Prologue

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The soft melody of death lingered in the air as his nimble fingers flew over the ivory keys, clearly adept at what they were doing. The haunting tune of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata filled the dimly lit room as he kept his eyes closed. His anticipation for the night's events grew in contrast to the slow tempo of the first movement. His mouth involuntarily stretched into a twisted smile. He had been eager to show his date that he could play the massive instrument with ease. The mood was only ruined by her soft cries as she attempted to free herself from the thin electrical wire he had used to tie her up with.

Her muffled sobs became another instrument to accompany the soft chords of the Steinway he was playing. When he was done performing, he stood up and walked towards her, flexing his delicate fingers.

"Did you know Beethoven dedicated that masterpiece to a woman? Impressive, isn't it? Can you imagine being given such a gift? Such a treasure?"

He smiled as he pulled out a pair of thin gloves from his back pocket. She shuddered as he slowly pulled the gloves on, perversely humming a happy tune. He leaned towards the woman to carefully wipe away the tears and smudged mascara from beneath her green eyes. He made a disapproving sound while rubbing his gloved fingertips together.

"So much make-up. I'll never understand why some ladies feel the need to disguise themselves in so much paint. The act of altering your appearance is so like that of a woman. So contrived. So deceiving."

She battled past the sour taste of the torn rag pushing against her tongue. She needed to scream for help.

"Now be honest, were you that moved by my playing? Is that why you're crying?" He smirked as he adjusted her gag. "I'm touched."

"It must have been a burden for her to receive such a gift from Beethoven. No matter how hard she tried, there's nothing she could've given him in return that would have been as exquisite. As moving. As perfect. Nothing. Even if she had given birth to his child...it wouldn't have been as great. Do you know why?"

He turned around and waited for an answer that he knew he wouldn't receive.

"Because people die. Music lives on. Such a wonderful gift he gave. It's too bad she still didn't return his affections. Women can be such fickle creatures."

His laughter sent a hot wave of fear through her as she attempted to jerk her body free once more.

"Are you that scared of what I'm going to do to you?"

She nodded and he stroked her cheek.

"You should be. I was surprised when you agreed to go out with me. All I had to do was pay you a few compliments and you were putty in my hands. You were so easy to manipulate. So desperate to believe whatever lies I told you. Is your self-esteem that low? I wish I could remove the gag and hear what you have to say but I'm sure you'll just scream for help and I don't want your pesky neighbors to do something bothersome like call the police. That would ruin all of our fun." He leaned forward so she could feel his hot breath against her cheeks, "And I find this so very fun, don't you?"

He pushed her blonde hair behind her shoulders, "I didn't want to hurt you since you're a fellow music lover. It's a shame you're just like the rest. I'm so tired of being disappointed. I keep thinking that perhaps I've found the one only to discover that I'm wrong. Didn't your mother ever warn you not to sleep with a man on the first date?"

Her eyes widened and her muffled screams became louder. He made a shushing noise and whispered, "Is that surprise I see in your eyes? I'm sorry. Perhaps I shouldn't have assumed that you brought me to your apartment for something other than showing me your piano. Don't worry. I've never forced myself on a woman. They come to me freely and yet...they never give me what I truly want. What I crave. What I need."

She was whimpering now and he kissed her cheek, his lips barely grazing her skin.

"Don't be scared. I won't take what you're not willing to give. I just want one thing. A woman's heart. It's what I've always wanted. This will all be over if you just agree to give me your heart. Would you do that for me? Hmm?"

She would agree to anything if it meant freeing herself from the monster in front of her. Before she could give it a second thought, her head bobbed up and down.

He kissed her forehead before standing up and walking away, "You don't know how happy you've made me. I would have felt guilty if I had just taken something without permission. Now I'll be able to keep a clear conscience. I wasn't lying when I said I liked you. You're a music lover like me and people like us...we're special. We feel things deeper than other people. It can be a curse and a blessing. Don't you agree?"

He walked over to the open laptop sitting on her piano and clicked on the link that allowed Beethoven's music to surround them once more. He lifted the large butcher knife he had previously placed beside the laptop. Her muffled cries of protest became louder as he moved forward, waving the knife in the air as though it were a baton he was using to conduct the music. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, caught up in the rapture of listening to Beethoven.

Her shoulders shook in rhythm with her sobs. She wished she had been more cautious. She should've known better. There had been several newspaper reports warning women of the crazed murderer known as the Maestro. He was given the moniker for leaving his victims behind while classical music continued to play even after he had left. The police had considered it his calling card but to him it was a parting gift. In lieu of flowers, he left behind music to keep his victims company in death.

"Shhh...this is so beautiful. If I remove your gag, will you scream for me in C-Minor?"

He laughed at his own joke before letting her feel the cold metal of the knife against her cheek.

"Tonight, you will be my instrument and your cries will make beautiful music for me."

He let a single finger trail down her neck, passing her clavicle, and stopping at her chest before whispering, "You promised me your heart. Shall I take it now?"

She choked back a cry as he brought the knife down.

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