The Eighty-eighth Key
Patrick/Frank Bullitt made his way from the lot as the loudspeaker barked his name once again: “Pat, report to Mr. Chalmer’s office…Pat, report to…”
He stopped at the water fountain and took a long slurp before he resumed walking, anything to slow his way there – and several others around the showroom watched with knowing expressions on hand, hoping he’d be fired for this overt display of disobedience.
Because over the past week Patrick had sold nine cars, while all the other salesmen had sold…none.
And now, on this Friday afternoon – payday, of course – they wanted a comeuppance more than anything else.
So Patrick grinned knowingly as he walked into Paddy Chalmer’s ornate office. “You need me for something?” he said, not a little insolently.
“Why yes, Pat, I do. Have you got something working?”
“Yeah, a broad lookin’ at that last 914.”
“Oh, well then, I won’t keep you long. I need you to help me with an errand tonight. Got any plans you can’t break?”
“Nope, I’m all yours.”
“Okay, that’s all then.”
“After three months you’ll get a take-home car,” Paddy Chalmers told Patrick as they worked their way across the Bay Bridge – just as dark came on and a sudden fog rolled across the water like smoke. “Just one of the perks, I guess you could say.”
“Okay,” Patrick replied.
“You don’t talk much, do you?”
Pat shrugged. “Nothin’ much to say, ya know?”
“Carmine tells me you’ve put your hands in cold water.”
“Did he?” and Pat replied cautiously now because this was slang for killing someone.
“And I was wondering. What if we need something like that. Should I come to you?”
“Depends on the money, I guess.”
“And that depends on the hit. Yeah, I got that. So, what about a cop? You down for that?”
“A cop? You mean, like some guy walkin’ a beat?”
“No, a police captain.”
“No, he’s a paper-pusher, a real pencil-dick…”
“All cops are pencil-dicks, Paddy. How does fifty sound?”
Paddy nodded. “About what I figured.”
“Okay, so next time I’ll ask for a hundred.”
And Chalmers laughed with him, then Patrick grinned – if only to seal the deal.
Once over the bridge, they made their way down to Hayward; Chalmers pulled into the airport and parked near a row of hangers.
“Now we wait,” Chalmers said, leaning back with a sigh.
It didn’t take long.
About a half-hour later a small twin-engined plane landed and taxied to the row of hangers; Chalmers got out, motioning Patrick to do the same, and they walked out to the plane just as the right engine shut down. The pilot climbed out the door on the right side and walked down the wing, then he went aft to the small luggage compartment. Chalmers handed over an envelope and the pilot opened the little door, reached in, took out two duffel bags; he handed one to Chalmers, the other to Patrick, and without a word the pilot got in and started the right engine and taxied over to a fuel depot – leaving Patrick to commit the airplane’s registration number to memory.
Chalmers put the bags behind his seat, then they drove off northbound for Oakland, and, after a few minutes, they were winding through an area near the waterfront that seemed filled with abandoned warehouses, though there were still a few working enterprises here and there. Patrick watched Chalmers’ eyes in the mirror; he was scanning to the rear, checking for a tail as he drove about aimlessly for a half hour.
Then, without warning, he flipped off the Porsche’s headlights and turned hard into a darkened parking lot. Now, heading towards a closed-door Patrick expected an imminent crash – until a larger sliding door opened at the last possible moment…
…and as soon as the door slid shut behind them lights blazed-on and a huge warehouse full of men and painting equipment came into view…
Chalmers parked and got out of the Porsche, so Patrick followed…and it didn’t take him long to spot Callahan, busily masking off the windshield on an orange Porsche 912. Without a word, Patrick fell in behind Chalmers as they walked to an office and sat down.
Patrick watched the Porsche they had just used drive off, but he saw that an older man now had the duffel bags, and this man disappeared into another part of the warehouse. A few minutes later a beat-up Chevy Nova appeared; Chalmers stood and made his way to the driver’s seat, Patrick following close behind.
A few minutes later they were on the Bay Bridge again, headed back into the city.
But Chalmers drove through the park until he came to a house out near the cliffs, and parked there Patrick saw the Prussian Blue 911 he’d sold to Mrs. ‘Kildare’ – aka his handler. Chalmers then took out a set of keys and handed them to Patrick.
“Get the car and follow me.”
Patrick walked over to the Porsche and got in, started the motor, and as quietly as possible backed out of the driveway. The Nova took off and he followed; a few blocks away they came to what looked like a moving van, only the back doors were standing wide open and there was ramp sloping down to the street. One man stood by the ramp and indicated he should stop at the bottom, and after Patrick got out a second man got in and drove the Porsche inside while the first secured the rear doors. Chalmers pulled up beside Patrick and told him to get in; they sped off towards downtown in silence.
“Smooth, Patrick. Pretty smooth.”
“Sorry, but I had to see how you handle a little pressure.”
“You know what I like about you, Pat? You don’t ask questions. Yeah. I like that.”
Patrick nodded. “Any place around here this time of night got a decent steak?”
And for some reason this made Chalmers laugh.
Mason/Callahan had seen Bullitt get out of the car and what bothered him most was how recognizable Frank was, even with the long red hair and the natty Ray-Bans, so naturally, the first thing he did after Bullitt left was to go to the bathroom and look at his own disguise. Full, bushy beard, scruffy gray hair, and clothes that bordered on ragged…but, yeah, he was pretty sure he still looked like Harry Callahan. ‘So the first thing I gotta do is stay away from cops, especially from San Francisco,’ he thought as he looked at his reflection. ‘Maybe I ought to go skinhead, chop the eyebrows a little?’
Then, banging on the bathroom door: “Mason, you in there?”
“Yeah man. Bad enchiladas…”
“Well, light a fuckin’ match and hurry it up.”
He flushed the old toilet and ambled out, still tucking-in his shirt, and Danson was there with one of the duffel bags that Bullitt had just delivered.
Danson unzipped the duffel and took out what looked like a small vinyl pouch, just like you’d find in the trunk on top of a car’s spare tire. “Take five of these and put them with the spare tires in those cars.”
“Just lay ‘em on top? That’s it?”
But for some reason Harry knew this was a test of some sort, that people would be watching him, checking to see if he tried to snoop around and see what was inside, so he went to each of the five cars that would go out tonight and dropped one pouch per car in the boot. When he was done he went back to masking off the latest 911, getting it ready for the paint booth – and he acted as if nothing unusual had gone down.
But the cop in Callahan had quickly deduced that the pouches were loaded with either heroin or hashish – the weight and feel unmistakable…
So, the group was not only moving stolen cars, they were also distributing narcotics; the obvious next question was simple enough: where were they getting their product from – because now he knew the ‘real money’ was in those black vinyl pouches…
When his shift was up he had just begun to put away his tools when Danson and two other men walked up.
“Got time for breakfast?” Danson asked.
“Yeah, sure. Can I wash up first?”
“Not necessary,” one of the other men said.
“Okay, ready when you are.”
They walked outside to a Caddie with blacked-out windows and Danson told him to get behind the wheel; once seated one of the other men instructed him to drive down to the airport in Hayward…
He noted it was a little past midnight and the sky was partly cloudy, the temp about 50 degrees…so it made sense they were going to meet a plane, maybe pick up more product?
But no one in the car said a word – until the turned into the airport…
“Turn left here,” one of the men said, then: “go down to the far lot and park.”
From there, all four walked out onto the ramp and out to what looked like a surplus Huey…
Then this same man, the one who appeared to be in charge, spoke again: “They tell me you can fly these things.”
The man reached inside his jacket, like he was going for a shoulder holster. “Look, Slick, either you can or you can’t. Which is it?”
“I can, but it’s been a while,” Mason lied – because Goodman had foreseen this moment, too.
Harry walked around the Huey and pulled the covers, then up to the starboard side forward where he opened the pilot’s door and climbed in; he heard the aft door port-side open, then it slammed shut after, presumably, the others clambered in and took their seats.
Harry reached for the overhead and flipped on the main bus, then he powered-up the ship’s systems one by one. He got the interior lights on and set to red, then found the headset and got it settled over his ears…and as soon as he did the intercom chirped to life.
“You hear me okay, Mason?” he heard Danson ask.
“Okay, we’re going to the north tower on the Golden Gate. From there, take a heading of 2-5-5 magnetic. I’ll tell you when to stop.”
“Okay, 2-5-5 from the north tower until advised.”
“And, uh, no radios tonight, Mason.”
Harry started the turbine and watched his pressures, then he flipped on the intercom again. “Uh, I assume no exterior lights?”
“You assume correctly,” one of the other men said, his accent from south of the border.
“So, no transponder?”
“You got it, slick,” Danson added.
Harry nodded…because that meant he’d have to keep the Huey under fifty feet, and at one in the morning. He dialed in San Francisco approach and picked up the barometric pressure, then set this reading on the altimeter.
“Y’all buckled in?” he asked as he pulled up sharply on the collective, and as quickly he dropped the nose and ran the throttle up smoothly until the flutterbug was racing across the bay…the skids maybe twenty feet above the waves…
‘Goddamn, but it feels good to be up here again, even now…’ he thought, realizing he missed flying more than he’d been willing to admit.
There were several small boats coming and going across the bay, mainly to and from Sausalito, and he kept well away from this traffic – but in the end, no one challenged him as he made his way across the bay to the bridge. There he set his heading bug to 255 degrees magnetic and drove the Huey out to sea.
“What’s your airspeed,” one of the other men asked.
“One ten knots,” Harry replied.
“Slow to 20.”
“Turn on your rotating beacon for thirty seconds, then power it off.”
“Roger.” Harry flipped the switch on the overhead as he watched the second hand on the clock countdown…
“There he is!”
“What?” Harry asked.
“Flashlight, at your ten o’clock,” he heard Danson say, and then he saw it. One man in a very small Zodiac inflatable boat, more like a yacht tender, was about a hundred yards away.
“Okay, got him,” Harry said as he turned to look at his passengers.
“Two of us getting out here, Mason. Thanks for the ride.”
“Right,” Harry said as he slipped over to the little boat. He heard an aft door slide open and prepared to counter the weight-shift, and when that was done and over with he turned to Danson. “Where to?”
“Mind if I come up?”
“Hell no! Come on, man…it’s too quiet up here!”
Once Danson had settled in the left seat he asked again: “Where we headed now?”
“Back the way we came, down in the waves.”
“That was the best flying I’ve ever seen. Did you go through the entire Army flight school?”
“Yeah. But, well, I got kicked out.”
“Army, huh? Hear that’s pretty tough.”
“The flying wasn’t. All the other bullshit was.”
“You instrument rated?”
“I guess you wouldn’t mind doing more – errands – like this?”
“If the money’s good enough, sure thing.”
“Thousand bucks a run okay? In the beginning, anyway. Maybe some more on the big money runs.”
“You haven’t asked what you’ll be carrying? Why is that, Mason?”
“Because I don’t give a flyin’ fuck, Amigo. As long as the money’s good, ya know what I mean?”
Harry could see Danson’s grin reflected in the windshield, so he guessed that was the right answer…
Avi’s head of security was allowed into the cardiac intensive care unit one morning, though he had been cautioned to keep things simple and stress-free…
“How is she?” was the first thing out of Avi’s mouth.
“Fine, actually. Nothing to worry about.”
“What about her cancer? What do we know?”
“She’s had the surgery, and she did well. They’ll commence with one round of chemo, then six weeks of radiation, beginning next week.”
Avi took a moment to digest all that, wiping away more than a few tears in the process, before he continued. “Tel Aviv?” he asked.
“For now. But the doctors think she might be better off doing the whole thing at Sloane-Kettering.”
Avi nodded. “See if you can expedite that, Lev.”
“Yes, I will.”
“And…is there any news about Harry?”
“Not much. He is flying helicopters now, at least once this week. Colonel Goodman is concerned, however. He thinks the equipment is too old to be used as it is.”
“He’ll just have to trust Harry, I assume. The rest of the operation?”
“Sam and Al are…”
“Al Bressler. You remember, the one who lights his farts?”
“Ah, how could I forget. Go on…”
“They followed a lead into Syria but it went cold. They are now in Venezuela.”
“What the hell?!”
“A new lead. I don’t have the details…”
One of Avi’s nurses came in and went straight to the IV; she injected a sedative then turned and shook her head, implicitly telling Lev to cut his visit short.
“Well, I will find out what I can. I’ll be back this afternoon; can I bring you anything?”
“A stripper with huge tits,” he called out for the benefit of his nurses.
Both men smiled, then Avi continued in a lower voice: “Get Imogen to New York, would you? And find out what you can about Harry?”
“I will, my friend.”
And Avi nodded, smiled a little before his eyes clouded over.
The nurse returned then: “I doubt he’ll be awake this afternoon.”
“So, I should return in the morning?”
The woman hesitated, then simply nodded.
“What are you not telling me?” Lev asked.
“Doctor Cooley thinks he may be rejecting the new tissue. There is a new drug he’s trying to get approval to use, but if not, well, things could become very bad, very quickly.”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Not unless you can get hold of a supply of this medicine.”
“What is the hold-up?”
“Well, the drug is made by an Israeli company, but there’s some problem with the import license.”
“Indeed. Tell me more…”
She was having a good day. Lucid, the doctors called it, which meant she knew where she was and what time of the day it was outside her little cocoon. She’d just managed breakfast when she went to her Bösendorfer; once her hands hovered over the keys she closed her eyes and cast herself free of time – and she was soon adrift on a sea of memory…the Old Man in the Cape staring at her knowingly.
And von Karajan was agitated this morning, too. He wanted nothing more than to see where she was taking this monumental work, but most of all how she was going construct her conclusion. At the same time, he was growing more and more fearful of this piece, fearful of its underlying power. She had rescored key passages of the second movement only the day before, and as she worked through the closing passages he had found himself weeping uncontrollably, his hands shaking and his pulse hammering in his head. What would older musicians do when they encountered such raw power? Would they survive the telling of her story, indeed, their encounter with such deadly emotion?
Now he watched her hands.
Porcelain white, like purest marble under Michelangelo’s hand, waiting to come to life again.
Then she looked up, her eyes roaming the room until she found him.
“You must not hear this, Herbert,” she sighed. “Let it be a surprise.”
“Imogen, are you sure?”
“I am, but help me with this notation before you leave me.”
He came to her, paper in hand as she placed her fingers on the deepest keys, those leading down to the eighty-eighth key, and he watched as her fingers searched for the meaning passed down from the clouds…
He had never, not once in decades of conducting, seen anything remotely like what she was forming…then her hand found the eighty-eighth key and she played the chord…
He felt his breath sundered, his vision fading to a vast field of limitless white stars as he lost control of his legs and fell to his knees. He tried to write, tried to get these sudden fleeting images of death from his mind, but he found the effort almost impossible.
He stood, breathing again but with trouble, and he found her motionless – though her hands were frozen to the keys of her creation…and as he wiped tears from his eyes he finished the notation. But…this was just one chord, not a movement…
“Imogen?” he said quietly. “Imogen, are you with me…?”
Nothing. No movement at all, just a slab of cold, white marble…
Then, in a violent outburst, she grabbed the pages from von Karajan and began writing furiously, page after page taking form in the dead quiet living room of Avi’s house in the desert compound. In less than an hour she poured out the final vital passages that lead her to the eighty-eighth key – her shattering finale – buried deep within that one shattering key…
…and then she stood back from her beloved Bösendorfer as if to leave, and then fell to the floor.
von Karajan ran and knelt beside her, feeling for a pulse…
…but there was nothing to be felt now, nothing of this life remaining in her discarded body, and he screamed for the security detail…
…but she was gone by the time they got to her. Dead and gone, and now only the final chord of her life lingered on in the air – apparent.
Harry Callahan left his little apartment and made his way to Water Street, then walked along the waterfront past Jack London Square on his way to the ferry that connected Oakland to San Francisco. It was almost cold out in the twilight, and a thick fog was rolling in on the tide – making it difficult to see if there was anyone tailing him. Of course, his instructors had taught him the very basic tradecraft, including the most salient fact of all: stopping too often to check for a tail was a dead giveaway in and of itself, and anyone with even a basic understanding of the art would pick up on his evasions in an instant. So…
…he just ignored the possibility and walked hurriedly to the ferry, needing to make the 7:30 crossing…
And once inside the little pavilion he bought his ticket and was able to board immediately. He made his way to a seat with a decent enough view of his fellow travelers and watched them board, and as the ferry pushed away from the pier he got up and went for a coffee. He turned and began to walk away when he heard a voice…
“Excuse me, sir,” an old woman said to him, “but you dropped this.”
“Oh!” Callahan said, patting his coat pocket. “Thanks very much!”
He pocketed the five dollar bill and went to his seat and drank his coffee, then got up and went to the head. Once in a stall he read the message from his controller, committed the address to memory, then flushed the banknote into the sea.
He still hadn’t picked up anything that even hinted at a tail, but suddenly he felt a nagging suspicion tugging at his coattails…‘be careful…be very careful right now…’
And Colonel Goodman had warned them all, and more than once: when you felt that nagging doubt in your mind’s eye, there was no doubt at all.
And as simple as that, he knew he was blown.
As the ferry docked he went to the rail to watch the soft kiss of home, and there he ran his fingers through his hair once, then scratched his right ear a moment later – signaling his handler to abort the meeting.
He walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf and grabbed a bowl of chowder, then made his way back to the ferry and returned home.
When he unlocked the door to his apartment he immediately knew someone had been inside while he was away. An unwanted smell, perhaps? Lingering body odor, maybe one cigarette too many? It didn’t matter, though, did it?
Why would anyone be tailing him, unless…?
And why would anyone search his apartment, unless…?
Unless he was blown?
And there, in his little living room, sat Danson…
…and three mean-looking hoods.
“Whereya been?” Danson asked.
“Went over to the city for some chowder.”
“Yeah, I guess. One of the guys at work told me about this place…”
“Oh, where’s that?”
“Scoma’s,” ‘Mason’ said, looking Danson in the eye. “Over by…”
“I know where it is,” Danson replied, only a little too brusquely. “Look, we got a shipment coming in…a biggie…so let’s go – I don’t wanna be late.”
Mason nodded and followed the men out the door, still very much aware this might be a hit…then they walked to a beat-up Dodge four-door parked a block away and told him to drive again.
“Back to Hayward?” he asked.
“No, over to the city,” one of the other men said, this one speaking with a very pronounced ‘south of the border’ accent.
“Man, I don’t know my way around over there…” Mason said as he looked at Danson’s eyes in the rearview mirror.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Well, how do I get to the bridge?”
Danson sighed, more than a little put out now, then he told Mason to pull over. “You stay up front, but I’m drivin’,” was all he said, and after they crossed the bridge Callahan figured they were headed to Half Moon Bay, and probably to the little general aviation airport down by the water. He leaned back and closed his eyes, and soon fell asleep…
Only to jerk wide-awake as the Dodge rattled over a speed bump.
“You know what, buddy? You snore, and I mean you really snore.”
“Sorry,” Harry said as the Dodge pulled up to what looked like a brand new stretched Bell JetRanger.
“You ever flown one of these?”
“Well, I hear it’s just like a Huey…”
“But nothin’, Mason. You’re either our pilot or you’re not, got it?”
Harry nodded then followed Danson and one of the others over to the Bell, his stomach now in acid-drenched knots. He saw a battery cart hooked-up port-side and a fuel truck that was just pulling away as he climbed-in, and using a penlight he felt more comfortable after a quick scan of the overhead panel. He put on a headset and flipped on the main bus then switched over to the external power cart; when he saw volts were holding steady he powered up the radios and interior lights…then looked at the fuel tanks…
“How far out we goin’?”
“We got plenty of gas, Mason. Don’t sweat it, buddy…”
And that reply only made his stomach knot even more. He burped once…bile filling his throat.
He started the turbine and then switched to internal power, gave a hand-signal to the kid out on the ramp to unplug the cart as he watched pressures and temps build…
“Got a rough heading for me?”
“West,” a rough-looking guy obviously from south of the border said. And this one looked familiar now, too. He’d been on the first trip…?
“Two-seven-zero it is.” He looked aft and saw that Danson wasn’t onboard; indeed, it was only himself and this ‘Mexican’ Svengali.
“I hear you do pretty good at keepin’ low, man. So…keep real low for now.”
Callahan nodded as he added power and collective, and as soon as the little ship was about twenty feet AGL he nosed over smoothly and turned west. They roared over a small trailer park and past a huge radome, then he dove sharply after they passed a huge cliff that faced the sea – and then he settled-in about twenty feet over the waves…
“Make your speed like one-forty, okay mano?”
Callahan scanned the wave tops as the ship skimmed the sea, his eyes hitting the instruments one by one – but only briefly… One second of lost concentration out here in the dark and at this speed there wouldn’t even be an oil slick to mark the point of impact…
After about a half-hour his companion broke the silence: “Okay, you can ease it up now, go up to a couple hundred feet.”
“Thanks.” And Callahan did ease up – a little.
Then the guy reached up and flipped on the rotating beacon, and Harry watched the clock intently – because after thirty seconds the guy turned them off again…
And as suddenly a small ship lit up, and, in the overwhelming darkness, it looked like the ship was afloat high in the sky…disorienting Callahan for a second and taking him back to that mad flight from Hue out to the Constellation…so many years ago…
“They will be heading into the wind, Amigo. You see the pad?”
And Harry saw it as he circled the ship in the darkness, almost amidships and with the orange triangle marked with a big yellow ‘H’…
Harry continued this wide, arcing approach then he came up alongside the ship’s starboard side, bleeding speed with his nose up about five degrees until the Bell had matched the ship’s speed. When he was settled amidships he slipped left until he was over the pad, still matching the ship’s speed, and only then did he flare gently, settling onto the ‘H’ with not even the slightest hesitation.
“You are a very good pilot, señor. Very good indeed. The last pilot we had couldn’t do what you just did.”
Men on deck hooked up a power cart and Callahan cut the engine, then switched to external power. One of the crewmen ran a static discharge pole to the rotors and then another ran out with a fuel bowser, refueling the Bell out at sea. When that was done the port-side passenger door slid open and a gang of men began tossing black duffel bags into the cabin…
“Got any idea how much all that crap weighs?” Harry asked.
“Just enough, Amigo. Believe me, I have seen the sharks out here, and I have no desire to swim with them.”
Harry nodded. “Swell.”
“So, your name is Mason?”
Harry nodded. “Yup.”
“Well, Mason, my name is Pablo. Pablo Escobar. Nice to meet you.”
Harry looked down at the man’s offered hand and he took it. “Yeah man, you too.”
And Pablo laughed at that. “Mano, you can relax now. You passed my little test.”
“Yeah. The last guy? The one that couldn’t land out here? Well, next trip out was his last.”
And now Harry laughed. “Well, Pablo, I’m not exactly a great swimmer…”
“Neither was he.”
“Man, I’m gettin’ hungry…how about you…?”
And now it was Pablo’s turn to laugh: “Me too, Mason. Me too…”
Avi’s head of detail walked into the CICU not really knowing what to say, let alone how he was going to break the news to his boss – who was if nothing else his very best friend, not to mention a man he looked up to. He walked over to one of the nurses and questioned her about the best way to…
“He can’t handle anything like this, sir. I mean it… You do it and you might as well kiss his ass goodbye.”
“I see. By the way, let his physicians know that the drug they wanted will be arriving in about five hours. One of my men will be carrying it in from Intercontinental.”
The nurse looked at Lev and her eyes blinked rapidly. “How did you…”
“Please, don’t ask.”
“Okay, I won’t. But Dr. Cooley sure will.”
“I’m sure he will. May I speak to Avi now?”
“Just for a minute…”
Lev gowned up, then slipped on a face mask and gloves before he entered the little room, and his ears popped when the door closed behind him.
“So,” Avi said, looking him in the eye, “you bring news? Is it bad?”
“No, my friend. Harry is well, and even now von Karajan is putting on the finishing touches. The premiere is scheduled for the first of June.”
“And, how is my Imogen, Lev?”
“She has been asleep, medications I think?”
“Chemo? Has it begun?”
“I have not heard, Avi…”
And then the old man looked into Lev’s eyes…and he knew.
“You were never a good liar, my friend,” Avi whispered.
“I can not see through people with your skill, sir.”
Avi nodded, then he seemed to relax. “When you next see Harry, please give him the package, would you? And tell him I very much wanted him to attend the premiere. It will mean something to him if I am not mistaken.”
“I will tell Colonel Goodman, my friend.”
And again Avi nodded his head. “If I am not mistaken, Lev, God is calling me now. You will pardon me for leaving you, but…”
Lev took his friend’s hand and held it close while Avi passed, then he went to the foot of the bed and began the El Maleh Rachamim, the Hebrew Prayer for the Dead…
© 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 little virus, not to mention a certain situation in Washington, D.C. springing first to mind…) so waiting to mention sources might not be the best way to proceed. To begin, the primary source material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The 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 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). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. 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 not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…given shape and life by two actors who will stand tall through the ages.]