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Authors: Kenneth L. Levinson

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A Knight at the Opera

BOOK: A Knight at the Opera
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A KNIGHT AT THE OPERA

 

By

Kenneth L. Levinson

 

 

Uncial Press       Aloha, Oregon
2012

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and events described herein are
products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as
real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons, living or dead,
is entirely coincidental.

ISBN 13: 978-1-60174-152-3

A Knight at the Opera
Copyright © 2013 by Kenneth L.
Levinson

Cover art and design
Copyright © 2013 by Judith B. Glad

All rights reserved. Except for use in review, the reproduction or utilization of this
work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means now
known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the
publisher.

Warning: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal.
Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the
FBI and is punishable by up to five (5) years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.

Published by Uncial Press,
an imprint of GCT, Inc.

Visit us at http://www.uncialpress.com

 
For Shauna, with love and gratitude.
CHAPTER ONE

It had been a busy week, the last half of a ten-day trial. I was working eleven
hour days--until Thursday, the night before closing arguments, when we went even longer.
I was still at the Jefferson County Courthouse at 9:50 p.m., haggling with the judge and
opposing counsel over jury instructions. We made our closing arguments first thing Friday
morning and I spent the rest of the day languishing at the courthouse, which had become
my home away from home, waiting for the jurors to reach their verdict. By Saturday, I was
looking forward to an uneventful evening at the opera.

One of my favorite clients, a bank president I'd gotten out of a difficult situation
four years earlier, had called my receptionist, Diana Hollister, on Thursday to offer two
orchestra level seats for the Denver Opera Company's production of
Carmen.
Knowing that if I didn't use the tickets, she and her husband could, Diana accepted
without bothering to consult me. She knew that when I was in trial, all other matters were
placed in limbo, especially when it was a complicated case like this one, a high-dollar real
estate dispute with some thorny legal issues.

We finished closing arguments at about ten-thirty. The four men and two
women filed silently out of the courtroom, heading off to begin their deliberations. After
ordering the lawyers to remain at the courthouse until the jury had rendered its verdict,
the judge vanished through the door behind his bench. I went across the courtroom to
shake hands with opposing counsel in a gesture of professional civility. Even though he and
I disagreed on the merits of my client's case, we'd been able to establish a decent rapport,
which made the process less unpleasant--and less expensive--for our clients.

My client, a seventy-year-old real estate developer, was eager to get back to
work, having spent the last two weeks sitting in the courtroom. Since his office was located
in downtown Golden, only half a mile from the courthouse, I told him I'd call him when we
heard from the judge's clerk, so he could return in time to hear the verdict.

When he was gone, I reached for my new iPhone and held the Home button until
the voice control screen appeared. "Call work. Main."

A few seconds later, Diana answered in her crisp, British accent, "Adam Larsen
and Associates."

"Hi, Diana. We're done. It's in the hands of the jury."

"Splendid. How did closing arguments go?"

I turned to my legal assistant, Maurice White, who was loading boxes of trial
materials onto a wheeled cart so we could remove them from the courtroom. Maurice had
played linebacker for the Broncos for four seasons, so hefting these boxes was child's play
for him.

"Diana's asking how it went. What do you think?"

He said in his raspy voice, "Hell, I don't know. Your guess is as good as
mine."

"Maurice says we're guaranteed a victory. Absolutely. He's very confident." He
rolled his eyes bemusedly as I said into the phone, "Anything I need to know about?"

"Nothing urgent." She read me my messages and then told me about the tickets
to the opera. "Do you want them? You might actually relax for a few hours."

"Probably not," I told her candidly, "But I'm willing to try."

"I'll leave them on your desk. Will you be returning to the office today?"

"I don't know. The judge ordered us to hang around the courthouse until the
jury reaches its verdict. There's no way of knowing how long they'll take."

"Well, good luck," she said. "Let us know when you hear." The "us" meant Diana
and my law clerk, Ann Stivornik.

"Will do."

I immediately called my significant whatever she is, January Deacon, known to
her friends as Jana, to invite her to the opera. She responded with something that sounded
like she had jammed three of her fingers down her throat. Of course, that didn't surprise
me. Jana was definitely not an opera fan. At that point in her life, her notion of great
entertainment involved action movies, especially spy thrillers and martial arts films. In the
months since her father's murder, she'd immersed herself in activities like kick boxing and
karate, and was spending two hours a day at the gym.

Her body had become sculpted like the women in those "abs of steel"
infomercials, which I had learned from experience not to mention in her presence. She had
taken considerable umbrage when I once unwisely suggested that she was starting to
resemble Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Only younger.

And on estrogen.

It nearly got me pummeled.

As my grandfather used to say, sometimes the best opinions are the ones we
keep to ourselves.

"She's not interested?" Maurice asked, looking amused. "Probably not enough
violence for her taste."

"A definite no," I said. "How about you?"

He made a sour face. "An opera? Last time, didn't this client give us Nuggets
tickets?"

I shrugged. "Evidently, he's a Renaissance man. Come on," I chided him, "it's
Carmen.
Everybody likes
Carmen.
"

"Okay," he said. "Why not? We can sing along with that one catchy song, the one
about the toreador."

"Oh, sure. Then they'd probably kill us, instead of Don José."

Maurice looked puzzled.

"He's the bad guy."

"Oh."

And, as it turned out, I wasn't that far off the mark.

* * * *

The opera began promptly at seven-thirty. I had actually managed to unwind,
and even had good reason to celebrate. After taking nearly five hours to reach a verdict, the
jury had split the baby, awarding my client about two-thirds of what he was asking for.
Since he was the "prevailing party," he would also be awarded his attorney fees and court
costs. He was satisfied with the outcome, and there was virtually no chance the other side
could successfully appeal the verdict.

Case closed.

I could forget about the office for a few days.

Maurice and I had an early dinner at Elway's in Cherry Creek before heading
downtown. The parking structure was nearly full, which was typical when there were
multiple events going on at the Denver Center for Performing Arts complex. It took us
fifteen minutes to wend our way to the top level of the parking garage, where we finally
found an available space. By the time we'd made it across the plaza and into the opera
house, the place was nearly full--which meant a crowd of around twenty-two hundred
people.

The seats at the orchestra level, upholstered in red, were arranged in the shape
of a large horseshoe. Behind them, half a dozen additional rows were laid out in traditional
straight lines. High above us were three balconies, jutting out in giant arcs over the main
seating area.

A sprightly woman in a blue DCPA uniform escorted us to our seats at the
stage-right end of Row M. Because of his size, I let Maurice have the aisle seat, and I took the spot
next to him. Down in front, the musicians were already arranged in the pit, starting to tune
up.

Out of habit, I glanced upward toward the ceiling. Suspended far above us was a
massive wooden structure, shaped like a sleek and glossy snow sled. I had always been
fascinated by it, and wondered what sort of artistic statement it was supposed to be
making. Inside the wooden formation was an immense chandelier, shaped like a jet
engine.

"Welcome to The Rosebud," I told Maurice.

"Rosebud?" He followed my gaze up toward the ceiling. "I thought they called
this place the--oh, I get it. Rosebud. Citizen Kane." He put one of his big paws on my
shoulder. "Wow. You really need a vacation. Somewhere far away."

I just grinned at him. He was right, of course. I'd been working much too hard. I
turned my attention to the glossy printed program. As I began reading, I noted that the
woman playing Carmen had previously sung at the Met and the Santa Fe Opera. That meant
we could expect a top-flight performance. I was halfway through the synopsis of the opera
when the lights began to dim. I looked upward and watched as the chandelier inside the
wooden structure ascended toward the ceiling. The lights faded and the conductor took his
place in front of the orchestra, as the audience rewarded him with the obligatory applause.
At a jerk of his baton, the orchestra launched into the prelude, which included the
Toreador's Song.

For the record, Maurice and I didn't sing along.

Nothing extraordinary happened during the first two acts--which were
performed in sequence, without an intermission--other than the complete ruin of Don
Josè as he devolved from a corporal in the army into prisoner and then deserter,
smitten by the illusion of love for the fickle Carmen. Or, at least, that's how the program had
described it. We spent the intermission in the main lobby, milling around with the rest of
the crowd. Maurice went over to the bar and bought himself had a mixed drink, but I
decided to pass. After waiting in line for the men's room, we returned to our seats and
watched the chandelier ascend to signal the start of the third act.

It happened sometime around ten-thirty, just after the opera ended. Don
José had stabbed Carmen to death, while Escamillo, off-stage, vanquished an unseen,
but no doubt ferocious, bull. The audience applauded enthusiastically as the cast went
through the usual routine of bows, first the minor players and then the primary characters.
The female lead who played Carmen received a well-deserved standing ovation. When the
applause finally subsided, the lights came up and people began migrating into the
aisles.

My first awareness of something wrong came when Maurice shouted, "Look
out!" and sprang into action. For a big man, he could move fast.

With his right arm, he shoved several people toward their seats. Simultaneously,
his left arm grabbed a dark-haired woman who was passing our aisle, lifting her over the
arm of his seat. As he lurched backwards, he knocked me into the irritating little man next
to me, who had spent most of the opera cracking his knuckles.

We all went down like a row of dominoes.

As I tumbled, I banged my elbow painfully on the arm of my chair, just as
something large and blurry came crashing down into the aisle, right where the dark-haired
woman had been standing when Maurice grabbed her. My first impression was that the
falling object resembled the Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz, except that it was dressed in
a dark pin-striped business suit. It had slammed against the floor with a sickening
thud.

I rescued my legs from under Maurice and scrambled to my feet, vaguely aware
that my arm had gone numb. People were shouting. A girl screamed. The woman Maurice
had grabbed was on her feet, and cursing loudly at him, as though he had tried to molest
her. There were several long, deep scratches on his face, which she had obviously inflicted
on him, one of them bleeding considerably. But Maurice appeared totally oblivious to her
histrionics.

He was gaping down at the floor.

A man's body was sprawled on the carpet, blood seeping from his flattened skull
and dripping onto the carpet. His arms and legs were splayed at bizarre angles, as though
the fall had shattered most of his bones. He had short-cropped gray hair and looked to be in
his late forties. I guessed that the hissing sound I'd heard was the sound of his last breath
being forced out of his lungs as his body smacked against the floor.

The woman had stopped yelling at Maurice, and was now staring,
open-mouthed, at the dead man. The people around us were frozen into a stunned silence.
Suddenly, pandemonium broke out, and they all began to move. One couple tried to step
over the body, but I moved forward and blocked their path.

BOOK: A Knight at the Opera
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