Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)
TITLE: Gretchen's Missing
By Sandra Petersen
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“The finale was a bit weak, wasn’t it?” A frown creased her forehead.
I nodded. “But you still have two more days before your recital.”
Olivia slid her music into her satchel. “Gretchen and I will be ready, Mrs. Stanek. Tomorrow morning at ten?”
I smiled as she left. Olivia Banks and her violin Gretchen were well-known. If anyone would be ready for her exit recital from the university program, Olivia would be. A representative of the leading chamber group in the state was going to be in the audience. Her recital needed to be memorable.
Ten o’clock came and passed the next morning with no knock at my studio door. As the minute hand swept toward the half hour, I sighed. Musicians often lose track of time when perfecting one stubborn musical passage. I went in search of my errant student.
Olivia’s practice room door was open. Students serious about a career in concert performance received a key to their own practice room. They would stay well past midnight hammering out a recital piece, sometimes sleeping on the padded bench in their room.
I knocked at the door and edged into the room. In a poster on the wall, Heifetz poised his bow over violin strings. Cups from the coffee machine in the music students’ lounge littered the floor. The full length practice mirror reflected an image of a girl sitting on the padded bench, her head in her hands.
“Olivia?” I touched her shoulder.
She moaned and pointed to a violin in its case in the corner. “Someone took Gretchen and left me with that!”
At first glance, the violins could have been twins, but I knew Olivia could tell the difference. A good musician knows her own instrument, almost as intimately as the Lord knows His sheep.
“Let’s think this through,” I soothed, sitting down and putting my arm around her shoulders. “Why would someone replace Gretchen?”
Olivia shook her head and bit her lip in thought. “I don’t know.”
A knock sounded and Stacy Mattson poked her head in the room. “Mrs. Stanek, I think I’ll have to cancel our lesson. I can’t find my violin anywhere.”
Stacy gave Olivia an icy smile before frowning at the instrument in the corner. “Wait a minute. Why do you have my violin?”
She stomped over, closed the case with a bang, and turned to glare at Olivia. “Just because you’re on the fast track in the music department doesn’t mean you can borrow whatever violin you want.” She stormed from the room.
“How did Stacy’s violin get in here? And where is Gretchen?” Olivia groaned.
“Tell me everything about yesterday from the time you left my studio until you discovered the theft.”
“I decided to spend the next two days right here practicing. At about noon, I went to the vending machines in the lobby and got lunch. I ate here. I ducked out twice to go to the bathroom but I spent the night here.”
Olivia blushed. “Mrs. Stanek!” Then she stammered, “Stacy stopped by about ten. She was her usual charming self.” She grimaced.
I gestured at the coffee cups on the floor. “Anyone else?”
She flushed a deeper red. At that moment, a male voice boomed, “Rise and shine. I brought breakfast.”
I raised an eyebrow as Olivia’s fiancé appeared and tossed a fast food bag into her lap. He glanced at me, then hesitated.
“I’m sorry, Warren,” Olivia apologized. “I must’ve fallen asleep while we were talking last night. Listen, Gretchen is missing!”
His eyes shifted to the corner where Stacy’s violin had been, then to me. I knew what happened. I stood, my face inches from the nervous boy.
“Suppose you tell us where you put Gretchen. I already suspect why.”
Olivia stared at Warren. Her mouth gaped in disbelief as he confessed to substituting Stacy’s violin for Olivia’s, then taking Gretchen back to his apartment. “I was jealous,” he finished with a shameful expression. “Will you forgive me?”
Whether there was a happy ending to this mystery depends on the person asked. Olivia forgave Warren but returned his engagement ring. Olivia and Gretchen performed well the night of the recital but did not get a place with the chamber group. She has since switched her major to music education.
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