Searching but not finding…afraid to say…that music matters.
Of course Edith did not get on her flight back to the City of the Angels. Really, how could she?
“I just can’t do it,” she said. “Not without my daughter!”
Mike insisted. Anton pleaded. All to no avail. The ride back into the city was hellish.
So when Henry heard those same five inch spikes clopping across his immaculate teak decks to the companionway ladder he smiled at Tracy. “See. I told you she wouldn’t be that easy to get rid of.”
“Funny. I never thought of my mother in quite those terms.”
“What? You mean…like a tick burrowed-in up to her neck?”
“Thanks so much for planting that image in my mind…”
“Hey. I try,” he managed to get out – just as Edith came marching in. ‘Like Santa Ana into San Antonio,’ Henry smirked, relishing her inevitable defeat.
“Henry Taggart! What are you doing with my daughter down here!?”
“I just finished cornholing her, Edith. You’re next.”
“You’re a goddam filthy beast, Henry! Now, Tra-Tra-cy, ba-ba-back to the bo-boat!”
Clyde raised his head and looked at Edith, then he shook his head and walked to the galley – but not before he raised a leg and dropped another silent-but-deadly fart.
“That woman like some kind Hell-Bitch,” Anton muttered after Edith and Tracy returned to Karma. “Genry? You fuck this woman? Really?”
“Hey,” Henry sighed, shrugging, “we all make mistakes.”
“Can’t believe she Tracy mothers.”
“That’s Tracy’s mother, Anton.”
“Where’s Sophie? She afraid to come around anymore?”
“No, no, she work this week. Fly DC-10 Paris-Leipzig-Tehran.”
“Interesting girl. Does she think she has that job lined up for you?”
“Yes, but need DC-10 or MD-11 type rating.”
“Where can you do that?”
“Frankfurt is closest.”
“And what about the Baron? Is that still a go?”
“Yes. For the twenty-first.”
Henry nodded. “Well, see if you can sign up for the next class – unless you’ve decided you want to stay here and cook full time…!”
“Genry? Maybe can do both? As long as boat in Paris, maybe?”
“Fine with me, Anton, but Rolf will be her new owner soon.”
“He too young, Genry. Boy need father.”
Henry looked up from his “homework” at the chart table and sighed. “I know. That’s my biggest regret, Anton.”
“Your father must been good guy, Genry. You good father to boy. He need you.”
“Remember Honfleur? Chapel there? Something we suppose see?”
Henry nodded. “Yes. On Christmas Eve.”
“We go still?”
“We go still.”
“Mike, I know I’ve asked you before, but what are your plans?”
“I haven’t made any, Henry.”
“I can’t believe someone like you would be at such loose ends.”
“It’s been a confusing couple of months.”
“Yeah. I for one can’t believe you’re simply going to close your eyes and just die. It doesn’t fit, and the whole thing is keeping me up nights.”
“My death is…keeping you up?”
“That’s just it, Henry. You ain’t gonna die, are you? You and Pinky, you two have got something all worked out.”
Henry smiled. “You really think that?”
“I do. I’ve seen poker players with the same look you got these days, so I’m not buyin’ this whole death thing you got going.”
“So, let me see…death is something to be afraid of, right? So it can’t possibly be happening to me? Is that it? Because somehow I’m not gonna let it happen? Right?”
“You’re goddam right it is. Closing your eyes with nothing ahead? What could be worse?”
“Well, whatever else death might be, Mike, it is certainly a part of life. Human life, in this case. And no, Pinky and I have not planned some scheme to cheat my way out of it.”
“Which leaves me to ask the question again, Mike. What about you? You mentioned before something about wanting to stay aboard and help Rolf. You still feel that way?”
“You really leaving all this to him?” Mike said, indicating the boat and shaking his head.
“Seems kind of irresponsible to me, Henry. He’s barely a teenager.”
“Yeah, I get that, yet it kinda seems to me that there are a bunch of fifty year old thieves running around out there, too. And sometimes, Mike, you can just tell who they are.”
“Can you, indeed.”
Henry smiled. “Yeah. Something in the eyes, ya know? Kind of like poker players, if you get my drift…”
“So, Mike, where will you be off to? Back to the states, maybe? I hear San Antonio is pretty nice…”
Henry crawled out of bed in the middle of the night and went to the head; when he looked in the mirror he could see that his briefs were spotted with blood and he scowled. Then he noticed the whites of his eyes were a little more yellow-orange now, and he nodded at the face in the mirror.
“Well Slim, it looks like liver and kidney failure, so what is it now? December nineteenth?”
He shook his head then changed his underwear, breaking out in a sweat after bending over to get his feet in the holes.
“Well, ain’t this fun…?”
Holding onto the walls he made it back into bed without waking Tracy or Clyde, or so he thought. He turned and saw Tracy looking at him, then she reached out and took his hand.
“Was that blood I saw?” she whispered.
And he nodded as gently as he could. “My eyes are beginning to look like the Great Pumpkin, too,” he added, his voice trembling a little.
She sighed and squeezed his hand. “Is the weather looking good for Anton’s flight?”
“He thinks so. Anyway, they’re still taking off tomorrow at midnight.”
“So? That bad, huh?”
“You might make it to Christmas, Henry, but it’s going to be close.”
“I think we should go in first thing and see about getting some more platelets.”
“Is everything settled with your lawyers?”
“Yes, and Rolf knows where everything is. Now, what about your mother? Is she still giving you grief?”
“No, not really,” she said evasively – which made him grin.
“So, she’s accepted the fact I’m checking out of this masquerade?”
She grinned. “Masquerade? Now that’s not a word I was expecting.”
“Sorry.” ‘But if I’m sorry, why do I feel like smiling?’
“But yeah, I think she’d like to mend a few fences, if you know what I mean?”
“We’ll see.” ‘Oh, this is getting fun now…’
“Okay,” she whispered knowingly.
“Milos is coming with some kind of stretched van early in the morning on Christmas Eve. He’ll take us up to Honfleur and bring us back.”
“So, you decided not to take the train?”
“They aren’t back to running a full schedule yet – and I don’t want to get stuck out there in the boonies. And I’m not sure Clyde could handle a day on the rails.”
“Anton told me what you’re doing for him, and I think it’s great…”
“Yeah. Classes start in early January. He should be rated by April.”
“And what about this kid?”
“Rolf? What about him?”
“He can’t live here on the boat in the middle of Paris by himself.”
“Really? Why not?”
“Henry, you wouldn’t?”
“You’re right, but we’ll see. Things have a way of working out.”
“Is that why Mike left?”
“I never trusted that guy. He gave me the creeps.”
“Creeps? Is that a technical psychiatric term?”
“Yes. Very much so.”
“I haven’t heard that one in years, Kiddo. Leave it to a shrink…”
“What do you think he’s going to do?”
“Oh, I have a feeling he’s still working for them, one way or another, and I doubt I’ve seen the last of him.”
“Oh, you know, the people who still think I can fly that contraption.”
He sighed, looked away. “It doesn’t matter now, Tracy, does it?”
“Is there some kind of secret to doing it?”
He looked at her again, ready to get this over with. “And…who’s asking this time, Tracy, because it sure isn’t you…”
“What do you mean, Henry?”
“I means I’ve done my homework, Tracy. It means that an almost unheard of private security firm in McLean, Virginia bought your boat four months ago, and that they transported it to LeHavre about a month before all the fun started in Amsterdam. And that means our meeting in Honfleur wasn’t an accident, and that someone did a really deep background check on me to even know you might have a way to turn me and pull me in.”
She sat up and switched on a light, never taking her eyes off him.
“You see, Tracy, I have people looking after me, too.”
“And our meeting up like that was a little too convenient, right?”
“I told them it was a bad plan, but they were pretty sure Captain Lacy wasn’t going to come through so they were desperate for a backup.”
“Well, at least they got that one right.”
“So? What do you want me to do? Leave?”
“Leave? Now? Why on earth would I do that to you?”
“Well, I can think of a few reasons.”
His eyes were like lasers now, white-hot and focused: “I think you and I should have a long talk tomorrow. Before you do anything else stupid.”
But she couldn’t meet his eyes now and looked away. “You know, when they contacted me they gave a dossier to read up on, including all the stuff they had on my mom and Aunt Claire. And I thought I had you dialed in, Henry. That I knew where you were coming from…”
“Did you really?”
“Yeah, I did. Then I met you and realized how completely off-base their information was.”
“Kinda makes you wonder, don’t it?”
“No, not really. At least…not anymore. Ya see, Hank, I made up my mind a few weeks go and there’s not a goddam thing anyone can do to change it now.”
© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.