The Eighty-eighth key, Chapter 64.4



[Hearts and Bones \\ Paul Simon]

Chapter 64.4

Henry Taggart now faced an interesting choice, an unusual set of problems, and solely from the perspective of piloting the Swan back to the West Coast of North America there were few good options left to him now. They’d left Los Angeles in early December and now here they were – tied off in Hilo the day before Christmas Eve. The usual route back to Seattle, or to Vancouver, involved placing the North Pacific High on a routing chart and then looking at the most recent weather datums of the isobars surrounding the High. If you were foolish enough to try and skirt around the southern reaches of the high, the impudent voyager would beat into the wind for weeks – all while detouring as far south as the southern tip of Baja California – and then having to slam north against wind and current for as long as the boat, or the sailors on board, could take it. Sailing the rhumb line from Hilo to Ketchikan, Alaska would take you right into the center of the massive high pressure system that lurks around out there – and where little to no wind for weeks on end is a real possibility. Yet riding the wind around the high pressure system would carry the Swan north towards the Aleutian Island chain, necessitating a potentially life-threatening passage across the Gulf of Alaska – in January – to reach the West Coast. The best option, given current circumstances, boiled down to how far north the high pressure system would be pushed by the faltering hurricane, and for how long they could ride the low.

If — and Taggart had to assume this was a really big if — he could push the Swan along in the lee of the hurricane – for as long as it held up, anyway – he might be able to surf along in relatively warm weather more than half the way to Ketchikan. It was a ballsy move, and if the high filled-in too fast behind the hurricane they could be caught out in the middle of the North Pacific with no wind and with dwindling stocks of food and fuel. Still, again, given current circumstances — which included trying to avoid contact with Ted Sorensen while at the same time keeping little Dana in safe hands — he decided it was safer to top off the fuel and water tanks and make a quick grocery run at first light before setting out behind the hurricane.

And the odd thing? Tracy Abernathy stayed up with him as he downloaded the needed weather files and plotted the centers of both the North Pacific High and the eye of the hurricane on the huge, paper routing chart on the chart table, asking him questions as if she really wanted to understand what he was up to, and why he had come to the decision he had. And the thing is…she seemed to be putting some kind of move on him. Like she had been, well, locked up with the old man and she had found him…uninteresting, in that certain kind of way. She put her hand on the chart once and she made a little joke about something trivial then put her hand on his, and yet the thing was, to Henry, those fingers lingered a little too long to be just another innocuously incidental contact. So he had looked up and looked into her eyes and looked at his internal barometer for a second or so, and then, when she made eye contact too, something indefinable passed between them and everything that happened between them over the next three weeks was just a footnote to that moment.

She sealed the deal when she went to the fridge and produced a mastodon-sized rib-eye steak that she’d ordered for him at the steakhouse and then had wrapped up in a to-go package for him. She’d then put the foil-wrapped steak in a low oven with some butter and lime on top and then had warmed up the meat slowly. 

When she finished with his meat they were both more than a little satisfied with the results…


Debra Sorensen docked aquaTarkus at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor – just a stone’s throw from Wairkiki Beach in Honolulu. Ralph Richardson managed not to fall overboard when she pulled into the slip indicated by the Harbor Master, and yet as soon as the Vindo was tied-off, Ralph and his daughter Dana ran to grab a taxi to the airport. Now she was alone – and for the first time in weeks – with only Daisy-Jane by her side. And when she realized she would probably never see him again, she finally understood how much she was going to miss Henry Taggart, and what he’d come to mean to her. And to Daisy-Jane, who looked despondent now.

She sat in the cockpit, oblivious to the light rain still falling over the harbor, her head askew, her mouth loose while she settled into this new place, and yet she wondered how long it would take.

For her father, or some of his men, to come for her. Where would they take her? Or…would they?

A thick, billowy cloud of burning pot wafted over the boat, and she had to smile. This was, after all, Hawaii, and what did they call it? Maui-wowee? Someone nearby had to be smoking a kilo of the stuff right now, if the size of the smoke trail was any indication, and she grinned at the thought of the absurdity of her position. Alone, vulnerable and exposed, and about to suffocate in a cloud of burning weed… 

‘Well, there are probably worse ways to go,’ she sighed.

Daisy came up the companionway just then, the fur around her stitched-up wounds had still not completely covered her scars, and they looked at one another for a while, both wondering what was coming next. Then Debra remembered Daisy hadn’t eaten all day so she went below to fix her dinner, grabbing a small bottle of Ensure for herself – before shaking her head and putting that little bottle of despair back in the ‘fridge. 

‘I can’t go down that road again,’ she told herself, remembering her mind-numbing battles with Xanax her first autumn in Aspen, when Daisy had been a tiny little thing. ‘Maybe it’s time to try Prozac,’ she mumbled, trying to keep out of the way of all Henry Taggart’s aching echoes as she stumbled around the galley in the leftover darkness of his sudden departure…

Then Daisy Jane growled, a deep, low, mean kind of growl. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end. 

And that was that, she knew. “Well, that didn’t take long,” she sighed, never feeling more alone in her life. She went to her stateroom and grabbed the Sig P220 Henry had picked out for her and then she slowly made her way to the companionway steps, waiting in the gathering darkness that just had to be the end of the line. Daisy came and sat by her feet, hoping it wouldn’t hurt so much this time.


DD and Doc Watson had everything ready to go. Steaks were in the ‘fridge, her Caesar salad was in a bowl and all set for a quick toss, and The Doc had frozen margaritas ready to roll in the blender. Harry had to smile at the love that had sprung up around this little seaside haven, the love he felt a lingering echo of the brightest passion that had flared here, once upon a time. Of all the women he’d known or thought he had loved, Cathy was the one he missed the most now, and, in a way, how could he not. This house had, if anything, sprung from her mind. It was, in a very real sense, an expression of everything she thought she’d come to know about him, and yet she’d turned that knowledge into a gift. An even more special gift that they’d been able to experience together – if only for a few years.

So…what was that old saying? About the love that burns the brightest…?

Yes. Yes it had.

And yet, he still had Liz. Elizabeth. And yet he missed her, like any father misses a child that has flown the nest. Only…she wasn’t his daughter. She was his best friend’s daughter, the dead best friend. And Cathy’s daughter. So…where was his son? Why had that relationship gone so badly astray? Were all the usual suspects to blame? Pride and anger? Or jealousy, perhaps? What he wouldn’t do now to understand.

Deborah showed Brendan to his room and helped him get settled, and Harry asked DD if Didi could stay with them for a while…

…until DD reminded Harry that the small studio up the hill had a small flat attached — and that it was currently not in use.

“Well, Hell, that ought to work out just fine,” he grumbled, still not sure he wanted Didi anywhere close to him just yet…

And DD took a measure of the moment and backtracked: “But maybe she’d better stay with us until she learns her way around…?”

“Good thinking,” Harry sighed.

“Riesling or a Cabernet tonight, Harry?” she added hastily, covering her tracks.

“Could we start with apples and cheese and a Riesling?”

“We sure can,” she smiled — as the boy came back to the living room with Deborah.

Brendan looked around the room, remembering the last time he’d been here — ‘but wasn’t that just a few days ago? And what happened to my father…?’ — then he walked over to Harry’s Bösendorfer, the piano in the mitered glass projection that seemed almost like a gull perched on one of the rocks hovering over the sea, waiting to take flight again… Yet the boy hardly seemed aware of his surroundings…

And so Harry walked over and joined Brendan.

“How are you feeling?” Callahan asked, worried by the vacant stare he watched evolving.

“What happened to my father?”

“I’m not sure, Brendan. I think he’s grown scared of…”

“Of me. Yes, I think I could feel that. But maybe this has always been inevitable, Mr. Callahan.”

“You can call me Harry, okay?”

“Harry? Yes. Okay. I will try, if I can remember.”

“Do you play the piano?” Callahan asked.

“The guitar. I have a nice guitar at school, or maybe it’s at home. But…I…”

“But what, Brendan?”

“But I don’t have a home anymore, do I, Harry?”

“Sure you do, Brendan. This is your home now, and for as long as you want to stay and call it home.”

The man-child nodded his head slowly, looking at all the permutations this new equation afforded, then – ignoring Harry’s sidelong glance – he went and sat at the piano. “Which keys are what notes?” he asked, and so Harry sat beside him and slowly played the scale, announcing each note as he played. Then Brendan asked Harry to play a few major chords, and the man-child watched, memorizing, remembering, visualizing — and then, finally, playing several chords on his own.

Next, Callahan laid out the opening moves to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, note by note, chord by chord, but after a few minutes Brendan stopped Harry. 

“What is the name of this piece?” he asked.

“It’s called the Rhapsody in Blue. Have you ever heard of George Gershwin?”

“I remember it from somewhere. No, some time else.”

“Some time? What do you mean by that, Brendan?”

But the boy stopped what he was doing and began drawing problems in the air above the piano.

“What are you doing, Brendan? Can you tell me what you see?”

“I am looking for Mister Gershwin, Harry. I want to see how he came up with the numbers for this music.”

“How do you do that, Brendan?”

“Lean closer, Harry. Put your head next to mine and look…”

And so Callahan did.

And in the next instant Callahan began to follow Brendan’s fingers as they swished through the air — and it was as if the molecules pushed aside by the passage of the boy’s fingers began to vibrate, and Callahan realized he was now holding his breath, astonished as an amber-orange mist formed in the wake, and then, as numbers coalesced…

…Callahan heard something… 

…like the muffled clickety-clack clickety-clack sounds from inside a distant railway passenger car… 

…and then he saw Gershwin, sitting inside a railway car’s drawing room, scoring music as his body swayed to the beat of the clickety-clack clickety-clack sounds… 

And then Brendan began to wilt, as if the strain of producing this series of images had physically drained his being, so Harry now had to make a decision.

And so he did.

“Brendan? Put your hand on my shoulder…I want to show you something.”

A pink mote of dust in the air above them began to vibrate wildly, while out on the rocks the Old Man watched Harry and the boy, and he too held his breath — because so much was riding on the outcome of what happened next.


Nothing moved. Not even the air around her.

She watched her human walk out into the night, so she followed.

And there was another human out there. Tall. Dressed in the same color as the night, and she recognized the thing in the other human’s hand. The metal thing that made so much noise it hurt.


Debra saw the man and froze. The gun in his hand was already up and ready. There was nothing in his eyes. No fear. No anger. No regret.

‘So, this is it?’ Debra sighed inwardly. Now she knew. Her father had abandoned her. Completely. And she would die here on this boat so far away from everything she had ever known, and now without the one person who might’ve helped her. She watched as the man screwed a silencer onto the end of his pistol’s barrel…

“Don’t hurt the dog, okay?” she asked.

But the man just brought a single finger up to his lips and gently shushed her, nodding his head as he did, then he brought the pistol up and put it right up against her forehead.

And just then Daisy Jane began to growl. Again.


She was sure now. The other human was going to hurt her human.

Now there was only one thing to do.


The man was distracted by the sound and he looked down, saw the dog’s mouth opening and he almost began to feel the crushing pressure around his scrotum as the dog made contact – but just then he felt an explosive pain in the middle of his back…

He saw the woman jump back as searingly impossible pain enveloped him, pushing everything else from his mind, but through it all he remembered the pistol in his hand. He was dying now and he knew it, yet the last instinct in this final moment of his life was to finish the job. He struggled to focus, to bring his hand up again, then he felt teeth encircle his head and the bones in his face began to… 


Debra recoiled away from an explosive wound that emerged from the man’s gut – just as she felt Daisy-Jane at her knees – now lunging for the man’s groin. Then she realized that something huge, something like the spear from a Scuba diver’s speargun, had just blown through the man’s midsection, and now he was falling…overboard. So…she gave him a push, and she saw that last startled expression on his face, and in his eyes…as he fell…

…into the gaping mouth of the orca, waiting there just under the stern. The big male caught the assassin’s head in his mouth and slowly rolled away and under the water, disappearing in an instant…


“Whoa! What the fuck!” the hairy, big-footed Southern California surfer-dude said as he watched the orca pull the assassin under the inky water.

Debra turned and looked at the immense, bearded-hairy monster standing there – inside a billowing rainbow haze of ascending pot smoke. The dude’s aura was all over the place, too… Shock, surprise, a little fear too — but no malice towards…anyone. She thought the guy looked kind of like Jeff Bridges, too – and he certainly sounded just like the actor. But then again, everyone from Orange County who hung at the beach sounded just like Jeff Bridges.

And then she saw the speargun – in the dude’s hands.

“Man, are you like alright,” the dude asked, hopping off his old trimaran onto the dock. “What was up with that fucker? Did you, like, forget to pay your Exxon bill, or what?”

And Debra could see that the dude was beyond stoned. He was, she guess, already in low earth orbit and headed for Venus, but he’d just saved her life and killed a man in the process. “I’m fine, and thanks for the help,” she replied.

“Did you know that guy?”


“Well, shit, we sure fucked up his night,” the dude said, laughing a little while he bent over and looked into the water. He began to sway and looked ready to topple and fall into the water, and not knowing what else was lurking down there Debra hopped off aquaTarkus and reached out for the dude – just as he was about to crash and burn right out there on the pier – and after she steadied him up she helped him across and onto her boat. He plopped down onto a cockpit seat and when he began to lean over she propped him up against the cockpit’s hard dodger. 

Debra turned on the cockpit lights and saw blood everywhere, even around Daisy-Jane’s mouth, so she put down her Sig and pulled out the wash-down hose and sprayed off all the cockpit’s many faceted nooks and crannies. Then she sprayed down Daisy and toweled her off.

The dude’s eyes were now almost completely rolled back in his head when he started singing…

“If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck, I’d swim to the bottom and drink it all up…”

“You know, I don’t think you need any whiskey right now,” she sighed as she sprayed off her own legs and feet, then she saw little bits of blood and guts all over the front of her t-shirt – so right there she peeled her shirt off and the dude approved of that, and wholeheartedly too.

“Man, you got some gorgeous knockers, you like know that, right?”

“Thanks. You do to,” she said, marveling at the size of the beer belly under the dude’s filthy polo shirt.

“Yeah? Ya think so?”

She smiled and cast a wary eye at her erstwhile savior.

“That your pistol, man?” he said, picking up the Sig. 

“Yes, it sure is.”

“You a cop or something?”

“Why do you want to know that?”

“Man, the only people I know that carry Sigs are cops.”

“You know many cops?”

“Used to be one, once upon a time, anyway.”

“Really? Here in Hawaii?”

His eyes rolled again and he shook his head violently, trying to come back to the moment. “No, man, Washington, D.C. Los Federales, ya know. G-Man. Federal Bureau of Butt Fuckers,” he snarled  — before he started giggling and slapping a knee.

“You retire, or get your ass fired?”

“Reeee-tired, Ma’am, with full fucking benefits, too.”

“And don’t tell me, let me guess…you’re from Newport Beach, right?”

“Balboa Island,” he giggled. “Born and bred. Say, how’d you know that?”

“Lucky guess,” Debra sighed. She looked at the dude’s boat and it was beyond help: faded fibreglass everywhere and the sails were in tatters. He’d gone out in search of the dream and landed here, smack dab in the middle of pot central, and here he was gonna stay. 

Except he’d just killed a man. Someone who was going to be missed. And there were probably a half dozen security cameras around here that had recorded the whole thing, too.

“You got a passport?” she asked.

“Why? We going somewhere?” he replied.

“Yeah. We better get you away from here for a while, if you know what I mean, jelly bean.”

“Jelly bean? Hey, I like that.”

“Passport? Wallet, money? Go get ‘em. Now.”

She started the diesel and waited for him to stumble over to his boat and back, and when he came out of the clouds of smoke he was carrying a small duffel stuffed with t-shirts and underwear.

“Oh, sweet Jesus,” she muttered under her breath. “Think you can cast off the dock lines?” she asked hopefully.

“Yeah, man. Where we headed?”

“Out there,” Debra Sorensen said, pointing to a horizon suddenly very far away.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

[Rhapsody in Blue \\ Kingsley & Hambro]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 64.3

88 mind drive SM

A brief walk in the woods, as one storm clears.

[Mr Blue Sky \\ ELO]

Chapter 64.3

Sumner and Henry decided to walk to the steak place, and while Dana chose to ride on her father’s shoulders, she had grown so much over the last couple of hours that he was having quite a time of it. But handling her steadily increasing weight wasn’t the only problem, so when Tracy and the Old Man passed in a taxi, and as Sumner had just about decided that automobiles weren’t so bad after all, the burdens of fatherhood took on a whole new patina to Henry Taggart. After a half hour walk he was now well and truly tired.

But eating animal flesh was, however, a step too far for Dana. When Henry described what a steak was to her, and more to the point where steaks came from, she shrieked in terror and ran from the restaurant, Henry in hot pursuit. He talked her into trying the salad bar at a nearby seafood restaurant, and she seemed mollified by his sudden change of heart.

“Who told you it was bad to eat meat?” he asked her as she fumbled with her fork — yet another ‘new’ experience that evening.

“Isn’t that self-evident, Father?” she replied, the tone of her chiding retort at once admonishing and pedantic, and which Henry thought sounded an awful lot like Brendan Geddes — with a nice melange of Debra tossed on top just for good measure.

“Well, maybe, but human evolved over time to be omnivores, not herbivores. By the way, do you know the difference between those two words?”

And he watched her closely just then, because he’d had a sneaking suspicion, a hunch that just wouldn’t go away, and as he watched her formulating a response that answer seemed to fall into place.

Because she paused, almost like a computer seeking out the allotted space on a drive where certain bits of knowledge were stored, and within that pause she almost seemed closed off to the external world.

And only after a few moments did her reply take shape. “Yes, Father, I think so. A herbivore eats grasses and foliage, whereas an omnivore eats everything.”

“That’s correct. Can you tell me where you learned that information?”

“I’m not sure, Father.”

“Can you tell me if this knowledge came from outside of yourself?”

“I’m not sure, Father, but I think that may be true.”

He held up a piece of smoked salmon, then he looked her in the eye: “Would you try this for me, please?”

“What is it, Father?”

“It’s called salmon. It’s a fish that lives in the sea.”

“I cannot eat that, Father.”

“Okay. Do you like your salad?”

“Yes, very much.”

“Which things do you like the most?”

She pointed at pickled beets and asparagus spears, foods with a high mineral content, and he nodded. “Why do you ask, Father?”

“Well, when I go to the store to buy food for you to eat, now I’ll know what to buy.”

“But I don’t need to eat, Father.”

“Really? What about fluids? Do you need to drink things like water, or…milk?”

“I need complex carbohydrates.”

He looked around the table and all he had to choose from was water, orange juice, and his beer, a Budweiser in a frosty long-necked bottle. “Try the orange juice,” he said, moving the glass close to her. 

She took a sip and put the glass down. “What do you call this flavor?”

“The main flavor you taste is a simple sugar we call glucose, and the molecular formula is C6H12O6. And yes, Dana, this is a complex carbohydrate. Do you know why it’s called that?”

Again the pause, again the cycling through knowledge stored…somewhere.

“Yes, because of the photosynthetic interaction of oxygen and carbon dioxide during the formation of cellulose.”

“Alright. Now try this,” he said, pouring a little Budweiser into an empty glass and pushing it across the table to her. She picked it up and took a sip, then she smiled and studied the liquid before finishing the glass.

“What is this called, Father?”

“This is called Budweiser, Dana, and Budweiser is a type of beer.”

“Is this a complex carbohydrate, Father?”

“Oh yes, it’s very complex indeed.”

“I like this, Father. Budweiser is a very good thing.”

“Yes,” he sighed, “Budweiser is a very good…thing.” 


As the CAT Huey settled on the ramp Callahan slid the door open and let the fresh sea breeze roll through the stuffy cabin, then he stepped out onto the skid and turned to help Deborah down to the ground. Brendan was focused on a problem in the beyond, his fingers working through solutions as they came to him, yet Didi looked at him with something akin to reverence in her eyes. She watched until he came to a pause and then she reached out, put a hand on his shoulder.

“Can you come with me now?” Didi asked him politely, almost gently.

Brendan seemed to struggle for a moment, and Callahan had trouble understanding what the boy was going through. There were moments when the boy almost seemed ‘normal’ – but then he’d see something up there beyond the far side of the sky and he was off again. To wherever he went inside those moments, but now he watched as the boy respond to Didi, to really take note of who was reaching out to him, and this time he seemed to listen, and respond – to her.

“Right,” he said, taking her hand and stepping out of the Huey, shielding his eyes from the midday sun with an awkward salute. The rotors were still winding down, the wilting wings still making a faint whooshing sound as they acred by just overhead, and Brendan instinctively ducked a little as he followed Didi over to Harry and Deborah. After the pilot carried their luggage over he climbed back into the Huey and restarted the turbines, and Harry stood there watching as the helicopter lifted slowly from the ramp and turned to the south, towards San Francisco, and Didi could only imagine the anguish he must’ve felt. He’d been a pilot, after all, and pilots never ever stop being pilots. Pilots never stopped remembering, too — and she was the one who had taken all that from him.

She’d felt, at one point during the flight, that he really was going to open the door and toss her into the sea — and yet she understood him. In a way she even agreed with his reasoning, even with the locus of his rage, but she hoped one day he might take the leap and see what she’d been trying to do. She’d never really loved him, not really, even though she’d hooked up with one of Callahan’s pilots once, even though that had been little more than a veiled attempt to stay close to him. Even if that brief union had ultimately proven to be a disastrous mistake, she’d stayed true to him, helped secure his economic future, and she’d begun to feel something like a duty to protect him. But she watched him closely now, watched him watching Brendan, then looking at Deborah, and she kept focusing on his eyes as he swept in the scene. He was, in the end, a predator. Dangerous. Yet she had held him once, almost as a falconer holds a falcon… 

But no, that too was an illusion. Callahan was a killer, true, and he always would be, but there was nothing she could do to change that. No falconer’s hood would obscure his way of seeing the world, no enticing treats would tether him to anything beyond the moment – so she would have to hold him in the moment, somehow earn his trust in order to keep him close again. She knew she had to try, and right now, or she would lose him forever. And then she saw Callahan looking at the boy again, still confused, still wary of the hidden power the boy seemed to grasp, and then, in a flash, she saw the way ahead…

‘Yes,’ she replied to the coaxing little voice inside, ‘I have to try…’


Dana climbed up on her father’s shoulders again, for the walk back to the boat, and once again she felt heavier to him. Her legs were a little longer than just an hour ago, and even her hands were taking on a more slender form. A more adult form. And Taggart found these rapid metamorphic bursts more than a little unnerving; no, they were almost inhumanly spooky.

But everyone was waiting for them as the two of them marched along Banyan Drive, heading back to Hilo’s tiny harbor. The rain had stopped completely and he wondered if the hurricane’s eye had arrived, and then he felt her in his head, roaming through his thoughts.

“The storm has passed to the east-northeast, Father,” she said. “It will be of no consequence to us now.”

He took a deep breath, tried to clear his mind — but he knew it was useless. She had full, unfettered access to anything in his mind, at any time, and he realized it was his duty – as her father, even her chosen father — to help her understand the world. In a way, he felt this very well might be the most important thing he would ever do in this life.

‘Just like any father,’ he sighed as he took in another deep breath, inhaling the heavy, storm-tossed air, taking in the flowering plants and freshly mown grass just a few yards away.

“You never wanted to be a father, did you?” she asked him — out of the blue.

“Oh, I don’t know, Spud. I think it’s more like I never expected to be a father. I never expected to run into anyone I’d fall in love with.”

“But you don’t love Debra. I can feel that, Father.”

“Can you? Well, maybe there’s a difference between knowing something is true and feeling something may be true.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Neither do I.”

“Yes you do. They chose you, Father, and they never make mistakes.”

He felt the icy grip of the unknown once again. ‘They’ must be where, or to whom, she went to find answers to the things she didn’t know — yet. And so, as he’d seen them under the sea in the lagoon at Bora-Bora, ‘They’ had to reside in the spheres he’d seen there…

“Well,” he continued, “you discovered a feeling you thought I had for Debra, but feelings are often fleet-footed things, Dana, something born of the moment — so they are often ethereal little etchings of Time that can fade away as easily as this storm.”

“How is that different from knowing?”

“Well, when you know you love somebody, I mean when you really deep down inside know that you do, that’s more than a feeling, Dana. That’s real love.”

“So real love doesn’t go away?”

“No, Honey, I don’t think that it does. In fact, I don’t think it can go away, even if we want it to.”

“So the way you feel about Mother is the kind of feeling that fades away?”

“I’m not really sure, Spud.”

“Why do you call me that?”

“Spud? Oh, it’s just something I want to share just between us, between you and me.”

“Isn’t a spud a potato?” 

“Or something little that’s growing really fast. Like you.”

“How can you not be sure how you feel, Father?”

“I think it has something to do with being human, Dana. Sometimes we just have a really hard time deciding how we feel about some things. And maybe there are times when we can never really know what we feel about certain things. And sometimes things happen that change our mind for us.”

“So there are things you can never understand?”

“Yes. Maybe so.”

“What about me? Do you love me?” He shuddered to a stop and lifted her up and over his head, then he gently placed her her feet on the pavement. “Why did you do that, Daddy?”

He paused and thought about that — just as the Old Man and Tracy drove past — so Henry turned and saw Sumner jogging along to catch up to them while he thought about the best way to handle Dana’s question. Knowing full well, of course, that she was still in his mind…

“There are lots of different kinds of love, Dana. There’s the kind of love you’re talking about, the love between friends or between parents and their children. But we can also ‘love’ a photograph or a painting or a piece of music, too, and in a way it’s still a kind of love — just not the same kind of love I have for your mother, or even for you.”

“So you’re saying you love me?”

“I am, Dana, because I do. What about you? Do you love me?”

“There was a certain way of feeling I began to understand when Mother was taking care of me on the first boat, and she told me this feeling is called love.”

“That’s a part of it, yes.”

“So, love has many…parts?”

“Oh, yes,” he said — just as Sumner caught up to them. “You look seriously out of breath, Amigo,” he said to the cop. “Too much salad, perhaps?”

“I had a porterhouse about the size of Memphis,” Sumner said, stifling a magmatic belch as he grinned at Taggart. “No rabbit food for me.”

“You ate a piece of dead cow the size of a city?” Dana said, her eyes watering in fear.

“Maybe two cities,” Sumner sighed, rubbing his distended belly. “Damn, that was some good grazin’, Hank. Sorry you missed out.”

“Oh, we found a nice salad bar, didn’t we, Spud?”

“Yes, we did. I especially liked the Budweiser,” Dana added, grinning at her father.

Sumner looked at Henry, an arched left eyebrow vaulting skyward. “Budweiser, huh. And you are how old, Young Lady? Two weeks, or is it three now?”

But when Sumner realized the imbecility of his statement he seemed to pull away from the puritanical admonishments he was readying for Taggart, then he just shrugged and fell in beside the two of them as they resumed their march back to the boat.

A taxi pulled up to the little quay just as Henry and his little troupe arrived, and Tracy ran over and gave Dana Richardson a hug — before she reached out and shook Ralph’s hand.

“Who’s that, Father?” his Dana asked.

But Henry couldn’t answer that question, because he had no idea what the future held in store for him now.

Curiously enough, however, his Dana seemed very interested in the new arrivals.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

[Goodbye Blue Sky \\ Pink Floyd]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 64.2

88 mind drive SM

On and on and a little deeper we go. Time for tea? One cup today, maybe two if you wanna go slow, [and oh, as an aside, the image above is of a fMRI from a small mammalian brain stem overlapping an image of the Andromeda galaxy. Heaven only knows why I come up with these things, but there you go. Every picture tells a story…kind of like music, for that matter…]

[Lie for a Lie \\ Mason + Fenn]

Chapter 64.2

She seemed to like riding on his back, holding on with her legs and playing with his ears as he walked through the marina. Sumner Bacon followed along a step or two behind, carrying their bags from the chartered boat and trying to keep up with Henry as he jog-walked out to the Swan 65. Still, for Bacon the feeling of walking on solid ground was now almost nauseating. After two weeks at sea, Bacon was almost homesick for the feel of terra firma underfoot, yet now that it was here he felt out of step with the world…because now even the world seemed unsteady. 

Not so for Henry Taggart. 

Dana was still a kid but she was growing fast, and as he carried her along he resolved to spend more time with her — just in case… 

The three of them — Sumner, Dana, and himself — had remained onboard the sportfisher, concealed in the forward compartment while Deborah, Callahan, the Kid and his father disembarked in Kahului. A few minutes later the boat pulled away from the quay and returned to the open sea, heading out and around the west end of the island, bound for the tiny marina in Maalaea, on the south side of the island — with Henry & company still onboard.

The General had left the Swan in Maui after the last Vic-Maui race, planning to sail out to Midway with his son — but almost predictably those plans had fallen through and the boat had been gathering barnacles at this marina for months. When Henry called the General and went over current circumstances, the Old Man had generously offered use of the Swan as part of Henry’s subterfuge, and it now appeared as if the plan might work, because so far there’d been no sign of a tail.

And there he was, as expected.

The General stood on the quay above the Swan, waiting to get them below as quickly, and as unobtrusively, as possible.

Henry put Dana down on the pier and jumped aboard, then the General took her hand and helped her aboard… 

“Henry? I thought you said you were dealing with a baby?” the Old Man asked as Bacon passed their bags up to Henry.

“Are we ready to cast off the lines?” Taggart asked, evading the question.

The Old Man shrugged. “All tanks topped off and food for six weeks. We in some kind of a hurry?”

“Yessir, and we’ll need to keep an eye out for bad guys until we get well offshore.”

“Okay. I’ll handle the bow lines. You got the stern?”

“Can’t we stay just a little longer?” Sumner Bacon pleaded. “I was kinda hoping…”

“Sorry,” Taggart said as he started the diesel and cast off the lines, gently backing out of the slip while he switched the radar to standby. He zoomed out on the chartplotter and found Ketchikan, Alaska, then the green number one buoy marking the Dixon Channel Entrance, and he set that as waypoint number one as they sailed out of the marina. 

Bacon and the Old Man helped Dana down to her very own stateroom while Taggart found binoculars and pulled them out of their cubby, and he scanned the marina and the few buildings in the area  – and still he saw nothing unusual, no sign of a tail. 

“And why would anyone follow us here?” he wondered aloud. “Who’d be crazy enough to finish up a 2,300 mile crossing and hop on another sailboat to make an additional 2,700 mile crossing?”

“I know I’m not. At least I wouldn’t if I had any say in the matter,” Bacon said as he crawled up the forward companionway, now shaking his head as he looked at the remnants of the hurricane speeding their way.


Debra had no clue. No idea who the middle aged man was, the one with, apparently, the daughter, the pair who had hopped aboard aquaTarkus. She was only too glad for the help, yet whatever happiness she might have hoped for was cut short when she learned the man had only limited sailing experience — so he was of limited use right now. But Henry had already laid in the course and the hurricane did indeed appear to be moving more to the north-northeast, so maybe they’d miss the worst of the heavy weather, and so what if she finished up the voyage without Henry. He’d been distant almost the entire trip, and the easy familiarity between them had given way to strained bits of odd silence here and there. She’d ended up spending almost the entire crossing holed up in her stateroom with Dana – but now Dana was gone too, and then all of a sudden she realized that Brendan was gone, too – so that left these two strangers with her… 

“I suppose we’d better introduce ourselves,” the man said — almost apologetically. “My name is Ralph, Ralph Richardson, and this is my daughter Dana…”

“Dana?” Debra stated, though perhaps a little too quizzically. 

“Yes, that’s me,” the girl said, but Debra could see the girl was hiding deep pain behind her flat brown eyes.

Debra held out her hand and Dana took it, then Deb shook Ralph’s as well. “So, you want to get me up to speed on all this, Ralph?”

Ralph was turning green and Deb recognized all the signs. “Here, take the wheel and concentrate on the horizon. Have you taken any seasick meds?”

“Nope,” Dana sighed. “I think we’re all out of stuff to throw up, anyway. It’s just been the dry heaves for the last hour or so.”

Debra hopped below and picked up a fresh box of omeprazole and a couple bottles of GatorAid, then she popped back up to the cockpit. “Here, take two of these,” she said as she handed over the bottles.

“Heartburn medication?” Ralph asked. “What gives?”

“Seasickness starts when stomach acid ramps up as a result of all the unusual motion, so cut back on stomach acid and guess what happens?”

“Really?” they both cried.

“Yup, it works. Just keep focused on the horizon while the meds get to work.” She took the wheel and resumed her course to clear Molokai, and periodically she watched them suck down the electrolytic fluids and nodded. “You’ll feel better in a half hour,” she added. They were heeled-over pretty good to starboard so she let out the main a little and fell off the wind, too, and the motion settled down some more.

“The crash in LA?” Ralph said a few minutes later. “Were you there when that happened?”


“My wife was the pilot in command.”

“What? You mean…?”

He nodded.

“Jeez, I’m so sorry, but how on earth did you end up here?”


The Old Man had brought along a friend, a twenty-something looking girl with long legs and wavy red hair, and Henry guessed she was the latest secret in a long line of secrets, but she was, apparently, a wizard in the galley and that was that. The Old Man could have his peccadilloes, Henry thought, as long as he wasn’t asked to lie about the matter.

But, as it happened, Tracy Abernathy was a bit more than a galley slave, or even a mistress, for that matter. She had been a graduate student interning at a “small software concern in Redmond” when she came up on the General’s radar one evening. Her area of interest was AI, and as she was an emerging superstar in the field he had arranged for their paths to cross. He’d wanted to get her together with Taggart ever since, let Henry think on the matter for a while, because the General had been wanting someone to have a crack at decoding the flight control systems of the ARV — and Abernathy might be just the one to do it.

Then Henry had gotten pulled into Debra Sorensen’s intrigues so he’d taken Tracy out to the air base and shown her around, and yes, she’d been interested. After she freaked out for a few days, anyway. 

She’d been working on capitalizing an AI start up before the crash hit in October, working with a broker at Lehman named Ralph Richardson, and he’d even been out to visit a couple of times before the bottom fell out and things went to Hell. Then she heard about his wife and the crash, and she’d called him. She found out he was headed to Goldman Sachs, and she’d wondered if he was still interested in putting together a deal? 

She called him when he got back to New York, and of course he was. “Could you come out to Seattle?” she asked. “There are a few people I’d like you to meet.”

“As long as I can bring my daughter. She’s having a tough time right now…”

And at about the same time Henry had called the Old Man. Henry told him all about events out on the Vincent Thomas Bridge. All about this weird baby thing. And because The General was always looking at The Big Picture he thought he saw a new pattern emerging in the chaos. He called friends who talked to friends at Goldman and suddenly Richardson was on extended leave, working on a special project for the Pentagon. He asked Tracy if she had any interest in sailing, and by the time Richardson and his daughter made it out to Seattle the rough outlines of a plan were taking shape. The General had known someone was going to have to get set up to capitalize on certain alien technologies, and while Boeing and Lockheed were well positioned to move on the technologies surrounding flight, why not start up a new venture to cover…whatever of interest came up? Like flight control systems, maybe, or even FTL drives?

Now everyone was on the Swan and Henry was working at the chartplotter; the Old Man came topsides carrying a plate loaded with fresh, hot pastrami sandwiches — Henry’s current favorite — and he sat down across from Henry and passed over half a sammie. 

“Set your course for Hilo,” the Old Man said — out of the blue.


“Yup. We won’t be staying.”

“Hell, sir, there ain’t no place to stay there.” He punched in the numbers and set the autopilot to steer while he munched on his pastrami sammie.

“So,” the Old Man began. “What’s with the girl. Dana, you said?”

“Yessir. And she says I’m her father.”

That was good for an arched eyebrow. “You? Her father? Well, obviously she’s not quite human, or is she?”

“Well, she’s sure not a machine,” Henry said, his feathers ruffled a little.

“So let me get this straight…you feel something — for this…child?”

“You know, I haven’t really thought all that much about it, but yes, I suppose I do.”

“You’ve been out of the loop, Henry, so you’d better let me get you up to speed. The DoD is working overtime trying to figure out what happened out there on the bridge. There are videotapes, by the way. Classified, of course. The metal on the bridge was ionized in places. Theoretically impossible, I’m told. The EMP took out half of LA, from Oxnard to Dana Point, anyway. And a shitload of people saw that baby arrive.”

“Okay,” Henry said, now wondering where this was going.

“And you show up with a baby that looks, to my out of practice eye, to be about seven years old.”

“You forgot to mention that she’s cute as hell.”

The General slowly shook his head. “Henry? She ain’t human. Okay? You reading me?”

“Loud and clear. Who’s the red head?”

“An expert in AI, DoD cleared. I want to bring her in on The Project, let her help you decipher the ship’s computers.”


“And then I want to capitalize on what we learn.”

“I hear a discrepancy there, sir. Between the ‘I want’ and the ‘we learn.’”

“None intended.”

“Okay. What else don’t I know?”

“Let’s just say the situation is fluid right now, Henry. The more we learn about this situation the more complicated the way forward appears.”

“Complicated? Why do I not like the way that sounds?”

“Well, it turns out there are at least two more ARV projects in the works. One in Israel, and the other in, well, a peculiar enclave in Argentina.”


“Well, you know the story. A bunch of Nazis bugged out when the Russians were closing in on Berlin, and a lot of their scientists settled in and around Bariloche. So, recently we find out there’s an advanced ARV project down there, one with peculiar ties to shadowy groups in both Europe and the U.S.”

“I’m sorry, but does Indiana Jones have anything to do with this? Or James Bond, perhaps?”

“What’s with the cop?” the Old Man asked, changing course again. “Can we talk around him?”

Henry shrugged. “He’s smart, he listens, and he has balls. And Dana likes him, for whatever that’s worth. I assume he’d be a liability if he returned to his old job.”

“Okay. So, do we take him in or do we let him swim for it. Your call, Henry.”

“Jesus, life isn’t always so black and white…”

“The Hell it isn’t. You know what’s at stake here.”

“Okay. He stays with Dana from now on. Call him a bodyguard, and make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

“Done,” the Old Man said.

“What’s with this Callahan character?” Henry asked. “Know much about him?”

“Apparently that kid, Brendan, called him. Callahan called the boy’s father.”

“Okay. So…how’d he get here?”

“He called me.”

“He called you? Like…out of the blue?”


“What am I missing here, sir?”

“He knows stuff, Henry. I don’t know how, but he does. I put people on him and then the Israelis get mad as hornets and the next thing I know is someone at State is telling us to back off. He’s got clearances higher than mine, too, so I’m keeping my hands off him for now.”

“You think he’s a part of this Israeli project you mentioned?”

“Doubtful, but who knows. He’s holed up north of San Francisco. Spends most of his time playing piano, as far as we can tell, anyway.”

“Any intel on the guy?”

“Standard package,” the Old Man said. “You wanna read it, it’s on my MacBook.”

“Not important,” Henry said, just as rolling thunder crashed overhead and lightning acred along the southern horizon. “You do know that going into Hilo will take us right into the middle of that goddamn storm, right?”

“Can’t be helped,” the Old Man sighed before he yawned. “You need a nap or anything?”

Henry thought about that for a split second, then he grinned. “Anything going on between you and the red head?”

The Old Man shook his head, then growled as he disappeared down the companionway.

“I’ll take that for a big fat no,” Taggart said, before he finished off the last of his sandwich.


“Our best guess,” Richardson said, “is that your father will be in Honolulu, either at the marina or nearby, when we get there. Your cover is you needed to get away from LA after all you’ve been through, and we’re just friends who you talked into coming with you. We’ll be heading to the airport as soon as we dock, so don’t bother with excuses, just wave and say goodbye.”

Dana Richardson came up the companionway, still looking green but no longer on the verge, and she plopped down next to her father. “There’s a cool Golden down there,” she said. “What’s her name?”


“What’s with all the scars and things?”

“She saved my life.”

The girl nodded while she put two and two together. “Would you mind if I slept with her for a while?”

“No, not at all. She’d like that.”

Dana stepped gingerly down the steps and disappeared into Debra’s cabin.

“She’s having a hard time, I take it?” Debra asked.

Ralph nodded, and he looked down a little. “She and her mom were really close. I was with Lehman when the bottom fell out so I had been going through a rough patch, then all this happened. I’m with Goldman now, but nothing’s the same.”

“My mom passed when I was seven. Cancer, so in a way I guess I understand.”

“I keep wondering if she’ll ever get over it. I guess I have my answer now, huh?”

Deb smiled. “Sometimes I think guys are wired differently, ya know? What about you? Are you keeping it together?”

“Sometimes when she’s not around I can let it go. Feels like a steamroller hit, ya know?”

“My dad came undone for a while, then he discovered work.”

“You don’t sound too bitter,” Richardson said, grinning just a little.

“I’ll never understand him, but then again I gave up trying a long time ago.”

“He doesn’t sound like the soft and cuddly type,” Richardson added. “From the little I’ve heard, anyway.”

“That’s what puppies are for, Mr. Richardson,” she sighed. “Still, sometimes what a girl really wants is for a father to step in and reassure her that things will be okay, at least that’s the way I look at it. Then again, I used to think the best father’s were the strong, silent type.”

“But not now?”

Debra shrugged. “I’d be content to know he loved me.”

“That doesn’t exactly sound good,” he said as he nodded understanding. “I hate to ask, but how far out are we?”

She looked at the chartplotter and did the math. “Call it sixty miles, maybe ten hours – unless we have to tack.”

“I won’t even ask,” Ralph sighed. “Sailing was never my thing.”

“Same with me, until I met Henry.”

“Are you two a thing?”

“Oh, once upon a time I held out hope, but no…” She leaned over and looked into the bottomless blue sea – but no, there wasn’t a thing down there now, and she hadn’t seen anything in the clouds either, so maybe they were all alone now. Finally…

“What’s that light over there,” he asked, pointing at the island of Molokai.

“Green and white beacon is an airport,” she said as she zoomed-in on the displayed chart. “That’s  Kalaupapa Airport, looks like cargo and limited passenger service.”

“Looks close.”

“Oh, I find distances very deceiving out here, especially close to shore.”

Richardson looked at his watch, and he seemed nervous now, then he looked over at her. “Sorry. This cloak and dagger stuff really isn’t my thing.”

“I’m curious…why are you here?”

“I saw a video of the incident on the bridge,” he began, but he stopped then and gathered his thoughts. “I guess I wanted to know what happened to Dana.”

“The baby?”

“No, no…Dana Goodman…was my wife’s sister. She got involved with some Israeli intelligence outfit back in the day but had been working in LA for a while. At any rate, that was the woman that disappeared out there on the bridge.”

“Odd,” Debra said. “She referred to me as her mother, and Henry as her father, and we think because of something that happened to us years ago…”

“Something…of a procreative nature?”

“You could call it that, but not really in a conventional sense, at least not the time in question. So in a way it looks like this baby, the girl we’re calling Dana right now, could be the result of three sets of DNA.”

“Is that even possible?” Richardson sighed.

“It’s not possible…until it is.”

“I guess what I’m saying is would someone like that still be human?”

“Did you see her when you came across?”

“I’m not sure I saw a baby. Who was she with?”

“She was the girl with Henry, the one on his back.”

“But…she was…”

“Exactly. If she’s human, she’s not of a type we recognize as such. I just spent almost two weeks with her, and she started speaking at about a week. A couple days later she was solving problems I hadn’t seen since college.”


“Calculus, Mr. Richardson. And way over my head.”

“Fuck,” he whispered.

“You took the word right out of my mouth.”

“So…tell me about Henry Taggart…”


Henry could now just make out the light at the end of the breakwater, but Radio Bay was lost in the torrential downpour now pounding on the canvas bimini over his head. The deerskin cover on the wheel was saturated with cold water and now it felt squishy in his hands; Sumner was sitting with him, trimming the staysail constantly as raging gusts tore across Hilo Bay.

The Old Man was down below with Dana, and apparently it was Tracy Abernathy’s turn to get seasick — as she was nowhere to be seen. Heard, however, was another matter entirely — if the convulsive retching sounds coming from the aft head were any kind of indication of the action down there.

“You know,” Sumner sighed, “I think I’d kill to spend about an hour on nice, firm land.”

“This has been a real trial by fire for you,” Henry said as he wrestled the wheel over a ten foot roller. “On the other hand, you couldn’t ask to do it on a better boat.”

“I didn’t ask to do anything, Taggart.”


“I need a fucking t-bone steak.”

“And lobster tails,” Henry added with a sigh.

“That doesn’t sound half bad.” 

Henry looked at his watch. “Ya know? We might just make it in time.”

“Make what?”

“There’s a decent steak place at the Hilo Hawaiian.”


Henry laughed — just as Tracy Abernathy came up the companionway steps. “What did I miss?” she asked.

But Henry just shook his head. “How you feeling?”

“Like death warmed over,” she groaned. “On the other hand, I probably lost a few pounds.”

Sumner grinned. “Why is it that skinny people seem to have no problem losing weight?”

“You think I’m skinny?” she said, flashing a coy little smile.

“Pardon my French, but I think you’re gorgeous,” Sumner blurted, but then he seemed to realize what he’d just said and Taggart thought it looked like the cop now wanted to vaporize, to disappear and get away from this unforced error.

Tracy, for her part, seemed to take it in stride. She was indeed a very good looking girl and she thought of herself as such. Sizing her up on the fly like this wasn’t his thing, but Henry looked at her reaction and felt she wasn’t in the least bit insecure — either about her looks or her accomplishments. And he liked that. “Well, we should be docking in about an hour,” Henry said quickly, covering for Sumner as best he could, “so if you feel like grabbing a bite feel free to come along.”

“Seems like the winds are less now,” she said, looking first around the boat and then at Hilo, now just ahead.

“We’re in the island’s wind-shadow now. It’s dropped about ten knots so far.”

“So, that’s Hilo?” she asked, as she came up to the helm, her attention going right to the chartplotter. She seemed to intuit which buttons did what, even where obscure functions were buried in nested sub-menus, and when she noted Henry’s dismay she keyed him in. “I read the instruction manual when I wasn’t barfing,” she sighed.

“You were reading? Down below?” he asked.

“Yes? Why?”

“Geesh, that’s the perfect way to get seasick.”

She grinned at that. “Well, it worked.”

“Here. Take the wheel, stare at that white tower on the end of the breakwater.” It was funny, he thought, how quickly seasickness vanished once you focused on a distant object. “Hey Sumner, could you check on Dana and the Old Man, tell him we’ll be docking soon…?”


Henry pulled out his paper chart and reread the notes he’d scribbled there a few hours ago, and he told Tracy to turn left to 112 degrees magnetic once they passed the end of the long breakwater.

“I don’t see a marina,” she stated as she peered through the rain.

“There isn’t one. Just a few spaces to tie-off for an hour or two.”

“Why are we coming here?”

“You don’t know?” Henry asked.


“Well, the Old Man didn’t tell me squat. I just go where he tells me to go, if you know what I mean, jelly-bean.”

She chuckled at that. “So, you’re working on the ARV project?”

Henry looked away, not knowing if this was some kind of security test or something else designed to check on his integrity, so he ignored the question, then decided to go forward and start setting out the dock lines. When he came aft again everyone, including Dana, was in the cockpit, only now Dana looked to be about ten years old and the sight really struck him this time around. He passed them by and went to the aft lazarette and pulled out a pile of salt-encrusted dock lines, so he hosed them down with fresh water and set them out before returning to the wheel…

“Hello, Daddy,” Dana said to him, a quizzical look in her eyes.

“Hi, Spud. How’re you feeling?”

“Good.” And then the little girl did something that caught Henry completely off guard: she came over and gave him a hug.

So he picked her up and brought her face to his, and he kissed her on the forehead then held her close, and there was something naturally satisfying about holding this copy of himself so close — even if he really didn’t understand what she was.

“Why did you do that,” she whispered.

“Because you’re my Dana and I love you,” he whispered right back in her ear.

Yet the way her arms went around his neck said it all. Love was hard wired into his little girl after all, and he marveled once again how good her skin felt on his, and when he pulled away a moment later he was surprised how intensely connected he felt to the girl. ‘Is this what fatherhood feels like?’ he asked himself.

And then he felt her reply — inside his mind. ‘Oh yes, of course! Isn’t this wonderful?’

‘You can hear me?’ he asked — as he quickly put her down.

‘Yes, and I can feel what you feel…’

She was, he realized in the next instant, just the next logical step up from Debra — with her ability to ‘see’ — and he was suddenly, and completely, unnerved…

‘What is it, Father? What’s wrong?’

But it was too late. He had pulled away from her now, as suddenly frightened of her as he had been around Debra, only now he felt quite sure there would be no way to keep anything from the little girl… 

…and he was right. He could see the confusion and disappointment in his daughter’s eyes, the infinite pain written all over her face, and he couldn’t help himself. He picked her up again and held her close. ‘This is all too new to me,’ he told her, ‘so don’t feel unwanted or unloved when I react to new things.’

‘Okay, Daddy,’ he felt her say, ‘I’ll try, but please don’t be afraid of me…’


Callahan led the way up the Jetway and into the main terminal, then he led Brendan’s father to his flight down to LA. And, interestingly enough, Callahan felt the whole experience kind of surreal, like the boy’s father was formally abdicating the role of parent — and father — as he turned away and boarded the United shuttle. Even Brendan seemed devoid of any emotion in that moment, and Callahan felt like the boy’s father had never really been there for him. Deborah Eisenstadt followed along, holding the boy’s hand through the terminal all the way to the check-in kiosk for Callahan Air, and they walked right out to the apron and boarded the silver and red Bell 412.

“Keep the door open a minute,” Harry told the pilot…and a minute later Didi Goodman walked out onto the ramp, and Harry helped her up and into a seat.

“Where are we headed?” the pilot asked.

“Sea Ranch,” he replied, then he turned to Didi. “And you?”

“That works for me,” she said, looking up and smiling as she buckled in.

Harry sat beside Didi after he helped secure the main door, then he turned to her. “Do you have a place to stay?”

“Yes,” she said, her voice suddenly faraway, her affect flat.

“You want to tell me what’s going on?”

She pantomimed headphones and Harry reached for a pair of pale green Clark headphones and set the intercom to private as the helicopter took off. After she slipped her phones on she shot him a thumb’s up.

“Okay,” Callahan said. “You’ve got about 50 minutes, so start talking.”

“You probably never noticed, but Avi Rosenthal’s house was wired. Audio and video. The afternoon when von Karajan visited your mother, when she played the closing bars of the Fourth, all that was captured. On video, Harry.”

Callahan was too stunned to speak, but his eyes must’ve given away what he was feeling…

“Harry, when she played the closing bars, she apparently accessed some kind of harmonic gateway, and this gateway appeared in the video. We’ve — well, I know you’re going to be angry now — but we’ve had video surveillance running both at your house in Sea Ranch and at the place in Davos, so we’ve been keeping tabs on your experiments with Dr. Eisenstadt…”

Callahan’s hands started trembling as the rage started building…

“…but even so, we think you are on the wrong path. You’ve missed something. But so have we. And so we are at a standstill with our project…”

“Your own project?” Callahan growled.

“Yes. As soon as we saw the video feed. As soon as we understood what was happening.”

“And…what was happening?”

“Have you heard of a Schwarzwald wormhole?”

“Schwarzwald? As in…”

Didi nodded. “Yes. Your mother was building on Einstein’s field equations, and she was, apparently, working on a way to induce wormhole formation through harmonic restructuring of sub-atomic particles. Now, before you ask me what that means, all I can say is I do not pretend to understand what progress has been made so far, only that the wormhole forms and within milliseconds it collapses in on itself.”

“And you think that’s what Eisenstadt and I have been up to?”

Didi shrugged. “This is the opinion of those who have been studying your progress.”

“You do of course understand that right now I want to kill you?”

Didi nodded. “Of course. I’ve been asked to reestablish contact with you. So that a truce, perhaps, can be arranged between us? A working relationship reestablished?”

“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” Callahan snarled. “How about I open this door,” he said, pointing to the Golden Gate Bridge now about two thousand feet below, “and give you your first flying lesson.”

“Again, I think I understand.”

“You shot me, right? I mean, this shiny stainless steel gift came from you, did it not?”

She nodded. “Sharon, the PM, wanted you dead, Harry. I got the assignment because I persuaded the team that only I could get close enough to you to get a clean shot.”

“The Colonel?”

“He understood my objective, Harry. I had his tacit approval.”

“So, it was either my life or my leg? Is that what you’re telling me?”

She nodded.

“And let me guess…I’m supposed to be grateful to you…”

“They very nearly sanctioned me, Harry, for what I did. I convinced them that with you out of the picture you would no longer be a threat to the project.”

“And then, what? They’ve run into a dead end and now they want my help?”

Again she nodded. “And let me be clear, Harry. If I return empty handed it may become very difficult for both my father and myself.”

“Oh, that’s a nice touch, Didi. Throw in a little guilt with your pitch…I gotta hand it to you…you’ve thought this through, haven’t you?”

“Well, you almost have the whole picture, Harry.”

“Oh? So, what am I missing now?”

“If you refuse,” she said, her voice once again dull and flat, “it is my understanding that you will be terminated. Whether you like it or not, Harry, we are in this thing together.”

“Swell,” Callahan muttered.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

[Pink Floyd \\ Hey You]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 64.1

88th key cover image

Going to hit the ground running with a bunch of short sections this week, so grab a Coke and have a quick one. Oh, the video below goes into the background of the song, might be of interest to some of you:

[Dawning is the Day \\ Moody Blues]

Chapter 64.1

Callahan knew they were being tailed; he could feel it — he felt something almost like a tingling on the back of his neck, something he hadn’t experienced in years, yet a feeling he recognized right away. The sensation started as soon as they docked in Kahului and continued during the short taxi ride through town to the airport, and even as they made their way through the small terminal and boarded the 757 for the flight back to SFO, he found he wanted to turn and look over his shoulder. Once onboard he asked Brendan’s father if he could sit with the boy after take-off, then he joined Eisenstadt while the cabin crew got the passengers ready for departure, yet he watched people boarding to see who might look his way, or in any way like a threat.

“Do you feel it too?” Debra asked as he buckled in and settled in his seat.

“Yeah, ever since we docked.” He looked at Brendan across the aisle and the boy was kind of smiling as he looked up and through the overhead bins, almost like he was entranced by something only he could see up there beyond the aircraft’s outer skin, and the sight actually puzzled – and even revolted – Callahan. It was like the kid was tuned-in to an entirely different universe, one Callahan would never be able to see or experience, but he just couldn’t tell yet if the things the kid was experiencing were real, or the delusions of a runaway mind.

“What’s with him?” Eisenstadt added, nodding at Brendan. “He seems more agitated now than he did on the boat.”

As they looked on, Brendan lifted a hand and the began using his fingers to work out a problem on a blackboard only he could see, and even one of the flight attendants looked at the kid and rolled her eyes. Brendan’s father leaned over and looked at Callahan, his eyes full of questions he was still too afraid to ask, and that bothered Harry. From the time he had called the boy’s father to the trip on the boat, Harry felt like the man really wanted nothing at all to do with his son.

Callahan leaned across the aisle and whispered in the kid’s ear: “What is it? What do you see?”

“Twenty-six A,” Brendan replied in a low, sidelong whisper.

So Callahan leaned back in his seat and nodded. Whoever was following them was in seat 26A. ‘Okay…so what now?’ Harry asked himself. ‘Oh, right, I call DD…like I always do, and we get a tail on our tail…’ So, with that decided, Callahan stood and put his carry on in the overhead bin, chancing a quick glance back to the huge economy section — but the cabin was packed now and there was no way to tell row numbers from up in First.

But then, just as Callahan took his seat again the kid leaned close – and all he said was “Mossad.”


Once the 757 leveled off Callahan walked back to the economy section and when he saw that row 26 on the left side was vacant – save for a middle aged woman next to the window – he went and sat down next to her, landing hard in the middle seat as the aircraft lurched. The woman was wearing a scarf and huge sunglasses, but Callahan could see the woman had been seriously burned on her face and neck – then she pulled her glasses down and turned to him.

“Hello, Harry,” Didi Goodman said.

“Jesus, Didi, what the hell happened to you?” he sighed. He could see the results of reconstructive surgery — both on her face and in her eyes – and she seemed more than a little self-conscious at this point.

But she just shrugged. “How’ve you been?”

Callahan shrugged right back at her. “Okay. What are you doing here? I mean, I assume this isn’t a coincidental meet?”

“You’ve been attracting a lot of attention, Harry. Some bad actors, I think you could say, and we thought you might need some help.”

“Anyone I need to know about?”

She smiled evasively, but then she threw in another shrug — just for good measure. “This isn’t the time, or the place,” she said.

“People on this plane, I take it?”

And she nodded, carefully, slowly.

He shrugged too, because he wasn’t about to give up any information, especially as she still hadn’t mentioned the baby — yet.

“How’s your father,” he asked — reluctantly — not really wanting to open that can of worms, but she wasn’t leaving him a lot of room for casual chit-chat, either.

“Frail. He’s had two heart attacks, and he spends a lot of time at home.”


“Oh, he’ll never retire, Harry. He’s put all his eggs in your basket.” Callahan must’ve thought that was an odd thing to say, at least that’s what she saw on his face. “Can you have a helo pick us up at the gate?” she asked.


“I need to get off-grid now, but I’ll need to take Brendan with me. You’ll also need to get some additional security around your house.”

“Well, sorry, but I guess I’ve blown whatever cover you had,” he sighed.

“Oh, they know I know they’re following me.”

“I see.”

“I don’t think they were counting on Taggart heading straight to Seattle, however.”

“Taggart?” he said, smiling.

“You’re going to play like you don’t know him?”

Callahan shook his head. “Someone I should know about?”

“I’d assume so, yes, but they really want the boy.”

“Oh? Why? I mean, he’s a bit of a geek, if you get my drift…?”

“Not many people can see the things he can, Harry. He’s actually rather important, as these things go.”

“That’s kind of hard to believe.”

“Well, believe this: if they can’t get to him they’ll take him out.” He stopped and thought about that for a moment, then he started to get up — but Didi stopped him with a hand on his arm. “Harry, could I ask you something?”

He sat again and sighed, then nodded slowly.

“You haven’t asked about Ida. I assume you will never forgive us?”

“Oh, yes, you could say that.”

“We were trying to protect you, Harry. I know you’ll never believe me when I say that, but it’s the truth.”

He wanted to ask her if she knew who’d shot him, but then he thought better of it. Knowing, in this case, might be more painful than not knowing, so he let that question go — for now — and nodded. “Okay, you say so,” he said dismissively, then he stood abruptly and walked away, forward all the way to the head. He suddenly felt dirty as he stepped inside, so he did his business and washed his hands, then he looked down at his stainless steel leg and tried not to let his hate for her hate boil over — because he knew then that she’d shot him.

Shaking with rage too long repressed, when he got back to his seat he took the phone out of the seat back and dialed the Cathouse, then, while he waited for DD he asked himself — again — why hadn’t she asked about the baby? Was it possible she didn’t know? And…would Taggart’s plan actually work — or would the whole thing blow up in all their faces?

‘And why does she want the kid?’

Callahan simply didn’t know enough — only that he was groping in the dark, lost.

‘Why is the kid so important? What can he see up there with his fingers in the sky?’


WIP © 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…

Intermezzo 7

intermezzo 7

One arc closing, another waits on a park bench. Time for tea, I reckon. And a little salmon.

[CSN \\ Just a Song Before I Go]

Intermezzo    Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus

Part VII: Final Flight

Dreams die when solutions and outcomes are reduced to the inevitable.


Thunderstorms lined the southern horizon, vast arcs of lightning crossed the night sky, and Henry Taggart looked up at Orion, gauging the distance between the advancing clouds and Rigel. The big island was about a hundred and twenty miles due south, Maui about seventy miles ahead and Honolulu another hundred or so miles beyond that, which meant keeping Molokai’s windward shore to windward all day tomorrow. The hurricane was bleeding energy fast now and would – probably – be down to tropical depression force by morning, but whatever force remained in the storm would hit Honolulu about the same time aquaTarkus arrived off Diamond Head, and already the seas were rough.

‘So,’ he asked the night, ‘what are my options?’

Despite appearances, there are really precious few facilities for visiting sailboats in Hawaii, with almost every facility located in and around Honolulu, on the island of O’ahu. There are almost no ‘hurricane holes’ in the islands – save for the Pearl Harbor region – which explains why the Japanese didn’t even try to invade in 1941. Invasion by any means other than air is an extremely hard nut to crack, and this dearth of anchorages also explains the how and the why it took so long for European colonies to take hold in the islands.

So Henry Taggart faced the same difficult choice: push on to Honolulu and hope the storm kept away long enough to allow a relatively mild weather window during their approach, or to veer off to the north into colder air, and wait for the storm’s passage. ‘But what if the storm gains strength and turns to the north?’ He knew if that happened that they’d be in serious trouble – and that help would be even further away.

Then Sumner Bacon came up to the wheel, with the latest Coast Guard weather-fax map in hand.

“Well,” Henry sighed, “what’s the verdict?”

“My guess is that the storm gets stronger and turns north,” the cop said. “Lots of talk about steering currents and a dip in the jet stream.”

“Okay, so that makes the decision easy,” Henry muttered. “We skirt Maui and Molokai as close as we can, stay in their wind shadow, and hope for the best as we approach Diamond Head.”

“That Ocean Passages book says pretty much the same thing,” Bacon added. “What’s the wind speed now?”

“Twenty two right now, but gusts to thirty in the last hour. It ought to be rough as pig snot by morning.”

“Pig snot? Where do you guys come up with all this stuff?”

“You make it through a couple storms and you’ll know.”

“Gee, thanks –– that sounds encouraging,” Bacon said, a little warily as he looked at lightning along the southern horizon.

Taggart grumbled something unintelligible as he moved waypoints on the chartplotter’s screen, changing their heading about ten degrees to port. “How are things down below?” he asked.

“Deb and the baby are asleep; the rocket scientist is on the computer again.”

“What’s he doing now?”

“Beats me. I saw a graph and a bunch intersecting parabolas, if that means anything to you.”

“Nope,” Taggart said. “Take the helm for a minute, I’m gonna check the bilge.” Which was, Bacon knew, what Taggart said when he was going below to check on Deb and the baby. So Henry made his way carefully down the companionway and stepped down into the aft cabin – only to find Deb and Brendan both wide awake – and playing with a rather large toddler on the bunk. The “baby” had grown at least a foot and a half over the course of the voyage, and she now weighed too much for Deb to comfortably pick up. And now, to Henry’s dismay, the “baby” was talking.

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” Deb asked Henry as he came into her stateroom.

Brendan had a notebook computer open and was showing the baby a problem in calculus, and Henry watched as the infant entered numbers onscreen, immediately adjusting the parabola to solve for the missing variable – and even Brendan seemed impressed by her accomplishment. “That’s very good,” Brendan told her, smiling.

“Why do you smile?” the infant asked. 

“Because you make me happy,” Brendan said, and then the little girl turned to Henry.

“Hello, Father.”

Taggart seemed to recoil under the weight of the girl’s words and he staggered back a step or two. “Father?” he replied. “What makes you say that?”

The baby turned to Debra then. “She is the mother,” she said, and then, as she turned back to Taggart, she added: “and you are the father.”

Not “my father,” but “the father,” and the difference wasn’t lost on Henry – or on Debra. 

But Henry leaned into her words, thinking what all this might mean. “So, who is he?” Henry asked, pointing at Brendan.

“Brendan is a teacher and a student. I have been teaching him for years, and now he is teaching me.”

“I see,” Henry said, though clearly he didn’t. “So tell me…do you have a name?”

The question seemed to puzzle the girl, then she brightened: “Dana. You may call me Dana.”

“Okay – Dana. Can you tell me why you are here?”


“Do you know why you are here?”

“Of course.”

“But you can’t tell me? Is that correct?”

“Yes, that is correct.”

“Well, ain’t that ducky,” Henry muttered.


“Yes, Dana?”

“The weather is dissipating. You needn’t worry.”

“How do you know that?”

“I know.”

Henry saw Deb’s sat-phone and put two and two together, so he left it at that. “Deb? I’m going to make a sammie. Want something while I’m in the galley?”

“I’ll come with you,” Deb said, clearly as rattled as he was by this turn of events. Even Daisy-Jane seemed to realize something had unsettled everyone.

Henry pulled out a loaf of bread, then some mayo, sliced chicken and tomatoes and he made four sandwiches, passing one up to Sumner and two over to Deb, and after she handed one to Brendan she joined him over the galley sink.

“So, mom and dad. That’s quite a development, don’t you think?” Debra said.

“I didn’t see that one coming,” he sighed. “What do you think she means about the kid and being his teacher?”

Deb shrugged. “First time she’s mentioned that. No clue,” she said, taking a bite out of her sandwich. “Have you been worried about the weather?” she added.

“A little. The hurricane that formed south of Cabo San Lucas has been closing on the islands for a couple of days now. We’re going to get there at about the same time.”

“Geez…why didn’t you say something?”

“No need to worry you ‘til I know more. Now I know more.”

“Assuming she’s right, you mean?” 

“The sat-phone is out. Did you call someone?” he asked.

“No, I was checking the batteries after Brendan made a call.”

“Oh? Well then, I guess that means two things. She can read minds and she’s in touch with someone who knows one helluva lot about weather forecasting.”

“Or maybe it has something to do with what she and Brendan are doing on the computer.”

“What have they been doing, Deb?”

“As far as I can tell, a problem in differential calculus.”

“Like…maybe decay rates in an air mass?”

“Maybe,” Deb sighed. “You don’t think…?”

“I don’t know what to think right now, Deb. That – “baby” – in there should be sucking down formula straight out of a baby bottle, not doing trig and calculus on a fucking PC,” Henry growled. “If she asks for a goddamn martini with lunch, just tell her no, and that her father said so,” he grumbled as he stomped up the companionway steps into the cockpit.

Deb smiled as he walked off, then she shook her head. “A martini doesn’t sound half bad, does it Daisy?” she asked her old friend.

Daisy-Jane looked at Deb with soft, soulful eyes, yet she was most worried about Henry now. Something was very wrong…and she could feel it now. But so could he, and that had hurt most of all. She would miss him very much, but she hoped he’d recognize her when the time came.


They were abeam Kahului when Taggart saw the alarm on the radar toggle and fire off a 36 mile intrusion alarm. The target was at the end of the radar’s effective range, but given the sea state the target had to be fairly large and therefore capable of producing strong returns. Using the cursor, he set up both bearing and range marker lines and started to keep an eye on the target, immediately noting the vessel was on an intercept course and that the closest point of approach was about ninety minutes out. Whoever it was, they were hauling ass and going to take a real beating.

The wind speed had kicked it up a notch – though it had been holding in the low thirty-knot range most of the morning. Now peak gusts were in the low-40s, and wave height had picked up, too, with a good guess of 5 to 8 footers rolling beam-on under the keel. He’d reefed the main again after sunrise, then rolled up the genoa entirely, deciding to ride with the staysail for now. They were still sailing along decently enough, and with most of the swell coming in on the port quarter the ride down below wasn’t too hideous. Deb and Brendan had both come up for air a couple of times, but Dana seemed totally unconcerned – about anything.

Maui was too far away to see, even under perfect viewing conditions, but when Henry ran the range out to 72 miles he could just pick up Pu’u Kukui’s 1700 meter summit. He noted the peak’s bearing on his ChartKit and then penciled in the line, noting with satisfaction that his DR plot wasn’t off by much, then his eyes went to the radar target still closing on their track. He pulled his Steiner binoculars out of their cubby and sighted along the internal bearing line, and a couple of times he thought he could just make out the fly-bridge of a large sport fisher – and that could only mean one thing. Someone had chartered a boat to come out and see who was onboard, and as far as Taggart was concerned that someone had to be Ted Sorensen.

“Sumner, would you go ask Deb to come up here?”

The cop looked at Taggart then at the companionway, afraid of moving in this ragged seaway and not at all wanting to spend even a millisecond down below, but he took a deep breath and darted below, returning to the cockpit about ten seconds after he left. “She’s on her way,” Bacon sighed, taking a deep breath and hanging onto the main winch as he slammed down onto the cockpit seat. “I think Einstein is puking his guts out in the head, just in case you happen to be wondering what that smell is.”

“Look at the horizon,” Henry sighed, “and try not to think about it.”

Bacon growled a little at that. “First time on a goddam boat and it has to be a sailboat,” he shuddered – then he bolted for the windward rail and started feeding the fish. Deb came up the companionway just then – and when their eyes met she noted Taggart’s knowing grin and twinkling eyes.

“A stereo puke-fest,” she sighed. “My-oh-my. You’d think after two weeks…”

“Oh…cram it up your ass,” Bacon growled – just as another convulsive heave wracked his frame, this eruption capped off by a raging, two alarm fart.

Which only made Taggart laugh. Then Deb threw in her lot and started laughing.

Bacon struggled to crawl back into the cockpit, his face now almost pea green.

“Uh, Sumner,” Henry said politely, “you got a big chunk in the left mustache. Better wipe it off…”

And that was enough to send the cop back to the rail, and Taggart slapped his knee at this little victory.

“Be nice, Henry,” Deb sighed.

“Yeah Henry,” Bacon snarled. “Be nice.”

“I’ll try. Deb,” Henry said as he handed over the Steiners to Deb, “site along one-seven-zero and tell me what you see?”

“What am I looking for?”

“Your father.”

“What?” she said – as she took the glasses from his hand. “Okay, I see a boat, a pretty big fishing boat…and a young girl is barfing – over the rail.”

“Geez,” Henry sighed, “it must be catching.”

Sumner blew another load over the rail, but as he was on the windward rail this load of puke sprayed right back in his face – which caused him to let slip another load.

“Try the leeward rail, would you, Slick?” Taggart moaned, wiping a few big chunks off his legs.

“There’s a guy next to a woman now,” Debra said.

“Don’t tell me. He’s puking too…”

“No, this guy just looks pissed. Wait, there are at least two more men out there, maybe a third woman, too.”

“Anyone happen to be fishing?” Henry asked.

“Nope. Oh, wait, someone else is barfing now.”

“Interesting. Landlubbers.” Henry sighed as he looked down at the plotter, because he had to think fast now. If he turned and ran with the wind the fishing boat would have to push hard to make an intercept during daylight, but they also might give up and turn back. But…if Sorensen wasn’t on the boat, where was the threat? Was there any danger now? If there wasn’t, maybe he needed to turn and facilitate an intercept. “Are they looking at us?”

“Yes, I think so.”

Taggart changed course again, pointing into the wind a bit more – which also increased the ship’s motion – and Brendan came darting up the companionway and leapt to the – windward – rail, getting there just in time to blow beets into a nasty gust – and everyone got pelted with the results.

Henry shook his head. “Hey, Einstein, try puking with the wind at your back next time.”

Brendan lurched across the cockpit and joined the cop at the leeward rail, both of them hanging on for dear life while they dry-heaved for the next half hour. “Gee, this sure is fun,” Henry said as he turned into the wind another few degrees, trying to find the groove to cut between swells and waves.

“You’re a real prick, Taggart!” Bacon growled as he lurched back to his seat in the cockpit.

Taggart stood at the wheel and he could see the sport-fisher clearly now, and he noted they were taking a real beating, too. The wind and the waves were coming in on the boat’s starboard quarter so she was wallowing between the wave-tops, and the powerboat’s diesel exhaust wasn’t being blown clear of the cockpit. Everyone standing out there was getting a double jolt of motion and exhaust induced nausea, but the trip back to port would be even more brutal for them.

When the other boat was about a quarter mile off Taggart turned on their motor and turned to run parallel with the other boat, furling all sail as he steadied on their new course, and about then Brendan chimed in: “That’s Harry Callahan,” he said, sounding almost grateful to see a familiar face.

“What’s a Harry Callahan?” Taggart said.

“He’s a cop, and he knows all about the spheres. I think I see my father, too.”

Henry looked at Debra, and they shared a little ‘Eureka!’ moment. “Do you recognize any other people out there?” Henry asked Brendan.

“No sir, I sure don’t.”

“Which one is Callahan?” Henry asked.

“The tall, skinny guy.”

And just then Callahan picked up a hailer and called out to them: “Stay off the radio,” Callahan said via the loud-hailer. “Brendan, you and Sumner prepare to come over here, and Mr. Taggart, please bring Dana with you.”

Debra looked at Brendan just then. “Brendan? Did you call this man on the sat-phone?”

“No. He called me.”

“Did you tell him about Dana?”


Deb looked at Henry and shrugged. “I’m not sure I like this,” she sighed.

“You can trust Harry,” Brendan said. “He knows everything.”

“Everything, huh,” Henry said. “Well then, ask him how we’re supposed to get a baby from this boat to their’s – in these seas?”

Deb came close then, and she still looked worried: “Why no radios?” she asked Henry.

Henry thought about that for a moment, but he didn’t like the obvious conclusion he reached: “Someone’s listening – for us, which means someone is waiting for us in Honolulu. And…this Callahan has apparently decided to let you finish by yourself.”

Debra had always seemed taken aback by the idea of single-handed sailing, but now here she was, confronted by…this storm…

“Henry, I can’t do it.”

“Deb, how many times are you going to make me say it? I and can’t are the two most overused words in the world.”

“On a clear day, maybe I could, Henry. But in this weather?”

“Just hold on, Deb. No jumping to conclusions just yet, okay?”

The other boat was getting close now, and Henry could see it was a fairly new sixty five foot Pacemaker, a robust, well made boat strong enough to handle these seas, and he could also see that there were a bunch of people standing by to help with the transfer. As the other boat came alongside she turned beam to the seas, creating a little calm area in her lee – and to Henry’s surprise a teenaged girl jumped across to aquaTarkus, followed by a man about Henry’s age. ‘Her father?’ Taggart sighed to himself.

The the cop, this Callahan fellow, stood by the rail – waiting – and Henry could see the cop had one good leg, the other an elaborate stainless steel contraption that didn’t seem to be holding him back any. “Okay!” Callahan shouted as he tossed a line across. “Brendan! Come on!”

Brendan hopped across, then Sumner Bacon followed, leaving Henry behind at the wheel – suddenly feeling very conflicted. “Who are you?” he asked the two newcomers.

“Oh. Sorry. Ralph Richardson, and this is my daughter. Inspector Callahan will explain everything, but you need to get Dana and be on your way.”

“What’s the rush?” Taggart asked – more than a little suspiciously.

“Sorensen is waiting in Honolulu, but I suspect as soon as the skies clear just a little they’ll have an aircraft up and headed this way.”

“And you know all this how?”

“Again, Mr. Taggart, Callahan will explain everything.”

“Who’s that with Brendan,” Henry asked.

“His parents,” Richardson sighed, turning to face Deb. “Debra, would you be so kind as to get Dana, please? They need to head in – now.”

She nodded and went below, returning a moment later with the girl – for that was indeed what she now. Not quite a teenager – yet – but well on her way, and Taggart was stunned by how much she’d changed in not quite twenty days…let alone the last twenty hours.

And Richardson was equally thunderstruck. “That’s…Dana?” he asked, and Deb nodded.

“I think she grew about a foot overnight,” she added.

Henry took her hand then, and Dana turned to face him. “I’m ready, Father.”

And when Richardson heard that he seemed to grow pale, then he looked on in stunned silence as Henry picked her up and leapt across to Callahan. Dana waved at Debra from the other boat, and Henry saw a tear or two run down her face.

“Bye-bye, Mommy,” she whispered.

“You two better get below, now,” the cop said, and moments later everyone was sitting in the saloon toweling off as the powerboat’s captain set a return course for Maui.

“Anyone care to tell me what’s going on?” Henry asked – as Dana climbed up on his knee.

“Daddy,” she said, “you forgot to say goodbye to Daisy-Jane.”

Henry turned and saw the pup standing on the aft deck, staring at him as he pulled away. He raised a hand and waved, and his heart sank when she stood with her hands on the rail and barked after him.

“It’s okay, Father. She told me to tell you to look for her. She’ll be there when you need her.”

Maybe it was the way she spoke. Maybe it was the look of pure love in her eyes, but whatever it was he believed her.

“Don’t cry, Daddy. She knows you love her.”

He nodded once, then he turned to the peg-legged cop, this Callahan. “So. What’s up, Doc…?” he asked, yet in his mind’s eye he saw a yellow dog on a park bench – waiting for him as the sun started to set.

Next up: The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 64

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…so how about a word or two on our 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.]

[David Gilmour \\ Metallic Spheres]

Thanks to DB for this one. Enjoy.

Intermezzo 6

intermezzo 6 7

Every crossing hits the doldrums.

[Alan Parsons \\ Siren Song]

Intermezzo    Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus

Part VI: Flight II

The dream comes in numbers, yet the solution still avoids him.


Taggart watched Geddes whenever he could, but most often when the kid took the wheel and steered. There is a rhythm to the waves that eludes most people, yet this boy seemed to understand the sea, to anticipate her moves, so much so that Taggart considered the kid a natural. If he’d known Geddes at all he’d have understood that the kid was smiling for the first time in his life, that he finally felt alive – yet Taggart alone was most likely to understand. He’d always felt pretty much the same way – whenever he took the wheel and began to vibrate to the ancient rhythm of water flowing over a rudder in a seaway.

The first morning out of LA Debra came up into the sun carrying the little baby, but already Taggart could see something different in this odd little creature’s eyes. There was an innate inquisitiveness deep inside the gaze, an expressiveness he found oddly inhuman at this age, like it was reading his soul, imprinting his deepest secrets. Henry watched it somewhat warily after that, not yet sure what he was dealing with but certain that trouble lurked in those eyes.

They sailed into Avalon Harbor well before noon and refueled at the dock by the old casino while Debra and Geddes ran ashore to get supplies, and while Daisy-Jane dumped a load on the grass – accompanied by a huge sigh of relief. Taggart scanned the sky, saw not a thing to cause any sort of alarm – which only alarmed him more – and then he helped get all the supplies stowed before backing from the fuel dock. Henry then cut under the south side of the island before resuming their westbound course, and he still considered Hawaii the most logical first step.

Debra fed the baby girl – for that was indeed what she was – and Brendan scanned through the LA Times that morning, finding no mention of the UAV episode but breathlessly endless coverage of the robbery and downing of the American 777 over South Central. There was scant coverage of the fracas on the Vincent Thomas Bridge, which he found the most surprising of all the omissions – because he had already figured out that the baby was the keystone holding the entire chain of events in place. The way Geddes now saw things, time could be divided between the period before and after the baby’s arrival on earth – because the baby was the fundamental shift. She was the plan. He still wasn’t sure who’s plan she was a part of, but that was a trivial concern at this point. Time had been reset – of that much he was sure.

Debra warmed formula and prepared a bottle, and all the while Geddes and Bacon took turns holding the little girl in their laps, cradling her close to keep her out of the wind and the sun. And then, two hours after aquaTarkus left Avalon the first orca appeared, and within an hour or so a half dozen more had joined them swimming just ahead, like sentinels out ahead of their legion, and at one point Geddes was sure he’d seen a fifty meter long white oblate form moving along about a hundred feet beneath the keel. He’d started to say something to Henry but then the oblate disappeared and he thought better of it. 

Debra took the spud down below and the two of them napped, but Geddes saw the oblate again and he stepped closer to Henry. “There’s something down there following us,” Brendan said, his reedy voice coming across in hushed conspiratorial sighs.

But Henry had only nodded. “It showed up after the orca arrived. They’re following us.”

“Do you see a correlation?”

Taggart nodded, but he didn’t explain his thinking. “You ready to steer again?”

“Yes, of course,” Geddes said, his demeanor brightening in an instant.

“Swell. Uh, Sumner, you know anything about single sideband radio?”

“Uh…no, not really.”

“Okay…well…it’s time for your first lesson. It will be on how to download GRIB files and construct a 72 hour weather forecast.”

“A what file?”

Taggart groaned. “Never mind. Let’s go down to the chart table…”

Yet Taggart first noted that day that the kid could steer for hours on end, and the boy’s mind didn’t wander, either. If he told Brendan to hold two-seven-zero on the compass that’s exactly what the kid did, for hour after hour and with not a single complaint voiced. Yet, at one point Taggart came up to the kid and he found they boy’s eyes locked on a cloud. 

“See something?” Taggart asked, now looking at the cloud suspiciously.

“Hm-m, oh…no. I was just reading something.”

“Reading something? In a cloud?”

“Yes. Tell me, Henry. Do you believe in God?”

“Excuse me, but where’d that come from?”

“Oh, I was just reading something…”

“Up there in that cloud?”

“Yes, of course.”


“And, well, it seems to me that most religious texts have set up a patriarchal view of our relationship to animals…”

“To…animals? Well, that seems to go with the territory, don’t you think?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, gee, don’t you think religions tend to be pretty paternalistic?”

“Ah, yes, I see what you mean, but I don’t eat meat. Never have. It seems cruel to me, yet most religions have no prohibitions against eating animal flesh. Then I read that these same religions don’t regard animals as sentient, which seems to mean that religions don’t see animals as having feelings like love or that they cannot experience friendship.”

“Just curious, Brendan, but what do you eat?”

“Avocados, for the most part.”

“And are you pretty sure avocados don’t experience love or friendship?”

That seemed to stump the kid for a moment. “Avocados don’t have a brain, so how could they?”

“Hey, don’t ask me, ask a fruitarian.”

“A what?”

“That, Brendan, is someone who only eats fruit. And some fruitarians hold that even fruit have feelings.”

Brendan’s eyes went wide. “Seriously?”

Taggart nodded his head. “You could get real hungry real fast if you hold to extreme points of view.”

“So do you think that eating an animal isn’t cruel?”

“I don’t know, but I’ll ask the next cheeseburger I run across.”

“That’s a specious argument.”

“Not if you’re a cheeseburger,” Taggart sighed. “But tell me…what if it could be demonstrated that avocados have feelings. What would you do?”

“I don’t know,” Geddes said, now completely flummoxed.

“Really? You’d choose death by starvation over eating the avocado?”

“Probably not.”

“Okay, so what about the Inuit people of the arctic north. There’s no ready food supply but whales…”

“But that’s not true. They can go to a store, or even…”

“Brendan, there were no stores until about fifty years ago, so try again. Their choice was simple; either eat meat or starve to death. What should they have done?”

“That doesn’t seem right.”

“Okay. So, if I hear you correctly, you shouldn’t eat something that has the capacity to feel emotions.”

“Yes. I think that’s correct.”

“So, if you fall overboard, should that shark over there not eat you?”

Brendan turned and looked at a scythe-like dorsal fin slicing through the water about fifty feet off their starboard beam, and he instinctively inched towards the center of the boat. “What is that?” he moaned, now terrified. 

“Tiger shark. About a twelve footer.”

“Isn’t that a man-eater?”

“A spud like you would take him about three bites, so yeah, you could say that.”

“But he’s not sentient.”

“Oh? Are you sure about that? What about the Inuit? Are they not sentient?”

“Well, that seems to be what all these religious texts seem to say.”

“Oh? How do they define humanity?”

“I’d say compassion and empathy are the difference?” Geddes said after he thought about it for a moment.

“So, that Killer Whale over there cannot feel compassion or empathy? Is that what you’re telling me?”

“I think that’s probably so. Yes.”

“You think so? Does that mean you aren’t sure?”

Geddes seemed to hesitate. “Maybe they feel those things for their own offspring, but…”

“But not for us?”


“Are you sure about that?”

Geddes shrugged. “No. Not really.”

“Well, why don’t we find out,” Taggart sighed as he started for the aft rail. “Come with me,” he added, stopping to engage the autopilot. Once Geddes was with him aft, standing above the swim platform, Taggart looked down into the water then over at the Tiger Shark. “What do you think the orca would do if you were to fall overboard?”

“I don’t know,” Brendan said, his voice now a little tremulous.

“Well, let’s find out,” Taggart said – just before he jumped off the platform and into the sailboat’s wake. 

Geddes watched as the Tiger Shark turned towards the sound of Taggart’s thrashing splash and he turned towards the cockpit: “Help! Man overboard!” he cried, and then he heard Debra and Sumner running up from below. The shark had closed about half the distance when it seemed to explode, then vault into the air; seconds later an orca appeared beside Taggart and then cupped him in what appeared to be a protective embrace. The orca came to the platform and lifted Taggart out of the water, and Henry stepped aboard, wiping sea water from his eyes.

“Any questions?” Taggart sighed as he turned to the orca and waved.

“Did you know it was going to do that?” Geddes cried, clearly exasperated.

“Did I know?” Taggart asked with a shrug. “I dunno. Let’s just say I had faith, and we’ll call it a day.”

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Brendan said, muttering to himself as he walked back to the wheel.

“Well…I guess you could say that about faith in general, Brendan,” Henry said to the boy as he caught the towel Debra tossed his way. “Then again, I could just be full of shit.”


From the Log of SV aquaTarkus

Saturday, 20 December 2008 local noon by reduction

Lat: 28°40’24.85″N  Lon: 132°51’31.69″W

Winds 030 degrees at 12-15 kts  OAT 52 degrees F; Seas 2-4 feet; Depth: 13k charted SeaTemp 50F

Worked out a noon site today, first time with the sextant since last Vic-Maui race on the Swan. TG for Bowditch. Showed the kid how to shoot a site and reduce using the tables and he took to it like a duck to water. The cop was mystified. The kid also spotted the triangular shaped UAV again, about 0200 last night. Spotted by the craft occulting stars in Cassiopeia; I’d have never caught that. Bright kid but strange as hell, always looking at the sky. The baby is stranger still; she has grown about a foot and is eating solid food now as she has all her teeth. Quite a feat given that she’s ten days old. She seems to me like a passive receptacle, sponging up every word we say, gauging our every emotion. Never seen anything like it, which, given her probable origins sounds about right. Deb thinks the ship is keeping an eye on the baby, but keeping an eye on what? Something has been bothering me all day, namely that we really have no idea who the actors in this drama really are. If the UAV is somehow related to Ted Sorensen then that means what? He had to know the kid would appear on the bridge – but how the hell could that happen – could that even be possible? So, what if the UAV is in fact ‘alien’? That would mean we have another spacefaring civilization playing around down here on earth? And if that’s the case, what is their relationship to the ‘sphere civilization’? Already seeing signs that the Pinks are not on the same page as the Blues and Greens, and they all seem terrified of the Reds. Assuming this is a factional disagreement within the sphere groups, how will they react to another group of real outsiders beginning to meddle in our affairs? I get the feeling about the only way I’ll find any answers to these questions is to get back to Seattle, but then the moment passes. Yet the question remains: what do we do if something happens as we approach Hawaii? If dropping off the grid failed? Then we’re in the deep do-do – without a paddle, and with no place left to run.


The man-child stood at the aft rail staring down into the water. Looking at the fat oblate forms down there, following – him – just like that shark had. He didn’t know what to think now, not after Taggart and his orca, but he knew the ships were still down there, watching. ‘Watching me watching them, like a perfect infinity mirror…’

The cop was sitting at the wheel, the red from the binnacle casting a ghoulish glow over the cockpit, and Geddes wanted to jump into the blackness and wait to see who came for him first. The orca or another shark, so…faith or darkness. But then, inside the briefest flash of peripheral insight, he saw the other choice, the third option. The white shadows down there, following him. They wouldn’t let him die, wouldn’t let him be eaten alive. They couldn’t. Not now. Why else had they put him on the bridge just before time shuddered to a stop.

Brendan was about to step off the platform when Henry came up from behind and put a hand on his shoulder. “Having a moment?” Taggart sighed, his voice gentle and reassuring.

“They won’t let anything happen to me,” Geddes whispered. “They’re afraid of me, but they won’t let anything happen to me.”

“Who are they, Brendan? Do you know?”

“Of course I do.”


“They came from Sagittarius. They sent the signal. But they aren’t alone. And they are afraid.”

The hair on Taggart’s neck stood on end, perhaps because of the way the man-child spoke those words. So certain, like the certainty of numbers. Somehow the kid had worked it out, and now he had the answer to one question. Ted Sorensen wouldn’t be waiting for them in Hawaii. “Do you know why they’re here?” Taggart asked.

“I’m not sure. At first I thought the child interested them most of all.”

“But not now?”

“No, not now. Not after you jumped in the water.”

“What does that mean?”

“I think they’re interested in you, Mr. Taggart. You, most of all.”

Taggart shook his head. “That doesn’t make sense. Why me?”

“I’m not sure yet.”

“Okay. Well, maybe you could let me know when you are?”

“I’ll be dead before that happens.”

“Excuse me?”

“I’ll be dead next week, at least that’s what I worked out. Probably next Wednesday.”

“Indeed. And how is this going to come about, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“I think you’re going to kill me,” the man-child sighed.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…so how about a word or two on our 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.]

[Mark Tiemens \\ Hold On Blue Eyes]

Intermezzo 5

intermezzo 5 implosion

Visitors and old friends return.

[Watching and Waiting \\ The Moody Blues]

Intermezzo    Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus

Part V: Implosion

His dreams came in numbers, only now the dream never relented.


He found driving uncomfortable, a dizzying rush of kaleidoscopic information he had trouble sorting through. A semi passed his rental and the space around the tractor filled with equations: mass and velocity vectors flowed into linear momentum calculations and as he passed a school bus his mind reeled as dozens of interacting data sets assaulted his senses. He squinted and looked away, trying to staunch the flow in information, but it was useless now…

Because even as he tried to close his eyes to the world crowding in all around him, his mind leapt to the other cascade of terminal datapoints he was still trying to process – as images of the stricken airliner plummeting to earth returned to fill his consciousness. So…driving into the night now he was left to face the prospect that there was no safe place left for his mind to go in order to simply rest. Painful and unwanted information once again began filling his mind after the brief respite during the flight down from San Francisco, only now the inrushing data was coming-on so fast he feared it might soon reach an incapacitating velocity. Then what? Would he reach a breaking point? And what might wait on the other side? He felt alone now, lost inside cascades of incessant numerical solutions to unwanted problems, and for the first time in his life he grew afraid of the numbers flowing through his mind. He felt lonely now, like maybe God had forsaken him. And suddenly he was forced to consider the nature of God. Does God even exist, he wondered. He had always had faith in numbers because life was nothing more or less than problems in search of a solution. Could God, he wondered, be a solution in search of problems? He laughed at that, perhaps because he’d never considered that fear and faith always seemed to be the solutions humans clung to.

He could see the Vincent Thomas Bridge rising ahead, and yet the air seemed heavy – almost like moisture was about to coalesce over the harbor – and surely fog would soon follow – but then he saw something that made his heart lurch as pure fear returned…

Because another blue sphere had appeared, and it was falling through the fog and settling on the bridge. And then the moisture-laden air seemed to ripple under the weight of a massive shock wave, causing his little Toyota to skip sideways – like a flat rock skimming across a pond. 

And this was something new, something completely unexpected. Nothing he’d solved for had indicated the possibility of anything like this happening, so there had to be a discontinuity, some new variable involved.

Perhaps, he thought, this new variable was intuition. Something outside the bounds of statistical relevance.

Because, in his mind’s eye, and even as he struggled to regain control of the skipping Toyota, he rewatched the helicopter vaulting up and slamming into the airliner – and as he analyzed the replay he saw dozens of new, interconnecting variables sliding into place. Waiting. To be. Rearranged?

Or. Simply. To Be.

To be? Being? Or Becoming? ‘Which do I solve for…?’

“But how do you account for transubstantiation?” a faraway voice chided.

The little car seemed to spin and spin and he saw new variables form like planets out of dust and he struggled to come to terms with all these new variables.

The little car came to rest on the right shoulder – only the engine wasn’t running now, and when he looked up he saw that the power was out almost everywhere he looked – and even the streetlights were out. “Was this an EMP event?” he wondered aloud…so he tried the ignition and the motor sprang to life. He slipped the car back into Drive and took off up the first incline that lead to the summit of the bridge – and even from a quarter mile away he could see the sphere up ahead, hovering above the roadway, only now the settling fog had turned the night an eerie translucent blue. Then he saw the…lightning.

Jagged blue sprites danced in the air around the sphere, and as he approached the top of the bridge the suspension cables produced a strobing effect that instantly made his head ache. As he came to the top of the bridge he saw a police car of some sort was on its side, and an ambulance had been blown through the center divider. Stranger still was a network news van, which had, apparently, been knocked about viciously and had crashed through the suicide fencing and was now dangling out over the water, the front wheels jutting precariously out over the edge of the bridge – as if the van was going to jump.

Yet he saw a cameraman moving around the sphere, and what looked like reporters or technicians trailing the cameraman with microphones and clipboards at the ready. And then he saw what at first glance appeared to be a cop of some kind; at least the heavy brown belt Brendan could just see was adorned with a firearm and handcuffs, so that seemed…logical. Yet the cop was holding an infant in his arms, and the cop’s uniform was scorched and smoldering – and that just didn’t seem to fit…at all… 

Brendan got out of his rental and dashed over to the scene, thinking that, perhaps, because he had a working car he might be able to help out… 

But then who did he see?

Debra. Sorensen. The girl next door. She was with the cameraman, and her skin appeared scorched and abraded, too. So was the skin of the man next to her.

Then Debra saw Brendan and she stopped in her tracks.

“Brendan?” she asked. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m not sure yet,” Geddes replied. “Can I help?”

“Uh, we need to get going,” the man with her said. He was pointing to the sky behind Geddes so her turned and looked…

And Geddes saw a black triangular opening in the sky, and then he could just make out the shape of a craft coming out of the opening. Triangular. No sound. Very slow.

“We’ve got to go!” Debra screamed. “Now!”

“What?” Brendan said, mesmerized by the sight. “But…why? Shouldn’t we…”

“They’re here to take the baby!” Debra cried as she ran up to the cop. “Come on!” she yelled at the dazed and confused man, who appeared to be locked inside a trance and seemed unable to break free. “We’ve got to get out of here!”

Brendan looked at the ship then at the baby, and, as he didn’t like the problem shaping up, he began to scowl. “You can’t run from a ship like that,” he said to himself, but just then he saw the cop turn to face the presumed danger. The cop carefully handed the infant to Debra and she ran for Brendan’s Toyota.

“Open the hatch!” she yelled at Brendan. “Now!”

And that broke him free of his own trance. He turned and ran to the little SUV and found the lever just inside the driver’s door and he popped the hatch just as Debra reached the opening. The cop and the man with the clipboard ran up to the Toyota, and the man with the clipboard pushed Brendan into the back seat.

“I’ll drive,” Henry Taggart said as he looked at the descending ship over his shoulder.

“What the fuck is that thing,” the cop cried.

“ARV,” Taggart said, “probably Russian, maybe Chinese.”

“What’s an ARV?” Brendan asked.

“Alien Reproduction, reverse engineered technology.”

“How do you know it’s not aliens,” Brendan sighed, “in one of their ships?”

Taggart nodded. “Because, Slick, we’re still fucking alive.”

“Oh,” Brendan Geddes nodded. That seemed a logical deduction.

“Who are you?” Taggart asked the cop, getting the Toyota started and flooring the accelerator.

“Sumner Bacon, and where the hell are we going?”

Taggart swerved to avoid damaged and destroyed vehicles – and more than a few bodies – before he made it to the one-ten and turned onto the northbound lanes. “The marina. We’re going to get out to sea.”

“Why out there?” Bacon asked.

“Because I’ve called for backup,” Taggart said, grinning like a madman, “but we need to keep this shit out of sight. UFOs over LA? That’s a shit-show. No way,” Taggart said, thinking out loud as he pulled a charred bit of skin off his cheek. “Once that’s done, well, then we can get the fuck out of Dodge and figure out what to do with the kid.”

“The kid?” Brendan sighed. “What’s with the kid?”

“Yeah,” Taggart growled at the cop, “what’s with the kid?”

 “You got me,” Bacon said. “I was trying to get a jumper off the fence and the next thing I know I’m flat on my ass with a kid in my hands…”

Brendan leaned forward, his face now inches from the cops – then he could see, and smell, all the singed hair on Bacon’s face and arms. “What do you remember about the time in between?”

The cop shrugged and shook his head. “I’m not sure.” He seemed to try and focus, then he turned to Taggart. “I had a rookie with me,” he said, his voice now full of concern; “Did you see another cop out there?”

“Down, yes,” Taggart replied.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Bacon asked.

“I don’t think he made it. There are a bunch of bodies out there.”

“Goddamn, no…” Bacon muttered.

“Deb?” Taggart called out. “You see that ship?”

“Yup. They’re up in the clouds but they are definitely following us.”

“How’s the kid?”


“Strange? Like how?”

“She’s just studying everything. My face, the car…everything… It’s kind of surreal, really. Do you have any idea who might be following us?”

“No, but if I had to guess I’d say it probably has something to do with your father…”


The ship in the clouds following the Toyota was indeed shaped like an equilateral triangle; each side was a hundred meters long, and the bottom was flat and black and almost smooth. The top of the craft was smooth and white and studded with a wide variety of sensor arrays and particle weapons. There were two occupants inside the craft, and neither was human, not even remotely. The liquid atmosphere inside the ship was similar to seawater but was rich in ammonia and would kill a Terran organism after an exposure measured in milliseconds. The occupants were low level military-scientists; they had been sent to observe the child but had orders to remain out of sight and to not provoke any kind of confrontation, military or otherwise.

They spoke in clicks and whistles, in a language similar in linguistic structure to those employed by mammalian sea creatures commonly found on this planet, and in fact one of the occupants of this ship could understand the language of the large black and whites. One of these occupants, the sensor operator, was studying various EM readouts, while the other followed the child as best as he could.

“Three aircraft approaching; their profile is military.”

“Deploy three drones.”

White oblate forms formed outside of the hull and took off towards the Terran aircraft, and once the military aircraft saw and responded to their presence, the drones turned out to sea. Two aircraft followed the drones, but one did not.

“One is not following. This unit is closing in.”

“I see it. Fire a pulse, warn him off.”

The sensor operator fired off a focused beam similar in effect to an electro-magnetic pulse, but the US Air Force F-22 was hardened against such interference; the Air Force pilot now had the UAV in sight and his radar was locked-on. The pilot did not have permission to engage, and as the UAV slowed to a dead stop her F-22 shot by – not fifty meters off to the right, so the F-22’s pilot reefed her jet into a vectored turn, the pilot never taking her eyes off the unusual looking craft as her F-22 circled around to come in for a closer look.

“I have lost the child,” the pilot said.

“Abort. Return to orbit,” the copilot-sensor operator advised.


And as the F-22 pilot looked on helplessly, the triangle shaped UAV simply accelerated straight up and out of the atmosphere; her companions reported that the capsule shaped objects disappeared under the surface of the sea out past Catalina Island. And though perhaps ‘only’ a quarter million people had watched as the encounter played out in the skies above Long Beach and Torrance, hardly anyone knew or could quite comprehend what they’d just witnessed. And while the Air Force pilots dutifully filled out their contact reports – which were duly read before being classified and filed away – no one at their base in Nevada or at the Pentagon had the slightest idea what had happened.

But Henry Taggart thought he knew exactly what had just gone down. He had no idea, however, just how far off his understanding of events really was.


Debra and Brendan wrapped the baby in a windbreaker and hustled it out to aquaTarkus, while Taggart and Sumner Bacon cleaned out the car, taking care to wipe away fingerprints before they sprinted down the pier to Debra’s sailboat. Spheres hovered in the clouds overhead, and an Old Man watched from a nearby park bench.

In the same approximate timeframe, the triangular shaped UAV made the ninety seven million mile sprint out past the sun – where it docked with a much larger ship. After the crew boarded their base ship they reported what had transpired on the planet’s surface to the task force commander.

The commander nodded and sighed. He knew the mission was high risk and would almost certainly fail, but it had been worth a try. He suited-up and went to speak with his superiors.

He spoke through translating devices, explaining what had transpired in Los Angeles a half hour ago.

“Was there any contact between your ship and ours?” President Franklin Roosevelt asked the task force commander.

“Incidental visual contact only between the responding aircraft and our scout ship, and an unknown number of inhabitants on the ground more than likely witnessed the encounter.”

Roosevelt turned to Claire Aubuchon. “Well?” he asked. “Do we risk another intervention?”

“My opinion is unchanged, Mr. President,” Claire replied. “If she reaches maturity and reproduces, there will be no way to stop the next phase.”

“And you still think we should?”

“I don’t know, sir. I really don’t. Maybe it was going to happen anyway. Maybe the Blues are just helping the process along.”

Roosevelt sighed. “Then as far as the child goes, we move from containment to isolate and protect?”

Aubuchon nodded. “The Adler Group is isolated in Argentina now, but they won’t stay there very long. They’re moving their assets into place right now, so we should expect them to move on the child any time now.”

“Do you think we should warn the Israelis now?”

“My assumption, sir, is they already know. If we tell them now at least they’ll understand we won’t stand in their way.”

Roosevelt made up his mind and he turned to the task force commander. “Protect the child,” he told the alien.

The commander turned and returned to the comfort of his atmosphere, and once out of his suit he gave new orders to his team of scouts, then he turned and looked at Roosevelt through one of the viewing ports. “We have to keep him alive,” he said to the fleet physician.

“He is very ill.”

“You fully understand the biological processes?”


“Have you discussed genetic manipulation with him?”

“Yes. He is very reluctant.”

“On my responsibility, begin the process now. We cannot afford to lose him.”


It was still dark out when aquaTarkus slipped her lines and motored out of the marina and into the Pacific. Henry Taggart laid out a great circle course for Honolulu and engaged the autopilot. He flipped off the A.I.S. then went to speak to the cop, needing to know if he’d ever been on a sailboat before.

And of course he hadn’t. The cop had military experience, in the Navy, so not all was lost. The other guy, the Geddes kid, looked like a lost cause, a total geek.

Geddes was standing at the aft rail just above the swim platform, and he was staring at Los Angeles as the city disappeared in the haze surrounding the rising sun. When Taggart walked up to the kid he appeared lost inside a deep trance, staring at the sky above the city.

“We’re being followed,” Geddes sighed uneasily.

“Oh? Did you see something?”

But the boy just shook his head in answer to the question.

“Okay, so how do you know?”

“It’s inevitable, given the circumstances.”

“The circumstances? And what might those be?”

“The child isn’t human, and we’ve stolen it. Someone will come for it.”

“And? What else aren’t you telling me?” Taggart asked.

But Geddes turned away from Taggart and looked at the sea ahead, then the boy turned again and looked down into the sea – and his hands began trembling. 

© 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.]