Okay, here she be. The last part of the last story before we move back into The Eighty-Eighth Key, and to the conclusion of “that part of the story.” Some important elements coming on fast now, and a few might even be a surprise. In the meantime, you might want to have a cup of tea at the ready. This part, the fourth part of ‘Forgotten Songs’, will take a while to get out to you, probably another six or seven sub-chapters, and I’ll try to keep them fairly short so as not to bore you too much. I still recommend cardamom tea…
And do please pay at least a little attention to the music, okay?
(Justin Hayward \\ Forever Autumn)
(The Beatles \\ Blackbird)
Part IV: The Music of the Spheres
San Francisco, California 9 September 2001
Ted Sorensen examined the sliver of lime swirling round and round inside his glass of San Pellegrino and he smiled at the juxtaposition of expectation and satisfaction, perhaps because he felt a sense of serenity, almost even a gentle calm. He was in San Francisco again, this time at Candlestick Park, ostensibly to see the Forty Niners play the Atlanta Falcons, and Debra was with him, now with a pair of Steiner binoculars up to her face, and she was watching William Taylor down on the field. Taylor had literally broken through the line and run down Falcons quarterback Chris Chandler as he dropped back to pass, and Sorensen heard the roar of the crowd and looked at Taylor beating his chest down there on the field. He watched Debra jump up and cheer and, quite perversely, he smiled at her lingering enthusiasm for the boy. Still, he had plans for her, and now it was time to set one part of his plan into motion.
He turned back to his glass and watched bubbles form and rise to the surface…then disappear when one by one they hit normal atmospheric pressure – when their time was up – and he looked up at all the people around him in this lavish owner’s suite, then he imagined he was looking into the eyes of the faces of the sixty-six thousand deranged souls dressed in red and gold just below, crammed together in these stuffy, horrid smelling stands, screaming for sweating jocks as they knocked each other to the ground, before these jerks started strutting around like amped-up gorillas. What kind of people enjoyed this shit, he wondered. They were somehow considered normal, but really, were they? Maybe nothing really ever changed, not since gladiators fought for the emperor’s pleasure in ancient Rome, but…did all that really matter anymore? Everything was meaningless money changing hands, now as it probably was then, yet putting a kid like William Taylor up on a pedestal seemed the height of idiocy. Yet this society worshipped kids like Taylor, while not one could name even one of the many brilliant transplant surgeons performing real miracles all around the country – every day. What was wrong with this picture? Had it always been this way? Yeah, he said to himself, it probably had been…
He looked at Taylor now, watched him walk back to the defensive huddle, then Sorensen leaned forward in his chair as Taylor lined up almost right over the center. On the snap the two lines slammed together in a concussive shock he could feel, yet Taylor slid through an opening and tackled the ball carrier behind the line of scrimmage, resulting in another loss of yards for the Falcons, who now had to punt. And once again…the crowd went wild, only now most began chanting “TAY-LOR, TAY-LOR”…so loudly his ears began to hurt.
Yet Taylor stayed on the field, working special teams this season as well as middle linebacker, and when the ball was snapped Taylor broke through the line again and made it deep into the backfield, but then he blocked the kick. He rolled once and came up with the ball and ran it twenty four yards into the Falcon’s end zone, scoring a touchdown – and his teammates swarmed all over him as he carried the ball to the bench, determined to keep it in a special place for the rest of his life. Very few players managed to do what he’d just done, and even the coach came over and slapped his ass.
And yet as Taylor sat on the bench to catch his breath all he could think about was his little brother Frank, and how much he would have enjoyed looking on from the stands. William had invited his parents, of course, but they’d begged off, had other things to do – and that was that. Maybe he would have tried to find a way to say hello to Debra – had he known she was at the game. But he didn’t. Because that wasn’t part of Sorensen’s plan. Not yet, anyway.
So Ted got up and walked over to the little buffet the owners enjoyed, and as he had a plate of prime rib and crab prepared he listened to the crowd as they continued chanting William Taylor’s name. Even Debra had gotten into the spirit and was jumping up and down, clapping her hands like some kind of love-addled teenager. She was still naive enough to think that love lasted for more than a few minutes, and he shook his head as he took his plate and walked back to their table, watching Taylor on the sidelines as his teammates came up and congratulated him.
And a week from now, Sorensen sighed, no one would remember any of this. Pointless. And so much money wasted here in so many misplaced emotions.
“What a waste,” he said to no one in particular.
“What’s a waste, Daddy?” Debra said, smiling quizzically his way.
“Oh, you know…prime rib without creamed spinach,” he lied, returning her smile with a twisting grin all his own. “But that’s life in the big leagues, I guess.”
He watched Debra watching William Taylor and a part of him really didn’t understand what the attraction was between the two of them. William was the exact opposite of her, physically at least, but even emotionally and perhaps intellectually as well. She’d never been interested in sports, not even at Harvard Westlake, when participation had been required…so to end up dating an überJock had come as a surprise. And while she’d never expressed any interest in the movie business he’d made sure she took the classes she’d need to function at the studio, and in that she was once again the exact opposite of William Taylor. And she’d been going on and on about astronomy for two years now, to the point she’d taken enough courses in the subject to declare it as her “minor” area of study. She’d earned her degree in economics but had no interest in further study in the field – yet when her father suggested she look into graduate study in astronomy she had jumped into action. Again, the opposite of Taylor. He was a pointless dullard, a waste of flesh and oxygen…
But now he was concerned about Debra and her listless wanderings. He’d not counting on her depression, but looking back maybe he should have. But…there was astronomy. And she talked about the subject with real interest…so he had called his “step-mother” Deborah Eisenstadt and sought her advice and counsel…
“Bring her to Boston. Let me sit down with her and discuss the matter, and I will assess the state if her practical knowledge.”
So…after the Forty Niners beat the Falcons – in “Sudden Death” overtime, for heaven’s sake – they had driven the short distance to SFO and boarded the Gulfstream.
“Will we be home in time for Letterman?” she asked as the little jet taxied to the runway.
“No, I’m afraid not. I’ve got to go to Boston tomorrow, and then New York on Tuesday, and I’d like you to come along.”
“Oh? Okay, sounds fun.”
“Fun. Yes indeed, fun,” he said, grinning.
Boston, Massachusetts 10 September 2001
After his father’s death, now several years ago, Ted Sorensen’s stepmother, the physicist Deborah Eisenstadt, had emigrated to the United States to take a position at MIT. She was old now yet her mind was as sharp today as it ever had been, but recently she had been preoccupied with a new problem.
After that impetuous pianist from Harvard, the curiously named Liz Bullitt, had demonstrated her ability to bend the rules of time by manipulating acoustic harmonic structures just last week, she had been lost in thought. What was limiting these travels to observations only? Why couldn’t the girl interact with elements in the past. What good was moving through time to simply observe events that had already happened? For historians the appeal might be obvious, but the more obvious concern, at least to Eisenstadt, was the possibility of actual interaction occurring. She understood the obvious concerns surrounding the so-called “paradox of time travel” too, and while the idea bothered her it did so secondarily.
If this girl, or even this teacher of hers, this homicide detective in San Francisco, could time travel, what might happen if either or both of them stumbled upon a way to actually manipulate events in the past? And like ripples spreading across a pond, Eisenstadt understood that it was only a matter of time before others became aware of their ability. Others with more resources would begin to study the matter, and, again, it would simply be a matter of time before some other group began to manipulate time to their own design.
So Eisenstadt’s first concern was to study the matter…to see if such a breakthrough was even possible. If she found such a move was theoretically not possible she could relax…yet if she found a way past this limitation then she knew it would be possible for others to exploit this breakthrough…and then the nature of time itself, indeed, the very fabric of the universe could possibly be under assault.
And this she had to stop.
She came in from her first class of the day, an introductory class in quantum mechanics, and looked at her calendar, then her shoulders drooped and she sighed. Ted was coming by for another chat about estate matters, and he’d indicated that Debra might be coming along, so if she was interested in graduate work in astronomy, then…
Astronomy? Debra? She scoffed at the idea, if only because Debra had always appeared to be an intellectual lightweight, yet she had graduated Magna Cum Laude from USC and had taken a minor in astronomy…so maybe she’d been wrong about the girl. She had to consider that Ted was serious when he’d mentioned bringing Deb along for an evaluation of sorts. But what did he expect in return?
Because, she knew with Ted there was always a price to be paid, a toll exacted. Yet…wasn’t she the one performing the favor? ‘Ah…he is expecting my help, to get her into MIT…’ she thought, sighing at the thought.
The department secretary buzzed her on the intercom, announced that the Sorensens were waiting and ready to see her when she was free, and she told her to send them in…
“You’ll pardon me for saying so, Deborah,” Ted began as he sat across from Eisenstadt, “but you look troubled. Is everything alright?”
“Actually, no. A colleague of mine,” she began, but then she stopped and seemed to consider how best to proceed. “Well, perhaps you may have read about the matter in the papers, but a friend of mine here in the department climbed the Matterhorn over the summer – and his party met with tragedy. Two of his closest friends fell to their death and he has been particularly troubled since his return. I just stopped by his office and spoke with him, so excuse me if I seem burdened.”
Debra spoke first: “Yes, I think I read about the accident. Sounds ghastly, and I can only imagine how he must feel.”
Ted shrugged. “Risky business, climbing. Did I read he’s only got one leg?”
“That’s correct, Ted,” Eisenstadt said.
“I also read he started a company to make climbing gear for amputees. Smart. He probably picked up a fair amount of publicity, needless to say.” Eisenstadt blinked through her ‘Coke bottle’ glasses, and Ted was struck once again how much like an owl she looked when she blinked like that. “Of course, it was a horrible tragedy,” he added…after he saw the look on her wizened face.
“What can I do for you, Ted?” Eisenstadt said, as ever finding this so-called step-son of hers as reprehensible as ever.
“I wanted to make a sizable donation to the Jewish Home for the Aged, and I’ll need your signature to draw from the trust and I wanted to clear it with you before someone from Northern Trust called you.”
He could have done this with a call, so the only reason he was here had to concern his daughter. So…this matter was important to him, but why? “Of course. I’d be most happy to do so. Now Deborah, I see that you took a minor in astronomy? Are you interested in further study in this area?”
Debra looked at her father, then at Eisenstadt. “I am, yes,” she said, perhaps a little too defiantly. Rebelliously, no?
“Have you given graduate studies much thought?” Debra looked away, then looked at her father again, and that was really all Eisenstadt needed to know. “Ted? Why don’t you leave Debra with me for a while?”
“Certainly. Have your secretary call this number when you finish up.”
Eisenstadt waited for Ted to leave, then she came around and sat next to Deb. “I don’t think we’ve had a chance to speak since the funeral. How are you doing, Debra?”
Maybe it was Eisenstadt’s warm voice, her obvious caring, but whatever it was she couldn’t help herself anymore and the dam broke. All the anguish she felt about her father’s overt control over her life came to the fore and she started crying. Eisenstadt put an arm around the girl and let it all come out…the things she had felt after her father engineered William Taylor’s exit from her life and the way he had taken direct control over everything she did in the aftermath. She’d withdrawn from life after graduation. She’d stopped running and started eating self-destructively. She’d gained sixty pounds and now she really hated herself, hated her life and hated William for walking away from their life together…
Debra laid it all out there, so Eisenstadt listened, and closely, too.
“So,” Eisenstadt sighed. “Tell me about astronomy. This is a sincere interest?”
“Actually, it is. I’d just never accepted this was something my father would ever let me do.”
“Let you do?”
“My goodness, you speak as if he owns you. What keeps you from simply stepping out from behind his shadow, from moving out of his house and beyond his control…?”
“Deborah…he has me followed, everywhere I go. I can’t go to the grocery store without a security detail shadowing my every move.”
“Are these men here, even now?”
Debra shrugged. “I have no idea. If they’re good you don’t know they’re around.”
Debra cried softly now, and Eisenstadt handed her a tissue. “So, what is it about astronomy that interests you?”
Debra threw the tissue away and looked at Eisenstadt: “I know this might sound trite, but globular clusters. The first time I saw one of those Hubble pictures I wanted to know everything about them.”
“Clusters? Really? Interesting. That is Gene Sherman’s area of expertise.”
“My friend, from the Matterhorn climb this summer…”
“Oh. I didn’t know that.”
She went back to her desk and looked up his extension and called him. “Gene? Could you drop by my office? I have a young astronomer from USC here, and she’s interested in your clusters…”
Sherman knocked on her door a few minutes later and she told him to “Come on in!”
“Gene, this is my step daughter, Debra, and she minored in astronomy at USC. I’ve just gone over her transcripts and she’s a solid student.”
Sherman squinted and took the offered documents then looked them over. “Have you taken the GREs?” he asked.
“Yessir. The score is there, on the bottom right.”
His eyes shifted and then he whistled. “So, two years of calculus, and you took both quantum mechanics and celestial mechanics from Bars?”
“I did, yes.”
“A+ in both, too, and I know he grades tough. Well done you.”
“So, you’re into globs? What got you?”
“We went up to Lick when I was in high school, and I got a peek at M13 through the…”
“Through the 20 inch?”
“That’s what got me, too. They’d just collimated the main cell and the view was surreal.”
Debra beamed, because she’d finally found someone who understood. “At Lick?” she asked.
“Yeah. Helluva piece of glass, ain’t it?”
“Oh, yessir. I could have looked at her all night. I’m just curious, but did you see the pulsing in the Sagittarius cluster this summer?”
Sherman stiffened, but he nodded. “Yes. I was on the mountain at the time so I didn’t really get a chance to…”
“I recorded it. Almost all of it,” Debra blurted out.
“I recorded it, from the roof of our house. With the new 9.25 inch Celestron astrograph, and on a German equatorial mount. I recorded direct to a hard drive with an electronic eyepiece.”
“You have the raw data?”
“Uh, Dr. Eisenstadt, I called the, uh, the number you gave me. We’re having dinner this evening. Uh, Debra, what are your plans today?”
“Nothing until this evening.”
“Well, maybe the three of us could go grab a bite to eat. I assume you’ll be applying to enter for the winter term?”
Debra shrugged. “I haven’t decided on a course of action just yet, sir.”
“I see. I’m just curious so tell me if I’m out of bounds here, but why not?”
“It’s complicated,” Eisenstadt said, “but I’m free for lunch. Debra, why don’t you call your father and see if he’d mind if we borrow you for a few hours. I think we need to drive out to Haystack, don’t you, Gene?”
“To the radio astronomy center?” Debra cried. “Ooh–yeah! That’d be cool!”
Ted didn’t have a problem with that, not at all.
As a matter of fact, he was counting on it.
Because this afternoon he was meeting with several mass media consultants, discussing a project he’d had on the back burner for a while. He had, in fact, been purchasing small, independent television stations all over the midwest over the past few years, and he’d recently purchased several small stations in the Portland, Oregon and Puget Sound areas. The first group he was meeting with today would recommend which stations in the Boston and upper New England areas to acquire, while the second meeting later this afternoon would look at stations from the Mid-Atlantic and Deep South regions. If all went according to plan, by this time next week he would own a coast-to-coast network of unaffiliated television stations whose net value was, comparatively speaking, next to nothing.
And a year from now he’d be in charge of a massive unified network broadcasting evangelical programming 24/7, and within five years his new American Eagle Network would be hosting hard right wing opinion shows, and the network’s specialty would be the most divisive fear mongering anyone had ever dared put on the public airwaves.
New York City, New York 11 September 2001
The Gulfstream’s pilot was on the intercom just now, describing their approach into New York City. “We’re passing the Verrazano Narrows Bridge now, turning north to go up the Hudson. We’ve been cleared to land at LaGuardia and we’ll have a great view of the city off to the right as we fly upriver. It’s eight forty five now, and we expect to be on the ground in five minutes, so Carol, make sure the doors are clear and that everyone’s ready to land.”
Carol Lindstrom, the Gulfstream’s lone flight attendant, checked that the main airstair was clear and armed, then she walked down the aisle to check on Mr. Sorensen and his daughter, They were both sitting on the right side of the aircraft now, both staring intently out the window as the jet came up on the skyline…
“Dad? Did you see that?”
“Yes., it looked like…oh, shit!”
Sorensen got out of his seat and ran to the cockpit, and thank goodness the door was still open.
“Gordon! An American 767 just hit the North Tower!”
“Sir?” Gordon Gabbert said. “Did you say the North Tower?” Gabbert had been Sorensen’s pilot for almost ten years now, and he knew The Boss would never say anything like this unless it was real.
“Yup. Deb saw it too.”
“LaGuardia Approach, this is Gulfstream Two Two Bravo, we’ve observed an American 767 impacting the North Tower of the World Trade Center.”
“Ok Two Two Bravo, will relay information and you are cleared to land runway one three, report any other information to tower on one eighteen seven, maintain three three hundred to the turn, and good day.”
“Eighteen seven and three three double-oh to the turn. Two Two Bravo.” Gabbert turned to Sorensen then. “You’d better get belted in, sir. Hard right turn in about thirty seconds, then that steep approach.”
When Ted got back to his seat Debra seemed pale, almost in shock, so he sat across the aisle from her and held her hand in his. Her skin was cold and clammy and he shook his head as he remembered…
“Daddy?” she cried. “Was that real?”
“I saw the same thing you did, honey,” he said gently, “and it looked pretty real to me.”
“Oh, Daddy, how many people…” she tried to say, but then she literally passed out. Her body slumped over just as the Gulfstream banked hard right, and her head slammed against the window and the padded cabin wall. When she came to she was bleeding badly from a small laceration over her right eye, but Sorensen couldn’t see it from his angle.
But Carol did, and she grabbed a gauze pad from the first aid kit and dashed to Debra’s side, putting a makeshift compress over the wound and holding it there while the jet landed – and Ted saw the look of real concern in Carol’s eyes – and he wondered where such people found their reserves of humanity even while images of the airliner slamming into the side of the North Tower reeled inside his mind’s eye.
It couldn’t have been an accident, not at that speed and most especially not at that altitude.
Then his mind went back to the mid-90s. Islamic groups aligned with some kind of radical cleric had parked a truck bomb in the basement parking garage of one of the towers. And that rich Saudi radical, the one behind the embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania, had been reported to be planning some kind of attack on the US. But why?
Oh yes. When Bush had been running for president in ’99 and 2000 he’d come out against a two state solution to the Palestinian “troubles” and a lot of foreign policy pundits had been warning of reprisals ever since. The warning lights had started blinking red over the summer, and even network news reported that W had been apprised of the heightened potential for an attack. Well, it looked like they were right, and W was wrong. Again.
The Gulfstream taxied over to the GA ramp on the west side of the airport and Carol ran up to the cockpit to get Gordon to call for an ambulance, and when he’d done that he came back to see what had happened.
“She passed out,” Carol said, “right when we made that last turn onto final.”
“She passed out?” Gabbert asked. “What happened?”
“She saw the impact,” Ted sighed. “I did too. It was awful.”
“We could see the smoke from the cockpit when we pulled in here. Heavy black smoke, so lots of jet fuel involved.”
“Gordon!” the co-pilot cried. “There’s another incoming report. Newark Tower reports a United 767 hit the South Tower!”
Ted felt his heart beating harder, and he also felt an impossible anger welling up deep inside as he turned to his chief pilot. “Gordon, make sure our fuel is topped off. Carol? You ride to the hospital with Deb and get her back out here to the aircraft as soon as you can. Gordon, see about filing a flight plan for London, or maybe Copenhagen. I’m not sure what’s going on, but this may not be the safest place to be right now.”
The co-pilot called out again: “Mr. Sorensen, it looks like your limo is here.”
“Thanks, Paul,” he replied before turning to his crew: “Any questions?”
Both shook their head.
Paul Bartok was extending the airstairs now, and when the locking mechanism clicked into place Ted ran down to the waiting Mercedes and disappeared into the city. An ambulance pulled up moments later and EMTs rushed aboard; they decided to carry Deb to a nearby Urgent Care facility, leaving Gordon to file a flight plan for London Stansted and to get the aircraft refueled. By the time airspace over the continental United States was closed two hours later, the Gulfstream was already wheels up and outside of the continental ADIZ, the Air Defense Identification Zone, paralleling the Massachusetts coastline while climbing for forty-one thousand feet.
Only now there was an additional passenger onboard.
And Carol thought he was the most dangerous looking human being she had ever seen in her life.
© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.
(Civil Twilight \\ Letters From The Sky)
And if you don’t pay attention to the lyrics on this one you’ll be missing something…interesting.