BY: GISELA WOLDENGA
Maestro Daniel Abogado is a successful and sought-after conductor. Music is his life, although it involves hours of travelling from city to city and lots of time poring over scores of classical music. Tragically his wife of ten years has died two years ago and now he is the only parent of sixteen-year old Mia and ten-year old Julian. His music helps him to steady himself.
When he reports a dangerous driver, though, Daniel unwittingly disturbs a diamond smuggling ring. Threats against him and his children escalate into attempts on his life. With the help of the police he tries to stay safe enough to fulfill his many obligations as a conductor, look after his children and help catch the vicious gang of smugglers. Will he stay alive long enough to be successful?
Crash, thump! An angry outcry! Daniel jumped up from his desk. His mind had been far away. He pushed his chair back. Julian again, so impatient. Daniel opened the door to the music room. His son sat dejected on the piano bench.
“What’s happening, Julian?”
“I’ll never learn this, never,” the boy hissed through his teeth.
Daniel picked up the music book from the floor. “It’s not the book’s fault. Don’t smash it around.” He sat down beside the boy. “What part can’t you get?”
Julian shook his head. “I don’t want to see it.”
“Okay, take a break.”
Julian looked at his father hopefully. “For the rest of the day?”
Daniel got up and sighed. “If that’s what you need, all right, but…” he pointed a finger at him, “only if I see your essay for tomorrow finished and done well.”
Julian slipped off the piano bench. “I promise.” He looked up at Daniel again. “I want Mama to help me.”
Don’t we all, Daniel thought. “I know, buddy, I do and Mia does, too. But Mama is somewhere else now. We have to try and work through it.” He put his arm around Julian’s skinny shoulders. He needs to eat more. “Talk to Mama tonight.”
Julian nodded and climbed up the stairs to his room.
Daniel went back to his studio, sat down at the desk and looked at the score of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony in front of him. How thoughtful this work was the composer’s last one. Daniel leaned back in his chair. After five years as their music director, the San Francisco Symphony had asked him to stay on. With his other duties at the Seattle Chamber Orchestra and various jobs as a guest conductor in different cities, everything was just going perfectly. Too perfectly, as it turned out. He missed his wife, Elvira, beyond anything he had ever lived through. Elvira had started to complain about tiredness, pain, and bruises at the slightest bumps. The result of the tests showed leukemia. After the usual uncomfortable treatments of chemotherapy, the cancer had gone into remission. However, everyone’s hopes were dashed the next year. Even more treatments could not slow down the inevitable end.
Young, beautiful, the love of his life, a wonderful mother, talented cellist—gone. Erased from this world. Like a zombie, Daniel had floated through his work to stay upright and functioning. Then he’d wanted to leave, to be anywhere but here. But what about Mia and Julian? To tear them out of their schools, away from their friends, would only add more pain to their grief. In the end Daniel’s job, the beauty of the music he performed, brought him back to some normality. That was two years ago.
“Dad,” came a call from upstairs. “Where is the dictionary?”
“Probably in Mia’s room,” Daniel called back.
Then there was Mia, Elvira’s first child, he had adopted. She had been amazing. Fourteen when Elvira died, now sixteen, she had turned into a beautiful girl with great strength and determination. Even though heartbroken by the loss of her mother, she had taken over household duties, almost like an extension of Elvira. Although trying to be tough, Daniel often saw tears running down her cheeks while she was doing the dishes.
She also was a great help for Julian, who was only ten now. To make things a bit easier she had suggested, “Pretend to have a conversation with Mama every night before you go to sleep.”
Julian had told him, “Girls write diaries, I’m talking to Mama.”
Daniel had to admit, he talked to Elvira often enough standing in front of her picture on the mantelpiece. But he had to be careful. If he did it too often or too long, his heart started to break into pieces all over again.
The dingle of the telephone interrupted his reverie. My agent, he thought. She must know when I need a break from thinking. “Portland Opera needs help with Aida,” Gwen Curtis told him. “The conductor has to go through chemotherapy and is not feeling up to it. He will assist but can’t do the performances. Can you help?”
Chemotherapy! I know what that means. How many people have to go through this? “When is the opera planned?” Daniel asked.
“Next month. It’s in rehearsal now.”
Daniel ran dates through his mind for his own performances here: two nights for an international composers’ concert, new rehearsals for Carmina Burana and two nights at Seattle’s Chamber Orchestra. “I’ll call you back, Gwen. Let me check my dates.” He got up and looked at his plan tacked up on the wall. It would be a tight fit between rehearsals and performances. Maybe the assistant conductor could take over some of them. People had helped Daniel during Elvira’s problems, so the least he could do is to try to do the same. He would be in Portland for five days, a bit long for the kids to be alone. Babysitter time.
Daniel called Gwen Curtis back to confirm his help and asked for more detailed information. He heard the back door and Mia’s voice, “Hi, I’m home.”
Good, Daniel could talk to her about this right away. He met her in the kitchen and gave her a hug. “How is my favorite daughter?”
Mia groaned. “Your only one, you mean.”
He chuckled. “Yeah, at least I think so. Nobody has said otherwise yet.”
Mia gave him a poke in his side. “Were you such a Casanova?”
He knew she liked to banter. “Only when I was overwhelmed by the beauty of you women. But listen, next month I’m going to be away.” He told her about his appointment.
Mia filled a glass with juice. “We don’t need a babysitter, Papa. I’m sixteen, I’m babysitting others myself.”
Daniel knew this was coming. “It’s a five day stretch, night and day. You and Julian go to school, need food. Somebody has to be here to keep you guys in check.” He had to make it sound a bit funny. “I think Mrs. Gantrey next door would love to stay here and look after you. She used to before.”
Mia sighed. “Okay, as long as she lets me go to my friends after school without flipping out. She actually makes a good pizza. Julian likes her.”
“Good, that’s done. What’s for supper?”
Mia laughed out loud. “Left-overs.”
Daniel rubbed his chin. “My artistic nature needs something inspiring. Let’s go out tonight.” He got no complaints from his kids about that.