The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 61.3

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So…anyone wanna talk about Will Smith at the Oscars? Good, nor do I. Music, however, always matters.

(Sting \\ Russians v.2022)

Chapter 62.3

Callahan and Eisenstadt were sitting in the living room; the fireplace in the heart of his house was blazing away – sending flickering shadows of amber ghosts in desperate flight all around the room. Callahan was nursing his second Diet Coke of the evening, yet after taking one last sip he shuddered and put the glass down. “This stuff tastes like pure unadulterated panther piss,” he growled.

She smiled. “Do you have any single malt?”

“Doubtful. I used to keep some here for guests, so if there is any it’ll be over in the cabinet above the ‘fridge.”

Deborah went over and checked the cabinet, and he heard her gasp as she took in the choice. “Oh my. Someone very interesting has been stocking your liquor cabinet, Harry.”

“Doc likes his scotch. Probably him, if you get my drift. You into that stuff?”

“I am. Would you like to have a snort?”

“Sure. What the hell…anything beats this stuff.”

She came back a moment later with two glasses of caramel colored liquor and handed one to Callahan. He took a tentative sniff then a sip, and he nodded. “Pretty good. What is it?”

“Aberlour. A decent 16 year old. Very smooth, don’t you think.”

He shrugged. “If you say so. Never been into it.”

“Oh, it’s just something to take the edge off, I think. Sit in front of the fireplace and think about the day, kind of look back…”

“Look back. Yeah, I like that.”

“I know you don’t want to do it, Mr. Callahan…”

“Oh, come on, it’s been what? – four days now…so you can call me Harry, and I promise I won’t bite.”

“Alright…Harry. What is that? Short for Harold?”

“Harald, with an ‘a’.”

“So, so the Danish spelling…from your mother’s side, I assume?”

“Yup.”

“Did her mother, your grandmother, play the piano?”

“Yes. I think she played at the concert level. Quite accomplished, at least that’s what Mom told me, but she passed away when my mother was still pretty young.”

“Do you think your mother, well, that she traveled when she played?”

“I’m not sure, Doc. She’d play and there were times I just saw her sitting there, almost like she was catatonic. All I can remember is that it really scared my dad and me when she got like that. It was spooky, but, well, have you been around many mental cases?”

“Only in faculty meetings,” Eisenstadt said, smiling wistfully. “Sorry. No, but please, do go on…”

Callahan nodded absent-mindedly. “I’ve seen a few. Jumpers. People in emotional shock. But in a way most people who set out to murder someone, well, they’re usually emotional basket cases, in one way or another…”

“That’s right. You were a homicide detective, were you not?”

“Yeah, for most of my time in the department I was in CID…uh, that’s the Criminal Investigations Division. When most cops first go into the division they usually get assigned to the  bunko, or the theft and fraud division, but some go to vice. You do well there and you get assigned to homicide. It’s supposed to be a big deal but looking back on it I kind of wish I’d stayed on the street…”

“Oh? Why is that?”

Callahan sighed and looked into the fireplace, at glowing embers under burning logs. “Being a cop…well…it’s like living in a sewer. People who do stuff, commit crimes, they’re like all the people who just don’t fit in, ya know? They’re the people on the outside looking in. Usually not real bright, some just plain broken…”

“Makes sense. If you’re reasonably intelligent you find it’s rather easy to make a good living…”

Callahan smiled, then he nodded. “Until you run into a stockbroker or a physician with tons of money and then you realize he committed the murder. Or the well-off old lady who takes in and kills an old man for his Social Security checks. There’s just a screw loose, Doc. I don’t know how else to say it. You can look ‘em in the eye and see it. Something wrong, something off way down deep, maybe something that happened to ‘em a long time ago, but they really just don’t fit in…”

“You saw a lot of bad things, didn’t you?”

He nodded, but for a while he couldn’t take his eyes off the embers. Then he held up his glass of scotch and looked at the fire through the liquid…

“Do you have nightmares about such things?”

Callahan nodded again, more slowly now, and he found himself back in San Paulo. Looking into Jennifer Spencer’s demon-haunted eyes. “Painting a carousel,” he muttered, his mind going round and round…

“What? What did you say?”

Harry shook himself back into the moment. “Oh, nothing. I was just thinking about a case.” He chuckled as an ember snapped and popped and he watched as a fragment arced through the air, landing on the slate floor. “A nut case, as a matter of fact. I have a self-portrait of her hanging in the bedroom.”

“The one with the eyes?” Eisenstadt asked.

And then Callahan frowned. “I have a hard time getting her out of my mind.”

“Why her?”

“She was broken, ya know? Damaged goods. But in a way she was so easy to love.”

“And you loved her?”

He nodded. “For a while.” He looked at the ember on the floor, a soft glowing red thing that was about to fade away, and he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “We were just too far apart, I guess. Close, but not touching.”

“Sounds painful.”

He shook his head again and smiled. “It’s amazing how many cops end up marrying people they meet on a call. You know, like a girl comes home from work and finds her place has been broken into and here comes the cop, and there it is. Something sparks. Or someone is in an accident and the cop pulls them from the wreckage, and some kind of connection is made. A good connection. We’re there when people are at their most exposed, their most vulnerable, and we’re often the only ones around that don’t take advantage of them. Not like all the repair shops or contractors and insurance agents they have to deal with in the aftermath, let alone all the other scammers. Sometimes we’re the only one there who’ll tell ‘em with a straight face what’s going on and what comes next. I liked to think that what I did was to simply go out and find the truth, and that maybe the truth would be some kind of comfort, or that maybe the truth would actually turn out to help someone.”

“And…was it?”

“As I said, I liked to think that…”

“But now you’re not sure?”

Callahan leaned back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling. “There’s something going on out there, something happening. Frank and I, well, more like a bunch of us, I think, uh, we stumbled on something. At first we thought it was like some kind of rot eating away inside…”

“Inside? What are you talking about, Harry?”

But Callahan shook his head again. “Frank and I, we couldn’t be sure, but it was like maybe police departments were being undermined, maybe even compromised, but from the inside out. Penetrated, at least in the beginning? Then…subverted?”

“By whom?”

“That’s the problem, Deborah. Whenever it was like we were getting close to…hell…that’s not right. We never got close to an answer. I don’t think we even got close to asking the right questions, and whenever we tried it’s like we were attacked from every angle. Drug dealers. Low life scum. Then from the inside, by rogue cops. And then cops working with dealers. So we gave up, and I mean we publicly gave up and yet…no one seemed to care in the least, especially no one in city government…”

“And so you think they were in on it, right?”

“Maybe, maybe not. The thing is, it felt pervasive. Like it was everywhere, like law enforcement at every level was being compromised.”

“Was?”

Callahan shrugged. “Yeah. And I assume it still is.”

“So, why were you in Israel?”

“I used to think I knew the answer to that one, but now I’m not so sure.”

“Oh?”

“Did you know Avi Rosenthal?”

She shook her head. “Was he related to Saul?”

“Yeah, his brother. I still don’t know the whole story, but he was – apparently – married to my mom before the war, but I think that was a marriage of convenience. Then about twenty, twenty-five years ago he basically took Mom back to Israel. They lived in a government compound outside of Tel Aviv; that’s where Mom was when she died.”

“What did this Avi Rosenthal do?”

“I’m not real sure, but I think it had something to do with their version of the CIA.”

“The Mossad? Really?”

Callahan shrugged. “Maybe. He was a physicist but got involved in planning. War plans. At least he let on once that was what he was working on.”

Eisenstadt sighed, her mind working overtime now: “Do you think there’s any possibility that he knew about this thing your mother did? This manipulation of time?”

“If he knew he didn’t let on.”

“If he worked with Mossad he wouldn’t.”

Callahan looked at her carefully then, trying to get a read on where she was going with this line of questioning: “So, what are you thinking?” he finally asked.

“Harry, I am at heart a physicist. I look at complex systems and try to understand why they behave the way they do…”

“Okay. So, you look worried right now. Why?”

“I have two fears, really. The first concerns this thing that you taught Liz. This remote viewing thing you do. It is a curiosity, yet one with an immense potential to wreak havoc. Yet what most concerns me is that we somehow extend this ability and that we actually are able to travel back in time. Now…what if this Avi Rosenthal knew of your mother’s ability? Then what? Well, if he worked for Mossad we have to assume that the Israelis know of this generally and have since been working to extend your mother’s ability to utilize remote viewing into actual time travel. Yet I lived and taught there for almost twenty years and never heard even a whisper about such a project.”

“Okay. That’s one fear. What’s the other?”

“This I have a more difficult time understanding. It is little more than a feeling right now, a feeling with no basis in reason.”

“Alright. So, fire away.”

“It concerns this thing in the sky. This pulsing light. And to me it is a question of timing, and because of what we were just talking about at dinner. What did you say to your friend, the doctor? That this pulsing might not be a natural phenomenon, that it might be a signal? And if this is so, it might quite possibly be a warning of some kind? And here we are, the three of us – and quite possibly the Israelis too – working on some kind of practical ability to move through time. So, my second fear is exactly this: what if this warning is no coincidence?”

“Swell…”

“Yes. Just so. But there is another point to consider. If your mother knew of this ability before the war, what if others learned of her ability? Perhaps very unscrupulous people, perhaps, for instance, scientists working for or inside the Third Reich…?”

Callahan shuddered. “That would explain Israel’s interest, wouldn’t it? The Nazis could manipulate time, and…”

She nodded: “Just so, yes. And now let me add one more piece to the puzzle…”

“Oh, no…”

“Oh, yes. There was talk, before the outbreak of the war, of a kind of “shift” that had to do with time displacement. It was, and by rumor only, called the Aubuchon Shift. From what I have been able to uncover, there was a Claire Aubuchon involved with the Manhattan Project. She lived in Los Alamos, New Mexico during the war, and she worked with a physicist at Berkeley named Ted Sealy. They were working on how the blast waves from atomic bomb detonations would impact the wings of the delivery aircraft, the B-29; in other words, they were working on both the physical effects and the acoustic dynamics of a large blast wave. And Harry, this is the crucial point here, she was working on harmonic properties and their impact on structures and then she supposedly came upon some kind of “shift” and then she quite literally dropped out of sight. Years later she marries a man named Ben E Goodman with all kinds of degrees in medicine and physics yet I cannot find out anything about this Dr. Goodman. No academic records, no work records, nothing…”

“Goodman? Did you say Ben Goodman?”

“Yes? Why?”

“My contact within the Mossad these days is Colonel Benjamin Goodman.”

“Interesting. Does he, by any chance, have a daughter?”

“Yup. Didi. Didi Goodman.”

Eisenstadt shook her head. “This Claire Aubuchon had a daughter. Dana Goodman is her name. She lives in Los Angeles.”

“You think they’re related, don’t you?”

“Possibly. Or…something worse.”

“Worse? What could be worse?”

“That they are copies. Copies of this Claire Aubuchon. And this is what troubles me, Harry. This Aubuchon was a passenger on the Titanic yet she had a child in the 1950s? Is that so? Is that even possible?”

“So…you think she was actually traveling?”

“I have no idea, but this husband of hers, this man with no discernible background, has a baby with her when she is far too old to do such a thing? No, Harald, there are far too many unanswered questions here, questions that make no sense, and then you tell me of this other Goodman in Israel…”

“She’s been handling my finances for a long time.”

“What?”

“His daughter knows where everything is. Everything.”

“You must act now to secure what you have. And Harald. There is something else I must tell you.”

“Yes? Well, fire away…”

“My father, in Copenhagen, was your grandfather’s best friend.”

“My grandfather?”

“Aaron. Aaron Schwarzwald.”

“Seriously? Now isn’t that…”

“A coincidence?”

“A coincidence, yes.”

“I am not so sure I believe in such things anymore, Harald. The odds that Liz would look me up in Cambridge and then bring me to your house defies statistical interpretation…”

“Meaning what?”

“I have no idea, only that something most unusual is taking place.”

“Unusual, how?”

“It is like we are being guided…”

“Funny, I didn’t take you as the religious type…”

“And I am not, Harald. Yet perhaps there are people guiding us, or shaping events so that we come together…”

“So, people with god-like powers?”

“Perhaps it seems that way to us, but to me this implies people who have mastered the observation of people across lifetimes…”

“You mean time travelers, don’t you?”

She nodded. “Yes, I suppose I do. This also means that you and I may hold some sort of special place in this scheme, that you and I coming together is part of a plan.”

Callahan sighed and held up his glass. “I think I’m going to need another one of these,” he said.

“Ah, you see? This is a most useful creation, this scotch. Sit back and go over the day, or perhaps even a lifetime…”

“Lifetimes.”

“Just so, yes. We must start with your mother, Harald. That is the first road we must take.”

“You know Robert Frost?”

“The poet? No, not really. Why?”  

Callahan looked at his empty glass and twirled the last remaining drops in slow circles, looking at one drop as it collided and reformed in ways both unpredictable and reassuringly familiar. “I shall be telling this with a sigh, Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

“And this means what, Harry?”

“That we have been acting in very predictable ways, and if we’re going to survive this thing then we’re going to have to start taking the road less traveled.”

“We need to be unpredictable? Is that what you’re saying?”

He nodded, and then he tossed the last remaining drops of scotch onto the fire. “Yes. Just so.”

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances (i.e., Covid-19 and me generally growing somewhat old) waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry.  The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

(Genesis \\ Dodo-Lurker Suite)

2 thoughts on “The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 61.3

    • Everything from those days (the late 50s through Vietnam) seems to be taking on new meaning these days.
      I’m almost afraid to watch The Bedford Incident, and even Strangelove seems like a stretch emotionally.
      Dawn’s Early Light might leave me in a catatonic puddle…

      Like

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