The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 58.4

88th key cover image

And yes, here’s a little something to think about while you read.

Chapter 58.4

When DD and the doc came back to Callahan’s room the next evening they both looked nervous, and once they were in the room and the door was closed behind them she came close and handed Harry a steno pad with some notes already scribbled down:

“Dell and Carl have bugged out,” the first item read. “Didi says the colonel will get in touch as soon as he thinks it’s safe to do so,” stated the second. “There’s something hinky with the a-chief…he’s hiding something,” the third item on the list said.

Callahan mimed ‘pencil’ and DD handed over her usual gold Cross pen.

“What about Lloyd and Todd?” Harry wrote.

DD nodded and started to speak. “That girl from the shop moved out to your house and she’s taking care of Lloyd now. Actually, Harry, she’s been a godsend. Lloyd likes her and she really seems to care about what’s happening to him right now, so that was a good call.”

“And what about Todd?”

“I got him a room up at the inn. Ida lets him into the studio and she doesn’t let Lloyd stay in there with him unless she’s there too.”

Harry nodded. “Above and beyond the call, in other words?”

“I’d sure say so,” the doc said.

“She’s a keeper, Harry,” DD added.

Callahan turned to the notepad and began writing again. “Get Didi in here, maybe dressed as a nurse or something. I need to know what the colonel’s afraid of.”

He passed the pad over and DD read it then nodded. “Can do,” she said.

“You two are the best,” Harry felt he had to say. “Thanks.”

“Anything we can bring you? A burger and fries, or maybe a dominatrix?” the doc smirked.

“No thanks. I’m trying to quit.”

Everyone laughed, even the FBI agents downtown monitoring the bugs in Callahan’s room.


Todd Bright was slouched on a sofa just outside of the studio’s lone isolation room, barely conscious and with a syringe still halfway in his arm, when Ida and Lloyd came in one afternoon. Lloyd saw him first and ran to him, while Ida had been around musicians long enough to know exactly what to do.

“Do you know where a first aid kit is, Lloyd?”

“Yeah, I’ll get it.”

She removed the syringe from Todd’s arm and put some pressure on the bleed, then she moved his legs up on the sofa and put a couple of cushions under his feet. When Lloyd brought in the medical supplies she took out what she needed and dressed Todd’s arm, then she took the boy back to the house on the cliffs.

“Was that heroin?” he asked.

She shook her head and shrugged. “I don’t know for sure, but yes, probably.”


“I know. Now, why don’t you work on your homework. I’ve got to call DD and let her know.”

“Do you have to?”

“Yes, Lloyd, I do. The doc will need to come by and check on him this evening.”

Lloyd nodded. “I wonder why he uses that stuff?”

Again the girl shook her head. “Sometimes there is no reason, Lloyd. Sometimes it’s just a mistake that gets out of control, but for some people existence is a very painful thing. Heroin is a kind of painkiller, if I understand the use correctly.”

“You don’t mean pain like a broken bone, do you?”

“No. More like a kind of pain that comes, well, from existential angst.”

“What’s that?”

“I think some people get to where they believe they should have never been born, that their lives are a series of unfolding mistakes that they have no control over, and to escape feelings of hopelessness they retreat into a world such drugs promise. The real problem, Lloyd, is that heroin is a very false promise…because it can never really fix the underlying pain – it only makes life worse.”

“Then why do it?”

“Because some people are desperate, and false promises find a ready home in the hearts of such people.”

“But he’s such a genius, Ida. How can someone like that feel hopeless?”

“I don’t know, Lloyd. I really don’t know.”


Callahan leaned back and stared at the wires and pulleys supporting his arm. He tried to flex his fingers and though they felt stiff they at least still seemed functional. Yet his arm was probably a total wreck, and that meant two things. First, his time with the department would soon be at an end. His gun arm had to be one hundred percent, period, as anything less than that would simply be suicidal. Second, regaining any kind of real proficiency on the piano would take time.

But…why now? It had been almost ten years since the Escobar-vigilante nonsense wound-down, and after Frank’s passing the team had effectively dropped all pretense of going after them. So…why would they try to take him out now?

“Or did they?”

The Israelis wouldn’t do anything to him, period, so why were the department and the FBI trying to push that idea off on him? A diversion, yeah, sure…but – why?

A knock on the door. A ‘candy-striper’ pushing a cart loaded with magazines came into the room and walked over to his bed.

“This does not look so comfortable, Mr Callahan,” Didi said, grinning. “Could I interest you in a magazine today?” she added, handing him a dog-eared copy of Field and Stream.

Callahan opened the magazine to a typed page of notes – from the colonel.

“First things. Get well. Plan to move to Davos as soon as you are able. You are definitely no longer safe in the United States. Your enemy is in Washington, D.C.”

Harry reread that first paragraph and tried to digest this harsh new reality before he continued.

“We have looked at the possibility that your friends might be behind this, some kind of embezzlement angle, but we have found nothing to support that thesis. Further, your friends in the department are clear.

“When the time for your release from hospital comes, I recommend that we get you out of the country that day. If you choose to stay, I am afraid there is little we can do to protect you now as we dismantled the operation years ago. Let Didi know what you want to do. – G”

“May I borrow your pencil?” he said to Didi.

“Of course.”

He started to write, then he paused and looked out the window – thinking about his life in the city and all that had happened here over the years – then he continued writing:

“Set it up. Look into Swiss citizenship for both Lloyd and myself. See about getting a recording studio set up somewhere in the village, or at the house if possible. Get out to the house on the cliffs and talk to the girl there, name is Ida, and see about having her make the trip with us. Work with DD to handle the logistics. Would appreciate it if you can move back with us.”

He handed the note to Didi and she scanned it quickly then looked him in the eye and nodded. “Good afternoon, sir. I hope you feel better soon,” she said on her way out the door.

“Yes. Goodbye,” he said – long after she had left the room.

© 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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