Another short walk today, a few chance encounters along the way to think about music matters.
“Schwarzwald?” Taggart whispered, but then he looked up at Edith again. “Quantum mechanics? Yeah, I had her for Quantum Mechanics, and I remember she was into QTT – in a big way. She was a weird one, too, but I don’t think I had any idea she was into music.”
“Hmm? Oh, yeah, quantum time travel. She was always coming up with weird stuff about that crap.”
“I see. So you heard the music somewhere else, but even so it’s strange you’d be playing that music in your mind.”
“Strange? How so?”
“The subject matter, I suppose. The work is supposed to be about her experiences in the Theresienstadt ghetto during the war…”
“Ghetto? I thought it was a concentration camp?”
Edith nodded. “I suppose it was, but anyway, her music grates on my nerves. I heard it up at the Hollywood Bowl years ago, right after von Karajan released his retrospective of her works.”
Taggart pulled up the music app on his phone and found the von Karajan set and downloaded it – just as another image popped up in Messages. Anton had moved into one of the Baron’s rear seats, allowing Rolf to sit right seat while Sophie handled the flying chores solo, and Henry watched a short video clip of their takeoff, with Rolf’s hands on the yoke – following through on Sophie’s movements – and Henry could see the interest in the boy’s excited movements and he smiled.
“Sounds like an airplane,” Edith said as she watched him watching Anton’s video.
“Anton and Rolf. They’re leaving Norway now.”
“So…six hours ’til they get back?”
“Thereabouts, yeah. They’re taking a longer route to stay over land, so they’ll need to refuel again. But the plane needs to be back by midnight, one way or another.”
“Oh? Why’s that? Don’t tell me…it turns into a pumpkin…?”
He smiled.“Not quite. Some local air freight operation uses it a few nights a week, something like that. Anton is building up hours with them, too, so I guess he needs to stay on good terms with them.”
That kind of talk bored Edith quickly, and he could tell she was going to change subjects and he grinned. ‘Some things never change,’ he sighed.
“Your skin looks better today, Henry.”
“Yeah, the platelets must’ve kicked in. As a matter of fact I feel pretty good, too.”
“Can I get you something to eat? Some tea, perhaps?”
He looked at his watch and shook his head. “Let’s wait ’til Tracy gets back; maybe we can head out and grab a PBJ somewhere…”
Edith shook her head. “Only you would come to Paris and get worked up over a peanut butter sandwich…”
They helped him out to the salon and when he saw a little Christmas tree on the chart table he stopped and smiled. “Nice job,” he said as he nodded his approval to Edith. “Looks like we need more presents under there, or Christmas morning could be a bust.”
“You want to hang stockings too, Henry?” Edith said, grinning.
“Sure, why not. Think you could handle that?”
“I bet I could.”
He looked at his watch again, mindful of Rolf and Dina’s arrival, then to Tracy. “Where to?”
“How ‘bout the Irish place again?”
He nodded. “And maybe I can hold down my food tonight. Anyway, it’s worth a try…”
“Maybe,” Edith snarled, “we could talk about something other than flying saucers!”
“That sounds like a plan,” Tracy added.
“Speaking of,” Edith crabbed as she started up the companionway. “Anyone heard from that Navy jackass?”
“Mike? No, I haven’t,” Henry said as he started up behind Edith, and when he got to the cockpit he helped Clyde up the last few steps then leashed him up. “You feel up to this, buddy?”
His tail wagged and he ‘woofed’ once, so that was that.
“You gonna try some snails tonight?” Henry added as they walked off the boat.
That was good for a barely detectable grade-A fart.
“Right. A simple no would have done it.”
It was a little after three in the afternoon and the sky was gray, the clouds low and thick, and sunset was only about an hour away – yet the little park around the marina looked different now. Almost sinister, and when he saw the hair on Clyde’s neck standing on end a shiver ran down Henry’s spine.
“Does something feel – different – to any of you,” Tracy asked, looking up through the trees at low-scudding clouds and bare limbs dancing on a stiffening breeze, “or is it just me?”
Clyde growled, deep and low, and his chest stiffened as he positioned himself protectively in front of the women. Henry remembered Clyde had the same tape around his arm and immediately understood, but even so Clyde’s reaction was as priceless as it was troubling.
“I feel it too,” Edith whispered.
“Do you think we should go back to the boat?” Tracy asked, now looking at Clyde.
Henry shook his head. “Come on, y’all…it ain’t Halloween so let’s get a move on.”
A light snow started to fall, then thunder rolled over the city.
And then it hit him.
“Do you hear any cars out there?” Henry asked Tracy, and then they stopped and looked at one another.
“No, I don’t.”
She took his hand and they walked to the marina gates and all the while the snow started coming down harder and harder, so no one noticed the completely translucent sphere following them up there among the treetops.
And yet there was already enough snow on the old cobbles to deaden the sound, and with traffic not yet fully back to normal it was enough to provide another layer of strangeness to this evening’s elusive feel. Henry hailed a taxi and they rode to the pub in silence, the snow melting on their clothes in the heated Mercedes – yet even that felt odd.
There was something comforting about the old pub, however. Ancient and comforting.
The ceiling really did look as though it had been crafted of heavy timbers hundreds of years ago, and even the stone walls seemed to possess a kind of quiet nobility in their resolute strength. But, he realized, this was a sacred space for reasons far more personal. This was where he and his parents had always come on their first night in Paris, so he halfway expected them to materialize out of the stonework and join them for a pint.
But no, he sighed, that’s not the way the world works.
Then an invisible sphere slipped through the stone and settled near the ceiling between two ancient beams, the translucent eye within focused on Henry’s table.
They had just finished their first course when Captain Lacy walked in. With two decidedly unfriendly looking types by his side. They went to the bar and ordered beer, leaving Henry to wonder – once again – what Mike really wanted from him.
Yet…a few minutes later Lacy and his entourage walked back out into the snow.
“Now that was odd,” Edith said as she watched the door close behind the men.
“No, not really. He was just sending a little message our way.”
“A message?” Tracy asked.
“Yeah. My guess is he’s on his way to Le Bourget – to intercept Anton and throw a wrench into some of our best laid plans.”
“He wouldn’t dare,” Edith hissed.
“Oh yes, he would. As a matter of fact, Edith, I’m counting on it.”
“What?” Tracy sighed. “Oh no, Henry, what have you done now?”
Henry finished his last snail – Clyde looking his way with barely concealed contempt, which Henry felt odd…considering some of the things the pup did to himself. “Could you hand me the bread please. I want to soak up some of this garlic…”
“They say when you look at someone for the first time, within maybe a second or so you can tell a lot about a person, maybe even everything important. Whether they’re a good person, for instance, or maybe a bad one.”
“Okay? And your point is…?”
“When you looked at that guy, Mike, what went through your mind?”
“Well, things were a little weird that day, Tracy, but he seemed like a decent guy. Competent, and decent.”
“I think he believes in what he’s doing.”
“So…still a decent guy? Interesting.”
“Yeah, because…you know…doesn’t that kind of make you the bad guy in this equation?”
“He might think so.”
“But…what about you? You don’t?”
“Me? I’ve been going round and round, Tracy, caught up in something with no way to get off the ride.”
“And did he put you there? Stuck on the ride, I mean?”
“No, not exactly him. But Tracy, there are a lot of Mikes out there, and a lot of ‘em are convinced they know right from wrong.”
“Is that why you left?” Edith said.
“Left? What do you mean?”
“The states, your home, California,” Edith added.
“No, not at all. I wanted to make this trip. Here, to Paris. I always kinda thought that was what dad wanted to do, the two of us, together.”
“So…why not with…someone like me. A wife, someone important to you?”
Henry looked away, then he looked up at the ceiling. At a shimmer hiding within a shadow, and quickly he turned away, tried to compose himself. “What did you say?”
“Why did you head out alone?” Edith repeated.
“Oh, I don’t know really. Maybe somewhere along the way I stopped trusting people, and the more people I met the more people I distrusted.”
“So,” a suddenly very subdued Tracy asked – while still managing to look him in the eye, “what’s changed?”
“Nothing,” Taggart said. “And everything.”
Then Clyde looked up at the ceiling and started to growl.
There was about a foot of snow out on the sidewalk in front of the pub and the streets were now just about deserted. It was, he know, a long walk back to the marina – too long. And Edith was, of course, wearing her goddam five inch spikes. He looked down the street and saw a taxi pulling away from the George V and brought his fingers to his mouth and let loose an ear shattering whistle…
“Jesus H Christ, Henry!” Edith screeched. “You still do that louder than anyone on earth…”
Seconds later the taxi pulled up to the curb and the driver rolled down his window. “Où veux-tu aller?”
“The marina at the Bastille.”
“Too close. You can walk.”
Henry fished out his wallet, pulled out a banknote and handed it to the driver – who jumped out from behind the wheel and ran around to open the door for Edith. Henry settled in the front seat beside the driver and looked out the window, somewhat ashamed of his fellow man but not at all surprised.
“That reminded me of your father, Henry,” Edith said as she climbed out of the back seat after they reached the marina gates. “He’d have been proud of you.”
Henry smiled as he hooked up Clyde’s leash. “Somehow I doubt that. I think he’d have beat that man senseless.”
“Not your father. He was a gentleman.”
“He could be, but I feel certain you’d have changed your tune had you seen him in action down in Mexico.”
Clyde barked twice and pulled at his leash, so Henry took off after him and they bounded into the little park together…yet about halfway to his favorite bush Clyde shuddered to a stop and began growling again.
And this time Henry had no problem seeing the trouble. A man was standing beyond the gates, positioned to watch them arrive, and even now he remained in the shadows – watching Henry.
Henry changed directions and started for the Seine; Clyde readily came along, his tail hanging low – yet when Henry and Clyde made it to the part of the marina nearest the entry from the Seine he was shocked to find the man standing beside a tree just ahead.
An Old Man in a Cape stepped into the walkway, blocking the way ahead, and Henry’s eye was drawn to the cane in the man’s hand. Varnished wood with silver filigree running the length of the cane, and Henry thought the glinting silver looked a little like lightning.
“It is a dangerous night to be out,” the Old Man said, his voice gentle, almost kindly. “Why do so many people follow you?”
“Oh? Who’s following me?”
The Old Man shrugged. “I have no idea. Are you saying you don’t either?”
Clyde was following both men now with his eyes, his tail wagging from time to time, then the Old Man stepped close and bent to rub Clyde’s head.
“Hello, old friend,” the Old Man began. “I told you we would see each other again soon.”
Clyde barked once then licked the Old Man’s hand.
Henry felt the universe shift underfoot: “Wait a second…you know this dog?”
“Of course I do, Henry. We decided on Bergen, because, well, you seemed so lonely at the time.”
“You should go below now,” the Old Man added. “The weather is about to get truly awful…”
And with that the Old Man tapped his cane on the pavement and deep thunder rolled over the city, then he pointed his cane at a cloud and lightning arced into the Seine – sending a column of hissing steam high into the air above the river.
But when Henry recovered he turned back to the man and found he was nowhere to be seen; Clyde was, however, looking up at him now, a kind, almost sympathetic look in his eyes.
“So…you were in on this too?” Henry asked. “I have to tell you, I didn’t see that one coming…”
Clyde came over and stood on hind legs and Henry bent over to meet him; when the pup’s hands were on his shoulders Henry lifted him up and Clyde rested his face on Henry’s shoulder, and he carried his old friend back to Time Bandits, rubbing his head all the way…
© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates. And oh, here’s another little piece to consider.