The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 50

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A longish chapter today, so fix some tea and find a comfy chair to settle down in. Before, if you’re able to download videos off YouTube I would highly recommend you watch this video, as I feel most certain it contains the answers to a question nagging us all, namely: Why are we here, and why are we the way we are? Do turn up the volume a bit, and see it through. You won’t regret it. Then again, you might.

Now, on to the next chapter.

Part VI

Chapter 50

Callahan’s flight suit was soaked through, sweat was running down his face and neck then down into his t-shirt, and the sandwiches he’d eaten five hours ago were long gone. His hands were soaked, too, and his grip on the stick was at best tenuous now; Chapman was in back helping wrap steri-pads on another badly burned firefighter, leaving him alone up front. He checked VOR 1 and re-checked his intercept angle, heading for the Coffee Creek Volunteer Fire Department landing pad for the fifth time in as many hours.

And still he couldn’t get C-Med out of his mind. The white snake seemed to be with him constantly now, coiling like a feeling he just couldn’t shake. 

He double checked his altitude as the 412 flew through another wall of bright orange smoke filled with drifting embers, and he looked at the clock on the panel before he shook his head. ‘Almost midnight,’ he said to himself, ‘and these clouds almost look like high noon…”

The Huey flew out of the smoke and Callahan could just see Coffee Creek ahead when Chapman crawled back into the left seat. Callahan looked at the kid and shook his head; Chapman’s face and hands were covered in blood and soot and now he had the same hollow look in his eyes he’d seen in the eyes of his fellow pilots in ‘Nam.

“How ya doing, Ace?” he said after the kid got his helmet back on.

“Man, I didn’t know anything could be this fucking intense.”

“Well, if it’s any consolation, this is the worst flying I’ve been through since ’68.”

“Man, this is some mean shit.”

“Yeah, like I said, how are you doing?”

Chapman looked at Callahan, then at the mess in back. “I don’t know, man. I just don’t know.”

“Well, eight hours in the rack and you’ll know what to do.”

“What to do, sir?”

“You’re thinking about calling it quits, right?”

“Uh, Hell no, sir. I’m just tired, that’s all.”

Callahan tried not to smile. “Well, we’re both over the limit, so let’s grab some rack time once we get back to Center.”

“Is there anyone there to help clean out the rear, sir?”

“How bad is it?”

“Blood is two inches deep in places.”

Callahan nodded then switched to COMM 2: “Cat 1 to Cat 3 on 2.”

“Cat 3, go.”

“20?”

“Landing at Center in five.”

“Got it. We’re both going to need a clean up crew, and we’ve got a lot of blood on board.”

“We do too. I’ll see what we can muster-up. Our staff is still pretty thin up here, so don’t expect much. How far out are you?”

“Going to drop ten at the Creek, then come on down for some rack time.”

“Okay. We’ll be waiting for you here.”

“Cat 1 out.” That done, he turned to Chapman. “Take the stick for a second, would you?” He pulled out a hand towel from a pouch on his leg and wiped his hands, then he handed the cloth to Chapman. “My helicopter,” he added.

“You got it. Thanks.” Chapman tried to clean his hands but there was too much dried blood on them and he tightened-up when he realized what it was. “Was it like this over there?”

“Yeah, for ten months straight. I got there just before Tet cooked off.”

“That was the thing in ’68?”

“It was indeed,” Callahan sighed, stunned but not really surprised that one of the defining times of his life had become so casually – what? – forgotten?

He lined up on the pasture behind the fire department’s station, then made his flare – as close to the row of waiting ambulances as he dared – then he looked over to the Reed Cross canteen and saw that it had closed down for the night. He sighed again, then waited for the signal that the pad was clear and that they could take off. A few minutes later they were airborne and headed for the fuel depot at Trinity Center, Chapman so tired he was about to doze-off, and that too made him think about ’68.

Don McCall was finishing up his training to move over to the S-76, but Callahan regretted that move now. McCall would be perfect to head up operations in Redding, so he’d have to have a talk with him…soon.

Next his thought’s drifted to Fujiko, then to a new project under development near Fisherman’s Wharf – then he looked out the windshield and saw a wall of trees ahead…

…too late…?

He chopped the throttle and pulled up on the collective – effectively stopping in mid-air – and Chapman woke in a start, reached for the stick…

“I’ve got it,” Callahan said as he recovered and began climbing again.

“What happened?”

“I started daydreaming, stopped scanning, and I very nearly screwed the pooch. That’s what happened.”

“Man, I know the feeling. I don’t know how you’re keeping your eyes open.”

“By daydreaming, Ace. That’s the first stop on the way to falling asleep at the stick.”

“Yessir.”

He landed ten minutes later, and a ground crew was waiting for them – then he saw Frank standing by a Ford pickup waving at them. He waved back, then shot him a thumb’s up.

He left the kid to supervise the clean up and walked over to Bullitt and the Ford. “So, you were listening in again?”

“No, not really. I figured it out a while ago; we’re sub-contracting to the Forest Service, right? So DD and I got with them and worked something out. This group is from a local 4-H club, all of ‘em want to be pilots too, so they want in on the action.”

“They’re high school kids?”

“Every swingin’ dick out there, Harry.” 

“Hmm…”

“Uh-oh…I know that look. What are you thinking?”

“They want experience and we need people in back to help load and take care of the wounded. Sounds like a match made in heaven to me.”

Bullitt shook his head. “Let me check with their supervisor first, okay?”

“Sure. Just see if you can find me three with first aid training to ride in with us in the morning. Maybe we could rotate them during the day, get all of them some air time…”

“Okay. From the look of things, I’d say you guys need a cot before you do anything else. We have those tents over there for now.”

“Anything to eat or drink around here?”

“I picked up burgers at Carl’s Jr. Some Cokes, too. Two sacks in each tent, ready to go.”

“You’re a life saver, Frank.”

“Just trying to help – wish I knew how to fly; I’d be up there with you guys if I could.”

+++++

Callahan stayed up north for a week, and he got to know Jeanie Post well enough to ask her out on a date.

“You mean, like a real date?” she asked, blushing intensely.

“Yeah, the real deal,” Callahan said. “Dinner and a movie, the whole nine yards.”

“Well, sure, why not? Any idea when?”

“Saturday okay? I can pick you up here.”

“Here? You mean, here, as in this landing pad?”

“Yeah. Unless you’re afraid of flying.”

“No, not really, but my boy will be so disappointed…”

“Why?”

“He’s always wanted to fly, ever since he was old enough to read.”

“So, bring him along. There’s an air show over in Alameda this weekend and we’re going to have an exhibit set up there. I need to be there at noon, but I can pick you guys up at nine and we’ll play it by ear after that. Sound doable?”

“Yes, sure, sounds fun. We’ll be here at nine.”

“Okay. Well, I gotta head back to the city today. I’ll see you Saturday.” He found Chapman and their 4-H volunteer – and then they headed for Trinity Center to drop off the volunteer before they flew on to San Francisco. While they were there Bullitt hopped on board at the last moment…

“Mind if I bum a ride off you guys?”

“No, hop on and get a helmet. We need to talk, and this is as good a time as any.”

Frank got his helmet on after he’d settled into the jump-seat behind Chapman’s. “Okay, I’m on.”

Callahan took off then turned the controls over to Chapman before he turned to Frank. “So, how much work is needed in Redding to go operational?”

“Sam has a punch list to work through, but it’s short. We’re waiting on some kind of special fire resistant carpet, and that’s about it – as far as I know.”

“Okay. And, good work on the 4-H thing. That’s working out pretty good.”

“Right. Some of the parents are really grateful.”

“I heard from Beechcraft this morning. We need to send someone to Kansas to pick up the first 1900.”

“Are they painting them?”

“No. They’re doing carpet and seats, that’s it. We have to get them painted and registered. After we settle on a paint scheme they can do it.”

“Who’s designing it…as if I didn’t know?”

“Yeah. Cathy.”

“So, she’s still talking to you?”

“About business stuff, yeah. Just about every day.”

“And?”

“Not a whole lot else to say, Frank. She did mention that Fujiko is dating now, but I think she was just twisting the knife a little.”

“She can be that way, Harry. Sorry.”

“Nothing for you to be sorry about. And, oh, before I forget: I have to go to Switzerland in two weeks. Want to tag along?”

“How long are you going to be away?”

“Two, maybe three days, tops.”

“I’ll have to check with DD. You know, there are sure a lot of DDs in your life…”

“Don’t I know it. There are some guys from PHI coming in to talk with me this afternoon. Could you hang around for that?”

“Who or what is PHI?”

“Big helicopter outfit down south. They service oilfields, stuff like that.”

“What do they want?”

“No one knows, but DD thinks they’re going to try and buy us out.”

“No shit?”

“Yeah, apparently there are a few people not real happy we’re doing so well.”

“That figures.”

“Oh, before I forget, I met a gal up in Coffee Creek. I’ll be bringing her and her son to the thing in Alameda on Saturday.”

“No shit?”

“No shit.”

“So, you are moving on, I take it?”

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I ain’t goin’ down that road again, Frank. Casual dates for me from now on. No commitments, no hassles. No more bullshit serious relationships.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Frank said.

“What? About Cathy?”

“Yeah.”

“No way, Frank. You two have been together for what? – almost twenty five years? And you have a kid too, for cryin’ out loud. Why would you do that?”

“Because I’m alone, Harry, and I’m not enjoying it even a little bit.”

“I hear that,” Chapman said.

“What? You’re not hitched up?” Harry asked. “I thought on your resumé it said…”

“It did, because I was. She ditched me as soon as I decided to move out here.”

“How long were you together?” Frank asked.

“Too fuckin’ long, apparently,” Chapman sighed. 

“What about that nurse I saw you hangin’ around with at the Red Cross tent?” Harry asked. “She looked pretty damn cute, from what I could see.”

“I’m still workin’ on that one.”

“Why did your, what, was she girlfriend or wife?”

“Wife.”

“Why didn’t she want to move out here?”

“She doesn’t like big cities.”

“So? We post you to Redding, end of problem.”

The kid shrugged. 

“Okay, so there’s more to it than just big cities.”

“A whole lot more. I think her lawyer called it irreconcilable differences.”

Callahan and Bullitt both nodded.

“You’re probably better off with the nurse,” Callahan said, trying not to smile.

“A lot better off,” Frank added. 

“Did you get her number, at least?” Harry asked.

“Yeah, but she’s from Redding, and I’m…uh…did you say I could base at Redding?”

Harry looked at the kid, then at Frank: “Ya know, I think he’s just had a sudden flash of insight, Frank. What do you think?”

“A stiff prick has no conscience, that’s what I think,” Bullitt sighed.

“That goes without saying,” Callahan said. “What do you think, kid?”

“I think I’m going to call a nurse.”

“Bingo!” Frank cried. “And another one bites the dust.”

____________________________________

Frank and DD sat beside Callahan on one side of the conference table, the three reps from PHI on the other. The reps were identically dressed in black suits, with white button down shirts and red ties. They even had little American flags on their lapels, so Callahan thought they looked like Jehovah’s Witnesses and he tried not to laugh.

“Okay,” DD began, “this is your meeting. Fire away.”

One of them spoke: “We’re here to buy you out. All we need is the right number, then we can leave.”

“I see,” Callahan said. “And why do you want to buy us out? We don’t compete with you, at least not as far as I can tell.”

“We don’t want any competitors should we decide to move into this market.”

Callahan shrugged. “Okay. Two billion and it’s all yours.”

They laughed. “Let’s get serious, Mr. Callahan. You market value is…”

“I know what our value is, and I don’t give a flying fuck about your offer, or your money. We’re not a threat to you, not now, anyway, so you must be here because you think there’s going to be a market for your services in California. but let’s see, you service offshore oil rigs, and there aren’t exactly too many of those around, are there? So, you think something’s about to change, right?”

No one answered.

“Okay. so here’s my deal. You leave us alone, and in return we give you what amounts to a written non-compete contract. And that contract stipulates that you won’t compete in the air taxi and fire fighting business in Northern California.”

“Define Northern California,” one of the reps said.

“Draw a line from Santa Barbara to Bishop, and we have exclusive rights to Yosemite and Sequoia. PHI can have everything south of that line.”

“And Santa Barbara?”

“Our southern hub for fixed wing ops. Again, we will not service offshore oil platforms, period.”

“And how much do you want for this?”

“How much are you offering?”

The rep wrote out a figure and passed it over to Callahan. Who looked at the number and smiled.

____________________________________

He met Don McCall at the Cathouse early on Saturday morning, and they walked around CATs newest S-76. With the same silver and deep red paint on the outside, this latest delivery had a more upscale interior. Off white leather everywhere but the carpet, which was navy blue, and the passenger windows were polarized so light could be controlled with a simple dial.

“Good idea basing this one in Palo Alto,” McCall said. “Right market there.”

“Yeah, I think Pattison called this one right.”

“Is he taking Palo Alto?” Don asked – nervously.

“Yup. He found a little house in Menlo Park.”

“No room for two down there, right?”

“I don’t see why not. We’ll all still be on rotation.”

“Just curious, but ideally, where would you like me?”

“Redding during fire season. The rest is up to you.”

“Redding? What’s it like up there?”

“We’re gonna stop there on the way up to Coffee Creek. Frank’s riding up with us to look over a few things, then we’ll make our pickup before we head to Alameda. You can look it over while we’re up there.”

“I thought Redding was going to be fixed wing only?”

“Except during fire season.”

“Ah.”

“And, keep in mind Pattison has asked about fixed wing training.”

“Oh? I hadn’t heard that one.”

“Nothing’s definite yet, but you’d be next in line for Palo Alto if he leaves helicopters.”

“Interesting.”

“Yeah. So take a look around Redding a little, tell me what you think this afternoon.”

“Will do.”

Frank came out of the Cathouse carrying a briefcase and Callahan almost lost it. “Next thing you know, Frank, you’ll be wearing a three piece suit.”

Bullitt grinned. “I should be so lucky. Just how much money did you make yesterday? DD won’t say, not for love or money.”

“Enough to give you a raise.”

“Good. Maybe we could stop at Brooks Brothers on the way up.”

“If they got a pad, why not?” McCall said, grinning. “Besides, I could use some new wingtips,” he added, holding up his leg – revealing an ancient, saddle-worn cowboy boot.

 Bullitt climbed into the passenger cabin and whistled. “Wow, this is a little upscale, even for us,” he said.

“Yeah, kind of a modern take on the Parisian bordello look,” McCall said, scowling. “Cathouse, my ass,” he grumbled.

McCall checked in with ATC after their engine warm-up, then they took off due north over the bay; they arrived in Redding about an hour later and Frank took McCall around the operation, showing him a local map where all the potential fire areas were located. Callahan walked around the new terminal and felt an odd little stirring of pride as he looked around. ‘This is mine,’ he said to himself, ‘I built this.’ There were a couple of people working behind the counter, setting up for the grand opening – now just two weeks away – so he walked over to meet them.

They recognized him for some reason, and thanked him for the opportunity to get in on the ground floor, and he talked with them for quite a while, listened to their hopes and dreams. Both were local Gold Star wives, women who’d lost husbands in combat, both supporting families in a small community where good paying jobs were hard to come by. They wanted medical benefits most of all, but they hoped for a good retirement plan too, and maybe a way to save for college tuition for their kids. They seemed impressed that Callahan took out a notebook and wrote down these things as they talked.

Because they’d heard Callahan was like this. For some reason he cared, and to them that made him different from the other employers they’d worked for over the years. And because he cared, they cared too. They were determined to do the best job possible to help this new venture grow, because they felt vested in the outcome now.

Callahan met Bullitt and McCall out on the ramp after the S-76 refueled; a few minutes later they flew west to Coffee Creek and touched down behind the fire station. Jeanie and her son were waiting beside the Red Cross tent with Mickey Rooney, and Callahan watched as Rooney walked them out to the helicopter. 

“Mind if I come long?” Rooney said. “I’ve got three days off and…”

“As long as you don’t mind going to Alameda,” McCall said, mentally recalculating his weights and balances as Rooney climbed in and sat down.

“Mr. Callahan?” Jeanie said. “This is my son Don. Don, this is Mr. Callahan.”

They shook hands and Callahan could tell that he’d need to break the ice. “Don, my name is Harry, and the fella sitting beside me over here? Well, his name is Don too, so I’ll try not to get too screwed up with the name thing today.” But Callahan could see that the boy was very nervous and probably tongue tied – and that his mother a little in awe of the helicopter, too – which was, he had to admit, more than a little opulent. “I tell you what? Why don’t you come sit up here, that way I can sit with your mother and tell her all kinds of lies. That okay with you?”

That did it. Ice. Broken.

And an hour later they touched down at Naval Air Station Alameda-Nimitz Field in the area set aside for civilian vendors, and Callahan led the little group to CATs display booth. DD had a team on hand to provide an overview of their helicopter services around the Bay Area, and two new pilots would provide an rundown of the new air links up Northern California’s I-5 corridor and along the coast. 

“Harry?” DD said as he walked up to the booth, “I thought you were going to wear your flight suit today?”

“Not back from the cleaners,” he shrugged. 

“Well, we’ve got two meetings set up this afternoon. Mayors from Stockton and Sacramento want to talk about links to their municipal airports.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, both mentioned tax breaks and other incentives. Stockton has done a marketing analysis, too.”

“Interesting. You need me, or do you want to handle it?”

“Harry, you’re the CEO…you have to be here. I mean it. You really have to be here,” she said, noticing Jeanie for the first time and backing off a little. “Okay?”

“What time do you need me?” 

“Two o’clock sharp.”

Callahan looked at the show schedule and saw that the Blue Angels were set to start at 3:00 so he demurred. “Okay, two it is.”

“Here’s your vendor’s badge. Pin it to your jacket, please?”

“Here, let me,” Jeanie said – stepping close to Harry and pinning him. Callahan seemed surprised by this unexpected move; DD just smiled patiently as she handed the badge to this latest interlocutor. Then – after Harry introduced Jeanie’s son, she watched them walk off together – and for a moment she imagined them as a happy couple with a grown-up son. Would he have been happier, she wondered. 

She had taken to pretending she had a new boyfriend – because she was almost afraid someone would see the truth in her eyes one day. She had become Callahan’s right hand, so-to-speak, because from their very first meeting she fallen into a kind of teenaged infatuation with him. She hadn’t been surprised when Fujiko moved on, and when Harry asked her to help get Fujiko settled in the city she had done so with ease. Her reasons for her doing so, in retrospect, were easy enough to understand.

Still, DD held no unreal expectations about Callahan. She knew her best-case scenario was to simply stay close to him, protect him and – over time – become indispensable to him, and over the years earn the kind of trust men usually reserve for a spouse or best friend. When Harry expressed that kind of trust in her he only validated these modest aspirations, and yet she grew closer to him with each new expression of trust. To her, these moments were as complete as simple assignations – that only she knew about – so, in a way, she felt she had assumed the role of mistress – but a mistress who remained constantly out of sight.

Callahan came back to the booth just in time to meet with the mayoral delegations, and he listened to their pitch patiently then thanked them for their time. He told the assembled teams to give all their documentation to DD, and to call her with any further ideas – and once again Harry missed the tell-tale look in her eyes.

But Jeanie Post didn’t.

____________________________________

After the airshow, Callahan and his group flew over the bay to the Cathouse, and from there he took Jeanie and her son up to The Shadows for dinner. The boy still seemed reluctant to talk – and more than simply shy, Callahan thought. It was resentment, he decided as he watched the two of them. He was someone new, a usurper to the throne, and the boy had grown up at the center of his mother’s universe. And, as no one had ever competed with him for her attention, the boy was on unfamiliar ground. The way around that, Callahan thought, was to put him back on center stage.

“So, you graduate this year? What then?”

“I haven’t decided on anything yet.”

“What are your options?”

“What do you mean?”

“More school? Get a job maybe, or try the military?”

“School would be my first choice.”

“To study what?”

“I’ve always wanted to be a veterinarian.”

Callahan nodded. “Noble profession. I take it your grades in science are good?”

Don nodded. 

“So, what’s the holdup?”

“Depends on scholarship money.”

“I haven’t been able to save enough to keep up with tuition increases,” Jeanie said.

“Play any sports?”

“Not good enough for a scholarship,” the kid said.

“What? Football?”

“Yeah, and baseball in the spring. I’m not really big enough for college football and anyway, I’m not sure I’d even want to play at that level. What did you do after high school?”

“Army. That’s where I learned to fly, then I went to Germany. Came back, got on with the police department…”

“Oh, you were a cop?” Don asked.

“Well, I still am. But anyway, about a year or so after I started work, the Army sent me to Vietnam, and I flew there for a year.”

The boy looked away for a moment, then came back to the present: “What was that like?”

“It was a nonstop shit-show, Don. The hardest thing I’ve ever done.”

“Like…what did you do over there?”

“Most days we flew missions up to forward aid stations, kind of like the MASH units you see on television. Transport the wounded back to big hospitals, that was the main deal, but we also hauled troops up to landing zones when they made assaults on enemy positions. Don McCall was with me for most of that year.”

“That was the guy flying this morning?”

“Yup.”

“So he’s like your friend?”

“Yup, one of the best.”

“So, where were you a cop?”

“Here in the city.”

“Were you like a patrolman or something?”

“After you get out of academy, everyone goes to patrol for a few years. Some people like it and decide to stay there.”

“What did you do?”

“Homicide Detective.”

“That’s like investigating murders, stuff like that?”

“Uh-huh.”

“See a lot of gross stuff?”

“Yup.”

“What’s the grossest thing you ever saw?”

“You, eating that spaghetti. Didn’t anyone ever teach you how to twirl your pasta?”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Take you spoon like this…”

And Callahan taught him how to twirl spaghetti on a fork, before he realized the boy’s mother didn’t know how to either, and he decided right then and there not to take things like this for granted with these two. They had both grown up in Coffee Creek, California – which was, he had to admit, pretty far off the beaten path.

“So,” Callahan said, changing gears once again, “what’s one thing that doesn’t have anything to do with school that you’d like to learn how to do this year?”

“What do you mean, like sports or hobby type things?”

“Sure, either one.”

“The school took a ski trip up to Tahoe last year, just for a day, but I really enjoyed that. Only had that one day, but I’d sure like to learn how.”

“Yeah? When I was in high school we did the same thing every February. My girlfriend and I really liked it, too.”

“Did you ever go after that?”

He nodded.

“Well, that’s something I’d like to do.”

“Okay. Well, I can drive you back up to Coffee Creek now, or we could drive up to my house. I’ve got a guest bedroom you two can use, then I could drive you over in the morning.”

“I have to open the diner in the morning,” Jeanie said. “Sorry?”

“So, no helicopter ride?” Don asked.

“I don’t know. Would you rather do that?”

The kid nodded and smiled – until Callahan unholstered his radio and called the Cathouse. 

“Cat 1 to Cat base, anything headed north tonight?”

“Cat 1, 20?”

Callahan recognized Frank’s voice, and he also recognized the tone. “Cat 1 in The Shadows.”

“Cat 1, RTB code 3.”

“Cat 1 code 5.” He turned to Jeanie. “Sorry, we might have to move fast now. Come with me, please.”

He made the drive down the hill to the Cathouse with practiced ease, and he was greeted by a huddle of pilots and civilian officials – with DD standing off to the side…waiting for him. “Wait here,” he told them, “and let me find out what’s going on.”

“Well,” Jeanie said to her son, “what do you think of him?”

The boy shrugged. “I don’t know. What does it matter what I think, anyway?”

“You know why.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Because the few times I’ve tried to start seeing someone new you pitch a fit and run them off, that’s why!”

Again, the boy just shrugged. “Alright, I don’t like him!”

“Why? What could possibly be wrong with him?”

He turned away and looked out the Rover’s window. “I just don’t like him, that’s all.”

“That’s not fair and you know it!” 

“I don’t like you seeing other people, okay?”

The argument continued for some time, and no one noticed – except DD.

____________________________________

“So, what was all that about?” Jeanie asked Callahan as he helped her into the front right seat.

“Another fire has broken out, east of Eureka this time,” he said as he buckled her in. He helped Don into the rear seat of the Huey and got him buckled in, then he put a headset on the boy’s head – set to receive an FM radio station – then he finished his pre-flight walk around and started the Huey.

He made sure Don’s headset was off the circuit then switched Jeanies headset to intercom 2.

“Can you hear me?”

“Yes? Why’d you put Don in back?”

“Because I want to talk to you, if that’s okay.”

“Sure.”

Callahan called in and wrote down ATCs clearance instructions, then took off – heading due north again.

“What’s going on between you two?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Seems to me like that kid is running your life. It’s obvious to me, but some other people noticed today. What gives?”

She nodded. “Yes, I suppose he does.”

“Well,” he chuckled, “that explains a lot.”

“Such as?”

“Well, you’ve hardly spoken all day. You defer to him, you don’t challenge him when he breaks boundaries, so I guess, in short, you let him walk all over you. Is that about right?”

She looked away. 

“Look,” he continued, “I’m not going to stick my nose in your business, but there’s no way there can be anything between us with this going on in the background.”

She nodded. “No way,” she whispered.

“So, what’s going on?”

“I really can’t talk about it, Mr. Callahan.”

“Mr. Callahan? Really? Did he push me out that fast?”

“What do you want me to say?”

“Just a little truth.”

“Look, it’s worse than that. It’s worse than anything you can imagine.”

He turned and looked at her. She was crying softly.

“I don’t know about that, Jeanie. I can imagine quite a lot.”

“Not this you can’t!”

He sat and digested these comments, not at all liking where they were leading him. “Okay, can I ask you a hypothetical?”

“He’s acting more like my husband now, Harry! Okay? Can you understand that?”

Callahan swallowed hard and looked away, his grip on the stick so fierce now he had to let go for a moment. 

“Are you saying he forces his way on you?”

She nodded.

“And you do understand that I am a Peace Officer?”

Again, she nodded.

He called ATC and requested vectors back to the city, then he turned back towards the Cathouse. When he was in range he called dispatch and asked to talk to Frank.

“Base to Cat 1, go ahead.”

“Cat 1, would you call Al Bressler and have him meet us down here on the ramp. Will have a 10-95 for Signal 53.”

“Base to 1, received. ETA?”

“About a half hour.”

“We’ll be standing by.”

“Cat 1 out.”

_____________________________________

Three hours later he put Jeanie Post in the blue Rover’s front seat and buckled her in; she was listless, almost catatonic, her spirit shattered, her will to carry-on at a low ebb. DD and Frank sat in back, and they sat quietly while Callahan navigated through the city to the Golden Gate Bridge. Soon they were headed north on the PCH, the Pacific Coast Highway, towards Sea Ranch. Callahan drove slowly, cautiously, wanting above all else to let the woman rest after the stress of her son’s interrogation and arrest.

Callahan’s first impulse had been to follow Bressler’s advice and get the woman to a rape crisis center, but Frank and DD had talked him out of it; Frank’s reasoning being that this wasn’t really a typical rape case. Better, he said, to seek out treatment options closer to her home. But now, after watching her sitting there for three hours, Callahan wasn’t sure Jeanie was going to make it without drastic, almost forceful intervention.

He pulled up to his house and hit the garage door opener, then pulled inside. Frank helped him carry Jeanie to his room, and DD went to the kitchen and put on water for tea. Not a minute later there came a knock on the front door, and DD found Cathy waiting out front, demanding to know what was happening.

“I saw Harry and Frank carrying a woman into the house,” she began, but DD stopped her until she could get outside and close the door. When she told her what had happened, Cathy seemed to deflate before her eyes.

“Poor Harry. He’s never going to catch a break where women are concerned.”

“I don’t know,” DD replied. “He’s got you and me to take care of him, doesn’t he?”

“Me?” Cathy cried, taking a step back. “What the devil makes you say that?”

“Oh, come off it, you idiot. He talks to you more than any other female in history. He’s on the phone with you almost every day, right? And who’s giving him advice on those telephone calls, hmm? You do, Cathy, and he listens to you because he knows you, but more than that – he trusts you. And do you have any idea how many people he actually trusts? Not many, that’s about all I can say. So yeah, you, and guess what Cathy? He needs you right now.”

Cathy recoiled from DD’s words, eyes blinking and face twitching, then something deep inside seemed register. ‘Harry was the one who pulled me back from the brink in Switzerland. He’s the one that keeps throwing me the most plum assignments I’ve ever had, and he’s helped put my name on the architectural map. Yeah, she’s right…right as rain…’

“What can I do to help?”

“Really? You wanna know?”

“Yes, I really do.”

“The first thing Harry asks Frank, and I mean every day, is ‘Have you heard from Cathy yet?’ He worries about Frank all the time, Cathy, because he knows that without you Frank is lost. You really wanna help then put your house in order and knock off all this crap. Frank loves you, and you love him, so put an end to this, would you? For Harry’s sake, if not your own!”

Cathy warded off the words like they were physical blows, then she succumbed – and gave up. She turned and started to walk away – but she paused. “Send Harry down to the house, would you?”

DD watched the woman walk away and she smiled. “Well, one more cog fixed. Now, let’s go take a look at this woman and see if we can’t get that ball rolling…”

_________________________________

It seemed that Cathy knew a couple of physicians in Sea Ranch and she called one after DD’s prompt, and she asked for some advice. Frank Watson was a neurologist so he was an almost perfect choice for the moment, and he came down to Harry’s house with his little black bag and examined Jeanie. He shook his head while Frank passed along her known background, then he took out a syringe and a vial. After swabbing her arm he injected some sort of magic elixir and a moment later she simply fell away from them, into a very deep sleep.

Frank took Frank Watson to the back deck and passed him off to Cathy and Harry and, thinking he wasn’t welcome he started to retreat – then Cathy asked him to come out and sit with them. He sat next to her after she patted the place next to her own, and she took his hand after he settled in. DD and Harry went inside and fixed several strong rum drinks; they passed them around and joined in the conversation.

“Holy mother of god,” Watson gasped. “Damn, that’s a mean drink. What the hell is it?”

“DDs rendition of a Suffering Bastard. Perfect for occasions like this,” Harry said, grinning just a little. “Do you think she’ll snap out of this, doc?”

“We’ll know in the morning, I think. If she’s the same we’ll need to take her to Palo Alto. If not, let’s get her a support group ready to step in when she gets home.”

Callahan grimaced. “That could be a problem. We don’t really know her that well.”

“We can figure that out when and if. For now, let’s just see how she does. The mind can be fairly resilient, even after a shock like this, but my guess is she’ll need someone to care for her.”

DD looked at the physician’s drink and smiled. “Ready for another,” she asked, standing and taking his glass.

“Only if you plan on carrying me home?” he smiled.

“I think we can handle that,” she replied.

When DD was out of earshot the physician turned to Cathy. “Who the Dickens is that?”

“Harry’s girl Friday. Name is DD. There’s nothing she can’t handle.”

“Cute little thing,” Watson said, already slurring his vowels, “isn’t she?”

“Best thing that ever happened to Harry,” Frank added.

“Oh, are you two a thing?” Watson said, scowling.

“No, no,” Callahan said. “She’s my CFO. Quite a head for business and just a real peach.”

“Really? Is she single?”

“Yup. She sure is, doc, and you know, if I’m not mistaken I think she likes you.”

“Hmm. Well now, this could be an interesting night.”

DD came back and handed over Watson’s second Bastard, and everyone looked up expectantly when Bullitt stood and raised his glass in a toast.

“Here’s to interesting nights!”

“To interesting nights!” everyone smiled, casting brief sidelong glances at DD before they slammed down their drinks.

“Did I miss something?” DD asked – which produced a minor gale of laughter.

“Darlin’?” Bullitt replied. “That just ain’t possible.”

Even Callahan lost it when he heard that, leaving DD to wonder what the hell was going on.

__________________________________

Jeanie woke a little before noon, and she just made it to the bathroom before her bladder let go, then she wandered out into the house – completely dazed and confused. 

“Hello!” she shouted. “Anyone here?”

“Out on the porch,” she heard Harry Callahan say, so she followed the voice to the living room and from there she saw four people sitting around a table. Only Callahan seemed familiar, and that bothered her.

She stepped out into the light and held her hand up to shade her eyes while she tried to marshal her thoughts. “Where am I?” she asked.

“My place,” Callahan said. “How are you feeling?”

She shook her head. “I’m not sure.”

“Come over here and let me take a look at you,” one of the strangers said.

“Excuse me, but are you a doctor?”

“Yup. Now please, I just need to check a few things.”

Jeanie walked over and sat next to Watson and he took her wrist and counted off a pulse, then he reached into his little bag of tricks and pulled out a light and shined it in her eyes. “Well, I think you’ll survive. Now tell me, what do you remember about yesterday?”

“Everything, I think.”

“Do you know where your son is?”

She nodded, looked away.

“Have any family or close friends we could call?”

“No, not really. A few sort-of-friends, but no one close. What day is it, anyway?”

“Sunday,” Callahan said.

“Oh, no. There was no one to open the diner this morning…”

DD held up her hand – as if asking for permission to speak: “I called someone at the Red Cross up there. They’re handling the restaurant for you this morning.”

“Now,” Watson said, “how about some breakfast? Some fresh fruit maybe?”

“Coffee,” she said. “Black.”

“Some real food, too,” Watson added. “It’ll help clear up those stomach issues.”

“How did you know my…?” she started to ask.

But Watson just smiled and held up his hands. Then DD handed her a plate loaded with fresh papaya and a bran muffin.

“I’m too nauseated to eat,” Jeanie said, which caused Watson to reach into his magic bag and pull out a syringe: “I’ve got something for that,” he said, holding it so the needle caught some daylight – just so. “You know, on second thought…” she added – which caused the needle to magically disappear.

“You might take a walk after you finish,” Watson told her, smiling. “And I’m sure we can find someone to walk with you.”

The tide was out so Callahan took her down to the beach through his recently finished stone walkway, and he let her set the pace. She walked in silence, but after a few steps she reached out and took Callahan’s hand in her own. “Thank you,” she said, her voice just loud enough to hear over the surf.

DD and Watson watched from the patio, and when he saw that one simple gesture he relaxed. “She’s intact, by golly. I do believe she’ll be okay now. It’ll take time, but yes, she’ll pull through.”

“I can’t thank you enough, doctor. Really.”

“Well, let’s talk about that, shall we?”

__________________________________

Frank was just waking up when he heard Cathy and Elizabeth playing in the kitchen. He sat up in bed and listened for a while – for to his ears, these were the most beautiful sounds in all creation…and he was home – again.

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about 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 said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. 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. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. 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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