Rhapsody Chapter 1

Rhapsody: Hearts of Heroes 4 eBook Cover

Cover art by Jeanette Eileen Widjaja

(Note:  The text that appears below is a pre-release preview which is taken from a version of the manuscript prior to final proof reading and formatting.  As such, it may contain minor errors or typos which will be corrected in the final version of the novel.)

Chapter 1

“IN OTHER NEWS, THE search continues for a Eurion Goffdraig, a local jeweler who was reported missing over a week ago. The search has attracted an unusual amount of attention from the superhero community, with big name superheroes such as Airheart, Ice Dragon, Focus and Scatter coming to town to aid in the search. Sources close to the investigation-”

“Can you please turn that off,” Megan asked in an annoyed tone as she started at the kitchen timer next to the sandwich press where she was heating up her lunch. A moment later, the room went silent, but she could feel her dad’s eyes on her.

“You should pay more attention to the news,” he said.

“Yeah, my therapist says that’s not a good idea.” She lifted the lid of the sandwich press and used her fork to push the burrito she’d been heating onto her plate.

“She runs a shop close to here.”

“I know,” Megan said as she sat down at the table.

“Did you know her?”

Megan shook her head. “No. Not really. But I saw her two or three times a week at the Elephant Tea Company. She always got peppermint chamomile with a huge shot of honey, and a Welsh Cake.”

“I didn’t know that place sold cakes.”

“They’re not like big cakes. They’re like an English muffin, only sweet, with raisins or something in them, and rolled in sugar.”

“Bit of a sweet tooth, huh?” he asked.

Megan shrugged as she spread a bit of sour cream on her burrito. Her dad sat there waiting for an answer, but she ignored him as she added guacamole, pico and hot sauce to her lunch. When the atmosphere in the break room got a little too thick, she decided to change the subject, instead of trying to wait him out.

“I got done refinishing that guitar this morning.”

“Which one?”

“The one your friend dropped,” Megan said. She glanced up at him and saw the frown on his face.

“Is that why you smell like spray paint?”

Megan rolled her eyes.

“I don’t smell like spray paint,” she said. “I smell like spray lacquer.”

“You used spray paint on Jake’s guitar,” he said, sounding like she’d just admitted to lighting Willie Nelson’s guitar on fire.

“Damn right,” she said as she cut a piece of the burrito with her fork. “I already put $1500 worth of work into a $200 instrument. Unpaid work, I might add. I’m not putting in another $500 worth of my time, just because you’re a snob about finish work.”

“That guitar-”

“Was a piece of garbage when it was new,” Megan said. “He would have been better off letting me build him a new one.”

“It was the guitar his kid learned to play on.”

“I know. Which is why, in addition to fixing the broken headstock, I put in all new electronics.”

The offended look on her dad’s face melted away, replaced by a huge grin that she couldn’t help but return.

“I knew you were going soft,” he said.

“Soft my ass. I couldn’t send a guitar I worked on out into the world sounding like that. I’ve got a reputation to protect.” She didn’t add that in addition to the electronics, she’d replaced pretty much all the hardware on the guitar. The body was still the same cheap plywood that had come in the door, so the guitar would never sound exactly like a real Stratocaster, but it would sound a damn sight better than the cheap knockoff that had come through the door as a favor for her dad.

“Your reputation. Sure.” He shook his head. “I don’t know how I got such a good kid.”

Megan looked down at her plate, feeling a little uncomfortable at the praise, even though it was the reaction she’d been hoping for.

“It’s not a big deal.”

“It is,” he said. “I asked you to fix the neck, not rebuilt the whole guitar.”

“It sounded terrible.”

“Yeah,” he admitted. “It did. But Jake loves it, and I didn’t have the heart to say no when his dad asked if I could get it fixed.”

“Now who’s going soft?”

“Was it really $1500 dollars worth of work?” he asked, prompting Megan to roll her eyes. He was almost as good at deflecting as she was.

“Yeah, but only because I overcharge everyone who isn’t you. I seriously could have made a new neck in less time than it took to fix that one. Hell, I might have been able to make a whole new guitar faster.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Eh. Don’t worry about it. I’m just giving you a hard time. Besides, it’s not like I had anything better to do on a weekend.”

“You know, if you want-”

“No! No, I do not want,” Megan said, shaking her head. “You keep your friend’s kids away from me.”

“Oh, come on. What was wrong with Eleanora?”

“You want a list? Cause I got a list. Just like I have a list for… Uh, what was her name… Raquel! That’s it. You still owe me an apology for Raquel.”

“She wasn’t that bad.”

“Yes, she was!” Megan pointed her fork at her dad. “She only listens to classical music.”


“She asked me if Freddie Mercury was an Astronaut.”


“She thought John Lennon started the Communist Revolution!”

He stared at her, dumbfounded for a moment, before he broke down laughing. She smiled as she cut another piece off her burrito, knowing she’d avoided another horrible blind date for the moment.

Megan checked the body blanks one last time, making sure they were locked in securely before she walked into the next room and closed the door. She stopped at the computer and activated the CNC machine, watching as the machine picked up a bit, and began cutting guitar bodies out of the solid slaps of maple and alder. Nothing particularly exciting in the batch. Four custom Les Paul style guitars, and two Stratocaster style guitars. Filler work mostly. Sasha and Robyn would finish them once the CNC was done with the rough cuts. The days when Megan did that kind of grunt work were long past.

She glanced over at her current project. The body of the custom piece hung in the air as she wanted for the dye to finish drying. The neck was on the bench wrapped in surgical tubing as she wanted on the glue that held the fret board to the neck to dry. She was happy with the work so far, but she wouldn’t really know if the project was a success until she had the instrument together and could hear how it sounded. The client, a tiny little woman who’d gotten her start in the Sun City club scene, wanted something that, ‘played like an old-fashioned blues guitar, but wasn’t bigger than she was.’

It was the kind of work that Megan loved. The chance to really flex her design muscles, instead of just recreating a design that was older than she was. It also didn’t hurt that the woman hadn’t even tried to haggle over the price, but then, most of the clients she dealt with these days didn’t. People who knew who she was also knew her work was worth what she charged for it. They might not know what the secret sauce in a Megan Harwood guitar was, but they did know her guitars were top shelf. Better than anything you could get from the custom shops of the big-name manufacturers.

For the people who did want to haggle, well, that’s why her dad hung around the shop most days. He might be a soft touch with his friends, but the man was an absolute shark when it came to taking care of his little girl. And he was a big enough name among the kind of people who knew to come to her that they weren’t going to push their luck arguing with him.

She looked around the shop, trying to decide what to do next. Oddly enough, her to do list for the day was surprisingly short. It was just that time of year when everything was slow. Early enough in the touring season there wasn’t much repair work, but because the touring season had started, she’d finished all of the custom builds except for three late orders. The repairs she did have were all either waiting for parts, in the middle of a glue up or waiting for the refinishing to dry. She didn’t have any pickups to make, or electronics packages to wire up.

She was actually considering starting a design for one of her auction pieces when she heard the opening licks of a familiar song coming from the sales floor, and a wave of pure annoyance flooded through her. She turned and headed out towards the front of the shop.

“Lucy,” she yelled before she was even through the door, “what have I told you about playing Metallic in my store?”

She stopped at the sight that greeted her as she stepped through the door. Sure enough, her niece was over by the amps with one of the stock guitars hooked up, and a grumpy look on her face, but that wasn’t what stopped Megan in her tracts. It was the two men in sharkskin suits that her dad was glaring at while Sasha and Robyn both watched, looking like they were ready to throw hands, which they probably were.

“Metallica is a great band,” Lucy said. Megan, grateful for the excuse to get her dad away from the men turned to him.

“Can you please go teach your grandchild to appreciate some music that wasn’t made by a bunch of corporate book lickers?” Megan asked.

“I’m a little busy,” her dad said.

“I’ve got this.”

Her dad glared at the two men for a moment, before he turned and walked over to where Lucy was. Megan turned to the two men.

“I thought I made myself clear,” she said. “The shop isn’t for sale.”

One of the men, the one she had mentally dubbed ‘Greasy’, just smiled at her.

“You did, Ms. Harwood,” he said. “However, we thought you might have reconsidered, in light of recent events.”

“What recent events?” Megan asked.

“The dreadful business with Ms. Goffdraig,” the one she’d dubbed Sleazy said. “Imagine, a shop keeper disappearing right out of her store. The store ransacked in the process. The neighborhood just isn’t safe anymore.”

Megan had to fight not to roll her eyes.

“Safe or not, I like the neighborhood,” she said. “And I’m not interested in selling my business.”

“We understand, Ms. Harwood, but we’re not interested in purchasing your business. We just want the building, and the land. Think about it. Our offer is generous enough that you’d be able to find a new facility anywhere in town. Somewhere safer. Maybe something closer to your home, or something closer to the venues where your clients perform.”

“Gentleman, I appreciate your concern for my safety, but I’ve spent years getting this place set up the way I like it, paying off my mortgage, building a clientele who know where I am. Moving would disrupt all of that, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to decline. Now, unless you’d like to purchase a guitar, or an amp, I really do have to get back to work. I’m sure you can both find your way out.”

“Of course,” Greasy said, before producing a business card. “But please, think over our offer. If it’s an issue of price, our client is open to negotiation.”

“It’s really not,” Megan said as she took the card. “Good day, gentleman.”

“Good day,” Sleazy said, before both of them turned and headed towards the door. Her dad, Sasha, and Robyn all watched them good, and none of them relaxed until the two men disappeared from sight.

“Sorry about the Metallica,” Lucy said. “I didn’t know any other way to get you out here.”

“It’s fine,” Megan said.

“What are you going to do?” Robyn asked.

“Go back to work,” Megan said. “Same as you.”

“But they threatened you,” Robyn said.

“Yeah, I did notice that,” Megan said. “Not the first time someone’s threatened me. Doubt it will be the last, either.”


“It’s not the first time the mob has tried to buy this place.” She looked over at her dad. “What was it, five years ago, the Ragusa family came sniffing around?”

“Six. It was before Macky’s got turned into a yuppie joint.”

“It’s a hipster joint, Dad. Yuppies don’t come this far south. They’re too afraid of the gays.”

Sasha snorted, and Robyn laughed, which was enough to break the tension in the room, and thankfully, her dad decided not to argue over the distinction between hipsters and yuppies. Before he could change his mind about that, Megan ducked back into the rear of the shop, and found something to work on.

Continue to Chapter 2