Beethoven…the counterpoint of the violin and viola, the sweep of the cello, such longing…such passion…real love…
Such an intense, lonely, isolated, haunting…ahh…now they weep together…
Oh the sorrow of it…
Johannes Nacht jerked free of his reverie. Alfred hovered at his shoulder in the private box above the small concert hall, gently nudging him.
“They’re superb, aren’t they Alfred? The conservatory’s finest, I’m told.”
“They are exceptional sir, the audience seems quite enthralled.” he paused for a moment, but interrupted with another nudge when he saw his master falling back into the rapture that sometimes took hold of him, “Sir, the mayor and his wife have arrived and were asking after you before you went on stage. The Prince and Seneschal are also here – in their box. She wishes to speak with you as well.”
“Hrm. It’s going to be a busy night. Herman’s planning on making an appearance as well.” Johannes let out a deep sigh, stood, straightened his tuxedo, and lit his face with his most endearing smile.
“Thank you Alfred, see the mayor in if you please.”
“Johan!” The mayor and his wife stepped into the box, handing Alfred their coats as they passed.
“Good evening Kurt, Lady Dönicke, you look lovely this evening. Please sit, you must listen to this quartet…”
During intermission, Johannes stood with the mayor of Liepzig on a tiny wrought-iron balcony looking out over the street, nursing cigars in the chill.
“I need a victory, my friend, and this ordeal over the bank affair last month is dragging on too long.”
“We’ve got evidence against Wilhelm Schnect, we know he was there. The chief wants to bring him in.”
Johannes took a long puff from his cigar, rolled the smoke around in his mouth for a moment, “You know you’ll never get a charge against him to stick, his family will lean on you and yours until you let him go.”
“That’s why I’m talking to you…”
Nacht laughed then, a finely-crafted and highly-calculated laugh designed to give the impression of incredulity and embarrassment, “Kurt, I’m just a piano player, what do you think I can do?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Piano Player, but I do know that I’d be extremely grateful to the man who helped me score a victory and put this bank business to bed.”
The men stubbed out their cigars and clambered back through the tiny doors and into Nacht’s private box. “I’ll remember that, Kurt. Ahhh! Lise – I know how much you and your husband adore Rembrandt, I have just this week come into possession of one of his earlier works – it’s destined for auction in Rome, but I’m sure we could come to a fair price between us and avoid all that hassle…”
Johannes quietly entered the box and sat down next to his Prince and her Seneschal.
“The police are digging too deep into the bank heist last month,” the woman said, without turning away from the performance.
Johannes let a flicker of surprise cross his face, “What, you too?”
“One of my people initiated the job with Herman. The investigation needs to end.”
“And how should I…”
The Prince turned to him and shot him an icy glare, “Don’t play games with me, Johan, you’re the information broker, have the conversations, make it happen.”
Johannes bowed his head slightly. “As you wish madam. If you’ll excuse me, I go on after this set. Paul, good to see you.”
He strode out onto the small stage, chin high, and swept onto the bench without a single glance to the audience. The applause was manic and just beyond the edge of propriety for classical performance. He began the Chopin. He tried with all his might but found his own performance passionless and hollow, yet he audience was enthralled. He closed his eyes and extended his sphere of influence into the crowd just as the piece swelled, and there was an audible gasp from the crowd as they all fell under his sway. Men wept, women became flushed.
Much later, he stood next to the piano in his room, naked in the candlelight, playing the melody of the Beethoven on his old violin.
Both the men and one of the women were passed out on the large bed that dominated the room, all looking just the slightest bit pale. The other two women watched him, entranced, idly fondling themselves and occasionally each other.
“That’s from earlier isn’t it?” said the redhead quietly. She was a regular, one of the service staff who worked the club. Johannes didn’t respond, lost in his frustrations. She stretched languorously on the bed. “I’ve always loved Mozart,” she purred, spreading her legs shamelessly.
Nacht gave her a sad, chagrined smile, set the violin carefully back into its cradle, threw a silken robe over his shoulders and strode out of the room.
“Beethoven,” murmured the brunette, pouting and giving the redhead a weak shove, “it was Beethoven.”
As he left his room, Johannes gave three quick taps on Alfred’s door across the hall. It was a code between them that said: when you’re finished with whatever or whomever you’re doing, please get those people out of my room. He strode down the stairs and through the narrow hallways that formed a warren of small rooms at the back of the club.
He turned a corner to find two younger Kindred facing each other off, fangs were out, one was snarling. Johannes gave a polite cough into his hand. They both swung towards him, so amped up they intended fully to tear apart whoever had interrupted them, but when they saw Nacht, they both paled and bowed their heads slightly.
“Do you know who I am?” he said quietly. They responded with some muttered yessirs.
“Do you know where you are?” he asked again. They both nodded, looking increasingly sheepish.
“Do not ever again forget it,” Nacht snarled, then pushed past them down the hall.
He walked into a small dressing room unannounced, where on a couch sat the extremely corpulent form of Herman, puffing on a hookah and receiving extremely vigorous fellatio from a girl a third his age. Johannes swept into the room and settled on a stool in front of the make-up table and gave the man a blank look.
“Johan, my good friend!” Herman said jovially, “It’s so good to see you! Would you like a taste? The tobacco is soaked in cognac for a year!”
Nacht remained motionless, continuing to stare.
“Would you like a taste of Greta perhaps? Greta, go take care of Mr. Nacht….”
The stare didn’t falter. Herman’s smile, erection, and mood did.
“Greta, darling, give us a minute.” The girl stood, gave a curtsy to Johannes, and saw herself out. Herman grumpily grabbed a robe and tossed it over himself. “Fine, there, now what do you want?”
“The police have made Wilhelm for the bank job.”
Herman snorted. “So? They can’t make it stick, they won’t!”
“The chief and the mayor have the bit in their teeth, Herman, they’re not going to back down.”
“Uhn. They can waste all the time they want, in the end it will be the same.”
“The whole ordeal needs to go away. You give them Wilhelm, it will go away.”
“Har! I’d rather watch them squirm! And what is it to you, Johan? This is a peculiar favor you ask, even for you….”
Johannes sighed. “Your employer for the job was an associate of Klara’s. She wants the investigation put to bed.”
“So,” continued Nacht, “you’re going to give them Wilhelm. I’ll come to your place tomorrow night and convince him not to give away the farm when he’s interrogated. The whole thing will go away, and everyone will be happy.”
“Except for Wilhelm.”
“Indeed, except for Wilhelm. He shouldn’t have left so much of himself behind.”
“I never liked him anyway.”
“That’s the spirit, Herman.”
Johannes rose and took his leave, holding the door open for Greta as she bounced back into the dressing room to continue her task.
Johannes sat in his robe at the bar in the empty concert hall. Despite the late hour, Alfred appeared, poured a drink out of a small bottle behind the counter and set it in front of Nacht, who looked from it to Alfred with a raised eyebrow.
“You can drink it, sir. Something special I put together this afternoon with you in mind.”
Nacht cautiously took a sip, seemed to like what he tasted, and then a longer drink. The world swam around him for a moment, but then he heard music, the most grand themes, passionate swells, an orchestra dancing with itself in the night. He had to cling to the bar to keep from swaying off the stool.
“Alfred…oh Alfred my friend, thank you…what is this?” he gasped as he lost himself in the experience. Alfred helped his master stand, and slowly guided him back up the stairs and to his room, where he lay on the bed, eyes fluttering to and fro as the music filled his head.
“Alfred…,” he gasped, “who…where…?” At that, Nacht seemed to fall into a still sleep.
Alfred smiled a melancholy smile.
“It’s what we hear, sir,” he said quietly.