The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 37

88th key cover image

Part IV

Chapter 37

____________________________________

When Callahan went into CID two days later, Frank was waiting for him. He did not look pleased.

“Come in. Shut the door behind you.”

Callahan sensed something was up, but Bullitt looked strange. Very unsettled, really, and almost sick.

“What’s up?” Callahan said as he sat in Frank’s tiny office.

“Evelyn. She told me something. Something about you, and the piano. It didn’t make sense until I thought about Crawford.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Is that how you…?”

“Yes.”

“Goddamit, Harry. What the hell is going on with you?”

“I have no idea.”

“You did something with Evelyn? The same kind of bullshit?”

“Yup. She didn’t tell you?”

“Not the details, but what she did say scared the crap out of me.”

“You should feel it from this end, Frank.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“Twice. I’ve done it twice. The first time, well, it was just an accident.”

Bullitt shook his head. “Well, whatever the hell it is, you just stop it. I mean right now. Just stop doing it. Am I clear?”

“Yeah.”

“Goddamn, Harry, if you put that in an affidavit for an arrest warrant the judge would haul your ass straight to the psych ward. They wouldn’t let you out for years.”

“Yeah. So…?”

“So? Fuck, Callahan, I’m not sure what I should do with this. It’s fucking outrageous!”

“Yeah, it is. It’s also true. Frank, you may not like hearing this, but I was in Briggs’ office. I saw that address by reading a post it note attached to a…”

“Goddamn, Callahan! I don’t want to hear it! Understand?”

“Frank? Did we, or did we not go to Crawford’s house?”

“You must be deaf.”

Callahan backed off, didn’t press the issue further. “Okay. Got it.”

“I couldn’t sleep last night, Callahan. My stomach is all tied up in knots…”

“Sorry.”

“And now my kid sister is telling me that she’s all wound up about you. That you two are long-lost soulmates. Is that about the size of it?”

Callahan shrugged. “There’s something between us, Frank.”

“And every girl you get close to gets killed, one way or another. You have any idea how that makes me feel?”

“You should feel it from this end sometime, Frank.”

Bullitt looked down, shook his head. “I know,” he said gently. “It must feel like shit.”

“I picked up more information from Records on the Spencer thing.”

“San Paulo get back to you yet?”

“Not yet. I think I’ll give ‘em another day, then I’ll call.”

“Oh, speaking of calling, Cathy is at the office already. She wanted to talk to you about a painting?”

“Okay. Same number?”

“Yup. And, oh, if you don’t mind I’d like Evelyn to stay out with us for a few days.”

“She’s a big girl, Frank. Let her do what she wants.”

“Just what the hell did you do to her?”

Callahan hesitated. “You sure you want to hear this?”

“No, but go ahead anyway.”

“I saw inside her apartment. I saw her husband attack her, beat her up. All of it, Frank. Everything about it.”

Bullitt looked down again, then he put his face in his upturned hands and shook his head. “I knew it. I knew he was hurting her and I didn’t do anything to stop it.” He looked up, his eyes red now. “You can really do this? See things like this?”

“Twice. And I don’t understand it, Frank.”

“Alright. Call Cathy, then we’re going to your place.”

“What?”

“You’re going to show me. Show me exactly what this shit is. How it works. Everything.”

“Frank, I don’t know ‘everything’ about this shit, okay? I don’t know how it works…”

“Then you’re gonna show me what you do know.”

“Frank, I don’t know…”

“Call Cathy, then let’s get breakfast.”

“At the diner again?”

“You know it, man. I’ve been dreaming about those pancakes for a week.”

Callahan went to his desk and called Cathy’s work number; a secretary answered and told him she was tied up in a meeting, and would be for the next hour.

He hung up and saw Frank standing beside his desk. “She’s in a meeting.”

“Okay, let’s go. I haven’t eaten since noon yesterday.”

They took two cars, and Bullitt ordered a double stack of chocolate chip pecan pancakes, and a large glass of whole milk.

“I hate to ask,” Harry asked, “but is there any chance you’re pregnant?”

“Man, I’ve been like this for a couple of weeks.”

“Do you feel cold, too?”

“Yeah? Why?”

“You need to go to a doc, get some labs done. You gaining weight?”

“No, more like I’m losing weight.”

“Call your doc, get a physical.”

Their breakfasts came and Bullitt finished his double order of pancakes in half the time it took Callahan to eat two eggs and a slice of toast, and Bullitt tossed down two large glasses of milk for good measure. Callahan looked on, clearly concerned – because if Frank was indeed losing weight it had to be because he wasn’t absorbing nutrients, and that couldn’t be a good thing.

They drove to Harry’s apartment, and once there he called Cathy’s office again.

“Harry? Sorry I missed your call.”

“No problem. Did you see the painting?”

“I did.”

“And?” 

“Are you really sure you want to hang something like that in your house?”

“It’s pretty stark, isn’t it?”

“It’s a waking nightmare, Harry. I looked at it once and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind since.”

“I understand.”

“Well, anyway, I took the dimensions and I have a place in mind for it, if you really think you want to go with it.”

“You know, as far as I’m concerned that image pretty much sums up everything that’s happened to me on the streets of this city.”

“Jesus, Harry, I had no idea.”

“Nor did I.”

“I can see how…well, no, I’m not sure I’d want to be reminded.”

“Nor am I.”

“Do you want me to go ahead with designing the lighting for it?”

“Yes, please. And maybe you should go shopping, find me a few other paintings that you think might go better with the house.”

“Really? You don’t have anything in mind?”

“Nope.”

“Okay, I’ll work on it.”

“Thanks, Cathy.”

“For what, Harry?”

“Keeping an open mind, I guess,”

“Okay. Got it.”

She rang off, and he turned, found Bullitt staring out the window that looked down on the crowds roaming the bars along both sides of the street below.

“See something?”

“Huh? Oh, no, I was just thinking…you sure live in the thick of things down here.”

“Friday nights are kinda fun.”

“I can only imagine. See a lot of hookers?”

“No, they keep to the shadows, with the other sharks.”

Bullitt nodded. “So, how does this work?”

“Hard to explain, but the first time I played notes and thought about Briggs. Things started popping after that, and when I played another note another field of view popped into being.”

“You do know how fucking weird this sounds, right? I mean, this is like Planet Crazy kind of shit, ya know?”

Callahan nodded and shrugged his shoulders at the same time. “Hey, you asked.”

“Okay, show me.”

Callahan went to his Bösendorfer and retracted the keyboard cover while he sat at his bench. “You want me to look for something you thought of?”

“I don’t know, man. What do you think works best?”

“Well, chances are you’ll understand better if it’s something you thought of. Sit beside me, put your hand on my shoulder.”

Bullitt slid in close to Callahan and gently put his right hand on Harry’s back.

“Okay, try to clear your mind. Think about something, let that kind of dominate all your thinking.”

“Should I close my eyes?”

“Beats the hell out of me, Paco.”

“Okay, here goes.”

Callahan played a note, then another and another, and nothing happened.

“What are you thinking about?”

“Going to the doctor, and, like, what he might find.”

Callahan thought a moment. “Maybe it doesn’t work that way. Try thinking about something that’s already happened.” 

“Got it.”

Callahan played a note and something seemed to shimmer in his mind’s eye, and when he played another note he saw Walter Chalmers talking to Bullitt out at the airport, something to do with Johnny Ross, and Harry started to describe what he was seeing. “You’re at a gate, watching a Pan Am jet taxi. Towards the gate. Delgetti is with you. Chalmers is walking up to you, he’s speaking now. “He’s still my witness. I’ll be happy to turn him over to you after he testifies tomorrow…”

Frank jumped off the bench. “You got to be mother-fuckin’ kidding me!”

Callahan shrugged again, held up his hands.

“No, no, no, no. No fuckin’ way, Callahan. No way, man…” Bullitt started pacing in nervous circles, his arms flailing in mad arcs, his head shaking all over the place as he spoke.

“Frank, I don’t know what to say…?”

“Fuck! This is righteous! Totally bitchin’, man! Like, is there any way I could, like, tune in to what you’re seeing?”

“Uh, Frank? You do remember saying I shouldn’t do this. Like ever again, I think you said?”

“Well fuck that, man! You do, like, realize what we can do with shit like this?”

“Yeah.”

“So, what do you think. Can I tune in?”

“I have no idea. But…are you sure you want to?”

“Are you fuckin’ kidding me?”

“Okay, let’s try something,” Callahan said, sitting at the bench. “Sit next to me, one hand on my shoulder, just like last time, but this time put a hand out and touch the piano.”

“Just asking, but why?”

“I think maybe it has something to do with the vibrations, some kind of energy…”

“Okay, it doesn’t matter. Who the hell knows, right?”

“I sure don’t.”

“Okay, whatever,” Bullitt began, “I think it’s your turn now. You think of something…”

Harry began playing and Bullitt instantly recognized a very familiar melody. “That’s Rhapsody in Blue, right?” he said aloud.

“Yup, that’s right. Lay your hand flat on the piano so you can feel…”

But by that point Bullitt was mesmerized by the appearance of a silver sphere floating in the room, hovering just inches above the piano, and he saw the entire room within a kind of shimmering fisheye reflection, but then the sphere started to grow…

“Uh, Harry…?”

“I know, I know…just go with it, Frank.”

It felt like the sphere was coming closer and closer, then it seemed to vibrate intensely for a second – before it popped – and in the next instant he saw the distortion had inverted and he was looking at the inside of a room through what looked like a fisheye lens…

…only it wasn’t the same room he was sitting in…

…he was in some sort of concert hall…

…and a long-faced man was playing the piano, other musicians were still warming up, then came a long pause, the room in total silence…

…and then a clarinetist began playing the opening notes…

“Listen here, to the glissando,” Callahan said, his voice full of wonder.

“What are we seeing, Frank?”

“Gershwin and Ferde Grofé at final rehearsals for Rhapsody…it was a really famous moment…”

Bullitt stood and broke the connection. “Harry, I hate to say this, but we’ve got to focus on, well, you know…Stacy…”

Harry drifted back, but Frank immediately noticed that something was very wrong with Callahan. He was ‘spaced-out’ and drenched in sweat, his skin was pale – his face white as a sheet – and his hands were trembling….

“Harry, man, you alright?”

Callahan shook his head. “I don’t know, Frank.”

“Has this happened the other two times you did this?”

Callahan nodded. “Not this bad, though. I think it’s getting worse each time I try it.”

“I feel it too, just a little. What do you think would happen if I tried it?”

“Tried what?”

“If I played something. You could show me how, right?”

“I don’t know. We can try…” Frank sat and Callahan stood, but he kept close to the keyboard. “Put these fingers here,” he said, using his right hand on the keys to show Frank. “And your left fingers here. Now, just press them.”

Frank pressed them gently, too gently for effective hammer strikes.

“More like this,” Callahan said, demonstrating by hitting the keys up an octave from Frank’s hands.

“Got it.” Bullitt hit the keys, this time striking a perfect chord.

“Okay, just close your eyes and hit it, keep your fingers on the keys and when one chord is finished I’m going to move your fingers a little, make a new chord, and once that’s done hit it again.”

“Cool. I’m ready.”

“Okay, think of Stacy and hit it.”

Frank hit the first chord then Harry rearranged his fingers. A second chord followed, then a third, and a fourth…

“I got nothing, Harry. Nada!”

“Okay, I was afraid of that, but at least we know two things we didn’t know before.”

“Which is?”

“We can’t see forward in time – only back, and I may be the only real conduit that can reach these places.”

Bullitt looked at Callahan again. “Man, your face is still white as a ghost, Harry. Sit down, let me get you something to drink…”

Callahan turned and immediately dropped to the floor; Bullitt jumped over and knelt beside him, felt for a pulse but could hardly fine one.

“This ain’t good,” he said to the room. “Not good at all…”

It took a minute but Callahan’s eyes fluttered once then opened, then he looked around the room. “What happened?”

“You passed out, Amigo.”

“The room started spinning, then it was like I was standing in a room full of stars…”

“Hypoxia, man. Could you be, like, dehydrated?”

“Yeah, maybe so. Can’t remember the last time I had a glass of water.”

“Harry? You got to take better care of yourself…”

“Coming from someone who just ate four tons of pancakes, I find that kind of funny.”

Frank seemed to drift off for a moment, too, then he spoke: “I’m not sure you should do this again, Harry. Not if it’s going to hit you like this.”

Callahan nodded. “Maybe, but you’re right about one thing. We’ve got to find out what we can about Stacy, while there’s still time…”

________________________________

Didi Goodman had been rocked by Sara Callahan’s murder; perhaps more than anyone other than Harry. When Stacy Bennett arrived, her ‘legend’ was still intact and she, like everyone else on the team, never suspected Stacy might be working for any other group. Yet one thing had troubled her about the whole affair, ever since Sara’s body was discovered and the escape helicopter was halfway to Venice. Someone, either working at the clinic or planted in the village, knew enough about the clinic’s routine to know the best time to carry out both the hit, and the escape. This person had to understand local weather conditions, not to mention helicopter operations and limitations. They probably had a VHF radio installed at their location, one with an antennae tall enough to facilitate medium range communications. And, more than likely, they had remained in Davos after the event to maintain the integrity of their cover.

Davos had a long history welcoming foreigners, and people from all around the world could come to and leave the area without arousing the least bit of suspicion. These people, among the wealthiest in the world, regularly built large, well equipped residences all around the valley, and as a result the many businesses in town jealously guarded their relationships with these patrons. So, rather like the fabled ‘numbered’ bank accounts commonly opened at the largest Swiss banks, secrecy was assured, even when unusual installations might have raised eyebrows elsewhere.

VHF antennae, on the other hand, were hard to camouflage. While they could be hidden on an elaborate HF/UHF rig, such as might be found on the grounds of a serious Ham radio operator, VHF transmitter antennae looked different. If you knew what to look for, they could be easily identified, too. Given that there were few private helipads in the valley, very few people had reason to install this type of antenna, which further eased the task of finding and eliminating possible suspect facilities.

The first houses she found with such equipment were easily traced back to government entities. The United States maintained a small diplomatic compound in the village which, she knew, housed several CIA assets whose job it was to keep track of Soviet agents working in the area. They had a veritable antenna farm on their roof, too. The Soviet’s house was similarly equipped, Japan’s was too.

A house she identified as belonging to a Japanese industrialist was found, and she found this man’s principle businesses included manufacturing all kinds of radio equipment, so this house was scratched from the list of possible suspect facilities. Another house, quite small by local standards, was built across the valley from the main ski area, and this house had a modest installation. She had difficulty finding out who owned the house, which immediately increased her level of suspicion. It took a few days digging in the library and in the building permits office to locate even a sliver of information, and this indicated that a lawyer in Berne owned the house. Colonel Goodman set up surveillance on this firm and soon found that about a quarter of their income derived from unspecified business and legal consulting fees, and these fees were paid from an account that seemed to be in Panama City. More research revealed that these Panamanian accounts were fed by banks in Medellin, Colombia.

The colonel then sent two teams back to Davos; one to monitor all COMMS into and out of the suspect house, and the other to break-in and plant monitoring devices within this home and around the grounds. Within a month Goodman’s assets figured out that the Medellin Cartel was coordinating drug deliveries all over western Europe through this house and, as well, when ‘wet work’ was ordered by Escobar or his lieutenants, assassins were dispatched and their actions coordinated by the people stationed there.

Goodman then did something very uncharacteristic at this point; he ordered that the house be destroyed, and in such a way that maximum loss of personnel would be guaranteed. In fact, he wanted a display of force so large that it would send a crystal clear message to Escobar: we know who you are, what you’re up to, and if you don’t knock it off – you’ll be next.

The nearest house was a hundred and thirty meters away, so ancillary damage would be limited to broken glass and, hopefully, little more than that. Teams were moved into place, equipment and explosives delivered. Personnel movements inside the house were recorded and tallied, patterns analyzed, and then…decisions made.

 A few weeks later the Swiss night was split open when a blast, estimated to have been caused by a ton and a half of C4, rocked the valley. After the smoke cleared and as investigators moved-in to sift through the rubble, telltale signs emerged that drugs were being processed on site and reporters soon lost interest in the story. Images taken by a reporter in a helicopter revealed a blast crater fifty meters in diameter and ten meters deep, yet no one thought this unusual.

Yet in the aftermath, the volume of radiotelephone traffic in and around Medellin, Colombia, picked up dramatically. The colonel’s radio intercept teams were in place and ready for the deluge, yet it turned out that no one was ready or even in a position to counter what Pablo Escobar had in mind…

_________________________________

“So, tell me what actions we have taken so far?” Pablo Escobar said to the group assembled in the large living room of his estancia’s main house.

“We are sending coded messages to our partners indicating that we believe this action was undertaken by criminal elements in Italy,” a former KGB officer said, looking directly at Escobar. “We know the Americans and Germans have intercepted these messages…”

“And how do we know this?” Escobar asked quietly, looking at the lone female in the room.

“Our listening station in Arlington, Virginia picked up calls between FBI headquarters and CIA Langley,” Stacy Bennett said. “These messages repeated the Mafia connection we planted.”

“So,” Escobar continued, “they don’t know that we know the Americans did this to us? Is that correct?”

Stacy nodded. “That would appear to be the case, yes.”

“Appear to be?” Escobar chided. “You mean you are not sure.”

“The intercepts back up this assertion,” the ex-KGB field officer said. “Even intercepts in Naples back this up.”

“So why are you still unsure?” Escobar, looking pointedly at Bennett.

“Because I can’t believe Reagan would order such a strike on Swiss soil.”

“So,” the ex-KGB officer sneered, “who do you think did this?”

“The Israelis,” she replied, matter-of-factly.

The Russian smirked, shook his head. “They have nothing to gain. Why would they do this?”

“Revenge is,” Bennett said. “the oldest motive in the world.”

“For killing a crazy woman, the wife of a lowly cop?” the Russian added, his voice incredulous. “You can’t be serious.”

Escobar looked at her, nodding: “What about Reagan? Do we have a schedule of his movements?”

“He’s flying out to Santa Barbara in two weeks, going to spend time at his ranch.” Bennett replied.

“And we have the Stingers in California, correct?”

“We have three in place, but that won’t be enough.”

“Why not?” Escobar demanded angrily.

“Air Force One carries enough electronic and physical countermeasures to deal with six incoming missiles, both heat-seeking and radar guided. Again, and I’ve mentioned this before, you’ll need a swarm of Stingers, at least eight, preferably ten to twelve, to engage this aircraft while on final approach. And don’t forget, there will be F-15s right off each wingtip…”

“And you think these pilots would intercept incoming missiles with their own aircraft?”

“Yes, I do,” Bennett said. “As I mentioned in my plan, it would be best to have three to four teams in a staggered array around the approach to the runway, with each team carrying at least four Stingers. F-15 escorts will move to block one team’s launch, then the others will fire from their positions of concealment. So, the attack comes from multiple directions, and from staggered distances. Such an attack cannot be defeated.”

“So,” Escobar added, “We need ten more missiles in California within the week?”

“The more teams we have in place, each with four missiles, the more likely we are to achieve surprise and take out the target.”

“And Yuri, you are sure you can make the effort look like it was a Russian operation?”

“That is not a problem.”

“Harry? Can you get us in close. I need to see that guy’s face.”

A chord swirled through the fisheye distortion, and there he was.

© 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 Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is 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 cinematic-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 with these fictional characters? 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…]

2 thoughts on “The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 37

  1. It isn’t just the piano, it’s Harry and the piano. Just like his mother and the bearded man with the cane. But this time we can see with him what we couldn’t see with her.

    I had to go back and re-read the first few chapters to refresh my memory. We don’t know what she saw many times, or why, but we can see what Harry sees… hopefully it’ll keep him alive.

    Like

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