The Eighty-eighth Key (60.3)

88th key cover image

And the beat goes on. Or something like that, anyway.

Music? Of course. Wait! That one doesn’t work for you? Well then, try this instead. Or take two and call the doctor in the morning. Still not there yet? Feel like dancin’ a little? Well, if this one doesn’t float your boat you better go check your pulse.

Chapter 60.3

Callahan looked at the phone on the desk, then at his watch. It was early afternoon here, he reckoned, so just about time for DD to get to her office in the Cathouse. He took a long pull from the glass of iced Coca Cola that Ida had just carried out to him, then he closed his eyes and sighed as the cold bubbles played their subtle notes on the roof of his mouth.

“Ready for a sandwich?” Ida asked. “Or wait until after you make your call?”

“No…no…I could eat now. Will you join me?” Harry said easily.

“Sure!” Ida said brightly. “Pastrami today? Or chicken salad?”

“Pastrami, I think. With that really hot mustard you found last time.”

“Comin’ right up,” Ida said, but she watched as Callahan picked up the phone and dialed DDs office number in San Francisco. She apparently picked up on the first ring, too.

“DD? It’s Harry.”

“Harry? Where the Hell are you?”

“Tel Aviv.”

“No shit? Well, how the Hell are you?”

“Pissed. And basically, because I’m being held prisoner.”

“What?”

“No passport. Swiss police told me that it had been confiscated, and shortly after that the Israelis basically slipped me out of that hospital, and then out of the country, too.”

“Indeed. I haven’t heard anything about it, Harry. Let me look into it. Are you still in therapy for the leg…?”

“Not really. I’m still waiting for a working leg at this point.”

“But…it’s been how many weeks?”

“Months, DD. Now…you see the problem?”

“Why haven’t you called me?”

“Not allowed? How’s that sound?”

He heard DD take a deep breath, but he could also hear her pen racing across paper as she scribbled furious sounding notes. “Tel Aviv, you said? Got an address?”

“No, of course not.”

“Can you describe the building for me?”

“I guess I’m on about the twentieth floor. All I’ve seen is beige brick and light blue tile on support columns, and the front of the building is about a block from the beach.”

“…from the beach,” he heard DD muttering as she wrote. “Okay, Harry. Got a number I can reach you at?”

He gave her the number printed on the little white placard stuck to the base of the phone. “I assume that’s it, but I’m not sure. This is the first call I’ve been able to make, so if I don’t hear from you…”

“I’ll be back at you with an hour, Harry. If you don’t hear from me by then, you just call me again.”

“Will do. And DD. Thanks for being there for me.”

“Always, Harry. Always.”

He rang off just as Ida came in with their sandwiches.

“Did you get through to DD?”

“Yup.”

“Well then, that’s good news.”

“Is it, Ida?”

“Certainly it is, Harry. And the guys from the prosthetics lab are coming by again, in an hour or so. You feeling up to that again?”

“Maybe with some more Vicodin,” Callahan muttered. “Maybe two, as a matter of fact.”

“I’ll get them for you, but remember, you don’t want to take two on an empty stomach!” 

He sighed, then nodded before he took a huge bite from the sandwich she’d made, the roof of his mouth then his sinuses erupting as the horseradish in the spicy brown mustard slammed home. “Oh-dear-God-in-heaven-but-that-feels-so-o-o – good,” he just managed to say – as he broke out in a hot sweat. Even his upper lip began sweating, and he wiped first his forehead then his mouth as the fire spread. 

“You alright?” Ida asked.

“Oh yeah,” Harry said – as he downed the ice cold Coke. “Nothing finer.”

She shook her head. “You Americans never fail to amaze me, Harry.”

“Fuckin’-A,” he said as he took another huge bite from the sandwich. “Oh! Goddamn!” he screamed gleefully. “Fucking outrageous! I love it!!”

She rolled her eyes, hoping Didi would return soon.

+++++

“You sure this is the best way to handle him?” she asked her father.

“Am I sure? No, not really, but this whole thing is about to get more complicated than it ever needed to, and so, well, the decision has been made. Get him out of here, now. We’ll use the new cover story if and as we need to.”

“What about Ida…and me? Stick with him, or just turn him loose?”

Colonel Goodman chuckled at that. “I doubt he’ll let you anywhere near him, or his friends again. Try if you think you can pull it off, otherwise…”

She picked up the travel documents – three one way tickets on El Al from Tel Aviv to San Francisco, first class, leaving tomorrow morning. Then she picked up Callahan’s passport off her father’s desk and flipped through the pages. “Still no exit stamp from Switzerland,” she muttered. “Does that present any…?”

“I doubt there will be time enough for that to ever become an issue,” the Colonel sighed, his appreciation for the fluidity of Swiss customs and immigration officials never much in doubt. “Let me know what you – decide – to do with him.”

“Okay.”

“And good luck,” the latest director of the Mossad said to his daughter as she turned to leave. He watched her walk away, silently shaking his head at the danger she had taken on. Of course…he’d never intended things to unwind so suddenly – or as predictably – but Callahan and that bastard son of his had suddenly become too big a liability…and that was that. There was nothing else to be done now, was there?

No. All his attention was turning to Palo Alto, and yet he wondered what Avi would have done now. Would he take out Harry Callahan? Or…was there still some other way? Something he hadn’t considered yet.

He turned and looked out over the city, his fingers still steepled over his heart.

He missed his old friend.

+++++

The flight attendant pushed the wheelchair up to Callahan’s seat just ahead of the Number 1 door, and two of them helped lift him into the chair before they pushed him out of the aircraft door. A red cap took him from there, and this old man pushed Harry up the inclined Jetway and then all the way to Customs. No one, not one official nor anyone lurking in the shadows took even the slightest interest in his arrival, at least not until the Skycap pushed Callahan out into the Arrivals Hall.

DD and the Doc were there, waiting, and she was all over him in an instant.

Then she looked down and saw a blanket where a right leg had been and she finally knew. The Israelis hadn’t sent along his prosthesis after all their promises, so the appointment she’d made at the Stanford lab hadn’t been just a prescient overreaction on her part, and then she looked at the doc and saw his scowl. He was fuming now, too.

“You up for a drive up the coast tonight, Harry?” the Doc asked. “Or would you rather go up to Trader Vic’s and drown the world’s sorrows with a little rum and a couple of pineapples?”

“Rum and pineapples for me, Doc. Every time,” Callahan said, grinning.

“That’s our Harry,” the Doc said, grinning. “Off we go, faster than a herd of turtles!”

She’d rented a van with a motorized ramp for Harry’s wheelchair, but as soon as she saw his reaction she regretted the decision. “Sorry, Harry. I didn’t know what else to do.”

“No big deal,” Harry sighed. “I’d have done the same, I reckon.”

The Doc got behind the wheel and drove them to the restaurant, and a handful of pilots from CAT were on hand to welcome Callahan back onto firm ground. He struggled with jet lag for an hour or so, but the more he drank the better he felt, and after his second bowl of turtle soup Harry began to feel halfway human again.

“I don’t recognize anybody,” he said at one point, leaning over to whisper in DDs ear.

“Two big fires working right now, and it’s all hands on deck. Besides, we thought these new guys should get to know who the real boss is…”

“But…I signed everything over to you…”

“And I never executed the papers, Harry. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not while you’re alive. It wouldn’t be right, and besides, the Doc agreed with me…”

“Fuckin’ right I did,” the Doc added, slurring his words mightily now. “What’s wrong, Harry? You’ve only had three Bastards so far. Not feeling well?”

“I’ve never felt better, Doc. Never. Besides, if I have another I’ll probably lose my dinner, and I hate to waste good soup.”

“Well, don’t you worry about a thing! We’ve got your house all squared away and have the party to end all parties planned for Saturday night, and if I can’t get you bombed tonight I’ll get you then!” The Doc burped once, impressively loud, too, then his eyes crossed a little. “Uh…ya know…I think I better get to the head right about now…” he said as he made a dash for the WC.

“And another one bites the dust,” Harry said, grinning at DD.

“He’s been holding his breath all week, Harry…just waiting for you to get back here.”

“Me? Why?”

“Why? Well, for one…I think you’re the only real friend he’s got, and he hasn’t been right since you got shot. I think he feels like it was something he did…”

“Nonsense.”

“Well, let’s just say he’s happy you’re back and be done with it. And we have laid on one helluva party for Saturday night.”

“What about a leg?”

“Palo Alto. First thing in the morning.”

“God I’ve missed you,” Callahan said – and DD actually blushed a little. “You are truly one in a million.”

“So are you, Harry. So are you.” She took his hand and gave it a little squeeze, and she instantly regretted it. His skin was cold and clammy, the bones in his hand much more prominent now than she remembered. Fragile, she realized, and that wasn’t a word she’d ever associated with Harry Callahan. Not once. Not ever. Yet sitting beside him now that was the word that first came to mind. He looked very fragile, almost too fragile to be alive, like he’d lost about fifty pounds and not laughed in weeks. Skin sallow, almost gray. Eyes bloodshot, hands not quite steady anymore, like he’d been through an impossible ordeal and had not quite made it out intact.

No. Now she was well and truly worried. And not just about what had happened to him in Switzerland, or even in Israel, but about what was left of the man. Was he strong enough to meet the relatively simple physical challenges ahead? Of learning to walk again? And what about dealing with the rapidly changing business environment in California, let alone simply taking care of himself?

No, she could see now that everything was different. He had Changed. Big time – not just a little. And now she thought it more than likely that she would in fact have to step up and really take over not just the day to day operation of the airline, but guide it through an uncertain future. And  sitting there beside him, holding his fragile hand in her own, she hoped that her actions wouldn’t be the final act of betrayal that sent him over the edge.

Because she knew at least one thing in this world was true.

Her love for this man was absolute.

© 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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