The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 64.5

stormtree 88k WP

Time passes. Time for tea? Tea for the tillerman, perhaps?

Oh, the image above? A little footnote at the end of today’s post will cover that. Fun stuff awaits, so do read on.

[Babe I’m Gonna Leave You \\ Led Zeppelin]

Chapter 64.5

Debra pulled aquaTarkus over to the fuel pumps and topped off the tanks, then, while the Dude slept it off down below she ran to a nearby grocery store and stocked up on a few necessities – about fifteen hundred dollars worth of bare necessities – and she had sorted and stowed everything, and departed the harbor all on her own long before her passenger stirred. She felt proud of herself, too. Kind of like she was throwing off one skin and slipping into another.

The sun was up, the trades were filling in behind the hurricane, and she punched in Bora-Bora on the chartplotter. Twenty five hundred miles on one-seven-zero magnetic, so she opened up her copy of Ocean Passages For The World and read through the sailing directions. Then she went to section on the intertropical convergence zone and read through that just for good measure – and that didn’t sound all that fun, especially not with a stranger sleeping it off in the forward cabin. Japan was almost four thousand miles to the west and that was just too far, then she saw a little yellow Post-It not on a bookmarked page for routes to North America from the Hawaiian Islands and she saw Henry’s scribbled not there. Ketchikan, Alaska was underlined, and, after reading a few passage notes that that he’d made, she entered Ketchikan on the chart plotter and set the autopilot while she rolled out all sail. Had he, she wondered, left the note for her?

Following her morning rituals now, she doused her arms and thighs with sunscreen, then got the tops of her ears too, then on came her polarized Wayfarers and a fresh pair of Topsiders as she left Diamond Head in her wake. Then, on a hunch, she looked aft – and yes, there he was. Henry’s orca, his magnificent dorsal fin scything through her wake about fifty meters away, and then she saw he wasn’t alone this time. It looked like he’d brought the whole family along this time – and she smiled, if only because, in a small way, a part of Henry was still with her. She rapped on the hull and he came alongside for a moment and she told him it was nice to have him along.

Then she heard a stumbling ogre rumbling around below, groping his way to the head. 

“What the fuck?” she heard the Dude growl as he stubbed a toe. “Now where the fuck am I…?”

She hurriedly put his wallet and passport in the chart table and waited for the inevitable.

+++++

Callahan reined him in, pulled him back, but the boy had started to enter Gershwin’s drawing room on the train so Callahan stopped playing and pulled Brendan back into the present.

“We were there!” Brendan cried. “Actually there! How did you do that!?”

Harry leaned close and whispered conspiratorially into the boy’s ear: “Not now. Let’s have some dinner first, then we can talk about it, okay?”

“Okay, Harry,” Brendan beamed, as happy now as he could ever remember feeling.

They ambled down to the patio in the rocks and The Doc was just about to turn the steaks, great big beefy two inch thick ribeyes – then Brendan took one look at the dead animals searing on the metal grate and howled in anguish.

“What’s wrong!?” The Doc howled back.

And Brendan pointed at the grill, retching at the sight of so much unnecessary agony. “Meat!” the man-child shrieked. “Look at all that dead animal flesh!”

The Doc nodded, his smile reaching from ear to ear. “Ain’t it wonderful,” he sighed.

“Don’t worry, Brendan,” DD said, coming down the steps with her salad. “I’ve got an artichoke going for you, and some avocado, too.”

The boy relaxed, though he looked uneasily at the grill – like he was watching a prisoner being led to the gallows.

“So,” Callahan said, trying to break through the uneasy silence that had just befallen DDs dinner party, “Brendan just had his first taste of Gershwin. What did you think of it, Brendan?”

“The beat is just like the train…” he replied.

“You know? It really is like a train,” The Doc said. “Funny. I’d never put that together before.”

“It’s okay on piano,” Callahan added, “but the intro just doesn’t work for me without the clarinet.”

“Clarinet?” Brendan asked. “You mean it isn’t a piano piece?”

“No, no, it was originally a piano concerto, actually for a small orchestra,” Callahan said.

“Wasn’t it Bernstein that first scored it for a full orchestra?” The Doc asked.

“Hell, I don’t know,” Harry mumbled, “but I think Brendan has some catching up to do.”

“I do?”

“Say, do you think you could play along on the guitar?” Harry asked. “I mean, you can play along with me, if you like.”

Brendan seemed to roll that over in his mind for a while – even as he plucked an artichoke leaf from the stalk, regarding it with curious anticipation – then he turned to Harry: “Do you have a guitar I could use?”

“I think we can find you one,” Harry grinned.

“I’d like to play again,” the man-child said, before he bit into the leaf. Two chomps was enough of that, however, so he spit the stringy mess into his napkin.

“Brendan?” Didi began, as she came down the steps and sat down beside him. “Have you had one of these before?”

With a deeply furrowed brow he shook his head and cleared his throat. “I don’t think it is cooked enough,” he whispered.

“Here, try it like this,” she said, plucking a leaf off the stalk and dipping it in drawn butter, then scraping the meat off the leaf with her front teeth. “There’s not a lot there, but I think that’s the point. You eat an artichoke slowly, trying different sauces, even trying different wines with each bight.”

“Show me again, please?”

And Didi did, exhibiting even more patience and offering encouragement when he tried his next leaf.

“That’s actually really good!” he said.

DD pushed over another sauce. “This is just good old mayonnaise with a sprinkle of cayenne on it. It’s my favorite!”

Brendan tried that one, then all the rest of DDs concoctions, then he dove into his avocado, now really into the dinner. He seemed to watch Harry and The Doc as they sliced into their steaks with a kind of grim fascination, looking at their slices of steak as each progressed from plate to mouth, then he turned to The Doc.

“May I try some, please?”

“Sure, but let me get you a fresh one off the grill.”

The Doc usually grilled a couple of filets for DD and anyone else who wanted a change, so he got one of those for Brendan and put it on a warm plate and passed it over to him.

Brendan tried to cut the steak with his fork but soon gave up on that, then he looked up, embarrassed, as he shrugged.

And once again Didi came to his rescue. “Here, let me cut it for you,” she said, slicing off a bite and letting him take it with his fork. 

He regarded the meat suspiciously, then he took a quick sniff – and without any more said he popped the steak in his mouth and swallowed it as quickly as he could. Then he reached for his water and downed a glass.

“Well,” The Doc said, “what do you think?”

“Is that pepper?” Brendan asked, his eyes watering.

“Yes, salt and pepper, and a little lime-butter. Could you taste the lime?”

He nodded. “Yes. A little. It’s not what I thought it would taste like, but it’s still very strange, too. My stomach feel strange.”

“You might want to have some yogurt before bed,” Doc Watson said. “Your gut biome might start turning somersaults if you don’t.”

“What’s a somersault?” Brendan asked…

…and everyone around the table seemed to pause on hearing that question, each of them realizing that the man-child had never ever experienced any of the usual growing up things that they had… 

And again Didi rode in to the rescue: “I think we need to go down to the beach tomorrow. You and I have some serious catching up to do!”

“I may have to take some time off from work tomorrow,” The Doc grinned. “I haven’t done somersaults since I was in kindergarten!”

Brendan smiled but he didn’t understand what was going on, but then he turned to Didi. “Could you show me how you cut the steak, please?”

And Harry watched Didi closely for a while, not sure if she was simply ingratiating herself to Callahan, or if she was naturally gifted with children. He studied her face just then, the very extensive – and very high quality – plastic surgery she’d obviously endured after some kind of massive trauma to her face and neck, and then he watched how she interacted with the boy. Was she trying to apologize, in her way, or was this another classic set-up, only this time with Mossad written all over the effort? 

The question Callahan suddenly found himself grappling with was – did it really matter? If he wasn’t going to trust her, it didn’t matter what the motivation was. If what she was after really was some kind of cooperative sharing arrangement with the Israelis, why not just ask? Why all the subterfuge?

And it hit him, then.

If there was another group out there working along the same lines as Deborah and himself, would the Israelis automatically assume he was a free agent? Or might they want to find out if he’d been turned and was already working for this other group? Knowing the colonel that wasn’t exactly unreasonable, or implausible, was it?

No…for now he had to let this play out, at least for a while, yet there was another danger brewing now. The Kid had a gift, an innate, physical gift that allowed him to see and do things that he, Callahan, needed a piano to accomplish. And what if Didi figured that one out…? Well, the Kid would probably wind up being spirited out of the country to a secure facility in the Negev, and that’d be that. Harry was, after all, very familiar with that…

But then another errant thought slapped him, back to face the most potent danger of all. What if the Kid started playing the guitar and discovered the harmonic sequences needed to enter the Shift? The Kid was not simply immature; as far as Callahan was concerned his moral compass was a complete unknown. So now Harry had to consider how far he could go with Brendan – before his magic fingers peeled away the sky and the boy figured everything out for himself.

+++++

Debra trimmed sail then set the radar to it’s maximum range of 72 nautical miles and watched traffic resolve onscreen. Studying the various contacts one by one, she set bearing lines and guard zones for each of the possible conflicts, then she set the autopilot and went back down to the chart table…

The Dude was just sitting across from the table in the saloon, layers of dirt and grime all over his unwashed body, and she realized in an instant that the man stank. Like dirty feet…that had been in the same tennis shoes for weeks without a change or a bath. And he was still stoned. Sort of. Maybe. But she couldn’t tell if this was an act or not yet, as his aura was still a muddied mess.

She came down the companionway steps and Daisy Jane came out of her stateroom, and as soon as the pup saw the stranger she lowered her head and stepped close the hairy thing sitting across from the galley. She sniffed his legs, then his groin – and that seemed to get his attention. His eyes popped open and he looked around his (new, unknown) surroundings, then his eyes settled on Debra.

“I remember you. You have nice gazongas.”

“Thanks. Do you happen to know what planet you’re on?”

He snorted. “Man, was I out of it, or fuckin’ what?”

“You could say that. I need a name, if you don’t mind me asking.”

“I mind.”

“Okay. Well, we’re about twenty miles northeast of Diamond Head. Think you wanna make a swim for it?”

“Dan, as in short for Daniel.”

“Okay, Dan short for Daniel. I hope you brought a change of clothes in that duffel?”

“Duffel?”

She shook her head, tried not to judge the guy too harshly… 

“Look, lady, I’m tired and I’m seriously fucked up right now…”

“And let’s not forget that you need a shower. Care to use some bleach? For starters – please?”

“What’s with the attitude, man? I mean, like, I saved your life, right? And the next thing I know I’m out here and…”

“We’re headed to Ketchikan, in case you happen to be interested.”

“Hey man, like I don’t have clothes for that shit, ya know?”

“Well, I got a shower and a water-maker, and you can get started on that while I find some disinfectant to clean where you’ve been sitting. I’ll whip up some breakfast, that is assuming you can get clean enough so I can stand to be around you. There’s a clean towel on the rack, by the way.”

“Jesus, man, what side of the fuckin’ bed did you get up on this morning…?”

“I didn’t, Slick. I was up all night, trying to figure out what to do to save my ass, let alone yours, too. Now you should hit the shower. You dig?”

“Jesus H Fucking Christ,” the bearded-hairy dude said as he turned for the head, muttering something about “the rag” and “PMS” on his way down below – which delighted Debra no end. Until she knew exactly who this ‘dude’ was, she wasn’t going to take any chances, so keeping him on a short leash – for now – was the safest way to proceed. 

+++++

Henry took the helm and steered along the Hilo breakwater, rounding the entrance about ten that morning. He left Sumner and Tracy to stow all the groceries while he looked at the email from Debra, and he showed the note to the Old Man…

“I’ll get right on it,” the General said, pulling out his sat phone. “Where is she now?”

“About two hours out, passing Diamond Head.”

“I don’t like it,” the Old Man said, grumbling at the sky while he looked for true south. “Man. To get this far and now this? Her old man tried to take her out?”

“That’s the obvious conclusion, sir. Problem is, it’s too obvious. Something doesn’t smell right.”

“Options?”

“Converge on her heading, put one of us on board.”

“Do it.”

“I’m working on a best heading now.”

“I feel like waffles today, Hank. That sound alright?”

Henry nodded. “Yeah, sure does. Why don’t you see if you can get the spud to help.”

The Old Man nodded as he went below, and Henry sent an email to Debra outlining his latest plan…

+++++

When the Dude came back up the companionway he at least smelled a little like soap.

And – he was hungry. He hadn’t had much to eat, he grumbled, in two days. His diet these days was, he added, pretty much restricted to Doritos and Mountain Dew, and pot.

“Oh?” she smiled. “Solid food doesn’t agree with you?”

“The human fucking race doesn’t agree with me,” the dude growled. “What are these? Smells good…”

“Just fried egg sandwiches. Choice of ham or sausage patties.”

“They don’t look like they frozen kind…”

“Probably because I made them. Help yourself.”

The dude grabbed a sausage and egg sammie and launched into it like he was well and truly starving for real food, and by the time she’d taken a second bite from her’s he finished one sandwich and had started in on another.

“This is really good,” he mumbled between mouthfuls.

“Thanks.”

“Say, I couldn’t find my wallet, or my passport. Did you see them? Maybe they fell out on the floor on the way over…?”

“No, I have them.”

“You – what? You…have them? What’s up with that?”

“I need to know who you are, Dan short for Daniel. And what your story is.” She watched his eyes while he reacted, and his hands. Her gut told her something wasn’t right with this guy, that the wasted pot smoking thing was a ruse – and now his aura began shifting.

“So, what did you do? Call Magnum, PI? Have him run a background check on me?”

“Something like that,” she replied. “So, how long did you work for the FBI?”

“Twenty four years,” he said as he took another sandwich. “I retired two years ago, sailed here from Seattle. And I’ve been in that marina ever since.”

“Sounds exciting.”

“Sounds dull,” Dan replied, looking over their wake at the receding island. “I know this probably sounds stupid to you, but I needed some dull in my life.”

“No, not stupid, but you don’t look like the type.”

“Oh, and you know my type?”

“I know miserable when I see it, so yeah, I know your type.”

“So, who was trying to take you out?”

“You tell me. Maybe it was my father, or maybe you.”

He stopped chewing and looked up at her, then he swallowed hard. “Your father? Any idea why?”

“No. Do you?”

Dan smiled. “Nice try, but your interrogation technique could use a little work.”

“Funny you should say that,” she sighed, looking at his aura and suddenly seeing his thoughts in her mind. “Who are you working for — or shouldn’t I ask?”

He looked at her looking at him, at the way she was watching things he just couldn’t see, things he had no idea he was broadcasting, and he suddenly felt uneasy. “What are you doing?” he finally asked — as the power in her eyes reached out for him.

“Tell me your name,” she said. “Your real name this time.”

“You’ve seen my passport, my driver’s license. What else do you need?”

“The truth.”

“The truth? The truth is I was stoned out of my mind and I see some guy out on the pier with a pistol and he’s screwing on a silencer and the truth is I didn’t know what the fuck was going on…”

“No, it’s not.”

“Look, I don’t know who you think you are, but…”

“Not true. You know exactly who I am,” she sighed. “Now, the question is: who are you? But more to the point – who sent you, and why?”

Her sat-phone chirped and she picked it up and looked at the screen: “Daniel Wingren retired FBI 16 Aug 06. Has been freelancing counter-intel for both corporations and interested nations for past eighteen months. The trimaran you mention was chartered by a shell corporation two weeks ago, about the time we took off from LA. Assume hostile until proven otherwise. Adjust your course ten degrees starboard, we’re on the way.”

She put the phone down and looked at Wingren, nodding now as she watched his aura change from deception to aggression, and as he stood she pulled her Sig from the front pocket of her windbreaker.

“Sit down, Mr Wingren,” she said – stoically now.

“What is that…a P220?”

“Yup. Two Glaser Safety Slugs and five Winchester Silvertips, in case you want to want to temp the fates.”

“No, not really. I assume you know who to shoot that thing?”

“You probably don’t want to test out that hypothesis. Now, who are you working for?” she said – as she aimed the pistol at the man’s groin.

“Alright…alright…let’s dial down on the estrogen, okay…?”

“And that was exactly the wrong fucking thing to say to me, dickhead,” Debra sighed as she walked over to the rail. She knelt down and slapped the side of the hull then stood and waited.

“What was that all about?” Wingren asked…

…just as the big male orca slid alongside, rolling on it’s side and staring up at her…

“I’m only going to say this one, okay. Some people keep German Shepherds as guard dogs. I keep this orca. Now, I want you to walk over to the rail and take a good long look at him. Now, Wingren!” she barked.

Wingren walked to the rail and looked down at the orca. “Do you really expect me to believe…”

So Debra concentrated, established the link and told the orca what she needed him to do, then she sat back and waited. “Oh, you might want to lean over and watch this,” she said as the orca slid beneath the waves…

“Okay,” he said as he leaned out over the rail, “and what am I looking for?”

And just then the big male rocketed up out of the water, his left pectoral fin knocking Wingren overboard, then the orca circled around and came on the man from behind, gently grabbing him by the shoulder and taking him about twenty feet down – before releasing him. 

Debra waited for the sputtering man to surface, then she told the orca to gather him up and bring him to the swim platform, and she stepped down to help roll the completely cowed former FBI agent back onboard. And soon enough Wingren was coughing and slapping the deck as he tried to reconcile recent events with his prior understanding of the world…

She tossed him a towel and thanked the orca, then – with one hand still on her Sig, she helped Wingren up into the cockpit – and his aura was subdued now, but still not yet truthful.

“Are you ready to talk now?” she asked Wingren.

“How did you do that?” he asked.

“What? You mean talk to a killer whale?”

“Yeah.”

“I used to work at Sea World. We’re very close,” she quipped, “if you know what I mean.”

But Wingren shook his head. “Sorry, but Sea World ain’t in your file, Miss Sorensen.”

“Ah, so you know my name?”

“Yeah, and I thought I knew all there was to know about you, too.”

“Apparently not, huh?” she grinned.

“Apparently not. I picked up a couple of rumors about the aura thing, but nothing about communicating with other species.”

“Oh, Mr Wingren, you don’t know the half of it. Now, who sent you? I’m assuming my father doesn’t have anything to do with it, but only because you killed that guy. On the other hand, maybe my father sent you and you killed…who knows who? So, care to tell me what’s what, or would you like to go for another swim?”

Wingren sighed, then he nodded. “Mossad. My contact is a Colonel Ben Goodman.”

“Okay. That’s the who. Now, tell me why.”

“Because the people your father is working with tried to have you killed, and we want to know why. Specifically, we don’t know why they’re afraid of you.”

“Maybe you just found out why?”

“Maybe, but my own take is that it has something to do with the baby on the bridge.”

“I see.”

“But then it turns out everyone with you on the boat when you left LA was gone when you docked.”

“Gee. Imagine that. So the only hole in your story, at least as far as I can tell so far, is that you knew someone was going to kill me as soon as I arrived in Honolulu. That strikes me as pretty odd, Mr. Wingren.”

“You’d have to ask Goodman about that.”

“And Goodman is Mossad. But – why is the Mossad interested in me?”

“Not you, Miss Sorensen. The baby. The baby isn’t human, and that, apparently, has scared a whole lot of people.”

“Not human? I’ve held that baby in my hands, Dan, and it sure feels human to me…”

“There’s a video, apparently, that has led some to think otherwise.”

“People…in Israel?”

“There, yes, but also in Washington, and Argentina.”

“Argentina? My father has been in Argentina for quite some time, but I don’t know anything about that.”

“I don’t either.”

“And you’re lying again, Mr. Wingren.”

He sighed. “Man, I’d sure hate to play poker with you…”

Debra smiled, and just then the guard zone on her radar chimed. She went to the screen and looked at the vessel’s AIS information and smiled. Henry would be with her again in just a few hours, and this time she wasn’t going to let him leave. No, not ever again.

Now…all she had to do was stay alive until he got here.

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

Regarding the image of the tree above; a reader who drops by the memory warehouse from time to time sent the image of the tree, which I then took into Photoshop for an overhaul, adding the sky and darkening the overall scene. Photographer Neels and wife Ria run an inn in South Africa, and they surveil the surroundings for interesting trips to take guests on; Neels shot this tree on a recent outing – as well as a few elephants in hilarious poses. If you’ve an interest in touring Kruger National Park (the largest game preserve in Africa, BTW) it seems Neels and Ria may be a great place to start. If you do, please send pictures!!! So…let’s ramble on!

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