Chapter 1 – A Mistake
‘Nicole, I said get out now!’
‘I said OUT!’
Nicole’s piano teacher was yelling her for something she hadn’t done. Nicole was playing on the grand piano in the piano hall where Tr. Anna took her piano lessons along with many others.
Tr. Anna was trying to teach a new student some finger exercises on a keyboard and the student just wouldn’t understand. Then another new student kept going off tune while singing a song. Tr. Anna could not get angry with a new student so she looked for something else to feed her anger on.
And to her delight Nicole made a mistake! The teacher pounced on this opportunity and yelled at Nicole. Nicole’s cousin Sophia, who also learned piano was sitting behind Nicole quietly doing some theory and almost jumped out of her skin when Tr. Anna yelled at Nicole.
Nicole was the second most experienced pianist after an eighth grader, Ryan, who was out of station that year. Nicole was a fifth grader and was Tr. Anna’s favorite student. But teacher was now in a rare old temper and had to yell at something.
‘Nicole, you’ve made a mistake. Get out of class.’
Nicole stared at teacher as if he couldn’t believe her ears. No one could in fact. Everyone stopped playing.
‘Nicole didn’t you hear me? Get out of class.’ cried Teacher in a rage.
Nicole tried to reason with her Teacher. ‘But what have I done?’
Tr. Anna paid no heed to the question and said ‘Nicole, I said get out now!’
Nicole tried one last time ‘But teacher…’
‘I said OUT!’
Nicole obediently got off the piano stool and went out of class shutting the door softly behind her. She pulled out her phone from her bag and called her parents saying she was done.
Then she stuck her head round the door again and called to Sophia ‘Sophie, if you’re coming now, come. If not, then you’ll have to call your parents again and two separate trips will have to be made to pick us up.’
‘Yes, I’ll come now.’ said Sophia, and without even asking teacher if she could go stalked out of the room.
As soon as they were out of the hall Nicole asked her cousin ‘Why did she yell at me?’
Sophia shrugged and said ‘I don’t know but I tell you she’s just lost two of her prize students.’
Sophia was the third best piano student of the ‘Ivory and Ebony Gathering’ that Tr. Anna ran.
‘What do you mean two? I’m the one that’s been kicked out, not you.’ said Nicole. ‘And you are not going to leave classes because of me.’ she added firmly.
‘Alright, alright.’ said Sophia meekly. ‘There come your parents.’
They got into the car and Nicole told her parents what had happened. They were surprised and furious and insisted that Nicole should go back the next day whatever Teacher said.
Nicole sighed ‘Fine. I’ll go back tomorrow. But what if she refuses to teach me?’
‘Nothing like that is going to happen.’ said her father, Danny, gently. ‘You’re her prize student and she knows it. In fact she’ll probably call today to say sorry.’
Danny spoke the truth. The phone rang the moment they reached home and Rahul, Nicole’s brother went to answer it. Then he turned to Nicole with a puzzled expression on his face and said ‘Sis, Tr. Anna’s on the phone. She wants to speak to you and sounds very upset.’
Nicole took the phone and said ‘Hello. Nicole here.’
Chapter 2 – Some excitement
‘Nicole. I’m very sorry for what happened. I was just in a bit of a temper with the new students.’ Tr. Anna’s voice trembled down the phone. Then she plunged into the long explanation of why she had been angry with them.
Then she asked ‘So can I expect you tomorrow?’
Nicole grinned to herself and said ‘Of course. I’ll bring Sophia along too. Good-bye.’
She put the receiver down and everyone in the room looked at her inquiringly. Nicole said ‘Teacher apologized and said we could come tomorrow.’
Just then the clock struck six. Nicole called to Rahul. ‘Go fetch Ethan and Sean. We’re going to have a meeting in the shed.’
Sean was Sophia’s brother and Ethan was their cousin. The five of them along with their dog were known throughout Goa as the ‘Five Cousins and Dog’ for their brains and for solving mysteries.
Soon they were all huddled up in the shed. Nicole who was the oldest began the meeting by saying ‘So, any mysteries at hand?’
Everyone shook their heads. ‘Nick, did you know that there is going to be an all India piano concert held in the Grand Hall of Goa?’ Ethan suddenly asked. ‘It came in the newspapers today. The top ten from all over India will come and compete in the Grand Hall.’
‘Oh, so it’s more of a competition then.’ said Nicole interested. ‘Give the newspaper to me for a minute.’
Ethan handed her the paper and she was soon absorbed in the article. Then she put the paper down and said. ‘I wonder whether Tr. Anna’s “Ivory and Ebony Gathering” is participating. If she isn’t then Sophia and I won’t be able to participate.’
‘Why not?’ asked Sean.
Nicole sighed ‘When you belong to a group… for example the “Five cousins and Dog” and suddenly you decide to go solo. Won’t the other group members be hurt?’
Sean nodded ‘Oh. So the same applies for your piano group I suppose.’
‘Yes.’ said Nicole smiling. Then she looked round to the others and said ‘So that’s all the excitement around I guess. Let’s go play some throw ball.’
They all rushed out and Ethan locked the door carefully behind them. They called their neighbours to play too and after an hour they all went back home dripping with sweat. They were all sent to bathe at once by their horrified mothers.
Then they went to have some supper. Sophia, Sean and Ethan went to sleep in one house and Rahul and Nicole in another. But both houses were in the same compound. The next day all children woke up late, it being the first day of the Diwali holidays.
Chapter 3 – Ha Ha Ha
The first child to get up was Nicole. She and Rahul slept on a double-decker bed and Rahul, who slept on top, somehow had managed to fall onto poor Nicole!
She woke up with a yell that brought her mother running into the room. Rahul was still snoring and his mother, Betty, used her cooking spoon to lever him off Nicole. Just then he woke up.
Nicole glared at him and said ‘Well, thanks for waking me up. Mama, why didn’t you wake us up earlier? It’s 9 o’ clock! How disgraceful!’
‘I thought that you would want to sleep some more – seeing that on holidays you usually wake up at about 10:00 am.’ replied her mother grinning. ‘And in any case your cousins are still dead to the world.’
Rahul was about to laugh at mama’s first statement when he heard her second. ‘They’re still asleep? Well let’s go and wake them up.’
He leapt out of bed and ran to the door, but his mother said ‘Not until you brush your teeth, young man.’
So they brushed their teeth and rushed off to the other house where their cousins slept.
Rahul whispered to Nicole ‘Do you have the equipment I told you to bring?’
Nicole nodded and from under her dressing gown pulled out a steel pot and spoon. Rahul pulled out two ear muffs from his and handed one to Nicole. She solemnly put them over her ears and Rahul did the same.
Then the racket began! Rahul started slamming the spoon against the vessel that Nicole held but the noise wasn’t enough to get his cousins to stir! So he told her to place the vessel on the floor.
Then he rammed the spoon onto it again and all his cousins woke up with a jump. In fact Sean got such a shock that he leapt right out of bed and landed on the floor with a bump.
Then Rahul and Nicole began to laugh. They were soon rolling on the floor and holding their sides.
‘What was that noise?’ asked Sophia. ‘Was it some firecrackers for Diwali?’
This set the duo laughing all over again. Nicole managed to stutter in the middle ‘I must say that you’ll are being terrible detectives.’ Then she held up the pot and spoon.
Their cousins immediately understood what had happened and leapt on Nicole and Rahul. In the middle of the commotion the door opened and Kenneth, Ethan’s father stuck his head round the door.
‘What’s happening over here?’
Sean was the first one to hear him and began to extract himself from the heap of bodies on the floor. Nicole and Rahul were at the bottom being well and truly pummeled.
Then the children saw Kenneth and began to explain what had happened. He roared at the joke and then added ‘By the way it’s almost time for lunch.’
Chapter 4 – Get ready to Rock
The children shrieked and went to change and get ready for lunch. That evening Nicole and Sophia cycled to piano class. Rahul had to attend guitar class with Ethan and Sean went to the shed to study.
Tr. Anna was waiting for Nicole and Sophia at the door of the piano hall. She embraced the two girls warmly and they hugged her back. They simply adored Tr. Anna. There were many other students in the hall already.
Teacher went to the stage and said ‘Silence students. As you probably all know there is going to be a piano competition soon. Two children shall be selected from each state and then shall compete with the others. The top ten shall then come to the Grand Hall of Goa and here we shall find the most talented player in India.
Unfortunately for us Ryan the eighth grader is out of station for two years. So we have Nicole and Sophia who are going to compete for us.’
There was silence after this speech and then a short applause. ‘Nicole shall assist me in teaching you all.’ said Teacher.
She then came down the stage and went to Nicole. ‘What piece would you like to do?’
‘How about “What to do When it Rains”?’ asked Nicole with a perfectly solemn face.
‘Right…and you Sophia?’ asked Tr. Anna.
‘I’ll take “Dedicatoria”’ said Sophia with greatest excitement.
‘So, let’s start preparing.’ cried Teacher.
Both the pieces were easy yet beautiful to listen to. Tr. Anna said that they would have about a week before the selection of the two from each state.
And that week absolutely zipped by. Both girls practiced hard and were perfect with the pieces. It was the day before the selections. All the cousins were in the shed with Duke their dog.
Rahul brought up the topic of how he had woken up his cousins. He came to the part where the pot had not made much noise while Nicole was holding it and he banged it. Sean immediately asked why.
Rahul groaned. ‘We shall have to name you “Why” the amount of questions you ask. By the way why did it happen?’
Nicole groaned ‘I must say – you and Sean make quite a pair. Well, listen. When you hit a pot, the sound is made due to vibrations. When you hold the pot and hit it, most of the vibrations are absorbed by your hand. Hence, it does not make much noise. Same applies to the membrane of a drum, the strings of a guitar and piano.’
‘Oh.’ said Sean.
Chapter 5 – The First Selections
The next day Nicole and Sophia met Tr. Anna in the Grand Hall. There were about twenty others from other music schools. And they looked older than them. But Tr. Anna said that although they were older, Nicole was on the highest grade.
Then she turned to Nicole ‘By the way there are some other competitions coming up and the younger students are participating. I’ll need your help to prepare them.’
Then the selections began. Sophia was up next. She went and played. Everyone was captivated with the music. The audience roared when it was over. Sophia went offstage rather red in the face with excitement.
After a while came Nicole. Her piece was light and lilting not at all like it’s name. The judges looked spellbound. When it was over there was a silence. And then the audience absolutely burst with applause and whistles. And someone actually threw a rose at her feet!
Tr. Anna hugged Nicole when she came off as did Sophia. Then the girls went back home. The next day there was an excitement. The results were announced in the newspaper and Nicole was selected.
Sophia was rather disappointed but Nicole comforted her saying she was one of the youngest.
That day they went off to piano class again. Tr. Anna had told them that the competition for the younger students would be on the same day as the final of the first competition. So Nicole and Sophia began helping to teach the younger students.
They soon learnt and Nicole and Sophia went home contented. The next day on the first page of the newspaper came an article that made Rahul choke over his toast.
Chapter 6 – Kidnapped
It said that Tr. Anna was kidnapped! Rahul gave the newspaper to Nicole. She couldn’t believe it. Sophia had read it too and was ready to burst into tears. Nicole was at a loss. The selection for the top ten was tomorrow and she had to practice.
So she said to the boys ‘You three go investigate. I have to practice and now teach the younger ones for the competition.’
So that evening she sent the boys to teacher’s house and took Sophia to help her teach the others.
They met after two hours and the boys found nothing except that there had been a scramble. Nicole’s selections were the next day and she chose a piece call ‘Sad Story.’ So the next day came and her parents dropped her to the Grand Hall.
There were the same judges and quite a few people, all from different states. Her seat was third and she was nervous. Soon she was called upon stage and she played her song. It reflected her emotions right then and she played with her heart.
In fact she even got a standing ovation but all she cared for right then was her teacher who was not there. The finals were the next day and the winners would be announced at the end of these selections.
Nicole had come fourth. The first was the one from Goa by the name of Alison. Nicole didn’t like her very much, because she looked sort of wicked. The finals were the next so as to test the ability of the participant of working under pressure.
Nicole picked a piece ‘Giga in G’ one that she had perfected long ago. The next morning her whole family came to see her play. She managed to whisper to Rahul ‘Keep your eyes open for anything suspicious.’
He nodded and she found them some good seats in the hall and went to the finalist seats after having a chat with the younger students who were participating in the next competition.
Each team had its own piano. So ‘Ivory and Ebony Gathering’ had its own piano Alison’s had its own and so on.
Nicole’s performance was last and she had a long wait. At last her turn came. She went and introduced her piece. Then she went to play. To her dismay and astonishment the notes went all wrong.
She played them correct but they sounded wrong. She had no idea what was going wrong, but kept on playing.
Then one of the judges roared into his mike ‘Stop this racket. It is an insult to music.’
Nicole cried ‘I’m not doing anything sir you come and see.’
The judge was about to order her out when he remembered what a hit she had been for the selections. So he walked up and tested the piano. Indeed it was out of tune.
‘Go play on another.’ He ordered her.
So she sat herself down on the next piano and was about to start playing when to her surprise Sophia rushed upon stage.
Chapter 7 – The Mystery is Solved
‘Stop.’ she panted. Then she turned to the audience ‘As you all know the famous Tr. Anna has been kidnapped. And I know where she is hidden.’
There was a gasp from the audience at this. Then she spoke to the judge ‘Sir, will you kindly help me to take the top off that grand piano.’
She pointed to the out of tune piano. The judge was surprised but did as told. And what he saw inside nearly made him drop the lid back on. Inside was Tr. Anna! Her hands and legs were tied and she was gagged.
Suddenly a tall man rose from the audience and came on stage. It was the inspector! Sophia was delighted. Tr. Anna was soon untied and her gag was removed. Before anyone could say anything she turned to the Inspector and said ‘Sir, it was Alison and her music Sir that caught me and tied me up.’
‘Oh so it was them was it?’ said the Inspector.
‘But Sophia how did you guess?’ asked Nicole baffled.
‘Well, remember the joke you and Rahul had played on us? And Sean asked you why the vessel didn’t make as much noise when hit when you held as it did when it was on the floor?’
Everyone else looked surprised at this so Sophia gave the full explanation. At the end she said ‘Nicole said “When you hit a pot the sound is made due to vibrations. When you hold the pot and hit it most of the vibrations are absorbed by your hand. Hence it does not make much noise. Same applies to the membrane of a drum, the strings of a guitar and piano.”’
‘Oh,’ said the crowd ‘That sheds a lot of daylight on everything.’
‘But what I don’t understand is why they hid teacher here.’ called Ethan from the crowd.
Suddenly Alison broke down and confessed ‘We did it because we knew that Nicole was so good she would win. I also wanted her teacher to hear her lose. The only way to do that and spoil her performance at the same time was to hide teacher in the Piano.’
‘We also thought that if your teacher wasn’t there, you wouldn’t have been able to prepare for the pieces yourself.’ added her Sir. ‘Little did we know you were so good.’
‘You are disqualified from the competition and shall have to spend a long time with the police I can see.’ said the judge coldly. ‘Nicole you play now.’
So Nicole sat down at their own piano and began the Giga. It was a triumphant dance that even had Alison on her feet. And then the judges announced ‘There is no doubt, the person we announce as best pianist in India is …Nicole!’
And what a hullaballoo there was after that. Sophia was the heroine of the day. Tr. Anna was the happiest of the lot. Nicole was also happy. Not because she won. But because she had a new idea for a book. It began ‘“Nicole, I said get out now…”’