Chpt. 3 Playing With Numbers

When the three Eppes minors came to the end of the composition, the adults, Leo, Trey, and Tania applauded. Holly, Shiri, and Aaron came together for a quick bow. Then Holly and Shiri stepped back, leaving Aaron front and center.

"Um…we have…have," Aaron started nervously. He gulped and turned to look at his sister and cousin.

"Go on. You can do it," Holly said encouragingly. Shiri nodded in agreement.

"It's okay, son," Charlie said.

Aaron looked at their audience. Their family. "We got…'m piece…we composted." This made a few the adults chuckle.

"Composed!" Holly corrected. "It's not 'xactly Beethoven,," she added as Aaron started to say something else.

"Holly, let Aaron finish," Liz said.

"No. Done. Enjoy!" Aaron scurried back to his position on "stage." Then he started to play, setting the tempo. Holly and Shiri joined in as before.

As the music filled the garage, the adults gape and looked at one another. Clearly they were stunned.

"Oh my," Amita murmured.

"My thoughts exactly," Charlie said in return. Aaron was already proving to be a musical prodigy; he was already ahead of where other kids his age would be. However, his parents hadn't thought he was at the point to be able to comprehend the elements of musical composition. True, the piece was rough in some places, simple in the melody, and Shiri hit a few hard notes that made Holly wince making it clear they weren't supposed to be there. They weren't ready for Disney or Carnegie Hall, but for their ages…it was impressive.

At one point the kids finished playing, the last definitive staccato notes ending the piece. Thinking they were through, Millie and Alan started to clap.

"Not done yet!" Aaron exclaimed. "Second movement!"

"Sorry, Aaron," Alan apologized.

"Second movement?" Don asked, looking at Charlie. His brother had the same expression of surprise. They had a second movement?

"As long as they haven't gone 'Lord Of The Rings' on us, we'll be fine," the mathematician muttered.

"The movies?" Liz asked.

"Johan De Meij," Don and Charlie said.

"Dad! Uncle Don!" Shiri exclaimed, giving them a disapproving look.

The two men wilted under her gaze. "We're sorry, Shiri. We'll be quiet now," Charlie promised. He glanced over at the Sinclairs and Fleinhardts; they were grinning. Then he turned his attention back on the three musicians.

Satisfied they had everyone's full attention, Aaron nodded to Holly. Holly started playing, but instead of tapping out a tempo to follow she scraped her drumstick along the sides of the instrument. She made several long strides punctuated with a few shorter ones. The sound was familiar and Don, his agents, Amita, Larry, Claudia, Alan, and Millie looked at Charlie seeing if he, too, recognized the familiarity.

"Chalk on a chalkboard," Charlie said under his breath. Then feeling the eyes on him he realized all the adults were looking at him. "What?" he said as Aaron joined Holly on the dulcimer.

At first it sounded like he was only playing each note's scale and then going through each one's chord progressions. There was a pattern to the order in which each was played.

"Shiri must've had a hand planning this part," Charlie commented, recognizing the numerical patterns emerging in the music.

"They're playing you," Millie told him. "Musically."

Charlie felt himself grow red.

Then Shiri started to play. First it was hard to hear her because she was playing very softly.

As she became louder, Aaron grew softer and Holly still played the chalkboard effects, "oblivious."

Shiri picked up the Norwegian Willow Flute and blew. The note was loud, sharp, and short. In response, Holly made a startled stroke.

"I think Don's next," Alan commented.

"Great," the agent muttered. He did not know whether to be flattered or embarrassed. Maybe equal parts of both. He felt Liz squeeze his hand.

The next few measures seemed to be a duel of sorts, Holly making her chalkboard sound and Shiri her erratic, bullet-like punctuations. The sounds made were grating and at one point Leo and Tania held their hands over their ears. Even the adults were wincing.

Just as Charlie started to open his mouth to tell them they got the point and to move on, Aaron hit the dulcimer a few times, the notes played a repeating harmony as if to—

"Grandpa's arrived," Millie said with a grin. Charlie, Don, Liz, and Amita hid their amusement, although not well.

"Just listen," Alan said gruffly, but he was touched as it dawned on him and the rest what the kids had created. He wondered briefly if they had kept everyone in mind.

They did. After the breaking up and brief working together of flute and percussion, the music transitioned back to being about numbers. Shiri on the pipes again added a bit of what could be called "cosmic" flourish and Indian flare. Then the piece transitioned in to being about the FBI; two worlds so far apart and yet so close at the same time.

Before the end there was a second "duel," only softer and gentler. Then Aaron picked up the melody from the first movement bringing the piece to a close.

The crickets chirped and somewhere a pin dropped.

Why was it so quiet? Holly, Shiri, and Aaron looked at each other, worried.

Trey, Tania, and Leo suddenly started to applaud and cheer. That seemed to pull the adults out of their stunned stupor. Everyone was applauding now. The twins and Holly saw that their mothers, aunts, and Millie had tears in their eyes or on their cheeks. As for their fathers, uncles, and grandfather, only Grandpa let his tears show.

"That was beautiful, you three," Charlie said as they joined their parents. He gave each a big hug.

"Do you think Grandma would have liked it?" Holly asked, glancing at Aaron. That was something he had been wondering all through their project and it had rubbed off on her.

"I know she would have loved it," Alan said.

"Yes, she would," Don agreed.

"Aaron," Larry called. "A most interesting musical creation. And very touching."

"Absolutely," Megan agreed.

"Does your first masterpiece have a title?" Claudia asked.

Aaron turned red. He wasn't used to being in the center of attention. Not like this. He looked at Shiri.

"'S okay?" she asked. Aaron nodded. "Okay. 'Guns and Numbers.'"

" 'Guns and Numbers'?" Don grinned.

"Interesting title," Amita said, suppressing a chuckle. The title may have been Holly's doing. Being the oldest, she knew things the twins didn't and probably the time spent with Trey and Leo influenced the title as well.

"Why not just 'Numbers'?" Charlie suggested after a moment. "After all—"

"Everything is numbers!" all the kids chorused, Trey included. The adults laughed.

Except for Charlie.

"I don't say it that often!"