The Counterfactual Mozart
Book I: Mozart and the Lost Tomb
The sham magus and master poisoner Cagliostro schemes to establish world domination with his "Egyptian Rite" of Freemasonry, using drugs and sex to lure influential supporters; and murder, to eliminate composers, writers, architects and painters who refuse to glorify him as the order's "Grand Copht."
In the dead of the winter of 1769-1770, on the cusp of turning fourteen, my father Leopold and I seek court appointments and commissions in Italy. On the road to Milan, Giacomo Cavanaso, an old soldier on Cagliostro's payroll, causes a falling tree branch to crush my skull. I hover between life, death, and the angelic presence Maria Anna, who shows me how composing my most beautiful music will reverse the damage and heal the world that Cagliostro seeks to manipulate. Maria Anna gives me extrasensory powers, and a giant she-wolf familiar, Frieda, to unmask my assailants and stop Cagliostro's murders and wanton abuse of humankind-ness.
For weeks in Milan and Florence, I live on a broad-arcing pendulum between terror for my life, and survive many more exotic attempts to kill me. I incur the animus of Milan's fanatical Cardinal-Archbishop Pazzabenelli, who petitions the Roman Inquisition to investigate claims of miracles and witchcraft that he fancies underpin my admittedly dazzling gifts. Nonetheless, I realize my dream of a first opera for Italy, to be premiered in eight months.
In addition to arranging this commission, my new patron, Governor-General Firmian, piques my interest in one of the ancient world's unsolved mysteries: the lost tomb of Etruscan king Lars Porsenna, reputedly located in the countryside near our next destination, Florence. Continuing to elude Cagliostro's minions—including the murderous Giovanni Pirani and his supernatural creature Bahar—the English violin virtuoso and composer Thomas Linley and I find the lost tomb at Monte Morello—only to discover it in use for Cagliostro's latest initiation ceremony—with us as impromptu sacrifices.
At the last moment, Tom, our allies and I neutralize our persecutors, and launch into an improvisation that turns the crowd against the charlatan magus. As we descend from the mountain, Giovanni attacks me, cuts off my breath—and thus my ability to summon Frieda. After Tom sets the murderous boy's hair ablaze, a vengeful Bahar slaughters Giovanni for his failure. Tom and I hold up bells from the tomb and the spontaneous music destroys Bahar.
Book II: Mozart and the Gates of Hell
Papa Leopold and I continue our search for commissions and appointments in Rome and Naples. At a stop in Siena, I pursue my pact with Maria Anna, unmasking and punishing villainy wherever I find it. In the city's glorious cathedral, I use my extrasensory powers to discover the brutal murder of a young girl and her priest-lover, and barely avoid becoming the killer's third victim.
In Rome, two of Cagliostro's Watchers scheme to capture me, while managing a lively commerce in "catacomb saints"—ancient bodies removed from the city's vast network of underground tombs, costumed, and sold to credulous buyers. Barely arrived for Holy Week in Rome, the formidable Frieda helps me strike fear into my assailants' hearts. I acquaint myself with the catacomb business, and expose these criminals—almost becoming one of their "saints."
At a service in the Sistine Chapel, I memorize and copy out a piece of music strictly reserved for performance there, under pain of excommunication. When Pope Clement XIV learns the story, instead of punishing me, he presents me with a Papal Knighthood, the Order of the Golden Spur. Avoiding bandits on the road, Papa and I arrive in Naples, just as the sweltering southern summer begins. We are trailed by Porta, a servant we had discharged years earlier, now in thrall to Cagliostro. A presentation to the royal family—bizarre King Ferdinando and his Queen, my countrywoman Maria Carolina—is delayed by intrigue and inattention. The Queen is just four year older than I—and I'm smitten. She wages a war for influence over her dissolute husband with Prime Minister Tanucci and his ally, Marchesa San Gabriele—in turn attached to the villainous Porta. Together they recruit a cast of characters from Naples's underworld, to ensnare and discredit me. Porta chases me into a Neapolitan catacomb—and once again I barely escape transformation into faux sainthood.
Closer acquaintance develops with the Queen. On the point of becoming lovers, we are almost caught by King Ferdi. San Gabriele manipulates Charlotte—the Queen's name with intimates—and me into another private encounter—with Tanucci in hiding to watch. I save myself—and the Queen's honor—by springing to a nearby keyboard and improvising "something hard"—her request. Porta lures me to Pozzuoli, the nearby volcanic region called the "Burning Fields," thought by ancients to be the gates of hell. Almost overcome by toxic gases in one of its caves, I am again rescued by my music.
Charlotte and I say bittersweet farewells. On the way back to Rome, a carriage accident deals Papa a severe injury. The disgraced Swiss Guard Tino Mozzala and a band of his vicious cronies rush at us—but again I emerge the vengeful victor. In Rome, while Papa rests, I meet two mysterious figures in another catacomb. One of these, in the guise of the patroness of music, Saint Cecilia, turns out to be none other than Maria Anna. She counsels me, "Love. Make Heaven's music. Know that you are loved, and go with Us."
Book III: Mozart and the Deaf Boy
Now fifteen, I stand on the threshold of independence from my overbearing father Leopold, who will never see me as anything but a child; and yet, as an extension of himself. It's February, 1771: Papa and I are back in Milan, with everyone celebrating my first big Italian commission. My noble patron Carlo Firmian presents me with a bouquet of new commissions for royal theaters. Papa and I lodge with the crypto-Jewish Arcangeli family, whose deaf son Alessio becomes a fast friend. He teaches me his sign language, and we venture into philosophical and spiritual depths that increase my abilities to travel in time, and communicate mental messages.
My enemy Cagliostro is ever close at hand. To re-establish his ascendancy in Italy, he enlists the cooperation of Hieronymus Colloredo, campaigning to become Archbishop of Salzburg. As we prepare to head home by way of Venice, a kitchen boy enlisted by Cagliostro slips poisonous mushrooms into my food; but my diamond ring turns opaque in their presence. Days later, bound for Venice, I embark on a time-travel mission for Maria Anna, back to 1759: Ciccio DeMaio, a gifted composer I admired in Naples last year, has been poisoned in graduated doses by Cagliostro initiates, and dead since last November. Maria Anna hasn't given me the power of resurrection; but I'm transported back to the DeMaio apartment, and use thought suggestion to turn the poisoner's own tools against him.
On the boat trip from Padua to Venice, we make the acquaintance of Ambulanti, an outlandish confidence man and actor. During our month in Venice, Papa works to engineer a lucrative opera commission from one of the city's theaters, which makes me a target for resentful Italian composers. At one of the city's famous conservatories for young women, I meet an extraordinary singer known simply as La Celestina, "the heavenly one." Not only does she bear a striking resemblance to me: I intuit that she's been impregnated by her voice teacher. After days of violent rainstorms, I witness a surreal scene from the balcony of our apartment: A body—Celestina's—is attacked and torn apart in the canal by what appear to be sharks. Aiding my pursuit of justice is the daughter of friends from Salzburg, close to my age. She, her five sisters and I unravel a bizarre conspiracy that has led to Celestina's murder—again because of her resemblance to me. The list of suspects wants winnowing: the voice teacher? Ambulanti? A rival composer? A few days before Papa and I leave for Salzburg, in the square outside our hosts' house, a local gang mounts an attack on me. A stranger approaches and saves me with a stunning display of knife-throwing: Ambulanti!
Cagliostro recruits Taddeo DeLuca and Ercole Moretti, two former hires of a wealthy Salzburg family, to terrorize and possibly kill me and my loved ones. Back home for Easter, our joyous reunion with Mama and Nannerl is highlighted by the new commissions. A contract for next year's grand Carnival opera in Milan waits with the rest of our mail; then a direct order from Empress Maria Theresa arrives, for a light-hearted "serenade," to celebrate the wedding of her son, Archduke Ferdinand—Charlotte's brother—for the coming fall. Nannerl tells me that menacing people have been hanging around our building. Feeling prosperous, Papa sends me to look at a larger apartment for us. On the way, I witness the aftermath of a grisly murder, staged to implicate the Freemasons. My investigation leads me to Taddeo and Ercole—now double agents for Cagliostro and Colloredo. Maria Anna's gifts clarify plans to eliminate Archbishop Schrattenbach, with the "masonic" murder as a distraction. My inevitable confrontation with Colloredo guarantees a thorny future with our next lord and master.
Charlotte writes me—in our family's code—that she will travel incognito to attend her brother's wedding in Milan this fall—and that she's looking forward to resuming the amorous adventures we began in Naples last summer. When Nannerl tells me more about Taddeo's and Ercole's skulking, I give them a taste of my new powers. A few days before leaving for Milan, I lure Taddeo up to Hohensalzburg Fortress. Frieda and I corner him, he spills Cagliostro's instructions, and we—well, complicate his future mobility.
After an eight-day trip, I wait impatiently for the text of the opera, which starts rehearsals in a month, and opens in less than two. We house again with the Arcangelis. Alessio and I renew our spiritual and philosophical explorations. Maria Anna is his patroness too, and the new signs they teach me enhance my abilities and techniques. More days pass, and still no libretto. Maria Anna dispatches me back into the youth of my countryman Franz Joseph Haydn, to prevent him from being castrated at a choir school in Vienna, which will allow him to follow his destined path as a great composer.
I finally get my first look at the opera text at the end of August: It's a frothy pastoral that thrills me with opportunities for lots of choral singing and dancing for the delectable female performers, and I dig in. The royal bride-to-be, Maria Beatrice d'Este, frets about her lack of good looks, and I invest the role based on her with music that will, shall we say, bring the couple together with matchless enthusiasm. I finish almost three hours of music in less than a month. Charlotte's arrival is never far from my thoughts. Once rehearsals start, we have all the usual traumas and intrigues; but the days fly past, everything comes together, and Ferdinand and Maria Beatrice get themselves good and married. Maria Anna lets me know that I've done a good job; not just with the opera, mind you, but with Haydn as well. I can't complain when she more or less decrees my pleasures with Charlotte.
During the wedding ceremony, Papa and I get separated, and there—surprise!—is Charlotte in person. I recognize divine intervention when I see it: Carlo Firmian's administrators house her in the room between Papa, me, and the Arcangelis. We do not waste the opportunities.
My opera opens two nights later. It's a huge success, and once more I'm a sensation. A wild sequence of celebrations follows: races, promenades, feasts, masked balls, roving groups of players and acrobats—one of whom seems very familiar. Taddeo and Ercole arrive in Milan. Together with Cardinal-Archbishop Pazzabenelli, they plan to abduct and do away with me. Simultaneously, Charlotte's husband, King Ferdi, makes his own way to Milan. He orders Taddeo and Ercole to locate his wife—and me. Charlotte and I dance at a masked ball. Afterward, she escapes to Carlo Firmian's palazzo; but I'm trussed and bagged like a game animal, thrown into a carriage, and taken to a nearby basilica. I burrow into my abductors' thoughts: After they cut me up, I'm to be placed in the casket with a saint's relics. While Taddeo and Ercole fight over who's going to do the honors, a newcomer appears and fights them off, while Pazzo escapes. When my restraints are pulled off, behold—Ambulanti!
Charlotte steals back to Naples, while King Ferdi continues his visit, sponsoring a Neapolitan cuccagna, or free-for-all-for-free-food, to honor the royal spouses. At the height of this bizarre event, I spot the outrageous monarch signaling to someone. A portion of the scaffolding collapses, killing several and injuring many more. Had Papa's and my departure for the event not been delayed, we would have been sitting exactly where the fatalities occurred.
Maria Anna bestows the gift of full hearing on Alessio, and he and his parents attend the riotously successful performance of my opera that night. Afterward, in chill moonlight, the ghosts of the cuccagna victims appear to me, time reverses, and the tragedy replays. It isn't just King Ferdi: Taddeo and Ercole do the actual work of preparing the scaffold's collapse. In the mad aftermath, Taddeo makes off with a wallet belonging to an eminent guest, Maria Beatrice's father.
Returning home shortly before dawn, I discover to my devastation and rage that Alessio has been slaughtered in his room. Bloody footprints reveal this too to have been Taddeo's and Ercole's work. I tell Count Firmian's administrator just enough about the theft of the wallets, and Alessio's murder, to point authorities to the guilty parties. Taddeo and Ercole are hung in the Piazza del Duomo.
Papa and I reach Salzburg the week before Christmas. Archbishop Schrattenbach dies. Nannerl hands me an alarming letter from Tom Linley, about Cagliostro's activities in London. Far worse, there's one from Cagliostro himself, taunting me with forged correspondence with important people in Austria and Italy, effectively eliminating any possibility of employment in those places where I've just had such triumphs. My adversary further trumpets his involvement in the deaths of Alessio and Schrattenbach—to be succeeded by my enemy Colloredo. Cagliostro's last lightning bolt is news that Charlotte of Naples is pregnant with her first child.
Recovering from exhaustion and illness, I marshal my forces for revenge. Recalling my own brush with execution in Milan, I send mental commands to the guilty kitchen boy who has poisoned Schrattenbach, and he joins our late patron in his coffin. I travel forward in time and arrange matters that enmesh Cagliostro in crime and scandal.
Amazingly enough, I'm still alive for my sixteenth birthday in the new year.
Book IV: Mozart and the Labyrinth of Love
I wake on the morning of my twenty-first birthday. The good and bad parts of my life have blurred like ink on wet paper: Papa has made me responsible for the well-being of our entire family. This will never happen as long as we live under the thumb of our hateful, corrupt new Archbishop Colloredo, so I must embark on a quest for employment at some royal court. The big three are Munich, Mannheim, and Paris; in between, there has to be a stop in Augsburg, Papa's hometown, to thumb our noses at the family's history there. Of course, Papa decrees without appeal that I can't go by myself. He always took care of everything: horse and carriage arrangement, driving; luggage, tolls, food, lodging, money management, tour guidance; and even health maintenance, with his kit of pills, powders, and potions. He has to stay and slave here, so he appoints Mama as his surrogate, to watch over my manners and morals. She's never been the strongest of travelers; but I can always make her laugh—so it might even be fun. We roll out of Salzburg in unseasonably cold weather toward the end of September, in a big new carriage Papa has bought for us. Swaddled in fur-lined coats and boots, it takes us two long days to Munich, a hundred miles of thumps and bumps, before dawn and after dark.
On the road, while Mama naps, we encounter a rustic group playing at soldier in a cornfield. We are noticed, and become their sharp focus—as their features fade into animal snouts and fur. A shot is fired. I order the postilions to get us out of there but fast—but our coach hits a ridge and tips onto a grassy shoulder. Mama's on the floor, thankfully unhurt. When Maria Anna tells me that this little reception began with Cagliostro, I discover more of Her Power Package: My eyes flash a righteous energy that freezes, thaws and melts the beasts into the earth.
Meanwhile, Cagliostro tumbles into intimacy with the Greek god Eros, overpowering in all his forms, from an unfathomable force of nature to the arrow-bearing child-aeronaut we know as Cupid. This divinity promises his latest acolyte the effects of his weapons, with their powers to induce passion or aversion—and to check my divine protection.
In Munich, Mama and I land at a lovely inn, run by Herr Albert, a music fanatic, and my Number One Fan. He advises me who really calls the shots here: Count Anton von Seeau, Elector Max Joseph's impresario. They have a decent musical establishment—but they really need a me. Seeau and I have good conversations. Though he avoids the topic of a job, I know he likes me, and will do what he can. He might have something up those lace-cuffed sleeves.
The weather stays mostly crisp and clear: autumn days and nights close to the mountains. I am curious about meeting my first cousin in Augsburg, my Bäsle—dialect for "little cousin"—Maria Thekla Mozartin. Mariandl. Nineteen to my twenty-two: dangerous ages to rub together.
A friend helps finagle an encounter with the Elector: more jovial politesse—but no vacancy. I enjoy getting to know Mama better: I'm not the only one glad to be away from Papa. My friend further enlightens me on the musical politics of this Court. I broaden my circle of potential employers beyond Seeau, to Count Joseph Ferdinand Maria von Salern, the Grand Old Man of Bavarian high culture. He is a true connoisseur—but like his noble peers, extends no hope of an appointment.
Meanwhile, Cagliostro and Eros float into a window onto the Elector's music theatre, during the performance of an utterly forgettable Italian opera. The promising newcomer I'm there to hear enters for her first aria: Mlle. Margarethe Kaiser. Die Kaiserin, the Empress in all senses: blonde beauty, and an immaculately-placed soprano voice. The villains human and divine ready their tools: A gold arrow of unreasoning passion goes to me, the moment I first lay eyes on the Empress; and for her, one of lead, rendering her forever immune to any intimacy I might attempt. I have the startling experience of falling in love with someone I've never laid eyes on before. The opera's a waste of time; but when our eyes meet, an overwhelming physical cycle of chill, heat, and heartache shakes me from head to toe. Alas, despite my longing to get to know her, she utterly shuns me.
Yet the Seeaus and Salerns take us to their bosoms. Mama participates in everything, and I adore her simple enjoyment. I feel her wonder at who I've become. Maria Anna tells me I need to write some music; and take even better care of Mama.
I get busy writing a new symphony crafted to appeal to French tastes, while Cagliostro and Eros cook up a scheme to make me completely vulnerable to them. Mama—feeling not that well—and I land in Augsburg the second week of October. In a city without a royal court, the competing aristocracies are cobbled from religious parties. We Catholics are especially scorned by the dominant Protestant Langenmantel family.
I am swept into another torrent of instant—and mutual—love with my adorable cousin Mariandl. Because I'm headed for Paris, we speak lots of French. We do lots of French, cultivating a mutually unruly affection that sparkles with abandoned lovemaking: Indoors, outdoors, in churches, graveyards, I feel for these weeks like I'm making love to myself. It's almost as good as music.
At considerable risk to herself, Mariandl helps me wreak an appropriately musical vengeance on one of the Langenmantel wives—who, incidentally, has been murdering their servant girls. Other days of my time are wasted with being the butt of the son's crude jests. Still, thanks to my friendship with the city's great keyboard-building wizard, Johann Andreas Stein, I give a couple of concerts that earn me next to nothing.
Cagliostro and his agents stay busy—with Mama. She has more bad days than good. It's time to move on. Mariandl and I say our farewells—but we'll write a lot of nonsense to each other. For sure, I mean to see her again; and finally, Frieda and I have some fun at Cagliostro's expense.
On the road to our next destination, Elector Karl Theodor's court in Mannheim, we pay a side visit to the country residence of a noble music fanatic we met in Italy. We are ill-served by his clownish music master, also in league with Cagliostro. Thank Goddess for my abilities to reveal these people's vicious truths. After five days of treacherous roads, we limp into Mannheim on my name day, October 31. Halloween. We settle into a tiny, frigid attic room at the Palatine Court Inn. I'd like to send Mama home, but Papa won't hear of it; so we end up spending the whole winter, one of the coldest and wettest on record. Mannheim's draw is its superb musical establishment, reckoned to be Europe's finest. I am received with—well, mixed enthusiasm. I acquire a significant, if drug-addled new enemy, Kapellmeister Vogler, an idiot, and a horrible composer. Good thing I make lots of friends among this encampment of virtuosi—for whom I write some pretty good music. The charity of these wonderful folks makes our lives bearable, and Mama's outlook improves in their company.
The hopeless job situation seems to be my new normal. Not even my attention to this Elector's love-children tips the scales. At Cagliostro's bidding, Vogler and Eros block all my chances for a job, then strike me where I'm most vulnerable. They get me involved with the Weber family, whose most talented daughter, Aloysia, is probably the most monumentally gifted singer I've ever heard. I fall ass-over-teakettle for her. She welcomes my musical insights—but love? I pine, I yearn, I froth, I burn—but the closest I get to having any fun is writing smutty letters to my Bäsle back in Augsburg. L'Amour postale.
Meanwhile, we're almost broke. I tutor the daughter of Privy Court Counselor Serrarius, and he extends payment plus hospitality—a warm room and food, all free. While Mama's health slides down a new steep slope, other students appear, and some commission music from me. God bless the world's musical amateurs!
In London, Cagliostro seems to be thriving, at least according to Tom Linley. The Grand Copht has augmented his diet with ritual cannibalism. Meanwhile, my weeks between Christmas and March are all about Aloysia. A week or so before Christmas, just when Munich's Elector Max Joseph is on the point of offering me a job, Cagliostro and Vogler spirit His Highness away with virulent Eastern disease spores. The balance of everything in Europe is about to shift: Karl Theodor slides into the Bavarian Electorate, moving his whole musical apparatus with him to Munich; but he is without an heir, and I, a job.
On our way to Paris, Mama drains away a drop and a day at a time. Cagliostro arrives in Paris just three days ahead of us, with a trunkful of disguises. He even bribes the ratty neighborhood prostitutes to give me a disease. Paris is far uglier and more crowded than I remember from being here as a kid. The French haven't changed, though: inattention and snobbery matched only by empty compliments. The closest I get to the Court at Versailles is an absurd offer of a job as chapel organist. Thank God, some of my Mannheim friends are here for the Lenten and Easter season. The conductor of the principal orchestra commissions me for that big new symphony I've been toting around in my brain for weeks. I also compose music for a ballet—the closest I get to doing what I really want to do in the theater, opera. Both works are hits; but I receive neither fee, nor so much as my name in the ballet program.
Baron von Grimm, my supposed protector and promoter, turns petty and spiteful. He's better equipped to deal with children, not a man in his twenties. The only bright spot there is his mistress, Louise d'Épinay, whose roomy mansion is stuffed with the freeloading Grimm's ephemera. Her conversation and worldly advice make otherwise dismal days almost pleasant. The best advice Grimm can offer me? Go home. You'll never make it in Paris.
In despair, I tutor a wealthy flute-playing nobleman's lazy daughter in composition. Fortunately, she plays harp better than she writes. I compose a concerto for their two instruments; but he stiffs me with just half the agreed-upon fee. My only solace in these darkest days of my young life is some refreshingly uncomplicated love-play with Marie-Madeleine Guimard, the star dancer from "my" ballet.
Cagliostro and Eros now realize their truly devastating scenario: The love-god beguiles Maria Anna, and my gifts and abilities from her—including Frieda—simply evaporate. Further betrayed by one of my closest friends, I am importuned by an odd assortment of characters who look related: a doctor who speaks and reeks of southern slums; a nurse to watch over Mama in her decline, when I can't be there—which is most of the time—remember, I'm still scrounging commissions and pupils to keep us afloat; and a priest, who administers Last Rites when Mama is about to breathe her last.
At my lowest ebb, Maria Anna and Frieda return to me when she escapes Eros's toils—and deals him a fearsome punishment. She takes me forward six years, and we stage-manage Cagliostro's disastrous involvement in the Affair of the Queen's Necklace, leading to his and Serafina's imprisonment in the Bastille. Yet I am beyond consolation. Maria Anna advises me to stay in better touch with Tom Linley.
Book V: Mozart and the Four Graves
July 4, 1778: Mama is dead. In Baron Grimm's and Madame d'Épinay's sickroom in Paris, I wake from a horrifying nightmare: my English alter ego Tom Linley is in terrible trouble.
Back in March, Bob Battie, the heir apparent to the English Duchy of Casternan and Tekseven, rouses rabble with Bradlee Rattleton, his fellow veteran of the American war, and their Italian cultural mentor, Luciano Alberti. Battie is offended that Tom is committing the unforgivable sin of rising above his station—and having an affair with Bob's mother, Duchess Mary. Rattleton proposes luring Tom to Grimsthorne, the Battie estate in Lincolnshire, that summer. Rattleton has a shopping list in mind for an elegant revenge on Tom.
July 4 again: As Mama's body cools, I wait for my friend, the trumpeter Heina—and the body-carters. I forgive Heina for not intervening in Cagliostro's criminal persecution of Mama. Together we take her body to burial at the infamous cemetery of Les Innocents. Cagliostro lurks, particularly irked by Eros's desertion. He means to push me into the loathsome open-pit grave into which Mama will soon descend. I tune my death-stare down a little and force Cagliostro into the reeking abyss he meant for me.
I continue my dalliance with the sensational female dancer Guimard, and write new vocal showpieces for Aloysia Weber. Friendship with the castrato Tenducci and my old music mentor Christian Bach leads to an invitation to spend a couple of weeks at the country estate of the wonderful Duc de Noailles.
Cagliostro insinuates himself into the graces of Baron Grimm and Bob Battie's tutor Alberti. The Copht deputizes others to deal with me, and flees to Venice. I alert the Inquisition there to the imminent presence of this necromancer and poisoner.
At the end of July, Tom and one of his sisters arrive at Grimsthorne. His enemies' tendrils wind about him as he resumes intimacy with Duchess Mary. After a meal, he falls into a stupor. What better remedy than fresh air? He, Bob, Alberti, and the family's boatman launch out onto the lake. A sudden squall capsizes their vessel. Tom swims back toward shore, but soon sinks down into a watery grave.
Someone sends me newspaper accounts of the accident. From my refuge chez Noailles, I plan a trip to England to pursue my certainty that Tom's death is more than it seems. To escape Papa's low blows about Mama's death, I need the distraction—actually, the satisfaction—of accomplishing something tangible. No one except Tenducci must know of this trip. Thanks to his indebtedness, he has made his own secret Channel crossings beneath notice. Disguised in livery borrowed from my hosts, we take their plush coach to Calais, where I fall in with a French smuggler bound for Skegness, the most convenient harbor in Lincolnshire. When a patrol boat gives chase, I use another of Maria Anna's trove of gifts: We fly above the waves, reducing a seven-hour trip to just thirty minutes. I take leave of my astonished companions, and ride in a downpour between casks of untaxed French brandy to the town of Bourne, fifty miles inland—in minutes, thanks to more levitation.
The Battie castle of Grimsthorne lies a couple of miles farther. At a crossroads with a gallows, I am halted by four thieves. Assessing my fancy livery, they are on the point of robbing and murdering me. Frieda comes to my aid: When the lead scoundrel levels a pistol at her, I cause it to explode in his face, then deal in short order with the other three. Out of the woods and on to the village of Edenmass, I visit the parish church crypt where Tom's body, in its second grave, awaits transport and burial. In the shadows sits my friend's beautiful, talented, resourceful sister Elizabeth, "Betsey," married to playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. She too suspects foul play in Tom's death. We decide to investigate together, and take her carriage to Grimsthorne, where I will pose as her Austrian manservant, "Leopold Trazom."
From their hiding places outside the Edenmass church, Rattleton and Alberti—Bob is on his way back to army service in America—steal Tom's corpse and deposit him in his third grave, the sarcophagus that will soon hold the corpse of the mortally ill Peregrine Battie, Bob's father and the Third Duke. I insert myself into the retinue of family servants. Over the course of several days, alone and together with Betsey, I interview the cook, gardener, and boat-master—and barely escape intimacy with the very distracted Duchess Mary. Despite a welter of complications, I ferret out Tom's undoing. With the first movement of a G minor "crimphony," I illustrate for Betsey the tapestry of treachery.
All that remains is the appropriate revenge. Betsey takes me in her carriage to Dover—she is generous in more ways than transportation—and I board a ship back to Calais, thence to the Noailles estate, and, finally, to Paris. From there I transport myself to a battle site in America, where Frieda and I deal with the vicious Rattleton.
Next I find Alberti—living in Cagliostro's house in London's Soho! Now that Tom is no longer corporeal in my world, I summon his spirit, together with other dear departeds: Alessio and Pietro from earlier years. The four of us set a trap for Alberti, who perishes in flames, together with everything of Cagliostro's.
Meanwhile, Betsey and her brothers remove Tom's body from Duke Peregrine's tomb, drive back to the family's seat in Bath, and commit Tom to the waters of the ancient spring there—his fourth and final grave, from which he effervesces into immortal invisibility.
For a splendid epilogue, my friends and I return to Grimsthorne, and give Bob Battie the needed push to breathe his last. With mingled relief, gratitude and—reluctance—I begin the dreaded journey back to Salzburg.