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The Mockingbird sings
Dane stood in the lobby of the Galina Vishnevskaya Theater and Opera Center, studying the portrait of one Galina Vishnevskaya, the legendary soprano responsible for its foundation. She was a classic diva of the previous century with a large round face, drooping cheeks and beady eyes. In the portrait, her hair was piled into a high coif and a wide fur collar was nestled across her bust.

Chimes called the end to intermission, and Dane strode swiftly toward the entrance to his box. There was just enough time to stop at the bar on his way. As a lad, Dane enjoyed magic shows and he did not wish to miss a minute of this one. The air was thick with mysticism. Brows were pinched with awe. And revelry filled as many glasses as did champagne.

The real show, however, was not on stage.

Dane leaned eagerly against the railing until bent wrists sent his fingers tingling, but he was too enraptured to reposition. His view? The crowd below. Row after row of childlike curiosity illuminated by the bright stage lights that held them transfixed. The wonder of it was hardly matched by another spectacle.

Hardly, but not unrivaled.

It was with great misfortune that Dane had to withdraw early from the show. He had taken ill with a headache, for which he blamed overindulgence in champagne. A quiet room and Panadol awaited. Perhaps a massage as well. A cab was called. "The Ritz-Carlton,"
, he told the driver. As they sped away, his crisp accent cut through the noise of the radio, "do you know when the Bolshoi performs The Nutcracker?"
he asked. The driver thought for a moment, "Christmas Eve, I think."

Dane smiled, imagining it. "How lovely."

The headache served him well, however. As a few minutes before the curtain fell a noxious gas was pumped through the theater's antique ventilation ducts. First felt as a tickle in the back of the throat, then a cough here and there. Men loosened their collars and ladies rubbed irritated eyes. So close to the grand finale, none sought the refuge of washrooms and fresh air.

That night, the curtain fell to the silence. When the magician finally realized applause was not to be replaced with disappointed heckling, he timidly held a hand to his eyes and squinted beyond the lights. Three-hundred and fifty nine silent faces were slouched in their seats, never to clap again.

That night, investigators found a card, hand painted with the profile of a mockingbird, tucked into the frame of Galina Vishnevskaya's portrait. Othewise, they had no leads.

Edited by Dane Gregory, Dec 10 2013, 07:13 AM.

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