The Missing Score – IV

“Been laying a trap for a man, ma’am?”

In the midst of our taxi ride from the hotel, the driver suddenly turned to us with an astonishing question.

“Koharu-chan… I’ve told you and told you, you’re just so cute. You need to be careful about throwing smiles around that could give guys the wrong idea.”
“Huh? I… No, you haven’t told me that. Cut it out.”
“There are plenty of loli-chasers in the US.”
“Wait, who are you calling a loli—”
“Um, I wasn’t talking about the young middle school girl there.”
“Middle school?! I’m twenty-five!”
“Jesus Christ…”

The driver swore, seemingly unable to believe it.

If praying like that were enough to make one seem like an adult, maybe I ought to convert to Christianity.

“Japan is full of witches.”
“Lots of people who can transmigrate between dimensions, too. There are tons of transmigration trucks running. Some of ‘em get exported to America.”
“Kazusa-san, stop. First of all, you need to make an apology to all the truck drivers of Japan.”
“Dammit. Haruki told me all this stuff about wish-fulfillment stories and how popular they are abroad… Stupid of me to believe it.”
“Putting that aside. What did you mean, ‘laying a trap for a man’?” I returned to the driver, bristling.
“Well, someone seems to have been following us ever since you two got in.”
“Don’t look behind us.” She stretched out her left arm and pulled my head into her chest.

          Excuse me. You’ve got my cheek pressed against your ample bosom.

          It smells very, very nice. Aaack…

With her right hand, she pulled out her phone and took a picture of whatever was behind us.

“The blue car?”
“Yes. What do you want to do? Should I give them the slip?”
“Yes, please. You see, we’re just a pair of delicate young women…”
“Of course.”

After a number of twists and turns and detours, the taxi reached its destination. Evidently we had shaken off our pursuer. We paid our fare, tipping heavily, then rushed to the studio we had reserved.

“Whew, that was thrilling, huh?”
“What are you so happy about? We’ve been chased into plenty of deeply unpleasant situations by over-enthusiastic fans before.”

I had, in particular.

“No, this seemed different.”
“That’s what they were after. Give it here.”

From her trusty pale-blue Birkin, which she had given me to carry, she drew out that same sheet music.

“You brought it with you?”
“I was thinking I’d do some more investigating once I get out of rehearsal.”
“Is there something written in that sheet music that would inspire somebody to tail us?”

It certainly didn’t look that way.

“I might’ve screwed up, though. I doubt anyone would search the hotel where we’re staying right now, so it might have been wiser to leave it behind…”

What in the world was she getting at?

“Maybe I should avoid messing around with info on shady business.”
“Sha—Shady—?” What…?
“Shady. Shady lady…”
“What are you talking about?”
“Nothing, just rhyming.”
“Will you stop, please?! There’s… There’s no shady business going on. Right?”
“Maybe the notes are a special code, pointing to a drug dealing…”
“I mean it. I’m getting angry.”
“Do you think he knew? The composer whose soul permeated that old score, now dead… Every night, his ghost slips out of this very sheet music, and goes to his manager’s bedside…”
“Stop talking so quietly. Your voice is genuinely scaring me. And none of that’s true. Right?”

The way she was making fun of me…

Kazusa-san, in her genuine cowardice, would never mess around with something that dangerous, surely. I might not know everything of her life story, but generally, in her day-to-day life, she was in the “a wise man keeps well away from danger” camp.

Keeping herself safe was a matter of good faith to her fans around the world.

“But I think it’s information that could shake some organization or another.”
“You’re still trying to scare me?”
“No, I’m serious.”

The blood rushing in my head was making my ears ring.

“G-Get rid of it. Please. Actually, let’s just leave everything in the hotel and fly to Philadelphia right now! I have our passports and ATM cards!”

I gripped her sleeve.

She stared at me, agape. Then…

Pff-ff-ff. She started laughing.

Ah… From the look on her face, I’d just wasted a lot of time and mental energy.

“Sorry, I’m sorry. It’s nothing that dangerous.”
“You’ve been messing with me this entire time! It’s very unkind of you.”
“Hey, now, don’t be mad. I mean, you’re still plenty cute when you’re mad, but…”
“I am mad! You’re one of the world’s great treasures! Youko-san tasked me with protecting you. My job comes with that level of responsibility.”
“I know, chairman. Sorry, sorry…”
“You’re making fun of me again!”
“I get it, I get it. All right, Conan-kun—no, Koharun-kun, I’ll give you a hint.”

She took out her phone.

“A photo sent to me by Setsuna.”

The screen showed a handwritten music score.

“Oh, that looks just like this one. Could it have been written by the same person as this sheet music?”
“I was thinking the same thing. The shape of the letters, the idiosyncrasies of the notes, the shaky lines, everything looks similar. I just don’t have any proof.”
“I see…”
“But, if I could find another handwritten score, I might be able to say for sure.”
“Say, Kazusa-san. The stamp at the bottom left corner of each of the scores. Could that be the owner’s seal?”
“That would make things simpler, but unfortunately, I don’t think so. I think it’s the seal of whoever produced or sold the staff notation.”
“So, it might have just been purchased from the same place.”
“Right. But we don’t know whether anyone else uses it. I’ve never seen it before…”
“Meaning, the number of people who would use it is limited?”
“That’s what I think.”
“What does this part of the stamp, ‘24linig,’ mean?”
“It means there are twenty-four rows.”
“Oh, yes, there are twenty-four rows of five lines.”
“Those twenty-four staves are, from top to bottom, divided by five more-or-less straight lines into four bars. Four pages, sixteen bars. With three of them, that comes to forty-eight bars’ worth in total.”

Twenty-four staves?

In other words—“This isn’t a score for a piano?”

“That’s correct.”
“But, there’s barely anything written here.”
“True. It’s still more like a sketchpad than anything else.”
“Could the person who wrote this still be alive?”
“If it’s the person I’m thinking of, he’s been dead for over a hundred years.”
“I had no idea this score was so old…”

And, somehow, it had crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Vienna to the United States?

“Well, you’ll need to keep waiting for a bit. As soon as I’m sure, I’ll tell you more.”
“All right.”
“For now, Koharu-chan, I have a very important job for you. I need you to make a copy of this sheet music in the office here. But don’t let anybody see what it is.”
“Got it.”
“That, and I’d like to have a sandwich and a strawberry tart for lunch. Now, it’s time for me to get to practicing.”

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