The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 44

88th key cover image

Part V

Chapter 44

As he knew it would, Fujiko was underwhelmed by his old apartment near Fisherman’s Wharf. It was dowdy even on the best days; now, after being empty for months on end – and with just a few days spent there during that period – the place was a petri dish of dust and mold. The toilet in particular looked like some kind of science experiment gone bad, yet the refrigerator took top honors. It smelled like Callahan had been keeping dead bodies stashed inside, and the look of horror he saw in her eyes told the story.

“Do we have to stay here?” she asked, a sugar-coated note of exasperated dread in her voice.

“No, of course not. I just need to get a few things, then. Uh…wait a minute.”

“Harry? What is it?”

“I just remembered. I don’t own a car.”

She laughed. “You do not remember such things?”

“I’ve always had a take-home car from the department when I needed it. I just, well, I’ve never really needed one, and when I do need to get around the city I usually take the cable car, or in an emergency call a taxi.”

“How do you get out to your house?”

“I usually ride with Frank. They live right next door.”

“Next door? Really?”

“Well, it’s a couple hundred yards between houses, but yes, next door.”

“So, you need a car.”

“Well, do you drive?”

“Yes. I still have my California drivers license, though it expires soon.”

“Well, then we’ll need two cars. Anything float your boat?”

“Float my boat. I have not heard that in years. Isn’t Frank knowledgeable about such things? He could help you pick out a car, couldn’t he?”

“If I wanted to buy a Porsche or a Ferrari, yeah, he’s exactly the person I’d talk to.”

“So, what would be best for you?”

Callahan shrugged. “You know, I’ve never really been into that scene, so I never really cared. I think all I do care about is safety. You know, how a car holds up in an collision, that sorta thing.”

“I always thought Mercedes and Volvo had the best reputations for safety. Are there dealers around the city?”

“There are probably more MB dealers in San Francisco than there are hamburger joints.”

“So, they will be easy to get repaired if needed. What about Volvo?”

“I don’t know. Probably about the same.” He stopped and thought for a moment, to Davos and the car Avi kept at the house. “I wonder if there’s a Land Rover dealer here…?”

“Pardon me asking, but where can we get a cheeseburger, please?”

“You really love those things, don’t you?”

She nodded a really big yes to that question. “Very much so. It is not possible to get a good cheeseburger in Japan. I have missed them terribly, and the ones on the ship were not so good.”

“It’s not possible to have a good burger on a cold bun. Got to be toasted on the griddle.”

“So?”

“Yeah. Joe’s Cable Car. Best burgers in the city.”

“Could we go now please?”

“Yup. Let’s do it!” He looked at her kind of cross-eyed, wondered where this craving had come from. “Joe’s was real close to home when I was growing up,” he said as they walked down the stairs to the street, “so it’s like comfort food whenever I go back. Brings back a lot of memories.”

They took a taxi and as soon as they were seated she ordered an eight ounce burger ‘all the way,’ while Callahan got his usual four ounce with avocado and jalapeños. When she said she wanted a second burger Callahan did a double-take: “You sure about that?”

“I feel like I am starving!”

Once that was ordered he went to the payphone out back and flipped through the Yellow Pages. He located a Land Rover dealer up on Van Ness and went back to the table, where he watched her wolf down the second burger faster than the first. He shook his head, wondered what was going on, then they took a taxi for the short drive to the dealer.

He saw a Range Rover on the floor, kind of a dark slate blue color and they walked over to it. He sat behind the wheel and saw it was a manual transmission and shrugged. Still, the seats felt decent enough and there was tons of room for stuff in the back.

“Wanna take one for a spin?” a grinning salesman asked.

“Might as well,” Harry said. “That why we came here.”

“We’ll have to take a demo if that’s okay with you.”

Callahan shrugged. Fujiko scowled at the interior. “What do you think?” Callahan asked her.

“It looks like a truck.”

The salesman smiled. “It is, in a way. Not the most comfortable thing on the road, but good enough on the highway. Let me get a key and we’ll take one for a ride.”

“Harry, do they use these in Africa, on those trips to see animals?”

Callahan shrugged. 

“Toughest things on the road, Ma’am,” the salesman said. “All the big safari outfits use ‘em, too.”

“Ah, I see.”

“By the way, may name is Bill Pattison.”

“Harry Callahan, and this is Fujiko. She’s visiting from Japan.”

“Now, y’all follow me. The one we’ll drive is a different color but otherwise it’s the same.”

‘This one’ was fire engine red, and the salesman started it up and opened the hood. “This one has the V-8 gas engine, a short block Buick, and so does the one on the floor. Both have a 5-speed, but we have that blue one with an automatic if you’d rather. That one has an ivory interior.” He shut the hood and took them around to the back. “Good cargo space, if that’s a big deal to you.”

“Do you sell extended warranties?” Harry asked.

“Yes, of course. Would you like to take this one out on city streets or out on the highway?”

“Both.”

“You know, pardon me for asking, but you look familiar to me; were you over in ‘Nam?”

“Yes,” Harry said, instantly on guard.

“You flew Chickenhawks out of C-Med, around Hue City, that kinda stuff, right?”

“Yes, I did.”

“I was on a mission with you once, on that radiologic thing up in the mountains.”

Callahan turned and looked at the guy, but then shook his head. “Sorry, I don’t remember much about that day.”

Pattison nodded knowingly; you never talked about Black Ops, not ever. “No reason you should. I just vaguely remember waiting for you and some kind of specialized bird. I was one of your escorts that day. That was some weird stuff, ya know? Hated that TS shit. Ooh, pardon me, Ma’am.”

Fujiko bowed. “I understand.”

“Glad I’m not doing that anymore,” Callahan said.

“So, how are you on a stick? Or should I get the automatic and pull it around.”

“Let’s try this one first.”

They drove both cars and Callahan settled on the blue with the ivory interior, the one with the automatic transmission. “Would you like to talk with the sales manager about financing?”

“I’d just like your best price, including the longest warranty you sell in the numbers.”

“Okay. Gimme a couple of minutes.”

“So,” he said to Fujiko, “what do you think?”

“It’s comfortable but loud. Other than that, I love it.”

Harry laughed. “Yeah. You need a Mercedes alright.”

“Harry?”

“Yes?”

“I am hungry again.”

He looked at his watch; it hadn’t been an hour since they’d left Joe’s. “Okay.” He went to an office and called his physician’s office, asked if he could bring a new patient by that afternoon. They told him to come on and they’d squeeze him in, then went back to the showroom floor. 

Pattison was waiting for him with a price.

“Is that the best you can do?” Harry asked.

“Maybe I can get a little more…?”

“Try about two more and we’re good.”

Pattison walked off and Fujiko came to him. “My mouth is very dry,” she said..

“Okay.”

“Should I be concerned?”

“I’ve called my doctor’s office. We’re headed there next.”

“Okay,” she said as she took his hand; and he noticed her skin felt like ice now.

Pattison came back and the price was right. “How long to get her ready, do the paperwork and all that jazz?”

“What about financing?”

“Nope. Not necessary.”

“Oh, well in that case about an hour or so. Feel free to wait…”

“We’ll be back in a couple of hours,” he said as he handed over a check. “And Bill, there’s something I want to talk with you about. Are you free for dinner?”

“Yeah, sure. I’d like that,” Pattison said, looking at Fujiko and getting the picture.

“Okay, see you in a bit.” Once outside Callahan hailed a taxi and they were at the doctor’s office ten minutes later. He filled out all the paperwork for her and went to the exam room with Fujiko. His physician asked to look her over without him in the room and he returned to the waiting room; a nurse came for him a few minutes later and he rejoined Fujiko and his physician.

“I don’t think it’s a big problem, Inspector. Probably thyroid, maybe a benign pituitary issue. We’ve drawn some blood and I’ll have a better idea tomorrow morning. I’ll send you along with a couple of pills to take tonight – with food! – and you call me mid-morning – I should have the results by then. That sound alright?”

“Thanks, Doc. And I retired from the force last month, so no more of that Inspector Callahan stuff, okay?”

“Well, congratulations are in order, I hope.”

It hit Callahan on the cab ride back to the dealership…he wasn’t a cop anymore. He couldn’t ‘carry’ with impunity anymore. He couldn’t do a lot of things he was used to doing, and that thought echoed in his mind as the taxi made its way through the heavy afternoon traffic.

The Rover was washed and waxed and ready to go when they returned, and Pattison was waiting with some paperwork to be signed as well as the car keys. Harry signed everything, arranged to have the plates sent to his apartment and turned to Pattison. “How about Trader Vics at seven?”

“Never been. Is it any good?”

“Food is good. Booze is even better.”

“Okay, sounds fun. See you there.”

“You know what?” Harry said to Fujiko and Pattison. “I think this is my first car?”

“What?” they both said.

“I’ve never had to buy one before – just for me, anyway. Isn’t that weird?”

“Well, then I guess congratulations really are in order,” Pattison said. “I’ll buy the first round!”

They shook hands and Callahan drove unsteadily through the city. “It feels different,” he said, “from what I’m used to.”

“Perhaps that is because this is the same size as that cement truck,” Fujiko said, pointing at a construction site.

“It’s not that big…!?”

“Oh, I think maybe you need to think carefully before making statements like that. This truck weighs more than two Hondas.”

“Fujiko…I weigh more than two Hondas.” He drove to his insurance agent and signed up for insurance, “another first,” he said to his agents surprise, then they drove up to Trader Vics. Pattison was waiting for them at the bar, nursing his “second or third” Samoan Fog-cutter and already slurring a few words…

“Sounds like your third,” Callahan said, grinning. “Have you had a Suffering Bastard yet?”

“No-o-o? Howzdat?”

“Man, it’s just the thing you need. C’mon, let’s get you to a table while you can still stand.”

He ordered Cosmos Tidbits and turtle soup all around, a Bastard for Pattison, a green tea for Fujiko, and a Mai-tai for himself. “Be careful when you drink that thing, Bill. And whatever you do, don’t slam it down.”

“Right. So, I’m curious. What did you want to talk about?”

“Helicopters.”

“Helicopters?”

“You done any flying since the war?”

“Yeah. I’m still in the reserves, though most of the stuff I’ve done recently has been with firefighters up in Idaho and Montana. Forest Service stuff, I guess…”

“So, you’re still current?”

“Yeah? Why?”

“What do you think about the idea of starting up an air taxi service here in the city?”

“It’s been tried. Undercapitalized, lasted a few months.”

“Okay, so how would you make it work?”

Pattison realized this was not the evening to get drunk as soon as he realized Callahan was serious. “First off, the real need around here is for firefighting birds up around Yosemite and Mammoth Lakes. In the winter you could use the birds to shuttle skiers around the backcountry or shift them to work tourist operations around Big Sur or Napa. Man, you serious about this?”

“I am.”

“Well, most of the other operators failed because they just didn’t have enough equipment. Maintenance as well as aircraft. Paying outside FBOs to work on their JetRangers ate their breakfast. What you’d need is a fixed base and a maintenance facility, and you’d need enough aircraft to justify the scale of such an operation.”

“But the need is there, right?”

“Oh, yeah. Not to mention you got pilots crying for work, same with all the hanger apes you’d ever need. If I was gonna do it, I’d start up here in the city, but I’d also look at Mariposa and Mammoth, maybe even South Lake Tahoe. And I wouldn’t buy new JetRangers, either. I’d get a bunch of low hour Hueys to work the mountains, and I’d put my money into that new Sikorsky, the S-76. Maybe a couple of them.”

“You’ve thought a lot about this, haven’t you?”

“Man, you can daydream a lot sitting behind a desk in a car dealership.”

“You know Rooney, over at the Presidio?”

“Mickey? Hell-yeah. We’ve flown a lot together. You know him?”

Callahan nodded. “I heard through the grapevine his injury…”

“Yeah, they aren’t offering a re-up this year. He’s in the dumps about it, too. Big time.”

“Think he’d be up for this?”

“Man, if you’re really serious I’ll call him right now. He could be here in fifteen minutes.”

“Fujiko? Do you mind?”

She smiled. “I am most interested in what is happening tonight, so please, go ahead. I am not offended.”

He leaned over and kissed her cheek, then asked how she was feeling with the new medicine.

“Much better, thank you.”

An hour later Callahan had decided on both the framework and scale of the proposed operation. Next, he’d need to look for a potential operating base, but Rooney already had several good ideas on that score so Harry decided to let him run with it. Pattison knew pilots and maintenance types all around the western United States, so that end was covered, too. And Callahan had already decided to check and see if Don McCall down in Alpine was interested. So…

With all that water under the bridge, Callahan toasted the new venture with several rounds of Suffering Bastards. Fujiko drove back to the apartment and helped him up the stairs, and so ended Day One of her trip to the States. She looked around his rat’s nest of an apartment and wondered who she had gotten herself involved with. But he was so unsure of himself, she thought. Just retired, having been away from everything he had known all his life, then the fight with his father…no, she realized she wasn’t seeing him at his best.

And he had cared for her during the day. He had been considerate when many other men she’d known would have failed to take her wants and needs into account. No, she would give this relationship time to mature, and try not judge him so harshly, or quickly. Patience, she reminded herself, was the only way to proceed right now.

_________________________________

They drove up the coast early the next morning and he enjoyed the Rover, even the subdued blue color suited him. When he pulled up in front of his house he noted there were still several workers there and he felt frustrated.

“They were supposed to finish by Christmas but storms hit the coast. I think most of the work remaining is landscaping and rock work out back…

“This is a truly wondrous house, Harry,” Fujiko said as he helped her out of the car. 

“I think we’re going to need to get steps or a running board installed…”

“Oh? I much prefer your help than some idle piece of steel,” she said, grinning.

“Hello there!”

They turned and saw Cathy and Frank walking down the street, headed their way.

“Is this thing yours?” Frank asked as he walked up to the Rover. “My God, Harry! This thing is huge!”

“I hope it fits in the garage,” Cathy said, eyeing the roofline.

“Geesh, it’s unanimous. Nobody likes my car.”

Everyone laughed.

“How about the house? How long until I can move in?”

“You can move in tonight,” Cathy said. “The house itself has been finished for a couple of weeks, and I have your keys so let’s go take a peek.”

Fujiko kept staring at the house as the walked to the door, but Callahan couldn’t tell if she approved or not. Stepping inside it was the same: appraising eyes but not a hint of her reaction. Cathy had designed all of the furniture and had it crafted locally so everything was as it should be, yet still Fujiko walked around calmly, now always by Cathy’s side, listening as Cathy described why she had designed things the way she had.

“All you really need are sheets and pillows, maybe some stuff for the kitchen, but I picked up traditional plates and bowls over in Osaka. They’re in the kitchen,” Cathy said, smiling.

But Callahan’s eyes had settled on the piano, a new Bösendorfer fresh off the line from Vienna and courtesy of the store in the city. It was beyond gorgeous and the space surrounding the instrument unlike anything he’d seen before. Polished gray slate floor under the piano – and the little room virtually surrounded by glass, stone, and redwood.

He moved almost involuntarily to the piano and sat there, first staring at the rocks and surf immediately below, then taking in the other sweeping views. “This is incredible, Cathy. Is this what you imagined when you started this?”

“Yes, the piano is the center of the house, as it should be.”

“Actually, I was thinking of taking up the ukulele. You know, like Tiny Tim. Tiptoe Through the Tulips, anyone?”

Frank rolled his eyes…

“I have never heard you play,” Fujiko said. “Will you now, please?”

He sighed, settled into the keys and began a slow, drifting meander between Saint-Saëns’ Aquarium and Respighi’s Medici Fountains, his eyes closed off from that other world as he fell into the rhythm created by these oldest of friends. He remembered his mother and the Aquarium, how she had struggled to get his fingering just so, and then how one evening everything had simply fallen into place. Time dissolved in her memory and he fell back to a favorite Gershwin tune, this time taking everyone for a walk along Catfish Row, and when he opened his eyes again Frank and Cathy looked almost spellbound, while Fujiko was wiping away tears.

“What…how…” was all she managed to say.

“That was surreal,” Cathy said. “I hate to say it, Harry, but you are wasting a great talent. You should have never…”

Callahan held up his hands. “Pianists are a dime a dozen…”

“No one should squander such a gift,” Fujiko whispered. “So sorry, but this must be said.”

“Come off it, you two,” Frank said. “Harry did what he wanted, and that’s the best thing that can happen to anyone. Besides, he’s not an old man – yet.”

“Balls!” Callahan said. “Is there a phone in here yet?”

Cathy shook her head. “If you need to make a call you’ll need to go down to our house. Frank? Can you take him? I think Fujiko needs to see the house from the patio.”

“Sure.” 

As they walked over, Frank commented that Fujiko looked a little pale.

“That’s why I’m calling. Took her to the doc yesterday.”

“Oh?”

“Thyroid was the first guess.”

“So, nothing major?”

Callahan shrugged. 

He called the docs office number, and he waited to be connected.

Then: “Harry? I’ve called in a couple of scrips. Looks like my first hunch about hypothyroidism was a good one. Pituitary tests won’t be back ’til Monday, so let’s get her on these new meds and we’ll touch base next week. Sound good?”

“Okay, talk to you Monday.”

“Anything to worry about?” Frank asked as they made their way back to the new house.

“No, I don’t think so.”

“So, what are you going to do now?”

“I talked with a couple of people last night about starting up a helicopter service, maybe even a helicopter fire fighting company up in the Sierras.”

“No kidding?”

“Yeah, looks like it could be a good opportunity to get a bunch of ex-army types back up in the air, maybe make a few extra bucks here and there.”

“Anything I could get in on? You know, like a couple of days a week?”

Callahan stopped in the middle of the street. “What? I thought you wanted to take it easy for a while, at least until you finish with radiation.”

“You know, Harry, sitting on my ass on that goddam ship was about all the time off I want or will ever need. I feel like I gotta to be doing something productive or I’m gonna go right out of my fucking mind.”

“Well, there’s nothing set in stone yet, Frank, but why don’t you start coming into town with me while we set this thing up. You ought to be able to see if you can fit in or not.”

“Thanks, Harry. I mean it, thanks.”

“No problemo, man. Whatever keeps us from playin’ on the freeway.”

“I think the girls are around back. And I think you’re gonna like it, Harry.”

“I know I will…”

For some reason all the stonework reminded Callahan of the inn at the tip of the Izu peninsula, the one with the spires. The stonework here under his house was filled with amber tones, just like Izu spires, and the way this series of patios seemed to cascade down to the cliffs overlooking the surf only reinforced the special feel.

And once again, Harry could tell that Fujiko was entranced.

“Cathy, I think you’ve outdone yourself once again,” Harry said as he and Frank met them down on the stone patio. 

“I added a few things since the last time you were here. There’s a built in grill over by the house, and we managed to just squeeze in a small pool down below. I think you’ll like it…”

Callahan was flabbergasted. The ‘little’ pool was only about ten feet wide, but it was at least fifty feet long, so perfect for swimming laps, but the really interesting thing about it was the way it was sandwiched between two ten foot tall cliffs – one above, the other just below. The interior of the pool was finished in a deep slate gray color, which Cathy said would help heat the water without burning too much energy.

“And I want to show you the site for the tea house and garden while you’re out here,” she added, and for some reason both Fujiko and Cathy seemed most excited about this new development.

Cathy had already staked out the outlines of the tea house, and she talked about how the entries and shojis would take advantage of two unobstructed views of the sea. The garden, she said, would have to be more like bonsai garden. There was simply too much wind here, not to mention a lot of salt spray in the air. She had located suitable trees both here and in Japan, and the rest of the space could be a mix of rock garden and native species. The stone-masons were ready to get started as soon as Callahan gave the go-ahead.

“Okay, consider the word given.”

Fujiko ran to Cathy at that point and they hugged one another happily, like some secret project of theirs had just been approved. Harry smiled, and Frank seemed genuinely happy too. 

“I need to run back into the city to pick up a few things,” Harry added. “Fujiko? Would you like to stay out here or ride in with me?”

“Why don’t you and Frank go,” Cathy said. “There are a few things I need to show Fujiko around the neighborhood. We’ll get stuff to cook for dinner, too.”

The boys walked back to the Rover and Callahan went to the passenger door. “You mind driving?” he asked Frank.

“No. You feelin’ okay?”

“Yeah, fine. I’ve just been thinking about this helicopter stuff all day. I won’t be able to concentrate.”

“Got it.”

“Man, I wish someone would come up with a reliable way to make phone calls from a car.”

“Get your Ham radio license. Those guys do it all the time.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. Probably take you two weekends to take the course, then you can radio in to what those guys call a cell, once you do that some gizmo hooks you into the landline network and there you go. Instant car-phone.”

“You wanna do it too?”

“Sure. I was reading about it on the ship. Sounds like a blast.”

“We could equip helicopters with that stuff too, right? Make phone calls from the air?”

“Can’t see any reason why not.”

“Good. You just got yourself a job. Figure out what we’ll need to do to get our birds equipped and what licenses we’ll need, base stations, all that crap.”

“Far out, man! I’m on it!”

“And let’s get our cars equipped as soon as we can. Need to be able to keep in touch, like at all times, ya know?”

“Got it. I know who to talk to in the city.”

After they picked up Fujiko’s meds they went to Callahan’s apartment and he got on the phone to Alpine Texas.

“Don? Harry. How’s it going?”

“Alright, I guess.”

“Look, I’m working on something out here. Kind of a helicopter shuttle type thing. I’ve got a couple of Army guys interested in flying but I wondered if you might want to get in on this too.”

“Doing what? A shuttle, you say?”

“Call it an air taxi for starters, but also some contract work for fire fighting operations out west. Based in San Fran but probably with a few outlying bases, too.”

“Sounds interesting.”

“You got some free time you could come out and talk?”

“This week too soon?”

“No, just let me know when and where to pick you up.”

“Ya know, I picked up a Cessna Skyhawk for dirt cheap. What airport can I use that’s close to you?”

“Small private strip at Sea Ranch. North of the city, about ten miles south of Anchor Bay.”

“Okay, I’ll be out there day after tomorrow, probably mid-afternoon.”

“Sounds good.”

“Harry? Thanks for thinking of me.”

“Not a problem, Amigo.”

“Jesus Christ, Callahan, what is this shit growing in your fridge?”

“Yeah, Fujiko wasn’t real impressed with this place, either.”

“Your damn lucky she didn’t ask you to take her straight to the airport!”

“You wanna drop by your radio place on the way out of the city?”

“Yeah, I’d change the subject real fast, too.”

“So?”

“Yeah, let’s do it. I’m on the clock, remember?”

Then the telephone rang.

Callahan: Yo?

Carl Stanton: Harry? I got a little issue down here.

Callahan: Carl? What’s up?

Stanton: I don’t know if you remember this one, but I got something that concerns a family disturbance you worked when you were on patrol, right after you got your stripes. Little girl, about five years old then, she was beat up pretty bad by her old man. You found her in an alley across the street from her home…

Callahan: I remember.

Stanton: Well, she’s here and she’s been looking for you. She says it’s important, that her life is on the line.

Callahan: And what are you not telling me, Carl?

Stanton: Well…she won’t tell us a damn thing. Says she’ll only talk to you face to face, not on the phone.

Callahan: I’m with Frank. Is it safe for us to come down there?

Stanton: “I don’t know. The vibe I’m picking up is now that you’re retired, so you’re both little people again. No threat, so no big deal.

Callahan: Is she alone?

Stanton: Yeah.

Callahan: Take her to the Park Radio, the parking lot in back. We’ll be there in half an hour.

Callahan hung up the phone, saw Bullitt looking at him. “Sounds like fun,” Frank said.

“Sounds like the ghost of calls long past,” Callahan sighed. “A disturbance I worked, girl beat up and I worked her old man over pretty bad. Carl was there…

“Yeah. I remember that one. Sam had me doing background checks on you around that time.”

“Well, the girl’s back and she says she needs to talk to me, and me only.”

“You got everything you need from this dump?”

“Dump? You callin’ my place a dump?”

“Yeah, I am. And if I was moving into your place out there I wouldn’t bring a damn thing from here. Start out new, throw all this shit away.”

“I’m gonna keep the apartment, Frank.”

“What? Why?”

“A., it’s cheap. and If we’re doin’ a lotta stuff here in the city we’re gonna need a place to crash. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the idea of making that drive two times a day, five days a week.”

“Yeah, I can see that, but you need to get like some kind of professional cleaner in here, have them scrub this place down…”

“It’s not that bad…”

“Harry, look! There’s mold growing on the ceiling trim! This place is a fucking rat-hole!”

“Geez, don’t hold back, Frank…tell me what you really think…”

“Come on. It’ll take us a half hour to get to the radio place.”

“Not if you drive it won’t.”

Bullitt grinned. “True. Very true.”

_______________________________

He didn’t recognize the girl, but the last time he’d seen her was something like eighteen years ago. Now she looked like many victims of child abuse he’d seen over the years: overweight, bad hygiene, poor appearance…low self esteem, the shrinks called it. Callahan smiled, held out his hand but the girl ran into his arms and hugged him.

“You saved my life,” she whispered over and over again, and when he pulled away he saw that she’d been crying.

“You okay? Can you tell me what’s going on?”

“Who’s he?”

“This is Captain Bullitt, my boss. Anything you can say to me you can say to him, too. I trust him with my life everyday, and you can too.”

She nodded. “It’s my dad. He just got out of San Quentin. He found me, told us he’s going to take care of me real good. His words, not mine. And he also said he’s going to take care of you, too.”

Frank stepped closer. “You said that he told ‘us’ he’s going to take care of you. Who’s us?”

“My roommates.”

“So, he knows where you live. What else does he know?”

“I’m not sure, but I’ve heard there’s a real network on the inside. Information is like life in San Quentin, I mean it’s the currency that keeps them alive. When you know someone is looking for information about somebody you get your outside network to get it for you. They trade information all the time in there…”

“I know,” Frank said. “What about your roommates? Did he say all this in front of them?”

She nodded. “Yeah. They’re scared, too.”

“Anything else you can tell me about him?” Callahan said, writing down everything the girl said for next half hour. 

“We’ve got to get a few things in here before we leave. Can I drop you someplace?”

“I don’t know what to do, Officer Callahan. I don’t even think I should go home anymore.”

“Is there anyplace else you can stay?”

“No, not really, but the thing is I know he’s looking for you, too. He used to work with a gang so I know he can get information about…”

“A gang?” Bullitt said. “Do you which one?”

“Kinda, I heard him mention the name Threlkis a couple of times when we was out on the front porch.”

Frank looked at Callahan.

“You mind if we drop you off at a shelter tonight,” Harry asked. “That way I’ll know where to find you. Are you working now?”

The girl shook her head.

“You have any money?”

Again, she shook her head so Callahan gave her some.

“Okay, listen up. First thing, we’re going to get you through this. Next, once in the shelter you don’t leave for any reason. Got that? No reason, for no one.”

She nodded, wiped away a tear.

“Next, we find you a place to live after we take care of business, then we get your life back on track. Can you handle that? Now…what’s the most important thing?”

“I don’t leave until you come get me.”

“Okay, you get in the back seat and hang tight. We’ll be back in a minute.”

He got her in the Rover and locked the doors with the key fob and followed Bullitt into the radio store. Bullitt needed information more than anything, so he picked up brochures and looked over the available classes for Ham radio certification.

When they went back out to the Rover there was shattered glass all over the parking lot, the rear passenger door was standing wide open, and the girl was slumped over on the rear seat, a single bullet hole in the middle of her forehead.

Harry and Frank looked at one another. “The girls,” Bullitt said as he ran for the phone in the store…

© 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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