Enter the mind of Barrow City’s most celebrated violinist and composer, Elphias Gaston, and discover the dark, bloody secret behind his inspiration for his world-famous violin concertos. Music and madness blend seamlessly in this disturbing tale of murder and art.

About 4500 words long

99 cents on all platforms

Available on Amazon June 2, 3026

Read a sample of the story below. (The “try a sample” function on Amazon other platforms cuts off before the story actually starts due to length and formatting for some titles. Plus, the samples here at Barrow City are carefully selected, not necessarily always the beginning of the story–and they’re usually longer, too!)

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Violin Concerto No. 9 in A Minor

a Barrow City story

As I step out onto the stage, there is again applause, more robust this time. I give a polite bow to the conductor, lift my violin and bow, and begin to play.

Her name was Catherine. The first few tentative notes of the piece are the story of my first sight of her. I notice her in the parking lot of a shopping mall, her long, chestnut hair glowing in the bright afternoon sun. It moves with her as she places several shopping bags, most of them shades of red, pink, and black, into her small, silver car. Like her sleek hair, her body is also long and slender, and she moves with exceptional poise and confidence. She exudes an air of elegance, even while performing such a mundane task. Long, smooth strokes of my bow describe her graceful movements.

I remain inside my own vehicle, drinking in her beauty. A subtle quickening in the tempo signifies how my interest is piqued, how I feel drawn to her in this moment. After a few measures, the tempo increases even further, and grows somewhat dissonant. This is my desire to know her, my need to get closer.

The orchestra comes in now, as I follow along behind her, driving through the city streets. She turns into the gated lot of an apartment community and a tense, pizzicato melody depicts my caution. The sign on the gate names the place as Frida Terrace. I don’t dare to follow her through the gates, but remain outside, watching, as she gathers up her purchases and enters the building through a side door.

The exterior of the building is covered with a rough, off-white stucco, dotted with patches of exposed brick and tile accents, giving the impression of a Spanish villa. The music of the orchestra takes on a momentary flamenco-like lilt to indicate this. The door she enters through, set inside an arched recess, is wooden, stained a rich red color, its top rounded to fit the alcove. It appears to be an entrance to an interior hallway rather than directly into her apartment. I look along the three stories of windows, their frames stained the same color as the doors, and wonder which iron-railed balcony might be hers.

Once she is well away, my violin takes up the fore of the music again as I step out of my car and approach the gates on foot. They are locked, presumably responding only to electronic devices, like garage door openers, possessed by the building’s inhabitants. The design, however, is flawed; the gates would certainly disallow cars and other vehicles, but there is space enough on either side for a pedestrian to walk through, which I now do.

I had noticed, watching from a distance, that there were markings on the ground inside the parking spaces. Upon entering the lot, I am happy to have my suspicions confirmed; they are numbers and letters, clearly corresponding to unit numbers inside the building. My fingers flutter over the strings, an excited trill showing my delight at this discovery.

There are no empty spaces along her row, so I am unable to count in order to figure out which number is concealed underneath her tiny, sporty vehicle. The music slows now, as I peer around, confirming that I am alone. A pianissimo strike of the tam-tam tells of my dropping to the pavement, and pushing forward on my belly, crawling under the car until I can see, by the thin band of evening daylight that stretches across the quiet, dark space, the number. Her number, writ on the asphalt in fading, oil-stained, yellow paint: 3C. I am elated, and my own instrument joins the violins in the orchestra in a joyful crescendo.

The expectant series of notes from the beginning of the piece, where I first saw her and followed her home after her shopping, repeats here. She emerges from her apartment the next morning, a Saturday, and I follow as she drives into the Restoration District. I play a light, patient tune as she sips coffee and eats a toasted bagel at a small sidewalk table at Foster’s Coffee, as she pets a tiny dog trotting past her on a leash, and smiles. That smile earns a pause in the music; the orchestra drops away, and after one small note on my violin, so do I. All the world stops for Catherine’s smile…