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.
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?”
“But you can’t tell me? Is that correct?”
“Yes, that is correct.”
“Well, ain’t that ducky,” Henry muttered.
“The weather is dissipating. You needn’t worry.”
“How do you know that?”
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?”
“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.