The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 43

88th key cover image

Part V

Chapter 43

Lloyd Callahan walked out onto bridge-wing and looked at the tug on the bow pushing his ship away from the dock, worried about what he saw below; he got on his radio and called the tug’s skipper: “Number two, slow it down or you’ll push our stern into the dock!” – with that done he turned to his First Officer: “Rudder amidships, now.”

“Rudder amidships, aye Captain.”

Callahan watched, satisfied now, as his ship drifted from the docks and towards the main entrance channel, then the Harbor Pilot pointed to the buoys he wanted Valley Forge to use when entering the main channel…

“Make your course 2-6-5 degrees,” Callahan said, then, “all ahead slow.”

“265, ahead slow, aye…”

“Damn crowded out here today,” Callahan said to no-one in particular, but his mind was still struggling with the morning’s surprises. ‘Harry – and a fucking Jap? Why, for God’s sake?’ He was getting angrier as the idea wore away at him, yet he really didn’t understand why he was so mad, not after all these years. He’d made sure he buried all his prejudices when he moved to America, but because of his experiences in the war he still hated everything about both Germany and Japan. He couldn’t help it and now he realized his hatred was finally going to have real consequences.

‘She saw the venom right away,’ he said to himself. He was transparent and she was probably used to seeing his kind of hate smoldering away behind the eyes, yet after just a few minutes of watching her move around his in-port cabin he’d not even bothered trying to hide his feelings anymore. He’d grown coldly dismissive and callous, and though he could see Harry’s growing disappointment he’d simply been unable to stop himself.

‘There’s going to be a reckoning,’ he said as he looked at Osaka for the last time. ‘Man, I’m glad I never have to come to this fucking hell-hole ever again…’


If anything, Fujiko had thought herself impervious to such things, yet the sudden fury she’d seen in Lloyd Callahan’s eyes had surprised her. As soon as the old man had understood the implications of the visit, he had flown through the scales – from casually dismissive to increasingly abrasive – in record time, and not just to her. By the time Harry led her away from the captain’s in-port cabin his hands were shaking and for a moment she thought she saw tears in his eyes. By the time they had made it back to their cabin Harry had reasserted control over his emotions, and within minutes he was talking like nothing had happened.

“Let’s go up top, maybe get out into the wind,” he said, and though a little surprised at the sudden change she had agreed. He held her hand as they walked up two flights of stairs and then out onto the topmost deck – high above the sea now. They were still in the inner harbor, the docks not a half mile in their wake, but already the ship was picking up speed. They walked to the forward rail and looked at the way ahead…

“I’m so sorry, Fujiko,” Harry said, pulling her close. “I had no idea.” He felt her face through his jacket, felt her nod her head. “I thought I knew him…”

“Our parents often hide their most bitter selves from us, Harry. Perhaps to save us from their experience, the things that turned them to hate in the first place. One thing I do not understand? You do not look like him, at all.”

“Really? That’s what you noticed?”

“Yes. Perhaps because it was a first meeting?”

“Well, that’s because it turns out he really wasn’t my father.”

“What? When did you learn this?”

“Just within the last few months. It came as quite a shock.”

“Are you not cold?”

He felt a shiver run through her and took off his jacket, draped it over her shoulders. “Is that better?”

“A little. I suppose I should have brought warmer clothes.”

“There’s a good Ship’s Store onboard. Let’s go find you a coat?”

“Not yet, please. I would like to remain up here a while longer.”

He pulled her close again, the wind picking up as the ship’s speed increased, her obsidian hair beginning to stream behind them. The pilot boat came alongside, then pulled away after the pilot jumped across, and after that the ship’s speed began to rapidly increase.

“Would it be possible to tell me the story of your mother and father?” she asked.

“Yes, I think it’s time for that conversation.”

“Then, just one more thing.”


“You must tell me what happened with that shark.”

He chuckled a little. “I wish I knew what happened, Fujiko-san. When it turned on me I just knew my life was over and I saw things, well, actually, I heard music, music my mother wrote…”

“Your mother wrote music? She was a composer?”

He nodded. “Yes, and it turns out quite an important one, too.”

“And you? Do you play an instrument?”

He hesitated, wondered what he could tell her without coming off like a barking lunatic: “I play the piano a little…”

“Oh, come off it Harry,” the Old Man in the Cape said, now standing next to Fujiko, “you can tell her. In fact, you must tell her.”

“Tell me what?” Fujiko said, turning in surprise, looking with surprise at the Old Man who had just appeared next to her. “Who are you?”

“You can see him?” Callahan asked.

“What do you mean, can I see him? He is standing right next to me!”

“Well, it’s just that, well…”

The Old Man smiled. “Harry, no more secrets. It’s time to come clean…” 

And with that said, the Old Man twirled his cane once and slammed it down on the deck, and then rolling thunder filled the air. “You’ll excuse me,” the Old Man said, “but I have to go now. I get seasick, you see.” He winked at Fujiko and with that the Old Man simply disappeared.

Fujiko flinched, rubbed her eyes. “What…where did he go?”

“Ignore him. He’s just a cranky old asshole with a really bad sense of humor…”

Lightning split the sky, thunder crashed and echoed across the harbor.

“Sorry,” Callahan said. “You’re really a very nice ghost, or whatever, and I’m sorry I said that.”

Fujiko turned and looked at him, a million questions in her eyes.

“Look,” he said, shrugging, “I’m sorry, but it’s complicated.”

“That man is a ghost?” she replied, trembling.

“You know, I’m still not sure what he is.”

“What did he mean? No more secrets?”

Callahan scowled. “We have a lot to talk about, I guess.”

“Well, we have fourteen days. Is that enough?”

“That might get us through the first part of the story, assuming I even know what it is. Now, could we go get you a coat, please?”


“Because I’m freezing my ass off…”


The first line squall hit before the ship made it out of the inner harbor; by nightfall and while still within sight of the coastline, 90 knot gusts rocked the ship and sixty foot waves slammed into the bow. Very few passengers ventured to the dining room that night, preferring instead to vomit in the comfort of their own staterooms.

Nothing, however, could keep Sam and Frank from those Alaskan King Crab legs, and they convinced Harry and Fujiko to join them. Bouncing off the walls as they made their way down the endless corridor to the dining room, Sam said he enjoyed acting like a pinball while Frank stopped at a bowl and popped two more of the free Dramamine tabs. The ship seemed to hesitate before climbing a really big wave, then everyone held on as she took off down the backside.

“What a storm! Feels just like Space Mountain at Disneyland!” Sam said, rubbing his hands together gleefully as he looked over the endless piles of crab legs on the buffet. “Worked up quite an appetite just getting here!”

“I don’t know how you can eat right now,” Callahan whispered, burping.

“Really? Well, just you watch and I’ll show you how.”

Fujiko came to the table carrying what she claimed was her favorite food of all time: a cheeseburger and french fries, and a waiter got her a Coke and that was that – she was happy.

“Harry? Could I get you something?” Frank asked. “Some Limburger cheese, perhaps, or maybe some fresh octopus?”

“Keep it up, Frank.”

“Harry, there’s some really good looking monk-fish liver sushi up there. Sure I can’t get you some?”

Callahan burped again and disappeared in the general direction of what he hoped was the nearest bathroom. Fujiko grinned and Bullitt decided she was alright, then she left the table for a moment and returned with a plate for Frank; it was loaded with Limburger cheese and several pieces of monk-fish liver.

Frank took off for the bathroom. He was at a dead run when he disappeared from view.

“Frank’s always had a lousy sense of humor,” Sam said. “He sure can dish it out, but he never could take it. You want some crab legs, Fujiko-san?”

“Yes, please. Perhaps you could go with me and help me pick out a few good pieces?”

“I’d love to, little lady.”

By the time they’d made it back to their table Frank and Harry were sitting there and both looked a sheepish shade of green. The offending plate had been removed just in time, too. They both stared in awe as Fujiko polished off a heaping pile of crab, while Sam finished a second pile. Callahan had some chicken broth; Bullitt had just pushed down a couple of saltine crackers when he looked up, stood up and sprinted for the bathroom – again.

Sam laughed a little while they watched Frank make this last mad dash, then he went up to the buffet for his third pile of crab. He smiled at the janitors who’d just been called to take care of a mess in the starboard head on deck five.


Harry went up to see Lloyd very early the next morning, and though he had been dreading the coming encounter all night long he knew what he had to do, what had to be said. Lloyd, on the other hand, had been up all night – dealing with the storm and it’s after effects – and his mood was already dark when Harry knocked on the door to his sea-cabin.

“Look, Harry,” Lloyd said as Harry walked in, “I’ve had a bad night. Could we do this later?”

“I don’t think so. I need to know what that was all about, and I’m not sure putting it off is the right thing to do.”

Lloyd sat at his desk and sighed, held his hands up. “Fine. If that’s what you want, Harry, that’s what we’ll do.”

“Do you treat all Japanese and Germans that way, or did you serve up your best shot for Fujiko?”

Lloyd shrugged. “You know what, Harry? As far as I’m concerned they can all go straight to Hell. I don’t really care about ‘em beyond that.”

“Why, why her? What did she ever do to you?”

“She was born.”

Harry blinked, shook off the words like he’d been slapped. “What?”

“Tell you what, son, you look in the eyes of your friends while they drown after a U-boat drops a couple of fish into the side of your ship. You do that, boy, alright? Then you come and stand up here on your soapbox and lecture me about hate. You got that?”

“Let’s not talk about hate right now, Lloyd. Let’s talk about civility and maybe even common decency…”

“Those went out the door when I saw her holding onto your arm.”

Harry nodded. “I see. Tell me one more thing, Lloyd. It’s probably the last thing I’ll ever ask you, so think before you answer, okay?”


“Did my mother know you were a bigoted racist, or did you keep that from her, too?”

“You can leave now, Harry. I mean it, just leave.”

“Oh, I’m leaving alright. You can count on that – Dad. I’m gone.”

He closed the door gently as he left the cabin then walked up to the sundeck and stepped into the wind. The sky was crystal clear but the sea was an unbroken plain of spume-streaked whitecaps, and Fujiko was at the forward rail, leaning into the wind. Cathy and Frank were sitting nearby, huddled up against this new and unforeseen breaking wave of emotion and looking at Fujiko like they were standing by for moral support.

He walked over to the railing and put his arm around her again, and she took a deep breath, then looked up at him.

“You weren’t gone very long.”

He felt Frank and Cathy come up from behind and he nodded. “Turns out there wasn’t a whole lot to say.”

“It is the war, is it not?” she said. “Too many bad memories?”

“Maybe it’s as simple as that, but I doubt it.”

“Where’d you leave it?” Frank asked…and when Harry shook his head Frank knew there was no need for words right now…it was a done deal.

“Harry? If it’s okay with you, I’d like to show Fujiko some of my sketches, see if she has any new ideas before I start on my drawings.”

“What is this?” Fujiko asked.

“I’ve asked Cathy to design a teahouse, and hopefully a garden,” Harry said, still doing his best not to think about Lloyd. “Maybe you two could come up with some good ideas.”

Fujiko nodded; she understood – Harry needed to talk with Frank, and maybe just to clear his head, but she’d seen the pulsing vessels in his temple and the clinched jaw and she knew how some people seethed until they boiled over. “That sounds very interesting. I would love to.”

Which left Harry and Frank standing in the wind.

“How’d you guys know?” Harry asked. 

“She called us while you were in the shower, and again when you went to his cabin.”

Harry nodded. “I’ve never known anyone like her, Frank. She’s so – dialed in, ya know?”

“I know. Everyone fell in love with her about an hour after we arrived ay Osaka Castle.”

“That first day?”

“Yeah. She like a cross between something out of Shōgun and Gidget Goes to Rome. Infectiously elegant. That’s how Delgetti described her. It’s like you want to talk to her about something, then you realize she already knows what you want to say – but she makes you feel good about it even so.”

“She’s smart, that’s for sure.”

Frank shook his head. “There’s book smarts, Harry, then there’s people smarts. Fujiko is what happens when you take the best of both and put all that into one person.”

“I wonder what she sees in a mug like me?”

“Good question. Must be a mental defect.”

“Gee. Thanks.”

“What about your dad?”

Harry shrugged. “It’s bad, Frank. He said some awful things yesterday, and I just hammered him. A real low blow. The thing is, I think I really wanted to hurt him like that.”

“Listen up, Amigo. You probably don’t need to hear this right now, but that’s why people have been calling you Dirty Harry for the last twenty years. Sometimes you like to cut people off at the knees, ya know. You’re good at it, too, which is one thing, but sometimes you seem to enjoy it a little too much.”

“Jesus, Frank…”

“You should listen, Harry,” the Old Man in the Cape said, popping into the present and causing both Frank and Harry to jump back. “He’s telling the truth.”

“Jesus H Fucking Christ on a motorbike…what you please stop doing that?” Frank said to the Old Man. “I can’t handle this shit, okay?”

“Frank?” the Old Man said. “You are a good friend. Harry needs you right now, now more than ever!”

“Yeah, okay, I got that.”

“And Harry?”


“Don’t be an asshole. And please, don’t push any more friends away, especially not today.”

“What’s wrong with today?”

The Old Man grew serious, then smiled: “Oh, Ishmael, it’s that whale I see, that great white whale…”

“What?” Frank cried – but by then the Old Man had slammed down his cane and was gone.

“Goddam, I hate it when he does that.”

“You hate it? You hate it, Harry?” Frank was white hot mad now. “Well, listen up, Bucko, cause I just shit my goddam pants and I gotta walk down two flights of stairs to get to the cleanest pair of underwear I have left!” he yelled as he turned and slinked off. “And you fuckin’ hate it! Hah! Well, guess what? You’re not the one that’s gonna be droppin’ meatballs all the way down the fuckin’ stairs, oh no, not Harry Callahan…”

Harry returned to his stateroom, and he was sitting on the balcony watching ragged waves slam into the ship when he heard the door open and close; Fujiko stepped outside into the wind and sat next to him.

“Frank said The Old Man came back?”

“He did. Yes…he did.”

“He said something about Ishmael? Ishmael and the white whale?”


“I wonder what Moby Dick has to do with all this?”

Callahan shrugged. “Never read it. Don’t even think I saw the movie.”

“Oh, the book is full of allegory, many allusions to things in the Christian Bible…”

“What did you think of Cathy’s drawings?”

Fujiko blinked twice, tried to change gears. “She is very talented, and she learned much on your trip.”

Harry nodded, but his mind remained far away.

“She also told me a little about the house you are building.”

“Yes? And?”

“It sounds like a very special place.”

“Special? What does that mean?”

“I have not seen it, of course, but what she describes sounds almost Japanese.”

“Oh? How so?”

“A site such as the one this house if built on requires a subtle hand. The building must appear to spring forth naturally from the earth.”

“Well, she sure did that, alright.”

“You are still angry?”

He nodded his head. “I am, yes. Still angry.”

“May I sit with you?”

“Of course. I’m not angry at you, Fujiko-san?”

“You are not?”

“No, of course not?”

“Not even a little?”

“Why would…how could I be angry at you?”

“Because I have come between you and your father,” she whispered.

“It wasn’t your fault, Fujiko.”

“Nevertheless, I have come between the two of you.”

“Something would have, sooner or later.”

“You can not know that, Harry-san.”

“Will you marry me?” He turned and looked at her, watched her reaction…

Her head seemed to tilt to the right just a little, and she also seemed to smile a little before she pulled that back, too: “And I thought we were going to take our time, let us explore the past and our future before we came to such a decision.”

“Maybe I changed my mind.”

“You are pushing me away, Harry. Why?”

“Because that’s what I do.”

“Not this time.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Only that I will not be pushed away. I may walk away, but you will not push me to do that which I do not want to do.”

“Well, lucky me.”

“So, what of the shark? Frank tells me you see things through music. Tell me about that, and about what I saw in the sea.”

“Frank talks too much.”

“He is a good friend.”

“Yes he is.”

“I could be such a friend, if you let me in.”

“Let you in?”

“Yes. It seems to me that when some people get too close, people push them away. The alternative, I think, is to let people in. In other words, Harry Callahan, you need to let me get close to you. I think that is what we set out to do when we started this journey, is it not?”

“It is.”

“You have been through much today. Too much, I think. As your friend I know this, and I accept the reasons for your anger. But as your lover it is my duty to protect you, yet even as such I can not do this so easily if you push me away, keep things from me. Accept me, Harry. Let me in, please. Our journey will be a short one without trust.” 

He nodded, but then he looked down, appeared a little chastened. “Okay,” he whispered.

She took his hand and held it – but she looked out to sea, deciding to let him come when he was ready.

“As far as I know, the Old Man began visiting my mother when she was very young. He came to her throughout her life, but almost always when she was composing.”

“The music called him?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. When he comes to me I’m usually nowhere near a piano.”

“The shark?”

“He came to me in the shrine, after I cut my leg. He warned me.”

“About the shark?”

He nodded.

“So, the Old Man is your protector. Perhaps he was her protector, as well. Did he come to you before she passed away?”

He shook his head. “You know, I don’t think he did…”

“So, he has been charged with protecting your lineage through time.”

“You don’t sound surprised.”

“I suppose I am not. There have always been spirits reputed to act this way, but until now I have never met one. Now that I have, I wonder what he is protecting. Tell me now about the shark.”

“Like I said, I put my hands on him…”

“Him? You know it was a him?”


“Okay, go on.”

“I put my hands around his eye and in my mind I began playing a short passage from my mother’s third concerto, a passage that concerns the murders she witnessed in the concentration camp.”

“I saw the animal then,” she whispered. “It was as if he had begun to turn black, but from the inside out. Then it shriveled before our eyes and sank to the rocks, and when you were no longer touching him he seemed to regain himself. He began to swim away but ran into rocks. Then he disappeared.”

“I don’t remember any of that.”

“But what has the Old Man to do with all that,” she sighed, “unless he was there to protect you.”

“But why me?”

She shook her head. “Unless it remains to you to fulfill the nature of your lineage, or to pass it along.”

“I don’t understand?”

“Either you will compose something of utmost importance, or your descendants will. Ishmael. The white whale. What else did he say?”

“Not to be an asshole,” he said sheepishly. “To not push away any friends.”

“Yes, he is your protector. That is why he has shown himself to Frank, and to me. Is there a piano on this ship?”


“I would like to hear this passage.”

Callahan shook his head. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea.”

“Neither do I, Harry-san. Neither do I, but even so…”


Harry had regained a sense of himself by the time they left for lunch; Sam Bennett was already at the buffet hitting the crab legs when he and Fujiko walked in, so they walked over and sat down with Elaine.

“Frank was doing laundry an hour ago,” Elaine said, smiling at Fujiko. “I’m worried about Sam, too. If he keeps eating those crab-thingies he’s going to turn into one…”

“The hell I am,” Sam bellowed, setting his plate down on the table. “I’m just taking advantage of all this stuff while we’re on this tub, that’s all.”

“You do know,” Fujiko said, grinning coyly, “that crab are part of the spider family?”

Bennett looked at his plate and scowled. “Well, fuck it,” he sighed. “It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.”

Cathy arrived and sat, clearly exasperated. “Never, ever let a man fold your laundry!” she snarled at the world in general, clearly flustered after a morning with Bullitt. “I swear, that man doesn’t care if his clothes are wrinkled or not!”

“That explains a lot,” Harry said, his voice just above a whisper.

“See! See!” Cathy cried. “Your clothes are always neat and pressed! See!”

“Central Laundry, over off Geary.”

“What?” Cathy said, startled.

“That’s who does mine. I wouldn’t know how to fold a shirt if you held a gun to my head.”

“Elaine does mine,” Sam sighed between bites of crab. “Best in the world.”

Frank slunk up to the table and sat down, trying his best to avoid the fireballs Cathy was lobbing his way. “Harry? Thanks. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy doing laundry, bit I think today I hit a new low.”

“Hell, Frank, even toddlers can hold it longer than you did.”

Bullitt shook his head. “I’m beginning to hate that prick.”

“Who’s that?” Sam asked, puzzled.

“Harry’s ghost.”

“Oh. Him.” Sam cracked open another leg and began digging the white meat out. “So what happened this time?”

“The bastard just popped up right beside me. Scared the shit out of me.”

“Boy, did he,” Callahan muttered.

“Shove it, Callahan. Sideways, maybe with a little twist.”

Fujiko’s eyes were wide open. “I have been away too long. I do not recognize half of what you are saying.”

“Not important,” Sam said between bites. “What did that fucker have to say this morning?”

“Sam? Eat your spiders,” Harry said.

“Spiders?” Frank cried. “Sam’s eating spiders?”

Callahan shook his head. “Sheesh. This is fun.”

Fujiko shook her head: “Harry is going to play some of his mother’s music. Would anyone like to come and listen?”

Frank looked up, alarmed. “Oh, no,” he groaned.

Sam paused, his crab-laden fork hovering in midair: “You sure you wanna do that again, Harry?”

“Do what?” Elaine asked, now confused.

Callahan looked at Sam, then Frank: “We gotta get to the bottom of this, and soon. Something ain’t right.”

“What do you mean – ‘ain’t right’ – Callahan?”

Callahan put his hands on the table. “Anyone ever think we kind of gave up too soon? Like we’re turning over the city to a bunch of fascist goons and just turning our backs on all of it?”

“There’re just too many of ‘em, Harry,” Frank sighed, “but we’ve been over all that. Why the sudden change of heart?”

“Because what if that was the wrong decision. If so, then somehow we’ve got to fix it.”

Franks eyes narrowed. “What the hell are you talking about, Harry?”

“Look, Frank, I have an idea, but I want to run it by you first…”

© 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 (Covid-19) 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. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of 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 the 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: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. 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…and what a gift.]

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