The Grand Trine

The Grand Trine, book 1 in a Common World Trilogy by William Northey

The Grand Trine

The Grand Trine - William Northey

Flowers Island - The Grand Trine by William Northey 

Other Titles by William Northey


The Grand Trine (Book One)

The Grand Triumph (Book Two)

The Grand Triangulum (Book Three)


88 Pianos: A Recumbent Adventure Across America

Radiant Floor Company: Design and Installation Manual

 Short Stories

The Creaking Plot Game



Turning Litter into Literature



The Grand Trine - William Northey, Vermont author

William Northey

The Grand Trine  

Radiant Press

Copyright © 2019 by William Northey

All Rights Reserved

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced (except for inclusion in reviews), disseminated or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or in any information storage and retrieval system, or the Internet/World Wide Web without written permission from the author or publisher.

For more information about this title, please contact: William Northey

Cover design by Pierce and John Lockwood

Printed in USA

William Northey

The Grand Trine

2nd Author’s Edition

For Therese Campbell, ever on and in my mind

B o o k   1

Flowers Island

…musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul…

Plato, The Republic

The Grand Trine

Some days were grand.

But on this birthday, August 9th, in a year that spoiled the past like an unwelcomed present, George Flowers died. The occasion ruined eighteen years of ignorance, education, bliss, and misery. And though this was a death of previous life, neither physical nor moral, it pillaged a million trivial, but dependable moments, ended aspirations, and transformed childish trust into hateful suspicion. In later years when George would see himself as little more than Death’s lieutenant, he would mourn this day and cherish his innocent youth.

But now was still the early morning of August 9th, George’s last few hours of previous life. He still accepted the miseries and luxuries of lessons in his father’s Culture Colonies, this latest and final lesson in the “misery” category. So much so that it felt to George like a mental version of a cilice, the coarse sackcloth shirt embedded with twigs that he was forced to wear during a lesson in the Medieval Colony.

Like all the rest, he would endure this final challenge because he still envisioned a future on Flowers Island.

What he couldn’t imagine, yet, were astonishing worlds hidden behind matter. Worlds Destiny would reveal. Along with darkness, and evil, and the science of massacre. Mysterious forces like electromagnetic fluid, another approaching tempest, infused everything but George’s awareness.

Still, this day of George’s birthday begins like a typical day. With an electric eye on the roof of Flowers Mansion sensing the light of dawn and sending an impulse to the mansion’s central computer.

The program responds, the same way it has for the last eighteen years, by playing a melody into the young man’s bedroom. A melody so faint, it’s softer than George’s breathing. The dawn rises.

The music grows louder in proportion to the light, in barely perceptible measures, until its volume matches the hint of morning creeping into the bedroom.

Outside, sunlight crawls over the eastern coast of Flowers Island, up the rocky cliffs and into the abandoned villages of the Middle Eastern Colony; further to the Medieval Colony, then the Aztec, Asian, Greek, Egyptian and Roman Colonies. Finally, on the far western edge of the island, daylight paints a crimson flush on the grey stone face of Flowers Mansion.

Inside, George sees no light, hears no melody rise with the coming day.

Entranced not in an ordinary dream, but immersed in a waking dreamscape, a nightly vision he has seen a thousand times—a grassy hill overlooking a familiar meadow. Years of training have brought him here and the vision is always the same: Wind caresses George’s dream-face. He inhales the fragrance of heliotrope. In clear tones, as real as any in the waking world, a shepherd’s pipe charms the air with pentatonic melodies. Echoes bounce off granite cliffs. Below, dancers whirl in a merry circle.

George runs down the hill toward the meadow. A rough, leather tunic chafes his skin. Tall, moist grass slaps against his legs. Breath fills lungs— His dreambody stops.

He becomes suddenly aware of two realities; the meadow, then back to Flowers Island, the dancers, then back to his bedroom.

The dancers pause, falling like puppets under severed strings, then merge into the scenery.

George awakens to blackness.

He doesn’t open his eyes; he’s been trained not to.

As always, the melody follows from his dream and fills his bedroom.

As always, George listens to the music grow louder.

When it completes its slow crescendo, he knows the sun has risen.

 Three asteriks


“What the…” Something was outside his window. Above him, on the headboard of his waterbed, a Spectralamp shined a pale orange light.

Tossing back the sheet, George sloshed out of bed and crept to the edge of the railing. Glen, his best friend, is climbing up the mansion’s wall on a thick trellis of ivy. “What the hell are you doing?” George called down, not sure whether to be concerned or angry.

Glen had already scaled two stories toward George’s third floor bedroom. He moved unsteadily, a roll of cloth draped around his neck. “Damn you, Flowers,” Glen muttered through ragged breaths. “Get the hell away!” Glen’s footing gave way with a snap, leaving him dangling from the trellis, legs flailing, fighting for purchase.

Instinctively, George reached over the edge, extending a hand, even though 

Glen was over ten feet away. “Are you trying to kill yourself on your birthday?” Glen entwined his legs among the thick branches, then looked up. “No 

George, I thought I’d kill myself on your birthday.” They both laughed, knowing Glen was safe.

“So, Glen,” George said, with mock innocence, “hope I didn’t spoil anything.”

Since the two eighteen-year-olds shared the same birthday, each tried to outdo the other by concocting an outlandish birthday surprise.

“Just leave,” Glen yelled up, again, this time with a scowl.

“All right, all right,” George said, chuckling to himself as he backed away. “Just be careful.” He walked to an Edwardian roll top desk and sat before a computer.

As far back as George could remember, he and Glen had played this game on their birthdays. At first, it was silly kid things like leaving “Happy Birthday” notes hidden around the mansion. By their teen years, the game had evolved into serious competition, awarding points for the most ingenious and dramatic pranks.

The game had five rules.

One: The surprisor could cause no physical harm to the surprisee.

Two: The surprise had to occur on the birthday, but it need not relate directly to the subject of birthdays.

Three: A total of one hundred points was possible in the competition.

Four: All points would be awarded by an impartial committee of island personal whose decisions were final. And as George and Glen soon discovered, the committee levied heavy “spoiled sport” penalties on any player who complained, or worse, flew into a rage after facing a prank.

Five: Accomplices were allowed, but surprisor forfeited ten points to surprisee for every accomplice used.

The enhanced competition began the following year on their fourteenth birthday. Glen won.

By age fifteen, the milder pranks had vanished. Gone were the days when dressing goats in George’s clothing could pass for an acceptable prank, but that and several other surprises won Glen his second victory.

At age sixteen, George filled Glen’s showerhead with powdered food coloring and dyed Glen red for his birthday—a ten-point prank. George won that year 89 to 75.

By the following year, their schemes had become even more elaborate.


“Shit!” Glen cried.

George winced. The ivy above the desk rustled. Two walls of George’s room opened onto long verandas, so George had trained the ivy to crawl across the ceiling, and around lamps and furniture, until the room was decorated with one, giant houseplant. Whenever the wind blew, leaves shivered like fluttering sails.

But there was no wind now. What the hell was Glen doing?

George started to stand, but stopped himself. I’ll find out soon enough, he thought.

In the upper left corner, the monitor flashed: YOUR CHOICE…YOUR CHOICE, below, a desktop full of icons.

George double-clicked: PLATO’S REPUBLIC.

The teachings of Socrates filled the screen.

Flipping quickly to his parts, George glanced through the ancient dialogues one last time. Of course, he had memorized these words months ago. But Jonas Felty, the island’s Headmaster, still demanded a pathological amount of repetition, study, and what he called “involvement” in the work. Without fail, Jonas would ask George if he had studied his lines, and now George could honestly say that he had.

“Waste of fuckin’ time,” he muttered.

For this latest lesson in the Grecian Colony, George had been assigned the role of Thrasymachus, the student who rebels against Socrates’ teachings. According to Thrasymachus, justice belonged to the powerful. The duty of the weak was to obey established authority. “Ha,” George scoffed, for the hundredth time. He didn’t agree with Thrasymachus or even like him. But as with every lesson in any Culture Colony, George played his role with absolute conviction. While acting-out Thrasymachus, George believed every word of Thrasymachus’ “might makes right” argument. Regardless of the character he was impersonating, in the reality of the moment, George’s concentration was perfect.

Today, after three months of study, Plato’s Republic would be performed in the Theater of Dionysus before an audience of island dignitaries—the part-time residents of Flowers Island. These were men and women from every region of the United Nation—the former Americas, Europe, Asia, the world; persons of renown in academic, scientific, or artistic fields. Persons allowed by Aaron Flowers, George’s father, to participate in the imaginary pasts he had created on his private island.

Precisely at noon, the dignitaries would don the chitons of the Ancient Greeks and become (depending on the assignment Aaron Flowers had given them), slaves, citizens, or nobleman; sit on the hard stone benches of the Greek theater and watch Plato’s Republic. No matter that the Republic was never actually performed in Ancient Greece. No matter that the Republic wasn’t even a play, that Plato never wrote a single dramatic work. No matter. Aaron Flowers wanted George and the other actors to enliven the ancient teachings and bring them to life.

The past and human history were always what Aaron Flowers said they were.

If George played his role convincingly, demonstrated his grasp of Plato’s teachings, he would finally graduate from the Culture Colonies. He and Glen could then leave Flowers Island for a one year vacation; visit the United Nation, see in person the lands, oceans, and architecture of what was once Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Americas, and even Antarctica. Tour the cultures he had studied all his life. He and Glen would uncover the mysteries of modern Greece, Rome, Asia, and study the 21st century for the first time in their lives.

But, if George failed today’s performance, it would mean another year of “refresher lessons.”

George shuddered at the thought. This tedious summer of Greek philosophy had withered all interest in Plato and Ancient Greece. In truth, all the Culture Colonies bored him. He’d had more than enough lessons in bookbinding, blacksmithing, animal husbandry, and for that matter, every aspect of life in the Medieval Colony. In the Egyptian Colony, he’d enjoyed learning about hieroglyphs, had carved them, first, on wooden planks, then later, ground colored rocks to powder, added liquid to make ink, and written on papyrus. Even later lessons in Coptic and Arabic alphabets had fascinated him—at first. But as the years passed, new lessons came and went and training as an Ancient Egyptian scribe stifled his active nature. Juedixi gymnastics in the Asian Colony more than complemented his training in the Grecian Colony’s gymnasion, but no sooner had he mastered a handstand on a tightrope then it was back to the Asian Colony to raise silkworms, an occupation only slightly more appealing than herding pigs and harvesting maize.

Yet, in fairness, George admitted that his father excelled at inventing constructive and valuable life experiences, even though many were difficult and unpleasant. George often overcame challenges in future lessons by exercising skills he had developed during past lessons.

So, sure, the lessons were important. They deserved one’s best efforts. But three months of plodding through the minutiae of Plato’s Republic was way too long. The strain had even malformed George’s normally compliant behavior.

Last week, Jonas Felty, playing the part of Socrates, had demanded, again, more “feeling” from George in his portrayal of Thrasymachus.

“I feel it, damn it!” George had burst. “I feel it now. I felt it yesterday. I felt it two months ago!”

Jonas walked calmly to George, his chiton billowing in a Grecian Colony breeze. “Calm that restless mind, young Thrasymachus,” he said as Socrates. “The light of Truth reflects from a tranquil pond.” He tapped George’s forehead.

“You won’t find wisdom in that hurricane.”

“Who needs wisdom if it’s as boring as you and your fucking pond?” George shot back.

Of course, now, he regretted his actions. He should apologize to Jonas, try harder at his lessons, be patient.

On the other hand…

The performance was scheduled for noon. But George was ditching this morning’s final rehearsal because, in his well-thought-out opinion, Glen’s birthday surprise was far more important than Thrasymachus nodding at Socrates with profound philosophical concern, saying lines like: “Yes, indeed Socrates, surely that is true.” Followed by endless standing around listening, listening, listening, while Socrates outlined, with perfect, often irritating logic, the ideal state of mankind.

Some days George wished he were back milking sheep in the Grecian Colony instead of weaving webs of Socratic logic.

But not today. This morning he had escaped both sheep and Plato—barely.

“No George, absolutely not,” Rollins, the island’s manager, had said yesterday when George told him he was ditching the final rehearsal and going instead to North Beach to retrieve the Arabian stallion he was giving Glen for his birthday. The horse had arrived two days earlier on the island’s weekly supply ship. “Master George, if Jonas wants a final rehearsal, you must need more practice.” George argued that all this rehearsal was really for Jonas’ benefit. “I tell you, Rollins, the Headmaster is lost in his role. He demands daily practice to maintain the illusion, to convince himself that he really is Socrates.”

Rollins closed his eyes as if hoping George would be gone when he opened them again. “I’m sorry, George,” he finally said, but without conviction.

In response, George had launched into fifteen minutes of Plato’s dialogue, following Rollins around the mansion, reciting everyone’s lines: Thrasymachus, Glaucon, Socrates, Ademantus…

Rollins had raised his hands to the heavens. “Good God, George, you’re so relentless.” Then with the sigh that always preceded capitulation, Rollins said: “Very well, I’ll speak with Jonas. You may ride to North Beach and retrieve Glen’s horse. But for God’s sake be back for the performance.” George had given his most solemn promise.

He would have kept it, too.

But for now, George didn’t have to worry about lessons and final performances. The rustling ivy had quieted.

George paused, fingers poised over the keyboard, hoping Glen had left the trellis. “Pranks are fun,” George muttered to himself. “But not if they kill you.” A second later, the clatter resumed.

Jesus, George thought. What the living hell?

As Glen cursed, George crept to the edge of the veranda and peeked over the railing. Still precarious, still way too high on the metal trellis, Glen wrestled with a long piece of cloth, fighting to fasten it to the ivy with plastic clothespins. Concerned, but seeing that Glen was okay, at least for now, George darted back.

Thoughts returned to the Culture Colonies, but this time tinged with regret over his growing disdain. While making the bed, he thought about the pleasant times, the old lessons, years ago, before all this Plato, before Socrates started talking in circles. He recalled the challenge of playing a bronzesmith’s apprentice in the Roman Colony; crafting the molds, stoking the furnace, pouring the molten metal, shaping, etching, polishing. The weeks he’d spent in the Egyptian Colony learning the brewmaster’s art, the thick, earthy smell of hops and fermented malt. He remembered himself at age eight, playing a knight’s page in the Medieval Colony, attending his master, preparing him for the Royal Games.

So many roles, so many possibilities.

As a young scribe in the Middle Eastern Colony, George experienced the origins of writing. Studying in his father’s version of ancient Samaria, George used a reed stylus to etch impressions on soft clay tablets. The Asian Colony had its share of pigs and silkworms, but he’d also learned astronomy there, had studied meditation techniques under Master Shang, cast the future with Chinese oracle bones, crafted weapons, bells, idols, and medallions.

So, he wondered: Why treat Plato in such a dry, academic manner?

Instead of living for months in the Colony, George, along with his fellow actors, commuted back and forth in the underground tram. The Grecian Colony flourished only during the day. At night, the performers returned to the Mansion Complex, donned 21st century clothing, and went about their everyday activities.

This lesson wasn’t real like all the others.

After another quick glance outside, George returned to his desk.

Diary: Greek hillside dream again, but something disturbing this time. I stood on the same hillside, overlooking the same grassy meadow. As always, the dream was perfectly vivid. I felt the sun on a clear summer morning, the same fresh breeze scented with flowers. Panpipes played and the same group of peasants danced in a wild, swirling circle. But the music…. He paused, remembering, …was unlike anything I had heard before. This tune sounded sinister and dark, as if belonging to a different dream, or more accurately, a nightmare. It shrouded the scene like a dark shadow. But the peasants never noticed! They danced a merry jig while the sad and lonely music foretold a deadly night. He ended his entry with: Well, when have dreams ever made sense? Shutting down his computer and forcing himself to ignore whatever Glen was up to, he left the bedroom.

On the main floor, at the foot of the grand staircase, George paused, amused by a curious juxtaposition of conflicting scents and sounds. Down the left corridor and behind the kitchen’s swinging double doors, Miss Ruth, the mansion’s cook, spiced, or tortured, a fresh batch of cinnamon rolls with an Irish folk song. Her shrill, exuberant voice screeched like a fiddle bowed with a fipple flute.

At the opposite end of the corridor (and thankfully behind solid oak doors), George’s tutor, Jean Francois, sat before the concert grand playing Franz Schubert’s, Scherzo in B-flat major. That melody drifted on a breeze from the open windows of the Orangery, a conservatory brimming with potted blood orange, tangerine, Persian lime, and Meyer lemon trees. George, poised between bark and blossom, wondered if the dissonance of cinnamon ruined the harmony of citrus, or if each enhanced the other’s uniqueness?

He could ask his life the same question.

When he passed today’s exam in the Grecian Colony, abandoned his teachers, friends, father, and Flowers Island, and launched his world tour, would he flourish, or fail?

Would twilight on the Duomo, or dawn on Rapa Nui, outshine this morning’s light?

Here, now, splayed before him were beautiful bay windows overlooking a shimmering bay. Behind him, stained glass, and walls adorned with Etruscan frescos; above, Schonbek chandeliers glistening with Swarovski crystals. The frescos were masterful, but not masters, the chandeliers dazzling, but never illuminated. The mansion’s monumental fireplace, built with multi-colored stones in swirling patterns that Glen called “mineral milky ways”, impressed George as the kind of art van Gogh might create as a stonemason. Striking, scenic, always dressed in kindling, but never dancing with flames, never cuddled for warmth, the hearth sat like a Grecian Pythia, an oracle of possibilities, but barren.

Maids dusted its decorative logs, then the paneled walls—oak, mahogany, maple, the Egyptian armchairs, the buffet cabinets, foyer tables and walnut sideboards—part of a hundred daily tasks in service to a 45,565-sq. ft. mansion. Can I really leave all this behind? George thought.

Forget the luxury. Despite his discontent, he would truly miss the learning and discovery, seeing the world through a thousand different eyes, living adventures, real and fictional, in the island’s universe of cloth-bound editions. He had already read every volume in the mansion’s three personal libraries. A few hundred thousand more lived in the Pergamum, the island’s multi-story shrine to books, knowledge, culture, and learning.

He would yearn for those unread books.

But most of all, he would crave his piano. Sure, there were millions of keyboards in the United Nation, some brighter, warmer, richer in tone. Many were masterworks of elegance and design. George’s piano, his grand baby, shared the qualities of any fine instrument—a soundboard of White spruce, cut during winter to prevent sap from affecting the wood’s stability, a 100-year-old tree, lumber quarter-sawn, kiln-dried and stacked for slow air cure down to a 5% humidity content.

All that matters.

But so does character, the instrument’s individual timbre and tenor, how the strings resonate in the player’s ears. How its vibrations feed the soul. How eighty-eight notes permeate space and define time.

At least, according to Jean Francois, George’s piano teacher.

Always what George called (in private) a “technique freak”, Jean Francois worshipped Hanon and his 240 finger exercises, and of course, etudes, from Chopin and all the other great masters. But beyond drills and exercises, he also emphasized “nothingness”. Sitting before the keyboard, its eighty-eight possibilities begging for expression, and listening instead, to emptiness. To the vacant pulse preceding creation, that brink of the cliff before gravity defined the future.

“Choose a note,” he would say. “A single note from the fertile domain.”

What? George would argue. Isn’t the entire keyboard a “fertile domain”? A boundless field ripe with sprouts and bursting with creative potential?

“You know what I mean,” Jean Francois would scold.

A note, then, from what the conventional world (“sane” world?) would call the lowest register. The ten rarely played bottom notes. Starting with the lowest F-sharp, down to the dark, grumbling A-natural.

Pressing most keys on a piano causes a hammer to strike, not one, but three, and on some notes, two strings. These steel strings are tuned together to the pitch of a given note.

In the “fertile domain”, the hammer strikes a single, much longer copper string, wound with other wire to make it thicker, deeper, more resonant.

“Pause, still the mind, attune the ears to silence,” Jean Francois would say. “When attention is total and silence is not merely perceived, but realized, press the sustain pedal, strike your note, and listen. Do not hear…listen.”

And George would focus, on the note, its pitch, character, reverberation; feel its vibrations, inhale its resonance, listen as a dying chorus of overtones waned, faded, and finally dissolved in time.

For hours after that exercise, intervals, chords, and harmony wounded his ears. Too much sound. Too much clutter. Even the most beautiful melody, chaos, a sequence of carefully crafted pitches designed to smother the true essence of music—silence.

In silence, George listened, and heard, miracles.

Could he find such miracles on the mainland? Would he be lost without his vintage sheet music, stored on this North Atlantic island in air-tight cabinets at 40% humidity, or displayed in vacuum under UV glass? Yes, he would grieve. But mainly for the faded sight of them, their dusty scent, those brief moments when yellowed paper crackled under his fingers. As a practical matter, he had memorized them all. As he had the mansion’s collection of classical art, forged them in his mind’s eye, as it were. Fitting, because every Grecian goddess and nymph, every Roman nobleman or emperor, every marble, granite, or plaster sculpture lining the corridors of Flowers Mansion were reproductions by talented forgers. Well, not all. A few were original works by artists famous for fakery—Han van Meegeran (who forged Johannes Vermeer), and Ely Sakhai (who forged Gauguin).

Yet, all resonated, all inspired, all astonished.

Would, perhaps, the genuine United Nation, the actual mainland, and the real world of daily life seem counterfeit?

The magnetic scent of cinnamon rolls, in triumph over orange and lemon blossoms (perhaps the breeze had shifted), drew George toward the kitchen, to Miss Ruth, still gargling her song and scaring the cats.

He had barely stepped two paces when a voice called out behind him. “George!”

Ferd, Miss Ruth’s assistant, looked more hyper than usual with sandals slapping across the marble floor, his stride somewhere between a walk and a run. He bounded up and thrust a bag into George’s hands. “Happy birthday, George.” Then, as if admitting to grand theft pastry, whispered: “I grabbed this while Miss Ruth wasn’t looking. Put the icing on myself.”

I bet you did, George thought, more than a little suspicious. He wondered why Ferd wasn’t in the kitchen helping Miss Ruth right now. Had he been searching for George, or secretly meeting with Glen? Not easy with Glen hanging from the ivy. Never mind, the roll looked and smelled delicious. Warmth screamed: “Right out of the oven!” Still, anything could be a prank. “This is so fresh I should eat it now,” George said, studying Ferd’s expression for signs of deceit.

Ferd just smiled, the very picture (forged?) of innocence.

“But I think I’ll save it for later.”

Ferd answered with a buck-toothed grin.

“Yeah,” George went on, “this is great. Very thoughtful. Thanks. I’ll see you later. Big day in the Grecian Colony.”

“Have a great eighteenth, George,” Ferd said, pushing through the kitchen’s double doors.

As he walked away, George heard Miss Ruth bellow: “Well congratulations, ya found the kitchen. Where ya been lad, I need some…”

George heaved against the mansion’s solid oak door and stepped into subtropical sun. Sultry waves of frangipani and gardenia flooded his senses. With eyes closed and face raised to the sky, he wondered how a mere birthday gift could match this moment. Salty breeze fanned the island as the door opened behind him. “Master George,” Rollins said, stepping onto the granite porch.

“Good morning, Rollins,” George said, thinking: Don’t try to withdraw yesterday’s agreement. I’m going to North Beach regardless.

“Indeed, it is, Master George,” Rollins said, in the manner of an impeccable English manservant. “Not to spoil the moment, but your pranks won’t distract you from the Grecian Colony?” Rollins’ voice was too tender to be offensive, but he had an irritating talent for stating commands as questions.” Remember,  twelve o’clock sharp. You don’t want to disappoint the Headmaster.” Don’t I?

But said: “Even Socrates couldn’t convince me to miss today’s lesson.” He turned away before Rollins could see the eye roll.

“By the way, Master George, now that I’ve got you here for what may be the last time today. Happy birthday. Rest assured that your plans for Glen’s surprise are still on track.”

“I could never doubt you, Rollins.”

A smirk furrowed Rollins’ already wrinkled face. “Aren’t you a little curious about your own birthday present?”

“It hasn’t even crossed my mind.”

Rollins peered down his nose. “All this Greek philosophy has given you an exaggerated sense of nobility, Master George.”

“Not really. I’m just focused on surprising Glen’s ass off.” A smile cracked a little poise from Rollins’ face. George leaned closer and whispered: “Old Flowers hasn’t found out about the stallion, right?”

Rollins’ expression looked like silence chiseled onto granite. “Of course not. 

Though you should be studying philosophy, not running after dumb animals.”

“One valuable and very smart animal.”

“Time is wasted all the same. If your father knew he’d be furious.”

“I’m furious at Jonas,” George said, trying to sound angrier than he felt. “The surprise has to be on the birthday. Jonas should have scheduled the Republic for another day.”

“Yes, yes, I know.” Rollins removed a handkerchief from his frock coat and blew his nose. “George,” he said sniffling. “I wish you weren’t so concerned about birthday pranks. Plato is far more important. You’re eighteen. A man now. It’s time to stop playing games.”

You would love Socrates, George thought. But he said solemnly: “I appreciate your concern, Rollins. But I know you’ll keep our secret.”

Rollins snorted. “Even if we both live to regret it.” He glanced at his pocket watch. “You have a long ride. Please be back in time for your examination.” “I promise.”

George walked across the lawn toward the East Wing, eager to see what Glen was up to. He didn’t feel all that rushed. As usual, Rollins was overworrying.

 Three asteriks

Inside the mansion, Rollins stepped to the front window and watched George disappear around the corner. His watch said: 6:22. Closing the velvet drapes and brushing a fleck of lint from the sleeve of his coat, he walked down a corridor lined with marble statuary to Aaron Flowers’ private elevator. After entering a five-digit code, he rode down to his employer’s study.

Aaron Flowers looked up from his work when he heard the double doors open. “You spoke with George?” he said, even before Rollins had taken his first step.


“Did you encourage him to study his lessons instead of chasing stallions?” “Yes.”


“He just left for North Beach.”

“Good.” Aaron Flowers leaned back in his leather chair. “By any chance did he mention last night’s dream?”

“Not a word.”