The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 34

88th key cover image

Part IV

Chapter 34

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With three chocolate chip and banana pancakes onboard, not to mention two glasses of whole milk, Callahan felt like a beached whale as he and Bullitt walked out of the diner. Satisfied with Frank’s plan to wreck the Threlkis wedding reception, Harry now felt more upbeat about his return to the street – certainly more than he had felt at four this morning…

“So,” Frank said as they walked up to his Mustang, “you think you could come up to Sea Ranch this weekend. Cathy would appreciate it…”

“I don’t know, Frank. This feels a little bit like a blind date, ya know? And I’m not sure I’m ready for that shit yet…”

“Look, Harry, I understand…but Evelyn is seriously easy on the eyes and a real sweetheart…”

Callahan nodded and held up his hand, but he stepped back a little, too, distancing himself from both Frank and his own thoughts. “Frank, I don’t know how good your math is, but let me remind you that basically I’m three for three. That’s three serious relationships in my life, Frank, and three dead women. Maybe you ought to mention that to Cathy before she gets her hopes up…”

“I’m sorry, Harry. I’d never put two and two together before…”

“I do. Every night.”

Bullitt shook his head. “Maybe all of us should head out for choir practice, like maybe tonight?”

Harry smiled. “Sounds good to me, Frank. Really good.”

Leaving Bullitt, Callahan drove across town and made his way to a row of art galleries the Wharf, and he wondered what he might find waiting there. How did a gallery’s business card find its way to the floor under the passenger’s seat inside the victim’s car? Lots of conjecture, Callahan thought initially – until he stopped dead in his tracks in front of one gallery.

Looking through the glass he found himself mesmerized by a series of what looked like self-portraits, all of them painted in shades of black and blood, and inside each of the works on display he found an unnerving howl of sexually-charged anger. They were, he thought, the works of a victim of sexual assault, a heavily traumatized victim that had, from what he could tell, internalized her anger until it spilled out on canvas.

He looked at his notepad, confirmed these images were in fact at the gallery in question, so he went inside to find out more. When he opened the door a bell rang out in an unseen office, and sure enough a husky-voiced middle-aged women came out to greet him…and in an instant Callahan found the woman’s penetrating eyes more than a little unnerving.

“So,” the woman said as she walked up to him, “what do you think?”

“Excuse me?”

“I saw you looking at Jennifer’s self portraits. What do you think of them?”

“They’re startling…and that one stopped me in my tracks. It’s very unsettling.”

“It’s the eyes that get me,” the woman said. “I try to look at them, but after a moment I find I have to look away.”

“Jennifer, you say? Can you tell me about her?”

“We’re going to have an opening and showing here in two weeks, if you’d like to meet her.”

“No, no, I’m just curious where all this comes from. I’ve, frankly, never seen anything quite like these.”

“May I ask what kind of space you might have to display works such as these?”

“Well, I’m building a new place up at Sea Ranch. It’s right on the water, and I think the majority of the space will be stone and glass, with redwood accents…”

“So, the space will be relatively dark?”

Callahan seemed to think about that for a moment. “No sheetrock, no painted walls, so yes, I guess you could call it dark.”

“Come take a look at this one over here.”

Callahan followed the woman to a secluded alcove, and yes, this space was dark compared to the rest of the gallery…and on the wall was another painting by the same artist. This one was different, however. 

First of all, this one was huge, easily six feet tall and, he guessed, about five feet wide – but the image itself was savage, almost primordially so. The woman’s face was contorted in rage, but her eyes were a hollow black…black and predatory, like a shark’s. Even her mouth looked feral, the teeth almost sharpened to points, and when he leaned in close he could just make out little drops of what looked like coagulated red blood on her teeth and around her mouth. Not obvious, but readily apparent to anyone willing to be drawn into such a work of madness.

“What’s her story?”

“What do you mean?” the woman said.

“Where did all this anger come from?”

The woman shrugged. “You’d have to ask her. Do you like this one?”

“No, not really. The one in front, that really caught my attention.”

“It does do that. It hasn’t sold yet, if you’re seriously interested.”

Callahan walked back to the front of the gallery and looked at that first painting again. “What’s the price?”

“Fifteen.”

“Thousand?”

The woman nodded, grinning while she sized him up. “I can hold it for you with a deposit of one thousand, if that’ll help,” she sneered, her voice almost condescending now.

Callahan pulled out his checkbook and wrote a check for the full amount and handed it over to the woman, who suddenly seemed completely flustered. “I won’t need to pick this up for a few months,” Callahan said. “Is it a problem to keep it here?”

“No, not at all, uh,” she said, looking down at the check, “Mr. Callahan. I was going to ask if we could keep it through the main showing, but this will work out magnificently!”

“So, what’s the artist’s name?”

“Spencer. Jennifer Spencer, and I do believe she currently lives here in the city.”

Callahan nodded. “And when was the opening, this showing?”

“A week from this coming Friday.”

“And pardon me for asking, but what was your name?”

“Leah. Leah Franklin,” the woman said, holding out her right hand. “So nice to meet you, Mr. Callahan. Could I get you a receipt?”

“Yes, please, and just use the address on the check.”

The woman looked at the check again and did a double take. “Davos, Switzerland?”

“That’s correct.”

“You are a U.S. citizen, aren’t you? If not, I’ll have to fill out some additional paperwork.”

“No, I was born right here in the city,” he said, grinning boyishly.

“I see. Well, if you’ll just let me know when you’d like to pick it up, please, just call me.”

“I will, Leah,” Harry said as he made his way to the door. “And, thanks.”

He walked to his car and drove downtown, parked in the detectives lot and went upstairs to the computer center by the main dispatcher’s room. “I want to see what you can find on a Jennifer Spencer, female, white, probably in her thirties, maybe late twenties. Last known address here in the city,” he told one of the Public Safety Officers working in the center.

“You want to wait, or will you be upstairs?” the woman asked.

“How long will it take?”

“Maybe ten minutes. I’ll need your badge number and the incident report number.”

Callahan nodded as he handed over his note pad. “I’ll wait, but I need to hit the head.”

“Got it,” the PSO said as she turned and got to work.

As he was walking up to the bank of urinals he heard the bathroom door swing open and looked over to see Captain Lionel Briggs walk in, and – inwardly – he groaned. Briggs was a carbon copy of Captain McKay; a paper-pushing bureaucrat-cop who had a well deserved reputation for being a bigot as well as a total prude. What Callahan didn’t know, however, was that after McKay’s disappearance Briggs had been transferred to Internal Affairs.

“Callahan! Just the turd I wanted to see. Zip up and report to my office – on the double!”

Callahan stood at the urinal, pissing away a quart of milk and two cups of coffee, as his stomach knotted. After he finished up he washed his hands and then splashed some water on his face, then he dried his hands and returned to the PSO’s desk and picked up a hard copy of Spencer’s driver’s license information, as well as a brief CCH, or Complete Criminal History, which listed an assault on a peace officer and a white warrant application. This last application really didn’t surprise Callahan; a white warrant was, generally speaking, what an officer filled out to have a suspected mental patient committed to a psychiatric facility for a 72-hour period of observation, and he looked at the dates of offenses and found the application and the assault happened on the same day.

The net takeaway after his morning’s work? Spencer probably had extreme issues with authority figures, and little ability to control her emotions when confronted by an authority figure – especially by a male. He walked down to records and gave the clerk what little information he had and asked if he could get a copy of Spencer’s arrest report and, if at all possible, a copy of the white warrant application and any evaluations made during her confinement.

“Callahan!” he heard Briggs yelling, “I said now, and I meant now!”

“If it’s okay with you,” Harry said to the clerk, “I’ll pick these up later this afternoon.”

“Okay,” the girl said, winking once and grinning as Harry rolled his eyes.

“Coming, Captain,” Callahan said as he walked down the hall to Briggs.

“Follow me.”

And Callahan followed Briggs downstairs to Internal Affairs, where his stomach instantly knotted into a burning mass of acid-drenched anxiety, and from there to an office with Briggs’ name on the door…which Callahan found utterly confusing…

“Are you working IAD now, sir?”

Briggs turned around and pointed to a chair. “Have a seat, inspector.”

Callahan sat.

“I’ve been wanting to talk to you for a while, but – apparently – you’ve been on extended leave to some sort of U.S.–Israeli counter-terrorism task force.”

Callahan didn’t say a word.

“And, apparently, you’ve been involved in undercover operations around the Bay Area.”

Again, Callahan made no effort to speak.

“Look, Inspector,” Briggs snarled, highlighting the obvious disparity in rank between them, “it’s this department’s policy that all, and I mean all undercover operations will be reported to this office, and a monthly summary of operations will be submitted to me directly. Now, why haven’t I received any such paperwork from you?”

Callahan stood and took out his wallet, then he removed a business card and handed it over to Briggs. “Call this guy. He’ll let you know what you need to know.”

Briggs took the card and looked at it briefly, then did a double take and read it closely: there was a name and phone number for the deputy director of the National Security Agency listed, and Briggs gasped as the implications became instantly clear. He handed the card back and took a seat.

“Jee-zus H Christ, Callahan, just what the devil have you gotten yourself mixed up in?”

“I’m sorry, sir, but I’m not allowed to…”

“Oh, yeah, I get that. Can you at least tell me if you’re still attached to this operation?”

Callahan was instantly on-guard, and looked directly into Briggs’ eyes, saw a flicker of evasive nervousness that was all the confirmation he needed to know that Briggs had been turned, but all Callahan did was shake his head and walk out of the office.

Predictably, Briggs did not follow, and he could just imagine that Briggs was on the phone now, calling someone in his network to let them know: “Callahan is back, working inside the department again.”

Once clear of IAD he started to do the math…

If Stacy had flown to Mexico City and on to Colombia, and that had taken the better part of a day, he could expect her back in the city sometime tomorrow. If, on the other hand, the Escobar cartel wanted to farm out a hit to the Threlkis organization? Well, if that was the case he and Frank could expect a reaction any time now.

He sighed and took the elevator upstairs and went directly to CID; Bullitt was in Bennett’s old office sorting through stacks of long-neglected paperwork.

“Harry! What’s up…I didn’t expect you up here so soon…”

Callahan walked in and closed the door behind him, then sat across from Bullitt. “Briggs is in IAD now, and he just pumped me. He’s in the network, Frank. I could see it in his eyes.”

Bullitt handed over a note from one of Goodman’s assets in the city; the gist of the memo was that, yes, Briggs had been identified in several calls to a known vigilante handler.

“So, what do you think?” Frank asked quietly.

“How sure are you that this office is secure?”

Bullitt shook his head and stood, and Harry followed him out of the building and to the parking garage; they drove over to Nob Hill and parked under Coit Tower, then walked down to The Shadows, Frank and Cathy’s favorite restaurant, and they ducked inside.

“Dell and Carl will be coming at four, and I got word to Al to come ASAP,” Bullitt said after they were seated in a dark corner with a good view of the main entrance. “Can you get word to Rooney, put him on stand-by?”

“No problem,” Callahan said as he stood and went to a payphone outside the restrooms. When he got back to the table Bressler was sliding into a seat next to Frank, and he looked very agitated.

“What’s wrong?” Harry asked.

“I was followed,” Bressler said, “most of the way here. I lost one tail by the marina, but…”

“But, if they were pros they had you covered by multiple units…”

“I parked down by the docks and when it looked clear I took a cab up to the tower. Didn’t see anyone, but…”

“But you never can tell,” Frank whispered. “Man, I’m sure glad we made it through Goodman’s little spy-school…”

“What about Dell and Carl?” Al asked. “Think they know how to spot a tail?”

Harry looked at Frank and they both shook their heads.

Frank dropped a twenty on the table and the three of them stood and went to the back door; Callahan stopped and called Rooney, confirmed the extraction point and left the phone dangling. They left and made their way up Nob Hill by circling their way between houses all the way to Coit Tower, occasionally doubling back on their route to check for a tail, and they reached the parking lot at the tower just as a Huey’s rotors began beating the air overhead.

Rooney didn’t even bother setting the skids down, but dozens of gawking tourists stood by, fascinated, as three men in sports-coats hopped into a green US Army helicopter and disappeared into the usual late-afternoon fog just now flooding through the Golden Gate…

__________________________________

Once airborne, Frank put on his headset and switched to Comms, then he dialed in the CID tactical frequency and sent a prearranged signal to Delgetti and Stanton: “Inspectors 66 and 78, head to the stables,”  which would, hopefully, send them to the Presidio.

Rooney climbed out of the fog and turned south, made for Goodman’s safe house above Palo Alto; Dell and Carl would wait at the fort until Rooney came for them, because Frank had already decided enough was enough. But, in a flash his mind turned to Sam Bennett, and then to his two surviving kids. Things were about to get ugly…and he wanted to keep collateral damage to a minimum.

First things first, he thought. Briggs. Who had he called? What was the size and strength of the network Briggs had activated with a single phone call…?

“Harry?”

“Yeah?”

“I think we’re going to have to take Briggs, get him to Goodman, see if we can find out what he knows.”

Callahan nodded. “What about Sam?”

“I was just thinking about that.”

“We need to get them out of harm’s way.”

“Agreed.”

As the Huey passed Menlo Park the fog dissipated, and a few minutes later they were at the safe house. Two Israeli agents were there, and all their communications equipment was set up on the third floor of the massive house, so Frank told them what he thought the team needed.

“We picked up Captain Bennett,” one of the agents said, “when we heard the stable message. He and his wife are on their way to the Presidio.”

“He’s got two kids…”

“Already picked up and on their way.”

“Do you have direct comms to Goodman?”

The agent nodded: “Follow me.”

Frank told the colonel about Briggs and what had happened following Callahan’s encounter in IAD, then he asked the big question: “What if we bag him? Do you think he’s worth interrogating?”

Frank heard Goodman chuckle over the encrypted circuit, then: “We have to cut off the head of the snake, Frank. However we can.”

“Do you think Briggs is the control nexus?”

“No,” Goodman replied.

“Are you telling me to bag him, or take him out?”

“I think we’re at the point where we have to go on the offensive, Frank. I think it’s time to take out as many bad apples as we can.”

“Why now?”

“Because every time we cut off a head it just grows right back. We need to send these clowns underground.”

“How many?”

“We have more than twenty identified right now.”

“Any idea how we might proceed?”

Frank heard Goodman sigh: “If you could get them to gather in one spot…”

Bullitt could just see the newspaper headlines: Twenty cops murdered… and wondered why Goodman would want to call that much attention to the team’s efforts.

“Alright,” Frank said, “we’ll work on it.”

Once he’d signed off he went to find Callahan…

“What if Goodman is using us?” Bullitt asked after he recounted the conversation with the colonel.

“Well, the question becomes ‘who is using who,’ doesn’t it? And only then, why?”

“We’re too low on the totem pole to get anywhere near an answer to either one of those questions,” Frank said as he looked down, “but all I really do know is we simply can’t take out twenty law enforcement officers without bringing down the wrath of God. And I can’t see how Israel might stand to benefit if we did.”

“I say we take Briggs, tonight if we can, and that we find out what we can, directly from him.”

Frank seemed dismayed at the idea: “Are you really prepared to torture someone we know, even if Briggs is in it up to his neck?”

Callahan shrugged.

“Yeah, I thought so. Tell you what, Harry…I know I couldn’t do it, and I’d be really concerned if you thought you could. It’s one thing to talk about torturing someone, but something else entirely to actually get your hands dirty doing something like that.”

“So, what do you want to do? We can’t just hole up here…”

“First thing I want to do is get Briggs. Where we go from there is anybody’s guess.”

Bressler walked in: “Helicopter is about five out.”

Bullitt nodded. “Al? You have anything on Briggs?”

Bressler shook his head. “Nothing concrete, just a few rumors.”

“Such as?”

“His wife. The word is she’s addicted to a prescription anti-anxiety drug, and Briggs has been writing scrips using a hot pad and a borrowed DEA number.”

“No fucking shit?” Frank said, really shocked by that information. 

“They’re just people, Frank,” Bressler said. “Cops fuck-up just like everyone else.”

“Do we know what pharmacy he uses?” Callahan said, interrupting Al…

…who only shook his head…

“Is there a working file on him, Al, maybe in Vice?” Frank asked…

…and Bressler nodded slowly before he spoke: “Yeah.”

“So, we go in and get it tonight, see what we can figure out from there, then I recommend we all go back in to work tomorrow and act just like nothing happened.”

Callahan nodded. “I’ve got a couple of good leads off that homicide out at the cliffs this morning.”

“Good. Just try to stay around the station as much as possible for the next few days. Let’s let everyone know where we are for now, try to draw them out, identify who we can.”

“Then what?” Bressler asked. “Take them out?”

“Not unless we have to…”

“Oh, we’ll have to,” Callahan sighed. “This is simply coming down to kill or be killed, Frank. I doubt those were Mormons following Al this afternoon.”

“Okay, Harry, but think about this, would you? If we kill even one of these vigilantes, what makes us any different than them?”

“That’s a Boy Scout’s question, Frank,” Harry said. “Are we standing up for the integrity of the system, trying to keep it from collapsing, or are we…?”

“And what do you think those guys would say, you know, if you asked them? Maybe that they’re just trying to keep the system from collapsing? That and – what do we call it? Immigrants, or blacks, or Jews…or whatever…are causing the imminent collapse of the country. And that only they represent the best hope of preventing that collapse…”

Callahan held up his hand and shook his head: “No Frank, I think they’re trying to tear the country apart from the inside, because they think the system isn’t worth saving. Their political needs, the needs of this moment, can’t be accommodated by our system of laws, of checks and balances. The system as it stands right now is their enemy, it’s standing in their way and, as far as they are concerned, it needs to be pushed aside, burned to the ground.”

Bullitt seemed taken aback by the idea, but then he rose to the challenge: “Okay, if all that’s true, what does killing them accomplish – except possibly starting an all out war, another civil war?”

Callahan sighed. “Oh, that’s coming Frank. Sooner or later it will all boil down to just that…because I think that’s exactly what they want. They can’t tear the system down on their own, so they’ll get us to help them by corrupting the system from within, getting the people to lose faith in the system, and then getting the people to actively work to burn it down.”

“Man, Harry, I had no idea you were such a fucking cynic.”

“It’s not cynicism, Frank. It’s opening your eyes to what’s going on all around us right now. It’s keeping in mind that history really does repeat itself, and that people really, really don’t take that idea seriously enough, if they do at all. And, you know, that’s why Hitler chose the same path, Frank. Why his shock troops infiltrated German law enforcement. Why his ‘brown-shirts’ infiltrated peace movements, and then sabotaged their demonstrations, making peaceful protestors look like willful destroyers of the republic, and then branding them as the anarchists. And the funny thing about it, Frank? He laid it all out in that little red book of his, that Mein Kampf thing he wrote when he was in jail. It was all right there, and the Germans ignored it. And do you know why they did that, Frank?”

Bullitt just shook his head.

“Because they wanted to. They hated their country enough to want to burn it all down, from the inside. And look around, Frank. Look at the freaks and hippies who want to burn it all down, then look at the guys in button down shirts and three piece suits, and listen to the anger in their voices.”

“So, what are you saying, Callahan? That there’s no hope, that there’s nothing we can do to stop all this from going down?”

“Politicians sell hope, Frank, every four years…just like clockwork.”

“Sounds like you’ve given up on things, Harry…”

“I don’t know anymore, Frank. There’s just too much hate. Everywhere you look it’s Us and Them. Battle lines being drawn, my side is better than your side. And who knows, maybe that’s just a part of the human condition, how we’re wired. Maybe ‘peace’ is really the opposite of the way people are put together…”

Bullitt continued to shake his head. “Man, I don’t know. If that’s true, then, well, there’s no hope, is there? No way out of this mess.”

Harry looked up when he heard a Huey in the distance, but then he heard another helicopter, and another…

“What is it?” Bullitt asked when he saw the look in Callahan’s eyes.

“We’ve got company coming.”

“Yeah, Rooney is coming up with…”

“At least three helicopters coming, maybe four…”

They looked at one another, then stood…

“Are the PSGs here?” Frank yelled.

But the Israelis were already coming for them, bounding down the hallway at a dead sprint…

“Rooney reports he’s taking fire from…” one of them said.

Machine gun fire tore through the house, then several small objects landed on the roof and everyone froze…

A moment later Harry was flying sideways through the imploding remains of the house, and then he was dimly aware of being picked up and hauled into what he thought was a bunker of some sort. He recognized Al through the smoke, realized Bressler had just saved his life – but then Al ran back into the smoke and was gone…

The Israeli’s came in carrying several Uzis and MP-5s, and a minute or so later Al returned, this time carry Frank over his shoulder. “Just like the PT course at the academy,” he said through his infectious grin, and as he set Bullitt down Harry could see little cuts all over Franks face and arms…

He stood, felt light-headed and reached out to steady himself, then he took an MP-5 from the pile on a table and racked a round into the chamber…

Then he heard men running overhead – followed by more machine gun fire – and then the pathetic return fire of snub-nose 38s.

“Fuck this,” Callahan snarled – as he made his way through the rubble for the wrecked staircase. With his back up against the wall he made his way towards the machine gun fire up the stairs until he saw three men – strangers all – firing at unseen targets.

He flipped the selector to full auto and the safety to off and raised the weapon to his eye and squeezed off three bursts – and saw three men go down.

“Frank? Are you there?” he heard Carl Stanton yell.

“Callahan here. Can you make it to the stairwell?” He heard running, then saw Carl at the top of the stairs. “You alone?”

“I know Dell went down upstairs, the Captain, too…?”

“Bennett?”

“Yeah. Pretty sure they’re dead,” Stanton said as he joined Harry. “What about Frank?”

“He’s down here. Okay, as far as I could tell. What’s going on out there?”

“Two choppers followed us, jumped us when we cleared the fog. Our pilot called for backup but they shot out the engine, we went down a few hundred yards up the hill from here.”

Now it was eerily quiet, except that sirens could be heard in the distance.

“What about Rooney? The pilot?”

“I don’t know.”

“Anyone else in the Huey?”

“Mrs. Bennett was with the kids,” Carl said, shaking his head and holding back tears.

“Okay, you go find Frank – and anyone else down there. I’m going to find out what’s going on outside,” Harry said as he ran up the stairs. He saw Delgetti slumped in a corner and ran over, felt for a pulse – and found one, strong and steady – so he laid him out on the floor before he ran outside.

It only took a second to see where the downed Huey was; a steady flow of black smoke was rising through the evergreens up the hill so he took off in that direction…

…and stopped when he came on Sam Bennett. He was sitting up and looked confused, but the skin on the left side of his face was badly burned and Harry could see blood under his shirt…

…so he took off for the helicopter.

And found Rooney standing by the downed bird, shaking his head.

“Harry? You have any idea how much paperwork it’s gonna take to cover this shit?”

Callahan looked over the scene; Elaine Bennett was sitting in the shade of a redwood with her kids – and all were just fine – while Rooney’s co-pilot was busy dousing the remains of a small engine fire with an extinguisher.

“Did you get any registration numbers on the other birds?”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” Rooney said as he pulled out a tiny spiral notepad. “Ready to copy?”

“Shoot.”

Harry wrote the numbers down but he instantly recognized one of them, the LongRanger he had piloted with Escobar in the rear seat – and he was amazed at how reckless these people were, and how lucky they’d been to catch on to the teams’ use of Army helicopters.

The wailing sirens stopped on the hill beneath the house so Harry started to make his way back – just as the sound of several approaching Army Hueys drowned out everything else. He watched them circle overhead, saw Rooney wave at an officer leaning out and surveying the scene, so he jogged back down to the house. He saw firemen and paramedics standing around and called out for the medics, told them there were casualties in the house…

“Who are you?” one of the firemen called out.

“Callahan. San Francisco PD Homicide.”

“We heard heavy gun fire. Is it safe?”

“Yeah. Come on up.” He heard footsteps behind and turned, saw Bullitt walking out of the house, his shirt a tattered mess of glass fragments and pooling blood.

“Harry? I think I’ve had about enough of this bullshit. It’s time. The gloves come off, and they come off right fucking now.”

Their eyes met, and Callahan nodded. 

© 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…]

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