The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 62.4

88 Glacier

Another short segment as the arc progresses from mind to screen. Cardamom tea after a long day of CT scans and the intrusions of random unwanted needles. It feels good to write.

[ Yes \\ South Side of the Sky \\ acoustic ]

Chapter 62.4

They heard screams. At least two people screaming, and Callahan looked at Eisenstadt – both now clearly confused.

“Where’s that coming from?” he asked.

Eisenstadt canted her head as if trying to fix the location, then she started for Harry’s bedroom. Harry clambered from the piano into his wheelchair and followed, getting to his bedroom in time to see some sort of commotion in his bathroom – and then, yes, there it was. Fresh sea ice everywhere, all over the slate floor and in the shower, too…which was where Deborah and Liz were now…but he saw there was also a little girl in the shower and she was still screaming hysterically. 

Eisenstadt handed a towel to Liz and then turned her attention to the girl, and as Harry rolled into the bathroom Liz saw him and literally flew into his lap. She was quaking now and clearly terrified so he held her close until she calmed a little, still keeping an eye on Deborah and the little girl – both now standing under the shower’s steaming spray. Then he recognized her: she was the same little girl he’d encountered on the Titanic, but something was different about her now.

She’d seemed nonplused when he ran into her, but now she was anything but. Now she was close to the edge.

He turned to Liz and stroked her hair. “Liz…where were you? Can you tell me what happened?”

He felt her shake her head against the skin of his neck, heard her quiet sobs as she came down, so he held her closer still.

“Oh Harry,” she whispered in his ear, “don’t ever let me go… Promise me, you’ll never let me go.”

“I’m here, kiddo,” he whispered as he stroked the back of her head. “It’s okay…I’m here.”

She squeezed him – and hard – then she palpably relaxed just a little…but a moment later he heard her snoring and her arms fell from his side. Her skin was still quite cool and her clothes were damp, but he was also virtually trapped in his wheelchair and the confinement he felt was now crushing, almost demoralizing. 

But the little girl’s cries had as quickly stopped, too, and now it appeared she too was sound asleep. Deborah could see Harry’s predicament and so she toweled the girl off, then shook her head and stripped her clothes off so she could completely dry her off. With that done Eisenstadt muscled her to Harry’s bed and got her covered, then the two of them got Liz dried off and in bed, too.

“Is that the same girl you saw on Titanic?” Deborah asked.

And Harry nodded. “Yeah, but she almost appears younger.”

Eisenstadt shook her head and sighed. “Why is she here?”

“I sincerely hope you don’t think I know the answer to that one, Kiddo.”

Which only made Deborah laugh – at least a little. “Harry, can you imagine? A few minutes ago this child was on the Titanic…and now…here she is?”

“Hey. Better here than there.”

“Perhaps. But…perhaps not. We must understand why she is here, Harald.”

“Did she say anything to you in there?” he asked, nodding his head in the direction of the head.

“No, not really. She babbled on about the president. Something she had to tell the president.”

“Clinton? Now that’s a good one.”

“Harald, she said she needed to see the president.”

“Okay, let’s go to the White House with a crazy naked kid and see…”

“Harald. You can stop now.”

“Have you noticed? When you’re getting your dander up you call me Harald…”

“I do not.”

“Uh-huh, whatever you say, Slick.” He crossed his arms over his lap and grinned at her. “Well, they obviously need sleep – and you obviously need another scotch, so…” Callahan sighed as she ambled off to the kitchen.

She poured two more while he put a heavy log on the fire and sat on the hearth, and yup, she came right back to his side and put her head on his shoulder.

“Thank you, Harald,” she said, giving him a little elbow in the ribs.

“You’re welcome, Doc.” He looked at his watch and growled then: “Well, we missed it.”

“Shit happens,” Eisenstadt said, and for some reason Callahan thought that was about the funniest thing he’d ever heard in his life.

+++++

When it was time to get Liz up they went to the bedroom and the little girl was gone. Just gone, like she’d never been there and everything else was simple imagination…except her wet clothes were still in the bathroom. Deborah took them to the washing machine and put them on with a small load of Harry’s things, and when she came back into the room Liz was sitting up in bed – and now wondering what she was doing in Harry’s room.

“Do you remember anything?” Harry asked.

She looked away and shook her head. “I’m not sure what’s going on, Harry, but it’s like I know some kind of memory is there – but I just can’t reach it.”

“Been there, done that,” Harry sighed. “Deb? You better get the rest of your things packed. Liz? Can you make it up to the house?”

“Can I borrow your bathrobe?” she asked carefully, holding the sheets up to cover her breasts.

“Oh, right…uh, whoa…yeah. I’ll go put on some coffee…” Callahan said as he rolled out of his room. Liz looked at Eisenstadt and they both laughed.

+++++

Harry slept all the way back out to Sea Ranch after he and the doc dropped off the girls, and he woke with a start when they pulled up to the driveway. The doc got Harry’s wheelchair set up and helped him settle in, then he pushed Harry up to the house. DD had finished cleaning up the mess in Harry’s bathroom and just for kicks she’d cleaned the house too, again – but she watched him carefully as he rolled through the living room and out onto the deck.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him like this,” she said to the doc as he came in behind Harry.

“He didn’t say a word coming back. Just fell asleep.”

“You think he’s depressed?”

“With a capitol fucking D, babe. I’ll take him into work with me tomorrow. He’s got the appointment for his leg, remember?”

“Has he had anything to eat?”

The doc shook his head. “Nope. Zero interest. He hardly ate the other night, and even Bennett said something to me about it.”

“You thinking anti-depressants?”

“You know me. I hate that shit; it ain’t right to go fucking around with the brain. He needs to get back to work, feel invested in life again.”

“I think I’ll fix a carbonara. He usually eats that.”

“Good idea,” said the doc.

“You go talk with him, see what’s up.”

“I better pour a couple of fingers, ya know?”

“Those two have been putting it down. Maybe we ought to slow that down a little?”

“Really? Harry? Drinking scotch?”

“Two bottles in four days.”

“Shit. Better make that two Cokes, okay?” Watson sighed as he turned and walked out to the deck, and he stood beside Callahan and watched him for a few moments…

“I’m not sure I can do this, Doc,” Callahan finally said.

“Do…what, Harry?”

“I’m not sure I can do ‘alone’ anymore, ya know? It was easier in the city, but out here? The only company out here is the wind and the waves, maybe a passing gull.”

“Don’t forget the sea lions.”

“Thanks, Doc, I needed that.”

“So, what are your options. You were talking about music, spending more time in the studio, working on youth programs. What happened to all that?”

“I can’t do it, Doc. Not by myself.”

“Hm-m. Maybe, Harry, that’s exactly what you need right now. Ever consider that?”

Callahan shook his head. “I’ve done ‘alone’ Doc. For most of my life, I think.”

“What about Deborah?”

“What about her?”

“You know, Harry, here you are talking about not wanting to be alone, yet when she got out of the car at the airport she came up to you and it was like some kind of a wall came up. I’ve never seen anyone in my life that wanted a kiss more than she did, while you for all intents and purposes turned into a glacier. Cold and hard, fracturing and falling into the sea. What on earth was going through your mind right then?”

“Fujiko. June. And even my boy.”

“Ah. The ghosts of Christmases Past.”

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“Tell me something. Can you see yourself with her?”

“Who? Deborah?”

“Yeah, meathead. Deborah.”

Callahan sighed. “She’s comfortable, Doc…ya know? She fits. So yeah, I could see her with me?”

“You could? Or you can?”

“What’s the difference, Doc?”

“Commitment, for one thing. Trust also comes to mind.”

“Trust?”

“Yeah, trust. As in: can she trust you to be there for the long haul?”

“We started to talk about it, but things went sideways.”

“Oh? What happened?”

“Liz came over.”

“Liz?”

“Yeah. And that’s the hard part, Doc. I think she’s…”

“She’s got a crush on you. Yeah, everyone’s got that, Callahan. She has since she was three. So what? She’s a child. You’re not. And remember that, would you?”

“I promised Cathy, and even Frank, that I’d take care of her.”

“Okay. Fine. Does that mean wedding bells and babies, Harry?”

“No, of course not.”

“Okay. So…what’s the problem?”

“She gets jealous,” Harry said.

“Jealous? Who, Liz?”

“Yeah, but I think even Deborah did, too.”

“You got to set boundaries, Harry. They both need to know where you stand, as in zero ambiguity. Got it?”

Callahan nodded. “Yeah.”

“Say you two,” DD said, coming out on the deck with Cokes and some nachos, “who wants dinner?”

“I’m not real hungry,” Harry sighed.

“Tough shit,” DD snarled. “I got bacon going for a carbonara, so get ready.” She wheeled around and zipped off to the kitchen, leaving Callahan with his mouth hanging open.

“What’s it like living with her, Doc?”

“Oh, like living with any other hurricane, Harry. She’s a force of nature, so you either get out of her way or get used to the wind.”

+++++

He called Eisenstadt after dinner. After DD cleaned up her colossal mess and folded his laundry.

She picked up the phone and right away he could feel the pain in her voice. “I’m sorry,” he said straight away.

“Sorry for what?”

“For the way I was at the airport. I’m really sorry.”

“How was the drive back to the house?”

“I slept. How ‘bout you? Did you sleep on the plane?”

“No. Liz and I talked the entire trip. About you.”

“Oh, no…”

“Oh, yes. And do you know what was said?”

“Uh…”

“She’s afraid for you, Harry. Afraid you will live your life by yourself.”

“And she’s afraid she’s to blame.”

“To blame? How so?”

“She loves you, Harry. Like a daughter loves her father, she loves you. And she wants to see you happy.”

“What about you, Deborah?”

“I’ve told you how I feel, Harry. Nothing has changed.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure!” she barked. “Yes, I love you, you silly man. I could hardly breathe when we walked away from the car. And I could not handle the thought of you all alone out there…”

“When can you come back?”

“Come back? To visit, or to…”

“Deb, come back if you’re going to stay, but only if you plan to stay. Otherwise, I’m not sure I could stand the pain.” 

They came to a long pause, a space where neither knew what to say, but Harry knew what she was waiting for.

“I love you, Kid,” he finally said, and he could feel her release from across the continent.

“I love you too, Meathead.”

They laughed for the longest time after that, and Harry slept well that night. So well he never noticed the blues gathered by his bed with their instruments.

© 2016-22 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 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.]

And here’s the original.

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