Intermezzo 2

Intermezzo Sm

I see, said the blind man as he stepped onto the roller coaster.

Oh…never mind. Better go put some water on for tea. A few ups and downs for you here, so hang on tight – and beware of things that go bump in the night.

[Howard Shore \\The Grey Havens]

Intermezzo    Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus

Part II: The Guitar Man

His dreams came in numbers, and perhaps they always had. 

His waking life had been defined by set patterns of being, from the way he ate to his limited means of expression. One morning a physician called it autism, and it had seemed to the boy that his mother was very upset by the word. He was three years old at the time and so he did not understand what the word meant, so when he arrived back at his parent’s house later that day he read one of his mother’s neurology textbooks, at least as much as he needed to understand what autism was.

And he was sure then that he wasn’t autistic, and that the physician’s diagnosis was not even close.

But he had soon been systematically labeled and categorized and, to a degree, studied, all the result of being so defined by an unfazed hierarchy of notably bright neurologists. They knew what he was because that was the way he had to be; square pegs and round holes were not to be tolerated.

Yet by the time the boy was five years old these very same physicians had discarded that diagnosis. Autistic toddlers rarely read medical texts, but Brendan Geddes did and that was that. “It must be something we haven’t run across before,” Brendan overheard his mother telling his father one night after he’d brushed his teeth and climbed into bed. 

And night was his favorite time of day. The anticipation, all his impatient waiting about to come to an end. Before the dreams came, anyway. Because when his eyes closed on their own…that was when the real fun began.

+++++

His father was a curious sort of musician. He rarely played an instrument, unless of course you considered a symphony orchestra an instrument. Because his father wrote soundtracks to movies, he had become something of a celebrity. He had golden statues on the mantle in his study, and when guests came over for parties everyone wanted to see them. The toddler thought that was very odd indeed.

But Brendan rarely saw these parties, as important as they seemed to be to his parents. 

For he was usually contained in an upstairs suite with a nanny, though once he heard one of these girls say something like he was “out of sight, out of mind,” and while he wasn’t exactly sure what all that meant, he was sure that it seemed to hurt more than just a little.

Teachers came to the Geddes house on Foothill Road in Beverly Hills, and they came to teach him about the world beyond these walls, and how to communicate with the people beyond the walls of his life.

There was a very strange house next door to the Geddes house, a house that appeared to have no windows, and as the boy grew he began to look for the girl who he knew lived in the house. Because he was pretty sure he was going to love her one day, and that he would marry this girl and have a child with her. He knew this because his teachers told him this was so. And no, not the silly teachers that came during the day. His other teachers told him that in the deepest part of the night.

One day, and this was when he was seven years old, he heard his father downstairs playing the piano so he went down to investigate. His father was hardly ever at home and never played the piano when he was, so it was a little unusual to find him at home working at his piano. And, as the boy had never expressed any interest in music, he’d never had any lessons. He hardly knew, in fact, what a piano did.

But he watched as his father’s hands moved across the keyboard and he began to see numerical relationships form in his mind, and as his father developed the song’s melody he began to see ever more intricate patterns shift and form in a space beyond his mind.

And then his father saw him standing there and he stopped playing – and the patterns seemed to hesitate then to turn to dust and fall away.

“Hey, Spud, what are you up to?” his father asked.

“I was watching your patterns.”

“My…patterns?”

“When you play I see numerical patterns form.”

His father seemed a little disconcerted by this revelation. “What kinds of patterns do you see?”

“I’m not sure how to describe it, Father. It is like you are playing an emotion, maybe like the feelings you have for mother. I can show you if you like?”

“You…can…show me?”

“Yes, of course. I watched you play so now I think I can too.”

“Oh, well then, by all means,” his father said, now very unsure of the moment, “please come and show me.”

And so the boy sat where his father had and he began to play without any hesitation, and while at first he played with his eyes wide open soon enough he closed his eyes and let the music of his emotions out to play for the first time in his life. He played for perhaps a half hour and when he was finished he turned to his father and was dismayed to find him openly weeping.

“Is this how you feel?” his father finally asked, heartbroken. “Have you really been so alone?”

“Yes, father,” the boy said, “but I feel better now.”

+++++

So music teachers now came to the Geddes house, along with all his other teachers, and soon enough one of these new teachers came with something new, an acoustic guitar. The boy watched the teacher play the instrument and he could instantly see how difficult it was to shape these new chords, yet he was also mesmerized by the purity of the tones he saw in the air dancing above the instrument.

It took him a few weeks to master this peculiar new instrument, and a few more weeks to learn to fully see all the new patterns he could create, and his father watched in awe as this latent ability burst forth like a flower under the sun. Still, as he watched his son play his new guitar, he wondered where the inspiration for all this hidden music was coming from, for he heard emotive expressions that rarely came from such an acoustically limited instrument. 

But, perhaps, the boy’s father would have been surprised by the source.

For Brendan had watched people all his life. Their infinite interactions fascinated him, especially the people who came to parties at his parent’s house. Sometimes he had watched from his bedroom window as people gathered below around the swimming pool, and other times, when he was older, he watched people as they gathered around his father. Women behaved one way towards his father, while men operated in other, much more peculiar ways. Men strutted about in puffed up dominance dances, almost like the frigate birds he’d seen in nature documentaries, while the women they sought walked between suitors with coy, measured movements. He loved to watch these women as they sat in muted clusters, their silken legs swishing about in ways that could only be to attract these men, and he began to see these interactions as equations. Equations to be constructed. Human variables to be accounted for, one by one. Variables the boy catalogued as he watched the guests at parties in his parent’s house.

And then one night, a few weeks after he started playing the guitar, the girl next door came to one of his parent’s parties and his world began to change. Because his outlook began to change. 

Though she was – by all appearances, anyway – a few years older than he, the boy no longer wanted to observe. He wanted to participate. He wanted to play the dominance games he had only witnessed from afar all his life. So he watched her as she moved about the living room, the equations she presented obvious, her solution easy to render.

She was shy. Her eyes locked on his for a moment but she quickly looked away and he smiled. This was going to be so easy!

But in the end it wasn’t easy at all and he wondered where he had gone wrong. If the solution he’d arrived at didn’t agree with the reality he’d encountered, then that could only be because he’d missed important variables. Emotional variables he didn’t yet understand.

So with guests still lingering he’d gone to the music room off his father’s study and picked up his guitar. He closed his eyes and reimagined the emotions he’d thought she’d presented, and then he reduced his own emotional expectations to a series of equations – and without any conscious awareness he began to play these equations through his mind to his fingers. He wasn’t aware of closing his eyes to the world outside this process, he simply worked through each equation as it presented itself, working towards a new conclusion… 

And as he finished he opened his eyes.

And there she was. Staring at him, her eyes full of tears.

“That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard,” Debra Sorensen whispered.

And Brendan Geddes smiled. He smiled because he’d solved her equation. He knew her now, and that was all that mattered.

And so they talked. And talked. For hours that night, and then – in the days and weeks that followed – they talked more and more. He saw something in her, something unusual, something not quite there yet, some kind of power within that was waiting to be released. He learned she was going away to college in a few months and for the first time in his life he was at a loss. No equations came to him. He had found his first null set and he was bereft of a way through the pain he felt.

He saw her differently after that. She was no longer open to him, and while he tried to see new equations he found only emptiness. Yet he discovered that even emptiness can be expressed in equations, and as he found his way into the depths of this immeasurable darkness he formed new chords, and a new music began to take shape.

There were avocado trees in backyard of his parent’s house, and even a few lemon trees, and his favorite thing in the world was to beat the squirrels to a ripe avocado and cut it open, squeeze some lemon into the little bowl made when the seed was removed, and then to grind some pepper into the lemon. He would take a spoon and eat the avocado and close his eyes as he felt a peculiar strength return. He would turn and face the sun, feel the warmth and flake the coldness away, then he would pick up his guitar and resume playing, and in time he came to realize how deeply attuned he was growing to the sun and the earth. And to how deeply attuned the equations he formed were to these cycles of birth and regeneration.

And one afternoon while he was sitting out under one of the avocado trees he began playing his music of longing and loss and he began to sing. Words came, words that seemed ordained by the sun and the simple foods that sustained him, words born of an impossible love for the girl next door…

And his father was videotaping him from inside the house. Recording his son’s otherworldly music, born of his son’s loneliness. Loneliness born, perhaps, from a father’s benign neglect. He finished recording the music and the next morning he drove down to the studio and played the music for a few of his friends.

Then the boy’s father asked him to come to the recording studio.

He’d never been. Not once. In fact, Brendan had almost no idea what his father did for a living, not really. His father wrote music for movies, but Brendan had never considered how to watch a film without music. So he watched that morning, and he saw how his father set about constructing a score. Movies presented life as a series of scenes, and each scene had an underlying set of emotions, but as he watched his father he seemed to get it all wrong. Love was an emotion so his father used a rote deconstruction of love to emote any scene with Love in it. Suspense was presented musically in the same way, with predictable sets of formulaic chord progressions to denote how the director wanted the audience to respond. There was little nuance, little variance, and after watching his father for an hour or so he grew bored.

His father was writing music for a new movie while sitting in a control room. There were several keyboards in front of his father, and he faced a huge movie screen. The movie played and his father responded to the action on the screen by creating an accompanying musical response on the keyboards arrayed around him…but then as Brendan watched, the film stopped playing and a videotape of him playing in the backyard appeared on the huge screen… 

And at first he had no idea what he was watching.

Then it dawned on him.

“You taped this yesterday,” he said to his father.

“I did.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s beautiful and I wanted to share it with people.”

“But…why?”

“Because beauty should be shared, Brendan,” one of the studio executives explained. “And we’d like to share this with everyone.”

“But it wasn’t meant for everyone,” Brendan sighed.

“Who was it meant for?” his father asked.

“Debra,” Brendan said, looking away – as if he should have been embarrassed to admit such a thing.

“Debra? Sorensen?” his father cried. “Seriously?”

“What’s wrong with that?” Brendan screamed, his ego now feeling raw and exposed, like he was being ridiculed. Worse than that, he felt like the very idea of love was being trampled upon and dragged through the mud and dirt.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” another studio exec cooed. She was younger than his father, much younger, and she was objectively gorgeous. 

Brendan turned to face this woman and equations exploded in the air all around her.

And he smiled.

+++++

She wanted more. Always more.

And when she smiled at him he sang the music of her smile.

Her name was Tracy. And she was an enchantress, a chameleon even, and perhaps a little bit of a trickster, but she was also able to read people, especially artists. And most particularly musicians. Yet she had never encountered anyone quite like Brendan. She had worked with the best of them, the Dylans and the Simons of this little corner of the universe, and she thought she’d seen it all. Until she met the precociously innocent man-child that was Brendan Geddes.

She saw his pain, then she saw through it to his struggle to break free. Free of his father. 

She had hustled him out of the studio and to her office, and she had let his tears come. She held him and right away she realized the man child had hardly ever been touched. He drank her up and she felt the explosions of pure expression rippling through his body, and she recognized his loneliness. She adapted to his loneliness, then she began to see how she could use his loneliness to her own advantage. To the studio’s advantage. In his loneliness, she saw the key to unlock his genius.

She took him out. To the beach one day, and she was surprised to learn that he’d never been. He’d never seen a ferris wheel so she took him on the wheel out there on the Santa Monica pier. He’d never been to Disneyland so she took him. He’d never been kissed, so she took him there, too, and then to the hidden places beyond a kiss.

And through it all, Brendan was blind. Blinded by the explosions of the endless equations she presented. She took him to the studio and set him free, turned him loose, and her engineers recorded it all. The words and the music of his love. For her. And for Debra. She massaged the music, added strings and horns, diluting the purity, obscuring the implications of her complicity. Making the work of others marketable, as was her lot in life.

She released the album and it exploded onto the charts.

His music from the avocado tree she titled ‘In Her Shadow’ and she named the album that as well, and the single hit number one on the Billboard Top Ten a week after it was released.

But by then Debra Sorensen had left for college, yet when she heard the song she knew where it had come from. And what it meant. And once again she cried.

+++++

He left home a year later. He was sixteen years old and he left for Stanford, to study mathematics. Hardly anyone connected the hit album to the stringy-thin vegan working his way through the advanced curriculum in the Math and Physics Department, and though he kept a guitar in his dorm room he rarely played anymore. He’d finally seen through Tracy and even his father seemed suspect now, so all those human things he simply walked away from, and he left all their emptiness behind. He returned to the purity of numbers and variables.

Until he met another wayward soul rather like his own.

Susan Watson was an astronomer, or at least she was studying to be an astronomer, and though Brendan was the first to admit he’d never once looked through a telescope there had been an undeniably mutual attraction from the start. She was from the city so she wore denim overalls and Birkenstocks and she was smart as hell, and besides, her explosions were easy to read. She wasn’t a threat. And besides, her mom was a great cook.

He’d not been in the least interested when the blazing pulsar in Sagittarius exploded two summers ago, nor had he been in any way surprised when the pulsar simply went away, but Susan kindled an interest in those seven nights. She showed him a recording of the event and in an explosive instant he’d seen the patterns. Within hours he had deciphered the encoded message. Susan took him to her faculty advisor and this gentle old cosmologist had recognized the genius behind the work and called an emergency meeting of the physics department to go over Brendan’s discovery.

For any number of reasons the faculty and staff decided to keep silent about what Brendan Geddes had uncovered, for the meaning and import could only startle a complacent world into dangerously unpredictable terrain. Worse still, if the government learned about the depth of material in the transmission they would no doubt get involved, and that had to be avoided at all cost.

But while Brendan was credited with discovering the secret encoding within the original message, his interest in astronomy never really blossomed. He continued studying Newton’s and Russell’s underlying Principia while he found his way towards a deeper kind of love for Susan. And oddly enough, he found his way to a new way of thinking about home – through her mother’s cooking.

He soon discovered how atrocious his own parents had been at parenting. And Susan’s mother, a single mother who worked as a para-legal at a small law firm in San Francisco, had proven to be the exact opposite of his own mother. Charlene Watson doted on him. She saw his string bean frame and decided to fill him out. When she learned he wouldn’t eat meat she adapted. She cooked vegan masalas that made Brendan feel like singing with joy. She crafted elaborate tabouli salads and they would sit in her backyard under the sun and for the first time in his life he felt like he was actually loved. Like he belonged. Belonging was a strange sensation, but he liked it. He liked being loved even more, so he was happy.

Charlene had married young and, predictably, the marriage hadn’t lasted long. Her husband, a freewheeling medical student at Stanford, had been somewhat less than faithful and Charlie – as Charlene liked to be called – had divorced him when their daughter was still in diapers. A self-sufficient type, Charlie hustled real estate on the side and had always managed to make ends meet, yet she’d always made time for what mattered most: her daughter. And that inclusivity instantly blossomed to encompass Brendan.

And still no one quite made the connection. The string-bean vegan had once upon a time put out one of the highest grossing albums of all time, a double platinum Grammy award winning masterpiece grounded in a man-child’s love of and for another girl.

+++++

Yet Brendan wondered about the absent figure in Susan’s life. 

Her father.

She had “visited” her father once a month all her life – at least until she started at Stanford. She saw him more frequently now if only because he was on the faculty of the medical school, as well as a hospitalist at the Stanford University Medical Center. He had remarried and was happily living up north of the city in a development called Sea Ranch, but it had been a few years since she had made the trek up there. 

Her father had noted the change in his daughter and he asked her about it one day over grilled pastrami sandwiches and a beer at The Oasis, one of the local hangouts they liked to meet at from time to time. She danced around the subject for a while then finally came clean.

“His name is Brendan, Daddy,” and Doc Watson could tell she was in love.

“So, this is the real deal? Is he the one?”

When she nodded the Doc smiled. “So, when do we get to meet this guy?”

Susan had smiled and then she’d shrugged. “Whenever,” she said, somewhat cagily.

“Okay, Kiddo, you wanna tell me what’s going on?”

“I think he’s going to ask me to marry him, Dad.”

But while the Doc had smiled he’d done so carefully, mindful of the past wanting to play out again. He felt the burdens of his own past in the smile he saw on his daughter’s face, maybe because she had reminded him so much of her mother just then. He could still see Charlie’s happiness, especially in his dreams, so Susan’s smile left him feeling a little off balance. “And you’ve known this boy how long? Since the semester began?”

She nodded enthusiastically.

“Well, do you know anything about his family?”

“Nope.”

“And he’s studying math?”

“Yup.”

“What does he plan doing after school?”

She shrugged. “I have no idea, Daddy.”

“Oh. So then…you’ve really thought this thing through. That’s nice.”

“So, do you still want to meet him?”

“Well, don’t you think I should?”

As it happened, DD and The Doc picked up Susan and Brendan late on a Friday afternoon two weeks later, and they drove up to Sea Ranch together – after they stopped at San Francisco International to pick up Liz Bullitt, who had come out for the weekend. Deborah Eisenstadt’s birthday was the stated occasion and all kinds of friends were coming up to Sea Ranch for what was shaping up to be a party of legendary proportions.

But two rather funny things happened on the drive up to Sea Ranch.

Liz was of course a musician. And it took her about two-tenths of a second to recognize Brendan Geddes – and so that cat hopped right out of the bag and was now on the loose.

And the second cat to break free?

Well, when Brendan Geddes took one look at Liz Bullitt he was well and truly smitten, and even Susan Watson could see the handwriting on that wall.

The Doc had simply rolled his eyes as he made his way through traffic to the Golden Gate, but DD had quickly surmised what had happened and she had looked at her husband just once on the drive up.

And hardly anyone spoke – except of course Liz. She had a million questions she wanted to ask Brendan, and the boy seemed only too happy to oblige.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

[Joni Mitchell \\ Both Sides Now (2000)]

Intermezzo  –  Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus

88BH

Very difficult writing. Uncertain terrain in these shadows. One more piece of the puzzle.

[Bread \\ Guitar Man]

The Eighty Eighth Key

Intermezzo    Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus

Part I: Synchronicities 

Harry Callahan walked from his living room to the kitchen, trying out his new leg. His latest new leg. 

“What a fucking pain in the ass,” he growled as he stopped and leaned against a column, turning the cup ever so slightly, seating the soft deerskin to his stump.

“Is it better than the chair?” Deborah Eisenstadt asked his back, warily watching his flaring moods. “If not, I can bring it up from the garage if you like?”

Callahan grumbled and walked into the kitchen, headed for the coffee maker. He poured a large cup and added a strong hit of Baileys Irish Cream – just because – then he walked back through the living room to the piano. He pulled out his “Works in Progress” file from the desk and looked at the sheet music on top – and then he sighed.

“Some days this feels too much like work,” he said, his voice a coarse whisper.

“Why don’t we drive down to the city? Maybe go to the Cathouse for a visit?”

He nodded but turned and sat at the keyboard, then tentatively played a few disjointed notes – until he felt Eisenstadt walk up from behind.

“What’s troubling you, Harry? Is it the dream – again?”

He hesitated, but then he nodded. “Yes. It felt even more real last night.”

“How so?”

“It was very hot but it was dark out – and the ground was dry – almost dusty, but even the dust was white – almost like flour – in a way,” Callahan said, his words coming in short bursts followed by long, drawn out pauses, as if he was sifting through debris left by a passing storm. 

“It was night, like the last one?”

“Moonlight. Bright moonlight – like under a full moon. Cactus shadows – and even the rocks cast shadows.”

“What did you hear?” she asked…carefully…placing her hand on his shoulder as his hands levitated, fingers spreading like talons in search of prey. She heard the chord form and closed her eyes and in the next instant they were both standing inside a high desert landscape, the moon like the beam of a searchlight high overhead. ‘Blue,’ she thought aloud, ‘everything is blue…’

She looked down and gently kicked a stone…and the stone tumbled away. Again. Just like last time. They were no longer passive observers, not in this landscape, and she knew now that they had to proceed with the utmost caution…because one falling rock could soon turn into a landslide.

“Is that a trail?” Harry asked as he pointed at the rough outlines of a path ahead.

“I think so, but Harry…?”

“Yes…?”

“If this is a dream why are we here?”

“What?”

“Dreams are constructs of the unconscious mind. They are not real places.”

He nodded. “Ah, I see. And this is, or at least it appears to be, a real place.”

“Or…we can now access the real through the unconscious mind.”

An aircraft of some kind crossed the night sky high overhead, its white strobes pulsing across the inky blackness as it flew from northeast to southwest, and Callahan had no trouble identifying it. “Looks like a trip-7 headed to LAX,” he sighed.

“How can you tell?”

“Find Polaris, check the angle against Arcturus and Spica. He’s headed west-southwest and powering down for his descent. So, we’re in Nevada – or maybe even western Utah.”

“So, this isn’t a dream?”

Callahan shrugged. “I don’t know. Is it a dream within a dream, or was I dreaming of a real place?”

“What happened next? In your dream, I mean?”

“Well, I…” Callahan began saying – just as a low humming sound filled the night.

“What is that?” Eisenstadt cried – as the humming quickly built in intensity…

Callahan turned and pointed: “There it is,” he said, his voice barely audible now.

Eisenstadt turned and she saw a triangular shaped hole in the sky. “What is that?” she whispered.

“That,” Callahan sighed, “is a ship.”

“You mean…like an UFO?”

“Not like. Is,” Callahan said, nodding at the ship as it descended towards the valley floor. 

“And this is what you dreamt about?”

“Yeah, and it usually ends about now.”

“What…with the ship just up there?”

“Yup.”

She broke contact and they were in the living room again, yet when she looked at her shoes they were almost completely covered with the fine white powdery sand of the desert trail, and Callahan’s were, too. “Harry, we were there.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m still cold.”

And then Eisenstadt realized she was, as well. She touched Callahan’s arm and his skin was almost ice cold, yet he was warming up nicely in the piano room as it was close to the fireplace. Then, almost on a hunch she turned and looked at the ceiling in the living room – and yes, one of the tiny blue spheres was hovering silently inside a shadowy corner. “Harry,” she whispered.

“Yeah, I know. I can feel them now.”

“Wait…you can feel them?”

He nodded. “Its almost like a fullness in my neck, at least it feels that way when one of them is around…”

“It’s up there,” she added, nodding her head in the direction of the fireplace.

“What color is this one?”

“What color? But…they’re always blue…” but her words were full of doubt, like the memory wasn’t quite trustworthy.

“No, they’re not,” he said, his words steely calm.

“They aren’t? Are you sure?”

He nodded. “Yup. Blues most of the time, but I’ve seen green and red ones. And a pink.”

“Are you sure it’s not the scotch?”

He chuckled at that. “Yeah, I’m sure.” He paused then, and she thought he might have been lost in thought – until a tremor crossed his frame. “The blues aren’t friendly, Deborah. None of them are, not really, but I’m not sure about the pink one. For some reason…” he started to say, but then he stopped again, like maybe he was looking for just the right memory. Then his head canted a little. “The pink one is a friend. She’s very curious…about…”

“The piano,” she sighed.

“Yes, the piano.” He squinted once then felt his neck. “How many are up there now?” he asked.

When she looked now she saw several were up there, and suddenly she felt sleepy and wanted to tell Harry. When she turned and looked at him he was already asleep, and for the briefest moment she thought she was floating through vast fields of stars.

+++++

Jeff Woodson drove up Central Avenue and, as he approached the crash site he pulled off the road and parked the van on the grass, then set the stabilizers, leveling the van for the remote feed antenna. His crew jumped out and sprang into action, setting up tripods and mounting their heavy video cameras, then hooking the output lines directly to the satellite transmitter. Woodson got the dish aligned just as Sandy Mullins and her team drove up; this second van parked beside Woodson’s and now, in effect, the Eagle Network had an on-site studio set up less than a hundred yards from where the stricken airliner had fallen. 

Henry Taggart got out of the van and watched the blue sphere settle and rise just inside the dense black smoke – and unless you knew exactly what you were looking at you’d have never realized anything was there, and he had to smile at that, at their ability to hide undetected right above the scene of such an immense disaster. He also realized there was nothing he could do here except get in the way so he called for a taxi then walked over to Woodson.

“I’m going back to the boat,” he told the team leader. “When you guys wrap here you’d better come…”

“Man, we won’t be done here for days,” Woodson said, and Mullins nodded. 

“The network has on air reporters headed this way right now,” Mullins said. “This is a great spot to shoot from.”

Taggart nodded. “When you two knock off why don’t you come back down to the boat.”

“That cop?” Mullins said, the situation dawning on her.

“Yeah. Strength in numbers, or something like that,” Taggart said. “I called a cab so I’m headed back that way now.”

“Okay,” Woodson added, “we’ll try. My best guess is we might get off around seven.”

Taggart nodded, then he saw a taxi pull up and he waved to the driver. “Okay. See you tonight.”

Henry walked over to the taxi, and as he stepped inside he felt as if he was being watched.

“Did you see that mess?” the cabbie asked, pointing at the flaming airliner.

“Unfortunately, yes.”

“It’s all over the news right now. Some are saying it was a helicopter that hit the jet.”

“Yup.”

“You saw it?”

“I did.”

“Jesus. So, where can I take you?”

“The Marina. A restaurant down there called The Warehouse.”

“Okay.” The cabbie pulled out into traffic and Taggart leaned back on the slimy old vinyl seat, beyond caring as the old Chevy made its way towards the water. At one point he felt a wave of nausea wash over him and he asked the cabbie to turn up the air conditioner – but it didn’t help. Nothing, he knew, would ever wipe the sight of that helicopter vaulting up and hitting the airliner’s engine. He could still see the helicopter’s rotors splintering, then the huge engine tearing away from the wing, before the worst part unfolded. It was the way the jet wallowed for a moment, then it just seemed to roll to the right as it started to fall out of the sky, and he couldn’t help but think of the sheer terror all the people on board must have experienced. Those last few seconds – knowing these were your last heartbeats, the last breaths you’d take. The last things you’d see and try to file away as a memory before the world around you dissolved into fire and chaos. Would you, he wondered, feel pain? Or would death come on so hard and fast that even pain would fail to register?

The thought made his skin crawl.

Then he let his head fall away and he looked up into the sky and yes, there it was. Following him, still up there in the clouds.

‘So,’ he mumbled to the cresting realization, ‘it’s following me?’

He got out at the restaurant and walked over to a park bench and began watching Deb’s boat, and when he was sure no one else had her under surveillance he made his way out the pier and quietly slipped onboard, disarming the alarm as he entered the cockpit. 

“Deb?” he called out, and he heard Daisy Jane bark once so he went and looked in the hatch over her berth and saw she was sound asleep. He unlocked the companionway, found Daisy’s leash and took her for a quick walk, then went below to wake Deb, maybe take her out to lunch. And afraid of upsetting her he decided to not talk about the crash…

“Could you take the Rover, go get some Thai?” she asked after she rubbed the sleep from her eyes.

“I reckon so? You want the usual?”

“Seafood Tom Yum and a fresh spring roll.”

“Okay. I’ll be back in a half hour or so.”

“Should I set the alarm?”

“Hell-yes!” Taggart said through his habitual grin.

By the time he made it back she was setting out places on the cockpit table and Daisy was curled up in the sun, her long line of sutured skin healing well. He sat beside the pup and began rubbing the top of her head and she moaned. 

“What did you get?” Deb asked as she studied the lingering uncertainties within his aura.

“Tom Ka Gai and a green curry.”

“Shrimp?”

“Just veggies. Extra mushrooms, though. And two orders of spring rolls.”

“Good. I was hoping you might.”

Daisy rolled over and put her head on his lap and he knew what she wanted now. “Time for an ear rub?” he whispered – and then he smiled when her tail swished back and forth across the teak cockpit seat.

“She loves you so,” Debra sighed.

“And…?” he replied as he looked up at Deb.

“And I wish you would have been able to love me half as much.”

“If only your ears were furry.”

She laughed a little, but not enough to hide the pain she felt. “I also wish I’d gotten to know you sooner.”

“Que sera, sera,” he said, his mind drifting away to sunnier times. 

“And what does that mean, exactly? That we were never meant to be?”

“If I remember things correctly, I seem to recall you had a thing for The Kid.”

“Ah. You mean Mr. William Taylor, the William Taylor currently residing on the orthopedics floor at UT Southwestern in Dallas?”

Taggart shook his head. “You know, I’m pretty sure I heard bones snapping, on the TV, I mean.”

Debra shook away the memory of her father and Moloch as they smiled triumphantly after Will went down. “I think my father arranged that, Henry.”

He seemed taken aback by that, but then he thought about her words for a moment. “You know, I guess nothing surprises me about him. Just moving another pawn on the board, I guess.”

“Is that how you see him?”

But Taggart simply shrugged the question away. “When I think about your dad I see danger, pure and simple. He’s always pushing his little pieces all over the board, but he’s playing a game I really don’t understand.” He put some rice in his bowl and spooned curry over it, then he picked out a golden shiitake with his chopsticks and regarded it for a moment, turning it over in the sun while he admired all the hidden details. “So, you seemed intrigued by Gilbert’s longing for you. Tell me about that?”

“Nothing to tell, Henry. And I’m not in the market for entanglements right now.”

“Well, there’s always lust…”

“Not my type.”

“Oh?”

“Cops don’t interest me. People who see the world in blacks and whites don’t interest me.”

“And so what am I? Shades of grey?”

“Cool blue…until you look at me.”

“And then what do you see?”

“Three women and a dog. And while the three of you are running, the dog knows everything.”

He sat back and regarded her cooly for a moment. “Oh? And when does this happen?”

“I’m not sure. Maybe fifteen years from now.”

“And so you’re seeing into the future now? Any other startling new developments you’re keeping from me, Kiddo?”

“I wish you wouldn’t call me that, Henry. It’s always bothered me.”

“Sorry. Now, care to answer the question, or do you want to thrust and parry some more?”

“I saw the airplane last night.”

“The airplane?”

“The one you just saw. I saw it happen last night. A helicopter hit it.”

“Okay.”

“We have to be in San Pedro tonight. Late, I think. There’ll be fog, and…”

“And?”

She just shrugged, but then she looked away.

“Okay. So…who dies?”

“I couldn’t see that, but many more people will die.”

“Okay. Anything else?”

She nodded then, a quick yet discursive nod, like a playful child’s. “I heard music, Henry. And it was leading the way.”

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift to us all.]

[Glen Campbell \\ Ghost on the Canvas]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 63

88 Glacier

A brief chapter today, a transition of sorts. Maybe a sip of scotch, I dare say…

[Sting \\ Something The Boy Said]

Chapter 63

Colonel Goodman was in his office sitting at his desk, looking out his window, looking out over the city of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean beyond. He’d been reading summaries of ongoing operations all morning but his mind kept drifting back to Harry Callahan and his return to California. What a blown operation that had been, the very definition of a clusterfuck, but what exactly had gone wrong?

The idea of ‘wounding’ Callahan, maybe with a grazing shot, was the first thing that had gone wrong – but probably because the entire premise behind it had been so morally out of bounds. Why had he approved such an outlandish plan? Then the fucking sniper had almost blown Callahan’s leg off. Brilliant! And so Didi had been locked out of Callahan’s life and years of work keeping him under observation had come to an end. The Watson woman, Harry’s assistant, had proven too competent, and once she’d figured out what was happening she’d moved all of Callahan’s assets out of reach. She moved to secure the residence in Davos and she’d also worked to get the planned recording studio in the village up and running. Goodman sighed, wishing he had one person on staff who was half as competent as this Watson woman.

So for weeks he’d been frozen out and he could only guess what Callahan was up to. Worse still, he was no longer in any kind of position to render assistance to Callahan if he needed help. But then Deborah Eisenstadt had come along out of the blue. The physicist had every imaginable security clearance and had even worked for Mossad on two occasions, but her allegiance to the State of Israel was questionable – so that had to be settled before he could move forward with his plan. 

A Danish Jew, her life’s circumstances had pushed her to the Soviet Union and then to Armenia, until Anders Sorensen had snatched her up and married her. Funny too, because Sorensen had probably saved her life by getting her beyond the reach of the KGB. But Mossad had recruited her shortly after she arrived in Israel, ostensibly to keep an eye out for possible Soviet operations within the academic community, so her immigration to the U.S. had come as a blow. But now there was news almost too good to be true. Was Callahan coming into her life – even peripherally? Because if so then things had come full-circle and he might have access to Callahan once again.

He’d just finished reading the contact report from Ted Sorensen that had come in last night. Eisenstadt hadn’t mentioned her contact with Liz Bullitt so Goodman had to assume Eisenstadt had already learned of the acoustic shift and if her background was any indication she’d understood the implications of Imogen Schwarzwald’s discovery. As long as she didn’t actively begin work on the Shift she’d be safe enough, at least for now – but something else was bothering Goodman.

A Mossad operative in the consulate had passed along that Sorensen was headed to New York for a meeting today, and yet Sorensen had omitted that detail from his contact report. Why?

So now Goodman was worried, because…what was Sorensen up to?

So first thing this morning he’d sent word to New York to make sure Sorensen’s movements on the ground were detailed, and to keep him in the loop as the surveillance progressed throughout the day. Then Didi had called and he’d asked her to come down to the office for lunch. She’d been working down in the desert on the Shift Project and he hadn’t seen her in weeks – and besides, he was always curious about her work down there.

Still, something was wrong, and Goodman could feel it in his bones. Something was wrong with Sorensen. Something…big. Why would Sorensen keep things from him? Why now? And what was he up to in New York?

He knew he needed answers, too.

Didi appeared in his doorway and she smiled. He turned to her and nodded.

“Come. Sit. Tell me of the problems of the world,” he said with a smile.

“It’s a very complicated world, Papa,” she sighed as she came into his inner sanctum, “but you looked troubled this morning, not me.”

“No? Well, you look sunburned. Are you at least using sunscreen?”

She shook her head and grinned. “No, never.”

“You’ll not like the results,” Goodman said with a shrug as he pointed at two recent biopsies taken from the top of his left forearm. “Basal cell carcinoma, I think the doctor calls it.”

“Is it serious?”

“Serious? No, not really. It was caught early.”

“So, what’s troubling you?”

“You recall Ted Sorensen?”

“The producer at Paramount?”

Goodman nodded. “I’ve been running him for years. He grew up with Callahan.”

Didi’s eyes darkened. “I didn’t know that.”

“No reason you should have. They rarely see one another, and haven’t for, well, quite a while now.”

“And he reports to you?”

Goodman nodded. “Ever since his father moved here. Nothing major, just deep background on Hollywood, things he thinks we might be interested in. It’s all very informal, or at least it was until recently. But he’s keeping things from me, things he knows would be of interest to me.”

“And that is what is troubling you?”

“I’m not sure. I’ve had this feeling all morning long, like something bad is…”

“Papa? What is it?”

“I don’t know,” Goodman said as he reached for the television’s remote. He flipped it on and turned to CNN and his eyes squinted when he saw black smoke pouring from one of the World Trade Center towers. “Where is bin Laden?” he whispered as he picked up his phone and dialed a four digit extension. “Lev? Ben. Are you watching CNN? No? Well turn it on and find out where bin Laden is and let me know. Thanks.” He pushed down on the cradle and then dialed his receptionist. “Doris, get me the Prime Minister.”

Didi pulled her chair close to the TV and they both watched as a second airliner slammed into the unharmed tower…

“Shit,” Colonel Goodman sighed, just before his phone chimed. He reached over and picked it up: “Ariel. CNN now!”

He hung up and watched the grainy feed from a helicopter, and then it hit him. Sorensen had just landed in New York, at La Guardia. Coincidence? Or planned?

“I hate coincidences,” he whispered under his breath, fingers drumming on his desktop. “What the hell are you up to, Sorensen?”

By the time United 93 was down in a field in Pennsylvania, the Mossad, like the entire Israeli government, was in full crisis mode. Everyone knew bin Laden was behind the operation so now it was just a matter of running him down and taking him out – except he’d simply disappeared, gone to ground and now presumably somewhere in Afghanistan. But Colonel Goodman presumably had other matters on his mind, too.

Because when he learned that Ted Sorensen’s Gulfstream was headed for London, he also learned that Delbert Moloch was on board. Moloch was no friend of the State of Israel, but he had been causing problems all over Eastern Europe for years, and was now understood to be operating in South America. He had at one point been a Kremlin operative but was now living in Surrey, south of London. Exactly what he was doing, and who was paying for his services, still remained a mystery.

Yet if Moloch was now operating with Sorensen then this very clearly fell within his purview. But now, with everything else happening in the United States today, Goodman simply made the decision to move a few pieces on the board. This sort of mission compartmentalization ensured operational security, yet the lack of back-up would perhaps unnecessarily expose his agent to greater than normal risk.

So with well-founded misgivings, he immediately sent his daughter to London to find out what was happening with Sorensen and Moloch, then he got on the phone and called Boston.

+++++

Out among the slender pines and white-limbed birch trees northwest of Boston, at the dead end of Millstone Road you come upon MIT’s Haystack Observatory – the facility rather like a needle in a haystack out there by itself in the forests of central New England. Debra Sorensen thought as much, anyway, as they passed the Millstone Hill Radio Telescope. But that was nothing compared to the huge, white dome that suddenly appeared out of nowhere. She was sitting beside Deborah Eisenstadt, while Professor Gene Sherman sat in the rear seat working on lesson plans and lab assignments for the coming term when she first saw the dome, and Sherman looked up when he heard Sorensen gasp. He put away his papers, lost in thought, still lost on…the Matterhorn.

The observatory’s undergraduate liaison led the group on a short tour of the facility and then Sherman and Sorensen listened as Eisenstadt went over the basic premises of radio astronomy and what Haystack and Millstone were working on – before driving over to Mario’s for a quick bite.

“So, Dr. Sherman,” the girl said, “what did you think of the light in Sagittarius?”

But Sherman simply shrugged before he reconsidered. “I’m still puzzled about the duration of the event,” he said. “If it’s some kind of periodic pulsar, it is of a type we’ve never encountered before, so that’s of interest. So too was the nature of the light emitted, but we’ll be studying this event for years, if not decades.”

“Do you think you could use my recordings?”

“Of course. I’d love to go over them, so if you have time please send me a copy.” He looked at the girl, still unsure of her motives. She didn’t appear to be the studious type, yet her grades were spot on. But…why was she here? “So tell me, what did you make of the event?”

“I think there was an embedded pattern in the sequence, and I’d like to know what it is.”

Sherman nodded but he looked away. “What kind of pattern,” he said, his voice barely a whisper.

“The number seven repeats in a number of ways…”

“Yes, yes, there’s been a lot of speculation about that in the newspapers. Numerology, the Kabbalah and all that, but did you see any deeper patterns?”

“No, not really.”

“Okay,” Sherman said, somewhat relieved, “well, perhaps we should head back to the city. I’ve a dinner appointment,” he added, looking at Eisenstadt and nodding, “and I don’t want to be late.”

 After they dropped Sorensen off at her father’s hotel, Eisenstadt turned to Sherman. “What was that all about.”

“Hm-m? What do you mean?”

“About patterns in the pulsar’s light.”

“Oh, just a thought.”

“Well, you dropped her like a hot rock after that. Why?”

“Tell me, Deborah, about this father of her’s. Is that why you wanted to roll out the red carpet for this girl.”

“In a way, yes, but she’s also family.”

“So you said. If she applies I take it you’d like my endorsement?”

“Only if freely given, Gene. No pressure on my part.”

“Well, frankly, I doubt you’ll hear from her again, at least concerning coming to school here. She’s not the type, and my guess is this is just a passing fancy to her.”

“Do you think that’s a fair assessment, Gene?”

“Fair or not, she doesn’t have the intensity. She’s not a scientist, Deborah, and you know it.”

Eisenstadt sighed, but she nodded. “Well, I suspected as much, but I needed to be sure. That’s why I called you.”

+++++

Didi Goodman watched the south end of runway 04 at London’s Stansted Airport, waiting for Sorensen’s Gulfstream to taxi to the Harrods Aviation FBO on the west side of the airport. She needed to pee – desperately – but she simply had to hold it now. The Gulfstream taxied to a stop and she watched Sorensen and another man walk down the air stairs and climb into the black Range Rover they’d already identified, and geotagged, so she relaxed a little.

“They ought to come out this way, to the M11,” her driver said. Padi Chomski was Mossad and was also nominally assigned as a commercial attaché at the main Kensington Gardens Embassy, but as soon as Moloch’s name entered the equation he had been detached to help Goodman. The sun had been down for almost two hours and and it was beginning to rain, but as they were waiting to intercept the Range Rover Chomski saw an ambulance head out to the Gulfstream…

“Do you think we should tail the Rover or the ambulance?” he asked.

“We follow Moloch,” Goodman said, her mind focused on anything but her bladder.

“Are you alright?”

“No, I haven’t taken a pee since Tel Aviv…”

“Get out now…do it on the side of the road!”

She hopped out and did the deed and Chomski dropped the car into drive and took off after the Range Rover as soon as she was buckled in. They followed the Rover onto the A406 to the A10 into central London…

“They’re headed to Embassy Row,” Chomsky sighed a few minutes later. “What the fuck is going on here?”

And indeed the Rover pulled up to the Argentine Embassy on Brook Street and Goodman watched Moloch and Sorensen disappear inside. “I didn’t see that coming,” she grumbled as they watched the Rover disappear. She was pulling out her binoculars when there came a tapping on her window.  She looked up and saw a Constable and had started to roll down her window when she noticed the black Walther in the man’s hand.

The man double-tapped the Israeli agents before he tossed a time delayed grenade inside the car, then he walked off into another dark and rainy night, disappearing in the mist. The deep red sphere overhead followed him for a while, before it too vanished into clouds overhead.

Next up: Intermezzo    Madness and the Desperate Flight of aquaTarkus 

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

Copper Canyon (2)

Copper Canyon image 1

Rounding out this little parable of ethical relativism, you might even have time for tea. Excuse the grammar goofs, please. Tough time seeing right now.

[Andy Bey \\ Someone To Watch Over Me]

Part II: the echoes of hollow laughter in marble halls

“Hold your legs up,” the Bexar County sheriff’s deputy told Harwood, and once his legs were shackled the deputy pulled him roughly from the van. Once he was out on the pavement the deputy began pushing Harwood through the sally port into the inmates entrance, but no one noticed rough treatment down here in the basement – and no one cared if they saw anything out of place. They waited for an elevator with other inmates and deputies, and when the elevator came they all rode up in silence to the fourth floor holding block, and he was quickly locked up in a small holding cell.

He’d had a jerk-water public defender who hadn’t objected once to questionable evidence presented at his trial and Harwood then knew his trial was a slam-dunk, a show trial. The DEA had rammed the case through pre-trials and before a judge in record time, and from then on he knew he was being made an example of how not to fuck with the Feds, and physicians were the intended audience. What had surprised him was Quintana, and how the cartels had simply dropped him like a hot rock. Still, he’d decided on silence, banking on the cartel having people on the inside who’d keep him relatively safe. And who knows, maybe the’d even be able to keep him alive.

Today’s appearance was for sentencing, but by this point he really didn’t give a shit. He’d gone from being a physician in a lucrative American practice to taking care of illiterate peasants in Mexico’s central highlands, and now it looked like he’d spend the rest of his life in federal prison. Not exactly how he’d seen things working out once upon a time, but what hurt most of all was leaving McKinnon down there, because just before the Federales came for him she’d told him she was pregnant.

So now it looked like everything he could have possibly done wrong in this life he’d managed to do, because on top of everything else he’d have a kid he’d never know…and maybe that hurt most of all. But yeah, he’d moved the cartel’s product for years. He’d been part of an intricately planned and executed supply pipeline that was moving Mexican heroin and Chinese fentanyl through San Antonio to Dallas, New Orleans, and Atlanta, and yeah, he’d made a shitload of money along the way but that was the game. Moving product through hospitals had worked, and worked well, for more than a decade, but someone somewhere along the distribution pipeline had ratted out the scheme. Probably a very bloody jailhouse confession, but none of that mattered now.

Another deputy came for him a few hours later and walked him down a marble hallway to a courtroom, and then he was pushed through another door into the courtroom. And there he was.

J. Alan Wentworth III, the federal prosecutor ramrodding his case through the system. Wentworth was short, fat, baldheaded and bespectacled – a paragon of every modern virtue imaginable. He was playing the game, alright. Throwing sevens every time, and always with an ace up his sleeve. He was asking the court to consider the death penalty, or at the very least life without parole, because if they didn’t come down hard on physicians law enforcement would never get a handle on the problem…

The problem with your thesis, Mr. J. Alan Wentworth III, is that law enforcement is in on the scam at every fucking level, from cops on the beat to the guards in the jails; all of them were feeding at the cartel’s trough – but there was no way Harwood would be allowed to say this in open court. This simple truth was so readily apparent even a dime-bag dealer could figure it out: pay anyone enough and they’ll look the other way, and every fucking time, too…but Wentworth had a quota to meet, a conviction rate to maintain, and that more than anything was dictating the outcome this afternoon. Harwood was just a mid-level executive in a thriving international manufacturing and distribution operation, but instead of working for one of the big pharmaceutical outfits he’d chosen to work for the cartels. Too bad anti-trust laws didn’t apply, because the irony was a little too rich.

Harwood wasn’t exactly surprised when, a half hour later and due to the aggravating circumstances of his crimes, he was sentenced to life in prison at ADMAX Florence, the notorious and justifiably dreaded super-max facility in central Colorado. When asked by the court if he had anything to say prior to sentencing he declined to speak, and so was simply escorted from the courtroom straight to the elevator – this time by a nattily dressed US Marshall to a black Ford Explorer.

Harwood was driven to the basement parking garage at a nearby office building and led inside a basement level office, and then right into a restroom. Not at all sure what was happening now, the marshal handed Harwood a gym bag and the keys to the Ford, then the cop turned around and walked out of the restroom, and he left Harwood standing there – almost in a state of shock. Not knowing what else to do, he opened the gym bag and found an envelope, two changes of clothes and some toiletries, as well as a new pair of Adidas running shoes. He opened the envelope and found an airline ticket, cash, credit cards and a French passport. 

“Quintana,” he muttered to himself with a smile, then he changed into the street clothes and dumped the orange jumpsuit in a dumpster on his way to the Explorer. The NAV system was already programed for the airport and he put on a ball cap and sunglasses the cop had left on the driver’s seat and he drove right to the airport. Once there he parked the car in the long term lot and went straight into the terminal. He checked the envelope and found a boarding pass so went right up to and then through the TSA security screening and then he walked out to his gate, for an AeroMexico flight to Mexico City. His assigned seat, he realized, was in the business class section, and he suddenly felt as if he was inside a particularly nice dream.

When his flight was called he halfway expected a dozen DEA agents to come crawling out of the woodwork…but no, nothing happened, and that was positively surreal. He walked out the Jetway and boarded the 737Max and a flight attendant brought him a Bohemia and a slice of lime, and he did his best to ignore the people boarding the flight because he just knew that any moment now he was going to wake up and this was all going to turn out to be a really nasty trick of the mind.

But no, the main door was about to close – when, apparently, one more person ran into the cabin, and Harwood watched as Quintana boarded and came to the seat next to his own.

“Mind if I sit here?” the number three man in the Sinaloa Cartel asked.

“No, please,” Harwood said, then he watched as Quintana put a small carry-on in the overhead bin.

Then he sat and took the offered Bohemia from the flight attendant, and Harwood watched as the main door was pivoted into the closed and locked position, and he looked out the window as the Boeing was pushed back from the gate. When he could stand it no longer, he turned to Quintana and smiled.

“Did you have a nice visit?” he asked the capo.

“Yes. And you?”

“I’d have to say, all in all, that it was an interesting trip.”

“Perhaps someday we’ll have time to sit over dinner and talk.”

Which meant, Harwood understood, now was not that time. He nodded and smiled and looked out the window as the Boeing turned onto the active runway and dashed into the evening sky. 

He ate his dinner in silence and watched intently as the jetliner lined up to land in Mexico City, and just before Quintana left him he advised that he not forget his two bags in the overhead bin, and Harwood thanked his friend then watched him leave. He pulled the bags down and walked out the jet and through immigration and then he opened Quintana’s parting gift.

Another envelope on top…

A ticket to Paris on Air France, departing in an hour and a half. Enough cash to live comfortably for several years. Documents to provide a completely new identity along with the academic degrees and transcripts of post-grad work to back everything up.

And then there was a note from Quintana.

‘Silentium ac fides super omnia.’

There wasn’t a whole lot else to say, was there? He’d never talked, never sought a plea bargain right up to sentencing, and maybe that had come as a surprise to Quintana. Maybe that was why he’d risked it all to come up the States, to see this through to the end. To see what kind of man this Harwood really was.

Maybe. Maybe not. Harwood would probably never know the answer to that one, would he?

He walked over to the First Class lounge and went inside, checked-in for the flight and saw that he was indeed flying alone. Not knowing what else to do he sat and watched jets come and go until his flight was called, then he walked out and boarded the 777 and made his way up to seat 1A. 

A simply gorgeous flight attendant came by and introduced herself, offered him a glass of champaign and a warm towel for his face, then she smiled and sashayed up to the galley. After three months behind bars the sight of such a woman was enough to leave him in puddles of despair. 

He heard the main doors close a few minutes later and looked down at his hands.

How long had it been? Three months since he’d last operated on a patient? Three months since he’d given up on ever doing anything like that again?

Three months since he’d seen McKinnon?

How would she look now? Would she be showing?

Dare he even try to get in touch with her? Wouldn’t the DEA be monitoring her every communication? Especially now that he’d managed to flee?

The jet pushed back and taxied out to the active, then it turned onto the runway and lumbered into the sky, turning to the northeast to fly up the east coast of North America on its way to the Old World. He saw Washington DC down below just after his second dinner of the evening, then New York City and Boston before the long crossing. His seat was turned into a cozy little bed and he slept the miles away, waking up in time for a lite breakfast and a mid-morning arrival in Paris.

He waited until almost everyone else had deplaned before grabbing his bags and heading out the Jetway into the terminal. He made his way to immigration and as he was now a citizen of France he walked right through the ‘Nothing To Declare’ line and then out to queue of people lining up to ride into the city.

And then he felt an arm slip into his.

“Well hello there,” Patty McKinnon said, a coy little smile crossing her face. “Fancy running into you here.”

“Yes, small world.” She leaned into him and they kissed with a ferocity that might have escaped most of the people standing in line, but hey…this was, after all, Paris. And they were home.

This work © 2017-2022 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com and all rights reserved, and as usual this was a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s (rather twisted) imagination or coincidentally referenced entities are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. In other words, this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.

Copper Canyon (1)

Copper Canyon image 1

A minor diversion down another road less traveled. A two part trail with time for tea.

[Neil Young \\ The Needle and the Damage Done]

Copper Canyon

Part I: fight or flight

He checked his rearview mirror again. Nothing. But he was sure he was being followed; he could feel it in his gut and that was all he needed to know. He made it to his house on East Summit Street and pulled into the garage, hitting the button and closing the overhead door even before he turned off his truck’s motor. He went inside and showered, then made a reservation at the Marriott in the French Quarter for tomorrow night, staying four nights, then he called Quintana on one of his burner phones.

“I’m blown.”

“Too bad. So, the truck goes to New Orleans as planned?”

“Yes. I’ll put the product and other stuff you requested under the seat.”

“When?”

“Now.”

“Bueno. The boy will be there in an hour.”

He hung up and powered-off the phone, then went to the bathroom and shaved his head and then his face, even trimming his eyebrows unrecognizably short. He grabbed his go bag and waited for the courier to show up.

Once the truck was gone and headed to New Orleans he called an über to pick him up at Barbaro’s and then strapped a huge prosthetic stage belly around his waist and slipped out the side door, putting his ragged old go bag over his shoulder and now walking with a cane, hunched over and limping like an old man. He passed a black Ford Explorer parked down the block from his house, two DEA agents looking at his house through binoculars. He limped past the Ford and made it to the pick up just in time. 

The über took him to a large self storage complex just west of Lackland Air Force Base and he went to his unit and opened the door. His motorcycle, a new BMW R1250GS, was already packed and fueled, and he had fifty thousand dollars stashed inside the foam seat, and another 300,000 in Mexican pesos in the tank bag. He unhooked the battery charger and started the motor, and while the engine warmed he changed into a one piece riding suit after he discarded the fake latex belly. With that done, he locked the unit before he drove out onto Highway 90, westbound for Del Rio and the Mexican border.

The sun was still up on this hot September evening as he approached Uvalde, Texas, and he stopped at the Whataburger on the east side of town, then he topped off the bike’s fuel tank, paying cash now for everything before continuing on to Del Rio. He filled up the tank again before crossing, uneventfully, into Mexico. He found a quiet looking inn on the south side of town and put the cover over the bike before he set the alarm, and once in the little room he didn’t even bother to get out of his riding gear; he just flopped down in the bed and promptly fell into a deep sleep.

He spent three days making his way to Chihuahua, and once there he found a mechanic to change the oil and the filters, then, after another night in a sleepy little inn he turned west into the mountains, not quite sure where he was going but confident he’d know the right place when he got there.

+++++

He stumbled into the village of Batopilas on his seventh night in Mexico, and he was by then beyond exhausted. He pulled into a very upscale looking lodge and inquired about a long term stay.

“How long did you have in mind?” the proprietor asked.

“I’m a writer,” the man lied, “and I’m looking for someplace quiet to spend a few months.”

“We have two casitas for rent by the week, but soon it will be the off season and I am sure we could work something out.”

“Sounds good. Now, how about tonight?”

“Of course. I’ll just need your passport. Will you be paying cash, in dollars?”

“If you prefer, certainly.” He handed over his passport, one of two bogus passports he had with him.

“Ah, Dr. Eugene Smith, of Duluth, Minnesota?”

“Yes,” he lied.

“Are you a physician?”

“I am, yes. General surgery.”

“And you are writing about surgery?”

“No, I’m writing a novel about the Gulf War. I was in Iraq.”

“I see. Well, unlike Iraq it is quiet here, that much I can assure you.”

“Perfect. And is there a bank in town?”

“Yes. There are two, and in addition to the dining room we have here at the lodge, there are several restaurants in town. And of course breakfast is included with your room.”

“Internet?”

“Just here in the main building. We have a computer, but it uses a dial up modem, I’m afraid. The canyon walls are too steep for satellite coverage, and out village is still too small for other services. Here are the instructions, and the computer is in that room,” the proprietor added.

“Alright.”

“Will you need help with your luggage this evening?”

“No, I’ve got it.” He paid cash for a week’s stay then returned to the bike and carried his bags to his room, and then he showered and changed into lite summer street clothes before returning to the bike. He pulled the seat off and removed the tool kit stored inside the seat and while he checked his tire pressures he also removed his stockpiled cash and put the lead foil packets inside his tank bag before setting off down the street to find a restaurant. Every muscle in his body ached, but his ass most of all.

After dinner he fired off an email to Quintana from the restaurant’s computer, and then returned to his room to wait for the firestorm.

He woke in the middle of the night with gut ripping cramps accompanied with a spiking fever and chills, and he knew he’d picked up a nasty GI bug. And then he realized he’d not remembered to pick up any Ciprofloxacin before he left Texas. He shrugged, knowing there wasn’t a lot he could do right now, so he concentrated on drinking bottled water between bouts on the toilet until 0600, when the front desk supposedly opened. By 0530 there was blood in his stool and he groaned: he was going to need antibiotics and this tiny little village couldn’t possibly have a doctor – or a pharmacy.

“The closest clinic is in Guachochi,” the proprietress advised, “at the Mission Hospital.” She handed over a bottle of bismuth subsalicylate with a smile, and he popped the top and took a long slug right there at the desk.

“How far is it?” the man groaned as his gut did another barrel roll.

“Are you on a motorcycle?”

He nodded. “Yup. Lucky me.”

“It will take all day, I’m afraid, but if you leave soon you will avoid the rains.”

“Rains?”

“Yes, but there may be some snow at higher elevations.”

His eyes wide open now, he had to confront the reality that he wasn’t back in Texas anymore, and that there wasn’t a pharmacy just down the street across from a well-stocked supermarket, and that he had for all intents and purposes run from that life with the DEA and probably the FBI hot on his tail – but at least here he was a free man. “Alright,” he sighed. “Do you have a hotel safe? I want to leave a few things if you do.”

“Of course,” the woman said. “I’ll have some rehydration fluid ready for you.”

“Thanks.”

He went to his room and put his riding suit back on, then put his dollars in a small Pelican case and locked it before heading back up to the desk. The woman gave him a bottle of ORF, or oral rehydration fluid, and she gave him a couple of packets of the mix to add to bottled water as he crossed the mountains.

“I guess I’ll see you tomorrow night,” he said as he walked out to his bike. He put his helmet on and fired up the engine, then entered the clinic’s address into the GPS as he stretched – but no…he ran for the restroom off the lobby and made it just in time.

+++++

He pulled into the clinic parking lot a little before eight that evening, and he was shaking now, and he knew he was borderline hypothermic. The bike’s engine heat, and the heated grips on the handlebars, had been the only thing between him and death for the past two hours. Snow in September? In fucking Mexico? Well, mountains are mountains no matter where you find them, but having to stop every half hour to shit on the side of the road had only added insult to injury – and now he was near the end of his rope.

He just got the bike on the side-stand and made his way through blowing sleet to the clinic entrance and passed out just inside the door.

+++++

He felt the stinging pinch of the IV, heard the calm, reassuring voice of a physician giving orders to a nurse and he relaxed – until he remembered he was in Mexico and these people were speaking English! Had the DEA caught up to him?

He grimaced and opened his eyes, and he saw a youngish American girl drawing blood from a stick in his right arm and another, even younger girl looking at his EKG, then this girl turned and looked at him.

“Oh, you’re up!”

“Where am I?”

“Guachochi. At the Tarahumara Mission Hospital, and I’m Dr. McKinnon.”

“Shouldn’t you be, oh, I don’t know, in Glasgow, maybe?”

She smiled. “Med school in Mexico City, my public service commitment here,” she shrugged.

“UTMB Galveston,” he smiled.

“You’re a doc? Where at?”

“Minnesota. Taking a year off to do some riding.”

“Oh,” she said, her voice suddenly dull, flat, and comprehending. “Well, your core temp was 95.6 so I put some heat packs under your arms and I’m running Cipro wide open. You should be good to go in the morning.”

“Thanks.”

“What’s your specialty?”

“General surgery?”

“Really? I’ve got a kid with a hot belly and no cutter. Think you can do an appendix?”

“When? Now?”

“You should be hot to trot in an hour,” she said, knocking his knee with her clipboard. “And look at it this way…you do me a favor and I’ll do one for you.”

“You got a gas passer?”

“A nurse practitioner. Well, kind of.”

“What does that mean?”

“Oh, I don’t know. You’ll figure it out.”

He shook his head and looked at his watch; he’d been out for several hours – but he really was feeling a lot better. He shivered once and the nurse draped a hot blanket over him and he fell into a deep sleep…again.

+++++

The overhead lights weren’t the best but the instruments were clean and the OR was spotless, and he stood over the eight year boy and checked off his landmarks for the incision, making a few dots with a marker on the boy’s belly before he swabbed betadine over the site. 

Patty McKinnon had taped hot packs to his axial pits and inside his thighs and at least he wasn’t shaking now, so when the anesthetist, a girl from San Diego named Debbie Surtees, gave him the go ahead he made his incision and dissected muscle to expose the kid’s appendix, and forty five minutes later he closed the incision and just made it back to his bed before he passed out. Again.

He woke in the middle of the night and saw two bags of antibiotics and a bag of platelets running. “What the Hell?” he wondered.

McKinnon came in an hour later and when she saw he was awake she pulled up a chair. “Your white count is in the basement, Dr. – uh – Smith. And your right nut is as hard as a golf ball. Some of the cord, too.”

“Fuck.”

“My surgeon will be here tomorrow, and we should do an orchiectomy first thing in the morning.”

“All my stuff is over in Batopilas…”

“At the Lodge?”

“Yeah.”

“I know Martin. I’ll have ‘em put your stuff in storage ‘til we can run over and pick it up.”

“We?”

“You won’t be riding that bike for a while, if you know what I mean.”

“We?”

“Yeah. We’ll treat you here, and you can work off your bill with the rest of the indentured servants working here.”

“I’ve got to be in Creel tomorrow morning.”

“That isn’t going to happen.”

“You have internet here?”

“If you don’t mind me asking, which cartel got to you? Sinaloa?”

He nodded.

“Quintana?” she sighed.

“That’s right. How’d you know?”

She chuckled. “Half the docs working in Mexico these days got sucked into their fentanyl operations. There used to be a shortage of doctors down here. No more.”

He nodded, if only because he’d already figured as much.

“I can get in touch with him if you like, but I’ll need to know your name, I think.”

“Trinity. Just tell him Trinity. He’ll know who you’re talking about.”

She looked away and shook her head. “Sooner or later you’re gonna have to trust someone.”

“I’m not there yet.”

“How long you been on the run?”

“A week.”

“Shit. No wonder…”

“Did you run an AFP?”

“Not yet. Our tech has to get supplies from Creel to run that one.”

“Sorry…it’s just a lot to wrap my head around.” He took a deep breath and shook his head. “I thought I felt something down there, like a burn, a pulled muscle kind of thing.”

“Probably the cord. We can decide on chemo after we look at the histology, but retroperitoneal radiation is probably warranted.”

“Uh-huh. Where? Not here, I assume?”

“No, not here. We do limited chemo, but I do mean limited.”

“So? Where?”

“I assume going home is out of the question?”

“Yup.”

“You could go to Creel, but…”

“Yeah…but no buts, please. Say no more. What about Mexico City?”

“Oh, yeah, of course, but there’s a good medical school in Chihuahua and the hospital has a decent radiology department.”

“What would you do, Patty?”

“I’d wait until I had the pathology report, ‘Gene.’”

He grinned. “You know, I was thinking when this blows over about heading over to someplace like Sudan or Ethiopia, joining MSF and maybe working over there.”

“Why?”

“Something about practicing medicine in the states, I guess. When I joined the group I was working with I was told we were a volume business, that the aim was to spend just enough time with patient to get a handle on the exact medical problem, then get ‘em in and out of surgery as fast as possible. I guess within a year I felt like I was flipping burgers at MickeyDs. I didn’t know my patients, not at all. It was like go into the OR and see a patch of skin already draped, get in and get out and go to the next OR for the next case, then off to the office for exams before heading back to the hospital to finish my paperwork. Pretty soon I realized I couldn’t even remember one patient’s name from the last couple of years.”

“Flipping burgers,” McKinnon sighed, shaky her head in disbelief. “That’s good. I’ll have to remember that one.”

He looked out a little window and nodded. “I think I felt useless.”

“Do you have any idea how many times you say ‘I’ when you’re talking?”

He turned and looked at her. “What…a little too much narcissism for your taste?”

“Just curious,” she shrugged, “but was someone holding a gun to your head when you decided not to get to know your patients?”

“Yeah. The office manager was, and the partners sure were…”

“Really. My-my. So, it’s off to Africa you go where, guess what, you won’t speak the language so there’ll be no way in hell you’ll ever get to know anyone…”

“And I sure won’t be part of another volume enterprise, will I?”

“What’s that got to do with medicine? You were treating sick people, right? I mean, isn’t that the point?”

“I don’t know that there is a point anymore.”

“Ah. The heart of the matter. You’ve lost your way.”

He looked away again and sucked in a deep breath, but finally he nodded his head just a little.

“So…you think you’ll find your way back by going to deepest, darkest Africa? Sound about right?”

“I don’t know what I’ll find…”

“Yeah? But isn’t that the point?”

“What?”

“The point, Gene? To find yourself?”

“You make it sound so…trite…?”

“Hey, if the shoe fits…”

“You like kicking people when they’re down, don’t you?”

“Like it? No, not really, but sometimes people listen when they’re face down in the mud. And who knows, if they’re lucky maybe they’ll even listen to themselves.”

His eyes blinked a few times and he nodded. “Anything else, Doc? Any more words of wisdom?”

She hooked up a syringe in his line and shot in something. “Get some sleep, okay? We’ll operate first thing in the morning.”

“What about my things?”

“I’ll take care of it.”

His eyes suddenly felt full and very heavy, and later, sometime in the dark he felt gloved hands running a catheter. More strange voices came and went and at one point someone drew blood, then he was aware of being lifted onto an operating table and then the strangest thing of all; he seemed to be aware of a mask sliding down over his mouth and nose – followed by an all consuming darkness that was not at all enjoyable… 

+++++

“Well, Dr. Frankenstein, it lives,” he heard someone say and he managed to open his eyes.

“McKinnon? That you?” 

“Yes, it is, Dr. Harwell. Can you rate your pain for me?”

‘She knows my name,’ the scared little voice inside Gene Harwell’s head screamed. ‘What else does she know?’ He strolled along her razor’s edge, with ambivalence on one side of the blade and utter fear on the other, all while trying to think of how to reply to this simplest question.

“Let’s just say I’m still deep in the land of I don’t give a flying fuck, and let’s leave it at that.”

“Okay, we’ll call it a nice, fat zero. Know where you are, by any chance?”

“In the wonderful land of Oz, and I’m about to pull back the curtain.”

“Memory intact. Sense of humor sucks,” she wrote out loud on her chart. “Know who the president is?”

“Snidely Whiplash, esquire.”

“Good one. I’d never have thought of that. Think you could handle some water?”

“If it comes out of a bottle, maybe.”

“Good situational awareness, too. Okay, five by five, Harwell.”

“You got a path report yet, smart ass?”

“Diffuse seminoma and teratoma in the left testes, no cells in the cord so no radiation needed.”

He felt a roaring surge of relief and then a few tears running down his face, so he cleared his throat before he spoke. “Thanks, McKinnon.”

“No problemo, Gene. Oh, Quintana is okay with things, he says to just lay low here for a while and he’ll be in touch. Martin is bringing your stuff over tomorrow.”

“How long you going to keep me here?”

“You could go home today, but…”

“…but no home to go to. I got that.”

“I’ve got a spare room at my place if you want to bunk out there for a while. There are plenty of places to rent around here, too. Like three, maybe four.”

“Ah. So, any port in a storm, huh?”

“How’s the pain now?”

“I’m feeling it now. Versed is wearing off.”

She picked up a syringe from a bedside tray and hooked it up to his IV and sent a little morphine down his line. “That’ll take the edge off for a while. You have any trouble taking Oxy?”

“Yeah. I don’t take it, period. You got naproxen?”

“Sure.”

“That’ll do.”

“You want me to get my spare bedroom cleaned up?”

He nodded her way, then grinned: “Yeah. That’ll do.”

+++++

He started easy, riding a few miles around local roads, then a few mining trails, but his groin still hurt when he pushed too hard. He worked three weekends at the hospital before he decided he’d had enough domesticity in his life. It wasn’t that McKinnon was hard to take, either; in fact, the opposite was true. She was bright as hell but should have gone into psychiatry, not general medicine, but her constant psychoanalyzing had grown stuffy and was often downright obtuse. Even after a couple of weeks with her she seemed to alternate between voracious horniness and bouts of moodily introspective analysis and he never felt like he belonged.

Probably because he didn’t. And maybe they both knew it.

But he’d liked Batopilas, and something about the place still seemed to pull at him. Maybe it was the steep-walled, tree-lined valley, or how the town was clinging precariously to a ledge just above the edge of the river, or even how the tiny village was defined by narrow cobbled lanes and red-tiled roofs, everything surrounded by overhanging trees and the roar of the rushing water just below. He wondered what it would feel like to stay in a village like that one and write and to call a place like that home. Maybe he could open up a little clinic there, too… 

Yet when he told McKinnon he was leaving she seemed to come undone.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” he told her. “I haven’t been here a month…”

“But I’ve had this feeling for you since the moment I saw you,” she said, coming on hard. “Look, I don’t want you to go.”

He shook his head. “Yeah, I get that and yeah, I like you too. I’ve enjoyed spending time with you…”

“Then stay!”

“And what happens when I decide to head to Africa? What then?”

“We both go.”

“Simple as that, huh? You just pack up and head out?”

“Yeah. Simple as that. I’ve looked into it, I know what we’d have to do and we’d be a perfect team. Medicine and surgery…I mean, they’d love to have us!”

“Patty, doesn’t it bother you that I don’t love you?”

“No, not really. You’re a guy and guys are like that. I do know that we fit together, that we’d be a good team…”

“And what about you? What about love?” he asked.

And she shrugged. “We haven’t been together long enough for that, Gene, not really, but yeah, when I’m around you I’m happy. And it’s like I can’t imagine being happy unless I’m around you, and I don’t know what you call that…”

“Infatuation, maybe?”

“But I’m not a teenager, Gene,” she said, and perhaps a little too defiantly – like maybe she had ‘daddy issues.’ Still, he had Quintana to worry about, because if he bolted on the cartel now he might as well hang it up. He knew too much and they’d never let him go without an understanding of some kind.

So he stayed. He understood that, really, without Quintana’s blessing he had to stay put for the time being. And by that point he’d also recognized that McKinnon and Quintana had a bond of some kind. Like maybe she’d gotten him out of a tough spot before, and he owed her. Big time. At least…that’s what it felt like. On the other hand, he had money in banks down here, and a lot of it. He was safely out of reach from both the DEA and the FBI. He had a roof over his head and McKinnon was fun to hang around with.

And he was finding that even after a couple of weeks he missed medicine. His Spanish, after living in San Antonio for almost ten years, was already more than passable – but now he was quickly improving in this immersive setting – and so he was able to talk to his patients – without the commercial restraints imposed by corporate medicine. And he liked working that way – finally. It was what he’d always imagined medicine would be like. Or…should be like, he reminded himself.

He liked riding around the mountains but he also recognized he was living in a really hostile environment, too. At medium elevations vast fields of poppies were growing every he went, and at lower elevations marijuana cultivation was in full swing. And – everywhere he went he ran into armed guards, in many cases just kids with AK-47s and itchy trigger fingers. Rival clans were staking claims and some were encroaching on other clan’s grows, with turf wars the obvious result, and that made him think about his role in this house of cards.

There wouldn’t be cartels without users and all this semi-clandestine production was aimed at supplying the North American market. With almost two thirds of the people in the United States and Canada now being regular users of marijuana, and with domestic cultivation for all intents and purposes illegal, the cartels had been handed a market so insatiably vast it was almost beyond comprehension. It was no wonder the cartels were paying lobbyists in the U.S. to keep these products illegal, yet the handwriting was on the wall. U.S. tobacco companies had been buying up land in Northern California for decades, and why? Because it was prime land for marijuana cultivation. Not to mention federal taxes on marijuana related products could crush federal budget deficits. But it would severely limit the profitability of the cartels, so…

But riding these hills was dangerous now. Kidnappings were more frequent, and some kids had been known gun down bikers just to take their motorcycles for a joyride. And there were often no repercussions because the cartels owned cops. The only reason he could ride around the area was simple enough to understand: he was under the protection of a capo, one of the Sinaloa cartel’s commanders. He was therefore quite untouchable, so he rode around and kids with Ak-47s waved at him as he passed – though he usually stopped and talked with them, too. He learned about what they did, about their command structure, and he listened as they talked about their gripes – and their hopes and dreams. He found that a bunch of these kids were working while they were sick as hell, so he started loading up his saddlebags with medical supplies and he started taking care of the kids out there. 

People in the smaller villages along his route heard about that, too.

So when he rode through these hamlets people waved him down. He learned that most of these people didn’t trust doctors, or hospitals, but for some reason they trusted him, and probably because he’d treated their kids. And pretty soon he was treating people along a vast network of tiny villages along dirt roads in the boondocks, and the administrators at the Mission Hospital grew quite interested in his successes. When he ran across a case he couldn’t fix out on the road he put the patient on the back of his bike and took them to the hospital, and he fixed ‘em there.

And pretty soon he began to feel the one thing he’d been missing in his life: purpose.

So he lived with McKinnon and soon enough weeks turned into months, and months into a year, and still, at least three days a week he hopped on his bike and rode off into the boonies. He worked weekends in the OR, usually three to four surgeries a day, some days more, rarely less. He stopped caring about McKinnon’s perceived flaws and he started listening to her hopes and dreams, and her fears. He started caring for her, too.

He found her ovarian cancer and he did the procedure. He nursed her through chemo, and he held her hand as she regained her health. They took walks together, short walks in the beginning but longer ones as she got stronger, and her hopes and dreams turned into quiet talks about a future together, just the two of them. Maybe here in Mexico or maybe somewhere in Africa…it didn’t matter to her as long as they were together.

So on a Friday night in April one of the Jesuits at the mission said the words people say when they promise to stay together until death do they part, and standing there in the candlelight surrounded by his new life, Gene Harwood felt something he’d never really expected to feel after he left his home, and his country. He felt happy, and that even came as a surprise to the DEA agents who’d had him under surveillance for two months. 

Here ends Part I. This work © 2017-2022 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com and all rights reserved, and as usual this was a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s (rather twisted) imagination or coincidentally referenced entities are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. In other words, this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.

(hendrix\\wind cries mary)

The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 62.4

88 Glacier

Another short segment as the arc progresses from mind to screen. Cardamom tea after a long day of CT scans and the intrusions of random unwanted needles. It feels good to write.

[ Yes \\ South Side of the Sky \\ acoustic ]

Chapter 62.4

They heard screams. At least two people screaming, and Callahan looked at Eisenstadt – both now clearly confused.

“Where’s that coming from?” he asked.

Eisenstadt canted her head as if trying to fix the location, then she started for Harry’s bedroom. Harry clambered from the piano into his wheelchair and followed, getting to his bedroom in time to see some sort of commotion in his bathroom – and then, yes, there it was. Fresh sea ice everywhere, all over the slate floor and in the shower, too…which was where Deborah and Liz were now…but he saw there was also a little girl in the shower and she was still screaming hysterically. 

Eisenstadt handed a towel to Liz and then turned her attention to the girl, and as Harry rolled into the bathroom Liz saw him and literally flew into his lap. She was quaking now and clearly terrified so he held her close until she calmed a little, still keeping an eye on Deborah and the little girl – both now standing under the shower’s steaming spray. Then he recognized her: she was the same little girl he’d encountered on the Titanic, but something was different about her now.

She’d seemed nonplused when he ran into her, but now she was anything but. Now she was close to the edge.

He turned to Liz and stroked her hair. “Liz…where were you? Can you tell me what happened?”

He felt her shake her head against the skin of his neck, heard her quiet sobs as she came down, so he held her closer still.

“Oh Harry,” she whispered in his ear, “don’t ever let me go… Promise me, you’ll never let me go.”

“I’m here, kiddo,” he whispered as he stroked the back of her head. “It’s okay…I’m here.”

She squeezed him – and hard – then she palpably relaxed just a little…but a moment later he heard her snoring and her arms fell from his side. Her skin was still quite cool and her clothes were damp, but he was also virtually trapped in his wheelchair and the confinement he felt was now crushing, almost demoralizing. 

But the little girl’s cries had as quickly stopped, too, and now it appeared she too was sound asleep. Deborah could see Harry’s predicament and so she toweled the girl off, then shook her head and stripped her clothes off so she could completely dry her off. With that done Eisenstadt muscled her to Harry’s bed and got her covered, then the two of them got Liz dried off and in bed, too.

“Is that the same girl you saw on Titanic?” Deborah asked.

And Harry nodded. “Yeah, but she almost appears younger.”

Eisenstadt shook her head and sighed. “Why is she here?”

“I sincerely hope you don’t think I know the answer to that one, Kiddo.”

Which only made Deborah laugh – at least a little. “Harry, can you imagine? A few minutes ago this child was on the Titanic…and now…here she is?”

“Hey. Better here than there.”

“Perhaps. But…perhaps not. We must understand why she is here, Harald.”

“Did she say anything to you in there?” he asked, nodding his head in the direction of the head.

“No, not really. She babbled on about the president. Something she had to tell the president.”

“Clinton? Now that’s a good one.”

“Harald, she said she needed to see the president.”

“Okay, let’s go to the White House with a crazy naked kid and see…”

“Harald. You can stop now.”

“Have you noticed? When you’re getting your dander up you call me Harald…”

“I do not.”

“Uh-huh, whatever you say, Slick.” He crossed his arms over his lap and grinned at her. “Well, they obviously need sleep – and you obviously need another scotch, so…” Callahan sighed as she ambled off to the kitchen.

She poured two more while he put a heavy log on the fire and sat on the hearth, and yup, she came right back to his side and put her head on his shoulder.

“Thank you, Harald,” she said, giving him a little elbow in the ribs.

“You’re welcome, Doc.” He looked at his watch and growled then: “Well, we missed it.”

“Shit happens,” Eisenstadt said, and for some reason Callahan thought that was about the funniest thing he’d ever heard in his life.

+++++

When it was time to get Liz up they went to the bedroom and the little girl was gone. Just gone, like she’d never been there and everything else was simple imagination…except her wet clothes were still in the bathroom. Deborah took them to the washing machine and put them on with a small load of Harry’s things, and when she came back into the room Liz was sitting up in bed – and now wondering what she was doing in Harry’s room.

“Do you remember anything?” Harry asked.

She looked away and shook her head. “I’m not sure what’s going on, Harry, but it’s like I know some kind of memory is there – but I just can’t reach it.”

“Been there, done that,” Harry sighed. “Deb? You better get the rest of your things packed. Liz? Can you make it up to the house?”

“Can I borrow your bathrobe?” she asked carefully, holding the sheets up to cover her breasts.

“Oh, right…uh, whoa…yeah. I’ll go put on some coffee…” Callahan said as he rolled out of his room. Liz looked at Eisenstadt and they both laughed.

+++++

Harry slept all the way back out to Sea Ranch after he and the doc dropped off the girls, and he woke with a start when they pulled up to the driveway. The doc got Harry’s wheelchair set up and helped him settle in, then he pushed Harry up to the house. DD had finished cleaning up the mess in Harry’s bathroom and just for kicks she’d cleaned the house too, again – but she watched him carefully as he rolled through the living room and out onto the deck.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him like this,” she said to the doc as he came in behind Harry.

“He didn’t say a word coming back. Just fell asleep.”

“You think he’s depressed?”

“With a capitol fucking D, babe. I’ll take him into work with me tomorrow. He’s got the appointment for his leg, remember?”

“Has he had anything to eat?”

The doc shook his head. “Nope. Zero interest. He hardly ate the other night, and even Bennett said something to me about it.”

“You thinking anti-depressants?”

“You know me. I hate that shit; it ain’t right to go fucking around with the brain. He needs to get back to work, feel invested in life again.”

“I think I’ll fix a carbonara. He usually eats that.”

“Good idea,” said the doc.

“You go talk with him, see what’s up.”

“I better pour a couple of fingers, ya know?”

“Those two have been putting it down. Maybe we ought to slow that down a little?”

“Really? Harry? Drinking scotch?”

“Two bottles in four days.”

“Shit. Better make that two Cokes, okay?” Watson sighed as he turned and walked out to the deck, and he stood beside Callahan and watched him for a few moments…

“I’m not sure I can do this, Doc,” Callahan finally said.

“Do…what, Harry?”

“I’m not sure I can do ‘alone’ anymore, ya know? It was easier in the city, but out here? The only company out here is the wind and the waves, maybe a passing gull.”

“Don’t forget the sea lions.”

“Thanks, Doc, I needed that.”

“So, what are your options. You were talking about music, spending more time in the studio, working on youth programs. What happened to all that?”

“I can’t do it, Doc. Not by myself.”

“Hm-m. Maybe, Harry, that’s exactly what you need right now. Ever consider that?”

Callahan shook his head. “I’ve done ‘alone’ Doc. For most of my life, I think.”

“What about Deborah?”

“What about her?”

“You know, Harry, here you are talking about not wanting to be alone, yet when she got out of the car at the airport she came up to you and it was like some kind of a wall came up. I’ve never seen anyone in my life that wanted a kiss more than she did, while you for all intents and purposes turned into a glacier. Cold and hard, fracturing and falling into the sea. What on earth was going through your mind right then?”

“Fujiko. June. And even my boy.”

“Ah. The ghosts of Christmases Past.”

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“Tell me something. Can you see yourself with her?”

“Who? Deborah?”

“Yeah, meathead. Deborah.”

Callahan sighed. “She’s comfortable, Doc…ya know? She fits. So yeah, I could see her with me?”

“You could? Or you can?”

“What’s the difference, Doc?”

“Commitment, for one thing. Trust also comes to mind.”

“Trust?”

“Yeah, trust. As in: can she trust you to be there for the long haul?”

“We started to talk about it, but things went sideways.”

“Oh? What happened?”

“Liz came over.”

“Liz?”

“Yeah. And that’s the hard part, Doc. I think she’s…”

“She’s got a crush on you. Yeah, everyone’s got that, Callahan. She has since she was three. So what? She’s a child. You’re not. And remember that, would you?”

“I promised Cathy, and even Frank, that I’d take care of her.”

“Okay. Fine. Does that mean wedding bells and babies, Harry?”

“No, of course not.”

“Okay. So…what’s the problem?”

“She gets jealous,” Harry said.

“Jealous? Who, Liz?”

“Yeah, but I think even Deborah did, too.”

“You got to set boundaries, Harry. They both need to know where you stand, as in zero ambiguity. Got it?”

Callahan nodded. “Yeah.”

“Say you two,” DD said, coming out on the deck with Cokes and some nachos, “who wants dinner?”

“I’m not real hungry,” Harry sighed.

“Tough shit,” DD snarled. “I got bacon going for a carbonara, so get ready.” She wheeled around and zipped off to the kitchen, leaving Callahan with his mouth hanging open.

“What’s it like living with her, Doc?”

“Oh, like living with any other hurricane, Harry. She’s a force of nature, so you either get out of her way or get used to the wind.”

+++++

He called Eisenstadt after dinner. After DD cleaned up her colossal mess and folded his laundry.

She picked up the phone and right away he could feel the pain in her voice. “I’m sorry,” he said straight away.

“Sorry for what?”

“For the way I was at the airport. I’m really sorry.”

“How was the drive back to the house?”

“I slept. How ‘bout you? Did you sleep on the plane?”

“No. Liz and I talked the entire trip. About you.”

“Oh, no…”

“Oh, yes. And do you know what was said?”

“Uh…”

“She’s afraid for you, Harry. Afraid you will live your life by yourself.”

“And she’s afraid she’s to blame.”

“To blame? How so?”

“She loves you, Harry. Like a daughter loves her father, she loves you. And she wants to see you happy.”

“What about you, Deborah?”

“I’ve told you how I feel, Harry. Nothing has changed.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I am sure!” she barked. “Yes, I love you, you silly man. I could hardly breathe when we walked away from the car. And I could not handle the thought of you all alone out there…”

“When can you come back?”

“Come back? To visit, or to…”

“Deb, come back if you’re going to stay, but only if you plan to stay. Otherwise, I’m not sure I could stand the pain.” 

They came to a long pause, a space where neither knew what to say, but Harry knew what she was waiting for.

“I love you, Kid,” he finally said, and he could feel her release from across the continent.

“I love you too, Meathead.”

They laughed for the longest time after that, and Harry slept well that night. So well he never noticed the blues gathered by his bed with their instruments.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

And here’s the original.

The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 62.3

88BH

Standing inside a rabbit hole…what must that be like? And is there an event horizon between the real and the unreal? What kind of gravity would pull you hardest there? How would it feel to meet the White Queen, or the Red?

Alas, dear reader, time for tea. Tea for two, I dare say. Or will it be three?

Only time will tell.

[Herb Alpert \\ This Guy’s In Love With You]

Chapter 62.3

After DD and the doc left, Callahan stoked the fire while Eisenstadt poured two glasses of scotch, and he checked his watch, wanting to take in the pulsar again. He regarded Eisenstadt as she came back into the living room, still not sure what to think of this woman. With her Coke bottle eyeglasses on she looked decidedly frumpy and bookish, yet with them off she had a pleasant, easy going demeanor he found…decidedly – comfortable. Sure, she was five years older than he was, but in the great scheme of things that hardly mattered…

And then he caught himself. ‘Why am I even thinking of this stranger in these terms?’

And only one thing came to mind, really.

‘Because I really dislike being alone. Especially now that I’m not going to work every day.’

And, he had to admit now, seeing Sam Bennett in his current state had shaken him up.

So…he sat on the hearth with his back to the fire and he wasn’t at all unhappy when she came and sat right beside him again.

“How you doin’?” he asked as she slid in close, handing over a tumbler.

And she leaned into him, put her head on his shoulder. “I feel better now.”

“Oh?” he said. “So I’m not the only one feeling this way?”

“I like the way I feel with you, Harry. Comfortable, like somehow we belong.”

He nodded. “It seems funny that we have a history. Copenhagen and all that…”

“I am not too old for you?” she wondered aloud.

He smiled. “As long as you don’t want babies I think we’ll be okay.”

“Dear God. Babies. I would never have been a good mother.”

“Oh? Why’s that?”

“I was too focused on my studies, and I hardly could manage being a wife, let alone a mother. Now, of course, all that has changed. I’ve been teaching for twenty years and I hate to say it, but I think that enough is enough.”

“What are your plans?”

“I hadn’t really made any, as strange as that may sound. I have my place in Cambridge, and I have a small cottage out on the Cape that I go to when it is warm enough, but all-in-all I’ve led a quiet life since Anders passed. Teaching has been enough for me, I think.”

“And now?”

“I like the way my head feels – right here beside you,” she said as she rubbed her head on his shoulder. “I think I might enjoy this a little too much.”

There came a knock on the front door and Liz announced herself before she made her way to the living room, and when she found Harry and Deborah sitting by the fire she grinned. “Fix me a scotch, Harry?” she asked.

“Got ID?” he growled.

“Oh, c’mon Harry! I’m nineteen! I can handle it!”

“You know,” Callahan grinned, “I think your twenty-first birthday will be memorable for a bunch of reasons, and maybe chief among them getting snockered, but I made a promise to your mom…”

“I know, I know. And here he is, ladies and gentlemen. I give you Harry Callahan! Protector of ladies’ virtue everywhere!”

“That’s me,” Harry sighed. “So? Did you come down to check out the pulsar, or my liquor cabinet?”

“No, I wanted to tell you I’m flying back to Boston with you, Professor Eisenstadt.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Harry said, and Deborah nodded in agreement. 

“I really should get my degree, one way or another, but a Harvard degree…”

“I agree,” Eisenstadt said. “You are off to a good start, but it is only that. You must finish what you begin.”

Liz nodded. “So, what time is the doc coming down to pick us up?”

Callahan looked at his watch. “Six hours. The pulsar should kick off in a half hour. Are you packed?”

“Yup. Would you guys mind if I hang around and watch the light show from here?”

“Not at all,” Deborah said, standing and going over to the kitchen. She returned a minute later with a tumbler of something and handed it to Liz.

“It’s ginger ale, Harry,” Eisenstadt grinned.

Harry shook his head. “You two are going to make it real hard for me not to play the asshole.”

Liz took a sip then wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Geez, why do you even drink stuff that tastes like that? That’s revolting! It’s like battery acid with a little Tabasco thrown in for good measure.”

“See,” Harry sighed, holding up his hands, “I was just trying to protect you for the vices of old age.”

Liz put the drink down and and went to the piano; she started playing random notes but these efforts soon began to coalesce around a theme…

“Where have I heard that?” Harry mumbled – just under his breath.

“It’s what you began playing last night, just before…”

But now when Harry looked at Liz she was completely entranced, and for some reason he recognized what was happening to her – and what she was playing…

“Someone or something has linked up to her,” Harry whispered. “She’s being fed these notes. Did I look like this?”

Eisenstadt nodded, then out of curiosity she turned and looked behind and yes, there it was. The pink sphere. “Be very still now, Harry,” she barely whispered, “but the sphere has returned. The pink one.”

“Swell.”

The sphere was absolutely tiny now, no larger than an aspirin tablet, but it was bright – and spinning madly. It remained fixed near the ceiling, apparently locked into communicating with Liz and unconcerned with anything else going on in the room, so Deborah stood and walked across the living room until she was standing directly under the glowing orb. She walked to the hall closet and picked out a broom and returned, then held the bristled end up and inserted the straw ends into the sphere…

And there was no reaction at all, none whatsoever. 

And when she removed the broom the bristles appeared completely undisturbed.

“That cannot be?” she muttered, so she pushed the bristles back up and all the way through the sphere this time, and again the bristles appeared untouched. She swatted at the sphere with the bristled end and the sphere didn’t budge, so she flipped the broom and swatted the sphere with wooden handle – and the broomstick passed right through the sphere – and neither the sphere nor the broom reacted at all.

Eisenstadt looked at Harry and shrugged.

Though Harry, for his part, picked up his glass and drained it.

Eisenstadt came back to the hearth and sat by him once again. “It is as if it isn’t really here,” she whispered.

“Could it be some kind of projection? Maybe like a hologram?”

“Possibly. But there is another possibility, and one that disturbs me even more. There are theories concerning the possible existence of parallel dimensions, but what if there was a way for elements of one dimension to intrude on another?”

“I’m just curious,” Harry sighed, “but when you were growing up, did you eat your porridge with a slide rule?”

“Only on schooldays.”

“Figures.”

The sphere began moving now, and once again it slipped silently to the piano, hovering just above the closed cover. 

“Help me up, would you?” he asked Deborah, and once he had his walker underhand he slid over to the piano and pulled up the cover, exposing the various bridges and dampers – and the soundboard – and the sphere reacted immediately by spinning up to an even greater velocity.

Then Liz started playing the last movement of the Fourth, music she had seen only once – so Callahan really knew she had to be receiving instructions as she played…

…and then Harry realized she was playing his mother’s original score, the original phrasing unedited by von Karajan, and he stepped back from the piano in time to see Liz’s body shimmer in the air for a moment – and then disappear.

Harry looked up and watched the sphere – now spinning so fast it was hardly visible – and then he turned to Deborah. “I think we’re going to need a shitload of towels,” he grumbled.

© 2016-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

[ELP \\ Take a Pebble]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 62.2

88keykobenhaben

A fairly brief snippet here. Maybe one cup of tea on the tea-meter?

[Paul McCartney \\ Every Night]

Chapter 62.2

He woke up with a start, sat up and looked around the room – not really knowing where he was – or where he’d been.

Callahan recognized his bedroom and for some reason he felt a surge of relief, then he realized he was sweating profusely and terribly thirsty. “And why do I feel so disoriented?” he growled at his shaking hands.

He swung his leg out of bed and pulled the wheelchair close, then swung himself onto the seat – very nearly missing the seat and just saving his ass from another fall – and he grumbled all the way into the head, peeling off his soaked t-shirt and tossing it into the hamper as he passed. Then he positioned himself before the countertop and hoisted his body up to brace and turn on the shower  – and that’s when he saw the markings.

He saw a bunch of puncture woulds, and each looked like a site where a large bore needle had been inserted…and then he noticed that the injection sites – if that’s what they were – were grouped in threes, and that these groupings formed perfect equilateral triangles. And he could see at least five groupings like that on his torso. He shook his head, not at all sure what might have caused these as he started to look at his leg.

He washed up and brushed his teeth in the shower, but something on the insides of his gums didn’t feel right so he just rinsed with mouthwash and sighed. Something was seriously wrong, but he still had no idea what that something was, or even what it might be. 

He hopped out of the shower and dried off, then unfolded his walker and made it to the dresser in his bedroom. There was a mirror there as well, and he saw more of the same triangular groupings under his arms, but he just couldn’t see his back, nor the backside of his leg. ‘Gotta call the doc,’ he sighed, thinking he might have picked up the measles.

Then he remembered Deborah…Eisenstadt. 

He pulled on his usual SFPD gym shorts and put a sweatshirt on over his t-shirt, then he got into his wheelchair and rolled into Lloyd’s old bedroom…and he found she was still asleep. He reached over and gave her a nudge and she woke with a start, and he could see enough to realize she too was covered in sweat.

She sat up and immediately grabbed her head. “Oh, God! I have a headache!” she cried.

And yet Callahan could already see several of the triangular groups on her upper arms.

“What are you staring at?” Deborah said when she saw Callahan.

“Those marks, on your arm,” Callahan said. “I hate to ask, but I need you to check my back.”

“What?”

“Here, look at my arms,” he said, holding his arms out.

“You have the same marks, too?”

“Yup. A bunch of ‘em, from my shoulders right on down my leg.”

She rolled out of bed and came around to his back and he leaned forward in his chair enough for her to pull up his shirts…then…

“Yes, there are six groups of three on your back,” she said. “In a simple rectangular pattern, too.”

“They look like puncture wounds, right?” he added. “Yet I don’t feel anything. You?”

“No. Nothing.”

“I woke up covered in sweat, and so did you. Is your headache…?”

“It’s gone. Completely. So…perhaps this was a circulatory event? Did you have a headache?”

“Not that I noticed,” he sighed, “but I feel like I’ve gone ten rounds with Mohammed Ali.”

“Who is this?”

He shook his head. “Not important.” He saw the same marks running down her legs and not one showed any sign of bleeding – or any evidence of other mishap, for that matter – and he thought it looked like these sites had been created by a machine of some sort. “What else could account for this kind of precision…?” he whispered.

“The sphere,” Eisenstadt said. “The angry blue sphere. I feel certain it has something to do with this…entity.”

“Did you see something?”

“I feel as if I should, but Harry, this is very strange. I feel a memory is there but that somehow it has been, or is somehow being suppressed.”

“I hate to say it, but yeah, it’s like a missing hole in my memory. I know something is there, but I just can’t find it.”

“This is nothing new, I’m afraid. There was a conference recently where I teach…”

“MIT, right?”

“Yes. This conference concerned the psychopathologies of the so-called UFO abductee, and I attended a few of the sessions, those that concerned specific references to time dilation, but many of the psychiatrists attending did not want to generalize these phenomena. While some could trace an etiology back to some sort of underlying schizoaffective disorder…”

“Uh, Doc, sorry, but you’re going to need to tone it down a notch…”

“Ah, yes. Well, some physicians present did not feel comfortable about calling the abduction phenomenon a medical, or even a psychiatric condition.”

“Which means?”

“These physicians have concluded some of these events are grounded in reality.”

“Uh-huh.”

“I know. I feel the same way, Harry, but…” And here she paused, perhaps gathering her thoughts. “What is the last thing you remember from last night?”

“We were on the deck and Sagittarius started…” he said, his voice suddenly a flat monotone.

“And?”

“And…then I woke up?”

“Just so. It is the same with me. Something has happened. To us, I mean.”

Callahan felt heavy, almost like he was coming out of a trance, then he heard the front door open, followed by DDs almost adolescent “Yoo-hoo! Anyone home?”

“Is the doc with you?” Harry replied.

“Yessiree-Bob, you betcha!”

“Oh dear God,” Callahan moaned. “She must’ve gotten laid last night…”

Deborah tried not to laugh but DD walked into the room just then and when she saw Harry with his shirt askew a prudish eyebrow arched high. “Well, well, well,” she sighed, “did somebody not have enough fun last night?”

“Come take a look at this,” Harry snarled, and as DD knew that tone she snapped to.

“What am I looking…oh shit, Harry! What the hell did that?”

“They’re all over Deborah, too,” Harry growled. “Where’s the doc?”

And then, as if right on cue: “Holy shit!” Doc Watson barked. “Where’d all this water come from?”

+++++

Delgetti and Sam Bennett walked up to the door and Callahan was there waiting for them.

“Shit, Harry,” Captain Bennett grumbled as he smacked Callahan’s leg, “I like the look, but why not get a peg-leg?”

“Because I might be tempted to kick your ass!” Callahan replied with a smile. “Howya doin’, Cap?”

“I keep forgetting how far it is out here,” Del added as he took Harry’s hand. “Harry? How’s it hangin’?”

“To my knee, shipmate. You look kinda thirsty, but I may have something out back to take care of that.”

He led Captain Bennett through his house but it was obvious his old captain’s legs were bothering him…then they reached the stairs to head down to the patio where everything was set up.

“Harry? I’m not sure I can make it down those stairs…” Sam sighed.

“Well Hell, Cap…I know I can’t but I’ve got a spare chair. Why don’t you take this one. I just got it and it’s got a motor and it’ll go just fast enough to get you into trouble.”

“I don’t know, Harry. I just don’t know.”

Harry looked up at Delgetti and grinned. “Del, why don’t you run down and grab a couple of brews.”

“Sure, Harry…” his old friend nodded, understanding the moment all too well.

“Harry? I’m not doing so good, ya know?”

“It’s hard without Elaine, I guess?”

Sam broke down when he heard that. “Oh Harry, you have no idea…but now, livin’ in a home? That’s what it is, Harry, ya know? Just a fuckin’ warehouse for old geezers waitin’ to shuffle off, ya know?”

“Sam…?”

“And don’t you spout off about getting a hobby or making new friends. Ain’t no friends left, Harry, except you guys. Hell, if Delgetti didn’t come down on weekends the only people I talk to all week are the aides who drop by to see if I’ve shit myself.”

“Is it as bad as that?” Callahan asked, shocked at the change he saw in Bennett.

“It’s fuckin’ worse, Harry. There ain’t nothing worse than bein’ alone, not now, not at this stage.”

“Not how you thought things would turn out, is it?”

Bennett looked away. “We used to look at you, at all those women you had coming and going and we used to worry about how you’d end up, and now here I sit. I think that’s called irony, Harry, and it fucking sucks. The big one.”

“So…have you thought about photography?” Callahan said jokingly.

“Yeah, maybe we could go down to the valley and shoot porn.”

“There ya go. Pop wood and you wouldn’t even need a tripod.”

They laughed and Del came up with a beer for his captain, and Harry asked DD to find his spare wheelchair.

“I’m gonna let Sam use this one today,” he said when he saw the question in her eyes.

It took a few minutes but they got Bennett down the outside path and out to the grill and Sam just couldn’t resist; he strapped on an apron and started tossing ribeyes on the fire, suddenly back in his element. Callahan looked at his captain and grinned.

“It’s the simple things, Harry,” Delgetti said, coming up beside his old wheelchair. “I haven’t been able to get him interested in anything, but look at him now. Maybe all any of us want is to be useful, you know?”

“I do, as a matter of fact.”

“Sorry man. I freaked out when I heard about the leg. What are you gonna do now?”

“Music. That’s all I’ve got left, Del.”

“Hear that. Can I grab you an Oly?”

“Only I you’re joining me,” Callahan smiled…just as Deborah Eisenstadt came over, with two fresh bottles – the bottles sweating now that they were out of the ice. She passed them over and made her way back to Bennett.

“Who’s the, uh, new girl?” Delgetti asked.

“She’s some kind of physics professor at MIT…”

“Yeah, she looks like it, too.”

Callahan laughed. “Ah, she’s alright. Good company, anyway.”

“She’s stayin’ out here with you?”

“Staying in Lloyd’s old room. She came out with Liz…”

“Liz? Is she here? Man, I’d love to see her!”

“Yeah, she’s around here somewhere.”

“Physics professor, huh?” Delgetti grinned. “Cute legs, but Harry, ain’t she a little too stringy for you?”

“Del! I haven’t been home a week! I wasn’t exactly expecting to get laid anytime soon, ya know?”

Everyone on the patio stopped talking.

Everyone turned and looked at Callahan.

“Oops,” Harry whispered, and he saw that Captain Bennett was glowering at him. “Well, all’s right in the world, I’d say.”

“Yeah,” Delgetti sighed, “you still got a raging case of foot in mouth disease, Harry.”

+++++

Harry played the piano after dinner, and Liz danced with Sam for a while and the sight got to both Del and Callahan. Eisenstadt even danced with Bennett, at least until he put his hands on her butt – but everyone laughs at old men when they do stuff like that and tonight was no exception to the rule, and soon enough all the guests were loading into cars and heading south, leaving DD and Eisenstadt to load the dishwasher while Harry and the doc cleared tables and carried stuff up to the kitchen.

“So,” Doc said after the hard part was wrapped-up, “what about those puncture wounds. They still not itching?”

“I hadn’t thought of them ‘til you mentioned it, Doc,” Harry said. “But no…”

“Then they used sterile fields. Did you notice any kind of residue on your arms or torso?”

“Residue?”

“Like some kind of antiseptic. Betadine, or something like that?”

“No, nothing, nothing at all,” Deborah said. “And that is odd, isn’t it?”

“Odd, yes,” Doc Watson sighed. “And it means whoever did this has some serious understanding of the human biome.” He shook his head, clearly perplexed. “I’m just curious, Harry, but what aren’t you telling me?”

Callahan looked at Eisenstadt but she simply shrugged.

So…Callahan told DD and the Doc about going back in time to visit his mother as she played the closing notes of the Fourth, then about finding himself on the Titanic just as she slammed into the iceberg…

“Are you saying that’s where all that water came from?” the doc cried. “No way, man!”

“Yeah. Way, man. Then we went out to look at the pulsar and the next thing I know I’m in bed. With these triangles all over my fat ass.”

“Harry!” DD cried. “You do not have a fat ass!”

The doc rolled his eyes.

“You’re still leaving out something, Harry,” Eisenstadt sighed. “Again.”

“I am?”

“The spheres, Harry. You haven’t mentioned the spheres.”

Callahan nodded and took a deep breath, then he told them about their encounter with the blues and the single pink sphere…

…and when he finished DD was incredulous while the doc seemed curiously unphased.

“You both saw these things, these spheres?” he asked.

“We did,” Deborah replied, “and I am not so sure these are simple mechanical devices. I think they may be some kind of transport mechanism…”

“Honey?” DD sighed, “maybe we’d better have some of the good stuff?”

Doc went to the kitchen and poured four shots of Drambuie and carried them back out, and he found Harry struggling to get a fire going but decided against helping. It took a while, but Harry worked his magic and soon a nice fire was blazing away in the fireplace. Deborah went and sat beside Harry on the stone hearth, and DD noticed how close she sat to him. The doc did too.

“A transport mechanism, you said?” the doc repeated.

“One of the blue spheres definitely seemed to react to our actions,” Deborah said as she nodded. “That one seemed more hostile, until the pink one intervened.”

“And they came after these events with your mother and the ship?” the doc asked. “What happened to set this off?”

And Harry nodded. “I was playing something…it was just coming to me, at least I thought it was, but now I’m not so sure.”

“What do you mean?” Deborah asked.

“You said, what, those doodling notes I was playing…”

“Had form and structure,” Deborah said.

“And…harmony,” Harry added.

“Yes! Harmonic structure…like the sound itself…”

“Is the gateway she mentioned,” Callahan sighed. “And the harmonic structure is bound up within those last few notes.”

“You mean,” the doc interjected, “that the last notes you discovered open up…”

“Something the spheres do not want us to play around with,” Deborah said, looking down at Harry’s fingers. “Harry, you hold the key. You know that now, don’t you?”

Callahan shook his head. “Can’t use it. No way.”

She leaned into him. “Good for you, Harry. Don’t tempt the fates.”

“I can’t tell whether you’re making fun of me or not,” he grinned.

“I’m proud of you, I think. It’s the right decision. Nobody should…” she started to say, but then she thought of that Old Man. Because what was he if not a time traveler?

“Nobody should what?” DD asked.

“Tempt the fates,” Callahan repeated…but he too was thinking about Lloyd and the Old Man…and of a looming battle between father and son.

© 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 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.]

[Nick Drake \\ Things Behind The Sun]

The Eighty-eighth key, Chapter 62.1

88keykobenhaben

First, a little housekeeping. Please note that the previously posted chapter 62 (actually 62.1thru 62.3) was actually supposed to be chapter 61 etc., so unless I’m totally lost now, with this post we’re actually up to the real chapter 62. Actually speaking, anyway, this is the actual 62.1, and the last 62.1 was actually supposed to be 61.1, and if you’re not actually confused yet, don’t worry because I’m actually confused enough for both of us.

Is it just me, or does it seem like Prince Vlad has a really bad case of projectile dysfunction? Maybe he should take lessons from Will Smith?

Okay…I’ll shut up now.

But, alas, if not for music matters, I’d have nothing else to say.

(King Crimson\\ I Talk To The Wind – Duo Version)

Chapter 62.1 (actually…)

It is four in the morning and Callahan can’t sleep. Everything he tries to think about, every distraction he comes upon always takes him back to the same point in time – to what caused his mother to die – because she had – obviously – chosen death. And now that Liz and Deborah Eisenstadt were here – and picking at all the old scabs covering this wound – he was beginning to feel very uneasy about all the other unknown events surrounding her passing.

His mother had been fighting what he’d always regarded a rearguard action against encroaching dementia, but what if he’d been wrong about that all along? ‘And not just me,’ he thought, ‘all of us. But me and Dad most of all.’  

The single most important manifestation of her dementia, of her presumed psychosis, had been the repeated appearance of the “Old Man,” only now Callahan knew the Old Man was real. And not just real, but more than likely a time traveler. And if that was the case just what had the Old Man been doing to her? What outcome had he been trying to shape?

So…he’d realized that she hadn’t been some kind of garden variety schizophrenic after all? Maybe the Old Man had become more like her own personal tormenter, and maybe as his appearances became more and more frequent she’d grown depressed and felt undermined by his constant, unwanted intrusions? ‘I mean…who wouldn’t,’ he sighed as he sat at the piano, his fingers playing random notes in the deeper registers. “I know I wouldn’t be able to handle something insidious like…” he grumbled.

“What couldn’t you handle,” Eisenstadt said, padding into the living room in her bathrobe and fuzzy pink slippers.

“The things my mother had to put up with,” he replied, his hands never leaving the keyboard.

“What are you playing? It’s beautiful.”

“Playing? I wasn’t…I’m not – playing anything.”

“You could have fooled me. There was structure and melody, and an almost melancholic longing in these notes.”

He closed his eyes and started playing again, only now he was very much aware that specific notes were coming to him. He straightened up and addressed the keyboard and opened his mind and time seemed to dissolve as he played now, and he could just hear the crashing surf below and then a cool breeze flowing through the room…

“Harald?”

“Mom? Is that you?”

Another passing breeze and then faint laughter, like children on a distant playground.

“What are you trying to tell me?”

His eyes closed, he reached out through the music, the notes pulling them together through space and time.

“I can…I think I can hear you now…”

He could hear her grand old Bösendorfer now, hear her playing and he knew he was hearing her in the compound, at Avi’s house.

He opened his eyes and it was like he was flying through cloud, his eyes watering as he crossed gulfs of cold hard time…

…and then… she was there…and she was…

…playing the Fourth. And yes, there was von Karajan, staring in disbelief as she played, and von Karajan wept in astonished understanding as her music was carried along on the breeze… 

Callahan was behind and above his mother now, looking down on her as she scored this crucial last fragment of her final concerto, at the music he now know so well, and he watched as she made her way into the final passage. 

But no, this was different. She…no…this wasn’t the music von Karajan had given him.

He moved closer, looked at her penciled notes on the sheet music and he could see the harmonic interplay take shape in the air above the piano. 

He moved closer still and she turned and looked into his eyes. “Do you understand now, Harald?” she said to him. “Do you see where I am taking this?”

“I think so, Mom.”

“We can never do this again, so you must understand the harmonic structure, now, before you leave…”

He pointed to a section of notes. “I’ve never seen anything like this, Mom. What is it?”

“This is the key, Harald. This is the gateway, and you must now become the keeper. Sit beside me now and play the notes with me, form the chord in your mind. Do you see it now?”

“Yes. Yes, I do,” he said as he played.

“Then go now. Go, but Harald, you must never come back here. Promise me, now, that you will never…!”

“But Mom, I…”

“I know, I know. But Harald, you must guard what you have learned here because this will become very dangerous for you. Now…promise me…before they come for us!”

“Alright Mom, I promise,” he cried as he reached out for her…

…but she was receding now, disappearing inside the cold embrace of the same dense white cloud, yet even now she was reaching out for him and he saw her calling out a name. He strained to hear what she was saying then he recoiled in disbelief as he found himself tumbling through a black void, surrounded by shimmering blue fingers of dancing electricity…

And when he landed in a dazed heap he looked around he felt a damp wooden floor underhand and this place was very cold. Very, very cold. And when he raised his head and looked around it looked like he was laying inside a wooden bucket of some sort, and he felt ice cold condensation rolling down the planked walls of the bucket…

Then he felt a small hand on his shoulder, and he heard a little girl’s voice whispering close to his ear.

“You’d better stand up now,” the ticklish little voice said. “This is the bad part.”

He looked up, saw a little girl standing beside him and he took her offered hand and tried to stand – and suddenly he realized he was standing on two legs now.

But there were two men standing in the bucket too, and one of them was rubbing his hands as if to ward off the cold…

Then the little girl tugged at his shirtsleeve. “Could you pick me up, please. I want to watch.”

“Watch? Watch what?” he said as he lifted her up to his waist, and she pointed out into the mist.

“There. If you look real hard you can just about see it now.”

He turned and realized he was high above the foredeck of a large ship steaming through the night, but just then one of the men by his side crossed himself…

“Sweet Jesus,” the man said as he picked up the cold brass growler by his hand. 

Harry turned and looked at the little girl as sudden understanding turned to panic. “Where are we?” he muttered.

“Iceberg!” the lookout cried into the growler. “Iceberg, dead ahead!”

“Don’t worry,” the little girl sighed, “it only hurts for just a little bit, but it’ll be over soon.”

Callahan watched as the iceberg came out of the mist and he knew there wasn’t anything he could do so he simply gave way to the moment and held on. The Titanic grazed the spur just beneath the waterline and shattered fragments of ice rained down on the deck, and he turned in time to see officers running into the wheelhouse to close the watertight bulkheads and now everything felt just like a nightmare.

“But it’s not,” the little girl said.

“It’s not what?” 

“A nightmare. But don’t worry. No one will believe you, so it doesn’t matter.”

He swallowed hard but in the next instant he started falling again, and a billion years later – or was it just a second? – he was on the floor in the living room of his house and he felt like he was drowning in freezing water.

He heard screaming and when he looked up he saw a blinking owl, then the owl was by his side, helping him into his wheelchair and that’s when he realized his house was awash in seawater, and that the floor of his living room was covered in shattered fragments of ice…

“My God, Harry!” Eisenstadt cried. “What has happened? Where were you?”

“What do you mean…where was I? I was right here!”

“No! No, you’ve been gone for several minutes?”

“Gone?”

“Oh God! Harry! Do you know what this means?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Harry! You left this time! You…traveled in time – just like the Old Man Liz mentioned!”

“No…no way…”

“The music, Harry! This music! The Fourth is the key!”

“Where did all this ice come from?” Callahan asked as he surveyed the wreckage around his chair.

“It must come from your movement through time…”

“I was on the Titanic. With a little girl.”

Eisenstadt stepped back from him as she stared at the ice in disbelief. “The Shift. You experienced the Shift.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The Aubuchon Shift, Harry. You’ve found the gateway…to the Shift!”

“The…gateway,” he repeated – but his eye had been drawn to a shimmering blue sphere that at first appeared to be smaller than a golf ball hovering near the ceiling. “What is that?” Callahan said, pointing at the ceiling.

Eisenstadt turned and looked up at the sphere. “Have you seen anything like this before,” she whispered.

“No Ma’am, I can’t say that I have.”

“Do you have any idea what…?”

“No Ma’am, I sure don’t, but I think I’m going to a gun store first thing in the morning.”

“You know, I’m not sure that will help matters.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right…but I’ll sure feel a lot better than I do right now.”

Another sphere appeared, then another. The first sphere started spinning rapidly, and it grew brighter the faster it moved.

“Harald? Is it my imagination, or does that one seem angry?”

“It’s your imagination,” Callahan growled – as two more spheres arrived. “Definitely your imagination.”

Another sphere arrived, but this one a subdued pink color, and the spinning blue sphere simply disappeared. Moments later the the other spheres began leaving, and soon only Harry and Eisenstadt remained in the room – facing the pink sphere and not at all sure what to do next.

“I’d do just about anything to have my leg back right now,” Callahan whispered to Eisenstadt. “You think we should offer it a glass of scotch?”

Which caused the pink sphere to silently drift across the room towards Callahan. He guessed it was about a foot in diameter – yet as it came closer it also seemed to be growing in size – but then the sphere drifted by his face and moved across the living room, finally settling above the Bösendorfer. It hovered there, then began – apparently – to examine the instrument in minute detail. 

Callahan turned to Eisenstadt. “I think I could use another scotch. How ‘bout you? And maybe a towel?”

She shook her head, her eyes focused on the sphere as it drifted around and then settled under the piano. It moved to the keyboard a minute later and it appeared to take great interest here, lingering over the keyboard for several minutes, then the sphere drifted across the room and it spun up for a few seconds – then disappeared.

“Well…fuck,” Callahan muttered. 

“Harry, you are a man of few words, but at least they are well considered.”

“Right, if you say so, Doc. Now, if you don’t mind…? I need a really big scotch, so if you wouldn’t mind…?”

She turned to Harry and grew quite serious: “Harry? You mentioned the Titanic. Where else did you go? Did you talk to anyone else?”

“No scotch, huh?”

“Oh, alright, alright, I see I have created a monster. Now…start talking, and leave nothing out!”

He looked at his piano while Eisenstadt went to refill his tumbler and grab a towel, and after she returned he looked at the last dying embers in the fireplace…

“I talked with my mother…”

“You spoke to her? You actually interacted?”

He nodded. “And she told me not to come back again. Made me promise, as a matter of fact.”

“Did she say anything else?”

“When I was leaving,” he nodded, “she said ‘Dana Goodman.’”

“That’s all?”

“Yup. I couldn’t hear her real good, but I’m pretty sure that’s what she said.”

“Goodman…Goodman…?” Eisenstadt repeated. “Where have I…”

“You mentioned her earlier, Doc. When you were talking about Claire…”

“Yes! Claire Aubuchon! She was a passenger on the Titanic, just a little girl at the time, but she was there…”

Callahan grinned. “Yup. I met her.”

“You what?”

“I met her, up in the, oh, hell, what do you call it…like a crow’s nest…where the guys standing watch were stationed…”

“And Claire was there? With you?”

Callahan nodded. “Yeah, and I got the impression this wasn’t her first time there.”

“You were a detective, correct? Can you find this Dana Goodman?”

Callahan shrugged. “I’m not sure how much access to information I still have right now. I’m retired, but actually retired cops have a fair amount of residual power. I can still carry the badge and the gun but I’m not sure how much computer access I have.”

“This might be a good time to find out, Harald.”

“Call me Harry, okay Doc? My mom called me that, and I never really liked it.”

“Okay, Harry. Tell me…do you have a computer?”

“No…well, there might still be a couple up in the studio.”

“Internet?”

Callahan shrugged. “I don’t know if everything is still hooked up.”

“Would Liz know?”

Harry shook his head. “My, uh, my son hooked all that stuff up.”

“Oh. I see. Well, perhaps we should go see…”

They heard someone in the kitchen…opening a cabinet door and taking a glass down from a shelf. Then the refrigerator door opening, followed by the hissing sound of a large bottle of Coke being opened. Then they heard the sound of liquid pouring into a glass – and Harry looked at Eisenstadt and both shrugged.

And then the Old Man walked out of the kitchen, and Callahan saw he was still wearing the same loden cape, still carrying the same ornately carved cane as the other times he’d seen him, only now he walked with an easy familiarity over to the sofa and sat down heavily.

“I do miss Coca-Cola,” the Old Man sighed after he took a long pull from his glass.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Callahan growled.

“Oh, nothing, Pops. Just a sign of the times. So, how’s the leg?”

“It sucks. Why?”

“You ever figure out who shot you?”

Callahan shook his head.

“Wanna know?” the Old Man asked.

“Not really.”

“Okay, Pops…”

“Why do you keep calling me that?”

The Old Man smiled. “Oh, no reason. Just a sign of the times.”

“What the Hell does that mean?”

The Old Man shrugged. “So, tell me about the sphere?”

“The sphere?” Callahan snarled. “What are you talking about?”

“The sphere that just left. What color was it?”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Pops, listen. Just take my word for it…I need to know.”

“There were several blue ones,” Eisenstadt cried in exasperation, “and then a pink one appeared.”

“What did she do?”

“She?” Callahan growled. “What the fuck do you mean by that?”

“It seemed to study the piano,” Eisenstadt replied calmly, ignoring Harry’s sudden, inexplicable reticence.

“That’s all?”

“Yes. Then it left,” Eisenstadt added.

The Old Man put his glass on the cocktail table and sighed. “Well then,” he said, “as much as I’d really like to stay and shoot the shit, I must be going.”

“Of course,” Harry said, almost baring his teeth, “please…go.”

The Old Man stood and then he looked at Harry’s missing leg and shook his head. “Sorry the leg is still bothering you,” he said, then he tapped his cane on the floor twice and disappeared.

Eisenstadt looked at the spot where the Old Man had just been sitting, then she looked over at Callahan. “What was that all about?”

“I’m not sure,” he sighed as he toweled his face dry, then he wheeled over to the cocktail table and looked at the glass. “Could you see if there are any plastic bags in the kitchen? Like maybe a baggie or something like that? And a paper towel?”

“Alright.”

She came back a moment later with both and he took the paper towel and picked up the glass, obviously checking for fingerprints as he held it up to the light. After rotating the glass and holding it up at various angles he carefully placed the glass into the plastic bag and sealed it.

“Are you going to check for fingerprints?” She asked.

“I am, yes, but I think I know who he is now.”

“Pops? He called you Pops, did he not…?”

“Yup. And Lloyd used to call me that, at least when he was happy he did.”

“That is your son?”

Callahan nodded.

“What happened to him, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Oh, not much. He killed a musician and then disappeared.”

“Ah. A nice, well adjusted boy…”

“He was indeed. He was his mother’s son.” Callahan grimaced and then looked away, out into the night. “Could you push me out onto the deck, please?”

“Of course.”

He looked at his watch and nodded. “It’s about time, I reckon,” he said as she pushed him out into the wind.

He locked the wheels and stood up, holding onto the rail to steady up for a moment, then he searched the southern horizon for Sagittarius…

“There it is,” Callahan said, pointing to the steam coming from the teapot, then he looked at Eisenstadt…who was shivering now as cool breezes off the sea settled over her. Without thinking he put his arm around her and pulled her close – just as the first burst of light pierced the night. 

The blue sphere stopped spinning just then – as it moved in slowly towards Callahan.

© 2021-22 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances (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.]

Questions, comments, or tips and tricks on how to make authentic Texas chili: adrianleverkuhnwrites7@gmail.com

(King Crimson \\ I Talk To The Wind)

The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 61.3

88Kvenom image SMALL

So…anyone wanna talk about Will Smith at the Oscars? Good, nor do I. Music, however, always matters.

(Sting \\ Russians v.2022)

Chapter 62.3

Callahan and Eisenstadt were sitting in the living room; the fireplace in the heart of his house was blazing away – sending flickering shadows of amber ghosts in desperate flight all around the room. Callahan was nursing his second Diet Coke of the evening, yet after taking one last sip he shuddered and put the glass down. “This stuff tastes like pure unadulterated panther piss,” he growled.

She smiled. “Do you have any single malt?”

“Doubtful. I used to keep some here for guests, so if there is any it’ll be over in the cabinet above the ‘fridge.”

Deborah went over and checked the cabinet, and he heard her gasp as she took in the choice. “Oh my. Someone very interesting has been stocking your liquor cabinet, Harry.”

“Doc likes his scotch. Probably him, if you get my drift. You into that stuff?”

“I am. Would you like to have a snort?”

“Sure. What the hell…anything beats this stuff.”

She came back a moment later with two glasses of caramel colored liquor and handed one to Callahan. He took a tentative sniff then a sip, and he nodded. “Pretty good. What is it?”

“Aberlour. A decent 16 year old. Very smooth, don’t you think.”

He shrugged. “If you say so. Never been into it.”

“Oh, it’s just something to take the edge off, I think. Sit in front of the fireplace and think about the day, kind of look back…”

“Look back. Yeah, I like that.”

“I know you don’t want to do it, Mr. Callahan…”

“Oh, come on, it’s been what? – four days now…so you can call me Harry, and I promise I won’t bite.”

“Alright…Harry. What is that? Short for Harold?”

“Harald, with an ‘a’.”

“So, so the Danish spelling…from your mother’s side, I assume?”

“Yup.”

“Did her mother, your grandmother, play the piano?”

“Yes. I think she played at the concert level. Quite accomplished, at least that’s what Mom told me, but she passed away when my mother was still pretty young.”

“Do you think your mother, well, that she traveled when she played?”

“I’m not sure, Doc. She’d play and there were times I just saw her sitting there, almost like she was catatonic. All I can remember is that it really scared my dad and me when she got like that. It was spooky, but, well, have you been around many mental cases?”

“Only in faculty meetings,” Eisenstadt said, smiling wistfully. “Sorry. No, but please, do go on…”

Callahan nodded absent-mindedly. “I’ve seen a few. Jumpers. People in emotional shock. But in a way most people who set out to murder someone, well, they’re usually emotional basket cases, in one way or another…”

“That’s right. You were a homicide detective, were you not?”

“Yeah, for most of my time in the department I was in CID…uh, that’s the Criminal Investigations Division. When most cops first go into the division they usually get assigned to the  bunko, or the theft and fraud division, but some go to vice. You do well there and you get assigned to homicide. It’s supposed to be a big deal but looking back on it I kind of wish I’d stayed on the street…”

“Oh? Why is that?”

Callahan sighed and looked into the fireplace, at glowing embers under burning logs. “Being a cop…well…it’s like living in a sewer. People who do stuff, commit crimes, they’re like all the people who just don’t fit in, ya know? They’re the people on the outside looking in. Usually not real bright, some just plain broken…”

“Makes sense. If you’re reasonably intelligent you find it’s rather easy to make a good living…”

Callahan smiled, then he nodded. “Until you run into a stockbroker or a physician with tons of money and then you realize he committed the murder. Or the well-off old lady who takes in and kills an old man for his Social Security checks. There’s just a screw loose, Doc. I don’t know how else to say it. You can look ‘em in the eye and see it. Something wrong, something off way down deep, maybe something that happened to ‘em a long time ago, but they really just don’t fit in…”

“You saw a lot of bad things, didn’t you?”

He nodded, but for a while he couldn’t take his eyes off the embers. Then he held up his glass of scotch and looked at the fire through the liquid…

“Do you have nightmares about such things?”

Callahan nodded again, more slowly now, and he found himself back in San Paulo. Looking into Jennifer Spencer’s demon-haunted eyes. “Painting a carousel,” he muttered, his mind going round and round…

“What? What did you say?”

Harry shook himself back into the moment. “Oh, nothing. I was just thinking about a case.” He chuckled as an ember snapped and popped and he watched as a fragment arced through the air, landing on the slate floor. “A nut case, as a matter of fact. I have a self-portrait of her hanging in the bedroom.”

“The one with the eyes?” Eisenstadt asked.

And then Callahan frowned. “I have a hard time getting her out of my mind.”

“Why her?”

“She was broken, ya know? Damaged goods. But in a way she was so easy to love.”

“And you loved her?”

He nodded. “For a while.” He looked at the ember on the floor, a soft glowing red thing that was about to fade away, and he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “We were just too far apart, I guess. Close, but not touching.”

“Sounds painful.”

He shook his head again and smiled. “It’s amazing how many cops end up marrying people they meet on a call. You know, like a girl comes home from work and finds her place has been broken into and here comes the cop, and there it is. Something sparks. Or someone is in an accident and the cop pulls them from the wreckage, and some kind of connection is made. A good connection. We’re there when people are at their most exposed, their most vulnerable, and we’re often the only ones around that don’t take advantage of them. Not like all the repair shops or contractors and insurance agents they have to deal with in the aftermath, let alone all the other scammers. Sometimes we’re the only one there who’ll tell ‘em with a straight face what’s going on and what comes next. I liked to think that what I did was to simply go out and find the truth, and that maybe the truth would be some kind of comfort, or that maybe the truth would actually turn out to help someone.”

“And…was it?”

“As I said, I liked to think that…”

“But now you’re not sure?”

Callahan leaned back in his chair and looked up at the ceiling. “There’s something going on out there, something happening. Frank and I, well, more like a bunch of us, I think, uh, we stumbled on something. At first we thought it was like some kind of rot eating away inside…”

“Inside? What are you talking about, Harry?”

But Callahan shook his head again. “Frank and I, we couldn’t be sure, but it was like maybe police departments were being undermined, maybe even compromised, but from the inside out. Penetrated, at least in the beginning? Then…subverted?”

“By whom?”

“That’s the problem, Deborah. Whenever it was like we were getting close to…hell…that’s not right. We never got close to an answer. I don’t think we even got close to asking the right questions, and whenever we tried it’s like we were attacked from every angle. Drug dealers. Low life scum. Then from the inside, by rogue cops. And then cops working with dealers. So we gave up, and I mean we publicly gave up and yet…no one seemed to care in the least, especially no one in city government…”

“And so you think they were in on it, right?”

“Maybe, maybe not. The thing is, it felt pervasive. Like it was everywhere, like law enforcement at every level was being compromised.”

“Was?”

Callahan shrugged. “Yeah. And I assume it still is.”

“So, why were you in Israel?”

“I used to think I knew the answer to that one, but now I’m not so sure.”

“Oh?”

“Did you know Avi Rosenthal?”

She shook her head. “Was he related to Saul?”

“Yeah, his brother. I still don’t know the whole story, but he was – apparently – married to my mom before the war, but I think that was a marriage of convenience. Then about twenty, twenty-five years ago he basically took Mom back to Israel. They lived in a government compound outside of Tel Aviv; that’s where Mom was when she died.”

“What did this Avi Rosenthal do?”

“I’m not real sure, but I think it had something to do with their version of the CIA.”

“The Mossad? Really?”

Callahan shrugged. “Maybe. He was a physicist but got involved in planning. War plans. At least he let on once that was what he was working on.”

Eisenstadt sighed, her mind working overtime now: “Do you think there’s any possibility that he knew about this thing your mother did? This manipulation of time?”

“If he knew he didn’t let on.”

“If he worked with Mossad he wouldn’t.”

Callahan looked at her carefully then, trying to get a read on where she was going with this line of questioning: “So, what are you thinking?” he finally asked.

“Harry, I am at heart a physicist. I look at complex systems and try to understand why they behave the way they do…”

“Okay. So, you look worried right now. Why?”

“I have two fears, really. The first concerns this thing that you taught Liz. This remote viewing thing you do. It is a curiosity, yet one with an immense potential to wreak havoc. Yet what most concerns me is that we somehow extend this ability and that we actually are able to travel back in time. Now…what if this Avi Rosenthal knew of your mother’s ability? Then what? Well, if he worked for Mossad we have to assume that the Israelis know of this generally and have since been working to extend your mother’s ability to utilize remote viewing into actual time travel. Yet I lived and taught there for almost twenty years and never heard even a whisper about such a project.”

“Okay. That’s one fear. What’s the other?”

“This I have a more difficult time understanding. It is little more than a feeling right now, a feeling with no basis in reason.”

“Alright. So, fire away.”

“It concerns this thing in the sky. This pulsing light. And to me it is a question of timing, and because of what we were just talking about at dinner. What did you say to your friend, the doctor? That this pulsing might not be a natural phenomenon, that it might be a signal? And if this is so, it might quite possibly be a warning of some kind? And here we are, the three of us – and quite possibly the Israelis too – working on some kind of practical ability to move through time. So, my second fear is exactly this: what if this warning is no coincidence?”

“Swell…”

“Yes. Just so. But there is another point to consider. If your mother knew of this ability before the war, what if others learned of her ability? Perhaps very unscrupulous people, perhaps, for instance, scientists working for or inside the Third Reich…?”

Callahan shuddered. “That would explain Israel’s interest, wouldn’t it? The Nazis could manipulate time, and…”

She nodded: “Just so, yes. And now let me add one more piece to the puzzle…”

“Oh, no…”

“Oh, yes. There was talk, before the outbreak of the war, of a kind of “shift” that had to do with time displacement. It was, and by rumor only, called the Aubuchon Shift. From what I have been able to uncover, there was a Claire Aubuchon involved with the Manhattan Project. She lived in Los Alamos, New Mexico during the war, and she worked with a physicist at Berkeley named Ted Sealy. They were working on how the blast waves from atomic bomb detonations would impact the wings of the delivery aircraft, the B-29; in other words, they were working on both the physical effects and the acoustic dynamics of a large blast wave. And Harry, this is the crucial point here, she was working on harmonic properties and their impact on structures and then she supposedly came upon some kind of “shift” and then she quite literally dropped out of sight. Years later she marries a man named Ben E Goodman with all kinds of degrees in medicine and physics yet I cannot find out anything about this Dr. Goodman. No academic records, no work records, nothing…”

“Goodman? Did you say Ben Goodman?”

“Yes? Why?”

“My contact within the Mossad these days is Colonel Benjamin Goodman.”

“Interesting. Does he, by any chance, have a daughter?”

“Yup. Didi. Didi Goodman.”

Eisenstadt shook her head. “This Claire Aubuchon had a daughter. Dana Goodman is her name. She lives in Los Angeles.”

“You think they’re related, don’t you?”

“Possibly. Or…something worse.”

“Worse? What could be worse?”

“That they are copies. Copies of this Claire Aubuchon. And this is what troubles me, Harry. This Aubuchon was a passenger on the Titanic yet she had a child in the 1950s? Is that so? Is that even possible?”

“So…you think she was actually traveling?”

“I have no idea, but this husband of hers, this man with no discernible background, has a baby with her when she is far too old to do such a thing? No, Harald, there are far too many unanswered questions here, questions that make no sense, and then you tell me of this other Goodman in Israel…”

“She’s been handling my finances for a long time.”

“What?”

“His daughter knows where everything is. Everything.”

“You must act now to secure what you have. And Harald. There is something else I must tell you.”

“Yes? Well, fire away…”

“My father, in Copenhagen, was your grandfather’s best friend.”

“My grandfather?”

“Aaron. Aaron Schwarzwald.”

“Seriously? Now isn’t that…”

“A coincidence?”

“A coincidence, yes.”

“I am not so sure I believe in such things anymore, Harald. The odds that Liz would look me up in Cambridge and then bring me to your house defies statistical interpretation…”

“Meaning what?”

“I have no idea, only that something most unusual is taking place.”

“Unusual, how?”

“It is like we are being guided…”

“Funny, I didn’t take you as the religious type…”

“And I am not, Harald. Yet perhaps there are people guiding us, or shaping events so that we come together…”

“So, people with god-like powers?”

“Perhaps it seems that way to us, but to me this implies people who have mastered the observation of people across lifetimes…”

“You mean time travelers, don’t you?”

She nodded. “Yes, I suppose I do. This also means that you and I may hold some sort of special place in this scheme, that you and I coming together is part of a plan.”

Callahan sighed and held up his glass. “I think I’m going to need another one of these,” he said.

“Ah, you see? This is a most useful creation, this scotch. Sit back and go over the day, or perhaps even a lifetime…”

“Lifetimes.”

“Just so, yes. We must start with your mother, Harald. That is the first road we must take.”

“You know Robert Frost?”

“The poet? No, not really. Why?”  

Callahan looked at his empty glass and twirled the last remaining drops in slow circles, looking at one drop as it collided and reformed in ways both unpredictable and reassuringly familiar. “I shall be telling this with a sigh, Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

“And this means what, Harry?”

“That we have been acting in very predictable ways, and if we’re going to survive this thing then we’re going to have to start taking the road less traveled.”

“We need to be unpredictable? Is that what you’re saying?”

He nodded, and then he tossed the last remaining drops of scotch onto the fire. “Yes. Just so.”

© 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 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 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.]

(Genesis \\ Dodo-Lurker Suite)