The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 62.2

88keykobenhaben

A fairly brief snippet here. Maybe one cup of tea on the tea-meter?

[Paul McCartney \\ Every Night]

Chapter 62.2

He woke up with a start, sat up and looked around the room – not really knowing where he was – or where he’d been.

Callahan recognized his bedroom and for some reason he felt a surge of relief, then he realized he was sweating profusely and terribly thirsty. “And why do I feel so disoriented?” he growled at his shaking hands.

He swung his leg out of bed and pulled the wheelchair close, then swung himself onto the seat – very nearly missing the seat and just saving his ass from another fall – and he grumbled all the way into the head, peeling off his soaked t-shirt and tossing it into the hamper as he passed. Then he positioned himself before the countertop and hoisted his body up to brace and turn on the shower  – and that’s when he saw the markings.

He saw a bunch of puncture woulds, and each looked like a site where a large bore needle had been inserted…and then he noticed that the injection sites – if that’s what they were – were grouped in threes, and that these groupings formed perfect equilateral triangles. And he could see at least five groupings like that on his torso. He shook his head, not at all sure what might have caused these as he started to look at his leg.

He washed up and brushed his teeth in the shower, but something on the insides of his gums didn’t feel right so he just rinsed with mouthwash and sighed. Something was seriously wrong, but he still had no idea what that something was, or even what it might be. 

He hopped out of the shower and dried off, then unfolded his walker and made it to the dresser in his bedroom. There was a mirror there as well, and he saw more of the same triangular groupings under his arms, but he just couldn’t see his back, nor the backside of his leg. ‘Gotta call the doc,’ he sighed, thinking he might have picked up the measles.

Then he remembered Deborah…Eisenstadt. 

He pulled on his usual SFPD gym shorts and put a sweatshirt on over his t-shirt, then he got into his wheelchair and rolled into Lloyd’s old bedroom…and he found she was still asleep. He reached over and gave her a nudge and she woke with a start, and he could see enough to realize she too was covered in sweat.

She sat up and immediately grabbed her head. “Oh, God! I have a headache!” she cried.

And yet Callahan could already see several of the triangular groups on her upper arms.

“What are you staring at?” Deborah said when she saw Callahan.

“Those marks, on your arm,” Callahan said. “I hate to ask, but I need you to check my back.”

“What?”

“Here, look at my arms,” he said, holding his arms out.

“You have the same marks, too?”

“Yup. A bunch of ‘em, from my shoulders right on down my leg.”

She rolled out of bed and came around to his back and he leaned forward in his chair enough for her to pull up his shirts…then…

“Yes, there are six groups of three on your back,” she said. “In a simple rectangular pattern, too.”

“They look like puncture wounds, right?” he added. “Yet I don’t feel anything. You?”

“No. Nothing.”

“I woke up covered in sweat, and so did you. Is your headache…?”

“It’s gone. Completely. So…perhaps this was a circulatory event? Did you have a headache?”

“Not that I noticed,” he sighed, “but I feel like I’ve gone ten rounds with Mohammed Ali.”

“Who is this?”

He shook his head. “Not important.” He saw the same marks running down her legs and not one showed any sign of bleeding – or any evidence of other mishap, for that matter – and he thought it looked like these sites had been created by a machine of some sort. “What else could account for this kind of precision…?” he whispered.

“The sphere,” Eisenstadt said. “The angry blue sphere. I feel certain it has something to do with this…entity.”

“Did you see something?”

“I feel as if I should, but Harry, this is very strange. I feel a memory is there but that somehow it has been, or is somehow being suppressed.”

“I hate to say it, but yeah, it’s like a missing hole in my memory. I know something is there, but I just can’t find it.”

“This is nothing new, I’m afraid. There was a conference recently where I teach…”

“MIT, right?”

“Yes. This conference concerned the psychopathologies of the so-called UFO abductee, and I attended a few of the sessions, those that concerned specific references to time dilation, but many of the psychiatrists attending did not want to generalize these phenomena. While some could trace an etiology back to some sort of underlying schizoaffective disorder…”

“Uh, Doc, sorry, but you’re going to need to tone it down a notch…”

“Ah, yes. Well, some physicians present did not feel comfortable about calling the abduction phenomenon a medical, or even a psychiatric condition.”

“Which means?”

“These physicians have concluded some of these events are grounded in reality.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I know. I feel the same way, Harry, but…” And here she paused, perhaps gathering her thoughts. “What is the last thing you remember from last night?”

“We were on the deck and Sagittarius started…” he said, his voice suddenly a flat monotone.

“And?”

“And…then I woke up?”

“Just so. It is the same with me. Something has happened. To us, I mean.”

Callahan felt heavy, almost like he was coming out of a trance, then he heard the front door open, followed by DDs almost adolescent “Yoo-hoo! Anyone home?”

“Is the doc with you?” Harry replied.

“Yessiree-Bob, you betcha!”

“Oh dear God,” Callahan moaned. “She must’ve gotten laid last night…”

Deborah tried not to laugh but DD walked into the room just then and when she saw Harry with his shirt askew a prudish eyebrow arched high. “Well, well, well,” she sighed, “did somebody not have enough fun last night?”

“Come take a look at this,” Harry snarled, and as DD knew that tone she snapped to.

“What am I looking…oh shit, Harry! What the hell did that?”

“They’re all over Deborah, too,” Harry growled. “Where’s the doc?”

And then, as if right on cue: “Holy shit!” Doc Watson barked. “Where’d all this water come from?”

+++++

Delgetti and Sam Bennett walked up to the door and Callahan was there waiting for them.

“Shit, Harry,” Captain Bennett grumbled as he smacked Callahan’s leg, “I like the look, but why not get a peg-leg?”

“Because I might be tempted to kick your ass!” Callahan replied with a smile. “Howya doin’, Cap?”

“I keep forgetting how far it is out here,” Del added as he took Harry’s hand. “Harry? How’s it hangin’?”

“To my knee, shipmate. You look kinda thirsty, but I may have something out back to take care of that.”

He led Captain Bennett through his house but it was obvious his old captain’s legs were bothering him…then they reached the stairs to head down to the patio where everything was set up.

“Harry? I’m not sure I can make it down those stairs…” Sam sighed.

“Well Hell, Cap…I know I can’t but I’ve got a spare chair. Why don’t you take this one. I just got it and it’s got a motor and it’ll go just fast enough to get you into trouble.”

“I don’t know, Harry. I just don’t know.”

Harry looked up at Delgetti and grinned. “Del, why don’t you run down and grab a couple of brews.”

“Sure, Harry…” his old friend nodded, understanding the moment all too well.

“Harry? I’m not doing so good, ya know?”

“It’s hard without Elaine, I guess?”

Sam broke down when he heard that. “Oh Harry, you have no idea…but now, livin’ in a home? That’s what it is, Harry, ya know? Just a fuckin’ warehouse for old geezers waitin’ to shuffle off, ya know?”

“Sam…?”

“And don’t you spout off about getting a hobby or making new friends. Ain’t no friends left, Harry, except you guys. Hell, if Delgetti didn’t come down on weekends the only people I talk to all week are the aides who drop by to see if I’ve shit myself.”

“Is it as bad as that?” Callahan asked, shocked at the change he saw in Bennett.

“It’s fuckin’ worse, Harry. There ain’t nothing worse than bein’ alone, not now, not at this stage.”

“Not how you thought things would turn out, is it?”

Bennett looked away. “We used to look at you, at all those women you had coming and going and we used to worry about how you’d end up, and now here I sit. I think that’s called irony, Harry, and it fucking sucks. The big one.”

“So…have you thought about photography?” Callahan said jokingly.

“Yeah, maybe we could go down to the valley and shoot porn.”

“There ya go. Pop wood and you wouldn’t even need a tripod.”

They laughed and Del came up with a beer for his captain, and Harry asked DD to find his spare wheelchair.

“I’m gonna let Sam use this one today,” he said when he saw the question in her eyes.

It took a few minutes but they got Bennett down the outside path and out to the grill and Sam just couldn’t resist; he strapped on an apron and started tossing ribeyes on the fire, suddenly back in his element. Callahan looked at his captain and grinned.

“It’s the simple things, Harry,” Delgetti said, coming up beside his old wheelchair. “I haven’t been able to get him interested in anything, but look at him now. Maybe all any of us want is to be useful, you know?”

“I do, as a matter of fact.”

“Sorry man. I freaked out when I heard about the leg. What are you gonna do now?”

“Music. That’s all I’ve got left, Del.”

“Hear that. Can I grab you an Oly?”

“Only I you’re joining me,” Callahan smiled…just as Deborah Eisenstadt came over, with two fresh bottles – the bottles sweating now that they were out of the ice. She passed them over and made her way back to Bennett.

“Who’s the, uh, new girl?” Delgetti asked.

“She’s some kind of physics professor at MIT…”

“Yeah, she looks like it, too.”

Callahan laughed. “Ah, she’s alright. Good company, anyway.”

“She’s stayin’ out here with you?”

“Staying in Lloyd’s old room. She came out with Liz…”

“Liz? Is she here? Man, I’d love to see her!”

“Yeah, she’s around here somewhere.”

“Physics professor, huh?” Delgetti grinned. “Cute legs, but Harry, ain’t she a little too stringy for you?”

“Del! I haven’t been home a week! I wasn’t exactly expecting to get laid anytime soon, ya know?”

Everyone on the patio stopped talking.

Everyone turned and looked at Callahan.

“Oops,” Harry whispered, and he saw that Captain Bennett was glowering at him. “Well, all’s right in the world, I’d say.”

“Yeah,” Delgetti sighed, “you still got a raging case of foot in mouth disease, Harry.”

+++++

Harry played the piano after dinner, and Liz danced with Sam for a while and the sight got to both Del and Callahan. Eisenstadt even danced with Bennett, at least until he put his hands on her butt – but everyone laughs at old men when they do stuff like that and tonight was no exception to the rule, and soon enough all the guests were loading into cars and heading south, leaving DD and Eisenstadt to load the dishwasher while Harry and the doc cleared tables and carried stuff up to the kitchen.

“So,” Doc said after the hard part was wrapped-up, “what about those puncture wounds. They still not itching?”

“I hadn’t thought of them ‘til you mentioned it, Doc,” Harry said. “But no…”

“Then they used sterile fields. Did you notice any kind of residue on your arms or torso?”

“Residue?”

“Like some kind of antiseptic. Betadine, or something like that?”

“No, nothing, nothing at all,” Deborah said. “And that is odd, isn’t it?”

“Odd, yes,” Doc Watson sighed. “And it means whoever did this has some serious understanding of the human biome.” He shook his head, clearly perplexed. “I’m just curious, Harry, but what aren’t you telling me?”

Callahan looked at Eisenstadt but she simply shrugged.

So…Callahan told DD and the Doc about going back in time to visit his mother as she played the closing notes of the Fourth, then about finding himself on the Titanic just as she slammed into the iceberg…

“Are you saying that’s where all that water came from?” the doc cried. “No way, man!”

“Yeah. Way, man. Then we went out to look at the pulsar and the next thing I know I’m in bed. With these triangles all over my fat ass.”

“Harry!” DD cried. “You do not have a fat ass!”

The doc rolled his eyes.

“You’re still leaving out something, Harry,” Eisenstadt sighed. “Again.”

“I am?”

“The spheres, Harry. You haven’t mentioned the spheres.”

Callahan nodded and took a deep breath, then he told them about their encounter with the blues and the single pink sphere…

…and when he finished DD was incredulous while the doc seemed curiously unphased.

“You both saw these things, these spheres?” he asked.

“We did,” Deborah replied, “and I am not so sure these are simple mechanical devices. I think they may be some kind of transport mechanism…”

“Honey?” DD sighed, “maybe we’d better have some of the good stuff?”

Doc went to the kitchen and poured four shots of Drambuie and carried them back out, and he found Harry struggling to get a fire going but decided against helping. It took a while, but Harry worked his magic and soon a nice fire was blazing away in the fireplace. Deborah went and sat beside Harry on the stone hearth, and DD noticed how close she sat to him. The doc did too.

“A transport mechanism, you said?” the doc repeated.

“One of the blue spheres definitely seemed to react to our actions,” Deborah said as she nodded. “That one seemed more hostile, until the pink one intervened.”

“And they came after these events with your mother and the ship?” the doc asked. “What happened to set this off?”

And Harry nodded. “I was playing something…it was just coming to me, at least I thought it was, but now I’m not so sure.”

“What do you mean?” Deborah asked.

“You said, what, those doodling notes I was playing…”

“Had form and structure,” Deborah said.

“And…harmony,” Harry added.

“Yes! Harmonic structure…like the sound itself…”

“Is the gateway she mentioned,” Callahan sighed. “And the harmonic structure is bound up within those last few notes.”

“You mean,” the doc interjected, “that the last notes you discovered open up…”

“Something the spheres do not want us to play around with,” Deborah said, looking down at Harry’s fingers. “Harry, you hold the key. You know that now, don’t you?”

Callahan shook his head. “Can’t use it. No way.”

She leaned into him. “Good for you, Harry. Don’t tempt the fates.”

“I can’t tell whether you’re making fun of me or not,” he grinned.

“I’m proud of you, I think. It’s the right decision. Nobody should…” she started to say, but then she thought of that Old Man. Because what was he if not a time traveler?

“Nobody should what?” DD asked.

“Tempt the fates,” Callahan repeated…but he too was thinking about Lloyd and the Old Man…and of a looming battle between father and son.

© 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 UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. 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.]

[Nick Drake \\ Things Behind The Sun]

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