Entitled - Short Story

The full short story Entitled available for reading online.


by G. M. Worboys


First published July-2015

Copyright © 2015 G. M. Worboys

G. M. Worboys has asserted his right to be identified as the author of this work.

This story may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes provided that the story remains in its complete original form.




“I’m sitting here tonight with Benjamin Cain, a name I’m sure you all recognise. This is the young man that released Layton’s Last Rhapsody to the world. His actions delighted the myriad fans of the late Seymour Layton, but have raised consternation and complicated legal dispute among those that control Layton’s estate.

“Good evening, Ben.”

“Um, hi.”

“How is it that you came into possession of Seymour Layton’s musical composition called Layton’s Last Rhapsody?”

“It’s just Last Rhapsody, Layton isn’t part of the title.”

“… So you were a fan of Seymour Layton?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“Are your friends at school all fans too?”

“Most of them.”

“So how did a schoolboy get hold of a famous musician’s unpublished music? A piece, I might add, that no one had ever heard him working on.”

“It’s real! It’s been proven.”

“Yes, I understand it has since been authenticated by experts, but you didn’t know that when you released it to the world.”

“I knew it was real. There was other stuff on there too, private letters and stuff that could only have been his.”

“All right, but how did you come to have something that must have been intensely personal and valuable to Seymour Layton?”

“I do some work on weekends with me dad.”

“And what does your father do?”

“He’s a removalist.”

“A furniture mover?”

“Yeah. And sometimes he gets jobs for deceased estates where he has to take out stuff that’s left when everyone else has taken what they want. You know, to go to the tip or whatever. They’re usually only small jobs, the vultures don’t leave much, but Dad says that’s okay. It’s sort of a perk he gets for having done the valuable stuff for the vultures first.”

“And you were helping him when you found it?”

“Yeah. We were moving this old table. You could see why no one wanted it, it was old and scratched and had two wonky legs. It looked like it was going to fall over before we even touched it. We were careful getting it downstairs because we didn’t want to scratch up the house, but once we got it outside we just sort of slung it between us.”

“Where were you going to take it?”

“The tip. It wasn’t worth anything to anyone. Anyway, I slipped on a step and dropped my end of it. Dad got hit on the shin by one of the legs at his end and called me a— … clumsy.”

“I’m sure he did. Is your dad all right?”

“Sure. He says the job’s not done until you get at least one bruise doing it.”

“And what happened then?”

“I had the end with the two wonky legs, and one of them broke off when it hit the steps. I picked it up to carry with us to the truck. I was about to sling it on the tray when I saw there was a hole near the top of it, it would have been hidden when it was still attached to the table top. I had a peek and I see this thumb drive stuck in there.”

“That’s a small device like this one, yes? You plug into your computer and you can backup files from your computer onto these for safe keeping.”

“Yeah. Right. So … that’s how I got it – the music.”

“And you just popped it in your pocket and took it home?”

“Well, yeah. All that stuff’s fair game. I mean it was just going to the tip. If I hadn’t taken it then someone at the tip would’ve – if they’d found it.”

“Didn’t you think of handing it to someone at the house?”

“There was no one else there.”

“You must have realised it could valuable?”

“They’re just a couple of bucks each, and they’re only used for backups and stuff, so it wasn’t like I was taking anything they didn’t already have.”

“Except they didn’t. No one else has found copies of the files.”

“I didn’t know that. Anyway, they probably just didn’t know how to look at them.”

“But you did?”

“Yeah. I do a bit of crypto stuff as a hobby.”

“Computer hacking?”

“Nah, not really. Just playing around with cyphers and stuff.”

“So tell us, why did it take three years to decide to release what you found?”

“It didn’t. Layton died back then, but the vultures didn’t finish picking over his things for ages. And it took me months to work out how to decrypt the files.”

“So you knew it was valuable then?”

“No! I just wanted to prove I could do it. Once I got a few out, I almost didn’t bother with the rest, cos I was just mucking about.”

“So what did you do when you found this new piece?”

“I played it.”


“Well, when I realised it was something new I uploaded it so others could hear it too.”

“Why didn’t you contact his estate, or his brother?”

“Why? The music hadn’t been released. I thought it must have been something he’d thrown away without publishing. But it sounded good to me.”

“Was there other music on the drive?”

“Yeah, but it was all stuff we already have, lots of his most recent stuff. And there were a few other files I hadn’t gotten into yet.”

“So there could be more music yet to be released?”

“Maybe. The cops took it, so I don’t know.”

– – –

“So, Michelle, you say this music really belongs to you?”

“Yes, Carmen. Seymour told me he was working on something. He said it was a sort of apology for the arguments we’d had, something to make up for all the time we’d lost.”

“He told you he was working on this piece?”

“He didn’t name the piece, he was often secretive like that. But now I’ve heard it, I’m sure this is the one he was talking about. We knew each other so well, and this one speaks to me.”

“You hadn’t said anything about it before the music was released. Why not?”

“I had assumed the piece was never finished, or he may even have deleted it. Seymour could get like that at times if his work didn’t satisfy him. There wasn’t any point kicking up a fuss for something that might no longer exist.”

“So you don’t agree with those that suggest you’re making this up as you go?”

“Let’s not dignify such ugly lies with airtime!”

“And what of the rumours that Seymour had been secretly involved with someone else? Might this piece have been written for that secret lover?”

“There was no one else, secret or otherwise. Seymour and I were deeply in love. Yes, we argued often. He was a passionate and emotional man and not always easy to live with. But we loved each other very much.”

“Why do you think that no one else ever heard him speak of this piece?”

“That is another reason I am so convinced this piece is mine, Carmen. Had it been just another studio number he would have said. But as a personal piece, of course he would have kept silent about it. It was just his way.”

“So you believe the piece is authentic?”

“Oh yes, there’s absolutely no doubt. You can hear Seymour’s exquisite touch right through it. I knew that long before the experts were called in.”

“And how do you feel about the piece having been released to the public in this way?”

“That’s dreadful, of course.”

“What about suggestions from his fans that the music should be left in the public domain? They say it’s too late to change it now, and they say that Layton would approve.”

“These are people that never knew Seymour, Carmen. He would never have wanted it to come out this way. The piece may have been finished, but it hadn’t been professionally produced. Seymour would never have been satisfied with that. We should, of course, discourage people from pirating this music. They should wait for the professional production to made, Seymour would have wanted it that way.”

– – –

“Mason, why is it that the ownership of this music is under such a cloud? You’re the executor, isn’t it just a matter of looking at his will?”

“I wish it was that simple, Carmen, I really do. One problem is, of course, the length of time since Seymour’s death. The estate was effectively wound-up some time ago. But even if that wasn’t an issue, there are complications with the will itself. Seymour’s will is too detailed. It runs to a great many pages and he was very explicit about what he wanted done with each and every piece of music he wrote.”

“Every piece except this one, you mean?”

“Exactly. It is clear to anyone that reads the will that, had he remembered this piece, he would have given clear instructions as to its disposal. He left no catch-all that can be interpreted as covering this situation, so that has left it open. The result, as you’ve seen, is that everyone is claiming that he would have left the rights to them.”

“So why did he neglect this one? Are you suggesting it isn’t really his?”

“No, Carmen. I bow to the experts on this, and they say Last Rhapsody is authentic.”

“You weren’t a fan of his music?”

“Seymour understood that I would be acting in only a professional capacity. He knew my musical tastes ran differently to his, but that wasn’t an issue.”

“His death came quickly, but it wasn’t sudden. Why do you think he neglected this piece in his will? Did he not mention it to you at all?”

“I was with him often in his last days. There were some final adjustments to his will, all properly witnessed and signed, and never was there any mention of this piece.”

“Can you think of any reason for that?”

“Only that it must have slipped his mind completely.”

“But, according to expert analysis, Last Rhapsody was only recently completed.”

“Perhaps that explains it. He had a lot on his plate near the end.”

“You are, perhaps, talking about his tumultuous, on-again, off-again, relationship with Michelle? Or maybe his roaring arguments with his younger brother, Roger? Or was it the rumours of a secret love affair?”

“I was thinking of his cancer, Carmen.”

“… So, Mason, who do you think should have the rights to this piece?”

“Unlike so many others, I think it’s very clear. It should fall with the rest of the residuary estate.”

“Which goes to a charity, I see. A charity for which you are one of the administrators.”

“Just one of several, Carmen.”

– – –


“Call me Charlie, please.”

“All right. Charlie. You’re with us tonight on behalf of a Seymour Layton fan club, is that right?”

“That’s right, Carmen. The Layers, it’s a reference from one of his very early pieces. I’m one of the founding members. We’re the oldest official supporters group. Seymour used to come online and chat with his fans at our site as often as he could.”

“I see. And your group—”

“Not just our group. His fans world-wide agree with us on this. We’re convinced his death was no accident.”

“It was cancer.”

“We believe that was just a cover up. Some believe his wife – I won’t repeat on air what some of his fans call her – irradiated Seymour to cause his cancer.”

“Surely that’s just—”

“But others are convinced that his brother did something, or maybe that shady looking character that handled all the legal stuff after his death. In fact you brought up—”

“Charlie, there are no suspicious circumstances surrounding Seymour Layton’s death.”

“That just shows you how clever it was. There’s even a small faction of the fans that think one of his students arranged it – some quite plausible scenarios have been offered.”

“It was unusual, wasn’t it, for a musician in Seymour Layton’s position to take on students. More than unusual, unprecedented.”

“That’s just the sort of man that Seymour was. Very giving. If more professional musicians followed his example, tutoring and mentoring upcoming musicians, and interacting with their fans in such an open and active way, then the whole music industry would be better off.”

“There were rumours that Layton had affairs with some of his students – male and female.”

“That’s just too clichéd to really believe, isn’t it, Carmen? It’s just the sort of thing Seymour’s critics would make up to discredit him. He was a lovely man with many friends. Certainly he was openly affectionate, but that’s just who he was.”

“And what did the fans make of Last Rhapsody when Ben Cain made it available to all?”

“At first there was a lot of doubt, it was only to be expected. But as soon as anyone really sits down to listen to it the doubt simply vanishes. It’s a beautiful piece, quite possibly his best work – although not everyone agrees with me on that. Many fans have suggested it must have been written after he realised he was going to die, that he was trying to bring all his brilliance together in one piece. It is, almost literally, a culmination of everything he’d done so far.”

“What makes you say that, Charlie?”

“It’s just so beautifully and thoughtfully composed. There are echoes of almost everything Seymour ever did, they run right through it.”

“So it’s a derivative work? A copy of what he’s done before?”

“Certainly not! We’ve heard that accusation before, but even Michelle and Roger have joined together to denounce such ridiculous claims. All the true experts agree, this is something that builds on what went before in a completely original way. It’s a perfect expression of who Seymour Layton was, and how his music has always made people feel.”

“Is it right that most of his fans want to see this Last Rhapsody placed officially in the public domain?”

“Absolutely, Carmen. The way it was found and released is something that Seymour would have thoroughly approved. We believe this piece was written for his fans. Some say that it was Seymour’s spirit that guided Ben to the music, and helped him to make it available in this way.”

“Layton left no other music to the public. Doesn’t it make sense that he would want any money from this piece to go towards his family, or maybe to one of the charities he supported in his will.”

“No, we don’t see that at all. If Seymour was still alive, all his fans would willingly keep buying his music to support him. But now he’s dead, where’s the money going to go but to his cheating wife or his undeserving brother? What have they ever done to deserve any more?”


“No, Carmen. The fans are what brought Seymour Layton his fame and fortune. I feel confident in stating that Seymour, if he were here with us now, would say that his fans are the ones that deserve this small thank you for their support throughout his career, support that continues even now, after his death.”

– – –

“Why do you think that nothing has been found that speaks of his work on this piece?”

“Carmen, once you have looked through all his files, as I have, you see that there is often no mention of what he was working on at any particular time. When Seymour finished a piece he would often destroy his notes, not wanting any reminders of the imperfections that existed along the way. He said that he only wanted to remember the final product, the sculpture at the end, not all the chisel marks and battered fingers along the way. He could be quite the poet, my brother.”

“Do you think Seymour would be happy that you have gone through all his things? He said some very unflattering things about you in the press.”

“All families have their tiffs, it’s just those in the spotlight of the media that get blown out of all proportion. Despite what the press has reported, my brother and I were very close.”

“Michelle has said otherwise.”

“Michelle would have to, wouldn’t she? It was usually her that Seymour and I would argue about.”


“She was bad for him, and Seymour didn’t like it when I told him that.”

“Is Michelle the reason why you weren’t at your brother’s funeral?”

“It felt horrible to have to stay away like that, but it would have been worse to have caused a scene. I knew I couldn’t trust Michelle to remain civil, so my only recourse was to absent myself. Seymour would have understood.”

“And what of Last Rhapsody, do you like it?”

“Very much. Like many, I consider it to be the best thing my brother did. I firmly believe it will soon become his signature piece, the one that everyone recognises as being the definitive Seymour Layton.”

“And who should control the rights?”

“You already know the answer to that, Carmen, I’ve said it often enough to the press.”

“You think they should go to you?”

“I think that would only be fair. He was my brother, I think it’s only appropriate that I should retain control over what will become the greatest of my brother’s legacies.”

“The press reports that he left you a substantial amount of money, isn’t that enough?”

“It’s not about the money. It’s about Seymour’s legacy to the world. It’s about the Seymour Layton name. Who knows what crazy thing Michelle may end up doing with those pieces that were left in her control.”

“But isn’t that the point? He left some music to Michelle, but none to you.”

“I think this was the piece he was planning to leave to me, but his illness, in the end, got too much for him and he simply forgot to put it in.”

“What about charity? Wouldn’t it be logical to leave all the rights to charity? Wouldn’t that be the fairest outcome from all this?”

“Carmen, what charity has the expertise to handle this properly? We have to see the existing proliferation of pirate copies stopped. We have to see the piece professionally produced and packaged. And we have to provide the ongoing management of advertising and related complications. It’s not something that a charity or Michelle, quite frankly, is competent to handle.”

– – –

“Sergeant, you should see this.”

“What have you got?”

“The tech’ guys just sent up the last of the files off that drive.”

“Haven’t we already seen all that?”

“There were still a couple of small ones that the kid hadn’t gotten around to opening. This one’s a letter.”

“Don’t make me get up, read it out to me.”

“Um hmm. Okay. It reads …

“My Dearest Seymour,

“It is a sad testament to our lives that it should have been necessary to keep our relationship secret, and even sadder that it should remain so with your death. Don’t get me wrong, I do understand. Michelle would jump to all the wrong conclusions, and Roger … well, best to leave that unsaid. I do think you are wrong about your fans though, I think they would forgive you anything.

“We were having one of those wonderfully serious conversations full of laughter, as so many of our conversations were, when you broke the awful news and told me how little time we had left. I just couldn’t believe it, and for the longest time I couldn’t even think of it. But then I forced myself to face it.

“You have been my teacher, my mentor and my friend. Had our circumstances been different, I truly believe we would also have been the gentlest of lovers. How to say goodbye to someone that has meant everything to me these last years? There was only one way.

“A tribute. To you, to your music, and to your ability as a teacher. This Last Rhapsody is for you, my love. From me to you. Something for us, and only for us. Like our love, let it remain a secret.

“My love goes with you beyond the dark,

“yours forever,

“your friend.”


# # #

gmw 21-Aug-2014

(Back to the Entitled book page.)