The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 41

88th key cover image

Part V

Chapter 41

“Harry, I don’t know how you feel about me now, but I feel like we’ve got to clear the air.”

His stateroom was tiny, had but a single chair to go with the tiny sofa that seemed designed to hold two small children, and as she had taken the sofa he opted to sit on the edge of the bed. 

“Clear the air?” he asked. “What isn’t clear?”

“Why you’re so angry with me.”

“Really? Well, I thought we had something good going, but I was wrong. Seems to me that was the end of the story.”

“You know that’s not true.”

“Oh? Do I?”

“You knew the situation, you understood the position I was in. What would you have done?”

“Are you saying you think trying to reconcile with a known abuser is somehow justified?”

“No. But I took an oath, Harry, I made a promise, and I felt obligated to…”

“Evelyn, let’s be clear; when you attempted to reconcile what you expressed was your love for your husband, despite everything that had happened. I get the oath thing, the desire to uphold a promise you made, but in light of your actions with me you violated everything to do with that oath. You walked away from one promise, but you did so for a very good reason, then you made another you chose not to keep. You know, I’ve been to more family disturbances than you could imagine, and I’ve talked to literally hundreds of women who’ve been battered by really awful human beings, yet there’s one big thing that’s always bothered me about those conversations.”

“What’s that?”

“Many, if not most of those women, the women who chose to stay in those relationships, did so not because of some obscure obligation to a promise made, but because they thought, on some level, that they deserved the abuse. Maybe they…”

“Oh, come off it, Harry…”

“No, really. I think many of these women stay because they are conditioned as children to think that way. I think these women, maybe on some kind of subconscious level, end up choosing men that are like their fathers. Being abused reinforces some kind of terrible need for validation of the idea that they need to be punished by their fathers…”

“And you think that’s what this was all about? That I was affirming a need to be abused when I tried to reconcile my differences with him… Really? Do you have any idea how monstrous that sounds, Harry?”

“I’m telling you what I’ve experienced…”

“But that pseudo-Freudian psychobabble? Where the hell did you pick that up?”

“In academy. We had a week long module on…”

“Jesus, Harry. What you’re saying is you got a day or two of instruction on the psychology of abuse victims, and that’s what formed your understanding of domestic abuse? Do you really not see how dangerous that is?”

“No. Cops aren’t social workers. And the reasons why women are abused isn’t really why we’re there. Domestic physical violence is against the law, and if a woman is battered that is a clear violation of that law. As cops, that’s all we’re there for. We’re not there to act as marriage counselors or group therapists; we’re there simply to observe the situation, report on what we find, and arrest anyone that has broken that law. Period. And Evelyn, I can’t tell you how many of these women refuse to press charges…”

“The reasons can be complicated, Harry. My guess is the most obvious reason comes down to money. What woman wants to end up pushed out onto the street in the middle of the night, and maybe bringing along two or three kids in the process. What kind of choice is that? Are you putting the blame on that woman because she doesn’t want to…”

“False choice. In those situations the guy gets hauled off to jail…”

“Really? From what I hear, the good ole boy network usually kicks in and the guy blames everything on the woman, and the cop buys into that because, well, you guys have to stand together, right?”

“Maybe it was like that twenty years ago, but there’ve been major changes to domestic violence laws. That stuff doesn’t happen anymore…”

“Right. Because now your mind has been pumped full of Freudian nonsense. Now you can blame it all on some unconscious need to…”

Callahan held up his hands, shook his head. “You know what? I’m not sure I want to continue this conversation, because I really don’t see any purpose. Do you?”

She shook her head. “No, I don’t.” And she quietly left Callahan’s little stateroom, leaving him to pick up his book and sit down in a little pool of light.

He was upset, of course, without really knowing the reason why. Maybe because, he thought, on some level he’d still wanted to get back together with her. ‘So maybe,’ he thought, ‘on some level I spewed out all that psychobabble to push her away, to keep that from happening.’

But why?

‘Do I really just want to be alone? Is that it? Have I become so set in my ways, my thinking so fixed and rigid that I don’t want to be with someone who can get really close, someone who is going to challenge me all the time? Someone who will look down on my experiences as a cop, who will question what I did out there all the time?’

He picked up Shōgun and resumed reading, but his mind kept drifting back to Evelyn and he found he missed the idea of her being a part of his life.

But maybe, he thought, he just missed the idea of being with her. 

‘Reality is a little messier, isn’t it?’

He drifted between the experiences of the characters in the novel and his own, those times with June and An Linh and Sara, even that high maintenance reporter, and the sensation was strange. Maybe because the pain of their memory blotted out the all the good times they’d shared.

‘No,’ he mumbled, ‘all in all, I think I’d really rather be alone. I don’t need any more pain.’

He read through the night again, finishing the book just as the sun came up.

________________________________

The ship docked in Honolulu for an overnight stay, and while almost everyone jumped at the chance to spend a few hours ashore, Harry decided to spend some time with his father.

Lloyd had seemed a little distant since their ‘big’ conversation, yet Harry wanted there to be no ambiguity between them from now on. With that decided, spending all the free time he could with Lloyd became his shipboard goal, calling him ‘Dad’ and ‘father’ whether alone or with his friends was the best affirmation he could think of – but today, Lloyd had several hours in the middle of the day to himself, so Harry had asked if they could spent that time together.

“Why don’t you spend time with that young filly.”

“I don’t think that’s going to work out, Dad.”

“Really? The way she was looking at you the other night, I’d have thought that was a slam-dunk.”

“Doesn’t matter. Besides, I’d rather spend the time with you.”

“Well Harry, that’s just plain nuts. Girl like that? Hell son, if I was your age I’d be on her like stink on shit.”

Harry shook his head. “The buffet is open. Why don’t we get up there before the crowd hits?”

“Won’t be any crowds today, Harry. Tell you what? Let’s go over to the Royal Hawaiian. Best lunch in town, and I’m buyin’!”

They ran into Frank and Cathy at the gangplank; it was decided they’d all go to the famed hotel together. They had a big lunch – the boys got sloshed on mai-tais – then Frank and Cathy took off in search of souvenirs…leaving the Callahans to talk.

“You won’t remember it, but we came here when you were four years old.”

“The three of us?”

Lloyd pointed at the beach beyond the swimming pool. “I’ve got pictures of you and your mother standing knee deep in the water, just there. What a fantastic day! Building sand castles and going for a ride in one of those outrigger canoes.”

“I think I remember the picture. Never knew it came from here.”

“Spent a week here. Kind of a big deal those days. I’d just been promoted and I thought your mother could use a change of scenery. Teaching was difficult for her then; she was still having trouble with English…and I think some of the kids made fun of her.”

“You were doing the San Francisco to Honolulu run, weren’t you?”

“Yes. We didn’t start passenger service to Hong Kong and Japan until the late fifties.”

“I remember that. You were on the first trip to Hong Kong.”

Lloyd nodded. “So many firsts. Things were so bad back in ’39 some of us were sent from school on the first convoy to the U.S. Made one round trip then back to school. I was assigned to my first ship after school and we were on the initial Lend-Lease convoy, then the first Murmansk run. After I made First Officer our ship was the first into Copenhagen. That’s when I met your mother, by the way.”

“Oh?”

“Saul. He spotted me, said he wanted me to get her to Canada. Vancouver, he said. He’d meet us there with further instructions, he told me.” Lloyd seemed to grow distant as the memory returned; soon his eyes were glossy with moisture. “I fell in love with her, of course, but there was nothing I could do, physically anyway, about that. By the time Saul made it to Vancouver he’d decided America was the best place for her; he’d buy us a house in San Francisco if I’d take her there. I told him about the maritime school there and he offered to pay for that, too.”

“Did he?”

Lloyd nodded. “With the war over I had no prospects for work in the UK, and I think I had a few hundred pounds in my wallet. There was no way I could’ve afforded that house, or even that school, without his help. I was an immigrant, ineligible for GI Bill benefits, but I was skilled and that made all the difference. Saul knew what he was doing. He was one smart son of a bitch, I’ll tell you that.”

“So, how’d it work with mom? You know…?”

“That’s why he opened the store in the city. Funny, because that store made ten times more money than the original store in Copenhagen ever did. He built it up into something special. Anyway, I’d told him about me, about the injury, and that made me safe, I think. He wanted a son, he told me once. She gave him one. They gave me you. The rest is unimportant, I guess.”

“I can’t imagine a better father than you.”

Lloyd nodded, turned away and asked for the check.

“Let’s go down to the beach,” Lloyd said after he settled the bill. 

They walked down to the beach and out onto the sand and Lloyd turned once, looked around for a moment. “Yup, right about here. You and I built a really colossal castle right about…here,” he said, pointing to a spot on the sand. “Goddam, son, but time does really move fast. Feels like yesterday.”

Lloyd turned away just then, and Harry could tell his father was crying as he walked down to the water’s edge. The sun was headed fast for the horizon now, and when Harry reached his old man he was staring into the sea.

“I took that picture from here. The two of you were right out there.”

“You miss her, don’t you?”

“There’s not an hour goes by when I don’t think of her. And not a minute I don’t curse Avi Rosenthal.”

“Why Avi?”

“He betrayed your mother and the people she worked with. They escaped to Sweden, she didn’t. No, your mother ended up in a concentration camp – because of him.”

“What?”

“I guess he never told you that part?”

“He did not.” Callahan felt his heart hammering in his forehead.

“Believe it or not, Avi married your mother before all that happened. I don’t think he knew what was going to happen, but it was Saul who followed your mother into Germany, then to the camp. Not Avi. It was Saul who broke her out and got her back to Copenhagen. Of course, Saul was the one who loved your mother, but Avi couldn’t stand the idea. He hated Saul, because Saul was the smart one. A diplomat in the foreign service, very gifted in languages. Saul used to refer to Avi as ‘that grifter.’ Anyway, Avi married her but Saul did his best to keep her away from him after the war.”

“Did Mom know all this?”

“Oh, heavens no. Saul didn’t have the heart to tell her, but when Avi found her in that temple it was all over. Avi had, you see, a prior claim, so she went with him.”

“But she left us!”

“I know, son. I know. Perhaps if I could see inside her music I might understand, but I am so glad I can’t. The truth, I fear, might kill me.”

“Well Dad, it’s just the two of us now, and I’m glad we’re here together.”

“Me too, son.”

“We’d better get back. You have a ship to take care of.”

Lloyd nodded. “Let’s stay and watch the sunset, Harry. If you’re not in a hurry?”

“Sounds like a plan, Dad.”

Evelyn was on the patio by the pool, and she was looking at the two of them standing out there on the sand, wondering what had just passed between them. She’d been following them all day by keeping just out of sight, and as she stood there, watching them talk, she felt herself getting sadder and sadder. She knew that soon she’d be falling into that dark place she feared most of all, but she also knew she had enough pills with her this time, enough to get the job done, anyway.

_________________________________

His father disappeared into the bowels of the ship as soon as the Callahans were back onboard, but Harry was, oddly enough, very hungry so he went up to the poolside buffet. Frank was sitting on the edge of the pool, his legs dangling in the water, and he was by himself. Harry walked over and pulled up a chair.

“What’s up?” Bullitt said as Harry sat.

“I think I’ve got a little problem.”

“Yeah? Such as?”

“Evelyn. She followed us all afternoon.”

Bullitt nodded. “Yeah, I saw her.”

“Anything I need to know about?”

Frank took a long, deep breath and held it, shaking his head slowly as he exhaled. “Yeah. She has a tendency to get a little depressed. Tony, that’s her ex, pushed her over the edge a couple of times and things got a little rough, but that was a couple of years ago. I thought we were past all that.”

“What do you mean by a little rough?”

“Valium. Overdosing on valium.”

“Jesus, Frank! Why didn’t you tell me…?”

Bullitt grimaced. “I’d really hoped all that was in the past, Harry. I wouldn’t have tried to get you two together if I’d thought…”

“I know, I know,” Harry said as gently as he could, “I can understand that. But following people? Has that been a problem too?”

Frank nodded. “Yeah. Once that I know of, anyway, but that was back in high school.”

“Any history of violence towards others?”

“Nope.”

“Anything you think we need to do?”

Frank looked up at Harry. “What do you think brought this on?”

“She came by my room last night. It didn’t go well.”

Bullitt nodded. “Okay.”

“Do you think she’ll try something?”

“I don’t know; depends on how invested she is in the idea of you two being together.”

“She seemed pretty bent out of shape, Frank.”

“Then if she has pills she might try something.”

“Should we toss her room, take what we find?”

Frank thought about that, but then shook his head. “If you were on a boat at sea and wanted to kill yourself, what would you do?”

“Jesus, Frank…you don’t really think…?”

“I don’t want to take a chance, Harry. Do you?”

Callahan looked around, thought he saw her in the shadows…”Frank…?”

“Yeah, I know,” Frank sighed. “I’ve been watching her in a reflection. She’s been there a couple of minutes.”

“Where’s Cathy?”

“Down for the count. Said her feet were killing her.”

“Well, I think I’m going to go take care of this right now.”

Bullitt nodded. “Okay. Let me know how it turns out.”

“You okay, Frank?”

“I don’t know.”

“What’s on your mind?”

“Being a father, and not being around.”

Harry looked at his friend and wondered how much he could tell him about the things the Old Man in the Cape had said. “You know what, Frank? Things have a way of working out.”

Bullitt looked up, the question clear in his eyes. “What are you not telling me, Amigo?”

“Just that, Frank. Stop worrying. Okay? You read me?”

“Just like that, huh? Stop worrying?”

“Things have a way of working out, Frank. The next five months are the five most important months in Cathy’s life, and yours too. Don’t waste a minute of it staring into a swimming pool.”

“Harry? Go easy on her. She’s had a rough time.”

“I will.”

He walked away from where he’d seen Evelyn, make a few unpredictable turns then doubled back to her room, then he sat and leaned against her door. He only had to wait a few minutes…

“Well, well, as I live and breathe,” she said as she walked up to him, “it’s Archie Bunker.”

He stood, got out of the way so she could open the door to her cabin. “I’d like to talk to you, if you have some time.”

“In here, or have you had dinner?”

“Evelyn, I’d say you already know the answer to that.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’re not very good at following people.”

“Oh,” she said, her voice suddenly flat, now kind of frail.

“Let’s talk in your room for a little bit, then go get some chow.”

“Okay.” She opened the door and he followed her inside, but her steps were tentative, almost unsteady. “So, what do you want to talk about.”

“You.”

She looked away, resigned, but he tracked her eyes in a mirror atop one of the cabinets in the little room. “Well, go ahead. Let the inquisition begin.”

He looked at her, not quite sure how he felt about what she’d done today but acutely aware that for the past hour or so he’d felt an overwhelming need to protect her. To be there for her. What, he wondered, was the best way to accomplish that right now? 

“We seem to be having a hard time talking to one another,” he started. “Do you have any idea why?”

“Probably because you don’t trust me anymore.”

He shrugged. “What about you? Do you trust me?”

She turned and looked at him. “Yes.”

“Good,” he said as he held out his hand. “Let’s take a walk.”

She took his hand, let him guide her out of the room and then out onto the promenade. 

“Your skin feels good to me,” he said, gently squeezing her hand.

“This feels right to me, Harry. You feel so right.”

“We can’t get anywhere tearing each other apart,” he said, thinking of John Blackthorne and Mariko-San in Shōgun, trying to see his way through the maze ahead, “but what I want to know is where you’d like this to go.”

“You and me?”

“Yup. You and me.”

“I’d like us to start again – from where we left off.”

“So, what do we do about the whole trust thing?”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“You said you think I don’t trust you anymore. Where does that leave us? Where do we go from here?”

“There’s got to be some way for you to trust me again.”

He nodded. “Its been my experience that trust is earned over time. What about you? Does that sound right?”

She nodded.

“Okay, so we start over from right here. We start by earning each other’s trust – one day at a time. And we take the pressure off, okay? We decide to go where this takes us, with no pressure. Sound okay to you?”

She nodded, but he felt some kind of hesitation holding her back. “Why are you doing this, Harry?”

“Oh, it’s simple, really, but ask me after you finish reading Shōgun.”

“How’d you know I was reading that?”

“I was passing the store the other day and saw you in there buying it.”

“You cops notice everything, don’t you?”

“Absolutely everything. It annoys the hell out of people, too.”

“So, you’ve got to be hungry by now,” she said. “Buffet or sit-down?”

“You know, I saw some of those big king crab legs on the buffet. Wanna give those a try?”

He turned, saw his father in the distance looking their way – and then his old man shot him a ‘thumb’s up’ and smiled. Harry smiled and waved, then she took his hand and pulled him back into the present.

_________________________________

He continued to visit his father every day, usually after lunch when Captain Callahan spent a few hours away from the bridge. They talked about the house in Potrero more than anything else, about what needed to be done to keep it in tip-top shape, and Lloyd spoke wistfully about retirement and soon having the time to keep up with all the work the old place needed.

“My too,” Harry said.

“You’re too young for this bullshit, Harry. You’ll need to find something else to do or you’ll go nuts.”

“I figured as much. You ever see that film The New Centurions?”

“That the one with George C Scott?”

“Yup.”

“Case in point, Harry. Cops have so much of their emotional lives invested in their work that when retirement comes there’s nothing left…just this huge void. There’s no purpose left in a life that’s been completely focused on such a clear mission. Retirement becomes a vacuum that sucks whatever life is left…”

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you sure you’re talking about cops?”

“What do you mean?”

“Sounds kind of like you’re talking about sea-captains, too.”

Lloyd laughed a little. “I guess it does, but you know what? I’ve been collecting these kits, big ship models. Old sailing ships, mostly, all wood, right down to the planking on the hulls. I’ve been thinking about it for years…”

“Building models? What brought that on?”

“Odd thing, that. You just finished that Clavell book, didn’t you? Shōgun, right?”

“Yeah. Really fascinating stuff…”

“Well, what got me on to the modeling thing was a book. Well, ten so far. Have you heard of Patrick O’Brian?”

Harry shook his head. 

“Pity. You should give them a look.”

“Did you say ten? As in ten books?”

“Yes, So far. The series takes place in the late Napoleonic era, the Royal Navy versus French naval forces, very detailed, quite fascinating. I just finished the tenth one, The Far Side of the World; the eleventh book is out but I haven’t got ‘round to it just yet.”

“Worth reading, then?”

“I’d say if you have any interest in the period, or the subject matter, you’ll find them brilliant…yet I’ve heard that literature professors are taking them up for use in class. Very highly regarded, son. Anyway, they’re on the bookshelf in the living room, so help yourself next time you drop by.”

“Funny. Shōgun is, in a roundabout way, about sailing as well.”

“Really?”

“Yup. I’ll drop off my copy tomorrow.”

“Better not, son. I never read on a passage, want to keep my mind clear, and I’d be tempted.”

“Okay, when we get home then. I’ll get started on your series then.”

“Oh, they have the whole series in the library up on Deck Seven. Usually have a few copies in the store, as well. The first book is Master and Commander. Give it a go and tell me what you think.”

“Okay, will do.”

“Now, tell me about Evelyn. What brought on the sudden change of heart…?”

Harry told him everything, including the things Frank had told him.

Lloyd’s eyes narrowed the more Harry spoke. “You do know what you’re doing, son?”

“I hope so. She’s a decent person, Dad; she’s just made a few mistakes.”

“And I suppose she says she’s in love with you?”

“Yes.”

“You’re not leading her on, are you?”

“No, sir. One step at a time.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’ve always moved fast, Dad. Even with June. I just knew we’d be together forever, and probably five minutes after I met her. That’s just the way I’m wired, I guess.”

“I’d say so, but most of us are.”

“Well, I told her all that, and I also told her I wanted to go slow. Real slow.”

“Real slow? Now, what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Just that, Dad. No impulsive moves this time.”

“Pills, you said. Is that something I should know about? I mean in a professional capacity?”

“We dumped them overboard. All of them.”

“Did you now? Surprising, that.”

“Well, like I said: one step at a time. If it’s real we’ll find out together, and if it’s just some kind of rebound thing we’ll find that out, too.”

“Sounds like you’ve thought this through.”

Harry nodded. “Funny, but I think it all comes down to that book, Dad. Frank thinks it’s the Buddhism in the story. Maybe. I don’t know enough about it to say one way or another, but having patience, letting things unfold…that seems to be the point of the book.”

“Those are good things though, right?”

Harry shrugged. “Like I said, Dad, I just don’t know, but sometimes it feels like we bounce from one fad to the next, especially in California. Maybe this too shall pass.”

“Well, in two more days you’re going to be in the perfect place to find out.”

“Don’t I know it. Frank’s got this huge itinerary laid out for us. Temples, shrines, gardens…even restaurants that specialize in foods from that period. We’re going to a kimono maker, a sword maker, all of it. Shoji screens, tatami mats, tool makers…everything mentioned in the book.”

“Can you squeeze all that in? I mean, we get back to Osaka in seventeen days…?”

“He’s got two weeks of non-stop tours lined up, Dad, including an overnight at a temple with a bunch of monks. I think we’ll all be Buddhists by the time we re-board the ship.”

“Man, he really got into this thing, didn’t he? You worried about him?”

“No, not yet anyway. He’s got a lot on his mind and not all of it good, so maybe this is kind of a good thing. Something outside of himself to focus on, I guess.”

“And what about you? What do you think of all this Japan stuff?”

“If I hadn’t read the book? Man, I don’t know. I’d think he was off his rocker.”

“But you have read it, haven’t you?”

“Well yeah, and I’d like to see some of the places that are mentioned in the book, but it’s not like I’ve attached some kind of divine significance to them.”

“And Frank has?”

Harry shrugged. “Hard to say, Dad. What do you feel after reading those O’Brian books?”

Lloyd thought for a moment, a distant look in his eyes. “Maybe it’s simple curiosity, Harry, but sometimes I think it’s more than that. When I read something like those books, something that takes places in the past and that experience, in a way, takes me there, it feels kind of like being a voyeur of sorts, or maybe even a time traveler. I think for a little while we can shed our daily existence and drift back to another time, another way of life, and maybe that’s what is so attractive about it. Or maybe seductive is a better word.”

“Well, I can see Frank needing a different world he can slide into from time to time.”

Lloyd nodded. “Yes, maybe so – unless he can’t find his way back out, but that’s a danger in any really absorbing pursuit. Still, maybe he sees something of the principal character’s life in his own. A character’s life changes over the course of the story, so is it too much to hope that our understanding of life changes as a result of what we read…”

___________________________________

It had seemed for days that the closer to Japan he got Frank Bullitt grew increasingly agitated, almost like a horse in the starting gate just before the most important race of its life. He had been drinking green tea for weeks, and once Bullitt found out that they were making sushi onboard he simply couldn’t get enough. He’d packed a dozen books on Japanese history in his suitcases and Harry had seen him sitting in the ship’s library at all hours, yellow highlighter poised over a page while frantically taking notes…just like he was studying for final exams.

Then one night at dinner Harry had watched Frank taking some sort of mucky green paste and spreading it on a sliver of raw fish, then swabbing the fish in a little soy sauce before tossing it down – and the first time he watched he’d turned away in disgust. Then Frank convinced Cathy and Evelyn to try a few pieces and they were instant converts. When Sam Bennett tried some – and survived – Callahan knew his number was up, that he couldn’t put it off forever, and the next time Frank ‘insisted’ he gave in.

“Don’t worry about using chopsticks,” Frank said as he passed over a plate loaded with several pieces of raw salmon. “Just take a little wasabi…”

“What is this stuff? It looks like radioactive snot.”

“It’s the root of a Japanese horseradish, ground up into a paste.”

“Horseradish? So it’s hot?”

“If you use too much it is. The soy is a good complement, though. Here. I’ll do the first one. A little dab of wasabi, then a little splash of soy, pick it up and eat it.”

Callahan used about three times the wasabi that Frank had, and dunked his piece in soy and tossed the salmon into his mouth. He chewed a couple of times then his eyes popped open and he began to sweat profusely; he swallowed and reached for a glass of iced tea. “Goddam! My nose is on fire…!”

“Use less wasabi next time.”

And a half hour later Callahan too was a convert.

_____________________________

A cold front had blown through the night before, leaving the air clear and crisp, almost a little cold, but wandering through the grounds of Osaka Castle that morning Callahan simply hadn’t noticed. Walking through the Western Gate had been awe-inspiring enough; the huge granite blocks chiseled to fit in intricate forms, leading to narrow pathways between buildings lined with just-budding cherry trees, then to the central tower, the Tenshu. When the group came to the Tenshu everyone stopped and looked up in awe, if only because – for them – all the characters in the novel began to come alive…

…and it wasn’t hard to imagine the scene in torchlight, Mariko-san leading the procession and her confrontation with Ichido’s samurai, Toranaga hidden in his desperate escape, Blackthorne looking on until…all of it…so suddenly real…

“All of it,” Frank whispered, “it’s all right here, isn’t it?”

And the funny thing, Callahan thought as he looked around, was that the story did indeed begin to take shape in his mind. “I can almost see Clavell walking along, working his way through the possibilities of his story…and right here,” Harry said, adding, “almost piecing the story together as he walked.”

There were already food sellers setting up stands, cooking traditional skewers of meat and vegetables, and a few stands were even offering fresh fish – raw, of course. Harry looked at everything and wanted pictures and then realized no one had brought a camera! His own interest in photography had been limited to, at best, crime scene photography, but suddenly he wanted to get all this recorded.

He and Frank had engaged the services of a guide for the entire two weeks so Callahan asked her about cameras. “I know a very good place to shop. We will stop after we leave here,” Fujiko-san advised, but in the meantime she pulled out an old Pentax and took pictures of the group while they walked around the castle.

When Harry contacted the shipping line they had recommended a concierge service that put together custom tours, guided or unguided, but when Callahan mentioned Shōgun to the representative they had offered all kinds of options that were already available.

“Is the book that popular?” Callahan had asked.

“You have no idea.”

When Callahan said he wanted something comprehensive the guide service recommended a two week long excursion, fully escorted and with all hotels and meals included. Upgrades included academic-level guides and stays in small inns that offered an authentic experience, so Harry had sprung for it.

He’d met Fujiko-san for the first time when they boarded their mini-bus earlier that morning; she was beyond gorgeous and had quite simply taken his breath away. Of course, Evelyn noticed and was instantly on-guard, but Fujiko-san had instantly proven to be a professional and kept a polite distance, yet was always on hand to answer questions.

After leaving the castle she took them to a huge camera store; prices were very good compared to the States and Harry bought a Nikon F-3HP and a couple of lenses; Cathy already had the camera bug but she picked up a new F-3 and several lenses, then the group resumed their journey, heading across the city to the Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine.

A graduate student was on hand and launched into a prepared lecture on the Shinto belief system alluded to in the novel – which frequently, if indirectly, focused on the nature of ‘kami’ in the day to day lives of feudal Japanese society. John Blackthorne’s experiences in the book framed a beginner’s appreciation of the concept, so the grad student went a little deeper, discussing Clavell’s Mariko-san and the narratives she employed to teach Blackthorne basic Shinto concepts, most notably the ‘watching a rock grow’ motif she employed to pass-on the key ideas of patience and harmony. The group was encouraged to break up and find a niche in the surrounding gardens and play with the idea, but Harry used the time to play with his new camera instead.

Fujiko-san followed and watched him, then went over to him as he started to take a picture of an ancient stone lantern in a garden of raked pebbles.

“If you want to take a photograph of a lantern, first study the lantern. Look at the key elements of its construction, look at the way light plays with the different surface textures. Move around, change angles, think about looking at the finished photograph hanging on a wall. What do you want people to understand about why you chose to photograph this lantern, what impressions do you want to convey to them?”

“Seems like an awful lot of trouble just to take a picture.”

“That depends on what you expect of a photograph, Mr. Callahan.”

“Harry, please. Call me Harry. And what do you mean, what do you expect of a photograph?”

“Ah, consider one difference…between a snapshot and a photograph. A snapshot records a moment in time, while a good photograph exists outside of time, almost beyond time. Do you want to take a snapshot of a lantern, or do you want to make a photograph of this lantern that, perhaps, tells a story.”

“Tells a story?”

“Yes, an image that invites the viewer inside. A new space that creates the beginnings of a journey into the imagination, a place where the mind can wander. For example, how many nights has the lantern seen. What stories could this lantern tell if he could speak.”

“If I saw a lantern speak I think I’d need to go to a hospital.”

“Really? Then the idea of kami has eluded you, Mr. Callahan.”

“You mean, a spirit could live inside this lantern?”

She smiled. “Almost. Not quite. First you must listen, Mr. Callahan. Listen first, then understand. But I suggest you respectfully look at the lantern again, because this kami is quite powerful.”

______________________________

They drove into the foothills as their first afternoon waned, to an ancient inn cradled in a narrow, tree and cliff-lined valley. The rooms seemed arranged like stones in a river, following the contours of the stream that ran through the tiny valley, and just as in the novel the rooms were simplicity in the extreme – tatami mats and shoji screens and little else. A spare, elegant meal was served, then Fujiko-san led the group to a bath house, where everyone rinsed before heading outside to a series of hot springs that lined the rocks above the creek.

Evelyn seemed put-off by the public nature of the exercise and disappeared, and it seemed like everyone looked at her as she left. Frank and Cathy discovered a little waterfall and sat in a stone pool shaped and smoothed by eons of clear water, while Sam and Elaine sat and watched Dell and Carl play with their hyperactive kids.

Harry found a deep pool and slipped into the water, at first surprised by how hot the water was then, as the night soon grew quite cold, more than happy to stay in up to his neck.

“This is a most special spot,” Fujiko-san said as she came over to Callahan’s pool. “Over there, along that edge you can find a ledge that is most comfortable to rest on.”

“Where?”

“Here. Let me show you.” She let her robe drop to the ground and Callahan was tempted to look away – but simply couldn’t – and he held out a hand to help her as she stepped into the pool. “It is over here,” she said, gliding across the water, leading him on. He followed her and found the spot…a smooth ledge that had, over time, formed into a perfectly smooth bench.

He slipped down until his chin was just touching the water and sighed and he felt her come close.

“Thank you for today,” he said.

“Oh? What did I do?”

“For the advice.”

“It takes time to learn to see the way a camera does, but that is the first step to becoming a photographer. More than anything else, it takes time.”

“It helps to be aware of the difference, too.”

“For many, such differences are unimportant. There is something in the way you look at things, however. I sensed that perhaps you might enjoy the journey.”

“You are very perceptive.”

“I hardly think so.”

“So, what are we doing tomorrow?”

“In the morning we drive to Ajiro, which in the novel was the setting for Omi’s village, Anjiro. We will, as best we can, follow in Clavell’s footsteps. Let us say from the sea into the mountains, slowly, and this will be the Izu Peninsula, home of Lord Yabu and his lands.”

“Ah, yes. The opportunist.”

“Yes, but his sort is always with us. In life, as in the story, you can count on treachery to move the action, to change the direction of the hero’s journey, and this Yabu does from beginning to end.”

“What did you think of the novel?”

“I still am not sure. In some ways the story is like a comic book, and I do not mean that derogatorily; rather some important parts of Japanese culture are presented accurately while other, less important elements are given an equal place. Still, this is not the novel’s real importance.”

“And what is that?”

“An opportunity, Mr. Callahan. For many people and for far too long, their understanding of Japan was defined by the hardships imposed by world war. The novel presented an opportunity to reveal other parts of the Japanese story, and all the more interesting as Mr. Clavell was a prisoner of war and suffered greatly.”

“Perhaps he saw something worth exploring.”

“As, perhaps, you did?”

“I decided to do this in order to help my friend.”

“Ah, Mr. Bullitt?”

“Yes. He read the book and wanted to come here, to explore and discover what he experienced in the book?”

“He is not well, your friend?”

“No, he is not well.”

“It is important to have friends.”

“Yes. Very important.”

“The woman who left?”

“Evelyn. Yes?”

“I should not say this, but she is very dangerous.”

“I know.”

“Yet you choose to keep her near you? Why so?”

“She is Frank’s sister.”

“Ah, that explains much.”

“Does it? Well then, perhaps you could explain it to me.”

“You don’t want to hurt your friend. Still, you should be very careful. I sense that she often tries to hurt herself, yet often brings worse pain to those around her.”

“How do you know that?”

“The kami, Mr. Callahan. At the temple. They reacted to her presence.”

“And what? They told you?”

She laughed a little. “Hardly. But even so an avenue presents itself.”

“I don’t understand.”

She nodded. “You are only at the beginning of one possible journey, Mr. Callahan. Be patient. Life is full of old mysteries – around each new bend in the road. Like a photograph just waiting to be discovered, such things come from a hidden place.”

“Your English is very good. Have you been to America?”

“Oh, yes. Actually, I was born in California, but more by accident than choice. My father was a diplomat serving at the consulate in San Francisco, and though they wanted my mother to return home for my birth she was unable to do so. I spent several years there before I was able to come home, and I came back for university.”

“What did you study?”

“Literature. Which is of course why I am a tour guide.”

They laughed at that, she more than Callahan. “So, where’d you go to school?”

“Stanford for two years, then UC Santa Cruz. And yes, I know. Santa Cruz was a better fit for me. Where did you go to school?”

Callahan thought about that for a minute, not really sure how to answer that one anymore. “Probably the Tenderloin District,” he said at last.

“Excuse me?”

“After I graduated from Police Academy, that was my first real assigned beat.”

“You are a police officer?”

“I was. Frank and I retired about a month ago. Almost everyone in this little group was there, as a matter of fact.”

“How strange. I did not expect that.”

“Oh? What did you expect?”

“Businessmen, usually, request such in-depth tours.”

“Well, like I said, this is for Frank.”

“He saved your life, perhaps?”

He looked at Bullitt and Cathy in their little pool and nodded. “Yeah. Every day.”

“What about his sister?”

“She’s getting a divorce. We had a brief fling.”

“But it is awkward now?”

He nodded.

She closed her eyes, leaned back on the smooth rock and took a deep breath. “What would you have done if you had been shipwrecked here four hundred years ago?”

He smiled. “Hard to say, isn’t it?”

“Is there a part of the story you relate to more than any other?”

He nodded. “Mariko and Buntaro, when he attempted seppuku and was reborn. The arrows. All of it…that scene is burned into my memory.”

“I would not have thought that.”

“Oh?”

“You yearn to be someone else? Something more than you were?”

“There are a few things I wish had turned out differently.” He tensed, waited for the next question…but it never came. When he turned and looked at her he found she was staring intently into his eyes…

She was searching for the reasons behind the pain that was so obvious, but what she found was at once hollow and terrifying – like standing on a bald mountain and watching an approaching storm.

“What will you do now?” she asked, her eyes following the movement of his lips as he spoke.

“I want to fly again.”

“You are a pilot?”

“Helicopters.”

“Vietnam?”

“Yes.”

“You saw many bad things?”

“Yes.”

“And yet you want to return to that world?”

Yes, he thought, that is what I want. I belong in that world. But all he could do was nod his head, yet he did not look away from her eyes.

“We must get up early in the morning, Mr. Callahan. Perhaps we should…”

“There’s something about you, Fujiko-san. Something I can’t see yet.”

She shook her head. “I am a very simple person, Mr. Callahan.”

“And you won’t call me Harry?”

She shook her head. “So disrespectful. I could never so that.”

“Okay. But you’ll excuse me if I disagree with you, because I think you’re anything but simple.” He climbed from the pool and held out his hand – and she took it. He held out her robe and watched as she walked back to the inn, lost in the echoes of her words.

And deep in shadow Evelyn watched too, her eyes twitching in anger.

© 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 (Covid-19) 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 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.Characters from James Clavell’s Shogun are 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 cinematic-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 with these fictional characters? 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…]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s