The Eighty-eighth Key (58.5)

88th key cover image

Can quiet be consequential? Of course it can, when the music matters.

Chapter 58.5

Ida watched Todd and Lloyd while they worked together – side by side, you might say – and she saw the contours of a real working relationship developing. Lloyd, because he was still genuinely impressed by Todd Bright and all his billowing fame; and Todd, because Lloyd was a better musician than anyone he’d ever known, and he knew the kid had an immense future waiting just ahead. A future he wanted to be a part of, to watch unfold.

But something else was going on, too, she saw. Something Ida was powerless to stop.

Since the incident at the bridge Todd had stepped up and taken on a more positive role when he was around Lloyd, and the boy was soaking up all the attention. DD had even mentioned it to Ida, and while she readily acknowledged what was happening she had no workable solution to offer – other than to separate the two and hope for the best…

Yet Ida saw something else in this budding relationship, one that troubled her even more. 

When Todd spoke about Harry it was almost always a glowing diatribe of some sort or another, a reflection, Ida thought, of Todd’s growing infatuation with Harry Callahan. And yet when Todd first learned that Callahan was still, nominally, at least, a detective with the San Francisco PD, he’d been impressed and depressed at the same time. He grew deeply paranoid for a while, until he remembered that Harry was basically a cool cat, but then came the news of the ambush at the Golden Gate Bridge and Harry’s tenuous hold on life. And in that cascade of troubling events something changed within the musician.

He’d always been a polyamorous sort, though all his relationships had been, generally speaking, of the heterosexual variety. And while he’d never had homosexual, or even bisexual affairs, he’d found himself attracted to Callahan. Now, on finding that Callahan was some kind of legendary homicide cop and that he’d flown helicopters over in ‘Nam, he found his feelings for Harry intensifying. And these new feelings were as confusing as they were troublesome.

Because he’d never thought of himself as gay. He’d never been attracted to men, not in a physical sense, anyway. But there was a very real connection now, something he felt on a visceral level, and the feeling was as uncomfortable as it was undeniable. Maybe, Todd thought, I need a father, or a brother in my life now. Maybe this is what I’m feeling?

And now Lloyd was foundering. His real mother long dead, his de facto mother gone for just weeks now, and suddenly his father’s life was almost at an end. Todd had Ida drive them into the city, to the hospital, so Lloyd could see his dad – but that hadn’t gone as expected.

Lloyd had grown pale and started shaking violently when he first saw his father in that bed; hooked up to a ventilator as row upon row of blinking monitors kept track of Harry’s faltering grip on life, the boy had fallen to his knees and begun crying, until nurses were called and a physician summoned. Ida called DD and a few hours later she and the doc arrived, and everyone gathered around the boy and buoyed him up before the drive back out to the cliffs, yet Lloyd had sat and stared off into nothingness through the entire drive.

And then he didn’t speak for days.

But then he walked over to the studio one afternoon and, finding it empty, he began working on a song about what felt like the meaninglessness of life – his life. About despair and letting go. About falling and falling until there was nothing left beyond the emptiness he felt. No words. Just music in the darkness.

He started on an acoustic guitar, a Martin D-45S his father had locked away in a climate controlled storeroom, but he found the experience limiting. He went to the Yamaha and stared at the keys before he started, then he easily found only the most melancholy chords, and he began piecing together the chapters of the song he had found in his mind.

He looked up once and saw Todd sitting in shadows well away from the piano, staring at him.

“What are you doing here?” Lloyd asked. “I though you were headed back to Seattle.”

“Thought I’d stay here for a while. Do you mind? I mean, will it bother you if I do?”

Lloyd shook his head. “Do what you want, man. I don’t care.”

“What are you working on?”

“I have no idea,” the boy said.

“It’s powerful. I’ve never heard anything like it.”

Lloyd shrugged.

“It kind of feels like grief. Is that where you’re going with it?”

Again, Lloyd shrugged – but Todd came over and sat beside the boy. “Play that last section again, would you?”

And Lloyd did.

“Are you thinking instrumental, or could I work up some lyrics?”

“I haven’t thought this through that much, Todd. I got sick of staring at the ceiling, ya know? I’m just searching for phrases inside tones, trying to work out the puzzle.”

“We need to get this down on paper, Lloyd. We can’t lose this, whatever we do.”

And so they worked. For days. Then a week passed, and then another.

So when the foundering boy reached out for a life preserver his hands found a willing substitute for his father. And yet this substitute was dealing with unwanted feelings of his own, for the boy’s father, feelings that were certain to impact the boy when and if they became known.

Everything was inevitable now, every moment ahead scripted by actions unseen and unheard.

Until, it seemed, this new little world was destined to fall away in clouds of dust.

+++++

Deep in the coldest part of the morning paramedics came into Harry Callahan’s room and loaded him onto a gurney. Everything hurt as they lifted his sheets and moved him across, his right arm most of all, yet most concerning to Callahan – suddenly his legs felt like they were on fire. Even so, Callahan felt real concern…for another, less apparent reason. The department was paying the bills, he had just been told, and someone downtown had decided it was time to move Callahan to a rehab hospital, one supposedly dedicated to advanced orthopedic care and better able to handle Callahan’s more problematic injuries. The trouble, Callahan knew, was that not one of his physicians or nurses had been advised of the move until a few hours before these paramedics arrived, and while it appeared that department bean counters had taken over his care, the first thing that popped into Callahan’s mind was more paranoid.

No…this smacked of a hastily planned attempt to take him out, to finish the job the snipers at the bridge had started. And he had no way of communicating with anyone…not a soul…and that was the most nerve-wracking realization of the whole thing.

Rolling down the long corridor to the elevator, the jerking ride down to the ground level, then being pushed through the emergency room to a waiting ambulance. A private ambulance, he saw, not a fire department ambulance – and that was odd.

His gurney was lifted into the box, then the rear doors slammed shut and were locked – and a moment later he felt the truck ease out into traffic, probably making for the Bayshore…

But from there?

Where?

+++++

DD and the doc put Lloyd to bed, then Ida and Didi began packing Lloyd’s clothing, then they moved to Harry’s room and did the same, while the doc went to the piano and looked out over the patio where they’d all spent so many evenings together. He looked down on the stone terrace and wanted to weep, if only because Callahan had done nothing to deserve losing all he’d built.

“Never again,” he sighed. “This is the end of an era. A changing of the guard. What comes next for him – and that poor kid?”

Three sedans arrived a little before midnight and Lloyd was carried out to one of the cars, his head resting on Ida’s lap during the drive back into the city.

+++++

Callahan relaxed when he saw the ambulance turning into the air cargo facilities at SFO, but no Jetstar waited on the ramps this time. A mechanized cargo loader lifted Callahan’s gurney into what looked like an old El Al 707-320c, only this particular unit had the QC mod, the so-called Quick Change modification that allowed for rapid conversion between passenger and freighter configurations. Once aboard, Callahan was transferred to a more substantial gurney and strapped down for the flight, but at least his head was level with the windows so he could see outside…

And a few minutes later the rest of his so-called family arrived…

A sleepy-eyed Lloyd came up the air stairs and did a double take when he saw his father already there, and Ida followed a moment later, carrying a couple of small, but apparently very heavy bags as she huffed up the stairs and into the cabin. DD and the doc followed, and then Callahan saw another series of cars pull up on the ramp below, followed by a half dozen FBI agents, each with a gun drawn, that came running up the stairs.

+++++

Yet the agents turned and watched traffic down on the ramp, their pistols fanning outward.

Until another sedan approached.

Didi and Colonel Goodman got out of this car and walked up the air stairs, and the aircraft’s flight engineer closed the door and armed the escape slide before he went into the cockpit. The engines began spooling up and the Mossad agents stripped off their FBI windbreakers and walked aft to take their seats. A minute later the 707 taxied to the runway and took off, heading for Toronto.

+++++

“Dad? What’s going on?” Lloyd asked his father about an hour later.

Harry was in extreme pain and the morphine was barely cutting it now; his skin was waxy and pale and the nausea was coming back again. A medic of some kind was standing over him again, injecting something into his IV, then wiping his forehead with a cool washcloth.

Then Didi was standing by Lloyd and Harry looked at her. “Maybe you’d better have a little talk with my boy now. I’m not sure I can just yet.”

+++++

“What do you mean I’m not going to be an American anymore?” Lloyd cried. “What if I don’t want to live in Switzerland?”

“In that case,” Colonel Goodman sighed, “you’d be most welcome in Israel.”

“Israel?” the boy muttered, his eyes full of questions.

“Yes,” the colonel added, “but tonight is not a good night to think of such things. First we get you back to the house in Davos, and do you know what? I hear there is still snow on the mountains there, so perhaps we can go skiing once we get you settled? How would you like that?”

“My music!” Lloyd shouted angrily. “What about my music?”

Didi fielded this question: “We are building a new studio at the house, but this one will be even better. And guess who’s coming in two weeks?”

“Todd? Is Todd coming?”

And when Didi nodded the boy flew into her arms.

The colonel watched the story in her eyes unfold, and then and there he knew any sort of happy ending would prove elusive. ‘The boy has asked not a single question about his father. Not one,’ he thought as he scowled at the reflections he saw in the aircraft’s window. ‘What would I do with such a creature? Spare the rod and spoil the child?’

Harry woke briefly when the old Boeing touched down in Toronto to refuel, but by the time they took off for Zurich he was already asleep again.

© 2021 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 last 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 (i.e., Covid-19 and me generally growing somewhat old) 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.]

Come Alive (27.4)

Come Alive image 3

Images…ghosts…what matters most? Music, perhaps?

Chapter 27.4

Five dark gray Land Rovers waited in the shadows beside a hanger at Le Bourget’s Jetex Flight Support Center, monitoring air traffic control and tower communications on their radios. The teams gathered there were watching, and waiting, for a Beech Baron inbound from Bergen via Köln. When the Baron radioed and checked in with Approach Control, Captain Mike Lacy made a hand signal and all the drivers started their engines, while team members in the rear of each Rover readied their weapons.

Lacy went over the plan again over his COMMs circuit: wait for the aircraft to taxi in and cut engines, then move in and cut off the exits with two units while the remaining team members surrounded the Baron. Take all the occupants into custody then move them to HQ Military Intelligence, and from there to interrogation centers around Europe. Simple. Quick and clean, and as the airport was almost entirely closed these days there was little reason to suspect witnesses might call the media with any concerning reports.

“Baron 23Bravo, RNAV approach for Runway 07 approved. Wind 09 degrees at 10, gusts to 15, altimeter 29.91, visibility one mile and we have a lite rain falling, contact tower 119.3.”

“23Bravo, RNAV 07 and nineteen point three.”

“Is that her voice?” one of the French policemen asked.

“Hard to tell,” Lacy replied. “I think so…”

“23Bravo, we have the localizer.”

“23 received, clear to land.”

“23 clear to land.”

Lacy brought a pair of Steiner binoculars to his eyes and scanned the skies west of the airport – until he spotted landing lights coming out of the clouds. “Okay,” he said. “Got ‘em.”

The Baron landed without incident and began the long taxi to the Jetex facility, Lacy not taking his eyes off the aircraft as it turned into the ramp area. When he heard the engines shutting down he shouted “Move!” into his hand radio and all five Rovers started for the Baron.

After Lacy’s teams surrounded the Beechcraft, men in black fatigues carrying assault rifles approached the little airplane, shouting instructions to the occupants…

“Get out of the aircraft! Keep your hands where we can see them!”

The door over the right wing opened and a female exited the aircraft; she seemed genuinely confused and more than a little upset as she walked down and jumped off the trailing edge of the wing.

“Everyone else! Out! Now!” one of the policemen shouted.

“There’s no one else on board,” the pilot said, trying not to smile and give up the game too soon.

“What?” Lacy screamed. “Where are they? What did you do with them?”

+++++

An old Mitsubishi MU-2G – U.S. registered and owned by a tech company in Seattle – landed at the Aérodrome de Toussus-le-Noble a few minutes after the Baron touched-down at Le Bourget. Anton and Sophie led Rolf and Dina to a waiting car, a new E-class Mercedes, for the ride to their first planned ‘safe house’ – a hotel suite near Orly airport. They would stay there until Tracy sent the ‘all clear’ signal, and then the group would move to a hotel right by the marina.

Henry was going on the assumption that Mike and the people from McLean were going to interfere with his Christmas plans, yet he still couldn’t figure out why they’d try again – beyond simple spite. It just made no sense…not now, when the game was played. Obviously they’d long-since figured out the files taken from his laptop were bogus dead-end traps that sent them off to a bunch of Thai lady-boy sites, and while he’d have loved to see the expressions on their faces when they realized they’d been had, he’d had to assume that they were now genuinely pissed off at him. Pissed off and ready for some real-time payback.

So Henry was sitting in the cockpit at midnight when Lacy and a handful of goons from Central Casting came through the marina gates. There was no pussy-footing around this time, either; no, they walked straight to the rear of the boat and were getting ready to jump across when Henry flipped a switch and turned on all the courtesy lights on the platform.

Lacy knew the way and led his men up and into the cockpit – where they shuddered to a stop…

“What the fuck is that?” Lacy asked, pointing to the shimmering translucent orb hovering beside Henry. One of the goons drew a Sig and pointed it at the orb.

“I wouldn’t do that,” Henry said. “This one is kind of unpredictable.”

“This one what, Taggart?”

“Mike, honestly, I have no idea. It showed up a few days ago and now it never really seems to be too far away.”

“It’s not Winky, or one of…”

“Pinky says it’s not. In fact, she told me these pricks are mean as hell…”

“And you’ve got one sitting on you now?”

“Seems that way. So, I take it your friends in Virginia weren’t properly amused?”

“You could say that, yeah. By the way, you’re looking pretty damn good for someone about to kick the bucket.”

Henry held up his arm and showed off Pinky’s magic tape. “A gift. To fight off something these idiots did to me and the pup.”

“Did? What did they do to you?”

“Some kind of genetic attack. This thing is Pinky’s remedy. I feel pretty good, too.”

Lacy nodded. “Okay, so where are Anton and Dina?”

“Safe.”

Lacy shook his head. “No, they’re not, and I wish you hadn’t interfered tonight. We were trying to protect them…”

Henry smiled. “Try again, sport.”

Lacy frowned. “Look, there’s a group in Switzerland trying to get at them…”

“Okay. If you say so.”

“Henry, you’ve got to give me something.”

“Or else they’re going to have your head on a pike, right?”

“Something like that,” Lacy said, looking down and slowly shaking his head.

“Leave us alone til the 26th and I’ll see what I can do.”

Mike looked at Taggart, trying to get a read on the offer, then he nodded. “Okay. We’ll lay off for four more days, then you’re going to give me what I need. Is that the offer, Henry?”

“I’ll let your team have enough information to find a solution.”

Mike leaned forward and offered his right hand, and Henry took it. “You’re welcome to drop by on Christmas morning if you like, Mike,” Henry added.

Mike nodded. “I’ll think about it.”

“Rolf would like it, I think you know.”

There came a faraway look in Lacy’s eyes, and then the faintest hint of a smile. “Yeah. I’d like that, too.”

“Well, we’ll set a place for you. Come by around ten. We’re going to open presents then.”

“Presents?”

“Yes, presents.”

“Should I bring something?”

“Hey, Mike…it’s Christmas. Ya do what you got to do.”

The companionway hatch slid open and Tracy came up carrying four glasses of cognac on a tray. She placed this on the cockpit table then went back down the steps and disappeared.

The two goons put down their carbines and took a snifter, and Mike handed Henry one before raising his glass. “Well,” Mike said, “Merry Christmas, Henry.”

“Merry Christmas, Mike.”

The translucent orb shimmered brightly then blinked out of existence – again.

“And you really have no idea…”

“None. Seems to be harmless enough, so far at least.”

“But isn’t this the one that did the genetic attack?”

“It is.”

“That doesn’t really strike me as harmless, Henry.”

Taggart smiled. “Things are seldom what they seem these days, Mike.”

+++++

He watched the men walk out the marina gates then knocked on the companionway hatch. Tracy and Clyde came up a moment later and Henry hooked up the leash and took the pup out for a strafing run, then they retired to his cabin. Tracy went to Karma to talk with her mother so Henry showered and then slipped under the covers…hoping she wouldn’t be too long.

…and then the orb reappeared…

It shimmered once again, brightly this time, and in the next instant the Old Man in the Cape was standing at the foot of his bed. Clyde looked up, his tail started brushing the blanket covering the bed and he seemed to smile – then the Old Man sat on the edge of the bed and Clyde came to him…

“Hello again, old friend,” the Old Man said to the dog. “You’re looking well enough this evening.” Clyde licked the Old Man’s hand, then the Old Man rubbed the top of Clyde’s head – and Henry recognized the bond. “He was always such a good friend,” the Old Man said to Henry. “I was gratified to learn you had taken such good care of him.”

“Gratified?”

“Yes.”

“So you attack us both with some kind of genetic…”

“Is that what they told you?”

“What do you mean?” Henry said, surprised.

“That was no attack, Henry. It was preparation. For what comes next.”

“Preparation? Next?”

“Yes, Henry. For your death.”

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

Come Alive (27.3)

Another short walk today, a few chance encounters along the way to think about music matters.

Chapter 27.3

“Schwarzwald?” Taggart whispered, but then he looked up at Edith again. “Quantum mechanics? Yeah, I had her for Quantum Mechanics, and I remember she was into QTT – in a big way. She was a weird one, too, but I don’t think I had any idea she was into music.”

“QTT?

“Hmm? Oh, yeah, quantum time travel. She was always coming up with weird stuff about that crap.”

“I see. So you heard the music somewhere else, but even so it’s strange you’d be playing that music in your mind.”

“Strange? How so?”

“The subject matter, I suppose. The work is supposed to be about her experiences in the Theresienstadt ghetto during the war…”

“Ghetto? I thought it was a concentration camp?”

Edith nodded. “I suppose it was, but anyway, her music grates on my nerves. I heard it up at the Hollywood Bowl years ago, right after von Karajan released his retrospective of her works.”

Taggart pulled up the music app on his phone and found the von Karajan set and downloaded it – just as another image popped up in Messages. Anton had moved into one of the Baron’s rear seats, allowing Rolf to sit right seat while Sophie handled the flying chores solo, and Henry watched a short video clip of their takeoff, with Rolf’s hands on the yoke – following through on Sophie’s movements – and Henry could see the interest in the boy’s excited movements and he smiled.

“Sounds like an airplane,” Edith said as she watched him watching Anton’s video.

“Anton and Rolf. They’re leaving Norway now.”

“So…six hours ’til they get back?”

“Thereabouts, yeah. They’re taking a longer route to stay over land, so they’ll need to refuel again. But the plane needs to be back by midnight, one way or another.”

“Oh? Why’s that? Don’t tell me…it turns into a pumpkin…?”

He smiled.“Not quite. Some local air freight operation uses it a few nights a week, something like that. Anton is building up hours with them, too, so I guess he needs to stay on good terms with them.”

That kind of talk bored Edith quickly, and he could tell she was going to change subjects and he grinned. ‘Some things never change,’ he sighed.

“Your skin looks better today, Henry.”

“Yeah, the platelets must’ve kicked in. As a matter of fact I feel pretty good, too.”

“Can I get you something to eat? Some tea, perhaps?”

He looked at his watch and shook his head. “Let’s wait ’til Tracy gets back; maybe we can head out and grab a PBJ somewhere…”

Edith shook her head. “Only you would come to Paris and get worked up over a peanut butter sandwich…”

+++++

They helped him out to the salon and when he saw a little Christmas tree on the chart table he stopped and smiled. “Nice job,” he said as he nodded his approval to Edith. “Looks like we need more presents under there, or Christmas morning could be a bust.”

“You want to hang stockings too, Henry?” Edith said, grinning.

“Sure, why not. Think you could handle that?”

“I bet I could.”

He looked at his watch again, mindful of Rolf and Dina’s arrival, then to Tracy. “Where to?”

“How ‘bout the Irish place again?”

He nodded. “And maybe I can hold down my food tonight. Anyway, it’s worth a try…”

“Maybe,” Edith snarled, “we could talk about something other than flying saucers!”

“That sounds like a plan,” Tracy added.

“Speaking of,” Edith crabbed as she started up the companionway. “Anyone heard from that Navy jackass?”

“Mike? No, I haven’t,” Henry said as he started up behind Edith, and when he got to the cockpit he helped Clyde up the last few steps then leashed him up. “You feel up to this, buddy?”

His tail wagged and he ‘woofed’ once, so that was that.

“You gonna try some snails tonight?” Henry added as they walked off the boat.

That was good for a barely detectable grade-A fart.

“Right. A simple no would have done it.”

It was a little after three in the afternoon and the sky was gray, the clouds low and thick, and  sunset was only about an hour away – yet the little park around the marina looked different now. Almost sinister, and when he saw the hair on Clyde’s neck standing on end a shiver ran down Henry’s spine.

“Does something feel – different – to any of you,” Tracy asked, looking up through the trees at low-scudding clouds and bare limbs dancing on a stiffening breeze, “or is it just me?”

Clyde growled, deep and low, and his chest stiffened as he positioned himself protectively in front of the women. Henry remembered Clyde had the same tape around his arm and immediately understood, but even so Clyde’s reaction was as priceless as it was troubling.

“I feel it too,” Edith whispered. 

“Do you think we should go back to the boat?” Tracy asked, now looking at Clyde.

Henry shook his head. “Come on, y’all…it ain’t Halloween so let’s get a move on.”

A light snow started to fall, then thunder rolled over the city.

And then it hit him. 

“Do you hear any cars out there?” Henry asked Tracy, and then they stopped and looked at one another.

“No, I don’t.”

She took his hand and they walked to the marina gates and all the while the snow started coming down harder and harder, so no one noticed the completely translucent sphere following them up there among the treetops.

And yet there was already enough snow on the old cobbles to deaden the sound, and with traffic not yet fully back to normal it was enough to provide another layer of strangeness to this evening’s elusive feel. Henry hailed a taxi and they rode to the pub in silence, the snow melting on their clothes in the heated Mercedes – yet even that felt odd.

There was something comforting about the old pub, however. Ancient and comforting.

The ceiling really did look as though it had been crafted of heavy timbers hundreds of years ago, and even the stone walls seemed to possess a kind of quiet nobility in their resolute strength. But, he realized, this was a sacred space for reasons far more personal. This was where he and his parents had always come on their first night in Paris, so he halfway expected them to materialize out of the stonework and join them for a pint.

But no, he sighed, that’s not the way the world works.

Then an invisible sphere slipped through the stone and settled near the ceiling between two ancient beams, the translucent eye within focused on Henry’s table.

+++++

They had just finished their first course when Captain Lacy walked in. With two decidedly unfriendly looking types by his side. They went to the bar and ordered beer, leaving Henry to wonder – once again – what Mike really wanted from him.

Yet…a few minutes later Lacy and his entourage walked back out into the snow.

“Now that was odd,” Edith said as she watched the door close behind the men.

“No, not really. He was just sending a little message our way.”

“A message?” Tracy asked.

“Yeah. My guess is he’s on his way to Le Bourget – to intercept Anton and throw a wrench into some of our best laid plans.”

“He wouldn’t dare,” Edith hissed.

“Oh yes, he would. As a matter of fact, Edith, I’m counting on it.”

“What?” Tracy sighed. “Oh no, Henry, what have you done now?”

Henry finished his last snail – Clyde looking his way with barely concealed contempt, which Henry felt odd…considering some of the things the pup did to himself. “Could you hand me the bread please. I want to soak up some of this garlic…”

“Hank?”

“Yeah, babe…”

“They say when you look at someone for the first time, within maybe a second or so you can tell a lot about a person, maybe even everything important. Whether they’re a good person, for instance, or maybe a bad one.”

“Okay? And your point is…?”

“When you looked at that guy, Mike, what went through your mind?”

“Well, things were a little weird that day, Tracy, but he seemed like a decent guy. Competent, and decent.”

“And now?”

“I think he believes in what he’s doing.”

“So…still a decent guy? Interesting.”

“Interesting?”

“Yeah, because…you know…doesn’t that kind of make you the bad guy in this equation?”

“He might think so.”

“But…what about you? You don’t?”

“Me? I’ve been going round and round, Tracy, caught up in something with no way to get off the ride.”

“And did he put you there? Stuck on the ride, I mean?”

“No, not exactly him. But Tracy, there are a lot of Mikes out there, and a lot of ‘em are convinced they know right from wrong.”

“Is that why you left?” Edith said.

“Left? What do you mean?”

“The states, your home, California,” Edith added.

“No, not at all. I wanted to make this trip. Here, to Paris. I always kinda thought that was what dad wanted to do, the two of us, together.”

“So…why not with…someone like me. A wife, someone important to you?”

Henry looked away, then he looked up at the ceiling. At a shimmer hiding within a shadow, and quickly he turned away, tried to compose himself. “What did you say?”

“Why did you head out alone?” Edith repeated.

“Oh, I don’t know really. Maybe somewhere along the way I stopped trusting people, and the more people I met the more people I distrusted.”

“So,” a suddenly very subdued Tracy asked – while still managing to look him in the eye, “what’s changed?”

“Nothing,” Taggart said. “And everything.”

Then Clyde looked up at the ceiling and started to growl.

+++++

There was about a foot of snow out on the sidewalk in front of the pub and the streets were now just about deserted. It was, he know, a long walk back to the marina – too long. And Edith was, of course, wearing her goddam five inch spikes. He looked down the street and saw a taxi pulling away from the George V and brought his fingers to his mouth and let loose an ear shattering whistle…

“Jesus H Christ, Henry!” Edith screeched. “You still do that louder than anyone on earth…”

Seconds later the taxi pulled up to the curb and the driver rolled down his window. “Où veux-tu aller?”

“The marina at the Bastille.”

“Too close. You can walk.”

Henry fished out his wallet, pulled out a banknote and handed it to the driver – who jumped out from behind the wheel and ran around to open the door for Edith. Henry settled in the front seat beside the driver and looked out the window, somewhat ashamed of his fellow man but not at all surprised.

“That reminded me of your father, Henry,” Edith said as she climbed out of the back seat after they reached the marina gates. “He’d have been proud of you.”

Henry smiled as he hooked up Clyde’s leash. “Somehow I doubt that. I think he’d have beat that man senseless.”

“Not your father. He was a gentleman.”

“He could be, but I feel certain you’d have changed your tune had you seen him in action down in Mexico.”

Clyde barked twice and pulled at his leash, so Henry took off after him and they bounded into the little park together…yet about halfway to his favorite bush Clyde shuddered to a stop and began growling again.

And this time Henry had no problem seeing the trouble. A man was standing beyond the gates,  positioned to watch them arrive, and even now he remained in the shadows – watching Henry.

Henry changed directions and started for the Seine; Clyde readily came along, his tail hanging low – yet when Henry and Clyde made it to the part of the marina nearest the entry from the Seine he was shocked to find the man standing beside a tree just ahead.

An Old Man in a Cape stepped into the walkway, blocking the way ahead, and Henry’s eye was drawn to the cane in the man’s hand. Varnished wood with silver filigree running the length of the cane, and Henry thought the glinting silver looked a little like lightning.

“It is a dangerous night to be out,” the Old Man said, his voice gentle, almost kindly. “Why do so many people follow you?”

“Oh? Who’s following me?”

The Old Man shrugged. “I have no idea. Are you saying you don’t either?”

Clyde was following both men now with his eyes, his tail wagging from time to time, then the Old Man stepped close and bent to rub Clyde’s head.

“Hello, old friend,” the Old Man began. “I told you we would see each other again soon.”

Clyde barked once then licked the Old Man’s hand.

Henry felt the universe shift underfoot: “Wait a second…you know this dog?”

“Of course I do, Henry. We decided on Bergen, because, well, you seemed so lonely at the time.”

“What…?”

“You should go below now,” the Old Man added. “The weather is about to get truly awful…”

And with that the Old Man tapped his cane on the pavement and deep thunder rolled over the city, then he pointed his cane at a cloud and lightning arced into the Seine – sending a column of hissing steam high into the air above the river.

But when Henry recovered he turned back to the man and found he was nowhere to be seen; Clyde was, however, looking up at him now, a kind, almost sympathetic look in his eyes.

“So…you were in on this too?” Henry asked. “I have to tell you, I didn’t see that one coming…”

Clyde came over and stood on hind legs and Henry bent over to meet him; when the pup’s hands were on his shoulders Henry lifted him up and Clyde rested his face on Henry’s shoulder, and he carried his old friend back to Time Bandits, rubbing his head all the way…

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates. And oh, here’s another little piece to consider.

Come Alive (27.2)

Short and to the point. Are you sitting comfortably

Chapter 27.2

Henry felt his phone vibrate on his lap and picked it up; he looked at the text and read through it quickly, then looked up at Tracy. “Take my credit card, see what you can find for him. You know, something he’ll remember twenty years from now. And maybe a scarf from Hermes for your mother.”

“Really? Mom?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, there’s a Bulgari Store over by the Arc, but Hank, are you really sure you want me to do this?”

Henry crossed his arms over his lap and sighed. “Take a taxi, Tracy, and stay off the Metro, for god’s sake. And call me if you have any questions.”

“Okay. I’ll be gone a while, so…”

“And I’ll be here when you get back.”

She smiled and left him looking at his phone again. It was from Rolf; he and Dina were at the airport in Bergen waiting at the general aviation terminal by the heliport. “Do you know when Anton will get here?” read Rolf’s latest and more than nervous text.

“Should be in the next half hour or so,” he replied, then he went into contacts and found the information for the team’s old Beta site and called Dr. Collins again.

“Henry, that you already?”

“Yessir.”

“Had a visitor yet?”

“Come and gone, sir. And thank you. They’ve been hard to reach lately.”

“Yeah, well, they’re pulling out faster than a Texan down in Boy’s Town. Can’t say I blame ‘em, really.”

“Understood, sir.”

“If you’re around Christmas morning, give me a call. If not, I’ll see you when I see you.”

Henry sighed and his eyes watered a little. “Yessir. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye, Henry.”

He put the phone down just as a new text chirped, so he picked it up and looked at the screen again. Anton had written: “Enter pattern, have 5 Bars, on ground ten minutes.”

“Got it,” he replied, and then he sent the information on to Rolf – who instantly shot back a happy face emoji.

“What a world this has turned into,” he said to himself – just as Edith popped her head in the door to his stateroom. “So, there she is, Miss America,” Henry crooned.

And she smiled this time. “She reminds you of Claire, doesn’t she?”

He shook his head. “No, not really. You’ll always have that market cornered, Edith.”

“But…you love her, don’t you?”

“You could say that.”

“She told me everything, you know. About that company in McLean, all of it.”

Henry nodded. “She told me. Yesterday.”

“So you two cleared the air?”

“Yes, I think so. Well, I hope so, anyway.”

Edith came in and sat on the edge of his bed, then she took a deep breath. “That’s why I came, you know? I wanted to make sure she wasn’t going to do anything that could really hurt you.”

“I figured that might have something to do with it. Your heart was always in the right place, Edith.”

“But, yes, I know, sometimes my head wasn’t.”

“Maybe so,” he sighed.

“If I ask you an important question will you give me a straight answer?”

He grinned. “Don’t take roundings on me, Edith. Just say what you came to say.”

“Okay,” she said as she turned away for a moment. “One thing has bothered me, Henry, but I need to know…”

“Did I ever really love you?”

“Yes.”

“Of course I did, Edith. How could I not? You saved my life – once upon a time – and none of this could have happened without you and me and the time we had.”

“So…why Tracy?”

He’d known this question was coming and he still wasn’t sure how to answer it…so he just dove in and said what he needed to say: “Let’s just call it a gift, Edith, and let it go at that.”

“Let it go,” she whispered. “I never really thought things between us could be so easy.”

“Oh? You know, for a year or so I thought everything came pretty easy between us.”

“There isn’t a day goes by, Henry, when I don’t think of all that.”

“What’s your favorite memory?” he asked.

“You and me and that week up at Snowbird. The Cliff Lodge, skiing Chip’s Run off the gondola.”

“The roast goose in the restaurant. Looking out that wall of glass at the falling snow – and that amazing dinner.”

“That lingonberry sauce?” she added. “You remember that too, don’t you?”

“How could anyone forget?” he smiled. “But…you were perfect.”

“We were perfect, Henry.”

He nodded. “Yes, maybe we were.” While it lasted, he didn’t need to say. “Funny. I wanted it to last forever.”

“I was a fool,” she said, looking away.

“We are what we are, Edith. We can’t fight it – no one can.”

“What? Being manipulative and a scheming backstabber?”

He smiled. “Thanks for not making me say that.”

“Everyone knew that about me, Henry, even then. Everyone but you, that is.”

“Maybe because I put you up on the same pedestal I’d put Claire on.”

“And I loved it up there. You made me feel like…oh, I don’t know, like royalty, like some kind of princess no one but you could have.”

“Me. The dumb jock. The linebacker…”

“I used to love watching you play, Henry. You owned that field.”

“I weighed a hundred and twelve pounds yesterday, Edith.”

“I know. Thank you for letting me stay.”

His phone chirped and an image of Anton and Rolf standing on the wing of a Beech Baron as a light snow fell on the airport in Bergen filled his screen. “Hey, look at you!” he wrote.

“This is SO AWESOME!” Rolf replied. “Thanks!”

“Enjoy the flight!”

“Is that Anton?” Edith asked, looking at Henry as he entered another text.

“Yes, they made it. Only an hour late, too.”

“Tell me about Dina?”

“She was my oncologist in Norway, and she was also a more than competent sailor.”

“Then – a match made in heaven?”

“No, not really. A marriage of inconvenience more than anything else.”

“Really? And are you sure she doesn’t still love you?”

“Dina? She hates my guts, Edith. You’ll see,” he said, then he started humming again…

“Why would you say that?”

“Because I bring out the worst in some people, Edith. And Dina is one of them.”

“I’ll believe that when I see it. And why do you keep humming that dreadful piece of music?”

He shook his head. “Man, I don’t know. I keep hearing the same thing over and over again, and I can’t remember where I’ve heard it.”

“Such a depressing piece. I can’t believe you’d remember that one, of all the music out there.”

“Do you know what it is?”

“Of course I do. You mean…you don’t?”

“No, I have no idea. Tell me, please.”

“It’s called the Theresienstadt Concerto, or Schwarzwald’s Third Piano Concerto. She was a Dane, I think. Imogen Schwarzwald, I seem to recall. She was a physicist and taught at Berkeley about the same time you were there. Funny you haven’t made the connection…”

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

Come Alive (27.1)

Come alive nav stat im small

A few more words to soothe the savage beast.

Chapter 27.1

Henry was sitting up on his berth, resting on a pile of pillows behind his back and neck and trying to ignore his iPhone. New text messages were coming in left and right and he knew he should read them all – but while a few were supportive more than one had been annoying. Friends from high school, a roommate from college, people he’d worked with…somehow word had slipped out that he was on the way out and people he hadn’t heard from in years suddenly had his email and text addresses.

Then an email came in from an address he wasn’t expecting, one he hadn’t seen in years, the ex-head of the team he had consulted for at Boeing: “Henry? Can you give me a call?”

No number, no other identifier, so Dr. Collins must be using the same number he’d always used. He went into Contacts and found the listing, then hit send.

“Henry? That you?”

“Yessir. What can I do for you today?”

“What the hell is S.V. Time Bandits?”

“Sir?”

“That’s what came up on my screen. I mean really, Henry…Time Bandits?”

“The name of my boat, Dr. Collins.”

“So, you steal the name of my favorite movie and use it for your boat? That figures.”

“I thought you’d like it.”

“Didn’t your dad have a boat with a name like that?”

“Yessir. Just Bandit, though.”

“Oh yeah, I remember. He was a stock broker, wasn’t he?”

“No sir. Lawyer.”

“Piffle…that’s almost as bad. Your mother was a physician though, if I recall correctly.”

“Yessir.”

“Well, that must be where you got your brains.”

“You’re probably right about that, sir.”

“Henry, I heard some troubling news last night. You aren’t doing well, I understand.”

“I’ve been better, sir.”

“I can imagine. I’ve also heard some weenie waggers from the Naval War College are after you. That true?”

“Yessir, but they’re pretty harmless, really. At least so far.”

“I just need to know, Henry. You haven’t told anyone, right?”

“No sir. I’ve left all kinds of decoys out there, but nothing substantive.”

“So we don’t have anything to worry about on our end?”

“Just one thing, sir. I had a visitor a couple of nights ago. A sphere, but not from the Hyperion Group.”

“Describe it.”

“About a foot in diameter, translucent and reflective at the same time, and with some kind of electrical activity just visible inside.”

“What about an eye? See anything like that?”

“Sir? You know about this one?”

“I take it that means yes.”

“Yessir. And they seem to have the ability…”

“To index our brains. Access our memories. That was our impression, too.”

“What about Dink? What does he know about them?”

“Vicious. That’s how he described them.”

“Great. Lockheed did that one, right? So, anyone know why they’re picking on me?”

“We’re not sure.”

“Would you like me to call if they show up again?”

“No, we’ve got that covered now. You just take care, Henry. Oh, mine is in the pancreas, so I’ll be seeing you soon enough.”

“Sorry to hear that, sir. And before I forget, and I think they drew blood while they were here.”

“What? Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure, yes. Both me and my dog. The puncture was pretty crude and both are showing signs of infection.” 

He heard the old man breathing hard, then talking to someone in the background, then: “Henry, call me in an hour at the Beta number.”

“Yessir,” Taggart said, but by then the line had already gone dead.

“What was that all about?” Tracy said, coming into his stateroom and carrying a cup of tea.

“Another condolence call.”

“Ah. Have you heard anything from Anton?” she asked as she passed over the cup.

“They had to sit out some weather in Copenhagen. Heavy ice over southern Norway, but they’re up again and due to arrive at Bergen in about an hour.”

“How’s the tea?”

“Is that the cardamom?”

“Yup.”

“Man, I love this stuff.”

She smiled. “You want to try to eat something today?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“Mom wants to put up a Christmas tree…”

“Of course she does.”

“On the foredeck.”

“No, that’s not gonna happen. A little one will fit on the chart table, just make sure she doesn’t scratch the wood with some kind of bullshit stand.”

She nodded. “Okay. Now the big question…what do you want for Christmas?”

He chuckled at that. “Oh, right,” he grinned, “well, let me think. Actually, I’ve been a pretty bad boy this year so maybe you ought to bring me a few lumps of coal…”

She laughed. “Ya know, I just knew you were going to ask for a Bulgari chronograph.”

“And my guess is Anton planted that seed, right?”

“How’d you know?”

“Russians have a thing for Bulgari. Maybe you’d better run out and see if there’s one around here. That would blow his mind.”

“Seriously?”

“Why not? I ain’t taking any of it with me, Tracy, and seeing the look in his eyes will be worth the price of admission.”

“You’re a lunatic, Hank.”

“Thanks. I do try.”

“I suppose you have stuff for everyone else?”

He nodded – and a split second later a pink sphere winked into existence over his bed…

Tracy screamed and jumped away from the orb.

“It’s okay, Tracy, I know this one.”

“That’s what you said last time…”

“Would you, uh, close the door on your way out?”

“What?”

“This is going to be personal, kiddo.”

Tracy seemed a little offended, but she backed out of his stateroom, closing the door as she went, and as soon as the latch clicked Pinky materialized on the bed. She reached out and rubbed Clyde’s head, but her eyes never left his.

“Let me see the wound,” she said, and he held out his arm. The area just around the puncture was bright red now and raised a little, and after she felt his skin she produced a little bag and took out some tape and wrapped it around the area. “Where is the one on Clyde?”

Henry felt for it then held it out for her to examine. “Right here,” he added.

She taped that wound, too. “It will take several hours for this to work, but you will feel very good for several days before the effect wears off.”

He nodded. “How’s the doc?”

She shook her head. “Not well, but he is still, what do you call it? Sharp? As a tack?”

“Yup. This other group? Are they going to cause any problems?”

“Not for you, Henry.”

“But the rest of the group?”

“You are the first they have tried to hurt. I doubt you will be the last.”

“What was it?” Henry asked, looking at his arm.

“More than likely a genetic weapon that is, we assume, supposed to bring on rapid onset dementia.”

“How sweet. I wonder why they hit Clyde with that stuff?”

“They have no idea what dogs are capable of, so I would assume they were just being thorough.”

“What do they look like?”

“Like grayish-brown lizard-people, only about a foot tall. And oh yes, and they shit out their mouthes.”

“Say what?”

“Yes, so don’t ever get into a shouting match with one of them.”

Taggart nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

“Henry, I must warn you. You are going to feel very good for two, maybe three days, but then the bottom will fall out. Do you understand?”

He nodded again.

“Now, one last question. When you first saw them, where was their sphere?”

“Underwater, just off the back of the boat? Like an eye…”

She shook her head and stood semi-erect. “Damn. I must go now, but I will be back tonight, after everyone has gone to sleep” – and then in the blink of an eye she was gone.

He took a sip of tea and called out for Tracy; the door opened instantly – so she had been listening to everything they said.

“Do you think Anton could make me an omelet?” he asked.

“Sure? Anything in it?”

“Gruyere and mushrooms?”

That caused an eyebrow to arch. “You sure?”

“Yup. And when you head out to look for that thing for Anton, see if you can rustle up some Viagra while you’re at it…”

“What?”

“You got wax in your ears, girl?”

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 58.4

88th key cover image

And yes, here’s a little something to think about while you read.

Chapter 58.4

When DD and the doc came back to Callahan’s room the next evening they both looked nervous, and once they were in the room and the door was closed behind them she came close and handed Harry a steno pad with some notes already scribbled down:

“Dell and Carl have bugged out,” the first item read. “Didi says the colonel will get in touch as soon as he thinks it’s safe to do so,” stated the second. “There’s something hinky with the a-chief…he’s hiding something,” the third item on the list said.

Callahan mimed ‘pencil’ and DD handed over her usual gold Cross pen.

“What about Lloyd and Todd?” Harry wrote.

DD nodded and started to speak. “That girl from the shop moved out to your house and she’s taking care of Lloyd now. Actually, Harry, she’s been a godsend. Lloyd likes her and she really seems to care about what’s happening to him right now, so that was a good call.”

“And what about Todd?”

“I got him a room up at the inn. Ida lets him into the studio and she doesn’t let Lloyd stay in there with him unless she’s there too.”

Harry nodded. “Above and beyond the call, in other words?”

“I’d sure say so,” the doc said.

“She’s a keeper, Harry,” DD added.

Callahan turned to the notepad and began writing again. “Get Didi in here, maybe dressed as a nurse or something. I need to know what the colonel’s afraid of.”

He passed the pad over and DD read it then nodded. “Can do,” she said.

“You two are the best,” Harry felt he had to say. “Thanks.”

“Anything we can bring you? A burger and fries, or maybe a dominatrix?” the doc smirked.

“No thanks. I’m trying to quit.”

Everyone laughed, even the FBI agents downtown monitoring the bugs in Callahan’s room.

+++++

Todd Bright was slouched on a sofa just outside of the studio’s lone isolation room, barely conscious and with a syringe still halfway in his arm, when Ida and Lloyd came in one afternoon. Lloyd saw him first and ran to him, while Ida had been around musicians long enough to know exactly what to do.

“Do you know where a first aid kit is, Lloyd?”

“Yeah, I’ll get it.”

She removed the syringe from Todd’s arm and put some pressure on the bleed, then she moved his legs up on the sofa and put a couple of cushions under his feet. When Lloyd brought in the medical supplies she took out what she needed and dressed Todd’s arm, then she took the boy back to the house on the cliffs.

“Was that heroin?” he asked.

She shook her head and shrugged. “I don’t know for sure, but yes, probably.”

“Damn.”

“I know. Now, why don’t you work on your homework. I’ve got to call DD and let her know.”

“Do you have to?”

“Yes, Lloyd, I do. The doc will need to come by and check on him this evening.”

Lloyd nodded. “I wonder why he uses that stuff?”

Again the girl shook her head. “Sometimes there is no reason, Lloyd. Sometimes it’s just a mistake that gets out of control, but for some people existence is a very painful thing. Heroin is a kind of painkiller, if I understand the use correctly.”

“You don’t mean pain like a broken bone, do you?”

“No. More like a kind of pain that comes, well, from existential angst.”

“What’s that?”

“I think some people get to where they believe they should have never been born, that their lives are a series of unfolding mistakes that they have no control over, and to escape feelings of hopelessness they retreat into a world such drugs promise. The real problem, Lloyd, is that heroin is a very false promise…because it can never really fix the underlying pain – it only makes life worse.”

“Then why do it?”

“Because some people are desperate, and false promises find a ready home in the hearts of such people.”

“But he’s such a genius, Ida. How can someone like that feel hopeless?”

“I don’t know, Lloyd. I really don’t know.”

+++++

Callahan leaned back and stared at the wires and pulleys supporting his arm. He tried to flex his fingers and though they felt stiff they at least still seemed functional. Yet his arm was probably a total wreck, and that meant two things. First, his time with the department would soon be at an end. His gun arm had to be one hundred percent, period, as anything less than that would simply be suicidal. Second, regaining any kind of real proficiency on the piano would take time.

But…why now? It had been almost ten years since the Escobar-vigilante nonsense wound-down, and after Frank’s passing the team had effectively dropped all pretense of going after them. So…why would they try to take him out now?

“Or did they?”

The Israelis wouldn’t do anything to him, period, so why were the department and the FBI trying to push that idea off on him? A diversion, yeah, sure…but – why?

A knock on the door. A ‘candy-striper’ pushing a cart loaded with magazines came into the room and walked over to his bed.

“This does not look so comfortable, Mr Callahan,” Didi said, grinning. “Could I interest you in a magazine today?” she added, handing him a dog-eared copy of Field and Stream.

Callahan opened the magazine to a typed page of notes – from the colonel.

“First things. Get well. Plan to move to Davos as soon as you are able. You are definitely no longer safe in the United States. Your enemy is in Washington, D.C.”

Harry reread that first paragraph and tried to digest this harsh new reality before he continued.

“We have looked at the possibility that your friends might be behind this, some kind of embezzlement angle, but we have found nothing to support that thesis. Further, your friends in the department are clear.

“When the time for your release from hospital comes, I recommend that we get you out of the country that day. If you choose to stay, I am afraid there is little we can do to protect you now as we dismantled the operation years ago. Let Didi know what you want to do. – G”

“May I borrow your pencil?” he said to Didi.

“Of course.”

He started to write, then he paused and looked out the window – thinking about his life in the city and all that had happened here over the years – then he continued writing:

“Set it up. Look into Swiss citizenship for both Lloyd and myself. See about getting a recording studio set up somewhere in the village, or at the house if possible. Get out to the house on the cliffs and talk to the girl there, name is Ida, and see about having her make the trip with us. Work with DD to handle the logistics. Would appreciate it if you can move back with us.”

He handed the note to Didi and she scanned it quickly then looked him in the eye and nodded. “Good afternoon, sir. I hope you feel better soon,” she said on her way out the door.

“Yes. Goodbye,” he said – long after she had left the room.

© 2021 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 last 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 (i.e., Covid-19 and me generally growing somewhat old) 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.]

Come Alive (26.4)

Searching but not finding…afraid to say…that music matters.

Chapter 26.4

Of course Edith did not get on her flight back to the City of the Angels. Really, how could she?

“I just can’t do it,” she said. “Not without my daughter!”

Mike insisted. Anton pleaded. All to no avail. The ride back into the city was hellish.

So when Henry heard those same five inch spikes clopping across his immaculate teak decks to the companionway ladder he smiled at Tracy. “See. I told you she wouldn’t be that easy to get rid of.”

“Funny. I never thought of my mother in quite those terms.”

“What? You mean…like a tick burrowed-in up to her neck?”

“Thanks so much for planting that image in my mind…”

“Hey. I try,” he managed to get out – just as Edith came marching in. ‘Like Santa Ana into San Antonio,’ Henry smirked, relishing her inevitable defeat.

“Henry Taggart! What are you doing with my daughter down here!?”

“I just finished cornholing her, Edith. You’re next.”

“You’re a goddam filthy beast, Henry! Now, Tra-Tra-cy, ba-ba-back to the bo-boat!”

Clyde raised his head and looked at Edith, then he shook his head and walked to the galley – but not before he raised a leg and dropped another silent-but-deadly fart.

+++++

“That woman like some kind Hell-Bitch,” Anton muttered after Edith and Tracy returned to Karma. “Genry? You fuck this woman? Really?”

“Hey,” Henry sighed, shrugging, “we all make mistakes.”

“Can’t believe she Tracy mothers.”

“That’s Tracy’s mother, Anton.”

“Ah.”

“Where’s Sophie? She afraid to come around anymore?”

“No, no, she work this week. Fly DC-10 Paris-Leipzig-Tehran.”

“Interesting girl. Does she think she has that job lined up for you?”

“Yes, but need DC-10 or MD-11 type rating.”

“Where can you do that?”

“Frankfurt is closest.”

“And what about the Baron? Is that still a go?”

“Yes. For the twenty-first.”

Henry nodded. “Well, see if you can sign up for the next class – unless you’ve decided you want to stay here and cook full time…!”

“Genry? Maybe can do both? As long as boat in Paris, maybe?”

“Fine with me, Anton, but Rolf will be her new owner soon.”

“He too young, Genry. Boy need father.”

Henry looked up from his “homework” at the chart table and sighed. “I know. That’s my biggest regret, Anton.”

“Your father must been good guy, Genry. You good father to boy. He need you.”

“Thanks.”

“Remember Honfleur? Chapel there? Something we suppose see?”

Henry nodded. “Yes. On Christmas Eve.”

“We go still?”

“We go still.”

+++++

“Mike, I know I’ve asked you before, but what are your plans?”

“I haven’t made any, Henry.”

“I can’t believe someone like you would be at such loose ends.”

“It’s been a confusing couple of months.”

“Confusing?”

“Yeah. I for one can’t believe you’re simply going to close your eyes and just die. It doesn’t fit, and the whole thing is keeping me up nights.”

“My death is…keeping you up?”

“That’s just it, Henry. You ain’t gonna die, are you? You and Pinky, you two have got something all worked out.”

Henry smiled. “You really think that?”

“I do. I’ve seen poker players with the same look you got these days, so I’m not buyin’ this whole death thing you got going.”

“So, let me see…death is something to be afraid of, right? So it can’t possibly be happening to me? Is that it? Because somehow I’m not gonna let it happen? Right?”

“You’re goddam right it is. Closing your eyes with nothing ahead? What could be worse?”

“Well, whatever else death might be, Mike, it is certainly a part of life. Human life, in this case. And no, Pinky and I have not planned some scheme to cheat my way out of it.”

“Yeah. Whatever.”

“Which leaves me to ask the question again, Mike. What about you? You mentioned before something about wanting to stay aboard and help Rolf. You still feel that way?”

“You really leaving all this to him?” Mike said, indicating the boat and shaking his head.

“Yup. Really.”

“Seems kind of irresponsible to me, Henry. He’s barely a teenager.”

“Yeah, I get that, yet it kinda seems to me that there are a bunch of fifty year old thieves running around out there, too. And sometimes, Mike, you can just tell who they are.”

“Can you, indeed.”

Henry smiled. “Yeah. Something in the eyes, ya know? Kind of like poker players, if you get my drift…”

“I see.”

“So, Mike, where will you be off to? Back to the states, maybe? I hear San Antonio is pretty nice…”

+++++

Henry crawled out of bed in the middle of the night and went to the head; when he looked in the mirror he could see that his briefs were spotted with blood and he scowled. Then he noticed the whites of his eyes were a little more yellow-orange now, and he nodded at the face in the mirror.

“Well Slim, it looks like liver and kidney failure, so what is it now? December nineteenth?”

He shook his head then changed his underwear, breaking out in a sweat after bending over to get his feet in the holes. 

“Well, ain’t this fun…?”

Holding onto the walls he made it back into bed without waking Tracy or Clyde, or so he thought. He turned and saw Tracy looking at him, then she reached out and took his hand.

“Was that blood I saw?” she whispered.

And he nodded as gently as he could. “My eyes are beginning to look like the Great Pumpkin, too,” he added, his voice trembling a little.

She sighed and squeezed his hand. “Is the weather looking good for Anton’s flight?”

“He thinks so. Anyway, they’re still taking off tomorrow at midnight.”

“Good.”

“So? That bad, huh?”

“You might make it to Christmas, Henry, but it’s going to be close.”

“Might?”

“I think we should go in first thing and see about getting some more platelets.”

“Yippee skippee.”

“Is everything settled with your lawyers?”

“Yes, and Rolf knows where everything is. Now, what about your mother? Is she still giving you grief?”

“No, not really,” she said evasively – which made him grin.

“So, she’s accepted the fact I’m checking out of this masquerade?”

She grinned. “Masquerade? Now that’s not a word I was expecting.”

“Sorry.” ‘But if I’m sorry, why do I feel like smiling?’

“But yeah, I think she’d like to mend a few fences, if you know what I mean?”

“We’ll see.” ‘Oh, this is getting fun now…’

“Okay,” she whispered knowingly.

“Milos is coming with some kind of stretched van early in the morning on Christmas Eve. He’ll take us up to Honfleur and bring us back.”

“So, you decided not to take the train?”

“They aren’t back to running a full schedule yet – and I don’t want to get stuck out there in the boonies. And I’m not sure Clyde could handle a day on the rails.”

“Anton told me what you’re doing for him, and I think it’s great…”

“Yeah. Classes start in early January. He should be rated by April.”

“And what about this kid?”

“Rolf? What about him?”

“He can’t live here on the boat in the middle of Paris by himself.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Henry, you wouldn’t?”

“You’re right, but we’ll see. Things have a way of working out.”

“Is that why Mike left?”

“Probably.”

“I never trusted that guy. He gave me the creeps.”

“Creeps? Is that a technical psychiatric term?”

“Yes. Very much so.”

“I haven’t heard that one in years, Kiddo. Leave it to a shrink…”

“What do you think he’s going to do?”

“Oh, I have a feeling he’s still working for them, one way or another, and I doubt I’ve seen the last of him.”

“Them?”

“Oh, you know, the people who still think I can fly that contraption.”

“Can’t you?”

He sighed, looked away. “It doesn’t matter now, Tracy, does it?”

“Is there some kind of secret to doing it?”

He looked at her again, ready to get this over with. “And…who’s asking this time, Tracy, because it sure isn’t you…”

“What do you mean, Henry?”

“I means I’ve done my homework, Tracy. It means that an almost unheard of private security firm in McLean, Virginia bought your boat four months ago, and that they transported it to LeHavre about a month before all the fun started in Amsterdam. And that means our meeting in Honfleur wasn’t an accident, and that someone did a really deep background check on me to even know you might have a way to turn me and pull me in.”

She sat up and switched on a light, never taking her eyes off him. 

“You see, Tracy, I have people looking after me, too.”

“And our meeting up like that was a little too convenient, right?”

“Yup.”

“I told them it was a bad plan, but they were pretty sure Captain Lacy wasn’t going to come through so they were desperate for a backup.”

“Well, at least they got that one right.”

“So? What do you want me to do? Leave?”

“Leave? Now? Why on earth would I do that to you?”

“Well, I can think of a few reasons.”

His eyes were like lasers now, white-hot and focused: “I think you and I should have a long talk tomorrow. Before you do anything else stupid.”

But she couldn’t meet his eyes now and looked away. “You know, when they contacted me they gave a dossier to read up on, including all the stuff they had on my mom and Aunt Claire. And I thought I had you dialed in, Henry. That I knew where you were coming from…”

“Did you really?”

“Yeah, I did. Then I met you and realized how completely off-base their information was.”

“Kinda makes you wonder, don’t it?”

“No, not really. At least…not anymore. Ya see, Hank, I made up my mind a few weeks go and there’s not a goddam thing anyone can do to change it now.”

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

Come Alive (26.3)

Ooh…it really makes me wonder.

If only because music matters.

Chapter 26.3

Henry thought the sphere might be translucent, but no…the surface was almost mirror-like, though he could make out his stateroom – as well as Tracy and himself standing there – inside the fisheye-distortion of the orb. And yet standing there he saw something else inside the orb, flickering pulses of sparkling light that almost looked like a thunderstorm was raging inside the sphere. Just beyond the surface reflection Henry was sure he could see the latent image of an eye, and that also bothered him. Yet the orb remained stationary; he reached out pushed on the surface of the orb and all he felt was immutable force permeating his little stateroom. Tracy, however, was still down on the floor, shaking in absolute terror.

He moved to the edge of the bed and sat next to Clyde, put his hand on the pup’s head and scratched behind his ears – and the sphere seemed to moved just a little, almost like something inside was following Henry’e movements, tracking his motion around the room.

“Are you okay?” he asked Tracy.

“Physically, yeah. Nothing’s happened yet that puking wouldn’t take care of.”

“When did you notice this thing?”

“When you went forward…it just appeared in the doorway out of nowhere.”

He nodded, then laid down next to Clyde, who opened his eyes – fractionally – for a moment before he closed them again, then Henry put his face next to the pup’s – until they were nose-to-nose.

“I love you, good boy,” he whispered. “Just be easy and get warm, okay?”

“Henry? Are you going to sleep?”

“Probably. Yeah, make that definitely. I think I’ve just run out of steam.”

“But…there’s…”

But Henry’s eyes had closed and he felt himself drifting off…

And immediately he felt the same presence in his mind, and even in this drifting state he was aware that whatever was guiding the orb was indexing his memories once again – as if ‘they’ were searching for something…

+++++

Tracy heard her mother coming down the companionway steps and stood. Not knowing what else to do about the orb, she draped her fleece jacket over the shimmering globe and moved to intercept Edith before she made it all the way into Henry’s stateroom. 

But…she was too late.

Edith walked in and saw Henry crashed on the berth, then her eyes went to the jacket hanging in mid-air by the door to the head – yet she apparently didn’t think anything of it as she went and sat down next to the berth and put her feet up on the comforter.

Then she looked at the jacket again.

“You know, is it just me or is there something weird about that jacket?”

“It’s just you, Mom.”

“Oh. Okay. What’s with Henry?”

“Exhausted, I think.”

“I thought I heard some kind of commotion in the water and I find you in here with wet hair and your clothes soaking wet…”

“Clyde fell in the water, Mom. No big deal.”

“Oh. Now…what about all that malarkey at dinner…?”

“Malarkey?”

“Aliens and spaceships, Tracy. Don’t play coy with me right now, either. I’m not in the mood.”

“I really wasn’t paying too much attention, mother.”

“Don’t give me that BS. I saw you, watched how you responded to that navy guy, and it seemed pretty obvious to me that you didn’t think it was just crazy talk.”

“Okay.”

“But the thing is, Tracy, it is nuts, pure and simple. And I don’t want you hanging around all this crap anymore. I’ve made reservations for us to return to LA tomorrow evening, so you need to go over to that floating hovel of yours and pack your duffel, or whatever it is you carry around these days.”

“Why mother…are you annoyed I’m not packing in Gucci saddlebags?” Tracy said, moving over to her jacket.

“Don’t take that tone with me, Tracy. I was prepared to find all kinds of goings on when I got here, but not aliens. I would have thought with you being a mental health professional that you would be trying to get Henry into a mental hospital…”

Tracy reached out and pulled her jacket from the orb, revealing the sphere hovering there.

Edith seemed unimpressed. “And just what the hell is that supposed to be?”

“I’m not sure, mother, but it just might be an alien.”

“Bullshit, Tracy,” Edith said, standing up and walking over to the orb. “What is it?!”

“Henry said he’d never seen this one before.”

Edith put her hand on the sphere and when nothing happened she pushed it once, then a second time – but much harder this time. When it didn’t budge she turned and looked at Tracy, her eyes wide now – as she was beginning to realize that something was seriously wrong with this picture.

“Tracy? What is this thing?”

“Mother? I do not know.”

Edith backed out of the stateroom and Tracy heard her running up the companionway seconds later, followed by Anton and Mike coming down right after Edith jumped to the dock at a dead sprint. Anton was the first to arrive in Henry’s stateroom, and he just about ran into the orb as he shuddered to a halt.

“What in fuck is this?” he screeched. “Not Pinky, I think.”

Then Mike stumbled in and stopped dead in his tracks when he spied the orb. “What’s this? A new one?”

Tracy shrugged and Mike leaned over and shook Henry.

Who didn’t budge.

Tracy went to Henry’s side and opened an eyelid, then she peered first at one pupil and then the other. “Fixed pinpoints,” she sighed. “We need to get him to the hospital.”

And with that the orb moved across the stateroom until it was hovering squarely over Henry’s face – pushing Tracy out of the way as it moved across the room – the meaning of the orb’s shift in position abundantly clear to her.

“Well, excuse the fuck out of me,” she sighed.

Mike leaned in and tried to push the orb away, and when that achieved nothing Anton joined in and they both pushed. Still nothing happened…and Mike shrugged then sat down next to Henry.

But just then Mike felt something inside his head – just before he fell asleep.

Within seconds both Anton and Tracy fluttered down and dropped off into a disturbed sleep, but by that point three more spheres had joined the first, each positioned over the face of a human.

And then a very small humanoid figure appeared on the bed, and the tiny creature walked over to Clyde and stuck a probe into a vein in the pup’s forearm. A moment later the creature walked over to Henry and did the same thing, then it – and the four spheres – simply disappeared.

+++++

Tracy opened her eyes only to find the noon-day sun streaming through the overhead hatch and the room spinning around uncontrollably, and then she realized she was having the worst headache she’d ever had in her life. The deep ache started in her forehead and darted behind her eyes, but then she felt little pinpricks that seemed rooted in her mid-brain and that seemed to be sending little electrical jolts down her spine…

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Mike said, trying to sit up, then rubbing his forehead.

“Who want breakfast?” Anton said, his cast iron aviator’s stomach carrying the day. Mike groaned and ran for the head off the foreword cabin…

…leaving Tracy to turn her attention to Henry.

She rubbed his forehead gently, then with a little more pressure, until he stirred a little before opening an eye. He moved his head a little then rubbed at his eyes. “Cripes, what the hell hit me?”

“Headache?” she asked.

“Bad.”

“Me too.”

“Where’s that thing?”

“It was gone when we woke up, and that was about ten minutes ago.”

He scratched at his forearm and then looked at the spot where the venous probe had entered. “Feels like an insect bite,” he muttered, then he looked at Tracy again. “Did you say ‘we’?”

“Yup. Mike and Anton were here when I woke up, and they’d been out too. My mother was here for a while but she left before all the fun started. Which reminds me, she thinks she’s got me on a plane out of here tonight…”

“Sounds like I missed out on all the fun.”

“Fun? Not really fun, at least not after she realized the sphere was in here with us.”

“See, now that sounds like a lot of fun to me.”

“You need a humor transplant, Henry.”

“Reckon you’re right.”

“Well, I’d better go check on mom. Be back in a flash…”

Henry nodded then turned his attention to Clyde, who was breathing gently but otherwise unresponsive. “Hey buddy? You ready for some fresh salmon?”

One eye opened and his tail beat the bed a couple of times.

Then Clyde bent down and began chewing at a spot on his forearm and Henry leaned over to take a look. He saw the same ‘insect bite’ he’d seen on his own arm, so he went to his first air kit and got some topical antibiotic ointment and applied some to both their arms, then he popped two Tylenol before he walked up to the galley.

Anton was poaching eggs and making a fresh hollandaise for Henry’s favorite smoked salmon eggs Benedict, and as Anton had already diced up a cup of salmon for Clyde, Henry carried the bowl back to his berth while making all his usual breakfast noises. Clyde sat up and ate a little, but then he slowly laid his head down and closed his eyes – leaving Henry feeling more than a little concerned.

Henry watched the pup breathe for a while then sighed; he went to the galley to help with the English muffins and set the table, then he texted Tracy and told her to come over for breakfast.

“Should I bring the fire-breathing dragon-lady?” Tracy replied.

“Sure. We could all use some fun this morning,” he added, then he turned to Anton. “You’re beginning to like cooking a little too much, Anton. You going to sign up for a cooking school?”

“Not bad idea, Genry, but like flying too much.”

“No reason you can’t do both. If you start flying private jets that skill could be a bonus. Something to think about, anyway.”

“I never like before. Now it is new, so kinda fun.”

Edith came clopping down the companionway in five-inch heels and Henry just shook his head because he knew she knew better. So, she was just egging him on, trying to get a rise out of him…which was par for her course. Tracy followed her mom down the steps and when she caught Henry’s eye she saw he was trying his best not to let it bother him. Not too much, anyway.

“So,” Henry began, firing the first salvo of the morning, “I hear you’re headed back to LA tonight. Too chilly here for you?”

“Yes, and I need Tracy at home so she’s coming with me.”

“Is she? Well, how nice for you.”

“How nice? Why on earth would you say that?”

“Don’t you just hate traveling alone?” Henry replied.

“I haven’t given the matter much thought. By the way, Henry, you look like crap this morning.”

“Well, I haven’t had my morning dose of post-menopausal horse shit yet, so cut me some slack.”

Edith’s face turned deep crimson. “My, my, Henry. I had no idea you’d matured into such a misogynist troglodyte. I must say, you wear it very well.”

“Thanks, Edith. I knew you’d appreciate the labor involved.”

“Can I fix plate for you, Miss Edith?” Anton asked.

“Just some toast if you please, young man,” she said – though a little too obsequiously. It was as if, Henry thought, she was trying to highlight her take on the division of labor on board – in order to fill Tracy with doubt.

“Miss Tracy? You?”

“I’ll have two please, Anton. Did you roast potatoes this morning?”

“I know you like, so yes, of course. You want lots?”

She nodded gleefully and Anton smiled as he passed a plate to her.

Soon everyone was gathered at the table busily ignoring what had transpired in the aft cabin overnight. Everyone, that is, except Edith.

“So, what did your aliens want last night, Henry?”

Anton looked at the ceiling and started humming the Russian national anthem.

“You know, I have no idea,” Henry said – but only after slowly cutting some salmon and constructing the perfect bite. “You know, Anton, your Hollandaise is getting better and better.”

“I’ll say!” Tracy added, causing Anton to grin again. “And your potatoes are phenomenal!”

“Tracy!” Edith interrupted. “You really need to pack your duffel. I want to head out to the airport on the early side.”

“Mom, I told you. I’m not going back with you, so let’s just drop it.”

“We are not going to drop it, young lady! You’re flying home with me tonight!”

“Mother? Drop it now, please.”

“Tracy,” Edith wailed, her voice almost a scream now, “how dare you take that tone with me!”

“Edith?” Henry said gently. “Are you sure you wouldn’t like some estrogen to go with that toast?”

Her face turned beet red and she started to stutter: “H-h-hen-hen-ry Tag-tag-gert, if you m-men-mention men-meno-menopause or est-estrogen just one-one more time I’m go-go-going to cut your fu-fu-fucking balls off-off…”

And on hearing that Henry turned to Mike and slapped the table with both hands: “Your Honor,” he concluded sardonically, “the Prosecution rests.”

Two hours later Edith followed Mike and Anton to the taxi stand outside the marina gates and they rode out to de Gaulle with her – to make sure she actually got on the airplane, because Tracy had asked – leaving Henry and Tracy alone on the boat for the first time in days.

“I feel like a teenager again,” she said, smiling at him as he curled up on the bed next to Clyde. “Maybe we should run away now, just for fun.”

“I’m sorry about your mother. I had no idea she’d be so…”

“Deranged?”

“I was thinking unpredictable. But deranged works, too.”

“She didn’t get what she wanted.”

“C’est la vie, darlin’…” Henry sighed. “That’s the same song she’s been playin’ for years, but even so I was kinda surprised she hasn’t moved on yet.”

“She was always like that?”

“Only when she wanted something she knew she couldn’t have.”

Tracy nodded. “It’s the old definition of crazy. Do the same thing over and over and somehow expect different results each time you try.”

“I reckon that’s her.”

“Hank? That thing last night? You really don’t know who or what it was?”

“No clue. My best guess is it has something to do with one of the other groups, and now for some reason they think I’m a threat.”

“Why? Because you might be able to fly one of their ships?”

“I don’t know why they’d think that…”

“Unless someone told them,” Tracy said, smiling innocently. “Maybe to throw them off the scent?”

What a strange thing to say? – he remembered thinking at the time. Strange…as in…Tracy suddenly seemed to understand more than she should have, at least given the limited information he’d passed along to her so far.

“Clyde? You ready to go outside?” he asked gently.

The old boy raised his head and farted.

Henry took one sniff and ran for the leash…

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.

The Eighty-eighth Key (58.3)

88th key cover image

A few twists and turns today on our way to the finish line…and in case you’ve forgotten – every picture tells a story and music paints the memory.

Chapter 58.3

His department pager went off and he looked at the little LED display and noted the number. Central dispatch. He looked up and tried not to smile. 

“What is it, Harry?” the doc said. “Something downtown?”

Harry nodded. “I have to call in. Would you excuse me for a minute?”

The doc and DD had come down to dinner, and Todd had managed to get all the remaining members of Bright to come up for some real studio time, so with Lloyd there too the patio was almost overflowing with people. So far dinner had been okay, but Harry was looking for any excuse to get away from the constantly bickering musicians.

Still, he hated to break up the evening because it looked like Lloyd was having a good time, but there wasn’t much he could do about it now so he walked up to the house and called in.

“Callahan,” he said the disembodied voice somewhere in the city.

“Who?”

“Inspector 71.”

“Oh, right. Callahan, isn’t it?”

Deep growl. Rumbling stomach. “Yes. At least that’s the rumor.”

“Right. Let me see…I got it around here somewhere.”

“Got what?”

“Oh, that’s right…patrol has a DB out by the bridge…”

“The bridge?”

“Oh, right, like the Golden Gate, I think?”

“You say so. What’s this got to do with me?”

“Patrol called for homicide and you’re on the standby call list this weekend.”

“I am?”

“Yeah, and everyone’s out on calls right now. The a-chief told us to call you in, said something about a full moon. He said you’d understand.”

“Did he indeed? You do know that I’m about an hour and a half out, right?”

“Yeah, right. The chief said to tell you the girl’s already dead so she probably won’t mind too much.”

Harry looked at his watch: ten thirty three, and he’d gotten up at five that morning. He groaned, then told the dispatcher to show him ‘en route’ before he went back out to the patio.

“Sorry to do this,” Harry began, “but duty calls.”

“What’s this?” Todd Bright said, clueless about Harry still working for the PD. “Duty? What duty?”

“Yeah – sorry. DD, I’ve to change so if you think you can handle things from here. Doc? You wanna ride in with me?”

“Can I? Yeah, I’d love to do that again!”

A few minutes later Callahan backed the 911 out of his garage, then he retracted the top and fired up the heater; the doc came out wearing a ski jacket and a wool beanie, ready for the ride.

“Man, I hate to do this to DD again,” Harry began…

“Yeah? Well, thanks for inviting me to ride-along again. Fascinating last time out.”

“Yeah? Well, maybe you should apply for the reserves. I’m sure they’d love to have a doc out there running calls…”

The doc laughed. “DD would really love that too.”

Callahan drove up the hill and turned onto the Coast Highway and hammered the accelerator, but he backed off a little as the Porsche passed 110mph.

“It’s amazing how little wind noise there is at this speed,” the doc said, grinning more than was healthy for someone his age.

“It gets really quiet at 130. Well, the engine is kind of growling by that point, but you get the idea.” Callahan squinted as his eyes watered a little, but for some reason he felt anxious and he slowed down a little more. “Might be some deer out tonight,” he said absent-mindedly…

+++++

He turned off Lincoln onto Long and, after showing his badge – twice – to patrolmen blocking the crime scene, he drove out to the little parking lot almost directly under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge…and it wasn’t too hard to find the actual crime scene once he’d parked.

There above the old fort was an almost circular arch spanning the space directly over the building, and a body was hanging from the center of the span. A half dozen patrolmen were standing on the rooftop, their Mag-lites shining on the girl; Callahan spotted the patrol sergeant standing almost directly under the victim and walked over to her.

“You Callahan?” she asked as he walked up.

“Yup.”

“What took you so long?”

“Long drive. I was on stand-by.”

“Well, obviously we haven’t touched anything. Matter of fact, we haven’t figured out how to get to the body…”

“Have dispatch call the FD and get them to send a ladder out here.”

The sergeant got on her hand unit and called it in, leaving Callahan to roll his eyes at the doc.

“This guy with you?” she asked when she was signed off the radio.

“Yeah. He’s a physician, works with the pathology department out at Stanford.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Has the ME been called yet?” Callahan asked.

“No. I thought we’d let you make the call.”

Callahan blinked several times, not at all sure he’d heard what the sergeant had just said or if this whole thing was really just some kind of prank. “Well, why don’t you go ahead and give them a call. Just in case, ‘cause ya never know, right?”

“Right. Say, I don’t think I’ve ever worked with you before. How long ya been with the department?”

“Oh, not long. Thirty five years, give or take.” He saw she was chewing gum and scowled.

“Oh. Funny I never heard of ya.”

“Yeah. Funny. Say, just for grins what say we call a CSU out here too.”

“Right. Good idea.”

Callahan turned and walked off, the doc about two steps behind.

“Jesus, what’s wrong with her, Harry? Is this a joke, or what?”

“No, Doc, it’s a message – from the assistant chief to yours truly. It reads: ‘time for you to get the fuck outta Dodge.’

“Why do you keep doing this, Harry?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Kind of the last link to all the guys. Frank, Dell, Carl and the Captain. All of ‘em, ya know? If I quit…I don’t know…maybe I’m afraid they’ll all just fade away – and I figured out a while back that I ain’t ready for all that just yet.”

“All that – what?”

“Gettin’ old, Doc – the long fade. So, as long as I can still pass the physical, ya know? Besides, every now and then I feel like I contribute something worthwhile.”

They heard a huge fire truck winding down the hill and turned about the time it came into view, so Callahan started back to the sergeant’s patrol car, the doc still a few steps behind and as usual trying to catch-up.

Once the ladder was set up and the truck anchored, Callahan made his way up the ladder to the body. He pulled out his penlight and looked at the angle of her fractured cervical vertebrae and the amount of skin on her neck abraded by the fall then made a few notes. He gloved-up then spun her body around so her could see her hands: tied behind her back, he saw, by someone who knew what they were doing. Defensive wounds on both wrists and her right forearm was shattered. He shined his light under her fingernails and saw skin, so there was possible DNA evidence to be harvested.

He took one step down and with his face even with her vulva he aimed his light between her legs and saw dried semen and grimaced. Whoever had done this had really gone to town on her, and he decided to call in a profiler and made some more notes. He climbed up again, even with her face and head and he examined her scalp, then around her nostrils. 

“Grayish-white powder around the nose,” he said as he wrote more notes – then a flash caught his eye – just as heavy automatic weapons fire erupted from one of the towers overhead.

He felt a round slam into his right humerus, then another hit his left thigh. Cops on the roof of the fort were returning fire, and he looked down in time to see the sergeant standing down by the fire truck shooting at someone on the bridge – just before another round hit his left knee.

“I’m losing blood, fast…” he said to no one in particular. “So, this is it, eh? This is how I go out…not with a whimper but with a bang?”

He felt the ladder move, thought he was getting closer to the ground, then the doc was by his side – along with a bunch of paramedics. He was looking at the ceiling in the ambulance when he saw June up there, smiling from somewhere beyond the lights in the ceiling, so he closed his eyes and rode into the light.

+++++

‘Isn’t that the girl from the music shop? Ida something? Was that her name?’ 

She had just walked into Callahan’s hospital room and was dropping off some flowers from the team at the shop. He still wasn’t talking but at least Callahan was conscious now, and all the employees at the shop had decided to wait until he was out of the woods before doing the whole flowers thing.

He watched her come in and set a green vase on the deep window sill closest to his bed, and  when she looked at him he smiled a little, and even tried to wave with his good arm. The nurses at the station had told her to avoid talking to him, to just drop off the flowers and leave, but when she saw his smile she couldn’t help it. She walked to his bedside and not really knowing why she took his hand.

“How are you feeling now?”

He tried to say something but his throat was raw; he’d been on a ventilator for almost two weeks and his physician had told him it might take a few days for his throat to heal enough to talk without major pain.

“You don’t have to say anything…”

“Need to talk to you,” Harry whispered. “Before something happens.”

“What? What do you…?”

“About the Third. The concerto. I need to tell you about it,” he said, the burning in his windpipe suddenly excruciating.

“Okay.”

“As soon as I can, we need to sit and I’ll tell you what you need to know.”

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?”

“Staring. You are staring at me.”

“Was I? I’m sorry. A memory, sudden, hit me.”

She nodded, then one of Callahan’s nurses came in and ran her out of the room, and Harry watched Ida as she fled in feigned terror, smiling as she turned and looked at him before she disappeared from view.

“Now that’s a pretty girl,” his nurse said. “Where is that accent from?”

“Denmark.”

“Remarkably pretty,” the doc said as he poked his head in the door. “Feel like sitting up and listening to me ramble on for a while?”

They raised the head of his bed and shifted the pulleys and wires supporting his arm, even so he felt nauseated and sweaty by the time they were through moving him. “I think I’m gonna be sick,” he moaned, then his nurse injected something in his IV and he felt an impressive wave of warmth wash over him, and as suddenly he relaxed – completely – like he was drifting away on a cloud.

He laid his head back and closed his eyes as he drifted along, trying his best to listen to the doc as he talked about how Lloyd was getting on while staying at their house, and that Todd was still in the studio working on the new album.

“Is anyone supervising them?” Harry asked.

“No. Todd has the key so I just kind of assumed it was okay if he comes and goes…”

Harry shook his head, then took a deep breath before speaking. “Get DD to see if someone from the shop can stay out there and keep an eye on things.”

“Stay out there? You mean in the house?”

“Too far to drive.”

“You trust them?”

Harry nodded. “If I can’t trust them who can I trust?”

“Okay.”

“Now…tell me about what happened out at the bridge…”

The doc sighed, then he looked away. “It’s complicated, Harry.”

“Complicated?”

“Yeah. I’m not supposed to talk to you about it.”

“What? Why not?”

“I don’t really know, Harry. Your assistant chief laid that on me…”

“The shooter?”

“Gone. No trace. And it was shooters, probably two, maybe three.”

“What about the victim. Did they identify her?”

“Yeah, well, that’s the problem.”

“Doc? What are you not telling me?”

The doc looked around as if he was afraid to talk now, then he moved close to Callahan. “The thing is, Harry, she was FBI, and they think she was bait.”

“Bait?”

“Yeah. A lot of the calls Homicide went out on that night turned out to be bogus, like they were trying to get you called out – at least the a-chief thinks so.”

“That’s a stretch…”

“Yeah, maybe, but the thing is…well…all the evidence points to the shooters, well Harry, ya see…the FBI thinks it was an Israeli team…”

© 2021 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 last 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 (i.e., Covid-19 and me generally growing somewhat old) 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.]

Come Alive (26.2)

Those gentle voices are here, explaining all with a sigh.

Chapter 26.2

He couldn’t tell what he was looking at, not even if it was alive – or even something else, like a machine…

As the first rush of fear subsided, as confusion turned to curiosity and as Tracy’s shock morphed into a desire to run – anywhere – he tried to hold onto his sense of reality as he stared into what appeared to be – an eye. A huge eye, true, but the thing down there in the water looked just like an eye.

“Is that what I think it is,” he whispered.

“If you think it’s your eye you’re right on the money.”

“My eye? What are you talking about?”

“Blink again, would you, but this time with your left eye only…”

He closed his left eye and the eye in the water disappeared, but when he reopened his eye the doppelgänger in the water reappeared.

“Now…try the right,” she whispered.

He slowly closed his right eye and held it shut, and once again the eye in the water disappeared. “Well, that’s not something you see everyday,” he sighed. “Is it real, ya think?”

“At this point, Hank, I have no idea what’s going on…”

He blinked his right eye several times in rapid succession and they watched as the eye in the water disappeared and reappeared as quickly, then Henry stood on the swim platform and stared at the thing, now at a complete loss…

Then, without thinking, he jumped into the water, hoping to land right in the middle of the eye.

+++++

It felt as if he had landed in something like honey, something not as sticky yet thickly viscous even so. Thick, and exerting an inward force that made it difficult to breath – then he realized he was was awash in overwhelmingly bright light. And it was everywhere – not simply coming from a single point source – and that just didn’t make any sense at all. Vertigo hit when he couldn’t tell how he was oriented – because in this sudden shift there simply was no longer any up or down – indeed, no reference to any ‘external world’ at all.

Then upsetting him most of all, he felt some – thing – in his mind. He couldn’t understand the feeling, not when it first began, but soon he saw a rapid succession of memories flashing through his mind’s eye and realized this something was literally going through his mind, apparently searching for something specific.

And he was powerless to resist.

He closed his eyes and drifted, trying to ignore the flood of unwanted memory – until he felt a sudden shift –

And when he opened his eyes he realized he was hundreds of miles above the earth. Above Paris, if he wasn’t mistaken, and now the viscous goo was gone.

He looked around for evidence of some kind of structure – but saw nothing. He reached out – and felt nothing. He tried to walk – but there was nothing underfoot. Yet he was breathing.

He closed his eyes and leaned his head back and reached out for Pinky and in his mind he saw the moon beyond the earth, yet his eye had taken the moon’s place – and when he blinked the moon disappeared. He opened his eyes and saw the moon again and he felt a little relieved.

He turned his head again, then he looked down. He could see Paris between a mottled deck of clouds, her lights peeking out between low lying clouds just thick enough to obscure the real contours of the city…

So close. So far away.

He reached out as if he trying to grab hold of the city and pull himself back through the clouds, then he shook his head as the feeling returned…

‘…something is going through my mind, looking for…?’

There!

Inside the mountain. Outside of Seattle. The security gates. Dr. Collins and the rest of the team.

Inside the Boeing Group’s reconstructed vehicle.

Sitting at the panel. Reaching out.

He closed his eyes and relaxed as best he could.

‘Move…up…’

His body accelerated away from the earth and he grinned.

‘Stop.’

Now he was hundreds of thousands of miles beyond the blinking eye of the moon, adrift within fields of dancing asteroids.

‘Go back…to the exact same place in orbit.’

The acceleration and deceleration was almost instantaneous, the distance covered in the time it took to think about it trip.

‘To the marina, just behind the swim platform, a foot above the water.’

Tracy was still sitting there, still looking down into the water, when he reappeared – and she screamed when his body seemed to materialize out of nothingness.

And he was standing there. A foot above the water.

When she realized what she was looking at she stood and moved to the aft deck, shaking through her sidelong gaze while she tried to reconcile the dissonant bile rising in her throat.

“Can you come here, please?” he asked.

“What?”

“I want to see if something works the way I think it might.”

“Henry! You just jumped in the water and a millisecond later you’re naked and just standing there…tell me what the fuck is going on!”

Then Clyde was there beside her and he barked once before he ambled down to the swim platform. He walked over to the edge and looked down, saw that the skinny white guy wasn’t standing on anything and he barked again.

Henry knelt then reached out and scratched Clyde behind the ears. All resistance melted away and the pup stepped out and settled next to Henry, then he looked up expectantly, and a little nervously.

“Tracy. Come on. I need to try something.”

She came down and stood close to the edge of the swim platform and looked past Clyde down into the water.

“Come on. Give me your hand.”

She reached out and took it, then slowly stepped away from Time Bandits.

Then she was by his side, holding on tight, her eyes squeezed shut.

‘Back to the same spot in orbit.’

Instantly the three of them were hundreds of miles above the earth.

Clyde farted…

Tracy sniffed the air, her nose wrinkled in disgust.

“There’s an atmosphere,” Henry said. “But…how can that be…?”

He looked down and around but he still couldn’t see anything that even remotely resembled a structure of any kind.

Then, a leap of faith.

‘Show the instrument panel.’

A panel appeared, and dozens of displays as well. They were of unrecognizable function, and he’d never seen anything like them before.

‘Show the rest of the ship.’

The cockpit took shape, and several corridors leading from the cockpit led, presumably, to other parts of the ship. He could feel Tracy shaking all over now, and Clyde have moved closer and was now sitting on his feet.

He took a deep breath and held it, then…

‘Show the rest of the crew.’

And in the next instant they were in the water behind Time Bandits, thrashing away as their surroundings began to register…

+++++

He carried Clyde down the companionway steps right to the shower in the aft head, then, when the water had warmed up a bit he stepped in and held the old boy under the spray until his shivering stopped. Clyde rested his head on Henry’s shoulder and moaned once, and Henry massaged Clyde’s back, letting the water work its magic…

“Can I get you anything?” Tracy asked when she arrived.

“Lay out some towels on the bed, would you? And hand me a couple to use in here.”

“Where are they?”

“Bottom drawer, just to your left.”

“Got it,” she said. “How many will you need?”

“Call it three.”

“Right.”

He turned off the water and took a towel from her, and he patted Clyde dry then wrapped him in another fresh towel and carried him to the bed. With two more towels wrapped around him he seemed content. A Golden Retriever burrito, Henry called it…then he looked at his watch.

“Ten-thirty-seven?” he said, clearly not believing what he saw on his wrist.

“That’s not right,” Tracy replied. “I have one fifteen on mine, and on my phone, too.”

Taggart went to slip on some clothes then up to the chart table; the old mechanical clock there showed one seventeen in the morning, so there was a nine hour and change discrepancy…

‘Which has to be about the amount of time I was stuck in that goo…’

He walked back to his cabin and found Tracy coiled up on the floor, stark terror in her eyes.

He followed her eyes until he found what she was looking at…

Pinky’s pale pink sphere, hovering in the doorway to the head.

“It’s okay,” he said to Tracy. “She’s a friend.”

“A friend? Henry, are you out of your fucking mind!?”

He turned to the sphere and spoke to it: “Go ahead. There’s plenty of space on the bed…”

Then he looked at the sphere again. This one was different. Not Pinky. Probably not even her people.

He crossed his arms defensively and then waited for it to make the next move…

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next element will drop as soon as the muse cooperates.