The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 42

88th key cover image

Part V

Chapter 42

“It’s almost possible to see Omi stalking the beach, hear the crew suffering in the pit,” Bullitt said, his voice a bare whisper in the twilight. He turned to Fujiko-san, wonder in his eyes: “I have you to thank for this. This is exactly what I wanted to experience. This moment. To feel time as it might have been four hundred years ago, what it might have been like to walk this beach…”

Fujiko bowed. “Thank you. I do not deserve such praise.”

They were seated on the sand at a small beach south of Ajiro; the beach was aglow in torchlight, a small dinner of fire roasted vegetables and seafood was cooking on a nearby fire pit, the hissing red embers lending another layer to the colorful sunset.

Evelyn was sitting beside Callahan; she had not smiled all day, had barely said a word – even when asked. If she had expressed any emotion at all, it might have been found in the many covetous sidelong glances she cast – like a fisherman’s net – between Harry and Fujiko-san. Now, she was snuggling up to Callahan in an almost brazen attempt to stake a territorial claim, as if she was daring Fujiko-san to repeat last night’s waterborne drama.

Callahan, for his part, seemed annoyed by Evelyn’s overt manipulations, but he had been growing tired of her all day. This evenings antics had become the last straw on a day filled with childish pouts and churlish moodiness. 

So when Evelyn chided Frank for his overt thankfulness, Harry got up from the sand and walked away, down to the gently ebbing surf. Evelyn got up and ran after him.

“I’m sorry,” she said as she came up behind him. “I can’t help it…”

“It was a mistake to bring you on this trip – you’re like a black hole that sucks all the emotion out of the air. You leave stale misery behind, don’t you? I mean, you do it deliberately, right?”

She stepped back, sucked in a deep breath like she’d been gut-punched, and then she started to cry…

“Oh, stop it, would you?” he hissed. “Tears are for children who don’t know any other way to get what they want.”

Her eyes blinked rapidly, her arms crossed reflexively – as if she was preparing to ward off blows…

But they never came.

“Is that what you do?” he continued. “Push and push and push until the people close to you lash out in self-defense? And then you blame them? Why don’t you grow up and take responsibility for your actions.”

She turned wordlessly and walked into the night; a moment later he felt more than heard Frank walking after her, then he heard Cathy by his side.

“She put on quite a show today, didn’t she,” Cathy sighed. “Frank is beside himself right now.”

“It was that obvious, wasn’t it?”

“Yes. He said he wanted to send her home, but then he realized she has no home to go to. She’s pushed everyone out of her life, and now she’s working on Frank.”

“I think all she wants is some kind of sympathy-banquet.”

Cathy laughed a little at that. “Well put,” she whispered, “but I wonder…”

“How are you feeling?” Callahan asked, changing the subject. 

“My feet are killing me. Some kind of circulatory problem.”

“Your ankles looked a little puffy this afternoon. Maybe you shouldn’t go on so many walks?”

“I’m too old for this, but…”

“But it’s the most important thing you and Frank have ever done.”

She stepped closer, took his arm and leaned her head on his shoulder. “Life is easier with friends, isn’t it?”

“I’m not sure about easier, but it’s not much worth living without them.”

“I hope he’ll be around when she’s born.”

“He will be.”

“What?”

“Just a feeling, Cathy. I just know he’ll be here.”

She squeezed his arm. “Come on. Let’s eat some of those goodies.”

When he woke up the next morning Callahan called Didi; an hour later and with fax in hand he took Evelyn to Tokyo and put her on a Swissair flight to Zurich. Didi planned to meet the plane and take Evelyn to the clinic in Davos. It was, in the end, the only thing he could think to do and he hoped Frank wouldn’t be too upset. Dell and Carl and their broods left for California too, their vacation times at an end – leaving Frank and Cathy, Sam and Elaine, as well as Harry the remaining members of the group, and today they were off to the mountains above Ajiro. They were headed to a small inn; after a night there the group would walk along a trail – from inn to inn – for five days and nights, stopping at small shrines each afternoon. The last night would see them visit a small hotel and teahouse, one reputed to be located in the most gorgeous setting in all Japan. Fujiko-san had prepared reading materials and these were needed to cover the importance of the tea ceremony in Japanese life, and to prepare each of them for their own ceremony.

They walked along a ridge-line from north to south, following a sort of spine that divided the Izu Peninsula into wet and dry regions. The path they walked was, Fujiko-san told them, ancient, and had been in use for at least a thousand years, and during the summer it was always quite crowded…

“Why?” Sam Bennett asked.

“You must see for yourself,” Fujiko-san said. “Only in that way can you truly learn.” 

But it didn’t take long for the little group to understand why. The trail meandered through dark forests and airy glades, then crossed rocky streams that seemed to be meticulously planned settings for secluded gardens. Every so often they rounded a bend and found the way ahead chiseled into the sides of sheer granite cliffs, and hundreds of feet below the sea crashed into a rocky shore. Just when muscles began to ache and their feet to tire another inn suddenly appeared, and soon rocky baths fed by hot springs soothed away all their aches and pains. Their evening meal was in a forest glade one night, then on a rocky outcrop perched high above the sea the next, and every night Fujiko-san instructed them on the importance of tea – and the tea ceremony – before heading off to bed.

In the middle of the second night Callahan woke after a particularly unsettling dream. Evelyn was lost in a blinding snowstorm one moment, and the next he was staring down into a grave. Worms were writhing all over a partially decomposed body before unseen men began filling the grave, and when he woke in a sweat he went outside into the cool air and sat on a rock overlooking the sea.

A few minutes later he heard another shōji screen open and close, then he felt Fujiko-san kneeling by his side. She remained there, not saying a word – barely breathing – until he stood, then she took his hand and led him to the hot springs. In the bathhouse she took off all his night-clothes and rinsed him off, then he followed her to one of the rocky pools. They sat in the water; she kissed him once then she very slowly mounted him, and they remained fused in that position for what felt like an eternity, until the moment of the clouds and the rain came for them.

When he woke up he wondered if any of it had really happened, if their joining had been a part of his fevered dreams, but those doubts vanished when he saw the look in her eyes later than morning.

‘I cannot fall in love again…not so easily, never so carelessly again…’ that cautiously hidden voice said again and again – and just as the trail began descending through a series of narrow, rocky canyons, he began to see the final truth of this walk among the pines. In the distance he could see mist-shrouded spires rising from the sea, and now the air smelled of rocks and pine and sea-blown spray, while a freshening breeze began to chill the sweat on his body. The trail narrowed deeper still, until on the last stretch they were stepping from boulder to boulder, but by then the air around the rocky spires had cleared a little and atop each rocky needle he could just make out a series of cascading wooden structures…

“Is that the inn?” Frank asked, his voice full of wonder.

“Yes,” Fujiko-san said, “and on the farthest rock, just there,” she said, pointing, “is the Teahouse of Autumn Storms.”

The song of wind through pine gave way to mellow notes of rock and sea, and Fujiko-san led them across a narrow bridge, the yawning chasm below a reminder of just how isolated this place really was.

“There is no electricity here, no running water, so be spare with consumption here.”

“There’s no bath?” Elaine Bennett asked.

“Over here,” Fujiko-san said as she led them to an overlook, and everyone in the little group gasped as they looked at several pools set among the rocks, each overlooking the sea. Callahan could just see steam rising from the pools; one just above the crashing surf caught his eye and he thought of Fujiko in the night, and when he looked at her he thought he could see the faintest outlines of a smile within the delicate hint of her lips.

“There are just a few rooms here, so the inn belongs to us for three nights. We will take our meals in the building just there,” she said, pointing at a craggy spire on the far side of a fifty meter gap.

“There’s no bridge,” Sam said. “How do we…”

Fujiko-san turned and smiled. “Be patient. Time will reveal all you need.”

Sam bowed and Fujiko-san returned the gesture, smiling slightly.

A very correct, very traditionally dressed innkeeper appeared and turned to Fujiko; he spoke once and she reminded them to take off their shoes before they entered their rooms, then she turned to Frank and Cathy. “If you will follow this man he will take you to your room. A maid will help you with your clothing and show you to the steps that lead to the baths.”

As Frank and Cathy were led off Fujiko turned to Sam; she asked them to follow the innkeeper’s wife to their room, then she turned to Harry.

“Follow me,” she whispered.

She led him to another narrow bridge and he followed her across the span to what almost looked like an elaborate umbrella shaped structure, but one that seemed hewn into the rock itself. He had to duck low to enter through the low-slung shōji screen but once inside he found the room simply awe-inspiring. The floor was laid out to perfectly accommodate four tatami mats, but it was the view that staggered Callahan. The seaward-facing walls were open to the sea just now, the screen walls open to the sights and sounds of the sea below. He walked around the space, saw that every joint in the wood was a mitered puzzle of impossible cuts, and just outside the formal space of the room was a cantilevered ledge that served as a terrace. He stepped out carefully, mindful that there was not a railing in sight, and then he looked down to the surf a hundred feet below.

“It’s perfect,” he said as she stepped out and joined him. He turned and faced her, looked into her eyes. “Is it possible that you might stay here with me?”

“Just here inside this moment, anything is possible.”

“I would like this moment to last forever,” he said, bowing low.

She most formally returned his bow, then turned to the room. “Your maid is here. She will help you change and lead you to the walkway. I will join you below.”

He stepped inside and the maid helped him out of his walking clothes and into a bathing kimono, then she led him, barefoot, to a hidden shōji screen. Sliding it aside she pointed to a narrow stairway cut into the amber stone; candles in little alcoves lit the way down and Callahan could just see that a rope handrail of sorts was there if he needed it. Concerned that the stone would tear up his feet gave way to wonder when he realized the stone had been worn smooth by hundreds of years of use, and he had made his way down several steps before he realized this stairway was quite literally inside the spire. The only hint he was near the end came when he heard surf crashing into rock, then a gentle increase on light.

He stepped out into a crimson sunset, the sky now gently streaked with wispy yellow-orange clouds, and he spied another maid waiting by the nearest pool; she was standing beside a small stone table laden with things to make tea, as well as a few plates of grilled vegetables and raw fish.

A few minutes later Frank and Cathy appeared, and Sam a few minutes later.

“Elaine is terrified of those steps, and I’m afraid I didn’t do much better…”

“Is she still up there?” Harry asked, pointing.

“Yup. And still clinging to that goddam rope, I do believe.”

Harry dashed to the opening Sam had emerged from and found Elaine still near the top; he had her put a hand out on his shoulder and gently led her out into the sunset.

“My God,” Elaine sighed as she looked around in wonder, “but this was worth the walk.”

Sam was already in a pool nursing a cup of something and Elaine went to her husband and slipped into the water by his side. Harry joined Frank and Cathy as everyone sat in silence, each watching the setting sun as if inside a deep trance.

Harry felt Fujiko slip into the water but she remained a polite distance away, but then she handed him a cup of what he assumed was tea…yet though it was a tea of some kind it was thicker and seemed infused with the flavor of flowers and berries. She passed cups to Frank and Cathy as torches came to life one by one, filling the rocks with dancing shadows and shimmering amber rock.

The maid handed Fujiko a plate of vegetables and fish, and this she passed to Frank and Cathy. The next plate went to Sam and Elaine; when the last was handed to Fujiko she held out this plate, without a word asking Harry to make his choice.

Dinner was elegant but quite spartan; grilled vegetables and more seafood, some cooked over charcoal, some raw. A woman played the koto and sang mournful songs as the moon came out of the sea; soon after everyone returned to their room, if they could be called that, by walking down the dining rooms spire – and then back to the spires that led to each of the four rooms.

The maid was waiting for Callahan and she helped him into a light sleeping kimono, pointing out where he could relieve himself in the night then leaving him to the silence of the moment. A half hour later the shōji slid open and Fujiko came to him; they made love through the night then stepped out onto the terrace, waiting for the sunrise. She leaned against him and he held her close, lost in the quiet timelessness of this first real moment together.

She disappeared a few minutes before his maid returned, and once again the maid helped him into the same bathing kimono he’d worn the night before. He walked down the rock stairway to the pools and there was a light breakfast waiting for him; after everyone had eaten Fujiko appeared – in a swimsuit – and she led them to a shallow entry well away from the breaking surf.

“We will swim out to that rock,” she said, pointing to a tall spire Callahan guessed was at least a hundred meters offshore. “There is a shrine inside the rock; it is a very ancient place, very magical.”

“How cold is that water?” Sam asked.

“It is cool, but not cold. You should be fine as long as you can make reasonable speed through the water.”

Sam shook his head. “Not me. Elaine, feel free.”

“I’m a good swimmer,” Elaine said to Fujiko. “I’m in.”

“Not me,” Cathy said, pointing to her belly. “Frank?”

“Would you mind if I went,” he asked Cathy, who simply shook her head.

“No, go ahead.”

Fujiko led the way down to the water’s edge and Callahan gaped at the clarity of the sea here: “It looks like a swimming pool,” he said as he looked down into the sea, and at the pebbles below the surface.

Fujiko and Elaine took off first, but Frank held Harry back a moment, let the women get ahead a little before he walked into the water.

“Damn,” Harry said as the water hit his groin, “if this isn’t cold I wonder what is?”

“Come on,” Frank said as he dove into the sea. When they were well away from the shore Frank turned to Harry. “Are you making it with her?”

“Fujiko?”

“Goddam, Harry. Who’d you think I was asking about?”

“Yes. We’re  making it, Frank.”

“Damn. I knew it.”

“What does it matter to you?”

“I don’t know, Harry,” Frank said, exasperated. “So, you’re done with Evelyn?”

“Completely.”

“Why’d you send her to Switzerland?”

“She’s sick, Frank. She needs help, but you know what? It’s not my job to rescue people all the time, Frank. I want a life, a real life this time.”

“And you think this girl is going to offer you that? A real life? She’s a walking, talking medieval fantasy, Callahan, not a wife. Hell, she’s like a walking wet-dream right out of that book!”

“She was born in San Francisco, Frank. She went to fucking Stanford.”

“What?”

“Yeah, Frank. Cut me a little slack, would you?”

“Okay Harry. Sorry. I’m just worried…”

“Yeah? Well, I’m worried about you too, Frank. And I’m worried about Cathy. Hell, I’m even worrying about Sam right now. Like…why the fuck is he not out here, not getting in the water? He’s a great swimmer, so what the fuck was that all about?”

“Harry, you need to get laid more often.”

“I’m working on it, Frank. Jesus Fucking Christ, my nuts are about to freeze off!”

“We better pick it up a little. The girls are already out on the rocks.”

Callahan was shivering by the time he crawled out of the water, but Fujiko magically handed him a sun-warmed towel…

“You think of everything, don’t you?”

She smiled as she handed Frank a towel. “We are going up inside this rock to a very special shrine. It dates back more than a thousand years, but be careful. The path is narrow, the steps uncomfortable in places, so we will go slow. Now, follow me, please.”

The entry to the ‘stairway’ was, Callahan saw, almost impossible to pick out from the other cracks and crevices on the wall’s face, but then Fujiko slipped sideways through a narrow slit and disappeared. 

“Shit,” Bullitt whispered as he stepped up to the opening. “Harry, I’m not sure you’ll make it through this thing” – but then Frank stepped through and was gone.

Elaine had no difficulty at all, but when Callahan stepped up to the opening he tried to make sense of the math. ‘I’m six-four and this slit looks just about right for someone five feet tall…’ He stepped in with one leg then contorted here and there until he was through, but then he saw he’d picked up a good scrape on his right knee, too. A steady stream of blood was running down his leg as he started up the narrow path. The height stepped down to around four feet in places, and Callahan had to turn sideways to get through other, narrower parts of the passageway, then he stepped out into a vast room…

The floor had been chiseled smooth but the rest of the space was a natural cavern, with one narrow slit in the rock letting sunlight and fresh air into the shrine.

“On the equinox, sunlight enters and shines on this formation,” Fujiko-san said as she pointed at swirling striations in an area of smooth rock wall. Harry struggled to make sense of it then his mind recognized a stork or crane, a vast bird of some sort, anyway, and while the rock surrounding the bird was gray and amber-brown, the ‘bird’ was blue and, in places, almost white.

“I’ll be damned,” Bullitt whispered, shaking his head in disbelief.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like that,” the Old Man in the Cape said, suddenly standing right beside Callahan. “Fascinating, isn’t it?”

Harry ignored the Old Man and shook his head.

“Oh, and if I were you I’d keep an eye out for sharks.” He grinned at Harry and an instant later the Old Man vanished.

“You said this is a shrine,” Elaine said. “What kind? And is this shrine unlike any other?”

“Very much so,” Fujiko said. “A priest does come here, but only on the two days of equal duration, the equinox in autumn and in spring. There is a small service – well, what most would call a service – and an offering to the kami that resides in this rock. On those rare days when the sun shines and the crane is illuminated, good fortune is foretold for those few who have made the journey.”

Callahan stepped into the narrow beam of sunlight and Fujiko looked at the blood running down his leg. “When did this happen?” she asked, pointing at the wound.

“At the entry – when I stepped through the gap.”

“We must wrap this quickly,” she said urgently, “and get the blood off your leg. Follow me.”

She led the group back down the treacherous steps and met Harry on the rocky shelf above the surf; she washed his leg with sea water and then, using a sliver of fabric from one of the dry towels, she tied a sort of tourniquet around Callahan’s knee, hopefully sealing the wound from the sea. “Swim quickly,” she said directly to the group, “and Mr. Callahan, try not to lose the wrap; there are more than a few sharks in these waters.”

Callahan nodded. “Swell,” he said, grinning at Frank. “Care to see who can swim faster? Me, or a shark?” Elaine dove from the rocks and began swimming like a real pro, then Fujiko dove in, making good time, too. “Frank? Go ahead.”

“No, I’ll bring up the rear, Amigo. Go for it.”

“You know, this feel like that last swim after the final run at the academy. Kind of momentous, ya know?”

Bullitt was looking at the water, but he turned to Harry and nodded. “Sharks are probably a little less careful than academy instructors, Harry. You ready to do this?”

“No.” And then Harry turned to the little cliff and dove into the water; when he surfaced he turned to see Frank still on the rocks, still staring at the sea. “Frank! Come on!”

Then Frank was pointing at something in the water, shouting “Move your ass, Callahan!” before he too dove into the sea.

He dove under and looked where Frank had been pointing, and the outlines of the shark were unmistakable, like a dark blue shadow within a lighter blue shadow. He began swimming slowly towards the shore, stopping once to tighten the sliver of towel around his knee, and when he looked up he saw the shark was now about ten yards away and staring intently at him. In the next instant Frank was beside him…

“It’s a Tiger shark, Harry. They don’t mess around,” Bullitt said anxiously.

“No, he looks like he means business. You go on; I’m gonna swim along facing him.”

“No way, Callahan. He won’t go after you if there are two of us. Now, let’s move it.”

“How far away are we?”

“I don’t know,” Bullitt said, spitting out sea water as he spoke, “call it fifty yards?” 

Callahan stuck his head back under the water and his heart shuddered; the shark was now almost close enough to reach out and touch, it’s cold, black eye now about five feet from his bleeding knee. He was lost and he knew it, yet he was almost mesmerized by the animals sheer beauty – the subtle striated markings along its side, the broad snout, the white underbody…all of it, simply gorgeous.

‘So, this is what death looks like,’ he heard an inner voice say…

Then he swam for the shark, his arms out ahead now, reaching out to touch death.

The shark rolled a little and turned abruptly, circling Callahan once while avoiding his hands, but Harry turned, his hands still out, still reaching, still trying to touch the darkness.

Then the shark turned on Callahan, its mouth open now and coming on with cold hard rage.

Still reaching out, he placed his hands on the shark’s snout and closed his eyes; then, visualizing a keyboard he played a chord in his mind and the shark seemed to give way, rolling on its side again, but in the next instant Harry was eye-to-eye with the animal. He placed his hands on the shark and filled his mind with his mother’s music and time seemed to stop, to spiral inward on itself…

Then he felt hands on his arms and a sour burning in his lungs; he opened his eyes and understood he was still far beneath the surface. He kicked and pulled against the weight with all his might, then he burst free of the water and into the air of the living…

Frank and Fujiko surfaced beside him and soon they were pulling him through the surf up to the rocks; Sam and Elaine were waiting at the water’s edge and they helped pull him free of the water and onto the rocks.

Then Fujiko was staring at Harry, the stone-cold astonishment she felt now clear to see in her eyes.

Frank was shaking his head, looking at Callahan but still not understanding him at all.

“What happened?” Cathy asked, now a part of Callahans ever-growing circle of confusion.

“I would like to know the answer to that, as well,” Fujiko-san added with her hands on her hips, almost smiling as she took-in deep breaths. “Yes, I would very much like to understand what I just witnessed.”

“Wouldn’t we all,” Bullitt said, turning to the sea once again, looking at the wave tops and lost in the memory of the impossible things he had just witnessed.

And then Fujiko bent to look at the wound on Callahan’s knee – and she found that the skin had closed completely, that there was no evidence of any injury at all. She stared at Callahan, lost in confusion, then she stood and helped him walk to the rock staircase the led to his room.

______________________________

The hotel’s fabled chashitsu, or tea room, was constructed completely of cedar, yet seemed to have grown out of the amber rock spire atop a soaring ledge. In many ways a traditional four and a half mat Sukiya-zukuri design, the room was nevertheless unique. Entry here was from below, access was through yet another narrow, winding staircase within the supporting spire, so there was – obviously – no space for a garden outside the main room. Instead of a meditative space outside the tea room there was only the cliff-lined shore, a few rocks far below and then the sea beyond. Here it was most common to lose oneself to the all-embracing winds that rushed in from the sea.

Typhoons had of course destroyed the tea room many times over the centuries, yet each time the cherished space was rebuilt exactly as before. As such, masters of the tea ceremony regarded this chashitsu as the very best in Japan – because the space adhered to tradition just as it seemed to cling resolutely to the rock itself.

Masters of the ceremony had already taken Frank and Cathy, then Sam and Elaine through the intricacies of an informal ceremony earlier in the evening; now in near darkness Fujiko-san lit candles and was soon leading Harry through the more rigid pageantry of a formal ceremony. And by now, even Callahan understood that the ritual cadences of the formal ceremony were reserved for only the most special occasions.

She presented the implements she would use that night, telling Callahan the history of each piece and then, as proscribed, allowing Callahan to pick up and admire them. She then made tea, and she poured with a grace that left Callahan feeling lost, like he was wandering through time.

When the ceremony was complete she led Callahan to the surrounding terrace and they sat inside a preternatural stillness…even the sea was a mirror that night…

The moon had not yet come for them and vagrant stars cast glancing reflections off the water – and to Callahan the shimmering echoes almost seemed like an illusion. Though he looked and looked it was almost impossible to find the line between the sea and the heavens, and perched up here on this lonely spire he felt immersed in vertiginous weightlessness.

“I can’t believe what I’m seeing,” he whispered.

“I have heard this could happen here but never imagined it might happen to me. This is very auspicious, Harry Callahan.”

“Auspicious?”

“That you and I would be here tonight, of all nights. Do you not feel the stars?”

“I feel love, if that’s what you mean.”

“Yes, exactly so. That is what I mean. But who do you love, Harry Callahan? Really?”

“You. There is only you now.”

“So, will you move to Japan – or shall I move to California?”

He smiled. “You should come to California and see the house that I have built, then I will let you decide.”

“Do you truly understand what I am talking about, Harry Callahan?”

“I understand that I will never see this opportunity again, that I will never meet another soul like yours. I understand that I am at a crossroads, that I am ready to embrace the change I think you will bring to my life. I do not understand you yet, but I think that will change one day, and I will try to make you happy until that day comes. So yes, I think I understand what I need to understand. I have seen you; now you should come and see what I am, what I was and what I hope to be, then we can decide what to do and how we want to go about making a little piece of the future our own. Does that sound fair – to you?”

“I think I would be happy wherever you are, Harry Callahan.”

“Then you will be happy, Fujiko-sama. We will be happy together.”

“I will be leaving tomorrow. Another guide will be taking my place.”

“What? Why?”

“I can no longer serve the rest of the group adequately. I can hardly breathe when I see you but cannot touch you… The owner of the company has been told; she wonders if she should terminate my employment but I have told her I do not care.”

“Fujiko…I am so sorry…”

“What? How could you be sorry? For bringing love to me, to us? I was lost here, Harry Callahan. Born overseas, destined to always be on the outside, forever looking inside on a world that barely accepts who I am. No, things will unfold as they must, and whether I am here or not. Like you, I have found my crossroads, because you were here to help me find it. Like you, it is time to find my way home, because I too believe in a future we can make together.”

There was a pale lightening along the eastern horizon and Callahan held Fujiko as both watched in awestruck silence while the faintest sliver of moon peeked over the edge of the universe, though in truth two moons came that night. One rose into the sky while the other fell towards a wall of rocky cliffs, down into the arms of two souls adrift on a windless sea and who had just happened along, waiting to dance within the shimmering echoes of a million stars.

________________________________

Callahan stood on a small balcony off his hotel room, watching the Valley Forge enter Osaka Harbor, making for the docks. His bags were packed, and even all his gifts and souvenirs were ready to go, too. He’d picked up a small camera bag and now kept that with him wherever he went, so his last chore before going to the ship was to drop by his favorite camera shop and pick up his developed rolls of film. All seventy-three of them.

Once Fujiko left the group he’d spent most of his time photographing the things that most called out to him, though he still managed a few snapshots from time to time. He found he enjoyed taking black and white photographs most of all, though the colors he discovered within Fuji slide film enticed him, too. A few cherry blossoms appeared their last few days on the road, and the delicate pinks pulled him in new directions; as a result of all this he and Cathy had become almost constant companions, their Nikons blazing away as they worked to capture every emotion each new excursion presented.

Yet Cathy was an architect, and as she roamed temples, shrines and castles she did so with sketchbooks never far from hand. She moved to photograph buildings everywhere they went, and if something really interested her, pencil and paper soon appeared. Little houses and tea rooms captivated her interest most of all, and she worked on these sketches whenever she could.

“I’d love to buy the lot next-door to the house and have you design a tea house, maybe create a real Japanese garden,” he mentioned one afternoon, and she began presenting him with an evolving series of sketches for the remainder of the trip. Frank let on that she had grown consumed with the idea, and Callahan was fascinated with the ideas she came up with.

The group boarded the Valley Forge at noon, though Harry had moved to a larger suite for the return voyage. Carrying but a single, small suitcase, Fujiko-san arrived an hour later, and Harry helped her settle-in before taking her to meet his father.

© 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. 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. 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.]

1 thought on “The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 42

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