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    Parker Owens
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Double Concerto - 27. Virtuoso

No Rita or Heinrich warnings are active for this chapter. There's enough tension without them.

For a moment, silence reigned in the hospital casting room.

Doctor Nesbitt stood and turned. “Just who are you, and what are you doing in my ER?” She drew herself to her full height, standing a good inch or two taller than the new arrival. Her voice sounded icy, almost regal.

The agent somehow managed to look even younger. “Agent Hausmantel, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

A bulky shape lurked in at the door. The beefy rent-a-cop security from the front desk peered in, around a second ICE agent.

“That’s him! Gotta be an illegal.” The goon from hospital security leered.

The ICE backup at the door glared at the dough-faced guard.

“What? You know I’m right.”

“You have any ID?” The doctor inquired of the man in front of her.

Agent Hausmantel produced a card. “We got called about a suspicious person. The office in Duluth sent us.”

“You drove all the way from Duluth? Just on a phone call? You haven’t got anything better to do with your time?” Doctor Nesbitt’s voice sounded full of scorn and astonishment.

Rick glanced at Gus, whose new cast lay in his lap. Fear masked his features. His dark brown eyes flicked from the blue uniforms to the doctor and back. Rick took Gus’ good hand and squeezed.

“We’re supposed to investigate every tip we get. We never know what we’ll find.” The agent shrugged. “We’ll take this man into custody and check him out.”

“No, you won’t. He’s my patient.”

Gus gripped Rick’s hand.

“Ma’am, there are good doctors in Duluth, too.” Hausmantel made a movement to get around Doctor Nesbitt.

She stood her ground. “Get out. You do not get to come into my ER and disrupt treatment.”

“Doc, I’m just doing my job.”

“He’s an American citizen.” Rick blurted out, interrupting. “You can’t take him.”

“That’s right,” Nesbitt agreed. “Think how bad it would look for you if you carted an actual citizen off to detention. Didn’t that happen somewhere in Florida?”

Hausmantel hesitated, almost flinching.

“It would be all over the news.” Rick added.

“Can he speak English?”

“Of course, he can!” Nesbitt sputtered. “He’s a world-famous concert pianist, for heaven’s sake.”

The blue uniformed agent addressed Gus. “Sir, can I see some identification?”

Gus stared back, mute, his good hand holding Rick’s tight enough to hurt.

“Just get him out of here! One less illegal to feed …” The voice of the hospital rent-a-cop carried into the room.

“Shut that door!” Dr. Nesbitt ordered.

Nurse Grimes hastened to obey, admitting the second ICE agent, but closing off a knot of curious hospital personnel gathering at the entrance.

“Sir? ID?” Hausmantel edged closer.

There was no answer, except for the dread etched on the darker man’s features.

Rick intertwined his fingers with his friend’s. “Gus? It’s gonna be okay.”

Gus slowly turned to him. Their eyes met, and for an instant, Rick saw untold anxiety and pain in the depths of those deep brown eyes. Then, as if waking from a dream, the terror receded, and his face cleared.

“I’m Gustavo Morales,” he said. He spoke softly, but clearly.

“You have some proof of identity, Mister …?”

“Morales. Gustavo Morales.” Gus turned back to the agent, repeating his name with more confidence. “And no, my identification’s at home. I was out fishing today.”

“Then you’ll have to come with us.”

“Wait,” Rick interposed. “Agent Hausmantel, do you have your phone?”

The agent frowned.

“Look, this man is known around the world. He’s got thousands of fans. How would it look if you detained maestro Gustavo Morales, American citizen? He’s a public figure. You can Google him. There must be a hundred photos.”

Gus raised an eyebrow in Rick’s direction.

Dr. Nesbitt dug in the pocket of her white lab coat. “Here, you can use my phone.” She logged on to her instrument and handed it over.

Agent Hausmentel’s fingers moved over the screen. “Morales, right?”

“Yes.” Gus nodded.

“Go to the Wikipedia page.” Rick suggested.

The light on the screen changed, and while it wasn’t visible to everyone else, the agent’s raised eyebrows told enough of the story.

“You see that second line of text? ‘He is originally from Guatemala, and has held US citizenship since 1990.’” Rick quoted. “You wouldn’t want to chance getting on the wrong side of this, would you? Didn’t you see the news about what they did to those agents in Boston?”

The muffled noise from those gathered in the hall seeped into the silence. The agent lifted his eyes to examine Gus more closely, comparing it to the publicity photo in the article.

“If you follow the link at the bottom, you’ll find a lot more of his photos.” Rick added.

“I don’t know. It might be him,” agent Hausmantel admitted. “But that’s no proof of identity.”

“You want a birth certificate?” asked the doctor, exasperated.

“No, I just want convincing proof that this is the man in the article.”

“My U.S. passport is in Eagle Lake, on my dresser.” Gus informed the agent.

“In Wisconsin? I’m not driving you to the middle of god-knows-where Wisconsin to get your passport.”

More silence greeted this pronouncement. An impasse seemed imminent.

“I know another way,” Rick volunteered.

“Which is what?” The federal agent snapped.

“Maybe there’s a place where you could play something for them,” Rick said, turning to Gus.

Gus frowned.

“There’s a studio grand in the hospital Chapel.” Dr. Nesbitt brightened. “In fact, it’s fairly new. Someone gave it as a gift.”

“You could do that, Gus, right? Couldn’t you?” Rick asked.

Gus allowed himself a small smile. “I guess I could.”

“And you can judge for yourself if this is Gustavo Morales, concert pianist and US citizen.” Rick turned to the ICE agent.

Hausmantel hesitated. “I don’t know. Maybe I should call back to Duluth.” He glanced at his partner who stood at the door for support.

The man shrugged in response.

“You mean to say they don’t give you any discretion at all, Agent Hausmantel?” Doctor Nesbitt asked.

“I can make my own decisions.” The agent grumbled.

“Then what’s the harm of listening and deciding for yourself?”

More silent seconds ticked by. “Fine. Let’s hear the man play the piano.” Hausmantel made a sour face.

“Good. Then let’s go to the chapel.” The Doctor assented with a gracious nod.

She stepped over to the door and pulled it open, surprising a group congregated outside in the hallway. Not sparing a moment to explain, the Doctor turned left down the hall, where a motley procession followed in her wake under glaring overhead fluorescent lights: Gus and Rick, the two federal agents, nurse Grimes, and a collection of the concerned and curious. She pushed open a set of double doors and sheered off to her left and around a corner. Inquisitive faces glanced at the parade from desks and doorways. Rick tried to keep track of the route Dr. Nesbitt took through the hospital, but Gus’ lean brown legs and the Doctor’s billowing lab coat distracted him.

“You okay?” Rick whispered to Gus, catching up to him at the end of a long corridor.

“Fine. No pressure here, just a command performance to keep me out of jail.”

They turned yet another corner, and the hard floor changed to tightly woven blue carpet.

The white-coated figure ahead swerved to the left, stopped abruptly, and yanked open a door. “Memorial Chapel,” she announced.

They filed past her and entered a bland, square room. Rows of chairs faced a lectern and table. Generic-looking religious objects hung on the wall. A honey-colored studio grand piano stood in the far corner, and Gus took a direct path to it.

Rick followed. “Here, let me, help,” he said, dragging the heavy piano bench out from under the instrument.

Gus sat down, awkwardly flipping up the lid over the keyboard with his newly-casted right hand. “Rick, can you raise the lid? If I’m going to do this, let’s do it right.” He flashed a smile to warm the stoniest law-enforcement heart.

Rick hurriedly moved around to the other side of the piano to lift the gleaming wood and prop it, while the ICE agents and hospital workers found seats. He stood there for a moment. Gus had his head down, as if to concentrate on the keyboard and shut out the whole preposterous situation.

He turned to sit down in the seat nearest the piano. Dr. Nesbitt sat to his left, with Agent Hausmantel on her other side. Gus was framed by the lid, prop, and the body of the instrument. For an instant, Rick wondered if Gus was going to play at all. Then his left shoulder and arm moved, and a joyful melody seemed to bubble up out of the piano, like children’s laughter, or an unexpected robin.

Rick felt as if he’d gone out for a walk on a sunny day in spring. In his imagination he could see fresh green grass and new leaves on the trees. The music changed, and with it, Gus made a breeze play in their branches. A cloud passed over the melody, making it darker and more complex. It accelerated briefly, rising in intensity, only to diminish in a shower of notes, like leaf-buds falling to the ground.

And all the while, Gus’s right arm remained motionless.

Rick blinked, trying to clear his head. The melody was slowing down; Gus was coming to a close. A few notes strayed up the scale, lingering like light at sunset.

Some uncertain applause broke out, and Rick thought about joining in it. However, Gus remained taut and attentive at the piano. There was more to come.

Two notes followed by a rapid theme jabbed the air. It sounded again, only higher, above another moving line. Rick watched carefully, as a skeptic watches a professional magician. How does Gus do that? He’s got to be cheating. I’d swear both hands are playing.

 

The music seemed to scamper up scales and back down again, like squirrels chasing one another through the trees. The original theme reappeared, tantalizing the ear with its insistent song, then disappearing, as playful as the animals he’d imagined.

Rick kept his eyes on Gus, head inclined over the keyboard, body moving gracefully as he played; black hair hanging down and obscuring the view of his face. A shadow around Gus’s collarbone distracted him, as he focused on dark skin against white fabric.

He barely realized Gus had stopped playing. This time, the applause was immediate and loud.

Gus didn’t acknowledge it, however. Instead, he began playing another piece, something in a more serious key, a melody both stern and full of portent, like a summer storm on the far horizon. Lightning flashed and thunder crashed in the music. Gus leaned back and extended his arm as he played, then swooped forward over the keys as the tempest broke. He hunched forward as the key changed and the rays of sun broke through the musical clouds. For a few bars at least, Gus drew golden light out of the piano, only to have the grey roll back in with the following chords.

Gus frowned and seemed to infuse each note with seriousness. His whole body put emphasis into the deepest harmonies. Rick was so engrossed in watching that he almost missed the motion on his left.

Agent Hausmantel had risen from his seat and moved into a position behind Gus. Rick started to get up, but caught the agent’s astonished glance in his partner’s direction. Hausmantel shrugged and made a palms-up gesture.

Rick relaxed a little. The man hadn’t believed Gus could play, let alone with just one hand. He’d had to go see it to believe it.

With a flourish, Gus conveyed a summer rainstorm dissipating to a sprinkle, and then to mist. And as the music ended and the applause burst forth, he raised his head and smiled directly at Rick.

 

 

“I still can’t believe that security guy at the ER called in the Border Patrol,” Rick declared.

In a fast deepening twilight, he and Gus ambled side by side toward the truck across a parking lot, a bright neon sign of the Spruce Up Grill behind them.

“What I still can’t believe is that those agents drove all the way from Duluth just for one guy.” Gus shook his head in wonder.

“I guess that makes you special.”

“You sure you didn’t call them just to get a free concert out of it?” Gus sipped on the straw of his tall drink.

“You were really good,” Rick replied.

Gus just smiled.

“And you kept on playing, almost an hour.”

“I wasn’t going to disappoint a dozen patients in wheelchairs.”

“Don’t know where they appeared from. It was like magic.”

“Dr. Nesbitt must have called someone to bring them down.”

Rick followed Gus to the truck’s passenger side door and reached for the handle. “Let me get that.”

“I’m not crippled.”

“No, you just have a giant lemonade in your good hand.” Rick yanked open the door.

‘Well, thank you, then.” Gus climbed in and slid onto the bench seat.

Rick walked around to the driver’s side and got in behind the wheel. “You sure you want the center seat?”

Gus had moved over to the middle; Rick felt very aware of how close Gus was as he clicked into his seat belt. Not that he was going to complain.

“You were nice to take me out for supper.”

“Are you kidding? No way would I let you go hungry.”

“I think I ate enough to last a week.”

“Well, it was my pleasure. Really.” Rick grinned wide.

“I ought to have been the one to take you out.”

“Nope. This would have been my treat, no matter what.”

“It was very nice of you.” Gus waggled the fingers of his right hand protruding from his new cast.

Rick caught the movement out of the corner of his eye. “Are you okay? Anything hurt?”

Gus shook his head. “Not really. Dr. Nesbitt said it might ache a little.”

Rick navigated the quiet streets of Great Forge.

“Maybe you should take one of those pain pills she prescribed. They’re in the slot there, in the little brown envelope.”

“No, thanks. I’ll be fine.”

“You’re sure?”

“I think so. The good doctor was just covering all her bases.”

“The good doctor was just about having kittens.” Rick chuckled. “If she could have crammed everyone in the hospital into that chapel, she would’ve.”

“At least she didn’t call in the news cameras.”

“You don’t like them?”

“Oh, I don’t mind TV cameras.” Gus shrugged. “But Zoltan would have pitched a hissy fit. In Hungarian. He hates any performance or publicity that he hasn’t arranged.”

“You had the audience eating out of your hand.”

“It’s always nice to meet people who appreciate spontaneous classical music.” Gus laughed.

“I think everyone enjoyed your playing. Even the ICE agents wanted a selfie.”

Gus made a wry smile in the glow of the dashboard lights. “Your idea succeeded spectacularly.”

“You don’t mind, do you?”

“No, no, absolutely not. It was brilliant. You completely stumped them and got me out of my paralysis at the same time.”

Rick considered this as they crossed back into Wisconsin and headed south. The streetlights ended, and the old truck was enveloped in darkness. A silver moon shone down through a veil of thin clouds.

“So what happened in that room? What made you freeze up like that?”

“Have you ever been arrested before?”

Rick felt a sudden flush. “I’ve been stopped a couple of times. Speeding.” The tires hummed on the warm pavement. “I felt like crap. Sorry.”

Silence reigned long enough that Rick wondered if he’d offended Gus.

“It’s about guys with guns and uniforms,” the darker man said, barely audible above the road noise.

Rick frowned. “I don’t understand.”

“They scare me.”

“I can’t blame you for that. Those guys had me scared for a few minutes, too.”

“No, it’s not just them. It’s …” Gus hesitated, his words hanging in mid moment.

“Police in general?”

Gus turned his head and stared out the window at the shadowed trees passing by. They swung around a wide curve.

“You know I came to this country as a refugee?” Gus asked.

“Something like that. You had a rough time with the Border Patrol?”

Gus made a face and shook his head. “No. It was … You have to understand …”

Rick reached over and grasped Gus’ good hand. “It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me anything.”

“It’s just … difficult. I can talk about it.”

Rick waited but didn’t let go. He let the sounds of the highway fill the cab until Gus felt ready to go on.

“My family, we were small farmers, up in the mountains. The village we lived in was a tiny place called San Drugo. I’m not sure I could find it on a map. It was hardly big enough to notice, except that the nuns had a mission there.”

A car whizzed by in the opposite lane; headlights blazing.

“I don’t remember too much. My father grew vegetables and corn, like everyone else. What we didn’t need, we sold in the town down the mountain. Mama either worked for the sisters in the mission, or in the field. I helped if I could and went to the mission school. I used to hang around there as much as possible, so I could play the piano.”

Rick slowed as the truck swayed into a sharp bend in the road.

“It’s funny, isn’t it? I don’t really remember what my father looked like. We never had a photo of him. But I can still hear him singing and playing the guitar.”

Gus stared forward, as if listening to an echo only he could hear. He sang, in a hoarse, high voice, as soft as a feather:

Vamos a la mar, tun, tun,
A comer pescado, tun, tun,
Fritito y asado, tun, tun,
En sartén de palo, tun, tun.

 

“Was that something your dad sang to you?” Rick asked.

Gus nodded and smiled a little. “Mama said I get my music from my father, along with my stubbornness.”

“So, what happened to make you leave the village?”

The pressure on Rick’s hand increased. “One day, when I was seven or eight, I was in the mission’s big room, playing the piano. Mama was cleaning or cooking. They excused me from school so I could practice. Sister Felicity found an old battered copy of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, and I was working my way through it.”

The tires whined on the road.

“A girl from the village – I can’t remember her name – burst through the door, shouting ‘Madre Felicita! Madre Felicita! Vienen los soldados!’ ‘The soldiers are coming.’

“That brought Sister Felicity running. The girl and I ran over to the school building and told Sister Mary Teresa to bring everyone back to the mission. Everyone knew that the arrival of the army could be dangerous.

“Sister got thirty little kids herded back up the hill so fast, it must have been a miracle. Mama and Sister Felicity and two other sisters were there, hustling everyone down to a secret cellar I never knew they had there – underneath the piano, of all places. We had to squeeze through a small, hidden trapdoor in the floor, and climb down a ladder. Sister Felicity stayed above. She must have felt responsible. One of the sisters lit a candle when the hatch was pushed up and locked closed; the rumble of the piano being pushed back into place over our heads sounded like thunder. Sister Mary Teresa held a finger to her lips. We had to be absolutely silent. Everyone was frightened; we’d heard stories of what the government soldiers could do.”

Rick gave Gus’ hand another squeeze, an affirmation. He felt Gus squeeze back.

“We waited and waited for something to happen. We strained to hear anything at all. Later, we could hear the grind of truck motors arriving in the square by the mission, even through the thick basement walls. The road up was twisty and in bad shape – if you were used to it, it was faster to walk up the mountain through the fields.”

Gus fell silent again. The pickup motored stolidly along in the darkness, clouds covering the stars and moon overhead.

“I don’t really know what happened. No one does. I know the soldiers searched for us, because there was shouting, and voices calling out. We heard heavy boots overhead. The worst was when they searched the storage cellar on the other side of the false wall next to us. We could hear the soldiers poking around down there, talking. It was almost a relief when they started smashing things.

“I remember listening to Sister Felicity’s voice shouting at them in the big room, and all of us staring up at the ceiling overhead, waiting, hoping. I saw the sisters praying, their lips moving silently. The voices and footsteps faded. For a long time, we just sat there in the light of that single candle, not knowing what to do.

“Had the army come to defend us against terrorists? Were there rebel militias around? All we understood was that we had to be quiet.”

The bright lights of another car overtaking the pickup flashed in the mirrors briefly; taillights glowed and pulled away.

“And then?” Rick asked.

“The sound of machine gun fire startled everyone; four or five long bursts, a staccato noise like some kind of snare drum. It must have been close by the mission, because the sound was clear and loud. Down in our concealed cellar, we jumped and started chattering, but Mama and Sister Mary Teresa hushed us all. We struggled to hear what was happening. There were voices, maybe orders being given, and then short spurts of gunfire. The boom of two, three explosions made everyone jump; some of the children cried out, but I remember biting my tongue. We were terrified. Not long after that, the unmistakable sound of trucks roaring to life made one of the sisters start up the ladder, but Mama shook her head. Too soon. I remember hearing them drive away and listening to the sound of their engines and gears grinding.

“We waited a long time after that before anyone said anything. Sister Mary Teresa kept staring at the hatch, waiting to hear the sound of the piano being moved. It wasn’t until the scent of smoke found its way into our crowded, dark little hole that anyone stirred again. Then Sister’s eyes went wide. Nobody stopped her from climbing the ladder and unlatching the trapdoor.

“The burning odor assaulted us when the hatch swung down, revealing the underside of the piano. Mama joined Sister on the ladder; the two of them pushed and scrabbled to get the heavy thing to move, so we could all get out.”

“I’m glad you escaped.” Rick said.

Gus continued, his voice hollow. “I remember us all climbing the ladder. I remember seeing the village burning. My eyes stung. But what I can’t forget is the sight of bodies and blood in the square: my father, Sister Felicity, and half a dozen other men, all murdered.”

Rick’s foot involuntarily came off the gas pedal. He couldn’t help turning to Gus. Tears streamed down his face. “I’m so sorry.” The words sounded empty, powerless to heal.

“That’s why men with guns and uniforms get to me,” Gus said. “I can’t help recalling that day.”

“Why did they do that? What was the reason?” Rick blinked to clear his eyes, and steer.

“We found signs tacked on the mission doors and on fenceposts and trees everywhere. This Village is now the Property of the Inter-American Coffee Company, they read. The soldiers had set fire to all the houses, but left the mission standing. I don’t know why. They murdered my father and his friends as an example to anyone who might resist.”

“And Sister Felicity.”

“Yes, her too. I have no doubt she told them off. For a nun, she knew how to be fierce.” Gus let out a long breath. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to burden you with the story.”

“It’s okay. I’m just sorry my stupid question brought the pain back.”

“I’ve had a long time to deal with it: counseling has made it better. But mostly, what helped was losing myself in music. Practicing, performing, challenging myself, attempting more and more demanding repertoire.”

“Burying yourself in work.”

“Exactly. Jules said they’d bury me in a piano, not a casket, when we broke up.” A ghost of a chuckle escaped Gus’ lips.

“Didn’t he know about the reason you worked so hard?”

“No. I never told him. Outside of therapy, you’re the first person I’ve spoken of it with.”

Rick digested this admission.

“Anyway, I get anxious in places where there’s a lot of armed security. I hate traveling – airports are the worst.”

“And you have to travel for your career.”

“All the time. That’s why this summer has been such a fantastic break.” Gus yawned. His body seemed to release some of its tension.

“Until I dunked you in the lake.”

“I’m not sorry. You’re an amazing kisser.”

Rick felt a flush of happiness bloom in the dark. A smile lifted his mouth. “Thanks.”

Gus yawned again. “Excuse me. Guess I’m a little tired.”

“It’s been a long day.”

“But a nice one.”

The deep dark woods sped by in the dark, the road stripes blinking past in the headlights.

Rick felt Gus shift next to him; he glanced over. The man had dozed off. Though Gus’ head tilted back, his shoulder leaned into Rick’s. No way was Rick going to disturb him. Both men had demons pursuing them, both had reasons for nightmares.

Rick reflected that the man at his side had driven his own dark visions back into the shadows where they belonged. Gus snoozed and Rick enjoyed the warmth of the body he propped up beside him. It lasted maybe forty miles until Rick pulled up into a left turn lane outside of Eagle Lake.

“Wha’s the matter?” Gus asked, still very groggy.

“Just making the turn onto the North Shore road,” Rick said in a voice hardly louder than the clicking of the turn signal. “I’ll have you back at Cedarcrest in a few minutes.”

“Noooo. Don’t do that.” Gus shook his head, enunciating his words with care.

A car in the lane beside theirs paused at the intersection, and then moved on past the motionless pickup. “Don’t what?”

Gus yawned and closed his eyes. “Just take me home, Rick. Take me home.”

Rick leaned over and kissed his messy dark hair. “Okay. Home it is.”

In case you’d like to hear what Gus was playing: 6 Etudes pour la Main Gauche, by Camille Saint-Saens https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skTRoUSZf1c

 

 

I extend my deep thanks to @AC Benus and @Carlos Hazday for their help in making this story far better than it otherwise would have been. If you have a comment, complaint, observation or even a piano request, please leave it here. Anything you say is very much appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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58 minutes ago, CincyKris said:

Home.  You captured the tension throughout the chapter wonderfully, then ended with such a beautiful word.  Thank you.

You’re most welcome. After a day of adventure and stress, home sounds like the best place of all. Thank you very much for reading!

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3 hours ago, Mawgrim said:

So now we've found out about Gus's demons from his past. It was a frightening experience in the hospital, but it's brought them closer together. I loved the end of this chapter.

Rick may not have expected these demons to emerge from the shadows of Gus' life. The ICE agents must have seemed like apparitions, nightmares from the terror that changed the course of his life forever. It's no wonder that after this truly eventful day, Gus should be exhausted and needing the home Rick might represent. Thanks so much for your comments and for reading this chapter.

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3 hours ago, 84Mags said:

Dear, sweet Gus. So much beauty out of a childhood with so much tragedy. 
Home. That says everything. Absolutely everything.  

That Gus should feel Rick might be a home says a very great deal about their connection. Gus had a violent and traumatic childhood, followed by a kind of rootless growing up and coming of age. This has continued into his adult life. Gus knows how to make beautiful music, and now he is learning to make a beautiful friendship with Rick. Thanks very much for your comments, and for continuing to read the story.

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2 hours ago, pvtguy said:

Music verified Gus' identity but did much more:  it brought about healing of pain for others if not a respite from it.  Music allowed Gus to escape from the pain of his childhood but is the vehicle which has brought him to this point in his life:  he's found Home!  Now, it is time for music to release Rick's demons.  Brilliantly written!

Music has been Gus' life and identity since he can remember. It has captivated audiences all over the world, but the most important listener is the audience of one whose heart was captured that night he listened to Gus at the Cedarcrest dock. Your words are kind and encouraging. Thank you very much for reading!

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1 hour ago, Sweetlion said:

Hope the hospital fired the security guy 😡

Home.... Now Rick should start seriously thinking about his life, and do some healing too. He should see that Gus recognize his value, he needs to start recognizing his own value too.

If Dr. Nesbitt has anything to say about the matter, the hospital security guard will soon be an ex-hospital security guard. Gus posed zero threat to anyone at the hospital, and could hardly have been said to be suspicious except to someone looking for trouble.  As you point out, Gus is helping Rick to heal and admit the sun into the darkened room of his life. But for now, the day's adventures must have exhausted them both, especially Gus. Thank you very much for your thoughts, and for reading.

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I love how Gus wanted Rick to take him home.  Great ending to a suspenseful chapter!  You have me wondering who paused when they were at the intersection.  I have a feeling Rick is going to have to openly face his sexuality. 

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1 hour ago, Valkyrie said:

I love how Gus wanted Rick to take him home.  Great ending to a suspenseful chapter!  You have me wondering who paused when they were at the intersection.  I have a feeling Rick is going to have to openly face his sexuality. 

The other motorist was merely someone confused about what the motionless pickup truck at the intersection was going to do, rather than one of Heinrich Senior's spies and tale bearers. Cedarcrest may be a wonderful place, but Gus sees Rick as home. No doubt that will echo in Rick's mind for a long time to come. Thank you for reading and for your thoughts. 

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46 minutes ago, northie said:

Described by a poet, I think. I read those sentences and marvelled. As a musician and writer, I need to try harder when I describe music. 😉 Parker has set the bar very high.  😘

You’re very good to have read this chapter and imagined the performance and perhaps heard the music. Describing music is trickier than I originally thought. You’re most generous in your comments, for which I’m very grateful. 

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To begin, I've lived as an expat in Guatemala for over 12 years and had visited many times before, including once during the "dark days", and those truly were "dark". Admittedly, there is still some polarization, but nothing compared to the violent insanity of Antifa and BLM prevalent in the US nowdays. Refreshingly, political correctness or "Wokism" is virtually non-existant here. Living in a city in the Western Highlands, 99% of our close friends (in many cases, considered family) are predominantly Mayan. We (my partner of 20+ years and I) have had nothing but a wonderful life!

Just my 2 cents

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1 hour ago, Quetzal said:

To begin, I've lived as an expat in Guatemala for over 12 years and had visited many times before, including once during the "dark days", and those truly were "dark". Admittedly, there is still some polarization, but nothing compared to the violent insanity of Antifa and BLM prevalent in the US nowdays. Refreshingly, political correctness or "Wokism" is virtually non-existant here. Living in a city in the Western Highlands, 99% of our close friends (in many cases, considered family) are predominantly Mayan. We (my partner of 20+ years and I) have had nothing but a wonderful life!

Just my 2 cents

Thank you for your window on the world, which tells of something better than those dark days you mentioned. It’s heartening to know you and your partner have been happy. 

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