American Contemporary Suspense

Good Luck Maudy Hersham—George Davis

  Has it been forty years since I played second violin in the Bickford Community Orchestra? Maudy Hersham thought. She noted she hadn’t played her violin in that many years. Oh, it was, looking backward to that pleasurable time, so silly. The argument over who would be the first chair in the string section. Maudy was a contender, but Harry Noble was the conductor’s nephew. Maudy figured she didn’t stand a chance even though she was twice the player her opponent was, or would ever be.

  It was a Friday evening; Maudy remembered. The orchestra was going to play for a local charity the which Maudy couldn’t recall its name. 

  “Maudy,” the conductor began. “I have chosen the first chair. It is Harry Noble. I’m sorry. I know how much that meant to you. As for ability. You have it way over Harry. However, understand, he is my nephew, and I have family that would shun me if he didn’t get the job.” 

  “You mean. I am not getting the first chair because Harry is your nephew?” 

“I’m sorry, Maudy. You must understand. I…” Maudy didn’t let him finish. She packed up her violin and left the stage in a huff. The conductor, was in a tizzy. Maudy was by far the best of the best. Harry wasn’t even a good second chair, maybe fifth in rank. What was he to do. The people were gathering for the concert, and he was without his number-one violin virtuoso. 

  “The seats are all taken,” Marty Owens, the assistant conductor said. “What’ll we do without Maudy?” 

  “I don’t know. Cross our fingers, I guess. As they say, ‘the show must go on.’” It went on all right. It was a disaster. Harry’s violin sounded more like a rusty door hinge throwing off the entire string section.

  Let me take you back to the early days of this orchestra. When it was first organized. Louis Gillette, the able conductor gathered the town’s people into the Bickford High School gym and asked for anyone with a musical ear to join him. “We can make this orchestra one of the best in the state. How many will help us with this effort?” Several hands went up from the crowd that had gathered there to encourage Louis in his efforts. Louie as his friends call him is a native of Bickford, and a Berkley College graduate. Louie came back to his hometown to work as the high school music director, a position he’s held for the past twelve years.

   Gillette drove over to Maudy’s home. Her house is the neatest home on the street. Fresh paint covered the exterior. The colorful flagstone walk added glamour to her acreage. The conductor rang the doorbell. He heard Maudy’s Jack Russell yipping as Maudy opened the door. “Oh, hello Maestro, come in.”

  “Maudy, won’t you consider coming back. Our concert was a disaster. I made a huge mistake in refusing you the first chair. However, if I hadn’t given the chair to Harry, I’d be blackballed by my own family. What can I do to entice your return, Maudy?”

  “It’s all right, Maestro. I can survive. The Portland Symphony is looking for violinists.”

  “No, Maudy. Please come back. I—we need you.”

  “Though I sympathize with you for having to kowtow to family. However, I should have had first chair.”

  “Please come back. If you come back you can have first chair, family or no family, I am going to fire my nephew. Now, will you come back?” 

  “Yes I will, Maestro. Yes.” Maudy returned to the orchestra, and gained first chair. Harry Noble left telling Gillette he’d be sorry when he told his mother.” Harry’s mother is Louie Gillette’s sister. 

  The crowd was sparse at the Riverbank Park; few showed due to their last musical disaster at the high school gym. Louis Gillette was hoping Maudy’s return to the orchestra would bring more people in. However, he didn’t get the ad in the paper in time for the concert.

  When Maudy sat down, the crowd went wild. “Where’ve you been, Maudy?” The crowd roared. She got a standing ovation. “I’m so glad you are back, Maudy,” Louie said. “So, so glad.”

  Finishing the concert, many people got in line to congratulate Maudy for her fine performance. As each fan shook their hero’s hand, Louie beamed all over, proud of his new first chair.

  Maudy went home elated by the applause and ovations she received. She put her expensive strings in her front room closet. Maudy was pleased with herself. Though she did feel sorry for Harry Noble, she knew first chair was hers. 

  Maudy got supper, a frozen meal, mac and cheese. Lately, she ate little. Her nerves were shattered over losing the position of first chair. However, now that she won that position. She was once again hungry for a decent meal. Mac and cheese was one of her favorites, along with baked beans and ham. 

  Tonight she would bask in her glorious appointment. She was in musical heaven tonight. 

The doorbell woke her from her reverie. Tying her robe around her, she answered the door. 

  “Who are you, and what do you want?” She asked. 

  “I have a surprise for you, Maudy Hersham.” With that, he pushed her aside and entered her home. He turned her around and put a handkerchief to her nose. She struggled, but soon she was unconscious. When she woke, Maudy was sitting in a chair, tied by plastic hand and feet restraints. “What the…” 

  “Well, hello Maudy. How are you?” The tall stranger who rang her doorbell asked. 

  “What are you doing to me?” 

  “Why nothing, Maudy. We are holding you for a while, that’s all.” 

  “What for?” 

  “I’ll let you know a little later. For now, suffice it to say, we are detaining you.” His demeanor changed. His face took on an evil look, and he got in her face. “You think you’re great, don’t you, Maudy? Well, you aren’t that good. You are pretty, so the conductor gave you first chair,” he sneered. “Well all that is going to change, Maudy. You will see.” His laugh was so nefarious. She wilted under the strains of his sinister snigger. 

  Hours passed, and Maudy was still tied to that chair. No one had been in since early morning. Where was that man? Had he left her there to die? No, she thought. He wanted her to suffer, let her imagination produce images of death and dying. 

  The door opened, and the man came back in. He had a fast-food bag with him. “Here, Maudy. I brought your lunch.” It’s a little late for lunch; she thought. It must be late at night. The darkness was all around her. The only light was through the crack in the open door. Would she die of starvation, or was he a sadist, and wanted to see her waste away? 

  “It is almost time, Maudy,” the stranger said. 

Her voice was whispered, “time for what?” 

  “Time for you—to meet your maker, Maudy. I have been paid very handsomely for your demise. I can’t think why I shouldn’t complete my assignment.” 

 “If I’m going to die you should at least tell me who put you up to this.” 

  “Sorry, Maudy. I’m sworn to secrecy. Let me just say, they are no friends of yours.” 

  “Is it Harry Noble?” 

  “I have no idea who that is, but no. It is not him.” Who can it be Maudy wondered? I don’t know of any enemies. Certainly not in the orchestra. They are all my friends. 

  “Any last requests, Maudy?” 

  “No. I am ready to meet God. I am a Christian. Are you ready to meet your god?” 

  “I don’t believe in God, Maudy.” 

  “That’s too bad. I do have one request.” “What is it, Maudy?” 

  “Please untie me. Let me enjoy my last few minutes in freedom from this bondage.” 

  “I guess that wouldn’t be in violation of my oath.” He quickly cut the plastic ties from her hands and legs. She tried to stand but was too weak. 

  “Please help me up.” He took her by the hands and pulled her to a standing position. “Well, Maudy, how’s it feel to be free?”

  “Great,” she said, bringing her knee up into his middle, knocking the wind out of him. He struggled to get to his feet, but Maudy had the gun aimed at his head. “Now, my friend. Tell me who ordered you to kill me, or I will pull the trigger.”

  “Look, Maudy. I was paid to do a job. No offense, nothing personal.”

  “I will give you ten seconds to tell me who paid you, and then I will shoot you.” He sat up, his face now expressing fear. “It was—“ A shot rang out, and the stranger laid back; a bright red stain on his shirt just below his heart. He died instantly. “Who’s there?” Maudy shouted. “Who is it?” She heard a door close in the distance. The shooter was gone. She walked through the open door and stared down a short corridor. The door on the end had a sign: Keep Door Closed. She opened the door and stepped out into a long alley. She recognized the building next to her prison. It was Thompson’s Drugstore. The alley was littered with waste papers, dirty plastic bags, and dog feces. The odor was unbearably unpleasant to the olfactory senses. 

  Wrists and ankles purple from the restraints were sore to the touch. She didn’t know how long she’d been detained, but thought it was three days. 

  “Where have you been, Maudy?” Louie Gillette asked. “I missed you. I tried calling you but got your answering machine. I drove by your house. Your car was in the driveway. What happened?” 

  “I was taken captive, Maestro. Someone held me, prisoner, for; I think, three days.” 

  “You have been missing for a week, Maudy. Who held you captive?” 

  “Some stranger, he was obviously working for another person. He started to tell me when someone shot him. I tried to find the person, but when I got out the door, he was gone.” 

  “What happened to the body of the dead man, Maudy?” 

  I called the police. They came, questioned me. Obviously, I didn’t shoot him, though I probably would have if I’d had a gun. He treated me less than a dog, feeding me fast-food garbage once a day.” 

  “Did the police tell you who the man was?”

  “They said he was a small-time hood from Portland, an Artie Shaw. The name didn’t mean anything to me.”

  “I knew an Artie Shaw, went to school with him in Portland. He was a bum, stole kid’s lunch money. So I’m not surprised he’d do something like this.” 

Maudy spent the next week practicing for the big concert at Portland City Hall in June. It was the event of the year. She has played at that venue for the last four years. And now that she is first chair, it will seem even better than before. 

  If you think this is the end of this story. You are wrong. Maudy was shot while leaving a small restaurant in Portland. The shooter got away. Witnesses say they were driving a late model Buick, some said black, others said blue. One witness got the first two numbers of the license plate: 93. 

  With all the black and blue Buicks in the Greater Portland area, the police had their hands full running down every sedan that was of description. There were forty-one autos that qualified. 

  Maudy was still in a coma after three days in ICU. The doctors didn’t hold out much hope for Maudy’s recovery. She was shot three times in the abdomen and chest with a small-caliber pistol. 

  The morning headlines read: Yesterday afternoon, Maude Hersham, renowned violinist with the Bickford Symphony passed away at the medical center after a week on life support. She was assaulted on Saturday evening while dining at a local restaurant. 

  Maestro Louis Gillette addressed the members of the symphony. “Friends, it is with deep sorrow, I announce to you our first chair string violinist, Maudy Hersham died last night.” 

  “We read it in the paper this morning, Maestro. I couldn’t believe it. Who would want to kill a person so loved? Maudy never talked about anyone. She was a charitable person who gave, not only of herself but monetarily as well,” Charles Doyon, trombonist said. 

Maudy’s funeral was standing room only. It was the largest funeral Peabody Funeral Home had ever had. Governor Randall Sterns was in attendance as well as Senator Manuel Hope. 

  “I wonder if Maudy is looking down on us,” Bill Knowles, trumpeter whispered in the maestro’s ear. 

  “She’s playing in the Heavenly Orchestra now, Bill,” Gillette said. “I miss her so much. She was not only a virtuoso, but a good friend.” 

  Thirty days from the funeral of Maudy Hersham Harry Noble was arrested and charged with the murder of the great violinist. In his statement, he said, “I hated her. She stole first chair from me. I should never have lost the chair to her. If it hadn’t been for my uncle being in love with her. I would still be first chair, and she would still be alive.” He admitted he had hired Artie Shaw to kill Maudy, and that Shaw failed, and Noble shot him.

  Harry Noble was sentenced to life in prison and is serving his time in the Maine State Prison in Warren. 

  “O, beware, my lord, of jealousy;

It is the green-ey'd monster, which doth mock

The meat it feeds on.” 

― William Shakespeare, Othello 

August 26, 2021 11:20

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