Come Alive (18)

come alive amsterdam overhead

Chapter 18

The storm behind them now, Taggart watched shadows on the deck as the rising sun wiped away the last gauzy remnants of night. He stood and walked the deck again, the pain in his back much worse if he sat still for any length of time, his mind still full of unanswered questions. He walked aft, dropped the swim platform and stepped down just inches from their streaming wake, then, as if on cue the big male’s dorsal fin broke the surface about ten yards away, his immense body surfing along on Bandits’ foaming wake.

Eva? Had he done the right thing? Could she have made this leg of the trip?

Looking at their progress so far he knew the answer to that question already. Time Bandits was brutally efficient in a heavy seaway, and even ten foot breaking seas hadn’t bothered her in the least. Instead of slamming into waves she seemed to knife through them, cut them away and slip through unscathed, and he’d carried more sail through the night than he would have ever thought safe on the old Nauticat.

Dina and Rolf had had no problem sleeping, either. So, yes, Eva would have done just fine. Now the question came down to logistics, and to the female orcas.

With twenty hours elapsed since leaving Bergen’s inner harbor they’d made 160 miles, hideously fast given the rowdy state of the sea, and sitting at the wheel overnight he’d positioned Bandits on a broad reach and surfed her off a wave, grinning as she hit 12 knots before rounding up a little. She was a fine boat indeed, one his father would have enjoyed.

The two smaller males swam close and just then one of them came very close, swimming on his side with one eye planted on Taggart, and for a moment he’d wanted to lean over and rub the guy. Then the big male swam in close, in effect running the smaller males away, and Taggart did lean over and hold his hand out…but then the large male swam away too, leaving Taggart to wonder why.

He went back to the helm and pulled up the latest weather overlay, then zoomed out, pulling in information from all over the North Atlantic basin. Two more hurricanes had formed, one with probability cones leading to Florida, the other looking to turn northwest towards Bermuda again, and he’d have to keep an eye out for that one. Beyond that? A big, fat blob of high pressure was filling-in behind the storm, centered over the Irish Sea this morning, so he expected falling winds during the day – today, and possibly zero wind early tomorrow – just as they approached the Dutch coast.

The next waypoint was set a few miles miles off the entrance channel to Den Helder, and they’d avoid the treacherous low tides in the Waddenzee by entering the Dutch canal system there, taking a deep commercial barge canal directly to the center of Amsterdam. From there, the plan was to take the StaandeMast Route, so called because there would be no need to remove the mast for the trip through the heart of the city – and, indeed, all the way to Rotterdam. Looking at the drafts needed to transit these routes, he was glad this particular vessel had the shoal-draft option – because without this shallower depth the canal systems of Holland, Belgium, and France would have become out of reach, the water not deep enough to handle a boat so deep. As it was, Time Bandits was right at the limit…

He reached to move the radar’s range out to 72 miles, wincing as his body shifted and immediately regretting it. He took a deep breath and felt odd shooting pains in his chest and sighed, wondering where the crud was spreading next, and how fast. He’d learned enough to know that if it spread up to the cervical vertebrae it would be ‘game over,’ just as soon as the vagus nerve was compromised. He shook his head as he took another deep breath, not taking anything for granted now.

Only one target popped on the radar, and that was strange. They were about to transit the main shipping lane from the Kiel/Elbe waterway to the English Channel, and if this route was empty that meant most all the ships in the Baltic had successfully left that possible conflict zone. It was either that or the Kiel Canal had been closed to traffic…

He turned on the new Fusion radio and selected the transceiver, then hit the BBC’s World News broadcast and set the cockpit speakers to active.

“…repeating, at least four Russian mechanized groups have entered Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia have asked that American forces attempt to form a new coalition to halt this latest advance. This comes two hours after Russian paratroopers landed around strategic routes connecting Helsinki to Sweden. A government spokesperson still trapped in Finland stated that the central government had relocated to Stockholm, and that almost all elements of the Finnish Navy and Air Force had relocated to pre-determined redoubts throughout the region…”

“Well, Hell,” he sighed, “so war it is. And Middle East oil is the objective. Again.”

He changed the frequency to Radio Deutsche Welle and listened as the reporter described a tense standoff in central Ukraine as Russian forces had violated the cease-fire and started a new push for Kiev. Warsaw had canceled all military leave and activated reserves, while Hungary had reportedly approached Moscow, declaring neutrality in any conflict. So Moscow now had a safe corridor to approach Austria and Bavaria…

France Radio reported that the French president had put all nuclear forces at the equivalent of DefCon 2, and that the Secretary General of the UN was imploring all sides to step back from the brink…

“Sounds bad,” Mike said, coming up the companionway with two cups of coffee. “Any news from Washington?”

Taggart leaned forward to change presets and winced again, then hit the button.

“You okay?”

Taggart shook his head. “Something under the right ribcage. Sharp pain, probably in the liver now.”

“Damn…” Mike said as the radio came to life again.

“Reports from the White House would seem to confirm that the president has left for Joint Base Andrews, but we are getting some reports of heavy traffic on the roads leading to Mount Weather…”

“So,” Mike said, “the president is going airborne and key government officials are headed to the underground C&C center.”

“Sounds like someone is trying to push NATO into thinking an attack is imminent.”


“Which sounds like,” Taggart sighed, “the Russians are trying to get a response from whoever hacked their systems three weeks ago.”

“Okay…I’ll bite. Can you?”

“Me? Not without another back door, like another Mainstay flight – that also just happened to go active over the North Sea.”

“Talk about a stroke of luck…”

“Depends on your point of view, Mike. A Russian might disagree with you.”

“Well, yeah, but the action you took, that unilateral take-down, was a stroke of genius. With everybody offline, nobody appeared guilty. I take it the fuel thing wasn’t your doing?”

“No way.”

“So, what is their interest in all this?”

“I get the impression they’re kind of like a bunch of high school students, and we’re their science project.”

Mike grinned at that. “Now that’s a confidence inspiring idea. What about the one mind thing? What has that got to do with all this?”

“Ya know, a bunch of people a lot smarter than I am haven’t been able to figure this one out, but let’s go back to Schrödinger for a second.”


“So, Schrödinger was thinking that the universe looks less like a big machine than it does One Big Thought, and that this One Big Thought exists, in effect, in a unique quantum state. Schrödinger’s next postulate was the idea that consciousness, in the form of a quantum singularity, is out there, and I mean literally everywhere, phasing in and out within all sentient beings. So, what we were trying to wrap our heads around back in Seattle – especially after the whole 9/11 random number thing hit home – was that the speed of thought within a single quantum singularity is literally instantaneous…”

“You mean, like everywhere in the universe?”

“Yup. And I know, the idea seems preposterous, until Winky and his pals showed up just before 9/11…”

“Coming from Andromeda, you said. So, what you’re saying is that they’ve somehow been able to physically move around the universe at the speed of thought?”

Taggart nodded. “If we’d only had another couple hundred thousand years to evolve, we might have made it there, too.”

“You’re speaking of us in the past tense.”

“That’s right. They’ve pretty much written us off as a species, yet for some reason a few of them are still hanging around, like they’re waiting for the final results to come in. As I said, it feels like a high school science project, that was supposed to be turned in yesterday.”

“Only we’re the ones being put to the test.”

“Exactly, so as far as Russia goes, if this next little war proves be our extinction level event, you’d think they would just pack up their bags and go on to their next project, but no, that’s not quite the case, and personally, I think it has something to do with our friends over there,” Taggart said, pointing at the orcas. 

“The Cape St George…”

“Right. I grew concerned that the ship might try to take us out, but they’d have had to use explosives and that would have injured, or perhaps even killed, one or more of the whales. So, I let Winky know.”

“And a guided missile cruiser became a lighter than air cruiser.”

“Elegant solution, I thought,” Taggart said, smiling at the memory. “Still, there’s one new wrinkle in all this. Those female orcas and Eva, and whatever they were doing out there, matters, because Winky was taking an intense interest in the process.”

“You think he was watching, or maybe even directing the process.”

“Watching. If he’d been involved there would have been physical contact.”

“You assume so, that is?”

“True. That’s my assumption. But I’ve never seen him act like that before.”

“How do you know it’s the same…what? – person? – being?”

“You get where you can recognize colors and patterns within the spheres…”

“Just how many do you know?”

“Me, directly? Four of them. Winky, Dinky, Pinky, and Finky. And no, I didn’t name them.”


“Is a major league asshole. Dark green sphere with purple polar areas. When he’s around clear your mind, fast. Zero sense of humor.”

“Sense of humor?”

“Yeah, that’s Dinky. He’s a stitch, and probably the smartest of the lot, too. I think this is his project, as in We are his project, and he isn’t prepared to write us off just yet.”

“And let me guess…Finky is ready to pull the plug?”

“See? This is easy, right?”

“You say so. What about Dinky?”

“Yellow-orange, red equatorial bulge. Usually very small, very dim and really hard to spot.”

“So Pinky is pink?”

“Yup, and definitely female. She’s their resident empath, and she doesn’t respect your personal space, at all. When she wants to know what you’re feeling she’ll find out any way she can.”

“So, that leaves Winky. What’s his role in all this?”

“I think of him as being like a mechanic, or maybe an engineer. He studies things, and when needed he manipulates what needs to be manipulated.”

“Hence the Cape St George. Can you call them individually?”

“I can’t, at least not all of them. I’ve had some luck with Winky and Dinky, none at all with the other two.”

“Where are they?”

“No idea.”

“The spheres? What are they?”

“I think they’re more like a monitoring device, but in a way also like a drone – in that those things can take action when directed to.”

“So, the hologram is a projection of what ‘they’ look like?”

“Well, yes, but you actually met Winky, and I mean in the flesh, before you back-flipped over the rail.”

“I don’t remember that. But…you’ve seen him before…like in that form?”

Taggart nodded. “When the Seattle group was trying to reconstruct their first ARV. Yes.”

“And those ships work?”

“In a limited capacity. Most of them crash, as we just don’t have the means to reproduce the flight control systems.”

“What does that mean?”

“The controls seem to react to direct neural commands, and our brains aren’t structurally all that similar.”

“What are their power sources like?”



“Think of a fusion reactor with a power output sufficient to power California in a package about the size of a briefcase.”

“No kidding? And the Seattle group reproduced that?”

“Yes. So did the Black Widow team.”

“So, theoretically we could…”

“Yes, we could. But end poverty, hunger, or inequality? Doubtful. Groups are already in open conflict about who gets the technology and at what price. And that’s why the U.S. probably won’t go to war to protect the Middle East this time around.”


“Oh, from what I’ve heard, Jesus approved of the technology.”


“Mike, you need to wrap your head around the idea that their project has been going on for a long, long time. They’ve made a bunch of friends, too, but apparently our team in Seattle was the first to actually initiate contact. That marked a big moment of success for them, and that was the only reason why Finky didn’t terminate the project after the 9/11 thing.”

“That’s the random number thing, right?”

“Yeah, a group working out of Princeton and Yale. Computational Psychobiology, if you can get into that. Working on AI and their system accidentally picked up the 9/11 data, which led to contact after we got our ARV online.”

“But you’re not using any equipment to make contact…”

“Because none is needed, Mike. Remember, one mind, one conscious mind, so think of it as one part of the mind talking to another part.”

“Damn, Taggart, even my hemorrhoids are starting to hurt just thinking about all this…”

“Yeah? Well, wrap your head around this. Orcas have been in contact with them a lot longer than we have.”

“So, Eva and those females? They were…”

“Yup. And I don’t have a clue how or why Eva was able to do that.”

“You know, man, I think I’m gonna go clean my ears – with some Preparation H.”

Taggart nodded, then looked aft. “I just hope I haven’t fucked up the works by not bringing Eva along this time. If the Russians make a big move into central Europe then any ability to get to her will very likely be cut-off, and I’m thinking that her part in this equation may hold the key to their success.”

“So…we turn around and go back.”

“No,” Taggart said, shaking his head slowly, “I can’t take a chance on not getting where I want to be, and anyway, my guess is if they need her they’ll know where to find her.”

“Okay, so you’re willing to take that chance. Decision made. Let’s move on.”

Henry smiled. “Is that the naval mindset?”

“Damn straight it is. You can’t properly execute any plan if you’re always second guessing yourself. Get all that baggage out of the way before you decide.”

“Well, we’re into September now and according to Dina I’m officially running out of time.”

“And Russia is fucking up the works.”

“Aren’t they always?”

“You’re asking the wrong person,” Mike said, gnashing his teeth. “Sometimes I feel like I’ve been programmed to fight Russians.”

“So isn’t it just as likely that a bunch of Russians feel the same way, like they have been programmed to fight us?” Henry added, smiling.

“Sure it is.”

“So, consider this. It’s this tendency we have, to look for differences and then demonize those differences, which – in their eyes,” Taggart said, pointing up at the sky, “makes us a doomed species. That, and I think the whole religion thing really messes with their frame of reference.”

“How so?”

“Well, the one mind thing infers we’d be on the same wavelength as God. Dinky laughed his ass off when we mulled over some possibilities.”

“So, where are we headed now?”

“Den Helder. We cut in and try to find the right canal to take us to Amsterdam.”

“Why not just go to IJmuiden. Plenty of draft and no bridges to worry about. Only about twenty, maybe thirty miles further.”

“You’ve been there?”

“Yeah, on a port visit once, but I guess it begs the issue…why not just sail straight for the Seine?”

“I know,” Henry sighed. “I wanted to stop and smell the roses, I guess.”

“Tulips, Henry. Lots of tulips.”

“Oh…yeah. Well, the Russians may have made all that a moot point.”

“No, no, I say stick to the plan. If they’re keeping an eye on you, maybe they’re trying to gauge how you respond to all these changes.”

Taggart scowled. “Maybe.”

“So, maybe heading inland at IJmuiden is the safer option right now.”

“Okay, I’ll add it as a second route and we can decide when we get to the next waypoint.”

“If we stayed outside, out of the canals, how far is it from IJmuiden to the Seine?”

“Just under 300 miles,” Taggart said, looking at the chart plotter, “but remember, I’ve got a big medical work-up in Amsterdam.”

“Options and outcomes, Henry…just thinking about the available options.”

“Well, I’m going to go take a nap. Call me before we get close to Den Helder.”

“Right.” Lacy watched and waited until Taggart was below, then pulled a new sat-phone from his jacket and checked-in. It was a brief call.


Eva slept terribly the night after Taggart left.

She’d watched the storm’s approach, her mood as dark as the underbelly of the scudding clouds, a helpless onlooker now supposedly out of harm’s way – warehoused, put on a shelf to be watched-over like the incubator she’d been repurposed to be. It wasn’t that she was merely angry now; no, she felt disused. No longer loved or needed.

When Time Bandits disappeared inside the shredding white line of the squall, she had turned away and walked to the same bench Taggart and Clyde always went to when he had fresh salmon for the old boy. She sat in the same spot Henry sat and closed her eyes – soaking up memories like a thirsty sponge. In her mind’s eye she saw not Taggart’s eyes, but Clyde’s; deep, dark, full of purpose, the unknowable mysteries that spoke of love and devotion – and she felt at home for a moment, in those eyes.

Until her clouds began clearing the way forward, until other eyes became manifest.

Just as deep, just as purposeful. The big male and his scything dorsal full of latent purpose…

He was reaching out to her…she could feel him probing her thoughts, reassuring her. Telling her she would not be alone, that she would never be alone ever again and to trust him. Her mind reeled under the assault, under the weight of the utter unfamiliarity of something so invasively foreign, yet as her mind reacted she also began reaching out, probing the unfamiliar, feeling her way out of this inner storm under the sheer strength of her empathic abilities…

She went into the male orcas mind, felt the weight if his responsibilities, of his hopes and dreams, then she saw the world through his eyes…watching her that first time as she fell overboard and as Henry came for her…then she felt the love and wonder in his eyes…not just for his family but for her as well.

“Why?” she asked. “Why do you feel this way?”

And she experienced a rush of impressions that left her breathless. Impossible things, unreal places, and she basked under the full glory of his hopes and dreams – even as other minds began probing, seeking out the source of this new strength…

“After all this time, could she be the one?” the green sphere wondered.


Lacy hopped off Bandits’ bow and secured the forward spring-line to the pier while Rolf pulled in on the stern-line, making the boat fast to her new spot in central Amsterdam. Dina had bundled Taggart in a heavy coat – because he said he was freezing – even though it was almost 70 degrees F outside, and they set out for the hospital as soon as the power was hooked-up. Rolf took over the care and feeding of Clyde when Mike advised he had a few errands to run, and so Rolf took Clyde to a nearby park for a long-needed sniff of grass.

Lacy hailed a taxi and proceeded southwest out of the city to the sprawling US Embassy complex in Wassenaar, and from there he made his way to the second floor office of the local CIA resident director of field operations. She was waiting for him, and she was furious.

“So, you’re telling me the woman is still in Bergen?”

Lacy nodded. “He wouldn’t let her come. I tried, but if I’d pushed more than I already had I think I’d have blown my cover.”

The woman shook her head, looked out the window. “You know, we don’t have anyone near Bergen right now. Everyone is up north, at the border. Do you have any idea how many troops they have massed up there right now? Today? This morning…?”

“No. I’d assume…”

“Yeah? Well, double whatever you were going to guess and you’d still be off by a factor of two. And now I’ve got to find a warm body to hustle their ass to fuckin’ Bergen and get eyes on this woman. Goddamn! I just wish you’d have stayed on her…”

Lacy just stared at the spook, knowing things must have gotten out of hand for her to be this rattled. “Well, the good news is he says he can’t pull off a repeat of the Helgoland broadcast, so at least we don’t have to worry about that right now.”

“You mean he says he can’t. So far Taggart has been as slippery as eel snot.”

“I haven’t seen him working on anything and besides, he’s sicker than shit.”

“And you’re sure that isn’t an act?”

Lacy pulled out his phone and showed her a picture of Taggart he’d taken the day before and her eyes went wide.

“Okay,” she said softly, “how long does he have?”

“The oncologist traveling with us says she doubts he’ll make it to Paris. So…call it, well, maybe a month.”

“I don’t know why we can’t just kill him now, put him out of our misery…”

“I think that would be premature, and probably not in the best interests of the project.”

“Getting that goddamn woman back under surveillance is in our best interest right now,” the Chief of Station snarled. “Taggart was a dead end and now we know it!”

“I disagree, and don’t know that’s the case – not at all, as a matter of fact. We need to stay with the original plan, just detail someone from the CERN group to Bergen and let me see where Taggart takes us. I still think he’s the key player.”

“Assuming we can move people freely across Europe, you mean? No, we should kill him before he pulls off another Helgoland!”

“That’s not their objective now – and you know it. We need to stick to the plan, let it work. You know and I know the stakes are just too high.”

“You keep assuming we know what their ultimate objective is. Need I remind you…we don’t!”

“We’ll know…assuming we can keep him alive all the way to Paris…”

“Yes, yes…I know. Now get out of here, and let me have that sat-phone. We have new bugs planted, so we’ll know what’s going on before you do.”

Lacy nodded and left her office; he took a taxi to the nearby rail line that led back into the city and waited for the next train with a handful of commuters. He never noticed the small, yellow-orange sphere hovering almost inside a nearby hedgerow, nor did he spot the tiny orbs that raced out of the embassy to rejoin the larger orb. 

As the train rolled to a stop beside the platform, Lacy stepped on board just before the doors closed. He sat beside a window and watched the countryside drift by, never aware of the tiny spheres that landed on his jacket and in his hair.

Dinky’s sphere resumed its station a few hundred miles overhead, joined for a moment by an angry red sphere – which left a few minutes later, streaking back down to the heart of the city far, far below.

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next chapter will drop in a week or so.

The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 54

Part VII

Chapter 54

Callahan pushed the button on the bed-rail and raised his head, then he looked at the EKG beeping merrily along; it looked normal – at least to his untrained eye it did – and no one had been in to see him in the past half hour…so what the devil was going. He looked at the two IV bags running fluids into his arm and shook his head, then leaned back and closed his eyes.

The curtain flew open and a woman that looked – in her scrubs and lab coat – somewhat like a white fire hydrant as she walked in while reading his chart. Then without skipping a beat she stopped reading and looked up at him.

“Well, a few more tests we need to run, Mr. Callahan, but it looks like you’ve had a classic SIPA?”

“Seepa? What the hell is that?”

“Stress-Induced Panic Attack.”

Harry shook his head and rolled his eyes: “You’ve got to be fuckin’ kidding me!?”

“Well, you’re dehydrated and, apparently, had just sat down in a car, and let’s not even talk about the showdown with the ex-girlfriend in the parking lot. So, I want to rule out reflex syncopes…and let’s see, no diabetes – but I see an elevated white count. Been out of the country recently?”

“Iraq. Five months.”

She looked over the rim of her glasses when she heard that and started writing furiously on her chart. “Lean forward, please.” She listened to his lungs for a long time, tapping away like a woodpecker a couple dozen times before writing more notes. “Okay, I think we have enough blood drawn already, so I want to run another test or two. Anyway, just sit back and get some rest. You up for a visitor?”

“Depends. No ex-girlfriends, please.”

She snort-laughed at that then disappeared to parts unknown.

DD popped her head through the curtain a moment later. “Well, I hear you’re going to survive,” she said as she walked up to the bed-rail. “How’re you feeling?”

“Like an idiot.”

“Well, you’re not, but no more Fujiko for you!” she said sternly.

“That woman is infuriating.”

“You know, as soon as you said that your face started turning red. Harry, I think this is a much more dire situation than you realize. I think…you really need to get laid.”

Callahan brought a hand up to his face and rubbed his eyes while he slowly shook his head. “I’m sure glad to hear that, doc. By the way, where’d you go to medical school?”

“The University of Lonely Hearts, Harry, and I know all there is to know about the condition.”

“Well, the doc must be keeping you in fine shape. I’ve never seen you happier.”

“You know what? I am happy, Harry. And you aren’t. And that bothers me, a lot.”

A nurse walked in. “Callahan, Harry L.?”

“That’s me.”

“We’re going down to x-ray. Think you can walk?” she said as she removed the lines from his IV, then lowered the rail on his gurney after she put some grippy socks on his feet.


“Okay, let’s go…”

As he walked from the room DD whistled: “Nice ass, Callahan!” – so of course every nurse on the floor lined up to take a look.

An hour later the fire hydrant came back to his room – still writing furiously as she came up to the bed – then, looking over her glasses she looked Callahan in the eye. “You’ve picked up an interesting fungal infection somewhere in your recent travels, Mr. Callahan. There’s already some anecdotal information circulating about patients presenting with a similar bug who have recently been in Iraq, and, well, I’d like to get a handle on this and see if this is what’s really going on. I’m going to admit you, send you up to the infectious diseases ward…”

“Wait a minute,” DD interjected, “isn’t that where all the Aids patients are? I don’t want Harry…”

“No, it’s not. And we’re capable of maintaining sterile conditions on our floors,” the physician snarled.

“Will he be in isolation?”

“Yes, full quarantine measures. Masks, gloves, gowns, the whole nine yards…”

Callahan watched this give and take like he was at a tennis match, his head bouncing from side to side as each new volley raced over the net, then he decided he’d had enough. “Okay, doc. But the real issue here is that my friend has advised that what I really need is to get laid. I have to assume I can’t get laid here, right?”

The eyes looking over the rim of the glasses is what got Callahan.

“Uh, no, I, well, no…”

“Well said, Doc. Well said.” 

DD – now turning beet red – disappeared down a corridor, beating a hasty retreat.

“Is she your…”

“No, she works for me.”

“What do you do?”

“Heard of Callahan Air Transport?”

“The helicopter thing?”

“Yes, that thing.”

“I’m sorry. But yes, I’ve even used it a couple of times. So, you’re the Callahan in Callahan?”

“In a manner of speaking, yes.”

“Were you flying in Iraq?”

He nodded.

“See any action?”

“A little.”

“Any other combat?”


“Really. What about other stressful environments?”

“SFPD Homicide Division. Does that count?”

“Any drinking or recreational drug use?”


“What about sex? Heterosexual?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“But none lately?”


“Want to have dinner sometime?”

He paused and thought about that for a moment. “Assuming you can get me out of this place, sure.”

“I think I can manage that.”

“It might help if I knew your name.”

She looked at her lab coat – “Perfect! No name tag again. I always forget. Becky Sawyer,” she said, holding out her hand. “But I’m still going to keep you overnight. I hope you understand.”

He took her hand and shook his head. “Fungus, did you say? Like…mushrooms?”

She snort-laughed at that: “Just need to rule out a few things. If I’m right and we catch it early it ought to be easy to treat. I’m also going to put you on something for your blood pressure; it’s a little high. For now though, I kind of want to take the edge off, so I have a little diazepam ordered.”



“No thanks.”

“Look, Callahan, you’re wound up tighter than a drum, and one way or another I need you to relax…so, sorry, but doctors orders this time.”

“So, I take it getting laid is out of the question?”

She laughed. “Not on the first date, Callahan,” she said as she walked out of the little room.

“Now that was interesting,” Callahan sighed as he watched her leave, talking to himself. “Not like any doc I’ve ever seen before, ya know?”


He was sitting in the bar at Trader Vic’s that next Friday, nursing a Suffering Bastard – with rum, no less – while he waited for Becky Sawyer, and he looked at his watch again – for the tenth time in as many minutes. Already a half hour late, but she’d said she would have trouble getting away before seven, so here he sat, feeling more than a little insecure.

Then – she was there. Walking right up to his little corner booth looking incandescent, almost a little too cute, and as he stood, a little “Wow…” slipped out.

And that caused her to smile. “Wow? Did you just say wow?”

“I did. Sorry…”

“Don’t apologize…please. In my book ‘wow’ is as good as it gets!”

She had kind of a Holly Hunter vibe going on, too. Short, yes, but a real firecracker. “I hate to say it,” he said, “but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen cute like you do cute.”

“Well Hot-Damn, Harry! Comin’ out of chute number one, and ain’t you sweet?!” 


“I guess scrubs and a lab coat don’t make the best first impression, huh?”

“Hell, I guess not.”

“Well Harry, you better buy me a strong drink ‘cause I’m horny as hell and Tag! – you’re it!”

He gulped – hard. “What?”

“Hard of hearing, too? Ain’t that the shits.” she said as she sat next to him – sliding in close. “So, whatcha drinkin’?”

“Suffering Bastard.”

“Ooh…sounds like a meanie. Order me two.”

He signaled their waiter and ordered two more – for the table.

“So? You horny?” she purred.

“Yeah, after one look at you I think that’s a fair assumption.”

“When’s the last time you popped your cork?”

“It’s been a while?” he said, a little confused by this direct line of attack…

“What? You mean…like a week or so?”

“I mean like probably more than five years.”

Her eyes went wide. “Man, no wonder your BP is off the fuckin’ charts…” she said as her hand slipped under the table and her fingers to the zipper on his trousers. She had him free in seconds and started in on him, working him over with practiced ease.

He started to grin, then his lower lip started to tremble a bit…

“Oh-h-h dear. I do believe you are close, Harry Callahan, and do you know what? I just dropped my napkin on the floor. Would you excuse me while I go down get it?”

She took him in her mouth and he grabbed the edge of the table as he erupted, their waiter grinning like mad as he walked up, delivering the two drinks.

“Would you care for an, uh, an appetizer?” the waiter asked –

– just as Sawyer emerged, her face a gooey wreck. “No thanks,” she smiled. “I’m good.”

Callahan cleared his throat. “Uh, you know, maybe we’ll just order dinner in the main dining room?”

“Hell no,  Callahan, I like this booth just fine. Order something for us while I go fix my face.”

They watched her walk off, Callahan almost in a state of shock, the waiter grinning toothily.

“Oh Hell, Rick, just bring us some food. I don’t care what…”

“Very good, sir…!”

She came back a few minutes later, fresh lipstick flawlessly applied, and she sat and downed half her Bastard in one long pull.

“You from Texas or somethin’,” he asked as she toyed suggestively with the cucumber slice in her glass.

“What was your first clue, Callahan?”

“You know, that’s the first time anything like that has ever happened to me.”

“Oh yeah? Well, odds are lookin’ pretty good it won’t be the last.”

By the time they left Vic’s, Callahan was toasted and Sawyer’s motor was running hard, so he opted for a cab ride to the condo down by the wharf.

He tried to come up for air about four hours later, but she wasn’t having any of it.


But then the phone started ringing – a little after seven.

He ignored it one time, but picked up on the second try.

“Harry? It’s Cathy,” and she sounded frantic. “Frank’s not doing well. I think he needs to go down to Palo Alto.”

“Alright, I’ll head down to the Cathouse. Has the doc been by yet?”

“He’s on his way now.”

“Okay. I’m gonna hop in the shower. Have the doc call me as soon as he knows what we need to bring.”

Sawyer was sitting up – and she was all business now. “What’s going on?”

“Friend of mine, up by the house. He’s end-stage pancreatic cancer. That was Cathy, his, well, his significant other, and she thinks something is wrong.”

“This isn’t where you live?”

“No. Listen, I’ve got to jump in the shower…”

“Yeah, let’s do it to it…”

They showered together – “It saves water, ya know?” she said – and he dressed in running pants and an SFPD sweatshirt, and he took the next call on the first ring.

“What’s up, Doc?”

“Can you fly up?”

“Assuming the weather is good, yeah.”

“Okay. We’ll get him ready.”

“Right,” he said as he rang off, then he turned to Sawyer. “Look, I’m sorry, but could I call you…”

“Sure, I’d love to come along,” she said, grinning. “Two docs are better than one, right?”

He called the Cathouse, had them get the 412 medevac ship ready. “I’ll be there in about ten minutes,” he told the dispatcher. When he turned to Sawyer she was dressed like a firecracker again, and he shook his head. “Wow,” he sighed.

“Sorry, I didn’t exactly bring a change of clothes…”

“Oh, it’s not that. Fact is, there’s nothing I’d rather do right now than get you out of those clothes and back in the sack. I’ve never had so much fun in my life…”

“Yeah? You seemed a little rusty to me, but I think with a little work I can whip you back into shape.”

He nodded. “Let’s go.”

“What’s the Cathouse?”

“It’s the call-sign for our main base.”

“Right, I like it. Kinda fits, ya know?”

His Rover was still at Vic’s so he called a taxi and they made the short drive to the valet lot to pick it up, then he drove down to the Presidio. Pattison was waiting for him when he pulled into the lot.

“What’s up?” Pattison asked.

“It’s Frank,” Harry said. “You free this morning?”

“I can be. Just came in to catch up on some paperwork.”

“Okay. You take the left seat.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah. I’m done with flying, Pat. I’d like you to take on the Chief Pilot thing starting today.”

“What? Is it a medical thing?”

“No, it’s a totally burned out thing, Pat. I’m done, at least for a while,” he said as he helped Sawyer get situated in the jump seat. They did a quick walk around and took off for the Golden Gate. With Sawyer on the intercom, Callahan narrated what was going on as they flew north just off the beach.

“Harry, there’s enough stuff back here to do minor surgery!” she said.

“Yeah, we had the doc kind of help us design and stock this thing.”

“It’s about ten times better than what the Fire Department has. Man, you guys ought to advertise this some.”

“We mainly use it for fire fighting situations.”

“Well, you guys could staff this thing with a doc and a nurse and basically offer an in-flight minor trauma bird. Y’all have some seriously cool shit back here!”

Pattison put the 412 down on the street just outside Cathy’s house, and as everyone was already out front waiting Harry just helped get people loaded. He groaned when he saw Bullitt – who looked half-past dead in the golden morning light.

And it turned out that Sawyer and Doc Watson knew one another, barely, and after they laid Frank down she started an IV and worked up his vitals.

“Did you say we’re going to Stanford?” she asked Callahan – quietly – over the intercom.

“Yeah. Why?”

“If you can radio ahead it would be a good idea to have an oncologist and a hematologist standing by.”

“Okay. Can do. How far out are we, Pat?”

“Call it twenty minutes.”

“Right.” Callahan looked up the frequency for Stanford, forgetting it was listed as SUMC, then he found the numbers quickly after that; with that done he patched Sawyer’s intercom into the COMMs net. “Becky? Push the white button here,” he said indicating the side of her headset, “to talk on the radio. I’ll call Stanford now, and you tell ‘em what you need, okay?”


“Pat? Need help with ATC?”

“If you can, sure.”

Harry called the flight in as a medevac and got a direct clearance to Palo Alto, and they were on the ground five minutes later. Physicians and orderlies took Frank into the ER; Harry told Cathy he’d go back to the Presidio, pick up his Rover and head back as soon as he could.

She hugged him, tears in her eyes, then he noticed DD wasn’t with them.

“Is DD with Elizabeth?” he asked, and Cathy nodded before she turned and ran into the hospital. He looked at her as she ran, a million conflicting emotions pulling at him…

“Okay, let’s go,” he said to Pattison.

“Man, he looks grim.”

Callahan turned and looked out at the Stanford campus as they climbed and turned west. ATC routed them back to the beach and north to the Gate, and they landed at the Presidio ten minutes later.

Pattison told them to leave, that he’d take care of the aircraft, so Harry and Sawyer walked to his Rover. “Where can I take you?” he asked. 

“Could we stop by my apartment, let me change real fast?”

“Uh, sure, but I don’t want to drag you away…”

“Nope, Callahan, you’re stuck with me this weekend. Ain’t no better way to learn about someone than watching them do their thing. And besides, I’m starting to have warm fuzzies about you.”

He looked at her and smiled. “Where to, Doc?”

She gave him the address and he smiled, shook his head. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

“Oh, nothing. But you should know I’m your landlord, just in case you fall behind on your rent.”


Harry grinned as he talked – almost all the way to his first high-rise apartment tower, and he waited for her while she ran upstairs and changed; they drove down the 280 to Page Mill Road after that – breaking a few speed limits on the way. Cathy and Doc Watson were still in the ER waiting room, Cathy doing her best to hold it together but not coming close, and she ran into Harry’s arms as soon as he walked into the room.

He held her while she cried it out, leaving the two docs to sit and talk shop for a while, then a nurse came and told Cathy it would be okay for her to go back for a brief visit. Harry went and sat with Becky and Watson, and in this sudden, desperate calm now all too aware of the day’s spiraling cascade of events.

“I need to call Sam,” he sighed. “And Dell…”

“Harry? It’s going to be okay. My guess is he’ll be good to go home later this afternoon. We’ll probably just need to get a few things for the house.”

“A few things, Doc?”

“Hospice things, Harry. They’ll know what he needs, what we’ll need.”

The word slammed into Callahan like a blow to the head and he found it hard to breathe again; Becky scooted close then and started to talk him down…

“Lean back, Harry. Take a deep breath. Just close your eyes and try to let go for a while…”

“Ya know, my arms feel funny.”

“Oh?” Doc Watson said. “How so?”

“A burning sensation, especially around the joints.”

Watson looked at Sawyer and nodded. “Anything else? You been sleeping okay?”

“No. Not really.”

“Okay, just close your eyes, try to rest…” 

They got up and walked over to a vending machine. “You know,” Watson said, “I’m reading about this same shit more and more, kids coming back from the Gulf…”

“Yeah, I know. Me too. Harry’s not the first one we’ve run across, either…”

“You still at USF?”


“You and Harry? How’d it go last night?”

“I like him. A lot.”

“He’s good people. Been through a lot the last ten years, stuff you wouldn’t believe. What he’s doing with these helicopters…well, it’s something special.”

“He said he’s my landlord? What do you know about that?”

“Hell, he owns about ten huge apartment and condo complexes now, mainly in the city but he’s starting one down here now.”

“Are you serious?”

“My wife is his CFO. Not a lot about his affairs I don’t know, but the guy has the touch. Everything he does makes money. A lot of money.”

“What’s a lot?”

Watson shook his head. “I’m not sure what it is now, but last year his net worth was over three hundred.”



Her eyes went wide. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

Watson just shook his head. “Once he told DD, that’s my wife, he was going out with you she ran your name, found out everything there is to know about you…”

“Did he…”

“No. He doesn’t know she does that crap, but she protects him like a lioness protects her cubs. And look, I’m just telling you so you go into this with open eyes, okay?” 

“He said he’s a cop, too. I don’t get it…”

“Retired after putting in his twenty but kept at it in the reserves. He’s still a homicide detective, still carries the gun and the badge. Man, if I had that kind of money I wouldn’t…”

But she wasn’t really listening anymore. She was, in fact, now almost completely mortified. She’d come off as some kind of horny nymphomaniacal slutzilla because she thought he might be a fun diversion for a few days…but then the warm fuzzies – as she liked to call them – had hit, and hit hard. Now she felt like she was in way too deep, and that was not someplace familiar to her. Not at all.

“Who’s Frank?” she asked.

“Frank Bullitt. His partner and best friend. Let’s just say that close is an understatement and leave it at that.”

“Got it. And Cathy?” 

“Not married but been together for more than twenty years. One kid, a little girl. Cathy’s an architect and does all Harry’s design work.”

“So, they’re all real close? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Closer than close, Becky. Again, there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye.”

“You mean, like some kind of triangle deal?”

“No, not at all, and Harry is just not wired that way. Conservative when it comes to things like that, sometimes he’s almost shy. Maybe old-fashioned is the best way to describe him.”


“You haven’t fallen for him, have you?”

She turned and looked at Callahan, then at Watson – and she nodded. “Maybe, just a little.”

“Well, let me cue you in right now. If you’re looking for some quick fun, Harry is not the one for you. He’s complicated, yet I think you’ll find he’s worth the effort. But…if you hurt him, you’ll have to answer to my wife. And Becky…you do not want to do that.”

“I think I need a drink. A real strong drink.”

“Had a Suffering Bastard yet?”

“Oh. My. God. Never again…”

“Jesus…how many did you have?”

“I stopped counting at five…”

“Five? Shit…I’ve had three and thought my head was going to come off the next morning…”

“Doc…you obviously didn’t belong to the same sorority I did…”

“Oh…on that, I feel most certain you’re correct…”


“I’m getting tired of that drive,” Callahan said as he backed the Rover into the garage at his Sea Ranch house.

“I think he slept the whole way. I was impressed, really, by how smoothly you drove.”

“Hah! Frank says I drive like an old lady.”

“You drive deliberately, Harry. I found it reassuring.”

He nodded. “Well, welcome to my home…be it ever so humble.”

“I wish the sun was out. I couldn’t really see it all that well.”

“Well, come on. I’ll give you the nickel tour.”

He took her around to the front door and took her in that way. “Cathy says the house has more ‘wow’ factor if you come in through here,” he added as he turned on some lights.

“Fuck!” Sawyer sighed before she covered her mouth with both hands.

“See. I told ya.”

“Shit, Harry…this is like something out of a magazine!”

“Oh, it’s been in Architectural Digest twice.”

“Crap! What’s out those windows…?”

They walked over and he turned on the outside floodlights, illuminating the layers of patios that led down to the cliffs, and then to the sea beyond…

“Fucking Hell!”

Callahan cleared his throat. “Why don’t you tell me how you really feel?”

“Jesus, Harry, I’m sorry, but I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” she said as she turned around and faced…

…the piano.

“What is that?” she moaned as she started for the glass alcove suspended over the rocks.

Harry watched, interested now because she seemed to regard the piano with something approaching awe…

“Is that a Steinway?” she asked.


She walked closer, saw all the slate and stone accents woven into the design of the instrument…

“No way,” she sighed. “A Bösendorfer? I’ve never even seen one of these before…”

“Do you play?”

“Hell yes, I play!”

“Go ahead. Knock your socks off.”

“No way. I ain’t touching that thing, Callahan.”

“Why not?”

“That’s not a piano, Harry. That’s an act of faith, a living testament to man’s quest for perfection. But that thing? Harry, that fucker belongs in a goddamn museum.”

“It’s not worth a penny if it’s not played, Becky.”

“Shit, Callahan, don’t call me Becky around this thing. Rebecca. Shit,” she said as she walked around it, “this is unreal. I had no idea something like this could make me horny. I take it you play?”

“A little,” he smiled. “Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m starving and there are no restaurants around here. Either I cook or you cook, but one of us better get to it.”

“Where’s the kitchen?”

“Follow me…” he said as he led her across the living room to the kitchen, flipping on lights as he went…

Then the doorbell chimed.

He walked down and opened the door. DD and the Doc were standing there, scowling.

“What’s wrong?”

“Cathy threw us out. Said she didn’t need our help, and I’m pissed,” DD snarled.

“And I can just about guarantee she has no idea what she’s saying right now,” Becky said as she came down to the door. “You must be DD,” she said, extending her hand.

“Ah, the famous Dr. Sawyer,” DD said, sizing up this latest prize.

“Come on in,” Harry said. “We were just headed to the kitchen.”

“I went by the store with Liz and picked up some steaks and artichokes,” DD said.

“Perfect,” Becky said. “Got a cast iron skillet?”

“For what?” DD asked.

“The steaks! Best way to cook ‘em…”

DD just shook her head. “The boys do those down on the patio. I have a salad ready to go, but if you’d like to help with the artichokes…?”

Becky put her hands up. “No, no, I don’t want to get in anybody’s way.” She turned to Harry and the doc: “Boys? Need help with the grill?”

Callahan tried not to watch what was happening, but that only made his reaction more intense. Becky and DD were squaring off, evidently competing…but for what? Did Becky feel – in some way – that DD was his protector? 

With that question lingering in his mind he watched the performance unfold while he and the doc lit the fire and seared the steaks. DD, for her part of the performance, made a point of stamping the evening with her very own seal of approval – in effect, controlling everything that happened, right down to who ate what. ‘Funny,’ Callahan thought, ‘that I’ve never seen her in that light…’

Sawyer, however, did not find the evening funny, or even fun, and Callahan watched her anger build and build, and almost to a breaking point when DD insisted that margarine was a healthier product than butter. How could, he wondered, two otherwise sane women almost come to blows over the efficacy of melted margarine as a condiment for artichokes?

But what does it say that I’ve let DD take almost total control of my life?

She does a good job, doesn’t she? I mean, the results are evident everywhere I look?

So, does that mean she wants to exert control over my personal and social life, as well?

DD even directed traffic after dinner, sending “her boys” up to the kitchen to tackle the dishes whilst she and Becky – the girls – sat and talked a bit. Callahan had wanted to be the fly on the wall for that one, but it only took a few minutes to get things into the dishwasher and clean up the countertops. Still, when – the girls – came into the house they seemed to retire to their own respective corners, waiting for the bell so the next round could commence.

And of course the doc had wanted Callahan to play for them, so DD gave her blessing.

But Callahan turned the tables. “Doc? You’ve been taking lessons for months now. Let’s see what you’ve learned…”

“No, no…please, I’d only embarrass myself…”

“Come on, Doc. The Clair de lune, please.”

So Doc Watson made his way through the piece, and much better than the last time – when he had butchered the music almost beyond recognition. Still, Becky nodded her approval and even clapped a little when he wrapped it up, and DD even smiled at that acknowledgment.

“Alright, Harry,” Doc Watson snarled. “Your turn!”

“Me? You know, I think Becky plays. You up for it tonight?”

“No, not tonight,” Sawyer said, looking at DD. “Maybe some other time.”

“Okay, Harry,” the doc sighed, “it looks like it’s up to you. How about a Gershwin tune?”

Callahan looked at DD, then at Becky Sawyer. And he smiled.

Then he went to the piano, pulled out the bench and sat. Retracting the keyboard cover, he worked through some scales, checking that everything was in tune as he stretched his fingers, loosening them up. “Well,” he said, “let’s see if I even remember how to play this thing…”

He started by one-fingering his way through Chopsticks – which garnered smiles from DD and the Doc, then he blasted into Schumann’s Toccata in C, a short, breathless interlude before his planned finale. He asked everyone to step close, to put their hand on his shoulder, and though Doc Watson slowly put his hand there, he did so with trepidation. 

Callahan then drifted into Prokofiev’s Death of Juliet, improvising as he went, but after a moment he paused: “Everyone? Please take a deep breath, try to clear your mind of everything, imagine drifting on water at night with nothing but stars overhead. Slowly drifting, you’re drifting…”

As he’d intended, DD felt it first. She began reliving the last two hours – only now she was seeing the world, experiencing the emotional intensities of the evening – through Becky Sawyer’s eyes. She felt the sense of isolation, the gnawing frustration, the almost utter despair of watching Callahan being torn and pulled by competing loyalties, then the anger she felt when this complete stranger began to take control of everything going on around them all…

Doc Watson saw it too, and what he watched was a savage performance, though one he’d seen repeated time and time again but never from the vantage of an intended victim, and he began to feel anxious, almost physically ill as he felt what Becky Sawyer had just experienced…

Then Callahan drifted into Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust, playing the Autrefois, un roi de Thulé almost as an adagio, carrying Becky Sawyer into DDs mind, letting her experience the insecurities of a lonely woman who had always thought of herself as a failure, of a little girl always humiliated for her academic prowess and homely appearance. Even the doc watched these insights play out as an overwhelming feeling of pity washed over them all…

Before Callahan finished he wandered back into a very gentle Clair de lune, and this time he took them to Vietnam, to 1968, and to a night filled with automatic weapons fire and overrun positions, of men screaming for help on the command net, of mortar rounds landing inside the perimeter, of his shattered Huey spinning out of control and falling into a kerosene-soaked swamp – and then to the final, remorseless advance of the huge white snake, it’s red eyes and searching tongue reaching out for him…then…

He stood from the piano and walked out to the patio, leaving three human statues to claw their way back to the warmth of life, to see the world as it could be with only a little care and feeding of the human soul. He made his way to the little slot in the cliffs that led down to the sandy beach and, taking a deep breath, he began walking north…

He heard Becky calling his name, then, as she drew near, he heard her pleading with him to stop, to wait for her, so he stopped and turned to face the damage he’d done.

She ran into his arms, clung to his back, laughing and crying hysterically, caught on and within a Möbius loop of understanding and misunderstanding, trying to come to terms with everything she’d just learned and fought to forget…then she was screaming at him, screaming mercilessly, pitilessly – 

“Goddamn you, Harry, I love you I can’t live without you I can’t even breathe now just hold me please hold me and don’t you ever let me go please don’t let go…”

He felt water at his feet, the sand under his shoes sliding away on the ebb and he felt her sliding away, too. 

‘Can I hang on…? Can I hold on to love. Will she let me this time, or will she come again and again and tear this one from my grasp again and again…’

Then he felt DD and the Doc with them, all then standing in the surf, all feeling conjoined, all in sudden interwoven understanding, a new fabric created of and from the images of the night.


When he woke the next morning she was still clinging to him, fiercely clinging with his arm pulled tight to her breast, as if she had sought fusion with some fleeting essence.

Then he heard a knock on the door. His bedroom door…

Were they still here, he thought? The doc and DD?

As he disentangled himself from Becky she moaned, then he went to the door and opened it.

“Sorry for bothering you,” Frank said, standing there with Cathy and both still in their pajamas and robes, “but this couldn’t wait.”


“The doc and DD came to the house last night, apparently after one of your, uh, excursions, and both were having some kind of meltdown.”


“This wasn’t like the things we’ve done before, right?”

“No, not really.”

“What did you do to them?”

“I’m not sure I understand, not yet anyway. It was an improvisation, I think.”

“Well,” Cathy said, “DD has been up all night, and I’d say she’s almost in a state of shock, Harry. She can hardly talk right now, and I mean this morning, right now…”

“Frank?” Callahan said, “why don’t you go sit in the living room while I get some coffee on, but if I don’t tap a kidney first, things are gonna get ugly.”

He came out a few minutes later and Cathy met him in the kitchen, hugging him before he was even aware she was in the room. “What was that for,” he sighed.

She shrugged; “Do you have any eggs? I’ll whip up breakfast if you do, but I think you need to sit with Frank…

He nodded and went to the sofa and sat beside his friend.

“I never get tired of this view,” Bullitt said as he looked over the cliffs to the surf beyond.

“She created something timeless here,” Callahan replied. 

“I can’t help but think of all the nights we shared here, but at the same time I feel almost jealous, Harry. Of all the nights yet to be born here, of all the memories you’ll get to make – without me…”

“You’ll be with us, Frank. Always. When Cathy and Elizabeth and I are together here, you won’t be far away.”

“You believe in all that stuff, or are you just trying to make me feel good…”

“What difference does it make, Frank. I think what you believe is what counts right now.”

“I’ve always had a hard time with all that ‘die and go to heaven’ nonsense, Harry. It’s hard to believe in something you can’t see.”

“Hard? For me it’s been impossible. Sometimes I think it’s a struggle even for people who believe.”

“So, you were just trying to make me feel good…”

“Always the detective, always interrogating, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, well, if the gumshoe fits…”

“Right. The thing is, Frank, you’ll be with us, in our hearts and minds, wherever we are. Always. You can count on that.”

“It’s not the same, is it?”


“Not being here anymore…it’s not really the same, is it?”

“On one level, sure. But Frank, who knows what’s on the other side?”

“Well, take my word for it, Harry. When it starts to get close – the whole thing gets kinda personal – and a lot less abstract.”

“Isn’t it a trip we all get to make?”

“A trip… Harry, you’re a trip…! So…what the hell did you do to DD and the doc?”

“DD and Becky were locked in a dominance dance last night. I just let them experience things from another point of view.”


“DD got to experience things from Becky’s perspective.”

“Jesus, Harry… When did you figure this one out?”

“It just happened, Frank. I didn’t plan it out or anything like that…”

“So…just what else can you do…?”

Callahan shrugged. “I don’t know. What’d you have in mind?”

“Just a thought.”


“What if, while I’m dying, I was touching you – while you played? Do you think I could, maybe, go back…”

And in the next instant the Old Man in The Cape was sitting on the sofa, now directly between Harry and Frank; both jumped away from his sudden reappearance – but Frank flinched – as if he’d been shocked, or stunned.

“And this,” the Old Man said, “you will not do. You must not. You talk of crossing a threshold, a threshold beyond which no mortal being may cross. You would tempt more than just fate, Harald; such an action would negate all that you know, or have known. You, and everything you see here, would simply cease to be. Do you hear me, Harald?”

“I hear you,” Callahan said, leaning forward to look at Frank…

But Bullitt was frozen in time, mute and unmoving.

“I must have your word on this, Harald. While I can tell you little more than this, if you do such a thing Elizabeth will never come to be, and that must never be allowed to happen. So…your word, Harald, give it to me now!”

“Alright, you have my word, but is there anything I can do for Frank?”

The Old Man shook his head. “He seeks immortality, Harald, and you are but mortal, as is Frank.”

“And you? What are you, Old Man?”

“Me? I am but a humble traveler, a servant – if you will – seeking to atone for the sins of my father.”

“Your father? Who is your father?”

The Old Man looked at Callahan almost fondly for a moment, but then he looked away and shook his head. “That, my friend, is the question.”

And with that he was gone. In the next instant Frank blinked and resumed speaking…

“…in time? What do you think of that?”

Harry shrugged noncommittally: “That’s an interesting idea. I’ll think about it…”

Thunder erupted from a nearby storm cloud, and lightning slashed down to the sea.

Becky walked into the living room wearing one of Callahan’s t-shirts – and nothing else; when she saw Frank she turned and dashed back to the bedroom.

“Was that Becky?” Bullitt asked, and Callahan nodded. “Yowza, that’s a hot little number, Harry. Sure you’re – UP – to the challenge?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes, several times, as a matter of fact.”

“Uh, and Harry,” Bullitt said, wiping his cheek, “looks like you got a few pubes stuck in the stubble, if you know what I mean.”

Callahan brushed them away with a grin.

And then Frank smiled. “Well, I reckon there are plenty more where those came from. Don’t eat too much, Harry. Stains the teeth, don’t you know…”

© 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.]

Come Alive (17)

Come alive image twilight lg

Chapter 17

Flashes – like lightning – only anything but.

Grasping hands. A fireman? Pulling me from the darkness?

An ambulance, bright lights dance on a Formica ceiling, Britt – saying she can’t find my pulse – 

Then surreal warmth – a warmth without and within an absent sensation of warmth –

Light within light, a siren wailing, a siren’s song from beyond, calling my name. 

A light? Isn’t that a light? Shining in my eye?

Why can’t I talk? Why can’t I get up? I want to get up…


Then I’m is on the same sandy stretch of road again, Clyde still by my side. I look to my left and can see the same impenetrable forest, the same searing white light within, the same screaming shadows coming out of the shadows. Ahead? I see houses on that beach, a still sea beyond. Above? A greenish sky, a vast ringed Jovian orb blotting out an otherwise dark night. Behind me, the same snow-capped mountains I saw last time I was here.

Something with the three shadows. Clyde is reacting to them again, then he looks up at me, the hair on the back of his neck on end and yes, that bothers me. Like he knows something I don’t. They come for me, for us again, yet like last time at the last moment they veer off and take to the sky. But, how can shadows fly? That doesn’t make any sense?

I can feel sand between my toes. The road? The road is made of white sand? Maybe I should go and see if anyone is in those houses? They can’t be that far away, can they? A mile, maybe?

Ouch! Something bit my arm. I can feel the sting, but something is pulling on me now, pulling me back to the light. Warmth? Is that warmth? No…I’m freezing now…so cold…so cold…


Taggart opened his eyes, he could feel them open, but no…there was something over his eyes – a mask? Tape? Gauze? This place is full of unseen people; he hears them, he can almost feel them so he tries to sit up…

Voices, sudden alarms and hurried expressions and then the warmth returns.


The houses? How did I get here? So close now, but I don’t remember walking here.

The fields? The fields – are planted with grapes? This must be a vineyard. I can smell them from here. That sweet, ripe smell? Where have I smelled that? From somewhere far away, but I can’t remember – everything seems so far away now. It feels like I can’t even remember yesterday.

No people. I don’t see any people. Does no one live here? Who tends the vines?

I feel Clyde, feel his confusion. He’s whimpering now. Why? Has he not been here before?

Someone is grabbing me, pulling me – from this place –

Leave me alone…

“Leave me alone!”

“Mr. Taggart? Can you hear me?”

Can’t they just leave me here? I feel so comfortable here…

Fingers open an eye, another light shines and he tries to turn and look away.

“Mr. Taggart? Squeeze my hand if you can hear me? That’s right! There’s a tube down your throat to help you breathe; we’ll take that out in a minute so it will feel strange until then…”

He looked down towards his feet, saw Dina’s eyes above a surgical mask and he could see she’d been crying. 

“Eyes red, too red,” he tried to say, but the hard plastic in his mouth warped the sounds that formed on his distorted tongue. He closed his eyes, tried to swallow but couldn’t and that really didn’t feel right at all. Then another wave of warmth, some pressure in his throat, and an oxygen cannula begins feeding gentle life to his lungs.

After that he moved from room to room as his condition improved, and at one point he looked over and saw Eva asleep in a recliner. He woke one morning to find Eva trying to feed him something that felt like lukewarm oatmeal. When he needed to go to the restroom Eva was there to help him walk.

Then Mike came.

“I’ve been reading the systems manuals that came with the boat, as well as your log entries. I think everything is running fine…”

“How long have I been here?”

“Not quite a week. You had us kind of scared there for a while, Henry.”

“I’ve got to get out of here. Gonna run out of time if we’re not careful.”

“Well, fuel and water tanks are full and Rolf has helped me restock the galley.”

“Rolf? He’s helping?”

“Yeah. Dina and Rolf moved on board four days ago. As soon as you get your fat ass discharged I take it we’ll just slip the lines and head south.”


“Not good. That hurricane? It brushed Bermuda before turning towards Ireland. It’s been downgraded to tropical storm force winds but we’d have fifty knot gusts if we left right now. Stuff will hang around for another two or so days after that.”

“Do you know what happened to me?”

Mike shook his head. “Better let Dina go over all that stuff.”

“So? What did you decide to do?”

“I turned in my papers, Henry. You know, I’ve been an explorer all my life…that’s why I went to Annapolis. Anyway, its begun to feel more and more like I’ve become some kind of cop on a beat, enforcing rules and laws that have begun to make less and less sense to me. Then I met you, and, well, I think it’s time to be an explorer again. Right now, I think being around you will be the most interesting place in the world to be, so…if you don’t mind…”

“I don’t mind, Mike. Grateful for the help, really.”

Mike sighed. “Glad you said that, Henry. It’s been weighing on my mind, like I didn’t want to invite myself to your party, you know?”

Henry held out his hand. “Welcome aboard, Shipmate.”

And when Mike took it, Taggart saw there was no need for words between them now. 

“See if you can find Dina, or someone that can cut me loose. I’d like to get going as soon as possible…”

“What about the storm?”

“We’ll work our way south hugging the coast, get in out of it if we need to, but I want to keep heading south for now.”

“Okay. What about Eva?”

“What about her?”

“Man, she’s been in here by your side since day one. As soon as you were out of surgery, anyway.”

“She can’t come with us, Mike. It’s just too dangerous for her…”

“I don’t think she’s gonna want to hear that, Henry. And I’m not sure it’s the right thing to do.”


“Yeah. There’s something weird going on with her…”

“And that’s why we have to protect her…”

Mike nodded. “I know, but I don’t think anything can hurt her right now, Henry. I can’t explain that, but it’s a feeling I can’t shake…”

“What’s going on with the Russians?”

“Complicated. That code you slipped into their systems? Well, furious is an understatement, yet half their ground forces were immobilized by some sort of general malfunction…”

“I know.”

“Well, yeah, let’s just say they’re pissed off and leave it at that. They’ve mobilized their reserves, been flying aggressive overflights around Estonia and Finland, their Black Sea fleet is busting out into the Med…they’re just up to a whole bunch of no good, if you ask me.”

“Too bad. Would’ve been nice if they’d just taken the hint.”

“Well, they’ve been acting predictably, from my point of view, anyway.”

Dina knocked on the door and stepped into the room. “Ah, he’s up!”

“He is indeed,” Mike replied. “I’ll leave you to it, Henry. Seeya later, Dina.”

She came and sat on the edge of the bed, leaned over and kissed Henry on the lips. “Sorry I was such a bitch,” she whispered as he sat up, taking his hand at the same time. “So, we have bad news, and then the really bad news. Which would you like first?”

“Just lay it out in terms of getting to Paris.”

“Tumors have grown near your spine. These were removed with some difficulty…”

“Is that what caused…”

“Yes. If you really want to make a push for France we should do so soon. That window may close unexpectedly, and without much warning.”

“Understood. So, as far as Christmas is concerned…?”

“We get to France and begin an aggressive intervention. We buy time.”

“When will it be safe for me to leave and get back to the boat…?”

“So, you wish to proceed?”

“I do.”

“You’ve healed enough to move back to the boat. We should consider another day getting back into the routine before departure, and there is the storm to consider as well.”

“And Rosa? How is she doing?”

“Fine. She will respond well to chemo, no surprises. The little girl is brave, is she not?”

“I think so.”

“Rolf has taken a liking to her, but I would assume you knew that would happen.”

“I had hopes, yes.”

“You seem to see the future more clearly than I.”

“Your daughter? How is she?”

“One more time…she saved your life.”

“I see.”

“I have failed miserably in that regard. She loves you terribly.”

“And I love her.”

“You love everything, Henry. You are overflowing with love, so how could you not love her.”


“Has been to the vet. I assume you know of his condition?”

“Yes, for a few weeks now. Could they remove any…”

“No, I’m afraid not. Too dangerous, they say. Still, I think he misses you most of all.”

Taggart nodded. “You’re still feeding him salmon?”

“Of course. And scrambled eggs in the morning, with wheat germ and yogurt on the side, just as you wrote down in the log.”

He smiled. “So, I’ve heard you’ve moved your gear back on board?”

“I have. And I promise to be a good girl.”

“You’re my wife, Dina. Believe it or not, it’s where you should be now.”

She nodded. “I will not leave you again, Henry.”

“I’m curious. Is Clyde staying with you?”

“Some of the time, yes. He goes forward and stays with Rolf for a while, then with Mike, then sometime in the night he comes back to me.”

“We’re his family now, I guess.”

“Oh, there is no guessing required. He watches over us all, Henry. But you most of all. I think he almost came undone when you collapsed and went into the water.”

Taggart nodded. “Must’ve hurt him to watch and not be able to help.”

“He was barking a good deal. But – about this Mike, this naval officer. Do you trust him?”

“There are times, Dina, when trust has to be earned. This is one of those times.”

“But you will let him remain aboard, even so?”

“Yes. Even so.”

“Okay. I will not ask why. Have you decided when you wish to leave?”

“The day after tomorrow, in the last stages of the storm.”

She sighed. “Alright. I will tell Rolf. Where will be the next big city we go to?”


“I will make arrangements for you there. I know a professor, so there will be no problem with treatments.”


“Platelets – or whatever may be needed.”

“I see. I’m curious…who pulled me out of the water.”

“Mike, of course.”

“Of course.”


Eva was beside herself, now beyond depressed. “You will leave me here – again? But – why?”

Henry nodded. “I’ve told you my greatest concern. The next several weeks will be very difficult, and no place for a woman carrying twins.”

“And once you arrive, when may I come?”

“As soon as possible.”

“And if I cannot?”

“Then know that I love you, and take care of our children?”

“I cannot believe this is happening – again. Henry – no?!”

He looked to Britt, exasperated now, but she had tried already and now turned away and walked over to Rolf. Henry took Eva in his arms and held her, but as her arms encircled him he felt her fists bunch up in despair.

“Don’t make this any harder than it already is,” he whispered. “We will be together soon.”

There would be no quiet acceptance this time, no grudging acquiescence would be forthcoming. Her arms collapsed and fell to her side, then she turned and walked away. He watched her as she walked  away – willowy, almost regal, the cares of an unjust world heavy on her shoulders – and he knew he would never see her again.

Britt came back to him and kissed him once, gently, on the lips, then she too drifted away. 

He nodded to Rolf and Mike – who released their dock lines and hopped aboard. Taggart kept Time Bandits centered in the fairway and motored out of the inner harbor, his eyes dancing from the swirling clouds to the radar display. He took the range guides out to sixteen miles and saw a deep red blotch on the display; there would be heavy rain in that one, he knew, and winds strong enough to knock them down, too. He cycled the display over to satellite view and saw what he’d hoped for: a big, wide gap between incoming rain-bands that he’d use to their advantage. Get into the gap and push out to sea, then turn south after the band passed. Hopefully they’d be under fair skies early tomorrow morning…

For now, he set their course for the Askøybrua, the huge suspension bridge just outside of the main harbor, then they’d turn south, make for the Sotrabrua, the last major bridge before they’d turn west and make for the open sea.

“Dark clouds, Henry,” Mike said, pointing towards the Askøy Bridge and the writhing slate gray wall beyond. “You got it on radar?”

Taggart nodded. “The center of the low just passed. That’s the root of a major band.”

“It’s gonna be nasty, whatever the hell it is.”

“We have about ten minutes. Clear the deck of anything and everything loose, tie down whatever’s left.”

Rolf nodded and turned to it; Mike went aft and opened the garage, then started stowing fenders and dock-lines as Rolf brought them to him. 

“You aren’t going to raise sail, are you?” Mike asked – and Henry shook his head.

“Dina, better run below and double check that all the hatches are dogged tight.”

She started down the companionway but stopped halfway down; “Have you had your medications this morning?”

He nodded. “Yes, I’m good ’til noon-thirty.”

He looked at the plotter with both the radar and weather overlaid, aiming for the center of the span ahead, noting there was no traffic out now…commercial or otherwise. “Smart,” he sighed.

“Less than five minutes to impact!” he called-out, causing Mike to look at the wall and shake his head in readily apparent dismay. “Safety harnesses on now, please!” Henry added unnecessarily.

He looked up at the masthead, then down at the display…

“White-line-squall,” Mike said, and Henry looked at the base of the wall just ahead; the wind was so intense there that spray was being blown off the wave tops – causing what appeared to be a white base marking the leading edge of the line-squall.

“What is this?” Rolf asked.

“Violent wind along that line,” Mike said. “Henry, you need help on the wheel?”

“You’d better take it, Mike. Not sure I’m strong enough right now.”

“Rolf? Help him forward, hang onto him if we get knocked-down.”

“Okay,” Rolf sighed, now clearly rattled.

“Rolf, let’s get the companionway boards in and dog the hatch.”

“Yes, okay…”

Taggart looked ahead through the glass cockpit dodger, and he could see a light drizzle had just started so he turned on the wipers, revealing the wall was now less than a quarter mile ahead and bearing down fast.

Mike throttled down a little and turned to meet the wall at a ninety degree angle just as the first gust hit…

The wind display moved to zero degrees apparent angle, average wind speed forty knots, then sixty three knots, then eighty knots – all in a matter of seconds…

“Jesus Fucking Christ!” Mike yelled, fighting to keep Bandits’ bow right into the wind; if he lost it and the bow drifted the wind would catch hold and push the boat onto her beam, meaning the boat could soon be halfway to capsized.

“Rolf?” Henry said calmly. “Give him a hand on the wheel.”

“Yes, yes…”

Henry looked at Dina, holding onto handrails with grim determination in her eyes, and he nodded at her when she turned and looked at him.

“We’re okay,” he shouted, trying to make his voice heard over the howling wind.

And she nodded, smiling a little. “She is a fierce boat, Henry. A real fighter.”

“Just like you.”

Mike went to full power as Bandits broke out into clear air, the seas behind the line blown flat, and almost as fast as it had come on the squall was past, now heading for the mainland. “Radar clear ahead,” Mike called out. 

“I’ll go below and check for damage,” Dina said.

“Rolf? Check the anchor pins, would you?” Henry asked. “Mike? You good?”

Mike nodded. “Helluva little ship, Henry. I’m impressed.”

“Good builder, and Frers is a great designer. Rolf, let’s raise sail just before we make the turn; call it a mile.”


“Okay,” Mike added. “You got the wheel?”

“I got it, and thanks. Again.”

“No problemo,” Mike grinned. 

Dina stood. “Anyone ready for some hot tea?”

Everyone was, it turned out.


Four hours later and with Klokkarvik now in their wake, Henry turned to the south-southwest and Rolf trimmed the sails again. Mike, sitting on the aft rail, seemed mesmerized by the pod of orcas that had magically resumed their station just off the port-quarter two hours earlier. Then Dina had joined him and listened to his recounting of all that had happened on Helgoland – and on their voyage north.

“What are you talking about?” she asked. “What red orb?”

“You mean you haven’t met Winky yet?”

“Winky? No? Who is this?”

Mike shrugged. “I reckon you’ll find out soon enough,” he said, yet at the same time he was thinking ‘oh boy, is this going to be more fun than a paper sack full of squirrels…’

The female orcas came alongside several times that afternoon; Taggart guessed they were hoping to find Eva, so he was not surprised when they fell away as the sun fell into the sea once again. 

“Where do you think they’re headed?” Mike asked Taggart as they disappeared to the northeast.

“Back to Bergen. That’s where Eva is, and I guess now they know for sure.” Taggart looked at the big male still off their stern, and it looked like he had two other smaller males with him now and he shook his head. “I sure would like to know what they’re up to.”

“You ain’t the only one,” Mike sighed. 

Dina listened to all these ruminations completely mystified. “You mean, they have been with us all along?”

Taggart shrugged her question away. “I don’t know,” was all he said as he turned back to the plotter, tracking the last bands of rain. “We may get some rain later tonight, but nothing major.” He looked at Mike then: “Why don’t you get some sleep now. You and Rolf can handle the night watch.”

“Midnight?” he asked, setting an alarm on his watch.

Taggart nodded – and Clyde came up the steps and barked twice.

“Astroturf, here we come!” Henry sighed. He cinched Clyde’s harness – then led him forward to the sacred spot and turned away as the pup dropped a bomb.

“Damn!” Mike screamed from the cockpit, fanning his face, “What the Hell do you feed that dog!?”

“Rats – fresh from the bilge, mee hearties!”

“Smells like road-kill, if you ask me.”

Clyde looked up at him and “Woofed!” once.

“Don’t pay attention to any of that bullshit. It ain’t like his shit don’t stink, ya know?”


“I know. I’ve got a nice filet ready to go. Sashimi tonight?”


“Okay, let’s do it…”

After dinner Dina came up and sat with them – Henry and Clyde – but she yawned a couple of time and he smiled. “You better go down and get some sleep, kiddo. You look about half past beat.”

“Maybe in a little while. I love this time of the evening, when the sun is just below the horizon.”

“The blue hour?”

“The what?”

“The blue hour. Photographers call it that because of the color of light. In medieval times it was the last part of the day you could safely travel before evil spirits came out to harvest new souls.”

“Now there’s a lovely thought. Thanks so much for that delightful imagery – and just before bed, too.”

He smiled. “Actually, I’d like to think we’ve progressed a little beyond such thinking.”

“I doubt we ever will, Henry. Such thinking is hard-wired into our brains. It is how we’ve survived, you know?”

“Clyde? What do you think? See any evil spirits out there?”

Clyde shook his head, flapping his ears in a ragged patter.

“See? Even dogs have gotten over all that.”

“You and that dog…you were cut from the same cloth…”

“The cloths of heaven, no doubt.”


“Yeats, his ‘Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven.’”

“What is that? A poem?

“Yes,” he sighed, “and it goes something like this:

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, 

Enwrought with golden and silver light, 

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths 

Of night and light and the half light, 

I would spread the cloths under your feet: 

But I, being poor, have only my dreams; 

I have spread my dreams under your feet; 

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

“Ah, so I must tread softly? Is that what you are telling me, dear Henry?”

“How else could you treat another’s dreams, dear wife?”

She shook her head. “I wish I understood you?”

He smiled. “And as I’ve told you before, be glad that you don’t.”

“Why? Why do you say such things to me?”

“Because I’m sure you’d not find what you’re looking for.”

“Looking for? What do you mean by that?”

“Dina, please, try to get some rest. We have three hard days ahead of us.”

She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, tried to calm the magmatic anger coming to the surface, then she stood and hurried below before she said something she knew she would only regret tomorrow.

He pulled up the long term weather page, then the latest satellite overheads before he adjusted their next waypoint a little more to the south and east. “Looks like we’ll have great weather tomorrow, old boy.”

He looked down at the ancient wisdom in Clyde’s eyes and tried to smile, but it was getting harder to do now. The tumors along Clyde’s spine had mirrored his own, and in ways Dina would never understand.

He crossed his legs and patted his leg, and Clyde jumped up and sat on his lap. They looked at one another for the longest time, then the pup put his hands on either side of Henry’s neck and went to sleep.

He switched screens, set a radar alarm for twenty-five miles and then leaned back – watching the stars overhead as the miles slipped by under their keel. Dorsal fins broke water on their flanks, while hundreds of miles overhead a silent red orb trailed through yet another long, silent night.

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next chapter will drop in a week or so.

Come Alive (16)

Come alive image twilight lg

Chapter 16

If anything, the seas had become even more calm. As the sun lifted above the indistinct horizon, Taggart looked out over a vast silvery pool, a celestial mirror with no reflections to concern itself with, then he turned and looked at Time Bandits’ wake – like an arrow in flight as straight as could be. He checked their surroundings and noted the pod was still aft, now not more than a hundred yards off their port quarter, and that the Cape St George was visible again, perhaps two miles astern but simply holding position – neither gaining nor receding.

He went below and popped a pod in the coffee-maker, then went back to the cockpit.

A warning dialogue popped on the plotter: “Weather Data Now Available” – so he hit the enter key and layers of meteorological data overlaid the nautical chart – so he sifted through the information, noting a mid-Atlantic hurricane had turned north and would skirt Jamaica before turning northeast. A huge high-pressure system was sitting off the Norwegian coast and temperatures inland were breaking records from Bergen to Helsinki. The forecast out to ten days showed little possibility of change, and that was bothersome. 

“Since when have high pressure systems stalled out over near arctic latitudes?” he asked the mirror-sea. “They usually don’t do that…”

Heard footsteps on the companionway and turned to face the music.

Eva. His moody blue, dancing barefoot to ancient rhythms, her syncopated soul moving to the alternating currents between the here and now and the dissonant chords of yesterday and tomorrow. Eva – the empath. His Eva, mother of the new.

She swung her hips suggestively – her arms held in loose stasis above her head – as she danced past the cockpit and out onto the aft deck, and once there she held onto the backstay still moving to an unseen beat. He heard a whisper of the music, saw her lips moving…I know you’re out there somewhere…and the strength of the emotion is like thunder in the air

But now he saw the pod arcing in – all excited atoms in a vibrating universe, and Eva was calling out to them – her entrancing movements an ancient music all her own.

And Taggart simply didn’t exist now, not in her new world order. They were responding to her now, all of them. Eva pirouetted on the deck and one of the females leapt into the sky in a pirouetting arc of her own, coming down in a massive splash that soaked half the boat.

He knew the moment was coming. She would dive-in and rejoin her first circle…but no. Not today, at least not now. They came close and moved with her, conjoined inside the symphonic swirls of their beating hearts. Close, but not touching.

And it was then that he noticed she was not really conscious. Her eyes closed, her breathing deep within the cocoon of sleep she had created for them all. Her hands high, her body a perfect arc suspended from the stay, her breasts full, her womb sanctified now by the presence of her guardians.

And even Taggart knew not to interfere.

This is something beyond the New, he told the mirror in the sea. And I love her.

“What is she doing?” he heard little Erika ask.

“I don’t know…dancing to the music of the spheres, I think.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know. Maybe she dances to a music we can’t see or hear…?”

“Is she asleep?”

“I think so. How’s your mother?”

“Sore. Is it time for her medicine?”

Taggart looked at his watch and nodded. “Better make her some tea and I’ll fetch the pills.”

“Can we leave her up here like this?”

“Well, if she falls over she’ll be in good hands.”

“If you say so…”

He led Erika below and took his own meds, then got Rosa’s opiates and antibiotics and went forward to the galley. Rosa was sitting at the table, her face an ashen gray this morning, so he helped Erika make a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and French toast before he retreated to the cockpit. Eva lay in a crumped heap on the aft deck and he ran to her, helped her sit up and get oriented, then he helped her to the slanted shade of the early morning cockpit.

“What happened?” she asked. “Why am I up here?”

“I have no idea; in fact, I was kind of hoping you’d tell me…”

“What was I doing?”

He pointed to the aft deck: “You danced up the companionway and out to the deck. You seemed quite into it…whatever you were doing.”

“I was dreaming, at least I think I was dreaming…”

“You had an audience,” he added, now pointing at the pod swimming just off their stern.

“Oh yes, I remember now. One of them was calling to me. One of the females.”

“And you understood her?”

Eva nodded. “Yes, I think so…”

Henry nodded. “Okay. Let’s get you below, have some breakfast and take a rest?”

She shook her head. “No, I want to be with you now.”

“Okay, breakfast then sit with me up here. Now…scoot! You need to eat every now and then, you know?”

“I don’t want to leave them,” she said, now looking at the pod.

“Alright. I’ll fix you a plate and bring it up.”

“No! You must not leave me!”

It wasn’t just what she said that startled him, it was the frantic desperation he heard within that left him unsure of the moment. “What is it, Eva? Can you tell what’s going on?”

She slid down to the cockpit sole and grabbed his legs – as if to physically restrain him from leaving, or even moving – and now she seemed afraid, very afraid, yet she remained silent and said not a word…


“You can’t leave us, Henry. You can’t…”

“Leave? What do you mean?”

“You can’t die, Henry! You just can’t leave us…”

He grabbed her and held her close, then whispered in her ear: “There’s nothing anyone can do to stop it, Eva, and you have to accept that. I’m trusting you to take care of yourself, and the children, after I’m gone. Do you understand?”

“Of course I understand…but can’t they do something?” she said, jabbing a finger angrily at the sky.

“No, they can’t. And beyond that, Eva, you have to understand that I’m not afraid – about what happens to me, anyway. But I am terribly concerned about you and Britt, and the children, and what happens to you all after I’m gone.”

“Don’t be…we’ll get by…”

“Getting by isn’t enough, Eva. People living in mud huts and scrounging for scraps get by, but that won’t be enough – not for the demands raising two kids will place on you.”

“What are you saying, Henry.”

“I’m saying that your life is tied to Rolf’s now. He will be taking care of you – after. You’ll be with him. Do you understand?”

“You mean, he will be my my husband?”

“No, not at all. I’ve charged him with the responsibility of taking care of you and all the children, and you’ll have two boats available to you when you need them…”


“Yes, when. When things get bad. Rolf will know what to do, but he won’t be able to help you if you move beyond his reach.”

“I don’t understand…”

“You don’t have to understand, Eva. You simply have to trust me and do what I ask. I hate to put it so bluntly, but you will be a vital part of this family going forward, so please, try to honor what I’ve built for you.”

“Alright, Henry. I will. But what about them,” she said, pointing to the pod swimming off the stern.

“I’m not sure yet. I want them to stay with you and Britt, but I don’t know if they will or not.”

“And when we get to Bergen? What happens there?”

“You keep asking me that. Why?”

“Because I know if you leave without me I will never see you again.”

He looked away, now lost for words. “What will be, will be, Eva.”

She moved away from him then – as if his words held the pain of physical blows, then she walked down the companionway.

“Nicely done, Henry,” he said to the mirror in the sea. “How ‘bout an encore? Anyone else you want to push away today?”

He looked down at his hands, at the flesh and bones of his existence, and he felt a kind of disgust. “Why do I say the things we do,” he asked the face in the mirror, “when you know, on some level, our words are bound to hurt the ones we love?”

He walked over to the rail and looked down into the big male’s eye, and now he could see his reflection in the deep brown orb – almost like Nietzsche’s Abyss, he thought. “I didn’t mean to hurt her, my friend,” he said to the face in the orb. He leaned over but grabbed the lifeline at the last moment and fought the urge to just let go and fall…

“No, not yet, not yet…I’ve got to hang on…”

When he looked up a few minutes later the pod was gone – and the Cape St George was gaining on them, now less than a half mile away. “Oh, great. Just what we needed.” He went below to the chart table and got out his passport, then went topsides and waited for the next inevitable piece of the wall to crack and fall away. 

And there he cleared his mind and held out his arms…


They came in three large inflatable boats, complete with machine guns on their bows, and he saw what had to be the captain standing in one of them. His arms crossed over his chest, the man had adopted a kind of imperious pose, kind of a ‘Napoleon in a Zodiac’ look that Taggart found transparently funny. Two of the boats sheered off and took up stations along either side of Time Bandits, while the Captain’s boat came to the port-side boarding gate. Taggart dropped the gate and held out a hand as the captain leapt across, helping him aboard then leading the way to the cockpit.

“What can I do for you this morning, Captain?” Taggart asked as he took a seat behind the wheel. “And would you care for some coffee?”

“Nothing, thanks. Mind if I sit?”

“Please,” Henry said, indicating the seat closest to the wheel.

“I won’t take up too much of your time this morning, Mr. Taggart,” the captain said, emphasizing the name to indicate computer checks were now up and running. “It appears the NSA thinks you had something to do with the current, uh, difficulties. That true?”

“It certainly is, Captain.”

The man seemed taken aback by forthright honesty and tried to rethink his strategy…

“But Captain,” Taggart continued, “certainly that’s not why you’re here. Why don’t you tell me what’s really on your mind?”

“We had several cameras trained on your vessel during the incident with the Akula. I’ve watched and rewatched that event a dozen times and I’ll be damned if I can make heads of tails of what was going on out there, but I can make out a red ball in this cockpit, then I can see it streak down into the water and take out that sub. You wanna tell me who or what that thing is?”

Taggart shook his head. “I haven’t the slightest idea what it is, Captain.”

“But you control it, don’t you?”

“No sir, I don’t.”

“Then you can summon it?”

Taggart nodded. “I can.”

“And it does what you tell it?”

“No, not at all. The entity becomes aware of my situation and acts to protect me.”

“Protect you? Why?”

“I don’t know. You’d have to ask.”

The captain smiled. “Okay. Summon it, let me ask.”

“Are you a threat, Captain?”

“You’re goddamn right I’m a threat,” he said as he brought a walkie-talkie to his lips. “Open fire NOW!” he ordered, and the men on the boats opened fire with their machine gun, bullets streaming in towards Time Bandits’ hull.

Taggart smiled.

The captain went to the rail and looked at the undamaged hull, then turned to look at the Cape St George…

…but it was gone.

“What have you done!” the captain screamed. “Where’s my ship!”

Taggart walked over to the rail and looked up, then he turned to the captain. “Come here.”

The man walked over and looked where Taggart was pointing…

The cruiser was perhaps a thousand feet above the sea, torrents of cascading water falling from her hull, but they could see men up there at the rails, leaning out and peering down at the scene playing out far below.

Taggart went back to the cockpit and sat – just as Mike came up the companionway steps, carrying three cups of coffee. Erika followed with a plate loaded with fresh bran muffins and Taggart smiled, asked her to sit by his side.

“What was that noise?” she asked – and on hearing a child’s voice the captain turned around, wide-eyed and apologetic…

“Dear God, man! Why didn’t you tell me you had children aboard?”

“What? Cancer patients not enough for you?”

“Frankly, I didn’t believe you, Taggart. Now, would you tell me what the devil is going on here?”

“I’m sorry, but the answer is no.”

Then Mike spoke up: “Commander, I’ve asked, I’ve tried to trick him into talking about it, everything I can think of, really…”

“And who are you?”

“Captain Michael J Lacy, UN Naval Fleet Intelligence – out of Norfolk.”

“Lacy? I have orders to take you into custody…”

“I’m sorry,” Taggart said, “but you won’t be doing that today.”

“What?! Get my ship back down here immediately!”

“What’d you do to his ship, Henry?” Mike asked – a little too sarcastically.

“It’s up there!” the captain of the Cape St George screamed, pointing at the sky. “And I want it back! Now!”

Mike and Erika walked over to the rail and looked up. “Sheesh, now that’s what I call an airship…” Mike sighed.

Erika giggled.

“Have a seat, Captain, and let’s talk about that.”

The captain drew his sidearm and shoved it into Taggart’s forehead: “Now, goddammit! I want my ship back now!”

Mike watched, shaking his head knowingly as the pistol simply slipped from the captain’s grasp and floated out over the sea, then dropped into the water.

“Care to sit now, Captain?” Taggart repeated patiently.

Looking up again, the captain shook his head: “It’s gone? My ship is gone…”

“What did you expect?” Mike snarled. “Just do what the man asks, for Christ’s sake!”

“Where is it?” the captain asked as he sat down across from Taggart.

Taggart shrugged. “You want things back, I suspect the best way to go about that is stop acting in a threatening manner. I could be wrong about that, but I’d give it a try if I was in your position.”

“Where are my inflatables? Where’d you…”

“He doesn’t get it, Henry,” Mike said. “Commander, Mr. Taggart is not doing this. He has no control over any of this. Stop asking him to…”

“Bullshit! He does too…”

Taggart leaned back and closed his eyes and the captain of the Cape St George simply vanished. “Some people,” he sighed after he opened his eyes again, “just don’t know how to act in unusual situations. Poor choice to command a ship like that.”

“Where are they?” Mike asked. “Any idea?”

“No, but they’ll be okay, wherever they are. Damn. Coffee’s cold now. And, did you bake these muffins, Erika?”


They motored into Bergen ten hours later, and the harbormaster had them tie-off by the fish market. No one seemed happier than Clyde, who barked twice and circled by the boarding gate while Henry hooked up the shore power cord and got the ship’s systems going on AC again. He grabbed Clyde’s leash and made it topsides just in time; Taggart walked him over to the nearby park and stood like an innocent bystander as the pup dropped a house sized load on a bush, then they walked back to the wharf. 

“Uh-oh,” he groaned, “looks like trouble.”

Dina and Britt were already standing by the boarding gate, talking to Eva and Mike, and from this distance they didn’t look happy.

“What do you say, boy? Time to face the music?”


“That’s what I thought, too. Let’s go get some fresh salmon!”


“Yeah, their panties are all in a wad. Better give ‘em a minute.”

They walked to their favorite stall at the market and bought the freshest fillets they could find, and Henry asked if there were any fresh scraps for Clyde. Suitably stocked, they walked over to one of the benches that overlooked the waterfront and sat, watching the gulls wheeling overhead as fishing boats came up to the fuel dock. Henry pulled out a strip of salmon skin and Clyde took it gently and seemed to relish the taste.

“You’ll have to try it with wasabi sometime. Nice flavors.”

He looked up and saw Dina marching their way, her arms pumping like pistons on an old steam locomotive. “Looks like her panties are still in a wad, old boy. Wanna make a run for it?”


“Okay. Well, let’s see what happens…”

Dina’s vicious scowl gave way to a grudging grin as she thundered to a stop, steam pouring out her ears as her piston-like arms grew silent. “Well, well. Look what Clyde has! A nice treat, and for such a good boy,” she beamed. 

Taggart was amazed at this chameleon-like performance, so he took out a fresh sliver of salmon and gave it to Clyde.

“And look here! It’s Henry Taggart! My wayward husband!”

Henry looked up, grinning noncommittally: “Hello, wife.”

“Nice of you to let us know you were coming!”

“Things have been kind of dicey the past few days, in case you haven’t been following world events.”

“So, what brings you here – of all places?”

“Ran into a nurse, she’s status post-mastectomy three days ago, no treatment options where she was located, and she has a daughter with her.”

“And what do you want me to do about it?”

“You are still a physician, I take it? Or has something changed on that front, too?”

“No. I am still working at the hospital,” she said soberly, calmly. “Of course we will take care of her.”

“Eva is with us,” he added. “I’d like to get her settled here for the time being.”

“Here? With whom?”

“Rolf will handle that.” The imperious glare he received bothered him not in the least, so he continued: “I also wanted to know if you’d like to come with me to Paris.”

She shook her head. “I can’t imagine being of any further use to you, Mr. Henry Taggart.”

“Indeed. Well, aren’t you just full of surprises today.”

“And I will not let Rolf depart with you, either.”

“I hadn’t planned on taking him, Ms. Bauer.”

“I’ve not filed for divorce,” she fumed, “so you will please not address me as such.”

“Well then, my lying wife. What are we to do?”

Clinched jaw, gnashing teeth, crimson flushed face.

“If you keep that up,” he sighed, “you may have a stroke.”

“No doubt that would solve all your troubles, Mr. Taggart.”

“You’re the least of my concerns now, Ms. Bauer. I need to speak with Britt and then Rolf; after that, we’ll be off.”

“And I refuse to let you see my grandson. You have become an insidious presence in his life.”

“Oh, Dina… When did you start hating me? And hating the life we created?”

She looked away, almost evasively. “As soon as I started to love you, Henry,” she said gently. “But that was a foregone conclusion.”

“I see. But then again, I keep forgetting your motivation was to keep Britt from…”

“From you, Henry Taggart. From you and all your mad contradictions. From your pathetic innuendos, your forced levities. It is a mother’s duty to protect her children from scoundrels like you!”

Taggart looked up at her, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. “Dina, you are a poster child for menopause. I’d appreciate it if you’d bring Rolf down to the boat after I talk to Britt.”

Steam was pouring out her pantyhose by the time she stomped back to the pier, leaving Henry and Clyde sitting beside puddles of her lingering anger.

“Woof!” Clyde said.

“Yes, I know. She’ll have her bags packed and be down at the boat with Rolf within two hours – guaranteed.”


“Alright, but this is the last of the skin. Could you at least save some fish for me?” He took out his pocket knife and then pulled out a small filet from his shopping bag, then cut a few sashimi sized slices of salmon, feeding them to the pup one slice eat a time…

…while he watched the predictable argument unfold as Dina lit into Britt – loud enough to cause a flock of onlookers to gather on the wharf and watch the festivities – then she stormed off, leaving Britt on deck, alone in a steam-driven flurry of doubt and self-recrimination.

“Okay boy, that’s our cue. Time to face the real music.” Henry gathered up his shopping bag and with leash in hand began the million mile journey to the boat.

Clyde was not amused.


“That looked fun,” Henry said to a clearly rattled Britt. “Anything said I should know about?”

Britt’s grin was a bit sardonic: “Oh, she mentioned guns, knives, and you – all in the same context.”

“Ah, well then, in other words – nothing new.”

“Eva’s down below, as is a nurse and her daughter from Germany. She’s just been diagnosed with breast cancer and needs to begin treatment. Post mastectomy, by the way.”


“I’d assume at this point your mother is headed home to pack her bags. I’d like Rolf to come with us this time, as well.”


“There’s an American naval officer onboard.”

“You know, it is a testament to your life that not even this information surprises me, because your life is a three-ring circus, Henry Taggart.”

Henry shrugged. “Truth of the matter is, Britt, all life is a carnival. Thrill rides and hucksters, and we guarantee a new freak show around every unexplored corner along the way.”

“That’s my Henry.”

“You’re my Britt, too, in case you’ve forgotten.”

“I haven’t,” she said as she teared up a little. “I will come as soon as you arrive in Paris.”

“I’d like Eva to stay with you, if you can manage it.”

“Of course. Must Rolf stay with you through Christmas?”

“Not necessary. He will be free to come home as soon as we reach the city.”


“To choose. He must become the man I hope he will by then.”

“You are not placing too large a burden on his shoulders?”

“It would be for some. It won’t be for him.”

“Why are you so sure of him?”

Taggart shrugged. “No coincidences, remember? I can only hope our courses intersected for a reason…”

“Just as ours did, you think?”

“I do.”

“I was embarrassed for my mother, Henry. That she lied to you about something so important.”

“She couldn’t help herself, Britt. Just don’t ever let her stand in your way ever again. She’s not worthy of that.”

“That’s rather brutal, don’t you think?”

He shook his head. “Not brutal enough. There’s a dangerous difference between a mother’s  protective instincts and a presumptive will to control lives. Don’t make the mistake of confusing one for the other.”

“Speaking from experience, I assume?”

He smiled. “I’ve seen a few things in my life.”

“Of that I have no doubt.”

“You know, this new journey began in the shadow of decisions you made, Britt. I’m here right now because of you, so remember this was our journey before anyone else came along.”

“I don’t forget that, Henry. But there are times I think you must.”

He met her gaze directly: “Confusing summer, wasn’t it? So many unexpected – people.”

“You could say that, I suppose. But sticking to just one of us might have been…”

“Unnecessary at this point in my life, Britt. You know and I know nothing between any of us was going to be a long term affair, so really, what did it matter?”

“Your love mattered to me, Henry. At least until I understood that my love, in the end, meant nothing to you.”

He sighed. “I’m sorry that you feel that way.”

“There’s no other way to feel, Henry. All I need do is point to Eva or my mother. And heaven knows what this new girl has been through because of you…”

“Well, when I’ve left feel free to talk to her. You might find her feelings illuminating.”

“Yes. We will see. Now, if you would collect Eva so that I may take her home?”

He lifted Clyde and put him on deck then started to climb on board, but his shoulders were burning and his hands started shaking uncontrollably. He looked up at Britt with uncomprehending panic in his eyes just before he collapsed, landing on the pier then rolling into the sea.


© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | this is a work of fiction, pure and simple; the next chapter will drop in a week or so.

The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 53

88Kvenom image SMALL

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?”


“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?”


“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.”


“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?”


“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…”


“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.”


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.”


“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?”


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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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?”


“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?”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.



“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.]