The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 53

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Chapter 53

Harry sat in silent appraisal of the moment, Mickey and Didi sitting in the seat just ahead as the train pulled out of the Station in Davos – headed for Zurich.

And a song intruded on the moment, a song that played in his mind as the train lurched and glided away from the platform: Alone Again, Naturally

And it hit him then, and hit him hard. He’d never felt so alone. Even watching Mickey and Didi had left him feeling ripped from the womb of human emotion – until that song hit him in the gut, at least. When that song found him, he had felt like disappearing from civilization for a while…hiding from loneliness – as if that was possible.

Yet, he was scared, too.

It had been more than six years since the Old Man in the Cape had told him that Frank would live to see Elizabeth’s seventh birthday, and now that day was fast approaching. Sitting there in the train, he wondered just what the Old Man had meant – as in, had he pronounced sentence that day, or were things still not written in stone? If not, would Frank leave soon – pass into the night? The words had burrowed away into nothingness almost as soon as he’d heard them, yet it had remained just beneath the surface ever since, a pustulant reminder that time was indeed still stalking them all, but Frank most of all.

But Frank most of all…

Yet now he watched Didi and Mickey laughing through the space between their seats. And for a moment the sight bothered him.

Well, he said to himself a moment later, this was their time now. He’d had his fair share of moments like this, hadn’t he? but now he’d seen it happen to people he knew. Mickey, like he’d been struck by lightning? Didi suddenly receptive – like the petals of a flower opening to the sunshine. Their time…their time…

But then his mind wandered to Iraq. Would the Army finally follow through and get him to train replacements? Or…maybe he could send Rooney instead, now that he too knew the system…but then he stepped back from the idea. Why? Why would I want to send Mickey…

Because, he had to admit now, he’d simply lost interest in flying – after his time in Iraq. He tried to imagine flying firefighters up into the mountains and his mind closed down like it had been caught in the grips of a tightening vice – and all he could think about was breaking free and somehow disappearing – again.

By the time their train pulled into Zurich’s Hauptbahnhof he was hard-pressed to think of anything he still wanted to do – except sit at his piano. Because there was a puzzle to solve, wasn’t there? And the puzzle was not something he could turn his back on any longer. He had to find the missing pieces, the lost chords – now, before they were lost forever.

‘Should I stay in the reserves?’ he wondered. After all, even now when people asked him what he did he usually replied he was a cop. Because he was and always would be simply that, but also because there was something in his identification of being a cop. It wasn’t something you could put on or take off like a jacket, it was a state of mind. ‘And it’s my state of mind,” he had to admit, and with that said his mind was made up.

They caught the local out to the airport and Didi went with them to the Swissair counter and helped get them checked in, then they walked with her to the El Al counter and did the same. But Didi was different; she wasn’t just another passenger – she was Mossad – so she had been flagged for special screening by the omnipresent Israeli airline security personnel.

“I’ll have to leave you now,” Didi said to Harry and Mickey. “But I should be free to come to San Francisco within a week or two.”

“I hate this,” Mickey replied. “I should go with you, ask him to his face.”

“You will have that opportunity, my love,” she gently told him before she kissed him for the billionth time. “Now…go! Do not make me stand here and cry!”

Harry led Rooney through the small main terminal to the TWA Ambassador’s Club lounge and, as they were flying to JFK on Swissair before switching to TWA for the flight to SFO, he decided to take advantage of his membership and use the lounge. Callahan grabbed a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, while Rooney asked for a scotch on the rocks. It was that kind of day…

“Man alive, Harry…what a week this has been!”

“No kidding. So, what’s next for you two?”

But Rooney just shrugged the question away. “I think I’ve got to get back into work, figure that out before anything else.”

“And Didi is coming in a couple of weeks? What do you do once she arrives?”

“I don’t know, Harry. I’ve been in the Army almost my whole life, ya know? No wife, no kids…Hell, not even a dog. I haven’t got the slightest idea what to do?”

“Okay. Well, if you need someone to talk to about it, let me know.”

“Yeah, well, what do you think I need to do?”

“Okay, she’s moving to a new country and at the same time she’s leaving everything she’s known behind. What do you think she needs?”

Rooney shook his head. “Man, I don’t know…”

“Well, put yourself in her shoes. How would you feel?”

“I don’t know, man. I’d want to go to a few bars, check out…”

“Hold it right there, okay?”

“What?”

“You’re thinking like a twelve year old, Mickey. In other words, you’re thinking about yourself, putting your wants ahead of her needs.”

“Yeah, that’s why I’m asking you, Harry. I’m clueless about anything that doesn’t relate to helicopters, ya know?”

“Yeah, Mick. Sorry. Here’s the scoop. She’s going to feel stressed as hell if she thinks you haven’t been doing things to get ready for her. That means finding a place to live that’s safe and clean. That means finding out what kind of paperwork she’s going to need, also why she needs it, then helping her get it filled out and delivered to the correct office. How is she going to get around, how is she going to know where to shop for food or even a new pair of underwear? See what I mean?”

“Is she still going to be working for you?”

“Yup, but she’ll probably start working for Cat, too…but I’m not sure about that yet. But even so, it’ll be real easy for her if you two live real close to the Cathouse, like within walking distance, at least for the first year or so. Let her figure a lot of the little things out for herself, but help out with the big things, especially when she first gets there.”

“Man, Harry…you know, I’ve been bunking out at the condo, at your old man’s place, and I’ve even stayed at Pattison’s when he’s rotated up to the mountains…”

“You don’t have your own place yet?”

The intercom clicked, then: “Passengers Callahan and Rooney, please report to the front desk.”

“Okay,” Harry said, “got your carry-on?”

“Yessir!”

“Okay, let’s go.”

They followed a lounge attendant to their gate and boarded early, then went up to the upper deck on an almost brand new 747-300.

“Geesh, Harry, remind me to fly with you more often…did you see the legs on the stewardess?”

“You know, this might not be the best time to bring it up, but you just asked a girl to marry you. That means forsaking all others, in case the meaning ain’t clear…”

“I know, I know…”

“And it would probably be a very good idea to remember that her father is a colonel in the Mossad, and that he trains hit teams for a living.”

“Fuck.”

“Yeah, I kinda think that’s the right word for the occasion, Mick. Fuck works real good. And keep in mind she’s also my good friend and business manager too, while you’re at it.”

“Harry, did you see that stew? What a dog!”

“Yeah, well, that’s Swissair for you.”

_________________________________

DD met them at the gate and walked with them to the baggage claim, and when she saw the look in Harry’s eyes she backed away from the idea she might talk to him before he went up to Sea Ranch. He looked positively livid, she saw, and she found the idea somehow incongruous to the time and place.

“Have a nice flight?” she asked Mickey.

“Yeah, man, you wouldn’t believe the service on Swissair! They came by with a cart at dinner and carved roast beef right there in the aisle. All the champagne you could ever want, too!”

DD smiled as she looked at Harry, who seemed to have borne Rooney’s presence for about as long as he could stand it, then – as they waited for their luggage to get to the carousel, she pulled him out of earshot and asked him what was up.

“Well, we’ve got a few months of catch-up to get through,” he snarled, “and a few things regarding Mickey we’ll need to clear up before Didi gets here. Other than that? Hell, what do I need to know right now?”

“Frank is no longer in remission, Harry. He didn’t want me to tell you but I think you need to know before you see him.”

“How bad is it?”

“No too bad – yet.”

“Prognosis? What does the doc think?”

“Two, maybe three months.”

Callahan turned and walked away, and she could see the weight of the world on his shoulders just then and she sighed. Rooney had a cart and had already loaded Harry’s bag on it, so he was just waiting for his own now.

“What’s with Harry?”

“Frank’s cancer has come back. It’s bad this time.”

Rooney turned and looked at Callahan and shook his head. “You know, those two are like night and day but I’ve never seen two closer friends. Man, this bites the big one.”

DD then understood what Harry had been dealing with all day and she nodded. “Yes, I’d have to say I agree.”

“He’s been acting kind of funny the last couple of days. Like he’s preoccupied with something, ya know?”

“Like what?”

“No clue, man.”

“So, when is Didi coming?”

“Maybe a couple of weeks.”

“Ooh-boy, you are going to need to get ready, you know?”

“Yeah, so Harry told me.”

“Well, let me know if I can help.”

“Well, I got a whole list here of things Harry gave me. Like a to-do list, ya know?”

“Let me have it,” she said, opening her purse and putting the list inside.

“Thanks, man. You’re a life saver!”

“Yeah,” she said under her breath, “that’s what they tell me.”

They dropped Rooney off at the condo and she drove Harry to the Cathouse. “You going to fly up now or stay here in the city?” she asked.

“Is there a spare Huey around? I wouldn’t mind flying up tonight.”

“A brand new 412, just out of the paint shop. Could we bum a ride off you?”

“Is the doc here?”

“Should be soon.”

“Well, yeah, of course. Let me go to the dispatch desk and get the paperwork.”

“Harry? Frank’s there, okay? He won’t quit. Says he can’t let you down.”

He sighed, looked down at his hands and felt like running away again, but something held him back. “Did you stock up the fridge at the house?”

“Yes, of course. Steaks and veggies are ready to go.”

He went and gave her a hug. “You know, you are the glue that holds all of us together. And in case you don’t know already, me most of all…”

She hugged him back, then wiped away a tear as he walked off to Frank’s cubby.

_________________________________

His pre-flight complete, Callahan started the new helicopter and watched the engine instruments wind-up and settle into the groove, then he reached over and yanked on Franks harness, making sure he’d strapped himself in correctly. He turned and DD gave him the ‘thumb’s up,’ and he nodded then turned to the radio and checked-in with ATC; a minute later they were airborne and westbound out the Golden Gate. Instead of the torturous three hour drive up the Coast Highway, they were at his house on the cliffs less than forty minutes later, and he saw that Cathy and Elizabeth were waiting for them in the street, waving at them as the helicopter approached.

After the main rotors spooled down, Callahan signaled DD that they could get out, then he leaned over and helped Frank out of his harness. “I’ll come around and help you down,” he added, and Frank just nodded.

Callahan had wanted to cry when he saw his friend at the Cathouse; the changes were that significant, and that obvious. And Frank had seemed aware of Callahan’s reaction, though he had simply grinned that grin of his and gotten on with the paperwork. Now, Harry opened the left front door and helped Frank down to the grass, then he walked with him over to Elizabeth – who flew into Frank’s outstretched arms.

The doc helped him secure the rotors and slip the intake covers into place, then they all walked down to Harry’s house. When he found the fridge stocked with everything needed for a banquet he smiled inside, and it hit him then: this is my family now. These friends are my family, and I can’t imagine life without them. By this point everyone knew where everything was, from glasses to silverware to where Harry kept the booze, and the rule enforced here was a simple one: mi casa es su casa…my house is your house, so come in and make yourself at home.

The doc got the fire going while DD prepped her salads, Frank sat be the patio fireplace with Elizabeth on his lap while she told him what she’d done at school that day, and Harry stood in the living room looking over the scene, realizing there wasn’t one soul down there he didn’t love.

“How could anyone be luckier?” he asked his reflection in the glass, rubbing away a cramp in his arm.

Then Cathy came in and walked over to him, put an arm around his waist and snuggled in.

“Was it bad over there?” she asked.

“Could’ve been worse. All in all, it was odd, like a bunch of cops called in to deal with a schoolyard bully. We were, how do I put this politely, overkill. Like maybe we could’ve just let the Saudis handle it, but nothing over there is ever as simple as it seems.”

“Well, you’re home and safe now. Hopefully they’ll leave you alone now.”

“Oh, I may have to lend them a hand on a few projects, but I doubt I’ll ever see combat again. Now, tell me about Frank?”

“What can I say? It’s back with a vengeance now, like one of those fires burning out of control.”

“How’s Elizabeth dealing with it?”

“She’s aware of the changes but what little girl her age understands death?”

“Cathy, I’m not sure I understand death.” He sighed, then looked down through the glass at Frank and Elizabeth. “And I’m not sure I ever want to.”

“I’d like him to stay home now, but Harry? He just won’t do it…he can’t let go…”

“So I’ve heard. Well, that’s simple enough to deal with. I’ll just spend more time out here with him, only go in when I absolutely need to.”

“Could you? I really think he might stay out here if you were around.”

“Then we’ll make it happen. I’ve been wanting to spend some time at the piano, so that will be a good excuse.”

“Speaking of, is Elizabeth too old to start taking lessons?”

“No, of course not. Have you found a teacher in the area?”

“One of the guys who works at Rosenthal. He’s been teaching the doc, and he thinks he can start with her, too – depending on his work visa and how long he can stay here.”

“Nils, isn’t it? He seems like a good kid.”

“Yes, and Elizabeth likes him too.”

“Well then, we’ll just have to make that happen.”

Cathy sighed, looked away: “Frank is still working homicide, Harry. He won’t quit that, either. Every other weekend – off he goes. Only now I’m really afraid he’s going to get hurt.”

“So, when he goes in, I go with him. We keep our hours current, and he gets to keep that part of his pride intact.”

“You can’t get him to stop?”

“I’ll have to see how he does out there. When’s his next ‘on call’ weekend?”

“Ten days from now.”

“Okay, so I get on the same rotation and I talk to whoever is in charge now and we work as a pair. If he can’t carry his own weight I’ll have to talk with him about it.”

She nodded. “I know how much it means to him, Harry, but even so…”

“Yes, even so. Holding on to something like that for as long as he can might help more than it hurts, Cathy. Let’s just see what happens, okay? You and me? – we’re on the same page here.”

“We’d better join the crowd now, Harry, or people will start to talk!”

“Yeah, we can’t let that happen, can we?”

_______________________________

His hands felt swollen and stiff from too much booze, but after dinner – and after everyone had gone – Callahan went to his Bösendorfer and pulled out the bench and sat. Moments later – as expected – the Old Man winked into existence by his side.

“You wear the weight of the world on your shoulders tonight, Harry. What’s bothering you?”

“Frank is bothering me.”

“He hasn’t long, you know? Are you ready for his passing?”

Callahan shook his head. “No,” he just barely managed to say.

“You’ve been a good friend, Harald. No one could ask for more.”

“I don’t know what to do.”

“About what, my friend?”

“I’ve never…”

“What? Been with someone as they pass?”

Callahan nodded. “I can’t imagine that moment.”

“Because that moment is beyond our understanding, Harald. What lies beyond? That has always been the question, hasn’t it?”

“I don’t know. I really don’t.”

“Gershwin’s lullaby. Play it for me, would you?”

“Lullaby?”

“The Second Prelude.”

“Why did you call it a lullaby?”

“Because that’s what George called it, Harald! Now play, but go inside the music this time and tell me what you find there…”

He tried, but found his way to Alone Again, Naturally – as he had on the journey home. He began a slow walk down that road, coming to an end hours later only to find the Old Man had gone, yet even so, now he felt weak, and suddenly very tired. He made his way through the living room, his footsteps echoing off the slate floor only increasing his sense of isolation, and he sat on the sofa, slipped off his shoes and lay down…

Then DD was pushing her way inside a dream.

He opened his eyes and shielded them from the early morning light streaming in a window.

“Harry? You’d better shower and get ready…”

“What?”

“We’re all out here without our cars. You need to fly us in…”

He sat up, nodding simple understanding, pushing the last fragments of sleep from his mind as he made his way to the shower. ‘Now…where did I leave the Rover?’ he wondered. ‘At the Cathouse?’

“Oh well, I’ll ask DD…she’ll know…”

The doc was waiting outside the new 412, though everyone else was already onboard and seated. They removed the covers and untethered the main rotors, and the doc boarded while Harry woke up the bird. He looked at battery levels and grimaced. “DD,” he said on intercom 1, “remind me to get a battery cart up here for days like this. We barely have enough power for a cold start.”

“Right.”

He watched the engine start carefully, watched the power levels dive as the turbines caught and began spooling up, knowing that he’d just stressed the hell out of these brand new batteries, then he dialed in ATC and began monitoring San Francisco Approach Control. He took off and ran south just above the beach, and, as they closed on the Golden Gate he went lower still – just as he’d done so many times in Iraq – soon flying with the skids almost touching the wave tops.

“You okay, Harry?” Frank asked.

“Yeah, I’m tactical.”

“Tactical?”

“Ready to rock and roll, Frank.”

“Okay, you say so.”

Harry climbed just a little as the Huey approached the Presidio, then he kicked the rudder over and came down in a reverse flare, landing in the middle of the H and killing the engine in one smooth motion.

“Jesus, Harry, what’s gotten into you this morning?” the doc asked after he’d climbed out of his harness.

“I don’t know, Doc. Just wanted to see what this thing could really do, I guess.”

“Yeah? Well, better check those skids for fish guts…”

Harry went around and helped Frank down, then he looked around the parking lot. “Anyone know where my car is?”

“Inside hanger three,” Frank said quietly. “I have chemo at 11:30. Could you run me over there?”

“Of course. Where’s there, by the way?”

“Stanford.”

Harry nodded as he started for the hanger.

“Where are you going?” DD asked.

“Over to Rosenthal. I’ll be back in an hour or so.”

“But…”

“I’ll be back, okay?”

She knew better than to argue with him, and she looked on as Frank followed Harry to the hanger – utterly amazed how tight the bond was between them.

“What is it with those two,” the doc asked. “They’re like brothers, ya know?”

“That’s exactly what they are, only they bleed blue,” Pattison said as he came out of the Cathouse. “By the way. He called in last night and told the dispatcher to take him off the flight rotation schedule. And get this…that he won’t be flying again.”

DD nodded. “So, that was his last hurrah…” she said, the memory of the nerve shattering last few miles still fresh in her mind.

“I wonder what the hell happened to him over there?” the doc muttered.

“Where?” DD replied. “Iraq? Or Vietnam? Maybe Germany – or perhaps something up at Coffee Creek?”

“Damn…I keep forgetting all those other tours.”

“He doesn’t, apparently. I’m worried about him. He’s wound up too tight.”

“Yeah?” the doc said. “He’s got a lot on his plate.”

“Well,” Pattison snarled, “give him a week and he’ll be itching to fly again.”

_________________________________

“Nils! Just the person I wanted to see.”

“Hey, Mr Callahan! You’re back!”

“I am indeed, and I need your help today.”

“Oh?”

“Those Yamaha Clavinova pianos, the ones with the screen and the teaching modes. What’s the best one?”

“Let me show you…”

After an hour, and with his decision made, Harry bought two and arranged for one to be delivered to Frank’s house, the other to his own. “Now, I hear some funny things are going on around here. What’s with that?”

Nils took Harry and Frank to a previously unused part of the store that had been used for storage, and Callahan was stunned with the change he saw on display. 

“This is our new electronic music room, and we have electric pianos, organs, and synthesizers, all the latest from Moog, Korg, and Yamaha.”

“Response from the community?”

“Very good so far. Sales are running about 70% of traditional pianos right now, after just six months…”

“So, overall sales are up seventy, too?”

“Not quite. Overall sales are up about one hundred and ten percent from last year, because we’re pulling in a lot more traffic.”

“How so?”

“We’re having a few very talented local musicians put on free concerts across the street in the park, first Sunday of the summer, spring, and autumn months. The results have been way beyond expectations.”

“For instance?”

“For instance, we’ve sold more uprights than we ever have at any location, more Yamaha grands, and we’ve even sold seven more Bösendorfers than last year, and that year was a record.”

“So, you were right.”

“I think so, sir.”

“Okay, so what’s this I hear about visa troubles?”

“My one year work permit expires in six weeks, so…”

“Do you want to stay?”

Nils shook his head. “I don’t want to become a citizen, but this appears to be the only way to stay.”

“What about Copenhagen? Do you want to return there?”

“Eventually, but I was thinking we should expand to new markets first.”

“And…where do you have in mind?”

“Sydney and Tokyo, to start, then Barcelona.”

“If you had to pick just one to start, which would you…”

“Tokyo. The market there is huge, and underserved.”

“Okay, so in six weeks get ready to leave for Tokyo.”

“Sir?”

“Nils, you’re simply too smart to leave shackled to a cash register. If this company is going to grow, I need people like you to help push the boundaries of tradition just a little, and what you’re showing me is you have the formula down. So, we need to talk about your future, don’t we?”

“Yes sir, if we could, I’d like that very much.”

“Frank? How are you feeling?”

“I need to sit for a minute.”

“Here,” Nils said, “come with me, please.”

Callahan went to the office and called Cathy. 

“Hello…” she said.

“Cathy? I’m having a new piano sent up to the house. Will you be able to take delivery Friday?”

“Yes, of course! Harry, thanks so much!”

“Welcome. Now, what’s up with the plans for the teahouse?”

“I’ve put that on hold, at least until you returned.”

“Okay. I want to look at tying my house to the teahouse, but also constructing a medium sized recording studio…”

“So, tying all three together into one?”

“Yup. Work something up so we can get together with Sam and come up with a start date.”

“Okay…and Harry, I’ve just heard about a large plot coming up in Palo Alto, suitable for a large condo or apartment project. Interested in something outside of the city?”

“If you think I should be, then yes. Put something together for tonight if you can. And, oh, Nils will only be here for about six weeks. You still want him to start teaching Elizabeth?”

“No, probably not. Can you think of anyone else who could teach her?”

“Yes. Me.”

“What?”

“I’ll teach her.”

“Well Harry, you know I’d love that, but do you have the time to take on something like this?”

“I do; we’ll start this week.”

He rang off then called DD:

“Harry? Are you watching the time? You’ll need to start for Palo Alto soon.”

“We’ll leave from here.”

“Okay, what can I do for you?”

“See if you can get Fujiko to drop by the Cathouse late this afternoon. Tell her we have an idea for a new business and that we need to talk with her about it.”

“Okay. I’ll try.”

“And Cathy has a new property in Palo Alto she thinks we should look at.”

“Okay, I can call her where? At the office?”

“I got her at home. She’s working out there this week. Spring break, I think.”

“That’s right. I forgot she mentioned that last night.”

“Okay. I’ll be in after Frank finishes up.”

Nils was waiting for him outside the office.

“Your friend is very ill, I think.”

Harry just shrugged. “Come down to the Cathouse around four, would you? I want to talk some more about Japan. Where’s Frank?”

“Waiting in the car, I believe.”

“Okay. See you at four.”

They took the 280 and got off on Page Mill Road, and Frank guided him through the hospital grounds to the cancer center.

“You want to come in and sit with me?”

“If you’d like me to, then sure.”

“Takes about two hours, but I could use the company.”

They went in, and they took Bullitt to the lab to draw blood, and once the results were ready his dose was computed. Harry followed him to the Chemo Lounge, a cavernous room with, literally, hundreds of recliners set up with IV pump stations, and almost every chair was occupied.

“Jesus…” Callahan sighed, “There are so many!”

“Cancer is at epidemic levels,” the ward nurse said. “Especially breast and prostate cancers. Now Frank, let’s get you hooked up.”

Callahan detested needles so looked up at the ceiling, but after the nurse walked away he looked at Frank and thought he looked doped up. “She give you something to make you sleep?”

“Some kind of relaxant, I think,” Bullitt said as his eyes simply closed. Seconds later he was snoring.

Callahan picked up a car magazine and flipped through it when he could, then he too fell asleep – and into a restless dream. Something shook his chair and he woke up, saw the nurse disconnecting the IV from Frank’s port so he wiped away the sleep and sat up; Frank looked awful now, tired and sallow. They sat for a few more minutes then made their way out to the Rover; once he had Frank belted in he turned on the air conditioner and turned the ducts to face his friend, then drove slowly back to the city. Frank dozed, leaving Harry in a funk.

When they arrived, DD helped get Frank to a cot in one of the smaller crew rest areas, then Harry went to his office, where he found Nils and Fujiko waiting. He ignored Fujiko as best he could, but he realized he still felt a mix of dread and anger over this first meeting since her last departure. Once DD arrived he launched right into what he had in mind.

“Fujiko, I’ve asked you here today in a business capacity, and nothing more. As you may recall, I have an interest in a music company. It is based in Copenhagen and has a well established store here in the city, and currently Nils,” he said, pointing to the long-haired Dane, “is the resident manager of this store. Recently, Nils has been opening up the store to carry new types of instruments, mainly electronic synthesizers, and he’s asked about the possibility of opening new stores around the world. The first store we’d like to think about would be in Japan, and since you’ve gone back to school and received your MBA, I thought you might be the perfect person to help spearhead this effort.”

“I see,” she said. “Thank you so much for thinking of me.”

Harry nodded, suddenly unsure of himself on hearing her voice once again. “If you agree, we’d like to hire you, bring you onto the Rosenthal Music Company payroll, and with your help explore the possibilities of opening new stores in Asia and Europe. Is this something you’d like to consider?”

“Who would I be working for?”

“The Music Company.”

“And who owns this company?”

“I do?”

“So, I’d be working for you?”

“In a way, but actually the company’s operations are quite independent of me.”

“I see. I would only be interested in working for a company not directly under your control.”

“What is your primary concern here, Fujiko?” DD asked – opening up a new line of attack.

“That Harry not be in a position to manipulate me or my business decisions.”

“I see,” DD said. “Well, not that it makes any difference now, but I see over the day-to-day financials for the company now, and I manage personnel matters, as well. That said, with your feelings about Harry I couldn’t agree to taking you on. I’m sorry, as I think it would’ve been a fantastic opportunity for you…”

“I did not mean to say I could not work for the company,” Fujiko blurted out. “Only that I could not…”

“I understand your position,” DD added. “I’m sorry we took up your time. Good day.”

Harry watched impassively, and chose his moment with care. “Excuse me, but before you leave, could you tell me a few of the ideas you might have to go about opening a facility in Tokyo?” 

“If I am no longer under consideration for the position, then no, I cannot.”

“Your consideration hangs in the balance, Fujiko-san,” DD replied. “Do you have any ideas for helping this project move forward.”

It turned out she did.

Harry left midway through her interview, leaving DD to finish up the application process. He went to the rest area and found Frank fast asleep, so he went to his office and called Cathy.

“He doesn’t look good, Cathy. I mean, he’s really weak.”

“I think the treatments are having no effect, Harry. My biggest concern is that they’re weakening him prematurely.”

“Have you talked to his oncologist?”

“I have. She told me about the only thing we can do is play for more time.”

“Uh…what does Frank want to do?”

“Well, we’ve talked about it a little, and it all comes down to quality of life versus quantity.”

“And…how does he feel about that?”

She chuckled. “I think he’s just like the rest of us, Harry. He wants both.”

“I hear that.”

“Yes, exactly. Who wouldn’t, but that’s just not the case now.”

“Well,” Harry sighed, “maybe it’s time to have a talk with his doctors. Maybe the doc could set it up?”

“Frank would have to ask, ethically. But I think it’s time we start looking at new options.”

Harry swallowed hard, tried to clear his mind of the enveloping fear that had suddenly clutched his throat. “What’s left?”

“End of life care, when the time comes. Pain management until then.”

“Oh God, Cathy…I’m not ready for this…”

“Nobody is, Harry. And I have no idea how to talk to Elizabeth about all this.”

He found tears falling on his desktop and realized they were his own. “What can I do to help you now?”

“I don’t know, Harry. Maybe spend more time with Frank and Elizabeth. Let her build up a storehouse full of memories that she can share with you as she gets older. I’m going to try and do the same thing.”

He could hear her tears over the connection. “We’ll get through this, Cathy, but we have to make the time special for Frank, too.”

“Okay, you’re right…bye…I’ve got to go…”

He found some tissues and wiped his eyes just as DD walked in.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

Callahan shrugged.

“Is it Fujiko?”

He shook his head. “Frank.”

“Oh, no. Should I talk to…”

“Yes please. Go ahead. It’s time to start looking down the next road.”

“About Fujiko? Want my take on things?”

He shrugged again. “Do you think she has anything to help this happen?”

“I do. I do not, however, like her attitude toward you.”

“She’ll get over it once she sees a healthy paycheck.”

“Is that your game plan? Make her dependent on you so you can win her back?”

He shook his head. “You know, after seeing her today…well…I could care less if I see her again or not. If she’s the right person for the job let her have a crack at it. If she’s not, tell her to take a hike.”

“You’re upset…”

“You’re damn right I’m upset, DD!” he screamed. “My best friend is dying right in front of all of us. I’m beyond upset…”

She came to his chair and pulled him up into her arms and held him fiercely. “We all love Frank, Harry. All of us. So don’t think for a minute you have to go through this by yourself…”

“I’m sorry I yelled…” Callahan whispered, crying harder now.

“No apologies necessary.”

“I know, I know…”

“And you need to remember something else, Harry Callahan; there are a bunch of people here who love you, too…”

He nodded and she let go of him. He turned and went to a window and looked out over the ramp and at all the maroon and silver helicopters gleaming in the sun. “I can build companies and erect skyscrapers, but I can’t save my best friends life. Isn’t that strange? The more things change the more they stay the same… Isn’t that the old saying?”

“It is. But think about it, Harry. These things you’ve built gave him purpose these past few years, and that’s no small thing. And that’s not an old saying, Harry. That was you. All you.”

He nodded as he watched the sun drifting down to the Golden Gate, realizing inside of the moment that the one person he’d really needed had been sitting in a little conference just a few minutes ago, and now she had slipped from his grasp once again.

_________________________________

Or had she?

He walked out of the Cathouse, now on his way to one of the hangers to talk with Pattison, and there she was. 

Waiting for him.

“Harry? Can we talk?”

He stopped, looked down, then away – and he took a deep breath, steeling himself for the encounter he had been dreading for years. “Sure,” he said, putting his hands in his pockets. 

“Why did you think of me for this position?”

The first thing he noticed was that almost all traces of her accent were gone. She sounded pure Californian now, and even the way she dressed seemed like pure Berkeley – almost Bohemian-chic, a studied, expensive variant of the sixties radical. He turned and faced her then: “Nils mentioned Tokyo. You were the first person that came to mind.”

“Why haven’t you called me?”

Incredulous. That was the word that entered his mind. “You were pretty clear last time, Fujiko.”

“Clear about what?”

“You not wanting to be a part of my life.”

“I see. So why did you call me now? Do you think things have changed?”

“No, I thought you just might possibly be the perfect choice for the job. As a matter of fact, I wasn’t really thinking about you and I anymore, just you as a human resource.”

“A human resource? Really?”

“Really.”

“I had no idea you were so full of shit,” she said as she turned and walked to her car.

He turned and walked off towards the hanger and talked with Pattison for a while, then back to the Cathouse – and she was still there, in her little 3-series BMW, looking at him as he walked towards the door.

He stopped when he saw her sitting there.

And waited for her to make the next move.

While she waited for him to make the next move.

He shook his head and walked inside, went to the rest lounge to get Frank.

“How you doin’, Amigo?” he said when he saw Frank sitting up, nursing a cup of hot tea.

“You know the Road Runner cartoons? I feel like that Acme Anvil has just landed on my head…”

“Well, the good news is you don’t look quite that bad…no stars and sparrows circling your head…yet…”

“Elizabeth loves those, laughs every time the coyote gets flattened.”

“He’s an abject lesson in the problem that arises from being stupid.”

“Or not fast enough on the draw,” Frank sighed.

“You ready for the drive?”

“Not if you’re going to drive like a fuckin’ old lady.”

“Would you stop raggin’ me about my driving.”

“I will when you stop drivin’ like a fuckin’ old lady.”

“Well, hell…I can drop your fat ass by the side of the road and let you hitch a ride.”

“And we’d beat you home by an hour. What’s your point?”

“Come on, lard ass. Let’s go…DDs waiting on us.”

“Lard ass? Lard ass? Who you callin’ lard ass?”

Callahan grumbled all the way out to the parking lot – and Fujiko was still there…waiting for the showdown. He handed DD the keys and growled: “Go ahead and get the engine started. I’ll be there in a minute… Oh, where’d you leave it with her?”

“About the position? That you and I would talk about it and let her know.”

“What’s your gut say about her?”

“Good for the job but a pain in the ass.”

“Yes or no? Hire or not hire?”

“She won’t be around here much so why not?”

“So that’s a qualified yes?”

“I think so.”

“Okay,” he said as he walked over to Fujiko’s Beemer. He went to the passenger door and stepped inside.

“Your turn, Fujiko. What’s on your mind?”

“Is that Frank?”

“Yes.”

“He looks very ill.”

“He is. Maybe two or three months left, I think.”

“Oh, no…”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t sit out here all night.”

“I couldn’t leave you like this, Harry. I’m sorry for the way we left, but I was very much afraid of you, of what you’re capable of doing.”

“Okay.”

“But what you said, about it not being your doing? I simply could not believe that, and I still have trouble understanding…”

“So you left. It’s okay, Fujiko. I understand. If you’d really loved me you would have tried to understand the situation before you walked out – again. But the second time was the deal breaker. It took a while for me to get there, but that’s the way it is. I would have loved someone like you in my life, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

“And that’s it? There will be no more between us?”

“You’re too dangerous, Fujiko. Too volatile. You project calm, yet you are anything but.”

“I see. So the position with your music company is…”

“Is out of the question. I’m sorry for taking up your time.”

“You know what the tragedy of your life is, Harry? You know just how to destroy the love all around you. And yet you are convinced you have had nothing to do with the sour state in your life. I think I feel sorry for you, Harry Callahan.”

“Thanks.”

“Think of everything you’ve built the last few years. Why is it that you couldn’t build love?”

He looked down and shook his head. “I don’t know, but when I find out I’ll let you know.”

“Ha-ha,” she said, the words dripping with blood-soaked sarcasm. “I never took you for the type to wallow in self-pity.”

He opened the door and started to step out. “Are you done now? Anything else you want to get off your chest?”

“No,” she said as she started the car, “I can’t think of a thing to say now.”

“Well then, let’s try ‘Good-bye’ and leave it at that,” he said as he gently closed the door.

He watched her drive off as he got to the Rover’s door, an overwhelming sadness crushing his chest. He got in and sat there…

“Harry?” Frank said as he looked at his friend, “you don’t look so hot.”

But the pressure in his chest was building now, and spreading. Out to his left arm and up to his jaw.

“DD?”

“Yes?”

“Call 911, would you. I think I’m having a heart attack…”

She leaned up to see if he was kidding – just as he slumped over, now clutching his chest.

© 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.]

5 thoughts on “The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 53

  1. Dear sir,

    I really enjoy and appreciate your creations. I check daily for updates on The Eighty- eight Key and Come Alive. Thank you!!!

    On Thu, Dec 3, 2020, 3:11 PM Adrian Leverkühn Writes wrote:

    > adrianleverkuhnwrites posted: ” Chapter 53 Harry sat in silent appraisal > of the moment, Mickey and Didi sitting in the seat just ahead as the train > pulled out of the Station in Davos – headed for Zurich. And a song intruded > on the moment, a song that played in his mind as the t” >

    Like

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