A. Elizabeth Herting ~ Concerto

The violins were dueling.

Soaring to great heights before plunging back to earth in a magnificent swirl of notes and patterns, each vying for his attention. Truly a glorious duet.

Felix Chapuys felt the old familiar stirring in his chest, not unlike those early days of marital bliss when he was young and invincible and full of boundless optimism. As it was, music had been his only solace since his young bride and unborn child had been mercilessly snuffed out by a runaway conveyance in the thoroughfare, some twenty years before.

It was a fate that still filled him with anger and disgust at his creator. A being so callous and vengeful as to rip away Felix’s own heart while also filling his soul with sublime music. God was a confusingly cruel master, indeed.

Chapuys twisted the simple gold band he still wore on his left hand around and around as the strings rose together once more into glorious climax, ripping him to pieces all over again. The violins seemed to know all of the secrets of his heart, the confusion of his broken mind. The music filled Chapuys with an intense and mournful longing, the past melding seamlessly into the present as the concerto played on.

A final, deep unison note pierced the air before slowly, exquisitely fading away. Silent tears fell in tracks down his face, as they always did at the concerto’s conclusion. Chapuys took a moment to savor that first, blissful moment of quiet as the last tone dissipated, returning the room to its usual, colorless state.

Felix knew if he had his way, he would play the music in an endless loop, winding the battered old phonograph again and again until his arm gave out from sheer exhaustion. No, that would never do.

The concerto had to be earned.

It demanded to be admired and cherished by someone who was deserving in every way. Chapuys worked tirelessly to be worthy of it, pushing himself to the edge in order to live within the music. He intended to do that this very night, for he was truly inspired.

With a resigned sigh, Felix Chapuys caressed the young skull a final time before gently returning it to its rightful place among the others. He checked to make sure the long blade was sufficiently sharp, before straightening his cravat and making himself ready for the long night ahead.


Lucas backed away from the exhibit as the song finally ended. Thank God!

It was old people music, like you would hear in a doctor’s office or the lame shopping center where his mother tried on a gazillion dresses, making him wait in complete, soul-crushing boredom. The figure’s movements were so lifelike. It was eerie watching it methodically stroke the plastic skull while the awful music got louder and louder. The whole thing gave Lucas the creeps.

The man was one of those animatronic thingies. Lucas could hear the clicks and whirls as it sat dancing around in its chair. The face is what really got to him. It was lined and expressive, different emotions playing out across a wax-like surface. Curiosity getting the better of him, Lucas went over to the large plaque directly beneath the exhibit and began to read.

Felix H. Chapuys, 1842-1902, was a notorious American serial killer in the  late nineteenth century. He is credited for killing at least thirty women over a span of  two decades. It is said that he was driven by intense anger at the tragic loss of his young wife, Julia, who was run over by a Hansom Cab in the early 1880s. Julia was seven months pregnant. Chapuys was a great lover of the arts and music, carving up his victims while listening to his favorite musical selections on a hand-cranked phonograph. On the night he was caught, a “Concerto for 2 Violins in A minor, Op. 3, No. 8” by Vivaldi, had just finished playing as he was surprised by local authorities. The skulls of his many victims were carefully cleaned and stacked in the bedroom, the body of his latest mark still laid out upon a table, awaiting further dissection. He’d already boiled the skin from her head as they kicked the door in and shot him dead, thus ending his reign of terror.”

Lucas turned his gaze to the headless mannequin lying on the table, goose flesh breaking out all over his body. They really were going for a realistic effect here. Bright red pieces glistened under the lights, fake gore and offal spilling over onto the floor. He could hear the display gearing up for another go as the crank on the old-fashioned music box began to spin. He quickly decided that he had no desire to see this one again. It was well past lunchtime. If he could rediscover his appetite, that is. It was definitely time to go find Mom.

He risked a final look back, feeling the whirs of the strange technology humming in anticipation, and saw a random tear fall down the killer’s face. A fresh jolt of fear sent him running off in search of his mother. The opening notes of the concerto rang out through the “Hall of Killers,” chasing him down the ominous corridor.

A stray thought popped into his head as he hurried past the displays of Jack the Ripper, H.H. Holmes and John Wayne Gacy, It came out of nowhere, in a voice that wasn’t his own. He didn’t know what it meant, but he was certain that he didn’t want to stick around to find out.

The violins were dueling.


A. Elizabeth Herting is an aspiring freelance writer and busy mother of three living in colorful Colorado. She has had over 40 short stories published and also has a short story collection Whistling Past the Veil upcoming in 2019 from Adelaide Books. For more of her work/contact her at https://aeherting.weebly.com, https://twitter.com/AeHerting or facebook.com/AElizabethHerting

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