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The Day the Music Died


Clive, Iowa    March 3rd,  1972





“Maestro.  You prefer Maestro to conductor don’t you Mr. DeVine.”


“I do Detective.”


“Do you know why you’ve been asked here today?”


“I have suspicions.  Incidentally, it did not sound like an invitation.  It was more of a command performance.  I was told to appear this afternoon or there would be a warrant for my arrest. Isn’t that more… shall we say factual, Detective?”


“And what are your… suspicions?”


“Something to do with the untimely death of Margie Miller.”


“You were leading the orchestra that evening.”


“I was.”


“And you spent some time earlier in the day with Ms. Miller.”


“What do mean by time, Detective?”


 “Don’t spar with me Maestro.”


“Detective, I am here at your request.  I have a busy schedule and no time to engage in verbal antics with you or any of your minions.  Please make your point and let me return to my orchestra.  My string section is rehearsing without me and we have another show this evening.”  Maestro Vincent DeVine pulled out a pack of Marlboros.


“No smoking, Maestro….When did you first meet Ms. Miller?”


“Perhaps a day or two after she joined our troop.”


“You were friends.”




“Close friends?”


“I am Maestro.  I conduct  the music.  Ms. Miller depended on my orchestra for the success of her act.  She chose the music and dictated the tempo of each her presentations.” 


“Then you did spent quite a bit of time together?”


“No, other than rehearsals, we seldom saw each other. “


“As the show traveled from venue to venue, I understand you spent more and more time with each other.”


“Ms. Miller was a perfectionist.  Constantly tweaking each facet of her performance. “


“Ah, tweaking.  Tweaking takes time. As you traveled from venue didn’t you and Ms. Miller spend more and more time in your room.  Or in your personal trailer?”


“Where do you get your information?  It is not, my personal trailer. The trailer carries our instruments.  Space is limited. It is not a place conducive to what you’re suggesting, Detective.”


“Maestro, these are simple questions from a simple Detective from Clive, Iowa.  You are a sophisticated world traveler. Please allow me a few more moments of your time.”   Detective Steve Quan glanced at his notes. “I understand, Ms. Miller was quite popular with the audience and the other performers. “


“She was.  But, she looked to me for guidance.  To show her the ropes so to speak.”


“Ah, ropes.  A most interesting choice of words.  Wouldn’t the singular, rope, be more appropriate?”  


“Detective!  Enough.  Ms. Miller fell to her death.  No one was around to push her. It was accident. Should I call a lawyer?”


“Do you need a lawyer, Maestro?”


“You are aggravating me.”


“And you are temperamental individual.  Aren’t you, Maestro?”


“It comes with my vocation.”


“Would you please raise your arm.”


“I beg your pardon?”


“Humor me.”


Vincent DeVine raised his arm. 


“It was as simple as that wasn’t Maestro.  Put your little baton in your hand. Time it right and all you had to do was make a down stroke with your arm, and Margie Miller would die.”


“Prove it, Detective.”  Maestro Vincent DeVine stood and stormed from the conference room.


Detective Steve Quan had two days to charge Maestro DeVine with murder, two days before the ‘Maestro’ and the rest of the show moved on to Illinois.



He started with the testimonies of the  orchestra members.


Ruby Pitchman – oboe and fife – “At first the Maestro and Margie were inseparable. Then… well then they argued.  They argued quite often.  And it wasn’t always about her act.”


Thomas Echo – Timpani and Vocals – “Margie was a crowd pleaser.  Daring. She took chances. Maybe too many chances.


Celeste Cremen – Event Coordinator – “We were used to the Maestro’s tirades, but toward Margie he became vehement. He called her an ungrateful bitch.  Twice he threatened, ‘You’ll be sorry.‘ Margie just laughed him off.“


Dave Koz – Horn Section – “Conductors are a unique breed. They think they’re gods, and to most musicians they are. They live and breathe music. They create, innovate and bring music to the world.  Could the Maestro kill!  You bet he could.  I think he could kill and then sit at a piano and play a Chopin etude.”    


John Malone – Sound and Lights – “ Maybe I caused the whole thing.  It was late one night.  Margie and I were talking. Suddenly we clicked.  We found so much in common.  Army brats.  We’re both fraternal twins. Go figure.  Maestro went beserk!”  


Richard Hunt – Roadie – “I just tried to do my job.  Stay out of his way.  That man was no fun to be around when he was in one of his moods.  Hell, he was never any fun to be around.  Has of Satan in him.”


The most damning testimony came from:


Sue Scott - First Violin – “First violin is usually second in command in an orchestra.  In our orchestra there was no second in command, no third, fourth or fifth either. There was only the Maestro.  From the beginning of the evening performance, I felt, actually, I think we all felt there was something wrong.  Our timing was off.  We seemed to rush into the coda and we stopped one bar short of the finale. The Maestro does not make mistakes.”


I presented all the facts. All clues are here.    





Think about the venue, Iowa – next stop Illinois.


Clue words: Ropes  or rope.


The testimonies have to read more than once.


The title: The Moment the Music Died.


Where was Margie? 


What was her act?


How could the down stroke of a baton,  result in the murder of Margie Miller?  


How could the absence of four quarter notes of music cause someone death?


The solution?


Please send me your solution

I’ll return with my solution.

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