Conductor Michael Schmidt bowed to the audience in Carnegie Hall and promptly received a standing ovation. Sweat dampened his brow, but his smile was magnificent. The orchestra cheered him on and the flute soloist handed him a huge bouquet of red roses.
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That night, driving home, his wife, Stephanie, was showering him with compliments.
"You did a beautiful job this evening, Michael. I loved the symphony! I remember when you were writing it a year ago, in the bathtub." Stephanie giggled in her red evening gown. Michael only sighed and didn't reply. The air was thick with tension. As they drove further away from Carnegie Hall, Stephanie grew more silent and distant. Despite what People magazine had said only a month ago, their marriage was not stable, or happy. In fact, it was completely the opposite.
Michael parked the car in the garage and didn't bother looking to see if Stephanie had followed him. His cell phone rang while his key was still in the door. "(expletive)!" he muttered as he saw the number on the caller ID.
"Who is it?" Stephanie called. "NBC again?"
"Hello?" he said as quietly as he could.
"Hi, Michael," Lola's sweet voice cooed. "I loved your symphony this evening. You were so wonderful. I'd like to come over and have some...us time, if you don't mind."
"Lola, this is not the best time." Michael said through his teeth, jamming the key into the door, and shoving it open with a violence that sent Stephanie scurrying inside immediately.
"Anytime with you is the best time," Lola said in that syrupy voice of hers. God, I wish I could spend forever with her, Michael thought, but didn't dare to say it out loud.
"Lola, I have to go."
"Oh no you don't! You do not hang up on me! Michael Stewart Schmidt, you answer me this minute!!! I do everything for you!!! I would do anything to be with you forever, but your (expletive) wife Stephanie is always getting in the way!!!!" Her voice rose to a previously unexplored pitch.
"Listen, Lola, I'm going to have to call you later." Little did he know he would regret ever saying those words.
The next day, Michael woke up late at ten in the morning, and turned over in bed only to see that Stephanie was still sleeping. He frowned. Usually, she was up at the crack of dawn, off to meet with her society friends.
"Stephanie are you okay?" he asked. She didn't respond. "Stephanie?" He shook her and not only did she move, but her shoulder was cold and stiff. "Oh god, Stephanie, what's wrong?!" He grabbed the phone and dialed 911. "OH MY GOD MY WIFE IS (EXPLETIVE) NOT BREATHING!!!!!!!"
By the time the ambulance had arrived, she had stopped moving altogether. The doctor pronounced her dead within minutes. Michael was sad, of course, but a small part in the back of his mind told him he should be happy because now he could spend all his time with Lola. He felt a bit guilty about that though, of course, but said nothing. As the paramedics took Stephanie's body away, Michael threw himself into his car and drove to his studio, a few blocks away, and drowned himself in his music.
Angrily hurling himself onto the piano bench, the music just seemed to flow from within. A rising tidal wave on A sharp minor with as much rage as the inferno inside him slowly ebbing into a weaker E minor with a melancholy melody. He went through G flat minor, and C sharp minor, all the way through D minor. After eight hours, he finally resolved with a crescendo in A minor, landing on the highest A on the piano before falling asleep.
When he awoke, the simple rays of sunlight streaming in through the windows told him he had been there all day and night. Oh my god, I slept here! he thought.
He stomped out of the practice room and drove back to his house to find it surrounded by yellow crime scene tape and police personnel. Suddenly, he was more anxious than he had been at performing at Carnegie for the first time. He walked to the perimeter of his property and tapped the broad-shouldered detective on the shoulder.
"What's going on here?" he demanded, a sick feeling growing in his stomach.
"Your wife's death was deemed a homicide. We are now investigating. The cause of death was poisoning. She, or someone else, had forced a cyanide capsule into her mouth."
"Do you know who did it?" Michael cried.
The detective gave him a sidelong glance. "No, sir, that's why we're investigating."
Later in the day, Michael found he had been named a person of interest in the case.
"Stephanie and I were the only two people in my house after the concert. I'm sure of it. I locked the doors, and set the alarm. I do so every night." Michael told the detective, whose name was Thomas Harding.
Detective Harding stared at Michael before asking "Does anyone else have keys to your house, or know the alarm code?"
Michael thought about it and only one other name came to his mind. Lola. Oh god, no, he thought, remembering that she was the director of a lab that kept samples of cyanide among other things, but in the end, he told Detective Harding. "I'm an honest man," he said adding in his mind, except for cheating on my wife, who loved me until the day I started cheating.
The next day it was all over the news and paparazzi magazines, that Michael Schmidt had been having an affair and his wife has been murdered by his Significant Other. Lola had been arrested and confessed within hours. They had allowed him to listen to the recording of the confession. Lola's voice, usually so warm and cheery, was cold and devoid of any emotion.
"I killed Stephanie Schmidt because she was simply in the way. I removed a cyanide capsule from the laboratory I direct, and drove to the Schmidt house at 2 in the morning, where I entered and administered the capsule to Stephanie, the (expletive). I waited until I was sure she was dead before leaving. Are you happy, now, Harding? My life would have been picturesque, except were it for you. You better learn to sleep with your eyes open, mister."
At that point, Detective Harding had turned the recorder off and offered Michael a glass of water. He refused politely.
Lola's trial was a media circus, with big name news stations, CNN, NBC, filming as well as local stations and paparazzi reporters. Lola McLaughlin was found guilty of one count of murder in the first degree, and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Michael slumped in his seat, barely paying attention as the judge dismissed the court for the day. Lola, how could you? he thought. But she didn't even look at him.
Lola's pretty face was impassive, as though she was oblivious to what was going on.
At the sentencing hearing, the judge gave her the death penalty. Ouch, Michael thought. Lola, you were so stupid, so very stupid. The sentence was to be carried out in only three months.
Michael went to visit Lola on death row, but she wouldn't respond to his touch, or to his words.
"Lola, listen to me!" Michael cried. "I love you!"
"Then why do you hate me?" she asked.
"I don't hate you!"
"Then why do you act like it?"
"How am I acting like it?!" he exclaimed, exasperated.
"You do not trust my judgment."
"Of course I don't! You're on death row, for god's sake."
"But still, you do not think that I did what was best for us."
"What do you mean?! You're going to die, Lola. That's not the best way to get us together."
She gave him a crafty smile. "But you do not know me. I am not going to die." That got his attention.
"What do you mean?"
"I am going to escape. And you are going to come with me, and we will go away to some exotic place without an extradition treaty where we will live forever together."
Michael stared at his girlfriend in shock.
"You can't be serious. You can't do that."
"Yes, I can," Lola said. "You will have to trust me on that, and you will, will you not?"
TO BE CONTINUED, EVENTUALLY...
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