Seek not to know what must not be reveal’d,
Joys only flow when hate is most conceal’d.
Too busy man would find his sorrows more
If future fortunes he should know before.
—From the song “Seek Not to Know,” poem by John Dryden
music by Henry Purcell
The chiming wall clock filled the room with swirled purple ovals that felt like grainy silk. Almost seven o’clock. How long had he been pacing? It only took five steps up, five back to cross the room. A sixty-step-per-minute rate that would wear a groove on the hardwood floors, if he kept it up.
He cast an eye over at his piano. Maybe pounding out a Prokofiev sonata would be more constructive. His arm would cramp up, but it would be worth it. Decision made, he headed toward the piano but was stopped by a rapping on the front door.
The man framed in the entryway must have come straight from work, wearing a traditional FBI suit and tie. Unless something had changed, those regulation-looking shoes were a pair of Justin cowboy boots disguised by the man’s slacks. His jute hair still sported a military cut, grayer at the temples, but everything else was the same as Scott Drayco remembered.
Neither of them moved for a moment as a jump-cut-movie of memories played in Drayco’s head. What would the soundtrack for that be? Something noirish with shrieking violins, to match the staccato beats of the pouring rain outside.
He waved Agent Mark “Sarg” Sargosian inside. “Better come in before you melt.”
Sarg entered and stood just inside the door as he looked around. “Think I’ve come to the wrong place. A Spartan would feel comfy here. And is that pine air freshener?” Sarg’s tone was joking, but his right hand curled and danced at his side as if fingering a hat.
“Got tired of tripping over things. I have a piano, sofa, refrigerator and microwave. What more do you need?”
“According to Elaine, quite a bit. We traded in a perfectly good bed for one of those giant four-poster canopy things. With matching dresser and nightstand.” Sarg tugged on his ear, a nervous habit that also hadn’t changed.
“How did you get here? I didn’t see your car.”
“In the shop. Took the train to Union, then a cab. It’s waiting down the block.”
“Don’t expect to be here long, I take it?”
“Depends on you. And your answer.”
Sarg’s call earlier in the day was cryptic, short on details and long on rambling non-sequiturs, unlike the blunt partner Drayco once knew. “You could have told me over the phone. Cheaper and faster. The train from Quantico to D.C. is what, an hour?”
“I owed you more than that.” Sarg shifted his feet in place. “And this is too important. I need your help.”
How many people had lived, fought and died over those four words? I. Need. Your. Help. Such simple words. Dangerous words. No-going-back words. Drayco’s feet felt glued to the floor as Sarg continued to tug on his ear.
Drayco took a deep breath, then turned to walk in the direction of his living room, looking over his shoulder to see if Sarg followed. Should he make coffee? He hesitated a moment, then bypassed the kitchen and dropped onto his frayed red sofa.
Sarg lowered himself onto the chair opposite. Both legs bounced in rhythm as he looked everywhere but at Drayco. Ten seconds turned to thirty, then sixty.
Drayco leaned forward. “All right, let’s hear it, Sarg. You said you needed my answer. What’s the question?”
Sarg’s legs stopped bouncing as he morphed into professional mode. “The BAU’s assisting on a D.C. police case. I’m the lucky guy given the assignment. Two months ago, a Parkhurst College student, Cailan Jaffray, was walking home after a late-night lab project. Never made it. Her half-nude body was found in Kenilworth Gardens, though the MPD thinks she was carted there after her murder. A knife through the heart, no weapon found. Signs of cauterizing around the wound, like the knife was heated.”
Drayco sat up straight. Stabbing deaths were common, not so much heated murder weapons.
Sarg continued, “It was mid-August, so most of the campus was on summer break. A few people still around had motives. A former boyfriend. The victim’s rival. A college groundskeeper accused of being a stalker. Shaky alibis, no concrete evidence.”
“This type of case doesn’t usually prompt the Park Police or MPD to draw in the Bureau.”
Sarg nodded. “Most of ’em would rather swim in a pool of cottonmouths.”
“Then I don’t see why—” Drayco caught Sarg’s glance over at him, the way he bit his lower lip. “Which important person’s daughter was she?”
“Niece of a Parkhurst religion professor, her legal guardian. Not particularly important per se, but Parkhurst is an elite school. Progeny of senators, grandchildren of Supreme Court justices, other illustrious alumni.”
The type of circles BAU Unit Chief Jerry Onweller liked to hang around in. If Drayco won the lottery, he’d bet his winnings Onweller was friends with someone in the Parkhurst administration. “All right. I see why they want Bureau help. Scandal-abatement. Why do you need me?”
Sarg pulled out a piece of crinkled paper from his pocket and handed it over. “The girl was a music student. Rather promising. She received three unsigned letters in nine-by-twelve white envelopes with no return address. She threw away the first two. This is a copy of the third.”
Drayco unfolded the paper and studied it. It looked like an excerpt from ordinary sheet music with a treble line for soprano—or violin, since there were no words—and a piano accompaniment. Oddly, no dynamics or tempo or pedal markings. The key signature had no sharps or flats, yet the unfamiliar tune wasn’t in either C major or A minor.
He played the piece in his mind, drawing out the notes slowly at first, hearing each chord, each arpeggio. The accompaniment was uninspired, and the dissonant melody wasn’t musical in a traditional sense. More of an exercise or a joke, or possibly some sort of code.
“I’m surprised you didn’t check with the music faculty at Parkhurst.”
“The MPD did. Some had no idea, most didn’t want to get involved.”
“You said this was the third music puzzle. The MPD couldn’t have known the victim threw away the first two unless someone told them.”
Sarg cleared his throat. “That would be Tara.” His eyes locked with Drayco’s. “My Tara.”
Dear God, Sarg’s daughter would be college age now. Three years ago, she was a senior in high school. Now she was a student at Parkhurst? Where naturally, the bubbly teenager had made new friends, and among them, one murdered music student.
The ex-Army Ranger Sergeant would never beg, but the message in his eyes was clear. Whatever it took, whatever bitter pill he had to swallow. This was his little girl, and he was worried.
“You think I can help because I play the piano?”
“Partly. You were always the best at solving puzzles. And there’s another connection you have with the case.”
Drayco was still absorbing the news Tara might be involved in a murder, so Sarg’s postscript took a moment to register. “And that is?”
“The lab project. The one the victim was killed walking home from. Some guy’s dissertation. It’s about that sensory thing of yours, seeing colors and shapes when you hear music.”
“Yeah, the girl had synesthesia, like you. The MPD doesn’t think there’s a connection, but I thought you’d find it interesting. Maybe help you get inside her mind better.”
Drayco studied the piece of paper before handing it back to Sarg. “This is similar to twelve-tone music. To most people, it sounds like cacophony. To me, it’s like blue-orange branching twigs with a rough bark feel to it. But no two synesthetes are alike, so I can’t tell you what the victim experienced.”
Sarg took the paper but didn’t fold it up. He was in danger of falling off the chair, perched on the edge. After another good half-minute of silence, he muttered, “Three years.”
Drayco didn’t have to ask what he meant. He knew full well how long it had been.
“Three years and I keep replaying the same day over and over.” Sarg looked briefly at Drayco, then away.
Drayco knew this man well. To Sarg, guilt was an invading force to be vanquished, not allowed entry. “I was thinking of leaving anyway.” Drayco lied. “You had a family to support.”
“Wouldn’t have lost my job. Probably.”
“Yet, if I had to do it all over …” Sarg rubbed his boot tips together. “Hasn’t been the same since.” He cleared his throat. “I meant to call you.”
The silence descended on them again as Drayco considered his options. He could offer his services, only to find they weren’t needed. Some would say refusing to help was justified payback. Or Sarg and the MPD might solve the case on their own, with or without the music puzzle.
But then, there was Tara. “Onweller won’t want me consulting on this.”
“I’ve thought of a way to smooth it over, make him see how much we need you. All nice and official, with pay.”
The fusion of contrition and hope on Sarg’s face sent a shiver through Drayco. He’d thought that bridge long burned, the ashes cooled and scattered. Yet here it was stretching out in front of him, inviting him to cross over. Should he take the chance?
The look on Sarg’s face turned to disappointment when Drayco said, “You’d better not keep that cab waiting too long, or your fare will cost a year’s salary.” Then Drayco added, “And if I’m going to help, I’ll need a copy of that puzzle.”
Sarg passed the puzzle back and stood up, moving like a man ten years younger than the one who’d arrived. He paused, then thrust out his hand. Drayco shook it.
“I’ll arrange everything with Onweller so we can get going first thing tomorrow.”
“I’d like to start by talking to Tara. If that’s okay with you.”
“Done. And Drayco …” He opened his mouth to add something, then stopped himself in mid-speech. “I’ll see you in the morning.”
“You coming via Union Station again? If so, I’ll pick you up.”
The details settled, Sarg left to finish his expensive taxi ride. Drayco resumed pacing, but with a glance at the music puzzle, he headed to the piano instead.
Ordinarily, he’d use Chopin to relax. Right now he needed black-and-blue jagged rocks tinged with an iridescent burgundy, the coastal wavelines of Prokofiev. He massaged his right arm first to stave off the stiffness and pain, then launched into the color-tsunami of Prokofiev’s fourth piano sonata. It soon carried him onto a distant shore where the only thing broken was the silence.
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