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Chapters 1-3
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3


Chapter 1

New York City, Madison Square Garden

      Colleen McCallum tried to keep the butterflies in her stomach flying in formation. In the enveloping darkness, her sister Kitty stamped her feet in nervous agitation and her brother Dwight seemed calm and cool as always. But his jaw, flexing ever so slightly, told her how excited he was. For seven years they had poured their hearts and souls into preparing for this moment.

      She looked back at the screen that stretched from one side of the massive stage to the other. The skyline of New York City stood out in black relief to the simulated dark blue of early dusk on the massive screen at the back of the stage. Seven large panels, bathed in the blue light, rose above the skyline. A deep rumble came from the audience in the darkened auditorium as the band started the first notes of the song. As the spotlight came on and the announcer intoned in a stentorian voice, “The McCallums,” the audience burst into a roar. The skyline disappeared in a dazzling whirling luminescence, and the seven large panels shimmered seamlessly through all the colors of the rainbow. Colleen knew the screens, suspended twenty feet above the stage on both sides, were designed so the audience in the upper reaches of the auditorium could clearly see the faces of the three performers and the white, fringed, long-sleeved western shirts, blue jeans, red cowboy boots, and white cowboy hats everyone, including the band, was wearing.

      Standing in the center, Kitty’s rich alto reached effortlessly to the high notes. Her large blue eyes were framed by a pageboy cut of blonde hair; her straight nose and finely shaped features gave her a girl next-door beauty. To Kitty’s right, Dwight played an electric guitar held by a strap across his broad shoulders. Colleen was used to the avid looks Dwight elicited from the female fans with his lean rangy frame and rugged good looks. Playing her violin all the while, she turned back to acknowledge the banjo player, drummer, bass player, and lead guitarist, who were arrayed in a semi-circle behind them.

      Colleen looked out at the sea of people at Madison Square Garden as she adjusted her fiddle to more comfortable position. Several hundred people had left their seats on the ground floor to gather on the six large steps running the length of the enormous stage. Alternating blue and white lights raked the crowd from multiple directions. From the stage, the seats stretched to immense heights--almost out of sight--on each of the three sides of the square they faced. The beacon of light, which illuminated them on the stage, appeared to be coming from a train on the other end of a tunnel. Colleen’s fiddle followed the melody as Kitty’s voice soared with their hit “Country Byways”. The sensual undertone in Kitty’s voice gave Colleen goose bumps as usual. She caught Dwight’s eye. Her big brother winked and smiled with a look of pure exhilaration on his face. She knew this had been his childhood dream and she was thrilled that all their hard work had paid off.

      As they reeled off hit after hit, she reflected how differently her life had turned out.  Seven years ago she had been playing the violin finale to the Franck Sonata for her audition to get into Juilliard. Her fondest dream then was to be a classical violinist playing at Carnegie Hall. How ironic that instead she was now playing to eighteen thousand at the Garden. 

      The concert passed by in a blur and then they were at the final song. As she began her fiddle solo to introduce “Searching”, their number one country hit, a spontaneous cheer rose from the crowd. She nodded at the girls in cowboy hats who had been bouncing up front for the entire concert. They now linked their arms and swayed with the music, and their faces beamed as they began to sing along with Kitty.

Something is missing
From my story being told.
I hope I recognize it
Before the story’s old.
Searching for something
Something for me.
Whatever it is,
Wherever it may be

     Colleen had written the lyrics to this song from her heart, and tonight they seemed to speak to the very center of her being. She could hardly believe the concert and tour was about to end. But, instead of being on top of the world, she felt strangely let down. It was almost as if she were above the stage looking down as the music flowed from her fiddle after each chorus. She glanced over at Kitty strumming her six-string and singing her heart out. Kitty’s magical voice climbed to the heavens with the solo, then blended seamlessly with her and Dwight on the chorus, as the audience whistled and cheered. Just Dwight’s steel guitar solo and her fiddle solo were left; this long--too long--tour would be over. She could see the sweat shining on Dwight’s forehead from the play of the roving spotlights as he ended his solo. Chills rippled across her body as the applause thundered then quieted in anticipation of her solo. She let the music take her away, as it always did, igniting her bone-deep craving for something that she couldn’t define, but was out there for her.

       She had poured her innermost feelings into the music and lyrics of the song. She knew that people from all walks of life were responding to it. Pop stations were starting to play “Searching”, and it looked like it was a sure bet to break out of the confines of country music. With a sigh she surrendered herself to the joy of playing. She loved the feel of the instrument nestled between her chin and shoulder. As she finished, the crowd erupted in a tremendous roar. Everyone stood as she raised her fiddle bow in the air and waved at the crowd.
        She felt Dwight arm’s around her waist, and glanced up at his face wreathed in a smile of sheer happiness. Kitty grabbed her from the other side as they bowed together to acknowledge the adoration of the audience. Kitty’s eyes were shining with joy. A warm glow spread over Colleen as she saw Kitty and Dwight’s happiness. She felt that Mom and Dad must have flown down from heaven to be with them tonight. Dwight motioned for the other band members to join them and as they all linked arms and bowed from the waist in unison the thousands thundered their approval.

       Dwight grabbed her in a bear hug and then she felt Kitty’s arms joining them. For a brief time the three of them were alone in the moment, then they broke for one final bow. Hot tears streamed down her face and she didn’t even know why. She waved to the fans, and then retreated backstage with the roar of the applause ringing in her ears.

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Chapter 2

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek Auditorium, Copenhagen

      The stage of the intimate auditorium was bare except for a black grand piano polished to a mirror finish. The audience spoke in hushed tones, anticipating the entrance of the featured performers, the Lundgrens. To polite applause, the couple, holding hands, entered through the mixed pink and black marble pillars at the back of the stage. The man was over six feet tall with an athletic build. He had a full head of sandy blonde hair, a lock of which fell over his forehead nearly to his right eye. Wearing a full tuxedo with tails, a black cummerbund, and shoes burnished to a brilliant shine, the rapt looks of the females in the audience bespoke his magnetic appearance.

      His partner carried her violin cradled in her arm as he escorted her to the center of the stage where they stood and bowed to the crowd. She was dressed in a black evening gown, which fell in three overlapping ruffles from just above the knee to the floor. It accentuated her slender waist and shapely bosom. Two wide diaphanous black silk straps rose from her décolletage to crisscross the bodice and join behind the lovely turn of her neck. Her graceful shoulders and arms were left bare to provide maximum freedom while she played. Raven hair, cut in an elegant up do with loose tendrils, framed her large eyes, pert nose, and generous lips in a perfect oval face.

      Karl Lundgren looked out on the five hundred or so people packed into the auditorium.  The crowd was mainly family and friends from the university, with a sprinkling of influential music critics from Northern Europe. The small, temporary stage had been constructed over the marble steps leading from the pillars in the rear. It was covered with black crepe, and was a scant ten feet to the first row of black plastic chairs brought in for the performance. Brooding statues of Roman emperors, alternating with Greek columns, surrounded the audience. Ancient sarcophagi were placed along the hallways formed between the statues and the walls covered with royal red felt. Karl was reminded of concerts performed here when he and his sister Kristin were just starting out--when they would take the short walk down Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard to Tivoli afterward, with Annelise, to grab a cup of coffee and debrief the performance. 

      He caught the eye of one of his professors in the front row and returned his nod. He and his sister were about to make history, but that was not as important to him as being out of his pit of depression. He shook his head as if he could physically stop himself from sliding back into that black canyon of despair. Thank God his sister had pushed him into attempting “The Big Five”.  Having a goal had helped him to survive. He looked over at his beautiful older sister. He would always be thankful to her for reaching out to him and giving up a year of her life for this magnificent quest. Maybe now he could begin to think about building a new life. Tonight he was going to help Kristin achieve the accolades she deserved.  

       He stepped forward to address the audience. “My name is Karl Lundgren. My sister Kristin and I welcome you this evening. We are dedicating this performance to the memory of a wonderful young woman, Annelise Rasmussen. Here tonight are many friends and family who knew Annelise…” He felt his voice quavering. A lump emerged in his throat as he fought for control. The faces in the audience began to swim before his eyes. The lights glistened like diamonds as he looked upward through a prism of tears. He paused as he sought to regain his composure and his chin trembled uncontrollably. He heard the audience politely applaud as it covered its embarrassment with a surge of empathy.

      I’m sorry,” he said, wiping a hand to his eyes. “We lost Annelise over a year ago but her spirit will be with us always.” His sister hugged him. Then he left her to take his place at the piano bench. With a glance at each other they moved into position to play.

* * * * *

      Mikael Bernstorf, owner of a posh art gallery, was seated in the front row along with his mother, Elizabeth Singer, and his stepfather. Dr. Howard Singer. He found himself looking forward to the Lundgrens’ performance. His attention was riveted on Kristin as soon as the couple entered the stage. She captivated simply by being. Her erect carriage, noble expression, and impeccable grooming all bespoke a distinguished heritage. The violinist, adjusting her strings, glanced up as if directed by an unseen force to look directly into his eyes. He felt a jolt go through him as if he had been caught stealing the Crown Jewels from the Rosenberg Castle. His face began to flush. Then, wonder of wonders, the enchanting creature bestowed a brilliant smile on him--a smile made more luminous by the unexpected appearance of a deep dimple on her right cheek--making her appear suddenly human and approachable.

      As they began to play he was in awe. These two people, without benefit of microphones or electronic gadgetry, were creating magic. He could scarcely believe the metamorphosis of the beautiful violinist, from the cool collected woman who had stood there before the performance, to a woman now on fire. She stalked the stage continually, all the while her bow arm moved, sometimes dramatically, other times almost like a caress. The fingers of her left hand moved with almost superhuman swiftness. Her body dipped forward then she leaned back. Turning suddenly to the left then the right, she was totally absorbed in the music, and he couldn’t take his eyes off her. The piano playing behind was superlative, but clearly the focus of the performance was on the wonderful sounds coming from the violin. When the break came, too soon, the couple left the stage to wild applause from the five hundred or so souls gathered in the audience.

      Mikael turned to his mother. “Do you believe they’ve already pulled off three of ‘The Big Five’?”

      “I’m amazed at how good they are,” said Elizabeth.

      “You’re seeing history made. If they can perform all five of these sonatas, consistently, the concert music world of Europe will be at their feet.”

      Howard added, “Elizabeth has been doing her best to teach me more about classical music, but why is it such a big deal?”

      Mikael reminded himself to be patient with his American stepfather. “The term classical music refers to European music written between 1750 and 1830. The better term is concert music because some of these pieces were written from the late nineteenth to early twentieth century. Individually, some of these sonatas, like the Saint-Saens and Respighi’s Sonata, are so difficult that they are rarely played by anyone. Usually musicians play one or maybe two in a concert at most. The critics think the Lundgrens are out of their minds to attempt all five.”

      “What makes it so difficult?” asked Howard. “It seems that if you’re good enough to do one, all you have to do is string them together.”

      “Playing the concert violin at this level is a musical high-wire act without a safety net. Place a finger the faintest millimeter wrong and the instrument will suddenly be out of tune. All of these pieces are like mine fields; one misstep and it’s over. The mental strength, discipline, and pure chutzpah, it takes is incredible. It’s the Iron Man Triathlon of music, only five instead of three events.”  

      “What do you know about the Lundgrens?” Elizabeth asked.

      “Not much. This attempt at the ‘Big Five’ has to be a tremendous stretch.”

      “You wouldn’t have expected it of them then?” asked Howard.

      “Not at all. This came completely out of the blue. If anyone were to make the attempt, the betting would have been on Anna Ashtakova and her partner, Sergei Bukarin.”

      “So you haven’t met the Lundgrens personally?”

      “No. An artist displaying at my gallery is also a freelance writer and interviewed them for Le Monde. He told me that when you meet Kristin Lundgren in person you have no idea she could be capable of unleashing such power on stage. She’s beautiful, of course, but he said she’s very nice and unaffected and that you get the impression she has no problem staying home and quietly reading a book.”

     “To whom was Karl dedicating the performance?”

     “Annelise Rasmussen. My friend told me that she was Karl’s fiancé. She was killed in a car crash a year or so ago.”

     Elizabeth commented, “How tragic that one so young should die.”

     Mikael added, “I hear she was something special, from the cream of society, beautiful, and a brilliant scientist.”

    Howard said, “To be young, in love, and with your whole life ahead of you--then to lose it--how devastating.”

    “This is the first time the Lundgrens have performed since the accident, and the news that they were coming back to try ‘The Big Five’ has caused a sensation.”

     “I hope they do it.”

     “If they pull this off, their status will change overnight. Of course trying and doing are two different things. By the way, Kristin’s violin is a Stradivarius.”

     “How can you tell?”

     “The pattern of flames in the wood grain on the back made from two pieces of maple is a dead give away. I hear she owns two.”

     Elizabeth laughed, “I guess they’re not playing because they need the money.”

     Mikael said, “No, they’re from one of the oldest and richest families in Denmark.”

* * * * *

     Backstage, Kristin consoled her brother in their private sitting room furnished with two overstuffed sofas, a low coffee table loaded with hors d’oeuvres, and several folding chairs.  There was a faint smell of cleaning chemicals. She glanced at her reflection in the mirror ringed with make-up lights. “Karl we could have done better on the Saint-Saens finale but we’ve never been better on the Franck Sonata.”

     Karl said, “It’s not your fault, Kristin, I know we’re not perfect yet. We’ll just have to keep working at it.”

     Kristin smiled to herself. Karl was such a perfectionist, but she had the applause of the audience ringing in her ears to tell her they were on the right track. She knew this last year had been worth the sacrifice, and they were now on the brink of an achievement she doubted they would have ever tried. Karl still wasn’t dating, but maybe he’d open up with one of the attractive friends she had invited backstage after the performance. She flexed her left hand. There was a very slight tingling in her fingers that she had never noticed before. It was probably the stress of playing in public. There, it was gone.   
* * * * *

     The two performers returned and launched into Respighi’s Violin Sonata in B Minor, the signature piece of the legendary Jascha Heifetz. In the audience, Mikael was transported as Kristin played. He had heard the 1950 recording of Heifetz playing the Respighi. Kristin played with similar mechanical skill, but with a layer of emotion that Heifetz missed for all his technical brilliance. Mikael looked around at the crowd. The famous critics in attendance seemed to be as spellbound as the rest of the audience. Mikael moved to the edge of his seat. The last number was the Beethoven Sonata Number 9 ‘Kreutzer’. In less than expert hands, it contained numerous pitfalls. When played well, it was one of the most powerful pieces of chamber music ever penned. 

     Kristin opened with the haunting violin solo. Karl then made his dramatic entrance and they together outlined the main theme. At the Presto they exploded together. Karl introduced the complex main theme of the second movement. Then he and Kristin passed the baton back and forth through several variations, providing gloriously mellifluous sounds. Karl could sense from their faces that the audience was enraptured. The third movement reprised the energy of the first, and Karl was also swept along with its power. The communication between them was uncanny as they together raced from peak to peak. Several times the tension built then receded until, with unbearable release, they unleashed the blazing finale. As the last note died away, the audience rose to their feet in a standing ovation. 

     Karl held his sister’s hand as they bowed. He gulped hard as hot tears slipped down his cheeks. Never had he been so moved by this beautiful work written by the master. It was as if the spirit of Beethoven had reached across the centuries to share the stage with Kristin and him to create a special moment in time in remembrance of Annelise.

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Chapter 3

New York City

     As the McCallums emerged from the Garden dressing room, the backstage party was in full swing. From the joyous looks on people’s faces, Colleen wasn’t the only one who was glad this tour was over. Distracted, as someone shouted her name, she turned and bumped into Kyle Johnson, one of the roadies. He had an athletic build with slim hips and broad shoulders. She’d found herself staring at him on several occasions when he’s stripped his shirt off to work on the stage set-up. “Sorry Miss McCallum.”

     “It’s okay Kyle, it was my fault for not looking where I was going.” She stopped and put a hand on his arm. “I want to thank you for all your help these past few months.” She smiled up at him.

     “It’s been a real pleasure Miss McCallum.”

     “What are you going to do for the next four months?”

     “I’ll head back to Memphis and help my dad in his plumbing business.”

     “Do you like that?”

     “I sure do. One more tour and I’ll join him permanently. In ten years he’ll retire and I’ll take over.”

     A very pretty brunette came over and linked her arm through Kyle’s. She gave Kyle a proprietary look, then gave Colleen a thin smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

     “Miss McCallum, ma’am, I’d like you to meet my fiancé Judy Marlow.”

     “Pleased to meet you, and congratulations.”

     Judy gave her a smug look and said.  “Thank you.”

     Someone shouted Colleen’s name again. “Well, I’d better circulate. Good luck.”

     That was embarrassing, Colleen thought. She and Kyle had been making eyes at each other for two tours and he’d never gotten up the nerve to ask her out. Now she had taken the bull by the horns and he was engaged. No wonder her love life was non-existent. She smiled to herself. Kyle was a sweet kid but really she didn’t have enough in common with him for anything serious to develop anyway. She heard her name shouted again.

     She saw the drummer, Bobby Ryan, waving at her. Inwardly she cringed. Before she knew it he grabbed her around the waist. She could smell the whiskey on his breath as he tried to nuzzle her neck.

     “C’mon Colleen, the tour’s over, no excuse not to loosen up. Have a drink.”
     With a practiced move, she twisted out of his grip. “Maybe later. I’ve got to get around to say my goodbyes.”

     Bobby leered at her through drunken eyes. “You need to stop being so uptight up and have some fun.”

     “Thanks, I’ll think about it.”

     Bobby grabbed her arm. She knew he never would have been this bold except he was leaving the band and this was his last shot. Although he had subjected her to sexual innuendo the whole tour, he had never quite crossed the line, so she had ignored it in the interest of harmony.  “Stop thinkin’ and start doin’. You keep burying yourself in books instead of livin’.”

     Stung by comments that struck too close to home, she retorted, “When I start living, it won’t be with somebody who goes home with a different woman every night.”

     Bobby released her. A swift shadow swept across his face. “On second thought, stick to your books.” He left her and melted into the crowd.

     She shook herself. Bobby represented the other type of men on tour, the shallow men looking for one thing only. She’d long ago developed a thick skin and felt no compunction about giving jerks a set down. Subtlety was not something they understood. She’d learned that firmness was the only way to handle the lotharios to whom she represented the ultimate challenge. 

      She circulated around backstage thanking as many people as she could. She knew it would be difficult to get to everybody. There were fifty people on the traveling staff and at least forty local people brought on to set up each show. The McCallum tour required eight full-sized semi-tractor trailers plus the luxury coach they traveled in. Here in New York they were joined by a host of people from their recording company, Genus. After getting around to all the people she had to talk to, and being hit on by ever more drunk and determined swains, she decided to leave. As the cab pulled away she closed her eyes and thought how blissful it was that they had nothing scheduled for the next four months.

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