The Eighty-eighth Key (59.4)

88th key cover image

…all alone in dreams of silence…you might find a memory waiting to be rediscovered…

Chapter 59.4

Callahan heard a door open and close somewhere beyond this little room, and he tried to push himself up on his good arm – and failed – then he looked at his left foot down by the end of the bed, and to the empty space where his right foot used to be. 

“I’m turning into a vegetable,” he mumbled at the hollow. “If I keep this up I might as well just pull the trigger.” He hadn’t stood to take a leak since the night he’d been shot, and he had absolutely no idea if he’d taken a dump or not since then. Probably not, he thought. He hadn’t had anything solid to eat since that night on the patio, so how could he have…?

Ida came in and opened the drapes and sunlight from beyond the cerulean Mediterranean sky flooded the room – then he squinted and tried to cover his eyes…which caused him to fall back into the pillowy bed.

“It’s not always going to be this bad, Harry,” Ida said, smiling at his frustration. “You’re going to get better. Trust me.”

“Right, if you say so. Any word on Lloyd?”

But Callahan needn’t have bothered looking for a reply; he already knew the answer to that one, didn’t he?

“No. Nothing,” she said.

Callahan nodded. “So? What’s on the agenda today? Maybe turn the cauliflower onto his left side? Baste him a little before putting his useless ass under the broiler?”

She grinned but shook her head. “No, you’re not getting off that easy! Today is strength training with your right arm and then, after lunch, the prosthetics people are coming out to do the second fitting.”

Callahan looked at the woman and sighed. “What are you doing here, Ida? You didn’t sign up for this…you don’t have to stay…”

She came close then and leaned over, put her hand on the side of his face. “I’ll leave, Harry, when you can beat me in a fifty meter dash,” she said, laughing and smiling and lighting up the room with her loving blue eyes.

And Harry nodded. “If that’s the deal then I guess you’re with me for the duration.”

“Then maybe you’d better get used to me.”

“Get used to you?” he said, voicing mock-angst. “Hell, I can’t exist without you!”

She leaned over and kissed his forehead, then she pulled back, wrinkling her nose. “That shirt’s coming off today, Callahan, and you’re getting a sponge bath!”

“Oh…joy…” he sighed, rolling his eyes and turning to sniff his pits. “I can’t wait.”

+++++

Colonel Goodman walked into a very plain looking office building and took the elevator to the eleventh floor; when the door slid open he was greeted by two soldiers aiming automatic rifles at his face. When the soldiers recognized the colonel they went back to their duty stations, and Goodman walked into the prime minister’s office.

Actually, into an outer office guarded by the most ferocious person in Israel – the PMs appointments secretary – who nodded at the colonel as he walked in and took a seat near her desk. She resumed typing and talking to someone on the telephone, presumably juggling fifty other tasks as she talked on the phone, deciding the fate of nations.

Then the PMs chief of staff walked into the outer office and looked at Goodman. “Okay, he’s ready for you.”

Goodman nodded and followed the chief of staff into the PMs office.

And this was not a ceremonial spot; no, this office was overflowing with papers and blueprints and two walls covered with aerial and satellite reconnaissance imagery – though most were crystal clear black & white photographs of a nuclear reactor under construction in Syria. 

“So, Benni, what the Hell went wrong?”

“Well, sir. just about everything that could go wrong – did.”

+++++

A hulking nurses aide lifted Callahan into his wheelchair and helped get his stump covered, then the aide pushed him out to the little porch off the living room. It was a nice view and Callahan hadn’t tired of the juxtaposition of city and sea, at least not yet, but there wasn’t a piano anywhere in the place and he felt naked without one.

The aide rolled him up to a table set for three, and he looked through the glass rail at the bustling city twenty floors below while the chair’s wheels were locked, then Ida and Didi came out and joined him.

“Chicken salad today, Harry,” Ida said cheerfully. “And some fruit I see, too. Think you can manage that for me?”

Callahan looked at the food and his stomach growled. “I’m not real worried about input right now,” he said hopefully. “It’s output that has me stumped.”

“We’ve got that figured out, so – you ready to dig in…?”

“Yeah…fix me a plate. It looks too good to pass up.”

“Ida made it, Harry,” Didi said, smiling at his reluctant salivations.

“Yes, it’s my mother’s recipe,” Ida added, “so if you don’t like it you’ll have to answer to her.”

Harry looked at the plate and reached for the fork by his plate; his hand was trembling and both Didi and Ida was trying their hardest not to stare at him as he reached for a piece of chicken.

Harry took a bite and everything about the food felt strange; the unusual spices, the different textures – all of it – yet he was so hungry none of that mattered and after he finished that first bite he was off to the races…

…at least, he was…until the first wave of cramps hit…

+++++

“So, what you’re telling me is that shooting Callahan proved, in the end, unnecessary?”

Goodman looked down, but even so he nodded. “Given what happened, yes.”

“So he really is our responsibility now,” the prime minister sighed, looking out the window to the sea. “You knew his mother, correct?” he added a moment later.

“Yessir.”

“And so I would assume you know she would not be at all happy about how this played out?”

“I think that’s a safe assumption, yessir.”

“So, let me see if I have this right. We decided that Callahan’s – gift – is too dangerous so we decided to take charge of his access to music, which, again, correct me if I’m wrong, appears to be the gateway he uses to travel through time. With me so far?”

“Yessir.”

“So, someone decides that maybe we should take control AND at the same time reduce the chances of his getting away from us by shooting him in the hand. Is that about right?”

“Yessir. But our sniper missed on the first shot…”

“And then blew his fucking leg off!” the PM screamed, so loud that the armed guards by the elevator jumped and picked up their rifles.

“Yessir” Goodman said, his voice a coarse whisper.

“And then it turns out that Callahan’s son – what is his name again?”

“Lloyd, sir.”

“Yes, just so. But, oh, where was I? Oh, yes, that this boy knew all about Callahan’s time traveling and could, apparently summon this Old Man at will? Then for some unknown reason the boy kills a degenerate musician…?”

“We don’t know that, sir. Not for a fact.”

“We don’t know what, Colonel Goodman?”

“Well, witnesses saw the boy shoot this musician, one Todd Bright. There’s no question about that, sir.”

“Oh boy, here it comes. The part that is going to just make my day…”

“Well, sir, you see, Mr Bright’s body was never found.”

“What?”

“That’s correct, sir. No body, so…”

“So we don’t even know if this Bright fellow is alive or dead? Is that what you’re telling me?”

“Yessir. That’s correct.”

“Dear god, what a clusterfuck.”

Goodman did not reply to that one – if only because he’d used the very same word to describe the operation two days ago.

“So, how’d you convince Callahan to come here?”

Goodman looked down. “I sent Major Hartmann to visit Callahan in the hospital. Uh, he was impersonating a police inspector, I might add, and he…”

“Dear god. Stop. Please. I don’t want to know any more…”

“Yessir.”

“So, what about this Callahan? What are we going to do with him?”

“Obviously, sir, we get him physically able to…”

“To time travel? Is that what you think is going to happen? My god, Goodman! He could kill us all, unravel – everything! And he’d most certainly discover what our role in all this was…”

Goodman smiled. “Yessir, of course he would.”

“So…how do you plan to contain the risk?”

“Well sir, I have my two best agents assigned to him now, and they assure me they have him completely under control…”

+++++

Ida leaned forward and fed him another grape, smiling and encouraging him to have just one more bite. “Oh, Harry, you’re doing so well! At this rate you’ll catch me – in no time at all…”

+++++

“And then what, Colonel?”

“Well sir, one of my agents is a musician, actually a brilliant pianist. I assumed at some point he’d teach her, and then…”

“I see. Okay, proceed with the next phase of your operation. Now, what’s this I’m hearing about Northrup-Grumman?”

“They’re building a, well sir, what has been reported to me is best described as an alien vehicle. Wrecked. They are trying to rebuild it.”

“Wrecked? How? Was it shot down?”

Goodman shook his head. “No sir. Recall the Soviet submarine that went down in the North Atlantic three years ago?”

“Yes, of course.”

“The submarine collided with the object and subsequently sank.”

“So, this alien craft doesn’t fly, it…”

“It can do both, sir. It reportedly moves through water as easily as air.”

“And is capable of spaceflight, I take it?”

“Those are the initial reports, yes.”

“How far along are they? With their work, I mean?”

“Work on the craft is complete, but it appears they can’t figure out how to operate the bloody thing.”

“Okay, Benni, so what are you not telling me?”

“Well sir, what if we could get Callahan into the ship? The original ship. And watch the operators at work.”

The PM looked at his chief of staff – who looked away.

“And then what, Colonel?”

“We take the ship.”

“Take it? And do what with it?”

Goodman smiled. “Anything we want, sir.”

© 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 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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