Isla, December 8th, 2017

It was almost midnight, when the little group opened the doors to the third – and final – location indicated in Oliver’s poem and Isla was visibly exhausted. After they had had no difficulties finding the first envelope in the House for Mozart, they had taken their time looking through the rest of the concert hall and had even stayed for a while watching an orchestra rehears. Time had flown by and Isla, who had loved classical music her entire life, had felt unspeakably lucky to be able to experience these private tours and behind-the-scenes glances. So lucky, in fact, that she hadn’t even thought about the next two locations until they had seemingly seen everything within the House for Mozart and decided to move on to Mozart’s Wohnhaus, which Oliver had pretty much spelled out as such in his clue.

“The house you see here, used to be called the ‘Tanzmeisterhaus’, or roughly translated the house of the dancing master, as it was used to teach dance to the upper class, all the way back in 1711. About 70 years later the Mozarts moved into it, after their previous house on the other side of the Salzach –“

“Mozart’s Geburtshaus, his literal birth place”, Finn interrupted.

“Exactly! They moved after his Geburtshaus had gotten too small. Nowadays, it houses a museum, which you will see in a second”, Franz had slipped back into his role as their tour guide and had – minutes later – managed to get them into the museum for free once again. This time, however, they had to make their way up to the first floor like all the other visitors. The crowd made it almost impossible to find the envelope Oliver had hidden in the eight-room-flat and the little group searched high and low for it. It took such a long time that they were asked to leave the museum twice – Franz thankfully convincing the guard to let them stay for their little mission – before Isla was finally able to spot the envelope leaning against a window. Like the last one, it was A4 sized and thick enough to hold more than just a simple clue.

“Finally”, Finn sighed, taking the envelope into his hands and testing its weight: “I didn’t think we would ever make it out of here. What do you guys think about some food?”, it didn’t take long to convince Isla and Franz of this plan and  they all headed to an Italian restaurant not too far from Mozart’s Wohnhaus.

*

In the end, it was almost midnight when Franz managed to gain access to a second museum and the three of them made their way up the stairs again, listening to the sound of their footsteps echoing through the empty staircase. Over dinner they had discussed the third location again and had finally agreed that Oliver must have meant Mozart’s Geburtshaus, not only because it was the last really significant Mozart-related house remaining, but also because Oliver had mentioned it in a different part of his poem. But, even though they were pretty sure about their decision, everybody was so tired that not even Franz had enough energy left to tell them everything he knew about the place, like he had done with the previous visits. Instead he only announced rather weakly: “Here we are!”, before leading them upwards.

“… right inside an instrument, which used to be the main event”, Isla kept whispering over and over again, looking for an instrument that could have possibly been made part of this game by her brother. The three of them had agreed that said instrument would probably be a piano as Mozart was most famous for playing it. They couldn’t find any of them, however, until they reached the third floor, where a grand brown piano was situated right in the centre of the room. It looked so impressive that Isla stopped in her tracks for a second just taking in the beautiful instrument. Even as a child she had always wanted to learn how to play the piano, but time had come and gone and she had ended up spending her time mostly outside with her brother and friends until she had forgotten about her dream of making music. Now, all of a sudden, the wish was back and Isla smiled almost transfixed as she imaged herself playing on the beautiful instrument. To her astonishment, she didn’t seem to be the only one lured by it, as Finn stepped on top of the little podium and laid his hands on the keys. Almost instantly, the piano gave a couple of notes and Isla looked at Franz, sure an alarm would ring out any second now. They were in here only because the older man was a member of the Mozarteum Foundation and had his own key to give nightly tours through the house on special occasions. Franz, however, didn’t seem to mind, as he smiled at her reassuringly and walked slowly through the room.

“When Finn and his sister were younger, we used to come here a couple of times a year. You see, both of my grandchildren are big fans of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and especially Chloé loved to play on this very piano, whenever we came here. I remember it being her birthday wish for at least three consecutive years”, a glow entered his eyes as he smiled in memory: “Now, I don’t know how well you will be able to hear it, but what Finn is trying to demonstrate is the sound the piano makes –“, he guestured to his grandson, who promptly pressed the keys again: “it is slightly off, you see”, he smiled, watching Isla’s face as Finn continued to play until Isla finally thought she registered a certain dullness to the sound.

“Naturally, I could have just opened it”, Finn grinned, while he finally did so, exposing not only the strings within the piano but also one last envelope. This one was smaller again and looked more like the ones Isla had come to expect over the last couple of days. She starred at it for a couple of moments, unable to move or to say anything at all. A part of her brain still waited for an alarm to sound, another tried to understand that this was it: she had found the last clue, this paper chase was over and while she hadn’t even wanted to come to Salzburg in the first place, it seemed odd that she would have to return to London now: “Because the envelope was lying in there, the strings couldn’t vibrate as freely, which in turn changed the sound”, he continued, unaware of Isla’s unfocused gaze. Only after she hadn’t reacted in any way, he asked: “Isla?”

*

She could feel somebody lightly tapping her shoulder. Even so it took a second until she was able to focus her eyes again, finally seeing the strongly made up face of a stewardess right in front of her. The scent of lavender bit her nose, irritating more than it calmed her. Still, she fought to keep her breath steady, guiding big gulps of the flowery scented air into her lungs, convincing herself that this situation was not at all out of the ordinary. She was not hyperventilating in her seat; she was not digging her fingernails into the skin of her palms; and she was most certainly not imagining herself and a dozen burning airplane pieces sailing to the ground …

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