Let’s see if we can climb out of the rabbit hole and find some sunlight…
[Pat Metheny Group + A Place In The World]
Part III: The House With No Windows
Beverly Hills, California 18 December 1996
Deb and William pulled into the garage of her father’s house on Foothill Road and, gently, she turned and smiled at him. “You’re doing better,” she said as he took the key from the ignition and handed it to her.
“I’ve never seen anything like this city. The streets must’ve been laid out by idiots.”
She laughed at that. “Oh, it’s not so bad, really. As long as you can find north, just head that way until you hit Wilshire or Santa Monica then hang a left. You did great!”
He looked at her and nodded, still not really sure of himself. Still, he really liked driving her Porsche…
But he was still really uptight whenever her father was around. Something about the guy, some kind of deep anger always seemed to be hiding in plain sight, welling up to the surface but not quite breaking through. He felt stupid, tongue-tied and almost illiterate when Ted Sorensen asked him something, even mundane questions about the weather! Then, without warning and like always out of the blue Ted would ask some kind of tough question – like about things going on the world – and he could hardly come up with an intelligible reply. Every now and then he’d seen people react to his own father that way, but Mr. Sorensen was in a league of his own. Taylor simply felt out of his depth when Sorensen was around, and the feeling hit him hardest when coming off the football field after practice and going directly over to the house in Beverly Hills. It was like one minute everyone feared and respected him, but as soon as he got to Sorensen’s house he felt the exact opposite reaction…like he was unsure of his place in the world, and very inadequate to the moment.
Sitting there in Deb’s yellow Porsche he realized he was staring at his hands, lost in thought, and that Deb had just asked him something.
“Hm-m? What’d you say?”
“Just relax, William. He’s not going to bite your head off, you know?”
“Deb, we’re going to be locked up on a boat with him, and like a million miles from nowhere…”
“We won’t be the only ones there, you know…? Some location scouts are coming along, and I think he’s bringing someone special.”
“What? You mean…like a date?”
Deb sighed when she heard the mocking tone in Williams question. “No, not really. She’s always been more like a close friend, but they’ve been spending a lot of time together recently. Oh, she designed this house, in case that comes up.”
“She’s an architect?”
“Yeah, a pretty famous one, too. Her name is Dina and she’s really fun to hang out with.”
“Is that special effects guy coming, too?”
She nodded. “Yeah, but I don’t really know all that much about him, other than he’s into sailing.”
“I hope everyone knows I’ve never been on a boat before.”
“You mean besides Dad? Oh, I doubt anyone cares one way or another.”
“They will if I fall overboard.”
She laughed at that. “Don’t worry. I’m a good swimmer.”
“I’m not. With this knee, if I hit the water I’m pretty sure I’ll sink like a rock.”
“How is it today?”
“Good, assuming I don’t run out of Percocet.”
She nodded, tried not to look at the massive bruise on the inside of his right knee then took his hand. “Just lean on me, okay?”
He turned and looked into her eyes and nodded. “Have I told you how much I love you today?”
“Not yet,” she smiled – just before she leaned in for a kiss.
“Well I do, ya know.”
“Ditto,” she sighed as he ran his fingers through her hair. “Ooh, you’re going to drive me mad if you keep that up.”
“Say…maybe we could stay here in the garage and no one would notice…?”
“Or maybe we ought to go on in. I think the limo will be here soon and Dad will get upset if we’re late.”
William Taylor shuddered involuntarily. ‘Perish the thought,’ he sighed…
He was expecting to drive into the main terminal area at LAX – but the convoy of limos continued south on Sepulveda through the tunnels under the runway; when the cars turned right on Imperial he grew confused. Yet almost immediately the Lincolns made another hard right and turned into a complex of office buildings and hangers that appeared to line the south side of the closest runway. His limo pulled to a stop behind Ted Sorensen’s and soon everyone was getting out and standing around, some stretching and squinting at the sun, others chatting amiably as their noonday departure hit home. Sunglasses went on and baggage handlers dashed out of the main office building and took everyone’s luggage inside, directly to a Customs and Immigration kiosk. Pilots lounged on the far side of the room, looking bored as they thumbed through car magazines.
By now, William knew better than to say a word – lest he appear too vapid – and when he got to customs an agent looked him over then stamped his passport…and that was it. The agent told him he was no longer in the United States – even though he was standing firmly in Los Angeles – and he only grew more confused as he followed Deb through the building and outside to an area dotted with dozens of private jets. He’d never seen anything like these aircraft and he was instantly smitten by the sight of so much obvious wealth…just sitting out there under the sun…waiting for their owners to come and command them.
Then he saw Sorensen walking up the air-stairs and disappearing inside an airliner – a private airliner. It looked like a Boeing 707 but planes weren’t his thing so he just clammed up and walked up the steps. And there was a stewardess waiting for him with a smile, too! ‘What the Hell…!’
Debra led him to a pair of seats just aft of the wing but by that point William was almost in shock. He was looking down, not paying attention at all, and Deb pulled him down into a seat and belted him in.
“You okay?” she asked.
He just shook his head then shrugged.
“Whose plane is this? Your father’s?”
“God no,” Ted Sorensen said, now standing beside Debra and looking down at William. “It’s the studios. Most of the people on board today are location scouts and pre-production people that will be looking over potential shooting sites around Moorea.”
“Are all these people going to be with us?” Deb asked.
“We have five boats chartered,” Ted answered casually, “so we’ll sail as a caravan over to Moorea then up to Bora-Bora. We’ll spend a couple of days at each island, and William, I want you to spend some time with the location scouts this time, okay?”
“Yes, you,” Sorensen snarled. “You might as well get your feet wet, see what this business is all about.”
Sorensen growled and walked aft.
“Stop calling him sir, would you?” Deb sighed. “It’s like you’re trying to piss him off!”
Taylor turned and looked out the window, the shrieking whine of the 707s engines drowning out the feeling of despair that seemed to have latched onto his neck like a snake, then he felt Deb next to him, and she took his hand again.
“I’m sorry, William,” she said over the mounting roar of the four jet engines. “I keep forgetting…”
“I don’t belong here,” he said softly.
“What?” she said. “I can’t hear you.”
“Nothing,” he sighed. “I’ll try to do better.”
Harlowton, Montana 18 December 1990
The Air Force people had completely sealed off the area where the missile silos had been – ever since the entire complex ‘disappeared’ a couple of weeks ago – and ever since that night the area just north of the Taylor’s house had been crawling with strangers in lab coats and hooded orange parkas carry strange looking machines – all pointed down at the earth.
Now that football season was over, William and his kid brother Frank went about their chores every afternoon after school, and after they got off the school bus that afternoon their father had asked them to ride out to the east and check out the gates that secured the Harley pasture.
“Big storm coming on hard now,” their father said, “I don’t know how those idiots did it, but I saw a half dozen head roaming north of the fence. My guess is one of those egg-heads must’ve opened the gate and left it…”
William saddled up Biscuit – who’d been his horse since he was a little colt – while his brother got Tad ready to ride, then they zipped up their heavy parkas and walked their horses out of the barn and into first waves of a raging blizzard. They followed the fence line for a half mile, then William got off Biscuit and opened the gap into the northeast pasture, the one his great grandfather had called the Ghost Pasture. No one had ever bothered to ask why, so the name had stuck.
William closed the gate and they followed the next fence to the gap that separated the Ghost Pasture from the Harley Pasture – and sure enough, it was open. William went over and closed the gate, and then he noticed several hoof prints in the drifting snow – all headed north – and one appeared to be a calf.
He groaned. They’d have to ride out and find the little fella and make sure he hadn’t wandered off by himself, because wolves would pick off a stray in a heartbeat. He pulled his coat’s hood up and cinched the drawstring tight – to keep the wind driven snow from running down his back – then he mounted Biscuit and turned to his brother.
“Frank, you’d better head back. This shouldn’t take more than a half hour.”
Frank shook his head. “No way, Bro. What if you fall on your ass? And you know you can’t tell your ass from a hole in the ground without me…”
William shrugged and snarled: “Whatever, Dude,” before he turned into the wind and set off, following the calf’s prints, his eyes following the track in the snow for several minutes…until…
“There he is,” Frank pointed, “over there!”
But William wasn’t looking for calves anymore. His eyes were locked onto what looked like a welder’s torch in the woods off to his left. There wasn’t anything capable of making that kind of light out here, and especially not in a storm like this. He turned to Frank in time to see him pointing to the calf and rode over to the snow-encrusted creature and jumped down to check him out. He didn’t need to be told what to do next.
The calf was about half-past dead so he roped him up and tossed the end to Frank: “Get him back to the barn,” he yelled out over the roaring snow. “I’m gonna go check out that light!”
“That one,” William said, pointing to the forest a few hundred yards off to the north.
“What the fuck IS that?”
“You got me. Now git goin’, Slick. I’ll be right behind you.”
He got up on Biscuit and rode towards the light, reaching it after about ten minutes. He looked over the situation, more confused than ever – no way should there be a light this bright out here.
‘What if it has something to do with the silo,’ he wondered. ‘But that would mean…’
“Well, one way or the other I’ve got to find out.”
He tied Biscuit off to a sturdy branch and grabbed his 30-30 before he walked into the forest, and the closer he got to the source of the light the warmer the air became, while the sound of the roaring storm grew more and more distant, like a memory fading in the face of new fear.
He pushed his way through drifting snow until he came to a large pine, and here he pushed aside a heavy branch – and gasped.
He saw two creatures, one laying on the ground and obviously injured, the other kneeling beside his injured friend, trying to help.
The one on the ground sat up when it saw William, and the other turned too. William had never felt such fear in his life.
“Ach, Leonída, póso théleis na steíleis móno énan Spartiáto!” the injured creature said, its voice a deep, soothing baritone. (Αχ, Λεωνίδα, πόσο θέλεις να στείλεις μόνο έναν Σπαρτιάτο!)
“I’m sorry,” William said, “I don’t understand.”
The kneeling creature stood and William gasped. It had to be ten feet tall and its body was covered with feathers, his belly feathers robin’s egg blue and his back a deep shimmering cobalt. “He is not Leonidas,” this one said, in English now.
“He looks like Leonidas. Are you certain?”
“I am certain. This one is scared. Leonidas never feared of us.”
William stepped closer to the standing creature and looked at him more closely. “Are you the ones who took the missile silos?” he asked.
The standing creature began to spread its wings, revealing killing talons about a third of the way out the wing…
…and William brought the Winchester up to his shoulder, cocking the hammer in one smooth, practiced motion.
“I do not see fear,” the injured creature said. “Are you sure he is not Leonidas?”
“No, I am not sure. I see something new in his eyes now.”
“Put the weapon down, Leonidas. We are not your enemy,” the injured creature said.
“What’s wrong with you?” William said, his eyes still trained on the razor sharp talons of the standing creature.
“This thing,” the injured creature sighed, pointing to his right leg. “We can not get it loose.”
William looked down and saw the creature had stepped into a heavy spring-loaded trap, and the heavy spring-loaded arms had slammed shut on his leg.
“I tried to cut it off,” the standing creature said, “but the heat transfers from the metal to the flesh to quickly.”
William walked over to the wounded creature and looked at the trap; it belonged to poachers who had been working the area for months, and it was easy enough to remove – assuming your fingers could reach the release mechanism, that is. These creatures had fingers, but they were thick and about a foot long.
He bent down and hit the release and pulled the trap open, then he gently pulled the trap free of the mangled leg – which suddenly started bleeding.
The other creature knelt beside him and hit the wound with another light, a pinkish white floodlight or some sort, and the bleeding stopped almost instantly. “Can you help me get him to his feet, young Leonidas?”
It took a minute but they managed to get the injured creature out to the pasture; William climbed up on Biscuit and the two creatures stood there, watching him as he put his rifle back in its scabbard.
“Is someone coming for you?” Taylor asked.
“Okay. Well, nice to meet you,” William said, saluting and turning his horse towards the house.
“It was nice to see you again, my friend,” the injured creature said.
William stopped and turned to face them again. “Yes, it was. Be well.”
“Αυτό πρέπει να μείνει μεταξύ μας.” (Aftó prépei na meínei metaxý mas.)
“I understand,” William said. “Until next time.”
William Taylor rode back to the barn and helped get the stray calf warmed and bedded down for the night, and once he and Frank were inside and helping set the table for dinner, his father came in from the storm and sat by the wood stove to warm up.
“Your brother said you went after some kind of light. What was it, Will?”
“Poachers again, Dad. They had a wolf in a trap.”
“Will?” Frank said. “That sure didn’t look like poachers to me. Not with that light…”
His father looked him over once then nodded. “You got some blood on you. Best go get that washed off before dinner.”
William looked down at his jeans; he hadn’t noticed the blood before and he didn’t remember where it must’ve happened. A minute later he didn’t remember the encounter in the trees or anything else that had happened out there. And neither did he appear to recognize the tiny blue sphere that hovered outside his bedroom window that night, and several more times in the weeks and months that followed.
0230 hours 23 December 1996 approaching Passe Teavanui, Bora-Bora, French Polynesia
Once the sun had set the afternoon trades set, too, and now there wasn’t a breath of air stirring the water’s surface. Henry Taggart had pulled in all the sails hours ago, then spent a half hour tying off halyards to keep them from banging into the mast. Still, sleep had proven elusive. It was just too damn hot down below – even when the air conditioner worked…which wasn’t often. He had finally given up and come back up to the cockpit, only to find the jock from ‘SC already sitting aft by the rail, his feet dangling off the stern.
“Want something to drink?” Taggart said when he saw the kid…
“Huh…what?” William Taylor barked, startled out of his reveries by the unseen voice.
“I said, would you like something to drink?”
“Uh, yeah. Thanks. A Coke if there’s any left.”
“Oh, I have a secret stash,” Taggart said as he disappeared into the galley, and he came back up a few minutes later with two ice cold Cokes – in glass bottles, no less. He handed one to Taylor and sat down on the seat built into the stern rail. “Too hot for you down there?” Taggart asked after he took a long pull from the bottle.
“My knee was bothering me, really throbbing, and I just couldn’t get comfortable.”
“I know the feeling.”
“You play football?”
“Just high school. Middle linebacker.”
“Me too. Did you play any in college?”
“No, not really. I’d pretty much lost interest by then.”
“Where’d you play?”
“Oh, Newport Beach, then I went to a little school in the Bay Area for a couple of years, before I transferred to Claremont. Stanford for grad school, in computer science.”
“What are you doing out here? Mr. Sorensen tag you to come along?”
“Pretty much. He’s interested in sailing, and that’s been my main thing for a while.”
“Yeah. It’s a nasty habit. Hard to break, too.”
“Is he going to buy this boat?”
“This piece of crap? Over my dead body. This is a French Clorox bottle, built cheap for the charter market out here.”
“It sure is big.”
“Despite rumors to the contrary, size isn’t everything.”
That was good for a chuckle. “I’m not doing too well in that area, either,” Taylor sighed. “I think it’s the Percocet, but I can’t get it up.”
“You ever heard of Viagra?”
“Sure, who hasn’t…? I just didn’t happen to think I’d need something like that, you know?”
“I have plenty. Let me know if you want one.”
Taylor shook his head. “I couldn’t get on top for all the tea in China right now.”
“So? Let her get on top…”
“Excuse me for asking, but how many times have you two made it?”
“Ah. And before that? You have much experience?”
“Where you from, kid?”
“Ah, Montana. Where men are men…and sheep are scared.”
“Oh, nothing. So, let me just cue you in on something you might not be aware of. Next time the mood strikes just lie on your back and let her assume the position. Just straddle you, ya know? Like riding a horse. She’ll find her groove, and who knows, you might too.”
“Tell you the truth, man, I’m not sure I even want to try out here, ya know? When someone farts it sounds like a cannon going off…”
“You’ll have to wait for her old man to go ashore.”
“I’m just too uptight, man. Her old man really bugs me, ya know?”
“No, I don’t know. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know how to describe it, man, but it’s like I know him, like I’ve always known him – and I mean like forever.”
“Deja vu? Something like that?”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“Deja vu? Oh, when you find yourself in a situation and it feels like you’ve already been there before, almost like reliving something again.”
“Kinda, but not really. It feels more like I knew him…before.”
“Before? I’m not sure I’m following you, kid.”
“Like I knew him in another life.”
“Well, more like I’ve lived a bunch of times and he always shows up, like we’re locked in some kind of battle, in a battle we can never win…or even lose…either of us.”
“I’m not sure…” Taggart began saying, then: “Pull your legs in!”
But Taggart didn’t hesitate now; he jumped over and pulled Taylor up until he was standing on deck – just as a large shark rolled under the yacht’s stern, thrashing the water in frustration as it passed, then sounding out of sight into the inky blackness below.
“Jesus H Christ!” Taylor cried. “What the fuck was that?”
“An oceanic white-tip shark – pretty big one, too.”
“That was a fucking shark?”
Taggart nodded his head. “This is their home, kid, not yours.”
“Jesus, fuck, shit, I was thinking of going for a swim a half hour ago…”
Taggart looked at the kid, his hands shaking now and his voice a faintly hoarse, crackling-tremorous wisp of a thing, so he grabbed the kid’s Coke and went back to the galley. He topped off the bottle with rum and hurried back to the rail, handing over the bottle again: “Here, try this.”
“What is this?” Taylor said after he took a tentative sip.
“Rum. It’s required after your first close encounter – with a shark, that is. Hell, after any encounter with a shark. And no sipping allowed, kid. Chug it – you won’t regret it.”
Taylor stiffened at the mention of close encounters, then he shrugged it off and took a long pull from the bottle, making a grimaced, squinty-eyed face when he finished swallowing the stuff. “Shit, that tastes just about like the worst fucking cough medicine I’ve ever had.”
“You ought to try gin sometime. Tastes just like your dad’s after-shave lotion smells.”
“Yuk. No thanks.”
“You got that right, kid. Stick with rum. Grows hair on your balls.”
“Really? Can I have some more?”
The breeze filled-in an hour before nautical sunrise and Taylor helped Taggart raise the main, then he took the wheel while Taggart unfurled the big sail up front, which he called the ‘genoa’, and the boat picked up speed after that. Taggart navigated around the north side of the island group, pointing out the highest peak – Mont Otemanu – as an amber sun just lit the summit.
Deb came up from below and stretched as the wind caught her hair, sending it streaming aft and catching her off guard. “Geesh, is that a sight, or what?” she sighed as she looked at the twin peaks glowing in their very own rosy fingered dawn. “And look at the color of that water. Makes you want to dive in and swim for the beach…”
“I wouldn’t,” William replied offhandedly. “See that fella?” he said, pointing at the white-tipped fin cruising about fifty yards aft.
“What is that?”
“A very mean shark,” Taylor sighed. “Take my word for it. You don’t want to fuck around with him.”
Deb looked at William, the obvious question begging to be asked, but she could see his anxiety even now – like an aura of sparkling green and gold traceries, then she smelled the overpowering essence of dark rum. She groaned inwardly then turned and looked at Henry Taggart and he smiled at her in that way of his, but already she hated this smug, sarcastic bastard, and she knew she’d have to limit William’s exposure to him – lest he undo all her work so far.
Taggart headed in close, to within a few hundred meters of the northwest tip of the main group, along the so-called Pointe Paharire and the little airport beyond, and he looked at the alarm on Ted Sorensen’s face when his head popped up the companionway.
“Aren’t you cutting it a little close?” Sorensen barked, the whites of his eyes clearly defined now.
“I guess if we hit something you’ll know for sure,” Taggart replied casually – but with his usual shit-eating grin splitting his face from ear to ear.
“Come on up, Dina,” Ted said. “This ought to be something…”
And then Dina the Architect came up the companionway as naked as the day she was born, and Henry Taggart thought – for a woman her age, anyway – she looked imminently fuckable…so of course his grin only grew bigger.
William Taylor looked away, aft – towards the rounded white-tipped dorsal fin roaming lazily in their wake, though he tried to solve a few quadratic equations in his head…
While Deb seethed in unsettled anger, looking at Dina’s shaved nether regions and her father’s barely contained equipment.
But of course her father looked at Dina with something much more than simple pride of ownership in his eyes. He was in love – again – and he didn’t care who knew.
‘My-oh-my,’ Henry Taggart sighed, if only to himself, ‘but aren’t things looking up now? Ya know, with just a little bit of help, this trip could get real fun, real fast…’
© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.
For Debra, from T:
Here’s the original:
From the two versions of The Thomas Crown Affair. What music is all about, ya know?
Hasta later, y’all.