by Maureen S. O'Brien
Disclaimer: Airwolf belongs to Belisarius Productions and
MCA/Universal. Vedran Smailovic, the Cellist of Sarajevo,
really exists; the character with his name in this story
is intended as tribute and not documentary, however. This
is just my imagining as to what it would be like to be 
This story was inspired by something I heard but do not
know to be true for sure: that Vedran Smailovic was given
a valuable cello by an anonymous donor.
He sat at the table alone, staring into a pint as dark as 
his thoughts. Where were they now?  His family.  All his old 
friends.  No way of telling if they were dead or alive, and 
all the news was always bad. 
At least he still had the music.  He'd had to leave his 
cello back home; there was no room for wood and gut when 
human lives were at stake.  But he'd found a cello here, 
very cheap, and he practiced every day, after he was done 
working his fingers to the bone at his entry-level job.  
"Mind if I join you?" 
He looked up.  An American, with the crag-hidden, wrinkle-
surrounded eyes of a sailor.  He was fifty or so, but he 
dressed like a teenager, as most Americans seemed to.  
"Not at all."  Vedran tiredly waved him to a seat.  I hope 
he is not a reporter, he thought.  I do not think I could 
answer a single question tonight. 
"Thanks."  The American sat down with his pint.  Much to 
Vedran's surprise, he didn't say anything else.  No 
questions, no stares. He just sat there.  It was restful. 
After a while, though, Vedran began to feel curious.  
"Excuse me, but is this your first visit to London?" 
"Not quite."  He didn't elaborate. "I'm here to see a man 
about a cello." 
"Oh?  What kind of a cello? If I may ask." 
"A Stradivarius." 
Vedran felt his jaw drop and his eyes bugging out.  They had 
to be.  Oh, what he wouldn't do, just to see such an 
"You appreciate good cellos, I see." 
"I play."  What else needed to be said? 
The man smiled and his eyes lit up.  "So do I, a little.  
Would you like to come visit the Strad with me?" 
"But of course!" 
Vedran liked a good pint, but there were such things as  
"By the way," the American said, putting his pint aside in 
the face of Vedran's excitement, "the name's Stringfellow 
"Vedran Smailovic," the other replied, pulling on his coat. 
The American's lips quirked.  "I know."  
Vedran didn't hear. 
In a moment, they were walking down the street, discussing 
music. Vedran thought that Hawke could have been a bit more 
open to contemporary composers, but otherwise was very 
knowledgeable. Particularly in works for the cello alone.  
The amateur and the soloist had much the same repertoire 
Vedran sobered for a moment.  He was an amateur now.  And 
why not?  In a small city, he had talent.  In one of the 
great cities of the world, who was he?  A nobody.  Nothing 
but a refugee. 
"Here's the hotel where the Strad's staying." The American 
grinned.  "Also my wife, Cait, and Annie, our little girl." 
"You? You _own_ a Stradivarius cello?" Vedran suddenly felt 
bitter envy.  Some rich American, some amateur, who had 
never known a moment's sorrow, could wake up in the morning 
-- the peaceful morning, unbroken by gunfire -- and apply 
bow to string on a Strad.  While he had been suffering in 
Sarajevo, making music his life, avoiding the notice of the 
Communist government, and then living through the hell of 
the snipers and mortar fire, with a poor cello that might 
have been burned to boil water by now. 
"I play it every day," Hawke was explaining, almost 
defensively, as the lift took them upstairs.  "And 
you wouldn't believe where I got it.  And how.  But here's 
my room." 
Hawke let them in with a key.  The hotel room was bigger 
than Vedran's entire apartment.  The wall was lined with 
picture windows, and a little girl with dark hair had her 
nose pressed against one, staring at the city lights. 
For a moment. 
"Daddy, you're back!"  The girl leaped at Hawke.  He caught 
her effortlessly in his arms and held her tight. 
"I came back as quick as I could, Punkin.  Now say hello to 
Mr. Smailovic.  He's going to play the Strad tonight." 
"Ohhhhh."  She looked down at Vedran from her temporarily  
superior height.  "Daddy must like you.  He won't let me 
even touch his cello, 'cept when he says I can.  It's real, 
real old. Older than Uncle Dom, even!"
"Very old," he agreed gravely. He was glad to see her,
but she brought back images of shattered innocence and 
massacres of the young. But then, she had clearly been born
to privilege and security. She had never known more sorrow
than a broken toy, he was sure.
An red-haired woman wandered in. She was at least ten years
younger than Hawke. This too was part of the trappings of
wealth, he thought. "I see you found him," the woman said
to her husband. "Did you get a chance to have dinner, Mr.