The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 40

88th key cover image

Part V

Chapter 40

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After Callahan returned to work, Didi Goodman settled into a new, though somewhat less exciting routine. She continued to look after Callahan’s accounts and to take care of the house in Davos, just as she had for well over a year now, but she also continued working for her father. In effect, then, she was still working for the Mossad – with all the danger that life entailed. Her first real assignment had been tracking down the communications nexus operated by the Cartel, the one that had resulted in the calamitous explosion across the valley, but as she had, in effect, proven herself with this operation more assignments were sure to follow.

And they had.

Didi Goodman had always done well in school, and only poor vision had kept her out of the Israeli Air Force. She excelled at math and physics and could have easily taken the path most with her skillset chose to follow, but a life in university culture had never really appealed to her. Talking to her father about where she might best find a higher level of excitement than teaching remedial algebra to bored undergrads, he suggested she put her talents to use working for the intelligence services. Communications and Analysis, he advised, would keep her in the thick of things.

Of course, Colonel Goodman quite naturally wanted to keep his daughter out of field operations – and all the inherent risks that went along with working deep undercover assignments in often hostile environments. Avi Rosenthal had been instrumental in recruiting her, and to positioning her in Davos. Avi’s choice had been deliberate, and carefully considered.

Already a feature of economic life, the Davos Conferences had taken on a more prominent role in the formulation of the West’s economic strategy for confronting the Soviet Union and, as a result, semi-official consular offices began to spring up all over the valley. This was in an era long before cellular data transmission, and though encrypted UHF burst-packet technology was already in use, such advanced technology was usually limited to military communications. As a result, VHF radio communications, what some people might remember as Ham radio, was still very much in use; most of the bigger consular operations in and around Davos relied on this type of radio communication to relay sensitive information to their parent countries.

Didi Goodman built her first Ham radio before she was in her teens and her interest never waned. Before it was commonplace, she bounced microwave and UHF radio signals off the moon, trying to get faster, more useful data transmission rates out of increasingly obsolete technology, so moving her to Davos made sense. Israel needed a clear picture of American and Western European economic policy thinking before they became public policy, if only to survive in the bi-polar world of the Cold War. And when Davos became a center for such thinking, Avi Rosenthal made sure he got Israel in the game.

But the world was changing. It was becoming apparent that the Soviet Union was crumbling under the weight of so many structural incongruities, yet China was ascendant. The various kingdoms around the Persian Gulf were problematic, too. And as a result Davos was becoming a focal point of economic policy making for countries all around the globe. Keeping Israel informed in this evolving arena was crucial, so placing Didi Goodman at the center of operations reflected the tremendous confidence both Avi and the Colonel had in her abilities.

Still, Avi’s unexpected death had thrown a wrench into the Colonel’s plans. Israel wasn’t particularly interested in a bunch of cops going rogue in California, but by the mid-1980s Israel wasn’t in a position to buy property in the Davos area without arousing a lot of suspicion. Avi’s decision to buy a house in Davos back in the 60s had been scoffed at, but now it was considered prescient; more importantly, keeping the house in Israeli hands was now deemed a matter of national security.

And Harry Callahan presented an almost ‘too good to be true’ opportunity; Israel could, in effect, keep all its operational capability intact, yet any inquiries made about the property would reveal that it was owned by a Californian, and a gentile at that. Letting Didi take over Callahan’s financial affairs tied the Mossad directly to Harry Callahan, so keeping Callahan safe became an operational consideration of the Mossad.

Even with an ex-KGB agent on staff, Pablo Escobar was an impulsive man who simply could not maintain operational discipline up and down his supply chain. Various subgroups within the Cartel were easily penetrated – as Callahan had done in Oakland – and Goodman’s teams kept a constant watch on the Cartel’s moves and counter-moves after it became apparent the Cartel was bankrolling subversive activities in the United States. More recently, after the Air Force One ‘near miss’ the FBI and CIA were all over Escobar and the Cartel, but the net result was to drive their activities deeper underground. Harder to detect now, everyone was dumping more and more assets onto the case, and unfortunately for Escobar, Didi Goodman was one of those.

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Didi Goodman took Sara Callahan’s murder personally.

In a very real sense, she considered herself Harry Callahan’s fiduciary protector, and she took that role seriously. After Sara’s murder this changed. She began to follow his activities in increasing detail, deciding to move more assets to the Bay Area to keep a closer eye on him. When one of her communications experts discovered that members of the Harry’s team were being surveilled, their houses bugged and their cars followed again, she alerted the Colonel, who then shifted even more assets to San Francisco. One of them was his daughter.

She was installed in a small apartment the Colonel maintained above the Rosenthal Music Company, and she began coordinating the movements of two dozen agents around San Francisco and Oakland. She had informed Frank Bullitt that their homes had been bugged, but she had asked that he not tell Callahan she was in the City. She listened when, not an hour later, Bullitt told Callahan about his diagnosis, about the procedure he would undergo the next morning. She took notes, understood immediately that the Colonel would have to be informed, but then she had listened in horror as Bullitt asked Harry to set up a weekend party at Sam Bennett’s house. 

Why, she wondered, had Frank just told the opposition the entire team would be gathering next weekend? And even where they’d gather…? Perhaps it was because of the things weighing on his mind now, but Bullitt had just thrown the most basic fieldcraft out the window. When she talked to her father about it, he seemed surprised yet almost unconcerned. Of course he knew the whole picture while she only knew one little piece of the puzzle, but she had expected him to be at least a little perturbed.

By the time Callahan left for the airport to pick up Evelyn, Didi Goodman had a dozen agents working the Santa Cruz area; when the red sedan Stacy Bennett had rented in Oakland arrived and parked down by the beach, everything was over but the actual deed.

Until they discovered Stacy Bennett wasn’t behind the wheel of the red sedan. Then the operational tempo became a little more frantic, a little less rehearsed. They couldn’t go from car to car, house to house, or even tree to tree without tipping their hand, letting Stacy know she was blown and giving her an opportunity to escape once again.

When Callahan and his friends moved down to the beach, Didi understood why the red sedan had parked there. It was a signal. As soon as it moved that would let the shooter know it was time to get into position. Didi knew this because the move was basic KGB fieldcraft…

‘KGB…?’ she thought, now alarmed. Were they involved too, or had Escobar managed to snag a few recruits?

Dropping a false flag like this was pure KGB, pure Grassy Knoll stuff. Plant a shitty sniper in the Book Depository while the real shooters worked the hedges on top of the grassy knoll, out of sight and out of mind. Now, with the sun setting she scanned the cars parked down by the beach…

Every car she saw was empty except for two surfer vans; both were topped with rooftop racks packed with surfboards. The yellow one had windows, the black one didn’t…

The sun slipped below the horizon, fire pits up and down the beach began blazing and then a man walked up to the red sedan and got behind the wheel. He held a walkie-talkie to his face then drove off; now clearly concerned, Didi got out of her car and decided to check out the two vans.

As she got close to the yellow van a gaggle of kids, sloshed on Pagan Pink Ripple and two still toying with doobies walked up to the yellow van and got in. The black one was a hundred yards away, and she’d just started jogging in that direction when one of the back doors opened just a few inches…

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Evelyn sat beside Callahan, clearly ill-at-ease with how the evening had gone so far. She had tried to talk to him in the car on the ride in from the airport but he had seemed uncomfortable and she didn’t push him. Same thing at dinner. She tried to make small talk with him and he turned away, talked to Sam or Delgetti, and after a while she had turned to Elaine.

‘So, this is it,’ she thought as they’d walked down to the beach. ‘Either he’s done with me or he’s just not ready to go there.’

Callahan was carrying, of course. So was Bullitt. Delgetti and Stanton, too, but in the end it didn’t matter. They were clueless, all of them.

Yet Frank Bullitt was a predator, and he still had peregrine those eyes…always had, but this is a matter of record.

Like any falcon, his eyes were attracted to movement, and even in the near absolute darkness on this beach, his night vision spoiled by firelight, he saw something. Movement…over there…

His eyes searched, his mind analyzed what his eyes saw, his hand went to his shoulder holster and the 45 ACP was just clearing the leather when his mind recognized Didi Goodman…

Callahan’s eyes went to Frank, followed his hand, watching the old Colt break free as his own hand reached for his 44, then he began to stand; losing his footing once on the sand he began to fall. The first bullet – meant for Callahan – wizzed by harmlessly and disappeared into the night…

Didi Goodman flung the van’s door open as a second shot burped from the silenced rifle; she fired three times, killing Stacy Bennett outright and seriously wounding a blond-headed fellow who seemed to speak only Russian. She got on her radio and called-in members of her team, worked to secure the scene until backup arrived.

Frank Bullitt leaned over Cathy, telling her everything would be alright – but the gaping wound on her right shoulder looked dangerously malignant. Paramedics were summoned, sirens blared in the night, and Sam Bennett walked over to the black van and looked at his sister’s body, now quite still in the firelight. He stood there for the longest time lost in wonder, not yet knowing what had gone wrong with her but suddenly very curious.

“Was someone hit?” Didi asked the old captain.

Who nodded slowly. “Cathy.”

“Is she alright?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh, no…”

The Russian disappeared in the night, apparently carried onto a private jet waiting at SFO, an old Lockheed Jetstar bound for points unknown – Switzerland was listed on the flight plan. Some reported seeing a man muscled onboard, his head covered by a black hood, but as usual these things were denied and the story faded into obscurity. 

The Russian arrived at an air base near Tel Aviv the next evening, and despite formidable resistance, in the end he proved quite talkative.

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Sam Bennett seemed a total wreck. First his son, now his sister – even if she had been subverted. He sat on a sofa in the waiting room cradling his wife’s head on his chest.

Delgetti and Stanton had reverted to form; after years of watching Bullitt’s ‘six’ they now stood on either side of his chair, for all intents and purposes looking like a couple of Doberman’s.

Frank Bullitt was sitting still, his form inert, his eyes dangerous – but ten minutes ago he had been pacing the floor in manic despair, bouncing off the walls like he was trapped inside a deranged pinball machine. There had been no news for over an hour.

Then Evelyn pulled Callahan from the group, wanting now more than ever to talk to Harry, to grab hold and never let go of him again.

“Somehow I thought this place would be fancier,” she said.

“What?”

“Well, it’s Stanford, for God’s sake.”

Callahan shrugged. “It’s just another hospital.”

“No, Harry, it isn’t. This is one of the best in the world, if not the best. Did the paramedics decide to bring her here?”

He nodded. “Yeah.”

“Harry? Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“Cathy’s pregnant.”

“Oh-dear-God,” she whispered. She began crying.

“I couldn’t do it again,” Callahan continued. “I couldn’t ‘sight’ her. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t.”

“Harry, you can’t do that ever again. Frank told me the last time it almost killed you.”

“I could’ve stopped this.”

She paused for a moment, considering how to say what she needed to say. “Harry? Maybe things happen for a reason. Maybe this was supposed to happen, you know?”

He look at her, shook his head. “And if I had prevented all this, couldn’t you just as easily say that’s what was meant to happen? No…don’t lay that religious crap on me. We make our own destiny, and with every choice we make.”

“It must feel good to be so certain of everything, to really know how the world works,” she said as she walked back down the hall to the surgery waiting room.

Miffed, Callahan turned and walked outside.

There was a light fog drifting between trees but when he looked up he saw a few stars right overhead, and he found himself wondering…

‘Do we really? Really make our destiny? Or is everything simply an accident of time and place? And there are no coincidences?’

“Your mother struggled with these things too,” the Old Man in the Cape said, and Callahan wasn’t in the least bit surprised to see him standing out there by his side. “She couldn’t, or so she told me once, understand why God would let her get pregnant inside a concentration camp.”

“She…what?” Callahan cried.

“When she and Saul fled the Russian advance in 1945, they made their way to Hamburg and then back to Copenhagen. She lost that child in the forests southwest of Berlin.”

Callahan felt light-headed, like the world was closing in on him. “Who…was the father?”

“You mean she didn’t tell you?”

“No, she never talked about her experiences during those years.”

“Imagine that. Saul Rosenthal was the father, Harry. He was the father of all her children.”

An iron grip took hold of his thoughts, his chest felt heavy, almost molten. “What-did-you-say?”

“Do you mean to say you thought Lloyd Callahan was your father? For all these years?”

“He is my father, and you know it.”

“He raised you, certainly. But Harry, you must ask him sometime about his injury.”

“What injury?”

The old man turned towards the hospital and seemed intent on listening for a moment. “You can relax now, Harry. Your friend will indeed be a father, though he is very ill. But though some things are still very hard to perceive, your friend will live to see his daughter’s seventh birthday.”

“What? Are you sure?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“How could you possibly know that?”

The Old Man rolled his eyes and laughed, then slammed his cane down once and disappeared. Thunder rolled along the foothills, lightning danced beyond the coastal foothills above Palo Alto.

Callahan turned and ran inside, his mind on fire.

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“Dad? Were you injured during the war?”

Lloyd turned to Harry, an odd expression in his eyes and on his face, then he nodded. “Who told you? Avi, or Saul?”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“No, I suppose it doesn’t.”

Harry suddenly felt like this wasn’t the time to talk about these matters, not least of all because of the pain in his father’s eyes. “Dad, it’s okay if you don’t want to talk about it. There’s something else I wanted to ask you.”

“Oh?”

“Frank’s sick, Dad. I mean, really sick.”

“Oh, no. What’s happened, son?”

“Cancer. Pancreatic cancer.”

“Dear God. How long have they given him?”

“Not long, but that’s not what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Okay, fire away?”

“He wants to go to Japan, on a cruise. I’m not sure about the reasons why, but I think it may have to do with Buddhism, maybe seeing the shrines over there.”

“Oh? Have you talked with him about it?”

“Yes, a little. He wants to know if a bunch of us could go together, like as a group, and when you’re the captain.”

“Shouldn’t be too big a deal. What can I do to help?”

“I just need to know what trips you’ve been assigned to, and who to contact for booking rooms.”

“I’m going to make one more round trip, Harry, then I’m turning in my papers.”

“Yeah? Frank and I turned our papers in last week, right after Cathy left the hospital.”

“No kidding? Why?”

“It’s complicated, Dad. Things are changing a little too fast right now, and not in a good way. What made you decide?”

“Well, Harry, you may not have noticed but I’m getting rather old. It hurts to walk, some days it hurts just to get out of bed, and all things considered that’s a lousy state of affairs for someone at sea. Especially the captain of a ship. Besides, I should have retired two years ago, but we just don’t have replacements now for the most experienced positions. The Merchant Marine is dying, son, and U.S. lines are dying right along with it. Big changes, everywhere…”

“Why did you decide to go to sea, Dad?”

“Funny thing, that,” Lloyd said, slipping unconsciously into the Scottish brogue of his youth. “It was because of Titanic. Was for a lot of us in my class. You take air travel for granted these days, but the world was linked together by steamships in my day. When Titanic went down it was like a repudiation of all the progress we’d made in the Kingdom, of all the things we’d built, not to mention the Empire. I wasn’t around when that happened, of course, but the tragedy shaped the outlooks of almost all my teachers.” He looked down at his hands, shook his head. “They call these things ‘age spots,’ if you can believe such a thing. Age spots, for crying out loud.”

“What about your teachers?”

“Hmm? Oh. Well, all the naysayers went about shouting ‘See, we told you so! It was Hubris that sank your Titanic! Hubris! Can you imagine that, Harald? To build something so complex, so magnificent, and all in the name of bringing the world together, of finding common ground through manufacturing and trade. Hubris, indeed!”

“So, those teachers inspired you?”

“Yeah, a lot of my mates, too. Some went into ship building or engineering, others like me decided to go to sea. I had just finished my post-graduate training on convoy operations and was headed to my first assignment when the Hood and Bismarck got into it, and that was my first experience with that feeling…”

“What feeling, Dad?”

“When the Hood…well, you know the story, don’t you?”

“I don’t think so…”

“Well, the HMS Hood was the pride of the British Navy, a huge, glorious battleship. Said she was unbeatable, practically unsinkable, so of course we believed all that. The war was just a year on, the Battle of Britain still a few months away, but already the only thing keeping the country afloat was a tenuous lifeline to the States. Convoys. Convoys kept us going. Fuel, food, aircraft parts, you name it, we carried it. Anyway, the Germans sent two of their best ships to go after our convoys, the Bismarck and the Prinz Eugen. The Admiralty sent the Hood and as many escorts as could be mustered, sent them to the Denmark Straits to intercept Bismarck. Well, they found each other, all right…”

Lloyd seemed to drift on unseen currents, and Harry could see the real ‘age spots’ time had left on the old man in that little moment. So many memories, so many current to drift upon…then Lloyd’s eyes brightened:

“So, the Bismarck opens fire, she finds the range to Hood and lets loose with everything she’s got. One shell found Hood’s aft magazines and that was it. Hood simply blew up. One massive explosion and she was gone, three survivors in the water. Well Harry, that was my generations’ Titanic moment, when we began to question everything. Admiralty critics, of course, said it was all Hubris – again. Some people believed those critics, began to doubt everything we were all about. That’s how it begins, Harry. Doubt. Doubt is a corrosive. Doubt eats away at the soft underbelly of a country, eats away her sense of purpose. One group of politicians exploits doubt while another tries to stem the rot, and Churchill was dealing with Dunkirk at the very same time, if you can imagine that.”

“He held the world together, didn’t he?”

“Aye, he did at that. Well, come on in off this porch and let’s get some coffee on. I think the broadcast is due to begin in about ten minutes, and I surely don’t want to miss it.”

“Which one is it today?”

“Challenger, I think it is. And can you believe it? Them taking up a school teacher – and to space, no less! Can you imagine such a thing, boy? Can you imagine what she might be thinking right about now? Hmm, can you? Hubris…for crying out loud!”

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The cruise line had a VIP dining room in the Embarcadero, and Harry had made arrangements for the group to meet there a few hours before boarding. His father dropped by and greeted everyone, but then made his apologies and returned to supervise loading – and all the other last minute details that consume a captain’s life when preparing for sea. 

The group walked over to the S.S. Valley Forge and boarded before all the other passengers, as Harry had secured so-called Penthouse Suites for all his friends. They gathered along the rail as the Valley Forge slipped her lines and drifted away from the pier, and as tugs nudged her into the main channel everyone looked at the city, then to the Golden Gate just ahead.

Frank looked better than expected, and his eyes were bright that afternoon – for the first time in weeks. Chemo had exacted a certain expected toll and he had lost weight, a lot of weight, but he had retained his hair. As their departure date grew near he seemed to bounce back, and a little more as each day passed, bringing him closer to the beginning of the voyage.

Cathy now seemed unsure of the very air that she breathed. She winced at unexpected noises, the louder the noise the more pronounced her reaction. She guarded her womb with her hands everywhere she went, relaxing only when she sat to eat. Her right shoulder still gave her trouble, and turning her head sharply in any direction produced wincing pain. The Delgettis and the Stantons had brought along swarms of children, and Cathy looked at these free-ranging coveys with a mixture of hope and fear in her eyes.

Sam and Elaine Bennett came without their two remaining children, both in college now and so immune from all the vexatious curses of adult-onset wanderlust. Sam remained his stoic self, while Elaine had seemed to grow more outgoing with each passing crisis.

Harry Callahan took a small stateroom near his father’s sea-cabin, a single cabin as it happened. Evelyn was deposited in a cabin next to her brother’s; she usually took meals in her cabin and avoided talking to just about everyone onboard.

Harry bought a copy of Shogun a few days before departure and dutifully packed it in his suitcase, his thinking being that if things got boring he could always read…something…so why not see what Frank had gotten so wound-up about.

And as these things so often go, boredom set in about two hours past the Golden Gate.

Crossing the Pacific in late March can be a dicy undertaking. Depending on the jet stream, arctic gales can sweep down just as easily as the North Pacific high can settle in. This passage began with a surprise visit from Father Winter, who sent one roaring gale after another those first few days, with fifty knot ‘breezes’ and twenty foot seas the norm. 

Perfect weather, Harry Callahan thought, for settling in with a book and reading. Which was a good thing, because he picked up the book after dinner and put it down in time for lunch late the next morning. He showed up at the table with boggy-dark circles under his bloodshot eyes…

“Been seasick, Harry?” Frank asked as Callahan sat down beside Cathy.

“No. I opened that goddam book of yours and started reading.”

“What book is that?” Evelyn asked, feigning interest.

“Shogun,” Harry said, ignoring her.

“Oh, that one,” Evelyn said dismissively. 

“So, you’re getting into it?” Frank asked.

“Yeah, you could say that. I haven’t put it down once since I started the damn thing. I knew something was really wrong when I was standing at the pot taking a leak – and couldn’t figure out how to turn the page.”

Everyone laughed a little – except Evelyn, who looked away, acting bored.

“How far have you gotten?” Frank asked. 

“Maybe half way.”

“Cathy started last night too,” Frank said. “She was still at it this morning around four.”

“Funny thing, too,” Cathy began. “I really admire Frank Lloyd Wright’s Japanese works but somehow never made the connection to traditions there. I can see these things take form as I read, and it’s fascinating in that regard.”

“Like what,” Evelyn asked.

“Oh, the simple forms of their houses, how they were shaped by complex customs like the tea ceremony and by simple, standardized material considerations like shoji screens and floor mats. And I’d never heard of Kami before, or even the Shinto concept of the spirit world, and how even those spiritual elements shaped ideas of design. So much of this is new to me yet the way Clavell creates this backdrop is stunning in it’s simplicity. Subtle, too. His love of Japan really shows through, but his desire to share what he’s learned is what really intrigues me.”

“Why’s that?” Evelyn asked, interested now.

“I don’t know, really. Maybe it’s his perspective, you know? He’s Gaijin, an outsider, so when he was exposed to all these things he brought a foreigner’s perspective with him. Everything was new to him, just like everything was new to the central character in the story, so he had never taken these things for granted. Like, oh, I don’t know, say you found someone on a remote island somewhere, and they’d never even heard of electricity or airplanes or any of the things you and I take for granted. Then you take that person to Times Square on New Year’s Eve. The crowds, the lights, the cars, the airplanes overhead…everything. How would they write about the experience…?”

“You assume,” Bullitt smirked, “that they would survive the experience.”

“You know,” Cathy snorted, “what I mean, Frank.”

“I do. But you two haven’t made it to the best parts yet.”

“Jeez, Frank,” Callahan snarled, “would you at least let me finish lunch?” 

“I saw a couple of copies in the Ship’s Store,” Sam said. “You think I should read it?”

“I wish you would,” Frank said. “I’d like to know what you think.”

Later that afternoon Harry walked by the Ship’s Store and saw Evelyn buying the last copy. He smiled all the way to his father’s sea cabin.

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“A few months ago you asked me about an injury, I, uh, well, during the war and all that.”

Harry looked at his father and was surprised how nervous the old man seemed. “Yup, but no big deal, Dad. If you don’t…”

“It is a big deal, Harry.”

“Okay.”

Lloyd seemed to draw inward on himself for a moment, to drift away from the present. “Winter of ’42, I was acting officer of the watch. Murmansk run. Awful. Ice covered everything, absolutely everything on deck. Seas like you couldn’t imagine, I’m talking eighty, ninety foot waves, some breaking over the bow and crashing into the wheelhouse, taking out glass, stuff you really wouldn’t believe.”

“Jesus, Dad…”

“No way their U-boats could track us. Seas too rough. Torpedos wouldn’t have functioned in those conditions, but the Luftwaffe was still there. They never got to us. Heard later their aircrews were literally almost freezing to death once they got airborne. 

“Her name was Scharnhorst. German battleship, huge thing, about the same size as Bismarck. She was based in Norway at the time,” Lloyd said, his hands shaking now. “She broke out while we were nearing North Cape. At the time visibility was less than half a mile, blowing snow and ice. Anyway, when the ship’s bow ran down those huge waves the stern would break free and lift clear of the water, the propellers churning air until the bow lifted again. We could barely make way under those conditions; I think we were making two knots over the ground…

“We couldn’t post lookouts. Navy destroyers were keeping a picket but radar antennae were frozen solid; even so, nothing worked in those seas. Then the helmsman shouted there was something dead ahead and I couldn’t see for the ice, so I stepped outside for a moment…

“It was Scharnhorst – maybe a quarter mile ahead, passing from our starboard to port. I could see her aft turret turning, trying to get us lined up so I turned into her, decided to ram her…”

Lloyd’s eyes were closed now, his hands shimmered like his fists were molten iron.

“Scharnhorst hit a huge wave as she let go with her first salvo. I felt the heat from the blast off her barrels, that’s how close we were. The shells must’ve passed just overhead, sounded like freight trains, concussion knocked me flat on my back, on the ice, and that’s what saved my life.

“Smaller deck guns opened up, hit the wheelhouse and the stack. Half our officers, including the captain, dead. Hull intact, power plant too, but by then Scharnhorst had disappeared into the fog.

“Felt something burning, leg, groin bleeding. Someone got me to Sick Bay before I bled out. I woke up in a Soviet hospital, went back to Britain a few months later, still flat on my back.”

“How bad were you…”

“Bad enough, Harry. Bad enough that I would never be able to father children, if that’s what you’re getting at.”

“So who? Avi?”

“Good God, no. Not that weasel. His brother, Saul. That’s why Saul opened the store over by the park. So he could keep an eye on you.”

“Keep an eye…?”

“Well, to keep Avi away, really.”

“I don’t understand, Dad.”

Lloyd smiled. “So, you’re going to keep calling me Dad?”

“I am, because you are. You always will be.”

Lloyd turned away, his hands shaking violently now. “You were always my little miracle, you know that, Harry? Life wouldn’t have meant a thing without you. Without your mother…”

A phone rang and Lloyd answered it. “Okay, I’ll be right up.”

Harry looked at his father as he shrugged and excused himself. Duty above all else, always. Hadn’t his father always said that?

He tried to remember what Saul Rosenthal looked like, but couldn’t, so Harry stood and looked around his father’s cabin. This had been his life all those times when he was away, but what had it been like peering through an ice covered wheelhouse while a German battleship prepared to end his life. What did it take, he wondered, to spend your entire life far away from everything other people took for granted, to look ahead into the night just one unruly moment away from the truly unknown. So much uncertainty, everywhere…

‘Do I really want to know about Saul,’ he thought as he walked back to his cabin.

The seas outside were still massive and he stepped outside onto the promenade, then walked to the rail. A huge freighter was passing about a mile off their left side and he guessed that’s why his father had been called to the bridge. The wind was howling out there, creating a vacuum as it passed and pulling the wind from his lungs, and it was hard to breathe; even seeing was difficult as his eyes had watered-over within seconds.

“Why would anyone choose this life?” he wondered as he made his way back to the door. “All this uncertainty instead of life back at the house in Potrero…”

He made his way back to his little cabin lost in the idea of uncertainty…

And there was Evelyn, sitting in the passageway by his door – with her back up against the wall.

© 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…) 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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