If only because the music leads the way.
Rolf walked down the companionway steps, then he sort of screamed as he jumped back up into the cockpit. “Holy shit!” he cried out as he tried to gain his balance. “Someone has been here while we were away…”
“What?” Anton snarled as he dashed over to the companionway and disappeared below.
“Ha!” they heard him say a moment later. “Amazing! Dina! Bring boy and come!”
When the rest of the group made it below everyone stood in the salon with their eyes and mouths wide open – because the little space had been turned into an advertisement for all the excesses of a commercialized Christmas. Merry strings of multicolored light were strung about everywhere, and now there were also literally dozens of presents under the little tree that Edith had set up on the salon table. Even the galley looked – and smelled – like a riot of Christmas-gone-wild…
Edith checked the oven and found a goose roasting away, and that took her right back to their Christmas in the Cliff Lodge at Snowbird – where she and Henry had grown so close on another Christmas Day, but then everything seemed to grind to a sudden stop when the sharp, clipped barks of a puppy wiped away every other sound inside the boat.
And then Rolf dashed to the aft cabin, to Henry’s old cabin, and he found an absolutely tiny Golden Retriever puppy bundled up on Henry’s bunk, ready and waiting to face his life ahead with a new best friend. Rolf saw the pup already had a little collar on, and that the pup’s name was, of course, Clyde.
“It little Clyde,” Anton exclaimed as he came up behind the boy, “like clone, maybe…?”
The pup sat up and made eye contact with Rolf and within seconds that first vital connection was made, then the boy picked up the pup and some serious face licking got underway…
“Anton?” he heard Dina call out. “You’d better come up here and see this.” She was back up in the cockpit, and he found her pointing at Henry’s left hand when he arrived – which was now almost frozen to the snow on the cockpit seat.
“What find, Dina?”
“Look at his hand,” she whispered.
“Oh yes, I see…he write something in snow. B-e-w-a-r-e. Beware? What this mean?”
But Dina turned and looked around at the fog, wondering who was out there watching them right now, before she turned back to Anton. “This isn’t right,” she sighed. “Something about this just reeks of being staged – for us, like it wasn’t supposed to happen this way…at least Henry didn’t plan it this way.”
“What happen not right? You know something not say?”
“No, Anton, it’s just a feeling…a hunch…but this is all wrong…I mean, who could do this? Who put out all those presents? Where did that dog come from?”
The aviator nodded, because in the end he understood what Dina was alluding to, and he knew that intuitions such as this often meant the difference between life and death. “What does this word mean, Dina?” he repeated, pointing at Henry’s last thoughts.
“It is a warning, Anton. Henry must’ve seen something, or someone, setting up all these things, and he must have wanted to warn us about them.”
Then Anton turned and looked at Henry for the longest time, yet he sighed just before he leaned over and brushed the writing in the snow away. He looked at Dina and grumbled about not worrying the boy, then without saying a word he walked down below into the warmth of this suddenly very questionable Christmas…
Anton had gathered all the ingredients to make a ‘memorial borscht’ and after he made it back down to the galley he started cleaning his vegetables and simmering his stock…until Dina came along and began making her breakfast pancakes.
“Need bigger boat,” Anton grumbled as he sliced beets. “Too many arms.”
Dina laughed and leaned her head onto Anton’s shoulder, and while his instinct was to tense up and pull away, he found he simply couldn’t – not today…today of all days. “I’m sorry,” she added, “but when I get depressed I want to cook, and the more people I have around me the more things I need to cook.”
“Me too,” Edith said as she pushed her way through the galley on her way to Henry’s cabin. “Would anyone mind if I start using Henry’s cabin now?” she sighed. “I’m SO crowded up front…!”
Anton turned and looked at Edith, his face turning red as his fury built toward a chain-reaction: “This boat boy’s now. He sleep there with new friend.”
“What?” Edith cried maliciously. “That’s ridiculous! There’s no way Henry Taggart gave this boat to a fifteen year old kid!”
“Yes. Way!” Anton growled. “I witness paper lawyer bring. I call lawyer tomorrow and they come.”
Dina turned to Edith, pure venom in her eyes now. “Don’t you dare spoil this day for Rolf. It will be hard enough as it is, so hold your tongue…”
“Or what, you old shrew,” Edith cackled. “So, you think Henry left all this to you, do you?”
“I have no idea what Henry did,” Dina sighed, “nor do I care.”
“I do,” Anton said, grinning at Edith. “You wait. You see, then go home.”
“Oh, I’ll wait alright,” Edith smiled. “And we’ll see what my lawyer has to say about all this…” she said as she waved her hands airily about, indicating that inside her little world Time Bandits was her property now, and there was not a thing anyone in the universe could do about this one simple fact of life.
Edith started to head aft – but Anton stuck out his arm and blocked her way. “You talk about these things around boy and you go to fish in river. Understand?”
There must’ve been something in his eyes, because after she turned and looked at Anton she apparently decided now was not the time to challenge him, or anyone else, for that matter. She really, she knew, had only one justification to be here, and that was because her daughter had been Henry’s last close friend.
Only – now Tracy was gone. And for how long was now anyones’ guess.
She turned and fled up the companionway steps – and promptly screamed before she started falling back down the stairs. She landed on the cabin sole, pointing at something in the cockpit while she continued to scream, and Anton knew this was no act now. He bounded up the stairs and he too came crashing back down the companionway, with Edith unable to get out of his way. He landed with a thud on top of her, and both cried out in deep pain.
Then Dina slipped up the steps and quietly looked into the cockpit, and though her first instinct was to scream she remained calm…
…with her eyes locked on two aliens. Short, whitish creatures right out of a Spielberg film, down to the huge black, almond shaped eyes – and one of them was drawing blood from a vein in Henry’s neck…
She felt Rolf coming up the steps and she pushed him back before she too inched her way back down into the salon, holding a single finger up to her lips as she shh-h’d him to silence, shaking her head in an undeniable ‘no’ motion as she gained the floor.
“What is it?” Rolf whispered.
But all she could do was shake her head and shrug. “We’ve never seen these kind before, Rolf, but they are not from here.”
“What are they doing?” Edith moaned, obviously in real pain now.
“Taking blood from Henry,” Dina whispered again, and Edith’s and Anton’s eyes went wide at that…
…then came a bright flash from the cockpit, followed by a deep thunderclap…
…and after regaining her composure Dina went back up the steps…
The creatures were gone, but so too were Henry and Clyde, and without knowing why she ran out on deck and up to the bow…
…and yes, the orca was gone, too.
“Just like none of this ever happened,” she sighed.
“Maybe we weren’t supposed to find Henry,” Rolf added as he came up to her side.
“Beware,” Anton said, looking around the marina as the sun came out. “Now know what Henry want us to watch for.”
“I’m very confused,” Edith sighed, holding her ribs and doing her best not to cry.
© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.
Oh, wait, just one more tune to get you through your day. Adios!