“Sing a Song of Six-guns”
“Recite! While taken by delirium
I don't know anymore what I say
and that I do!
And yet, and must make an effort!
Bah are you perhaps a man? Ah! ah! ah!
Vesti la giubba (e)
People pay and rider wants to here.
And if Harlequin steals your Columbina,
ridi, Pagliaccio and everyone applaudira! "
- Ruggero Leoncavallo
It was maddening.
As many things as possible, and we were completely wrong.
“Hey,” one of the IT guys (I think his name was Frank) yelled out, “There’s a link to a website hidden in this video!”
Like pigeons swarming around a new statue we encircled the computer. A couple of key strokes brought up another piece of video.
It was Placido Domingo in a clown costume. He was doing a production of “Pagliacci.” It was recent, but I didn’t know it. I must say right away I don’t hate or love opera. I love “Madame Butterfly” and “Tales of Hoffman,” but there aren’t a lot that I have sought out. I have no use of opera in other languages, with no subtitles. I’m a detective. I can’t stand to have things going on that I have to guess at the details. The librettos most shows provide have a synopsis and expect you to know it well enough to get along. If I can read the translation before I go, I might accept it, but otherwise, forget it. I do not stumble around anywhere; if I can’t focus the picture, then I’m not interested.
Luckily this one was subtitled. I found out later it was from a 1998 TV production. But there seemed to be little other information.
The clip was the “Redi, Pagliacci” number and then went to the credits.
“Hey, there were a couple of Pagliaccis on the list,” the company photographer said. “I saw it.”
Somebody offered up a print out. It had the opera being done at the college and at a pasta joint.
“We’ll have to stake out both of them,” Nate said, “Unless you know a way to pick between them.” This last was aimed straight between my eyes.
“Can you get me the program from the show they’re doing at the school?” I asked.
No one questioned me a minute. That was an odd experience. These people really expected me to be the expert. I usually surrounded myself with people who were better at this job than I am. I have always believed you extended your game by playing with those who are better than yourself. These folks looked up to me in a way that not only made me uncomfortable but worried me. This put a hell of a lot of pressure on me to be as good as they thought I was.
While we were waiting, Max McKraken and Harry Vernon walked in. They were the only operatives at any of our agencies that were not otherwise occupied out of the country. They brought word that the other guys would come at a moment’s notice if I wanted.
I mention “agencies” because almost all the fellows had their own places now. They were “spun off” from mine, though we were still businesses that were affiliated, so they could have their own identities. I wanted them to feel they could grow and be self-sustaining when I was gone.
I stopped at that thought.
I had been thinking about dying a lot lately. More than ever before. When Beverly died all I could think was “How can I go on?” Now I thought about each friend and thought, “What can I do to set them up for when I’m gone.”
Max had been chasing a pair of would-be terrorist masterminds. So far they had done a couple of bombings that had not amounted to much, no fatalities and worse, no national headlines. They were now working on bringing down London Bridge during a passing of the Queen and family. They were sure that would make them the new Osama Bin Laden. Max had grabbed them when they were stealing a car load of C4 from a military base in Germany. He made sure there were no headlines, but he made sure some MI-6 folks had taken custody of the jerks. If they had made any contacts, those would be found out.
Harry, perhaps the smartest man I had ever known, had just finished a case of the biggest identity theft on record. A real mastermind had virtually become Luxemburg online. He was buying his own private army and staffing it. He planned an invasion of Switzerland. It wouldn’t stand, but he had also contacted a crew of top-flight bank men who would hit the vaults of the country during the “war.” He had already found the keys to the alarms he planned as victims, so, for a microscopic window, they would be vulnerable. Now he would have to do his dirty work on prison computers. Harry was sure that he would, absolutely. He was that kind of mind. Harry planned to shut that down also, but he came right away when he heard I might be in danger.
After a few moments of handshaking and bringing each other back up to speed, the deputy dispatched someone to bring the program. They didn’t have those printed yet, but he brought a poster that had most of the names that would be included in the proposed program.
I asked them to run the clip again. While they were setting that up I told Harry and Max, “I just need to see something.”
Harry leaned over and looked at the poster.
They ran the video again and when they came to the credits I watched carefully. There it was. Leonard Slatkin.
He was the conductor for the film. He also would conduct the orchestra in Lincoln.
“That’s why he included the credits in the video,” Harry mused.
“That was my thought,” I answered.
That was the target.
© C. Wayne Owens