The Eighty-eighth Key (58.3)

88th key cover image

A few twists and turns today on our way to the finish line…and in case you’ve forgotten – every picture tells a story and music paints the memory.

Chapter 58.3

His department pager went off and he looked at the little LED display and noted the number. Central dispatch. He looked up and tried not to smile. 

“What is it, Harry?” the doc said. “Something downtown?”

Harry nodded. “I have to call in. Would you excuse me for a minute?”

The doc and DD had come down to dinner, and Todd had managed to get all the remaining members of Bright to come up for some real studio time, so with Lloyd there too the patio was almost overflowing with people. So far dinner had been okay, but Harry was looking for any excuse to get away from the constantly bickering musicians.

Still, he hated to break up the evening because it looked like Lloyd was having a good time, but there wasn’t much he could do about it now so he walked up to the house and called in.

“Callahan,” he said the disembodied voice somewhere in the city.

“Who?”

“Inspector 71.”

“Oh, right. Callahan, isn’t it?”

Deep growl. Rumbling stomach. “Yes. At least that’s the rumor.”

“Right. Let me see…I got it around here somewhere.”

“Got what?”

“Oh, that’s right…patrol has a DB out by the bridge…”

“The bridge?”

“Oh, right, like the Golden Gate, I think?”

“You say so. What’s this got to do with me?”

“Patrol called for homicide and you’re on the standby call list this weekend.”

“I am?”

“Yeah, and everyone’s out on calls right now. The a-chief told us to call you in, said something about a full moon. He said you’d understand.”

“Did he indeed? You do know that I’m about an hour and a half out, right?”

“Yeah, right. The chief said to tell you the girl’s already dead so she probably won’t mind too much.”

Harry looked at his watch: ten thirty three, and he’d gotten up at five that morning. He groaned, then told the dispatcher to show him ‘en route’ before he went back out to the patio.

“Sorry to do this,” Harry began, “but duty calls.”

“What’s this?” Todd Bright said, clueless about Harry still working for the PD. “Duty? What duty?”

“Yeah – sorry. DD, I’ve to change so if you think you can handle things from here. Doc? You wanna ride in with me?”

“Can I? Yeah, I’d love to do that again!”

A few minutes later Callahan backed the 911 out of his garage, then he retracted the top and fired up the heater; the doc came out wearing a ski jacket and a wool beanie, ready for the ride.

“Man, I hate to do this to DD again,” Harry began…

“Yeah? Well, thanks for inviting me to ride-along again. Fascinating last time out.”

“Yeah? Well, maybe you should apply for the reserves. I’m sure they’d love to have a doc out there running calls…”

The doc laughed. “DD would really love that too.”

Callahan drove up the hill and turned onto the Coast Highway and hammered the accelerator, but he backed off a little as the Porsche passed 110mph.

“It’s amazing how little wind noise there is at this speed,” the doc said, grinning more than was healthy for someone his age.

“It gets really quiet at 130. Well, the engine is kind of growling by that point, but you get the idea.” Callahan squinted as his eyes watered a little, but for some reason he felt anxious and he slowed down a little more. “Might be some deer out tonight,” he said absent-mindedly…

+++++

He turned off Lincoln onto Long and, after showing his badge – twice – to patrolmen blocking the crime scene, he drove out to the little parking lot almost directly under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge…and it wasn’t too hard to find the actual crime scene once he’d parked.

There above the old fort was an almost circular arch spanning the space directly over the building, and a body was hanging from the center of the span. A half dozen patrolmen were standing on the rooftop, their Mag-lites shining on the girl; Callahan spotted the patrol sergeant standing almost directly under the victim and walked over to her.

“You Callahan?” she asked as he walked up.

“Yup.”

“What took you so long?”

“Long drive. I was on stand-by.”

“Well, obviously we haven’t touched anything. Matter of fact, we haven’t figured out how to get to the body…”

“Have dispatch call the FD and get them to send a ladder out here.”

The sergeant got on her hand unit and called it in, leaving Callahan to roll his eyes at the doc.

“This guy with you?” she asked when she was signed off the radio.

“Yeah. He’s a physician, works with the pathology department out at Stanford.”

“Oh. Okay.”

“Has the ME been called yet?” Callahan asked.

“No. I thought we’d let you make the call.”

Callahan blinked several times, not at all sure he’d heard what the sergeant had just said or if this whole thing was really just some kind of prank. “Well, why don’t you go ahead and give them a call. Just in case, ‘cause ya never know, right?”

“Right. Say, I don’t think I’ve ever worked with you before. How long ya been with the department?”

“Oh, not long. Thirty five years, give or take.” He saw she was chewing gum and scowled.

“Oh. Funny I never heard of ya.”

“Yeah. Funny. Say, just for grins what say we call a CSU out here too.”

“Right. Good idea.”

Callahan turned and walked off, the doc about two steps behind.

“Jesus, what’s wrong with her, Harry? Is this a joke, or what?”

“No, Doc, it’s a message – from the assistant chief to yours truly. It reads: ‘time for you to get the fuck outta Dodge.’

“Why do you keep doing this, Harry?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Kind of the last link to all the guys. Frank, Dell, Carl and the Captain. All of ‘em, ya know? If I quit…I don’t know…maybe I’m afraid they’ll all just fade away – and I figured out a while back that I ain’t ready for all that just yet.”

“All that – what?”

“Gettin’ old, Doc – the long fade. So, as long as I can still pass the physical, ya know? Besides, every now and then I feel like I contribute something worthwhile.”

They heard a huge fire truck winding down the hill and turned about the time it came into view, so Callahan started back to the sergeant’s patrol car, the doc still a few steps behind and as usual trying to catch-up.

Once the ladder was set up and the truck anchored, Callahan made his way up the ladder to the body. He pulled out his penlight and looked at the angle of her fractured cervical vertebrae and the amount of skin on her neck abraded by the fall then made a few notes. He gloved-up then spun her body around so her could see her hands: tied behind her back, he saw, by someone who knew what they were doing. Defensive wounds on both wrists and her right forearm was shattered. He shined his light under her fingernails and saw skin, so there was possible DNA evidence to be harvested.

He took one step down and with his face even with her vulva he aimed his light between her legs and saw dried semen and grimaced. Whoever had done this had really gone to town on her, and he decided to call in a profiler and made some more notes. He climbed up again, even with her face and head and he examined her scalp, then around her nostrils. 

“Grayish-white powder around the nose,” he said as he wrote more notes – then a flash caught his eye – just as heavy automatic weapons fire erupted from one of the towers overhead.

He felt a round slam into his right humerus, then another hit his left thigh. Cops on the roof of the fort were returning fire, and he looked down in time to see the sergeant standing down by the fire truck shooting at someone on the bridge – just before another round hit his left knee.

“I’m losing blood, fast…” he said to no one in particular. “So, this is it, eh? This is how I go out…not with a whimper but with a bang?”

He felt the ladder move, thought he was getting closer to the ground, then the doc was by his side – along with a bunch of paramedics. He was looking at the ceiling in the ambulance when he saw June up there, smiling from somewhere beyond the lights in the ceiling, so he closed his eyes and rode into the light.

+++++

‘Isn’t that the girl from the music shop? Ida something? Was that her name?’ 

She had just walked into Callahan’s hospital room and was dropping off some flowers from the team at the shop. He still wasn’t talking but at least Callahan was conscious now, and all the employees at the shop had decided to wait until he was out of the woods before doing the whole flowers thing.

He watched her come in and set a green vase on the deep window sill closest to his bed, and  when she looked at him he smiled a little, and even tried to wave with his good arm. The nurses at the station had told her to avoid talking to him, to just drop off the flowers and leave, but when she saw his smile she couldn’t help it. She walked to his bedside and not really knowing why she took his hand.

“How are you feeling now?”

He tried to say something but his throat was raw; he’d been on a ventilator for almost two weeks and his physician had told him it might take a few days for his throat to heal enough to talk without major pain.

“You don’t have to say anything…”

“Need to talk to you,” Harry whispered. “Before something happens.”

“What? What do you…?”

“About the Third. The concerto. I need to tell you about it,” he said, the burning in his windpipe suddenly excruciating.

“Okay.”

“As soon as I can, we need to sit and I’ll tell you what you need to know.”

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Like what?”

“Staring. You are staring at me.”

“Was I? I’m sorry. A memory, sudden, hit me.”

She nodded, then one of Callahan’s nurses came in and ran her out of the room, and Harry watched Ida as she fled in feigned terror, smiling as she turned and looked at him before she disappeared from view.

“Now that’s a pretty girl,” his nurse said. “Where is that accent from?”

“Denmark.”

“Remarkably pretty,” the doc said as he poked his head in the door. “Feel like sitting up and listening to me ramble on for a while?”

They raised the head of his bed and shifted the pulleys and wires supporting his arm, even so he felt nauseated and sweaty by the time they were through moving him. “I think I’m gonna be sick,” he moaned, then his nurse injected something in his IV and he felt an impressive wave of warmth wash over him, and as suddenly he relaxed – completely – like he was drifting away on a cloud.

He laid his head back and closed his eyes as he drifted along, trying his best to listen to the doc as he talked about how Lloyd was getting on while staying at their house, and that Todd was still in the studio working on the new album.

“Is anyone supervising them?” Harry asked.

“No. Todd has the key so I just kind of assumed it was okay if he comes and goes…”

Harry shook his head, then took a deep breath before speaking. “Get DD to see if someone from the shop can stay out there and keep an eye on things.”

“Stay out there? You mean in the house?”

“Too far to drive.”

“You trust them?”

Harry nodded. “If I can’t trust them who can I trust?”

“Okay.”

“Now…tell me about what happened out at the bridge…”

The doc sighed, then he looked away. “It’s complicated, Harry.”

“Complicated?”

“Yeah. I’m not supposed to talk to you about it.”

“What? Why not?”

“I don’t really know, Harry. Your assistant chief laid that on me…”

“The shooter?”

“Gone. No trace. And it was shooters, probably two, maybe three.”

“What about the victim. Did they identify her?”

“Yeah, well, that’s the problem.”

“Doc? What are you not telling me?”

The doc looked around as if he was afraid to talk now, then he moved close to Callahan. “The thing is, Harry, she was FBI, and they think she was bait.”

“Bait?”

“Yeah. A lot of the calls Homicide went out on that night turned out to be bogus, like they were trying to get you called out – at least the a-chief thinks so.”

“That’s a stretch…”

“Yeah, maybe, but the thing is…well…all the evidence points to the shooters, well Harry, ya see…the FBI thinks it was an Israeli team…”

© 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 before 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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