The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 39

88th key cover image

Part IV

Chapter 39

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After Callahan returned to work – a week after the shootings at his apartment – he found and read through the material on Jennifer Spencer that the San Paulo PD had provided. He learned nothing new – nothing he didn’t already know; in fact, their response was tentative, almost evasive, and that presented a problem he couldn’t solve here in the city. He talked it over with Frank and decided the best course of action would be to head north and get what he needed.

And he decided now would be a good time to go, in part, because Evelyn had to return to Vermont to take care of matters regarding her separation and divorce, and she’d be gone a while. San Paulo also made sense because the Colonel wanted both he and Frank to be well away from Santa Barbara this coming weekend – because if they were being tailed and they went to Santa Barbara that would, in effect, let Escobar’s people know that they had been ‘found out.’ The Colonel wanted to catch these people red-handed and in the act, and he wanted to interrogate as many of them as possible, so getting Frank and Callahan out of the picture made sense.

San Paulo was about an hours drive north of Sea Ranch, so Callahan drove up Highway 1 and stopped at the construction site and walked through what would soon be his new home. Cathy was there, talking to the GC, the General Contractor, about the best way to insulate the copper roof, and he listened for a while then went to look at the stonemasons as they laid out the path from the house to the top of the cliffs, about twenty feet below. Everything was invisible now, just plans on a piece of paper, but already Callahan could see that these men were in charge of creating the most interesting visual element of the entire project, and he listened intently as they discussed their ideas with him.

Early in the afternoon he drove up to San Paulo, found a place to stay. Wanting to scope out the town, get familiar with his surroundings, he went to the central downtown area, got caught up in a local robbery attempt, chased down and arrested the suspect, saving a local patrolman during the confusion. Good thing, as now he had a few allies in the department.

The local chief was evasive, suspiciously so, but in the end he found Spencer, listened to her story and, after a couple of clashes with the locals he left the detectives there to sort it all out. At least, he thought as he drove back to the city, he knew the story behind the anguished howl in the painting.

Goodman and the FBI caught Escobar’s mercenaries as they prepared to take out Air Force One; five of the mercenaries died in the resulting shootout, one from the Bureau was wounded. Stacy Bennett and the purported ex-KGB agent were not located and so not taken into custody; Goodman was allowed to take two apparent leaders back to Israel for an extended ‘conversation.’ These prisoners were never heard from again.

Evelyn did not return from Vermont. Frank was reluctant to talk about it, but it appeared Evelyn’s so-called ‘ex’ wanted to work on the marriage and she had, to Frank’s surprise, agreed to one last try. Callahan shrugged it off, but Frank could tell he was devastated, but then Callahan got wrapped up in the apparent murder of a drugged-out rocker named Johnny Squares, then got caught up in some scheme to bet on the murder of celebrities. Callahan started seeing a reporter in the aftermath, taking her out to dinner a few times and almost falling into a relationship, but it didn’t take.

And it was during this period that Frank called him into his office one morning…

“I’ve finally been to see my GP. I may have to take an extended leave of absence; I’m not sure yet but I wanted to let you know.”

“What’s going on, Frank?”

“Like I said, Harry. Not sure yet. And I don’t want to play forty guesses, either. They’re going to run some tests, that’s all I do know. When I know more I’ll let you know, but in the meantime I need you to clear your deck, get ready to take over running homicide while I’m out…”

“What? Why not Delgetti? He’s senior to me and…”

“And he’s got two years on me, Harry. He’s put in his papers, going to retire at the end of December.”

“And Carl? He’s younger than I am…?”

“And he’s not leadership material, Callahan. And you know it.”

“And you think I am? Man alive, Frank…”

“That kid you found, Collins, he’s taking the test next week. If his scores are decent I’d expect him to start with CID the first of November. He should finish up at Academy mid-December, and we should have him right after that. There’s another applicant, a patrolwoman, I hope will come over to homicide, too.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Her name is Betty Davis, too…”

“You’re shitting me.”

“Nope, and take my word for it…she don’t look anything like Betty Davis.”

“I could care less. Who found her?”

“I did. She was working patrol, picked up a few key witnesses that no-one else found, ran down pivotal information. I think she’ll fit in, too. Ballsy, doesn’t take shit off anyone.”

“Who do you want to run with her?”

“If I’m not available give her to Carl, or maybe Albertsson. I’m assuming you want to take Collins with you for a while?”

“Maybe for the first month, yeah.”

“I hate to get off topic here, but have you decided how long you’re going to stay in?”

“No.”

“Another thing. I know it’s been a while, but I heard from Evie last night. Things aren’t going well, and, well, she asked about you.”

“Okay.”

“I think what she was asking was, well, did she burn that bridge?”

“What do you mean, Frank?”

“If she came back out here, would you be interested in seeing her?”

Callahan shook his head. “I don’t know. The whole thing hurt pretty bad for a while. I’m not sure how I feel.”

“Fair enough. Cathy asked about you. You haven’t been up to see the house, so she wanted me to let you know that the masons are finishing up this week. If you could come up this weekend you’ll see some real progress.”

“Really? Good, I’ll be up Saturday morning unless something hits.”

“It usually does.”

“You need anyone to go with you to any of these appointments, you let me know.”

“I will.”

“What about Cathy? Does she know?”

“Nothing, for now. And I want to keep it that way until I know what I’m up against. Evelyn, too.”

“Okay. Understood.”

“Had breakfast? I feel the need for pancakes right now.”

“You’re not gaining weight, are you?”

“Nope, down five in two weeks.”

“Shit.”

“Yup. So, you hungry?”

“Always. Let’s hit it. The breakfast rush should be winding down right about now.”

They drove over in silence, and in the same car – which was a break in their routine – but they got a table and ordered. Callahan got some crab with his eggs – really unusual for him – while Frank stuck with his double order of chocolate chip and banana pancakes, and whole milk, of course.

“So, what’s with Evelyn?”

“She wouldn’t tell me exactly, but I got the impression he went after her again. She’s moving all her stuff to storage, anyway. That’s probably a good indicator that she’s done.”

“What does he do?”

“He’s a pathologist. What – you mean, she didn’t tell you?”

“I never asked. I don’t really want to know. At least, I didn’t.”

“What’s changed?”

“I don’t know. Everything seemed so good between us, and them – bam! – like out of the blue. It hit me hard, Frank.”

“I know. I think it hit her bad, too. Lots of regret in her voice. Like she feels she blew it, like she…”

“Doesn’t matter now, Frank.”

“Oh? Okay. Too bad, I guess. Like I said, what you two had looked like the real thing.”

“I thought so too.”

“Well, what will be, will be.”

“You should write songs, Frank.”

“Yeah. Right.”

They both laughed nervously at that, if only because talk of Callahan’s piano had become an off limits topic. They were both afraid of the hit it took on Callahan after there last ‘sighting’ – as they called it – so any talk of music carried a little extra weight now.

“When’s the last time you saw Didi?”

“Right after the funeral, I guess.”

“So, it’s been a while?”

“Yeah.”

“She just stays in the house, the one in Davos?”

“Yup. She still does stuff for the colonel though.”

“Spook stuff?”

“I guess.”

“How often do you talk to her?”

“Once a week, usually.”

“Do you think about her much? I mean, she’s a real cute gal…”

“Too many memories tied up in her, ya know? I think of her and all I see is Avi and my mom, and the colonel…”

Bullitt nodded, but he looked a little amused, too. “Ya know, when I saw you two at that house I thought you’d end up together.”

“I leaned on her a lot, I guess.”

“She seems dependable. And honest.”

Callahan nodded. “What are you driving at, Frank?”

“Loose ends, I guess. Tying up a few.”

“What, before you go?”

“I’m worried, Harry.”

“Yeah, I know. I can see it in your eyes.”

“What about your dad…and that shrink?”

Callahan had to control his urge to laugh out loud. “He never knew what hit him, Frank. She’s a tornado.”

“Oh?”

“Whips and chains, black leather stuff, the whole nine yards.”

Bullitt leaned back, grinning like a madman. “No shit? I’d have given anything to see your dad react to that…”

“He turns away when people kiss in the movies. I think it embarrasses him.”

“Oh, man, she must’ve torn him a new one.”

“Still, he seemed to like her. Kind of surprising he’d give up on that. Oh, by the way, Cathy’s pregnant…”

Callahan almost didn’t catch that, then he did a double take: “What did you say?”

“Yup…she’s preggers. Two months along.”

Harry held out his hand and Frank took it: “Congrats, Dad. I mean it, this is really good news.”

Bullitt looked away for a moment. “Yeah, of course. Still, I have a favor to ask.”

“Anything.”

“If, you know, if I’m not around – for some reason – I’d like you to keep an eye on things, make sure…”

“I will, Frank. Count on it.”

“You, like, know what I’m talking about, right?”

Harry nodded. “Don’t give it another thought.”

“Thanks, Harry.”

“Anyway, let’s talk about something else. The weather, maybe?”

“I’ve written out a few things. Ya know, just in case.”

“Good idea. I have too. Better to be prepared for the unexpected.”

“Yeah,” Frank said, his voice trembling, his hands moving nervously now.

Their breakfasts came and Harry tried not to look concerned, but Frank picked at his food now. He said he was starving one minute, and the next he had no appetite.

So, they picked at their food, at a loss for what to talk about next.

Then Frank’s ‘beeper’ went off; he checked the caller’s number and shook his head. “Dispatch.”

“Want me to call in?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, would you?”

Callahan nodded and walked back to the payphone by the restrooms and called dispatch.

“Callahan, calling in for Homicide.”

“Callahan? Are you 71?”

“Affirmative.”

“Oh, okay. Anyway, we got units out on a body at Marshall Beach, close to Helmet Rock. Patrol unit at that twenty calling for a homicide investigator.”

“Alright, show Inspectors 71 and 50 en route to that location.”

“We’ll show you Code five at 0955 hours.”

He hung up and went back to the table; Bullitt was doubled over and sweating profusely.

“Do we need to go to General?” Callahan asked.

Frank sat up and shook his head. “No. What do we have?”

“Body out at Marshall Beach.”

“Okay. Let’s go,” Frank said, dropping a ten on the table. “You get the next one.”

“Yeah. Mind if I drive?”

“I think you’d better,” Frank said, handing over his keys. “And take Lombard. It’s faster.”

“Yes, dear.”

Traffic was light and just before the Golden Gate Bridge they turned for the beach, taking Veterans to Kobbe. Callahan parked by a covey of patrol cars, their reds and blues still flashing, and he scowled when he saw the size of the crowd that had already gathered along the Battery/Bluffs trail.

“Well, that’s not good,” Bullitt said, looking at the size of the crowd as he got out of the car.

They walked down to the beach and no-one challenged them, because no-one was working crowd control, and both of them got madder and madder the closer they got to the body. Two patrolmen were standing there, staring at the body – along with several hundred passersby – and neither said a word when Callahan walked right up to the body and knelt beside it.

Bullitt was fuming as he walked up to the two officers.

“Do either of you clowns know what you’re doing?”

One of them turned to Bullitt. “And just who the fuck are you?”

Bullitt took his badge case from his jacket and handed the officer his card – which identified him as the Head of Homicide, Central Division.

“What the hell took you guys so long?” the officer said.

“Who’s your sergeant this morning?”

“Tucker,” the guy said.

“Okay, you two take off. Call your sergeant and have him meet us down here.”

“Hey, it’s my call!” the second cop said.

“Don’t worry,” Bullitt said, grinning now. “I’ll see to it that you both get mentioned in my report.”

They left and Callahan began barking at the pedestrians, telling them to move off the beach and to get back to the trail as he walked back to their car. He called dispatch, had them get CSU and a photographer headed their way, as well as a coroner’s unit, then he switched over to the tactical frequency and called the district lieutenant, asked him to come to the scene.

When the lieutenant arrived on scene he seemed perturbed by all the pedestrian traffic in and around the site, and Bullitt told him what he and Callahan had found.

“Who were the officers out here,” the incensed lieutenant wanted to know.

“Reynolds and Taylor,” Callahan said, consulting his notepad.

“Oh, them,” the lieutenant said. “Not much I can do about those two.”

“What do you mean?” Bullitt asked, clearly surprised.

“The Chief hired them. Circumvented the whole process. They already have Peace Officer certifications from some shit agency in the valley, so they didn’t even go through the Academy.”

Bullitt just stared at the lieutenant, not understanding a word he heard. What the man said wasn’t possible…it had never happened before.

“So, you’re telling me there are two San Francisco PD cops on the beat who don’t know what the hell they’re doing?”

“It’s more like twenty, maybe twenty-five. That I know of, anyway.”

“What kind of work do they turn in?”

“As little as possible. The quality is bad, too, whenever they bother.”

“Could you get a perimeter set up, maybe a little crowd control,” Bullitt said, shaking his head, and the lieutenant got on his hand unit and called a few units he knew were regulars, and who, presumably, could get the job done.

Callahan had returned to the scene and was simply stunned by what he’d found. A white male, probably in his fifties, appeared to have been tossed out of an aircraft and had landed face down on the sand. Blood-splatters from the impact were arrayed in a complete circle around the victim; some larger droplets, or splatters, were more than fifteen feet from the body, and it would take some hard math to work out the results, but Callahan guessed the body had been dropped from a height of five thousand feet.

The victim had unusual clothing on, but nothing to indicate he was a paratrooper, for instance, only a nondescript sport coat, slacks, and two-tone wing-tips. No wallet, no ID. Callahan lifted a finger and all the carpal bones had literally shattered on impact, so he already knew the autopsy was going to a godawful mess. Impacts like this usually turned all the internal organs to jelly, the brain too, so getting even basic toxicology results would be next to impossible. Even fingerprints could be distorted by these types of forces…

Callahan was so engrossed he didn’t hear the Crime Scene techs arrive on scene, but the photographer managed to get his attention…

“Inspector? What do need me to photograph?”

“Got a macro-lens, maybe a ring-light handy?”

“Sure.”

“All the bones seem to have shattered on impact, and I mean they’re pulverized. Fingers, arms, legs…everything. I don’t know how, but get that. I also will need blood splatter patterns, like if you could somehow get up above the body and take some shots looking down, with distance markers.”

“What are you hoping to get?”

“Enough data to get a height.”

The assistant coroner arrived and surveyed the scene. “Man, it’s gonna look like spaghetti and meatballs when we cut this guy open…”

Callahan looked at the girl and shook his head, turned away from her crude humor, now simply tired of it.

“Maybe he cheated, ya know?” she added. “Moved from coach up to first class without paying?”

“You can grow up anytime now,” Callahan snarled. “I won’t tell.”

“Ooh, don’t get your panties in a wad…”

“And,” Callahan added, “don’t move the body until the guy with the camera around his neck says it’s okay. Got that?”

She stuck out her lower lip, pouting: “Want me to work up a time of death?”

“If possible, yes; that would be a big help.” Callahan turned away from the girl, turned and looked down the beach, and for a moment he thought he saw someone standing there – it looked like the Old Man in the Cape – then he blinked once and the image of the man was gone. A moment later the Old Man was standing next to him, staring at the corpse on the beach.

“Not a good death,” the Old Man said. “They shot him in both kneecaps before they threw him out of their aircraft.”

“How do you know?” Callahan asked, and the Coroner’s assistant turned and looked at him.

“Know what?” she asked.

“Nothing. Just thinking out load.”

“Great. A schizo detective.”

The Old Man coughed once – gently – as his gaze shifted to the girl. “She’s a sad one. She’ll contract Aids in two years, lose her job and commit suicide. The man here was one of Escobar’s lieutenants, he took the blame for the failed attempt in Santa Barbara. Check the lining of the man’s jacket, you’ll find a store label on the left inner pocket. The store is in Bogota, if I’m not mistaken.”

Now not knowing what to think, Callahan turned and looked for Bullitt; he was still talking to that lieutenant up by the trail so he turned back to the crime scene photographer. “Jim, see if you can get images of his kneecaps; I think I see something, maybe exit wounds?”

“Okay, Inspector, will do.”

“And check his coat for labels, maybe we can find out something from that.”

“Got it.”

Bullitt was walking down to him now, so he headed off to meet him half way. “I just had a little visit,” he said, his voice a covert whisper. “Our vic was involved with the planning in Santa Barbara.”

Bullitt turned to face him, the question plain to see on his face. 

“I know. I think it has to do with the ‘sightings’ we’ve made. There’s someone who shows up from time to time…”

“Oh, joy,” Frank moaned, “this just gets better and better.”

“I know how it sounds, but the truth of the matter is the same guy showed up all during my mother’s life…”

“Um, okay. Yeah. That sounds about right.”

“He just told me the guy was kneecapped, and that his jacket has a label inside from a store in Bogota.”

“Nice. Did he happen to tell you who did it, too? Maybe we could put him on the payroll.”

“He simply said he was one of Escobar’s lieutenants, taking the blame for Santa Barbara.”

“Well, let’s go find out. You take the knees; I’ll check the jacket.”

“Right.” They turned and walked back down to the corpse, and the photographer was shooting away, taking pictures of the knees and legs.

“I got exit wounds, Inspector. Both knees. How on earth did you see those?”

Callahan shrugged. “Lucky guess.”

“Let’s see if we can check this guy’s jacket for ID,” Bullitt said, and the Coroner’s Assistant helped Frank gently slide the jacket through the sand. The first thing Bullitt found was a store label. Bogota. Plain as day. “Pictures of this, Jim. Harry? Let’s take a walk.”

They walked down to the surf, looked out to sea.

“You do know this is getting to be a little too much, right?”

“He’s never done anything like this before.”

“You mean…you’ve seen him before?”

Callahan nodded.

Frank shook his head, turned around and looked at the victim again. “If we have enough in the way of fingerprints we need to send them off to Interpol, see what turns up.”

“Maybe a long shot,” Harry added, “but we could try Colombia. Goodman would know who to get in touch with.”

“Okay, you handle that end, I’ll sit through the autopsy and get to work on the store label. If the CSU recovers anything we can sort out ballistics later on this afternoon.”

Callahan looked down. “The dispatcher who called us?”

“Yeah?”

“Didn’t sound like one of ours.”

“What do you mean?”

“We were supposed to get this call, Frank. No one else in the department knows anything at all about Santa Barbara, or Escobar…”

“You know what, Harry? This is way over my pay-grade, okay? Maybe you should just keep this crap to yourself from now on…”

“Inspector?” one of the CSU techs called out. “We need some ideas here.”

“Come on,” Frank sighed, “what could possibly go wrong now?”

They walked over to the corpse, and Frank and Harry immediately saw the problem. When the techs tried to turn the body it just came apart in their hands…

And in an instant the old man was there, standing right beside Bullitt this time.

“Who the hell are you?” Frank asked.

“Tell them to call the Anthropology Department,” the Old Man in the Cape said, “at Stanford University. They’d be more than happy to come down and lend a hand. Would you like their number, Lieutenant?”

Bullitt, now wide-eyed and feeling a sudden, overwhelming need to urinate, repeated the instructions.

“Sure Lieutenant, go ahead.”

“I think the current number is area code 650-723-34…”

Bullitt repeated the number and the tech thanked him.

“Uh, Harry?”

“Yes, Frank.”

“Harry? I think I need a drink.”

“Some whole milk, perhaps?”

“Harry?”

“Yes, Frank.”

“Fuck you, Harry. And the horse you rode in on.”

Callahan chuckled then turned, and he saw the Old Man walking down the beach. With a flourish he twirled his cane around the sky once, and slammed the tip into the sand…

Thunder rumbled out past the Golden Gate, and lightning ripped across the sky.

Bullitt turned and faced the lightning, his body seemingly lit up from within – and when Callahan saw his friend like that the dread he’d been feeling all morning came to the surface. He turned and walked back to the surf – but this time he walked in up to his knees and held his hands in the water for a while.

When he walked out of the water everyone – except Bullitt – was looking at him, wondering what the hell had just happened. He walked up to the road and found Frank sitting on the front right fender of their department car, his legs dangling over the side like a kids.

“Harry, you’re all wet.”

“Thanks, I hadn’t noticed.”

“That old man…did you see him do that with his cane?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Did he, ya know, like cause that thunder and lightning?”

Callahan shrugged. “I really don’t know, but sometimes it seems that way.”

“But it’s happened before?”

Callahan nodded and Frank looked down at the ground, shook his head.

“This shit happened to your mom?”

Again, Callahan just nodded.

“And somehow all this stuff, the sightings, the Old Man, these other things you’ve been seeing lately…all of it is somehow related to music…?”

“At this point, Frank, all I can say is maybe, but I really don’t know. It seems that way, but I just don’t know.”

“I hate to say this, but we need to find out where Stacy is, but we need to take care of…”

Callahan nodded. “I know. It’s going to be tough.”

“Yeah. On you, not for me. And somehow that ain’t fair.”

“What did that lieutenant have to say?”

“Nothing good. We’ve got some research to do, but I think we’re going to learn that we’ve got a bunch of these people in the department now, and probably every one of them came on since the mayor appointed our new chief.”

Callahan swallowed hard. This wasn’t just a few rogue motor-jocks running around shooting hoods. No, what Bullitt was saying was simple enough for anyone to understand: the department was being taken over by some kind of outside group, therefore the normal kinds of checks and balances the department used to discipline and constrain illegal or unjustified behavior would be eroded over time, and in time perhaps no longer apply. What would happen when a ‘critical mass’ of these new ‘recruits’ was achieved? What would the department become? And how would ‘the people’ respond to a new, potentially abusive power structure taking control of their city?

_________________________________

Bullitt met with two sergeants that seemed to be keeping tabs on all these new recruits, the ones coming from small PDs in the valley and that were being allowed to by-pass the department’s normal academy. What they reported was staggering.

“In the past year, I’ve tallied fifty of these new recruits on day shift, and in just two districts. These new guys keep to themselves, turn in reports to just one or two sergeants, and you can’t discipline them for minor policy violations.”

“Same here,” the evening shift sergeant added. “The only other common denominator I can see is that all of them have recent military experience, and most of them are coming out of Fort Bragg. Lots of special forces types train there. My cousin is a Tac sergeant with LAPD, and they’re seeing the same kind of thing, but with a key difference. They’re getting these guys into what you might call middle management first, sergeants and lieutenants not just in patrol division, but in personnel, internal affairs, those kinds of things.”

“It feels like a lot of us old timers are being pushed out, too,” the day shift sergeant added. “In a few years we’ll all be out of the picture. Then what? What kind of agenda will these guys push? I mean, does anyone really know?”

Bullitt felt a little queasy. “So, if I read you correctly, as the military sheds more and more of these guys, and assuming they have nowhere else to go to find work, pretty soon we’ll have in effect a huge para-military force occupying the country. Is that about right?”

Both sergeants nodded, but the evening shift sergeant added a few more thoughts before he got up and walked out of the room. “My biggest concern? Who’s in charge of these guys? The new chief? He came out of Bragg, but he was also DIA. You got that, man? That’s the fucking Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s version of the CIA. If the military is slowly taking over all the major police departments in the country, what the fuck happens when we get a civilian government giving these guys the go-ahead? The people aren’t going to know what the fuck hit ‘em, ya know?”

_______________________________

“Harry?”

“Yeah Frank.”

“Mind if I come over?”

“No, I’m just folding some laundry.”

“Be over in about fifteen.”

“Door’s open. Got a few cold ones in the fridge, just in case.”

“Thanks.”

Callahan put away his clothes and took his Smith from the shoulder holster in the closet, put it on the coffee table with his cleaning kit. He disassembled the revolver, cleaned everything with Hoppe’s Number 9 and rotated his ammunition, loading fresh Silvertips in the cylinder after he reassembled everything. Then he took his shoulder holster and saddle-soaped it, then wiped it down with mink oil, planning to let the preservative soak into the leather for a few hours before buffing it out. 

Bullitt walked in the door while he was applying the mink oil, and one look at Frank was all it took…he put everything aside and walked over, helped him out of his jacket.  There were a couple of gauze pads taped on his right arm and Frank looked pale as a ghost.

“Beer or orange juice?” Callahan asked.

“Juice, I guess.”

“Sit down, take a load off.”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

Callahan poured two glasses and went to his chair and sat, handing Frank his glass as he plopped down on the sofa. “So, did they put you through the wringer?”

“A-yup.”

“And?”

“It looks like pancreatic cancer. They’re going to do some kind of biopsy tomorrow morning, see how advanced it is.”

“Jesus, Frank…”

“Anyway, the doc said the best case is a year, worst case three to four months.”

“You gonna get a second opinion?”

“No, the guy is a professor at the medical school. He probably hasn’t made a mistake since Truman was in office.”

“When are you going to tell Cathy?”

“I don’t know. I wanted to talk to you about that first.”

“Okay. Fire away.”

“I don’t want to do it alone, ya know? I’d like you there, maybe Sam and Dell, too.”

“Okay, I’ll take care of it. When?”

“Maybe this weekend,” Frank said, passing a little note to Callahan.

“Alright.” Callahan said as he read the note: ‘Our houses have been bugged. Goodman knows about it, he’s working on a back-trace.’ Callahan nodded, crumbled the paper. “Do you want Carl to come, too,” he asked.

“Yeah, and while your at it, I think Evelyn ought to be here. What do you think?”

“Yup. No way I’d keep her out of the loop at this point. I’ll call her tonight.”

“Thanks, Harry.”

“Anything I can do for you? Like, is there anything special you want to do?”

“You know, I think I’ve read about three books since I got out of academy – that didn’t have something to do with police work, anyway. One of them really made a big impression on me. A book by a guy named Clavell. Shogun. Do you know it?”

“No. About the only thing I read these days has something to do with flying.”

“Oh, well. I kind of wish you would.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, Harry. It’s kind of hard to explain, but ever since I read it I’ve become more and more interested in Japan…”

“Japan? Really?”

“Anyway, I was thinking, maybe it would be fun to go there with your dad. You know, when he gets back, maybe we could talk to him about it.”

“We?”

“Yeah. I want to go there, with you and maybe Cathy. There are things there I want to see, to experience, ya know, before…I can’t.”

“So, I have to ask, but have you turned in your papers?”

“Not yet. I kind of wanted to see what you’re going to do.”

“Well, then I guess we go down together and turn ‘em in at the same time,” Callahan said.

“I was hoping you’d say that. I don’t think there’s a place for us here any more, you know? Not with all this shit.”

Callahan nodded. He’d been thinking about it for a few days, thinking about the next chapter of his life, and thinking that it was time to make a move. “So, I guess I’m going to the bookstore tonight. Shogun, you said?”

“Yeah. I think you’ll like it. It’s a story about someone kind of like, well, you know, someone facing impossible odds and somehow managing to survive. When does your dad get back from that African run?”

“No idea. I’ll have to call the office. Anyway, I’d better go with you in the morning, ya know?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind.”

“You going to drive out to the ranch tonight?”

“I ought to, but I don’t think I can face Cathy tonight.”

“I’ll call her in a while, tell her we’re working something.”

“Thanks.”

“Why don’t you go sack out; I’ll take the sofa.”

“You don’t mind?”

“I end up here most nights, anyway. No biggie.”

“Thanks, Harry.”

Callahan watched his friend disappear behind a door that was at once both familiar and strange, and suddenly nothing mattered more than seeing his friend through what was waiting just ahead.

________________________________

Sam and Elaine Bennett had moved to Santa Cruz, to a little bungalow on 3rd Street between Atlantic and the beach, and they still had a nice backyard, nice enough for one of Sam’s legendary hot dog roasts, anyway. Almost everyone was there, and by now everyone knew the score – even Cathy.

“Harry’s picking up Evie at SFO. They should be here by six,” Bullitt said as he and Cathy walked out into the yard. Sam had grayed considerably, had put on about twenty pounds and grown a beard that would rival Kris Kringle’s. He had just built a huge brick bar-b-que grill and was showing-off his handiwork to Dell and Carl when Frank came waltzing out, and it seemed like everyone stopped talking and then rushed to Frank’s side.

Elaine was first at his side, thrusting a fresh squeezed cherry limeade in his hands as she pecked his cheek. “So good to see you,” she said as she squeezed him too, and she meant it – despite everything that had happened.

“Get on over here and take a seat,” Sam bellowed. “You can help me fan the grill!”

Delgetti was the most affected, hardly able to make eye contact with anyone and shuffling around nervously, hoping to avoid the obvious for as long as he could. Carl stood dutifully beside his Captain, doing whatever he could to prolong the moment.

Because there was something in the air tonight. Like a sudden realization…like maybe how many more times would this little band of brothers be able to come together like this? Like…maybe never?

So by the time Callahan and Evelyn arrived the mood in Sam’s little backyard was a curious mix Saturday Night Live and a funeral. The established order of the universe had been ripped asunder, and here they were dangling on unknown breezes, waiting for the big bang.

Evelyn provided that little bang. She walked over to her big brother and gave him one of those hugs that lasts a little too long, and when she pulled away her eyes were red, and so were his.

Sam’s oldest boy was supposed to drop by later, make the drive down from Berkeley, and though his daughter was in the kitchen with Elaine, the absence of Chip cast another – though largely unseen – pall. But then the steaks came off the grill, Elaine’s salads were set-out on two redwood picnic tables and everyone’s drinks were refreshed. Frank sat between Cathy and Callahan, drinking it all in, lost in the wonder of how something so simple could also feel like something eternal, like everyone was here sitting for the Last Supper, every last one of them knowing the outcome was preordained. 

When everyone finished they all walked down to the beach, threw blankets on the sand and Sam built a roaring fire in a concrete pit. A tumbling surf in the distance, embers rising on unseen currents, life in the balance beneath a dome of stars cast like jewels across a black velvet sky.

And in the shadows two hundred yards away, Stacy Bennett lay in the back of a van with a riflescope at her right eye. She placed her finger on the trigger and gently squeezed…

© 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…]

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