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Harpsichord Followup - Ghost/Andre

[cross posted were_ghost and bqv_andre ]

Mun's Note: Takes place after Antique Instrument

(Backdated to June 2012)

Wiping the soft cloth across the Square Grand Piano, Andre removed any accumulated dust from just two evenings before. He had a crew that came in while the mansion was open for business, but he still loved stroking his hands over the amazingly incredible hand crafted pieces. It was quiet nights like this that the vampire loved; he could walk amongst his treasures, some of which he’d actually purchased when they were new. Each room on the first two floors was dedicated to a time-theme. The lower level of course was the ‘living’ area. Kitchen, Parlour, study, den... ladies room. Each painstakingly decorated to make one feel comfortable and welcome despite the high prices on some - he’d been known to slash a price if someone was desperately ‘in love’ with a piece... they were his memories.

Ghost looked at the card that Charlie had given him and then back at the beautiful old mansion set on the carefully manicured lawn. The address matched but it seemed a strange place for a antique business. It looked more like a private residence except for the sign hanging out front. Ghost parked his bike in the small lot and proceeded to the front entrance. He was just about to knock when he caught the scent of vampire. The elder were had encounter vampires from both camps since arriving in New Orleans. The soft spoken and genteel type and the homicidal maniac type. Which would this one be? The vampire wouldn’t get much business if he drank the blood from every customer who walked in so Ghost decided to reserve judgement on this one. Besides the fellow would probably be as cautious of him and the were was of him.

Ghost raised his fist to knock on the door. When no answer came he tried the knob and found it unlocked. Interesting and logical. What thief would survive robbing this place? Ghost opened the door and stepped boldly inside. No reason to show weakness if the vampire owner was less than sociable. The inside looked just like someone’s home. Well, if they were incredible neat and had no need for personal touches. The shop looked like a picture postcard. Everything in its place and absolutely no clutter. Ghost saw a tall well dressed man with a wipe cloth by a grand piano. It was not the type the were was looking for but he got the feeling he was in the right place. He silently thanked Charlie for his recommendation. “Hello there. I wonder if you could help me.”

Having sensed the approach of the other, Andre waited in the living room just off the foyer. “Greetings... and welcome.” Striding closer, the cloth disappeared into a pants pocket, leaving his hands free to extend one in greeting. “I’d like to try and help you, certainly.”

“I was directed to your gallery by a music store owner. He did not have what I was looking for and he thought you might. Would you have a harpsichord among your collection?” He liked how the vampire kept it very business like. They both knew what the other was and yet it was just business.

Frowning, Andre tapped his finger against his leg. “On the main floor I do not... however, I do have several pieces as yet unpacked.” Glancing upwards toward the higher floors as if he could see through the timber and molding and nails, the vampire clicked his tongue. “Perhaps upstairs; would you care to come with me?”

“Of course, lead the way.” The were gestured toward the stairs he thought they might be using to ascend to the upper floors.

A slight bow, and Andre moved toward the carpeted mahogany stairs. “Thank you for the trust that implies.” Reaching the landing, he turned left and headed down a long hallway. “THere are another set of stairs at the end; they lead to the third and fourth floors. Small rooms, formerly slave or servants quarters.”

Ghost glanced into the rooms that they passed. There was more of the same sort of set up. The rooms looked like typical private home rooms except for the personal touches. More like a museum. “Trust? Because you are a vampire and I’m a werewolf? You have given me no reason to be concerned about being here. You are a businessman and I’m a customer.” Ghost never paused in his pace. He didn’t fear the vampire. “Did you design the decor for each room yourself?”

“Each has a touch of the life I lived and left behind.” Pointing at an old chest, corners of the wooden planks chipped and missing, he smiled, “That was my wife’s.” He trailed his finger over it and smiled at the memory. “Up here,” Opening the well oiled door, Andre flipped a switch and a bare incandescent bulb flickered to life. “The rooms aren’t as grand, used more for storage and repair.”

“I’ve collected a few memories but nothing like this.” Ghost had a vault back at his company headquarters with native American and early Wild West items that told of his life as a pup and young man. “This is like a history lesson come to life.”

“It is...” Speaking softly, Andre touched the pictographs on the wall, the hand painted images of his children now under protective glass. “My Children.” Not pausing he reached the top and headed toward the first door. “New arrivals in here, care to open a few? Oh... do you have a particular style in mind?” That would help him determine which of the large crates to ignore.

Ghost glanced at the old photographs. Each placed so precisely on the wall and protected with care. Family obviously meant a lot to the vampire. The were wondered how old this one was and how many generations of children he had to outlive. Ghost would never have that happen. His future son would outlive him by several centuries barring injury. Focusing back on the question at hand. “I’d love to buy an antique but the instrument will see a lot of use so it must be functional. My mate is a musician and expressed a desire to have one and I try to get him what he likes. I was thinking of one with a double keyboard in the French style in black. Price is not an issue.”

Laughing, Andre gave a wink, “Don’t you know you should never say that to a salesperson?” Bypassing the room, the door firmly closed, he headed to another. “I may have something along the lines of what you are looking for... if not, I’m fairly certain I can locate it at a reasonable price.” Blinking once, the door softly unlatched, the lock tumblers obeying the vampires silent command. “The older pieces are kept here...”

Ghost shrugged. “My mate deserves the best. I don’t believe in scrimping when it comes to him and if that makes a few salespeople happy along the way. So be it.”

Prying the edge away from the frame, Andre nodded. “There is no replacement for quality.” Once removed, he pulled away some of the packing. “No... not this one.” Clicking his tongue, he shook his head. “I’m not sure it’s arrived yet.” Laying the covering aside, he straightened up. “Do you wish to continue to look? THere’s no one else here so it won’t be an issue.” He was willing to continue the search but wasn’t sure of the time constraints his visitor may have.

Ghost looked at his watch. Rene would be working for a couple more hours. “I have time. We can continue looking. Perhaps we could divide up the crates and double our efforts? Which ones should we look in?”

Scanning the room, Andre mentally catalogued the inventory. “Those three there...” Pointing to the set near the wall. “I’ll take those.” Against the opposite wall were four large crates.

“Okay. I can handle that.” Ghost made his way to the crates indicated by the vampire. He pried the first box open and more the packing aside. It didn’t look that what he was looking for so he pulled the padding back in place and pushed the lid back down. The second one looked to be a good possibility but he needed to see more. The third one turned out to be a single and then on more careful examination the prior instrument looked more worn than he had originally thought. He hoped that Andre had found something. “None of these are quite right. What about yours?”

Shaking his head, Andre shrugged, “I don’t remember bidding on this lot. Guitar Harp and a child’s harp.” He did not like to disappoint a customer. “I’m not sure I have what you want on hand. What about you?”

“Perhaps you might know another dealer who carries this type of instrument. I’ll offer a finder’s fee for your time.” Ghost secured the lids back on the crates.

“I most likely do... and there will be no fee involved or required. Just the cost of the item.” Wiping the dust from his hands, Andre nodded. “We’ll open the rest and if it’s not here we can retire to my office and I can get exacts and specifics from you; is that acceptable?”

“Yes, very acceptable.” Ghost looked around at the remaining crates. “I will try the others on this side, alright?” He was already moving in their direction skirting the boxes he had previously opened.

“Perfect; there is only one more over here that might remotely be able to hold an instrument of that size.” Curling his fingers, the vampire wrested the lid from the wooden crate and peered inside after moving the packing aside. “Closer - and old roller-piano.”

Ghost turned to investigate the remaining crates. The next one held a beautiful harpsichord but again only one keyboard. It looked very serviceable but what really impressed him was the carvings on the lid. He ran his fingers over the silky smooth curves and whurls. It showed a master craftsman at work. ‘It is too bad that...hmmm’. Ghost was thinking. His fingers still tracing the delicate designs. “I wonder what this one sounds like. I know it only has one keyboard.” What he really wanted to see is the rest of the instrument but that would require removing the remaining pieces of the crate. “Can we see this one?”

“Of course, in less than a blink Andre was across the room and grasping the side panels of the crate. “Lets get two sides open and pull it out. How much room do you need for it?” He did a quick survey of the surrounding containers, deciding if needed he could shift a few of them.

“If we could remove the front panel and clear away the packing material so I can see the legs.” He checked out the available space. It would be close. “If we could shift this next crate to the space behind it.” Ghost pointed to the smaller box and the open space to its rear. He knew that either one of them could move it by themselves.

“I’ll move that one then... and you work on this?” Andre didn’t want to take the chance of the crate somehow injuring his customer, though he knew it wasn’t overly likely, he still didn’t want to take the chance.

Ghost waited for Andre to move the small crate out of the way and then pulled the side panel down. The packing material was quickly pushed out of the way and the rest of the instrument revealed. Ghost crouched down next to the wooden legs. They were carved just like the top edge. He ran his fingers lovingly over the twists and curves. There was a lot of expert workmanship in this piece. He wondered if the sound was as beautiful. If so this could be the piece he wanted despite the lack of a second keyboard. Ghost rose back up and lifted the top to check the condition of the inner workings. They looked in good condition. Ghost worked himself around to the keyboard. “May I?” He wanted to feel the tension in the keys. He knew it was probably out of tone from being moved but that could be fixed.

“Of course.” Having deposited the other container a distance away to give them room, he now stood beside the were, watching. “I do the same... a piece comes in and it captures my attention. The effort and love that went into it, the absolute beauty of the creation.”

“I do some woodcarving myself so I can appreciate the time and skill that went into the crafting of the cabinet.” Ghost touched one of the keys and the instrument made a pinging sound. He tried a couple more notes but the result was the same. The instrument was terribly out of tune which was to be expected. The were tested the tension in the keys and to his great disappointment several were very loose. He wasn’t sure that could be fixed. He thought for a moment on what his research had told him. The actual instrument could be lifted out of the cabinet and placed in another. Of course the dimension had to be the same. He sighed as he ran his hand over the smooth surface again. “I’m afraid this won’t work. The cabinet is beautiful but the instrument itself may not be usable. That’s too bad. If I wanted it for its looks I’d purchase it in a heartbeat but...”

“Then I will look for you - we will get the exact specifications of what you want and I will start a search.” For Andre it was that simple. If he did not have the exact item his customer wanted, he found it. “We can leave these uncrated, I’ll just put the protective coverings back on them, then we can head down to my study. Would you like a glass of wine or perhaps coffee?”

Ghost was impressed with Andre’s diligence to taking care of his customers. “I believe I can provide you with the specs that you need.” He covered the beautiful instrument he had been examining but not without running his palm over it one more time. If he could find this kind of detail in a double keyboard his search would be complete. “Some wine would be nice, thank you.”

“Come then,” Leading the way, Andre moved to the door and waited, “Tell me about your woodworking - carving. Do you do it for hobby, oh and do you do just carving or do you also build items?”

Ghost followed the vampire out of the room. “My woodworking came from necessity. I needed furniture but it has translated into a hobby. I don’t need to make anything anymore but I still like to create beautiful things. My designs may be a bit rustic but well-made.”

Locking the door, the vampire led the way back to the first floor. Once they reached the ‘living room’, he moved into it then to a small door at the side. “My office is just here.” Opening the portal, he stepped aside to allow his guest to enter first. “How long have you been doing it - I’ll admit to having a hobby or two over the years, but nothing that I’ve stuck to. Unless of course, you consider collecting furniture a hobby.”

Ghost followed the vampire to the office slipping in around him when Andre beckoned him to enter. “Most of my life. I’d say about 130 years. After I got over my adolescence. My father taught me how and together we built the furniture for several cabins and caves. My creations were quite crude in the early days but I got better as time went on.”

Taking his seat and powering up his computer, Andre smiled at the younger man, “Perhaps there is a market for it here. People are always willing to pay for well crafted items that, while functional are also aesthetically pleasing.”

Ghost frowned for a second but it passed. He had never considered selling his wood pieces. He had made things for his dad and some of his employees and of course Rene. Ghost didn’t consider his woodworking to be his main talent. It was just something he tinkered around with. “I had never considered making money from my wood pieces. It is not my main talent. It is only something I do for fun or when I need something.” Ghost pulled out his phone and flipped through to a picture of the wooden box he had made Rene for graduation and the picture of their bed. He turned the screen to Andre could view the items. “I try to keep a natural look to everything I make. It may not be to everyone’s taste.”

Taking the phone, Andre studied the piece; while it intrigued him, on a cellphone, he knew justice wasn’t always done. “That is a true statement, but then again, not everyone likes all things.” Bringing it close, he nodded slowly. “There is a market, but it will be select. This is very good work - the lines are fluid and smooth; very pleasing to the eye. What types of wood do you work with?” Hearing the beep of his computer, Andre typed in a few keys and waited for his password to be accepted.

“I work mostly with redwood and juniper, some aspen. I tend to use just about anything that is laying around.” Ghost came in looking for a gift for Rene and found himself talking about his own furniture. His company manager would love that. His boss, the furniture maker.

“Hmm.... after we have completed the necessary questions regarding the instrument for your partner, if it interests you, we could discuss my shop taking on a piece or two under commission and see how the interest is?”

Ghost thought about the style of furniture he had passed on their journey through the house/shop and then the pieces he had stored at the company HQ. He had a doubt or two whether his stuff would blend well but he tried not to turn down a viable offer. “Alright, why not.” That decided Ghost pulling the specs sheet from his pocket and unfolded the edges to let Andre see what Ghost really had in mind when he came here. “Here is the instrument that I was in interested in.”

Cupping his chin, elbow resting on the desk, Andre read the form. “Beautiful piece... I may know just the dealer to get it from. Only down side is it could take a month to get here. They live in Washington State.” He traced the lines with his finger, “May I make a copy of this?”

“Surely.” Ghost handed his information sheet to the vampire. He thought about the time table. That fit well with the completion of the loft. If it took less time to arrive Ghost would have to hide it from his mate. Rene did like to come by from time to time to take a peek at the renovations. “The delay is fine. I don’t want my mate to see it until he moves in. I have a vacation planned for us in September and would like to have the piece delivered and set up while we are away. Could you store it for me if it arrives early?”

“Without a doubt; it would give me extra time to have tuner come in and give it a good going over.” Handing back the original, Andre pulled a colored folder from his drawer and placed the copy in it. Once labeled, he put it in the pile next to his phone. “How will I get in to deliver - is there someone you can give a key to and instructions?”

Ghost took back his papers. “You can call my construction manager. He is overseeing all the details of the renovations. Whenever I’m not there he is.” Ghost was so pleased that Andre would be able to help him. Rene was going to love this gift. “Will you require a deposit?”

“No - not until I’m certain I can get the exact piece and it meets your needs.” To Andre, as far as his books went, there was nothing messier than taking a deposit and having to return it.

“Very good. I have confidence that you will find what I’m looking for. I must thank the shop owner who sent me your way. He knew what he was talking about. I am going to leave this in your capable hands.” He put forth his hand to let the vampire shake it.

The handshake was as much a confirmation of their deal as a beginning, but only time would tell of what that beginning was. “I must thank him as well... do you remember his name?”

“Of course, it was Charlie at Music Pace. I was at his shop right before I came here. He was able to get me some sheet music for a harpsichord and your card.” He doubted that the vampire or the human would ever need his own services but he was happy to improve commerce wherever he could.

“That was good of him, I’ll have to thank him.” Standing, Andre studied the man before him. “I have a good feeling about this.”

Ghost had to agree. Andre had been very obliging and he was even interested in something that the were had always thought of as a hobby. Ghost considered himself fortunate that for the most part he had managed to acquaint himself with vampires who were neither trying to kill him or suck him dry. “Yes, I must agree. It is more than I thought it would be.” He looked Andre over trying to decide whether to bridge a tricky question. If Andre had meant him harm they would not be standing here exchanging pleasantries. “Andre, may I ask you something? I don’t mean to offend.”

“There is no harm in questions, only the reason behind them. Ask... I won’t be offended.” Smiling, he gave a reassuring look to the other.

Ghost thought about how dangerous this could be if Andre was not who the were thought he was. “I’ve only be in town for a short time in comparison to others and I’ve met other vampires. Most were a decent sort, a few that who have rubbed me the wrong way and one that tried to kill me. Has it always been this way between our races?”

Frowning, he studied the man before him. First he’d address the question, then have a few of his own. “Not always... there was a time our races were companionable. From the history as I know it, some stronger vampires, thinking themselves near god-like, mistreated their guardians - that is what the weres were - anyway, they were mistreated and of course, took exception.” Pausing, he shifted slightly, “Who tried to kill you?”

“Hmmmm, perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned that. You seem like a decent sort but I don’t know how the local vampire society works and where you fit into it. That sort of knowledge could endanger those I care for or who I have befriended. I was only curious to know if the things I had read were true or fiction.” Ghost felt a little uneasy at Andre’s question but he only had himself to blame. He had opened the line of questioning.

“If you are threatened again, come to me. I was not brought to this life with preconceived notions of the ‘rightful place’ of one race over another.” Bowing his head once, Andre smiled. “I am an elder which is less powerful than an Ancient, who inturn is much less powerful than the First Born.”

Ghost didn’t have the heart to tell Andre that the vampire didn’t survive the threat and that Ghost was considering reducing the vampire population by at least one more. “So there are levels for vampires. How old do you have to be to be considered in elder? You’re not bothered by mentioning for age are you?” He hoped to move away from the subject of Razvan. He did wonder how old he was. If a vampire was older he might not be able to defeat him or her.

Doing a quick bit of math, he blinked, “I’m a bit beyond Six-hundred and forty years in this life.” Crossing his arms, he leaned against the desk, “I know an ancient is at least - or so I was lead to believe - at least fifteen hundred years.” He was curious about the questions, but also knew, if given enough time, people would slip a few hints without meaning to.

Ghost whistled. “Those kind of numbers make me feel like a pup in comparison. You must excuse all the questions. My knowledge of vampires is very limited and New Orleans seems to have a fair population of both vampires and weres. I find myself at a disadvantage. When I find someone who is open enough to speak with me I get curious and full of questions.”

“Not to worry, I’m not offended at all.”

“Thank goodness. I hadn’t walked in here intending to become an interrogator, honest. You have been helpful in several ways, Andre.” Ghost bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement of the vampire’s age.

Smiling he patted the younger man on the arm. “I can tell you have several more things to ask... how about we go for coffee in a few days, give you time to arrange your thoughts and questions - figure out what you want to know.”

Ghost breathed a sigh of relief. He had managed to put himself and Andre on the spot with this line of questioning though he had the feeling that the vampire was taking it better than he was. “Yes....that would be good.” He quickly considered his schedule for the week but wasn’t sure he could make a decision on the spot. He needed to check with the office and his contractor. “Can I call you tomorrow evening?” He took into consideration the vampire’s special schedule.

“Call me anytime... I’ll play back any message you leave.” Smiling, he grabbed a card and flipped it over, writing his cell on the back. “Call me anytime. “

Ghost waited while the vampire scribbled down his number. “Until later then.”



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