The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 57.3

[A very short snippet today, just setting the stage for what comes next, the final dash to the end of Harry’s story.]

Chapter 57.3

She was different from the beginning, as different from Lloyd Callahan as two people could possibly be. Her life simply had not been framed by free-range alcoholics or important others possessed by overtly self-destructive impulses; rather, her life had been unbounded by music though still loosely contained by parents who were there, simply always there. And parents who cared intensely enough to let go when the time was right. 

After her father’s passing, Elizabeth Bullitt leaned heavily on Harry Callahan, yet more than a few people sensed that perhaps in an even quieter way Harry Callahan began leaning on the little girl too, and at about the same time. Perhaps because Elizabeth was, or so Cathy liked to say every now and then, an old soul. Elizabeth always seemed quietly wise beyond her years, an “old lady by the time she was on her way to kindergarten,” as Herry liked to say. It was frankly silly to think of her that way, Callahan thought every time the matter came up, yet even so it was manifestly true. She talked like an old lady, and she even held her hands in her lap as an old lady might. Yes, she was odd.

The most immediate consequence of Elizabeth’s preternatural wisdom – aside from the almost comical certitude she exuded – was the way she glommed onto Lloyd after the boy’s mother left. Or was it the other way around? To put it simply, the two might as well have been twins – aside from that troublesome seven year age difference, not to mention their diametrically opposed world-views. When they weren’t apart during school hours they were otherwise together, and this worked out well enough as the two simply never fought. They never disagreed. No arguments, ever. They looked each other too much for that.

And perhaps because the two were bound by another sort of covenant. Music. And as she was further along in her studies she became, naturally enough, a sort of teacher. The most important consequence of this covenant was an almost doting possessiveness that developed between them, because Lloyd passed through his early years worshipping Elizabeth. He was never jealous, rather he was simply an attentive student bound to his teacher through the most unusual bonds of attachment. For her part, Elizabeth seemed to understand the role she had assumed in his life was crucial to them both.

So, through music…and over the years, Elizabeth and Lloyd understood one another better than anyone else possibly could have. He experienced a rich emotional life through the filter of her musical interpretations of the world around them, and he learned this complex language as naturally as others picked up a native tongue. And she understood his rapidly shifting moods, and she did so because she cared not simply about him as a kind of brother, but about what he thought as a developing interpreter of this language. Yet she watched Lloyd constantly, almost fearfully, for she could hear in his music a grotesque impulsiveness that lay dormant just beneath the calm surface of his quiet genius. And never far from her thoughts was how she might protect her mother and Harry from the inevitable explosive eruption she knew was about to come.


Which was why she watched the transformation that occurred when Lloyd was around Todd Bright with quiet intensity. This was something different, she soon understood. Lloyd was stepping away from her her, gingerly at first but with no real hesitation – like the long dormant self-destructive impulses within had suddenly come alive. She watched him, then she watched the way Harry reacted to the change and she knew the real trouble was here.

When she was accepted at a college on the east coast she knew the world they had known together would come undone. That, too, was inevitable. Yet Harry was drifting away from his son, as if he had seen forces coming into play he knew he would never be able to control, and it made her wonder. Was he doing the right thing? Letting go – at exactly the time his boy would need the steady hand of a caring father the most?

She had no way of knowing this was Harry Callahan’s modus operandi, that the man she loved above all others was nothing more or less than the patron saint of lost causes. She knew nothing of Looney Junes or of his mother’s consumptive madness. Nothing of all the other women Harry Callahan had loved – women who had simply failed to understand the man before they discarded him – so she knew nothing at all of the fatalism that prowled deep within his heart.

She thought about college, about not going, but in the end it was Harry who insisted she leave home and step out into the world. And as is so often the case nothing would ever be the same ever again.

Within a year, life out on the cliffs would become totally unrecognizable – and for the rest of her life the little girl would hold it as a simple truth that she was to blame for everything that happened next.

© 2021 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 and me generally growing somewhat old) 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. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

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