The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 25

88th key cover image

Part IV

Chapter 25


Bullitt’s Israeli handlers, the ‘Kildares,’ showed up at the Hyatt a little after four in the morning, and they came to the hide-out room as the bearers of bad news.

“Callahan, you really stirred up a shit-storm last night. Not only are Escobar’s people out looking for you, the Threlkis mob is too. And Frank? What the hell did you hit Paddy with?”

Bullitt pulled out a pair of black leather gloves, the tops of the hand and fingers filled with lead shot. “What? Did I break something?” Bullit said, grinning.

“Yeah, like the left side of his face. He’s still in surgery, too.”

“Gee, that’s too bad,” Frank said, still grinning.

“Who are these people?” a suddenly watchful Senator Walter Chalmers asked.

“Not important,” ‘Mr. Kildare’ said, his face an unreadable mask. “Okay, first things first. Senator, we confirmed there’s a hit out on you, and as far as we’re concerned elements within the FBI have been compromised, so the smart money says we keep you away from federal agents for now.”

“Even the Secret Service?” Chalmers cried. “You mean to tell me that…”

“All we’re saying is that we don’t know how deep your government has been penetrated.”

“My government?” Chalmers growled. “Just who the hell are YOU working for?”

Callahan stood up, walked over to the senator. “Nobody you need to be concerned about.”

“And who the hell are you?” Chalmers snarled.

“Harry Callahan, Homicide.”

Chalmers instantly backed down. “Oh. Dirty Harry. Yeah, I’ve heard of you.”

“Don’t sweat it, Chalmers,” Bullitt added. “Our job right now is to get you the fuck outta Dodge, and Harry, too, before someone stumbles on this little hideout.”

“But…who put a hit out on me?” Chalmers cried.

“McKay, or whoever is pulling his strings,” Kildare said,  adding: “Sam Bennett is on his way in right now. He should arrive at SFO in about an hour. Colonel Goodman suggests we meet the aircraft there, preferably after it refuels, then we board and head home, let things cool down for a while.”

Bullitt shook his head. “No way. That leaves Cathy alone, and exposed?”

“We have her under surveillance,” ‘Mrs. Kildare’ replied. “She’s in a remote area…”

“Not good enough,” Frank said matter-of-factly. “If we’re gonna boogie, she’s comin’ with us. Simple as that.”

The Kildares huddled and an animated discussion followed, and a moment later Mrs. K left the hotel room – in a hurry. 

“How long would it take you to drive up there and pick her up?”

“Too long,” Bullitt said, scowling.

“Yeah,” Harry added, “it’s a hundred-miles-plus on the PCH,” referring to the Pacific Coast Highway, “and it’s hard to average more than forty miles per hour…”

“What if you were in a Porsche?” Kildare asked hopefully. “Say a 930?”

Callahan shook his head. “You can make decent speed if there’s no traffic, but with all the little towns – and the morning commute – it will simply take too long to get there and back, period.”

Kildare took a deep breath and looked hopefully around the room: “I’m open to suggestions.”

“You don’t happen to have a Huey sitting around we can get our hands-on, by any chance?” Callahan added.

And then Kildare grinned. “Well, ya know…as a matter of fact…”


Colonel Goodman boarded the S.S. California right at noon the next day, and a purser took him directly to the captain’s cabin. Lloyd Callahan was seated at the dining room table reading over notes, and an impressive spread had already been laid out.

“So, Colonel, what did you find out about the concerto?”

“Well, apparently the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic was helping Imogen score the piece, and as it happens he was with her when she passed. The PM has invited this von Karajan fellow to conduct the premiere performance in Jerusalem this coming June, and he’s agreed.”

“Any word about Harry?”

“They are being pulled in as we speak. Apparently, your son shot up a bar, killed a few people last night…”

“Yup, that’s my Harry…”

“Well, from what I can tell so far, there are several groups out looking for him right now…”

“Colonel, do you know where my boy is right now?”

“At a downtown hotel, and we’re working up a plan to get all of the team out of the country as fast as we can.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“No, not really, though I’d expect we’ll need to set up some kind of protective detail for you upon your return.”

“If you’re taking Harry to Israel you might as well get me there too. I can take time off after we arrive next week, and besides, I’d like to be there for the premiere of Imogen’s work.”

“Yes, I rather hope I can convince Harry to stay for that,” Goodman added.

“If you can’t, I will.”

“Thanks,” Goodman said. “There’ll be a lot to go over before that happens, yet it would be nice to have an ally.”

“Yes, indeed. Well, let’s eat…I’m sure you have better things to do than hang out on a cruise ship…” Yet Lloyd Callahan spoke now as if his thoughts were far, far away.


“What is this thing? Based on the 212?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” the Army pilot mumbled, “only our designation is UH-1N. So, I hear you flew in ‘Nam?”

“Yup. Even flew out of here a few times.” Here was Crissy Field, located on the San Francisco waterfront at Fort Presidio, just west of the marina and Exposition District.

“Well, sorry, but you’ll have to take the left seat. I officially signed-out for this little joy-ride, so I’ll assume pilot-in-command for the log.”

“Fine with me,” Callahan said as he looked at the armaments pods above the skids. “What are these?”

“Quad-fifties, no door gunner needed. There’s a gunsight on both sides of the panel.”

“No kidding?”

“This isn’t exactly the same Huey you used to fly.”

“Besides twin engines, what else is new?”

“Full IFR avionics, right down to triplex ILS on two heads. Theoretically, we’re good to Cat III…assuming you’ve got an airport that’s suitably equipped.”

“Now that’s…”

“Excuse me,” Bullitt said, sounding more than a little cross, “Y’all think you could stop drooling over this thing and get us up in the sky?”

Callahan shrugged.

“Well, let’s do this,” Warrant Officer Alvin “Mickey” Rooney said as he climbed into the right seat. Harry went up to the left seat, leaving Bullitt to settle-in aft with two heavily armed Army special forces types.

“Need a hand?” Harry asked.

“Here’s the sectional. Go ahead and dial PYE into both NAV heads, and we’ll be with Oakland Center all the way on 118.3.”

“PYE into NAV one and two, roger.” He looked at the chart and found the frequency for the Point Reyes VOR and set the two receivers to 113.7. “Want me to set a stand-by?”

“No need. We’ll hug the coastline all the way to Sea Ranch.”


Rooney started the engines and signaled the cart attendant to pull power. “You wanna take it?”

“Yeah,” Callahan said, smiling now.

“Alright, your aircraft.”

Harry worked the controls once, then ran up the throttle while he added collective; at a hundred feet AGL he nosed over and turned towards the Golden Gate…

“Head for the radomes on top of Tamalpais. Try 2-8-5 degrees,” Rooney said. “Should pick-up the VOR there.”

“Is that about 2500 feet?”

“Twenty-six. Climb at one-oh-five knots indicated.”

“‘Bout the same as the old Huey.”

“Yeah, but this bitch will carry about twice the payload.”

“What’s the ceiling?”

“Seventeen and change, depending on the load.”

“Interesting. Max cruise?”

“One twenty, and yeah, that’s lower, too. Like I said, this thing was designed to carry heavier loads than what you were used to. The civilian version was designed for working the offshore oil patch off the Gulf Coast, as well as fire suppression duty.”

“Okay, VOR active.”

“Can’t you make this motherfucker go faster?” Bullitt called out over the howling engine noise. “My grandmother can go faster than this crate – on her fuckin’ skateboard…”

Rooney shook his head. “What’s his malfunction?”

“We have reason to believe that a whole bunch of pissed off drug dealers are en route to kidnap his girlfriend.”

Rooney looked at Callahan. “My aircraft,” he said.

“Your aircraft,” Callahan confirmed, and Rooney pushed the nose hard over and ship’s speed increased to 125, then 130. He flipped a couple of switches on the overhead and a bright bullseye appeared over the main panel – like the reticle was hovering in the air.

“That’s the gunsight,” Rooney said. “See the red hat-switch on your stick?”


“Toggle it to the left.”

Harry did, and the bullseye drifted to the left a little.

“You have to aim with the rudder pedals, but you can fine-tune aim with your hat-switch.”

“How many rounds?”

“Five hundred per barrel, so two thousand per side.”

“Did you say fifty caliber?”


“Man, you’d have to strain the remains for fingerprints.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Rooney snorted, “but good luck finding any fingers.”

Once the Huey cleared Point Bonita they picked up the VOR again, and Rooney pushed the ship a little past 130 indicated. Engine temps and torque began to approach redlines.

“About 80 miles from here,” Rooney added as he resettled into his seat. “Shit. Getting iron-ass already.”

“Some things never change. Always amazed me they couldn’t design a comfortable seat.”

“Cheap bastards.” 

Harry turned around and got Frank’s attention, then indicated 4-0 using hand signals, then pointed to his wristwatch. Frank nodded, at about the same time Harry noticed the H&K MP-5 in Frank’s lap…and the bead of sweat forming on his forehead. The army types, on the other hand, looked positively bored.

“Ready to take it again?” Rooney asked.


“Your a/c. You know Drake’s Bay?”


“Head right up the main channel. Once we clear the little hill you ought to see Bodega Rock; we’ll be 35 miles out there…”

Callahan was soon in the zone, scanning his instruments then the horizon ahead, and like his last two flights with Danson and Escobar finding that he really missed being up in the air again.

“What are you going to do once you’re done with the Army?” he asked Rooney.

“Oh, I’ve already signed on with PHI…”


“Petroleum Helicopters Inc. They have several new bases along the Gulf Coast servicing all the new offshore oil fields, and from Texas to Florida. The pay is decent and it’ll allow me to build fix-wing time; I’ll try to get on with a major carrier if I can…if not I’ll just keep flying flutterbugs.”

Callahan nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”

“You miss it?”

“I didn’t think I did – until a few days ago.”

“Try the reserves.”

“Too old.”

“It happens. See the rock up there?”

“Yeah, got it.”

Rooney turned around and, using sign language, indicated that Bullitt should put on one of the headsets. One of the Rangers helped get it situated and set to ‘Intercom.’

“Yo,” Frank said.

“What part of Sea Ranch are we headed to?” Rooney asked.

“The house is above the rocks at the end of Sculpture Point Drive…”

Rooney shrugged. “Got a landmark?”

“The south end of the runway is about a quarter miles inland.”

“Okay, got it. We’re about fifteen minutes out.”

The Army types checked their weapons – also MP-5s – and handed Bullitt four more magazines, then they passed him a bullet-proof ‘flak-jacket.’

“You know where his house is?” Rooney asked Callahan.

“Kind of, but I’ll know it when I see it.”

“Is there enough yard to set this thing down?”

“Yeah, either in the street or outback, between the house and the cliffs.”

“You comfortable putting this thing down?”

“No problem.”

Rooney nodded. “You know, you shoulda never left…you belong up here.”

Callahan nodded, then shook his head. “Tough call. I like what I do now. It’s a necessary evil, I know, but the truth of the matter is there are bad people out there. If we aren’t there, what happens? Do we revert to carrying six-guns everywhere we go?”

Rooney grinned: “There wouldn’t be as many lawyers running around.”

“I see your point. Okay, we’re coming up on the south side of Sea Ranch. Only a couple of miles now.”

Rooney turned around and held up his fist, then extended two fingers.

The commandos nodded and slid the side doors open, crouching there and ready to jump on contact. Bullitt joined the guy on the left side, crouched right behind Callahan.

“Okay,” Harry added, speaking on intercom now, “I got eyeballs on the house. Black van in the driveway. Men getting out. Rooney, you take the gun, I’ll line up on the van.”

“No way, Callahan! This is not a law enforcement vehicle, and I have no reason to fire on civilians, especially without authorization…”

“Well, I’m law enforcement…”

“Fine. You pull the trigger, Amigo. That’s paperwork I don’t want hangin’ over my ass.”

“Arm the system, safeties off.”

“Safeties off.”

Callahan lined up on the van and at two hundred yards opened fire; the van disappeared in a dusty brown haze, then the garage door and right side of Cathy’s house seemed to disappear – in another haze of splinters and concrete.

“Oops,” Harry sighed as he reefed the Huey into a steep, banking turned to the right – bleeding speed and losing altitude fast, then he lined up into the wind coming right off the sea and set the ship down behind the house…

…and as suddenly they were taking fire from men hidden in the trees…

…Rooney cried out once and grabbed his right arm…

“I’m hit!”

…Callahan pulled up on the collective and at twenty feet Above Ground Level brought his gunsight to bear on the treeline and opened fire. He pumped the rudder pedals, sweeping over everything that looked like a hiding place…

…until he saw Bullitt – and Cathy – running out the back of the house…

…then he saw bullet impacts on the ground – headed for his bird – and that only meant one thing…

…he jinked hard left and looked for the other helicopter, saw a shadow and dove for the surf-line…

…expecting the other bird to pursue he pulled up on the stick then kicked the left pedal and spun the ship, opening fire on the same Jet Ranger he’d flown two nights before…

‘Good, impacts on the boom…shattered glass…got him…’

He returned to the back yard and landed harder than expected; felt people boarding then heard the frantic cry “GO! GO! GO!”; he pulled up on the collective and rolled on throttle, ran just above the ground until the Huey was out over the sea again, then he dove for the waves, building speed and hoping to gain an edge in distance…

The waves to his left exploded as another volley of machine-gun fire hit…

‘Okay,’ he thought, ‘the only advantage I’ve got is a higher service ceiling…’ so he ran his speed up to 130 and then started an 800 foot per minute climb, still jinking left-right-up-down all the while…

…then he saw a solid bank of clouds ahead and a few thousand feet above and he made for it, guessing it would take a few minutes to cover the distance…

One of the Army types had pulled Rooney from the cockpit and was bandaging his shoulder, then Bullitt leaned over his right shoulder and clapped his back.

“You okay up here?” Frank asked.


“The other helicopter is about five hundred yards behind us, holding steady.”

“Right. How’s Cathy?”


Callahan nodded. “Anyone else hurt back there?”

“One of the Rangers. Hit in the thigh, bleeding under control.”

“How’s Rooney?”

Another voice came over the intercom now: “Pressure dressing on, but we need to get him to a hospital A-SAP.”

Callahan moved the transponder to 7700 and switched from Intercom to COMMs 1 and keyed the mic: “Oakland Center, Army Three Three Bravo squawking 7700, inbound from Bodega Bay to Crissy Field direct, medical emergency onboard.”

“3-3-Bravo, Oakland Center, squawk ident.”

“3-3-Bravo.” Callahan hit the little nub on the transponder panel and illuminated his ship on radars all over Northern California.

“3-3-Bravo, we have you at 2-2-hundred AGL, heading one-four-zero at one-one-five knots.”

“Oakland, 3-3-Bravo, be advised we are being pursued by another helicopter and we are taking fire.”

“3-3-Bravo, say again, advise you are taking fire?”

“Oakland, that’s affirmative. We are a combined military-law enforcement flight, pursuing aircraft belongs to an organized crime syndicate.”

“3-3-Bravo, received. Stand-by one.”

“3-3 standing by.” Callahan then switched to Intercom: “SitRep, please!”

Bullitt replied: “Pursuing helicopter hasn’t gained on us; Rooney is still losing blood.”

“3-3-Bravo, Oakland Center.”

Callahan switched to COMMs: “Go ahead Oakland.”

“You are cleared direct to NAS Alameda; be advised we have pursuing aircraft on radar and two Phantoms from Ready Alert are inbound from the Enterprise, ETA three minutes, call-signs Reaper-Three and Reaper-Seven, and they are BUSTER on this frequency.”

“3-3-Bravo, we’re about to enter clouds.”

“3-3-Bravo, this is Reaper Three, can you keep your target in the clear?”

Callahan groaned; he knew what the Navy pilot wanted, but that meant keeping his ship exposed…

“3-3-Bravo, we’re starting a rapid descent to minimum safe altitude on three-two-one–GO!”

“Okay 3-3-Bravo, I’ve got him and we’re locked on, firing now…”

“Got it, Reaper.”

And moments later: “Harry!” Bullitt cried. “The other helo…is fucking gone!”

“Reaper-three, 3-3-Bravo, we confirm a hard kill.”

“Thanks, Bravo. One more and I make Ace!”

“Oakland, this is 3-3-Bravo, could you give me a vector?”

“3-3-Bravo, make 1-2-0 magnetic and your minimum safe altitude is 2-3-hundred feet, and advise when you intercept VOR/DME 1-1-6 decimal 8 inbound.”

“120, 2-3-0-0, and 1-1-6 decimal eight, 3-3-Bravo. Be advised we’ll need trauma surgeons standing by for multiple gunshot victims, one serious.”

“Oakland, received.”

“And be advised I have the radial.”

“Okay, 3-3, straight in approach for the red smoke. You’ll be setting down next to a C-9 Nightingale; trauma teams onboard the aircraft are standing by, and I’ve been advised to tell you that all personnel onboard your aircraft are to board that aircraft through the rear air-stair.”

“All to board the C-9, understood. 3-3-Bravo, have airport in sight.”


As Callahan flared over the tarmac he noticed the Douglas-DC-9 based Medevac jet had no obvious markings – save for registration numbers – in light blue – on the tail. 

‘So…this is an Israeli jet,’ he sighed, instantly knowing what that meant. ‘I should be getting frequent flyer miles on El Al…’

Medics moved Rooney and the wounded Ranger to the C-9, and Callahan led Frank, Cathy, and the remaining Ranger to the stairway directly under the aircraft’s tail, yet he was totally surprised to find Colonel Goodman already seated onboard, his head down as he read through a pile of dispatches. Not quite knowing what else to do he went and sat across the aisle from him.

Seconds later the converted airliner was roaring down the runway, then slowly turning almost due north.

“Where are we headed this time, Colonel?”

“Seattle. We’ll drop off your military personnel there and pick up some gas before he head home.”


“Tel Aviv, Harry.”

Callahan’s face flashed sudden anger: “I’ve told you before, Colonel Goodman, I’m never going to talk to her again.”

“I understand, Harry. And you won’t.”


© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and a last word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need 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 life by two actors who will stand tall through the ages.]

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