Main > Series > Chapters > Fame Book 1 > Chapter 9

Orchestra rehearsals for the festival started late; Shorofsky wanted to offer the widest and the richest sound that the School's musical talent could produce, and half of the talent that he'd chosen to use was tied up in mid-term drama presentations.

It meant extra pressure on those players who had to double -up on their spare-time activities while still keeping up their grades and getting their course assignments in on schedule, but Shorofsky wasn't going to feel guilty about that. Life, he always said, very rarely makes allowances - and professional life, never Most of the dropouts rate at the School of the Arts consisted of kids who just rocked back in terror at the size and the scope of the curriculum. Sometimes it seemed cruel, watching them go out of the doors for the last time and leaving a lot of their dreams ehind in the locker room, but the biggest cruelty of all would have been to give them an easy ride.

If Benjamin Shorofsky ever came to doubt this, he could think back to his own experience with Troy Phillips. Shorofsky had been tempted to break the basic rule, and even with the best intentions he'd come lose to doing wrong by everone. It was for this reason that he didn't hesitate to enlist Julie Miller in the festival orchestra's cello section.

Julie's workload was probably hight at this point in the year than it had ever been. Not only was she playing accompaniment for the drama department, but whenever she was able to get a few minutes alone she was working on a piece that she' chosen to present in competition for the interborough musical scholarship. A few minutes alone! It was almost a joke. Most of her rehearsal time so far had been late at night in her one-room apartment, practising her fingering with a rag stuffed under the cello's bridge to deaden the strings. She knew what the Haydn piece looked like and she knew what the fingering felt like; but so far, she'd only her own imagination to tell her what the extract from the concerto sounded like.

Whichever way you looked at it, she was running hard. There couldn't have been a worse time for her instrument to go missing.

She found out at one of the play rehearsals. She'd left the cello in the instrument storage rack in the music room some five hours before, when she'd been in a rush to catch her geography lesson. After a half-hour break in the Burger King around the corner with Bruno and Danny, she'd hurried back to find an empty space where the case should have been.

Scanning the room, she saw it leaning against a chair over on the opposite side. She stormed over to it, flicking her long blonde hair back in annoyance. She hated it when someone touched her cello without permission; it was a phobia that only a musician could ever understand. She unzipped the cover, expecting to find the two hundred year old varnish covered in paw-marks.

But it wasn't her cello.

The cover was hers, but the instrument was one of the school's own practice cellos. it was American-made, no more than five years old. She looked around again, but there was nothing she could do right now; any more thorough search would make her late for the rehearsal, and that would be unpardonable.

She knew that she was playing mechanically, just laying the notes down as written without any infusion of feeling, but she couldn't help it. She was concerned. She'd had the instrument since she was thirteen years old; her mother had taken her to pick it out, letting her choose on intuition alone and keeping it's price a secret until it was too late for Julie to go back on her decision. It was more than a fine antique; it was a part of her life, something from the happier times before her parents' divorce.

When the rehearsal was over and all the other insturments were being stowed, Julie took another look around. No question about it, her cello was missing. Under any other circumstances she could have blamed it on a mixup, but the switching of the covers was too deliberate. There was only one explanation. Someone had taken it.

There wasn't the time to make a report - in less than an hour the janitor would be locking the front doors and switching off all the lights. Besides, that might be hasty - this could still be somebody's mean idea of a joke, although Julie couldn't see any funny side to it. In the morning she'd look again, perhaps get some of the others to help out. If that got her nowhere, then she'd make it official.

'See?' Julie said to Ben Shorofsky when she'd finished the Boccherini passage that had been her tutorial assignment. 'There's no warmth, no depth to the tone. This thing won't speak, period. It's terrible.'

'It's different,' Shorofsky conceded.

'How different?'

'Some of the colours are changed slightly. It's softer sounding than yours.' 'The colours haven't changed. They've disappeard.'

'Miller.' Shorofsky allowed himself to get a little stern. He was concerned over Julie's problem - theft in the school was a serious matter, and this was something much more than the disappearance of someone's lunch money - but he couldn't let it blur their academic focus. 'Miller, it was very good. Now play the andante.'

Julie was slightly taken aback. 'Very good? You mean it sounds better?'

Enough already! 'Different!' Shorofsky roared, and he pointed to the music. 'Play, Miller!'

'Mister Shorofsky, my cello is two hundred years old. This is almost brand new. My cello is English, this is American. My . . . '

'I know it's not your cello, Miller. It's an orphan cello. Adopt it. Make it your foster cello. Play.'

Julie started to play.

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