Heart Strings

Chapter Four

Daniel offered Liam a hand casing up his instruments and between them, they got it done quickly as several boys asked questions and helped carry the cases to the locker.

"Well then, you’ve seen mine, how about showing me yours?" Liam said, grinning salaciously at Daniel.

Daniel blushed crimson, but realized Liam was talking about guitars. "Um, sure, they’re nothing spectacular though."

Daniel uncased his classroom guitar, which was a nice Korean made Martin. It had nice tone and a comfortable feel.

Liam examined it and noticed a small crack forming in the spruce top, "I can repair that crack or at least stop it spreading."

"Really, I was kind of worried about it because it’s a rented instrument."


"Yeah, my last one was stolen out of Mom’s car; at least they didn’t get both of them. But we couldn’t afford to replace it so she rented one while we save for another."

"Well, I’ll tell you what, bring it over or let me take it home Thursday and I’ll repair it over the weekend and you can take it back to the shop. I’ll loan you one until you can buy a replacement, that way you can save faster without the rental charges, fair enough? No wait, that won’t do. I’ve given away better guitars, so why not one for someone I’m really fond of. In fact, I have one that would be perfect for you, how does that sound?"

"It sounds good to me but I have to ask my Mom. Right now, she’s looking for another place for us. Our building is unlivable; we’re staying at the Holiday Inn on Foothill. The company that messed up the utilities is paying for our lodging and meals. Mom said it’s an opportunity to get ahead and get a better place to live. I hate that building although my Spanish has improved. I even learned a little Tagalog."

"Tagalog," Liam asked.

Filipino, you know Luzon, Manila. Nice people too, they were the only kids in the building I could get along with.

"Cool, let’s see the other one, is this your jammer?"

"Yeah, when I get a chance; Gregg doesn’t think I can play very well so I don’t get a lot of time in the quad."

"Well he knows different now, eh?"

Daniel pulled a big guitar out of the case and handed it to Liam."

"Oh wow, this is nice, it’s a bit big for you, isn’t it?”

"Yeah, but it was my Grandad’s and then my Mom’s. I never knew him, my mom said he was a drunk and a gambler and she said that’s how he got the guitar. He was stationed in England and won it in a card game. He put his name on the head, see?"

On the head between the string winder capstans, was a piece of white cloth adhesive tape from a first aid kit, on the tape, the name Sullivan was written in black laundry marker. Looking at the guitar as a whole, he could tell it was pretty old, the fingerboard appeared to be real Ebony and the frets were the pre-war solid brass type and not plated. A chill went through him; he knew he was holding a Martin just by the feel. If it was what he thought, it was a very special Martin. He asked Daniel to hand him his tool bag off the shelf in Liam’s locker. Liam removed a flexible torch and peered inside the sound hole. He nearly had a heart attack, he had held other D45’s before but this one was special. He dug out his phone, snapped a picture, and handed the guitar back to Daniel. He sent the picture off to a friend who was an expert and archivist for C.F. Martin with the caption; "Is this what I think it is?"

"Sorry, just checking something, I’ll tell you what after I get a reply. Do you mind if I play it?"

"Sure, I think it sounds good and it has nice action."

Liam tried out some scales and riffs and began playing Norman Blake’s "Whiskey before Breakfast" and the instrument rang like a bell, it had a big voice and beautiful tone.

"This is a hell of a guitar; I’d like to get that tape off there, but if it isn’t done right it could damage the inlay."


"Yeah, under that tape is the C.F. Martin logo, you have a hell of a guitar here." Liam looked around and saw they were alone, "It’s worth a good couple bucks Daniel."

"Really, like a couple thousand?" He asked hopefully.

"I’d say more, but let’s wait for Jim to text me back."

Liam’s phone chirped, "Can you take a call?!!!"

"Um… Mr. Levi, may I use a practice room to take a phone call, please. It’s a bit urgent."

"Oh, um… sure, use number three, please."

Liam asked Daniel to bring the case and walked toward room three. He replied to Jim and his phone rang almost immediately.

"You owe me a new shirt Liam, I would have texted sooner, but I had to wipe the coffee off my phone. Is it real?"

"Well, you saw the picture I sent, would you like a video of the overall condition."

"Sure, but later, can you see the bottom web just down from the sound hole?"

Liam looked and spotted the initials LH just under the web in dark pencil.  He told Jim and there was a pause while the rustle of papers and books was heard.

"Okay, 72161, built by Lawrence Horner in March of 1939, do you know what you have there?"

Liam Gasped, "it’s pre-production isn’t it?"

"Yes it is, are you the owner?"

"No, but he’s here, go easy on the value, I don’t want him to freak. I’ll put my phone on speaker."

Liam set the phone down with the small leg on the back extended and introduced Daniel.

Hello Daniel, my name is Jim; I’m an archivist for the C.F. Martin guitar company. Your guitar is not on our books as far as first buyer is concerned. That just means it was exported or sold retail or perhaps both. That’s quite an instrument you have there, can you tell me how you got it?"

Daniel told Jim the story as much as he knew about the guitar.

"So it’s a family heirloom then, you must have a great attachment to it."

"Well I like it but I never knew Grampa Sullivan and Mom said he was kind of a jerk. But the guitar sounds great, so I like playing it."

"So, um… Daniel, how old are you if you don’t mind me asking?"

"I’m eleven, but I turn twelve next month, same as Liam."

"Oh I see, um… Liam, if we can get a flight out, I would like to have our historian and his tools come along with me and examine the instrument. When would that be convenient?

Well, there’s no school Friday because of Faculty training, how does that sound?"

"Let me see what I can arrange and I’ll text you for an address."

Liam reached out, pulled Daniel close, and placed the guitar in the case.

“So, do you have a ballpark figure that we can tell his Mom when we see her?"

"Likely around six figures to start."

Daniel squeezed Liam’s hand and squeaked out, "Ten thousand bucks?!"

"Six figures Daniel; we’re talking a hundred grand." When Liam said that, Daniel went limp. "Jayzus, he’s fainted!" Liam yelled and guided Daniel to a chair. "Jim, can I call you back after school?"

"Sure Liam, I hope Daniel’s okay, it must have been a shock. I’ll talk to you soon."

Liam turned his attention to Daniel, who was starting to rouse himself. "Fucking hell, what happened?" Daniel asked.

"You fainted mate; do you remember what Jim said about your guitar?"

"Oh yeah, he was kidding right?"

"Look, don’t go faintin’ on me again, but no, he wasn’t kidding."

"Oh shit, I can’t believe it; it’s like hitting the Powerball! Is it true?"

"Well the historian will have to authenticate it, but yeah, I think so."

"How do you know this guy, is he really with Martin?"

“Okay, calm down, I suggest you ride home with me and bring the guitar and then get yer Mam to come over after work so’s we can explain the whole thing. Is that cool with you?"

"Yeah I think so; except she’s not working. She’s doing an interview for a job today at some R&D company here in town."

"Well, just the same, let’s do that then and you can tell her what’s up, okay?"

"Sure, and Liam, thanks. You don’t know what this means to me, to us."

Daniel stood and kissed Liam on the lips briefly and then stepped back and smiled. A knock at the door kept Liam from returning the favor; he just wasn’t ready to go public. Fortunately, it was Cheri telling them that it was the break between sessions. So Liam leaned forward and kissed Daniel back.

"That’s so cool," Cheri said. "Is this your first kiss?"

"Second, our bold boyo kissed me first," Liam answered.

"Way to go Danny baby!" Cheri said, giggling.

"I um… just, I was really happy. Liam can we tell Cheri, please?"

Since Daniel was a bit light headed still, Liam explained the guitar business and Cheri’s eyes bugged out.

"Oh Daniel, that’s wonderful, I’m so happy for you."

"Well, there’s a lot of steps between discovery and authentication and actually getting it sold. Time and place are a big factor on how well an instrument does at auction. Get the right house and do it at the right time and you maximize your yield." Liam warned.

"But still, it’s a great thing for him and his Mom." Cheri said.

"Absolutely, no doubt there at all, they just won’t be getting a check next week. So, it’s important that this stays between us. If word got to the wrong people, they might tear the music room apart looking for it. Everybody here could suffer."

"I get it, and I know how to be quiet."

"I know, Cheri and thanks."

They wandered outside to see what was going on there and walked over to get a drink and some chips. Daniel calmed down quite a bit and he texted his mom to tell her something big was on and that he would fill her in at lunch break. She responded that she had news as well.

Liam sent a text to his Da to let him know something was up and he’d call at the lunch break as well.

Connor said he also had news and would pick him up after school and told him to keep Daniel handy so he could join them.

Liam and Daniel looked at each other quizzically and compared notes.

"They’re up to something," Liam said suspiciously.

"Are you worried?"

"Not a bit Danny, oops, sorry."

"No it’s cool, I think I’ll drop the whole Daniel thing and then people can just call me Dan or Danny. I don’t really know why I insisted on that in the first place."

"Well I don’t know about you, but I’m dyin’ for a piss."

"Me too, it’s this way, follow me.

Of course, they would run right into Brian Holcomb in the boy’s room.

"Oh hey, how’s it going? I’m really sorry about being a jerk yesterday and that move you put on me was wicked. Anyway I was out of line and it made me think about some stupid shit I’ve been doing so that’s gonna change."

"Cool Brian, nice seein’ yas but me back teeth are swimmin’."

"Oh sure Liam, I know what that’s like. I’ll see you around."

Suddenly they were alone in the bathroom, they stepped to the urinals side by side, and each looked over to see how the other looked. They smiled and then zipped up and washed their hands.

They stole a quick kiss and walked out to join the throng of students returning to class. They picked Cheri up on the way and walked into the music room.

The second session was regular instruction at a couple of levels and then groups were assigned to practice rooms.

Liam had raised the head count, but Mr. Levi had designs on him as an assistant along with Gregg and a boy named Alex.

"So here’s the deal, you three boys will act as teaching assistants and help the less advanced students hone their technique and music reading. By the way Gregg, good job sight reading the Boccherini piece."

"I thought he did really well," Liam said, then turning to Gregg, "It was a pleasure to perform with you."

"Same here Liam, I was a little edgy at first so I blocked everything out and concentrated on the sheet music."

"Well we came through it okay and with a bit of help the rest of these guys can do it too."

"We don’t have to grade the others do we, Sir?" Liam asked.

"No, I don’t think so; would it be a problem if you were requested to make recommendations?”

"Only where Daniel is concerned, we’ve become good friends and it would be a conflict."

"Duly noted but not pertinent at the moment."

"I was way off about him, I thought he couldn’t play very well but he’s just shy I guess. I owe him an apology, and probably a few others. Sorry if I’ve been a dick Alex."

"It’s cool Gregg; I think this new system is going to make the guitar a lot more fun."

"Me too," added Gregg.

"Oh I’m in; we didn’t use the chair system at Hart. Mr. Graff thought it held students back. I heard he retired rather than teach English as a second language. It’s a real shame; he’s a great music teacher."

"Yes I know, he’s a friend and he convinced me about the chair system. A lot of teachers are retiring from Hart, what they have planned there is not really teaching in my opinion," Mr. Levi added.

"So how are you going to choose who plays what part, Sir?" Alex queried.

"We’ll have a drawing for the first round and then I will set up a rotation schedule until each musician has played all three parts. But, that’s only for symphonic pieces. We will be playing more pieces that are written for guitar as the primary instrument."

"Are there really that many, Sir?" asked Gregg.

"Yes, there is a huge library of guitar music as stand-alone and in combination with other instruments. Take the Night music as an example. I will talk to a couple of bow slingers and ask if they would like to join us to work on that piece."

"But we meet on different days, how are you going to coordinate that?" asked Gregg.

"I may have to get people excused from class on occasion; I haven’t worked out all the details yet Gregg."

"Okay, Sir, sorry, I tend to get hung up on details."

"No apology needed Gregg, the more people looking at the problem, the greater the likelihood that a solution will be found quickly.

"If you boys will go and see how the others are doing perhaps you can offer some techniques and tips."

The boys agreed in unison and walked toward the practice rooms.

"Would you guys mind if I took the first chair guys, I’d like to talk to them since we won’t be together as much?"

"Works for me," offered Alex

"I’m good," Liam added.

"Thanks guys."

Gregg entered room three and joined the boys he had played together with for quite a while.

Alex joined the third chair group and Liam introduced himself to the second chair group including Cheri.

A lot of them were struggling with bar chords as many guitarists do. Liam pointed out that on the passage they were struggling with it calls for an A7, but only two of the notes of that chord are actually played so they should just play them individually.

"Getting good at bar chording takes time and practice. And you should make the effort, but look for a way to satisfy the composer without causing yourself a lot of extra grief," Liam suggested.

"That’s really cool," a boy named Jimmy said.

Liam passed the rest of the session like this; helping others get a handle on some of the trickier aspects of guitar tablature and squaring that with the actual musical piece they were playing. A faint chime sounded and that was the indicator to put away their instruments and assemble in the main room.

Daniel and Liam stayed back for a moment to speak with Mr. Levi.

"Thank you for letting me have a little fun here today, Sir, I really enjoyed it."

"So did I, I especially liked the song about the Cubs. Steve Goodman was indeed a great performer and writer. I also like the way you got Gregg’s mind off what he was losing and pointing out what he would gain if he let it happen."

"Well you deserve some thanks for dispensing with the chairs before you mentioned me. I would have hated to dislodge someone whose whole ego was wrapped up in a chair."

"All part of my master plan Liam," Mr. Levi said as he winked.

"Daniel and I will be back to pick up his guitars after our last class. I’m going to repair a crack in one and clean up the other and give it a tune up."

"Okay boys, I’ll see you then."

Once outside Daniel unmuted his phone and called his Mom.

"Hi Mom, I have something to ask, can you come to Liam’s house after school, we need to tell you something important."

"Well, actually I’m already there with Connor. He’s showing me the software that his company operates on; I’ve taken a job as his coordinator."

"Oh, wow Mom! That is so cool. I’m so happy for you."

"It’s making me pretty happy too; I’ll tell you all about it when we come to get you."

"Okay Mom, I’ll see you here. I’m going to get some lunch now. I love you, bye"

At the same time, Liam had called Connor and received the same news. He told his da he had something very important to talk about but it had to be in person. He told him that Daniel would be coming home with him and he would explain then.

Liam had eaten lunch with Danny and Cheri and they were all a little wired up. They talked about the performance and complemented each other on their playing, singing, or both.

"Um… Danny, do you sing?" Cheri asked.

"Not much lately, my voice has been doing some weird stuff. Mom says it’s puberty and health class sort of said the same thing. It sucks. Hey Cheri, do girls voices change?"

"Not the way boys do, they get deeper and fuller but it’s such a gradual change it doesn’t get noticed."

"Well you sure ended up with a good one."

"Aw thanks Danny, that’s sweet."

"I thought so too, those are some major pipes you have there, Cheri."

"Thanks Liam, you surprised everyone with your voice. It’s lower than you would expect for someone your age."

"As long as I don’t try to sing too high, I’m okay. I was told that it’s a good idea to keep singing through the change so your voice recovers quicker and you don’t get out of practice."

They finished their meal and went separate ways for their various classes.

Phys Ed was a lark; they didn’t dress out but watched a documentary about sports injuries and medicine and one about heat stroke and staying hydrated.

Danny and Liam made their way to the music room and collected Danny’s guitars. Liam had Danny take his back up guitar and put it in his locker to use until his was repaired. They found Cheri waiting at the curb for her ride home, her mom arrived, they exchanged hugs, and off she went.

"You know Cheri, Liam?" Mr. Hanlan asked. "She’s a great kid and very sweet. She’s also incredibly smart."

"Oh, hi Sir, we’re waitin’ for me da to collect us. Cheri’s a neat person; I like her a lot already."

"So you two have become friends, eh? Well neither of you could have made a better choice."

"I’m on my way home as well, lads. Mr. Culver is doing the shepherding this afternoon."

Connor pulled up in his blue Landcruiser; it could handle the two boys and two guitar cases and still have plenty of room.

Mike was surprised when Theresa hopped down from the passenger side.

"How yas, Mike?" Connor inquired.

"A bit surprised actually. I didn’t know you two knew each other."

"We just met last night actually," Theresa stated. He hired me this morning so we’ve been going over the special software and things his operation uses."

"Mike have you a moment mate?"

"Sure Connor."

They walked away a short distance and Connor told Mike that Terri had told him about Sandy’s death, and how sorry he was that he wasn’t around to help."

"You know, there was nothing to be done Connor, and afterward I wasn’t much company to anyone until I met Sarah. You’ll like her, Connor, she’s grand. She wanted to have you to dinner so she could introduce you to Terri anyway; I don’t know how she’ll take the news that you’ve already met."

"Well, she is a very nice lady and quite fun to be around. I don’t know if she’s even interested in me other than as an employer. It’s early days yet."

"So Connor, I’ll call you Saturday to see if you’re up for a pint and we can catch up." They walked back to the car and Mike hugged Terri and walked to his car.

"Hey me boyos, chuck those in the back and let’s get going." Connor prompted.

"Da, we need to take Danny’s guitar straight home, I’ll tell yas why once we get there."

"Okay Liam, we’re on our way.

At home, Liam went through what was up with Danny’s guitar and then told them that they needed to sit down so they could be in on a call to Jim.

"Hi Jim, I know it’s around seven back there so thanks for taking the call. I have Danny and his mom and My dad all listening. Why don’t you lay out what you want to do with the guitar to our parents and then they will probably have questions."

Jim did exactly that. Terri’s eyes became huge when Jim mentioned a ballpark figure based on poor condition and damage.

"Is this for real?" Terri asked.

"I’m quite serious ma’am, it’s a very important instrument."

"We can’t keep this at the hotel, it would be stolen immediately."

"We could keep it in my vault at the prototyping facility," Connor offered."

"Would it be safe there?" asked Terri.

"Oh I think so, we keep precious metals and other materials in there, and they’re worth a sight more than this guitar. And it’s climate controlled so the guitar would be at a stable fifty-five degrees."

"That sounds ideal really," Jim agreed. Our historian will be accompanying me and wants to do an intensive examination."

"Well, I believe we can help with that. I have a number of imaging systems including fiber optic inspection scopes and they interface with a microscope. Plus, we have an industrial X-ray and a small bed MRI unit. Will those suffice?"

"Yes, I believe they will. That will make negotiating the airport a bit easier."

"Can I still play it tonight?" asked Danny.

"I would imagine you have been playing it all along so I don’t think that’s a problem young man. It is after all, your guitar."

"I was thinking of applying a little baby oil to the tape over the inlay, what do you think?" Liam asked."

"That’s the first method I would use if it were me. It should neutralize the old adhesive without affecting the inlay," Jim agreed.

Connor gave Jim his number and they made plans for Friday.