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The Chopin Manuscript: A Serial Thriller

Jeffery Deaver

  The Chopin Manuscript


  Alfred Molina

  ISBN: 978-0-615-21369-9


  Chapter One: Jeffery Deaver

  Chapter Two: David Hewson

  Chapter Three: James Grady

  Chapter Four: SJ Rozan

  Chapter Five: Erica Spindler

  Chapter Six: John Ramsey Miller

  Chapter Seven: David Corbett

  Chapter Eight: John Gilstrap

  Chapter Nine: Joseph Finder

  Chapter Ten: Jim Fusilli

  Chapter Eleven: Peter Spiegelman

  Chapter Twelve: Ralph Pezzullo

  Chapter Thirteen: Lisa Scottoline

  Chapter Fourteen: P.J. Parrish

  Chapter Fifteen: Lee Child

  Chapter Sixteen: Jeffery Deaver

  Chapter Seventeen: Jeffery Deaver

  Chapter One

  Jeffery Deaver

  The piano tuner ran through ascending chords, enjoying the resistance of the heavy ivory keys. His balding head was bent forward, his eyes closed as he listened. The notes rose to the darkened ceiling of the recital hall near Warsaw’s Old Market Square, then dissipated like smoke.

  Satisfied with his work, the tuner replaced the temperament strips and his well-worn extension-tuning lever in their velvet case and indulged himself by playing a few minutes of Mozart, A Little Night Music, an ebullient piece that was one of his favorites.

  Just as he concluded, the crisp sound of clapping palms echoed behind him and he spun around. Twenty feet away stood a man nodding and smiling. Stocky, with a flop of brown hair, broad of face. Southern Slavic, the tuner thought. He’d traveled in Yugoslavia many years ago.

  “Lovely. Ah, my. So beautiful. Do you speak English?” the man asked with a thick accent.

  “I do.”

  “Are you a performer here? You must be. You are so talented.”

  “Me? No, I simply tune pianos. But a tuner must know his way about the keyboard too…Can I help you, sir? The recital hall is closed.”

  “Still, such a passion for music. I could hear it. Have you never desired to perform?”

  The piano tuner didn’t particularly care to talk about himself, but he could discuss music all night long. He was, in addition to being perhaps the best piano tuner in Warsaw if not all of central Poland, an avid collector of recordings and original music manuscripts. If he’d had the means, he would collect instruments too. He had once played a Chopin polonaise at the very keyboard the composer had used; he considered it one of the highpoints of his life.

  “I used to. But only in my youth.” He told the man of his sweep through Eastern Europe with the Warsaw Youth Orchestra, with which he’d been second-chair cello.

  He stared at the man, who in turn was examining the piano. “As I say, the hall is closed. But perhaps you’re looking for someone?”

  “I am, yes.” The Slav walked closer and looked down. “Ah, a Bosendorfer. One of Germany’s great contributions to culture.”

  “Oh, yes,” the slight man said, caressing the black lacquer and gothic type of the company’s name. “It’s perfection. It truly is. Would you like to try it? Do you play?”

  “Not like you. I wouldn’t presume to even touch a single key after hearing your performance.”

  “You’re too kind. You say you’re looking for someone. You mean Anna? The French horn student? She was here earlier but I believe she’s left. There’s no one else, except the cleaning woman. But I can get a message to anyone in the orchestra or the administration, if you like.”

  The visitor stepped closer yet and gently brushed a key–true ivory, the piano having been made before the ban. “You, sir,” he said, “are the one I came to see.”

  “Me? Do I know you?”

  “I saw you earlier today.”

  “You did? Where? I don’t recall.”

  “You were having lunch at a café overlooking that huge building. The fancy one, the biggest one in Warsaw. What is it?”

  The piano tuner gave a laugh. “The biggest one in the country. The Palace of Culture and Science. A gift from the Soviets, which, the joke goes, they gave us in place of our freedom. Yes, I did have lunch there. But…Do I know you?”

  The stranger stopped smiling. He looked from the piano into the narrow man’s eyes.

  Like the assault of the sudden vehement chord in Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, fear struck the piano tuner. He picked up his tool kit and rose quickly. Then stopped. “Oh,” he gasped. Behind the stranger he could see two bodies lying on the tile near the front door: Anna, the horn player; and beyond her, the cleaning woman. Two shadows on the floor surrounded their limp figures, one from the entranceway light, one from their blood.

  The Slav, not much taller than the piano tuner but far stronger, took him by the shoulders. “Sit,” he whispered gently, pushing the man down on the bench then turning him to face the piano.

  “What do you want?” A quaking voice, tears in his eyes.


  Shaking with fear, the piano tuner thought madly, What a fool I am! I should have fled the moment the man commented on the Bosendorfer’s German ancestry. Anyone with a true understanding of the keyboard knew the instruments are made in Austria.

  When he was stopped at Krakow’s John Paul II airport, he was certain his offense had to do with what he carried in his briefcase.

  The hour was early and he’d wakened much earlier at the Pod Roza, “Under the Rose,” which was his favorite hotel in Poland, owing both to its quirky mix of scrolly ancient and starkly modern, and to the fact that Franz Liszt had stayed there. Still half asleep, without his morning coffee or tea, he was startled from his stupor by the two uniformed men who appeared over him.

  “Mr. Harold Middleton?”

  He looked up. “Yes, that’s me.” And suddenly realized what had happened. When airport security had looked through his attaché case, they’d seen it and grown concerned. But out of prudence the young guards there had chosen not to say anything. They let him pass, then called for reinforcements: these two large, unsmiling men.

  Of the twenty or so passengers in the lounge awaiting the bus to take them to the Lufthansa flight to Paris, some people looked his way—the younger ones. The older, tempered by the Soviet regime, dared not. The man closest to Middleton, two chairs away, glanced up involuntarily with a flash of ambiguous concern on his face, as if he might be mistaken as his companion. Then, realizing he wasn’t going to be questioned, he turned back to his newspaper, obviously relieved.

  “You will please to come with us. This way. Yes. Please.” Infinitely polite, the massive guard nodded back toward the security line.

  “Look, I know what this is about. It’s simply a misunderstanding.” He larded his voice with patience, respect and good nature. It was the tone you had to take with local police, the tone you used talking your way through border crossings. Middleton nodded at the briefcase. “I can show you some documentation that—”

  The second, silent guard picked up the case.

  The other: “Please. You will come.” Polite but inflexible. This young, square-jawed man who seemed incapable of smiling held his eye firmly and there was no debate. The Poles, Middleton knew, had been the most willful resisters of the Nazis.

  Together they walked back through the tiny, largely deserted airport, the taller guards flanking the shorter, nondescript American. At 56, Harol
d Middleton carried a few more pounds than he had last year, which itself had seen a weight gain of few pounds over the prior. But curiously his weight—conspiring with his thick black hair—made him appear younger than he was. Only five years ago, at his daughter’s college graduation, the girl had introduced him to several of her classmates as her brother. Everyone in the group had bought the deception. Father and daughter had laughed about that many times since.

  He thought of her now and hoped fervently he wouldn’t miss his flight and the connection to Washington, D.C. He was going to have dinner with Charlotte and her husband that night at Tyson’s Corner. It was the first time he’d see her since she announced her pregnancy.

  But as he looked past security at the awaiting cluster of men–also unsmiling–he had a despairing feeling that dinner might be postponed. He wondered for how long.

  They walked through the exit line and joined the group: two more uniformed officers and a middle-aged man in a rumpled brown suit under a rumpled brown raincoat.

  “Mr. Middleton, I am Deputy Inspector Stanieski, with the Polish National Police, Krakow region.” No ID was forthcoming.

  The guards hemmed him in, as if the 5-foot, 10-inch American was going to karate kick his way to freedom.

  “I will see your passport please.”

  He handed over the battered, swollen blue booklet. Stanieski looked it over and glanced at the picture, then at the man in front of him twice. People often had trouble seeing Harold Middleton, couldn’t remember what he looked like. A friend of his daughter said he would make a good spy; the best ones, the young man explained, are invisible. Middleton knew this was true; he wondered how Charlotte’s friend did.

  “I don’t have much time until that flight.”

  “You will not make the flight, Mr. Middleton. No. We will be returning to Warsaw.”

  Warsaw? Two hours away.

  “That’s crazy. Why?”

  No answer.

  He tried once more. “This is about the manuscript, isn’t it?” He nodded to the attaché case. “I can explain. The name Chopin is on it, yes, but I’m convinced it’s a forgery. It’s not valuable. It’s not a national treasure. I’ve been asked to take it to the United States to finish my analysis. You can call Doctor—”

  The inspector shook his head. “Manuscript? No, Mr. Middleton. This is not about a manuscript. It’s about a murder.”


  The man hesitated. “I use the word to impress on you the gravity of the situation. Now it is best that I say nothing more, and I would strongly suggest you do the same, isn’t it?”

  “My luggage—”

  “Your luggage is already in the car. Now.” A nod of his head toward the front door. “We will go.”

  “Please, come in, Mr. Middleton. Sit. Yes there is good…I am Jozef Padlo, first deputy inspector with the Polish National Police.” This time an ID was exhibited, but Middleton got the impression the gaunt man, about his own age and much taller, was flashing the card only because Middleton expected it and that the formality was alien in Polish law enforcement.

  “What’s this all about, Inspector? Your man says murder and tells me nothing more.”

  “Oh, he mentioned that?” Padlo grimaced. “Krakow. They don’t listen to us there. Slightly better than Posnan, but not much.”

  They were in an off-white office, beside a window that looked out on the gray spring sky. There were many books, computer printouts, a few maps and no decorations other than official citations, an incongruous ceramic cactus wearing a cowboy hat and pictures of the man’s wife and children and grandchildren. Many pictures. They seemed like a happy family. Middleton thought again of his daughter.

  “Am I being charged with anything?”

  “Not at this point.” His English was excellent and Middleton wasn’t surprised to notice that there was a certificate on the wall testifying to Padlo’s completion of a course in Quantico and one at the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas.

  Oh, and the cactus.

  “Then I can leave.”

  “You know, we have anti-smoking laws here. I think that’s your doing, your country’s. You give us Burger King and take away our cigarettes.” The inspector shrugged and lit a Sobieski. “No, you can’t leave. Now, please, you had lunch yesterday with a Henryk Jedynak, a piano tuner.”

  “Yes. Henry…Oh no. Was he the one murdered?”

  Padlo watched Middleton carefully. “I’m afraid he was, yes. Last night. In the recital hall near Old Market Square.”

  “No, no…” Middleton didn’t know the man well–they’d met only on this trip–but they’d hit it off immediately and had enjoyed each other’s company. He was shocked by the news of Jedynak’s death.

  “And two other people were killed, as well. A musician and a cleaning woman. Stabbed to death. For no reason, apparently, other than they had the misfortune to be there at the same time as the killer.”

  “This is terrible. But why?”

  “Have you known Mr. Jedynak long?”

  “No. We met in person for the first time yesterday. We’d e-mailed several times. He was a collector of manuscripts.”

  “Manuscripts? Books?”

  “No. Musical manuscripts—the handwritten scores. And he was involved with the Chopin Museum.”

  “At Ostrogski Castle.” The inspector said this as if he’d heard of the place but never been there.

  “Yes. I had a meeting yesterday afternoon with the director of the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow, and I asked Henry to brief me about him and their collection. It was about a questionable Chopin score.”

  Padlo showed no interest in this. “Tell me, please, about your meeting. In Warsaw.”

  “Well, I met Henry for coffee in the late morning at the museum, he showed me the new acquisitions in the collection. Then we returned downtown and had lunch at a café. I can’t remember where.”

  “The Frederick Restaurant.”

  That’s how Padlo found him, he supposed–an entry in Jedynak’s PDA or diary. “Yes, that was it. And then we went our separate ways. I took the train to Krakow.”

  “Did you see anyone following you or watching you at lunch?”

  “Why would someone follow us?”

  Padlo inhaled long on his cigarette. When he wasn’t puffing he lowered his hand below his desk. “Did you see anyone?” he repeated.


  He nodded. “Mr. Middleton, I must tell you…I regret I have to but it is important. Your friend was tortured before he died. I won’t go into the details, but the killer used some piano string in very unpleasant ways. He was gagged so the screams could not be heard but his right hand was uninjured, presumably so that he could write whatever this killer demanded of him. He wanted information.”

  “My God…” Middleton closed his eyes briefly, recalling Henry’s showing pictures of his wife and two sons.

  “I wonder what that might be,” Padlo said. “This piano tuner was well known and well liked. He was also a very transparent man. Musician, tradesman, husband and father. There seemed to be nothing dark about his life…” A careful examination of Middleton’s face. “But perhaps the killer thought that was not the case. Perhaps the killer thought he had a second life involving more than music…” With a nod, he added, “Somewhat like you.”

  “What’re you getting at?”

  “Tell me about your other career, please.”

  “I don’t have another career. I teach music and authenticate music manuscripts.”

  “But you had another career recently.”

  “Yes, I did. But what’s that got to do with anything?”

  Padlo considered this for a moment, and said, “Because certain facts have come into alignment.”

  A cold laugh. “And what exactly does that mean?” This was the most emotional Harold Middleton usually got. He believed that you gave up your advantage when you lost control. That’s what he told himself, though he doubted that he was even capable o
f losing control.

  “Tell me about that career, Colonel. Do some people still call you that, ‘Colonel’?”

  “Not anymore. But why are you asking me questions you already seem to know the answers to?”

  “I know a few things. I’m curious to know more. For instance, I only know that you were connected with the ICTY and the ICCt, but not many details.”

  The UN-sanctioned International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia investigated and tried individuals for war crimes committed during the complicated and tragic fighting among the Serbs, Bosnians, Croatians and Albanian ethnic groups in the 1990s. The ICCt was the International Criminal Court, established in 2002 to try war criminals for crimes in any area of the world. Both were located in The Hague in Holland, and had been created because nations tended to quickly forget about the atrocities committed within their borders and were reluctant to find and try those who’d committed them.

  “How did you end up working for them? It seems a curious leap from your country’s army to an international tribunal.”

  “I was planning to retire anyway. I’d been in the service for more than two decades.”

  “But still. Please.”

  Middleton decided that cooperation was the only way that would let him leave anytime soon. With the time difference he still had a chance to get into D.C. in time for a late supper at the Ritz Carlton with his daughter and son-in-law.

  He explained to the inspector briefly that he had been a military intelligence officer with the 7,000 U.S. troops sent to Kosovo in the summer of 1999 as part of the peacekeeping force when the country was engaged in the last of the Yugoslavian wars. Middleton was based at Camp Broadsteel in the southeast of the country, the sector America oversaw. The largely rural area, dominated by Mount Duke which rose like Fuji over the rugged hills, was an ethnically Albanian area, as was most of Kosovo, and had been the site of many incursions by Serbs–both from other parts of Kosovo and from Milosevic’s Serbia, which Kosovo had been part of. The fighting was largely over—the tens of thousands of ironically dubbed “humanitarian” bombing strikes had had their desired effect–but the peacekeepers on the ground were still on high alert to stop clashes between the infamous Serb guerillas and the equally ruthless Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army forces.