There came a time, and maybe it was about six months after the Jeanie Post thing, when Frank decided Harry Callahan had simply had enough – of women, of dating – all of it. He’d turned into a helicopter flying monk and if it didn’t have to do with flying – and CAT, it seemed that Harry Callahan just wasn’t interested.
Cathy had asked him once if he wanted to proceed with the little teahouse and Callahan had thought for a moment, then told her yes.
“I’m just curious, but why?”
“I think,” Harry told her, “it might just be a fitting monument to the futility of love.”
And it wasn’t what he’d said that rattled Cathy, it was the way he said it. Maybe a little self-deprecating – and why not? – yet it was the certainty, the finality she felt in him that shook her up. And it dovetailed so nicely with what Frank had described. Callahan didn’t look at anyone with any interest at all – unless, he’d told her, they were wearing a flight suit.
When DD announced that she and Doc Watson were engaged, Callahan took them to dinner and couldn’t have been happier for them, but Cathy’s keen enough eye saw right through the searing irony within his spontaneous gaiety – and seeing him so – well, she just didn’t buy into the whole macho bravado thing anymore.
“It’ll happen, Harry. Your one true love. She’s out there, just you wait and see.”
“She might be, Cathy, but right now I could give a rat’s ass. I’d walk right on by and never know, because I just don’t care anymore.”
“Kind of a self-fulfilling deal, don’t you think?”
“No, not really,” he’d said as he watched DD and the Doc dancing. “I’m comfortable with who I am right now, Cathy. Just me. But I know what you mean. When I think of either you or Frank I think of you two as a matched pair, as two people who belong together. Indistinguishable one from the other, ya know?”
“That’s what I want for you,” Cathy said. “If anyone ever deserved that kind of happiness, it’s you.”
“You know, of all the things I picked up in Japan I think Karma hit me hardest – and deepest. There’s a real basic truth in that one, Cathy. Maybe ‘what goes around comes around’ comes close, or even ‘you reap what you sow,’ but something about Karma seems so resonant to me now.”
“You loved Fujiko, didn’t you? I mean, you really, really loved her, right?”
“I thought so – at mean I did…once-upon-a-time, but I’ll tell you something weird. You know how people say that the opposite of Love is Hate?”
“Yes, sure I do.”
“I never felt Hate for her, Cathy. Never once. Doesn’t that mean something, like I never really loved her?”
‘Or maybe it means you still love her, you dumb-ass!’ she thought about saying to him – but she pulled back from that precipice and simply smiled at him.
The Doc had grown close to Frank and Cathy after that party, and even a little to Harry, so when he learned of Frank’s cancer and remission he took a serious interest in Frank – from a professional point of view, that is. Not long after their marriage, at a dinner party Cathy put on for the newlyweds, Frank got a little toasted and mentioned the whole ‘piano and Callahan‘ thing, and the Doc had, at the time, filed that one away deep inside the Drunken Innuendo filing cabinet.
Then one day the Doc mentioned it in passing to Cathy – and she had instantly grown cold and distant – and her frigid denial meant something as far as the doc was concerned.
“Let me try again, Cathy?” the doc asked. “Is it true…what Frank said?”
But Cathy had offered only a cold, blank stare, and he’d opted not to press the matter further.
Then one Saturday afternoon he’d been running on the beach and he looked up at one point and saw Callahan on his back porch. What was he up to? Lighting a fire, getting ready to grill some steaks? He found the cut in the rocks that led up to Callahan’s house and he ambled over to the grill as Callahan was adding more wood to the fire.
“Getting the fire ready, I see.”
“Oh, hey Doc. Out for another run?”
“Yeah, but it’s beginning to take a toll on my knees.”
“Time to get a bicycle, I reckon.”
“Probably true. Say, Cathy tells me you’re a helluva pianist. That true?”
“I can make it through chopsticks okay, if that’s what you mean. Why?”
“Oh, nothing. Just curious, as I’d never heard anyone mention that before. Do you still play much?”
And Callahan had simply shaken his head. “Oh, not that much these days; what about you?”
“I used to play a little, but for some reason I quit after med school. Didn’t have the time for it anymore, I guess. Now I kind of regret that decision.”
“So,” Callahan sighed, “why don’t you go pick up a new one. I can get you a good deal if you’re serious.”
“Yeah. For some reason I ended up sole owner of the Rosenthal Music Company…”
“That Danish outfit? You? That must be quite a tale. What kind of piano is that up in the house?”
“Oh, it’s a Bösendorfer.”
“Are you fucking serious? Man, I’ve never even laid eyes on one of those.”
“Cathy designed that one for the house,” Harry said – with some pride in evidence.
“Yeah. Part of a custom program they have. She did the design, and she even shipped some rock and slate they were using inside the house to them. They incorporated everything. Really a work of art.”
“Alright, Callahan…you’ve got to show me this thing!”
They walked up and Watson was impressed enough with the house, then he saw the piano and how Cathy’s design for the house had started at the piano and worked out from there.
“Dear God, Harry. I’ve never seen anything like this before in my life,” Watson said as he walked over to instrument. He stood behind the bench and assayed the surroundings, taking in the view of the sea ahead and the rocky cliffs almost directly below and to the right. “This view is simply staggering! You can see the surf hit the rocks…everything…!”
“Go head, take a seat and let me know what you think of her.”
“How do you keep her in tune…with all this humidity?”
“Ducted central dehumidifiers throughout the house. And I have a tuner from the shop come out once a month.”
“You really don’t mind if I play a little?”
“No, no – fire away.”
Watson sat and positioned himself, then uncovered the keys and began butchering Clair de lune for a few minutes, then he quit, shaking his head as he stood. “Like I said, it’s been a few years. How often do you play these days…?”
Callahan shrugged. “When I come out here to the house I try to spend some time with her.”
“Oh, I’m sorry…you were about to light a fire. So you’re cooking out tonight?”
“Thinking about it, yeah,” Callahan replied, wondering where this was going.
“You know, I’m sorry. I feel like I’ve bulled my way in here…”
“Not at all. How’s married life treating you?”
Watson shook his head. “She’s clairvoyant, you know? Either that or she’s the smartest woman alive.”
“I figured that one out a few years ago, Doc. She’s both.”
“She really loves working for you guys, you know?”
“I doubt we’d survive long without her. She’s the brains behind the outfit, that’s for sure.”
“Say, we’ve got some steaks at the house. Why don’t you come down and grab some chow with us?”
Callahan looked out back. “I’ve already got the fire going. Why don’t you go grab DD and come down here? We can make a night of it if you like?”
“Sounds like a plan. Be back in a flash.”
Callahan went to the ‘fridge and pulled out some steaks and some foil-wrapped veggies and carried them down to the grill, then he stoked the charcoal and brushed off the steel cooking grates. He bent down, took a Coke from the little built-in fridge and popped the top, and then he heard DD and the Doc coming through the yard a few minutes later. And she was carrying bowls of – he assumed – salads and fruit, because, of course, she’d already figured out what was going down before either he or the doc had settled on the night.
And, of course, DD already knew where everything was in Harry’s house so she was off like a herd of turtles grabbing plates and silverware and a bottle of sangria she’d placed there for just such an emergency – et voilà, instant party – DD style.
And, Watson noticed, Callahan was in desperate need of blowing off steam. He’d been working fires in the wilderness area east of Yosemite for two week with hardly any time off, and he was a ragged mess emotionally. And starving, too, judging by the time it took Callahan to wolf down a sixteen ounce ribeye. Even so, Callahan stuck to Coke and managed to eat just about half the salad DD had prepared.
“You know, Harry showed me that piano of his and it got me thinking,” the Doc said to Mrs. Doc. “I used to play and I think I want to get back into it. What do you think?”
“Really? Well sure, why not? Harry, what do you think?”
“I told him no problem getting a good price at the shop, so just let me know when you two are going shopping…”
“Oh, well,” DD said, “I’d want you there for that, Harry.”
“Oh?” the Doc said. “Why’s that?”
“Have you heard him play?”
“No? What has that got to do with…?”
“When you hear him you’ll know why.”
“Okay, Callahan,” the Doc snarled, “what’s the deal here? You gonna show me, or do I have to be content with all these rumors…?”
“Well,” Harry sighed, “if I play, you get to do the dishes.”
“You’re on!” the Doc smiled. “Now, would either of you two mind if I finish this sangria?”
They all pitched-in and carried the dishes up to the kitchen, leaving Callahan to settle in behind his Bösendorfer. He looked at the keys for a while then went into Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn, then, without pause he took them into Clair de lune, drawing out the key passages in shades of exquisite longing, in effect – taking the room to the moonlight…
And when he looked up, when he was finished, both DD and the Doc were in tears.
“Sorry,” Harry said, “but that’s all you get for doing the dishes.”
“I’d simply forgotten music has such power over the imagination,” Watson said. “For a moment I felt like I was sitting beside a fawn in the sun with not a care in the world, but Harry, I’ve never, ever heard the Clair de lune played so…evocatively. Why in God’s name aren’t you playing professionally?”
“You can’t love two women at the same time, Doc. And it just so happens that I love flying more than playing.”
“Sorry, but I can’t buy that,” Watson said. “You have a gift, and maybe you should consider that the returns on investment are skewing all wrong.”
“I don’t get you.”
“How many lifetimes have you practiced to get where you are, to get where fewer than an infinitesimally small number of pianists ever get. People practice like that, Harry, for a reason. To share not just their talent and devotion, but to share their vision of the music. Debussy never wrote Clair de lune the way you just interpreted it, and as many times as I’ve heard that piece I’ve never heard it finessed like this. You turned it into something new, something, well, that needs to be shared, to be experienced, and I hate to say this, but I think your expression of Debussy’s music is transformative.”
“Yeah? Too bad I like helicopters so much.”
Watson nodded. “Yes. It is.”
“You know what, Doc. I’ve said this a thousand times if I’ve ever said it once, but piano players are a dime a dozen. I can’t tell you how many brilliant pianists I’ve run across who were literally starving to death, barely earning enough to put a roof over their head…”
“Don’t you think I know that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. But I think I’m contributing more doing what I do than sitting in some smoke-filled bar banging away night after night, waiting for the last call…”
“Have you ever thought of composing?”
Watson saw the glacial expression set in and retreated a little. “Am I missing something, Harry?”
“My mother…she was a composer.”
“Oh? What’s her name?”
Watson was genuinely shocked. “Your mother,” he stammered, “was Imogen Schwarzwald?”
“Then your not playing is a crime against humanity,” Watson said, but now even DD seemed shocked at the benevolent vehemence in her husband’s voice. “I mean it, Harry. I really do.”
Callahan simply shrugged. “I’m sorry you feel that way, Doc. But something’s troubling me right now.”
“There’s a big pile of dishes in the sink, yet so far I ain’t seen one of ‘em get up and wash itself off.”
Watson held up his hands. “Okay, you win. The world loses, but never let it be said that I…”
“Y’all take off. Go home and make babies, look at piano catalogues…doin’ dishes comes second nature to me…”
“Nope, a deal is a deal…”
“Alright, but I’m not sure there’s room at the sink for the three of us.”
But Watson’s words had an effect.
Callahan started spending more time at the house, more time on the piano. Then he started going by the shop – as he called the Rosenthal Music Company – on his days off, spending time with ‘his’ other employees. Most were Danes from Copenhagen, coming over to spend a few months immersed in the California vibe, and all were very serious musicians.
“You know,” Nils Andersen said on a Saturday afternoon, “we should expand the store. There are really exciting things happening with synths and electronic keyboards, and we should hop on that bandwagon.”
“Synths?” Callahan wondered. “You mean like the Moog, stuff like that.”
“Yes, very much like that. Have you ever heard Switched On Bach?”
“That the album by Walter Carlos?”
“Yes, but it’s Wendy Carlos now.”
“What? You mean…?”
“Yes, but that is unimportant. How about Gershon Kingsley?”
“Nope, never heard of – a him, I take it?”
“Yes, a him. We have the LP here; you should take it home and listen. Switched On Gershwin. No, I kid you not. He gave that name satirically I think, or maybe an homage to Carlos, but it too is quite interesting music. Weird, but interesting. His Porgy and Bess is really demonstrative of what the Moog can do.”
“You know, I don’t think I even have a stereo at the house.”
“You what?” Andersen cried.
Callahan shrugged sheepishly. “What do you recommend?”
“It depends on the room, I guess.”
“I’ll have to talk to my architect before I do anything weird to the house.”
“Really? What about your unit in the condo?”
“Full of pilots right now.”
“So you’re commuting to Sea Ranch?”
“As of last week I am, yeah.”
“Well, I can come up tonight and take a look around, but you’d have to give me a ride. No way can we afford cars over here. The insurance rates are impossible.”
“Don’t I know it. Yeah. Let me call Cathy, see if she can meet us at the house, and if I can’t get you back into the city I’ll have one of the guys drop by and pick you up at the airport.”
“Really! Well, what fun. I have of course heard a lot about this house of yours, and I would love to see it. And this friend of yours, the doctor?”
“Yes, that’s the one. He is looking at a Yamaha, one of the new Clavinova series.”
“He mentioned you told him you could get him a special price?”
“Yeah, and please make it good.”
“Like what? Ten percent over cost? That’s a steal, by the way.”
“Make sure he leaves feeling happy about the price, okay?”
“Sure. Could we start stocking synthesizers? Please?”
“Why are you asking me? If the things sell, then by all means, stock them!”
“Yes, but keep in mind the origins and roots of the company. Still, it seems to me we have to evolve with the times, and I’d like us to be taken seriously by serious performers.”
Nils grew quiet, suddenly serious. “You knew Saul, didn’t you?”
“He is kind of a legend around here.”
“For me, too. He holds a very special place in my heart.”
“I understand he used to speak about focusing on performers, too. San Francisco is home to so many great bands – wouldn’t it be great if we had a few of them as customers.”
“I agree, that’s something worth going after. If you think you can get the job done, why not go for it. Now, show me this thing that Doc Watson is looking at…”
Callahan was sitting in his cubicle in the Cathouse, reading some promotional material on a new “glass” instrument panel Sikorsky would soon offer as an option on the S-76, when his desk phone rang.
“Yo. Callahan here.”
“Harry,” one of their new receptionists said, “there are two men from the Army here to talk to you, and they look like serious types.”
“Take ‘em to the large conference room and get ‘em something to drink. I’ll be there in a little bit.”
He’d been dreading this because he knew it was coming – and now it was here…time to face the music. He went to the WC and washed up, then went to CATs main conference room.
There they were in full dress uniform, one sergeant and one captain, both with 101st Airborne insignia on their sleeves. They stood when he came into the room, and waited for him to take a seat before they did.
“Okay, gentlemen. The floor is yours,” Callahan told them.
“Mr. Callahan, we’re sure you’re aware of the situation in Kuwait,” the sergeant began. “The President has decided to form a coalition, and we’re planning a major action in the region this winter.”
“Yes, I’d assumed as much. How many of my pilots are you going to take?”
“We’re not here to talk about that, Mr. Callahan. We’re here to talk about you.”
“Me? I’m forty four years old? You can’t be serious?”
Then the captain stood and began pacing the room. “I understand this is a bit of a shock, but actually, you are the only rated pilot left who has the relevant training.”
“Relevant? To what?”
“As you may have heard, this Hussein character has stashed weapons of mass destruction all around Iraq, and our intel assessment is that he may well have nuclear capability right now, or will very soon. He also has hundreds of Scud missiles capable of hitting targets anywhere in the Middle East – and as luck would have it they are capable of carrying a small warhead. We’d like to send in radiologic assessment teams ahead of the initial assault, but we only have two Hueys with the necessary equipment right now, and no rated pilots. Worse, we’re short on instructors.”
“Uh, guys, maybe it escaped your notice, but I opted out of the reserves when I came back in sixty nine.”
“Mr. Callahan,” the captain said, taking great care with each word he uttered now, “your work in Israel for Colonel Goodman didn’t escape our notice, and not to make too fine a point about the matter, but you did so without the permission of either the United States Army or the federal government.”
“Okay,” Callahan said, smiling now, “so what’s your offer?”
“Return to active duty for a period to last no longer than 12 months, but which may be curtailed to coincide with the cessation of in-theater combat operations.”
“Keep talking,” Callahan said, now waiting for the real bait and switch.
“You’ll move from NCO status to commissioned officer, with the rank of Captain. And at the end of your tour you will be commissioned Full Colonel, retired.”
“With no further call ups?” Callahan asked.
“That’s right, Mr. Callahan. No more active duty, the slate wiped clean. And Israel never happened – in writing.”
“Well then, I reckon you better start calling me Captain Callahan. “Who else are you taking from my outfit?”
“We’d like Rooney and Pattison.”
“Choose one, and I’d prefer Pattison stayed here.”
“Done,” the captain said. “We’d like you to train Lieutenant Rooney to use the second Huey.”
“Captain Rooney,” Callahan added, “until discharge, then a Full Bird on retirement.”
“Agreed,” the captain sighed.
“When and where do we report?”
“We’ll take you to Travis in the morning. Report here at 0600. You can fly us up, and you’ll be off to Frankfurt from there. Both of the Hueys are there now.”
After the two Army types left he had Rooney and Pattison called in, and he asked Frank and DD to drop by as well. When everyone was in the conference room Callahan began.
“Mickey, it seems the United States Army would like the pleasure of our company beginning tomorrow morning at 0600. You’re no longer an NCO, you’ll no doubt enjoy learning that…”
“Nope, Captain. Same with me, by the way. Frank, you and Pattison will be nominally in charge of day-to-day operations. Pattison? You’ll take helo operations. Frank, day to day operation of the airline. DD? I’ll remain CEO in name only until my return; effective tomorrow you are CATs de facto CEO. You and I can talk about pay before I leave.”
She seemed shocked. “The will I drafted?”
“Print it up and let me sign it. Mickey? Have a will ready for a notary?”
“I’ll take care of it,” DD said. “Will there be anything else, sir?”
“No, thanks. Frank, could you stick around for a minute?”
When everyone else was gone Frank closed the door and sat. “Jesus, Harry…this sure came out of the blue.”
Callahan shrugged. “I was halfway expecting it, Frank. Now, do you need anything before I go? I mean anything?”
“I don’t think so. What about the house? Do you want me to take care of it while you’re gone?”
“Sure. That would nice. You’ll need to get with DD on the work that gets done on a month to month basis, but other than that it’s really easy. How’s Cathy?”
“You two are solid now?”
“I think so. Yes.”
“She’ll miss you, Harry.”
“Yeah, and I’ll miss the hell out of her, too.”
“Damn, Harry. This wasn’t exactly the best time for something like this to happen.”
“Never be a good time for something like this, Frank. Now, let’s get down to specifics.”
“You do what you can do until it gets to be too much, then ask DD for help. Stress is your number one enemy, but I know how important this whole airline thing has become to you. Still, your remission is important to all of us, Frank, so don’t push too hard. Got it?”
“How long are you going to be away?”
“Up to a year, but probably less.”
“You’re going to miss Elizabeth’s birthday, you know…?”
Callahan nodded. “I’ll try to make it up to her next year.”
Frank nodded, and Harry noticed it looked a little like Frank was tearing up. That was unexpected.
“You take care of yourself,” Frank said, then he left.
DD came in as soon as the coast was clear.
“Here’s the updated Will. Sign here and here,” she said, pointing at the required lines, and when he was done she signed then applied her notary seal. “Okay, that’s legal. Now, what did you want to do about pay?”
“Bump Bullitt and Pattison up to eighty k, you up to one-twenty. Talk with Pattison about pilot raises. We’re due, long overdue on a significant raise, and if the numbers work let’s see if we can’t have a few extra-merry Christmases around here this year.”
“What are you thinking?”
“Well, we managed five percent last year, but the cost of living ate that up – and then some. Let’s shoot for the anticipated inflation rate plus five percent, and let’s see if we can get a more generous medical plan this year, too.”
“It may be time to look at Kaiser.”
“That HMO thing? Are you sure?”
“They’re good, Harry. Between them and Cigna, they provide pretty comprehensive coverage.”
“Well, you make the best deal you can, but let’s see a noticeable improvement.”
“And smiles, right?”
“Smiles are a good thing, DD.”
“You might be the only CEO in California that thinks so.”
“Uh, yeah, well…if I don’t make it back for some reason, you know what to do, right?”
“Yessir. Don’t worry about that.”
“Well, you better head on out. I think I’m going to stay here tonight.”
“You don’t need anything from the house?”
“No. I’d just have to put the stuff in a footlocker and they’d store it ’til I got back. My choice of attire is gonna be made for me, ya know?”
“I can’t believe they’re taking you. Haven’t you done enough?”
He shrugged. “How’s the piano thing coming with the doc?”
“He loves playing again, but I think he wants to take lessons from you.”
“Me? One hour with me and he’d quit for good.”
She nodded, then stepped close and hugged him. “Be safe,” she said before she turned and ran from the room.
Rooney came by a half hour later and ducked his head into the conference room.
“You still here?”
“Yeah, I’m gonna bunk-out here tonight. What about you?”
“Yup, me too. Say, why don’t we head up to Trader Vic’s. A Sufferin’ Bastard might be just the thing tonight.”
“You know…that might just be the smartest goddam thing I’ve heard today. Let’s go.”
As it happened, their waiter did not bring simple glasses of fruit punch that night, and Pattison was called to come pick them up and get them back to the Cathouse.
“You know,” Pattison sighed, “I hope you two got it out of your system tonight. Where you’re going they’ll chop your fuckin’ head off if you get this drunk in a restaurant.”
“If I ever get this fuckin’ drunk again,” Rooney said, “you can chop my head right off.”
“I think,” Callahan added, “that I might not ever be sober ever again. Now, who’s spinning the room? You can stop it now. Really.”
Pattison got Callahan to the WC just in time, but he still had to call the janitorial service. Callahan’s aim was, it turned out, a little off that night.
© 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.]