The Eighty-eighth Key Ch.46

88th key cover image

Part V

Chapter 46

The valet at Trader Vics pulled up in the Rover and Callahan helped Linton Tomlinson into the passenger seat.

“Are you sure you’re okay to drive?” she asked.

“Yes. I’m good..”

“I don’t understand. How could you drink so much and…?”

“Because I was drinking pineapple juice, on the rocks.”

“I, well, I don’t understand…”

“Then let me explain it for you. We bring all potential new-hires here, and we let ‘em do what they want, no restrictions. We get to see a live demonstration of their sense of responsibility, their ability to handle themselves – and we also get a little peek inside with all your defenses down. The waiters know me, and they know Rooney, so they bring us juice or tea. And that’s the plan, each time we do this.”

“So, what you’re saying is this was a test, right?”

“Right.”

“And I failed, right?”

“That’s right. And just for your information, the alcohol was bad enough, but trying to hit the sheets with a potential CEO was a really bad call on your part. As my CFO, I’d rely on you for objective information and advice, and after sex that would go out the window, wouldn’t it?”

“You’re not going to mention this to anyone, are you?”

“God knows I should, but no. You’re somebody else’s problem, not mine.”

She got out of the Rover when she hearing that, then she flipped him off after she slammed the door shut.

He rolled down the window: “Ya know? I think I will call Herb. You have a nice night,” he added as he drove off. Then he got on the two-meter rig and called Mickey.

“Did you tell her, or do you want me to in the morning?” Rooney asked.

“No, I think she got the picture.”

“Did she come on to you, too? I didn’t want to see that…”

“Yeah.”

“Goddam! I had hopes for this one.”

“Maybe we ought to focus on old guys from now on, ya know?”

“Well, you ain’t gonna like it, but I got a gal from San Diego coming up first thing in the morning.”

“Really? What time?”

“Eight-thirty, and she’s the one from PSA – remember – you liked her resumé. Said she’d take a cab in from the airport, so call it nine or a little after.”

“Mickey, any more pineapple juice and I’m going to turn into a fuckin’ diabetic.”

Rooney chuckled. “You have time to fly her around in the morning?”

“Yeah. I need the hours, and Pattison says that new 412 will be ready to go in the morning, so I’ll take it up for the final acceptance flight. Uh, I forgot…what’s the girl’s name?”

“Deborah something. Starts with a D, anyway. Sorry, that’s all I remember right now.”

“Yeah, well, get some sleep. See you when you finish up tomorrow.”

He went to the old apartment for the night – and noticed the For Sale sign was now marked Sold – and he smiled. He really noticed how run down the place was that he didn’t call it home anymore. Funny…how perceptions change.

_______________________________________

Her name was Debra Dorsken, and she said she liked to be called DD.

“Oh, swell,” Callahan moaned.

“What’s wrong with that?”

“I have a PA in Switzerland that goes by that handle.”

“Oh, well, then I guess Debra works.”

“No, no…DD it is. And I’m Callahan.”

“Are you, like, THE Callahan?”

“Yup. You ever been in a flutterbug?”

“A what?”

“A helicopter.”

“Good God no!”

Harry looked at her, his eyes almost crossed now. “You do know this is a helicopter service, right?”

“Yes, of course. Do I need to fly in order to be your CFO?”

“Well, we only have a handful of people around here who can’t fly, and most of those are taking classes now. Still, it’s not a requirement.”

“Look, I hate flying and the idea of riding in a helicopter scares the fucking shit out of me…” She looked at Harry and realized what she’d just said. “Oops, sorry, but I grew up with five brothers and I can guarantee you I know more four letter words than you do.”

He took a good look at her then: about five feet tall, weight just shy of an NFL linebacker’s, no ankles and short, stubby fingers with nicely manicured nails. Glasses that went out of style in the 50s. A red plaid skirt and saddle oxfords, red sweater with white blouse under. She did, however, have an MBA from Stanford and five years under her belt working for PSA. And…she was a Californian, from Santa Cruz.

“Well, bad news, DD. We’re taking a brand new flutterbug from here to Palo Alto, then up to Yosemite and then back here. You still interested, or do you wanna bail out now?”

“Is this, like, part of the job interview?”

“It is, yes.”

“Then…let’s do it.”

The new bird was a Bell 412SP, basically a 212 but with four rotor blades instead of two; this model could also carry more people, and carry them further, and had been a recent success story for Bell, especially with military operators. Callahan wanted to put this new model to work carrying fire fighters in the coming fire season, then they’d see about passenger operations in the Bay Area – if the bird proved economically viable. He laid all this out to DD as he helped her into the left seat and got her buckled-in, then he and Pattison did the final walk around. 

With that out of the way he climbed into the right seat, leaving Pattison to sit behind the girl – though he did the call-outs for the checklist from back there. Once the 412 was ready to take off Callahan looked at her once again, noticed the white-knuckled death grip she had on her armrests. He grinned at the possibilities.

They flew out to the Golden Gate then turned south, taking vectors from ATC all the way to Palo Alto. “If I had to make this drive, from the Presidio to Palo Alto, it would take at least an hour – and in good traffic,” he said. “It just took us a little over ten minutes.”

“Wow! This is a lot smoother that I expected, too. You could actually get some work done in here.”

“That’s the four blades,” Pattison said. “Smoother, and quieter, too. Harry, take care on your approach…this thing reacts faster to pitch commands than the 212.”

“I love the way this thing handles!” Callahan said. “More like the -76 than the old Hueys. Maybe we ought to think about replacing our older Hueys with this model?”

“I agree,” Pattison added. “I think passengers will appreciate the extra comfort.”

“Don’t do anything until I work the numbers,” DD added. “Uh…assuming I get the position, that is.”

They walked her around the Palo Alto operation and let her soak in the atmosphere, then she looked at them. “Do you have any air ambulance units?”

“No?”

“Why not?”

“Well, cities and counties handle those,” Pattison said.

“Oh yeah? Well, only a couple can afford it, and you guys are surrounded by counties that are just crying out for some kind of air ambulance service. With a couple of strategically located bases, you could cover almost all of northern California, the Sierras, and probably most of the Valley, too. Those contracts are pretty lucrative, too…”

Callahan looked at Pattison – who nodded. Both smiled.

“You think you could handle that?” Callahan asked her.

“As soon as you give me the go-ahead.”

“What are you handling at PSA?”

“Equipment purchasing and leasing. I mainly work with Boeing, spend a lot of time up in Renton.”

“You okay with living in the city?”

“Yessir.”

“I read you’re still working on your CPA. How’s that coming along?”

“Two years if I keep going part time.”

“What kind of money are you looking for?”

“Fifty if you can help with moving and school. A bonus would be nice when I get my CPA.”

Callahan got airborne and headed to Mariposa-Yosemite. “Our next base is near Yosemite National Park, our primary fire fighting base in the region right now…”

“Perfect place to start ambulance operations,” she said. “You could transition to year round ops, too. Probably all kinds of tax credits and write-offs as well. Are you looking at any other places?”

“Mammoth and South Lake Tahoe,” Pattison said, smiling at Callahan.

“Just be careful to keep everything in California. Once you move to an interstate operation the red tape is gonna get out of hand.”

“What do you think about profit-sharing?”

“Tricky. It can bite into your overhead and acquisition models if you miss forecasts. If you’re thinking about it, I’d wait until you have a solid five years of operations under your belt. And five years of rock-solid profits, too.”

“You married? Got a boyfriend?”

“Not yet, but I’m still looking!”

“Smoke or drink?”

“No to both, sir.”

“Which sounds better? Turtle soup or a cheeseburger?”

She laughed at that one. “No contest, sir. I’m a burger addict.”

“From now on, call me Harry – okay…?”

“Yessir!”

________________________________

Frank, now solidly in remission and enjoying fatherhood, had taken several months leave from both CAT and the police department, and while he detested changing diapers as much as the next rational human being, he positively enjoyed playing with the baby – and all the time, too. Cathy, on the other hand, had tried working from home – unsuccessfully – and soon needed to go back to work – part time. She had been juggling several pressing projects before she gave birth – Callahan’s apartment-to-condo project being just one among many – but now her partners were suddenly growing impatient. “I have to get back to work, Frank,” she told him. “Full time. Maybe more than full time.”

“The department needs me on Saturdays, probably nights,” he advised, meaning deep nights, or midnight to eight in the morning, “and starting this coming weekend.”

“What about Harry? Can’t he take it?”

“He already is, Cathy.”

“You’re kidding, right? You two will be working the same shift again?”

“Looks that way, yeah.”

“Dear God. Look out citizens of San Francisco…the two amigos ride again! Yeh-hah!”

“Stop it…we’re weren’t that bad…”

“No, you were worse.”

“Balls! Anyway, you just need to be here Saturday.”

“What about CAT? You going back?”

“Yeah. Harry’s not pushing, though.”

“He’s your friend, Frank. He wouldn’t push and you can’t take advantage of that, ya know?”

Bullitt looked down, nodded. “Yeah. You’re right.”

“On the bright side, when I saw Harry last week and I mentioned employers needing to get child care facilities into the workplace and, well, you should have one at the Cathouse in another month or so…”

“You know, Cathy, for some reason having a childcare facility in a Cathouse sounds a little weird.”

“No kidding. But you know what gets me?”

“Hmm?”

“Harry. I always looked at him kinda like I looked at you back in the day. You know, a neanderthal cop, misogynist from the get-go. A real redneck, I guess.”

“Me? You thought I was like that?”

“No, not really…but the point I’m making is that Harry isn’t like that, either. You know, maybe when we first knew him he was, but not now. He’s changed. A lot, I think…but I’d have never pinned him as a guy who would get behind putting a childcare facility in the workplace. I mean, think about it, Frank.”

“It’s that new CFO. Have you met her yet?”

She shook her head. “No. What’s she like? Besides drop dead gorgeous…”

Frank laughed. “Cathy, the last thing that girl is – is gorgeous. Homely would be a compliment.”

“No kidding?”

“Rooney told me she’s become something like his conscience, though. Apparently he runs everything by her, too. And I mean everything.”

“Wow. I’ve got to swing by and meet this one. I take it there’s nothing going on between them?”

“Nothing, at least as far as I know.”

“Do you really think you’re ready to hit the streets again?”

“Well, I have to go to the range Saturday and re-qualify. Beyond that? I guess so.”

“You still look thin to me, Frank. You’re just not eating enough.”

“Now…that’s a first.”

“Boy, don’t I know it. I’m up to a size ten now.”

“You’ve never looked better, Cathy.”

“Sweet of you to say so, but I feel like a blimp…!”

The front doorbell chimed.

“You expecting anyone?” Frank asked.

Cathy shook her head.

“Okay…I’ll go…oh, it’s Harry!”

Frank went to the door and let Callahan in, then they went back to the kitchen.

“Hey, Harry. Long time no see,” Cathy said. “You staying in the city all the time now?”

“Pretty much, unfortunately. I don’t think I’ve been out here in three weeks.”

“Where are you staying?”

“Dad’s. In his old bedroom.”

“So, Sam finished the remodel?”

“Yeah. I wanted to thank you, too. Great idea for the kitchen. It looks stunning!”

“You are so welcome! I understand the old apartment building is coming down on Monday.”

“Yup, and that’s what I wanted to talk about, in a roundabout way.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, I heard a prime lot up on Cathedral Hill became available last week, zoned multi-family thirty stories plus. Anyway, as of yesterday I’m under contract. You interested?”

“Am I interested? Are you kidding! Am I interested? Jesus, Harry, I can’t believe it!”

“I take it that means yes?”

“YES! That means a very big yes!”

“Great. Well, I’m going to let my new CFO handle the details this time around. Start a property management company, lot of stuff I don’t understand yet, so she’ll be handling the day to day details until I can get up to speed.”

“Oh? What’s her name?”

“Debra. She goes by DD, but she’s not related.”

“So, I just call the main number and ask for DD?”

“Yup. And thanks for the heads up on the child care thing. And, oh, that reminds me. We’re looking at the possibility of opening up a large base in Redding, mainly air ambulance services with both fixed wing and rotors.”

“You mean, like with real airplanes, Harry?” Frank said, surprised.

“Yeah.”

“That’s quite a change in operations, isn’t it?”

“Well, we’re already chartered by the state to do it, and the need is there. DD wants to take it a step further and up our certificate to scheduled passenger operations. Hit the small towns up the northern coast, link ‘em to SFO. We’ll be using the right equipment to do both, so might as well look into it. Anyway, Cathy, it’s more work for you – if you want it.”

“What about you, Harry,” Cathy said, now suddenly very concerned by what she saw on Callahan’s face, “what are you doing to take care of yourself?”

“Me? Hell, I don’t know, and I don’t really care. What I do know is…I’ve got about fifty ex-Army pilots on the payroll, and that up until a year ago they were stuck selling cars and working at car washes. I’m taking care of those guys first; I come next.”

“Yeah, okay, I get that, but think about something for me, will you? If you don’t take care of yourself this whole thing falls apart. Then what?”

“What are you getting at, Cathy?”

She hesitated, then went ahead on a hunch. “Do you still hear from Fujiko?”

He nodded. “About once a month.”

“And?”

“And…what?” 

“What do you think is going on with her?”

“I have no idea, Cathy. She’s vague about the things happening in her life.”

“Do you think she might be waiting for you to come for her? To prove your love for her?”

Callahan blinked rapidly. “No. Not really. Do you?”

“Harry, I think it’s time you found out one way or another what’s going on with her. Because ever since she left you haven’t been the same. Something inside of you went out, a spark, something like that. You need to go to her, talk to her, and figure this out.”

Callahan went to a window and looked out at the sea. He stood there for minutes, working things out in his head, then he turned to Frank. “If I go, Frank, you’re coming with me.”

“Why?”

“To keep me from doing anything stupid. Besides, you got me into this mess.”

“Who? Me?”

“Yeah, and don’t give me that ‘who-me’ crap. It was you – and that goddam book.”

“Yeah,” Bullitt nodded, “okay, Harry. Just let me know when and where.” 

________________________________

The 747 lined up on the runway, then the pilot ran up power to 40% and paused. The jet began to lumber down the runway, then power jumped to nearly 100%. He was in seat 1a and so could see right down the runway; Bullitt was across the aisle and he too was peering down the runway – then the nose rose and suddenly there was nothing but water below. One gentle turn to the north and Callahan looked at the city as it glided by, then the jet was following Interstate 5 north towards Oregon.

He could see three big fires burning from up here, and he knew his guys were down there in the thick of things, carrying fire fighters and supplies to camps all around the Trinity Alps, and for a moment he felt guilty…

‘I should be down there with them…’ he thought, but then his mind drifted to Fujiko and the way she sounded when he called her. Excited. Happy. 

‘So, Cathy was right after all. She was waiting for me the whole time. Damn!’

The stewardess was dressed in traditional Japanese attire, and Callahan realized how much he missed Japan – everything about it, as a matter of fact – and when she brought charcoal broiled vegetables and raw fish his mind went back to the spires of Izu…to the very moment he had fallen in love with Fujiko.

The sun was setting when the jet cruised past Mount Rainier and Seattle off the left wingtip, and just then he looked across to Frank – just finishing his dinner. According to his doctors just last year, he should have been dead – four months ago…and yet now, here he was. He looked at his friend and more than anything else he felt glad they were doing this together. At almost every turn, Frank had been there for him over the last fifteen years, and he was really more like a brother than he was ‘just a friend’…

And right now, Harry realized, he needed Frank more than ever. 

So much loss. After Sara he’d lost his dad, and then, in a way, he’d lost Fujiko too. But now that Frank was still alive? That was a blessing, wasn’t it? That had turned things around for him. Frank’s life was a gift, because he couldn’t really imagine what life would be like without Frank ‘just next door…’ And within the past week, after talking with Cathy, and then with Fujiko, he understood now that he felt the same way about Fujiko. He didn’t want to go through life alone, but more than that, he didn’t want to go through life without her.

Everything else had fallen into place this year, he thought as he watched the setting sun? He was successful now beyond his wildest dreams, doing everything he’d ever wanted to do. Yet something was always missing. Her soft eyes, the gentleness in her voice, the ever-patient harmony she seemed to exude.

But now that he knew what that something was, he wasn’t sure that he could live without it. That’s what this trip was all about. Coming full circle once again, and this time it would last.

© 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 (i.e., Covid-19) waiting to list 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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