All things come to an end. Even stories. Even my stories…
Absence of Light
I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day…
Lord Byron Darkness
Sherman was sitting at an old steel desk in his classroom, looking out one of the windows at the infinite stretching sigh that was the Santa Monica Mountains, and he was lost again, foundering after trying one more time to make sense of recent events. William Taylor – dead. Jennifer Collins, the cop and writer – dead. Two photographers and two more cops killed in action. But Andrew Kerrigan and Angel, the physician-actress-star of Taylor’s next movie, had both survived.
Kerrigan had retired to the residence and locked himself away, coming out only for meals and not even making eye contact when he did. And Angel had simply disappeared, here one minute and gone the next.
What the devil had happened in South Central? Had Sorensen exacted his pound of flesh? But no, the more he thought of that the more he realized that made no sense at all. Too much collateral damage. Or had the mayor, as Kerrigan suspected, felt threatened by Taylor’s concerted efforts to take action on the homeless problem? If so, the political risks of such an operation were so extreme as to border on the psychotic. So, had the South Central Bloods been the most threatened of all? Had they seen Taylor’s work as undermining their own efforts to win over the ‘hearts and minds’ of local residents pissed off by the huge throngs of homeless people overrunning their neighborhoods?
Or had some kind of insane synergy taken hold of events and then everything had just spiraled out of control?
He knew what he had to do, really – if only for his own peace of mind, and perhaps for Andrew Kerrigan’s, as well.
When he returned he shifted his gaze to Venice Beach and his thoughts turned to Dana Goodman. She was a good physician and better still a good listener, and already he felt a growing attachment to her easy going empathy – yet there was something about her that pulled at him – like an uncertain gravity gently tugging at him. There was something odd about her, too. Like she was a little too perfect to be roaming around in rural Ethiopia shoveling pills and sympathy in bombed-out villages. No, that story didn’t add up either, and he’d already decided he needed to call his mom as soon as he could and check up on this Dana Goodman…because he knew he’d soon have to rely on her.
He looked at his watch and nodded, then walked out of the classroom building over to the Jesuit Residence, then after signing-in he took the stairs up to Andrew Kerrigan’s apartment. He knocked on the door and waited for the obligatory “Go away!” – but when none was forthcoming he tried the door and, when finding the door open, went inside.
Kerrigan was standing at a window that looked out over the marina – and to Venice Beach just beyond – apparently still lost in events of last weekend.
“Have you eaten yet, Andrew?”
Kerrigan crossed his arms protectively over his chest and shook his head dismissively.
“Well, come on. Let’s head up to Santa Monica and grab a schnitzel and a couple hefeweissen.” These were Kerrigan’s favorite things in life and if he refused then Sherman knew he had a real problem on his hands. But no, he saw the indecision, the subtle nod of the head, and he knew he had Andrew by the short hairs.
“Okay,” Kerrigan said. “Let me grab a coat.”
“Don’t forget your keys.”
“When are you going to buy a car, Gene?”
“Been there, done that. Once was enough.”
“That was funny the first fifty times you said it, I hope you know?”
“I do. Don’t forget your keys.”
Kerrigan sighed and shook his head. “You really should buy a car, Gene.”
“Why? So I can have a heart attack and die on the 405? Would that make you happy?”
“No, not really.”
“Look, you’re going to live another twenty years – at least. How ‘bout we go buy you a car?”
“Because I’m broke.”
“Really? Well, I’ll buy it, then.”
“As long as it’s not a red Cadillac.”
“Let me go find my checkbook.”
“You sure about this?” Andrew Kerrigan said, grinning.
“Yeah, sure, why not.”
They were in Kerrigan’s ’78 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, and had just pulled into the customer lot at Ferrari of Beverly Hills, and already Sherman had his eye on a new F8 Spyder parked just outside the showroom; two salesmen had taken one look at Kerrigan’s copper colored Oldsmobile as it pulled into the lot and they had as suddenly disappeared. Yet Sherman was out the door and he made his way to the Spyder like a heat-seeking missile; Kerrigan sidled over to the Ferrari and took one look at the sticker and turned white as a Klansman’s sheets.
But then a neatly pressed girl came out of the showroom and walked up to Sherman – hesitating only once – when she spotted his priestly collar.
“I think we need a Rabbi,” the girl said, smiling as she walked up to Sherman.
“I know,” Sherman sighed, “but there are never any around when you need one.”
“I’m curious,” the girl said, laughing. “Two priests looking at a Ferrari. What’s the punchline?”
“You in sales here?” Sherman said as he shrugged, his voice turning all business now.
“I am, yes.”
“What’s your best price on this thing?”
“The price. You know, as in Me Want Buy Car. You Sell Car Me. Earn You Big-Big Commission? Comprende?”
“You really priests, or is this some kind of gag? Like, the studio sent you over?”
Sherman looked at Kerrigan: “Are we priests, Andrew? I keep forgetting?”
“We were on Sunday, if that matters.”
“I think we’re still priests,” Sherman said, turning to face the girl again. “Now, can you tell me what a good deal on this car looks like?”
“I’ll be right back,” the girl said, clearly shaken. “Let me go and ask my sales manager.”
The girl walked inside and Kerrigan walked over to Sherman. “Look, I said no red…”
“No red Cadillacs, Andrew. And this ain’t a Cadillac.”
“It sure as Hell is not a Cadillac. Did you see the sticker price, Gene?”
“I did. Ain’t life grand?”
“It’s got about an inch of ground clearance. I’m not sure it’ll clear the speed bumps on campus.”
“I have my doubts, as well.”
“It’s not practical, Gene.”
“But…look at it from my perspective, would you? I mean…we gave up the whole sex thing, right? Does that mean we sold out on the idea of ever having fun in cars again?”
“No, I suppose not. I do like the color. It kind of grows on you.”
“Yeah. Red and tan. Classic.”
“You know, it is kind of sexy.”
“See!? See?! A priest driving a Ferrari is what I call having your cake and eating it too.”
“It’s the American Way, I guess,” Kerrigan said, grinning a little.
“You understand me now, don’t you, Andrew?”
“”Yes, I think I do, but Gene, I see an even bigger problem here?”
“And that is?”
“I don’t know how to drive with a manual transmission.”
“Well…damn. I didn’t think of that…”
They returned to the residence in time for dinner, in Kerrigan’s ’78 Olds Cutlass, and as luck would have it they arrived just in time for…pot roast.
“I’m glad I finished my schnitzel,” Kerrigan sighed as he looked at the dollop of goop on his plate.
“Yup. There’s method to this madness. There just has to be…”
“I wish you’d bought the Ferrari, Gene.”
“I’m glad I didn’t. They weren’t coming down on their price enough to even vaguely interest me.”
“You mean, if they do you still might…?”
“Andrew? I do believe I hear a little Greed in your voice this evening. Or is that Envy I hear?”
“I think it’s Lust, Father Gene.”
“See, I told ya! Cars and sex are pretty much the same thing, ya know?”
“I do now. Once I got behind the wheel I was a total goner.”
“We were blessed with testicles, Father Andrew. How could we feel otherwise?”
They both broke out laughing.
“Next time,” Sherman added, “we’re bringing Rabbi Fleischmann with us.”
Kerrigan rolled out of his chair, laughing all the way to the floor.
Father Rolfs was not amused, but after delivering a serious scowl he resumed eating his pot roast.
Which Kerrigan found funnier still.
“I’ve always wondered what you keep in here,” Kerrigan said as he walked into the little study off Sherman’s living room.
“Just a few odds and ends. Eye of newt, pickled bat’s wings…you know, the usual.”
Sherman walked over to a large black vinyl cover and pulled it free, folding it neatly as he revealed a small Yamaha Clavinova against the wall – with a pair of over the ear headphones attached to bypass the external speakers.
“So this is how you practice,” Kerrigan said as he picked up the headphones. “I wondered about that.”
Sherman took a seat at the keyboard and unplugged the headphones, then he powered up the Yamaha while he opened the book of sheet music on the rack above the eighty eight keys.
Kerrigan leaned forward a bit and looked at the music. “The Third Piano Concerto,” he read, “by Imogen Schwarzwald.”
“Know it?” Sherman asked.
“I know of it, but I’ve never been to a performance. It’s the concentration camp piece, right?”
Sherman nodded, but he wasn’t smiling now. “That’s correct,” he sighed.
“You seem, well, a little troubled, Gene. Is there something about this music that bothers you?”
“You could say that…yeah. Andrew, you’d better sit down. I need to tell you a story, and it concerns that pianist you enjoy so much up in San Francisco.”
“Who? You mean…Harry Callahan? ”
“Yeah. Harry Callahan, the same pianist that you, and that apparently, William Taylor liked, as well. And I don’t think coincidences like this should be ignored, Andrew.”
“This story you want to tell me? It concerns Harry Callahan?”
“Yup. And maybe this is also just coincidence, but, as it happens this Callahan is Imogen Schwarzwald’s son.”
“Interesting,” Father Andrew Kerrigan said. “Small world, I guess.”
“Oh, you could say that…”
“So, what you’re telling me is, well, that you’ve done this? You’ve gone back and witnessed things?”
“I have. Yes.”
“Can anyone do it?”
“No, not really.”
“This is preposterous, Eugene. Completely and totally idiotic.”
“It is, yes. However, it does work.”
“And this professor at MIT, she discovered…”
“No, no. Schwarzwald, from what this girl told me, stumbled upon it. The cop, this Callahan up in San Francisco, he taught the girl…”
“Her name again, please?”
“And she told some professor about this thing that Callahan stumbled on?”
“Yes, and that’s about all I know.”
“Quantum mechanics, you said?”
“I think so.”
“What if I wanted to go witness Christ’s birth, or his crucifixion?”
“Well gee, Andrew, why not go for the gold and try for his resurrection?”
“What you’re saying is what happens if there wasn’t a resurrection? What happens if that’s the case?”
“I assume you might want to think through the repercussions of your choices, Andrew. All your choices.”
“I feel nauseated, Gene.”
“Nauseated? Really? But we haven’t…”
“And I’m not sure I ever will, Gene. The implications of such a thing are beyond me. The idea is terrifying.”
“As a historian I’d think you’d find the whole thing quite, well, maybe gratifying?”
“You could at least verify that certain obscure events actually happened. Think of the books you could write!”
“Taylor. William Taylor. Could we find out who was responsible for his death?”
“His murder, you mean?”
“Just so. Yes, his…his murder. Oh, God no, Gene. This is obscene. Simply obscene.”
“It certainly could be – but I’m curious, Andrew. What would you do with the knowledge if you found out who was responsible. For Taylor’s murder, I mean…?”
“What do you mean?”
“You couldn’t actually go to the police with information like this.”
“Why not? Why not bring a detective here, you know, the one who always drops by the clinic. Play the music and let him see, then let him figure out what to do with the information.”
“Don’t you see where this is leading?”
Kerrigan bowed his head – but then he gently nodded understanding. “Yes, of course. Like ripples spreading across a pond. Soon everyone would know how to do this, and soon enough everyone would be darting around in the past, trying to change events…”
“And in the process changing the present. Not to mention our future.”
“And then what?”
“There are times, Andrew, when I’m not really sure the present is unfolding the way it’s supposed to. Those echoes I told you about?”
“Yes? In Yosemite?”
Sherman nodded. “Concerning events on the Matterhorn, yes. These echoes…you can actually feel them, almost like disrupted time leaves a wake.”
Kerrigan shook his head again. “And the more you tell me the more convinced I become that this is something you should turn away from. Now.”
“Oh, I have, Andrew, I have. But every time I sit here and practice…well…it’s a temptation.”
“I couldn’t handle that, Gene. I don’t know how you do it.”
“I saw something else, Andrew. When I was down at the aid station.”
“When the new physician came by?”
“Yeah. Later that evening I woke up and heard Taylor and another man arguing.”
“A broken promise, and I gathered that was a personal matter, but they also talked about the situation down at the beach, with all the homeless encampments, and Taylor wanted this man’s help…”
“And then they argued?”
“Do you know what about?”
“I think the other man was Ted Sorensen, and I think they were arguing about his daughter.”
Kerrigan leaned back in his chair and slowly looked away, yet Sherman smiled as he watched his friend.
“What is it, Andrew? What’s wrong?”
But Kerrigan stood and slowly walked over to a window, almost as if he was lost in thought.
“Andrew? What am I missing here?”
Kerrigan turned and looked at Sherman, his eyes hooded with fear. “There’s no one more dangerous in Los Angeles, Gene. No one. If William Taylor crossed Sorensen then he was a marked man. Dead. No one messes with Sorensen.”
“Andrew, you’re talking like he’s some kind of mob boss…”
“Gene, the mafia won’t touch Sorensen. You get my drift?”
Sherman felt curious now, yet he was still almost – puzzled. “No? What am I missing here, Andrew…?”
“You do know that the east coast mob, the so-called mafia, has branches in almost every major city in the country. Every city but Los Angeles.”
“Uh…no, not actually…but I’m not really up on these things, Andrew.”
“Well then, let me be blunt. The mafia tried to break in to the LA area but another, well, another organization stopped them. Think of this group as located here on the west side…”
“You mean Beverly Hills, right?”
“I do, yes.”
“Dear God. And so what you’re saying is that Ted Sorensen is…”
“And he was right outside my tent, Andrew.”
“I hope he thinks you were asleep, Gene. And whatever you do, be very careful about who you speak to about this, and trust no one. Especially not the police.”
“Do you think he could have ordered a hit on Taylor?”
Kerrigan shook his head. “Not his style. Too exposed.”
“Could he have gotten the Bloods to do it?”
“So there’d be no way to tell the police even if we found out by…”
“If Sorensen was involved? You’d be signing your own death warrant, Gene.”
“And you think we shouldn’t try to…”
“We’re better off not knowing, Gene.”
Sherman nodded, then he yawned. “Long day,” he said. “I’m about ready to hit the sack.”
“When are you at the clinic next?”
“Day after tomorrow, but I’ve got the aid station tonight and all day tomorrow.”
“What about that new physician?”
“I assume she’ll be with me at the clinic.”
Kerrigan looked at the piano and sighed. “Don’t do it, Gene. Leave it alone.”
“Well, like you said, there’s no point, nothing to be gained.”
“And there’s a lot to be lost,” Kerrigan said. “Well, I’ll see you at breakfast.”
“You will if you want to join me down at the beach.”
“Ah. Right. Well, see you later.”
“Sleep well,” Sherman sighed as he let his old friend out.
When Kerrigan was gone Sherman walked into the kitchen and put on water for tea, then he went to his bedroom and called his usual Uber driver. He ran his fingers through his hair then pulled an old carry-on out of the closet before he went back to the kitchen. He put a teabag in his cup and poured the water, and he watched the bag float around for a while before he took a deep breath and looked around his little apartment one more time. He took a sip of tea then put the cup down before he got his suitcase and left the building.
His Uber was waiting for him and he asked the driver to take him to his favorite Indian place over on Lincoln, and he paid the kid and grabbed his suitcase and waited on the sidewalk, taking care to see if anyone was following him.
A few minutes passed before a new Ferrari F8 Spyder pulled up to the curb, Dana Goodman behind the wheel. He put his suitcase in the tiny boot then got in the passenger seat, smiling at her as he sat.
“Nice night,” he said. “Let’s put the top down.”
“You don’t want to wait til we’re out of town?”
She hit a button and the top retracted. “Better?”
“So, Kerrigan was the one who told Sorensen?”
“He was,” Sherman said, looking up the hill where he’d lived the last several years of his life.
“I found Callahan. He’s up north of San Francisco, little house on the beach.”
Sherman nodded. “Figure out how to work the NAV system yet?”
“Yes. The address is entered. Do you want to take the 5 or the 101?”
“The 101. Seems fitting, I think.”
“Fitting? How so?”
But Sherman just shrugged as Goodman pulled away from the restaurant, lost in the moment, and soon they were northbound on the 405, passing Interstate 10 and coming up on Sunset Boulevard.
“Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?” Sherman said, then he started singing the rest of the verse: “Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, What’s that you say, Mrs. Robinson? Joltin’ Joe has left and gone away…”
“Oh, nothing, just a song I used to like. It somehow seemed relevant right now,” he said – as they passed the exit for Beverly Hills.
“I got all your prescriptions filled, by the way,” Goodman said, all business as she maneuvered the Ferrari through the usual heavy traffic.
“Good. I’ll probably need them.”
They merged onto the 101 a few minutes later, onto the Ventura Highway, and he was soon lost in another slice of music, inside another chain of unbroken memory. “No, this town don’t look good in snow,” he sang as he ran down the glittering halls of dancing memory – then he leaned back in his seat and looked up at the stars…from the bridge of his very own starship.
Perhaps a mile behind a dark sedan followed, watching and waiting.
And high overhead a pale blue sphere followed the two cars – as they sped into the waiting darkness.
© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkuhnwrites.com | and here ends Beware of Darkness; this was a work of fiction, pure and simple. All rights reserved, all poetry and lines from Simon & Garfunkel’s Mrs Robinson quoted under provisions of the Creative Commons scheme.
‘Til next time…adios.