The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 43

88th key cover image

Part V

Chapter 43

Lloyd Callahan walked out onto bridge-wing and looked at the tug on the bow pushing his ship away from the dock, worried about what he saw below; he got on his radio and called the tug’s skipper: “Number two, slow it down or you’ll push our stern into the dock!” – with that done he turned to his First Officer: “Rudder amidships, now.”

“Rudder amidships, aye Captain.”

Callahan watched, satisfied now, as his ship drifted from the docks and towards the main entrance channel, then the Harbor Pilot pointed to the buoys he wanted Valley Forge to use when entering the main channel…

“Make your course 2-6-5 degrees,” Callahan said, then, “all ahead slow.”

“265, ahead slow, aye…”

“Damn crowded out here today,” Callahan said to no-one in particular, but his mind was still struggling with the morning’s surprises. ‘Harry – and a fucking Jap? Why, for God’s sake?’ He was getting angrier as the idea wore away at him, yet he really didn’t understand why he was so mad, not after all these years. He’d made sure he buried all his prejudices when he moved to America, but because of his experiences in the war he still hated everything about both Germany and Japan. He couldn’t help it and now he realized his hatred was finally going to have real consequences.

‘She saw the venom right away,’ he said to himself. He was transparent and she was probably used to seeing his kind of hate smoldering away behind the eyes, yet after just a few minutes of watching her move around his in-port cabin he’d not even bothered trying to hide his feelings anymore. He’d grown coldly dismissive and callous, and though he could see Harry’s growing disappointment he’d simply been unable to stop himself.

‘There’s going to be a reckoning,’ he said as he looked at Osaka for the last time. ‘Man, I’m glad I never have to come to this fucking hell-hole ever again…’

__________________________________

If anything, Fujiko had thought herself impervious to such things, yet the sudden fury she’d seen in Lloyd Callahan’s eyes had surprised her. As soon as the old man had understood the implications of the visit, he had flown through the scales – from casually dismissive to increasingly abrasive – in record time, and not just to her. By the time Harry led her away from the captain’s in-port cabin his hands were shaking and for a moment she thought she saw tears in his eyes. By the time they had made it back to their cabin Harry had reasserted control over his emotions, and within minutes he was talking like nothing had happened.

“Let’s go up top, maybe get out into the wind,” he said, and though a little surprised at the sudden change she had agreed. He held her hand as they walked up two flights of stairs and then out onto the topmost deck – high above the sea now. They were still in the inner harbor, the docks not a half mile in their wake, but already the ship was picking up speed. They walked to the forward rail and looked at the way ahead…

“I’m so sorry, Fujiko,” Harry said, pulling her close. “I had no idea.” He felt her face through his jacket, felt her nod her head. “I thought I knew him…”

“Our parents often hide their most bitter selves from us, Harry. Perhaps to save us from their experience, the things that turned them to hate in the first place. One thing I do not understand? You do not look like him, at all.”

“Really? That’s what you noticed?”

“Yes. Perhaps because it was a first meeting?”

“Well, that’s because it turns out he really wasn’t my father.”

“What? When did you learn this?”

“Just within the last few months. It came as quite a shock.”

“Are you not cold?”

He felt a shiver run through her and took off his jacket, draped it over her shoulders. “Is that better?”

“A little. I suppose I should have brought warmer clothes.”

“There’s a good Ship’s Store onboard. Let’s go find you a coat?”

“Not yet, please. I would like to remain up here a while longer.”

He pulled her close again, the wind picking up as the ship’s speed increased, her obsidian hair beginning to stream behind them. The pilot boat came alongside, then pulled away after the pilot jumped across, and after that the ship’s speed began to rapidly increase.

“Would it be possible to tell me the story of your mother and father?” she asked.

“Yes, I think it’s time for that conversation.”

“Then, just one more thing.”

“Yes?”

“You must tell me what happened with that shark.”

He chuckled a little. “I wish I knew what happened, Fujiko-san. When it turned on me I just knew my life was over and I saw things, well, actually, I heard music, music my mother wrote…”

“Your mother wrote music? She was a composer?”

He nodded. “Yes, and it turns out quite an important one, too.”

“And you? Do you play an instrument?”

He hesitated, wondered what he could tell her without coming off like a barking lunatic: “I play the piano a little…”

“Oh, come off it Harry,” the Old Man in the Cape said, now standing next to Fujiko, “you can tell her. In fact, you must tell her.”

“Tell me what?” Fujiko said, turning in surprise, looking with surprise at the Old Man who had just appeared next to her. “Who are you?”

“You can see him?” Callahan asked.

“What do you mean, can I see him? He is standing right next to me!”

“Well, it’s just that, well…”

The Old Man smiled. “Harry, no more secrets. It’s time to come clean…” 

And with that said, the Old Man twirled his cane once and slammed it down on the deck, and then rolling thunder filled the air. “You’ll excuse me,” the Old Man said, “but I have to go now. I get seasick, you see.” He winked at Fujiko and with that the Old Man simply disappeared.

Fujiko flinched, rubbed her eyes. “What…where did he go?”

“Ignore him. He’s just a cranky old asshole with a really bad sense of humor…”

Lightning split the sky, thunder crashed and echoed across the harbor.

“Sorry,” Callahan said. “You’re really a very nice ghost, or whatever, and I’m sorry I said that.”

Fujiko turned and looked at him, a million questions in her eyes.

“Look,” he said, shrugging, “I’m sorry, but it’s complicated.”

“That man is a ghost?” she replied, trembling.

“You know, I’m still not sure what he is.”

“What did he mean? No more secrets?”

Callahan scowled. “We have a lot to talk about, I guess.”

“Well, we have fourteen days. Is that enough?”

“That might get us through the first part of the story, assuming I even know what it is. Now, could we go get you a coat, please?”

“Why?”

“Because I’m freezing my ass off…”

_______________________________

The first line squall hit before the ship made it out of the inner harbor; by nightfall and while still within sight of the coastline, 90 knot gusts rocked the ship and sixty foot waves slammed into the bow. Very few passengers ventured to the dining room that night, preferring instead to vomit in the comfort of their own staterooms.

Nothing, however, could keep Sam and Frank from those Alaskan King Crab legs, and they convinced Harry and Fujiko to join them. Bouncing off the walls as they made their way down the endless corridor to the dining room, Sam said he enjoyed acting like a pinball while Frank stopped at a bowl and popped two more of the free Dramamine tabs. The ship seemed to hesitate before climbing a really big wave, then everyone held on as she took off down the backside.

“What a storm! Feels just like Space Mountain at Disneyland!” Sam said, rubbing his hands together gleefully as he looked over the endless piles of crab legs on the buffet. “Worked up quite an appetite just getting here!”

“I don’t know how you can eat right now,” Callahan whispered, burping.

“Really? Well, just you watch and I’ll show you how.”

Fujiko came to the table carrying what she claimed was her favorite food of all time: a cheeseburger and french fries, and a waiter got her a Coke and that was that – she was happy.

“Harry? Could I get you something?” Frank asked. “Some Limburger cheese, perhaps, or maybe some fresh octopus?”

“Keep it up, Frank.”

“Harry, there’s some really good looking monk-fish liver sushi up there. Sure I can’t get you some?”

Callahan burped again and disappeared in the general direction of what he hoped was the nearest bathroom. Fujiko grinned and Bullitt decided she was alright, then she left the table for a moment and returned with a plate for Frank; it was loaded with Limburger cheese and several pieces of monk-fish liver.

Frank took off for the bathroom. He was at a dead run when he disappeared from view.

“Frank’s always had a lousy sense of humor,” Sam said. “He sure can dish it out, but he never could take it. You want some crab legs, Fujiko-san?”

“Yes, please. Perhaps you could go with me and help me pick out a few good pieces?”

“I’d love to, little lady.”

By the time they’d made it back to their table Frank and Harry were sitting there and both looked a sheepish shade of green. The offending plate had been removed just in time, too. They both stared in awe as Fujiko polished off a heaping pile of crab, while Sam finished a second pile. Callahan had some chicken broth; Bullitt had just pushed down a couple of saltine crackers when he looked up, stood up and sprinted for the bathroom – again.

Sam laughed a little while they watched Frank make this last mad dash, then he went up to the buffet for his third pile of crab. He smiled at the janitors who’d just been called to take care of a mess in the starboard head on deck five.

_______________________________

Harry went up to see Lloyd very early the next morning, and though he had been dreading the coming encounter all night long he knew what he had to do, what had to be said. Lloyd, on the other hand, had been up all night – dealing with the storm and it’s after effects – and his mood was already dark when Harry knocked on the door to his sea-cabin.

“Look, Harry,” Lloyd said as Harry walked in, “I’ve had a bad night. Could we do this later?”

“I don’t think so. I need to know what that was all about, and I’m not sure putting it off is the right thing to do.”

Lloyd sat at his desk and sighed, held his hands up. “Fine. If that’s what you want, Harry, that’s what we’ll do.”

“Do you treat all Japanese and Germans that way, or did you serve up your best shot for Fujiko?”

Lloyd shrugged. “You know what, Harry? As far as I’m concerned they can all go straight to Hell. I don’t really care about ‘em beyond that.”

“Why, why her? What did she ever do to you?”

“She was born.”

Harry blinked, shook off the words like he’d been slapped. “What?”

“Tell you what, son, you look in the eyes of your friends while they drown after a U-boat drops a couple of fish into the side of your ship. You do that, boy, alright? Then you come and stand up here on your soapbox and lecture me about hate. You got that?”

“Let’s not talk about hate right now, Lloyd. Let’s talk about civility and maybe even common decency…”

“Those went out the door when I saw her holding onto your arm.”

Harry nodded. “I see. Tell me one more thing, Lloyd. It’s probably the last thing I’ll ever ask you, so think before you answer, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Did my mother know you were a bigoted racist, or did you keep that from her, too?”

“You can leave now, Harry. I mean it, just leave.”

“Oh, I’m leaving alright. You can count on that – Dad. I’m gone.”

He closed the door gently as he left the cabin then walked up to the sundeck and stepped into the wind. The sky was crystal clear but the sea was an unbroken plain of spume-streaked whitecaps, and Fujiko was at the forward rail, leaning into the wind. Cathy and Frank were sitting nearby, huddled up against this new and unforeseen breaking wave of emotion and looking at Fujiko like they were standing by for moral support.

He walked over to the railing and put his arm around her again, and she took a deep breath, then looked up at him.

“You weren’t gone very long.”

He felt Frank and Cathy come up from behind and he nodded. “Turns out there wasn’t a whole lot to say.”

“It is the war, is it not?” she said. “Too many bad memories?”

“Maybe it’s as simple as that, but I doubt it.”

“Where’d you leave it?” Frank asked…and when Harry shook his head Frank knew there was no need for words right now…it was a done deal.

“Harry? If it’s okay with you, I’d like to show Fujiko some of my sketches, see if she has any new ideas before I start on my drawings.”

“What is this?” Fujiko asked.

“I’ve asked Cathy to design a teahouse, and hopefully a garden,” Harry said, still doing his best not to think about Lloyd. “Maybe you two could come up with some good ideas.”

Fujiko nodded; she understood – Harry needed to talk with Frank, and maybe just to clear his head, but she’d seen the pulsing vessels in his temple and the clinched jaw and she knew how some people seethed until they boiled over. “That sounds very interesting. I would love to.”

Which left Harry and Frank standing in the wind.

“How’d you guys know?” Harry asked. 

“She called us while you were in the shower, and again when you went to his cabin.”

Harry nodded. “I’ve never known anyone like her, Frank. She’s so – dialed in, ya know?”

“I know. Everyone fell in love with her about an hour after we arrived ay Osaka Castle.”

“That first day?”

“Yeah. She like a cross between something out of Shōgun and Gidget Goes to Rome. Infectiously elegant. That’s how Delgetti described her. It’s like you want to talk to her about something, then you realize she already knows what you want to say – but she makes you feel good about it even so.”

“She’s smart, that’s for sure.”

Frank shook his head. “There’s book smarts, Harry, then there’s people smarts. Fujiko is what happens when you take the best of both and put all that into one person.”

“I wonder what she sees in a mug like me?”

“Good question. Must be a mental defect.”

“Gee. Thanks.”

“What about your dad?”

Harry shrugged. “It’s bad, Frank. He said some awful things yesterday, and I just hammered him. A real low blow. The thing is, I think I really wanted to hurt him like that.”

“Listen up, Amigo. You probably don’t need to hear this right now, but that’s why people have been calling you Dirty Harry for the last twenty years. Sometimes you like to cut people off at the knees, ya know. You’re good at it, too, which is one thing, but sometimes you seem to enjoy it a little too much.”

“Jesus, Frank…”

“You should listen, Harry,” the Old Man in the Cape said, popping into the present and causing both Frank and Harry to jump back. “He’s telling the truth.”

“Jesus H Fucking Christ on a motorbike…what you please stop doing that?” Frank said to the Old Man. “I can’t handle this shit, okay?”

“Frank?” the Old Man said. “You are a good friend. Harry needs you right now, now more than ever!”

“Yeah, okay, I got that.”

“And Harry?”

“Yes?”

“Don’t be an asshole. And please, don’t push any more friends away, especially not today.”

“What’s wrong with today?”

The Old Man grew serious, then smiled: “Oh, Ishmael, it’s that whale I see, that great white whale…”

“What?” Frank cried – but by then the Old Man had slammed down his cane and was gone.

“Goddam, I hate it when he does that.”

“You hate it? You hate it, Harry?” Frank was white hot mad now. “Well, listen up, Bucko, cause I just shit my goddam pants and I gotta walk down two flights of stairs to get to the cleanest pair of underwear I have left!” he yelled as he turned and slinked off. “And you fuckin’ hate it! Hah! Well, guess what? You’re not the one that’s gonna be droppin’ meatballs all the way down the fuckin’ stairs, oh no, not Harry Callahan…”

Harry returned to his stateroom, and he was sitting on the balcony watching ragged waves slam into the ship when he heard the door open and close; Fujiko stepped outside into the wind and sat next to him.

“Frank said The Old Man came back?”

“He did. Yes…he did.”

“He said something about Ishmael? Ishmael and the white whale?”

“Yup.”

“I wonder what Moby Dick has to do with all this?”

Callahan shrugged. “Never read it. Don’t even think I saw the movie.”

“Oh, the book is full of allegory, many allusions to things in the Christian Bible…”

“What did you think of Cathy’s drawings?”

Fujiko blinked twice, tried to change gears. “She is very talented, and she learned much on your trip.”

Harry nodded, but his mind remained far away.

“She also told me a little about the house you are building.”

“Yes? And?”

“It sounds like a very special place.”

“Special? What does that mean?”

“I have not seen it, of course, but what she describes sounds almost Japanese.”

“Oh? How so?”

“A site such as the one this house if built on requires a subtle hand. The building must appear to spring forth naturally from the earth.”

“Well, she sure did that, alright.”

“You are still angry?”

He nodded his head. “I am, yes. Still angry.”

“May I sit with you?”

“Of course. I’m not angry at you, Fujiko-san?”

“You are not?”

“No, of course not?”

“Not even a little?”

“Why would…how could I be angry at you?”

“Because I have come between you and your father,” she whispered.

“It wasn’t your fault, Fujiko.”

“Nevertheless, I have come between the two of you.”

“Something would have, sooner or later.”

“You can not know that, Harry-san.”

“Will you marry me?” He turned and looked at her, watched her reaction…

Her head seemed to tilt to the right just a little, and she also seemed to smile a little before she pulled that back, too: “And I thought we were going to take our time, let us explore the past and our future before we came to such a decision.”

“Maybe I changed my mind.”

“You are pushing me away, Harry. Why?”

“Because that’s what I do.”

“Not this time.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Only that I will not be pushed away. I may walk away, but you will not push me to do that which I do not want to do.”

“Well, lucky me.”

“So, what of the shark? Frank tells me you see things through music. Tell me about that, and about what I saw in the sea.”

“Frank talks too much.”

“He is a good friend.”

“Yes he is.”

“I could be such a friend, if you let me in.”

“Let you in?”

“Yes. It seems to me that when some people get too close, people push them away. The alternative, I think, is to let people in. In other words, Harry Callahan, you need to let me get close to you. I think that is what we set out to do when we started this journey, is it not?”

“It is.”

“You have been through much today. Too much, I think. As your friend I know this, and I accept the reasons for your anger. But as your lover it is my duty to protect you, yet even as such I can not do this so easily if you push me away, keep things from me. Accept me, Harry. Let me in, please. Our journey will be a short one without trust.” 

He nodded, but then he looked down, appeared a little chastened. “Okay,” he whispered.

She took his hand and held it – but she looked out to sea, deciding to let him come when he was ready.

“As far as I know, the Old Man began visiting my mother when she was very young. He came to her throughout her life, but almost always when she was composing.”

“The music called him?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. When he comes to me I’m usually nowhere near a piano.”

“The shark?”

“He came to me in the shrine, after I cut my leg. He warned me.”

“About the shark?”

He nodded.

“So, the Old Man is your protector. Perhaps he was her protector, as well. Did he come to you before she passed away?”

He shook his head. “You know, I don’t think he did…”

“So, he has been charged with protecting your lineage through time.”

“You don’t sound surprised.”

“I suppose I am not. There have always been spirits reputed to act this way, but until now I have never met one. Now that I have, I wonder what he is protecting. Tell me now about the shark.”

“Like I said, I put my hands on him…”

“Him? You know it was a him?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, go on.”

“I put my hands around his eye and in my mind I began playing a short passage from my mother’s third concerto, a passage that concerns the murders she witnessed in the concentration camp.”

“I saw the animal then,” she whispered. “It was as if he had begun to turn black, but from the inside out. Then it shriveled before our eyes and sank to the rocks, and when you were no longer touching him he seemed to regain himself. He began to swim away but ran into rocks. Then he disappeared.”

“I don’t remember any of that.”

“But what has the Old Man to do with all that,” she sighed, “unless he was there to protect you.”

“But why me?”

She shook her head. “Unless it remains to you to fulfill the nature of your lineage, or to pass it along.”

“I don’t understand?”

“Either you will compose something of utmost importance, or your descendants will. Ishmael. The white whale. What else did he say?”

“Not to be an asshole,” he said sheepishly. “To not push away any friends.”

“Yes, he is your protector. That is why he has shown himself to Frank, and to me. Is there a piano on this ship?”

“Why?”

“I would like to hear this passage.”

Callahan shook his head. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

“Neither do I, Harry-san. Neither do I, but even so…”

+++++

Harry had regained a sense of himself by the time they left for lunch; Sam Bennett was already at the buffet hitting the crab legs when he and Fujiko walked in, so they walked over and sat down with Elaine.

“Frank was doing laundry an hour ago,” Elaine said, smiling at Fujiko. “I’m worried about Sam, too. If he keeps eating those crab-thingies he’s going to turn into one…”

“The hell I am,” Sam bellowed, setting his plate down on the table. “I’m just taking advantage of all this stuff while we’re on this tub, that’s all.”

“You do know,” Fujiko said, grinning coyly, “that crab are part of the spider family?”

Bennett looked at his plate and scowled. “Well, fuck it,” he sighed. “It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.”

Cathy arrived and sat, clearly exasperated. “Never, ever let a man fold your laundry!” she snarled at the world in general, clearly flustered after a morning with Bullitt. “I swear, that man doesn’t care if his clothes are wrinkled or not!”

“That explains a lot,” Harry said, his voice just above a whisper.

“See! See!” Cathy cried. “Your clothes are always neat and pressed! See!”

“Central Laundry, over off Geary.”

“What?” Cathy said, startled.

“That’s who does mine. I wouldn’t know how to fold a shirt if you held a gun to my head.”

“Elaine does mine,” Sam sighed between bites of crab. “Best in the world.”

Frank slunk up to the table and sat down, trying his best to avoid the fireballs Cathy was lobbing his way. “Harry? Thanks. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy doing laundry, bit I think today I hit a new low.”

“Hell, Frank, even toddlers can hold it longer than you did.”

Bullitt shook his head. “I’m beginning to hate that prick.”

“Who’s that?” Sam asked, puzzled.

“Harry’s ghost.”

“Oh. Him.” Sam cracked open another leg and began digging the white meat out. “So what happened this time?”

“The bastard just popped up right beside me. Scared the shit out of me.”

“Boy, did he,” Callahan muttered.

“Shove it, Callahan. Sideways, maybe with a little twist.”

Fujiko’s eyes were wide open. “I have been away too long. I do not recognize half of what you are saying.”

“Not important,” Sam said between bites. “What did that fucker have to say this morning?”

“Sam? Eat your spiders,” Harry said.

“Spiders?” Frank cried. “Sam’s eating spiders?”

Callahan shook his head. “Sheesh. This is fun.”

Fujiko shook her head: “Harry is going to play some of his mother’s music. Would anyone like to come and listen?”

Frank looked up, alarmed. “Oh, no,” he groaned.

Sam paused, his crab-laden fork hovering in midair: “You sure you wanna do that again, Harry?”

“Do what?” Elaine asked, now confused.

Callahan looked at Sam, then Frank: “We gotta get to the bottom of this, and soon. Something ain’t right.”

“What do you mean – ‘ain’t right’ – Callahan?”

Callahan put his hands on the table. “Anyone ever think we kind of gave up too soon? Like we’re turning over the city to a bunch of fascist goons and just turning our backs on all of it?”

“There’re just too many of ‘em, Harry,” Frank sighed, “but we’ve been over all that. Why the sudden change of heart?”

“Because what if that was the wrong decision. If so, then somehow we’ve got to fix it.”

Franks eyes narrowed. “What the hell are you talking about, Harry?”

“Look, Frank, I have an idea, but I want to run it by you first…”

© 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.]

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.]

Come Alive (4)

Come Alive 1

Chapter 4

Up on the foredeck, the seas kicking up and the wind blowing like cold snot, Taggart held onto the forestay as the Bandit worked up the face of another eight-footer – then he cried out in joy as she surfed down the face, slamming into another trough, sending blue water up to his knees again.

Rolf, behind the wheel and enjoying this new little storm, smiled at Henry as he yelled at another breaking wave, this time shaking a fist at the sky and laughing like a madman.

“He really enjoys this almost like a little boy,” Rolf said, shaking his head.

“Yes,” Dina added, “or maybe more like a child.”

“I did not mean that, Grandma-ma. It is more like an innocent pleasure, I think.”

She nodded. “The innocent pleasure of a lunatic.”

“You really do not like him, do you?”

“On the contrary,” Dina said, “I think I am beginning to love him very much.”

Rolf seemed shocked at that: “Seriously? No way!”

When she turned and looked at her grandson he saw that she was very serious indeed, then she he looked down at the chartplotter, noting their position about a mile west of Herdla, their course set for Vatnet and the entrance to the Bergen-Stavanger Channel. Almost home, he thought sadly, already at the end of their special journey…and he still couldn’t put into words his feelings for Henry.

‘He is almost like my father sometimes, then a minute later he acts like an old friend from school. He is my teacher, too…’

Most of all, Rolf seemed in awe of Taggart’s ability to attract attention, and he’d watched several women fall under some kind of spell after they had been around Henry for just a few minutes…

…but now…Grandma-ma? What was this?

There were rocks in the channel around Bekken, but Henry had already plotted these, placed guard zones around every one of them, and Rolf admired Henry’s dogged thoroughness…

Then in an instant the wind fell away and just minutes later the inside passage turned smooth, almost mirror-like, yet Taggart remained glued to the foredeck, his eyes apparently locked onto something that had interested him…

And then Taggart was down on the deck, one arm reaching down to sea, banging on the side of Bandit’s hull. Rolf scanned the water and soon he too smiled…

“Look! Grandma-ma! The whales are back!”

The black dorsal fins were hard to see against the almost black water, but yes, there they were, and Dina already had the binoculars in hand, scanning the markings she could see.

“Yes, they are the same ones,” she said a moment later. “This seems very unusual to me…”

“Oh really? You mean you are just realizing that?”

“What do you mean, Rolf?”

“He is like the sun, Grandma-ma. Everything is attracted to him…even these whales…”

One of the smaller calves surfaced just off Time Bandit’s starboard bow wave and as the little fella started surfing along Taggart laid on his side with his head propped up on one hand, watching – and waiting…

…until the big male surfaced alongside, his soulful eye looking into Taggart’s…

Taggart held onto a lifeline and leaned out, still waiting.

The male came close, close enough to touch, then the old male sounded and was as quickly gone.

More calves came alongside and surfed for a while, then the pod moved off towards a rock loaded with sea lions. With that, Taggart stood and came back to the cockpit…

Dina saw that he was freezing, probably hypothermic, but he waved her off. “I feel fine,” he said to the look in her eyes.

“Your hands, Henry. It is past time for your medication.”

He nodded and ducked below, and when he came back a while later he was wearing dry clothes, including that new black sweater. ‘Funny,’ he thought. ‘I always put that one on when I’m about to see Britt.’

“Feel like some Indian food tonight?” he said, looking at Rolf.

“Yes!”

“Alright! You want to take her into the dock?”

Rolf shook his head. “No way!”

“You’re ready. Dina and I will handle the lines, but why don’t you go get something warm to drink while you can?”

“Okay.”

“He’s a great kid,” Taggart said to Dina after Rolf was out of earshot. 

“You are a good teacher.”

“It’s the only thing I really know, I guess. It’s what I remember most when I think about my dad.”

“You would’ve been a good father.”

“Me? You gotta be kidding. Once I’m on land I don’t know up from down.”

She smiled but was generally intolerant of self-deprecating humor, even from Taggart. “So, I have called Britt and she has secured a place for Bandit very close to the clinic.”

“Excellent. Better call her back and tell her about dinner.”

“I think tonight should just be between you and Rolf.”

“Nonsense. We’ll have plenty of time for that.”

“How long do you want to stay in Bergen?”

“A few days. I’ll be ready to go in a few days.”

“I’ll just need to fill out some paperwork…” Dina said…

“No, you don’t. There’s no need for you to do this.”

“I told you I want to. In fact, I think I need to.”

“I set out to do this alone.”

“And you did not set out with cancer.”

“I’ll be fine.”

She did not want to argue with him, especially during these next few hours, as that would only upset Rolf, but she could see the stubborn set of his jaw and knew him well enough to know what that meant. She took out her phone and checked signal strength, then dialed Britt at the clinic. She left a message to expect dinner at the Indian place and rang off, then looked at the sun trying to break through the low scudding clouds. “It will be a lovely evening,” she said gently. “Let’s not spoil it for anyone.”

“Right,” he said, visibly relaxing. “Right you are, as always.”

+++++

“Okay…slip her into neutral and let the wind take her a little…”

Rolf was backing Time Bandit up slowly to the quay; Britt was waiting there, ready to take a line.

“A little right rudder…now a little left on the thruster…that’s it, let her drift…okay – Now! – into forward and a little throttle to stop momentum, then back into neutral…”

Taggart tossed one line to Britt and he jumped ashore and tied off the other. Dina tied-off between pilings off both sides of the bow…and that was it. Rolf ran the power cord ashore and made the connection while Taggart shut down the diesel and set the ship’s systems to run off shore power. Everything else had already been secured so The Bandit’s crew jumped ashore and in stony silence they made their way to the restaurant.

Once seated, Rolf was the first to speak. “I do not want this to be over. It has been the best month of my life.”

Henry nodded. “I don’t know how to say this, but if I’d had a son I’d have wanted him to be just like you. I think even my dad would approve of the job you did out there today.”

Britt smiled, Dina turned away.

“Mom, I have four more weeks of vacation. Could I not go on to Oslo with Henry?”

Britt shook her head. “We have much to do around the house, and summer will be over soon enough.”

Dejected, the boy looked down.

“And mother?” Britt said, looking at Dina. “What are your plans now?”

“She’s staying here,” Taggart said – and Dina glared.

“I will go with Mr. Taggart, at least as far as Oslo. Then, we’ll see how he’s doing after our visit to the University Hospital.”

“I think I should go with you, Henry,” Rolf said.

Henry nodded. “I understand, but that is entirely up to your mother.”

“And Henry,” Dina injected, “there is the matter of placing the port.”

“What’s involved with that?”

She shook her head, meaning it was not fit dinnertime discussion material. “It will take a day.”

“You want to do it here, not Oslo?”

She nodded.

“Can we do it…”

“It is scheduled for the day after tomorrow at six in the morning. You will then need to take it easy for a few days.”

“Uh-huh. I see.”

Rolf knew exactly what that meant and suppressed a knowing grin. But then again, he’d already decided what he was going to do, his mother’s feelings not withstanding.

There were no theatrics at dinner that night, no capsaicin overdoses and no dances to the bathroom, because everyone seemed to be hovering along the edges of a vast, unknowable decision…a razor’s edge, if you will.

Henry had made up his mind…he would slip away from the dock in the middle of the night – such as it was at this latitude – and make good his escape.

Rolf would sneak aboard, because he’d already figured that out.

While Dina sat there feverishly trying to figure out how to stop Henry from leaving in the night.

Leaving Britt, who was trying to figure out the best way to tell Henry that she was pregnant, and not coincidentally that he just happened to be the father.

+++++

They left him to pay the bill and when he left the restaurant he felt a little disoriented, then a little light-headed. He sat on a bench near the fish market and held on until he felt better – then he saw a dog wandering along the waterfront begging for food. He, or maybe it was a she, looked like a Golden Retriever, but this thing was, Taggart saw, emaciated. Beyond emaciated, really. It looked sick, on its last legs.

“Come here, fella,” Taggart said, and the dog looked his way, wagged its tail once and, with its head and tail down walked almost sideways to Taggart’s bench.

“Don’t feed it,” a passerby warned. “He’s a pest.”

“Does the pest have a name?” Taggart asked, but his question was met with a vacant shrug. “You hungry, boy?”

The tail wagged a little, so he walked over to one of the open fish stalls and bought some salmon scraps, then went back to the bench. He fed the old boy and then noticed the cataracts and the almost solid white muzzle, and he saw what had to be a pretty hefty tumor on the dog’s back, right by one of the shoulder blades, and he shook his head.

“You’re having a rough time, aren’t you, old boy?”

Who looked up at the strange new voice, waiting for the next bite of fish, but he was smiling a little now.

When he had run out of fish Taggart stood and began making his way to the Bandit – only he noticed he had company now. The old boy was hanging back, pretending he wasn’t following Taggart, but Henry wasn’t fooled…

He patted his leg. “Well, come on if you’re coming.”

They made their way down the long ramp to the water and walked along to Time Bandit’s stern, and Henry stepped across, patted his leg once again.

The dog appeared terrified – until Henry stepped back across and lifted the dog into his arms, then carrying the old boy across the gap. Once on the aft deck the dog circled once and crapped, leaving Henry feeling a little abused.

A half hour later Dina arrived, flashlight in hand.

“What’s this?” she said when she saw the animal.

“I believe it’s called a dog.”

“I can see that…”

“So why did you ask?”

Exasperated and with her hands on her hips, Dina scowled as she spoke: “Where did it come from?”

Taggart pointed to the dock. “Right about there, I think.”

She came over and looked at the creature and her scowl deepened. “He’s very sick.”

“That makes two of us.”

“He has a tumor…”

“Yup. Me too.”

“And fleas.”

Taggart scratched behind an ear. “Yup. I got some of those too.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Take him to see a doctor in the morning.”

“Indeed.” And suddenly, Dina saw this wasted mongrel as a key ally in this part of her campaign. “I know a very good animal clinic here in town.”

“I thought you might.” He looked up, saw Rolf hiding in the shadows and waved him off. “Well, I’ve got to gather laundry and get it up to them. Want to help?”

“Certainly.”

“Okay, you gather the bedding up front and I’ll…” Taggart stumbled backwards and fell onto a cockpit seat; Dina rushed to his side and began feeling for a pulse. Seconds later Rolf was jumping onboard, already lending a hand. “Somebody stay with the dog,” Henry managed to say before he lost consciousness.

+++++

He opened his eyes expecting to see his cabin, and instead saw he was back in the hospital. Alone. No nurse, too.

Then, with a building sense of panic he remembered the dog. He found the Call Button and hit it; a moment later the Ugliest Woman in Norway walked into his room. She looked, Taggart decided, like some kind of stunted troll from a Norwegian horror flick and recoiled from the thought.

“Ah, so you are awake now?”

“I don’t know. Am I?”

“Of course.”

“For a moment I thought I was inside a film called The Night of the Living Dead.”

“No, you are very much alive now.”

“How long have I been out?”

“It is just now noon, so a little more than twelve hours. You had dangerously low blood pressure and your white count was very low as well, so you are being transfused.”

He looked at his arms and didn’t see a line, then he felt an odd pressure just beneath his left collar bone. “Is this the port?”

“Yes.”

“Where’s Dina…uh, Dr. Bauer?”

“She has been notified.”

“What does that mean?”

“She will be here shortly.”

Which turned out to be a few hours later. She walked in looking harried and worn out.

“You don’t look so hot, doc.”

“Neither do you.”

“Where’s the dog?”

“At the clinic. I assumed you wanted to take care of him.”

“Thank you.” He visibly relaxed on hearing that.

“After you fell he curled up on your legs. It seems you have a new admirer to go with your collection.”

He noted the bitter sarcasm in her voice and filed it away for later. “I like admirers. There’s something admirable about having so many, don’t you think?”

“You are a nut case, Henry Taggart.”

“Thank you very much.”

“Well, I see you are feeling better…”

“Are they going to bathe the dog?”

“Of course. And we treated you for fleas, as well.”

“Wonderful, but I still have an urge to scratch behind my ears with my feet. Do you think that’ll go away on its own?”

“I have my doubts.”

“So, how long to sail between here and Oslo?”

“A week if you push hard.”

“Did you change your mind? You’re not coming?”

“I got the distinct impression my company was not wanted.”

“Okay, Doc. You win. Move your stuff onboard, see if mamma-san will let Rolf come along.”

“You are sure?”

“It was the dog that did it, Doc. Your heart is in the right place after all.”

“I will never understand you Americans and your infatuation with dogs.”

“Good. A little mystery never hurt anyone.”

She shook her head. “I will come for you in the morning, probably before eight. You may shower as long as your port is covered; ask the nurse and she will show you how. Have you named your dog yet?”

“How ‘bout Clyde?”

She shrugged. 

“You know, the boat? Bandit? Clyde sort of fits, right?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You know, bandits, Bonnie and Clyde?”

“Who were they?”

He shrugged. “Oh, just a couple of North Dallas socialites who were into animal rights.”

“Oh, well, good name, then.”

“Yeah, I thought so too.”

“So, I am going to go pick up…Clyde now. I will take care of him tonight.”

“Thanks, Dina.”

She nodded, managed a faint smile before she left him there, sitting alone again in spreading puddles of guilt and doubt.

+++++

Clyde seemed to take to life on Time Bandit about as well as any half-blind, tumor-ridden dog could, but it was a whole other story once the seas picked up. He howled at first, and not out of joy, when Bandit hit a good, solid eight footer, washing the cockpit with walls of spray and sending him into a urine-spraying frenzy.

“I wonder if he could make it to shore?” Taggart mused after a rolling ten-footer resulted in a fresh pile of salmon scented crap landing on the companionway steps. “It can’t be more than, what, two miles away?”

“Henry, you just spent three thousand dollars on that animal,” Dina said, grinning but hardly amused.

“Fucking ingrate.”

“That probably depends on your point of view, Henry. He seems very grateful to me.”

“He pissed on my bed last night, Dina. Trust me, that isn’t gratitude.” Clyde skulked over and crawled onto Taggart’s lap, then the pup licked his chin. “Alright, good boy. All is forgiven.” Henry set the autopilot and held onto the pup for a half hour, letting the sun soak in while he rubbed Clyde’s ears. “What time is Rolf waking up?”

“His watch starts at 1800 hours, yours starts at midnight.”

“Seems like a lot of traffic out here. Is it usually like this?”

“Yes. Lots of traffic to the oil fields, freighters in and out of the Baltic make up the rest.”

“Geez. I’m going to slip in closer to the shoreline, try to stay out of the shipping lanes.”

She shook her head. “Too many rocks, and if the wind backs on us we’ll be clawing off a lee shore.”

“Forecast is still for winds out of the northwest through tomorrow afternoon.”

“But Henry, these forecasts are considered notoriously unreliable for good reason. These waters change with perilous unpredictability.”

“Okay, so I set a twenty five mile guard on the radar, and I’ll stay up here tonight and keep him company.”

“Henry, you need rest. I know you can’t see it, but your arms and legs are involved now. I’m not sure how much longer your Parkinson’s symptoms will remain under control.”

He shrugged. “Someone will come up with a new medication. Someone always does.”

She shook her head. “You really are unbelievable, Henry. You do know that, don’t you?”

“Of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Clyde rambled up the companionway steps, stood on his hind legs and looked at the waves – then he sneezed once, shook his ears in the wind before he went back below to hide on Henry’s bunk. “He’s wising up fast.”

“At least one of us is,” she sighed.

He heard a Mayday on the radio and turned up the volume. “Sounds like a cruise ship,” he said. “Behind us, maybe thirty miles. Stavanger Coast Guard has ‘em.”

“There have been several today, all close to shore.”

He nodded as he fiddled with the radar, tuning out the rough seas and bringing the range down to 16 miles. Three new targets popped and new alarms sounded.

“Where did those come from?” Dina said, looking at the display with anger.

“Lost in sea-clutter,” highlighting a target and letting the computer work out its speed and course. “Okay, this guy will be coming close, looks like in about a half hour.”

She peered ahead, saw nothing but gray mist suspended in the wind-whipped air. “You know what I’m thinking?”

“Yes.”

“Oh, really? What?”

“You’re looking at the chart, wondering if we shouldn’t bail out and duck into a nearby port, maybe let this storm blow out.”

“Am I that obvious,” she said, throwing up her hands.

“It’s the obvious call, Dina. What about Flekkefjord? Is there a good clinic there?”

“Yes,” she said, surprised Henry would even suggest such a thing. “You are not feeling well?”

“No, I am not feeling well.”

“Will you consider letting me start chemo now?”

“We will consider it.”

He looked at her, saw the shock and concern in her eyes and he shrugged.

“Henry, you do know that I love you just a little, right?”

“The feeling’s mutual, Doc.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, but don’t tell anyone.”

“If I could have one wish it would be for you to stay with me for a while. I would love to spend much more time with you.”

He nodded. “Time is a funny thing, isn’t it?”

“I suppose, but what do you mean?”

“Oh, the whole linear nature of time. You know, like an arrow, only moving in one direction.”

“How could it be any other way?”

“Yeah. How could it…uh, would you hand me the binoculars?”

She heard the concern in his voice and handed them over, then looked at the radar screen. There was a new target less than a mile ahead and it winked off then returned…

“I’ll be damned,” he whispered, then: “Here, take a look.”

She took the binos and looked where he had just been looking: “What is that?”

“Submarine. See the red star?”

“Are we within 12 miles of the coast?” she asked nervously.

“Seven point five. Should I call it in?”

She nodded her head vigorously, handing the mic to him.

“Pan-pan-pan, Sailing Vessel Time Bandit to Coast Guard Stavanger.”

“Stavanger, Bandit, go ahead.”

“Stavanger, be advised we have a Russian submarine on the surface venting steam and smoke, location about seven miles off the coast, standby to copy lat/lon.”

“Standing by.”

“Bandit, our location North 58-20-04 East 5-49-19. Seven miles off Egersund channel entrance.”

“Received, stand-by one.”

“Stavanger, Bandit, people coming on deck now, waving at us.”

“Bandit, Stavanger received. Be advised, stay upwind of any steam or smoke.”

“Bandit copies.”

Rolf came up into the cockpit and Dina handed him the binoculars; she pointed the sub out and the boy started reporting what he was seeing. “Two people just jumped into the water. I see flames coming out of a hatch. Okay, more people jumping into the water…Henry, I think she is sinking!”

“Stavanger, Bandit, we have people in the water and it appears the vessel is in danger of sinking.”

“Stavanger received. Bandit, be advised helicopters are en route and do not approach the vessel for any reason, repeat any reason. Life rafts will be dropped, surface units are on the way.”  

“Okay Stavanger, got it. Be advised twenty plus in the water, no rafts deployed, vessel settling by the stern quickly now…”

A shattering boom washed across Bandit’s deck and Taggart looked up in time to see two Norwegian F-16s skimming along a hundred feet over the waves, followed by what looked like a dark gray 737 bristling with antennas.

“Ah, Bandit here, we’ve got multiple aircraft overhead now.”

“Stavanger received. Can you report local wind speed and direction, please…?”

“Bandit reporting average wind speed 32 knots, gusts to 44 knots, wind now directly from the east to east-southeast, call it 110 degrees average. We now have forty people in the water, vessel now about one half submerged. A C-130 is now on low approach…now dropping life rafts and smoke markers…”

“Bandit, request you break off now and divert to CG Stavanger for radiologic assessment and monitoring.”

Taggart looked at Dina and when their eyes met he could see the fear in both her eyes and Rolf’s.

“Bandit en route Stavanger, our ETA about ten to twelve hours.”

“Bandit, can you make Egersund sooner?”

“Roger, we’re about an hour out of Egersund.”

“Okay Bandit, divert Egersund; report on arrival and you will be directed to quarantine facilities once in the channel.”

“Bandit understood.”

He looked at the scene before he turned into the wind: now four F-16s overhead and that weird looking 737 circling the scene, while at least four helicopters hovered over the stricken sub. He could see converging tracks of several more vessels responding to the scene, and Rolf spotted two frigates coming from the north, crashing through the waves as they raced to the area, their bows sending huge plumes of spray into the air.

“Rolf, would you take the helm, please?”

His hands shaking badly now, Henry went below and dropped onto the bed. Clyde came over and licked his forehead before settling in close to Henry, then he felt Dina rolling up his sleeve, giving him a shot. He pulled the pup close before his world began spinning violently; even his face felt like it was twitching now and his right leg flailed uncontrollably. A minute later he felt the assault easing, then he saw Dina sitting by his side and he smiled. She ran her fingers through his hair for a while, at least until this latest crisis passed.

“I’m not sure I can go on like this,” he said, his voice coarse and brittle now.

She shrugged. “We just need to find the best balance of medications, then you’ll do better.”

He nodded.

“Anyway,” she continued, “you need to feel better by the time the authorities get here, or they may put an end to this voyage whether you agree or not.”

“Okay, Doc.”

“You rest a few more minutes. I’ll come for you when I see the channel buoy.”

He woke up in a hospital room, another IV hooked up to his port, and he felt more nauseous than he ever had in his life. He looked at the evil looking bag hanging beside his bed and started to cry.

(c) 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | more in a week or so…

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…]