The ivory keys of the piano stared in silence at Francesco. He could not play for the life of him. Murmurs began to rise like a tide among the crowd. A lone spotlight shone down, bathing him under its harsh light; the stage was set for his confession. Lupanaro had been right all along: he could only perform after he got his fix. His chemical muse had been taken away, and left him a frightened ruin of a man. If only the sweat cascading from under his chin could drown him.

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