So You Want to Be a Storyteller?

Sam S. Mullins: a blog about anything

Really? Even if people won’t want to date you ever again for fear that you’ll one day talk about them on stage? You’re sure?

Okay. Welcome aboard.

Here’s a cheap glass of wine. Where we’re going, you’ll need it.

I’ve got to tell you – I think you’ve picked a great time to get into the story game. I mean, with the success of storytelling podcasts like The Moth, RISK!, Definitely Not the Opera, Snap Judgement and This American Life millions of people are now aware of the phenomenon of modern storytelling. Just about every city in North America now has a regular storytelling event, and there seems to be more opportunities for storytellers than ever before. For raconteurs like us, the getting has never been good-er.

But before you start speaking your heart into the crackly microphone at the local roti place’s storytelling event (at which no one is there to actually hear stories [they’re just there…

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The pianist’s death


The Pianist’s Death

       It is a rainy and dark night. London’s most famous detective, Vid, is working in his office. His assistant John walks in, with a letter in his hand.

       “Sir, here comes another invitation. This man keeps sending them and this is the fifth one this month. Why don’t you want to go?” John says.

       Vid grasps the letter and takes a look at it, shakes his head and says, “Piano concert? You know me John, I’m not into music and I don’t want to leave my work and spend 3 days on a small island.”

He takes a short time to read the letter:

“Dear Mr. White,

   I sincerely hope you can come to the one of the greatest pianists of this century, Macon Johnson’s, piano performance next week. I know I have informed you several times and you rejected me. However, I promise you will regret it if you can’t be present here. In order to show you my sincerity, I have bought the travel tickets for you and your assistant Mr. John. The cost of your whole trip will be on me.

   Thank you very much and I’m looking forward to seeing you then.

   Best wishes,

   Robin Walt”

“Well, this man Robin sounds like a very perseverant person,” says Vid. He turns to John and smiles, “Interesting! I want to find out why he is so insistent on this. So, let’s do it.”

A week later, Vid and John take a steamboat and arrive in this place called Blooming Island. It is mid-December, and it always extremely cold and wet in Eastern Europe at this time of year. John feels even colder in the island than in London, albeit he is wearing a warm sweater and trench coat. However, Vid doesn’t feel cold at all. He likes the weather of the island: foggy and frozen, which reminds him his childhood when he grew up in a small village near London.

They get off the ship and go to register for the piano concert tomorrow night. When they come to the reception desk and hand in the invitations to the secretary, the secretary unexpectedly refuses their invitations.

“What do you mean you never heard about Robin Walt? We have received five letters in total from this man and he even paid the fares. We spent 3 hours and you are telling me there is no one called Robin Walt?” John shouts at the secretary.

The young secretary looks confused and says, “I’m very sorry sir. But I’m responsible for sending out the invitations, and I never sent them to you. Also, there is no one named Robin Walt in our team. I’m sorry, sir. ”

“There must be something wrong and I want to talk to your boss.” John is angry and feels they have been cheated.

Vid doesn’t say anything but he is also very confused. At this time, a man happens to come in and asks what’s wrong here. The secretary says, “Hello, Mr. Taylor. These two gentlemen are from London, and they handed in two wrong invitations, which I have never heard about.”

“What is it?” asked the old man.

“They said they are invited by a man named Robin Walt.”

A sudden fear and shock shows on the old man’s face, but it disappears in a minute. However, Vid notices this. He approaches this man Taylor and introduces himself.

When Taylor heard the person who was standing in front of him was the most famous detective in London, he is confused and a little bit worried, but he can’t show his anxiety to anyone.

“Hello! Mr. Vid, I know you are the most famous detective in London, and I’m very glad you can come to our island and attend this amazing piano performance. Believe me, you won’t regret it. My name is Taylor, and I’m the mayor of this island. Welcome to Blooming Island,” says the major, smiling.

Vid expected the man standing in front of him to be of great importance. He dresses in a gentlemanly style and his handshake is strong, the way he talks shows that he is one of the leaders in this island. At the same time, Vid feels that he is a man with some complicated history, but he doesn’t know why he feels that only he has a lot of accurate intuitions as a detective.

Vid smiles, and says, “Thank you Mayor, I’m glad to come. But I just want to ask you a very quick question. Do you happen to know who Robin Walt is? We are invited by him and I want to thank him in person.”

“This must be a prank or trick played by some fools. Robin Walt is, I mean, was a resident on this island. He was a piano genius but he has been dead for 15 years. ”

“What? He was dead? Did you say the person who sent us the invitation has been dead for 15 years?” John hears the conversation and suddenly jumps in.

“Yes. 15 years ago, he committed suicide and set fire to his own house. There were six people in his family and they all died in the fire. It was a horrible tragedy. I was one of the witnesses, and I clearly remember he was playing a piano music at the end of his life, in the fire. I tried to call more people and save them, but the fire got worse in the windy day. The volume of the music got weaker and finally stopped when the fire had been burning for an hour.” The mayor’s eyes look in the distance. “

Both Vid and John are shocked by what they’ve heard. Before they say anything, the mayor was asked by someone not far away from them to go.

“Please excuse me gentlemen, I have some other things to do, and I have to leave now. Welcome again, and I hope you will enjoy the piano performance. If you need anything, just let me know. I will be pleased to help. I will get somebody to assist and guide you during your visit to our town. Her name is Alleen. I will let her contact you soon. ” Then, the mayor turns around and leaves.

John asked Vid if they have been hoaxed by some idiots, or if there is something more behind this. Vick frowns his brows; he can’t be sure who sent the invitation, but he is pretty sure that this is not as simple as a trick.

“Something bad happened 15 years ago in this peaceful island, I’m afraid …um…something terrible will happen again. Let’s stay, John. ”

After they arrive at the hotel, there is a call for them. It is Alleen and she says she is assigned by the mayor to help and guide their respected guests around the town, and she is happy to show the detective around the city. Alleen is the only doctor on this island, and she also has another part-time job in the mayor’s office.

Her voice is beautiful, but not as beautiful as her face. Allen is a tall and charming lady, and she is about 25 years old. John admires her so much, and during the tour, he tries to find all different kinds of topics to talk to her about. Vid is annoyed by his assistant’s attraction to Alleen, but he has to admit that she is very beautiful lady. Alleen guides them to many scenic places on the island. Even Vid didn’t expect that there would be so many beautiful scenes in this small place. After a whole day, they are all tired and decide to go to dinner. John insists to sit next to Alleen in the restaurant. During the dinner, Vid wants to ask something about Robin Walt and tries to get some information from Alleen.

“Um… Alleen. I know you are young and probably don’t know much about the history of this island. But have you ever heard a man called Robin Walt?”

“Yes, sir. I have heard about him, but I’m sorry I don’t know much. I’m not from the island originally. I grew up in London, and I went to France when I was 10-years-old. After I graduated from the medical school two years ago, I moved here and found a job. ”

“Okay! I’m just curious. Also, by the way, my sister lives in Paris as well. She is married to a French man,” says Vid.

They go back to the hotel later that night, and after Vid entered his room, he finds there is a letter on the floor, which was put in through the crack between the door and the ground. Vid opens it and it is an invitation from the pianist. He asked them to come to his home tomorrow morning.

“Well, here comes the leading role. John, we are meeting Macon Johnson tomorrow.”

They both feel tired after a whole day trip. When Vid is lying on the bed, he is still confused and thinking about who invited him here. He doesn’t think it is a trick because the person paid all the fees and sent five letters in total. It’s too costly to be just a trick. Anyway, he needs to take a rest now and prepare to see the pianist tomorrow. Maybe he can figure out something from him.

       Macon Johnson is a famous pianist and he was born in this small island. He has held many piano concert tours all over the world. Since his 50th birthday is coming, he decides to have a concert in his hometown. After he heard the famous detective Vid and his assistant had come to visit the island and attend his concert, he invites them to come to his house the day before the concert.

       Vid meets Macon in his fancy and splendid house. Macon seems like a very nice man, and he has one of the most expensive pianos in the world, which is worth 3 million pounds.

       Macon exclaims, “I have admired you for really a long time. I can’t believe I finally am meeting you now. How can you be so smart?” He looks very familiar with Vid’s story. He makes two cups of coffee for Vid and John. Vid notices the coffee beans are Kopi Luwak coffee, which are imported from Indonesia. Kopi Luwak are the world’s most expensive coffee beans in the world.

       “Thank you sir. I guess sometimes I’m just too lucky to miss some details of the crime. Please forgive me I’m not a big fan of the music, although I know you are a very talented pianist in England, but the reason I came here is because I was invited by a man named Robin Walt.” Since Vid first saw the pianist, he knew this man could tell him something. So, he decides not to waste his time on those unnecessary pleasantry exchanges.

       “Oh, my God. You are saying you are invited by Robin?” The same fear and worry appeared on his face just like what appeared on the Mayor’s face yesterday. However, the pianist looks sad.

       “Do you know him?” asks Vid.

       Macon doesn’t respond quickly, after a short silence, he sits down and says, “Of course I knew him. We grew up together as best friends when we were young. He was a genius in piano. We always competed to see which of us was better, so we had numerous contests when we were kids, and he always beat me. If he were still alive, I swear that he would have done much better than me. I don’t know why he would do that to himself, and I feel so sad that I’ve lost him. It’s been 15 years. I miss him. You know what? Maybe I will see him again soon.” His eyes start to water and his voice trembles and quivers.

       “What do you mean?” the detective is a little shocked by hearing that.

       “Oh, no, nothing. I just mean I’m getting old and I don’t know when I will go to heaven before long. Hahaha… Don’t worry. However, if something happens to me, I deserve it. In addition, I want this performance to be my last one. Actually, I’m old and too tired to continue doing this for making money. I want to quit after this, but my company doesn’t agree.”

       Vid feels a little weird about what Macon says. However, he has a strong sense that there must be something complicated between him and Robin Walt. Before Vid wants to ask more, the discussion suddenly was disrupted by the sight of a smile, mixed with the steps of high-heel shoes. A young lady comes in, and her dress is elegant and pretty. Vid can tell she must be Macon’s daughter. After her, a man walks in, who has a solemn face and doesn’t smile nor talk.

       “Hi, I heard there is a brilliant detective in our home and I would like to meet him very much. How are you Mr. Vid?” The girl sits down next to Vid and looks at him, smiling.

       “I’m sorry, Mr. Vid. This is my daughter Dahlia. She is a little spoiled and behaving impolitely. Please forgive her,” explains Macon.

       “No, not at all. Nice to meet you, Miss. Thanks for your appreciation. I like to be admired by young and beautiful ladies, ” says Vid, smiling.

       The silent man comes and stands next to Dahlia. He circles her waist with his arm, and says, “Nice to meet you, sir. My name is Edward. I’m Dahlia’s fiancé.”       Vid is curious about why Macon ignores the young man, and he suddenly realizes he doesn’t like his future son in law.

       Dahlia asks her father if he really wants to quit his job after this performance. Macon says, “Well, honey. I’m too tired to continue doing all this. I want to finish it in my hometown and I just need to enjoy my peaceful life with the family.”

       “But, your agent Andrew just called me again, and he wants me to talk to you about this, he doesn’t want you to quit this early,” says Dahlia.

       “I know. Honey, we are having a guest here, let’s just talk about this later.”

       The piano performance is going to be held tomorrow and it will last three days in this town. Vid knows that he and John should leave early so that Macon will have a good rest and prepare for his performance. Vid and John leave after the dinner.

       The piano performance is a big day for everyone who lives on the island. The performance starts at 7:00 pm in the evening. Vid and John arrive there at 6:40pm. They are shocked to see that almost everyone who lives in the town has come to the island. The concert hall is crowded and full. John suddenly sees Alleen is here too. He insists to sit next to Alleen, which makes Vid have to give in.

       “Hey, Alleen. How are you? I didn’t expect to see you here,” asked John, happily.

       “Of course I would be here. This is a huge event for everybody in this town. If I miss this, I will regret it for the rest of my life,” she answers, smiling.

       The clock ticks and finally it is 7:00 pm; everybody is getting excited to listen to the open piano music. However, the stage curtain has not been drawn, and no one is showing up. Ten minutes have passed, but there is still no on the stage. The audience is getting a little antsy and impatient. There is a man who cries out, “what are you doing, Mr. Macon? How long do you need to prepare?”

A voice comes from the backstage, and it sounds like his agent Andrew.

“Ladies and Gentleman, I’m sorry the concert may be starting in 10 minutes. There is a little accident and please be patient. We promise that the concert will be starting no later than 7:20. Again, I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. ”

However, Vid knows something is wrong, so he leaves the seat and goes to the backstage, to find out what happened and why the concert has been delayed.

As he approaches the door of the hall, suddenly there is a loud sound of piano music coming from a small garret, which is on the second floor. The audience’s attention is attracted by the sound and they look up. Vid feels the usual atmosphere, and what he worries about the most now is that Macon may be already in danger.

He opens the door of the garret, and rushes into the room. The worst Vid can expect happens. There Macon is. He is dead and his body is lying on his chest towards the piano. There is nothing but only the piano and a phonograph in the room, from which the music is playing aloud. The floor is wet and the body is all wet too. It looks like Macon was drowned to the death. At this time, John and Alleen follow Vid to the garret too. Andrew, Dahlia, and her fiancé, and the Mayor also follow the music and come to the garret.

The moment Dahlia see her father’s body, she screams aloud and passes out. Vid blames himself because he didn’t expect this earlier. He always thought there was something wrong with this whole trip and he needed to be careful about the people, but there is now a person dead. He must find out the murderer before the next person dies, although he isn’t sure if this is a serial murder case. He turns to John and says, “Call the police, and don’t let anyone get close to the body before the police come.”

Surprisingly, there is only one old policeman in this small island. His name is Kane, and he is a 60-year-old man who has never been to places other than this small island since he was born. When Kane arrives at the crime scene, Vid realizes that he cannot count on cooperation with this old man. Kane talks slow, walks slow and his memories don’t seem very good. Vid wonders how can he be a policeman in this island. It maybe because the island is just so peaceful and there hasn’t even been a robbery happened before.

Vid decides to analyze the crime scene carefully and here is what he gets:

  1. There is no evidence of a fight or anything in the room. Macon was pulled into this room after his death; the murderer wanted to create this scene. The person who can do this must be strong; so, the murderer should be a male.
  2. Both the body and the floor are wet; the body has been pulled to the room for only a short time. Otherwise, the floor would be dry.
  3. The music everyone heard was from a phonograph, and it is placed next to the piano.
  4. There are six music bars written on the floor with blood.

Vid hunkers down and examines the bloody bars. He notices the blood has already dry. So the murderer must entered this room earlier than he killed Macon. It usually takes 15 minutes for human blood to totally dry on the floor, it can’t be faster than the water.

As Vid is thinking, John comes in.

“Vid, I was talking to Macon’s chamberlain and servants. They said the last time they saw him was about 5o’ clock this afternoon. Macon was staying at home all day until he had a phone call at 4:30pm, and after that, he told his servant that he had an important appointment and left home. I also talked to Andrew, who is Macon’s agent. He wondered because Macon never goes out or let anything distract him from the piano concerts usually, and this is the first time he unexpectedly went out only two hours before the performance starts. I tried to talk to Macon’s daughter but she is still unconscious, and Alleen said she is just frightened and bowed down by her father’s death. ” John looks at the Vid and says.

“Not bad. John, it looks like you got some important information.” Vid admits that although his assistant sometimes drives him crazy, he is a hard-working man and good at collecting information.

“Take a look what I’ve found, John. Here are six score bars written in blood. I’m thinking this is a symbol and the murderer is definitely saying something crucial here. These look like codes.”

“Exactly, Vid. If each music note matches a key on the piano, what do you think this symbol is?”

“Each note matches a key. Each note matches a key. Each note matches a key.” Vid is inspired by what John said, but he needs to figure out what is the relation between the blood music notes, and what the murderer tried to say.

All of the sudden, Vid goes to the piano, looking at the keyboard.

“Find me a pen, John. ”

“Here you are, sir. Do you find something?”

“We will see.”

Vid uses the pen and marks a letter of the alphabet on each key of the piano, all the way from A to Z. He looks at the six bars and the notes, and he matches each notes to the letter written on the keyboard and writes the letters down. Finally, a sentence appears: Evil should be ended here.

“Evil should be ended here?” John sees what Vid wrote down and shocks. “Macon? Evil?”

The door opens, and Kane comes in and says to Vid, “Detective Vid, I’ve heard about your reputation and fame, but I have never handled a murder case before. I apologize but I hope I can still help.”

“Great, Kane. You caught me in a good time. I need to know about Robin Walt and that fire happened 15 years ago. You were here, right?” Vid says, firmly.

“Oh! Is it something that involves this case? Sorry, sir. I have to be honest with you, because that happened a long, long ago and I’m afraid I almost forgot it. Please forgive me if this takes me a little long to recall completely. Well…. Robin Walt was an orphan and he grew up in an orphanage. He didn’t go to school when he was a child, but one thing that’s amazing about this boy is that he played piano like a genius. Well, I would say maybe the only family he has was the piano. He was crazy about it. He didn’t have many friends, because he was too much into piano. But he was lucky to have one friend who also loved piano, and that boy was Macon. I was the only policeman in this village at that time, and I’m still now. Time does fly, doesn’t it? Robin got married about when he was 20 years old, and he married a farmer’s daughter on this island. They seemed very happy and Robin finally had his own family. He taught his children to learn piano. This poor man was supposed to become famous and successful 15 years ago, unfortunately, his work was not accepted by the music company. Then he set the fire and his family died too. I guess Macon did better than Robin, he finally joined that company and then, you know, he is famous now. I’m so sad that I lost this great man. We were all so proud of him.”

Kane is trying hard to recall the history and Vid is listening carefully about things he is hearing.

“How long between Robin’s death and Macon entering the music company do you still remember?” asked Vid.

“Well, I do. I remember after a month Robin was dead, Macon said he could not stand the pain of losing his friend, and he needed to leave because everything on this island reminded him of Robin. Then, he just left.”

After Vid hears the story, he knows there must be something wrong with the fire, and this murder is not a usual murder. It might be revenge.

“So, 15 years ago, the fire destroyed everything? You sure Robin Walt has dead indeed from that fire?”

“Oh, yes, detective. We have found his body and other four bodies also. The fire destroyed everything except his coffer. It keeps all his music scores he wrote. But there is nothing than that. It has been 15 years and no one ever seen them ever since his death. ”

“Wait! What? You have found his body and other four? But the mayor told me his family had 6 people altogether. How come you found only 5 bodies?”

“We did, we only found 5 bodies. The missing body must be his youngest son. He was short and about 10-year-old. He wasn’t very healthy, and he got sick all the time. We figured that his body was probably turned to ashes. ”

Vid asks if Kane can still find the coffer and those music scores. Kane says they all perfectly kept in the police office, and he just needs to go back and get them. Vid asks John to go together with Kane and offer some help. Vid stays at the crime scene.

“So, no one can make sure how many people died from that fire? His son was ten-year-old, if he was alive, he should be about 25 or 26. What is the conspiracy behind this?” Vid thinks deeply.

Vid examines the scene carefully again, and he suddenly finds two long hairs. He blames himself for not finding this earlier. He grasps the two hairs and looks at them. He finds something strange about the hairs. It doesn’t look like it is from real human. He takes out his lighter, and burns one of them. It doesn’t smell like a real hair, but Vid is familiar with this smell. He burned his sister’s wig once accidently when he was doing an experiment, and his sister blamed him and refused to talk to him for a month. Vid remembers this so clear because his sister said that the wig was only made in France and it was very expensive.

As Vid thinking, John and Kane come in the room. They bring the music scores. Vid found there is one different than other, and kept in a very good condition. The first six bars exactly match the six bars on the floor.

“Who are the witnesses of the Robin Walt’s fire?” Vid asks Kane.

“There were a lot people. But the mayor and Macon were the first that called for help,” answers Kane.

“Do you still remember the name of Robin’s son? I mean, the one missing. ”

“I guess it’s Allen or Allien. I can’t remember, sir. What’s wrong?”

“We need to go to the clinic and find Alleen, right now!” Vid says, and rushes out the room.

John follows Vid, and Kane is standing in the room, confused, speaking to himself, “I wish I could be as young as them.”

When Vid and John arrive at the clinic, they are told that Alleen has just left. Vid realizes that the mayor could be in danger. He rushes out the door again and runs to Mayor’s home.

Vid knocks the door but nobody answers; he breaks the door, and what he and John see is shocking. Alleen is pointing a gun to the Mayor, and he is bound hand and feet.

“Alleen!” Shouts John.

“I knew you would find out. Mr. Vid. You are right. It was me who killed Macon, because he deserved to die. My father and my family was killed by them in a horrible way. I was the only one escaped.”

“You are Robin’s son?” The mayor asks, with weak voice but shocked.

“You didn’t expect this at all, did you? I’m still alive. I saw everything that night and I can’t forget during the rest of my life. My father had a great opportunity to become successful and to show his talents. It was because of Macon’s jealousy, my family was killed and I was the only one left. Macon stole my father’s music and turned it in to that company. My father used to trust him and they were good friends. I can’t believe he killed him finally. I was adopted by a French couple and went to medical school, but I never forgot revenge. I came back to this island after I graduated, the only purpose was to get back to the Mayor and Macon for what they did to us 15 years ago. In order to better hide my identity, I pretended to be a woman. ”

John stands there with a surprising face. He can’t believe Alleen is a man.

Alleen cries. Then, the mayor says, “It was the biggest mistake I have had in my life, and I have been living in regret for 15 years. 15 years ago, Macon came to me and promised that he would give me a lot of money if I agreed to help him. I was young and stupid at that time. I can’t believe I destroyed a whole family.”

“Shut up. Enough, I don’t accept your apology. I want you to die. It was only me that escaped from the fire. You killed all of my family. Yes I killed Macon. I called him and pushed him to the sea. He was just like you and showed his all regrets and apologies, which made me disgusting. But your body will never be recovered, and you ruined my life.” Alleen shouts, and his body is shaking because of the anger.

“Don’t you want to live a good life instead of being a murderer? You are the only person left, and you shouldn’t live in the hate and revenge. Alleen. ” Vid knows Alleen is out of control and he has to calm her down.

He says, “Your father is a talented piano player, and I’m very sorry for what you’ve lost and what you’ve endured during the past decades. However, giving the revenge is the worst choice. You should let Macon and the Mayor be punished by law, not you. Trust me, it’s not worthy to do this. Alleen. ”

Alleen stands there, crying, “It’s too late, I’ve killed Macon. Everything is too late now. I already taken the poison, but before I die, I want to kill him.” His voice is getting weak and John suddenly runs to him and tries to snatch the gun. John does it and suddenly Alleen is falling down and his pulse is getting weaker and weaker.

Vid unties the Mayor and John sends Alleen to the hospital and runs out.

Two days later, when Vid is working in front of his desk, a phone rings. He picks up the phone and after he hangs up, John comes in.

“The doctor just called, and Alleen is in stable condition now,” says Vid.

“Okay, that’s good to know. Vid, I mean, the whole thing makes me so sad. I can’t even imagine how Alleen suffered through all these years. Living in pain for 15 years? This is so sad. Also, why did Alleen write us invitations at the first place? ” Since John came back to London, he can’t seem to get over this case.

“I guess he wanted us to stop him before everything is too late. He must have struggled in his heart too. I can’t believe I couldn’t figure this out earlier. I feel sorry too. Actually, I’ve seen so much of these in my entire life. John. It is really important to learn letting everything go, because if you don’t do this, you will be sad forever. That’s exactly what Alleen should learn about.”

Vid walks to the window, it is raining again outside. London has too much rain at this time of year.

“Maybe a little more sunshine will be better, both for the weather and our hearts,” Vid thinks, looking outside of the window.