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?”

“Yes?”

“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.

“Hilo?”

“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…?”

“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.”

“Peculiar?”

“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?”

“Uh-huh.”

“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?”

“Daisy-Jane.”

“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.”

“Problems?”

“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.”

“True.”

“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.”

“Teaser.”

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…?”

“Right.”

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.

“No.”

“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]

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