It looks like he bruised his wrist.

“Sit there a minute, in case your head got banged.  Also, if you try to assault any of these people when you get up, Dance and I will be forced to take measures.”

It’s one of the spookiest voices Dance has ever heard.

Drin puts away the combat face.   Look twice, it’s gone, wiped away.  The face is calm, if you don’t catch how tightly his pupils remain contracted.  He turns his head just a fraction.  “Robert, would you please call a taxi, so Maestro Young can go to his doctor to get that wrist checked on?  I daresay he doesn’t want the expense of an ambulance on his personal bill.  They were running upwards of 1600 dollars, last I checked.”

“You assaulted me!  You tried to kill me!”

Drin says, “No, I stopped you from trying to kill my husband with a punch to his throat, and here are six–seven–eight–oh, sorry, Rosey, nine– witnesses to what happened.  Remember that when you’re talking to your medical provider.”

Young snarls and gets his feet under him.  He’s not waiting, as he was told to do.  Young gets up on his feet, still snarling, fists up.  Dance touches Drin’s arm lightly, they both pivot aside like a door swinging away at the crucial moment.  Blindly, Young charges past them and down the hallway.  He gives a roar of fury when he figures out what happened.  But he just keeps going, as if he’s going to attack the front doors.

It’s slapstick enough without any help, but Robert makes it into total buffoonery.  Surprising that Robert can move that fast, but he does.  Robert is gliding right along with Young, nodding, already talking on his cell phone without even breathing hard.  Robert opens the doors ahead of Young’s bull-like charge, all solicitous attention, which is hilarious.  Young doesn’t even have to slow down.  Robert trots down the front steps with him, solicitously holding Young’s elbow as if they’re waltzing, instead of running full-tilt downstairs at Young’s best speed.  And he won’t be able to peel Robert off.  Oh, Robert will want to capture every last word of what Young has to say, so it can be repeated to Bud Innes, his Papi, and patron; and then it goes to anybody who gets Bud’s consent to know about it.  Oh, Robert knows where the real gold is.

A couple of the bigger viola and bass guys are trotting out the doors after them, following the pair to help Robert keep an eye on things.  His homeys, as he calls them.  They look pretty silly, trotting, and they don’t care.  They know perfectly well that Amalia will detail somebody to round up their gear and see it safely home, she’s reliable like that.

It seems very quiet when the doors shut after Young and his new entourage.  Amalia mutters something about Robert having brass for balls.  Dance is pretty sure he’s the only one who heard it, but she meant it that way.  He just nods, and she nods back.

Drin makes a face, shifts his shoulders as if he’s taking on a different kind of load.  He looks around at the folks who stayed.  He sighs.  “Well, excitement’s over, and now we get to do paperwork, folks.”  He waits through the collective groan.  “Speaking as your friendly volunteer auditor who will have to recuse himself from all this fun, I know we’ll probably need witness statements.  If you would please write down notes on this incident and sign those, I’m sure the Board would like to add it to the Metro’s files.  Just state what you saw.  I’m going to report my part of it to the board tonight, as the Metro has adopted a zero-tolerance policy on violence in the work place, and we’ll want to get all of that paperwork together in two days maximum.  I’m so sorry to give you more work to do, but I know they’ll need that much.  Thank you.”

Everybody nods, seriously.

The percussionist with the tats comes up to Dance, reaches out and touches his forearm.  “Are you all right, man?”

Dance nods.  “Oh, I’m fine.  I’m sorry it went that far.  I’m sorry you were subjected to–” Dance pauses, aware of the slightest headshake from Drin.  No biasing their witnesses.  Dance reaches out and lightly touches the back of her hand.  “Rosey, are you all right?”

“Hell, I’m fine, that blowhard couldn’t direct a clown parade,” she shrugs, looking away, and there’s a glitter of tears across her eyes.  “Thanks, man.  I was so close to losing it–”

Dance says to her, “We really need you here, Rosey.  Please don’t give up on us yet.”

She gulps, looking at him.  “Ah shit man, don’t be saying nice stuff, I’ll just go all to pieces.”  She reaches out and pummels him gently on the shoulder with both fists as if he’s one of her bongos.  In perfect rhythm, too.  Other people are staring at them in surprise.  She’s not much taller than he is, for all the noise she projects.  Not a wise thing to do.  After Young was just pounding on Dance, this will sound exactly the same in some report.

But it isn’t, not at all.  He pats her flying arms, making syncopated pattering noises on her motion.  “At least it will be in nice firm waltz timing, yes?”

Rosey starts to laugh, and flings up her hands as if she’s just done a fanfare.  Three of Amalia’s cellists applaud, and Rosey bows, and waves at Dance, who also bows a degree, ironic.

Amalia walks back to her purse, sets down her bow with a glare at it for the strain she gave it when she whacked Young on the arm.  Then she sniffs, and pulls out tissues.  “Here, Rosey, c’mere gal, let’s just get some of that kohl running on your nose.  Leave the rest, you’ll look just right to go clubbing tonight, right?”

The percussionist starts to laugh, and hiccups instead.  She wipes at her face, spreading black smears wider.  “Shit, do you beat up conductors with that damn bow every night?”

“Nope, just once a week, now I’m gettin’ old,” Amalia says briskly.  She lifts her cell phone out of her purse and marches over to the damaged wallboard.  She turns on the phone’s camera and starts taking pictures of the cracked Dance-sized denting.  Drin gives a grimace and joins her, doing the same thing.

Dance says then, quietly, “Everybody here, be sure and get your reports done by tomorrow noon.  I’ll ask Brian collect it for the person in charge by tomorrow afternoon.  Don’t give it to anybody like Amalia or Drin or me, since we’re involved.  Clear?  Everybody got that?”


“Brian? ” Rosey says.  “Brian?  Why give ’em to Brian?”

Dance pauses, surprised.  As second violinist, Brian will have to take on all of Dance’s responsibilities if Dance is removed from his post.  It is logical to give him this task from the start.

“A pointed little hint,” Amalia says.  She’s watching Drin take low-angled pictures of the wall damage.

“So what are they going to do about Brian starting fights–” Rosey says to Amalia.

“Oh, you know how Dance heads it off.  Gets Brian outside and calmed down before it goes official.  One of us is gonna haveta do that if Dance goes on leave because of this,” Amalia says.  “But that’s gonna haveta change too, Brian is gonna haveta get his head together.  God, you hear a upright guy like Drin start using words like ‘zero-tolerance policy,’ you know he’s got a cold mad on, and things are gonna get broken.  C’mon, folks, get your stuff and let’s clear out of here.  Wallie, you got the bass?  Who’s got the violas for Frank and Ben?  Right.  Oh yeah, Rosey, trust me, there’s gonna be hell to pay.”

Dance feels the stares.  He’s suddenly, hotly, embarrassed.

Drin gathers Dance in with one arm and holds him.

“I’m fine,” Dance says, as if he’s spoken.  It does feel so much better, leaning into him.

Drin rumbles in his chest for a bit. Eventually words emerge.  “Damn, but you’re good.”

“Thank you,” Dance says.

“Good thing.  If it was me came first on that scene–” Drin shakes his head.

“Yes,” Dance murmurs, and closes his eyes.  “Our Emma will be livid.”

“Oh yeah,” Drin says, and there’s a wince in his whole body which makes Dance smile into the big man’s shirt.  “You know what she’ll say?”

Dance hums his inquiry into Drin’s shirt.  He takes in a deep breath of that soothing Drin scent, and lets it out again.

“She’ll ask why you let him do it.  You’ve stopped him cold every other time he’s started off the rails.  My God, hitting you!”

Dance sighs.  “Tired.  Just… tired of putting up with it, I guess.”

Drin grips his shoulders, pushes him back enough to look at him.  “Right.  How about you catch a nap on the way home?”

Dance leans back into him again, and yawns.  “Liking that.”

“I bet.”  He takes a step, another, and Dance continues to lean, walking backward without getting in his way, smoothly.

Amalia says, “That is the damndest-looking thing.”

“Oh, he’s way ahead of me.  I’m way too predictable for Dance,” Drin says.  As he walks toward her, he turns in a slow circle.  Dance doesn’t even shift his arms on Drin’s body as they drift toward the chair where she’s standing over Dance’s violin case, and her own instrument.  Dance moves along as easily as if they’re dancing, with the exception that he yawns.

Amalia says, “I’ll send along my pictures in the morning.  I’ll call Brian, let him know too.  Here’s your case.”

“Would you like some help carrying yours?  Would you like a ride back to your car?” Drin asks politely, turning again to keep an eye on the dispersing crowd.

“Love to,” says Amalia, who’s been parking in a transit lot and riding across town to save money.

Drin picks up her case, Dance peels away from Drin and picks up his own case, Dance beckons Rosey to come with them, and they start walking.

“So how come you didn’t provoke this about a year ago?” Amalia demands of Dance.

Another yawn.  When he surfaces from that, Dance says, “Because a year ago Bud Innes had come to two concerts a month.  Now Bud has a couple of good candidates lined up for guest conductor.”

“Pending Board approval,” Drin says.

Amalia snorts.  “We’ll be lucky if they wait past the first guy long enough to give the other guest conductors a chance to perform.  Have I mentioned your timing is–” a distracted flo

“So I’m a hasty boy, ask Drin,” Dance says, with a shrug.

Drin does the expected double-take.

“Yes, well, I’m not going there,” Amalia says, waving it off.  She looks at Rosey.  “You think I’m rude, you just wait till you hear Dance getting honest.”

“You mean, like, if he’s drunk?” Rosey ventures.

Drin snorts.

Amalia laughs.  “He doesn’t need to.”

“Well, if people ask these things–” Dance says, and yawns again.

Drin turns to Rosey.  “Where are we dropping you?”

Rosey blinks up at him.  “Will you get in trouble for taking my side or something?”

“We’re already involved, and it’s rather our duty to check you’re okay after that bullshit, and make sure that you get home safely.”

She looks at Dance, who has drifted peacefully into the curve of Drin’s other arm.  Then she looks up at Drin.  “Train station, please,” she says, and straightens her back, squares out her shoulders, and tugs up her backpack straps.

“She’s over in our Miss Amalia’s neighborhood, we could drop her directly tonight,” Dance says.  Then he opens his eyes wider, looking at her.  “And no stopping to pick a fight in a redneck bar, yes?  It’s not fair on them.”

Rosey opens her mouth, outraged.  “Well, it’s not like I asked for it last time, you know!  I just wanted a beer–”

Dance looks at her skeptically.

“I just–”  she rakes her hand through her hair.  “It just gets to me, ya know?”

Dance lifts a minatory finger.  “If you want a real fight, come to our dojo on Thursday instead, we give you a proper workout.  Our Miss Rosey is small, like us.  People our size must learn how to manage great big stupid drunk guys who are not the proper gallant, like our Drin.”

Rosey looks surprised, as well she should.

Amalia starts to chuckle.  “Now, Dance, you gotta promise not to lecture her on ergonomics the whole way, right?  Get it off your chest now, and then that’s it.”

Dance sighs.  “I promise.  Okay.  Letting our Miss Amalia say all this, explaining it in the much better English.”

“I already gave her my Ergonomics 102 lecture this afternoon.”

“Well then,” Dance says, pleased.

“Gallant, I kind of like that word,” Drin says.

“It’s a good word,” Rosey assures him.

“It is meaning galoot, but bigger,” Dance says, perfectly straight of face.

Drin casts a reproachful look at Amalia.

“I did not tell him that!” Amalia protests over Rosey’s laughter.

“Yeah, it sounds like a Miss Emma Special, to me,” Drin says, and gives Dance a push between the shoulder blades towards the doors.  “Brat.”

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