The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 36

88th key cover image

Part IV

Chapter 36

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He walked towards Cathy’s kitchen, his eyes downcast, his mood bleak, yet when he opened the door all kinds of aromas rushed through the air…with all the scents of ‘home’ and ‘breakfast’ making a ruthless assault on his senses. In a way, they tried to push aside Callahan’s sudden depression and, in a way, they did indeed work a little of their magic. He looked up and tried to smile, saw Frank and Evelyn looking at him, while Cathy seemed to reserve her examination to Evelyn, and, perhaps, how she was reacting to Harry. 

“You passed-out on me,” Frank said as Callahan stepped inside, “and I thought I’d better just let sleeping dogs do what they do, ya know?”

“Thanks. It kind of feels like I passed out,” Callahan said as he carried his coffee cup over to the sink. He rinsed it out and left it in the sink. “Man, it sure smells good in here.”

Cathy chimed in then: “I’m doing the eggs and bacon; Evelyn is making pancakes. And Harry, she makes good pancakes, so beware…”

“Yeah. Harry, come on over and meet my sister,” Frank said. “Evelyn? Meet my partner in crime, Harry Callahan.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Evelyn said, and Callahan found he simply couldn’t take his eyes off hers. They were kind of silver blue, like Franks, but there all similarities ended. Her eyes were soft, almost liquid, whereas Frank’s were peregrine. Frank was, generally speaking, compact, almost brutally so, while Evelyn seemed almost the exact opposite…fluid and almost lanky while not really tall. She was soft and polished where Frank was hard as nails.

“Yeah,” Harry said, holding out his right hand, “me too. I’ve heard a lot about you.” She grinned, and Callahan noted an uncanny similarity to Franks.

“All bad, I’m sure.”

Harry smiled. “All of it. Every word.”

She feigned anger and turned on her big brother. “Oh…you!” she said as pretended to sock her brother’s arm – in slow motion.

“Well,” Frank continued, “she really does make the best pancakes, and she brought some real maple syrup with her.”

“Oh?” Callahan said. “Where from?”

“Vermont. We, I mean, well, I have been teaching there for a couple of years. It’s more addicting than heroin, or so I’m told.”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

She smiled, but it was kind of a pouty-frown kind of smile, though her eyes still sparkled. “Okay, I need to get in there and wash my hands. Why don’t you guys get lost for a little bit – while Cathy and I get to work?”

“Got it,” Bullitt said, turning to Harry. “Let’s go over and take a look at your house.”

Harry nodded when he saw the look in Frank’s eyes, and he followed Frank out the front door.

“A-Chief called me first thing this morning. Threlkis’ lawyers plan to file a wrongful death action first thing tomorrow morning.”

“So the old fart croaked?”

“Big time. Right there at the table, in front of God and about two hundred hoods. My guess is those hoods now have a lottery going, to see who can nail you first.”

“Good. Sounds fun.”

“Damnit, Harry, don’t you get it? Every goon in California just pasted a target on your back.”

“Yeah? So what’s new?”

“What do you have on that homicide out at Sutro?”

“The vic lives in San Paulo. I have a possible suspect, she lives in the city, but grew up there.”

“Next step?”

“Going to send a request to the San Paulo PD CID for more information on the vic and his ties to a couple of gangs operating in the area…”

“What was his CCH?”

“Robberies, drugs, dealing, a couple of DUIs, and he was recently found not guilty on a homicide case up in Oregon.”

“Prison?”

“Yup. A couple of long stretches.”

“Ballistics?”

“A thirty-eight plus P; Remington, semi-jacketed hollow point. Fired into the area above the penis with the muzzle less than an inch off the skin. The bullet – was lodged in the tailbone.”

“Ouch.”

“Bad way to end the day, that’s for sure. Second tap was to the forehead, same thing, about an inch from the skin.”

“So, she knew enough not to put the barrel directly on the skin. Interesting.”

“Firearms training, according to a recent arrest report, as well as a White Warrant application.”

“No shit?”

“Yeah, Frank. She was on a mission.”

“Next step?”

“Going to look around the city for her, tomorrow afternoon. I’ve got court first thing in the morning.”

“Anything I was in on?”

“No, just a petty thug, evidence is pretty thin though. DA thinks he’ll walk.”

“Figures.”

“Same song, different day.”

“Okay, boys,” Evelyn said through a barely cracked front door, “y’all come on in now!”

“Coming,” Frank said, then he turned to Harry. “So, what do you think?”

“About?”

“Evelyn, you moron!”

“She’s cute.”

“And?”

“Frank?”

“Yeah, Harry.”

“Don’t set a wedding date just yet.”

“Already have. Christmas Day.”

Callahan shook his head as he followed Frank back into the house. 

“Swell,” he whispered as he walked into the kitchen…where he was confronted by a plate groaning under the strain of a mountain sized portion of pancakes. “Is this for the table?” he asked.

“Nope,” Evelyn said. “Those are all for you!”

There were five pancakes on the plate, each one not quite an inch thick and about a foot in diameter. He groaned as he guessed that about one stick of butter had been slathered on top of and between the cakes…

“You’re over here,” Cathy said, pointing to the place next to her’s.

And he saw another plate was already there, this one containing three eggs, a pile of bacon and some honeydew melon.

“Damn, Cathy, I’ve got enough right on this plate to feed a family…!”

“Frank has this every morning,” she said, grinning. “Don’t you, honey?”

Frank was bug-eyed as he carried his platter to the table. “Oh, sure. You bet,” he just managed to say before he burst out laughing.

Evelyn came over and sat on Callahan’s other side, and her plate had one small pancake and a single over easy egg.

Callahan frowned. “I sense a plot at work here, Frank. Don’t you?” And then Harry used a knife and fork to lift two pancakes, and these he placed on Evelyn’s plate. “There. An equitable arrangement, I think.”

And he was surprised by the look on her face when she heard that word: “equitable…” – because, he sensed, her life had been anything but, at least so far.

When they finished breakfast Frank and Cathy insisted they would handle clean up duties, and Cathy practically begged Harry to take Evelyn for a walk. And when Frank herded them to the front door and pushed them out into the sunshine, Harry understood. Frank and Cathy had been apart for a couple of weeks, and Frank was chomping at the bits…

“Cathy told me that’s your house,” Evelyn said as they made their way to the street. “Could you show me around?”

“Sure. At least, I’ll try.”

“What?”

“This morning was…the first time I’ve seen it. Not even the plans.”

“Are you serious?”

Harry nodded. “Frank and Cathy were having trouble, most of it my fault, so I asked her to build this for me. I looked at it as equal parts couple’s therapy and retirement planning.”

He looked at her when she didn’t say anything, and he found she was staring at him.

“Did I say something wrong?” he asked.

“No. Pretty much the opposite of wrong. I can’t imagine someone doing that.”

“Frank and Cathy are my best friends. I’d do anything for them.”

She chuckled at that. “I’d say you already have.”

He shrugged. “I guess I’ve discovered that real friends are hard to come by. And friendship is worth preserving. Whatever the cost.”

“Your house looks so different from Cathy’s, at least from here.”

“Yeah. It blends into the site, doesn’t it? Like it was designed to almost disappear.”

He led her to what would one day be the front door and helped her step up into the entry, then they walked to the huge expanse of windows that overlooked the cliffs, and the sea beyond.

“What a view,” she said as she reached the wall, then she turned and looked around. “Now…that’s odd…”

“What?”

“There’s not a single ninety degree angle.”

“What? Really?” he said as he too turned and looked around. Then he walked over to the roughed-in walls of his bedroom and looked closer. “I’ll be damned. You’re right.”

Everywhere he looked he saw rooms shaped like flattened and stretched hexagons, and she was correct…he found not a single right angle, and many exterior ‘corners’ were framed to utilize mitered glass windows so that, in effect, corners were wrapped in uninterrupted glass. The view wasn’t compartmentalized, and the result seemed to bring the outside world into these bare interior spaces.

“I told her I think she’s a genius. That may be an understatement.”

“I wonder how many clients turn her loose, let her follow her instincts. Sounds like the opportunity of a lifetime, to me, anyway. So, why’d you become a cop?”

“Wow. Now that was a change of subject…”

“Sorry.”

“If I could put it down to one reason…I guess it was because I rode around with a cop after witnessing a robbery. There’s a lot of crime that boils along just under the surface, that most people, thankfully, never see and so don’t have to deal with. But when bad stuff happens, I think it helps keep society together when there’s a group of people actively helping to keep some semblance of order. For us, it’s cops; other people use the military, while some can do without much of anything to maintain cohesion.”

She shook her head. “That sounds like the kind of answer you’d give to a reporter.”

“Sorry.”

“What did you learn on that first ride-along?”

“That there are a lot of very bad people out on the street. Predators, really, and most people simply have no idea how vulnerable they are. Until something goes down, anyway. I think I fell in love with the idea of figuring out how to help people get through those moments.”

She nodded. “That I can buy, Harry Callahan.”

“So, what do you do?”

“Frank hasn’t told you?”

“Nope. He’s never even mentioned you, or anything about your family, until he picked you up at the airport last week.”

“My, my,” she said – a little too wistfully, “how he’s changed.”

“I guess.”

“Well, back to me. I teach biochemistry; both at graduate and medical schools.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. I thought I wanted to be a physician until I realized how much I loved chemistry. Do you, uh, think that maybe we could go out, maybe have some dinner?”

“Man, you really can change gears!”

“Sorry, but I always say what I think, what I’m feeling.”

“That’s cool. Kind of refreshing. So, what did you have in mind?”

“What?”

“What kind of grub?”

She shrugged. “Seafood, I guess. You know, every time I’ve visited Frank he promises to take me to Fisherman’s Wharf, and somehow we’ve never made it…”

“Okay, that sounds like a challenge I can handle, but the next couple of weeks might be kind of dicey…”

“The Threlkis stuff?”

“Yeah. Did Cathy tell you about that?”

She nodded. “Sounds awful, all this stuff with vigilante cops, the mob.”

“What else did Cathy tell you?”

“About your wife, you mean?”

“Yeah. Well, I guess you just answered that one.”

“Don’t be angry,” she said. “Please?”

He turned and looked at her, saw that she seemed to have turned inward on herself, almost reflexively. “I’m not angry, Evelyn. Like I said, Cathy and Frank are my friends, and I trust them. Whatever she tells you, I know she’ll tell you the truth.”

“And you’re not afraid of the truth?”

And in that instant he saw Crawford’s face lined up in the PSGs scope, then he relived the moment as he increased the pressure on his trigger finger. He shivered, and then saw…

“What are you thinking about right now?” she asked, concern evident in her voice.

“The truth.”

“You look sad and angry, at the same time, and maybe a little scared, too.”

He nodded.

“You want to talk about it?”

He shook his head. “Maybe someday. Not yet.”

“I guess you have to carry around a lot of bad stuff…”

“Yeah. Sometimes.”

“Well, if you ever do want to talk?”

“Yeah. I hear you.”

“Cathy says you play the piano. Like really, really play the piano.”

He nodded. “Sometimes more than others.”

“Now that’s an odd thing to say?”

“Is it?”

“Yeah. Like…why are some times better?”

He sighed. “There are times when music helps…”

“And others when it’s too painful?”

“Yeah.”

“Cathy bought a recording of the concert in Israel…”

Harry held up a hand and shook his head: “Please, Evelyn. No. That’s one of the things, one of the places I just can’t go yet.”

“Okay.” She seemed to deflate, and then she turned and walked away, looking at the framed walls as she made her way to the front door. “Could we walk down to the rocks?”

“Yes, sure, but the best way is from over here.”

She came back to him. “Oh?”

“Would you mind if we just hugged for a minute?”

And she stepped into his arms, wrapped her arms around him. Both seemed to relax, neither wanted to let go. 

‘I want to fall in love,’ he thought – in the heat of the moment. ‘I’m tired of being alone. I’m scared of living my life alone.’

“This feels so good,” she said, her voice almost muffled.

“It’s almost like we fit together.”

She nodded. “I was thinking that. Like two pieces of a puzzle.”

“So, let me show you the way down.”

“Down?”

“To the water.”

She shook her head. “I’m fine right here.”

“Has it been a while?”

“A while?”

“Since you could just let go, feel safe like this?”

“I’ve never felt like this,” she said. “I’ve never felt safe.”

He struggled with that for a while, then: “So, why? Why’d you get married?”

She shrugged. “I think I just wanted to strike out on my own, but that meant getting married, didn’t it? Like in that Carly Simon song, That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be. That’s what it was like…living life in the shadow of other people’s expectations. The only problem with that,” she said, now with a tremor in her voice, “is that you can drown in other people’s expectations.”

“Is that why you didn’t feel safe?”

She shook all over now, buried her face in his chest and he felt her grabbing the back of his windbreaker, her fists balling-up defensively – like she was preparing to ward off blows…

And all he could do was pull her close, run his fingers through her hair, then he smelled her hair and seemed to drift away, wanted to fall away inside this moment. Hold time back…

She pulled away some time later, and he looked into her eyes, melted at the sight of tears on her cheeks. He cupped her face in his hands, wiped away her tears with his thumbs and lifted her lips to his.

Theirs was a gentle first kiss, as unexpected as it was an expression of tremendous need, then they fell back into this new embrace they’d discovered, each unwilling to be the first to let it go…

“Knock-knock,” Cathy said from some place outside this new little universe. “Mind if we come in?”

But they were already inside. Indeed, they had been watching for some time, holding hands like a couple of mad alchemists in love with their latest creation, smiling at the simplicity this life presented – even in the quietest moments.

“Harry?”

“Yes?”

“The A-Chief called. He wants to see us, ASAP. You ready to roll?”

She felt him tense, felt their moment wither and fall away.

“Yeah. Might as well face the music,” she heard him say, yet she wanted to stop him, wanted to protect him, wanted to keep him from hurting himself because, she suddenly realized, that’s what he had been doing all his life.

“Harry,” she whispered, “we can do this. We can make this happen, let it happen…”

But by then he had pulled away, their timeless connection broken. She watched him walk away and she felt so alone, just the way she’d always heard it should be.

_________________________________

“Goddammit, Callahan, what is it with you? Everywhere you go, people end up dead. It ain’t right, and the Chief has had it. He wants your badge…”

Frank cleared his throat: “Uh, Chief,” Bullitt began, “this op was my idea. Bullitt went in because Threlkis doesn’t know me from Adam. I figured that was the best way to…”

“To what? Give the fucker a goddamn mother-fucking heart attack?”

“No, sir…”

“Then, please, tell me. Tell me what the point of this goddamn clusterfuck was. Because I’d really like to know…”

“The case against him was at a standstill…”

“So? You decided to terrorize the man at his daughter’s wedding? Have you, like, forgotten those words we print up and put on the sides of our patrol cars? To Protect and Serve? Does that compute, or are you two operating on some other principle I’m not aware of?”

“No,” Callahan said.

“No, what, Callahan?”

“No, sir.”

“Alright, so hear this, you two. The Threlkis family is going to sue the city for something like ten million, and you know what? We will lose. We’ll probably settle on a lower figure, but so what? Because of your chickenshit bullshit, we’re going to end paying a crime family millions of bucks. Does that sound like effective policing to you clowns?”

“Look, Chief,” Callahan said, “no one knew he had a defective ticker…”

“Goddamnit to Hell, Callahan! Are you deaf as well as mentally retarded! Did you not hear one mother-fucking word I just said…?”

“We hear you, Chief,” Bullitt said.

“And now I hear about some retired cop from Oakland PD, living up by Lake Shasta. Shot in the fucking face, dead as a fucking door-nail. The poor SOBs fucking eight year old daughter found him, too. And the word is he’s the cop that took a couple of shots at you a few months ago. And now, guess what, Callahan? Investigators up there want to question you about this shit, too.”

“What?” Bullitt said. “When did this happen?”

“Saturday night, Sunday morning. That timeframe.”

“Callahan was with us, Chief. Up at Sea Ranch.”

The Assistant Chief looked from Callahan to Bullitt. “Is that right? Well, I hope so. I sure fucking hope so. Because you two wouldn’t last a goddam week inside fuckin’ San Quentin. I mean, I hope that’s fuckin’ clear as glass. Now, get the fuck out of my sight – both of you!”

“Well, that was fun,” Frank said when they were clear of the office.

They walked to the parking garage and got in Frank’s Mustang, then drove to where Callahan had parked the rental car. 

“I’ll follow you to the drop off, give you a ride back into the city.”

Callahan nodded and they drove out to SFO. Callahan fumed the entire way, tried to think of one good reason to stay with the department – and couldn’t. On the drive back to the city with Bullitt, that was about all Callahan could think of to talk about.

“You can’t quit now,” Frank said. “That would be tantamount to an admission of guilt.”

“Yeah? Well, I’m getting tired of all this bullshit, Frank. I’m doing the job I was supposed to, you know. And yeah, I know, our operations are compartmentalized. No one in the department knows what we’re up to, and yeah, sure, I know I’ve got a ‘get out of jail card’ stashed away and I’m not worried about it, but really? We got hoods pushing on us from one side, the courts pushing on us from another, and then, just for the joy of it all, we got our own supervisors pushing us from yet another side. Who pushes back for us, Frank? Who takes our side, when we’re in the right, or even when we’re wrong? No one. No one, Frank. And do you really think that’s right?”

“No, not really.”

“Come on, is that all you can say? Look, most of us come to this job thinking we’re going to do some good, maybe get to help people every now and then, and how do we get paid back for that? We’re a bunch of kids trying to do the right thing and nothing less than a herd of legal eagles line up and pick apart every decision we make. And they get to do that from the comfort of their swivel chairs in their padded offices, while we get to make the decisions in the rain, in the middle of the night, when we’ve had to pull a double shift or right after after wives die, or, more likely, file for divorce. Come on, do you really think this is fair? Or is this stacked deck really nothing more than a sideshow a bunch of lawyers cooked up on a slow Saturday night – you know, for their amusement?”

“I don’t think it much matters, Harry. It is what it is. We do the best we can with what we’ve got to work with.”

“Yeah, I know,” Callahan muttered. “That’s what you always say.”

“Because that’s how I feel, Harry.”

“So, what next?”

“I’m going up to Tahoe.”

“You’re going to take out Briggs?”

Bullitt shook his head. “No. I’m going to get him to the Colonel, send him to that little house of horrors. Let them figure out what he knows, and where we go from there.”

“Okay, Frank. You do that, but you tell Goodman I’m done. I’m through being a pawn on this board.”

“So. You’re going to turn in your paperwork?”

Callahan sighed. “No, at least not yet, but I’ve got to find some good reason to wake up in the morning, ya know? ‘Cause this ain’t doing it for me anymore. It might. It might if we were supported, if everyone wasn’t picking our motives apart, turning mistakes into a legal lottery where everyone stands to make a buck – everyone but us, that is.”

“What happened this morning? With Evelyn?”

“Two lost souls, Frank. Drowning, trying to hang on to the same life preserver.”

“Oh? Sounds fun.”

“Does it? Well then, this has been a real fun day.”

Bullitt pulled up to the curb in front of Harry’s apartment building, and both were surprised to see Evelyn sitting on the steps, apparently waiting for Harry.

“You going to be okay, Harry?”

Callahan shook his head. “You know, Frank. I’m not so sure right now.”

“You want me to take her back with me?”

He looked at her sitting there, then turned to Frank. “No, I’ll be okay.”

“What about her, Harry. Will she be okay, too?”

“I hear you.”

“She’s my sister, Harry. All that’s left of my family.”

“And you’re my friend, Frank. Maybe the only friend I have left in the world.”

“Alright. Just be good to one another. She’s had a bad couple of years, and my sense is she’s very fragile right now.”

“Yeah? Well, that makes two of us.”

Bullitt sat there for a while, watched his sister and his friend disappear inside the old walk-up apartment building, and he tried to get a read on what Harry had just said.

Was he still fit to be out on the street? Had he lost his edge?

He sighed, dropped the car into gear and headed out into traffic, not at all sure where these questions were taking him – and not at all happy he felt he needed to ask them – but all the warning signs were flashing red now. Callahan had come back too soon. He had been a flaming wreck before Crawford; now he was way beyond that. 

When he got back to Sea Ranch he called the colonel, told him what had happened, and what Callahan had told him.

“I expected as much,” Goodman said. “Should I come get him?”

“Not yet. I think we should give him some room, let him try to figure this out for himself.”

“Is he a danger to himself?”

“Harry? God, no.”

“Okay. Keep me advised.”

“I will.”

All in all, Bullitt thought, this was the best he could do, the best thing he could do for his friend.

Cathy was waiting for him out on the patio, and she’d made guacamole and fresh margaritas.

She held out her glass as Frank sat: “Well, what shall we drink to?”

Bullitt clinked glasses while he thought. “To new beginnings, I think.”

“To new beginnings,” she added. “And to those we met on all the old roads we traveled, once upon a time.”

_____________________________

She walked into his apartment and looked around, shocked by what she found. Walls the color of a smoggy day, beige carpeting threadbare in places, and a kitchen that defied easy description. Rudimentary, perhaps, best described the tiny space, and as her eyes roamed she tried to reconcile what she was looking at with the house he was building. After a moment she gave up and went to the tiny sofa and sat down, then she watched him as he took off his jacket and hung it in a tiny closet just off the entry.

“Could I get you something to drink?” he asked. “I have Coke and O.J.”

“Coke works for me,” she said, her eyes falling on the piano – which even though it was an upright seemed to be of exquisite quality. “What kind of piano is that?”

“What kind?”

“Who made it, I mean.”

“Bösendorfer. They’re made in Vienna, and in a roundabout way I distribute them here in California.”

“You what? Did you say…”

“Yup.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t get it…”

“It’s complicated.”

“Cathy described the piano she heard you playing on, and this isn’t it.”

“Oh. That was my mother’s. It’s…”

“Don’t tell me, you have another house.”

“Yeah, I do.”

She grinned, shook her head. “And where is this one? Colorado? Aspen, maybe?”

“Switzerland.”

“Of course it is. Why not?”

“Like I said, it’s complicated.”

“Are you serious? You have a house in Switzerland?”

“Yeah. Davos.”

“I hate to seem rude, but just how much money do you have?”

He shrugged. “I have no idea, really.”

“Of course you don’t. That makes perfect sense, too. So, do you really know how to play this thing?”

He brought her Coke and a glass full of ice; she looked at it closely and thought ‘at least it looks clean,’ before she popped the top and poured.

He walked over to the Bösendorfer and retracted the keyboard cover, began playing Carly Simon’s That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be. He even tried to sing here and there – but his voice was too gravelly, more like a hoarse whisper, yet nevertheless she was impressed.

“Do you know any Bill Evans?”

He drifted into Peace Piece, then wandered back to Gershwin, as he always did – then he stopped and asked her to come and sit by him on the bench.

“Closer, please, and put a hand on me.”

“What? Why?”

“I want to try something.”

“Where?”

“Anywhere.”

She put her hand on the top of his thigh and he returned to That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be. A few bars in, his playing slowed and his head seemed to relax, to fall away…

And he could see a living room – inside another apartment, and that snow was falling outside. Endless pines, their limbs falling under the weight of a massive snowfall. With another passage he saw Evelyn and a man, and then he saw the man was beating her, first with his fist, then with a heavy belt, screaming at her as he towered over her.

“Move your hand to my face, please.”

She moved her hand.

“Higher, just by my left eye.”

She adjusted her hand.

“He hit you here. That’s when you fell. When things fell apart…”

She jumped up and moved away from Callahan, now clearly terrified of him. “What the Hell are you doing?” she screamed, and she watched him, almost mesmerized, as he broke free of the piano and seemed to drift back into the present.

He turned and looked at her, clearly shaken by what he’d just seen. “It’s okay,” he began, gently. “I think I understand now.”

She backed away again, until her back was up against a wall. “What do you mean, ‘you understand.’ Just what do you think you understand?”

“What happened, to you. Why you left him.”

“How could you possibly know that. I mean, that’s simply preposterous!”

“It is, isn’t it? Would you listen if I described to you what I just experienced?”

She nodded. “Yes-s-s-s…but I don’t understand…”

“Neither do I, really. This is only the second time I’ve tried to do this.”

“Do…what, exactly?”

“Well, Evelyn, I’m not sure how, but some music, some chords within music, seems to connect me to…well, I’m not exactly sure, but it feels like I can slip through time, even to different places, and I can see things there.”

“Pardon me for asking, but are you, by any chance, like schizophrenic?”

“I don’t think so. But bear with me here, okay?”

“Alright?”

“The first thing I saw was a living room in an apartment. White walls, gray trim. Wood floor, like a mahogany color. Green leather sofa, matching wingback chairs. An oval shaped coffee table, very old…an antique…”

“Dear God…”

“You are wearing jeans and a red plaid flannel shirt, you are wearing socks, white socks, but no shoes. He is wearing jeans and has on a down parka, dark red, and those funky boots, the ones with the rubber lowers and the leather uppers…”

“How are you doing this…”

“He’s screaming at you. Telling you it’s none of your business who he talks to on the telephone. You’re holding up a statement, from the phone company, pointing at a number. New Haven. The phone number is in New Haven. You’re telling him he’s been having an affair with a woman there. There…at Yale…a philosopher. Last name Shaw, and that’s when he hit you, when you fell to the floor. Then he kicked you, more than once…before he used his belt…”

Callahan broke free of the vision, saw her curled up on the floor in what almost looked like a fetal position, only she had pulled her knees up to her chest and she was trying to rock herself, almost like she wanted to be held…

He fell to her, wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. “It’s alright, Evelyn. I understand now…”

Her head came up, her face was tear-streaked and red, snot running out her nose and her teeth chattering. “This isn’t right,” she whispered. “What you’re describing…”

“That’s the way it happened, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but this isn’t normal. People can’t do this…”

“Yeah, I guess so, but nevertheless I think that’s exactly what I just did.”

“Oh, God…no…”

“It’s okay. It’s still me…”

“How did you do it?”

“Actually, I have no idea, but it’s something my mother told me about. She could do it, and I don’t think she was the only one.”

“You mean, the music…”

“Playing the music, not simply the music in and of itself.”

“So, playing the music lets you see things…”

“I’m not quite sure it’s that simple. It helped to have you touch me, at least it did this time. The first time it happened, well, I was just playing when what I thought were visions came to me. Only they weren’t simple visions. It was more like I was transported to another time and place. In a way, I could move around there, look at things, even move stuff around…”

“Harry, that’s just not possible. I’m sorry, but what you’re describing seems like…”

“What? A delusion?”

“Yeah. Maybe.”

“Okay. Wanna try a little experiment?”

“I’m not sure.”

“That’s not fair. You’re a scientist, right?”

“I think you could say that, yes.”

“So, we come up with a hypothesis then generate experiments to prove or disprove the hypothesis.”

“Well, kind of. It’s not really that simple.”

“Okay, but what’s a simple hypothesis? That some musicians can manipulate time and space, and while doing so they can observe past events? Does that sound about right?”

She shrugged.

“Okay, well, let’s go back to the piano. You think of some past event, you tell me what music to play, and then let’s see what happens. I report what I end up seeing, if anything, and you record the results. Do we account for source bias that way?”

“This is crazy. You know that, right?”

He nodded. “It’s crazy as Hell.”

She stood and held out her hand, and they went to the piano. He sat, then patted the bench on his left side. “Sit here.”

“Hand on your leg again?”

“For now.”

“Okay, I’m thinking about something.”

“Music?”

“Elvis. Can’t Help Falling in Love.”

He thought for a moment, then began playing. Slowly, then slower still, until he was in a room. A child’s room, and it felt like he was a wraith looking down, like the room was in the near distance and sheathed in an ion mist…

Chord by chord time advanced, until he saw a man enter the girl’s room. He came to her bed and leaned over, kissed the girl once on the forehead…and as the music moved so did his understanding of the scene below…the man…dressed in a uniform…military…Navy…a pilot…he’s telling his little girl goodbye, that he’s going to Vietnam…no, to Korea…and that he loves his little girl…

He felt her jump up and fall away, but he kept playing, saw the man leave the little girl’s room…then everything receded from view and he stopped playing, turned to see Evelyn on the sofa, balled up with her knees pulled up to her face, rocking back and forth, crying again, then sobbing hysterically…

“What is it?” he whispered as he came to her. “What happened?”

“I…I don’t know. The more I pressed my hand into you, the more I saw…”

“You saw…what did you see?” 

“You first. You tell me what you saw.”

“A bedroom. A little girl, asleep. A man, a naval aviator, telling her goodbye, then leaving her room…”

“That’s right,” she whispered, “yes, that’s right, but you missed the most important part…”

“What? What did I miss…?”

“That I wasn’t really asleep. I was mad at him for leaving me so I pretended to be asleep. I didn’t get to tell him that I loved him, and that I really wasn’t mad at him…”

“And he didn’t come home again?”

“Yes, that’s right. Did Frank tell you?”

“No. We’ve never talked about things like this.”

“Frank stayed up with dad that night. They talked and talked about his going to war, what it meant – to him – to serve. What country really means. But, I pretended to sleep, and I never got to say goodbye…”

“You were a little girl, you couldn’t possibly have known…”

“I was a selfish brat…”

“And you’ve been punishing yourself ever since.”

She looked up at him. “Yes. That’s right.” She stood and then flew into his arms, held him so fiercely it took his breath away.

“You don’t have to do that anymore, Evelyn. You don’t have to bear that cross alone.”

“I don’t know,” she whispered. “I just don’t know anymore…”

“What don’t you know?”

“How I can go on.”

“You don’t want to?”

“I really don’t know anymore, Harry. I think I ruined my life, like I’ve ruined everything ever since that night. I see a fault and I pick at it, pick at it like a scab. I pick and pick until I’ve infected everything around me…”

“So, what are you most afraid of?”

“Right now? That I’ll pick on you until we’re infected, that we’ll wither and die…”

“What if…I stop you. What if I won’t let you destroy us? Then what would you be afraid of?” She buried her face in his neck, and as he felt her tears he pulled her closer still… “Why don’t you just let go of all that for now. Just let it go, push it all away, think about how you want to be without all that crap cluttering-up your life.”

“Harry?”

“Yes?”

“I’m hungry.”

“I know.”

“How could you possibly know that…”

“Because…I can hear your stomach growling.”

She pulled away just a little, shook her head as she grinned at him. “All you cops…you’re all the same, you know? Nothing gets by you…”

“Hey, just the facts, M’am…just the facts.”

“Uh, I didn’t bring my wallet…? And that’s a fact.”

“I think I can handle dinner. Once, anyway.”

“Good.”

“So, wanna walk down to the wharf?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

He went to the closet, put on his shoulder holster then his windbreaker while she looked on.

“Do you always wear that thing?”

“Yes. Always.”

She shook her head but took his hand…

As they left the building Callahan scanned the street – as he always did – before he started walking down to the Wharf, and within a few blocks he spotted the tail. A black Sedan de Ville, four men inside. They would have to be Threlkis’ men, he told himself even as he smiled inwardly. ‘Now, how to get Evelyn out of the line of fire…’

He cut down Jones Street and made the jog onto Pier 47, and here he started to walk faster.

“Are we in some sort of hurry?” Evelyn asked.

“Kind of, yeah.”

“Okay.”

They made it out to Scoma’s and ducked inside, and while they waited for a table he saw the black Cadillac driving slowly out the pier, and, predictably, it stopped about where he had expected…effectively sealing them off from any escape, or at least he hoped that’s what they’d think.

Once at their table Callahan ordered wine and recommended she try the Dungeness crab appetizer and the abalone for her entree, and he chose the same. They took their time with dinner, though from time to time he got up and walked to a spot where he could see the Cadillac…

“You want to tell me what’s going on?” she said after his last excursion.

He shrugged. “Some of Threlkis’ goons followed us. They’re waiting for us, well, I should say me, to leave. My guess is they don’t think I spotted them, or they would have found a better place to hide.”

“You don’t seem very concerned.”

“I’m not.”

“What are you going to do?”

“Well, I don’t know who’s running the family right now, but I need to send them a message.”

“Really? Like what?”

“Basically, back off and don’t fuck with me.”

“I suppose this is something you feel you really need to do right now?”

“Well, if I don’t they’ll probably come in here and kill a bunch of people. All things being equal, I think it makes more sense for me to go out and kill them first.”

“Just like that, huh?”

“Yeah, pretty much. How’s your dessert?”

“Fine.”

“Well, I’ll be back in about a half hour,” he said, looking at his watch, “maybe an hour, tops.”

“And if you’re not?”

He shrugged. “Call Frank, I guess.”

She looked around, saw the restaurant was still full and ordered some coffee, and from time to time she too looked at her watch.

About fifteen minutes later everyone in the restaurant flinched as machine gun fire erupted a few blocks away, followed by six sonic concussions from a large caliber handgun, then the sound of sirens filled the night.

Not quite forty five minutes later Callahan rejoined her at the table.

“So, that took a little longer than expected?” she said matter-of-factly. 

He looked at his watch again: “Damn. Sure did. Sorry about that?”

“What went wrong?”

“Oh, not much. They were a little more stupid than expected, but hey, c’est la vie.”

“Well, is it at least safe to walk back to your place?”

“Oh, sure.”

“Good.”

“Good?”

“Yeah. Frankly, Callahan, I wasn’t sure about you. But now I am.”

“You are?”

“Yeah. I sure the hell hope you’re horny, because I’m going to fuck your brains out.”

Callahan turned, found their waiter and made eye contact. “Check, please.”

Turned out there was a taxi out front, which didn’t hurt anyone’s feelings, not even a little bit.

© 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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