Interlude: 26 years earlier…
Huiling Xiaou sat in the front row mezzanine, eyes transfixed on the performance in front of her. Her father pulled her out of school to see this performance. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he called it. Vera Lang singing “Lost in the Darkness” live in front of a full orchestra. She was breathtaking in her sparkling evening gown, Lips colored a rich black. Her deep, soulful voice echoed through the hall sending shivers up her spine. It was the most beautiful thing she had ever heard. The bittersweet melancholy of the instruments, the palpable pain in woman’s voice. By the end, Huiling’s eyes had filled with tears. Ms. Lang finished singing, her voice becoming quieter and quieter until it could be heard no longer. The orchestra played a few stanzas more, then the concert hall fell completely silent, the audience stunned by what they heard.
Huiling emerged finally from her own trance and jumped to her feet, clapping! Other people had emerged about the same time and were also clapping enthusiastically. Her father stood behind her clapping as well. An enormous smile across his tear streaked face. Minutes passed. Finally the crowd quieted down and waited for the conductor to speak.
“Thank you for taking me, Daddy!” Huiling said as they emerged from the theater into the cold night. She reached up to him. Her father bent down to meet her embrace.
“It was my pleasure,” he replied giving her a great big hug. He stood up and checked his timepiece. “It’s late,” he said, the slightest bit of sadness in his voice as he looked up at the sky. He reached out a hand for her to take. “Come. Let’s get you back to school. You can tell me everything you thought of the performance as we go.”
They walked together, hand in hand as snow fell gently around them. The school wasn’t a long walk, and the two of them were dressed for the cold. Any time Wang Xiaou could get with his daughter was precious. He took each step deliberately, careful not to make her feel rushed as young kids often tend to feel when walking with grownups. There was no hurry. Far too soon, they would be there.
“Here we are” he said, once they reached the large stone monolith that was the Abbey. Huiling danced up the steps. “I love you!” he called out to her.
“I love you too,” she replied with a smile, before disappearing down the hall.
Dear Mr. Garbo,
My name is Carolyn Grant from the Daily Telegraph. I am writing in hopes of securing an interview with you for the Telegraph’s weekend edition. Your latest composition, ‘Song of the Deep’ has received countless play requests at our local radio station, and it is clear to us at the Telegraph that and interview with the work’s composer would interest our readers very much.
Please let me know either by mail or telegram what days this week you are available so we can schedule a time for the interview. It shouldn’t take more than a few hours.
I hope to hear from you soon,
Lead Columnist, Daily Telegraph Weekend ed.
There. Looks official enough Carolyn thought, looking over her handiwork. She had “borrowed” a piece of stationary from the Telegraph’s offices. It wasn’t hard given The Daily Telegraph was also owned by Smythe & Co. and shared the same building as the actual Telegraph division. Carolyn understood why Lancet Smythe named the paper ‘The Telegraph’ but it made sharing a building with them most confusing. This confusion paid off since the wrong stationary was often delivered to the wrong office. It would likely have been tossed had she not decided to take a sheet, so she considered it recycling at its best.
She placed the letter in an envelop and took it down to the mailroom to be sent out. Now all she could do was wait. Any response would be addressed to her here, and since Smythe and Co. was such a large firm, no one would be bothered to wonder at the message’s contents. Besides, if she was wrong about him, she could pass her notes along to the Telegraph staff and see if they wanted to publish it. It would save someone a bit of work.
It was exactly three days before Carolyn received a letter back.
Dear Ms. Grant,
It would be my pleasure. Would Thursday at 15:30 work for you? We can meet at my apartment. I’ll have tea prepared. Please ring with your answer. Drieper’s Street 4920.
I look forward to meeting you,
Hanz Joseph Garbo
As soon as she read this, Carolyn picked up the phone and rang Mr. Garbo. “Dreiper’s Street 4920, please,” she told the operator. “Hello? Mr. Garbo? This is Carolyn Grant. Yes, Thursday is perfect. fifteen-thirty. Thank you. I look forward to it.” She hung up the phone and grinned. One way or another, this was going to be interesting.
Carolyn checked her appearance in the hall mirror one last time. She tried to find an outfit that was the perfect balance between professional and sexy. She needed every advantage in her favor for this plan to work. Men were more likely to talk when they were distracted. At least, that’s what Ellen always told her. She would put that to the test today.
Satisfied with her appearance, she picked up her small attache case, in which she had stowed a pad of paper and a pen, then turned and headed out the door to go to work. She would have to leave work early to make the appointment as it was. She didn’t have time to go home and change afterward.