The Music in the Painting

Chapter One

Most of the boys in the Dorm were just now beginning to stir, but Bobby had been awake for at least two hours; having completed his morning regimen of Tai Chi out in the academy's courtyard with the other early risers. He had a light breakfast and then showered, brushed his teeth and dressed in his school uniform.

In a school full of outstanding boys Bobby stood out amongst them. Academically he was one or more years ahead in most subjects. He was fluent in several languages and in his music education he excelled even more. He played several bowed instruments although Cello was his main focus. He could play Piano and Guitar equally well. He was highly regarded by other students of all ages and was considered a likely choice for Head Boy in the coming years.

He was excited to be performing with his Chamber Ensemble at the museum, but more so today because he would see her one last time before she returned to the Netherlands.

He pulled the eighteenth-century repeater from his pocket and checked the time. It had been a gift to his Father and his Grandfather had made sure it came to him. He didn't use a wrist watch because it might scratch his instrument. This was especially important today; He would be playing his performance instrument.

Hand built in Cremona in1659, the Amati Cello was a thing of beauty. The rich warm colors and shadows of the various woods were matched only by the sonorous tones with which it resonated when bowed. He loved playing this instrument and wished he could do so more often. The problem was that it was worth a ridiculous amount of money or at least more than he could fathom; more than $60,000.00 in 1965 dollars at last estimate.

The Cello wasn't really his in fact; his Grandfather had been awarded the instrument at a competition in England when he was just a bit older than Bobby.

The instrument itself was kept in a climate controlled vault with several other expensive Violins, Cellos, Lutes and Guitars. The facility was very discreet in nature and featured sound-proof rooms where owners or other musicians could practice and familiarize themselves with the cherished instruments.

People who stored instruments there; often off-set the cost of the very expensive vault by loaning or renting them to high profile musicians. Pablo Casals had played the Amati at the Hollywood Bowl and a few other famous cellists as well.

Today Leo and Mike were in the drive just outside the administration building waiting for Bobby to join them. When he reached the lobby, he found William the Proctor and Marilyn the Bursor enjoying a cup of tea.

William's actual title was Chief Proctor but he was really the Head of Security. He was an Ex-SAS man and commanded a small cadre of men with similar skills.

These men made certain that the environs were safe for the sons of Diplomats and other high-risk targets.

William and Marilyn had both been present at this morning's gathering for Tai Chi.

Bobby spotted the Blue Mercedes estate parked just outside. He wished Dennis and Marilyn both a good morning and walked outside.

He chuckled to himself as he approached, noticing Leo tenderly smoothing the lapel of Mike's blue worsted jacket and picking a bit of lint from his shoulder.

"Shall we get this show on the road gentlemen?" Bobby inquired nearly singing and then hugging each of the men in turn.

"You seem in high spirits today," said Leo smiling. "Are you excited to be playing the Amati again?"

"I'm always excited to play the Amati, but today I get to play for her."

Mike and Leo were Bobby's two favorite security agents from the storage company. It was their job to transport the instrument and sometimes the client to the venue and then keep it safe until it was safely secured in the vault once more.

They were also in a relationship; they were, however, unaware that Bobby knew.

Bobby had opted to sit behind Mike who would be driving. This would allow Mike to adjust the seat further back to accommodate his long legs. The consideration wasn't lost on Mike.

Leo took the seat next to Bobby and Bobby handed him his bow case asking if Leo would mind placing it with the cello case under the shipping pad behind them.

"What's this?" inquired Leo.

"Just my bows and other necessities, open it if you like." Leo did as invited and found two very expensive looking bows, rosin, a few tools, spare strings and pegs and a pack of Beeman's chewing gum.

"Aren't there any bows with the Amati?" asked Leo.

"Well yes, as you well know from your inventory, at least I hope you open the case to see what it is you're responsible for."

"But in any case playing with a strange bow is like," Bobby paused, "it's a bit like jerking off with someone else's penis. It gets the job done but it still feels strange."

Mike and Leo both howled with laughter at the analogy.

"And have you had a lot of experience in that field Bobby?" asked Leo.

"Not as much I suspect, as you two have. You really need to work on concealing your relationship."

Leo thought on this a moment while Mike remained silent, finally, Leo asked, "How did you know?"

"Well it's obvious you're a couple; any reasonably keen observer could see that you care deeply for each other. Your gestures and other behavior give you away. I noticed back at the academy when you used the back of your hand to smooth Mike's lapel and then picked a bit of lint from his shoulder. It was the same way my Mom used to do with my Dad. It's a lovely caring gesture that others might not notice, but I did."

"You have your Grandfather's powers of observation Bobby; well Mike the game's up. What do we do now? I suppose we could strangle him and stuff his body in the cello case, then fence the cello and live like kings in Rio."

There was a moment of silence and then the three of them burst out laughing and Leo hugged the boy's head.

"Thanks, Bobby, I didn't realize it was so obvious." Bobby pulled Leo's hand down to his shoulder.

"I'm sorry you have to keep it secret, but I'd hate to lose my two favorite protectors."

This time Mike spoke up. "Well, Leo's plan wouldn't have worked anyway, given what he did to that punk who attacked his friend at the Bowl. Oh crap! I'm sorry, kid; I shouldn't have brought that up."

The incident Mike referred to conjured up a past trauma for the boy. He hated resorting to violence and yet he was well equipped to do so. Thanks to his Grandfather, Bobby attended a studio where he learned Aikido and a bit of Judo and basic street fighting technique.

The Teen who attempted to rob his classmate was injured quite badly, although to be fair the only injury Bobby had visited on him was a dislocated elbow. The rest were received in running away and falling several feet from a high wall to the sidewalk below.

Bobby pushed very hard and drove the images from his mind.

"I don't like hurting people, but some of them won't take good advice and walk away." He glanced out the window and exclaimed: "We're already on Wilshire." Then he looked thoughtfully at Leo. "There's another reason your plan wouldn't have worked, my Grandfather."

"Oh crap!" said Mike, "Could you imagine having him on your trail?"

As they drove on, they speculated about how hard it would be to elude the Captain and soon the La Brea Tarpits came into view.

Mike guided the car to the loading dock area of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The guard at the gate took their identification and a document that Mike handed him and looked them over. He then picked up the phone and spoke briefly, listened even more so and hung up. He told Mike to go through to the dock and to park in space 21 when done unloading.

When Bobby stepped out of the car a man in a uniform very similar to his own stood before him.

"Salut Michelle, ça va?" said Bobby "Ça va bien, et toi?" said the man and with that he picked the boy up in a bear hug. "My goodness Bobbee', you look like one of my staff in that outfit." Michelle crowed with his Quebecois accent.

"Have you considered that perhaps you are dressed like a schoolboy Michelle?" asked Bobby as he hugged back.

Another man in a similar uniform sputtered as he attempted to stifle a laugh. "He's got you there Michelle, besides if he worked here we'd all be working for him."

As a group, they walked through the door to the security station. Michelle turned to Mike and Leo and said: "Who's going in today?"

"That will be me, Michelle."

"Take any available box then," Leo walked to a gray cabinet with keys sprouting from several small doors. Once there he removed his Walther automatic from its holster and pointed it into a barrel of sand and removed the magazine, and then cleared the chamber.

Bobby sprouted an impish look; "Leo! I'm surprised at you, playing with your PP in public like that." This started the whole room giggling like children.

"It's actually a PPK Mr. Smartass." Not to be outdone Bobby retorted, "But the K stands for kurtz which in German means short, so are you saying it's a short PP?"

Leo shook his head and grinned ruefully.

"Gentlemen, a bit of decorum if you please," said an upper-class English voice. And there; in all his wizened splendor stood Dr. R.W.S. Rigsby, Dean of the academy. "Cracking trap there Bobby; he never saw it coming don't you know, reminds me of baiting that horrid Maudling chap back at Merton."

Dr. Rigsby was a man who demanded respect, even if it was so subtle a demand you didn't realize his will was being imposed upon you. If he had a long white beard one might be inclined to compare him to Moses descending Mt. Horeb. No doubt however with a cutting of the burning bush in hand. Being an avid gardener he was always taking a surreptitious snip of some plant or other.

"The boys are a bit behind me by half an hour I should think, I made excellent time getting here."

At that Bobby and Leo grinned at each other knowing how the old fellow tended to drive his black and silver 1962 Corvette. Not exactly the sort of car you'd expect of a former Oxford Don.

"Well," said Leo "shall we get this old banjo to the atrium so Bobby can commence to pickin'?"

"Such blasphemy," chuckled the Dean "but yes you should probably do that, and I'll have a whip ‘round to see if I can find a few pencils for you to kneel on to atone for your heretical outburst. Banjo indeed."

"Ooh ouch!" said Leo as he locked the door of the gun box and pocketed the key. "I think we better go, Bobby, before he makes good on that."

Off they went with the cello case on a two-wheel dolly and Bobby carrying his bow case chatting amiably.

Once he had set up and tuned his cello Bobby glanced around the atrium of the museum and then launched into the Bach Cello suite #1 playing all six movements. After some lively applause from a few early patrons, he began playing Ombra mai fu with Leo accompanying on piano. During this time Bobby saw a striking boy with delicate features, a lithe body, and iridescent emerald green eyes. The boy listened with his eyes closed, swaying ever so slightly. He appeared to be mesmerized by the music, much like a Cobra in a basket. The slight breeze from the air conditioning caused his otherwise neatly combed sandy blonde hair to waver at the edges. When he had finished, Bobby looked up and caught the gaze of those fantastic green eyes and his stomach did a small flip and then settled down.

After a moment Bobby turned to Leo and asked the one-word question "Traumerei?" Leo nodded and Bobby began to play the first notes. Many in the now larger audience stood transfixed having never heard the piece performed live before. When he had finished he could no longer see the boy in the audience. He looked over to Leo who was dabbing his eyes with his handkerchief, "No matter how many times I hear you play that piece; it always affects me the same way."

"You know Schuman wrote that as a lullaby, it only became synonymous with sadness during the silent film era." Bobby smiled broadly at Leo and asked if he had seen the boy who had been listening.

Leo said that he had and that the boy had headed off toward the small gallery.

"Oh, I see; he was really something. Did you notice his eyes?"

Leo raised his eyebrows at him and said "Bobby have you looked in a mirror lately? Do you have any idea how attractive you are? Cripes man, if I were twelve again I would take a crack at you." Leo looked around to see if anyone was listening but no one seemed to be interested.

Bobby blushed; he was actually uncomfortable with the notion that he might be attractive, but his features were quite nice. His chin was strong and well defined. His face was a pleasant and expressive oval shape with full lips and his nose which he thought was his worst feature was actually quite adorable and of the button variety. He had a head of well combed golden blonde hair to match his eyebrows. His dark full lashes framed the most piercing blue eyes Leo had ever seen.

"Damn straight I would have taken a crack at him." thought Leo. "Combine that with his talent and intellect. Who wouldn't?" He continued to muse.

"Well, I suppose I should go and bid her farewell. It will be such a long time before I can see her again," said Bobby as he closed his bow case.

The "Her" he referred to was not a real girl but a painting, specifically Vermeer's "Girl with a pearl earring". It had been his favorite since he had seen it in The Hague while traveling with his parents more than four years earlier. He had a print hanging in his dorm room, but it wasn't quite the same.

He couldn't really say why he was so enamored with it but it seemed to have struck a chord within him and he could not resist her charm. He had visited the museum five times since the traveling exhibit had arrived; catching a ride from anyone who would make the drive from Pasadena to the Wilshire Corridor.

This would be the sixth and last time until he could see her in The Hague once again, and that wouldn't be until he was out of school. He hoped the gallery would be quiet, so he could bid her farewell in peace.

When Bobby entered the gallery there was only one person there. He saw the cordovan loafers and then the little pale yellow socks that ended just below the ankles and the cuff of the tan cotton slacks he had seen that perfect boy wearing. He wondered why he was thinking that way but couldn't make sense of it. As he stepped quietly into the exhibit he noticed the boy was gazing at his favorite.

At this point he allowed a number of things to pass through his mind. Why was he feeling this way about this boy? Will he like me? But chiefly how would he start this conversation? He had a sort of rule that he never started a conversation with a stranger in English. His last two attempts had been in Italian and then French. The setting made him wish he spoke Dutch. He chose German. He was about to speak when he noticed the boy had tears in his eyes. He reached in his pocket for the ever-present packet of tissues he carried and opened it.

"Du scheinst immer so traurig; warum?" (You seem ever so sad; Why?) Bobby handed the boy a tissue.

"Danke," the boy replied "Sie est so schön" (She is so beautiful.)

"Hey wait!" said the boy "How did you know I spoke German?"

"I didn't," said Bobby, "I almost never start a conversation with a stranger in English. It makes for rather interesting meetings sometimes, sort of a social experiment." He continued.

"Interesting approach," said the boy. He extended his hand and said "My name is Drew. What's yours?"

Bobby gave his name and shook Drew's hand but was reluctant to release it. But finally, he relaxed his grip and dropped his hand to his side, noting the softness of Drew's hand.

"Thanks for the tissues; this painting always does this to me," said Drew.

"Why do you think I brought them?" sighed Bobby, "I came to say goodbye too, it will be such a long time before I can see her again."

"How many times have you seen her?" asked Drew "Seven; once in The Hague and six since she arrived here." Bobby sighed once more.

"Wow, you really are hooked; I've only been here three times and I've never been to the Netherlands and I'm half Dutch.

"Really?" said Bobby

"Wie heiβen sie? Dein Familienname" (What is your name, your surname?)

"I'm not sure I want to tell you just yet" Drew hedged. "You'll either think I'm lying or insane, either way you'll laugh."

"I will try not to." promised Bobby.

"Very well then," Drew sighed, "It's Vermeer."

Bobby didn't laugh, in fact, he said nothing. He was stunned. Finally, he said, "Whew! I thought you were going to tell me it was Hitler or something like that."

Drew chuckled, "And what would you have thought of me if I had?"

"To be honest, I don't know. I've never met anyone like you before and I'm having a bit of trouble understanding what exactly I am' feeling. I'm really only sure that I like you very much and that I would love to have you as my friend." said Bobby in a near whisper.

"That's the most wonderful request for friendship I have ever received," Drew's voice cracked a bit with emotion.

"I accept, Andrew Clwyd-Jones Vermeer at your service," said Drew, extending his hand again.

"Robert Duncan Mackenzie at yours," replied Bobby, taking Drew's hand in his again and grasping it firmly, shook it and gave Drew a warm smile.

Bobby gazed into the radiant green eyes of this wonderful boy not believing his good luck.

Yes, he was going to lose "the girl" but this boy would be adequate compensation for the loss. And she was never really his, to begin with.

[To Be Continued]

Editor's Note:

When Juju sent this to me I was truly mesmerized by the story. To think that a first-time author put together a story of this quality proves he is going to be a force to be reckoned with in literary circles. I am proud to give this new author a place from which to share his writing. Please, let him know what you think. His Email Address is located at the top of the document. --TrueFan