the eighty-eighth key, chapter 20

88k p3 image

The Eighty-eighth Key

Part III

Chapter 20

____________________________________

He spent his mornings at the Tagesklinik, the psychiatric day clinic in Davos, and when the sun was out he skied with ‘Uncle’ Avi. When she was well enough Sara joined them, and she proved to be an able skier. In the evening, Avi disappeared for hours on end; Harry assumed Avi was talking with Imogen but little mention was made of these interludes.

After a week and with Sara remarkably improved, Harry took her to dinner at the Alpenhof.

They danced around the edges of their wounds as they talked, and they grew into the moment, seemed to check their cares at the door. He was mesmerized by the candlelight drifting through her story, within the carefree pools of her laughter, and they took drinks after dinner in a small alcove haunted by an ancient fireplace. And at one point he reached over and took her hand.

And it all came so naturally after that. This coming together that had eluded Callahan for so long.

One Saturday morning she joined him on the mountain and just the two of them skipped and danced across the snow; they met Avi at the Weissfluhgipfel for lunch, and even the old physician in his cape drifted by once, helping a young boy who had turned an ankle on the slopes. To Harry the universe seemed reborn, and up here in the sunlight, breathing the enchanted, wind-kissed and sparkling mountain air made everything about this new life feel alive with hidden promise.

And at lunch Avi watched his ‘nephew’ with renewed interest; when Sara excused herself he took the opportunity to say so…

“If I am not mistaken, Harry, you seem to be very much in love.”

Callahan picked up his Piesporter and took a sip, then dipped into his salad before he spoke. “I never knew life could feel this way, Avi. There’s something so sweet about waking up and knowing she’s out there.”

Avi nodded as a sudden memory passed on a breeze. “I felt that way too, once upon a time.”

And Harry watched the old man’s face, his eyes now as he spoke. “Mother?”

Avi nodded. “We would walk on this one beach, not far from the city…”

“In Denmark?”

“Yes. The way the sun played across her face. The way she lifted my spirits. When you find such things, Harry, only a fool lets go.”

And Harry sat back, let those words roll around in his mind – at least until Sara returned.

“My, you both look so serious now,” she remarked as Harry pulled out her chair. “What have I missed?”

“Only the most intimate secrets of the universe,” Avi said, smiling.

“Ah, then it was of love that you were speaking?” she added, smiling.

“What else?” Avi said. “What else could possibly matter on such a wonderful day, with two such people?”

And then Sara turned to Harry. “And you, sir? Do you love me, even just a little?”

“More than just a little,” Harry said. “I can’t imagine anything nicer than the idea of waking up beside you every day for the rest of my life.”

“Careful, Harry,” Avi enjoined. “You’re making serious overtures now.”

“I am. True enough, Avi.”

“What are you saying, Harry?” Sara said as she took his hand.

“Marry me, Sara. Let’s just get away from this world and make a new one all our own.”

And she smiled. “We shall have to give the matter some special thought, no? Perhaps this evening? But first, we’ll need to find our way back down our magic mountain.”

Avi stood and dropped some cash on the table. “Well, you two take your time, but I’ve got to run down to the village. A few pressing errands to attend – before the day is out. Harry? I’ll see you at the house, before dinner I hope?”

“Goodbye, Uncle,” Sara said, letting slip her best, most defiant smile.

Avi looked at the gathering storm and sighed. “Harry? I’d head down to the Middle Station now, and keep away from the rocks.”

“Okay.”

The followed Avi out onto the snow, then watched him go to the funicular station while they strapped on their skis; Harry looked at the clouds slipping up the mountain and frowned.

“I think we will have a white-out, don’t you, Harry?”

He nodded then looked at her. No fear. There was no fear on her face nor in her eyes, just an open willingness to take whatever life wanted to toss in front of her. He stepped over to her and kissed her once, briefly, then once again – and time passed slowly as an unforeseen electric feeling passed from his knees to his gut.

“I love you,” he said pulled away, but then he kissed her forehead. This time when he pulled away he saw a tear or two on her cheek and the sight literally humbled him.

And when she told him she loved him too? Well, all was right in the world, wasn’t it?

“So,” she said, “to the Middle Station?”

“You lead, I’ll follow.”

“I like the sound of that,” she said as she pushed off and skated down the first steep pitch.

“Jeez,” Harry said to himself, “not so fast…”

The first few hundred meters were on fading sunlight, then they entered a thick wall of cloud – before a heavy, blanketing snow filled the way ahead. He tucked-in a few feet behind and turned when she turned, traversed where she traversed, and when she grew winded he stopped beside her.

“How am I doing,” she asked, smiling.

“Beautifully,” he said to her radiant face.

“I think we’re about halfway now,” she added, and Harry agreed…then she pushed off and dropped out of sight.

He caught up with her and they fell into a surreal rhythm, carving delicate arcs across the face of the mountain in almost perfect unison, and Harry realized – quite consciously – that he had never felt so at one with another person, and the feeling was as unique as it was exhilarating.

The clouds thinned and he could see the Middle Station ahead, the valley floor beyond, and Sara’s streams of coppery hair leading him on. 

All he really knew was that he wanted this moment to last forever.

____________________________

Aircraft passed by low overhead during the night, and now there were reports of paratroopers in the woods outside the ghetto…British paratroopers…!

And now Saul Rosenthal slipped through those woods with Imogen in hand, leading them to a proposed meet-up with British forces. The two were traveling light now; the only thing Saul demanded she bring was her score of the Third Piano Concerto…because he knew this was a treasure beyond rubies. 

They fell to the earth when a volley of machine gun fire ripped through branches overhead, and Imogen closed her eyes tightly as bits and pieces of twigs and leaves rained down on her. She heard tiny, scared voices off to the left, then the cries of children running in blind terror – before these were answered with even more machine gun fire. The heartbreaking echoes of children moaning in the darkness, then single shots followed by silence – and her nightmare was complete.

“Czech troops,” Saul whispered. “They are killing witnesses.”

Imogen buried her face in her hands, but she could only pray ‘her’ children were not among the dead.

Many of the elders had already been murdered by Nazi collaborators when word of the parachute drop reached Saul, so he made his move and collected Imogen. His plan, if he didn’t find the British, was to get her to the railway station and head south and west, away from the advancing Russians.

Then more machine-gun fire to the left to the right all around and now there was nowhere to go, no place to hide in the sudden crossfire. Saul pushed her into a slight depression beside a fallen tree and covered her with his body…until he heard men yelling, then running through the forest back towards the camp.

He remained silent and still, barely breathing, until he felt someone poking his leg.

“Yo! Mate! You Rubenstein?” a disembodied voice whispered.

“Uh…Rosenthal, but yes. We are here.”

“Well, let’s get a move-on, mate. Follow me – for the last train to Brighton!”

Saul felt a sudden wave of relief…until he tried to help Imogen stand. And standing there, even in the dark of night, he could tell she was bleeding – and badly, and when she started falling the paratrooper moved quickly to catch her. 

Saul made sure he had the score safely stowed, then they made their way through the forest to a small clearing. As promised, a twin-engined was waiting for them, and a few minutes later a medic helped get Imogen onboard and settled.

“Next stop, Hamburg!” the medic said brightly as the plane rumbled across the meadow and took to the air, then, he spoke to Saul: “I can’t find an entrance wound. Any chance she was pregnant?”

__________________________

 Harry held Sara’s hand as he walked with her to the clinic, and as evening snow fell quietly all around them he realized there was so much he wanted to say…yet she seemed to have been reading his mind when she pulled him close…

“You go to your Uncle Avi now, get cleaned up and talk awhile. I’m not going anywhere, and when you’re ready we can talk and talk until we find the answer to us.”

He held her for a long time, soaking in her radiance like a flower turning to the sun…then he turned and faced the mountain, holding her close even so…

“What is it about this place, Sara?”

She sighed a long, hopeful sigh: “I think we found each other here. This will always be our special place.”

He nodded as he turned to meet her eyes. “I love you.”

“And I love you. Now…be off with you!”

He kissed her gently and he watched as she walked into the shadows, then he turned and began the short walk to the house Avi had rented for the winter.

But Harry did not see the four men who fell in behind him, and so preoccupied was he that the men followed him with ease.

_____________________________

No bombs had fallen around the University, and the Schwarzwald house looked, at first glance, relatively unscathed…but a deeper examination revealed troubling damage everywhere Imogen looked.

And the first thing she noticed was the absence of her family’s belongings – aside from a few paintings on walls here and there. All her possessions were gone, her parent’s too: clothing, personal effects…everything. And there were uniforms hanging in her father’s closet, Nazi uniforms. A high ranking officer, if she read the insignia correctly – but Saul wasn’t with her now and there was no one to ask.

She walked up the stairs to her room and walked to the window that had framed so much of her life, and the view she found waiting for her wasn’t really so different now. The same red tile roofs, and as there ever was…a few large ships tied up along the wharves loading and unloading the needs of the moment.

But these were ships-of-war flying the Union Jack, and all around the harbor there was evidence that real war had indeed visited Copenhagen, and more than once. She spied a warehouse with its roof a splintered jumble of charred timbers, and out beyond the middle of the harbor a small German patrol boat lay drunkenly on its side, aground on a sandbar and with black smoke still faintly streaming from yesterday’s aerial attack on German positions.

The last thing her father had told her was that he would not abandon the city of his birth, and now it looked as if that was the fact of the matter. Still, she wanted…no, she needed to know the truth of his story, and – even as she stood there, framed in the light of truth – she could feel the tortured vibrations of his end throughout the house. Now completely unbidden, music began taking shape in the air all around her and, as she closed her eyes, she surrendered to the insistent force, grabbing chaos from the sky and imposing order through the chromatic notes and chords the Old Man in his Cape had taught her once upon a time.

__________________________

Harry bounced in the doorway and found Avi waiting for him by the fireplace. A small fire was burning, but not a single lamp was one – so the effect on the space was almost primitive…like he had entered a cave.

And when he saw Avi’s flickering face, even standing in the dim evening gloom, he knew something was wrong.

Because just then Avi turned to face him.

“You are an imbecile!” Avi screamed. “An impotent, self-absorbed imbecile!”

And then he saw another man sitting across the room. A hard man, twisted into windblown form by brutal experience. “I simply don’t understand,” this man began saying, “unless you are so truly addled you are no longer capable of thinking like a man.”

“And fuck you, too,” Callahan hissed.

And on hearing those words the hard man stood and walked over to Harry, and then – in a flash of hands he tossed Harry across the room. 

“Fuck you?” the hard man said, his voice now a ragged, coarse whisper. “You couldn’t fuck your own hand if it was all you had left in the world, you simple, stupid oaf.”

Harry pulled himself up and looked at the old man, then at Avi…

But just then the front door opened and in walked four men surrounded by swirling snow…

“What the hell?” Harry whispered as he looked at Frank Bullitt, then to Sam Bennett and Al Bressler. And there behind them all – was that Stacy Bennett?

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and now, a brief note 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 until work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances (a certain virus, not to mention a madman in the White House springing first to mind, and let’s just agree right here and now to not talk about age…) so that might not be the best way to proceed; and with my thinking along these lines first in mind I’d hate to have this story stop ‘unexpectedly’ without some mention of sources relied on here. Of course, 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. The Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the pivotal television reporter 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). Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a 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? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred, though I’d be remiss to not mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan. Talk about the role of a lifetime…given life by an actor for the ages.]

the eighty-eighth key, chapter 19

88k p3 image

The Eighty-eighth Key

Part III

Chapter 19

____________________________________

“You know, I do hope I’ve not presumed too much by bringing you up here, but this just happens to be my favorite place in the world.”

“It’s truly remarkable, Avi.” Harry looked at the high alpine landscape – in winter – feeling a curious mixture of gut-busting fear, dread, and pure fascination. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and it seemed everywhere he looked there was nothing but pure, unblemished snow for as far as the eye could see. 

They were standing near the top of the funicular railway that leads from Davos Dorf to the Weissfluhjoch Station, perched high above Davos and in the central part of the Parsenn ski area. There were dozens of skiers scattered around, all busily putting on skis and adjusting goggles or gloves before taking off down the mountain, but what fascinated Harry most of all was Avi’s decision to bring him up here.

Avi had not asked once if he could ski, and standing up here in the freezing wind it seemed a dizzying assumption to have made. Or a very calculated decision.

But he had, in high school, traveled up to Tahoe more than a few times with June, and both had learned to ski at Squaw Valley just after the little ski area had hosted the Olympics, yet that had been almost twenty years ago. The skis he stood on this morning seemed only vaguely familiar, and his feet ached in the rigid plastic boots; Avi – on the other hand – moved about with practiced ease on his skis and spoke with arrogant confidence as he used his ski pole to point out several local mountain landmarks.

And it hit Harry suddenly. He was being measured by this man…judged. But as what? A man? Worthy of something greater? Or did Avi expect to find him wanting in some way? 

“How are your boots? Comfortable enough?”

Harry slid back and forth on his skis, forcing the blood in his legs to circulate, then he reached down and adjusted two buckles. “Good enough for a warm-up run.”

“Excellent!” Avi pushed off and made for one of the easier trails down the mountain, and Harry fell in behind and watched the old man ski. 

For his age, Avi appeared to be doing well enough, but even to Harry’s unpracticed eye, Avi wasn’t a particularly accomplished or gifted skier. The old man made long traverses and slow, mostly tentative turns, and he stopped more than once that first run to simply catch his breath – something Harry felt no need to do. Still, he understood Avi was at least twice his age, and that the old man lived in a country not particularly well known for alpine skiing, so he was still inclined to sit back and wait for the inevitable trap to spring.

When they made their way to the end of the trail Avi stopped and rubbed his thighs before he looked up and turned to Harry – and curiously, the old man was beaming.

“Do you know, Harry, that is the first time I have ever made it down without falling!”

“You looked a little uncertain at first but, to me, it looked like you’re pretty good at this.”

The old man smiled openly now. “You think so?”

Harry nodded, meeting the old man’s infectious smile with one of his own, yet he felt a little awkward when Avi stepped close and clapped him on the shoulder. 

“There is a very nice restaurant up top if you would indulge me. Are you up to one more run?”

“Absolutely. And if it warms up a little it might even be enjoyable!”

And they both laughed as they poled over to the funicular station for their second ride up the mountain.

________________________________

Frank Bullitt was with Captain Bennett and the Israeli intel officer at a small diner just outside of Santa Cruz; their eyes were cast down on bowl’s of a pinkish chowder, lost – as if each was lost in thoughts of mortal import, and their concentration appeared complete.

“You’re absolutely sure about all this?” Bennett said, still unable to look up from his soup.

The old Israeli shrugged. “I am never absolutely sure about anything in this business, but we have  two recordings now…”

“Not over land-lines…?”

“No, they’ve gone deep now,” the old man said. “Operating like old pros, which is what bothers me most of all.”

“Why’s that?”

“Well, Captain, think about it. They either have ex-intel people on the inside, or they are being advised – or directed – by an active intel operation outside your ranks.”

“Who has that capability?” Bullitt asked…and the old man grinned when their eyes met.

“Any nation or organization intent on destabilizing the region,” the Israeli sighed.

Bennett crossed his arms as he leaned back in the booth. “Destabilize…the Bay Area? Are you serious?”

The old man swallowed hard as he nodded. “There’s a tremendous amount of money in the region, as well as incredible academic energy. The climate is perfect, and there is ready access to international markets. Computer companies are relocating here as fast as they can…”

“So…?”

“Well, Captain…think about the long game…but think about why someone, or some group, would want to make their opening move with an infiltration of local law enforcement agencies.”

“You’re talking about an organization, aren’t you?” Bullitt said. “Or something else?”

The old man coughed once before he nodded. “My biggest concern right now would be a criminal organization backed by an interested nation-state. When the French first started to get a grip on the heroin trade setting up in Marseilles they first encountered Corsican operatives, but soon enough they began peeling back the layers of the onion…and what did they find?”

Bennett shrugged, but Frank knew the outlines… “First they traced the goods back to Afghanistan, then to Turkey…”

“But who was running the overall organization, Detective?”

Bullitt shrugged.

“It was a long trail, a trail that led from Palermo to Damascus, but there the trail grew cold and hard to follow. Ultimately, the French lacked the political resolve to follow the trail because they soon understood that the objective was not located in France.”

“Oh?” Bennett said. “Where, then?”

“New York City, of course, but even Interpol missed the common denominator. It was first detected anecdotally in Newark, then, with a little effort, operations were detected in smaller outlying suburbs surrounding New York City. Support personnel in various departments were co-opted – turned, if I may use the term – but even so, clear patterns emerged.

“Most police departments use women for dispatch duties, and these women are notoriously underpaid. As such, they are easy to recruit, though of course unwittingly. Other support personnel follow; records clerks, jailers, even maintenance workers. Once penetrated at these levels, agents assume positions either inside the organization or around its periphery, and once this is accomplished others already employed by the agency are identified as possible recruits. An aggrieved group usually emerges as the focus of recruitment efforts – racial animosity, as well as religious or ethnic strife – all are utilized.

“Once the shadow organization is in place, operational parameters can be changed almost at will. Instead of being agents of change, for instance, the organization’s actions can be reoriented to raising cash for a greater cause. You only need to use your imagination here, but once the nucleus of the organization is up and running your options grow exponentially.”

Bennett lit up a cigar and growled. “And you think this is happening now, in my city?”

The old man leaned back and shrugged. “I put this forth more as an idea you need to consider. Also, for such a complex organization to be at work in this region would mean that it has been operationally active for years. Penetration will be deep, and you must understand that if discovered, it will be found in the most unexpected places – and hidden deep within all levels of the established institutional and political hierarchy.”

Bennett chomped on his cigar, turning thoughts over in his mind as possibilities presented in his mind… “You mentioned an organization, a criminal organization, supported by a nation-state. And what was that about the French giving up…? At Damascus? You mean, in Syria?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Are you telling me the fucking Syrians wanted to take over New York City?”

The old man smiled, tried to resist the urge to laugh out loud. “Not at all, Captain. The French lost the trail in Syria.”

Bullitt grinned. “And that’s where you picked it up, right?”

The old man turned his head slowly and looked at the detective with something approaching respect in his eyes – but he only shrugged.

“And let me guess,” Bullitt added. “The trail leads north. Like…to Moscow?”

And again the old man only shrugged.

“You’re not going to tell us?” Bennett grumbled. “Right?”

“Captain Bennett, you must understand something. I am not here. My team is not here. This is not my country, it is yours – and yet we are killing people here. It is an almost impossible situation and one we would most assuredly not be in – if not for your Inspector Callahan. Because he is, in a way, family.”

“Family?” Bennett said, clearly confused.

Again, the old man simply shrugged away the question hanging in the air apparent – before he reached out to take the check. “You’ll permit me to buy lunch today, gentlemen?” he said as he stood to leave. “It has been a pleasure.” Then he turned to Bullitt. “You are very resourceful, Detective, but do not try to contact me again. If I have any need of further information, I will be in touch.”

Frank shuddered as he watched the old man walk over to the counter and pay the waitress.

“Maybe we ought to leave the tip?” Bennett sighed as he watched the old man disappear down a side-street.

“Ya think?”

“I got the impression he thinks we’re up to our asses in alligators.”

Frank nodded. “Money. Academic energy. Computers. Wasn’t that what he said?”

“Yeah. So, who’d want to control all that stuff?”

“The most important question right now, Sam, is who the hell wouldn’t want all that?”

“And?”

“It ain’t Russia, Sam.”

“Okay. Who, then?”

“Us.”

“What?”

“Us, Sam. The enemy is us. Somehow, someway, someone is trying to tear us apart – from within.”

“What makes you say that?”

“They know us too well. What our triggers are, where all our weaknesses reside, and where all the skeletons are buried.” Frank pulled in a deep breath, then slowly shook his head while he let the stale air slip away. “I think what he was telling us was we better get our house in order, and in a hurry.”

“Yeah, before we lose complete control.”

Frank looked at his captain and wondered how he was holding up. Their night on the town had shaken a few things loose but even now he could see the shadows playing out in Sam’s eyes.

“How’s Fran doing?” Bullitt asked.

“Better. Cathy has been a saint, you know.”

“That’s because she’s a saint.”

“Really? So, why does she stick with an old sinner like you?”

Frank leaned back and stared at the ceiling for a while…before a slashing grin split his face – just as a shard of memory might…in the last light of day.

___________________________

Seated inside the glowing confines of the Restaurant Weissfluhgipfel, Harry cast sidelong glances Avi’s way from time to time – when he wasn’t staring at the view – or at the gorgeous young fräulein seated at the table off to his right. She was enchanting, though when Avi took note of Harry’s interest the old man merely smiled before he looked away.

“I simply love it up here,” Avi said again.

“I can see why,” Harry sighed.

“Well, shall we have some wine? Or would you like a beer?”

“At this altitude? You’ll have to roll me down the mountain…”

“Ah, but isn’t that the fun of it?”

Harry smiled. “Maybe you’re right.”

Avi summoned their waiter and ordered a bottle of Piesporter, two salads, and a fondue. Harry tried, unsuccessfully, to not stare at the girl – until finally, he turned his chair to block the sight of her. 

This only caused Avi to chuckle a bit.

“What’s so funny?” 

“Hmm? Oh, Homo sapiens, I should think.” Avi looked at the girl, then at Harry. “You might be so forward as to ask her where she’s staying? Perhaps you might even ask her out for a drink this evening?”

“Who?”

Avi laughed loudly. “Who, indeed.”

And Harry smiled.

“At least you have good taste in women,” Avi added.

And just then, when the girl turned and looked at them, Harry seemed to freeze inside, and it felt like the cold hand of death had just gripped his heart.

“Are you alright, Harry?” 

But even though he felt light-headed, he also felt a line of perspiration form on his brow and along his upper lip, so as soon as their waiter poured a glass of wine he took a long pull, then closed his eyes – shutting out the flood of memory.

“Damn, that’s decent,” he said after he finished the glass.

“All that is good and decent about Germany can be found in that wine,” Avi said somewhat wistfully. “Eating an apple in the shade of a mighty tree, reading Goethe between bites of cheese. So many memories. So sweet the wine.”

“Avi, why am I here?”

The old man beside Harry sat a little more erect, comported himself to his assumed station in life. “How did your session go yesterday?”

“Well, your physicians seem to know just about all there is to know about me. I suppose I should congratulate you on your thoroughness.”

Avi smiled. “You’ll forgive me for taking an interest, I hope.”

Harry saw the girl looking their way again, so he turned to her: “If you’re alone, would you like to join us?”

The girl turned and faced him again. “Yes, I think I might like that.”

She spoke with a light English accent, the warm lilts very cultured to Callahan – who stood and pulled back her chair before helping her into the one between his own and Avi’s. More wine was summoned, another place setting arranged and food ordered. Introductions were made and suddenly Avi couldn’t have been happier.

“Can you imagine a more spectacular place?” he said to Harry and Sara Rosenkranz, visiting from Vienna.

“My parents used to bring us here every winter,” she said, adding, “I feel like I grew up on this mountain.”

“And yet here you are,” Avi said, his countenance now almost fatherly. “Alone in the Alps and so far from home. Are you running, perhaps? Or are you a little lost?”

There was no evasion or regret in the girl’s eyes, only a subtle understanding that this was a man who read people, and that there was no use hiding from him.

“I think a little of both,” she said.

“And what are you running from?” Avi asked.

“Life. And death.”

“Ah. So tell me…what have you lost?”

And only then did the girl turn away. Her eyes grew cloudy, a tear formed and ran down her soft cheek, and Harry almost wanted to turn away – so swift was Avi’s dissection.

Yet she came back to them.

“I went to Sweden a few…well, I went.”

“I see,” Avi said, his penetrating voice now tightly controlled, yet implicitly consoling. “And your life has not been the same since, has it? Not since your return?”

She shook her head. “No.”

“Was it a boy?”

She looked at Avi. “Who?”

“Your baby?”

And suddenly Harry was lost inside a landscape that made no sense, looking for signposts that pointed to a way out.

“Yes,” she said. “A little boy. My little boy.”

“Your parents? Did they make you?”

“No. A man at my office…”

Harry stood abruptly and walked away from the table and through the main door, out into the hard winter light; when the cold air hit his eyes he ran blindly across hard-packed snow until his lungs burned, until his own tears stopped flowing, and there he fell to his knees. With his fists bunched he began pounding the snow, first with his left hand, then with the right…over and over…watching the emergency room physician pounding his Looney-June’s chest over and over, over and over, over and over…

Until everything was over. Everything.

And then there was a shadow. 

An old man standing next to him, out here on the snow.

“Your hands are bleeding, young man. You’d better come with me.”

And then Callahan looked up at the man.

He was a short, old man, what you might call portly. His hair was ancient and white, almost yellow in places not shaded by an elegant if somewhat floppy hat. He was wearing a short cape that hung just to his waist, and he walked with the aid of a cane.

And Callahan felt the cane seemed somehow odd, too. The glistening wood was adorned with what looked, at first glance, like silver lightning bolts set inside the grain, yet as he stood next to the old man – what seemed most unsettling to him was that the bolts somehow seemed to be almost alive.

_____________________________

She walked the children along the rough cobbled streets to their school, and then she made her way to the Music House – where the small orchestra was allowed use of their instruments, and where many of the musicians practiced when they were not otherwise engaged with more pressing matters. Hauling bodies to the crematory was often pressing enough, and many of the orchestra’s men and women did so with depressing regularity, depending more or less of the severity of winter’s weather or the state of the ghetto’s food supply.

But there was a decent piano in the Music House, and Imogen spent her mornings with the instrument. As the contours of her new life came into sharp relief she began to put her experiences not in a journal, but into the music she created there, in her new home. Somehow she recreated life in the camp within her music, and in time her Third Piano Concerto emerged. The small orchestra rehearsed the piece just one time, and when the men and women finished this first arrangement they put down their instruments and openly wept – before they one and all disappeared into the night.

_______________________________

His hands bandaged, the old man in the cape walked Harry back into the restaurant, and they found Avi and the girl, Sara, still at the table.

“Ah, we were beginning to wonder what had become of you,” Avi said, before he saw the bandages on Harry’s hands. Then, when he saw them: “Dear God, Harry! What has happened to you?”

“He slipped and fell on the ice,” the old man in the cape said. “I am, by the way, a physician from town. I volunteer up here three afternoons a week, and as I was arriving I saw this young man slip and fall. Superficial scrapes, nothing more. He should be good as new by morning.”

“Really?” Avi said, apparent concern overtaking his surprise. “Will you be able to ski down, or should we take the funicular?”

“I would recommend the railway,” the old man in the cape imposed. “Best not test those dressings too soon.”

“I see,” Avi said. “Well, Doctor, would you care to join us?”

The physician smiled. “Another time, perhaps? Have a nice stay, young man, and I hope we’ll run into one another again, before you leave?”

“I’d like that,” Harry said. “Thanks again, Doc.”

The old physician left them to their view of the world, and Avi sat back in his chair and sighed. 

“Perhaps it is just as well,” he said. “A storm is moving in. The valley will be in cloud before we finish up here. Harry, have some salad, and I’ve ordered you a small schnitzel. Mind you, I think you’d better let me cut your meat…!”

Soon enough they made their way to the funicular, and there Avi sat next to an upper window – leaving Harry to pass the time with Sara as the car rumbled slowly down the mountain. 

She seemed a few years younger than himself, very white of skin topped with straw-colored hair that verged on copper, which set off her greenish eyes – that seemed limpid and soft – so that her face seemed almost a liquid, anything but static. Her fingers were shorter, her fingernails wide – almost like she came from a farming family – yet she held herself with care. Patrician was the word that came to his mind, and he was altogether smitten.

When he helped her off with her jacket the first thing he noticed was the hospital wrist-band from the psychiatric clinic in town, if only because he had worn one just like it the day before. Just inside the wrist cuff of her sweater’s left arm he could – just barely – make out the curled edges of gauze pads, and the inferences began coming together. An affair of some sort – gone bad, no doubt – perhaps an unwanted pregnancy. But unwanted by who, or whom? Ultimatums shouted in the night, the hasty decisions that followed leaving her feeling feral and cornered, shut off from a world she took for granted. A quick flight to Sweden, the short drive in from the airport full of passing strangers gliding across an emotionally barren cityscape, then through the clinic’s doors and into hospital gowns for a few tests and an interview. Two hours later and all her confusion was sitting in the bottom of a bucket inside a refrigerated lab case, then another ride to another airport and back to a place called home – but that didn’t feel like home anymore.

The easy way. Take the easy way out. A knife less sharp across the wrist, but that was only a plea for help, right? We’ll get her the help she needs, and those soft cooing voices trundled her off to the mountains. 

“Our baby girl. She seems so far away now.”

“Have we lost her?”

And so…a wrist-band. But every picture tells a story, if we can but open our eyes from time to time.

He listened to her, to the flat affect, to the barely concealed scars buried under each new word.

“Your uncle told me about what happened in San Francisco. I’m so sorry,” she whispered at one point, and Harry tried to smile a little but he realized he felt too ashamed for trying to take the easy way out himself.

“Sometimes life just gets too hard,” he managed to say, and he took a deep, ragged breath that seemed to last a little too long.

“He mentioned someone named June? Something that happened a long time ago?”

That cold grip around his heart? Would it always come on so hard and fast?

“We were young,” he managed to say before he looked away.

Then this stranger from a strange land leaned into his arm, and soon he felt her face leaning on his shoulder and the only thing left to do was turn and kiss the top of her head before he wrapped an arm around her. Time seemed to spin around a different axis for a while, like he was on a planet orbiting a distant sun and not even the sky was familiar.

Attendants from the hospital were waiting for her at the station, as was the old physician in his cape. He smiled at her, then at Harry, when they walked from the railway car, and as soon as she was settled in her wheelchair the attendants whisked her away to a waiting Mercedes.

“Did you have a nice talk?” the old physician said as he came up to Harry.

And Harry looked at the old man for a split second, before he turned and looked back up the mountain. “There’s something magic up there, isn’t there?”

“You’d not be the first to feel that way, young man.”

“Will I be able to see her again?”

The physician shrugged. “I hope so,” he sighed. “But we will see.” Then he held out his hand, and Harry took it. “We can talk about it when you come for your appointment in the morning?”

Harry nodded, then turned to find his ‘uncle’…

___________________________________

“The Russians are less than a hundred kilometers away,” one of the camp elders said, his voice trembling.

“Word is the British have broken through, that they are nearing Prague,” another said, somewhat hopefully.

“Where is that representative from the Red Cross,” another asked. “The Swiss man?”

“With Misha,” Imogen Schwarzwald replied quietly, and the others in the room turned to face her, if only because when this strange woman spoke – which was rare enough – everyone always stopped and listened. “They will return soon, so do not worry.”

She spoke with a preternatural steeliness in her voice, despite her obvious frailty. Despite her – ‘condition.’ Almost three months pregnant…but how had it happened? No one had been seen visiting her, not even once. Just the opposite seemed true, if anyone asked. Yet here she was, just showing and because of lingering conditions in the ghetto not at all well.

But…what if the Russians got to Theresienstadt before the British, or even the Americans? What would become of her – and her baby…?

The elders had come to respect this quiet woman’s gentle wisdom, yet even so most feared her. A physicist, she was educated beyond their understanding, yet she was of a cultured people, even if she was, obviously, a troubled soul, and so many of the less well-off regarded Imogen as something of a patrician, of being from a higher station in life, but this was their custom.

She had proven gifted with the children in her care and had even managed to keep clear of the Nazi officers in the camp…so the question remained: how had she come to be with child? Yet, when some suggested she was a collaborator these people soon disappeared from the camp. As a result of these disappearances, an aura of fear surrounded Imogen, even if that fear was cloaked in yielding respect.

“Imogen,” one of the elders asked yet again, “what of Palestine? Have you heard from your husband again?”

She turned away from the voice and shook her head. “Nothing new,” was all she said – before she walked to the window and looked at dark clouds gathering along the far horizon.

___________________________________

Frank Bullitt moved from the city, to the Sea Ranch area on the coast far to the north, though he kept his apartment near the marina, and he turned in his retirement papers.

Sam Bennett turned in his papers not long after, and when people spoke of Captain Bennett these days there was pity in their voice. Obviously a broken man, Bennett simply disappeared from the department at a critical time. When patrolmen drove by to check on Bennett’s house the lights were almost always off, though shadows could be seen moving about inside.

Delgetti and Carl Stanton each had several years to go before they could retire, but peers noted both men seemed completely unmotivated now…and they were soon regarded as shuffling their way to retirement.

And Harry Callahan? No one had heard of or seen any trace of him for weeks, then months. He had simply disappeared without a trace.

And yet, he was very much alive…living on the side of a Magic Mountain.

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[note: 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 until work is finalized. Yet with the current circumstances that might not be the best way to proceed, and I’d hate to have this story stop ‘unexpectedly’ without some mention of sources. Of course, 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 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. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’ storyline derives from characters originally found in that screenplay. The Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the pivotal television reporter 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 to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever come across (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only in searing non-fiction). Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to come up with something new – perhaps a commentary of the times. And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred.]

the eighty-eighth key, chapter 18

88k p3 image

The Eighty-eighth Key

Part III

Chapter 18

____________________________________

In the days and weeks after the Bennett assassinations, the City of San Francisco was living along the edge of a very sharp knife. Tourists stopped coming to see the sights, hotels emptied and flights into and out of SFO flew with most their seats unsold. Criminal enterprises – from ‘mom & pop robberies’ to more organized rackets fell off the radar too, because the police department’s patrol division was on a total rampage. Traffic stops escalated into life and death affairs, so much and so frequently that people began obeying speed limits and using their turn signals – both being completely unheard of in and around the city.

Sam Bennett took extended family leave and was rarely heard from. Frank Bullitt was heard talking about taking early retirement, leaving Delgetti and Stanton rudderless and adrift. Al Bressler went back to vice and, just after An Linh’s funeral, Lloyd Callahan left for the Orient. Jim Parish left for a new posting in Hawaii – but only after he was sure his friend’s deteriorating mental state didn’t need a more rigorous intervention. He watched Callahan for a few days, not quite sure what to make of the false bravado on constant display.

Or was it false?

Was Callahan a psychopath – unable to assimilate An Linh’s murder? The more questions he asked the more uncertain he became until, in the end, he felt like he was peeling away the layers of an onion – and not at all liking what he found.

After a few days of this he forced Harry to take four weeks of vacation, and after Parish left for Hawaii Harry literally sat at his piano for hours on end. His first night alone he played dark creations interspersed with off the wall television classics – themes from shows like Peter Gunn and 77 Sunset Strip – before he fell away into his beloved Gershwin, and somewhere in the middle of Summertime he lost it completely – falling to the floor and crying for hours.

He found himself the next day walking the city, taking An Linh to all the places he wanted to share with her – before he realized the ghostly nature of the shadow by his side.

The next night he pulled his favorite chair up to the window and propped his feet on the sill, and for hours he watched the regular hard-core drinkers file in and out of the bars the lined both sides of the street below. Occasionally he could hear the half-hearted efforts of a really bad pianist playing at the nearest dive, a real bloodbath that belonged to the Threlkis syndicate, and so for some reason, he decided the time was right – so he walked over and stepped inside.

An altogether unimpressive looking kid sat at the keyboard stumbling his way through Green Dolphin Street and Harry watched until he couldn’t take it anymore – and then he walked up to the bar.

“Whaddayahavin’,” the bar-keep muttered.

“Club soda, lime,” Callahan replied.

“Sure thing.”

“Who runs this place?”

“Who’s askin’?”

“Just wonderin’, really, but is that the best you can do?” Callahan said, nodding towards the piano player.

“Kid’s connected. Not much I can do about it.”

“Connected?” Harry asked.

“One of the Threlkis kids, or so I hear.”

“Protection?”

The barkeeper nodded through his frown, and when the kid started butchering some kind of Stevie Wonder song they both grimaced.

“Sounds kind of like he’s choking a cat,” Callahan said through gritted teeth – but then without saying another word he walked over to the piano and looked at the kid while he finished up the tune. “You play any Gershwin?”

The kid shook his head.

“You ever take lessons?”

The kid looked up on hearing that. “Fuck-off, faggot. Not interested.”

Callahan sneered, then growled: “The name of the song you’re butchering is ‘Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,’ right?”

“I ain’t butcherin’ nothin’, faggot.”

“Move over,” Callahan said – and the tone in his voice was all the kid needed to hear. He slid down and Harry sat; without hesitating, he banged out the song, then stood and went back to the bar.

The kid followed. Kind of like a puppy, Callahan thought.

“You a teacher or somethin’?” the kid asked.

“Nope.”

“Jack, buy the faggot another drink, and I’ll have a tequila sunrise.”

Callahan’s jaw was working overtime now, his teeth clenched tight.

The drinks came and Callahan downed his water, then he turned to leave – but then, as expected, the kid went too far.

“Come on, faggot…wanna go out back and get on your knees?”

Callahan turned and faced the kid – yet still, Callahan kept his mouth shut – content to let his eyes do the talking for now…

Only up to now the kid had just enough sense to keep his mouth shut, and so Callahan simply stared at him, egging him on, deciding to let the kid seal their fate…

Which came by way of an uncoordinated dry-gulch, a knee-to-the-groin that Callahan deflected with ease, followed by a floppy-wristed attempt at a right cross…

…and then Callahan grabbed the kid’s fist in mid-strike and slammed it down on the bar, next he drove an ice-pick through the kid’s hand – and with that part of his plan complete he turned and walked out of the bar.

Heading through an early morning fog down to the wharf he felt the adrenaline coursing through his veins, his anger still at an intense peak. A few minutes passed before he began to come down, yet still he walked around the gently bobbing boats…letting this brew come to a boil. He took in fishermen loading ice and pumping diesel into holds and tanks – and for a while he wondered what a life at sea would feel like – before he figured enough time had passed. He sighed and turned back for his apartment.

‘Why do I always walk down to the sea?’ he reflected. “And in the fog…?”

He was almost home when he saw a girl in the shadows – an obvious hooker – and he thought about using her in his little plan – just as she stepped into the light.

“Hey man, wanna party?”

“No thanks, darlin’,” Harry said, trying but not quite succeeding to smile, “I’m tryin’ to quit.”

She laughed. “Never heard that one before. You live around here?”

“Yup.”

“I’m kinda cold. Could you fix me up with some coffee?”

“Sure, if you don’t mind some home-brew.”

She fell in beside Callahan and followed him to his apartment. He went into his little kitchen and put on the kettle, then set up his carafe with a filter and coffee, and he made enough for two. 

“Have a seat,” he said as he finished up, and after he gave her a cup he walked over to the window and looked down at the bar.

The expected patrol car was parked out front now, and an ambulance was still there too; even so he shook his head as he watched two patrolmen walking up the hill towards his building. So predictable. And yeah, soon enough they were out front; when they buzzed his number he let them in, then went to his door. Waiting for the inevitable knock…

“Callahan?” one officer said when he opened his door. “You nail that kid?”

“You know who the fuck his old man is, man?” the other said.

“What are you talking about?” Harry said. “I’ve been up here with this young lady all night.”

The first cop peered in and leered at the hooker before he nodded. “Nice, quick alibi, Callahan. I salute you.” 

Callahan shut the door and watched them leave from the window, and from the way they were acting he figured both of ‘em were on the Threlkis payroll.

“You a cop?” the girl asked.

“Yup. Homicide.”

“You gonna arrest me, or what?”

“For what? Being cold?”

“Mind if I finish this? It’s pretty good.”

“From Jamaica. It ought to be.”

“Where’s that?”

“Caribbean.”

“Oh. Like the ride? At Disneyland?”

“Yeah. Like that. Mind if I ask how old you are?”

“Why?”

“You run away?”

She looked away, answering that question with a well-oiled screen of silence.

“Now, just one more question: If you wanted to go home right now, what would stop you?”

“I don’t want to go home, man.”

“That wasn’t the question.”

She shook her head. “You don’t wanna know, man. You really don’t.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Look man, they got no problem takin’ out a cop. You, like, hearin’ me?”

He nodded his head while he watched the cops walking back to the bar, and he watched as a couple of men got out of a Lincoln and walked over to meet them. The cops nodded and pointed in the direction of his apartment, and then one of the men handed each cop an envelope.

“You’re working a Threlkis street, so that makes you for one of theirs.” He looked at the developing situation, watched it unfold just as he knew it would. “Your pimp. What kind of car does he drive?”

“A black Lincoln. Why?”

He watched the two men get sawed-off shotguns from the Lincoln’s trunk before he turned to the girl. “You better finish your coffee…” he said as he helped her to the door. “Matter of fact, you’d better head out the back door.”

She saw the men walking up the street…and didn’t need to be told twice.

He went to the bedroom and double-checked that all his important papers were in the top dresser drawer, then he went to the living room and sat down.

And he waited.

And waited.

At one point he thought he heard something fall in the stairwell, but then his little world fell silent and close once again.

Then…a gentle knock on the door…and this he did not expect.

He stood and went for the door, and as planned – unarmed, and he didn’t bother to look out the peep-hole. 

“It’s open,” was all he said.

He watched the knob turning and stepped back, wondering what it would feel like. Pain, probably, then cold awareness before…

But when the door opened Avi Rosenthal walked in, followed by several heavily armed men in black uniforms, their faces blacked-out and glistening with sweat.

“You trying to kill yourself, Harald, isn’t going to make my job any easier, ya know?”

Callahan went to the landing and looked down at the Threlkis men – now thoroughly dead – being stuffed into black nylon body-bags. Then he felt a scalding pinch on his left arm – before a gentle warmth washed over his falling body.

_________________________________

He was, he said, a colonel in the Waffen SS, and not to be trifled with – yet he seemed cautiously courteous. Almost unctuously so. He did not introduce himself, yet he made sure Imogen understood that he knew everything worthwhile there was to know about her, and he repeated time and time again her vulnerability while she was his guest in Theresienstadt. And to drive the point home he walked up to her and took her left breast in hand and fondled it aggressively – in full view of the clearly frightened children huddled on the floor.

“If I want to take you, I will take you. If it amuses me to have a dozen guards sodomize you in the middle of the street, it will happen. If you challenge any rule I will debase you in ways you have never imagined.” He moved his gloved hand from her breast to between her legs, and he lingered there. “Am I being clear?”

“Yes, perfectly clear.”

“You have no protector here, no clever scientist to look after your interests. Do you understand what that means?”

“I understand.”

“We will see. I understand you play the piano quite well. Do you know Wagner?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Ah? Very good…then I may indeed have need of your services from time to time, when I entertain guests from Berlin.”

She remained quiet, and quite still, trying to keep in the moment…but in any event the colonel had already turned and left the room, leaving her to pick up the pieces. Several of the littlest children were openly sobbing now, clutching her ankles in blind fear, so she knelt and gathered all the boys and girls ‘round – yet for a moment she wondered what to say…

But just then the deep rumble of thunder shook the town, and the children gathered closer still…

“I wonder,” she began, “have you heard of the old blind man in the cape? He conducts a very peculiar orchestra…”

Several children looked up at her as she spoke, and they seemed enchanted by her words…

“Yes, come with me to the window, and let us look for him, and we might just see what he is up to this evening!”

Everyone moved to the window, and the smallest children she placed on the window seat, making sure everyone had a clear view of the sky…

“There he is!” she cried. “There, across the way, on that brown roof! Now watch closely, watch his cane, because the entire sky is his orchestra, and he conducts his orchestra with that magic cane! Get ready! Here it comes…watch that tree!”

And a fiery bolt of hot-white lightning came down inside a searing crescendo of thunder, the charge hitting a tree just beyond the gates of the camp, and now – far from being frightened – all the children watched as Imogen described the Caped Man’s movements, and even the oldest girl gathered and watched, fascinated – yet clearly unable to figure out how this strange lady knew when the thunder and lightning were coming, let alone where the lightning would strike.

__________________________________

Frank Bullitt knocked on Harry’s door, and when no one came he used his own key and went in – and he went inside expecting to find the worst. But Harry was not in the bedroom, the kitchen appliances were stone cold, the shower floor dry as a bone. Badge in wallet on top of dresser, his Smith still in its shoulder holster hanging from the hook on the back of the closet door. No clothes in the hamper, everything else neat, no signs of a struggle.

He walked back down the stairs to the third landing and knelt there, looking at several splatters of what just might be blood, then he took out his penlight and sighted along the wall looking for scuff-marks…and yes, there they were!

He went back to the apartment and called central, summoned Dell and Carl and a full Crime Scene Unit, then he called Bennett, who was still at home.

“Sam? Frank. I’m at Harry’s.”

“Is he there?”

“Nope, and there’s evidence of a struggle on the stairs.”

“Blood?”

“Yessir.”

“Goddamnit!”

“Yup.”

“Let me know what you come up with.”

“Right.”

Bullitt hung up the phone and turned to the door, and right away he saw an old man standing there, his hands in his pocket.

“Can I help you?” Bullitt asked, his hand sliding inside his jacket – reaching for his 45.

“Doubtful,” the old man said as he stood there, “but I can probably help you.”

“You see what happened?”

The old man shook his head. “Mind if I come in?” he asked.

“Not at all.” Frank watched carefully as the old man slid – silently – into the living room, and as he removed his hands from his pockets while he walked to the window. The old man went there and looked down the street.

“See that Lincoln down there? The black one – across from the saloon?”

Frank came to the window and looked down the street. “Yeah?”

The old man handed Frank a set of car keys. “Check the trunk. You’ll find a couple of Threlkis’s men in there.”

“Dead?”

“You could say that.”

“And you know this how?”

“My men killed them.”

“Your men?”

The old man turned and faced Bullitt. “Yes. Mine.”

The old man proceeded to take out a small wallet and handed Frank a business card – but the only thing printed on the card was the obscure name ‘Rosenthal.’

“You one of Avi’s?” Frank asked, and the old man simply nodded. “You know where Harry is?”

“With Avi. And with any luck at all, he’ll be back soon.”

“You know where he is?”

“Me? No, I don’t.”

“Why are you here?”

“Cleaning up some loose ends, Lieutenant.”

“I see.”

“You need to spend more time with your Captain Bennett, Lieutenant. He is not well.”

And it wasn’t what the old man said, but the way he said it that caused the hair on the back of Frank’s neck to stand on-end: “Why? What are you saying?”

“Bad dreams. Waking up in the middle of the night, playing with his revolver. I’m afraid he might have an accident…cleaning his gun, something like that.”

“And how do you…”

But the old man simply shrugged as he turned and walked slowly out of the apartment.

Frank looked at the Lincoln’s keys in his hand, trying to come up with some kind of plausible story to feed the press. When Carl and Delgetti arrived he handed the keys over to Carl and told him to go check the car’s trunk – while he briefed Dell on his conversation with the old man.

“Where do you think they took Harry?” Delgetti asked.

Frank shook his head. “The guy seemed more concerned with Bennett.”

“With Sam?”

“Yeah. Kinda implied the old man is suicidal.”

“What? Bennett? No way!”

“I don’t know, Dell. He lost his sister and his boy in one fell swoop. Maybe we’re assuming Sam is stronger than we…”

“So what do you wanna do about it?”

“Get him thoroughly toasted, for one. Get him talking…” Frank seemed to come alive as he worked through an idea, turning things over in his mind as more and more ideas poured in. “I’m gonna call Cathy…you and Carl handle this one…then come on up to The Shadows around nine or so.”

_________________________________

He woke up to the now all-to-familiar droning of the Jetstar’s four Pratt & Whitney turbojet engines, yet this time the backs of his eyeballs felt sore, almost abused. He rubbed them with his knuckles for too long, leaving his vision blurred and his headache worse, so he reached up and found the air nozzle and dialed it open, directing the airflow to his face.

“Feeling okay?” Avi asked.

Harry shook his head. “What was in that shot? Panther-piss?”

“Here, try this.”

“What is it?”

“Tomato juice, celery, salt, pepper, and a little Tabasco.”

“Vodka?”

“No,” Avi said.

“That’s called a Virgin Mary.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“So, where are you taking me this time?”

“Switzerland.”

“And why…”

“To a psychiatric hospital.”

“Turn this fuckin’ thing around, Avi. I mean it. Right now.”

“This aircraft is going to Geneva, and so too are you. I’ve had you under constant surveillance since the incident at the Bennett house, and I am not going to sit idly by and watch you destroy yourself.”

“Why Avi, I didn’t know you cared…”

“I don’t, Harald. I do, however, care for your mother, and if she were to lose you now…well…I’m not sure she would recover. And, in any event, I will not take that chance.”

Callahan shut up and looked out the window, saw what had to be London far below and took a long pull from the glass of tomato juice. “Not bad,” he sighed.

“Too much salt, but you need electrolytes after that sedative. You’ll want to drink some water soon, or your ankles will look like an elephant’s.”

“My eyeballs are on fire.”

“Here, take these.”

“And these are?”

“Panadol. What you call Tylenol.”

Harry downed the caplets and leaned back, let the cold air stream down his face until he couldn’t stand it any longer, then he turned and looked out the window again – this time it looked like they were over Paris – and he got lost in the passing landscape as afternoon slipped into evening.

“So…Geneva. Then where am I going?”

“We are going to a clinic near Davos, but high up in the mountains.”

“We?”

“Yes. I’ve wanted to do some skiing for some time now, and this might turn out to be a good excuse to do just that.”

“Glad to be of service.”

Avi looked at him for a moment before speaking. “Life is a precious thing, Harry. This cliché is of course well-intentioned…but, why are you smiling?”

“I do believe that is the first time you’ve called me ‘Harry’.”

Avi shook his head.  “Your mother would kill me.”

“Really? I never knew her to be quite that aggressive.”

“Oh? I wonder if we’re talking of the same woman.”

“Where did you two meet?”

Avi sighed as he leaned back in the seat. “Copenhagen, of course, years before the war. I think it was her playing, really more than anything else, that brought us together.”

“Was she that good?”

“She was better than you could possibly imagine, Harry. My father knew many of the best musicians, people like Gustav Mahler, and he thought your mother was better than all the rest.”

“What did your father do?”

“My family has always been involved with the business side of music. Publishing new works, selling music to students, or scores to orchestras. We still have the store in Copenhagen, as well as the little shop in San Francisco.”

“Wait…you have a store in The City?”

“Yes, of course! You mean, you didn’t know?”

“I had no idea. There are two stores, if I’m not mistaken?”

“Yes, just as in Copenhagen; one for sheet music, and the piano dealership – which has been more than useful over recent years.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, the Soviet consul’s house, among others, simply has to have the best pianos for their various receptions, and we were more than happy to supply them – suitably equipped, of course.”

Harry nodded. “So, you were related to Saul Rosenthal?”

Avi hesitated, not quite realizing the lack of depth in Harry’s familial literacy – and unsure how to proceed: “He was my older brother, and he became the sole proprietor of the business after the war. I took no interest in such things after I moved to Israel.”

“So, Saul knew my mother?”

Again Avi blinked rapidly, then crossed his hands in his lap. “I feel most certain that he did.”

“Man, that’s weird…”

“Weird? How so?”

“Mom would never go up to the store. She always sent me and Dad.”

“She hates automobiles so. Perhaps that explains why.” Avi looked out the window and squinted into the evening gloom, looking for a way out of this thorny line of questioning. “Ah, the alps already! We are getting close, so time to buckle up! We will resume our little talk later…”

But if anything, by now Harry Callahan was a skilled inquisitor in his own right, and watching Avi’s body shift and squirm, let alone the way his eyes darted down and to the left, told him more than Avi’s hastily constructed evasions ever could. And now, and for the first time, he began to look at Avi Rosenthal not as a friend but rather an inquisitor in his own way. And perhaps one who held the keys to a vast prison.

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | as always, thanks for reading…

[note: 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 until the work is finalized. Yet with the current circumstances that might not be the best way to proceed, and I’d hate to have this story stop ‘unexpectedly’ without some mention of these sources. Of course, the source material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two Hollywood 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 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. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’ storyline derives from characters originally found in that screenplay. The Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. Most of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but as always this story is otherwise a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric, using the established characters referenced above, as well as new characters I’ve come up with here and there.]

the eighty-eighth key, ch. 17

88k p3 image

The Eighty-eighth Key

Part III

Chapter 17

____________________________________

Is there any real difference between dreams and a nightmare? If there is, the line between the two must be very fine indeed. Just the slightest change leads the dreamer from an exquisitely comfortable experience down a rabbit hole to gasping confinement, with inward-pushing walls forcing the dreamscape to resolve the dreamer’s darkest fears. Dreams take us on a curious journey within those things we often hold most dear, while nightmares force us to experience our darkest imaginings, and as such it might now be important to recall that both the dream and the nightmare come from within. Neither comes unbidden; both are invited guests.

Yet, and by way of further exploration, perhaps you might consider the line between delusion and perceived reality. Delusions, like nightmares, are constructs of the mind, while reality is imposed not from within but from the world around us. We are surrounded by reality, while delusions warp the deluded mind from within, by what in the end is a most fragile web of self-deceit. 

But what happens when the world around us takes on all the characteristics of a nightmare? And what happens to the soul when confronted with just so much existential dread? And perhaps the most important thing of all, what happens to the mind when all the characteristics of a nightmare exist – but there is no easy escape from the terror by simply waking up?

____________________________________

One of Imogen Schwarzwald’s constant companions throughout her life had been the Caped Man with his cane, her very own sumner of thunderstorms, and yet to those who knew Imogen best, this invisible talisman was most often an unseen harbinger of cataclysmic change. Even so, the Caped Man rarely spoke to Imogen, preferring instead to use his cane to summon change or to use it like a conductor’s baton – to play with lightning or to bring a mast’s gaff crashing down. He had, of course, never changed over the years of her life, and he came to her now as he always had: dressed the same; his eyes the same; and as he ever had, he came to her unbidden. Rather like a nightmare, you might say.

And when the Caped Man came to Imogen she retreated from the world, from that place we might be tempted to otherwise call reality, and at first she grew still – and then in time she was possessed by an immense quiet. Yet even in the quietest moments – as when rain falls like tears in the sunshine, even when the song is almost over – the effect of the Caped Man could still be heard, his music playing within her eyes as she fell away.

Because deep within these moments he often spoke – but was it to her that he spoke?

It hardly matters, because more often than not she spoke to him. 

Not in words, however.

No, she spoke to the Caped Man in another language, in the arcane vibrations taught to her by another tormented soul. In the notes and chords taught to Imogen by her mother.

And yes, though it hardly matters now, Imogen Schwarzwald’s First Piano Concerto – which she played for the first time on the occasion of her seventh birthday – revealed the contours of her first extensive conversations with the Caped Man. Within that first piece, deep within the sintered vibrations of her soul, variations on a theme could found that would echo throughout her life – even within the grasping walls of the waking nightmare that was the Nazi concentration camp known as Theresienstadt.

____________________________________

The party wound down after that last rousing chorus, and even Fred the dog reappeared, walking from butt to butt, sniffing tentatively as he came back to Sam Bennett. He sat by his master’s side and looked up expectantly, hoping for a pat on the head or a scrap of steak – not so very different from all the others in attendance – and the pup watched as the people started to head – in ones and twos – for the side-gate.

But then he scented something unfamiliar, and he growled.

Frank turned to face the sound, then he went and knelt by Fred: “What is it, fella?”

And Fred stood, then strode to the gate and sat. Protectively.

“Now that’s odd,” Bennett said as he got to the gate and opened it. He stepped out onto the sidewalk and looked up the street towards the park, then down to the bay – and he saw nothing.

Everyone gathered there, by the gate, and everyone looked, too, but no one saw anything untoward…so the usual conversations resumed. “Seeya tomorrow,” type things, and “Sure had a nice time, Sam.”

Chip Bennett sidled over the Frank Bullitt and asked about his new Porsche, then asked where it was parked.

Bullitt got the hint and pointed up the street while he fished his keys from his coat pocket.

“You remember how to drive a stick?” Frank asked as Chip took off up the street, then he turned to face An Linh. “Did you have a good time?” he asked.

“There is much to take in, many new things to understand,” she said, “yet I wonder how much I’ve seen here is really so different from what I am used to.”

“Well,” Cathy said, taking Frank’s hand in her own, “in the end we’re all just people. I suspect we all share the same hopes and dreams.”

“And we’re all haunted by the same demons,” Stacy Bennett added. “Yet…”

An explosion shattered the night, knocking everyone off their feet. Glass shattering in nearby windows rained down on the street, and several trees caught fire – which spread to several wood-shingled rooftops, causing an even greater conflagration. Soon several houses were ablaze.

Sam Bennett was first on his feet, the first to recognize what had just happened, and he called out his son’s name as he took off running up the street. Bullitt stood and helped Cathy to her feet, but when he heard Sam’s cry he turned and followed his captain up the street.

Harry had instinctively cradled An Linh and fallen on her, protecting her with his body, so the next thing he saw was Al Bressler kneeling beside Stacy Bennett, and then he noticed Jim Parish performing CPR on Stacy. He shook his head, tried to think past the incredible ringing in his ears, then he too realized what had happened and took off running up the street.

He found Frank and Sam standing near the rim of a deep crater, and there was, quite literally, nothing recognizable left of Frank’s Porsche.

And Chip Bennett. He was dead, and as the realization hit Sam he drifted slowly to his knees and began praying.

“Stay here,” Frank told Callahan as he turned and sprinted to the Bennett house, and with that Harry reached out, put his hand on Sam’s shoulder to let his friend know he was not alone, and only then did he look around at the carnage.

Several cars were overturned, their distorted hulks charred and in places, melted. Dozens of trees were still on fire, and while three houses were already total losses, several more were close to being fully involved…

…and that was when Callahan first recognized a peculiar odor in the air.

“That’s C-4,” he said.

“What?” Bennett said, suddenly a police captain once again. “C-4? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure.”

“Then this wasn’t a gas leak, was it? Where’s Frank?”

“He went to the house…”

“Come on. Nothing we can do here.”

Already the air was filled with choking smoke, and though dozens of sirens could be heard approaching the area Bennett ran to a house and called-out for survivors. Callahan did the same, and by that time both Al Bressler and his father had fanned-out, looking to assist anyone in need.

At one point he saw Parish still hovering over Stacy Bennett, and both Cathy and An Linh were with him, and he wondered what that was all about before he ran into a burning house. He called out, heard a faint reply so ran upstairs and through a thick wall of smoke. He called out again and followed the reply to a bedroom; he found an elderly man propped-up in a hospital bed, hooked up to an oxygen bottle…

“Can you move on your own,” Harry called out as small flames began breaking through the ceiling, and the old man simply shook his head. He ran to the bed and picked the man up and tossed him over his shoulder, and, with his left hand, he grabbed the oxygen bottle and turned for the door.

But the way ahead was already blocked by another wall of flames.

He made his way to another door and this one opened onto a small balcony that overlooked a manicured side yard, and firemen saw him standing there and raced his way with a ladder.

He helped the first fireman up the ladder take the old man, then he made his way down just as the house fell in on itself. Sparks and flaming embers fell on everything and his coat was soon a smoldering mess; he felt his scalp burning and snuffed out the small flames there, then ran across the street to see what had happened to Stacy Bennett.

Jim Parish was kneeling beside her inert form and without needing to know anything more he knew she was gone and he shook his head, suddenly very confused. He saw Sam holding onto Fran a moment later, then Frank holding Cathy, cradling her head. He couldn’t see An Linh anywhere and he grew anxious – until he saw her sitting next to his father, both on a small bench, and now feeling somewhat more at-ease he walked their way.

“What happened to Stacy?” he asked as he came up to his dad.

“Doctor Parish thinks she might have had a heart attack,” Lloyd Callahan said. “I’m sorry, Harry.”

“Are you alright?” he asked them both, and though his father nodded in the affirmative, when An Linh merely looked away he knelt next to her.

And she looked at him.

“I think Cathy was correct,” she said. “We are all alike. And this city is not at all different than Saigon.”

He looked away, because in a way she was absolutely correct, yet in so many other ways she couldn’t have been more wrong – but how do you explain things you can’t often see? How could he tell her about all the good things without sounding ridiculous? Not after all she had been through the past few weeks. Not after a lifetime of living through bombed-out streets and all the other vestiges of war.

Or maybe, he thought, I’m just biased. He turned, looked at the cratered street lined with ruptured cars, the homes with burning roofs and shattered windows, and then he stopped believing, if only for the briefest moment. ‘Maybe I can’t see the forest for the trees, because…is this really so different? Were the riots in ’68 really so different? John and Bobby Kennedy? Martin King? Didn’t their blood stain just as deeply…or have I missed something?’

And then he felt like he was standing along the edges of a vast precipice, and waiting below – in the darkness – was a vast unknown…like a nightmare waiting to engulf everything he thought he knew about this place.

_______________________________

Some nightmares can’t be denied. They spring forth from deepest fear and slowly invert all the goodness in a dream. Nightmares are undeniable, and the worst are unforgettable.

The same can be said of those circumstances we might, with justification, call waking nightmares. Yet there are key differences. Nightmares are close cousins of delusion, the workings of the subconscious mind, while waking nightmares are creatures in and of this world. But consider that waking nightmares are quite often crafted by sick minds and imposed on others as a form of torture. Let us consider for a moment the concentration camp.

Imagine getting off a train and being met by guards who instruct you to enter a common bathing area for purposes of delousing, and, after you are forced to remove all your clothes, you are packed in a large showering area with dozens of other naked men, women, and children. You are, in such circumstances, being – quite literally – stripped of your humanity, but then gas starts pouring out of dozens of overhead ‘shower’ nozzles, and one by one the people around you fall to the floor, and yes, you realize they are dead. And soon enough you too take your last breath as you fall onto this writhing mass before everything within you grows cold and still.

Can such events be anything other than a nightmare?

But then there was Theresienstadt. The Nazi idea of a halfway house for Jews.

Not everyone sent to Theresienstadt was transferred to one of the Nazi death camps and, indeed, a relative few spent the entire war here. On the other hand, most who found themselves delivered to Theresienstadt were short-timers; if these people weren’t quite what was called for they found ready passage booked on the next train to Poland – to one of the main death camps located there.

And so, on one rainy afternoon, Imogen Schwarzwald found herself on the station platform in the Czech town of Terezín – in the company of several hundred Jews from Holland and Denmark – and she had all her belongings with her. The remnants of her life were contained in one suitcase that held perhaps three changes of clothes and a few toiletries, and the assembled Jews were told to stand away from the platform – in the rain – and they remained standing there for several hours.

Then all of the assembled Jews were told that they would have to carry their belongings up a steep, winding street to their new quarters, so the group – mainly elderly men and women – picked up their luggage and began walking up the hill. The two-mile walk took several hours, all of it taking place during a cold downpour. One by one the weakest fell out of the ranks – those men and women were never seen again – and when the remainder reached the hilltop their belongings were taken from them and – still in the rain – ransacked. Anything of value was simply taken, and then all the remnants were simply thrown into a garbage truck and carried away – never to be seen again. Again, you strip away humanity layer by layer, piece by precious piece, until there is no room for feelings.

Many of the assembled Jews had been told they could purchase apartments in the village, and those with the means did so. These wealthier Jews were now separated from the main group and taken to the most filthy barracks in the compound. Layer by layer, piece by piece…

Imogen was taken to a small house, and the family inside took her to a small room on the top floor, where she learned she would reside with six children – all of them recent orphans.

Cold, wet, and utterly disoriented, Imogen went to the one small window and looked out over the rooftops – and she couldn’t help but think back to her father’s house in Copenhagen, with its view of the red tile roofs and the harbor beyond. She thought of him for a moment, then she thought of Avi Rosenthal and his impossible dream of making it to British Palestine…then she felt someone standing close by and she turned…

“You are the physicist?” the woman standing by her side asked.

“Yes.”

“And you are a teacher?”

“I am.”

“Good. Do you teach anything besides math and physics?”

“I play the piano well enough to teach.”

The woman shrugged. “We have several pianists here, an entire symphony orchestra as a matter of fact. We have little need for another.”

“I see. What has this to do with me?”

The woman sighed, then she too looked out the window. “If you are not useful here you will be transferred to one of the Polish camps.”

“Polish?”

“These camps…well…people do not return from these places.”

“What are you saying?”

“From what we have heard they are killing hundreds a day at these places, perhaps more…”

“That is ridiculous,” Imogen interrupted. “Who would allow such a thing?”

The woman grimaced before she spoke next. “The veneer of civilization is very thin here. You would do well to remember that before speaking out.”

Imogen felt a familiar stillness settling-in as those words washed over the room, and with these words she new the Caped Man would call for her soon – yet on an elemental level, she now understood that this was something she could no longer allow. If she was not useful, this woman had just told her – she would, at the end of another train ride, be one of hundreds killed on a daily basis at some mysterious Polish camp.

“So,” Imogen replied to the implied threat, “who am I to teach?”

“You are to take care of these children when you are not teaching. They are the future, and this above all else we cherish – and defend. When we return to our homeland, to Palestine…”

“My husband is in Palestine,” Imogen said, “waiting for me.”

And on hearing this the woman seemed to hover over the first hints of an idea. “And what does he do there?”

“He is negotiating with the British and the Americans for the creation of a Jewish homeland.”

On hearing this the woman staggered backwards, as if she’d just been dealt a knockout punch. “You must wait here. Do not leave this room.”

And the woman fled down the stairs at a furious pace, leaving Imogen to take a hard look around her immediate future. The children – the youngest still in diapers, the oldest in her teens – seemed impossibly well kept…given these circumstances…and in a flash Imogen heard the woman’s voice again: ‘they are our future…’

Of course! The residents of this camp were pouring all their resources into these children, because they were the future. Their future. And this future would reside in…Palestine.

Just as Avi had foreseen.

Only at the time few people in Denmark had bothered listening to Avi and his wild dream.

She looked down, down to the street far below, and like the briefest flash of an idea she thought she saw Saul Rosenthal speaking with several old men, but then she realized that could not possibly be happening. 

Not here.  

And certainly not now.

And in time she heard several men rushing up the stairs – yet she remained fixed in time, staring out the window as darkness fell over the decaying town, then she saw reflections in the glass. Men in uniforms. They were SS, she knew, because the twin silver lightning bolts shimmered in the glass, and in that last slice of awareness she knew they had come to take her to Poland.

Because the Caped Man was out there now, out there in the rain with his cane, conducting another symphony in the clouds.

___________________________

Callahan was kneeling on the sidewalk beside Jim Parish, kneeling over Stacy Bennett’s cooling body while they looked at a small puncture wound on the right side of her neck…

“Harry, that looks an awful lot like a 5.56mm to me.”

Callahan nodded, then he looked up, trying to remember how she had been standing, trying to calculate the angle to the assassin’s perch…

She had been standing closest to Sam, on his right side…

He looked down the street – and watched a dark blue Ford sedan pull away from the curb and take off towards the marina.

The sheer audacity of the strike had kept events at arm’s length, but now the weight of everything lost came crashing down on Sam and Fran Bennett. They clung to the familiar as gales of uncertainty tore at sanity’s weaker fringes, then Cathy and Frank helped them to their house. Harry watched Dell and Stan sifting through the shattered wreckage of Frank’s 911, then it hit him…

…something was wrong…

He turned and looked around, saw his father standing watch over the scene…

“Dad,” he called out, “you’d better get…”

…but now his father was running…

…running towards An Linh…

He turned and saw her falling, saw the wreckage of yet another senseless killing taking form within the sundered fabric of time, and by the time he made it to her side it was all over.

He cradled her head, tried to make sense of the expression on her face, in her eyes, but everything she had ever been was fading now.

Whatever she had hoped for in this coming to America was fading fast, too. As fast as the blood pouring from the exit wound on the far side of her hopes and dreams. 

He kissed her forehead, squeezed her hand as paramedics ran to his side – but he looked their way and shook his head.

“Welcome to America, my love,” he whispered.

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | as always, thanks for dropping by…

[note: 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 until the work is finalized. Yet with the current circumstances that might not be the best way to proceed, and I’d hate to have this story stop ‘unexpectedly’ without some mention of these sources. Of course, the source material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two Hollywood 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 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. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’ storyline derives from characters originally found in that screenplay. Most of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed in the works cited above, but as always this story is otherwise a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical timeline, using the established characters referenced above.]

the eighty-eighth key, ch. 16

88k p3 image

The Eighty-eighth Key

Part III

Chapter 16

____________________________________

‘What is the difference between a dream and a nightmare?’

Imogen turned the thought over in her mind, asking herself again if she would choose the nightmare – assuming she could step back in time and endure her latest conversation with Heisenberg once again. Why had he chosen to speak of her future in such stark terms? Had he seen her fate if she chose not to cooperate once in Leipzig? Worse, what if her role – stalling for more time – was uncovered? If it was discovered she had stalled Werner – and the Gestapo – long enough so that almost all of the Danish contingent from the University could escape the city?

Just what would they do to her then?

And if the worst happened, would Werner Heisenberg really stop protecting her? There was hardly anyone within the hierarchy of the German scientific establishment held in higher esteem than Heisenberg, but what were the limits to his power? She was a Jew, after all.

And now she was living in Leipzig, in an apartment just off the Augustusplatz, and she had two servants attending to her every need. And no doubt reporting her every movement to the Gestapo…yet even so she was still relatively free. Free to report to the labs. Free to attend lectures if she so chose. And free to teach…

And she was free to play the piano that Werner provided.

And so she played, working like never before perfecting her craft, soon playing even better than Heisenberg – who seemed to mind this most recent diversion not at all.

And when she began composing again, Werner soon began coming by her apartment with his wife, and they listened in rapt attention to her swelling progress. When her Second Concerto was finished Heisenberg took it to the conductor of the University Orchestra – who immediately agreed to a performance – and who with Werner agreed the work merited publication. After a month’s rehearsal, the concerto was performed at the old Gewandhaus on a cold January night, and the work was generally well-regarded by all who came – with the exception of a small contingent from the Reichssicherheitshauptamt. These men regarded Schwarzwald’s Second as yet another example of degenerate art, and they left the concert hall in a particularly foul mood.

And, oddly enough, all this was watched by a small, bespectacled man from Denmark – who seemed to watch the men in black leather overcoats rather more than the orchestra. He followed them out into a light snow, and though he kept to the shadows he still did his very best to avoid detection. The men, he saw, walked to Werner Heisenberg’s house and waited, apparently none the wiser that they, too, had a watcher.

______________________________

Parish looked at bright splashes of pulsing strobes as the little jet bounced through yet another layer of cloud, then a vague cityscape cast in blues and blacks appeared just below, and when he saw the wing sprout all kinds of flaps and slats he knew they were landing…but where were they?

He looked at An Linh across the narrow aisle, and she seemed not at all concerned by the day’s twists and turns – yet how was that even possible? Pulled from the imploding wreckage of the country she had known all her life, thrust into the maelstrom of thousands of orphans being sorted like packages to be sent off to foster homes, and all the while under no illusions at all that the man she had endured all this for had just been murdered…?

And yet here she was – if anything looking more sedate than anything else.

Then he looked at the elder Callahan once again and saw the old man was looking out his window, too – yet looking anything but sedate. And who could blame him? His son killed – or so it had seemed until this morning – and now, this – escape? Bogus cops’ questions then Frank Bullitt’s spirited actions had dispelled the first notion, yet the next thing he knew he was being spirited away from his house and spit into this little jet to be carried away to…where?

Let alone his home was now occupied by what? …Commandos?

Parish looked at his watch, noted they had been airborne for almost five hours and he guessed – if the snowy landscape below was any sort of indication – that they were somewhere in the midwest, probably Detroit or Cleveland. One thing was certain, however: the Israeli commando up front wasn’t being any help at all. 

He felt the kiss of tires on earth, felt their rumble diminish as the little jet began braking on the slushy concrete, and a moment later they pulled to a stop outside of a small hanger. The air-stairs opened and a blast of arctic air swirled through the cabin, and just then the Israeli motioned for them to come forward. Parish saw another van outside on the tarmac, this one with its door open and engine running, and he spotted a Quebec license plate on a passing truck as he led An Linh down the steps.

It took a half-hour to drive into the city, and after a bit of dodging the dense evening traffic the van pulled into a covered entryway to the Chateau Frontenac Hotel, and when the van’s door slid open Parish noted they were being met by an elegantly dressed older man, surrounded by an entourage of anxiously observant men who all seemed to be equipped with earpieces…

…and, Parish noted, the elegantly dressed older man seemed most interested in the senior Callahan.

“Ah, Mr. Callahan?”

“Yessir?”

“My name is Feldman. I am to see to your group’s needs for the next few days. Will you come with me, please?”

Parish looked this character over while he spoke and saw not one bit of deference as he spoke; indeed, he saw nothing at all in the man’s curious demeanor, not even a hint of curiosity as they fell in behind him. They marched along straight to a bank of elevators and rode up several floors in silence, then followed the man to a room at the end of a short hallway. He knocked on a seemingly ancient oak door, and, after a brief moment, the door creaked opened.

And there stood Harry Callahan.

______________________________

Not a half-hour later, Saul Rosenthal watched a black Mercedes pull up to the Heisenberg residence just as the Gestapo team emerged from the stately house, only now, and more ominously, Werner Heisenberg seemed to be in their custody. Rosenthal had no way to follow the team so, keeping to the shadows once again, he made his way carefully to his preferred spot overlooking Imogen’s apartment building – and there he waited…in the gently falling snow. The lights were still off so he suspected she might not have returned from the concert hall, and, true enough – not an hour later he saw a car turn down her street.

And not a minute later he noticed the other car staking-out her return. They pulled up parallel to the car he suspected Imogen might be in, just as the first car pulled to a stop in front of her building’s entry.

And as Imogen emerged from the car the Gestapo surrounded her, then roughly pulled her to their car. Rosenthal watched and carefully noted the time, then slipped deeper into the shadows before moving again.

______________________________

Parish stepped back as An Linh rushed past on her way to Harry’s outstretched arms, yet he was most surprised by the elder Callahan’s initial reaction. Lloyd at first registered astonished delight on finding his son alive, yet when the Vietnamese refuge soared by he seemed to focus on his son’s reaction most carefully, and only then did he wipe an errant tear away.

Jim Parish held his own feelings in check as he watched An Linh implode under the weight of such an unexpected shock, yet when he thought about his own reaction later that evening he found he thought about the reunion with a sense of wonder. How this tiny orphan survived a savage upbringing to land a job at the most prestigious bar in Saigon was only a tiny part of her tale; recognizing that in Harry Callahan – and Callahan alone amongst all the Caravelle’s varied patrons – she had somehow found a way to peace…and that was, in Jim’s mind, the most wondrous story of all.

The elegant old man, Leopold Feldman, was the Israeli consul, so it was under Israeli auspices that An Linh, Parish, and Lloyd Callahan would remain the next few weeks. Parish soon met and grew to respect Sam Bennett, but he was more than surprised to see that Bennett’s sister Stacy was madly, yet stoically in love with Harry.

That first evening the group went down to the Frontenac’s elegant main dining room, and they were seated next to huge, arched windows that afforded magical views of the Saint Lawrence River far below. An Linh seemed physically enjoined to Harry, while Jim Parish managed to grab a seat next to Stacy Bennett, leaving Sam Bennett to talk shop with Al Bressler and Lloyd Callahan. A  gaggle of Israeli agents dined at several nearby tables.

Though Jim Parish didn’t feel too out of sorts when he learned Stacy was some sort of higher-up within the FBI, when he learned she was working out of the Boston office he instantly warmed to her. 

“I miss Cambridge,” he blurted out when she mentioned she was working in Boston.

“Oh?”

“Yeah, I did my undergrad and went to med school there.”

Stacy seemed impressed by this and turned away from Harry. “Harvard, or MIT?”

“And why not Radcliffe?” he replied.

“You don’t fit the profile,” Stacy said, adding: “Your ass isn’t big enough.”

Parish’s eyes lit up as he nodded his approval. “Well, Harvard it is, then. What about you? I take it you’re a Yalie.”

“Fuck you,” she sneered, “and the horse you rode in on.”

“Ah, hit a nerve, did I? Your boss went to Yale?”

“Yup.”

“So, how’d you get mixed up in this mess?”

And so she told Parish about the vigilante squad working within the SFPD and the attempt on her brother’s life, then her role in Harry’s staged assassination, which led to more and more questions about Israelis and crooked cops…

“Sorry, can’t talk about that element,” she whispered. “And you’d do well not to even mention Israelis when this is all over with.”

“Got it,” Parish said. “So, what’s it like, being dead and all…”

She smiled: “Ya know…I kinda like it. There’s a sort of freedom I’ve never experienced before. I’ll miss it when this is over.”

“You have no idea how weird that sounds.”

“Oh, that’s right. You’re a surgeon, right? I forgot.”

“You forgot?”

“Yeah, I read your file a few days ago.”

“Do you have any idea how weird that sounds?”

“At least we’re speaking the same language.”

“Huh?”

“Well, everything sounds weird to you. At least we’re…”

“Okay. Got it.”

“Oh? You’re pretty quick – for a Harvard puke.”

“So…Cornell?”

“No.”

“Dartmouth?”

“God, no…”

“Okay, I give up.”

“Loyola undergrad, Georgetown law.”

“Which Loyola?”

“L.A.”

“The party school? I’m surprised.”

“How’d you know that? You from LA?”

“No, Oregon. My folks have a dairy farm outside of Portland.”

“You grew up – on a farm?”

“Yup. Sorry.”

“Don’t get me wrong…but I think that’s great…”

“Great? Why’s that?”

“That’s where I always wanted us to be…our family…when I was growing up. I thought living on a farm would be the bestest thing ever…”

“It was…different,” Parish sighed. “My folks are getting on, and Dad keeps asking me what he should do with the place after they’re gone…”

“God…keep it. Nothing like land…nothing…don’t ever let it slip away from you.”

Parish grinned. “He’d like you, I think.” – ‘And I think I’d like you to meet him,’ he thought.

She smiled as she watched him say those words, and at the way she suddenly felt about this chance encounter. “Really? Why’s that?” – ‘And I think I’d really like to get to know you better,’ she thought.

 And all of this happened without Harry Callahan ever knowing what happened to Stacy Bennett, and how she slipped ever so quietly out of his life.

______________________________

He had slipped into one of his better hideouts, an alleyway with a fine view of Leipzig’s secret police headquarters, so he could plainly see Imogen when they spirited her out of the building and into yet another waiting Mercedes. People were out and about on the streets now, most walking heads-down and hands-in-pocket, striding purposely-by on their way to work, and at an opportune moment Rosenthal slipped from the shadows and made his way through the rush and onto a waiting streetcar, this one heading in the same direction as the car. Though he didn’t know Leipzig well, he had a bad feeling they were taking her to the main railway station, and soon enough that fear was realized.

He hopped off the streetcar and followed Imogen and her S.S. guard to a distant railway platform – to a train with the listed departure for Prague – and so now he knew, his darkest fears had now come to pass. She was bound for Theresienstadt, the halfway point to Hell…but he knew that for the S.S. this choice made the most sense. The Nazis used the Czech ghetto-camp as a showcase of their ‘good intentions’ towards Jews, while artfully concealing the dreadful conditions within, and so Jewish artists, writers, and musicians often found their way to this shallow grave. Weaker, less useful residents were soon shipped off to the killing camps, so Rosenthal knew that if he was going to act he’d have to act soon.

Saul slipped into a coach near Imogen’s, and as the old steam engine huffed it’s way out of the station he sat back and closed his eyes. All he could do was hope his diplomatic passport and Red Cross credentials would get him through the border crossing. If not, he told himself, he’d be on the next train to Poland.

______________________________

When Lloyd and Harry Callahan returned to their old house in Potrero Hills – with An Linh now always walking quietly beside her fiancé – all seemed as it had once before.

Almost.

Harry was the first to discover several bullet holes in the kitchen – that had only recently been spackled-over. Then he found blood residue within the grout on the bathroom floor…and soon other telltale signs that a brief, fierce firefight had played out inside the house. Then he noticed neighbors looked at him coldly when he sat with An Linh on the front porch. Only when she grew tired and retired for the evening did his father join him in the last colorful splashes of evening. 

In fading pastels of the day, Lloyd carried two rum & cokes out onto the porch and sat down next to his son.

“You look like you could use this,” he said to Harry as he passed the drink.

“Probably more than one, Dad. I suppose you saw…?”

“Yeah. A bunch of special forces types took over the house when the Israelis moved us to Quebec. I got the distinct impression they were setting a trap.”

“Looks like they were successful,” Harry sighed. “But I haven’t seen anything about it on the papers, or on the news…” Harry said before he looked up when a black Porsche 911 Targa slowed and pulled into their driveway, then he smiled when he saw it was Frank Bullitt. “Goddamn,” he whispered, “another fuckin’ Porsche.”

“How does he afford those things,” Lloyd asked.

“Cathy. She made partner at the new architectural firm she’s at. They bought a lot up at that Sea Ranch development. Gonna retire in style, I reckon,” he added as Frank bounded up the steps two at a time.

Frank walked up to Lloyd and shook hands. “Nice to see you again,” Frank said.

“Can I get you something to drink, or are you still on duty?” Lloyd asked.

“Whatever you two are having,” Frank said, turning to Harry.

“Two fingers of Mount Gay and a shitload of Coke,” Harry said to his friend.

“Got any lime?” Frank added.

“I’ll get it, Dad.” Harry stood and looked at Frank, who seemed a little agitated, before he walked to the kitchen. He made three more and walked back to the front porch, and he found Frank sitting beside his father. “Here-go,” he said as he passed around the drinks.

“This just might be the best front porch in the city,” Frank said as he looked at the Bay Bridge just as the lights flipped on. “Best drinks, too.”

“What the fuck happened in this house,” Harry growled.

Bullitt shrugged, then let slip a long sigh, and he seemed almost embarrassed when he spoke next: “I’m not real sure, Harry. The Israelis ran this show, almost from start to finish…”

“What?” Lloyd said, his voice registering more than a little surprise. “Last time I heard this was still the United States…”

Frank turned to the elder Callahan and nodded. “You remember all that shit in Munich a couple of years ago? At the Olympics?”

Lloyd looked down, nodded. “How could you not.”

“Well, the Israelis have teams out tracking down the perps, but when their government heard that Jews were being targeted in San Francisco? Well, someone over there called Doctor Kissinger, and Kissinger called the governor. Long story – short, we gave ‘em the green light to identify and take out these people, with the FBI putatively giving cover to the operation. They ran wire-taps all over the state, ran down the heads of cells in San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose and one by one they took ‘em out. They lured the San Francisco cell here about three nights ago…”

“How come there’s nothing in the paper about all this?” Lloyd asked.

“Nothing to report,” Frank sighed. “No noise. Silenced weapons, I assume. A contractor dropped by the next morning and cleaned up the mess.”

“How many killed?” Harry asked.

“More than twenty, Harry.”

“All cops?” Lloyd asked, and Frank nodded. “What’s been reported is being attributed to Black Panther-type gang activity, maybe offshoots of the SLA, too. We’re drip-feeding misinformation to the press, the hope being that with little so information out there the story will just go away.”

“So,” Lloyd added, “blame it on the blacks?”

Frank shrugged.

“Is Dad safe here?”

Frank took a long pull on his drink, then nodded. “There’s no evidence anyone else is still operating in the Bay Area, Mr. Callahan. Even so, the teams working around the city will continue to do so for another week or so.”

“Are they keeping my place under surveillance?” Harry asked.

“You’re dead, Harry. Remember?”

“Not according to Israeli intel,” Harry said. “We were made over there.”

“So I heard. Fucking Bressler.”

“Not his fault, Frank. Just bad luck.”

“Yeah. Funny how bad luck always seems to work against the good guys.”

Harry finished his second drink then looked around. “Who’s ready for a refresh?”

Two more empty glasses hoisted, and Harry disappeared into the house.

“Frank,” Lloyd began, almost whispering now, “what are you not telling me?”

“I just have a bad feeling about all this, sir. I think Harry has been their number one target from the get-go, and we won’t have any good way to identify unknown members now that their leadership is blown. I think y’all came back too soon.”

Lloyd sighed. “Well, I’m headed out in a few days. Here to Hawaii, then on to Yokohama and Hong Kong…”

“How long will you be gone, sir?”

“Six weeks is the norm, unless we run across a typhoon out there.”

“Better you than me, sir.”

“Christ, Frank…are you kidding? With what you guys have to deal with day after day out there? Shit, I’d rather deal with a bad storm any day of the week rather than deal with the crap you two do.”

“I made these nice and strong,” Harry said as he came back onto the porch.

“Shit.”

“Damn,” Frank said as he grabbed his glass and took a long pull. “W-wow,” he gasped, “I hope you never take up tending bar professionally.”

“Me too,” both Callahans said – in the same breath.

“Oh, before I forget. Sam’s having a weenie roast tomorrow night, and everyone’s invited.”

“A what…?” Lloyd asked.

“Oh, sorry,” Frank said. “Hot dogs usually turn out to be steaks, and lots of beer manages to figure into things.” Bullitt stopped and stifled a long belch…

“Don’t start with that bullshit again,” Harry growled.

“What bullshit?” Lloyd asked with one eye-brow arched-up.

“Dad, if you’re lucky, well, you won’t find out.”

______________________________

Frank drove down to the wharf to pick up Harry and An Linh, and what impressed Frank most in that moment was that this tiny Vietnamese girl had absolutely no idea what a Porsche was, so had no idea what sort of status cars of this sort conferred upon the drivers lucky enough to own one. She simply slipped behind the passenger seat into the tiny bucket seat behind his, and once Harry was buckled-in he hammered the clutch and burned rubber for a few hundred yards.

The funny thing was, An Linh seemed not in the least bit impressed. Her face registered nothing, nothing at all: not fear; not excitement; not even mild curiosity…then it hit him…she had just come from Saigon, a fragile world where her day-to-day existence had been, quite literally, blown apart. And then an even funnier thing happened…

For the first time in his life, Frank drove the speed limit.

He shifted smoothly.

He made no sudden lane changes.

Because he realized that An Linh was looking at this new world as it passed by – yet still just out of reach – and he was the one person in this world given the opportunity to be, in a way, her first tour guide.

So he puttered down to the marina, then made an easy dash over to Golden Gate Park before winding through quiet residential streets to Sam Bennett’s house. He found a parking space within easy walking distance and the three of them walked along in the sunset, and still Frank marveled at the way An Linh seemed to be soaking up everything she saw.

“Everything must seem so new to you,” he said to her as they came to Sam’s house, “but I’m curious. What have you seen so far that impresses you most?”

She stopped and looked around, then turned to Frank: “How big everything is.”

“Such as?”

“The houses. Even many of the cars. They seem so much larger than anything I expected. Even Mr. Callahan’s house. Yet it is a simple house, no? Or so Harry tells me, yet even so it seems impossibly big to me.”

“Harry, you’ll need to turn her over to Fran, let her show An Linh around the kitchen…”

“Why?” An Linh asked. “Is there something wrong I should know about?”

“Hmm, oh, no – nothing wrong. Cathy, that’s my wife, she just redesigned the first floor, and the Bennett’s had a new kitchen installed during the remodel. All the latest gadgets. Pretty cool, too.”

“I see.”

Frank led them to the side gate – and he gently slid back the latch, hoping Sam’s Golden wouldn’t hear – but he had no such luck…

He saw the golden streak in time to slam the gate closed and turn to meet the impact…

The retriever leapt into Bullitt’s outstretched arms and began systematically licking every square inch of his face – until the pup saw An Linh, that is.

Then the pup slid to the ground and eased over to her side and looked up expectantly.

“An Linh?” Frank said, leaning down beside the retriever, “this is Fred.”

An Linh knelt and let the pup come to her on its own terms, and Fred sniffed her outstretched hand once before he licked it, and then she lowered herself a bit more – and that was all it took. Fred sidled into her, then fell onto his back, offering his belly…

And she instinctively began rubbing the pup until everyone within earshot heard Fred’s moans and groans.

A taxi pulled up curbside and Cathy hopped out – just as Al Bressler came walking up the sidewalk, and Frank let them in before they all headed to the smokey backyard where Sam was intoning magical incantations over the grill, summoning the perfect mixture of coal and smoke. His youngest boy, Chip, was tossing the football with Dell and Stan – though rifling was a more apt description of the kid’s passes. 

Al loved football more than police work so he drifted that way, while Harry saw that his father was already out here and standing beyond the smokey-blue veil enveloping the grill, a cold longneck already in hand. Frank was kissing Cathy so he looked at An Linh and smiled…

“Welcome to America,” he said, and when he saw the smile in her eyes he knew everything would be okay.

“So this is it? Backyards and bar-b-ques?”

“This is it, baby. This is what it’s all about. The best memories are made out here…”

“And the best rib-eyes,” Sam said as he walked over to hug An Linh. “So, how are you liking the city so far?”

“It is a most magical place, Captain Bennett…”

“Now, now, we’ve been through this before, Harry. She’s got to stop with all the ‘captain’ stuff. You are family now, An Linh, and family calls me Sam!”

“Yes…Sam.”

But he had already turned away before she could say more, and she watched him marching back to his fire pit – not yet sure what kind of man this was.

“An Linh? This is Cathy,” Frank said, “and she’s volunteered to show you around the house.”

“Hello,” she said. “So, you are Frank’s wife?”

“Not yet,” Cathy said, feigning a deep scowl. “But…maybe, someday.”

“I see,” An Linh said, even though she clearly didn’t.

Harry and Frank watched as Cathy led An Linh through the side-yard to the kitchen, and both quite suddenly had an uneasy feeling about how things might go in there.

And just then the side gate opened once again; they watched as Stacy Bennett led Jim Parish into the yard…

…and Jim’s eyes perceptively brightened when he saw Harry, but then he literally ran up to his old friend with open arms…

“Christ, Harry! It’s sure good to see you!”

And Harry was at least as confused as Frank with this turn of events. “You too, buddy,” he said, scowling…then…

“We gotta talk,” Parish whispered conspiratorially after Stacy passed-by on her way to find her brother.

“Okay,” Harry said as he led Parish back to the gate, “what’s up?”

“Stacy’s up. I mean, I don’t know how the hell you handled her…”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s a fuckin’ nymphomaniac, Callahan,” Parish whispered, the words coming out in a frantic staccato burst.

“A what?”

“You heard me!”

“I don’t get it. I think we screwed maybe three times over the past couple of years…”

“Shit, Harry…we’ve screwed three times – since lunch! I touch her down there and it’s like a gushing oil well. Uncontrollable. My balls are too small to feel now, and they’re screamin’ like fuckin’ hell.”

“Blue balls, huh?”

“Cobalt, Harry. I never want to have sex ever again, and after six years over there that’s sayin’ something.”

“Jesus, Jim. I had no idea.”

“Fuck, man. Well, I was beginning to think you’re like Superman or something.”

“No…this is all on you, Amigo.”

“You know the worst thing of it all? She dragged my ass out to one of the dirty movie places down in the Tenderloin. Double fucking feature. Deep Throat and The Devil in Miss Jones…”

“That the one with Linda Lovelace?”

“None other, Ace. A real sword swallower, and there we were when the lights went down, and like bam! – down goes the zipper and down she goes right then and there. By that time my nuts were running on empty and nothing was gonna happen, so, of course, right about then my dick started getting raw, and then she decides to give me some teeth. I don’t know what happened next but I was running out the fire exit and down an alley before I knew what was happening, and when I ran out of juice there she was, about five steps behind with tears running down her face like a fire hydrant had bust loose…”

“Jesus, Jim…”

“No shit. And she wants to get married, Callahan. Me. To a fuckin’ federal agent. I don’t know what to do, Harry.”

“What are your options?”

“Take a fucking assignment in Korea, or maybe somewhere in fuckin’ Africa…”

“You know…? When you get excited you say fuck a lot.”

“Fuckin’-A.”

“Harry!” they heard Sam yell, “Get your fuckin’ ass up here and get a fuckin’ beer for your fuckin’ friend!”

Parish doubled over laughing – while Harry just shook his head…

______________________________

An Linh sat down between the two Callahans at the huge, glass-topped patio table, barely able to contain her shock. The amount of food being prepared was simply outrageous, and that kitchen! She’d never seen anything like it before…all gleaming white with chrome accents everywhere – just like all the huge American cars she’d seen today! 

Jim Parish was sitting next to Harry, and Al Bressler was sitting directly across from An Linh and everyone seemed to be talking at the same time about things she just didn’t understand – when suddenly she had a vision of a fish out of water…

“Miss Linh?” Fran Bennett said. “Could I get you something to drink?”

“Frannie?” Sam interjected. “It’s just An Linh. That’s her first name.”

“Oh, of course, dear. Sorry.”

An Linh shook her head. “Please, not to worry…”

“You speak such good English,” Fran Bennett said. “Where did you learn?”

And then all conversation at the table ground to a sudden halt.

“At home, Mrs. Bennett. Actually, I learned to speak French first, then English. Only when I went to school did I learn tiêng Viêt, what you call Vietnamese, but by that time I was also studying German and Russian.”

Chip Bennett burst in then: “J’étudie le français à l’école!”

“Et vous aimez vos études?” An Linh replied.

“Oui, mais c’est toujours très difficile!”

“Alright, Chip!” Sam Bennett barked. “Knock it off and speak English!”

“Yessir. An Linh, do you suppose you could help me? When you have some spare time, I mean?”

“Of course. It would be my honor.”

Fran poured iced tea for everyone – pre-sweetened Lipton instant in this case – and An Linh took a tentative sip, nearly gagging on the syrupy stuff.

“Too sweet?” Fran said.

“No, no, it is very different, but interesting,” An Linh said as Harry put a plate down in front of her. It looked like she had a two-pound slab of steak, corn-on-the-cob, and a hot, gooey mound of something Fran Bennett called Boston Baked Beans, as well as a few slices of tomato and onion, and when she looked up she saw everyone attacking the food on their plates with a look of something like pure determination in their eyes. But of course, she thought. How else could you eat so much at one sitting? She sighed and attacked the food on her plate, eating until she thought she was going to explode.

“So,” Fran resumed, “where are your parents, An Linh? Did they remain in Vietnam?”

She felt Harry stiffen by her side, and she smiled inside. “Yes, Mrs. Bennett.”

“Well, perhaps someday you’ll be able to go home for a visit.”

Then Sam and Frank went rigid – while Lloyd seemed to hover over burning coals – as they looked at An Linh.

“Yes, perhaps so, Mrs. Bennett. At least I hope one day that will be possible.”

Fran smiled politely. “Perhaps you could tutor Chip? We’d be happy to pay you, of course.”

“Oh, thank you so much, but it would be my privilege to help your son.”

“You know, Sam? They need language teachers at all the schools right now… Do you suppose we could see about getting An Linh a temporary teacher’s certificate?”

“I don’t see why not, Frannie. If it’s something An Linh would like to do?”

An Linh sucked in her breath a little, if only because being a teacher was a most noble profession – and certainly not one she had ever imagined for herself. Maybe America truly was a land of impossible opportunities?

______________________________

They were sitting around an outdoor fireplace after the evening’s dishes were cleared, with Fran and Cathy in the kitchen washing up while Sam talked with Frank and his team about work. Harry was glancing at Jim, then at Stacy, trying to do the math…while Chip Bennett and Al Bressler talked football…all while An Linh tried to follow what was happening around the fire-pit.

“You know,” she heard Chip Bennett saying, “some guys in the locker room were trying to light ‘em off last week. It was fucking gross.”

“It’s all in your technique, kiddo,” Bressler said.

“What the hell are you talking about now, Bressler?” Harry growled.

“Lighting farts.”

Sam Bennett’s eyes hooded over while An Linh’s went wide. Fred’s eared laid back and he whimpered once.

“Excuse me, please?” An Linh said. “What is this – lighting farts?”

“Yeah, Al?” Harry snarled. “Why don’t you tell us all about it.”

“Now Harry,” Bressler moaned, “you wouldn’t…”

“Harry?” Captain Sam Bennett grumbled, “what’s this all about?”

“Well Sam, Al here is a world-class fart lighter, aren’t you?”

“No kidding?” Chip Bennett gleamed.

“Harry, please…” Bressler said, now almost pleading.

“Yes,” Harry continued, “Al is also a betting man. And one night in the dorm – this was during our academy days, Jim, in case you’re wondering, and Al made a little bet, and it went something like this. Who could light a fart and make the biggest flame? Isn’t that about right, Al?”

“God damn you, Harry,” Bressler groaned, his face buried in his hands.

“And before you ask, I wasn’t in the room when all these bets were being made, or when they were placed. No, I was in the library. Studying. Which, incidentally, was something Al should have been doing. So here I come, my hands full of books when I open the door to our room, and what do I find? Someone on my bed – MY bed, mind you – with their pants down and their knees curled up to their chin, and I see a zippo flicker and light…then…the biggest goddamn fart in human history came ripping out of Al’s ass. But this wasn’t just any ole fart. mind you. This was a Bressler Special…”

“Harry, please…”

“It started kinda like this high-pitched whistle, you know, like blowing up a balloon and then modulating the airflow just so…”

“Harry…?”

“Then this liquidy-fluttering sound began building until this kind of ripping roar started, and right about then the methane hit the flame…”

“Harry? You wouldn’t…”

“And there it was, ladies and gentlemen…a great billowing ball of flame…about as big around as a basketball and just floating there – right by Al’s ass. And you know what the best part was?”

“Harry? No…”

“The smell. The smell of a high octane fart mixed with burning ass hair. But no, that wasn’t all. No, because Al’s fart wasn’t the first in the room. Oh, no. There was already a toxic brew of farts and ass hair hanging in the air, yet Al’s was indeed the winning entry. Because all that methane had apparently settled on the bed. My bed. And right about then it ignited.”

Bressler looked up, grinning.

“Yes, ignited. A fireball like you’ve never seen before. Second degree burns on his asshole and up…I mean down…the backs of his thighs. My bed a flaming wreck. And then? Yup. The fire alarm went off. Our wing of the dorm…sprinklers going off…everyone running from their rooms…and their goes Al, a trail of smoke pouring from his ass as he beats-feet to the infirmary…”

“That was you?” an incredulous Sam Bennett asked as he glowered at Bressler. “We heard about that one down at division…”

“Second-degree burns?” Jim Parish, MD, asked. “For real?”

“You wanna see?” Bressler asked, getting ready to stand.

But it was too late.

As he began standing the Boston Baked Beans went to work…

And Bressler said, grinning: “Revenge, Callahan, is a dish best served hot…”

…and as the ripping sound began, Stacy Bennett stood and turned towards her brother before she fired off her own twenty-one gun salute…

When Fran and Cathy returned – carrying bowls of fresh fruit and ice cream – they found almost everyone writhing on the grass when Sam shouted…

“…beans, beans, the musical fruit…”

Then Chip piped-in…

“…the more you eat the more you toot…”

Followed by Bressler…

“…the more you toot the better you feel…”

Then in unison, a resounding chorus of…

“…so eat your beans at every meal!”

“Oh dear God,” Cathy said as the wafting smell hit. She turned and followed Fran into the house.

Fred was, of course, long gone by then.

______________________________

Saul was asleep – or at least pretending to sleep – when three uniformed border patrolmen entered his car…and a moment later he felt someone shaking his shoulder.

“Papers, please,” an officious young man commanded.

Rosenthal pulled out his passport, this one a Swiss Diplomatic passport, and he handed this over to the guard.

“Your business?”

“Inspection,” Saul said, stifling a yawn as he handed over his packet of official Red Cross documents.

The guard returned the documents after a brief inspection, and Saul resumed his sleep.

And as easy as that, Saul and Imogen had slipped into the dark belly of the beast.

 

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | as always, thanks for dropping by…

[note: 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 until the work is finalized. Yet with the current circumstances that might not be the best way to proceed, and I’d hate to have this story stop ‘unexpectedly’ without some mention of these sources. Of course, the source material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two Hollywood 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 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. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’ storyline derives from characters originally found in that screenplay. Most of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed in the works cited above, but as always this story is otherwise a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical timeline, using the established characters referenced above.]

the eighty-eighth key, ch. 15

88k p3 image

The Eighty-eighth Key

Part III

Chapter 15

____________________________________

“What is, do you suppose, the difference between a dream and a nightmare?” Werner Heisenberg asked, his settled hands resting on his lap, his entire demeanor expressing openness to her reply. 

And yet, Imogen now remained resolutely still, as if she was suddenly and utterly quite incapable of speech.

He inhaled sharply as he waited, then gently shook his head. “Then let me tell you,” he continued. “You can never control the outcome of a nightmare, dearest Imogen. A nightmare comes calling, doesn’t it? Quite unbidden, yes?” He stood and walked over to the piano in her solarium and sat there, waiting in vain for her to come to him. “And there is nothing you can do to prevent its coming, is there? Our dread fascination with death keeps us from waking, doesn’t it?”

Yet she still remained fixed in time and space, her eyes lost within the certainty of the moment. Saul and Avi had gathered all the university’s scientists and they were even now making their way to Sweden – with the help of British and American commandos who had miraculously arrived just in time to assist the group. All she had to do was stall Werner long enough to keep him from acting in time to prevent their escape.

Werner began playing the opening to Saint-Saëns Aquarium and she felt her Will dissolving as the music took hold, and without realizing it she began to sway as the music washed over and through her. Struggling to regain control she stood and walked over to her favorite window, and there she looked out over her mother’s garden. She focused on the order she saw in her mother’s work, all the while refusing the music, doing her best to turn away from the prying chords.

And even when the music stopped she remained absolutely still, waiting for the final assault she knew was coming.

“You know, if there was a way I could let you remain here, I would do so,” Heisenberg sighed. “Well, I would move heaven and earth to make that happen. But, dear Imogen, you must understand that I only have your best interests in mind when I tell you that you all will be safer with me and my group in Leipzig than if you remain here. The political activities of your friends have drawn too much scrutiny, and I can no longer protect them all, so you must help me, Imogen. I understand what you are doing, this playing for time, but you must also know that I will have to take you with me. So I ask you once again, do you truly understand the difference between a dream and a nightmare?”

She turned and faced him, looked past him to the old grandfather clock standing like a sentinel across the room before she smiled inside. “It is time, Werner.”

“Indeed? How so?”

“We must leave now, the two of us.”

“Leave? And where are we to go, Imogen?”

“Leipzig, Werner.”

“So, you come willingly?”

“Of course.”

He studied her face for a moment before he sighed again, and he realized in that moment that she had beaten him. Worse, he alone understood that by sacrificing herself to let the scientists flee she had chosen the nightmare. He looked at the resolve in her eyes with wonder, then he gently led her from her father’s house to the Mercedes parked on the street, and he helped her inside before he walked over and spoke with the small group of Gestapo.

“They plan on leaving this evening. You might have time to detain them before they flee,” he lied – and forever sealing her fate. “I am taking her to Leipzig straight-away.”

Saul Rosenthal watched from the safety of nearby shadows, and when it was safe he turned away from everything he knew and followed his love into the darkness.

_______________________________

Callahan sat with his mother at her Bösendorfer, and he tentatively worked his way through the opening notes of Gershwin’s Prelude No 2, the easy symmetry of the original arrangement for piano as comfortable as the moment might allow. She had always recoiled from Gershwin, his loose harmonic structures apparently biting into her like a pair of ill-fitting shoes, but she seemed more open to him now, more accepting of his lusty American motifs.

Sam and Stacy Bennett, and Al Bressler too, looked-on from across the living room of the house in the compound just outside of Tel Aviv, the three of them now all too aware of the fragile contours of Imogen Schwarzwald’s day-to-day existence – as well as the delicate relationship she maintained with her son, their friend. Al Bressler, of course, had no knowledge of Harry’s ability on the piano, and he sat – in dumbfounded silence – as his old friend worked his way through piece after piece, trying to coax his mother out of her latest bout of melancholia.  

She had seemed receptive, even talkative when Harry first led her to the piano, then he had played something by Camille Saint-Saëns and it was as if her world imploded. They had all watched in silent horror as she fell-in upon herself, withering into a hunched shell of herself as her son drifted through the first lines – but by then it was too late. Harry saw it too, and he forced the passage to drift towards Respighi’s The Villa Medici Fountain at Sunset, and she seemed to rally for a moment – before, in the end, she gave way to an unseen, infinite sorrow.

He went back to Gershwin, this time to the Prelude, and he forced her to play with him.

“I know how much you hate his music,” Harry whispered to her, “but please try, Mom.”

“I don’t hate Gershwin, my son. I resent him, and above all else, I resent his refuge in easy optimism to be almost revolting.”

“What?”

“Go back to Respighi for a moment. Now try to feel the music, Harry. Feel the vibration of the notes, of the elemental chords. Through your fingers, if you can, or try with the side of your face. That’s it. Rest your face on the piano just there while you play the notes, and let the vibrations play through you…”

Callahan played for a long time, searching for some kind of meaning…

“I’m not sure what you mean,” he said after several minutes.

She sighed, then positioned her hands over the keyboard…

“Beethoven was deaf when he wrote the Ninth,” she said as she played. “so how did he do it? Through recall alone? No, but he could still feel, Harry. He could feel the music, but think on this for a moment, would you? When you feel the power of the Ode to Joy, when you truly feel it within the structures of vibration, you feel exactly what Beethoven felt. When Strauss wrote his Death and Transfiguration how could he have known what death felt like? Yet when he died decades later his final words were that he was feeling exactly what he had written thirty years before. Should you want to feel death, you might want to learn to feel what Strauss created, yet do so with your face, or within your fingertips.”

“What has that got to do with Gershwin, Mom?”

“With the Second Prelude, Harry, he begins with such profound respect for sorrow, yet by the second passage he absolutely revels in an exuberance that seems so infernally out of place! It’s as though he can’t help himself, Harry! He created such a lush, expressive exposition of sorrow, yet then he seeks an easy refuge in that awful Bohemian ragtime of the 20s. He either didn’t know understand what he was doing, or his was a profoundly disturbed soul.”

“Disturbed? I see a man walking through a park, lost in thought. Some happy, others less so. It’s a walk through life, one path leading to another, and another…”

“Is that what you feel?”

“Yes. Every time. It’s a journey.”

“A journey? Or is it your journey, Harald?”

“Of course it’s mine.”

She laughed. “Ha! That’s rather impetuous, don’t you think. Or worse still, simply naive.”

“Naive?” Harry bristled. “How so?”

“As a musician playing the works of another, you have to understand that what you are conveying is nothing short of the composer’s feelings. When you play Gershwin, you are in a literal sense in touch with his feelings within the moment of creation. His thoughts and feelings, on a purely elemental level. Nothing more, nothing less. You may relate to the music in some peripheral sense, or you may wish to make it your own in some way, but what you are in fact experiencing is George Gershwin, pure and simple. Not Harald Callahan. And in order to become an artist, Harald” she said, pausing for emphasis, “you must learn to feel exactly what Gershwin felt. Feel precisely the way Gershwin felt. And Beethoven, and Strauss. You can always choose to be a hack musician and play the notes in their prescribed order off the printed page, or you can learn to see within the music, to seek out the composer’s feelings. Only then can you possibly hope to allow others to experience the same magic.”

“And to you Gershwin’s feelings are…”

“Incongruous. Distortions. Almost madness. How can one write about a melancholy journey and then slip into a ragtime dance…?”

“Because life is rarely so simple as a linear progression,” Stacy Bennett said, now standing above them.

“In life, perhaps,” Imogen sighed, now exasperated, “but not within a single composition.”

Harry looked up at Stacy, clearly shocked. “Why not, Mom?”

“Because, my poor Harry, life is simple. There is nothing beyond our suffering, nothing beyond the pain of this morbid existence. Everything else is a mask. The mask we wear to hide behind. To keep our suffering out of view.”

“I’m not sure I understand, Mom.”

As she collected her thoughts, Imogen seemed to collapse inward on herself once again. “I’ve lived a life of secrets, Harald. Cut off from my feelings…”

“Cut off?” Stacy asked. “How so…?”

“Cut off…yes,” she whispered as she slumped over, slowly leaning on Harry’s shoulder. “Oh God, no. There he is again…”

“Mom? Mother? There who is again? What are you seeing?”

“If it is as now as it has always been,” Avi Rosenthal said as he walked into the solarium, “it is the bearded man with his cane. When he comes I lose her for days. Sometimes weeks.”

Harry looked up at Avi, now standing beside Stacy, and he seemed uncharacteristically lost, somehow a man out of time. Harry knew that look, too. Avi’s countenance was the expression of a man used to keeping secrets, and then Harry remembered that this old man kept secrets for a living…

Harry Callahan closed his eyes and began playing Saint-Saëns Aquarium once again – and immediately he felt his mother stiffen. Like the puppet master had suddenly taken control of her strings…

“Mother…? Play the notes for me,” he said as he stopped playing. “Play the notes you’re feeling right now.”

“I can’t.”

“Yes, you can.”

“No, Harald. This I must never do.”

“You must not?” Stacy asked. “What will happen, Imogen?”

“Some secrets…” she started to say, but then she fell away from the trap, fell into an impossible torpor. 

“I think that’s all for now,” Avi said, rushing to Imogen’s side. “Harry? Would you help me with her…to the bedroom, I think…”

But Harry held out his hand, blocked Avi’s way. “No, not yet.”

He began playing Saint-Saëns again, this time simply – like a student learning the piece might – and then he deliberately stumbled once –

“Not like that,” she stammered, then her hands were flying over the keys – playing the piece in its entirety with a force and clarity Harry thought impossible…

And when she finished she sat up straight and looked her son in the eye. “You must learn to feel, Harald. You were never good at feeling the truth of the moment.”

“No?” Harry said quietly. “I suppose you’re right.”

“You always hid your feelings from us. From your father. From me. And from June.”

“I never hid my feelings from June!” Harry stammered, his voice shaking now. “How could you say that!”

“Then why did she…?”

“Don’t say it, Mother. Don’t you dare blame me for that.”

“Why did she murder your son, Harald. Why? What drove her to that precipice? Can you at least tell me that much?” She turned and looked at her son, her eyes now full of furious malice. “She asked me for help, you know. Help. To find a way to kill that baby.”

“And did you? Did you help her?”

“I gave her the number to the student health services at the university. I don’t know what she did after that.”

“Don’t you?” Harry growled. “And why is that, Mother…?”

“And you still pretend to not know…” She seemed to strengthen as her words bit into him, and to Stacy, it appeared as if she was taking strength from beating him down… “Because she was so beneath you, Harald. She was trash, her self-loathing a disease that infected everything she touched, and…”

“And what?” Harry cried. “You wanted to kill any part of me she might bring into this life?”

“Yes. Precisely so, Harald.” She turned to the keyboard and played the Gershwin prelude with perfect precision, yet when she finished, when she looked up in triumph, Harry and his friends were gone.

And she would never see him again.

Avi looked down at her and slowly shook his head.

‘So many secrets,’ he said as he sighed, before he too turned and walked away from all her jealous secrets.

__________________________________

Frank Bullitt listened to the wiretap recording once again, then the Israeli agent put another tape in the player and the group huddled closer to hear the latest…

“They’re in Israel,” the disembodied voice said.

“What? How do you know?”

“One of Al Bressler’s friends from Vice is on his honeymoon, in Jerusalem. Saw him there, apparently followed him. He had heard about the assassination, so he thought something was hinky since Al was supposed to be dead, and he followed him. Bressler was with some stewardess, found out she works for El Al; then he followed them to a compound just outside Tel Aviv.”

“This friend…? Is he…?”

“Yup. He’s sympathetic but won’t join.”

“How’d he know who to contact?”

“Don’t know,” said the voice on the tape.

Bullitt hit the pause button then looked at the lead FBI agent; he was from the Los Angeles field office of the FBI, and he seemed dialed-in and concerned about the implications of the overall investigation. “Okay. Do we have any identities yet?” Bullitt asked, and the agent shook his head.

The Israeli agent coughed once, and Bullitt turned to look at him. “Yes?”

“Do you care about their identities? Why not just take them out?”

“What?” the lead FBI agent asked, clearly startled by the implications. 

“You have an, ooh, what is the word? An infestation…no? Do you want an unknown number of show trials on television? Endless revelations about corruption within a number of police departments in the area? Or perhaps consider another option? Simply stamp out the infestation?”

“Well,” the FBI agent began, “let’s consider, first, due process considerations. These are U.S. citizens on American soil. Killing them is not an option. Publicity is not a major concern, either…”

“Perhaps,” one of the other Israelis asserted, interrupting the agent, “if you knew the identity of the group’s leadership you would reconsider. What if, for instance, one of the department’s assistant chiefs is implicated?”

“What are you not telling us?” Bullitt said, his steady gaze leveled at this senior Israeli agent.

Who simply shrugged. “We became involved after several Jewish organizations contacted us. We are here simply to help maintain good relations between our countries.”

“Yeah,” the FBI lead said. “We got that part…about two dozen times already.”

Bullitt cleared his throat: “Let’s just say, for purposes of conversation only, that you know the identities and locations of these bad actors. Would you, hypothetically speaking, be in a position to do something about it?”

“You’re Bullitt, are you not? San Francisco homicide?” the senior Israeli asked.

“Yessir.”

“Well, we now have evidence of a wide-ranging plot against Jewish citizens in your country, and now we have further proof that an intelligence operation against Jewish citizens of your country is now active on Israeli soil. You must understand that we are not, therefore, constrained by your legal niceties. We have found that in the past such matters can lead to very undesirable outcomes. You must, therefore, understand that we operate under very different auspices.”

“And you must understand,” the lead FBI agent said, “that we will not take part in any such unilateral action.”

The lead Israeli agent smiled. “Ah. Then we understand one another.” The Israeli then turned to Frank Bullitt. “Since the target of these so-called vigilantes have been members of your department, indeed, members of the homicide bureau, we would like your advice for the next week or so. Is this a problem?”

Frank looked at the Israeli, then at the lead FBI agent – who only shrugged before he turned and looked away in apparent disgust.

“No sir, I don’t think that’ll be a problem,” Bullitt said, his beaming grin more than a little disconcerting to the other FBI agents in the room.

______________________________________

Jim Parish sat beside An Linh in a taxi making its way across the Bay Bridge several days after their arrival in the States; she had taken news of Harry Callahan’s death with remarkable calmness – yet even so Parish knew still waters run deep, and hers might be the deepest of all. He had watched intently as she grew progressively more restive, and when it became more than obvious that she needed some sort of closure to begin the healing process he had contacted the San Francisco PD; in time he was connected to a Lieutenant Frank Bullitt in the Criminal Investigative Divisions Homicide Bureau. After a brief conversation with the detective, Parish agreed to bring An Linh to the city, to the Potrero Hills area south of downtown, and there she could meet with and talk to Harry’s father, Lloyd Callahan. She might, Bullitt implied, find what she was looking for there.

The taxi pulled up in front of an old Mission-style bungalow on Texas Street; it was, he saw, a small house by American standards, but it was beyond well-kept and exuded a simple, quiet elegance beyond anything else in the neighborhood. Bullitt was leaning on the front of an unmarked police car, waiting for them, and Parish noted the way the lieutenant cast an appreciative eye as An Linh exited the taxi and walked over to greet him.

“Major Parish?” the detective asked. “Nice to meet you. And you are Harry’s friend?” Bullitt said to An Linh, gently smiling. “Mister Callahan is waiting for us, so let’s come along.”

They walked up the stone steps to the deep front porch that spanned the width of the house, and soon an older man opened the door and stepped out to greet his son’s friends…

Parish immediately noticed the resemblance between father and son; Lloyd Callahan was tall and seemed to have been carved from a single block of hard, gray granite. His eyes were dark gray and the color almost matched the thatch of his wavy hair, and soon he found little snippets of Harry everywhere he looked…the way the senior Callahan moved his hands, the soothing tones of his calming voice when he spoke with An Linh about her relationship with his son, and how his demeanor shifted from frank curiosity to open acceptance when he learned that An Linh and his son had been much more than friends.

And they talked for hours, or so it seemed, and all the while Detective Bullitt sat and listened politely, attentively, as he too learned more and more about An Linh’s harrowing journey to America. And as he listened he grew more and more conflicted, and at certain points in the conversation, it was all he could do to not ‘spill the beans’ and tell this girl whose life had been nothing but an avalanche of shattered dreams that things were not all that they now must seem…

…until Lloyd Callahan mentioned that two detectives from the department had dropped by the evening before, questioning him about any details he might know concerning his son’s murder. But that wasn’t what had concerned Frank most.

No, what concerned him most of all was what one of the detectives said as he left this very same porch…

“If Harry calls, would you have him call me at this number?” the detective said, handing over a business card.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Callahan,” Bullitt interjected, “but do you have that card?”

“Yes, of course. Let me go and fetch it for you.”

And then Parish noticed the strangest thing. Callahan looked at a solid black commercial van parked on the street, and then he made what appeared to be signal of some sort.

And when Mr. Callahan returned with the card, Bullitt looked it over.

“I’ll need to keep this, sir,” he said as he turned to the black van once again.

And just then several men in black BDUs exited the van and jogged up to the porch. Parish noted the weapons these men carried, too – Israeli-made Uzis – and he suddenly realized things were not at all what they seemed.

“Mr. Callahan?” one of the commandos said as he stepped onto the porch. “You are no longer safe here. You will need to come with us – right now. And Major Parish? You and the young lady will need to come with me as well.”

“What the devil is going on here?” Lloyd Callahan growled, and again Parish could hear his friend’s voice in the old man’s menacing thunder.

“Not now, sir,” Frank Bullitt added in quietly hushed tones. “There really isn’t time.”

Several commandos entered the Callahan house, including an older man in civilian clothes who looked remarkably like Lloyd – at least from a distance, yet Parish didn’t have time to gather his thoughts before Bullitt and other men in black ushered the three of them to another black van.

No one spoke to them during the short drive out to the airport, and only after they arrived did Parish notice that Bullitt was no longer with them. Their small convoy of vans drove to a large aircraft hanger near the freight terminal, and as they approached the building one of the hanger doors slid open just enough to let the caravan enter. 

It was dark inside the cavernous space, almost as dark as night, yet Parish could just make out a small jet parked inside a deeper shadow, then a doorway sliding open, followed by spindly little air-stairs that reached down to the smooth concrete underneath. 

The commandos in their van stepped out and one ran up to the waiting jet and spoke to someone inside the cabin before motioning to the others.

“Okay,” one of the other commandos said as he opened the sliding side door on the van’s right side, “we go for a little ride now. All is good.”

Lloyd Callahan looked at Parish – who only shrugged – and then he looked at An Linh.

“It will be alright,” she said calmly as she stepped out of the van and walked towards the jet. “Harry would never let anything bad happen to us.”

And as confused as Major James Parish, MD, was inside that moment, he realized she was probably right. All this had to do with Harry and the attempt on his life, and as he walked up the air-stairs and into the stuffy cabin he willed himself to relax. Even after the cabin door closed and the jet’s engines began spooling up, he sat and watched An Linh and wondered what was the source of the preternatural calm that had taken hold of her.

She was a remarkable girl, he thought as the jet turned onto the runway, and just as suddenly he realized that he probably loved her too.

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | as always, thanks for dropping by…

[note: 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 until the work is finalized. Yet with the current circumstances that might not be the best way to proceed, and I’d hate to have this story stop ‘unexpectedly’ without some mention of these sources. Of course, the source material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two Hollywood 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 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. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’ storyline derives from characters originally found in that screenplay. Most of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed in the works cited above, but as always this story is otherwise a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical timeline, using the established characters referenced above.]

the eighty-eighth key, ch. 14

88keykobenhaben

the eighty-eighth key

part ii

chapter 14

The morning’s headlines were filled with news of several San Francisco Police Department officers that had been killed overnight – murders described as thoroughly brutal assassinations. The first of these reports savaged the climate of fear that had enveloped the Bay Area as a result of an apparent Death Squad operating at the heart of one of the most storied police departments in the country, then these articles went on to recount the rise of Briggs’ original group of vigilante cops, then Harry Callahan’s take-down of this group and then, finally, the emergence of an even bigger network of renegade cops cloistered within departments all around the Bay Area. Callahan’s ancestry was then cited as a possible motive for several recent hate crimes perpetrated against him by members of his own department, and for his murder overnight. Callahan’s associations with Captain Samuel Bennett, also struck-down within the past week, were then detailed, and then the murder of Bennett’s sister Stacy – which for some reason was highlighted in unusually graphic terms – rounded out these initial articles. The murder of Callahan’s roommate from the academy, Albert Bressler Jr. and from the department’s Vice detail, was also mentioned, and in context with the broadening ring of retribution-style killings echoing throughout the SFPD. An editorial concluded with the news that the chief and the mayor were to meet later in the week to discuss the creation of a Blue-Ribbon Commission to get to the bottom of all these terrible events…

At about the time the Chronicle’s late morning edition was being put to bed, just after all the breathless reporting about the explosion on the 101 was complete, an unregistered Lockheed Jetstar took off from SFO – bound for Zurich. 

Or so said the flight plan.

+++++

Harry sat in the very rear of the aircraft, alone now and very tired.

He watched Bressler putting his stale moves on the stewardess upfront, yet he was unsurprised how interested this beautiful young creature seemed in everything Bressler said.

“Poor Al…” Callahan sighed. “He’ll be clueless ’til the very end.”

Captain Bennett was hunched over a small table amidships, lost in conversation with Avi Rosenthal. No doubt they had been working on this operation together, and probably for quite some time; at least Harry had surmised as much as when he saw the Jetstar on the ramp at SFO.

Stacy was asleep across from him in a facing seat, and without realizing he was doing so he realized he was studying her features. Big-boned, just like her brother, and painfully smart, her long brown hair was just showing the first signs of gray here and there, and he smiled a little when he noticed she had just undergone another electrolysis treatment to thin the dark facial hair on her upper lip. Her right index-finger was heavily calloused – just like his – from endless hours of pistol practice at the range, and he noticed her forearms were at least as heavily muscled as his own. He knew from recent experience that she had runners’ legs, because – again, just like he did – she ran at least five miles every morning. She was, he suddenly realized, just barely feminine – and he didn’t find her attractive in the least. Which was, he now understood, a very good thing…if only because she had become his very best friend.

He looked up, looked past Sam to Avi sitting under a tiny reading light, and he was surprised to see that his ‘step-father’ looked like he had aged a lot over the last three years…and for some reason he found this unsettling.

How would, he thought with no small amount of dread in his heart, his mother look?

When he’d last seen her she was settling into her piano once again and taking an interest in writing music, but only after he’d passed along all he knew about Gershwin and Joplin and all the other colossal music of the Roaring Twenties. In other words, all the music she’d once found cringeworthy when she heard him playing…

He stood and walked upfront and the stewardess turned to greet him.

“Yessir?” she asked in a modest accent that sounded faintly German. “Can I get you something?”

“Coke. Maybe with a splash of rum.”

She smiled and disappeared into the Jetstar’s tiny galley – and Bressler turned to face him.

“Harry? I’m in love. This is it. The real deal.”

“Al, you say that after every date you’ve ever been on. All three of ‘em.”

Al scowled, then grinned. “Not this time, Harry. This is the real deal, I’m tellin’ ya.”

“Al, she’s a stewardess. She’s supposed to make you feel special.”

“Yeah, I know. She works for El Al, Harry. She’s the real deal, man.”

Harry sighed as the stewardess returned, and he smiled at her as she passed over the drink – complete with a thin wedge of lime – and he noticed the way she smiled at Al when she came back. He turned to leave and Bressler dove back in wherever it was he’d left off when Harry walked up.

“Well, I’ll be dipped,” Callahan said to himself as he walked past Avi and Sam to his seat, and he was surprised to see that Stacy wasn’t in her seat – until he saw the little amber ‘occupied’ light by the head door. He sat and buckled in, waited for her return.

He smiled when he saw her, smiled in spite of himself, and then he realized that he always felt that way whenever he saw her.

“Where are we?” she asked as she buckled in across from him.

“Greenland,” he said as he pointed out the window past the left wing-tip. “You slept through Toronto.”

“No shit?”

“No shit. I think you were more than a little tired.”

“I couldn’t sleep on the flight out.”

“Excited?”

She shook her head. “No, not really. More like a lot of stuff going on at work, trying to tie up as many loose ends as I could without arousing suspicion.”

“Well, how do you like being dead?”

She grinned then shook her head. “Probably about as much as you do.”

They talked about anything and everything except what was really on their minds, namely what was going on back in San Francisco, then Bressler walked back their way, beaming as he bounced along in the turbulent motion of the little jet.

“I’m tellin’ ya, Harry. She’s the one. The real deal.”

“Al, have you met Stacy Bennett? Sam’s kid sister?”

“No shit? You’re the one with the Bureau?”

“No shit,” she said, her puzzled expression making Harry smile even more.

“God damn, Harry, she even sounds like Sam.”

Harry smiled but he noticed Stacy didn’t, so he changed course.

“So, did you two set a date yet?”

“Huh? Oh, Debra. No, not yet, but that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Getting married?”

“No, dickhead. She’s offered to take me up to Jerusalem to see the sights, and I thought maybe you two would like to come along. Ya know, like a double date kinda thing…?”

Harry looked at Stacy, who nodded her head noncommittally, tossing in a little grin at the end just to keep him off guard.

“Sure, Al. Why not.”

“Great! I’ll tell her we’re on,” he said as he bounded off for the galley.

“That guy is like a hard-on with legs,” Stacy said under her breath.

“You have no idea.”

“How long have you known him?”

“My roommate in academy. He’s ambitious as hell, but maybe just a couple of bricks shy of a full load.”

“Ah, well then, he’ll go far. Probably make chief one day.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised. Unless he marries an Israeli flight attendant, that is.” 

“Bressler? That’s not a Jewish name is it?”

“Al? No way – he’s a dyed-in-the-wool, old school mackerel snapper; altar boy, knees are calloused from Sunday mass. Never missed a Sunday, even during academy. Went with him once. He takes those little talks with God seriously.”

“Oh well. Kismet, I guess. So, what does your step-father do?”

“Avi? Ya know, I’m not real sure, but I think it has something to do with military intelligence.”

“We don’t have anything on him in our files, Harry. I mean, zip. Only that he is registered as an accredited Israeli diplomat. His file is maintained in the Director’s office, marked Eyes Only.”

“What does that mean?”

“He’s big cheese.”

Harry nodded. “Figures. We’ve never really talked about stuff before.”

“Maybe it’s time you did. Know what I mean?”

He looked past Sam once again, focused on Avi this time. The old man had a relaxed, confident face, but the face of a man used to the exercise of real power. A dangerous man, Harry thought, but the idea bothered him not in the least.

Then Stacy’s voice dropped into a measured, conspiratorial whisper as she got to the heart of the matter: “How’d he get involved in all this, anyway?”

“Frank, I think.”

“Bullitt? Oh?”

“After the ‘kike’ thing, he…”

“The what?”

“Some patrolman called me a kike, and I turned him in…”

“You’re kidding, right? Why, I mean…how would he know…?”

“Yeah, exactly. Anyway, Frank thought Avi should know…”

“Uh…why would Frank be dialed into…unless Avi asked Frank to keep an eye on you?”

“Makes sense.”

Suddenly Stacy looked up – as her brother approached. “Hi, Sam. How’s the arm?”

“Throbbing like a sonofabitch. And I can’t have a drink, either. I’d kill for a rum and anything about now.”

“Painkillers?” she asked.

“Yup. So what are you two yakking about?”

“I asked Harry how the Israelis got involved.”

Sam looked her in the eye and Harry watched how Stacy backed down to her big brother’s presence. “Simple. I told Frank to get in touch.”

“Simple as that, huh? A San Francisco homicide dick just calls up the Mossad and presto! An Israeli jet whisks us away to Israel?” 

Sam sat on the arm of Harry’s seat, then crossed his beefy arms over his chest before he spoke again. “Judge Perryman was Jewish. Then all this vigilante stuff pops up and Harry is right in the thick of it, so I had Frank make the call through our back door.”

“Back door?”

Sam shook his head. “You don’t need to know, Stacy, so don’t ask.”

“Okay Sam, but at least tell me this much. Is the Mossad going to handle this, or the Bureau?”

“Stacy, don’t get too smart right now. Play dead like a good girl. Go to the beach, work on your tan and, if everything goes as planned, we can all go home in a few weeks.”

“Oh God, Sam,” she whispered. “What have you done?”

Sam met her question head-on. “That’s right, Stacy. I’ve sought authorization for the intelligence service of a foreign country to conduct an operation on U.S. soil.”

“Authorization? From who, Sam?”

And when Sam handed her a letter, Harry noticed it was on White House stationery. He watched as Stacy read through all three pages, then she handed them back to her brother.

“Well, Sam, I guess I only have one real concern.”

“What’s that?”

“I don’t have a swimsuit.”

+++++

At about the same time that Sam and Stacy and Harry were talking in the back of the Israeli Jetstar, a U.S. Air Force C-141 was landing at the Alameda Naval Air Station located just across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. This last flight of hundreds of Vietnamese orphans was met by literally thousands of Red Cross volunteers, and then the American medical personnel who had accompanied these kids walked out of the cargo jet into a peculiar, heavy overcast. Among this last group was a young army major, Jim Parish, MD.

Parish helped gather all these kids into their assigned groups, then assisted the legion of volunteers as they helped load these groups onto buses. Each bus was assigned to a separate medical facility where each orphan would be examined before meeting their new foster parents, and Parish joined the last group to leave the base.

The bus driver had been reading the late morning edition of the San Francisco Chronicle when his bus was called to begin loading, so he’d tossed the newspaper onto the seat behind his just before the tidal wave of kids started coming up his bus’s steps. Parish brought up the rear and slipped into the seat behind the driver, and then noticed a familiar face just under the headlines…

He scooped up the paper and read through the article detailing the circumstances of his friend’s assassination, his hands trembling all the while, then he skimmed through all the associated stories that covered recent events within the San Francisco PD. By the time he finished reading his eyes were burning, and he looked down while he covered his eyes and tried to hold back the anguish sweeping over him.

Then he turned and looked for that familiar face somewhere in the back of the bus…

Yes, there she was. An Linh…as always sharing her irrepressible joy with yet another frightened child. How could he tell her that now, after so many years of constant struggle to reach these shores, the one man who had given her life meaning had been stripped away from her – almost as she arrived…

And so ends Part II

88k p3 image

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | as always, thanks for dropping by…

[note: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgements until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need until the work is finalized. Yet with the current circumstances that might not be the best way to proceed, and I’d hate to have this story stop ‘unexpectedly’ without some mention of these sources. Of course, the source material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two Hollywood 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 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 screenplay. John Milius penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’ storyline derives from characters in that screenplay. Most of the other figures in this little story derive from characters developed in the works cited above, but as always this story is otherwise a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical timeline, using the established characters referenced above.]

the eighty-eighth key, ch. 13

88keykobenhaben

the eighty-eighth key

part ii

chapter 13

Avi Rosenthal slipped quietly through the shadows, moving with deliberate slowness from one pool of inky darkness to the next – and while he looked ahead his senses told him to slow down and look in his wake. The same urgent intuition that now informed his every move told him he was being followed – again – as he moved to the meeting place. But by whom?

Rumors were the most valuable currency these days, and Avi traded in them day and night, passing along what he knew or had learned to members of the Danish underground. And though Avi was a physicist and so far from being some kind of secret agent, he had out of necessity learned some of the basic elements of fieldcraft…like:

How to spot a tail on the fly or how to set up a last-minute dead-drop…

Or to use reflections in windows to spot surveillance assets moving in from the rear…

And most important of all, how to evade a tail silently, efficiently, and – if needs be – ruthlessly…

And because Avi Rosenthal had demonstrated more than once that he had mastered all these skills, the underground resistance had taken to using him to convey information to and from various cells around the city, and they soon learned to rely on his own peculiar sources of information to know what the Nazis were planning.

Because, or so it seemed, many Germans working at the University really didn’t care for Hitler and his more extreme objectives, and many of these men and women were working with the University’s own physicists. But now the word coming down was that the Nazi leadership in Berlin was set to abandon the idea of Denmark being a ‘protectorate’ – and stage a full military occupation of the country. It was becoming too dangerous for German troops to assemble or move around within the country or while on their way to Norway – because of recent efforts by the Danish resistance.

Of even more importance, there was mounting evidence that the Germans intended to simply take all of the faculty from the Physics Department to work at a weapons development site within Germany proper, and once Avi had confirmed this rumor had originated from multiple sources within the Danish-German Uranverein, he had signaled that an urgent meeting with the heads of the local underground was needed.

He fell deeper into the shadows and waited several minutes, watching for his followers…because he just knew they were out there…

…because he felt something, a dank warning in the heavy, seaside air…

…over there, down on the water, a reflection that didn’t belong…movement that shouldn’t be there…

He stepped into the light and made his way home, only now he knew he was blown. Whoever was following him was good, and suddenly he felt he needed to run. But for his plan to work he first had to convince Imogen – and her father, Aaron – that it was time to make good their escape to Sweden.

Assuming there was still time.

When his street was just in view he heard two cars racing in his direction; he saw them as they turned up his street and skidded to a stop in front of his house. Troops ran to his door and kicked it down, then more men in leather jackets walked in, and this confused him. Had he been betrayed from within?

He was cut off now and knew it. Exposed as a traitor to the provisional government, he would truly be persona non grata…but worse still, his true place in the government might be exposed, and that would be a disaster. 

No, he thought, it was time to disappear. Now. Tonight.

He felt a hand reach out from the darkness – and he tried to resist as a hand slipped over his mouth – then he shook his head as a black hood was pulled down over his head. Worse still, he then felt a burning pinch on his arm – and slowly felt himself falling off a cliff into an impenetrable darkness…as if the world had given way underfoot.

+++++

“Well Harry, I think because I have some experience with this kind of stuff.”

“But having him declared dead?” Callahan mused aloud. “What about his wife and kids? How can you keep them from spilling the beans?”

“By not telling them,” Bullitt said, shrugging away the pain he knew it would cause to people he cared deeply about. 

“What?” Callahan yelled. “You’ve got to be kidding! How could you…”

“Because their reactions will be critical to selling the story to whoever was behind the attack.” Frank looked at Harry, then to Dell and Stan for support – but only Stan nodded his head. “We’ve got to sell it to them before we can sell it to reporters. We have to assume everything concerning Sam’s family will be watched, and closely, so any fuck-up on the front side will only cause the whole thing to fall apart. After the funeral and any other public appearances we can tell them the truth.”

“What does Sam have to say about all this?” Harry asked, shaking his head slowly as he looked from the floor up to Bullitt.

“It was his idea,” Frank sighed as he watched Callahan brighten. “We ran it by Stacy, too, and she agrees.”

“Okay,” Harry added, suddenly less outraged.

“You’re going to pick her up tonight at SFO, Harry. Here’s the flight information.”

Callahan took the paper and scanned it, then looked at Frank again. “And…? What am I missing?”

“We think they’re going to try and take you out tonight. Right after you pick her up.”

“You think? What the hell does that mean?”

“The patrolman who gave you up at the Perryman scene? We’ve been running a tap on his phone for a few hours. Seems he’s been a very busy boy, too. You’d never know he was one of Briggs’ first recruits, would you…”

“How the hell do you know that?”

“Because Briggs was a compulsive son-of-a-bitch,” Delgetti smirked as he held up a bunch of copied pages. “We found a safe in his office and, well, I’ll be damned if we didn’t find it standing wide open this afternoon. Right, Carl?”

“Right,” Stanton said, grinning. “Wide as a hooker’s crack…”

“So, you’re running taps on all of them? How…?”

“How’d we get a judge to approve so many wiretaps?” Frank replied. “Easy, Harry. All we had to explain to him was that this group is behind the murder of one of their own and, well, presto and alakazam! Our wish was granted…”

“Jesus,” Callahan whispered. “And they plan on taking me out?”

“Yes. You and Stacy.”

“But why? She’s FBI. Won’t that trigger a federal investigation?”

Bullitt shrugged. “It seems they’re counting on that happening, but as for the reason why? Well, so far I have no idea.”

“And I assume you have a plan that doesn’t involve me getting killed?”

“Well no, Harry. We expect you to die in a huge explosion on the 101, just as you cross into the City.”

“Probably around one this morning,” Delgetti added, grinning.

“Swell,” Callahan muttered. “Anything else I should know?”

“Yeah. We think Bressler might be in on it. Or not. So we’re sending him with you, just to see if he tips his hand.”

“Al!?” Harry cried. “No fuckin’ way!”

“Well, we have to be sure,” Frank said.

“Where’re you taking Sam?” he asked.

“You don’t need to know that, Harry.”

Callahan nodded, then looked at his watch. “Where’s Al?”

“Waiting for you at division. You two go get some dinner then head out to the airport. Park in the police lot, right next to a red SFFD van. You got the unit number, Dell?”

“2141.”

“Got that, Harry? The parking lot should be empty at that time of night, but make sure you park on either side of that van. Got that?”

“Yup.”

Good. And try not to get killed before you get out there, okay?

Harry shook his head in apparent disgust, then made his way out to the hospital parking lot…just as a swarm of television news crews descended on the hospital’s front entrance. He stopped and looked on as, a minute later, Frank Bullitt came out and announced the death of Captain Sam Bennett.

+++++

The Eli Rosenthal Music Company had been selling sheet music from their original location near the university for almost fifty years when, in 1940, German forces moved into Copenhagen, and as the Danish government had negotiated a strict “hands-off” policy regarding Denmark’s Jewish population, the store remained open. And almost defiantly so, because after the first few waves of intimidation left the store in a shambles, Eli’s was a dispirited – if angry – soul. Yet even so, the music store remained open, in no small part because in addition to their normal clientele seeking sheet music, Eli and Saul had managed to secure a steady supply of new phonograph recordings by way of Amsterdam. German officers stationed in Copenhagen were the main market for these rare items, and soon enough the intimidation efforts ceased for good.

And after this new hands-off policy became an established fact, members of the resistance began using the store’s basement as an after-hours assembly point. This necessitated a secret entrance be fashioned under the old brick floor, and that an escape tunnel be constructed that led to a nearby drainage pipe. This outlet fed rainwater into the main harbor…so even before Avi Rosenthal was fully conscious he smelled dank seawater and knew exactly where he was.

So he relaxed…just a little…as the drug wore off. He felt helpful arms hoisting his dead weight into the basement, then another wave of relief as the familiar contours of the basement came into sharp relief. In dimmest candlelight, he could just make out his brother Saul, and was that Aaron Schwarzwald sitting on a packing crate?

He moved his arm and it stiffened. “Why the shot?” he asked Saul.

And Saul looked surprised, but then his brother shrugged.

“What does that mean?”

Saul tried to grasp what had just happened, and what it meant. “I suspect the Gestapo are onto you.”

Avi looked away, tried to read the tone in his brother’s voice before he looked his brother in the eye again. “And who else?”

“As you suspected. Someone in the faculty has betrayed you.”

“So? What do I do now?”

“We identify the traitor and isolate him, then we will move as many as we can to Sweden. The Americans are going to help. This is confirmed.”

“The Rockefeller people?”

“Yes. Bohr’s contacts proved useful after all. And Roosevelt has offered citizenship to anyone who will relocate.”

“What of our efforts in Palestine?”

“Still too many unknowns.”

“I’m going there.”

“Avi…it is too soon. Too dangerous. And the British will prevent this. You know this…”

“Fuck the British. We must return home, Saul. Even you know this much is true.”

Saul nodded. “For you, perhaps, it will become home. Denmark is my home. Father’s too.”

Avi turned to Aaron Schwarzwald: “And you, Aaron?”

“Imogen has decided on Sweden, at least until the war is over. Unless Heisenberg…”

“But what is your choice, Aaron?”

“I will not leave the university. No matter the circumstance. I owe them that much?”

“You owe them your life?” Avi asked incredulously.

“Yes, Avi, I suppose I do. Perhaps you are too young to understand, but yes, I do.”

“Will Imogen leave without you?”

Aaron shook his head. “The Torah forbids this. She will either stay with me or – with her husband.”

All eyes turned to Avi Rosenthal, who now spoke solemnly: “Yes, of course. Then it must be so. Saul, how soon can this be arranged.”

“My, you are a romantic,” Avi’s brother sighed, his heart sinking. “Do you think you might at least ask Imogen if she consents to this madness?”

“Madness?”

“Yes, madness. Who else but a madwoman would consent to marry a scrawny little fish like you…?”

“She will marry you, Avi,” Aaron sighed. “But you must ask her first – so that I may give consent. That is the law.”

Saul nodded. “Do as he says, Avi, but she must consent to this, above all else.”

“We’ve got to be quick about it, Saul,” Avi said quietly, looking down at the old brick floor again. “She told me Heisenberg wrote about Leipzig again – and that she must leave here voluntarily. She thinks the implications in his last letter were clear; if she is taken to Germany against her will she will be beyond our grasp forever.”

“The camps we keep hearing about in Poland?” Saul added hesitantly. “The Americans think the latest reports are true. The use of gas, all of it…”

“So why hasn’t Roosevelt said anything?” Aaron cried. 

“Churchill,” Saul replied. “The British think the issue might divert Roosevelt’s attention to the eastern front, and leave Britain exposed again. This is of course what Stalin wants, but remember that Churchill is playing for Britain’s survival.”

“Why is it that the British always seem to be behind our pain. First Palestine, and now this…”

“I don’t know, Avi. I really don’t,” Saul shrugged. “But perhaps things are not so simple as they seem.”

“And yet, brother, perhaps they are.”

Aaron spoke again, now with more authority in his voice. “Stop this, both of you. Your fighting will get us nowhere, as it always has. We must focus on the present, and what happens next. Nothing else matters.”

Saul nodded, but his heart was heavy now. He now suspected he knew who had betrayed them all, if only because no one from the resistance had injected Avi with anything. And now that Avi was suspected, he tried not to think about the inevitable: should he kill him? Or should he leave him like a tethered goat, bait for the lions? Yet even so, now his most pressing concern was Imogen. 

True enough, when he last met with Werner Heisenberg, the physicist had promised to keep Imogen safe, but there were obvious limits to that pledge. Heisenberg could not betray his true convictions without destroying everything he had done to delay the German effort, and while Werner might be able to protect Imogen if she remained within his immediate sphere of influence, what would become of her if his protection faltered?

No, his options were limited now, and he knew it. If he could not convince her to flee to Sweden, he would have to follow her into Germany.

But he would have to kill his brother first.

(c) 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | thanks for dropping by…

[note: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgements until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need until the work is finalized. Yet with the current circumstances that might not be the best way to proceed, and I’d hate to have this story stop ‘unexpectedly’ without some mention of these sources. Of course, the source material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two Hollywood 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 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 screenplay. John Milius penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’ storyline derives from characters in that screenplay. Most of the other figures in this little romp derive from characters developed in the works cited above, but as always this story is otherwise a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical timeline, using the established characters referenced above.]

the eighty-eighth key, ch. 12

88keykobenhaben

the eighty-eighth key

part ii

chapter 12

In April 1975, the U.S. led effort to prevent the unification of Vietnam under communist rule had come completely off-the-rails; in South Vietnam, and particularly around the capital city of Saigon, North Vietnamese forces had moved into place, ready for the final push to consolidate the country – and to expel the remnants of American influence from the South. One part of the American response to these developments was to identify key South Vietnamese citizens who had helped the U.S. effort, and to offer these people a new life in the United States.

Another element of this effort focused on the many orphanages located in the South, because many of the children in these facilities were of mixed parentage. To put it more bluntly, many of these children had American fathers and Vietnamese mothers, and the operant question here applies to the simple statistical outcomes mandated by Mendelian genetics. In other words, many of these children did not look like typical Vietnamese kids, so the concern arose that these children might be systematically abused, or perhaps even killed. 

And so began Operation Babylift; an unparalleled effort to bring all these kids to the United States, so that they could, it was hoped, be adopted. 

Of particular relevance to our little story, Major Jim Parish, MD, United States Army Medical Corps, was one of the prime movers behind this effort…but we would be derelict in our duties if we failed to mention that he got by with a little help from his friends.

And at about the same time that Sam Bennett was being gunned down, the last Air Force C-141 was taking off from Saigon, bound for Oakland, California, where Red Cross volunteers were standing by to re-home the last 189 orphans from a country that, rather suddenly, no longer existed.

+++++

Callahan and Bressler cleared the murder scene a little after seven that evening, and Callahan drove straight to the UCSF Medical Center – where Bennett had been taken – and now they were walking through a maze or dimly lit corridors in the basement…

…to the Medical Examiner’s facility.

Bullitt, Dell and Carl were waiting for them by the main door, and they looked agitated.

Frank looked at his wristwatch and cleared his throat when Callahan walked up, but he grinned a little – which Harry though a little callous.

“What happened to Perryman?” he asked.

Callahan pulled out his notepad and rechecked his facts. “Looks like a 38 pressed up against the base of the skull, no exit wound so probably a wad-cutter. The Buck knife is worn smooth, like it’s been on a Sam Browne for years. He’d been in the water for about three hours, but that figure is suspect as the water temperature is highly variable in that part of the bay. Tourists reported the body, so no connection there. One of the cops working the line was acting a little hinky…”

“How so?”

“I dunno, Frank. It was like he was announcing our presence as we walked out the pier…”

Bullitt nodded his head. “Makes sense. Meant they were waiting to spring the trap on Sam. Waiting for you to get on scene, probably so you couldn’t respond in time.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah, this was a well-planned and executed ambush. Dell? Why don’t you and Carl take Bressler back to division. Harry and I will be along in a little bit.”

“Right,” Dell said, and Al shrugged before he walked off with Delgetti and Stanton.

“You ready for this?” Frank asked.

“Yeah, let’s get it over with,” Harry sighed.

Frank led the way, through the sterile ante-room to a long corridor packed with small offices, then to the huge, brightly lighted exam room that Harry suspected had been the last place his Looney-Junes had been before being moved to the Stottlemeyer Funeral Home. His hands began to shake a little as his thoughts drifted to June, but as suddenly his jumbled mind’s eye reached out for memories of Bennett puttering around the grill, working on steaks and hot-dogs…

Two autopsies were underway as they passed through clinging veils of otherworldly stench, yet still Bullitt led the way to another long hallway, then through a series of mechanical rooms filled with heating and air conditioning equipment, then finally to a small door in what looked like an almost abandoned part of the hospital. Frank opened this door and motioned for Callahan to go inside.

Captain Bennett was sitting behind a desk, eating a bowl of chicken noodle soup with his left hand…his right arm in a sling…and soup was dribbling down onto his hospital gown.

“Hi, Harry,” Bennett said, his face hiding behind a careworn, very dark mask. “How’s it hangin’.”

And for only the second time in his life, Harry Callahan really didn’t know what to say.

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and thanks for reading…

[note: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgements until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need until the work is finalized. Yet with the current circumstances that might not be the best way to proceed, and I’d hate to have this story stop ‘unexpectedly’ without some mention of these sources. Of course, the source material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two Hollywood 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 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 screenplay. John Milius penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’ storyline derives from characters in that screenplay. Most of the other figures in this little romp derive from characters developed in the works cited above, but as always this story is otherwise a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical timeline, using the established characters referenced above.]

Goin’ to the dogs, pt.2

Going dogs 2

I’ve pretty much decided to stop with all the anti-Trump blather – being more than certain I’ve had a belly full of this tripe for the past three years – so I am fairly confident you are too. Ditto with all the talk about the virus. But…

…one unexpected twist among all these unwanted turns concerns our canine betters, to wit: that animal shelters and municipal pounds all around the country (the world too?) are emptying out as people scramble to find a companion to share this confounding isolation with.

Well, over the years we’ve always kept the prices on our litters well below the national average for Springers, but this time around we decided to cut them even further due to current events – so anyone really wanting a pup with good bloodlines could easily afford it. We listed our litter on Sunday afternoon, and about two hours later they were all sold.

This is something new in our experience, too. I’ve been doing this for twenty years and have never experienced anything like this explosion…people literally pouring out their souls, recounting tales of growing up with Springers but never being able to afford the thousand dollars (and sometimes much higher) prices charged these days for a Springer. Three school teachers are in this group, a notoriously underpaid profession in the States, and this is the first time they’ve ever seen pups at a price they could afford. One is driving halfway across the country to pick up her new best friend.

What a story that would make.

So, I feel good about this experience, though I really, really hurt letting a pup go after caring for him for two months. When they first open their eyes, when they connect with you and lick your chin and you hold them while you feed them…an unbelievably strong bond forms, a very maternal/paternal kind of thing that has to be experienced to be believed. It is a fire that warms the soul.

So, Erica and I have been able to pass along some happiness in these dark times, and there really is nothing in the world quite like the love you find in a good dog’s eyes. And for some reason, I wanted to share this with you, my extended family of readers and friends.

So…as always, thanks for dropping by.