The Brahms Deception

Free The Brahms Deception by Louise Marley

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Authors: Louise Marley
to be there!” The lines in his cheeks deepened. “Where else could she be?”
    â€œI don’t know,” Max said, shrugging. “You programmed the transfer.”
    Elliott’s mouth trembled. “I’ve checked it a hundred times, Max. You know that. You watched me. It was all correct.”
    Max gripped Elliott’s shoulder and gave it a gentle shake. “Yeah, I know, I know. I was just kidding. Relax, man.”
    Plaintively, Elliott said, “How can I relax? Look at her!”
    Chiara put in, “Elliott, you are doing all you can. Come, sit down next to Kristian.”
    Max glanced at the readouts above Kristian’s head. “Are you ready, Kris?”
    He answered quickly, decisively, “Yup,” despite the sudden and surprising doubt that swept over him. What was he doing? Where was he going? If Frederica could disappear, could he, despite his bravado in front of Erika? And if he did, who would take care of her?
    â€œOne hour,” Elliott said. “No more.”
    He forced himself to focus on Elliott’s face. “Right.”
    â€œWe’ll give you the two-minute warning before we reverse the transfer. It will feel sort of like someone pushed you, or like you turned your head quickly. That’s what we’ve been told.”
    â€œGot it.” Kristian’s heart began to thud, and he gripped the sheets that covered the cot’s foam mattress. He took a slow breath, and forced himself to relax his hands, to let the tension in his thighs melt away, the panic in his brain subside.
    Chiara said, “Are you all right? Your heart rate—”
    â€œI’m fine,” he said, a little roughly. And, suddenly, he was. Despite his fatigue and the strangeness of the situation, the unfamiliar faces around him, his courage returned, and with it his hopes. This was worth the risk—any risk. It’s a hell of a lot better than spending my life playing piano at Angel’s . And yearning for a girl I can’t have.
    He closed his eyes, and felt the world tilt and disappear.

5
    Kristian closed his eyes on the transfer clinic’s white walls and gray tiles, banks of blinking lights and web of tubes and wires and cords. He opened them a heartbeat later on a world of primary colors. He gazed up into a sky of vivid blue. He looked down and found bright green grass, starred with wildflowers of white and yellow and sprigs of darker green herbs. Around him the twelve narrow houses of Castagno leaned toward one another over a street of multihued cobblestones. The hillside dropped steeply beyond the houses to the valley below, where the scattered buildings of the village of San Felice dotted the landscape. A river, shining blue in the sunlight, wound between them. In his time, the town filled the valley, houses and shops and factories replacing the woods and fields. He had seen it only in starlight, but still he doubted that contemporary San Felice could be so bright, so clean, so . . . fresh.
    Even as he thought this, a dark, thickset woman with gray hair pinned up under a cotton cap emerged from the house in front of him. Despite her plumpness, she trod quickly across the patch of grass to a cultivated bed, where she bent to snip some green herb and tuck it into the pocket of her printed apron. She crouched, and began pulling weeds here and there, tossing them over the gray stone garden wall into the meadow beyond. Enchanted, Kristian took in her plain, shapeless dress, her blunt-toed boots, her thick eyebrows, and the patch of mustache that darkened her upper lip. She hummed to herself, some tune he didn’t recognize. Folk tune, probably. He wished he had score paper, to note it down—but that was foolish. He had no hands, no physical presence at all. He was only eyes and ears. An observer, just as they said. But it was all so intense, so rich and detailed—so incredibly real .
    The house drowsed in the May sunshine, shaded only

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