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.

the eighty-eighth key, ch. 11

88keykobenhaben

the eighty-eighth key

part 2

chapter 11

Nights were hardest now. The dark uncertainty of morning – and what might come, like shades of gray marching across her ceiling, because even Copenhagen’s wharves lay quiet now – whether by day or night. The constant stream of rumors from the south, of Germany and Austria on the march once again, had unsettled even her father – and nothing ever unsettled her father. The situation had hardly been, since last August, just another paranoid fantasy, and such uncertainty as the German invasion of Poland couldn’t be explained away as the distorted fetish of a pathological curiosity. Because what was happening was real enough to feel now, as if that dark cloud was standing just outside her door at night – like an evil spirit listening to her breathe – even if all the bad things were still happening hundreds of miles away.

Even if Imogen Schwarzwald was twenty-one years old, even if she was old enough to know better, she still felt – on her bad nights, anyway – like monsters were indeed just outside her door, or lurking in the deepest shadows under her bed.

Her father was still teaching surgery from time to time, but since the accident, since he’d lost the use of his right arm, he was seeing patients at the house – in his study.

He had begun a correspondence with two professors – one in Vienna, the other in Zurich – some years ago, then he had formally attended lectures in psychiatry before sitting for the relevant examinations…and so now he was a practicing psychiatrist.

Of course, she had seen the undercurrent of concern in his eyes – his concern for her, and for Denmark. He had felt helpless, just as she too had begun to feel increasingly helpless.

Like that last day on her father’s boat…

…when he had asked her to help stay the main halyard while he tried to free the gaff, and how she had seen the man in the cape as he walked up to her. How he had summoned another storm with his cane, how she had grown afraid and let go of the halyard, and now all that remained was her memory of the gaff roaring down the mast, crushing her father’s arm…

And in the aftermath, with his career suddenly in ruins, all he had concerned himself with was his daughter’s hallucinations, and how he might go about understanding them. He had taken her to Freud, had stayed in Vienna for a month while the old sage listened to her, trying to understand the pathogenesis of her visions…but then Freud had grown more concerned about the internal conflict music had created within Imogen’s psyche, and how her divided loyalties – and how her maternal and paternal worlds were pulling her apart – had created her split personality.

And in the years since the accident Aaron Schwarzwald had been working hard to bridge the schism that, perhaps, he had helped create.

Only now there were other forces gathering in the darkness. Forces real enough though not yet fully realized. More talk of war. The dubious diplomatic rapprochement between Hitler and Stalin, the Sudetenland crisis and Chamberlain’s startling retreat, rumors of German troops massing along the Polish border – all these weighed on Aaron, as they did everyone he knew at the University Hospital. It was just about all everyone talked about…

But what was happening just to the south, in Germany? Because now this was the oppressive question on everyone’s mind: Would the Germans take Denmark by force? And who would stop them if they chose to?

But day after day Aaron knew the show must go on. He had to be strong, also had to carry the weight of Imogen’s illusions on his shoulders – for her sake, for the sake of all the castles they had built on the shifting sands of her impenetrable visions.

Yet the more Aaron studied Freud the more convinced he became that something much deeper was rotting away inside the heart of European civilization. The human psyche was but a mirror held up to society-at-large, and as he read and reread Civilization and Its Discontents he became more and more concerned with the idea that an individual’s death-wish might well be seen as the collective reflection of society, as well. So day after day he saw events to the south for what they were – the death rattles of a civilization bent on tearing itself apart. 

So he began thinking, and planning, for the impossible…

+++++

The nightmares came soon enough, not long after his return from Vietnam, and for years they hardly ever left him just to be…

…first came the night-flights to C-Med, his Huey taking fire as skids slammed hard into the red clay earth, the ping-whiz-ping sound of bullets as they sliced through the ship’s thin aluminum skin, then all the sudden screams, the overwhelming odor of coppery hemoglobin as blood showered everyone and everything, but always over the back of his neck, yet it seemed that the omnipresent blood trickling down his spine was what woke him – always – out of a cold sweat…

…then the times mortar rounds landed within the wire, when he could see VC running for his Huey, more than a few with RPGs on their shoulders, taking aim at – him, and always looking him right in his eyes…

…and during the worst nights, and after the most violent nightmares, he would wake up in the pre-dawn hours covered in sweat, because the worst nights were drenched in a litany of screams…the dying screams of men suddenly aware of their mortality and the coming of that final light…

…but worst of all was the fat, white snake that rolled up his crashing Hueys windshield. These nightmares were alive with snakes, fat white snakes with red eyes and enormous, glistening fangs.

Yet also by this time, Callahan was really getting into the routine of detective work, and had been for almost two years. He spent his first six months with Bullitt, then the next year and a half with older veterans of the division, and only then did he gain the coveted ‘Inspector’ shield. Stacy Bennett visited her brother like clockwork, too – at least every Thanksgiving and Christmas – but soon enough, while he considered her his best friend, it became clear they would ever be more than that. They simply had too much in common, and they soon realized that filling their precious time away from the street with even more police talk was stifling in the extreme.

Then the department very nearly imploded in the aftermath of the Briggs/vigilante motorcycle cops affair. The problem for Callahan was simpler still: there were many, perhaps too many, cops on the force who sympathized with Briggs – and most of these officers began to react to Callahan differently after his role in bringing the squad down. Of course the senior administration supported Callahan, as did Bullitt and most of the team in homicide, but it was the rank-and-file patrolmen on the beat that seemed to most resent Callahan’s role in the affair, and pretty soon their resentment began to boil over in dangerously unpredictable ways.

Like when Callahan would check out on the scene of a bad disturbance and call for backup. When backup-units failed to show up after fifteen minutes, and time after time…well, everyone knew the score…

Then he came in one night and found a swastika painted on his locker door, and not long after that a patrolmen passing Harry in a precinct corridor called him a ‘Jew-boy’ just loud enough for everyone to hear…

…but then Callahan had spun around and slammed the patrolman into a wall, his elbow pressed hard against the man’s neck…

“What did you call me, you stupid mother-fucker?” Callahan hissed, his mouth almost touching the man’s ear.

“I called you a Jew-boy, you fuckin’ kike.”

At which point Callahan hauled the officer to the nearest watch-commander’s office and turned him in. He also filled out a formal complaint about shift officers failing to provide timely back-up.

And yes, these actions created even more problems for Callahan.

Still, while the team at Homicide stuck by him one hundred percent, the net-effect was to isolate Callahan from cops-on-the-beat more than was considered safe, and Callahan gradually became more and more a loner.

Which bothered him not at all. In fact, he considered himself more free to act on his own, which he now thought was a very good thing.

The irony behind all this wasn’t lost on friends like Bullitt and Sam Bennett, because they knew – and could relate to – Callahan’s basic antipathy to the legal system. Bennett knew that under just slightly different circumstances Callahan might easily have been recruited and become a part of Briggs’ death squad. The most important thing, Bennett now understood, was that such squads might form and re-form within the SFPD at any time, and the implications for the legal system were enormous. Enormously dangerous, that is.

Also, Bennett had to consider the likelihood that more of Briggs’ vigilantes were still out there, that although the head of the snake was gone the organism might yet be quite dangerous. If this was true, how could he root out the remnants of the organization?

Yet he had to consider one last thing: politics. The country had just, the summer before, looked on as the President of the United States resigned in disgrace; now Gerald Ford was trying to piece together a political miracle with the help of big money in Southern California. Ronald Reagan was finishing his second term as governor, and he too had his eye on the White House, and now it looked like a Jesuit novitiate-turned-Berkeley classics student named Jerry Brown might be the next governor. And still the war in Vietnam ground on, still chewing up young lives and billions of dollars year after year – while the anti-war movement still raged just across the bay, at U. C. Berkeley.

The last thing the City of San Francisco needed was for its police force to become a haven for right-wing death squads – at the exact time all these other violent national movements were gathering steam and headed for political combat.

No, Bennett knew he had to act, and soon. To save the department from anarchy, certainly, but also to hold back a long simmering war from breaking out between conservatives and liberals all over Northern California. And, Bennett now understood, even to keep these so-called death squads from spreading to other departments all around the country.

It was time, he knew, for another ‘hot dog’ party in the back yard, so he got on the phone and called Stacy in Boston, asked her to come out for a long weekend, then he called Frank and his team, told them to keep Saturday night free.

But all that was before all Hell broke loose.

+++++

She woke early on an April morning, alarmed by – yet curious about – a strange sound she’d never heard before, something in the sky. She ran to the window and looked up into the pre-dawn sky, saw small aircraft, swarms of them, had filled the sky overhead, then she looked over the red tile roofs to the city’s wharves – and what she saw took her breath away…

…Ships, German ships, were just tying-up at the wharves and unloading troops, and as the first hints of sun bathed the seafront, gunfire erupted…then came the screams…

…and moments later she heard her father bounding up the stairs, then bursting into her room…

“Come, Imogen. We must go to the basement,” he whispered. “The Germans have come.”

“Yes, Papa, I know. I can see them forming-up on the New Square…”

“Where?” he whispered as he came to her window.

“There. See the statue? Just to the left, in the shadows,” and now she too whispered.

“You have such good eyes, my daughter.”

She nodded, then pointed towards the old fort: “I heard shooting over there, too…”

“By the barracks?”

“Yes.”

“But we are neutrals! Why would the Germans attack us?”

“This is not like Warsaw, Papa. The airplanes are not dropping bombs.”

“Not yet, you mean!”

“Avi does not thing they will, Papa.” She watched as he slowly nodded his head, but she could tell he still didn’t really trust her new friend. He never would, she realized, yet for some reason the thought made her smile.

“And what else has Avi told you?”

“If we do not resist, this will be a peaceful occupation, we will become what the Germans call a ‘protectorate.’”

He scowled. “Protecting us from whom, I wonder?”

“The British.”

Aaron laughed. “Of course. Our biggest trading partner, our ancestral ally.”

“What Avi heard, well, the Germans just want unimpeded access to Norway. That is their objective.”

“And tell me, daughter; just how does this Avi know of such things.”

“His brother works in the Foreign Ministry.”

“And why didn’t you tell me of this sooner?”

“I only just found out, Papa. And I did not think it so important at the time.”

“And has this Avi heard what the Germans will do to us Jews?”

“No, Papa. But you are a surgeon…they will not harm us.”

“I was a surgeon, daughter. And I am not so sure they will tolerate a degenerate like me.”

“A degenerate, Papa?”

“A psychiatrist.”

“So, go to the Dean of the Medical School. Have him reinstate you to the surgical faculty.”

“I am still a surgical professor, Daughter.”

“Then we must have a sign on the house that states this, Father. Just like on the Ketterling’s house.”

He nodded his head. “Yes, I will make it so.”

“Do not be afraid, Papa. We will find a way through this, only we must learn to think like…”

“Like what? A German?”

“No, Papa. I was going to say that I think we must remember how to think like Jews again.”

+++++

She was standing on her porch facing the sunrise when the rumbling began, and a moment later she felt Avi by her side again.

“Has it started?” she asked.

“Yes. The Syrians moved on the Heights a few hours ago. Sadat has a bridgehead across the Suez, too.”

“What are the Russians doing?” she asked. Then the rumbling increased in intensity until the ground shook and the air itself seemed to wilt, then the pitch changed as the Phantoms rotated and arced into the pink sky. She watched as the first echelon of four jets angled into a steep right turn, then she saw four more jets – these heavily laden with racks of bombs – flying just above the treetops. These smaller jets turned to the north, then the Phantoms turned to trail them – only at a much greater altitude. “Are those the Skyhawks?”

“Yes.”

“Are they…”

“No, not yet. But if it gets bad they will carry them.”

“I cannot imagine so much history wiped from the surface of the earth.”

“It will not come to that,” Avi said.

“How can you be so certain?”

He chuckled as he turned and kissed his wife on the forehead. “Because, my dear Imogen, Dr Kissinger would never dare allow such a thing.”

“I thought you liked him?”

“I despise him, but I do trust him. He is a man of his word.”

“And this Nixon? What do you think of him?”

“He is smart, Imy, but I would never trust him if the Russians become involved. He would willingly sacrifice us.”

“Will they? Will the Russians help Syria?”

He shrugged as he sighed – as a second echelon of Phantoms leapt into the sky and turned towards the southwest. “I doubt it. Word is Sadat wants to keep them out of Egypt, that he wants to approach the Americans. If so, then the Soviets will do everything in their power to protect the Syrians. They want access to those naval bases. That is their long term goal. And that is what the Americans want to prevent most of all.”

“Doesn’t Assad know he’s being used?”

Avi shrugged again. “It is in his interest to string the Russians along. Anything to get to us.”

“Will we ever be safe?”

“I cannot believe God has allowed us to come home, only to be burned away from this life and forgotten. No, this I could never believe…” 

“This is not like before, is it? I mean…”

“No, you are correct, it is nothing like 1940. There will never be peaceful coexistence here, so this is our last stand. We survive here, or we perish.”

She shuddered as heavy artillery began firing from concealed positions to the east of the city and he held her close until he felt her tears come.

“I’m not sure I can survive this again, Avi.”

“You won’t have to, my love. We are much stronger than they realize. Stronger even than the Russians realize, thanks to you.”

He felt the burning tension come for her once again, saw her face turn bright red before she turned and walked away – into the house. He turned and watched her walk to the piano – and she stopped there for a moment, reached out as if to make a connection – but she hesitated, seemed to lose her way as she tried to speak.

Even from a distance he knew what she was trying to say.

She was praying that God would bring her son back to her.

He watched her as she fell in on herself, so he went to her and helped her to the bedroom, then he called for her physician.

An hour later the telephone rang and he reached out, but he hesitated for a moment before answering.

Though he didn’t see her listening from their bedroom door.

“Yes, speaking,” she heard him say. 

“Where?” And now she heard a sudden panic in his voice, then a long pause as he listened.

“Call the PM, tell her that I concur. If she agrees, load the first warhead.”

+++++

“Hey Al,” Callahan said as he saw Al Bressler seated outside Captain Bennett’s office, “long time no see.”

“So, you two characters know each other?” Bennett said through his open door.

“We were roommates during academy,” Bressler said.

“For CID, or basic?” Bennett asked.

“Basic,” Callahan added. “Al only graduated because he was so good at reading my answers on the final exam.”

“Fuck you, fart face.”

“Coming from the king of farts, I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Bennett was staring at them, his arms crossed over his chest, chewing on the stump of a cigar between his scowling lips. “You through yet? Can we get started?”

“Sorry, Captain,” Callahan said.

“Get your sorry butts in here,” Bennett growled. “And Harry, shut the door.”

Callahan always felt his world lurch sideways when he heard this tone in Bennett’s voice, but what the devil was Bressler doing here? That really stumped him.

“Harry, as you know, Al has been working narcotics for the past year or so, but Captain McKay wants him to spend a few months over here with us. Frank is tied up with something for the next month, so I’d like you to take him for a while, show him the ropes.”

“But…”

“That wasn’t a request, Callahan.”

“Yessir.”

“Oh yeah, before I forget – bring him along to the weenie roast tomorrow night. And, uh, I hear Stacy will dropping by, so why don’t you try using deodorant for once in your life.”

“Stacy? Really?”

“Yeah, really. Drop by around 1830. Now – y’all get your smelly asses out of here.”

“Yessir.”

“And close the goddam door!”

“Yessir,” Callahan repeated, deliberately not closing the door as they left the office.

“Uh, where to…” Bressler asked.

“Follow me, dick-face,” Harry barked as he walked off to the division’s working office. 

The office was huge, with a dozen desks in the main room and smaller offices arrayed around three sides of the larger space. The walls were pale cream colored and old oak paneling covered the walls and trimmed the doors and windows – and everything in sight was covered in a decades-old film of oily cigarette smoke. They walked over to Callahan’s desk – in the main work room – and he pointed to a chair…

“Pull it up. We’ll work here.”

“Don’t rate an office yet? Why Harry, I’m surprised at you!”

Harry shook his head. “Lieutenants only, Al. Sorry to disappoint you.”

“You should come over to narco…we all got rooms of our own.”

“So…that explains why you look like you just crawled out from under a rock?”

Bressler laughed. “No…I’ve been working nights for a year. This is the first time I’ve seen the sun since ’73.”

“Smells like it, too.”

“Okay, Harry, okay…I get it. Could we just move on from the bad ole days and get with the program…?”

“Oh? There’s a program? Do tell.”

“I need a better handle on how to do a quick forensic homicide exam that’ll hold up in court…”

“Why?”

“Because it’s become harder and harder to trust the homicide dicks in my division. McKay thinks someone there is purposefully queering our exams to hamper our investigations.”

“Why not just go to the Academy? Go through the homicide course?”

“Well, that’s the hard part, Harry. Bennett and McKay think…”

Bullitt and Delgetti walked into the office just then and Al stopped talking.

“Frank!” Harry said as Bullitt walked up to his desk. “Where’ve you been?”

“Oh, Bennett has me working on some internal affairs shit,” Bullitt said as he looked at Bressler. “Who’s this?”

“My roommate from Basic. Working narco, been assigned to ride with me for a while.”

Bullitt nodded as he walked off to his little cubby, Delgetti with him.

“That’s Bullitt?”

“Yup. Second in command here, and as good as you’ve heard.”

Bressler nodded. “I sure hope so,” he sighed…leaving Harry with a few questions he thought he’d better not ask yet. “So, what are you working on?”

“Me? I’m clear right now, but I’m the on-call inspector tonight. Had dinner?” Callahan asked as he looked at his watch. “We probably have an hour before the real fun starts.”

“We better get to it, then. Still do choir practice, or do you know a good place to grab a quick burger?”

“Been to Tony’s?”

“That drive in over the tunnel?”

“Yup.”

“I’ve heard about it, but never been. Any good?”

“Decent burgers, so-so fries, but they’re fast.”

“Sounds like a weener.”

The intercom crackled…‘Inspector 71, are you up there?’

“Yes!”

‘Looks like a floater down by Pier 39.’

“Show me en route.”

“So,” Al sighed, “no burger, right?”

“Yup. ou get used to it.”

They made it down to the waterfront in just a few minutes – despite heavy afternoon traffic – and Callahan saw a huge crowd gathered around patrol cars and an ambulance so he parked as close as possible before taking his ‘suitcase’ from the trunk of the Ford.

“You carry everything in that?” Bressler asked.

“All I need. If it ain’t in here, I call for a CSU,” Harry said as they walked out the pier. Gulls were crying overhead and the walkway still smelled like briny rot; the responding patrolmen had already strung ‘crime scene’ tape across the way ahead, so Callahan flashed his badge as they approached.

“Looks like a bad one, Inspector Callahan,” the patrolman standing watch announced loudly, and Callahan felt the hair on his neck stand-on-end even as he nodded and ducked under the tape.

Another patrolman was waiting further along, leaning on the old timber railing and staring down into the inky water as he and Bressler walked up. Callahan looked down, saw a middle aged man face down in the water, the back of his skull blown away, as well as a loitering Harbor Patrol launch puttering around in lazy circles – probably keeping the gulls from a much-anticipated feast.

Callahan caught the eye of the boat’s driver and pointed to a rickety old timber ladder that led straight down to the water; the driver nodded and headed that way as Callahan made his way down, Bressler not far behind, and he hopped aboard the launch – then holding onto the ladder as Al timed his jump with a passing swell.

“You touch anything?” Callahan asked as he surveyed the scene, and the driver – also a police officer – shook his head.

“No sir, but I just got here.”

“See anything on the way in?”

“No sir.”

Callahan nodded as the launch crabbed sideways over to the body, then he leaned over and turned the body face up.

“Fuck.”

“What is it?” Bressler asked.

“Take a look.”

Al sidled across the rocking launch and bent over…

“Fuck. Is that…?”

“Judge Perryman. Yup.” Then Callahan saw a Buck knife had been left in the judge’s chest. “Does that look like a calling card to you, Al?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, every patrolman in the city carries a Buck knife on their Sam Browne, right? And Judge Perryman? In the back pocket of half the mobsters and drug dealers in the city…”

“Ouch. I see what you mean…”

Callahan turned to the driver. “Need your radio, and switch to city primary.”

“Right.”

“Inspector 71,” he said into the mic.

“71, go ahead.”

“Need a full CSU my location, as well as divers. Notify 710, advise he is needed this location code two S, that’s S for Sam.”

“71 at 17:22 hours.”

“710, show me en route,” Captain Bennett said over the primary.

“710 at 17:23 hours.”

Bressler tugged at Callahan’s sleeve, then pointed to the crowd gathered on the pier…and Callahan groaned…

“Al, better go up and get everyone the fuck off this pier,” Callahan said as he motioned the launch’s driver back to the ladder. “And no reporters! Better have one of the guys up there call for more backup to work crowd control.”

“Right.”

Then, over the radio…

“710, 33 – shots fired…” Bennett screamed. “Chestnut at Grant…I’m…taking fire…repeat…I’m…”

Callahan grabbed the radio and began shouting…

“Inspector 71 to all units…respond Code 3, but be advised this is a possible ambush situation, repeat, possible ambush. Dispatch, notify SWAT now!”

“71 at 17:25 hours. SWAT notified and en route.”

“Al? Be careful. I mean it. Something’s not right, so be fuckin’ careful.”

Bressler nodded and grinned before he jumped to the ladder, then Harry turned to the driver. “Let’s take a quick look around…”

But in his mind’s eye he felt the Huey lurch sideways before it slammed into the marshy waters of the boggy creek behind C-Med, and as always the fat white snake rolled up the windshield before it disappeared into the darkness…

© 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 1

Jim

Just about my best friend in the world these days is Jim, and that’s him (above), one of the pups from a litter we had two years ago this month.

We had a surprise in January when we found his parents enjoying a post-coital cigarette, and so in addition to working on various stories these days I am also up to my elbows in puppy-poop as we get this current batch ready to go and out the door.

People tend to express dismay when we tell them about the food we feed our pups when it’s time to wean them from their mother’s milk, so I wanted to pass it along to you, see if you agree – that we are bonkers when it comes to our Springers…

Anyway, at about 3 to 3.5 weeks we gradually introduce goats milk to the little ones, then over the course of a few days we add honey, wheat germ and whole milk yogurt to the mix as we pull the mother slowly away. After a week to ten days of that we begin to add in our own adult formula dried meal, only we run it through a grinder and add the resulting powder to the milk mixture, gradually decreasing the size of the grind until – at around six weeks – they’re eating our standard dry ‘kibble.’ We’ve had good luck with this over the years.

One of the reasons why we’ve turned away from commercial pet food products concerns the declining quality in these products as reported by various consumer watchdogs. The most troubling such reports, which came out in a few mainstream media outlets last year, concerns the use of so-called ‘roadkill’ and animals from shelters that have been euthanized in many of these commercially available pet food products. The latter, involving euthanized animal by-products, came to light when the chemicals used to ‘put-down’ dogs and cats at municipal animal pounds was found in several brands of canned dog food sold at, well, yeah, Wal*Mart. I’d be the first to point out this was a surprise to that retailer and they pulled the products in question, but there’s absolutely no indication that the practice has changed. Kind of Soylent Green for dogs, except those chemicals were making dogs sick as hell.

If there can even be considered a ‘good side’ to the current pandemic it’s that animal shelters around the U.S. have apparently seen record numbers of adoptions as people realize what we’ve known for years: there’s simply no finer companion than a good pup. More than a few of the pups we’ve placed over the years have become cherished friends for their humans, and one of the greatest joys we have is hearing from this extended family, getting photos of our pups as they make their way through life.

So, enough of this. Just taking a break from puppy duty, and from Harry Callahan, but it’s time to get back to it.

Later…and thanks for dropping by.