A dog howled down the street, adding its inhuman wail to the music pounding in his ears. The sound seemed to fit and he incorporated the dog into his conducting, urging it with his swooping hand. Then he heard something closer, something not musical at all: Something moving. Startled, he opened his eyes, freezing his hand, breaking the spell. The unseen musicians of the Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra played along without him, not missing a beat. He listened hard for a minute, tuning out the crashing of the cymbal, but heard nothing aside from the lonesome dog. He had just closed his eyes when he heard it again. Slowly, under cover of Grieg’s beautiful noise, he stood up from his chair and padded softly to a wicker table. Its small single drawer held a very big gun. He withdrew it, hefting it in his conducting hand, a hand that now moved slowly, warily, like a snake waiting to strike. Another sound, this one unmistakable—someone was moving through the house. He walked backward until he was leaning against a wall, facing the room. Only one lamp illuminated it and now he was well away from its shine. He had only to wait. Soon enough, the shadow of a man stepped through the doorway leading to the front of the house. He was not a big man but he was terrifying, not least because he was as pale as a ghost.
“You should have known not to stay here, Eric,” the ghost said. His voice was quieter than the music but cut through it like a razor. How did this man know his name? “The families of the boys you molest want justice.”
The thin man’s breath rattled in his throat. “I h-haven’t done anything,” he stammered. He tried to make his voice sound steady but he couldn’t. This intruder knew him. His jaw trembled uncontrollably. “I didn’t touch those boys.”
“That’s not what I hear.”
“That’s not what I hear. What did you do today, Eric? This very afternoon? What did you do to that little boy who trusted you?”
“I j-just gave him a music lesson.”
He pointed in the direction of the rickety, out-of-tune piano, but the pale man did not turn his head.