The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 32

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Part IV

Chapter 32

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Lloyd Callahan wasn’t quite frantic, yet, but it had been five months since he’d last seen his son, and that had been just after the premiere of Imogen’s concerto.

Harry had changed. Sara’s murder had done something he’d never expected would happen to his boy: Harry appeared to have simply given up. Like a party balloon that had slowly deflated, by the time Harry and the team made it back to Israel – after the brief stop in Davos – his son looked like a different human being.

He’d stopped eating and his eyes seemed to have sunken deep within their sockets, and around his eyes Lloyd had noted splotchy dark circles. When offered food Harry pushed it away, though from time to time he drank coffee…black coffee.

Then he’d done something Lloyd never expected: Harry had gone out to his mother’s crypt. He’d been followed, of course, but even his followers had little to report. Harry had reportedly sat in some modest shade and had talked – quietly – for an hour or so…to at least two people who remained invisible. When Colonel Goodman relayed that information, Lloyd felt sick to his stomach. 

Was Harry coming undone? Would the affliction that had plagued Imogen all her life now come for their son? Would Harry fall under the dark spell of that voice?

That Goodman girl wouldn’t let him to see his son, and he’d immediately resented her for that unwarranted bit of sanctimoniousness. And though he’d sat next to his boy at the premiere, Harry had sat there quietly, almost stoically, through the entire performance, the only emotion on display coming as the final crescendo approached. Lloyd had seen his son’s hands grip the armrests, could feel the tension rise in his boy’s quivering arms and legs, but then there had come un unexpected release, like the explosion Harry had been expecting didn’t come. And at first Harry had seemed confused, then relieved when the expected calamity didn’t materialize…

But then…nothing.

Harry had returned to the compound and disappeared into his room – what had once been his mother’s and Avi’s room – and the next morning he was gone.

And now, after one round trip to Hong Kong just completed, Lloyd was home for a scheduled rest-leave and not due to captain another sailing until early December. With almost a month on his hands, he had wanted to tackle some long overdue home maintenance – but had halfway been expecting his boy to come around to lend him a hand.

He was sitting on the covered front porch sipping his favorite Good Earth tea, watching homes come alive as his neighbors got home from work. Dogs were leashed and taken for walks, backyard grills lit-off and grilling burgers filled the air with their own uniquely familiar aroma, and, yes, he could hear a loud argument over mismanaged money already underway just across the street.

Life on the street was as boringly predictable now as it had been almost forty years ago, but even so he couldn’t stop himself from thinking about Harry’s girlfriend, June. He looked to the right, looked where their old house had been before some yuppies came in and built a multi-unit condo. In another world, another life, maybe she would be sitting out here with him, both of them waiting for Harry to get in from work. Or better still, Lloyd Callahan thought, Imogen would be in the kitchen…making dinner for the four of them.

Nothing had turned out the way he’d expected, he thought. Or wanted.

And now…all this bullshit with vigilantes and Columbian drug-lords, the police department in tatters and his son’s career up in the air.

It felt like the entire world was coming undone.

The Iranians taking the embassy almost four hundred days ago, all those people still hostages, Ronald Reagan looking like he might actually run that that peanut farmer out of the White House. The commies in Cuba lending a hand in Nicaragua, exporting their revolution to Central America, while the U.S. still seemed to be lost inside some kind of narcissistic coma after the Fall of Saigon.

Yeah…what had happened?

It wasn’t all that long ago, he thought as he sipped his tea, that Kennedy had challenged the nation to land men on the moon. And these crazy Americans had pulled it off, too. They’d fought a war in Southeast Asia and done it all at the same time, hadn’t they?

Then Oswald and the Grassy Knoll became a part of the lexicon, just before John, Paul, George and Ringo came along and She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah was all the rage.

Was that all a happenstance, he wondered? Could we have had the Beatles without Kennedy falling by the wayside? Would they have made sense to us without all that despair? Could everything that happened after – the free-speech thing over in Berkeley, all those wild groups up at the Fillmore giving birth to the next ‘real’ counter-culture – have happened without Kennedy’s murder? And all the murders that followed?

He looked down into his tea, swirled the cup and looked at the scattering leaves, wondering what might come next…

“Hey Dad.”

He looked up, saw what looked like just another long-haired freak standing on the steps to his house, but no…there was something in the eyes…

“Harry?”

“Yeah Dad, it’s me.”

He stood, almost stumbled to the floor but his son caught him; they stood staring at one another for a moment…then Lloyd Callahan grabbed his son and pulled him close, wrapped his arms around this cool echo of himself and held on tight.

_______________________________________

They walked down to the waterfront, down to their favorite clam-shack for a basket and a schooner of beer, and Harry talked to his father about where he’d been, and a few of the things he’d done. About the girl in New Orleans and a friend of his from ‘Nam out in West Texas. About his bus ride from there up through New Mexico, where things had gotten dicey…

“Dicey? What do you mean by dicey…?”

“Oh, the bus stopped in the town out in the middle of nowhere, Farmington…something like that. Time enough to go into this little diner for a burger. Some redneck started to beat up on his girl and she was like nine months pregnant. She went down hard and, well, so I intervened…”

“Which means what? You beat the ever-lovin’ crap out of the guy?”

“Something like that, yeah.”

“And…?”

“He was the mayor’s kid.”

“Hoo-boy. Have your badge with you?”

“No. I called Didi from their little jail.”

“Jail? No shit?”

“No charges filed. Turns out the kid’s father went and beat him up even worse.”

“What did Didi do?”

“Shit, I don’t know. About a half hour later they let me out and the mayor put me up in a hotel.”

“What happened to the girl?”

“Baby boy, healthy.”

“Uh-huh. What are you not telling me?”

“She wanted out. Out of that town, out of that relationship…”

“So you made that happen too, right?”

“Yeah.”

“What? Did you buy her a house?”

“Something like that?”

Lloyd shook his head. “Harry, man, I don’t know what’s eating you, but I’m not sure buying-up other people’s troubles and making them disappear is going to make all yours go away…”

“Yeah? Maybe not, but let me tell you something, Dad. If you’ve ever looked into someone’s eyes and seen despair, and I mean real despair, and you had the capability to snap your fingers and make it all go away, are you telling me you wouldn’t? Because the look in peoples eyes when you do that is something you wouldn’t believe…”

“I don’t know, son. Is it really your place?”

“Who’s place is it, Dad? I mean, really, and I hate to get all holy-roller on you, but didn’t someone say we should strive to be our brother’s keeper? Ya know, like once upon a time? To treat others as you’d treat yourself?”

“I know, but…”

“There aren’t any buts about it, Dad. No man is an island, right? We either look after one another or we don’t. Only thing I can tell, really, is that helping people when they’re down makes a difference. It changes things. Like a domino falling, maybe. You never know what the end results might be, but that doesn’t matter. If you see someone down on their luck and simply ignore them, think of it as a missed chance, or a missed opportunity to change the flow of all our falling dominoes.”

“Okay. So that’s what you’ve been up to?”

“I wasn’t up to anything, Dad, at least not anything I can make sense of yet, but all of a sudden I felt like I was drowning in history. My history. June, An Linh, then Stacy and Sara, all of it. I kept falling – back – into that stuff and as I was listening to mother’s composition I heard something different. Like a voice within the music telling me that it was time to, well, fall…forward? Does that make any sense?”

“Fall forward? I don’t know. Not really…”

“I know. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but it was there, in the music. As clear as any voice I’ve ever heard. Stop looking to the past. Move on to the future. And moving on, to me, meant finding a way to change the course of some of those falling dominoes.”

“Son? Don’t all dominoes, sooner or later, end up falling?” 

“Maybe so, Dad. But there’s something else going on here too, something I really don’t understand. And I’ve kept thinking about it, too… Take that girl in New Orleans. What drew her to me? Why did she follow me? Why didn’t I push her away, let her domino fall. Now, suppose she actually does become a physician, and suppose she ends up saving a bunch of lives? I mean, think about it, Dad. Is it all simple coincidence, or is their something else at work here…?”

“I don’t know, Harry. You’d have to go to seminary to find answers to questions like that…”

“Seminary? Oh no, Dad…you’re not going to put all this on God, are you?”

“What else?”

“Seems unfair. Everything we don’t understand gets dumped on Him. Kind of lazy.”

“Lazy?”

“Yeah, Dad. Like we really don’t take the time to look at things like this. The things that are hard to explain. We don’t even take the time to acknowledge them, let alone the why of it all.”

Lloyd looked at his son then shook his head. “You seem…different. What are you going to do now?”

“Get back to work.”

“At the department? Really?”

“Yeah, sure…why not? Got eight more years, ya know, ‘til I can draw retirement…”

They both laughed at the absurdity of that idea.

“What about you, Dad? What are you up to?”

“I’ve got four weeks off. Gonna get new shingles on the roof and paint on the gables.”

“Want some help?”

“I don’t know. You up to it?”

“Hey, Dad. I just put up three miles of barbed-wire fence in Alpine Texas. You got no idea what that means…”

“Fence is fence, Harry. What was so…”

“Rattlesnakes. I’ve never seen so many fucking snakes in my life…”

“I hate snakes,” Lloyd whispered.

“Who doesn’t?”

“Did you kill any?”

Harry looked away, and Lloyd could feel the change that came over his son in that seismic moment. 

“Only one more snake to kill, Dad.”

Lloyd nodded even as a chill ran down his spine. “So, you’re gonna go through with it?”

“She killed my wife, Dad. She made it personal.”

“Did you ever stop to think…”

“It doesn’t matter what she thought, Dad. She did what she did. Her choice. Now I’m going to do what I’ve got to do.”

Lloyd looked at his son and could only shake his head. “You know, Stacy was a little girl too, once upon a time. Maybe she just made a mistake, Harry. Maybe there was nobody around to keep her domino from falling.”

“Yeah. Ain’t life a bitch.”

____________________________________

“I’m glad the pitch is what it is!” Harry called down to his father. “Not sure I could handle it if this was any steeper.”

“We’re makin’ good progress, son. At this rate, we may finish by sundown.”

“What do you make it? Two more squares?”

“‘Bout that. Maybe a tad more.”

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“Why red?”

“What?”

“Why red shingles. Don’t you think that’s carrying the whole red thing a little too far?”

“They’re not red, Harry. The color is called Redwood Breeze.”

“Looks fuckin’ red to me, Dad.”

“I just couldn’t see doing gray again. She needs something new.”

“She?”

“This old house. She’s carried us through some times, ya know?”

“Reckon so.”

“Besides, after I’m gone you can change the color to whatever you want.”

“Dad? Would you stop with the ‘after I’m gone’ bullshit? It’s creepy.”

“Creepy?”

“Yeah, creepy.”

“I haven’t heard that one since you and Junie watched those horror movies…”

“Horror movies?”

“Oh, you know, like that Beast from 20,000 Fathoms thing. Crap like that.”

“That wasn’t crap, Dad. That was Art.”

“You say so.”

“Gonna need some more nails up here soon.”

“I’ll go get some. Why don’t you knock off for a minute? Go get us a couple of Cokes?”

“Will do.” Harry put his roofing hammer down and walked over to the ladder, then made his way down to the yard. Everything about this old place still felt like home, like a pair of old shoes…comfortable old shoes. He took a deep breath and turned to face the sun, held his arms out to soak up all the sun’s warmth, then he looked away, shook his head and went inside to the kitchen. 

It was the same refrigerator that had been in the same spot from when he was a spud, the same faucet at the sink, too…everything was the same, like his dad was afraid to change anything, afraid he might lose all his associations that had formed between Imogen and the things in this space.

He pulled a couple of glasses down and filled them with ice cubes, and he heard his dad sitting on the front porch as he poured the drinks. 

“Want anything to eat?” he called out.

“No, I’m good.”

He carried the drinks out, sat down beside his father as he passed over a glass.

“Feels good to do this together again, Harry.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah. It almost feels like we’re connected to the earth through this place. When I think of home, this is it. I really used to like it when we put up the tree, had all those Christmas decorations and lights up.”

Lloyd nodded. “Took me a while to get used to all that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I grew up in Scotland, son. Christmastime in the 1930s wasn’t exactly like California in the 50s. If I got a new sweater for Christmas that represented a real financial burden for my parents. Things got different after the war, after the depression ended.”

Harry shook his head. “Hard to imagine.”

“People have gotten used to this life. Not sure they could go back to the way it was.”

“Maybe we won’t have to.”

“Things change, son. And if it’s predictable, it ain’t change. Remember that, okay?”

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s okay. We’re gonna be alright.”

Lloyd took a deep breath, held it a second then let the air slip away. “Yeah, I hear you.”

“What did you think of Mom’s concerto?”

“Over my head. A couple of parts seemed unfinished, the ending most of all.”

“Yeah, I felt that too.”

“It felt like, to me, that the last few minutes of the thing were written by somebody else.”

“Yeah. Like somebody was trying to hide something,” Harry added.

Lloyd nodded. “Yeah. I was just going to say that.”

They both sat there for a moment, then Lloyd spoke again. “You think she was trying to tell us something?”

The thought hit Harry, and he leaned forward, took a sip of Coke from his glass. “Not sure, Dad. I thought it was more like that conductor had, maybe, changed something.”

“Why would he do that?”

“Again, I’m not sure, Dad, but something felt wrong.”

“Anyway you could check?”

“Well, I’d have to compare her original composition against what’s published, but the only person who was there was that Karajan fella, so he’s the only one who truly knows what she meant to say.”

“Who has the original?”

“I’m not sure. Technically, it belongs to me.”

“Who can you call to find out?”

“Didi.”

“Does that girl know everything?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“She’s cute, don’t you think?”

“I don’t want to think about her like that. I can’t. She’s holding things together for me right now.”

“Well, if you can ever get your head out of your butt take a good look at her. She’s cute as hell, son.”

“Why don’t you go after her, Dad?”

“No way. That goddamn psychiatrist squeezed the bejesus out of my nuts. I’m done with all that for a while.”

“What? No more Caverject?”

“Well now, I didn’t exactly say that…”

“Man, I don’t know how you do it…”

“Do what?”

“Give yourself a shot, in the willie…”

“You think about something else. Notably, about how good it’s gonna feel to pop your nut…”

“The doc? How was she?”

“Kinky as shit.”

“No kidding?”

“Yeah. They do things differently in Switzerland.”

“Really? Not just tab A into slot B?”

“No way. She was a fuckin’ trip, son. Leather, whips, chains…”

“Whoa, Dad! Too much information!”

Both of them laughed, nervously, like fathers and sons often do.

“Anyway, I couldn’t handle her kind of medicine.”

“Jeez. I had no idea.”

“You know who’s weird? That Frank Bullitt character.”

“Frank? Really? How do you mean?”

“The whole time back at the compound, that woman never let up on him. Screaming at him all the time, and he just takes it.”

“He loves her, Dad.”

“Yeah? I’d sure like to know why, because I couldn’t live with anyone who went after me the way that woman went after him.”

“I must’ve missed something…”

“She was hitting on him, Harry, biting, you name it…”

“Maybe it’s menopause?”

“Yeah? Maybe. Anyway, I doubt those two will last much longer.”

“Too bad. I’ve always liked Cathy – kind of classy, ya know. Too bad.”

“Well, maybe they’ll get it together,” Lloyd added.

“You get those roofing nails?”

“Yeah, I put ‘em down by the ladder.”

“Oh well,” Harry moaned, “we better get back at it. We’re burnin’ daylight.”

“You gettin’ tired?”

“No. You?”

“I got a little bit left in me.”

“Well, let me buy the clams tonight, old man.”

“You ain’t exactly a spring chicken, ya know?”

Harry finished up the shingles, even running the ridge-line, then he went down and helped his dad get paintbrushes into thinner. After a quick shower, they met out front and were about to walk down to the waterfront when an old green Ford Mustang pulled up out front. Frank Bullitt jumped out of the car and ambled over.

“Lloyd,” Bullitt began, “good to see you again.”

“You too.”

“Harry? Long time no see. You get it all figured out?”

“Think so. What brings you out here?”

“Just thought I’d drop by. Y’all headed out?”

“Just down to the clam-shack. Wanna join us?”

“Sounds great. Wanna drive down?”

“Nah,” Lloyd said. “I need to work the kinks out. Legs’ll cramp up if I don’t.”

Bullitt nodded as they began the short walk down to the waterfront. “So, Harry. Where-ya been?”

“All over. New Orleans, Texas, New Mexico. Just looking around.”

“Oh? So…What are you going to do now?”

“What’s going on at the department?”

“Same ole same ole, but it doesn’t feel the same with Sam gone.”

“Nothin’ feels the same, Frank.”

“I know,” Bullitt sighed. “Anyway, Dell made lieutenant, so I just lost him.”

“When’s the next captains’ test?”

“December,” Bullitt replied, matter-of-factly.

“You going for it?”

“Yeah. Sam thinks I should.”

“I do too. It’s time. The division needs someone like you.”

“We could use you too, Harry.”

Callahan looked down, then nodded. “I kind of figured I’d put in my time, put in my twenty, anyway.”

Frank looked at Lloyd. “What are you going to do, sir?”

“I was eligible for retirement last year, Frank. I’m just not sure I’m ready to retire to my back yard yet.”

“Uh, Dad…we don’t have a back yard.”

“Goddammit, Harry, you know what I mean.”

Frank shook his head. “So, you going to keep at it a few more years?”

“Ya know, I’ve been wanting to go back to Scotland, visit relatives while I can still get around easily…”

“You’ve never mentioned that before, Dad…”

“And I’ve never told you I have hemorrhoids, either. So what?”

“I’d like to go with you, that’s all. That’s a part of me I know nothing about.”

“Are your folks still alive, Lloyd?” Frank asked.

“Goodness, no. They both passed during the war. I’ve got a sister in Glascow, though. I’d love to see her again.”

“I have an aunt? And I know nothing about her?”

“Aye, that you do, laddie,” Lloyd said…only now speaking in a thick brogue. “You’ll no doubt be awantin’ to meet her too, I reckon.”

“So, when are we goin’, Dad?”

“Well, she wants to come visit here. That may happen first.”

“Oh.”

“Anyway, I’m shipping out in a month. I’ll be gone through the new year, but we can talk about it when I get back.”

They arrived at the clam-shack and grabbed a table out on the wood deck overlooking the water; the tide was out and the briny shore was strong-smelling after a few hours in the sun. The last of the afternoon sun was slanting through houses and trees across the street, and a waitress clicked on patio heaters as the deck fell into shadow.

“Almost too cold for a beer,” Lloyd said.

“Never thought I’d hear you say that, Dad,” Harry said as their waitress walked up to the table.

“What’ll it be tonight, fellas?”

“I’m starting with an Irish coffee, Stella. The boys will be taking a pitcher of Anchor Steam, if I’m not mistaken. Then let’s have some fried clams. Any scallops tonight?”

“Yup, and fresh, too.”

“I’ll have a plate of broiled scallops then, Stella.”

“Me too,” Bullitt said.

“Better make it three,” Harry added.

“Slaw and fries?”

“Yup,” Lloyd said, just as Stella dropped her pencil. He bent to pick it up just before she did, and the sniper’s round slammed into her left shoulder before the sound hit the patio, spraying Frank and Harry with blood and bits of flying bone fragments. Everyone on the patio dove for cover…

…Everyone but Bullitt…

…who sprinted from the deck, his 45 drawn…

“You carrying, son?” Lloyd asked as he cradled Stella in his arms.

“Nope. I’ll get an ambulance headed this way…”

“You do that, boy,” Lloyd whispered, then he turned his attention to the wounded girl. “You hang on now, you hear? Help’s on the way, so you just hang on…”

He looked into her eyes, saw the stark terror lurking in her eyes, then came the fast, ragged breaths, the bloody foam from her mouth and nose…

“It’s alright now, lassie,” he whispered as he took the girl’s hands  in his own. “That warmth you’re feelin’? That’s God’s open arms cradlin’ you, cradlin’ you in his love. There’s nothin’ to be afraid of now, lassie. You’re going home now…”

She squeezed his hands once, tried to speak one more time – then she was gone.

Lloyd Callahan held her until the paramedics arrived, and when Harry found his father he was still sitting on the patio deck, his face awash in tears, his bloody hands shaking uncontrollably…

Frank had a patrolman drive them up to the house, and the two of them wrestled Lloyd into a hot shower before they got him into bed. Harry poured his old man a Scotch and made him drink a few sips, then he went out to the front porch.

Frank was waiting for him.

“Witnesses say it was a black Sedan de Ville, only plate information is the last three: 274.”

“It’s Threlkis,” Harry snarled.

“This isn’t over yet, Harry. Not by a long shot.”

“You got my paperwork ready?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, I’ll be in first thing in the morning.”

“Could I make a suggestion?”

“Sure.”

“Get your dad outta here. Ireland might be far enough away, but I doubt it.”

Harry nodded, and after Bullitt left he went inside and called Didi…

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and a last word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need until work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances (a little virus, not to mention a certain situation in Washington, D.C. springing first to mind…) so waiting to mention sources might not be the best way to proceed. To begin, the primary source material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the television reporter found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw.  I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred, though I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…]

The Eighty-eighth key, Chapter 64.4

88BH

EGBDF.

[Hearts and Bones \\ Paul Simon]

Chapter 64.4

Henry Taggart now faced an interesting choice, an unusual set of problems, and solely from the perspective of piloting the Swan back to the West Coast of North America there were few good options left to him now. They’d left Los Angeles in early December and now here they were – tied off in Hilo the day before Christmas Eve. The usual route back to Seattle, or to Vancouver, involved placing the North Pacific High on a routing chart and then looking at the most recent weather datums of the isobars surrounding the High. If you were foolish enough to try and skirt around the southern reaches of the high, the impudent voyager would beat into the wind for weeks – all while detouring as far south as the southern tip of Baja California – and then having to slam north against wind and current for as long as the boat, or the sailors on board, could take it. Sailing the rhumb line from Hilo to Ketchikan, Alaska would take you right into the center of the massive high pressure system that lurks around out there – and where little to no wind for weeks on end is a real possibility. Yet riding the wind around the high pressure system would carry the Swan north towards the Aleutian Island chain, necessitating a potentially life-threatening passage across the Gulf of Alaska – in January – to reach the West Coast. The best option, given current circumstances, boiled down to how far north the high pressure system would be pushed by the faltering hurricane, and for how long they could ride the low.

If — and Taggart had to assume this was a really big if — he could push the Swan along in the lee of the hurricane – for as long as it held up, anyway – he might be able to surf along in relatively warm weather more than half the way to Ketchikan. It was a ballsy move, and if the high filled-in too fast behind the hurricane they could be caught out in the middle of the North Pacific with no wind and with dwindling stocks of food and fuel. Still, again, given current circumstances — which included trying to avoid contact with Ted Sorensen while at the same time keeping little Dana in safe hands — he decided it was safer to top off the fuel and water tanks and make a quick grocery run at first light before setting out behind the hurricane.

And the odd thing? Tracy Abernathy stayed up with him as he downloaded the needed weather files and plotted the centers of both the North Pacific High and the eye of the hurricane on the huge, paper routing chart on the chart table, asking him questions as if she really wanted to understand what he was up to, and why he had come to the decision he had. And the thing is…she seemed to be putting some kind of move on him. Like she had been, well, locked up with the old man and she had found him…uninteresting, in that certain kind of way. She put her hand on the chart once and she made a little joke about something trivial then put her hand on his, and yet the thing was, to Henry, those fingers lingered a little too long to be just another innocuously incidental contact. So he had looked up and looked into her eyes and looked at his internal barometer for a second or so, and then, when she made eye contact too, something indefinable passed between them and everything that happened between them over the next three weeks was just a footnote to that moment.

She sealed the deal when she went to the fridge and produced a mastodon-sized rib-eye steak that she’d ordered for him at the steakhouse and then had wrapped up in a to-go package for him. She’d then put the foil-wrapped steak in a low oven with some butter and lime on top and then had warmed up the meat slowly. 

When she finished with his meat they were both more than a little satisfied with the results…

+++++

Debra Sorensen docked aquaTarkus at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor – just a stone’s throw from Wairkiki Beach in Honolulu. Ralph Richardson managed not to fall overboard when she pulled into the slip indicated by the Harbor Master, and yet as soon as the Vindo was tied-off, Ralph and his daughter Dana ran to grab a taxi to the airport. Now she was alone – and for the first time in weeks – with only Daisy-Jane by her side. And when she realized she would probably never see him again, she finally understood how much she was going to miss Henry Taggart, and what he’d come to mean to her. And to Daisy-Jane, who looked despondent now.

She sat in the cockpit, oblivious to the light rain still falling over the harbor, her head askew, her mouth loose while she settled into this new place, and yet she wondered how long it would take.

For her father, or some of his men, to come for her. Where would they take her? Or…would they?

A thick, billowy cloud of burning pot wafted over the boat, and she had to smile. This was, after all, Hawaii, and what did they call it? Maui-wowee? Someone nearby had to be smoking a kilo of the stuff right now, if the size of the smoke trail was any indication, and she grinned at the thought of the absurdity of her position. Alone, vulnerable and exposed, and about to suffocate in a cloud of burning weed… 

‘Well, there are probably worse ways to go,’ she sighed.

Daisy came up the companionway just then, the fur around her stitched-up wounds had still not completely covered her scars, and they looked at one another for a while, both wondering what was coming next. Then Debra remembered Daisy hadn’t eaten all day so she went below to fix her dinner, grabbing a small bottle of Ensure for herself – before shaking her head and putting that little bottle of despair back in the ‘fridge. 

‘I can’t go down that road again,’ she told herself, remembering her mind-numbing battles with Xanax her first autumn in Aspen, when Daisy had been a tiny little thing. ‘Maybe it’s time to try Prozac,’ she mumbled, trying to keep out of the way of all Henry Taggart’s aching echoes as she stumbled around the galley in the leftover darkness of his sudden departure…

Then Daisy Jane growled, a deep, low, mean kind of growl. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end. 

And that was that, she knew. “Well, that didn’t take long,” she sighed, never feeling more alone in her life. She went to her stateroom and grabbed the Sig P220 Henry had picked out for her and then she slowly made her way to the companionway steps, waiting in the gathering darkness that just had to be the end of the line. Daisy came and sat by her feet, hoping it wouldn’t hurt so much this time.

+++++

DD and Doc Watson had everything ready to go. Steaks were in the ‘fridge, her Caesar salad was in a bowl and all set for a quick toss, and The Doc had frozen margaritas ready to roll in the blender. Harry had to smile at the love that had sprung up around this little seaside haven, the love he felt a lingering echo of the brightest passion that had flared here, once upon a time. Of all the women he’d known or thought he had loved, Cathy was the one he missed the most now, and, in a way, how could he not. This house had, if anything, sprung from her mind. It was, in a very real sense, an expression of everything she thought she’d come to know about him, and yet she’d turned that knowledge into a gift. An even more special gift that they’d been able to experience together – if only for a few years.

So…what was that old saying? About the love that burns the brightest…?

Yes. Yes it had.

And yet, he still had Liz. Elizabeth. And yet he missed her, like any father misses a child that has flown the nest. Only…she wasn’t his daughter. She was his best friend’s daughter, the dead best friend. And Cathy’s daughter. So…where was his son? Why had that relationship gone so badly astray? Were all the usual suspects to blame? Pride and anger? Or jealousy, perhaps? What he wouldn’t do now to understand.

Deborah showed Brendan to his room and helped him get settled, and Harry asked DD if Didi could stay with them for a while…

…until DD reminded Harry that the small studio up the hill had a small flat attached — and that it was currently not in use.

“Well, Hell, that ought to work out just fine,” he grumbled, still not sure he wanted Didi anywhere close to him just yet…

And DD took a measure of the moment and backtracked: “But maybe she’d better stay with us until she learns her way around…?”

“Good thinking,” Harry sighed.

“Riesling or a Cabernet tonight, Harry?” she added hastily, covering her tracks.

“Could we start with apples and cheese and a Riesling?”

“We sure can,” she smiled — as the boy came back to the living room with Deborah.

Brendan looked around the room, remembering the last time he’d been here — ‘but wasn’t that just a few days ago? And what happened to my father…?’ — then he walked over to Harry’s Bösendorfer, the piano in the mitered glass projection that seemed almost like a gull perched on one of the rocks hovering over the sea, waiting to take flight again… Yet the boy hardly seemed aware of his surroundings…

And so Harry walked over and joined Brendan.

“How are you feeling?” Callahan asked, worried by the vacant stare he watched evolving.

“What happened to my father?”

“I’m not sure, Brendan. I think he’s grown scared of…”

“Of me. Yes, I think I could feel that. But maybe this has always been inevitable, Mr. Callahan.”

“You can call me Harry, okay?”

“Harry? Yes. Okay. I will try, if I can remember.”

“Do you play the piano?” Callahan asked.

“The guitar. I have a nice guitar at school, or maybe it’s at home. But…I…”

“But what, Brendan?”

“But I don’t have a home anymore, do I, Harry?”

“Sure you do, Brendan. This is your home now, and for as long as you want to stay and call it home.”

The man-child nodded his head slowly, looking at all the permutations this new equation afforded, then – ignoring Harry’s sidelong glance – he went and sat at the piano. “Which keys are what notes?” he asked, and so Harry sat beside him and slowly played the scale, announcing each note as he played. Then Brendan asked Harry to play a few major chords, and the man-child watched, memorizing, remembering, visualizing — and then, finally, playing several chords on his own.

Next, Callahan laid out the opening moves to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, note by note, chord by chord, but after a few minutes Brendan stopped Harry. 

“What is the name of this piece?” he asked.

“It’s called the Rhapsody in Blue. Have you ever heard of George Gershwin?”

“I remember it from somewhere. No, some time else.”

“Some time? What do you mean by that, Brendan?”

But the boy stopped what he was doing and began drawing problems in the air above the piano.

“What are you doing, Brendan? Can you tell me what you see?”

“I am looking for Mister Gershwin, Harry. I want to see how he came up with the numbers for this music.”

“How do you do that, Brendan?”

“Lean closer, Harry. Put your head next to mine and look…”

And so Callahan did.

And in the next instant Callahan began to follow Brendan’s fingers as they swished through the air — and it was as if the molecules pushed aside by the passage of the boy’s fingers began to vibrate, and Callahan realized he was now holding his breath, astonished as an amber-orange mist formed in the wake, and then, as numbers coalesced…

…Callahan heard something… 

…like the muffled clickety-clack clickety-clack sounds from inside a distant railway passenger car… 

…and then he saw Gershwin, sitting inside a railway car’s drawing room, scoring music as his body swayed to the beat of the clickety-clack clickety-clack sounds… 

And then Brendan began to wilt, as if the strain of producing this series of images had physically drained his being, so Harry now had to make a decision.

And so he did.

“Brendan? Put your hand on my shoulder…I want to show you something.”

A pink mote of dust in the air above them began to vibrate wildly, while out on the rocks the Old Man watched Harry and the boy, and he too held his breath — because so much was riding on the outcome of what happened next.

+++++

Nothing moved. Not even the air around her.

She watched her human walk out into the night, so she followed.

And there was another human out there. Tall. Dressed in the same color as the night, and she recognized the thing in the other human’s hand. The metal thing that made so much noise it hurt.

+++++

Debra saw the man and froze. The gun in his hand was already up and ready. There was nothing in his eyes. No fear. No anger. No regret.

‘So, this is it?’ Debra sighed inwardly. Now she knew. Her father had abandoned her. Completely. And she would die here on this boat so far away from everything she had ever known, and now without the one person who might’ve helped her. She watched as the man screwed a silencer onto the end of his pistol’s barrel…

“Don’t hurt the dog, okay?” she asked.

But the man just brought a single finger up to his lips and gently shushed her, nodding his head as he did, then he brought the pistol up and put it right up against her forehead.

And just then Daisy Jane began to growl. Again.

+++++

She was sure now. The other human was going to hurt her human.

Now there was only one thing to do.

+++++

The man was distracted by the sound and he looked down, saw the dog’s mouth opening and he almost began to feel the crushing pressure around his scrotum as the dog made contact – but just then he felt an explosive pain in the middle of his back…

He saw the woman jump back as searingly impossible pain enveloped him, pushing everything else from his mind, but through it all he remembered the pistol in his hand. He was dying now and he knew it, yet the last instinct in this final moment of his life was to finish the job. He struggled to focus, to bring his hand up again, then he felt teeth encircle his head and the bones in his face began to… 

+++++

Debra recoiled away from an explosive wound that emerged from the man’s gut – just as she felt Daisy-Jane at her knees – now lunging for the man’s groin. Then she realized that something huge, something like the spear from a Scuba diver’s speargun, had just blown through the man’s midsection, and now he was falling…overboard. So…she gave him a push, and she saw that last startled expression on his face, and in his eyes…as he fell…

…into the gaping mouth of the orca, waiting there just under the stern. The big male caught the assassin’s head in his mouth and slowly rolled away and under the water, disappearing in an instant…

+++++

“Whoa! What the fuck!” the hairy, big-footed Southern California surfer-dude said as he watched the orca pull the assassin under the inky water.

Debra turned and looked at the immense, bearded-hairy monster standing there – inside a billowing rainbow haze of ascending pot smoke. The dude’s aura was all over the place, too… Shock, surprise, a little fear too — but no malice towards…anyone. She thought the guy looked kind of like Jeff Bridges, too – and he certainly sounded just like the actor. But then again, everyone from Orange County who hung at the beach sounded just like Jeff Bridges.

And then she saw the speargun – in the dude’s hands.

“Man, are you like alright,” the dude asked, hopping off his old trimaran onto the dock. “What was up with that fucker? Did you, like, forget to pay your Exxon bill, or what?”

And Debra could see that the dude was beyond stoned. He was, she guess, already in low earth orbit and headed for Venus, but he’d just saved her life and killed a man in the process. “I’m fine, and thanks for the help,” she replied.

“Did you know that guy?”

“Nope.”

“Well, shit, we sure fucked up his night,” the dude said, laughing a little while he bent over and looked into the water. He began to sway and looked ready to topple and fall into the water, and not knowing what else was lurking down there Debra hopped off aquaTarkus and reached out for the dude – just as he was about to crash and burn right out there on the pier – and after she steadied him up she helped him across and onto her boat. He plopped down onto a cockpit seat and when he began to lean over she propped him up against the cockpit’s hard dodger. 

Debra turned on the cockpit lights and saw blood everywhere, even around Daisy-Jane’s mouth, so she put down her Sig and pulled out the wash-down hose and sprayed off all the cockpit’s many faceted nooks and crannies. Then she sprayed down Daisy and toweled her off.

The dude’s eyes were now almost completely rolled back in his head when he started singing…

“If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck, I’d swim to the bottom and drink it all up…”

“You know, I don’t think you need any whiskey right now,” she sighed as she sprayed off her own legs and feet, then she saw little bits of blood and guts all over the front of her t-shirt – so right there she peeled her shirt off and the dude approved of that, and wholeheartedly too.

“Man, you got some gorgeous knockers, you like know that, right?”

“Thanks. You do to,” she said, marveling at the size of the beer belly under the dude’s filthy polo shirt.

“Yeah? Ya think so?”

She smiled and cast a wary eye at her erstwhile savior.

“That your pistol, man?” he said, picking up the Sig. 

“Yes, it sure is.”

“You a cop or something?”

“Why do you want to know that?”

“Man, the only people I know that carry Sigs are cops.”

“You know many cops?”

“Used to be one, once upon a time, anyway.”

“Really? Here in Hawaii?”

His eyes rolled again and he shook his head violently, trying to come back to the moment. “No, man, Washington, D.C. Los Federales, ya know. G-Man. Federal Bureau of Butt Fuckers,” he snarled  — before he started giggling and slapping a knee.

“You retire, or get your ass fired?”

“Reeee-tired, Ma’am, with full fucking benefits, too.”

“And don’t tell me, let me guess…you’re from Newport Beach, right?”

“Balboa Island,” he giggled. “Born and bred. Say, how’d you know that?”

“Lucky guess,” Debra sighed. She looked at the dude’s boat and it was beyond help: faded fibreglass everywhere and the sails were in tatters. He’d gone out in search of the dream and landed here, smack dab in the middle of pot central, and here he was gonna stay. 

Except he’d just killed a man. Someone who was going to be missed. And there were probably a half dozen security cameras around here that had recorded the whole thing, too.

“You got a passport?” she asked.

“Why? We going somewhere?” he replied.

“Yeah. We better get you away from here for a while, if you know what I mean, jelly bean.”

“Jelly bean? Hey, I like that.”

“Passport? Wallet, money? Go get ‘em. Now.”

She started the diesel and waited for him to stumble over to his boat and back, and when he came out of the clouds of smoke he was carrying a small duffel stuffed with t-shirts and underwear.

“Oh, sweet Jesus,” she muttered under her breath. “Think you can cast off the dock lines?” she asked hopefully.

“Yeah, man. Where we headed?”

“Out there,” Debra Sorensen said, pointing to a horizon suddenly very far away.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

[Rhapsody in Blue \\ Kingsley & Hambro]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 64.3

88 mind drive SM

A brief walk in the woods, as one storm clears.

[Mr Blue Sky \\ ELO]

Chapter 64.3

Sumner and Henry decided to walk to the steak place, and while Dana chose to ride on her father’s shoulders, she had grown so much over the last couple of hours that he was having quite a time of it. But handling her steadily increasing weight wasn’t the only problem, so when Tracy and the Old Man passed in a taxi, and as Sumner had just about decided that automobiles weren’t so bad after all, the burdens of fatherhood took on a whole new patina to Henry Taggart. After a half hour walk he was now well and truly tired.

But eating animal flesh was, however, a step too far for Dana. When Henry described what a steak was to her, and more to the point where steaks came from, she shrieked in terror and ran from the restaurant, Henry in hot pursuit. He talked her into trying the salad bar at a nearby seafood restaurant, and she seemed mollified by his sudden change of heart.

“Who told you it was bad to eat meat?” he asked her as she fumbled with her fork — yet another ‘new’ experience that evening.

“Isn’t that self-evident, Father?” she replied, the tone of her chiding retort at once admonishing and pedantic, and which Henry thought sounded an awful lot like Brendan Geddes — with a nice melange of Debra tossed on top just for good measure.

“Well, maybe, but human evolved over time to be omnivores, not herbivores. By the way, do you know the difference between those two words?”

And he watched her closely just then, because he’d had a sneaking suspicion, a hunch that just wouldn’t go away, and as he watched her formulating a response that answer seemed to fall into place.

Because she paused, almost like a computer seeking out the allotted space on a drive where certain bits of knowledge were stored, and within that pause she almost seemed closed off to the external world.

And only after a few moments did her reply take shape. “Yes, Father, I think so. A herbivore eats grasses and foliage, whereas an omnivore eats everything.”

“That’s correct. Can you tell me where you learned that information?”

“I’m not sure, Father.”

“Can you tell me if this knowledge came from outside of yourself?”

“I’m not sure, Father, but I think that may be true.”

He held up a piece of smoked salmon, then he looked her in the eye: “Would you try this for me, please?”

“What is it, Father?”

“It’s called salmon. It’s a fish that lives in the sea.”

“I cannot eat that, Father.”

“Okay. Do you like your salad?”

“Yes, very much.”

“Which things do you like the most?”

She pointed at pickled beets and asparagus spears, foods with a high mineral content, and he nodded. “Why do you ask, Father?”

“Well, when I go to the store to buy food for you to eat, now I’ll know what to buy.”

“But I don’t need to eat, Father.”

“Really? What about fluids? Do you need to drink things like water, or…milk?”

“I need complex carbohydrates.”

He looked around the table and all he had to choose from was water, orange juice, and his beer, a Budweiser in a frosty long-necked bottle. “Try the orange juice,” he said, moving the glass close to her. 

She took a sip and put the glass down. “What do you call this flavor?”

“The main flavor you taste is a simple sugar we call glucose, and the molecular formula is C6H12O6. And yes, Dana, this is a complex carbohydrate. Do you know why it’s called that?”

Again the pause, again the cycling through knowledge stored…somewhere.

“Yes, because of the photosynthetic interaction of oxygen and carbon dioxide during the formation of cellulose.”

“Alright. Now try this,” he said, pouring a little Budweiser into an empty glass and pushing it across the table to her. She picked it up and took a sip, then she smiled and studied the liquid before finishing the glass.

“What is this called, Father?”

“This is called Budweiser, Dana, and Budweiser is a type of beer.”

“Is this a complex carbohydrate, Father?”

“Oh yes, it’s very complex indeed.”

“I like this, Father. Budweiser is a very good thing.”

“Yes,” he sighed, “Budweiser is a very good…thing.” 

+++++

As the CAT Huey settled on the ramp Callahan slid the door open and let the fresh sea breeze roll through the stuffy cabin, then he stepped out onto the skid and turned to help Deborah down to the ground. Brendan was focused on a problem in the beyond, his fingers working through solutions as they came to him, yet Didi looked at him with something akin to reverence in her eyes. She watched until he came to a pause and then she reached out, put a hand on his shoulder.

“Can you come with me now?” Didi asked him politely, almost gently.

Brendan seemed to struggle for a moment, and Callahan had trouble understanding what the boy was going through. There were moments when the boy almost seemed ‘normal’ – but then he’d see something up there beyond the far side of the sky and he was off again. To wherever he went inside those moments, but now he watched as the boy respond to Didi, to really take note of who was reaching out to him, and this time he seemed to listen, and respond – to her.

“Right,” he said, taking her hand and stepping out of the Huey, shielding his eyes from the midday sun with an awkward salute. The rotors were still winding down, the wilting wings still making a faint whooshing sound as they acred by just overhead, and Brendan instinctively ducked a little as he followed Didi over to Harry and Deborah. After the pilot carried their luggage over he climbed back into the Huey and restarted the turbines, and Harry stood there watching as the helicopter lifted slowly from the ramp and turned to the south, towards San Francisco, and Didi could only imagine the anguish he must’ve felt. He’d been a pilot, after all, and pilots never ever stop being pilots. Pilots never stopped remembering, too — and she was the one who had taken all that from him.

She’d felt, at one point during the flight, that he really was going to open the door and toss her into the sea — and yet she understood him. In a way she even agreed with his reasoning, even with the locus of his rage, but she hoped one day he might take the leap and see what she’d been trying to do. She’d never really loved him, not really, even though she’d hooked up with one of Callahan’s pilots once, even though that had been little more than a veiled attempt to stay close to him. Even if that brief union had ultimately proven to be a disastrous mistake, she’d stayed true to him, helped secure his economic future, and she’d begun to feel something like a duty to protect him. But she watched him closely now, watched him watching Brendan, then looking at Deborah, and she kept focusing on his eyes as he swept in the scene. He was, in the end, a predator. Dangerous. Yet she had held him once, almost as a falconer holds a falcon… 

But no, that too was an illusion. Callahan was a killer, true, and he always would be, but there was nothing she could do to change that. No falconer’s hood would obscure his way of seeing the world, no enticing treats would tether him to anything beyond the moment – so she would have to hold him in the moment, somehow earn his trust in order to keep him close again. She knew she had to try, and right now, or she would lose him forever. And then she saw Callahan looking at the boy again, still confused, still wary of the hidden power the boy seemed to grasp, and then, in a flash, she saw the way ahead…

‘Yes,’ she replied to the coaxing little voice inside, ‘I have to try…’

+++++

Dana climbed up on her father’s shoulders again, for the walk back to the boat, and once again she felt heavier to him. Her legs were a little longer than just an hour ago, and even her hands were taking on a more slender form. A more adult form. And Taggart found these rapid metamorphic bursts more than a little unnerving; no, they were almost inhumanly spooky.

But everyone was waiting for them as the two of them marched along Banyan Drive, heading back to Hilo’s tiny harbor. The rain had stopped completely and he wondered if the hurricane’s eye had arrived, and then he felt her in his head, roaming through his thoughts.

“The storm has passed to the east-northeast, Father,” she said. “It will be of no consequence to us now.”

He took a deep breath, tried to clear his mind — but he knew it was useless. She had full, unfettered access to anything in his mind, at any time, and he realized it was his duty – as her father, even her chosen father — to help her understand the world. In a way, he felt this very well might be the most important thing he would ever do in this life.

‘Just like any father,’ he sighed as he took in another deep breath, inhaling the heavy, storm-tossed air, taking in the flowering plants and freshly mown grass just a few yards away.

“You never wanted to be a father, did you?” she asked him — out of the blue.

“Oh, I don’t know, Spud. I think it’s more like I never expected to be a father. I never expected to run into anyone I’d fall in love with.”

“But you don’t love Debra. I can feel that, Father.”

“Can you? Well, maybe there’s a difference between knowing something is true and feeling something may be true.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I.”

“Yes you do. They chose you, Father, and they never make mistakes.”

He felt the icy grip of the unknown once again. ‘They’ must be where, or to whom, she went to find answers to the things she didn’t know — yet. And so, as he’d seen them under the sea in the lagoon at Bora-Bora, ‘They’ had to reside in the spheres he’d seen there…

“Well,” he continued, “you discovered a feeling you thought I had for Debra, but feelings are often fleet-footed things, Dana, something born of the moment — so they are often ethereal little etchings of Time that can fade away as easily as this storm.”

“How is that different from knowing?”

“Well, when you know you love somebody, I mean when you really deep down inside know that you do, that’s more than a feeling, Dana. That’s real love.”

“So real love doesn’t go away?”

“No, Honey, I don’t think that it does. In fact, I don’t think it can go away, even if we want it to.”

“So the way you feel about Mother is the kind of feeling that fades away?”

“I’m not really sure, Spud.”

“Why do you call me that?”

“Spud? Oh, it’s just something I want to share just between us, between you and me.”

“Isn’t a spud a potato?” 

“Or something little that’s growing really fast. Like you.”

“How can you not be sure how you feel, Father?”

“I think it has something to do with being human, Dana. Sometimes we just have a really hard time deciding how we feel about some things. And maybe there are times when we can never really know what we feel about certain things. And sometimes things happen that change our mind for us.”

“So there are things you can never understand?”

“Yes. Maybe so.”

“What about me? Do you love me?” He shuddered to a stop and lifted her up and over his head, then he gently placed her her feet on the pavement. “Why did you do that, Daddy?”

He paused and thought about that — just as the Old Man and Tracy drove past — so Henry turned and saw Sumner jogging along to catch up to them while he thought about the best way to handle Dana’s question. Knowing full well, of course, that she was still in his mind…

“There are lots of different kinds of love, Dana. There’s the kind of love you’re talking about, the love between friends or between parents and their children. But we can also ‘love’ a photograph or a painting or a piece of music, too, and in a way it’s still a kind of love — just not the same kind of love I have for your mother, or even for you.”

“So you’re saying you love me?”

“I am, Dana, because I do. What about you? Do you love me?”

“There was a certain way of feeling I began to understand when Mother was taking care of me on the first boat, and she told me this feeling is called love.”

“That’s a part of it, yes.”

“So, love has many…parts?”

“Oh, yes,” he said — just as Sumner caught up to them. “You look seriously out of breath, Amigo,” he said to the cop. “Too much salad, perhaps?”

“I had a porterhouse about the size of Memphis,” Sumner said, stifling a magmatic belch as he grinned at Taggart. “No rabbit food for me.”

“You ate a piece of dead cow the size of a city?” Dana said, her eyes watering in fear.

“Maybe two cities,” Sumner sighed, rubbing his distended belly. “Damn, that was some good grazin’, Hank. Sorry you missed out.”

“Oh, we found a nice salad bar, didn’t we, Spud?”

“Yes, we did. I especially liked the Budweiser,” Dana added, grinning at her father.

Sumner looked at Henry, an arched left eyebrow vaulting skyward. “Budweiser, huh. And you are how old, Young Lady? Two weeks, or is it three now?”

But when Sumner realized the imbecility of his statement he seemed to pull away from the puritanical admonishments he was readying for Taggart, then he just shrugged and fell in beside the two of them as they resumed their march back to the boat.

A taxi pulled up to the little quay just as Henry and his little troupe arrived, and Tracy ran over and gave Dana Richardson a hug — before she reached out and shook Ralph’s hand.

“Who’s that, Father?” his Dana asked.

But Henry couldn’t answer that question, because he had no idea what the future held in store for him now.

Curiously enough, however, his Dana seemed very interested in the new arrivals.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

[Goodbye Blue Sky \\ Pink Floyd]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 64.2

88 mind drive SM

On and on and a little deeper we go. Time for tea? One cup today, maybe two if you wanna go slow, [and oh, as an aside, the image above is of a fMRI from a small mammalian brain stem overlapping an image of the Andromeda galaxy. Heaven only knows why I come up with these things, but there you go. Every picture tells a story…kind of like music, for that matter…]

[Lie for a Lie \\ Mason + Fenn]

Chapter 64.2

She seemed to like riding on his back, holding on with her legs and playing with his ears as he walked through the marina. Sumner Bacon followed along a step or two behind, carrying their bags from the chartered boat and trying to keep up with Henry as he jog-walked out to the Swan 65. Still, for Bacon the feeling of walking on solid ground was now almost nauseating. After two weeks at sea, Bacon was almost homesick for the feel of terra firma underfoot, yet now that it was here he felt out of step with the world…because now even the world seemed unsteady. 

Not so for Henry Taggart. 

Dana was still a kid but she was growing fast, and as he carried her along he resolved to spend more time with her — just in case… 

The three of them — Sumner, Dana, and himself — had remained onboard the sportfisher, concealed in the forward compartment while Deborah, Callahan, the Kid and his father disembarked in Kahului. A few minutes later the boat pulled away from the quay and returned to the open sea, heading out and around the west end of the island, bound for the tiny marina in Maalaea, on the south side of the island — with Henry & company still onboard.

The General had left the Swan in Maui after the last Vic-Maui race, planning to sail out to Midway with his son — but almost predictably those plans had fallen through and the boat had been gathering barnacles at this marina for months. When Henry called the General and went over current circumstances, the Old Man had generously offered use of the Swan as part of Henry’s subterfuge, and it now appeared as if the plan might work, because so far there’d been no sign of a tail.

And there he was, as expected.

The General stood on the quay above the Swan, waiting to get them below as quickly, and as unobtrusively, as possible.

Henry put Dana down on the pier and jumped aboard, then the General took her hand and helped her aboard… 

“Henry? I thought you said you were dealing with a baby?” the Old Man asked as Bacon passed their bags up to Henry.

“Are we ready to cast off the lines?” Taggart asked, evading the question.

The Old Man shrugged. “All tanks topped off and food for six weeks. We in some kind of a hurry?”

“Yessir, and we’ll need to keep an eye out for bad guys until we get well offshore.”

“Okay. I’ll handle the bow lines. You got the stern?”

“Can’t we stay just a little longer?” Sumner Bacon pleaded. “I was kinda hoping…”

“Sorry,” Taggart said as he started the diesel and cast off the lines, gently backing out of the slip while he switched the radar to standby. He zoomed out on the chartplotter and found Ketchikan, Alaska, then the green number one buoy marking the Dixon Channel Entrance, and he set that as waypoint number one as they sailed out of the marina. 

Bacon and the Old Man helped Dana down to her very own stateroom while Taggart found binoculars and pulled them out of their cubby, and he scanned the marina and the few buildings in the area  – and still he saw nothing unusual, no sign of a tail. 

“And why would anyone follow us here?” he wondered aloud. “Who’d be crazy enough to finish up a 2,300 mile crossing and hop on another sailboat to make an additional 2,700 mile crossing?”

“I know I’m not. At least I wouldn’t if I had any say in the matter,” Bacon said as he crawled up the forward companionway, now shaking his head as he looked at the remnants of the hurricane speeding their way.

+++++

Debra had no clue. No idea who the middle aged man was, the one with, apparently, the daughter, the pair who had hopped aboard aquaTarkus. She was only too glad for the help, yet whatever happiness she might have hoped for was cut short when she learned the man had only limited sailing experience — so he was of limited use right now. But Henry had already laid in the course and the hurricane did indeed appear to be moving more to the north-northeast, so maybe they’d miss the worst of the heavy weather, and so what if she finished up the voyage without Henry. He’d been distant almost the entire trip, and the easy familiarity between them had given way to strained bits of odd silence here and there. She’d ended up spending almost the entire crossing holed up in her stateroom with Dana – but now Dana was gone too, and then all of a sudden she realized that Brendan was gone, too – so that left these two strangers with her… 

“I suppose we’d better introduce ourselves,” the man said — almost apologetically. “My name is Ralph, Ralph Richardson, and this is my daughter Dana…”

“Dana?” Debra stated, though perhaps a little too quizzically. 

“Yes, that’s me,” the girl said, but Debra could see the girl was hiding deep pain behind her flat brown eyes.

Debra held out her hand and Dana took it, then Deb shook Ralph’s as well. “So, you want to get me up to speed on all this, Ralph?”

Ralph was turning green and Deb recognized all the signs. “Here, take the wheel and concentrate on the horizon. Have you taken any seasick meds?”

“Nope,” Dana sighed. “I think we’re all out of stuff to throw up, anyway. It’s just been the dry heaves for the last hour or so.”

Debra hopped below and picked up a fresh box of omeprazole and a couple bottles of GatorAid, then she popped back up to the cockpit. “Here, take two of these,” she said as she handed over the bottles.

“Heartburn medication?” Ralph asked. “What gives?”

“Seasickness starts when stomach acid ramps up as a result of all the unusual motion, so cut back on stomach acid and guess what happens?”

“Really?” they both cried.

“Yup, it works. Just keep focused on the horizon while the meds get to work.” She took the wheel and resumed her course to clear Molokai, and periodically she watched them suck down the electrolytic fluids and nodded. “You’ll feel better in a half hour,” she added. They were heeled-over pretty good to starboard so she let out the main a little and fell off the wind, too, and the motion settled down some more.

“The crash in LA?” Ralph said a few minutes later. “Were you there when that happened?”

“Yes?”

“My wife was the pilot in command.”

“What? You mean…?”

He nodded.

“Jeez, I’m so sorry, but how on earth did you end up here?”

+++++

The Old Man had brought along a friend, a twenty-something looking girl with long legs and wavy red hair, and Henry guessed she was the latest secret in a long line of secrets, but she was, apparently, a wizard in the galley and that was that. The Old Man could have his peccadilloes, Henry thought, as long as he wasn’t asked to lie about the matter.

But, as it happened, Tracy Abernathy was a bit more than a galley slave, or even a mistress, for that matter. She had been a graduate student interning at a “small software concern in Redmond” when she came up on the General’s radar one evening. Her area of interest was AI, and as she was an emerging superstar in the field he had arranged for their paths to cross. He’d wanted to get her together with Taggart ever since, let Henry think on the matter for a while, because the General had been wanting someone to have a crack at decoding the flight control systems of the ARV — and Abernathy might be just the one to do it.

Then Henry had gotten pulled into Debra Sorensen’s intrigues so he’d taken Tracy out to the air base and shown her around, and yes, she’d been interested. After she freaked out for a few days, anyway. 

She’d been working on capitalizing an AI start up before the crash hit in October, working with a broker at Lehman named Ralph Richardson, and he’d even been out to visit a couple of times before the bottom fell out and things went to Hell. Then she heard about his wife and the crash, and she’d called him. She found out he was headed to Goldman Sachs, and she’d wondered if he was still interested in putting together a deal? 

She called him when he got back to New York, and of course he was. “Could you come out to Seattle?” she asked. “There are a few people I’d like you to meet.”

“As long as I can bring my daughter. She’s having a tough time right now…”

And at about the same time Henry had called the Old Man. Henry told him all about events out on the Vincent Thomas Bridge. All about this weird baby thing. And because The General was always looking at The Big Picture he thought he saw a new pattern emerging in the chaos. He called friends who talked to friends at Goldman and suddenly Richardson was on extended leave, working on a special project for the Pentagon. He asked Tracy if she had any interest in sailing, and by the time Richardson and his daughter made it out to Seattle the rough outlines of a plan were taking shape. The General had known someone was going to have to get set up to capitalize on certain alien technologies, and while Boeing and Lockheed were well positioned to move on the technologies surrounding flight, why not start up a new venture to cover…whatever of interest came up? Like flight control systems, maybe, or even FTL drives?

Now everyone was on the Swan and Henry was working at the chartplotter; the Old Man came topsides carrying a plate loaded with fresh, hot pastrami sandwiches — Henry’s current favorite — and he sat down across from Henry and passed over half a sammie. 

“Set your course for Hilo,” the Old Man said — out of the blue.

“Hilo?”

“Yup. We won’t be staying.”

“Hell, sir, there ain’t no place to stay there.” He punched in the numbers and set the autopilot to steer while he munched on his pastrami sammie.

“So,” the Old Man began. “What’s with the girl. Dana, you said?”

“Yessir. And she says I’m her father.”

That was good for an arched eyebrow. “You? Her father? Well, obviously she’s not quite human, or is she?”

“Well, she’s sure not a machine,” Henry said, his feathers ruffled a little.

“So let me get this straight…you feel something — for this…child?”

“You know, I haven’t really thought all that much about it, but yes, I suppose I do.”

“You’ve been out of the loop, Henry, so you’d better let me get you up to speed. The DoD is working overtime trying to figure out what happened out there on the bridge. There are videotapes, by the way. Classified, of course. The metal on the bridge was ionized in places. Theoretically impossible, I’m told. The EMP took out half of LA, from Oxnard to Dana Point, anyway. And a shitload of people saw that baby arrive.”

“Okay,” Henry said, now wondering where this was going.

“And you show up with a baby that looks, to my out of practice eye, to be about seven years old.”

“You forgot to mention that she’s cute as hell.”

The General slowly shook his head. “Henry? She ain’t human. Okay? You reading me?”

“Loud and clear. Who’s the red head?”

“An expert in AI, DoD cleared. I want to bring her in on The Project, let her help you decipher the ship’s computers.”

“And…?”

“And then I want to capitalize on what we learn.”

“I hear a discrepancy there, sir. Between the ‘I want’ and the ‘we learn.’”

“None intended.”

“Okay. What else don’t I know?”

“Let’s just say the situation is fluid right now, Henry. The more we learn about this situation the more complicated the way forward appears.”

“Complicated? Why do I not like the way that sounds?”

“Well, it turns out there are at least two more ARV projects in the works. One in Israel, and the other in, well, a peculiar enclave in Argentina.”

“Peculiar?”

“Well, you know the story. A bunch of Nazis bugged out when the Russians were closing in on Berlin, and a lot of their scientists settled in and around Bariloche. So, recently we find out there’s an advanced ARV project down there, one with peculiar ties to shadowy groups in both Europe and the U.S.”

“I’m sorry, but does Indiana Jones have anything to do with this? Or James Bond, perhaps?”

“What’s with the cop?” the Old Man asked, changing course again. “Can we talk around him?”

Henry shrugged. “He’s smart, he listens, and he has balls. And Dana likes him, for whatever that’s worth. I assume he’d be a liability if he returned to his old job.”

“Okay. So, do we take him in or do we let him swim for it. Your call, Henry.”

“Jesus, life isn’t always so black and white…”

“The Hell it isn’t. You know what’s at stake here.”

“Okay. He stays with Dana from now on. Call him a bodyguard, and make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

“Done,” the Old Man said.

“What’s with this Callahan character?” Henry asked. “Know much about him?”

“Apparently that kid, Brendan, called him. Callahan called the boy’s father.”

“Okay. So…how’d he get here?”

“He called me.”

“He called you? Like…out of the blue?”

“Uh-huh.”

“What am I missing here, sir?”

“He knows stuff, Henry. I don’t know how, but he does. I put people on him and then the Israelis get mad as hornets and the next thing I know is someone at State is telling us to back off. He’s got clearances higher than mine, too, so I’m keeping my hands off him for now.”

“You think he’s a part of this Israeli project you mentioned?”

“Doubtful, but who knows. He’s holed up north of San Francisco. Spends most of his time playing piano, as far as we can tell, anyway.”

“Any intel on the guy?”

“Standard package,” the Old Man said. “You wanna read it, it’s on my MacBook.”

“Not important,” Henry said, just as rolling thunder crashed overhead and lightning acred along the southern horizon. “You do know that going into Hilo will take us right into the middle of that goddamn storm, right?”

“Can’t be helped,” the Old Man sighed before he yawned. “You need a nap or anything?”

Henry thought about that for a split second, then he grinned. “Anything going on between you and the red head?”

The Old Man shook his head, then growled as he disappeared down the companionway.

“I’ll take that for a big fat no,” Taggart said, before he finished off the last of his sandwich.

+++++

“Our best guess,” Richardson said, “is that your father will be in Honolulu, either at the marina or nearby, when we get there. Your cover is you needed to get away from LA after all you’ve been through, and we’re just friends who you talked into coming with you. We’ll be heading to the airport as soon as we dock, so don’t bother with excuses, just wave and say goodbye.”

Dana Richardson came up the companionway, still looking green but no longer on the verge, and she plopped down next to her father. “There’s a cool Golden down there,” she said. “What’s her name?”

“Daisy-Jane.”

“What’s with all the scars and things?”

“She saved my life.”

The girl nodded while she put two and two together. “Would you mind if I slept with her for a while?”

“No, not at all. She’d like that.”

Dana stepped gingerly down the steps and disappeared into Debra’s cabin.

“She’s having a hard time, I take it?” Debra asked.

Ralph nodded, and he looked down a little. “She and her mom were really close. I was with Lehman when the bottom fell out so I had been going through a rough patch, then all this happened. I’m with Goldman now, but nothing’s the same.”

“My mom passed when I was seven. Cancer, so in a way I guess I understand.”

“I keep wondering if she’ll ever get over it. I guess I have my answer now, huh?”

Deb smiled. “Sometimes I think guys are wired differently, ya know? What about you? Are you keeping it together?”

“Sometimes when she’s not around I can let it go. Feels like a steamroller hit, ya know?”

“My dad came undone for a while, then he discovered work.”

“You don’t sound too bitter,” Richardson said, grinning just a little.

“I’ll never understand him, but then again I gave up trying a long time ago.”

“He doesn’t sound like the soft and cuddly type,” Richardson added. “From the little I’ve heard, anyway.”

“That’s what puppies are for, Mr. Richardson,” she sighed. “Still, sometimes what a girl really wants is for a father to step in and reassure her that things will be okay, at least that’s the way I look at it. Then again, I used to think the best father’s were the strong, silent type.”

“But not now?”

Debra shrugged. “I’d be content to know he loved me.”

“That doesn’t exactly sound good,” he said as he nodded understanding. “I hate to ask, but how far out are we?”

She looked at the chartplotter and did the math. “Call it sixty miles, maybe ten hours – unless we have to tack.”

“I won’t even ask,” Ralph sighed. “Sailing was never my thing.”

“Same with me, until I met Henry.”

“Are you two a thing?”

“Oh, once upon a time I held out hope, but no…” She leaned over and looked into the bottomless blue sea – but no, there wasn’t a thing down there now, and she hadn’t seen anything in the clouds either, so maybe they were all alone now. Finally…

“What’s that light over there,” he asked, pointing at the island of Molokai.

“Green and white beacon is an airport,” she said as she zoomed-in on the displayed chart. “That’s  Kalaupapa Airport, looks like cargo and limited passenger service.”

“Looks close.”

“Oh, I find distances very deceiving out here, especially close to shore.”

Richardson looked at his watch, and he seemed nervous now, then he looked over at her. “Sorry. This cloak and dagger stuff really isn’t my thing.”

“I’m curious…why are you here?”

“I saw a video of the incident on the bridge,” he began, but he stopped then and gathered his thoughts. “I guess I wanted to know what happened to Dana.”

“The baby?”

“No, no…Dana Goodman…was my wife’s sister. She got involved with some Israeli intelligence outfit back in the day but had been working in LA for a while. At any rate, that was the woman that disappeared out there on the bridge.”

“Odd,” Debra said. “She referred to me as her mother, and Henry as her father, and we think because of something that happened to us years ago…”

“Something…of a procreative nature?”

“You could call it that, but not really in a conventional sense, at least not the time in question. So in a way it looks like this baby, the girl we’re calling Dana right now, could be the result of three sets of DNA.”

“Is that even possible?” Richardson sighed.

“It’s not possible…until it is.”

“I guess what I’m saying is would someone like that still be human?”

“Did you see her when you came across?”

“I’m not sure I saw a baby. Who was she with?”

“She was the girl with Henry, the one on his back.”

“But…she was…”

“Exactly. If she’s human, she’s not of a type we recognize as such. I just spent almost two weeks with her, and she started speaking at about a week. A couple days later she was solving problems I hadn’t seen since college.”

“Problems?”

“Calculus, Mr. Richardson. And way over my head.”

“Fuck,” he whispered.

“You took the word right out of my mouth.”

“So…tell me about Henry Taggart…”

+++++

Henry could now just make out the light at the end of the breakwater, but Radio Bay was lost in the torrential downpour now pounding on the canvas bimini over his head. The deerskin cover on the wheel was saturated with cold water and now it felt squishy in his hands; Sumner was sitting with him, trimming the staysail constantly as raging gusts tore across Hilo Bay.

The Old Man was down below with Dana, and apparently it was Tracy Abernathy’s turn to get seasick — as she was nowhere to be seen. Heard, however, was another matter entirely — if the convulsive retching sounds coming from the aft head were any kind of indication of the action down there.

“You know,” Sumner sighed, “I think I’d kill to spend about an hour on nice, firm land.”

“This has been a real trial by fire for you,” Henry said as he wrestled the wheel over a ten foot roller. “On the other hand, you couldn’t ask to do it on a better boat.”

“I didn’t ask to do anything, Taggart.”

“True.”

“I need a fucking t-bone steak.”

“And lobster tails,” Henry added with a sigh.

“That doesn’t sound half bad.” 

Henry looked at his watch. “Ya know? We might just make it in time.”

“Make what?”

“There’s a decent steak place at the Hilo Hawaiian.”

“Teaser.”

Henry laughed — just as Tracy Abernathy came up the companionway steps. “What did I miss?” she asked.

But Henry just shook his head. “How you feeling?”

“Like death warmed over,” she groaned. “On the other hand, I probably lost a few pounds.”

Sumner grinned. “Why is it that skinny people seem to have no problem losing weight?”

“You think I’m skinny?” she said, flashing a coy little smile.

“Pardon my French, but I think you’re gorgeous,” Sumner blurted, but then he seemed to realize what he’d just said and Taggart thought it looked like the cop now wanted to vaporize, to disappear and get away from this unforced error.

Tracy, for her part, seemed to take it in stride. She was indeed a very good looking girl and she thought of herself as such. Sizing her up on the fly like this wasn’t his thing, but Henry looked at her reaction and felt she wasn’t in the least bit insecure — either about her looks or her accomplishments. And he liked that. “Well, we should be docking in about an hour,” Henry said quickly, covering for Sumner as best he could, “so if you feel like grabbing a bite feel free to come along.”

“Seems like the winds are less now,” she said, looking first around the boat and then at Hilo, now just ahead.

“We’re in the island’s wind-shadow now. It’s dropped about ten knots so far.”

“So, that’s Hilo?” she asked, as she came up to the helm, her attention going right to the chartplotter. She seemed to intuit which buttons did what, even where obscure functions were buried in nested sub-menus, and when she noted Henry’s dismay she keyed him in. “I read the instruction manual when I wasn’t barfing,” she sighed.

“You were reading? Down below?” he asked.

“Yes? Why?”

“Geesh, that’s the perfect way to get seasick.”

She grinned at that. “Well, it worked.”

“Here. Take the wheel, stare at that white tower on the end of the breakwater.” It was funny, he thought, how quickly seasickness vanished once you focused on a distant object. “Hey Sumner, could you check on Dana and the Old Man, tell him we’ll be docking soon…?”

“Right.”

Henry pulled out his paper chart and reread the notes he’d scribbled there a few hours ago, and he told Tracy to turn left to 112 degrees magnetic once they passed the end of the long breakwater.

“I don’t see a marina,” she stated as she peered through the rain.

“There isn’t one. Just a few spaces to tie-off for an hour or two.”

“Why are we coming here?”

“You don’t know?” Henry asked.

“No.”

“Well, the Old Man didn’t tell me squat. I just go where he tells me to go, if you know what I mean, jelly-bean.”

She chuckled at that. “So, you’re working on the ARV project?”

Henry looked away, not knowing if this was some kind of security test or something else designed to check on his integrity, so he ignored the question, then decided to go forward and start setting out the dock lines. When he came aft again everyone, including Dana, was in the cockpit, only now Dana looked to be about ten years old and the sight really struck him this time around. He passed them by and went to the aft lazarette and pulled out a pile of salt-encrusted dock lines, so he hosed them down with fresh water and set them out before returning to the wheel…

“Hello, Daddy,” Dana said to him, a quizzical look in her eyes.

“Hi, Spud. How’re you feeling?”

“Good.” And then the little girl did something that caught Henry completely off guard: she came over and gave him a hug.

So he picked her up and brought her face to his, and he kissed her on the forehead then held her close, and there was something naturally satisfying about holding this copy of himself so close — even if he really didn’t understand what she was.

“Why did you do that,” she whispered.

“Because you’re my Dana and I love you,” he whispered right back in her ear.

Yet the way her arms went around his neck said it all. Love was hard wired into his little girl after all, and he marveled once again how good her skin felt on his, and when he pulled away a moment later he was surprised how intensely connected he felt to the girl. ‘Is this what fatherhood feels like?’ he asked himself.

And then he felt her reply — inside his mind. ‘Oh yes, of course! Isn’t this wonderful?’

‘You can hear me?’ he asked — as he quickly put her down.

‘Yes, and I can feel what you feel…’

She was, he realized in the next instant, just the next logical step up from Debra — with her ability to ‘see’ — and he was suddenly, and completely, unnerved…

‘What is it, Father? What’s wrong?’

But it was too late. He had pulled away from her now, as suddenly frightened of her as he had been around Debra, only now he felt quite sure there would be no way to keep anything from the little girl… 

…and he was right. He could see the confusion and disappointment in his daughter’s eyes, the infinite pain written all over her face, and he couldn’t help himself. He picked her up again and held her close. ‘This is all too new to me,’ he told her, ‘so don’t feel unwanted or unloved when I react to new things.’

‘Okay, Daddy,’ he felt her say, ‘I’ll try, but please don’t be afraid of me…’

+++++

Callahan led the way up the Jetway and into the main terminal, then he led Brendan’s father to his flight down to LA. And, interestingly enough, Callahan felt the whole experience kind of surreal, like the boy’s father was formally abdicating the role of parent — and father — as he turned away and boarded the United shuttle. Even Brendan seemed devoid of any emotion in that moment, and Callahan felt like the boy’s father had never really been there for him. Deborah Eisenstadt followed along, holding the boy’s hand through the terminal all the way to the check-in kiosk for Callahan Air, and they walked right out to the apron and boarded the silver and red Bell 412.

“Keep the door open a minute,” Harry told the pilot…and a minute later Didi Goodman walked out onto the ramp, and Harry helped her up and into a seat.

“Where are we headed?” the pilot asked.

“Sea Ranch,” he replied, then he turned to Didi. “And you?”

“That works for me,” she said, looking up and smiling as she buckled in.

Harry sat beside Didi after he helped secure the main door, then he turned to her. “Do you have a place to stay?”

“Yes,” she said, her voice suddenly faraway, her affect flat.

“You want to tell me what’s going on?”

She pantomimed headphones and Harry reached for a pair of pale green Clark headphones and set the intercom to private as the helicopter took off. After she slipped her phones on she shot him a thumb’s up.

“Okay,” Callahan said. “You’ve got about 50 minutes, so start talking.”

“You probably never noticed, but Avi Rosenthal’s house was wired. Audio and video. The afternoon when von Karajan visited your mother, when she played the closing bars of the Fourth, all that was captured. On video, Harry.”

Callahan was too stunned to speak, but his eyes must’ve given away what he was feeling…

“Harry, when she played the closing bars, she apparently accessed some kind of harmonic gateway, and this gateway appeared in the video. We’ve — well, I know you’re going to be angry now — but we’ve had video surveillance running both at your house in Sea Ranch and at the place in Davos, so we’ve been keeping tabs on your experiments with Dr. Eisenstadt…”

Callahan’s hands started trembling as the rage started building…

“…but even so, we think you are on the wrong path. You’ve missed something. But so have we. And so we are at a standstill with our project…”

“Your own project?” Callahan growled.

“Yes. As soon as we saw the video feed. As soon as we understood what was happening.”

“And…what was happening?”

“Have you heard of a Schwarzwald wormhole?”

“Schwarzwald? As in…”

Didi nodded. “Yes. Your mother was building on Einstein’s field equations, and she was, apparently, working on a way to induce wormhole formation through harmonic restructuring of sub-atomic particles. Now, before you ask me what that means, all I can say is I do not pretend to understand what progress has been made so far, only that the wormhole forms and within milliseconds it collapses in on itself.”

“And you think that’s what Eisenstadt and I have been up to?”

Didi shrugged. “This is the opinion of those who have been studying your progress.”

“You do of course understand that right now I want to kill you?”

Didi nodded. “Of course. I’ve been asked to reestablish contact with you. So that a truce, perhaps, can be arranged between us? A working relationship reestablished?”

“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” Callahan snarled. “How about I open this door,” he said, pointing to the Golden Gate Bridge now about two thousand feet below, “and give you your first flying lesson.”

“Again, I think I understand.”

“You shot me, right? I mean, this shiny stainless steel gift came from you, did it not?”

She nodded. “Sharon, the PM, wanted you dead, Harry. I got the assignment because I persuaded the team that only I could get close enough to you to get a clean shot.”

“The Colonel?”

“He understood my objective, Harry. I had his tacit approval.”

“So, it was either my life or my leg? Is that what you’re telling me?”

She nodded.

“And let me guess…I’m supposed to be grateful to you…”

“They very nearly sanctioned me, Harry, for what I did. I convinced them that with you out of the picture you would no longer be a threat to the project.”

“And then, what? They’ve run into a dead end and now they want my help?”

Again she nodded. “And let me be clear, Harry. If I return empty handed it may become very difficult for both my father and myself.”

“Oh, that’s a nice touch, Didi. Throw in a little guilt with your pitch…I gotta hand it to you…you’ve thought this through, haven’t you?”

“Well, you almost have the whole picture, Harry.”

“Oh? So, what am I missing now?”

“If you refuse,” she said, her voice once again dull and flat, “it is my understanding that you will be terminated. Whether you like it or not, Harry, we are in this thing together.”

“Swell,” Callahan muttered.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

[Pink Floyd \\ Hey You]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 64.1

88th key cover image

Going to hit the ground running with a bunch of short sections this week, so grab a Coke and have a quick one. Oh, the video below goes into the background of the song, might be of interest to some of you:

[Dawning is the Day \\ Moody Blues]

Chapter 64.1

Callahan knew they were being tailed; he could feel it — he felt something almost like a tingling on the back of his neck, something he hadn’t experienced in years, yet a feeling he recognized right away. The sensation started as soon as they docked in Kahului and continued during the short taxi ride through town to the airport, and even as they made their way through the small terminal and boarded the 757 for the flight back to SFO, he found he wanted to turn and look over his shoulder. Once onboard he asked Brendan’s father if he could sit with the boy after take-off, then he joined Eisenstadt while the cabin crew got the passengers ready for departure, yet he watched people boarding to see who might look his way, or in any way like a threat.

“Do you feel it too?” Debra asked as he buckled in and settled in his seat.

“Yeah, ever since we docked.” He looked at Brendan across the aisle and the boy was kind of smiling as he looked up and through the overhead bins, almost like he was entranced by something only he could see up there beyond the aircraft’s outer skin, and the sight actually puzzled – and even revolted – Callahan. It was like the kid was tuned-in to an entirely different universe, one Callahan would never be able to see or experience, but he just couldn’t tell yet if the things the kid was experiencing were real, or the delusions of a runaway mind.

“What’s with him?” Eisenstadt added, nodding at Brendan. “He seems more agitated now than he did on the boat.”

As they looked on, Brendan lifted a hand and the began using his fingers to work out a problem on a blackboard only he could see, and even one of the flight attendants looked at the kid and rolled her eyes. Brendan’s father leaned over and looked at Callahan, his eyes full of questions he was still too afraid to ask, and that bothered Harry. From the time he had called the boy’s father to the trip on the boat, Harry felt like the man really wanted nothing at all to do with his son.

Callahan leaned across the aisle and whispered in the kid’s ear: “What is it? What do you see?”

“Twenty-six A,” Brendan replied in a low, sidelong whisper.

So Callahan leaned back in his seat and nodded. Whoever was following them was in seat 26A. ‘Okay…so what now?’ Harry asked himself. ‘Oh, right, I call DD…like I always do, and we get a tail on our tail…’ So, with that decided, Callahan stood and put his carry on in the overhead bin, chancing a quick glance back to the huge economy section — but the cabin was packed now and there was no way to tell row numbers from up in First.

But then, just as Callahan took his seat again the kid leaned close – and all he said was “Mossad.”

+++++

Once the 757 leveled off Callahan walked back to the economy section and when he saw that row 26 on the left side was vacant – save for a middle aged woman next to the window – he went and sat down next to her, landing hard in the middle seat as the aircraft lurched. The woman was wearing a scarf and huge sunglasses, but Callahan could see the woman had been seriously burned on her face and neck – then she pulled her glasses down and turned to him.

“Hello, Harry,” Didi Goodman said.

“Jesus, Didi, what the hell happened to you?” he sighed. He could see the results of reconstructive surgery — both on her face and in her eyes – and she seemed more than a little self-conscious at this point.

But she just shrugged. “How’ve you been?”

Callahan shrugged right back at her. “Okay. What are you doing here? I mean, I assume this isn’t a coincidental meet?”

“You’ve been attracting a lot of attention, Harry. Some bad actors, I think you could say, and we thought you might need some help.”

“Anyone I need to know about?”

She smiled evasively, but then she threw in another shrug — just for good measure. “This isn’t the time, or the place,” she said.

“People on this plane, I take it?”

And she nodded, carefully, slowly.

He shrugged too, because he wasn’t about to give up any information, especially as she still hadn’t mentioned the baby — yet.

“How’s your father,” he asked — reluctantly — not really wanting to open that can of worms, but she wasn’t leaving him a lot of room for casual chit-chat, either.

“Frail. He’s had two heart attacks, and he spends a lot of time at home.”

“Retired?”

“Oh, he’ll never retire, Harry. He’s put all his eggs in your basket.” Callahan must’ve thought that was an odd thing to say, at least that’s what she saw on his face. “Can you have a helo pick us up at the gate?” she asked.

“Sure.”

“I need to get off-grid now, but I’ll need to take Brendan with me. You’ll also need to get some additional security around your house.”

“Well, sorry, but I guess I’ve blown whatever cover you had,” he sighed.

“Oh, they know I know they’re following me.”

“I see.”

“I don’t think they were counting on Taggart heading straight to Seattle, however.”

“Taggart?” he said, smiling.

“You’re going to play like you don’t know him?”

Callahan shook his head. “Someone I should know about?”

“I’d assume so, yes, but they really want the boy.”

“Oh? Why? I mean, he’s a bit of a geek, if you get my drift…?”

“Not many people can see the things he can, Harry. He’s actually rather important, as these things go.”

“That’s kind of hard to believe.”

“Well, believe this: if they can’t get to him they’ll take him out.” He stopped and thought about that for a moment, then he started to get up — but Didi stopped him with a hand on his arm. “Harry, could I ask you something?”

He sat again and sighed, then nodded slowly.

“You haven’t asked about Ida. I assume you will never forgive us?”

“Oh, yes, you could say that.”

“We were trying to protect you, Harry. I know you’ll never believe me when I say that, but it’s the truth.”

He wanted to ask her if she knew who’d shot him, but then he thought better of it. Knowing, in this case, might be more painful than not knowing, so he let that question go — for now — and nodded. “Okay, you say so,” he said dismissively, then he stood abruptly and walked away, forward all the way to the head. He suddenly felt dirty as he stepped inside, so he did his business and washed his hands, then he looked down at his stainless steel leg and tried not to let his hate for her hate boil over — because he knew then that she’d shot him.

Shaking with rage too long repressed, when he got back to his seat he took the phone out of the seat back and dialed the Cathouse, then, while he waited for DD he asked himself — again — why hadn’t she asked about the baby? Was it possible she didn’t know? And…would Taggart’s plan actually work — or would the whole thing blow up in all their faces?

‘And why does she want the kid?’

Callahan simply didn’t know enough — only that he was groping in the dark, lost.

‘Why is the kid so important? What can he see up there with his fingers in the sky?’

+++++

WIP © 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

Intermezzo 7

intermezzo 7

One arc closing, another waits on a park bench. Time for tea, I reckon. And a little salmon.

[CSN \\ Just a Song Before I Go]

Intermezzo    Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus

Part VII: Final Flight

Dreams die when solutions and outcomes are reduced to the inevitable.

+++++

Thunderstorms lined the southern horizon, vast arcs of lightning crossed the night sky, and Henry Taggart looked up at Orion, gauging the distance between the advancing clouds and Rigel. The big island was about a hundred and twenty miles due south, Maui about seventy miles ahead and Honolulu another hundred or so miles beyond that, which meant keeping Molokai’s windward shore to windward all day tomorrow. The hurricane was bleeding energy fast now and would – probably – be down to tropical depression force by morning, but whatever force remained in the storm would hit Honolulu about the same time aquaTarkus arrived off Diamond Head, and already the seas were rough.

‘So,’ he asked the night, ‘what are my options?’

Despite appearances, there are really precious few facilities for visiting sailboats in Hawaii, with almost every facility located in and around Honolulu, on the island of O’ahu. There are almost no ‘hurricane holes’ in the islands – save for the Pearl Harbor region – which explains why the Japanese didn’t even try to invade in 1941. Invasion by any means other than air is an extremely hard nut to crack, and this dearth of anchorages also explains the how and the why it took so long for European colonies to take hold in the islands.

So Henry Taggart faced the same difficult choice: push on to Honolulu and hope the storm kept away long enough to allow a relatively mild weather window during their approach, or to veer off to the north into colder air, and wait for the storm’s passage. ‘But what if the storm gains strength and turns to the north?’ He knew if that happened that they’d be in serious trouble – and that help would be even further away.

Then Sumner Bacon came up to the wheel, with the latest Coast Guard weather-fax map in hand.

“Well,” Henry sighed, “what’s the verdict?”

“My guess is that the storm gets stronger and turns north,” the cop said. “Lots of talk about steering currents and a dip in the jet stream.”

“Okay, so that makes the decision easy,” Henry muttered. “We skirt Maui and Molokai as close as we can, stay in their wind shadow, and hope for the best as we approach Diamond Head.”

“That Ocean Passages book says pretty much the same thing,” Bacon added. “What’s the wind speed now?”

“Twenty two right now, but gusts to thirty in the last hour. It ought to be rough as pig snot by morning.”

“Pig snot? Where do you guys come up with all this stuff?”

“You make it through a couple storms and you’ll know.”

“Gee, thanks –– that sounds encouraging,” Bacon said, a little warily as he looked at lightning along the southern horizon.

Taggart grumbled something unintelligible as he moved waypoints on the chartplotter’s screen, changing their heading about ten degrees to port. “How are things down below?” he asked.

“Deb and the baby are asleep; the rocket scientist is on the computer again.”

“What’s he doing now?”

“Beats me. I saw a graph and a bunch intersecting parabolas, if that means anything to you.”

“Nope,” Taggart said. “Take the helm for a minute, I’m gonna check the bilge.” Which was, Bacon knew, what Taggart said when he was going below to check on Deb and the baby. So Henry made his way carefully down the companionway and stepped down into the aft cabin – only to find Deb and Brendan both wide awake – and playing with a rather large toddler on the bunk. The “baby” had grown at least a foot and a half over the course of the voyage, and she now weighed too much for Deb to comfortably pick up. And now, to Henry’s dismay, the “baby” was talking.

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Deb asked Henry as he came into her stateroom.

Brendan had a notebook computer open and was showing the baby a problem in calculus, and Henry watched as the infant entered numbers onscreen, immediately adjusting the parabola to solve for the missing variable – and even Brendan seemed impressed by her accomplishment. “That’s very good,” Brendan told her, smiling.

“Why do you smile?” the infant asked. 

“Because you make me happy,” Brendan said, and then the little girl turned to Henry.

“Hello, Father.”

Taggart seemed to recoil under the weight of the girl’s words and he staggered back a step or two. “Father?” he replied. “What makes you say that?”

The baby turned to Debra then. “She is the mother,” she said, and then, as she turned back to Taggart, she added: “and you are the father.”

Not “my father,” but “the father,” and the difference wasn’t lost on Henry – or on Debra. 

But Henry leaned into her words, thinking what all this might mean. “So, who is he?” Henry asked, pointing at Brendan.

“Brendan is a teacher and a student. I have been teaching him for years, and now he is teaching me.”

“I see,” Henry said, though clearly he didn’t. “So tell me…do you have a name?”

The question seemed to puzzle the girl, then she brightened: “Dana. You may call me Dana.”

“Okay – Dana. Can you tell me why you are here?”

“No.”

“Do you know why you are here?”

“Of course.”

“But you can’t tell me? Is that correct?”

“Yes, that is correct.”

“Well, ain’t that ducky,” Henry muttered.

“Father?”

“Yes, Dana?”

“The weather is dissipating. You needn’t worry.”

“How do you know that?”

“I know.”

Henry saw Deb’s sat-phone and put two and two together, so he left it at that. “Deb? I’m going to make a sammie. Want something while I’m in the galley?”

“I’ll come with you,” Deb said, clearly as rattled as he was by this turn of events. Even Daisy-Jane seemed to realize something had unsettled everyone.

Henry pulled out a loaf of bread, then some mayo, sliced chicken and tomatoes and he made four sandwiches, passing one up to Sumner and two over to Deb, and after she handed one to Brendan she joined him over the galley sink.

“So, mom and dad. That’s quite a development, don’t you think?” Debra said.

“I didn’t see that one coming,” he sighed. “What do you think she means about the kid and being his teacher?”

Deb shrugged. “First time she’s mentioned that. No clue,” she said, taking a bite out of her sandwich. “Have you been worried about the weather?” she added.

“A little. The hurricane that formed south of Cabo San Lucas has been closing on the islands for a couple of days now. We’re going to get there at about the same time.”

“Geez…why didn’t you say something?”

“No need to worry you ‘til I know more. Now I know more.”

“Assuming she’s right, you mean?” 

“The sat-phone is out. Did you call someone?” he asked.

“No, I was checking the batteries after Brendan made a call.”

“Oh? Well then, I guess that means two things. She can read minds and she’s in touch with someone who knows one helluva lot about weather forecasting.”

“Or maybe it has something to do with what she and Brendan are doing on the computer.”

“What have they been doing, Deb?”

“As far as I can tell, a problem in differential calculus.”

“Like…maybe decay rates in an air mass?”

“Maybe,” Deb sighed. “You don’t think…?”

“I don’t know what to think right now, Deb. That – “baby” – in there should be sucking down formula straight out of a baby bottle, not doing trig and calculus on a fucking PC,” Henry growled. “If she asks for a goddamn martini with lunch, just tell her no, and that her father said so,” he grumbled as he stomped up the companionway steps into the cockpit.

Deb smiled as he walked off, then she shook her head. “A martini doesn’t sound half bad, does it Daisy?” she asked her old friend.

Daisy-Jane looked at Deb with soft, soulful eyes, yet she was most worried about Henry now. Something was very wrong…and she could feel it now. But so could he, and that had hurt most of all. She would miss him very much, but she hoped he’d recognize her when the time came.

+++++

They were abeam Kahului when Taggart saw the alarm on the radar toggle and fire off a 36 mile intrusion alarm. The target was at the end of the radar’s effective range, but given the sea state the target had to be fairly large and therefore capable of producing strong returns. Using the cursor, he set up both bearing and range marker lines and started to keep an eye on the target, immediately noting the vessel was on an intercept course and that the closest point of approach was about ninety minutes out. Whoever it was, they were hauling ass and going to take a real beating.

The wind speed had kicked it up a notch – though it had been holding in the low thirty-knot range most of the morning. Now peak gusts were in the low-40s, and wave height had picked up, too, with a good guess of 5 to 8 footers rolling beam-on under the keel. He’d reefed the main again after sunrise, then rolled up the genoa entirely, deciding to ride with the staysail for now. They were still sailing along decently enough, and with most of the swell coming in on the port quarter the ride down below wasn’t too hideous. Deb and Brendan had both come up for air a couple of times, but Dana seemed totally unconcerned – about anything.

Maui was too far away to see, even under perfect viewing conditions, but when Henry ran the range out to 72 miles he could just pick up Pu’u Kukui’s 1700 meter summit. He noted the peak’s bearing on his ChartKit and then penciled in the line, noting with satisfaction that his DR plot wasn’t off by much, then his eyes went to the radar target still closing on their track. He pulled his Steiner binoculars out of their cubby and sighted along the internal bearing line, and a couple of times he thought he could just make out the fly-bridge of a large sport fisher – and that could only mean one thing. Someone had chartered a boat to come out and see who was onboard, and as far as Taggart was concerned that someone had to be Ted Sorensen.

“Sumner, would you go ask Deb to come up here?”

The cop looked at Taggart then at the companionway, afraid of moving in this ragged seaway and not at all wanting to spend even a millisecond down below, but he took a deep breath and darted below, returning to the cockpit about ten seconds after he left. “She’s on her way,” Bacon sighed, taking a deep breath and hanging onto the main winch as he slammed down onto the cockpit seat. “I think Einstein is puking his guts out in the head, just in case you happen to be wondering what that smell is.”

“Look at the horizon,” Henry sighed, “and try not to think about it.”

Bacon growled a little at that. “First time on a goddam boat and it has to be a sailboat,” he shuddered – then he bolted for the windward rail and started feeding the fish. Deb came up the companionway just then – and when their eyes met she noted Taggart’s knowing grin and twinkling eyes.

“A stereo puke-fest,” she sighed. “My-oh-my. You’d think after two weeks…”

“Oh…cram it up your ass,” Bacon growled – just as another convulsive heave wracked his frame, this eruption capped off by a raging, two alarm fart.

Which only made Taggart laugh. Then Deb threw in her lot and started laughing.

Bacon struggled to crawl back into the cockpit, his face now almost pea green.

“Uh, Sumner,” Henry said politely, “you got a big chunk in the left mustache. Better wipe it off…”

And that was enough to send the cop back to the rail, and Taggart slapped his knee at this little victory.

“Be nice, Henry,” Deb sighed.

“Yeah Henry,” Bacon snarled. “Be nice.”

“I’ll try. Deb,” Henry said as he handed over the Steiners to Deb, “site along one-seven-zero and tell me what you see?”

“What am I looking for?”

“Your father.”

“What?” she said – as she took the glasses from his hand. “Okay, I see a boat, a pretty big fishing boat…and a young girl is barfing – over the rail.”

“Geez,” Henry sighed, “it must be catching.”

Sumner blew another load over the rail, but as he was on the windward rail this load of puke sprayed right back in his face – which caused him to let slip another load.

“Try the leeward rail, would you, Slick?” Taggart moaned, wiping a few big chunks off his legs.

“There’s a guy next to a woman now,” Debra said.

“Don’t tell me. He’s puking too…”

“No, this guy just looks pissed. Wait, there are at least two more men out there, maybe a third woman, too.”

“Anyone happen to be fishing?” Henry asked.

“Nope. Oh, wait, someone else is barfing now.”

“Interesting. Landlubbers.” Henry sighed as he looked down at the plotter, because he had to think fast now. If he turned and ran with the wind the fishing boat would have to push hard to make an intercept during daylight, but they also might give up and turn back. But…if Sorensen wasn’t on the boat, where was the threat? Was there any danger now? If there wasn’t, maybe he needed to turn and facilitate an intercept. “Are they looking at us?”

“Yes, I think so.”

Taggart changed course again, pointing into the wind a bit more – which also increased the ship’s motion – and Brendan came darting up the companionway and leapt to the – windward – rail, getting there just in time to blow beets into a nasty gust – and everyone got pelted with the results.

Henry shook his head. “Hey, Einstein, try puking with the wind at your back next time.”

Brendan lurched across the cockpit and joined the cop at the leeward rail, both of them hanging on for dear life while they dry-heaved for the next half hour. “Gee, this sure is fun,” Henry said as he turned into the wind another few degrees, trying to find the groove to cut between swells and waves.

“You’re a real prick, Taggart!” Bacon growled as he lurched back to his seat in the cockpit.

Taggart stood at the wheel and he could see the sport-fisher clearly now, and he noted they were taking a real beating, too. The wind and the waves were coming in on the boat’s starboard quarter so she was wallowing between the wave-tops, and the powerboat’s diesel exhaust wasn’t being blown clear of the cockpit. Everyone standing out there was getting a double jolt of motion and exhaust induced nausea, but the trip back to port would be even more brutal for them.

When the other boat was about a quarter mile off Taggart turned on their motor and turned to run parallel with the other boat, furling all sail as he steadied on their new course, and about then Brendan chimed in: “That’s Harry Callahan,” he said, sounding almost grateful to see a familiar face.

“What’s a Harry Callahan?” Taggart said.

“He’s a cop, and he knows all about the spheres. I think I see my father, too.”

Henry looked at Debra, and they shared a little ‘Eureka!’ moment. “Do you recognize any other people out there?” Henry asked Brendan.

“No sir, I sure don’t.”

“Which one is Callahan?” Henry asked.

“The tall, skinny guy.”

And just then Callahan picked up a hailer and called out to them: “Stay off the radio,” Callahan said via the loud-hailer. “Brendan, you and Sumner prepare to come over here, and Mr. Taggart, please bring Dana with you.”

Debra looked at Brendan just then. “Brendan? Did you call this man on the sat-phone?”

“No. He called me.”

“Did you tell him about Dana?”

“No.”

Deb looked at Henry and shrugged. “I’m not sure I like this,” she sighed.

“You can trust Harry,” Brendan said. “He knows everything.”

“Everything, huh,” Henry said. “Well then, ask him how we’re supposed to get a baby from this boat to their’s – in these seas?”

Deb came close then, and she still looked worried: “Why no radios?” she asked Henry.

Henry thought about that for a moment, but he didn’t like the obvious conclusion he reached: “Someone’s listening – for us, which means someone is waiting for us in Honolulu. And…this Callahan has apparently decided to let you finish by yourself.”

Debra had always seemed taken aback by the idea of single-handed sailing, but now here she was, confronted by…this storm…

“Henry, I can’t do it.”

“Deb, how many times are you going to make me say it? I and can’t are the two most overused words in the world.”

“On a clear day, maybe I could, Henry. But in this weather?”

“Just hold on, Deb. No jumping to conclusions just yet, okay?”

The other boat was getting close now, and Henry could see it was a fairly new sixty five foot Pacemaker, a robust, well made boat strong enough to handle these seas, and he could also see that there were a bunch of people standing by to help with the transfer. As the other boat came alongside she turned beam to the seas, creating a little calm area in her lee – and to Henry’s surprise a teenaged girl jumped across to aquaTarkus, followed by a man about Henry’s age. ‘Her father?’ Taggart sighed to himself.

The the cop, this Callahan fellow, stood by the rail – waiting – and Henry could see the cop had one good leg, the other an elaborate stainless steel contraption that didn’t seem to be holding him back any. “Okay!” Callahan shouted as he tossed a line across. “Brendan! Come on!”

Brendan hopped across, then Sumner Bacon followed, leaving Henry behind at the wheel – suddenly feeling very conflicted. “Who are you?” he asked the two newcomers.

“Oh. Sorry. Ralph Richardson, and this is my daughter. Inspector Callahan will explain everything, but you need to get Dana and be on your way.”

“What’s the rush?” Taggart asked – more than a little suspiciously.

“Sorensen is waiting in Honolulu, but I suspect as soon as the skies clear just a little they’ll have an aircraft up and headed this way.”

“And you know all this how?”

“Again, Mr. Taggart, Callahan will explain everything.”

“Who’s that with Brendan,” Henry asked.

“His parents,” Richardson sighed, turning to face Deb. “Debra, would you be so kind as to get Dana, please? They need to head in – now.”

She nodded and went below, returning a moment later with the girl – for that was indeed what she now. Not quite a teenager – yet – but well on her way, and Taggart was stunned by how much she’d changed in not quite twenty days…let alone the last twenty hours.

And Richardson was equally thunderstruck. “That’s…Dana?” he asked, and Deb nodded.

“I think she grew about a foot overnight,” she added.

Henry took her hand then, and Dana turned to face him. “I’m ready, Father.”

And when Richardson heard that he seemed to grow pale, then he looked on in stunned silence as Henry picked her up and leapt across to Callahan. Dana waved at Debra from the other boat, and Henry saw a tear or two run down her face.

“Bye-bye, Mommy,” she whispered.

“You two better get below, now,” the cop said, and moments later everyone was sitting in the saloon toweling off as the powerboat’s captain set a return course for Maui.

“Anyone care to tell me what’s going on?” Henry asked – as Dana climbed up on his knee.

“Daddy,” she said, “you forgot to say goodbye to Daisy-Jane.”

Henry turned and saw the pup standing on the aft deck, staring at him as he pulled away. He raised a hand and waved, and his heart sank when she stood with her hands on the rail and barked after him.

“It’s okay, Father. She told me to tell you to look for her. She’ll be there when you need her.”

Maybe it was the way she spoke. Maybe it was the look of pure love in her eyes, but whatever it was he believed her.

“Don’t cry, Daddy. She knows you love her.”

He nodded once, then he turned to the peg-legged cop, this Callahan. “So. What’s up, Doc…?” he asked, yet in his mind’s eye he saw a yellow dog on a park bench – waiting for him as the sun started to set.

Next up: The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 64

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…so how about a word or two on our sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

[David Gilmour \\ Metallic Spheres]

Thanks to DB for this one. Enjoy.

Intermezzo 6

intermezzo 6 7

Every crossing hits the doldrums.

[Alan Parsons \\ Siren Song]

Intermezzo    Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus

Part VI: Flight II

The dream comes in numbers, yet the solution still avoids him.

+++++

Taggart watched Geddes whenever he could, but most often when the kid took the wheel and steered. There is a rhythm to the waves that eludes most people, yet this boy seemed to understand the sea, to anticipate her moves, so much so that Taggart considered the kid a natural. If he’d known Geddes at all he’d have understood that the kid was smiling for the first time in his life, that he finally felt alive – yet Taggart alone was most likely to understand. He’d always felt pretty much the same way – whenever he took the wheel and began to vibrate to the ancient rhythm of water flowing over a rudder in a seaway.

The first morning out of LA Debra came up into the sun carrying the little baby, but already Taggart could see something different in this odd little creature’s eyes. There was an innate inquisitiveness deep inside the gaze, an expressiveness he found oddly inhuman at this age, like it was reading his soul, imprinting his deepest secrets. Henry watched it somewhat warily after that, not yet sure what he was dealing with but certain that trouble lurked in those eyes.

They sailed into Avalon Harbor well before noon and refueled at the dock by the old casino while Debra and Geddes ran ashore to get supplies, and while Daisy-Jane dumped a load on the grass – accompanied by a huge sigh of relief. Taggart scanned the sky, saw not a thing to cause any sort of alarm – which only alarmed him more – and then he helped get all the supplies stowed before backing from the fuel dock. Henry then cut under the south side of the island before resuming their westbound course, and he still considered Hawaii the most logical first step.

Debra fed the baby girl – for that was indeed what she was – and Brendan scanned through the LA Times that morning, finding no mention of the UAV episode but breathlessly endless coverage of the robbery and downing of the American 777 over South Central. There was scant coverage of the fracas on the Vincent Thomas Bridge, which he found the most surprising of all the omissions – because he had already figured out that the baby was the keystone holding the entire chain of events in place. The way Geddes now saw things, time could be divided between the period before and after the baby’s arrival on earth – because the baby was the fundamental shift. She was the plan. He still wasn’t sure who’s plan she was a part of, but that was a trivial concern at this point. Time had been reset – of that much he was sure.

Debra warmed formula and prepared a bottle, and all the while Geddes and Bacon took turns holding the little girl in their laps, cradling her close to keep her out of the wind and the sun. And then, two hours after aquaTarkus left Avalon the first orca appeared, and within an hour or so a half dozen more had joined them swimming just ahead, like sentinels out ahead of their legion, and at one point Geddes was sure he’d seen a fifty meter long white oblate form moving along about a hundred feet beneath the keel. He’d started to say something to Henry but then the oblate disappeared and he thought better of it. 

Debra took the spud down below and the two of them napped, but Geddes saw the oblate again and he stepped closer to Henry. “There’s something down there following us,” Brendan said, his reedy voice coming across in hushed conspiratorial sighs.

But Henry had only nodded. “It showed up after the orca arrived. They’re following us.”

“Do you see a correlation?”

Taggart nodded, but he didn’t explain his thinking. “You ready to steer again?”

“Yes, of course,” Geddes said, his demeanor brightening in an instant.

“Swell. Uh, Sumner, you know anything about single sideband radio?”

“Uh…no, not really.”

“Okay…well…it’s time for your first lesson. It will be on how to download GRIB files and construct a 72 hour weather forecast.”

“A what file?”

Taggart groaned. “Never mind. Let’s go down to the chart table…”

Yet Taggart first noted that day that the kid could steer for hours on end, and the boy’s mind didn’t wander, either. If he told Brendan to hold two-seven-zero on the compass that’s exactly what the kid did, for hour after hour and with not a single complaint voiced. Yet, at one point Taggart came up to the kid and he found they boy’s eyes locked on a cloud. 

“See something?” Taggart asked, now looking at the cloud suspiciously.

“Hm-m, oh…no. I was just reading something.”

“Reading something? In a cloud?”

“Yes. Tell me, Henry. Do you believe in God?”

“Excuse me, but where’d that come from?”

“Oh, I was just reading something…”

“Up there in that cloud?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Okee-doke.”

“And, well, it seems to me that most religious texts have set up a patriarchal view of our relationship to animals…”

“To…animals? Well, that seems to go with the territory, don’t you think?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, gee, don’t you think religions tend to be pretty paternalistic?”

“Ah, yes, I see what you mean, but I don’t eat meat. Never have. It seems cruel to me, yet most religions have no prohibitions against eating animal flesh. Then I read that these same religions don’t regard animals as sentient, which seems to mean that religions don’t see animals as having feelings like love or that they cannot experience friendship.”

“Just curious, Brendan, but what do you eat?”

“Avocados, for the most part.”

“And are you pretty sure avocados don’t experience love or friendship?”

That seemed to stump the kid for a moment. “Avocados don’t have a brain, so how could they?”

“Hey, don’t ask me, ask a fruitarian.”

“A what?”

“That, Brendan, is someone who only eats fruit. And some fruitarians hold that even fruit have feelings.”

Brendan’s eyes went wide. “Seriously?”

Taggart nodded his head. “You could get real hungry real fast if you hold to extreme points of view.”

“So do you think that eating an animal isn’t cruel?”

“I don’t know, but I’ll ask the next cheeseburger I run across.”

“That’s a specious argument.”

“Not if you’re a cheeseburger,” Taggart sighed. “But tell me…what if it could be demonstrated that avocados have feelings. What would you do?”

“I don’t know,” Geddes said, now completely flummoxed.

“Really? You’d choose death by starvation over eating the avocado?”

“Probably not.”

“Okay, so what about the Inuit people of the arctic north. There’s no ready food supply but whales…”

“But that’s not true. They can go to a store, or even…”

“Brendan, there were no stores until about fifty years ago, so try again. Their choice was simple; either eat meat or starve to death. What should they have done?”

“That doesn’t seem right.”

“Okay. So, if I hear you correctly, you shouldn’t eat something that has the capacity to feel emotions.”

“Yes. I think that’s correct.”

“So, if you fall overboard, should that shark over there not eat you?”

Brendan turned and looked at a scythe-like dorsal fin slicing through the water about fifty feet off their starboard beam, and he instinctively inched towards the center of the boat. “What is that?” he moaned, now terrified. 

“Tiger shark. About a twelve footer.”

“Isn’t that a man-eater?”

“A spud like you would take him about three bites, so yeah, you could say that.”

“But he’s not sentient.”

“Oh? Are you sure about that? What about the Inuit? Are they not sentient?”

“Well, that seems to be what all these religious texts seem to say.”

“Oh? How do they define humanity?”

“I’d say compassion and empathy are the difference?” Geddes said after he thought about it for a moment.

“So, that Killer Whale over there cannot feel compassion or empathy? Is that what you’re telling me?”

“I think that’s probably so. Yes.”

“You think so? Does that mean you aren’t sure?”

Geddes seemed to hesitate. “Maybe they feel those things for their own offspring, but…”

“But not for us?”

“Yes.”

“Are you sure about that?”

Geddes shrugged. “No. Not really.”

“Well, why don’t we find out,” Taggart sighed as he started for the aft rail. “Come with me,” he added, stopping to engage the autopilot. Once Geddes was with him aft, standing above the swim platform, Taggart looked down into the water then over at the Tiger Shark. “What do you think the orca would do if you were to fall overboard?”

“I don’t know,” Brendan said, his voice now a little tremulous.

“Well, let’s find out,” Taggart said – just before he jumped off the platform and into the sailboat’s wake. 

Geddes watched as the Tiger Shark turned towards the sound of Taggart’s thrashing splash and he turned towards the cockpit: “Help! Man overboard!” he cried, and then he heard Debra and Sumner running up from below. The shark had closed about half the distance when it seemed to explode, then vault into the air; seconds later an orca appeared beside Taggart and then cupped him in what appeared to be a protective embrace. The orca came to the platform and lifted Taggart out of the water, and Henry stepped aboard, wiping sea water from his eyes.

“Any questions?” Taggart sighed as he turned to the orca and waved.

“Did you know it was going to do that?” Geddes cried, clearly exasperated.

“Did I know?” Taggart asked with a shrug. “I dunno. Let’s just say I had faith, and we’ll call it a day.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Brendan said, muttering to himself as he walked back to the wheel.

“Well…I guess you could say that about faith in general, Brendan,” Henry said to the boy as he caught the towel Debra tossed his way. “Then again, I could just be full of shit.”

+++++

From the Log of SV aquaTarkus

Saturday, 20 December 2008 local noon by reduction

Lat: 28°40’24.85″N  Lon: 132°51’31.69″W

Winds 030 degrees at 12-15 kts  OAT 52 degrees F; Seas 2-4 feet; Depth: 13k charted SeaTemp 50F

Worked out a noon site today, first time with the sextant since last Vic-Maui race on the Swan. TG for Bowditch. Showed the kid how to shoot a site and reduce using the tables and he took to it like a duck to water. The cop was mystified. The kid also spotted the triangular shaped UAV again, about 0200 last night. Spotted by the craft occulting stars in Cassiopeia; I’d have never caught that. Bright kid but strange as hell, always looking at the sky. The baby is stranger still; she has grown about a foot and is eating solid food now as she has all her teeth. Quite a feat given that she’s ten days old. She seems to me like a passive receptacle, sponging up every word we say, gauging our every emotion. Never seen anything like it, which, given her probable origins sounds about right. Deb thinks the ship is keeping an eye on the baby, but keeping an eye on what? Something has been bothering me all day, namely that we really have no idea who the actors in this drama really are. If the UAV is somehow related to Ted Sorensen then that means what? He had to know the kid would appear on the bridge – but how the hell could that happen – could that even be possible? So, what if the UAV is in fact ‘alien’? That would mean we have another spacefaring civilization playing around down here on earth? And if that’s the case, what is their relationship to the ‘sphere civilization’? Already seeing signs that the Pinks are not on the same page as the Blues and Greens, and they all seem terrified of the Reds. Assuming this is a factional disagreement within the sphere groups, how will they react to another group of real outsiders beginning to meddle in our affairs? I get the feeling about the only way I’ll find any answers to these questions is to get back to Seattle, but then the moment passes. Yet the question remains: what do we do if something happens as we approach Hawaii? If dropping off the grid failed? Then we’re in the deep do-do – without a paddle, and with no place left to run.

+++++

The man-child stood at the aft rail staring down into the water. Looking at the fat oblate forms down there, following – him – just like that shark had. He didn’t know what to think now, not after Taggart and his orca, but he knew the ships were still down there, watching. ‘Watching me watching them, like a perfect infinity mirror…’

The cop was sitting at the wheel, the red from the binnacle casting a ghoulish glow over the cockpit, and Geddes wanted to jump into the blackness and wait to see who came for him first. The orca or another shark, so…faith or darkness. But then, inside the briefest flash of peripheral insight, he saw the other choice, the third option. The white shadows down there, following him. They wouldn’t let him die, wouldn’t let him be eaten alive. They couldn’t. Not now. Why else had they put him on the bridge just before time shuddered to a stop.

Brendan was about to step off the platform when Henry came up from behind and put a hand on his shoulder. “Having a moment?” Taggart sighed, his voice gentle and reassuring.

“They won’t let anything happen to me,” Geddes whispered. “They’re afraid of me, but they won’t let anything happen to me.”

“Who are they, Brendan? Do you know?”

“Of course I do.”

“And?”

“They came from Sagittarius. They sent the signal. But they aren’t alone. And they are afraid.”

The hair on Taggart’s neck stood on end, perhaps because of the way the man-child spoke those words. So certain, like the certainty of numbers. Somehow the kid had worked it out, and now he had the answer to one question. Ted Sorensen wouldn’t be waiting for them in Hawaii. “Do you know why they’re here?” Taggart asked.

“I’m not sure. At first I thought the child interested them most of all.”

“But not now?”

“No, not now. Not after you jumped in the water.”

“What does that mean?”

“I think they’re interested in you, Mr. Taggart. You, most of all.”

Taggart shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense. Why me?”

“I’m not sure yet.”

“Okay. Well, maybe you could let me know when you are?”

“I’ll be dead before that happens.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ll be dead next week, at least that’s what I worked out. Probably next Wednesday.”

“Indeed. And how is this going to come about, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“I think you’re going to kill me,” the man-child sighed.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…so how about a word or two on our sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

[Mark Tiemens \\ Hold On Blue Eyes]

Intermezzo 5

intermezzo 5 implosion

Visitors and old friends return.

[Watching and Waiting \\ The Moody Blues]

Intermezzo    Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus

Part V: Implosion

His dreams came in numbers, only now the dream never relented.

+++++

He found driving uncomfortable, a dizzying rush of kaleidoscopic information he had trouble sorting through. A semi passed his rental and the space around the tractor filled with equations: mass and velocity vectors flowed into linear momentum calculations and as he passed a school bus his mind reeled as dozens of interacting data sets assaulted his senses. He squinted and looked away, trying to staunch the flow in information, but it was useless now…

Because even as he tried to close his eyes to the world crowding in all around him, his mind leapt to the other cascade of terminal datapoints he was still trying to process – as images of the stricken airliner plummeting to earth returned to fill his consciousness. So…driving into the night now he was left to face the prospect that there was no safe place left for his mind to go in order to simply rest. Painful and unwanted information once again began filling his mind after the brief respite during the flight down from San Francisco, only now the inrushing data was coming-on so fast he feared it might soon reach an incapacitating velocity. Then what? Would he reach a breaking point? And what might wait on the other side? He felt alone now, lost inside cascades of incessant numerical solutions to unwanted problems, and for the first time in his life he grew afraid of the numbers flowing through his mind. He felt lonely now, like maybe God had forsaken him. And suddenly he was forced to consider the nature of God. Does God even exist, he wondered. He had always had faith in numbers because life was nothing more or less than problems in search of a solution. Could God, he wondered, be a solution in search of problems? He laughed at that, perhaps because he’d never considered that fear and faith always seemed to be the solutions humans clung to.

He could see the Vincent Thomas Bridge rising ahead, and yet the air seemed heavy – almost like moisture was about to coalesce over the harbor – and surely fog would soon follow – but then he saw something that made his heart lurch as pure fear returned…

Because another blue sphere had appeared, and it was falling through the fog and settling on the bridge. And then the moisture-laden air seemed to ripple under the weight of a massive shock wave, causing his little Toyota to skip sideways – like a flat rock skimming across a pond. 

And this was something new, something completely unexpected. Nothing he’d solved for had indicated the possibility of anything like this happening, so there had to be a discontinuity, some new variable involved.

Perhaps, he thought, this new variable was intuition. Something outside the bounds of statistical relevance.

Because, in his mind’s eye, and even as he struggled to regain control of the skipping Toyota, he rewatched the helicopter vaulting up and slamming into the airliner – and as he analyzed the replay he saw dozens of new, interconnecting variables sliding into place. Waiting. To be. Rearranged?

Or. Simply. To Be.

To be? Being? Or Becoming? ‘Which do I solve for…?’

“But how do you account for transubstantiation?” a faraway voice chided.

The little car seemed to spin and spin and he saw new variables form like planets out of dust and he struggled to come to terms with all these new variables.

The little car came to rest on the right shoulder – only the engine wasn’t running now, and when he looked up he saw that the power was out almost everywhere he looked – and even the streetlights were out. “Was this an EMP event?” he wondered aloud…so he tried the ignition and the motor sprang to life. He slipped the car back into Drive and took off up the first incline that lead to the summit of the bridge – and even from a quarter mile away he could see the sphere up ahead, hovering above the roadway, only now the settling fog had turned the night an eerie translucent blue. Then he saw the…lightning.

Jagged blue sprites danced in the air around the sphere, and as he approached the top of the bridge the suspension cables produced a strobing effect that instantly made his head ache. As he came to the top of the bridge he saw a police car of some sort was on its side, and an ambulance had been blown through the center divider. Stranger still was a network news van, which had, apparently, been knocked about viciously and had crashed through the suicide fencing and was now dangling out over the water, the front wheels jutting precariously out over the edge of the bridge – as if the van was going to jump.

Yet he saw a cameraman moving around the sphere, and what looked like reporters or technicians trailing the cameraman with microphones and clipboards at the ready. And then he saw what at first glance appeared to be a cop of some kind; at least the heavy brown belt Brendan could just see was adorned with a firearm and handcuffs, so that seemed…logical. Yet the cop was holding an infant in his arms, and the cop’s uniform was scorched and smoldering – and that just didn’t seem to fit…at all… 

Brendan got out of his rental and dashed over to the scene, thinking that, perhaps, because he had a working car he might be able to help out… 

But then who did he see?

Debra. Sorensen. The girl next door. She was with the cameraman, and her skin appeared scorched and abraded, too. So was the skin of the man next to her.

Then Debra saw Brendan and she stopped in her tracks.

“Brendan?” she asked. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m not sure yet,” Geddes replied. “Can I help?”

“Uh, we need to get going,” the man with her said. He was pointing to the sky behind Geddes so her turned and looked…

And Geddes saw a black triangular opening in the sky, and then he could just make out the shape of a craft coming out of the opening. Triangular. No sound. Very slow.

“We’ve got to go!” Debra screamed. “Now!”

“What?” Brendan said, mesmerized by the sight. “But…why? Shouldn’t we…”

“They’re here to take the baby!” Debra cried as she ran up to the cop. “Come on!” she yelled at the dazed and confused man, who appeared to be locked inside a trance and seemed unable to break free. “We’ve got to get out of here!”

Brendan looked at the ship then at the baby, and, as he didn’t like the problem shaping up, he began to scowl. “You can’t run from a ship like that,” he said to himself, but just then he saw the cop turn to face the presumed danger. The cop carefully handed the infant to Debra and she ran for Brendan’s Toyota.

“Open the hatch!” she yelled at Brendan. “Now!”

And that broke him free of his own trance. He turned and ran to the little SUV and found the lever just inside the driver’s door and he popped the hatch just as Debra reached the opening. The cop and the man with the clipboard ran up to the Toyota, and the man with the clipboard pushed Brendan into the back seat.

“I’ll drive,” Henry Taggart said as he looked at the descending ship over his shoulder.

“What the fuck is that thing,” the cop cried.

“ARV,” Taggart said, “probably Russian, maybe Chinese.”

“What’s an ARV?” Brendan asked.

“Alien Reproduction, reverse engineered technology.”

“How do you know it’s not aliens,” Brendan sighed, “in one of their ships?”

Taggart nodded. “Because, Slick, we’re still fucking alive.”

“Oh,” Brendan Geddes nodded. That seemed a logical deduction.

“Who are you?” Taggart asked the cop, getting the Toyota started and flooring the accelerator.

“Sumner Bacon, and where the hell are we going?”

Taggart swerved to avoid damaged and destroyed vehicles – and more than a few bodies – before he made it to the one-ten and turned onto the northbound lanes. “The marina. We’re going to get out to sea.”

“Why out there?” Bacon asked.

“Because I’ve called for backup,” Taggart said, grinning like a madman, “but we need to keep this shit out of sight. UFOs over LA? That’s a shit-show. No way,” Taggart said, thinking out loud as he pulled a charred bit of skin off his cheek. “Once that’s done, well, then we can get the fuck out of Dodge and figure out what to do with the kid.”

“The kid?” Brendan sighed. “What’s with the kid?”

“Yeah,” Taggart growled at the cop, “what’s with the kid?”

 “You got me,” Bacon said. “I was trying to get a jumper off the fence and the next thing I know I’m flat on my ass with a kid in my hands…”

Brendan leaned forward, his face now inches from the cops – then he could see, and smell, all the singed hair on Bacon’s face and arms. “What do you remember about the time in between?”

The cop shrugged and shook his head. “I’m not sure.” He seemed to try and focus, then he turned to Taggart. “I had a rookie with me,” he said, his voice now full of concern; “Did you see another cop out there?”

“Down, yes,” Taggart replied.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Bacon asked.

“I don’t think he made it. There are a bunch of bodies out there.”

“Goddamn, no…” Bacon muttered.

“Deb?” Taggart called out. “You see that ship?”

“Yup. They’re up in the clouds but they are definitely following us.”

“How’s the kid?”

“Strange.”

“Strange? Like how?”

“She’s just studying everything. My face, the car…everything… It’s kind of surreal, really. Do you have any idea who might be following us?”

“No, but if I had to guess I’d say it probably has something to do with your father…”

+++++

The ship in the clouds following the Toyota was indeed shaped like an equilateral triangle; each side was a hundred meters long, and the bottom was flat and black and almost smooth. The top of the craft was smooth and white and studded with a wide variety of sensor arrays and particle weapons. There were two occupants inside the craft, and neither was human, not even remotely. The liquid atmosphere inside the ship was similar to seawater but was rich in ammonia and would kill a Terran organism after an exposure measured in milliseconds. The occupants were low level military-scientists; they had been sent to observe the child but had orders to remain out of sight and to not provoke any kind of confrontation, military or otherwise.

They spoke in clicks and whistles, in a language similar in linguistic structure to those employed by mammalian sea creatures commonly found on this planet, and in fact one of the occupants of this ship could understand the language of the large black and whites. One of these occupants, the sensor operator, was studying various EM readouts, while the other followed the child as best as he could.

“Three aircraft approaching; their profile is military.”

“Deploy three drones.”

White oblate forms formed outside of the hull and took off towards the Terran aircraft, and once the military aircraft saw and responded to their presence, the drones turned out to sea. Two aircraft followed the drones, but one did not.

“One is not following. This unit is closing in.”

“I see it. Fire a pulse, warn him off.”

The sensor operator fired off a focused beam similar in effect to an electro-magnetic pulse, but the US Air Force F-22 was hardened against such interference; the Air Force pilot now had the UAV in sight and his radar was locked-on. The pilot did not have permission to engage, and as the UAV slowed to a dead stop her F-22 shot by – not fifty meters off to the right, so the F-22’s pilot reefed her jet into a vectored turn, the pilot never taking her eyes off the unusual looking craft as her F-22 circled around to come in for a closer look.

“I have lost the child,” the pilot said.

“Abort. Return to orbit,” the copilot-sensor operator advised.

“Concur.”

And as the F-22 pilot looked on helplessly, the triangle shaped UAV simply accelerated straight up and out of the atmosphere; her companions reported that the capsule shaped objects disappeared under the surface of the sea out past Catalina Island. And though perhaps ‘only’ a quarter million people had watched as the encounter played out in the skies above Long Beach and Torrance, hardly anyone knew or could quite comprehend what they’d just witnessed. And while the Air Force pilots dutifully filled out their contact reports – which were duly read before being classified and filed away – no one at their base in Nevada or at the Pentagon had the slightest idea what had happened.

But Henry Taggart thought he knew exactly what had just gone down. He had no idea, however, just how far off his understanding of events really was.

+++++

Debra and Brendan wrapped the baby in a windbreaker and hustled it out to aquaTarkus, while Taggart and Sumner Bacon cleaned out the car, taking care to wipe away fingerprints before they sprinted down the pier to Debra’s sailboat. Spheres hovered in the clouds overhead, and an Old Man watched from a nearby park bench.

In the same approximate timeframe, the triangular shaped UAV made the ninety seven million mile sprint out past the sun – where it docked with a much larger ship. After the crew boarded their base ship they reported what had transpired on the planet’s surface to the task force commander.

The commander nodded and sighed. He knew the mission was high risk and would almost certainly fail, but it had been worth a try. He suited-up and went to speak with his superiors.

He spoke through translating devices, explaining what had transpired in Los Angeles a half hour ago.

“Was there any contact between your ship and ours?” President Franklin Roosevelt asked the task force commander.

“Incidental visual contact only between the responding aircraft and our scout ship, and an unknown number of inhabitants on the ground more than likely witnessed the encounter.”

Roosevelt turned to Claire Aubuchon. “Well?” he asked. “Do we risk another intervention?”

“My opinion is unchanged, Mr. President,” Claire replied. “If she reaches maturity and reproduces, there will be no way to stop the next phase.”

“And you still think we should?”

“I don’t know, sir. I really don’t. Maybe it was going to happen anyway. Maybe the Blues are just helping the process along.”

Roosevelt sighed. “Then as far as the child goes, we move from containment to isolate and protect?”

Aubuchon nodded. “The Adler Group is isolated in Argentina now, but they won’t stay there very long. They’re moving their assets into place right now, so we should expect them to move on the child any time now.”

“Do you think we should warn the Israelis now?”

“My assumption, sir, is they already know. If we tell them now at least they’ll understand we won’t stand in their way.”

Roosevelt made up his mind and he turned to the task force commander. “Protect the child,” he told the alien.

The commander turned and returned to the comfort of his atmosphere, and once out of his suit he gave new orders to his team of scouts, then he turned and looked at Roosevelt through one of the viewing ports. “We have to keep him alive,” he said to the fleet physician.

“He is very ill.”

“You fully understand the biological processes?”

“Yes.”

“Have you discussed genetic manipulation with him?”

“Yes. He is very reluctant.”

“On my responsibility, begin the process now. We cannot afford to lose him.”

+++++

It was still dark out when aquaTarkus slipped her lines and motored out of the marina and into the Pacific. Henry Taggart laid out a great circle course for Honolulu and engaged the autopilot. He flipped off the A.I.S. then went to speak to the cop, needing to know if he’d ever been on a sailboat before.

And of course he hadn’t. The cop had military experience, in the Navy, so not all was lost. The other guy, the Geddes kid, looked like a lost cause, a total geek.

Geddes was standing at the aft rail just above the swim platform, and he was staring at Los Angeles as the city disappeared in the haze surrounding the rising sun. When Taggart walked up to the kid he appeared lost inside a deep trance, staring at the sky above the city.

“We’re being followed,” Geddes sighed uneasily.

“Oh? Did you see something?”

But the boy just shook his head in answer to the question.

“Okay, so how do you know?”

“It’s inevitable, given the circumstances.”

“The circumstances? And what might those be?”

“The child isn’t human, and we’ve stolen it. Someone will come for it.”

“And? What else aren’t you telling me?” Taggart asked.

But Geddes turned away from Taggart and looked at the sea ahead, then the boy turned again and looked down into the sea – and his hands began trembling. 

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

Intermezzo 4

Intermezzo 4

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

[Duncan Sheik \\ In The Absence of Sun]

Intermezzo    Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus

Part IV: Murder, Mayhem, and Flight

His dreams came in numbers, only now all his numbers were changing.

The first change came to him in the form of a cat. Schrödinger’s cat, he realized with a start. He began to see quanta as he slept – and then the interactions between vast mechanical systems and large celestial bodies. In his waking hours Brendan Geddes soon became obsessed with gravity, and then quite suddenly his dreams metamorphosed into guiding animations of gravity waves – yet before he really understood what was happening these new animations examined gravitational interactions on a galactic scale.

He would wake in the morning soaked in sweat and utterly exhausted, and when he opened his eyes he usually found Susan sitting up in bed beside him, looking disoriented and confused. One morning he found a curious mark on the back of her neck, a small, delicately raised melanin-like horseshoe-shaped oblate, something he might have easily mistaken for a birthmark. Yet he knew her skin. He had kissed the contours of this neck. And this was new. When he pointed the mark out to her she reached up to touch it and flinched as sharp, burning stabs radiated down her arms and out to her fingertips. She didn’t have any birthmarks, she said, but she’d had a nightmare about something biting her on the neck as she’d slept.

And he knew then what she’d encountered. One of them. One of the Greens, one of the technicians. So…now they were interested in her, too.

But…why?

The Doc picked them up the very next Friday. After work. Bound for Sea Ranch, bound for Callahan’s house, and The Doc seemed happy enough to see him – though there was now an undercurrent of unease swirling around the physician. That was to be expected, and Brendan understood what he saw inside the eyes he watched in the rearview mirror. Susan had told them, after all, that he’d been hospitalized. In one of those places. What was the term the blind used? The ‘Booby Hatch?’ Or…the hospital with rubber rooms? But that was so unfair, and so far away from the truth.

And yet he felt their unease even more acutely as they crossed the Golden Gate Bridge – with its ‘suicide fences’ and suicide hotline signs posted at regular intervals. But he’d never wanted to die, had never wanted to harm himself, so why were they regarding him as if he did? Didn’t anyone understand? Couldn’t they see beyond all that noise?

The Doc liked to take the Coast Highway. He liked the peace, he said, the windblown meadows and the flat slate blue sea beyond. Susan had decided to sit up front with her father, and that had left him sitting in back with Susan’s stepmother, and Brendan regarded her with cool, dispassionate precision. He was on guard as soon as he sat beside this woman – because she was closed-off to him. She was an abyss; no numbers formed around her so he had way of solving for her, and that unsettled him.

And she had been face down in a folder full of financial statements as he climbed in the rear seat; she had hardly looked up, barely acknowledged his presence through the city and out across the Golden Gate, and even then she had picked up a brick sized cellular telephone and called a broker in Hong Kong and another in Tokyo.

Yet when she finished her calls she had put away her papers and turned to him.

“Sorry,” she began, “but I had to get some loose ends tied up before we lose cell coverage.” Her easy smile was filled with genuine warmth and he’d instantly felt at ease. Numbers filled the air over her head and he started sifting through her various solutions.

“I missed you,” he said to her, and even Susan had thought that an odd thing to say.

“Really?” DD said, nonplused. “Well, how nice of you to say so. How have you been?”

He didn’t really know how to answer that question, so he decided the truth was best. “Lonely. Terrified and lonely.”

“Terrified? What scared you most?”

“Not knowing what they want.”

Unfazed, DD turned and looked into the boy’s eyes. “Who wanted what from you, Brendan?”

“I still don’t know what they want from me. From us. Or even why they are here?”

“I’m not sure what you’re talking about, Brendan.”

“The Blues. I’m not sure why they’re here.”

“The Blues? Do you mean some kind of depression?”

He shook his head. “No. The Blues, like this one,” he said, reaching out and touching something that could have easily been mistaken for a mote of dust. It was hovering near the overhead light between them, and DD looked at the tiny blue sphere and her eyes narrowed.

“What is that?” she said to no one in particular – as she reached up to touch it.

“Be careful,” Brendan said. “It’s very cold, close to absolute zero, I think.”

Susan had turned and was now looking at the orb, and even The Doc had adjusted his rearview mirror to take in the action – but as soon as he saw the sphere he slowed and pulled off the highway and onto the shoulder.

DD reached up and touched the sphere and her hand immediately recoiled.

“What the Hell is that thing?” The Doc said as he picked up his wallet and swatted the sphere. Yet the sphere did not move. At all. So The Doc pushed on the sphere. Gently at first, then more forcefully. And still it did not move. Yet where his leather wallet touched the sphere, material began to sputter and smoke. “Okay everyone, out of the car,” The Doc said, now clearly unnerved.

“There’s no need,” Brendan said quickly. “The Blues won’t hurt you. They might even protect us.”

DD reached out and touched him. “Do they ever hurt you?” she asked. Her voice was overflowing with empathy, her eyes full of the gentle, unknowing sincerity so common among the innocent. The untouched.

“The Greens hurt,” he told her, his words measured and equally sincere. “I don’t think they mean to, but they do. I think the Greens are measuring Susan now, and that troubles me.”

“Susan?” The Doc growled. “What has she got to do with this?”

“I don’t know. They don’t talk to me.”

“They don’t, Brendan, or they won’t?” The Doc asked.

And Brendan shrugged. “Is there a difference?”

But The Doc shrugged. “Have you asked them anything?”

But the boy shrugged his man-child shoulders. “I never see Them. Only their spheres.”

“You mean,” The Doc said, pointing at the sphere, “that there’s someone inside that thing?”

“No. At least I don’t think so. I think they come when I sleep. Susan, show them your neck.”

Susan pulled her hair away, revealing the horseshoe shaped oblate, and The Doc palpated the area with his surgeon’s fingers, then he sighed. “I think there’s something in there,” he said, his voice trembling a little. “Brendan? Who do you think these people are?”

“I’m not sure. But Harry knows, and I think you’ve seen them before, too.”

And then the sphere simply disappeared.

And in the blink of an eye they arrived at their house in Sea Ranch, having traveled seventy miles in what felt like less than a second. Only now it was dark out, and when The Doc looked at the clock on his car’s dash he realized four hours had simply vanished – and that he didn’t remember driving since he’d pulled over to the side of the road.

“What just happened?” DD asked the darkness.

But Brendan was simply looking out the car’s window – as if there was nothing out of the ordinary going on – and he opened the door and climbed out into the night. He looked up into the night sky, trying to orient himself to his surroundings, trying to see Them and where they were hiding now. He heard Susan running and he turned to her with open arms.

“Don’t be afraid,” he said to her as she wrapped herself around him. It was all so clear now, the why and the how. The only variable remained the when of things.

“I can’t help it,” she cried into his chest.

“I think I understand, but I don’t think they will hurt you.”

The Doc heard that and swung around to face Brendan. “What are you talking about? What’s going to happen?”

Brendan looked at the physician then he pointed at the sky. “They’re going to take Susan, but you will try to stop them.”

“What? Who’s going to take my daughter…?”

“They are,” Brendan said, still pointing at the sky.

DD came over and stood next to her husband, and then she took his hand while they both turned and looked up.

“What the devil is that…” The Doc whispered.

The sphere was so translucent it hardly registered to the human eye, but it was there, it was decidedly green…and it was huge, at least compared to the blue mote they’d seen earlier.

“Brendan,” DD started to ask, “can you stop them?”

“I don’t know if I’m supposed to do that.”

“But…can you?” Susan asked, now clearly more than terrified.

“Let’s drive back into the city,” The Doc began, but Brendan cut him off.

“That won’t matter,” he said.

Susan stepped back a little, and she looked up into the man-child’s eyes. “You told me you needed to see Harry, and that you wanted to talk to him about a murder…”

“What?” The Doc screamed. “what murder?”

“Susan. Susan is going to be murdered.”

“Who’s going to kill her, Brendan?” The Doc stuttered. “Do you know?”

“Oh, yes. I am.”

DD rushed to her stepdaughter’s side and pulled her away from the man-child. The Doc reached inside his car and pulled a small pistol from a cubby in the door, and then he placed the black hole of the barrel right up against the man-child’s forehead. “Start walking, mother-fucker,” The Doc growled as he pushed Brendan up the street towards the Coast Highway, the end of the barrel pressing into the skin above the man-child’s eyes.

“You shouldn’t interfere,” Brendan said, his voice flat, his words matter-of-fact and dripping with icy-cold finality. “Harry Callahan is supposed to stop me. They need him to stop me. Don’t interfere!”

“DD! Go inside, now! And for God’s sake, call Harry!”

DD pulled Susan free of her confusion, pulled her back into the comforting grasp of that other reality, and she slammed the door shut on the unfolding anarchy consuming what remained of the life they’d known. She ran for the phone and dialed Harry’s number, and Eisenstadt answered on the seventh ring.

“Deborah, get Harry and come quick. It’s that boy, Brendan!”

“The one in the mental hospital?”

“Yes! And he says he’s going to kill Susan!”

Then everyone heard the sound of a pistol firing. Once. Then a second time.

“Oh my God,” DD screamed, dropping the phone… 

“We’re on the way…” Eisenstadt said to the nothingness.

Susan clung to DD, her eyes closed so tightly her tears couldn’t run down her face, and they stood there waiting until they heard Harry’s Land Rover rounding the corner and racing down the street – then brakes screeching to a stop.

But an impossible stillness had enveloped the houses on the little cul-de-sac.

DD looked out a window and saw pulsing strobes in red and blue and so she assumed that Harry had somehow called for backup. She went and opened the door and stepped out into the night… 

…and then she fell to her knees.

Brendan was inside a spinning blue sphere that was hovering about fifty feet above the pavement, and she could see that the man-child’s naked body was now bruised and bloody.

And Doc Watson was laying face up in the street, Deborah Eisenstadt doing CPR on his still, lifeless body. She started for her husband but Harry stopped her, and DD collapsed into his arms. Then she heard Susan run past, running to her father’s side.

But she stopped short – as a large pink sphere descended and settled a few feet above the pavement – and Susan watched in astonished agony as an impossible looking creature stepped out of the pink sphere and walked over to The Doc. It bent over Watson’s lifeless body and then gently pushed Eisenstadt away before it summoned another sphere. This second sphere settled over The Doc’s body then simply winked out of existence, leaving the tall pink feathered creature standing there. It looked up at Brendan inside the blue sphere and it summoned that sphere, too, only this one settled on the pavement and disappeared – leaving the man-child curled up on the pavement – then it turned to Susan.

“I think your friend needs some clothes,” the creature said, her voice decidedly feminine, and oddly enough she spoke with an accent that seemed to have been born on a beach while hanging around with a bunch of sunburnt surfer dudes. It bent over Brendan and sprayed something that looked like viscously transparent foam all over his body, then it turned to Susan, again. “Uh, like could you find him something to put on? He’s going to freeze his ass off out here.”

Susan twitched and her head shook rapidly, then she walked out to the car and picked Brendan’s duffel from the trunk. She found some briefs and shorts and a t-shirt and carried them back to the creature.

“Hey, if you think I’m putting his clothes on you got another thing coming,” it said.

“What?” Susan gasped.

“Put his clothes on, please,” the creature added, now exasperated.

Susan found that the foam had evaporated and Brendan’s skin was now spotlessly clean. She couldn’t see even one injury…no gunshot wound, no scrapes or contusions…not a – thing. She nodded and bent over to help dress Brendan, but she stopped and looked up at the creature. “What happened to my dad?”

“Acute myocardial infarction. Which does not explain why he subsisted on dead animal flesh and rum, but what the Hell. You only go around once, I say.”

Callahan walked up to the creature, a new stainless steel Model 629 hanging limply by his side.

“Excuse me,” the pink creature said, “but those things really scare the shit out of me.”

“Huh? Oh,” Callahan said as he slipped the Smith & Wesson into its shoulder holster. “Sorry about that.”

“No big, man,” the creature said. “Uh, like, I don’t mean to make a big deal out of all this, but could you, like, help her get some clothes on this dude?” Deborah came over to lend a hand and the creature finally noticed Harry’s stainless steel leg. “Oh! What the fuck is that?” the creature said, pointing at Callahan’s prosthesis.

DD walked down slowly – feeling bereft and alone – and she walked into Callahan’s arms. “Where’s my husband?” she sighed.

“The physician? You know, you really should take better care of him. No salt, just lemon juice, and no more red meat!”

“What?” DD gasped, openly weeping now.

The creature looked away, shaking her head a little as she spoke into the night. Moments later another pink sphere descended and settled on the pavement, and the creature reached down and took DDs hand then led her to the sphere. Once DD was inside this third sphere it too popped out of existence, and the creature returned to Callahan, Eisenstadt, and Susan. Then she looked down at Brendan.

“He won’t remember any of this,” she said, “but Susan, don’t blame him. He had nothing to do with this.”

“What – are you saying?”

“Harry,” the creature sighed, “maybe she could sleep with you two tonight?”

Callahan nodded, but his brow furrowed deeply now. “You know, it sure seems like you know an awful lot about us.”

“You know,” the pink creature replied, “I think so too,” she said as she stepped into her sphere and winked out of existence.

+++++

And Brendan did indeed not remember a thing. In point of fact he had no memory of the last two years. None. He woke up on the sofa in Callahan’s living room early the next morning and started screaming, and nothing anyone said got through to him. The last thing he remembered was heading off to Stanford – two years ago – and quite literally everything else was gone. 

Harry called the boy’s parents and tried to describe in the most basic terms imaginable where their son was and then he asked what he should do with him; the boy’s father wanted to know if Harry could get him down to SFO and onto a flight to Los Angeles. Not wanting to make the drive he called the CatHouse and arranged for a noon pickup at the little airstrip near Sea Ranch, then he told the boy what had happened last night, while Susan filled Brendan in on the last two years of their life together.

And Brendan calmed down as the morning progressed. He wanted to know more about Susan, like how they’d met and how close were they. The basics, in other words, but he had a hard time putting two years into proper context. He managed to eat a little avocado and lemon juice, and for good measure he ate a handful of blueberries from Oregon, then it was time for his helicopter and Susan said goodbye to him before he left the house. Harry sat beside the boy all the way to SFO, and he and Deborah got him out to the gate and onto a Southwest flight into LAX before they left him.

He felt a yawning black chasm where his life had been, and looking down through the clouds at the sunburnt coastal hills he thought of a book he had read once. Henderson the Rain King. And he started hearing a voice that said I want, I want, I want…the rest of the way to Los Angeles International.

He recognized the Valley down there and then the 737 was turning onto final and downtown LA slipped by. He watched another aircraft – maybe a mile away – line up to land on the other parallel set of runways, the pair on the south side of the airport. The other jetliner seemed to hang there motionless in the sky – because the two aircraft were flying at about the same speed, and he wondered what it would be like to be suspended in the sky, neither flying nor falling, just being…

…and then he saw a helicopter vault up from below… 

…and as he watched the helicopter struck the other airliner’s right engine. The engine fell away and an immense fire broke out on the wing, immediately engulfing the right side of the airliner as it shuddered like a wounded animal before it rolled and began to fall out of the sky…

And almost immediately the pilots of his airliner applied full power and climbed back into the safety of the sky, back to being suspended inside a metal tube surrounded by nothingness and now all he could see in the air was an equation that screamed I want I want I want – more life. 

His airliner turned hard to the south and out over the Pacific and he saw the marina below and a rising column of black smoke coming up to meet the clouds and everything seemed different now. Life no longer felt like an abstract series of equations to be solved, but a precious thing to be nurtured above all else.

The pilot came on over the PA and told his passengers that LAX was now closed and that dozens of inbound aircraft were being rerouted to Long Beach, John Wayne, and Lindbergh Field, and that he’d let them know where they were going to end up as soon as he found out from air traffic control.

They landed in San Diego a few hours later and he called his parents. His father asked him to rent a car and come home as soon as he could and the boy remembered that he had in fact learned to drive once and he thought he could still drive. He had a license, anyway, and lots of credit cards, so why not give it a try…?

He got onto the Interstate and headed north just as the sun settled into the sea. He got off in Irvine and made his way down to the Coast Highway. He stopped for dinner in Newport Beach before he continued north along the coast. He felt alone. He felt lonely. And he’d never considered that those two things were separated by things like fear and faith, and now he considered that he’d never really known the difference – between fear and faith.

He saw things now with a clarity that had eluded him all his life, but he had to wonder about all the other things he’d missed out on along the way. And soon enough he saw the Vincent Thomas Bridge just ahead and he wondered what waited on the far side of this very peculiar night.

[Duncan Sheik \\ She Runs Away]

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

Intermezzo 3

Intermezzo Sm

A brief segment, little more than a shattered fragment setting the stage for…something new.

[Joe Cocker \\ Feelin’ Alright]

Intermezzo    Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus

Part III: Madness

His dreams came in numbers, just as they always had. 

Then he found his way to music and he had hoped, for a while, that the numbers he dreamed might lead to something new, to some new way of seeing, and being, in this life.

But maybe it really had all come undone out there at the house perched above the cliffs. He still wasn’t sure, because in the aftermath none of what happened had made the slightest sense. When he returned to school after that weekend nothing was as it had been, yet everything was the same, even after Susan got angry and left.

But no, that wasn’t quite right, because one thing really had changed. The spheres came to him after he met that detective, and they had been with him ever since. But the thing he had first seen in the other girl, the girl with the odd last name, he had also seen in the detective, and in the woman always by his side. They were closed off to him, like there was nothing left to solve. Their music had disappeared, and he desperately wanted to know why…

+++++

He found he missed Susan, sometimes so much that he began to feel her absence. Like a gut punch, when he thought about her he doubled over to hide from her pain. Then he would find himself thinking about the chameleon, Tracy, and all the ways she had used him to get what she wanted from him. But the pain she gave was different. The hurt he felt, the pain she gave him, was easier to solve, if only because the pain she gave him had been bought and paid for with such an easily found currency.

But then he thought about Debra Sorensen.

Her pain wasn’t really pain at all. She’d never done anything to hurt him. She’d simply been. Alive. And in the days after Sea Ranch there had been times when he’d looked in the mirror and he’d found her there, looking into his eyes, asking questions she’d never had the chance to ask. He wanted to talk to her so much but silvered glass wasn’t good for that. The equations he saw there were little more than reflections of echoes that had faded into nothingness a long time ago.

He flew home one weekend and he saw her with a hulking jock and he had felt betrayed. It was too much.

So he sat under their avocado tree and words came to him as new equations formed in the bitter juice he had swallowed, and his father found him out there barely clinging to life. He had not wanted to come back, so he had clung to the darkness. When he came-to he felt betrayed, again, but his hands were tied to the rails of a hospital bed. He was being fed through the veins in his arms and things in that food began dulling the world he had known. The equations he had relied on to see his way through life began to fade and soon everything felt unfamiliar and hostile. Soon he only wanted to die even more than before, and as all these new, unwanted sensations coursed through his veins he felt himself dissolving.

His minders wanted him to play their game. They wanted him to swallow their magic pills and paint pictures after he made his bed and he had to eat their dead animal flesh or they would tie him to the bed again and anything was better than that. Wasn’t it? And yes, there was. He decided to sleep, because the pain went away when he closed his eyes to their world. And so he slept. And he slept and he did his best to turn away from all their poking and prodding and he longed to just fall away from the light.

But then they strapped him to a gurney and wheeled him to some kind of procedure room. They strapped electrodes to his head and chest and wrists and ankles, then they forced his mouth open and put some kind of cold rubber in his mouth just before the hard sleep came. He never felt the cold, hard shocks of their electro-convulsive therapy, but he came out of the fog for a few days and he saw their strange, dull world – while it lasted.

The next time they used insulin to shock his system and when he came-to he felt exhausted. His muscles ached. He was so hungry it hurt. But the fog had lifted. Again. A week later they used electricity again, then insulin the week after that and on and on it went – until the fog seemed to lift one time, and it didn’t come back.

He began to talk. And people listened to what he had to say. They helped him cope.

Yet none of these people could account for his dreams of the blue spheres. He simply had to have some kind of schizo-affective disorder, so they labeled him again and started all kinds of new medicines to treat his hallucinations.

And then one night a nurse came into his room and what she saw made her scream.

Brendan Geddes had been covered with swirling blue spheres, and his body seemed to be on fire – on the inside. But worst of all, his glowing body had been hovering several feet above the bed in his room, and the other nurses who answered the screams they’d heard and all of them reported seeing the same thing. So the dutiful physicians discontinued the anti-psychotics they had just prescribed and they spoke of starting over, of going back to square one.

Only no one knew how to account for what those nurses had seen and experienced.

So there was no square one.

In fact now these very same physicians wanted nothing more than to get this most peculiar patient well enough to be on his way and out of their hospital.

Because, frankly, if they had been forced to admit the truth they would have had to admit that they were all now quite scared of Brendan Geddes.

The unknown did that to some people, and he understood that kind of confusion… 

Yet Brendan thought that fear was kind of funny and pointless. Because in the equations he built, like castles in the clouds, he always solved for the unknown.

+++++

So he went back to Stanford and resumed his studies. And though the spheres came with him they only came out at night.

And he began to see again. People, reduced to equations. People, as equations to be solved. 

And soon enough he knew he would have to go back up to the house perched above the cliffs, because that was where it had all come together. Before it had all came undone. But he saw a great pain coming. Pain he might be able to stop.

But first he wanted to make music. He wanted to make sense of this new old world – and music seemed to be the best way to find his way back. He started taking his guitar over to the Shumway Fountain and playing what he saw, watching and waiting for unsolvable people to drift by. On sunny afternoons he might pick his way to In Her Shadow and people would stop and listen; some even recognized him and waited for more but more never came.

But then one day Susan walked by while he was playing and she stopped and listened for a while – before the pain became unbearable – and then she walked away. Yet he’d seen her. And her equations were still cool blue stone cold simple. Even so, when the sight of her rekindled memories of Charlie’s masalas he had smiled.

A few days later she walked by again and this time she stopped.

She wanted, she said, to talk. About all the things that hadn’t happened.

He watched numbers form in the cool blue air over her stone cold heart and he smiled as new chords formed to answer the questions in her eyes.

“Is that my song?” she asked as she watched him watching her.

And he nodded.

“Do you hate me?” she wanted to ask, but she couldn’t summon the courage so he answered for her.

“No, I don’t hate you. But why would you care what I think?”

“How did you know what I was thinking?”

He had shrugged. “Does that matter?”

“Yes, it does. Do you think you know me so well?”

“I thought I did. Once.”

“You loved her, didn’t you?”

“Liz?”

“Yes,” she cried. “Liz!”

“No, not really. But she was…interesting.”

“Interesting? What does that mean?”

“She was complex.”

“Complex?”

He nodded. “Yes. I saw layers of time unfolding beyond the sky, and she let me see inside.”

“What?” Susan said, now completely befuddled. “See inside…what, exactly?”

“The past. I could see her past, and for a moment I felt like I could see her future.” He looked into the air over Susan’s downturned eyes and he found the chord he was searching for, then another and another.

“Are you writing a song?” she asked.

“Always,” he replied.

“Is that how you see me? As…music?”

“That’s how I see everything, Susan. It’s how I feel my way through the pain.”

“And that’s how you saw Liz?”

He nodded his head slowly, then he smiled as new chords formed through her understanding.

And then she came and sat beside him, and she started to cry. “Oh, God no,” she said through her tears, “what have I done to you?”

“The doctors tried to take it all away, but they couldn’t. The Others wouldn’t let them.”

“The others?”

He shrugged. “When they want you to meet them they will let it happen.”

“Brendan? What are you talking about?”

“Look up. Straight up.”

She did – and at first she couldn’t see anything, then she rubbed her eyes and squinted into the sky.

And she saw the faintest outlines of a blue ball overhead, the color almost a perfect match to the sky beyond. “I think I see something,” she said.

“A blue sphere, right?”

“I think so, yes.”

“Don’t be afraid. They won’t hurt you. The Greens hurt, so leave them alone.”

“What do you mean, they hurt?”

“Sometimes they come in the night and even the Blues leave. The Greens hurt, but they understand me.”

Susan swallowed hard, and she was suddenly very afraid. She wasn’t sure if Brendan was simply insane or if he was speaking to some kind of terrible truth, but then he turned and looked into her eyes and she felt a little more at ease. His were not the eyes of insanity, at least not what she had imagined insanity might look like, so she took his hand. “If you’re not afraid then I won’t be either.”

And he smiled at her simple truth. “Sometimes I dream about your mother’s masalas. Those are the best dreams of all.”

Maybe you could come over this weekend. I know she’d love to see you again.”

“I’ve missed her.”

“My mother? Really?”

“Yes, of course. She’s the only mother I’ve ever really had, you know?”

“You should tell her that, Brendan. I know that would make her very happy.”

“Okay, I will. And could you ask your father to take me up to see Harry?”

“Harry?” she asked. “You mean – the detective?”

“Yes, just so. I need to see Inspector Callahan about a murder, and I want to stop it.”

[The Cars \\ Drive]

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

Intermezzo 2

Intermezzo Sm

I see, said the blind man as he stepped onto the roller coaster.

Oh…never mind. Better go put some water on for tea. A few ups and downs for you here, so hang on tight – and beware of things that go bump in the night.

[Howard Shore \\The Grey Havens]

Intermezzo    Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus

Part II: The Guitar Man

His dreams came in numbers, and perhaps they always had. 

His waking life had been defined by set patterns of being, from the way he ate to his limited means of expression. One morning a physician called it autism, and it had seemed to the boy that his mother was very upset by the word. He was three years old at the time and so he did not understand what the word meant, so when he arrived back at his parent’s house later that day he read one of his mother’s neurology textbooks, at least as much as he needed to understand what autism was.

And he was sure then that he wasn’t autistic, and that the physician’s diagnosis was not even close.

But he had soon been systematically labeled and categorized and, to a degree, studied, all the result of being so defined by an unfazed hierarchy of notably bright neurologists. They knew what he was because that was the way he had to be; square pegs and round holes were not to be tolerated.

Yet by the time the boy was five years old these very same physicians had discarded that diagnosis. Autistic toddlers rarely read medical texts, but Brendan Geddes did and that was that. “It must be something we haven’t run across before,” Brendan overheard his mother telling his father one night after he’d brushed his teeth and climbed into bed. 

And night was his favorite time of day. The anticipation, all his impatient waiting about to come to an end. Before the dreams came, anyway. Because when his eyes closed on their own…that was when the real fun began.

+++++

His father was a curious sort of musician. He rarely played an instrument, unless of course you considered a symphony orchestra an instrument. Because his father wrote soundtracks to movies, he had become something of a celebrity. He had golden statues on the mantle in his study, and when guests came over for parties everyone wanted to see them. The toddler thought that was very odd indeed.

But Brendan rarely saw these parties, as important as they seemed to be to his parents. 

For he was usually contained in an upstairs suite with a nanny, though once he heard one of these girls say something like he was “out of sight, out of mind,” and while he wasn’t exactly sure what all that meant, he was sure that it seemed to hurt more than just a little.

Teachers came to the Geddes house on Foothill Road in Beverly Hills, and they came to teach him about the world beyond these walls, and how to communicate with the people beyond the walls of his life.

There was a very strange house next door to the Geddes house, a house that appeared to have no windows, and as the boy grew he began to look for the girl who he knew lived in the house. Because he was pretty sure he was going to love her one day, and that he would marry this girl and have a child with her. He knew this because his teachers told him this was so. And no, not the silly teachers that came during the day. His other teachers told him that in the deepest part of the night.

One day, and this was when he was seven years old, he heard his father downstairs playing the piano so he went down to investigate. His father was hardly ever at home and never played the piano when he was, so it was a little unusual to find him at home working at his piano. And, as the boy had never expressed any interest in music, he’d never had any lessons. He hardly knew, in fact, what a piano did.

But he watched as his father’s hands moved across the keyboard and he began to see numerical relationships form in his mind, and as his father developed the song’s melody he began to see ever more intricate patterns shift and form in a space beyond his mind.

And then his father saw him standing there and he stopped playing – and the patterns seemed to hesitate then to turn to dust and fall away.

“Hey, Spud, what are you up to?” his father asked.

“I was watching your patterns.”

“My…patterns?”

“When you play I see numerical patterns form.”

His father seemed a little disconcerted by this revelation. “What kinds of patterns do you see?”

“I’m not sure how to describe it, Father. It is like you are playing an emotion, maybe like the feelings you have for mother. I can show you if you like?”

“You…can…show me?”

“Yes, of course. I watched you play so now I think I can too.”

“Oh, well then, by all means,” his father said, now very unsure of the moment, “please come and show me.”

And so the boy sat where his father had and he began to play without any hesitation, and while at first he played with his eyes wide open soon enough he closed his eyes and let the music of his emotions out to play for the first time in his life. He played for perhaps a half hour and when he was finished he turned to his father and was dismayed to find him openly weeping.

“Is this how you feel?” his father finally asked, heartbroken. “Have you really been so alone?”

“Yes, father,” the boy said, “but I feel better now.”

+++++

So music teachers now came to the Geddes house, along with all his other teachers, and soon enough one of these new teachers came with something new, an acoustic guitar. The boy watched the teacher play the instrument and he could instantly see how difficult it was to shape these new chords, yet he was also mesmerized by the purity of the tones he saw in the air dancing above the instrument.

It took him a few weeks to master this peculiar new instrument, and a few more weeks to learn to fully see all the new patterns he could create, and his father watched in awe as this latent ability burst forth like a flower under the sun. Still, as he watched his son play his new guitar, he wondered where the inspiration for all this hidden music was coming from, for he heard emotive expressions that rarely came from such an acoustically limited instrument. 

But, perhaps, the boy’s father would have been surprised by the source.

For Brendan had watched people all his life. Their infinite interactions fascinated him, especially the people who came to parties at his parent’s house. Sometimes he had watched from his bedroom window as people gathered below around the swimming pool, and other times, when he was older, he watched people as they gathered around his father. Women behaved one way towards his father, while men operated in other, much more peculiar ways. Men strutted about in puffed up dominance dances, almost like the frigate birds he’d seen in nature documentaries, while the women they sought walked between suitors with coy, measured movements. He loved to watch these women as they sat in muted clusters, their silken legs swishing about in ways that could only be to attract these men, and he began to see these interactions as equations. Equations to be constructed. Human variables to be accounted for, one by one. Variables the boy catalogued as he watched the guests at parties in his parent’s house.

And then one night, a few weeks after he started playing the guitar, the girl next door came to one of his parent’s parties and his world began to change. Because his outlook began to change. 

Though she was – by all appearances, anyway – a few years older than he, the boy no longer wanted to observe. He wanted to participate. He wanted to play the dominance games he had only witnessed from afar all his life. So he watched her as she moved about the living room, the equations she presented obvious, her solution easy to render.

She was shy. Her eyes locked on his for a moment but she quickly looked away and he smiled. This was going to be so easy!

But in the end it wasn’t easy at all and he wondered where he had gone wrong. If the solution he’d arrived at didn’t agree with the reality he’d encountered, then that could only be because he’d missed important variables. Emotional variables he didn’t yet understand.

So with guests still lingering he’d gone to the music room off his father’s study and picked up his guitar. He closed his eyes and reimagined the emotions he’d thought she’d presented, and then he reduced his own emotional expectations to a series of equations – and without any conscious awareness he began to play these equations through his mind to his fingers. He wasn’t aware of closing his eyes to the world outside this process, he simply worked through each equation as it presented itself, working towards a new conclusion… 

And as he finished he opened his eyes.

And there she was. Staring at him, her eyes full of tears.

“That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard,” Debra Sorensen whispered.

And Brendan Geddes smiled. He smiled because he’d solved her equation. He knew her now, and that was all that mattered.

And so they talked. And talked. For hours that night, and then – in the days and weeks that followed – they talked more and more. He saw something in her, something unusual, something not quite there yet, some kind of power within that was waiting to be released. He learned she was going away to college in a few months and for the first time in his life he was at a loss. No equations came to him. He had found his first null set and he was bereft of a way through the pain he felt.

He saw her differently after that. She was no longer open to him, and while he tried to see new equations he found only emptiness. Yet he discovered that even emptiness can be expressed in equations, and as he found his way into the depths of this immeasurable darkness he formed new chords, and a new music began to take shape.

There were avocado trees in backyard of his parent’s house, and even a few lemon trees, and his favorite thing in the world was to beat the squirrels to a ripe avocado and cut it open, squeeze some lemon into the little bowl made when the seed was removed, and then to grind some pepper into the lemon. He would take a spoon and eat the avocado and close his eyes as he felt a peculiar strength return. He would turn and face the sun, feel the warmth and flake the coldness away, then he would pick up his guitar and resume playing, and in time he came to realize how deeply attuned he was growing to the sun and the earth. And to how deeply attuned the equations he formed were to these cycles of birth and regeneration.

And one afternoon while he was sitting out under one of the avocado trees he began playing his music of longing and loss and he began to sing. Words came, words that seemed ordained by the sun and the simple foods that sustained him, words born of an impossible love for the girl next door…

And his father was videotaping him from inside the house. Recording his son’s otherworldly music, born of his son’s loneliness. Loneliness born, perhaps, from a father’s benign neglect. He finished recording the music and the next morning he drove down to the studio and played the music for a few of his friends.

Then the boy’s father asked him to come to the recording studio.

He’d never been. Not once. In fact, Brendan had almost no idea what his father did for a living, not really. His father wrote music for movies, but Brendan had never considered how to watch a film without music. So he watched that morning, and he saw how his father set about constructing a score. Movies presented life as a series of scenes, and each scene had an underlying set of emotions, but as he watched his father he seemed to get it all wrong. Love was an emotion so his father used a rote deconstruction of love to emote any scene with Love in it. Suspense was presented musically in the same way, with predictable sets of formulaic chord progressions to denote how the director wanted the audience to respond. There was little nuance, little variance, and after watching his father for an hour or so he grew bored.

His father was writing music for a new movie while sitting in a control room. There were several keyboards in front of his father, and he faced a huge movie screen. The movie played and his father responded to the action on the screen by creating an accompanying musical response on the keyboards arrayed around him…but then as Brendan watched, the film stopped playing and a videotape of him playing in the backyard appeared on the huge screen… 

And at first he had no idea what he was watching.

Then it dawned on him.

“You taped this yesterday,” he said to his father.

“I did.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s beautiful and I wanted to share it with people.”

“But…why?”

“Because beauty should be shared, Brendan,” one of the studio executives explained. “And we’d like to share this with everyone.”

“But it wasn’t meant for everyone,” Brendan sighed.

“Who was it meant for?” his father asked.

“Debra,” Brendan said, looking away – as if he should have been embarrassed to admit such a thing.

“Debra? Sorensen?” his father cried. “Seriously?”

“What’s wrong with that?” Brendan screamed, his ego now feeling raw and exposed, like he was being ridiculed. Worse than that, he felt like the very idea of love was being trampled upon and dragged through the mud and dirt.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” another studio exec cooed. She was younger than his father, much younger, and she was objectively gorgeous. 

Brendan turned to face this woman and equations exploded in the air all around her.

And he smiled.

+++++

She wanted more. Always more.

And when she smiled at him he sang the music of her smile.

Her name was Tracy. And she was an enchantress, a chameleon even, and perhaps a little bit of a trickster, but she was also able to read people, especially artists. And most particularly musicians. Yet she had never encountered anyone quite like Brendan. She had worked with the best of them, the Dylans and the Simons of this little corner of the universe, and she thought she’d seen it all. Until she met the precociously innocent man-child that was Brendan Geddes.

She saw his pain, then she saw through it to his struggle to break free. Free of his father. 

She had hustled him out of the studio and to her office, and she had let his tears come. She held him and right away she realized the man child had hardly ever been touched. He drank her up and she felt the explosions of pure expression rippling through his body, and she recognized his loneliness. She adapted to his loneliness, then she began to see how she could use his loneliness to her own advantage. To the studio’s advantage. In his loneliness, she saw the key to unlock his genius.

She took him out. To the beach one day, and she was surprised to learn that he’d never been. He’d never seen a ferris wheel so she took him on the wheel out there on the Santa Monica pier. He’d never been to Disneyland so she took him. He’d never been kissed, so she took him there, too, and then to the hidden places beyond a kiss.

And through it all, Brendan was blind. Blinded by the explosions of the endless equations she presented. She took him to the studio and set him free, turned him loose, and her engineers recorded it all. The words and the music of his love. For her. And for Debra. She massaged the music, added strings and horns, diluting the purity, obscuring the implications of her complicity. Making the work of others marketable, as was her lot in life.

She released the album and it exploded onto the charts.

His music from the avocado tree she titled ‘In Her Shadow’ and she named the album that as well, and the single hit number one on the Billboard Top Ten a week after it was released.

But by then Debra Sorensen had left for college, yet when she heard the song she knew where it had come from. And what it meant. And once again she cried.

+++++

He left home a year later. He was sixteen years old and he left for Stanford, to study mathematics. Hardly anyone connected the hit album to the stringy-thin vegan working his way through the advanced curriculum in the Math and Physics Department, and though he kept a guitar in his dorm room he rarely played anymore. He’d finally seen through Tracy and even his father seemed suspect now, so all those human things he simply walked away from, and he left all their emptiness behind. He returned to the purity of numbers and variables.

Until he met another wayward soul rather like his own.

Susan Watson was an astronomer, or at least she was studying to be an astronomer, and though Brendan was the first to admit he’d never once looked through a telescope there had been an undeniably mutual attraction from the start. She was from the city so she wore denim overalls and Birkenstocks and she was smart as hell, and besides, her explosions were easy to read. She wasn’t a threat. And besides, her mom was a great cook.

He’d not been in the least interested when the blazing pulsar in Sagittarius exploded two summers ago, nor had he been in any way surprised when the pulsar simply went away, but Susan kindled an interest in those seven nights. She showed him a recording of the event and in an explosive instant he’d seen the patterns. Within hours he had deciphered the encoded message. Susan took him to her faculty advisor and this gentle old cosmologist had recognized the genius behind the work and called an emergency meeting of the physics department to go over Brendan’s discovery.

For any number of reasons the faculty and staff decided to keep silent about what Brendan Geddes had uncovered, for the meaning and import could only startle a complacent world into dangerously unpredictable terrain. Worse still, if the government learned about the depth of material in the transmission they would no doubt get involved, and that had to be avoided at all cost.

But while Brendan was credited with discovering the secret encoding within the original message, his interest in astronomy never really blossomed. He continued studying Newton’s and Russell’s underlying Principia while he found his way towards a deeper kind of love for Susan. And oddly enough, he found his way to a new way of thinking about home – through her mother’s cooking.

He soon discovered how atrocious his own parents had been at parenting. And Susan’s mother, a single mother who worked as a para-legal at a small law firm in San Francisco, had proven to be the exact opposite of his own mother. Charlene Watson doted on him. She saw his string bean frame and decided to fill him out. When she learned he wouldn’t eat meat she adapted. She cooked vegan masalas that made Brendan feel like singing with joy. She crafted elaborate tabouli salads and they would sit in her backyard under the sun and for the first time in his life he felt like he was actually loved. Like he belonged. Belonging was a strange sensation, but he liked it. He liked being loved even more, so he was happy.

Charlene had married young and, predictably, the marriage hadn’t lasted long. Her husband, a freewheeling medical student at Stanford, had been somewhat less than faithful and Charlie – as Charlene liked to be called – had divorced him when their daughter was still in diapers. A self-sufficient type, Charlie hustled real estate on the side and had always managed to make ends meet, yet she’d always made time for what mattered most: her daughter. And that inclusivity instantly blossomed to encompass Brendan.

And still no one quite made the connection. The string-bean vegan had once upon a time put out one of the highest grossing albums of all time, a double platinum Grammy award winning masterpiece grounded in a man-child’s love of and for another girl.

+++++

Yet Brendan wondered about the absent figure in Susan’s life. 

Her father.

She had “visited” her father once a month all her life – at least until she started at Stanford. She saw him more frequently now if only because he was on the faculty of the medical school, as well as a hospitalist at the Stanford University Medical Center. He had remarried and was happily living up north of the city in a development called Sea Ranch, but it had been a few years since she had made the trek up there. 

Her father had noted the change in his daughter and he asked her about it one day over grilled pastrami sandwiches and a beer at The Oasis, one of the local hangouts they liked to meet at from time to time. She danced around the subject for a while then finally came clean.

“His name is Brendan, Daddy,” and Doc Watson could tell she was in love.

“So, this is the real deal? Is he the one?”

When she nodded the Doc smiled. “So, when do we get to meet this guy?”

Susan had smiled and then she’d shrugged. “Whenever,” she said, somewhat cagily.

“Okay, Kiddo, you wanna tell me what’s going on?”

“I think he’s going to ask me to marry him, Dad.”

But while the Doc had smiled he’d done so carefully, mindful of the past wanting to play out again. He felt the burdens of his own past in the smile he saw on his daughter’s face, maybe because she had reminded him so much of her mother just then. He could still see Charlie’s happiness, especially in his dreams, so Susan’s smile left him feeling a little off balance. “And you’ve known this boy how long? Since the semester began?”

She nodded enthusiastically.

“Well, do you know anything about his family?”

“Nope.”

“And he’s studying math?”

“Yup.”

“What does he plan doing after school?”

She shrugged. “I have no idea, Daddy.”

“Oh. So then…you’ve really thought this thing through. That’s nice.”

“So, do you still want to meet him?”

“Well, don’t you think I should?”

As it happened, DD and The Doc picked up Susan and Brendan late on a Friday afternoon two weeks later, and they drove up to Sea Ranch together – after they stopped at San Francisco International to pick up Liz Bullitt, who had come out for the weekend. Deborah Eisenstadt’s birthday was the stated occasion and all kinds of friends were coming up to Sea Ranch for what was shaping up to be a party of legendary proportions.

But two rather funny things happened on the drive up to Sea Ranch.

Liz was of course a musician. And it took her about two-tenths of a second to recognize Brendan Geddes – and so that cat hopped right out of the bag and was now on the loose.

And the second cat to break free?

Well, when Brendan Geddes took one look at Liz Bullitt he was well and truly smitten, and even Susan Watson could see the handwriting on that wall.

The Doc had simply rolled his eyes as he made his way through traffic to the Golden Gate, but DD had quickly surmised what had happened and she had looked at her husband just once on the drive up.

And hardly anyone spoke – except of course Liz. She had a million questions she wanted to ask Brendan, and the boy seemed only too happy to oblige.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

[Joni Mitchell \\ Both Sides Now (2000)]