The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 29

88th key cover image

Part IV

Chapter 29

____________________________________

Harry watched Stacy Bennett, now sitting beside the pool behind Avi’s house at the Tel Aviv compound, as she took her morning coffee and, like Jim Parish, he was getting increasingly worried about her fragile – and rapidly deteriorating – emotional state. Since returning from her ‘assignment’ in Boston, and with so much fresh blood on her hands, she had at first reflected a stoic acceptance of the ‘work’ she’d done, but soon she bounced between deepening bouts of depression and raging fits of aggressive mania. When Stacy and Jim arrived in Davos for Harry’s wedding – and, as it happened, after a particularly violent outburst on the flight from Tel Aviv to Zurich – Parish asked Harry to keep an eye on her between dances at the impromptu wedding reception. After Sara Callahan returned to the clinic to wrap-up treatment, both Harry and Jim continued to watch Stacy when the team left for Zurich, first by train, and then on the flight back to Israel. 

And Harry was upset by what he saw on the train, enough so that he decided to bring up the matter with the Colonel after they boarded the El Al 707 for the return flight to Tel Aviv.

“Yes,” Goodman said, almost matter-of-factly – like he was remarking on the weather, “I’ve noticed, but Harry, I’ve often seen this happen after a first kill. Odds are she’ll get over it…”

But now, after a few days at the compound, he looked at Stacy by the pool and he could see other changes.

She was biting her nails, her fingers never stopped moving, and her left leg twitched every few seconds. Worse still, she refused to talk to anyone about what was obviously bothering her, and Parish was growing more concerned by the hour. She was, he told Callahan, an obvious candidate for suicide.

He watched her for a while that morning then decided to act; he returned to the house and called Dr. Adler, Sara’s attending psychiatrist at the clinic. After a few minutes wait for her to come to the phone, Callahan told Adler about his concerns, as well as Parish’s. 

Adler replied thoughtfully, and directly: “I noticed something odd about her at the reception. Not knowing the circumstances I felt it best to ignore the situation, but with what I know now I would concur. Suicide is a real possibility.”

“Do you know what’s going on? What we should do to help?”

“What you are describing, these suddenly emerging extreme manic-depressive swings, the tremors, the nail-biting…all may well be manifestations of an impending psychotic break.”

“What can we do?”

“Can you get her to me?”

“Of course.”

“And, uh, do you suppose your father could come along, too?” 

______________________________________

Goodman and the team had other concerns now. Growing concerns.

Walter Chalmers woke up one morning and simply left the compound; without a word said he took a taxi to the American Embassy in Tel Aviv; the team learned the next day Chalmers had returned to his Senate office in Washington, D.C. and was, apparently, hard at work. Then, two days later, he was gunned down outside of a restaurant in Georgetown, the apparent victim of a random robbery – at least according to breathless reports on NBC News, anyway.

The murder of a U.S. Senator stirred up a hornet’s nest of activity inside the FBI, and at Treasury – who controlled the Secret Service, because the move was seen by some as an open declaration of war between the government and a hidden, but growing, movement that few really understood. Regardless, the growing affiliation between the various vigilante groups on the east and west coasts with a new network of criminal enterprises was trouble enough, because this link-up was now seen as yielding ominous results. Chalmers’ open assassination was therefore regarded by insiders at the Bureau for what it really was.

War, pure and simple.

Yet, this was to be a war that played-out far from public view, and both sides knew it had to be that way. If the vigilantes moved to directly confront American political sovereignty they wouldn’t stand a chance, so the Bureau’s upper echelons remained uncertain what the group’s ultimate aims were. 

While a decades-long war of attrition was the furthest thing from their minds, few had come to terms with the Escobar dilemma that Harry Callahan had uncovered. Was this somehow linked to the drug trade? No, it couldn’t be, the old hands at the FBI said. The Columbians surely weren’t that sophisticated.

Goodman’s team, however, was not laboring under any such uncertainty. Goodman knew the assassination was Pablo Escobar’s opening move, and it was also Goodman’s opinion that Escobar wanted to – initially – destabilize the federal law enforcement community, and then force their hand, lead them to move on these various vigilante groups – one by one. So engaged, and once so distracted, Goodman assumed the Medellin Cartel would begin to pour product into the U.S. through their underground network of associated criminal enterprises, like the Danson chop-shop Callahan had worked at; from this modest start, the Cartel could then expand their initial dealer network to major cities coast to coast.

“With so much cocaine and heroin hitting the streets all at once your government will never know what hit them,” the Colonel mused, “at least not until long after the dust settles. And by then it will be too late, won’t it? It will take decades to repair the damage, if it ever can be.”

“And you still think this is all the work on one Columbian drug dealer?” Sam Bennett said.

But then Goodman shook his head. “No, I don’t think so, Captain. I think this operation has KGB written all over it; we just can’t prove it yet. Personally, I doubt this Escobar even knows the difference between a State and a U.S. Senator, because if he did he certainly wouldn’t have gone after Chalmers for his first move. That hit signaled the opening move of a decades-long campaign to destabilize the United States from within.”

“So,” Bullitt sighed, “this isn’t just about drugs?”

“I doubt it,” Goodman replied. “I’d say this is a political operation first, one that will utilize criminal enterprises to undermine social cohesion while at the same time these ethnic infiltrations of police departments will ultimately undermine the credibility of law enforcement. Once that happens whoever is pulling the strings will move to destabilize the federal political system.”

“So,” Sam Bennett grumbled, “after that comes revolution?”

“If I were setting this up,” Goodman said, “I’d foment civil war. If that happens the United States drops off the world stage, the dollar plummets and what’s left of the country is left to pick up the pieces. It’s asymmetric warfare, gentlemen, and no one does that better than the KGB.”

“Do we know what’s going on in San Francisco?” Bullitt asked, clearly shaken by this talk.

“More or less. There’s been a lot of confusion since Harry took out that Danson character. The Threlkis gang has a big reward out for you, by the way,” Goodman said, nodding at Callahan. “Paddy Chalmers is gone; they took him out while he was still in the hospital three nights ago. A couple of salesmen at one of the Chalmers’ dealerships have gone missing, too. We’ve found just one of the bodies. Some good news, though; we are establishing new phone traces one-by-one as we locate the crew that went underground, as some of them start moving around again. All-in-all, we’re getting back up to speed, but slowly.”

Bullitt looked angry now. “What about McKay? What’s he up to?”

“Playing it straight as an arrow, Frank. Back at work like nothing happened.”

“Maybe he had a ‘Come to Jesus Moment,’” Callahan said, grinning at Frank.

“I doubt it. Maybe we ought to put Delgetti and Stanton on him,” Bullitt said, now sounding frustrated.

Sam Bennett growled at that suggestion: “No way, Frank. We don’t want to tip our hand or expose those two at the same time…”

“I agree, Captain,” Goodman added. “Our problem now, at least as far as this team is concerned, is that you have all been, in a word, compromised. When you return it will be to make a little statement of our own.”

“Meaning?” Callahan asked.

“We will assign each of you a group of targets. Your assignment will be to get into place and take out as many of these characters as you can.”

With that, Goodman let his words settle over the team while he looked at them one by one.

“Like the Munich squads…” Sam Bennett said quietly…

Goodman simply shrugged.

And Stacy Bennett stood abruptly and ran from the room, her brother getting up and going after her.

“What’s that all about?” Goodman asked, his furrowed brow deepening.

“We gotta talk,” Callahan said. “Now.”

________________________________

This time Callahan asked Didi to have a JetRanger standing by for them at the airport in Zurich, and both he and his father helped a heavily sedated Stacy Bennett through the terminal and onto a shuttle to the little heliport off the threshold of runway 28. The flight to Davos lasted not quite two hours, but they were able to save time by landing on the clinic’s rooftop pad. Dr. Adler met them out there with a small army of attendants on hand, and Stacy disappeared into the clinic – leaving the two Callahans alone on the roof…

At least until Didi Goodman showed up, a deep frown on her face.

“Come with me,” she said, trying to get them inside and out of the weather. “Things are happening. Apparently, your President Carter launched some sort of an attempt to rescue the hostages in Tehran, and word is there’s been an accident of some sort in the desert.”

“What’s that got to do with us?” Harry said, his hands stuck in his pockets to ward off an icy wind coming off the mountain.

“First things first. The helicopter takes you back first thing in the morning; your seats are booked on Swissair. Next, McKay has disappeared again. No trace of him and even your police department is looking for him this time.”

“Swell. What else?”

“The British spotted Escobar in Panama two days ago, and they think he’s been talking with the head of their military intelligence unit, and this is one more particularly nasty character. Name is Noriega, and he’s protected, supposedly a CIA asset.”

“Wait one,” Harry said. “We have a reported CIA asset selling arms to a Columbian cartel leader…?”

“Yes, that’s correct,” Didi nodded.

“And let me guess,” Lloyd added. “Those arms will be used against targets in the U.S.?”

“We must assume so at this point.”

“And what, supposedly, is Escobar buying?” Harry asked.

“Light arms, but several anti-tank weapons just left Panama for points unknown. We assume Los Angeles or San Diego.”

“No shit?” Lloyd said. “Hell, Harry, this could get kinda interesting…”

“And one last thing,” Didi said as a grin spread across her face. “Al Bressler has the clap.”

And Harry grinned at that bit of information, too. “No shit? You mean, he finally got laid?”

Didi didn’t know that was an old inside joke and looked confused.

“I suppose he’s seen a doctor?” Harry asked after he saw the look on her face.

“Your friend Parish is treating him. And, apparently, your doctor has been detached from his duties in California and has been assigned to the team, so he’ll be with you on your return to the states.”

“I hope he leaves me a few of those hypos,” Lloyd said under his breath as Harry walked back over to the helipad, where he helped the pilot tie-down the JetRanger. Harry also helped him tie-down the main rotor and cover the pitots and engine inlets; after that he rejoined Didi and his father and they went downstairs to find Adler and, Harry hoped, Sara.

As it happened, the five of them went off to dinner together, and a few hours later they dropped Adler and Sara back at the clinic before heading back out to the house. Exhausted, Harry went straight to bed while Didi got on the phone to talk with her father.

Taking the last Caverject syringe from his carry-on bag, Lloyd walked out front and waited curbside – until Dr. Adler pulled-up in a little white BMW. He grinned as they drove back into town together, not at all worried about Pablo Escobar or his fucking anti-tank weapons.

___________________________________

Harry and Didi drove into town very early the next morning and picked-up Lloyd at Adler’s chalet, then they drove to the clinic and took the stairs to the rooftop pad. Harry helped the pilot run through his pre-flight checklist then stepped outside to remove all the pitot covers and rotor tie-downs, and with that done they took off a few minutes later, the night sky finally giving way to the first shards of morning light as the helicopter climbed high enough to clear the mountains between Zurich and Davos.

They landed at Zurich-Kloten hard by the threshold to Runway 28; a shuttle met them and carried them directly to the customs gate. Once formalities were completed they made their way to the gate, but already Harry could tell something was very different today.

Heavily armed soldiers were patrolling the terminal, and anyone looking even remotely suspicious was being stopped and frisked. They watched as one detainee objected; several troops swooped down and literally carried the man kicking and screaming into an unmarked office.

“What the hell is going on?” Lloyd whispered.

“Gotta have something to do with the situation in Iran,” Harry said.

“Makes sense.”

When they got to the Swissair gate they were greeted by a phalanx of Swiss troops – flanked by two Israeli security officers; one of the troops walked up to Lloyd and challenged them both.

“Passports, please.”

They handed over their passports and tickets.

“You,” the soldier said, pointing to Lloyd, “into that room. Now!”

Another trooper escorted Lloyd to the indicated office, and they disappeared from view.

“Now, you! To the office over there,” the soldier said, pointing. “Now!”

Callahan followed a trooper to the office and stepped inside.

“Belt off, and take off your pants!”

“Excuse the fuck out of me?”

“Your pants off now, or we will take them off for you!”

Harry growled but removed his trousers.

“Underwear, down! Then turn around and face that wall, and grab your ankles!”

Clinching his teeth, Harry complied…then he felt someone pulling his cheeks apart. 

“You are clear. You may get dressed now.”

What a perfect time to cut a fart, Callahan thought. Where was Bressler when he really needed him…

He met his father by the gate, and the two Israeli agents were waiting for them by the jetway when their flight was called. “Follow me, please,” one of the agents said as he led them on board the 707. Once Harry and Lloyd took a seat the main door closed immediately and the engines started.

They were the only passengers on the airplane.

“What the hell is going on?” Harry asked the agent.

“The mess in Iran. Israel is now on full alert and air-space all over the Middle East has been heavily restricted.”

“What was with that stuff at the gate,” Lloyd asked, apparently still quite offended.

“Terrorists made attempts at both Rome and Madrid overnight, taking advantage of the chaos in Tehran. They were making attempts to get at flights bound for Israel.”

“Jesus.”

The Israels simply shrugged. “That’s just the way it is. You get used to these things after a while.”

“What do you mean by that?” Lloyd asked.

And the Israeli simply smiled and looked away for a moment; when he spoke it was with a feeling of deep sorrow in his voice: “We are surrounded by people who want nothing more than to drive us into the sea, to kill every last Jew left on the earth. We are, Mr. Callahan, a people adrift on a sea of hate.”

“I understand that. But you said you get used to it, and I asked how? How do you get used to something like that?”

“What is the option? This world seems consumed by a madness that refuses to die, that somehow Jews are the cause of all the world’s problems. When you are born into this madness, when you wake up everyday, day after day, surrounded by evidence of such malignant purpose, what are you to do? Well, you grow to accept that the madness is real and that it will kill you if you stop believing in it. So, you get used to it, because if you don’t you will die of despair.”

“Sounds to me,” Lloyd sighed, “that one way or another you die.”

The agent shrugged. “Maybe, but for now I choose to live.”

The jet began its hurtling roar down the runway and after it climbed from the earth they turned to the southeast, towards the eye of that very same malignancy, and Lloyd Callahan shivered a little while he turned the agent’s words over and over in his mind.

The 707 turned into a consumptive wall of cloud and the jet’s pulsing strobes lit passing waves of snow, and all the while Lloyd looked into this blinding dawn, wondering what was hiding in the storm just ahead.

‘Life is so simple at sea,’ he reminded himself. ‘Maybe it’s time to get back to the city…’

_______________________________

Colonel Goodman met their flight at the gate in Tel Aviv and escorted Harry and Lloyd through security and back out onto the tarmac. They boarded a waiting Huey and left Tel Aviv at very low altitude, still heading southeast.

“Back to the camp, I take it?” Harry asked.

Goodman nodded. “Things are heating up in California – and falling apart in Iran.”

“Swell.”

Goodman held up a hand, asking for silence as something came through his headset, then he shook his head while he turned to speak to Harry again. “It may be safer for you elsewhere, Harry. Khomeini has complete control of the military now, and we’ve just learned that the Russians recently supplied a new group called the Revolutionary Guards with medium-range surface-to-surface missiles.”

“What’s the range?” Lloyd asked.

“Enough.”

“Shit. So, is that why we’re moving back out to the camp?”

“No, we’re just going out to do some target practice before we leave,” Goodman said, suddenly grinning at Harry. “Besides, we have a few new toys for you to play with.”

___________________________________

The new ‘toys’ were H&K PSG-1 rifles and SIG Sauer P220 pistols.

A new range had been set up with targets at 100, 500, and 1,000 meters, while a close-combat pistol range had been set up as well; several Israeli instructors were on hand to lead the festivities. Lloyd Callahan was not initially invited to participate, though he watched from a distance for a while. Then Harry asked Goodman to let his father work with a pistol… 

“Just in case…” Harry said.

The HKs were bizarre. The pistol grip, the cheek pad, even the shoulder stock were all adjustable to fit each shooter, so each member of the team was assigned a unique rifle. Then each rifle was fitted to each shooter by a factory trained armorer. The Zeiss-Hensoldt ZF-PSG telescopic sights were similarly custom-tuned with diopter lenses – and all this took most of the day to accomplish.

Early the next morning the team assembled at the makeshift rifle range and spent an hour going over their rifles, then bi-pods were fitted and an instructor asked them to gather around while he went over the loading and unloading process.

Next, the instructor slipped down into a prone position and fired one round at each of the three targets. When he finished the targets were pulled down then carried in by Jeep.

Sam Bennett looked at the three ‘bullseye’ hits and whistled.

“Not bad,” Callahan said. “Mind if I try?”

“No, please do,” the instructor said, stepping aside so Harry could take his place.

Callahan inserted a five-round magazine, insured the weapon was ‘safe,’ then assumed the same position. Once his HK settled on the bi-pod he sighted-in then fired at the 100-meter target.

“Three inches left,” the instructor said. “Now, perhaps we need to make a few entries and corrections before you shoot again?”

“Why not just adjust the windage knob?” Callahan asked…yet the instructor simply ignored him.

“First we need to know the temperature and barometric pressure and get these values entered. Next, the apparent wind angle and speed need to be entered. Any height difference between you and the target must also be accounted for. And all these values must be entered on the scope with absolutely no error.”

“Shit…why?”

“Because the reticle is computerized, Inspector Callahan. Once these values are entered the reticle compensates for all those variables. So, you can reliably drive tacks at a thousand meters.”

“Show me,” Callahan said, and only then did the team retire to a tent to begin the real learning process. By afternoon the team returned to the range and began again, this time in earnest.

“All your weapons have been bore-sighted by the armorer, but a few minor adjustments may still need to be made. Everyone deploy your bipod and assume the position…”

And at the end of two weeks, the team was ready for their final briefing.

The next day they boarded the little JetStar for what the team hoped would be the final act of this play, yet at this point, not even Colonel Goodman felt confident in the outcome.

The JetStar landed at Frankfurt and the team transferred to a U.S. Air Force C-141 for the flight to Travis Air Force Base in California, and no-one managed to sleep on this leg, not even Harry Callahan. 

At Travis, the team broke-up into two-man units, with each SFPD officer assigned an Israeli liaison officer to handle communications and target acquisition. Jim Parish and Lloyd Callahan went with the Colonel to a new safe-house off Skyline Drive in the hills above Palo Alto. The house, deep in an ancient redwood forest, was equipped for a minor siege and even had a small pad to handle a Huey-sized helo. Medical supplies were airlifted in when Chief Warrant Officer “Mickey” Rooney landed a new, civilian painted and registered 212 on the pad; ‘lent’ to the team by the Army, Rooney was on hand to provide air support once the operation began – supposedly in three days time.

Harry Callahan and his spotter slipped into the East Bay and set up a watch zone around the municipal airport in Hayward; the word was that Escobar, or one of his lieutenants, would be bringing in a very large shipment of ‘product’ later in the week. Callahan would take out the aircraft once it was on the ground by hitting the engine, or engines, with armor-piercing rounds; anyone foolish enough to leave the aircraft would regret the decision. The operational plan included letting the DEA claim credit for the bust – after the dust settled.

Frank Bullitt was given the unenviable task of tracking down Captain Jerry McKay after new communications intercepts confirmed McKay’s participation in Escobar’s operation. These phone taps also revealed a more extensive group of police officers involved in operations centered around Oakland, Berkeley, and San Jose, and Sam Bennett went to the South Bay to tackle a small group of vigilante operatives working out of the San Jose PD. Callahan and Bullitt would ‘mop-up’ the remainder of known targets in San Francisco and Oakland after their primary targets were dispatched.

After the team moved into place it all came down to watching and waiting, everyone ready to make the opening moves in what would surely become a very long counter-offensive.

No one anticipated that other teams were working the very same targets, or that these other teams had set out the very same targets like tethered goats used to draw-in a predator.

The hunters, in other words, had just become the hunted.

/////

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and 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 (a little virus, not to mention a certain situation in Washington, D.C. springing first to mind…) so waiting to mention sources might not be the best way to proceed. 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 Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the television reporter 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. Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a 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? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred, though 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…]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 28

88th key cover image

Part IV

Chapter 28

____________________________________

Callahan woke early the next morning and walked to the kitchen, only to find Didi Goodman had already prepared coffee…and as soon as she heard Harry was up and moving around the stove was prepared and breakfast was waiting on the table – hot and fresh.

“I’m not used to this, you know?” Callahan said as he sat at the same table he’d sat at with Avi barely two months before. 

“I thought,” Didi began, “that with the hard day you have ahead that a good breakfast might help.”

“So, this was your father’s idea? You coming here?”

“In a way. There are papers and other matters I had to account for before anyone else could be allowed access to the house.”

“You work for the government, then?”

“Of course. You didn’t know that?”

“No. Your father just mentioned you’d be a good choice to manage all this. I assumed you came here for that reason.”

“Odd. He didn’t mention that to me.”

“Do you have some sort of accounting experience? I mean, why would he recommend you for that?”

She chuckled on hearing that. “No, but he accuses me of having OCD…”

“OCD?”

“Obsessive-compulsive. Everyone calls me the ‘clean freak.’ I assume they mean when I’m given an assignment I get it done right the first time.”

Callahan looked at the girl anew: she looked to be mid-twenties, black hair, and fierce blue-gray eyes. Skin deeply freckled, feminine build but on the muscular side, strong legs…a runner’s legs. Eyeglasses on the countertop, so probably for reading. An NYU t-shirt so schooled in the US, or wanted to be…

He ran down his usual checklist, watching the way she moved when he wasn’t eating.

“So, I’m not sure exactly what would be involved, but would you be interested?”

“What? Working for you?”

“Yeah.”

“In San Francisco?”

“I don’t know. Whatever works, I reckon.”

“I’d do it if I could live in San Francisco part-time. That would be the boss.”

“The boss?”

“Cool.”

“Ah. Any other relevant experience I need to know about?”

“No, not really. I just kinda go where they need me.” Of course, she omitted her six years service in the Mossad, and that she had been assigned to one of the teams tracking down the Munich terrorists. And, oh yes, that she had been assigned to Avi’s protective detail when he had traveled inside Israel…

“Well, it suits me. I’ll let the lawyers in Tel Aviv know and you can start to get a handle on things as soon as we get back.”

“Okay, so just to be clear…I’m working for you now?”

“I think that’s what your father wants, and I’m at a place right now where his voice is one of the few I trust in the world.”

When he said that she looked at Callahan with something akin to empathy, then she came over to the table and sat next to him.

“I think he’d appreciate knowing that, sir.”

“No sir to me, okay. I’m Harry or the deal’s off.”

“Okay, Harry,” she said, holding out her right hand, “you got a deal.”

He took her hand and smiled. ‘Smooth skin, but very strong grip. Index finger heavily calloused so she spends a lot of time at the range. Interesting.’ 

“Visiting hours at the clinic begin at 0900 hours. It’s not an easy walk, so you’d better let me drive you.”

“I’ve made the walk before. Besides, I think I’ll need it after that breakfast.”

“Okay. Also today, your mother’s piano has been moved from the compound; it’s arriving here this afternoon.”

“Oh…?”

“Avi’s residence in the compound belongs to the government, so of course…”

“I understand. Good thing this house belonged to him.”

She nodded. “More than anything else, he wanted to retire here with your mother.”

“Yeah, he told me more than once this is his favorite place in the world.”

“Did he ever tell you he regarded you as his son, or at least the son he should have had?”

Callahan shook his head. “No.”

“I hesitate to say this, but he told me as much more than once,” she added. “He was a very complicated man, Harry. Honorable, but complicated.”

“So is your father.”

“Benny? Well, really he is a very simple man. He exists to serve Israel.”

“And you call that simple?” Harry said, grinning.

“Ah yes. I get your point?”

“So, do I call you Didi?”

“Works for me.”

“And is there a Mister Didi?”

She laughed at that. “No, most men grow bored with my OCD. They can’t stand to be around me once it kicks in.”

“Well, I’m kind of a neat freak myself. And speaking of, I need to get ready to go.”

She went to the kitchen and returned with an envelope. “Here are all the local telephone numbers you’ll need, as well as some currency and a credit card. I took the liberty of activating the card, by the way. It’s linked to one of your Swiss accounts so your credit limit is rather high. Be careful, in other words, to keep it secure.”

“Not much crime around here, or at least I assumed as much?”

“More than you’d think. But it tends to be centered on diplomatic matters. There are many spies at work around here, if that matters to you.”

“Oh? American?”

“Mainly Russian, more than a few Brits. Several politburo members have chalets here, including Brezhnev, so electronic eavesdropping facilities are also a feature of life around here.”

“Shit.”

“I think Avi once said the exact same thing.”

“Do they cause any problems?”

“The Russians? No, more the exact opposite, I think. I think they prefer to keep a very low profile, as it wouldn’t sit well in the Soviet Union if word of these properties ever leaked out. Radio Free Europe manages to get the word out one way or another, and because of that the Swiss actually work with the Russians to keep these properties off the books.”

“Well…”

“Yessir. I’ll be standing by here at the house in case you need me.”

“Harry, not sir.”

“Got it.”

____________________________________

The air was crisp, not quite cold, and rain was in the forecast – which meant more snow on the mountain – yet Callahan was enjoying his walk into town. He only had a light windbreaker with him so he stopped and picked up a new jacket in town, then he hailed a taxi for the final stretch up the mountain to the clinic.

There was a depressing sort of alternate reality hanging around the main clinic building as he approached – like it had been constructed to contain the patients inside, and to somehow keep them well insolated from the outside world…like the two were somehow mutually exclusive. Hulking gray stone, white windows and a copper roof that had turned green a hundred years before – the building had been on this spot for as long as anyone could remember, and Europe’s nobility had sent their ailing children here for ‘the cure’ as far back as the French Revolution. The poor were, needless to say, not in attendance.

He went to the reception and asked to speak with Sara’s physician, and he was guided to a conference room, provided with hot tea, and was asked to wait. A few minutes later Sara’s psychiatrist came in, and she looked glum.

“Ah, Herr Callahan, so nice to see you again.”

“You too. How is Sara?”

“Deteriorating, I’m afraid. Once you left her depression worsened, but more troubling still is a repetitive hallucination she’s experienced.”

“May I see her?”

“Maybe later this week. We have asked her parents for permission to begin an alternative therapy, one that is still a little bit controversial.”

“And that is?”

“Well, Herr Callahan, there are matters of privacy at work here, and I’m sure you understand that.”

“I understand I have few rights to information, if that’s what you mean. Yet Sara is an adult, is she not? Can she not give you permission…?”

“She has done so, but her parents objected to that.”

“And what does that tell you.”

“People often do not accept such change, Herr Callahan, most especially where their children are concerned.”

“I see.”

“More to the point, the continuing expense of Sara’s treatment here has become a matter of great concern for her father; they intend to take her back to Vienna, where she can be treated at a state hospital.”

“And tell me, doctor, about this hospital.”

“It is, how should I put this, a rat’s nest. A place where people are warehoused until death comes for them.”

“I see. And, what if I were to take over the cost of treatment here?”

“It is very expensive, Herr Callahan.”

“That was not my question. Do you have a telephone I could use?”

“Of course. Over here, please.”

Callahan called Didi and asked her to provide the clinic with new payment instructions, and that he would be taking over Sara’s care.

“Of course, sir,” Didi said.

“Didi?”

“Yessir?”

“It’s Harry, not sir.”

“Ooh, yes, so sorry. I’ll take care of this right now.”

“Thanks, Didi.” He hung up the telephone and turned to the doctor. “Please notify Sara’s parents that I have taken over her care, and please thank them for me. Now, please take me to her room.”

“Yessir.”

_________________________________

She was in her ward’s dayroom, a pleasant enough space with several attendants helping lucid patients with various hobbies and crafts, but Sara was almost slumped over in a wheelchair, a long line of drool flowing from her mouth to her robe. Callahan looked at her for a few minutes then turned to the psychiatrist.

“I need to talk with her,” he said, “and in a private room if you please.”

“Let me arrange that. Please wait for me here.”

He continued to look at Sara, absolutely shocked by what he saw…and now more than a little angry. A few minutes later he was taken to a small family conference room and Sara came along a moment later, wheeled into the room by one of her attendants. The doctor closed the door as she left the room, but added: “I’ll be out here when you’re finished.”

After the door closed Harry took Sara’s right hand and simply held it, stroking her smooth skin with his eyes closed, remembering that precious time on the mountain they called their own. In fact, he was cherishing that time.

A moment later her hands moved, and he felt her struggling to reach his hands with her left.

“Can you hear me, my love?”

“Harry?”

“Yes, it’s me. I’m here now.”

“Oh, my Harry.”

“Don’t worry now.”

“The old man, the one you spoke about?”

“Yes?”

“He’s coming to me now.”

“The old man with the cape? And the cane?”

“Yes.”

“And they think this is a hallucination…?”

“Yes.”

“What is he telling you?”

“About you. And your mother.”

“What about my mother?”

“That he has seen her.”

“He has? Where?”

“I don’t know. That’s all he said.”

And Harry noted the more she spoke the more lucid she became, yet that Sara was struggling even so.

“Is it the medication?” he whispered.

“Yes. Awful. Like a haze, a thick haze that envelopes you. I hate this.”

“I understand.”

“How long will you be here?”

“A few days, maybe a week. Long enough to take care of you while I make arrangements for us.”

“What are you planning?”

“When you are well enough to travel you’ll be coming home with me, to California.”

She squeezed his hands, looked into his eyes and he could see tears there. “Oh,” she whispered, “this is what I have dreamed about…”

“Me too. There are so many things I want to share with you…”

Again, she squeezed his hand – yet she began to fade away before his eyes as the medication reasserted control. He pulled her blanket up, covered her knees as well, then went to the door and called her psychiatrist; a moment later the attendant appeared and wheeled Sara back to the dayroom, leaving Callahan alone with the physician and dozens of unanswered questions.

“What are you using to treat these hallucinations?”

“Haldol.”

“That’s an anti-psychotic, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is.”

“And what about these hallucinations? Describe them to me?”

“Apparently an old man, dressed in a loden cape and brandishing an ornate cane or some sort, a magical cane if I understand her description well enough, appears in her room at night…”

“And, let me guess, only when storms approach?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“Because my mother was visited by the very same man, I’ve seen him, and, in fact, he has treated me for an injury to my hand…”

The psychiatrist was staring at Callahan in almost open-mouthed horror.

“…and not to put to fine a point on things, at least two members of the Israeli intelligence services have had recent conversations with this same apparition. Now please, tell me if you still consider this a hallucination…?”

“I don’t know what to say?”

“Good. That’s quite possibly the sanest thing I’ve heard about this thing.”

The woman shook her head. “If I take this as so, then the Haldol must be stopped.”

“I wish you would. What was this other therapy you were talking about…?”

“I’m not sure this is relevant now.”

“Okay. I’d like to take her home with me for a few hours a day this week. Do you see any issues with that?”

“Only that it will take about two days for the effects of the medication to dissipate.”

“Okay, so on Tuesday she can come home with me, for the afternoon?”

“You mean here in Davos?”

“Yes, I have a home here.”

“Indeed? Then of course.”

“I’m informing you that it is my objective to take her to my home in California sometime this summer, probably late summer. I’m instructing you to prepare her for that transition as best you can and within that time frame. If you think you’ll need to see her intermittently after that we can discuss the logistics when she’s discharged. In the meantime, here is my telephone number in town. Call me with any questions you may have.”

He stood up, his right hand extended.

The psychiatrist took it. “It will be as you say, Herr Callahan.”

“Thanks mucho,” Harry said, grinning. 

_______________________________

‘Goddamn,’ he said as he walked away from the clinic, ‘but having a shitload of money is so fuckin’ liberating.’

He felt almost buoyant as he walked down the steep, wooded drive that led into town. Walking down the main shopping boulevard he stopped at a clothing store and bought some slacks and a sports-coat, then he stopped at a jeweler and picked out a new wristwatch, an Omega he’d wanted for years but could never afford. At a climbing shop he stocked up on socks and a pair of hiking boots that seemed to fit his surroundings better than his old loafers, then he hailed another taxi and went to the house.

“Ah,  you went shopping, I see?” Didi said as he walked into the living room.

“A little. What have you been up to?”

“The payments to the clinic have been arranged, but I have a question?”

“Yes?”

“Sara’s father is apparently in some difficulty and he has accumulated quite an outstanding balance. The clinic is about to pursue a legal remedy and I wondered what you might want to do?”

“How much is the balance?”

She handed him a slip of paper with the figure written down.

“Pay it. Call her father and tell him, ask him what his difficulties are, and see if I can help.”

Didi seemed surprised by this but held her concern in-check. “Alright.”

“And find out what kind of paperwork we’d need to get married. Here, in Switzerland.”

“Yessir.”

“Didi?”

“Sorry, Harry.”

He grumbled all the way to his bedroom…then grinned as he set about putting his new things away. When he walked back to the kitchen she was on the telephone, so he sat and waited until she was free to talk again.

“Yes…Harry?” she said after she hung up the phone.

“Lunch. Let’s go into town and grab a bite.”

“Alright. What would you like?”

“No idea. You know any place interesting?”

Didi smiled. “Follow me, sir…!”

“Didi…?”

___________________________________-

After Goodman and Lloyd Callahan returned to the compound, they noticed that something strange had come over the house, and it didn’t take long before they knew what everyone else had already come to terms with. Frank Bullitt and Cathy were on the outs. After a brutal argument involving the near destruction of her new house in Sea Ranch, Frank’s relative lack of income compared to hers, and then being pulled into this nonsensical cycle of violence and retribution…she declared that she wanted out! And NOW!

And then, after one of Colonel Goodman’s lieutenants informed her “it just wouldn’t be possible right now” – she came undone and went ballistic on everyone and anything unfortunate enough to be caught within earshot. She began throwing things and in the process learned that you can’t break paper plates, but when she made a move on Imogen’s piano Avi’s security detail, still detailed to watch over the house, moved in and restrained her until a physician could be summoned. She slept for a day after that but woke up in fine fighting form.

And then, after her first encounter with secobarbital, she launched into a particularly nasty take-down involving the income of police detectives generally and Frank’s specifically, but then Frank made the mistake of calling her a “walking peri-menopausal shit-show” and living proof “that women over forty are completely off their fucking rockers,” which produced a rather spectacular display feminine hand-to-hand combat skills, or, actually, a relative lack thereof.

She was moved to alternative quarters after that, leaving Frank to mope around the house with nothing to do but talk to Sam.

“I don’t know what to do anymore,” Frank sighed. “I love her, but…”

“You love her butt?” Sam said.

“I didn’t say that.”

“Yes, you did.”

Bullitt shook his head. “You’re getting worse than Chalmers.”

“What do you expect, Frank. This is like being on vacation somewhere really exotic, then being locked in your room. Everything is ‘out there’ and we’re stuck in here…”

“How’s Fran holding up?”

“Actually, Frank, not to be weird or anything, but she’s been horny as hell ever since we got here.”

“Cathy sure isn’t.”

“Cathy just had her world taken from her…”

“Yeah,” Frank said with a grouchy sigh. “Ya know, I think I know what it is, at least for Fran.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. What is it?”

“You two are together twenty-four hours a day and for the first time in ages, right?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“So she’s the center of your attention again, right?”

“Maybe so, but that doesn’t explain the horniness, Frank…”

“She’s out of menopause, isn’t she?”

“I guess so. Why?”

“Well, I’ve heard that many older chicks, once they’ve been through the change, well, they get horny. And I mean really, really horny.”

“Wonderful,” Sam said, feeling almost dejected.

“What is it, Sam?”

“Well, Frank, I’m fifty-five-fuckin’ years old and my pecker doesn’t work like it did when I was twenty. It takes a half-hour to get it up and if you look at the damn thing wrong it wilts away to nothing in half a second. It’s embarrassing, Frank.”

And on hearing that, Jim Parish walked over to Sam and Frank.

“Have you heard of Caverject, Captain Bennett?”

“Caver-who?”

“Alprostadil, aka Caverject. You inject it in your penis and…”

Bullitt and Bennett shuddered and made faces on hearing that…

“You can stop right there, doc,” Bennett growled. “Ain’t no-one, no-how gonna stick a fuckin’ needle in my goddamn muther-fuckin’ pecker…”

“You’ll have a two hour woodie, Sam,” Parish said, grinning. “The pain lasts about ten seconds. Balance those ten seconds against a two-hour hard-on.” 

“Two hours, huh? Shit, I wish someone would make a pill…”

“Think about it, Sam. Let me know if you want to try it…?”

“Shit, Jim,” Bullitt whispered, “can you fix me up with some of that shit?”

“Really? How old are you?”

“Forty?”

“Having problems down there?”

Frank looked away, but he nodded – just a little.

“Well, what the hell,” Parish said, looking at Bennett. “Sam, should I get two?”

“Why the hell not?” Sam said, sighing. “It’s worth a shot…er…well, no pun intended.”

So when Goodman and the elder Callahan returned they had no idea of the hornet’s nest they were walking into…or the size of the hurricane about to be unleashed.

_______________________________

Harry was comfortable walking around town now, so much so that more than a few merchants greeted him warmly when he happened by on his morning stroll through the central shopping district. Didi was similarly a gifted guide to the local restaurant scene, taking him on a world tour of exotic cuisines amply represented in town: she took him out for his very first curry and laughed at his red-faced response to lamb vindaloo. He was dumbstruck that people ate raw fish, but after trying salmon and tuna nigiri he was a convert. She took him to a Moroccan place and he was dumbfounded that people ate with their hands, no utensils allowed, yet he enjoyed that experience, too.

Harry’s eyes were being opened under her patient tutelage, just as her father had instructed. Just as Avi had wanted his friend to see to. “His is a parochial worldview, Ben,” Avi had told his friend months before he passed. “He must become a citizen of the world before he can truly understand our place in it. Or even his place in our world.”

And the Colonel had agreed. He, or his daughter, would see to it. Because he had promised to make it so.

So when Tuesday Afternoon came along, when Harry walked up to the clinic he did so nattily attired and full of the newfound confidence that only sudden wealth can impart. And yet, all that his new ‘station’ in life implied wasn’t lost on Callahan. If you’re poor, he said to himself, people generally ignore you, or worse, but if you are rich people will fall all over themselves to ingratiate themselves to you. This in and of itself wasn’t news to him; what startled Callahan was the experience of it all, the novelty of being treated in that way, and of how different this was to being a simple cop on the beat, or, as the case may be, to being a police detective. 

This was different, and, after a few days, he grew mindful of the change.

When he entered the clinic the smiling receptionist greeted him by name, Sara’s psychiatrist met him with a warm hug, while a cup of hot tea was waiting for him in the family conference room. Attendants smiled at him when passing in corridors, while before he had been almost a non-entity.

And it was all very troubling after just a few days, even as he sat in the little conference room waiting for Sara…

“How has she been doing off the medication?” he asked while they waited for Sara.

“About as expected, Herr Callahan…”

“Please, call me Harald,” Harry said, rather surprised he had adopted his Danish moniker.

“As you wish, Harald. I would ask that you walk with her, and I mean close to her, these first few times out of the clinic. Her gait may be off, she may be prone to sudden falls, but this should dissipate after about a week…”

“Good lord…” he sighed. “Must be a powerful drug…”

“It is, but it has shown remarkable effectiveness calming the mind.”

“Calming the mind? What do you mean?”

“Well, psychotic hallucinations might be considered errors in recalling a memory. The conscious mind may or may not be aware of the error, but even so, it struggles to produce the memory. The brain, in this instance, has real trouble doing so, and, in effect, it overheats…but I mean this in almost allegorical terms. The drug acts to calm this process…”

“How are hallucinations related to this?”

“Some researchers hold that hallucinations originate from fragments of memory that have somehow become scrambled. I’m working with Professor Pauling at Stanford on research along these lines, and the role of…oh, well, excuse me, I should not be boring you with such details.”

“Stanford? That’s my neck of the woods.”

“Really?”

“Yes, I live in San Francisco.”

“Well, how wonderful. I visit the Institute three or four times a year. so perhaps we could arrange for me to see Sara on these visits?”

“Yes, that should be no problem, at least not on my end.”

“You know, as many times as I’ve been, I’ve yet to spend time in the city. I hear there are so many things to see and do…”

“We’d be glad to show you around…” he said, and he was instantly struck by all the casual inferences attached to the word ‘we.’ As in: Sara and I; as in: we are a couple; as in: we are husband and wife…and he found that the word produced a curiously indefinable feeling – until it hit him: ‘I used to feel the same way about June. June and I were a ‘we,’ and that always felt right, didn’t it? Do I feel the same way about Sara? Did that kind of Love hit me so hard, so fast?’

And just then Sara walked into the room, a smiling attendant steadying her as she shuffled along, and when Harry stood she fairly jumped into his arms, holding onto him with fierce possessiveness. 

Her eyes were clear now, and he dove into her glowing depths, swimming in the vast currents of her soul, holding her close, loving her again with surprising intensity. He felt a pull coming from within those eyes, an insistent pull – a pull like gravity – and he yearned to float free from anything that might keep them apart…

Yet when at last he pulled free from her he found they were alone in the room.

“Do you think maybe we embarrassed them?” she said.

“I could care less.”

“I know. It’s a marvelous feeling, isn’t it?”

“I just want to hold you,” he whispered in her ear.

“I love you,” she echoed.

“Would you like to get married? Like the day after tomorrow?”

“If you do, then yes.”

“I do. More than anything in the world.”

She smiled. “Then we shall.”

“Now, do you feel like walking, or would it be easier to…”

“No, I must walk,” she said, and she spoke now with a studied seriousness that belied hours of practice to reach this point.

“Then walk we will.”

She made it one shuffling step at a time, first to a waiting taxi then into the house. Didi had put on a minor feast of Norwegian salads, most featuring smoked salmon or whitefish, before she disappeared for the afternoon.

And when they finished eating he walked with her to the living room, and to his mother’s Bösendorfer – now safely anchored in this new safe harbor…

And she went to it now, admiring the smooth glowing arcs even as she approached. 

“You know, I’ve never seen one like this. It must be very old.”

“It was my mother’s, and maybe my grandmother’s as well. I’m not sure how old it is.”

“The older ones are regarded almost as a Stradivarius, you know? Some have names, and a few are even regarded as having magical powers.”

“I see. And you learned this where?”

“These are Viennese, Harry, just like me,” she said, smiling.

He had to smile at the way she spoke now, almost tauntingly. “Do you play?” he asked.

“Oh, I play a little, if you can stroke the right…key.”

“Would you like to play now?”

“Ooh, now there’s a thought,” she purred. “But, I had another instrument in mind…”

“Ah. Well then, you’d better come with me…”

“Oh, I intend to do just that, and more than once…”

______________________________________

“We’ll go look for a dress when I pick you up tomorrow,” he said when he dropped her off at the clinic.

“I can’t wait. When will you come?”

“The same time.”

Attendants were waiting for her, and Callahan thought the whole place had a kind of prison vibe going on, and it unsettled him as she disappeared down the long corridor that led to her room. He turned and walked down the hill, and found Didi waiting in the Range Rover.

“Something’s come up,” she said. “My father needs to speak with you about Frank.”

“Swell,” Harry sighed. “Do you have notes on the Sea Ranch project?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Okay,” he said as he got in and buckled-up, “let’s go.”

When they were settled in the living room she dialed the compound and her father answered.

“Harry? What is your status there?”

“I’m getting married on Thursday. I’ll be headed your way a day or so after that. Now, what’s up with Frank?”

“Well, it’s really Cathy that we’re worried about.”

“Oh?”

“I think the main problem concerns her house. She really seems to think its all Frank’s fault.”

“Can you put her on the line, please?”

“You want to speak to her?”

“Yes.”

“I must warn you, Harry, she’s really quite volatile right now.”

“Okay, I’ll consider myself warned.”

“Stand by one.”

He heard shouting in the background, and more than one hysterical screech that just had to be Cathy, or perhaps a goat being decapitated.

Then…

“What is it, Harry?!”

“Well, hello Cathy. How are you?”

“Swell. Isn’t that what you always say? And really, Harry, people stopped saying that back in the fifties.”

“Well, I’m fine, Cathy. Thanks for asking.”

– silence –

“So, Cathy, the reason I’m calling is to tell you that I’ve engaged your firm to supervise the reconstruction of your house at the ranch. They’ve arranged for the original builder to do the work, and it should be finished in six weeks.”

“What?”

“Cathy? Do I need to repeat what I just said.”

“No. Harry, I’m just speechless.”

“Also, I purchase the lot at the end of the street, the big one that overlooks the sea, out there on the cliff. I want you to think about the house I want you to design for me, maybe work up some plans while we’re waiting down there at the compound. Think you could do that for me?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Good. I’ve already retained your services with the firm, so keep track of your hours, okay?”

“Alright.”

“I hear you and Frank are having issues. Is there anything I can help with?”

“No, we’re doing just fine, Harry. Just fine. When will you be coming back?”

“I’m getting married on Thursday…”

“What?”

“Don’t worry. We’ll do it up big when we get back to the city. This one is just a formality.”

“I’d still like…no, Frank and I would like to be there.”

“Let me speak to the colonel. I’ll see what we can do,” Harry said, and, at the same time, he gestured to Didi. “Better see about Sara’s parents. See if they want to come, too.”

“Yessir.”

“Didi?”

“Yes, Harry.”

_____________________________________

And so, two days later Harry Francis Lloyd Callahan and Sara Rosenkranz were married. In attendance were her parents and Harry’s father, as well as a bunch of cops, some Israeli commandos, an Army physician as well as a local shrink. As it happened, Lloyd Callahan hit it off with Sara’s psychiatrist, and Harry wasn’t too surprised to learn that Frank and Cathy were mending their fences. And so, after the simple ceremony, the group retired to Harry’s favorite Pub for libations.

Fortunately, the pub had plenty of spare bedrooms ready to go.

The resulting party lasted well into the night, and Parish used up his entire supply of Caverject.

/////

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and 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 (a little virus, not to mention a certain situation in Washington, D.C. springing first to mind…) so waiting to mention sources might not be the best way to proceed. 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 Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the television reporter 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. Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a 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? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred, though 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…]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 27

88th key cover image

[note: a short chapter here, but a necessary aside before we begin. Most have figured out by now that my ‘Adrian Leverkühn’ moniker comes from Thomas Mann’s Doctor Faustus. Fine, that’s true. But I want to draw your attention to another work by Mann, The Magic Mountain. Note we’re writing about Harry Callahan, or HC. The Magic Mountain is a sort of German bildungsroman, a so-called novel of development, or what many might call a “coming of age” tale, and it revolves around the experiences of Hans Castorp (HC) and takes place at a sanitarium in Davos, Switzerland. It opens with Castorp’s train journey to visit a friend in Davos, and it’s time for me to go away and let you read…]

Part IV

Chapter 27

____________________________________

Callahan leaned forward in his seat and looked out the DC-9s window; he saw the snow-covered alps just below, the view instantly bringing to mind the last afternoon he’d spent with Sara on the mountain in Davos. He’d tried not to think about her the past two months, and though there’d been a few times when he’d actually succeeded in doing so, by-and-large the image of her had been ever-present in his mind. But so too was the old man in the cape, and he knew that while he was in Davos he’d have to find the physician and talk to him.

The little jet banked steeply and he was suddenly looking straight down the wing at green pastures and pristine villages scattered across an immaculate landscape, then he heard flaps and leading-edge slats extending, then the ‘thump-bump-whining’ of landing gears. A minute later the jet touched down and he was pitched forward in his seat by thrust reversers and squealing brakes, yet all the arcane movements and noises had worked to jolt him back into the present.

“I hate airports,” he muttered as he walked up the jetway and into the concourse, looking for a sign leading to customs, which turned out to be easy enough to find. He followed signs and made his way to escalators leading to the basement-level train station, almost always surprised at how clean the airport was. He bought a ticket and caught the ‘local’ for the short ride to the main station in the center of Zurich and jumped on the train for the brief ride into the city. The main station was huge, far bigger than anything he’d ever seen in the states, and after a long walk up the platform to the main concourse area, he found the main ticket window and bought a round-trip ticket to Davos, the agent telling him he’d have to change trains in Landquart, but that he’d have plenty of time to make the connection.

Looking at a huge sign overhead, he noted his train was already boarding at the platform, and of course, it turned out to be right next to the train he’d just arrived on…so one more jog out the very same platform to, of course, the far end of the train, and now, almost out of breath, he walked into the carriage and found his seat. After the train pulled away from the station a conductor punched his ticket, and a minute later an old man wheeled a cart through the passageway, asking passengers if they wanted coffee or tea or a sandwich. Callahan asked for a Coke and a ham & cheese sandwich, which turned out to be particularly good, and he settled in and looked out the window. 

The train rattled and swayed through dozens of switches as it moved slowly through the yards, and as he watched the drab urban landscape passing-by on the other side of the glass he was struck by an odd observation: there was no litter, no graffiti – not even a scattering of homeless encampments to be seen, just a clean city.  And soon enough the urban landscape gave way to an almost perfectly manicured valley, with a lake on one side of the train and verdant pastureland out the other, the spotless train slipping through picture-postcard villages of the sort he’d spotted from the DC-9 on their approach to Zurich just an hour ago.

Only from here, right here in the middle of things, these little villages looked more like intimate settings from a storybook than small farming communities. He saw a new home, a chalet, under construction, and it looked almost exactly like all the other houses around it…even chalets that might have been built a hundred years before. 

‘Isn’t that what timeless means?’ he thought…

And in that instant he felt like he was adrift in time, cut-off and free to wander the crowded corridors of a library of landscapes, yet of the hundreds of glimpses available he found he couldn’t stop and look around…like there was something stopping him, something vital he had missed.

Then a jostling clatter as the train slowed for a station, and he opened his eyes, realized he’d been asleep and dreaming, and that his mouth was parched. 

He saw a station sign: Landquart…and realized this was his stop…he had to get off the train… 

‘Have I really been asleep that long?’

Then he was cast out on the platform, left waiting for another train, the train that would take him up the valley to Davos, yet that puzzling dream was still fresh in his mind.

‘If only I could have just reached out and taken hold of one…? But…what am I missing?’

He sat on a bench and looked up and down the tracks, found he was looking at a town nestled along the bottom of a long valley floor. There were more chalets here, but older buildings, too, more like medieval construction, small churches and homes that might have been a thousand years old, and he found the idea of homes so old to be somehow inexplicable. What would it feel like, he wondered, to grow up in such a place? San Francisco was barely a hundred years old now and already it had fractured along impractical, almost imposed socio-economic lines, divisions that seemed to fester with repressed anger. 

‘But, isn’t that where I really live? The embittered streets of my home? White people over here, some Chinese over there in a little enclave they call their own, leaving the blacks and the Mexicans and all the other undesirables stuffed away in a little corner of the city nobody really wants…like out of sight, out of mind? Oakland just as divided. Los Angeles – just more of the same but writ large.’

But here? Just an open tableau stretching back a thousand years. Timeless. 

He tried to picture himself living in this town, trying to fit into a culture whose roots stretched back almost to infinity.

‘But no, I’m a Californian.

‘But…what does that even mean?

‘That I’ve embraced a kind of rootlessness? That I have, in effect, no tribe other than who I happen to work for?’

He looked around the valley, at mountains that towered protectively over everything in view, and at the village around this little train station, and only one word came to mind: Cohesive. Like everything that had happened here had sort of evolved to fit into this particular landscape.

And my home? My city by the bay?

Fractured. No order. Frantic and frenetic.

He heard a high-pitched whistle and looked down the tracks, saw a red train approaching, and watched as it slid to a quiet stop next to the platform.

Callahan looked at the train, at how clean it was, noting that there was no graffiti on the cars, and, more importantly, that the people coming out of the cars weren’t nervously looking around, sizing up potential threats lurking in the shadows…they were just headed home after a quick trip down the valley to go shopping or to visit a friend, and that simple task didn’t entail putting your life at risk.

‘No, I’d never fit in here. In fact,’ he thought, ‘I’d be more like an infection. I’d be bringing my own anxieties and expectations and, in effect, transmitting them wherever I went…imposing my library of experience onto what was, truly, an ancient culture locked away in a valley – and almost cut off from the modern world. But, is that really all that I am…?’

“Sir, were you waiting for this train?”

Callahan looked up, saw what he assumed was the train’s conductor speaking to him. 

“Yes, sorry, just daydreaming…”

The old man smiled. “What carriage are you in?”

Callahan shrugged, handed over his ticket.

“Ah, follow me, please.”

He took his new seat just before the train eased out of the station, still lost in thought…

‘How many wars have we fought in just this century? How many millions killed? How many of those people killed others in order to not be killed? Why do we continue to manufacture conditions that leave us no way out – leaving us no option but to kill?

‘But look at this valley. Pristine. Untouched by war for hundreds of years. 

‘What have these people learned that the rest of us haven’t?’

Another attendant passed through the carriage and Callahan had hot tea to pass the time, his eyes rarely straying from the window and the passing landscape. And now the train seemed to reverse direction and traverse the side of a steep mountain wall, suddenly locked inside an impenetrable forest of ancient pine. Sunlight flickered through the trees, casting kaleidoscopic shadows on the walls inside the carriage – and the splintered light’s effect suddenly became almost hallucinogenic.

Looking up through the light he thought he saw his Looney June on a tattered bed, that grubby old abortionist with his filthy instruments tearing life from her womb, then he witnessed a parade of all the child abusers he’d beaten and wrecked over the last decade of his life. 

‘Is that really the world I live in? Why would anyone chose to live like this…’

And then another voice was unmistakably clear: “You presume a choice in the matter?”

Callahan shook his head, looked around the carriage to see if anyone else had heard the voice, but no, no one seemed to have paid the slightest bit of attention.

‘But I don’t want to live like that…’

“So, what of it?”

‘I could move here! I could change everything!’

“Could you, really? And I thought you just answered that question. Didn’t you regard yourself as an, what did you call it? As an infection?”

‘I could change, couldn’t I?’

“You are what you are.”

‘I can’t accept that.”

But that statement was met with silence, so Callahan closed his eyes, and now the shattered light played against the insides of his eyelids – casting afterimages on his mind’s eye through a pinkish veil…only now he felt like he was being pulled out of the carriage…

And in an instant he was standing at the window in his mother’s bedroom, at her father’s house in Copenhagen, looking out over a sea of red tile roofs and a harbor full of – three-masted sailing ships? He heard the clip-clopping of hooves on the streets below, and the air was pure and crisp as if this was an early autumn afternoon. He turned and saw what had to be his mother, and the little girl was sitting at a small white desk in the room, and she was busily writing fragments of notes in the margins of a book…

“Hi, Mom,” Callahan said like this was the natural thing to do under the circumstances.

“Oh, hello Harald. I’m so happy you found your way here. There are a million things I need to talk to you about…”

And on hearing those words Callahan opened his eyes and stood up, his trembling hands reaching out to steady his body as the train swayed over a crossing. He felt nauseous and made his way unsteadily to the washroom and splashed water on his face, then he lurched the length of the train before he returned to his seat. Now the train was rumbling across a narrow plain, and he saw huge mountains lining both sides of another valley floor, and a river running alongside the tracks, and even a small highway beyond.

Another little town lay just ahead, Klosters, as it turned out, and he watched the people coming and going from the carriage after the train stopped at the station – still he still felt like an interloper of sorts – and again the feeling of being dispossessed returned.

‘I feel like the things I’ve done have stained my soul.’

He waited, wanting the voice to return. Wanting to engage in a conversation with someone, anyone who might understand this sudden feeling of aloneness…but that was, apparently, not to be.

The train lurched once and then resumed its journey to Davos, and now he sat in silence, reaching out for the voice, almost begging it to return…until at last the jewel-like village hove into view. He could see ample snow still reaching halfway down the mountain, and even a few intrepid skiers making their way down to the midway funicular station, and he realized he wanted to be up there, too. Upon his magic mountain, in the snow with Sara by his side.

‘Is she what this has all been about? Sara? Is she the voice I need to help me make sense of my life? Or…was she meant to be the purpose of my life?

‘But…Goodman told me our life has come to be all about Hate…

‘But…what is Hate, really?’

He watched the village grow closer and closer until at last, he could the psychiatric clinic on the hill – a hulking presence that overlooked the valley almost like a brooding monster, the gray stone exuding nothing but uncertainty. An acid-borne knot formed in his stomach and crept up his chest, and he looked at the time and decided it was too late in the day to go up there today…

He hopped off the train and into the last light of day, unsure of himself now. 

“I don’t even know how to get to the house.”

But never mind all that, because Colonel Goodman had sent someone to look out for him.

And that someone turned out to be Benjamin Goodman’s daughter.

_________________________________

In a hospital room high above the valley floor, the girl heard another train whistle in the distance and she wondered… ‘Will he come for me today, on this train?’ – just as a nurse injected her afternoon dose of Haloperidol.

Her condition had deteriorated rapidly over the past two months, her physicians deciding to try Haloperidol, a good medication for treating psychotic hallucinations after the girl began talking to what she described as an old man in a cape. 

/////

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and 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 (a little virus, not to mention a certain situation in Washington, D.C. springing first to mind…) so waiting to mention sources might not be the best way to proceed. 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 Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the television reporter 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. Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a 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? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred, though 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…]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 26

88th key cover image

The Eighty-eighth Key

Part IV

Chapter 26

____________________________________

As soon as the Israeli C-9 was ‘wheels up’ Callahan walked forward, and was surprised to find a complete operating room just forward of the wings; two surgeons were working on “Mickey” Rooney while a nurse finished bandaging the wounded Army Ranger. Harry looked-on through a little plastic window set in a metal door, completely mesmerized that surgeons were working on an airplane…in flight. He stood there until Rooney appeared to be ‘out of the woods’ – then he walked back to Colonel Goodman’s seat and stood there, waiting for him to look up – or in some other way acknowledge his presence.

“Sit down, Harry,” the Colonel said after a few minutes. He had not once looked up, which Harry found annoying.

“So, you were in Japan?”

“Yes. And I spoke with your father.”

“Really? What about?”

“Lots of things, really, but first on my mind was his safety…and yours.”

“His safety?”

“Yes. What we’ve uncovered so far is astonishing in its depth and complexity. Not only law enforcement agencies, but as you discovered, a whole new ecosystem of criminal enterprises, and all of them set up by this Escobar character. Astonishingly, we’ve found Escobar’s ‘fingerprints’ on new operations showing up in Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, and New Jersey; more troubling for us is that within the past week we’ve uncovered his agents operating in Marseilles, Istanbul, and Beirut. We have agents trying to run down possible new evidence that Escobar is funneling money to Arafat and the PLO, and if this is true then we are all in for a world of hurt.”

“Swell.”

“Yes. Swell, indeed. Very well put, Harry.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yes, I suppose I do. But more to the point, just about everyone in the Bay Area knows where you live now, and even more to the point, they know where your father lives, too; I’m simply not prepared to leave him staked out on his front lawn like a tethered goat left to draw in the predators. No, I want him with us for the foreseeable future.”

“With…us?”

“The team.”

“Speaking of? Where’s Stacy?”

“On the Jetstar. She left Boston about an hour ago.”

“Did she…?”

“Yes, the suspected mole in the Bureau is no more.”

“Jesus.”

“Yes, just so. And I doubt she’ll return to work there anytime soon.”

“You mean like forever, don’t you?”

Goodman shrugged. “Perhaps. I just don’t know, and it’s far too soon to tell.”

“What will she do?”

“I’ll offer her employment with us, of course. A new life, if she wants it.”

“So, where am I headed?”

“To the compound.”

“Listen, Goodman, I told you I’m not going to see her again.”

“And you won’t, my boy. Now, I want you to listen to me very carefully…”

And the colonel talked to Harry for an hour or so, told him about his mother’s passing, and Avi’s, and that after they arrived in Tel Aviv he would meet with lawyers to settle their estates. For now, the Israeli government was extending his use of the residence in the compound for the teams’ purposes, and Avi’s house in Davos was Harry’s now – should he want it. They talked about von Karajan’s conducting his mother’s final piece, the Fourth Piano Concerto, in a few months time, in June. And how the government hoped that Harry would attend…

But Goodman noticed a subtle transformation while he talked to Callahan. His eyes had cleared, his shoulders stiffened like he was preparing to assume new burdens, and yet he had not spoken much…

“After all the legal documents have been presented to you, Harry, Avi instructed me to give you further instructions…but these will not be in writing. All I can tell you is that they are important. Do you understand what I’m telling you?”

“Yes, Colonel.”

“Call me Ben from now on, would you? You and I will necessarily be in close proximity for the foreseeable future, and we’ll have no further use for unnecessary formalities…”

“I take it you and Avi were friends?”

“Yes, from the time we arrived in Palestine. We have been through much together.”

“What about my dad?”

“We are making arrangements to remove him from the California when she docks in Honolulu. He should be with us by the weekend.”

“And he knows about my mom?”

Goodman nodded, took a deep breath.

“How did he take it?”

“Like a man, Harry.”

“What does that mean?”

“The news crushed him, but that only made him stand taller.”

Harry chuckled. “You sound like John Wayne.”

Which caused Ben to lean back and sigh. “An interesting man, Mr. Wayne. I enjoyed his company immensely.”

“You what?”

“Are you familiar with the film ‘Cast a Giant Shadow?’”

“No.”

“I’m not at all surprised. Mr. Wayne helped the producer secure financing for the project, and Avi and myself worked with him in another capacity. I suggest you see the film someday. You might appreciate those events a little better…what life was like after the war. And after the U.N. mandate.”

“Avi never talked about it.”

“No. He wouldn’t have found that seemly.”

“Mind if I ask you a question?”

“Of course not.”

“What’s this all about?”

“Hate.”

“Hate?”

“Yes, simply that and nothing more.”

“How so?”

“Hate is the most powerful emotion on earth, Harry, because it is so easily manipulated. Hate is a useful emotion, especially for those who seek to manipulate entire nations. Hitler divided the Germans using a dormant hatred of Jewish culture as his wedge. Just a few years ago in America, George Wallace used hatred of Blacks as his wedge. Stalin used Russian hatred of Germans to arouse fear and mobilized an entire country for war…and so it goes, on and on and on. Now the Arabs hate us for asserting control over our homeland because in the process we pushed the Palestinians off some land. The sorrow is that Arabs will accept this gift of hatred without reservation, and because of this Israel will be condemned to exist in a perpetual state of fear, and that fear will give rise to even more hate. It is a vicious cycle we are trapped in, all of us, all of humanity, and simply because we are so easily manipulated.”

“But, what of love, Ben? You know, as in love they neighbor?”

“Love is not so easily established, nor even manipulated. In fact, our love is rarely given.”

Harry sighed. “Tell me about Avi.”

And Ben shrugged. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

“I’d like to know the reasons my mother left us and returned to him.”

And Harry watched the sudden curtain that fell over Goodman’s face. Total evasion, a willingness to conceal. And perhaps a willingness to kill in order to preserve a hidden truth.

“I’m not sure there is anything helpful I could tell you about those events, Harry, but perhaps you’ll learn more from the lawyers. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have urgent matters that I must attend to…”

__________________________________

Callahan and the team did in fact move into the compound, but not for long.

After Stacy arrived she was on the phone with Jim Parish; he arrived a few days later. They disappeared into a bedroom and were rarely seen. Sam Bennett met the team at the airbase outside of Tel Aviv, and he was always seen with ‘the Kildares’ and several other members of Goodman’s commando team. Sam’s wife Fran was waiting for him at the compound and they could often be found sitting in the shade by a swimming pool, holding hands and talking about how they might put their lives back together.

Frank Bullitt and Cathy seemed the most upset by recent events; she wanted her life back…all of it. Her house in the Sea Ranch, her job at the firm…because it seemed all that had been taken from her and most of all she resented Bullitt for everything that had happened to her. Over the course of a few days Harry watched as the two drifted apart, at first gently but soon between painful bouts of her sudden, unpredictable anger.

Harry’s trips to settle the estate were lonely affairs. Dry, stale talks about money and property, yet he suddenly found himself a very wealthy man. Avi had dozens of bank accounts in Switzerland, France, and Germany, each literally with balances in the tens of millions of dollars. He also now owned an impressive chalet in Davos, so of course, the next thing that came to mind was Sara…and how they had left things. Curiously, Harry now also owned a majority interest in The Rosenthal Music Company, with stores in Copenhagen and San Francisco, and he had no idea what to make of this, or even how to proceed. Even his mother’s old home in Denmark was now his…!

Once his father arrived, Harry sat with him in Avi’s lawyers’ offices for hours on end, and together they arrived at a plan. Harry and his father would fly to Copenhagen and meet with the minority owners of the music business and devise a plan moving forward, then Harry would go – alone – to Davos and see how Sara was doing. 

And now that he had the means, he engaged contractors to repair Cathy’s house in Sea Ranch because, after all, it was his inexperience that had devastated the structure. And somehow, someway, he knew he had to repair Frank and Cathy’s relationship. If only because all this had happened because of him.

“Because of me?” he asked himself one morning in Avi’s lawyer’s office. Or was it, in the end, just as Ben had said? Had not Hate become the master of all their destinies?

“If so, can I really fix things?”

Because now there was one more profoundly important question hanging over all their lives.

The vigilantes and the emerging connections to Pablo Escobar.

None of them would be safe in The City going forward, at least not until this new cartel was dismantled, or at least severely hurt. But realistically, Ben advised, they’d all be at risk almost anywhere in the world they chose to go, because Escobar’s tentacles reached everywhere.

“You should all settle here,” Ben advised.

But Harry had simply shaken his head. “I’m a Californian, Ben, through and through. I wouldn’t know what to do with life here”

“California is a remarkable place,” Ben conceded. “I envy you, in a way. So, when are you off to Copenhagen?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Ah. Would you mind some company?”

“Dad is coming with me.”

“You’ll be staying at the Schwarzwald house?”

“Yes, I think so.”

“Well then, I’d better come along. There are things there only Avi and I knew about, and I will need to show you.”

“Alright.”

“And then to Davos, I assume? Will you keep the chalet, or have you changed your mind?”

“For the time being, yes, I’ll keep it.”

“Excellent. Avi would be so happy to hear that. What of the girl?”

Harry shrugged.

“Shall I look into her condition?”

“Can you do that?”

“Of course, sir.”

And with that one exchange Benjamin cemented his relationship to Harry, just as Avi had told him it would. “Because, my friend, he is the son I should have had…and you must treat him as such…”

The three of them left for Zurich the next morning. They made their connecting flight to Copenhagen with just minutes to spare…

________________________________

Harry walked up the ornate mahogany stairs to his mother’s old room; he found that the room occupied most of the top floor of the old house, and from the first moment he entered her father’s home he found that everything about it seemed familiar, yet in the oddest way possible.

She had talked about her life growing up in this room, about living in this magical city, all in a home filled with stories about fairy tales and little mermaids on rocks in the harbor…and of her father’s very cultured upbringing and how he bestowed that gift upon her.

Yet none of it had made much sense to Harry, especially not as a little boy growing up in Potrero Hills, California, all her tales taking place so very far away from the things he knew…

He walked into her bedroom and discovered it had been kept much as might have been fifty years ago. He went to the huge window and looked out over a sea of red-tile rooftops that he’d heard about so often, with the harbor and the sea not so far away that a little girl’s imagination could be kept from such overwhelming temptation.

He stood there for hours, and it felt to his father that Harry was soaking it all in, absorbing quite literally everything in view – like his son was suddenly thirsting for some sort of lasting connection to his mother.

‘How odd,’ Lloyd thought. ‘To turn away from her while she was alive, and then…this…’

As afternoon turned to evening Harry went to a light switch and turned on the lights, then he walked to a bookshelf and ran his hands across the spines of the books he found there…until…

…his fingers found one that seemed to call out to him…

It was a book by Hans Christian Andersen, and though he couldn’t quite make out the title he could tell that this book, among all the others on her shelves, had been read the most over the years.

So he began to pull it out and take a look.

But when he saw the cover he dropped the book.

He felt his hands…shaking uncontrollably.

Then he knelt beside the book and picked it up, carrying it to the light.

On the cover was an old man in a cape, and in the old man’s hand was a cane. Harry looked closer still and saw pulsing veins of silver inside the cane, and the man was holding the cane like an orchestral conductor might hold a baton… 

And in the distance? A storm over the ocean, the vast seascape a livid scene roiled by lightning and cresting waves, and to Harry the image seemed to suggest the old man in the cape was conducting a symphony within those clouds…

And then he remembered how his mother sat before her piano when storms crossed the bay, and how her playing seemed to develop strength as those storms grew near…

And as suddenly his mind roamed to Davos, to the old physician in the cape who had helped him after his sudden fall on the ice. 

‘This is the same man!’ Callahan thought. ‘The very same man who treated me on that magic mountain…’

“But how? How could that be?”

He felt a presence in the room and whirled around…

…and found nothing there…

So, with his mother’s book in hand he left the room and walked down two flights of stairs to the ground floor, and he found his father sitting at a desk in what must have been Imogen’s father’s study, and Lloyd seemed enthralled by something he’d found.

“Dad?”

Startled, Lloyd looked up at his son. “Fascinating stuff, Harry. Correspondence between Imogen’s father and Freud…most of it in English, too.”

“Freud? You mean the shrink?”

“Yes indeed. As well as some notes written by Kierkegaard concerning the musical symbolism in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. Fascinating stuff, Harry.”

“Do you read Danish?”

“After a fashion, yes. When you were a toddler I found it best that I develop at least a working knowledge of it. It was easier to teach Imogen, er, your mother, English that way.”

“Written notes? Isn’t Kierkegaard kind of famous?”

“Yes, very. So when I found them I wondered why they might be here, and I think I’ve found a few clues. Apparently, Freud had them and sent them along to your grandfather, because, as far as I can tell, Freud was helping your grandfather make sense of a few key passages in your mother’s first concerto.”

“You’re losing me, Dad.”

“Yeah? Well, me too. I’m no scholar but even I can understand that Sigmund Freud had Soren Kierkegaard’s notes on musical structures in Andersen’s fairy tales, and that your grandfather was corresponding with Freud about the matter – because he’d found similar structures in his daughter’s work. I mean, really, think about it, Harry!”

“Okay Dad. I’ll take your word for it…you’ve found something important. The most important question right now is what do we do with the material?”

Lloyd seemed to think about that for a while, then he shook his head. “A part of me says we should get this to the relevant expert…some sort of university type, I assume. Another part of me says we should maintain control of this stuff, because not only is it important, it may well be extremely valuable. We wouldn’t want to turn this over to an unqualified, or worse still, an undeserving scholar; someone who might cash in on it without carrying the research forward.”

“Maybe someone at the music company would know where to look?”

“Perhaps.” 

“Where’s Ben?”

“Sitting on a bench in the garden,” Lloyd said, pointing to a door that was standing open. “Out there.”

Harry nodded and moved that way.

And Goodman was indeed sitting out back, seemingly adrift in the last light of their day.

“Not many flowers in bloom yet,” Harry said as he approached the bench. “Hope I’m not intruding.”

“Intruding? No, not at all. Besides, this is your house now.”

Harry looked around, shook his head. “Kind of hard to take it all in, I guess.”

“I can’t imagine what it must feel like.”

“Hollow, I think. Like I see all these things yet they’re all out of context. I didn’t know my grandfather or even know he existed until a few weeks ago. I don’t even know when he died…?”

“12 August, 1955.”

“You knew him?”

Goodman nodded.

“Did you know much about his work?”

“No, but Avi did,” Ben said, now looking directly at Harry. Then he saw the book in Harry’s hand. “Ah, I see you found it.”

“Found what?”

“Have you flipped through the pages yet?”

“No?”

“Well then, you’d better take a seat.” Goodman watched Callahan sit and almost groaned when Lloyd came outside, heading their way.

“Hope I’m not intruding,” Lloyd said.

“It must be catching,” Goodman sighed. “So, Harry, open the book…to any page.”

He did so and found notes written in just about every vacant space on the two pages. “What is all this? Do you have any idea?”

Goodman shrugged. “Not in its entirety, but your mother told Avi about the book once, and he passed along what he knew, or thought he knew, to me. They are, as I understand it, her interpretations of Andersen’s books, but more importantly, her annotations lay out how she wanted to transcribe Andersen’s words into music. Now the odd part; at least Avi thought it strange enough to mention to me. Apparently you will find passages in there that record – well, certain, shall I say unusual conversations. Conversations she had, apparently, with the fellow on the cover.”

“The old man in the cape?”

“Yes.”

Lloyd’s eyes lit up. “Say, Ben, isn’t that the man you saw on the docks in Osaka?”

“What?!” Harry cried. “You’ve seen him too?”

And now it was Goodman’s turn to express surprise, and he looked at Harry anew: “You have as well?”

“Yes, in Davos. Right about the time I met Sara.”

“Interesting,” Goodman sighed. “According to Avi, the old man in the cape always shows up as a warning. At least, he did for your mother.”

“But,” Lloyd interrupted, “was he warning you? In Osaka?”

“I didn’t take it as such, Lloyd. It was more like advice.”

“Harry,” Lloyd added, “what about you? Did he warn you about something?”

“No, not at all. He was a physician, and he treated me after I fell on some ice.”

“So, not really a direct warning, at least under the conditions,” Goodman said. “No, maybe his warning was more indirectly circumstantial…perhaps regarding the young lady?”

“You’re assuming,” Harry interrupted, “that the man was something other than a physician, aren’t you?”

“I am indeed,” Goodman sighed, then his eyes brightened. “Did you notice anything unusual about the cane?”

Harry closed his eyes and tried to visualize the pulsing silver inlaid strands once again, as they looked that day on the mountain: “Yeah. Silver bolts of lightning – and they seemed almost alive.”

“That’s what I saw, too. Just like on the cover on this book.”

“I assumed,” Harry continued, “well, it felt like he was about to conduct an orchestra…an entire orchestra hiding up there in the clouds…with that cane. And for some reason it felt like he, or maybe the cane, possessed an otherworldly power…”

“What the hell have you two been drinking!” Lloyd Callahan said, smirking.

“I’d just had some kind of wine, a white wine,” Harry said, his voice now in a flat, deadpan, almost monosyllabic crawl. “A Piesporter, I think.”

“Harry?” his father said, his concern now clear to Goodman.

So Goodman leaned over and waved his hand in front of Harry’s eyes. Nothing. No reaction at all, so he leaned closer and asked: “Harry, what do you see? Right now? What do you see?”

“What the hell…?” Lloyd whispered…

…because just then a long stream of frost seethed from between Harry’s lips…

And then Goodman grabbed Callahan and shook him violently…

…and in an instant, Harry came back to them…

…his jacket and face now covered with snow, his hand bleeding profusely from an open wound, little shards of ice embedded within the freshly torn skin…

_________________________________

Harry woke up from the dream and looked around the room. A hotel room – with no lights on – he assumed from the look of things, at least from what he could tell in the dark. He stood and groped his way to what he hoped was a washroom and found a light switch. With lights blazing he looked at his throbbing hand and saw it had been swaddled in gauze bandages, and the bathroom didn’t look like any hotel he’d ever been in…

He walked back into the room and saw a hospital bed, cold medical monitors parked in one corner, and his father sitting in a chair – snoring away.

He went and sit on the edge of the bed and coughed, hoping to wake up his father with the sudden sound.

And it worked.

Lloyd opened his eyes and looked around, orienting himself to the unfamiliar surroundings. “Ah, you’re awake. How do you feel?”

“What the hell happened?”

So Lloyd told him, all of it, everything that he and Ben Goodman had seen.

“It was a dream,” Harry said after his father finished. “I was reliving that afternoon on the mountain. With Sara. And Avi. Lunch up there…we had lunch up there on the mountain.”

“Is that when you cut your hand?”

“Yeah. And that’s when the old man came. He took me to a little clinic and sewed me up. We talked a little, too…”

“About what?”

Harry scowled. “That’s funny. Everything else seems so clear, but…I can’t remember anything at all about the old man.”

“What about the cane?”

“No…nothing.”

“Harry, what do you think happened to you?”

Callahan looked down at his bandaged hand and shrugged: “That was the most real dream I’ve ever had, Dad. It was like I was there again, I could feel everything, too. I even tasted the wine again, but I’ve never dreamed anything like that before…”

“Neither have I.”

“Then I was in the back of that station wagon you had. The one you had when we went to pick up June and take her to the hospital. You remember that one?”

“Yes, that Ford. Maybe it was a Fairlane, but I can’t remember just now.”

“I held her while she died – again. I keep going back there, ya know? I keep hoping I can change things…”

“I know. I’ve never felt so helpless.”

“You liked her, didn’t you?”

Lloyd looked down and smiled, remembering her eyes…

“Yeah, she was a peach. The real deal. I always thought you two looked happy together.”

“I never told you what Mom did, did I?”

“No? What?”

“She was the one who sent June to the abortion doctor.”

“What?”

“Well, she gave June the number for Student Health Services. They gave her the contact information.”

“You know that’s not exactly the same thing, right? Your mother didn’t send June to the abortionist. June called and asked for help. Your mother did the only thing she could.”

Harry looked around the hospital room, confused now, and more than a little upset. “You know, it feels like my life was on one track, headed in the direction it was supposed to, but then all that stuff happened and everything that’s happened since is just wrong. None of this was supposed to happen.”

“How do you come up with that?”

“I don’t know, Dad, but it feels like June and I… Well, we were going to have a little boy. Maybe I would’ve gone to college, or she would’ve, and we’d have bought a house near you and mom and everything would have been different.”

“What else would be different?”

“I’d have become a musician. A real musician…you know what I mean?”

“I do.”

“And Mom would have never left. We’d have all been together like it was supposed to be.”

“Supposed to be? What makes you say that, son?”

“I don’t know, Dad, but that’s the way I’ve always heard it should be, you know? Maybe that’s what’s most important. Continuity, I guess.”

Lloyd shook his head. “Maybe. Maybe not. But I think it’s kind of dangerous to go through life thinking it’s supposed to unwind along preordained milestones.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you know I’ve spent countless nights on the bridge, talking to a helmsman at two in the morning and trying to stay awake…” He laughed a little at that thought. “I’ve talked to more than a few kids over the years, kids just out of school, and all they want to know is where they’ll be when they’re like fifty, or maybe sixty years old. They want certainty, Harry. Maybe that comes from all the uncertainty we face as we grow up, all those insecurities we experience day after day, but to me, these kids have already missed the point.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. Life doesn’t come at you like that. The captain of the Titanic was going balls to the walls because he wasn’t expecting an iceberg out there, and I guess that’s the point, Harry. Life is an endless succession of icebergs, even though some of them are right where they’re supposed to be. Sometimes we get careless, but sometimes no matter what we do we’re going to hit that bastard. And yeah, sometimes we go down with all hands lost. You can look at that as a trite cliché or you can accept that for what it is. Reality, I guess.”

“We’ve never talked about it before, but do you believe in God?”

Lloyd sighed, looked down for a moment. “You know, Harry, sometimes I do, but most of the time I just shake my head and walk away from all that stuff. If there is a God he sure gets the blame for a lot of stupid stuff, yet it’s the big things that bother me.”

“Like?”

“Like looking at all those scarecrows after the war. How could God let something like that happen? Six million Jews. Twenty million political prisoners in Russia. Who knows how many in China.” Lloyd sighed and spoke softly now: “How could God allow June to go through all the things she did at the end? No, I think God is kind of a phase we go through, and some people get stuck there. Maybe the ones who want to know how it all turns out in the end…when they’re nineteen years old. No sense for the mystery of life, I guess. Like they don’t even want to know. They just want to know how it all turns out in the end – and bypass all the hard stuff.”

“You know, I’ve seen things out there on the street. Bad things, Dad.”

“I bet you have.”

“And I’ve done some bad things too.”

“Yeah? Like?”

But Harry simply shook his head. “I can’t go there now, Dad.”

“What about you? Do you believe in Him?”

“No,” Callahan said emphatically. “If God was up there watching all this? Watching what we do to other human beings? If there is, He must have washed his hands of us and split a long time ago, chalk us up to one big failed experiment.”

Lloyd laughed a little at the thought. “Maybe so.”

“Yeah, maybe so.”

“So, what do you think this old man in the cape is all about? Think he could be God?”

Harry drifted for a moment, then came back… “No. I think there’s a simpler explanation than that. Maybe something right under our noses.”

“Such as?”

“I don’t know, but obviously something weird happened yesterday…”

“Yeah, you could say that…”

“And I was thinking about the old man then. So something about my thinking created some kind of rift…”

“What? Like ‘power of suggestion?’”

Harry shrugged. “Dad, I just don’t know. The only thing I can tell you is that it all felt like a kind of lucid dream. Or, really, more like I was reliving a moment in time that had already happened.”

Lloyd shook his head. “I’ve never experienced anything quite like that before. Not ever.”

“Did Mom?”

“If she did she didn’t tell me about it.”

“So, a big fat mystery.”

“Well, next time you see him, you could always just ask…

__________________________________

Goodman took the Callahans to the Rosenthal Music Company after Harry was discharged from the hospital, and he met with employees who had worked there for decades. What troubled Harry most was the implied deference shown because, after all, he was their new boss…

When he met with the manager of the store later that day Harry asked the old man if an employee buy-out would be an attractive option to the people who had, in effect, dedicated their lives to the store.

“I doubt it,” Hans Bohr replied. “Actually, we’ve talked about this, and all of us feel it would be better if your family is still involved as owners and managers.”

“You do know I live in California?”

“And so did Saul. That never interfered with his efforts.”

“Who’s running the store in San Francisco right now?”

“In effect, no one is.”

“And what’s happening? Is it doing okay?”

“It seems so, sir. The store more or less runs itself these days.”

“How many people work there?”

“Just a handful. Two men in the store, the same for the piano showroom, and we sub-contract deliveries.”

“Anyone you know there that should be promoted to manager?”

Bohr shook his head. 

“How about you? Care for a change of scenery?”

“No, sir. This is my home.”

“Well then, I hate to ask but could you assume a temporary manager’s role until we can sort this out? If you need to go there from time to time, I assume that would be agreeable?”

“Of course, sir. I would imagine all this is terribly new and unsettling to you. If there’s anything any of us can do to help…?”

“Thank you, Hans.”

Goodman took the Callahans to a meeting at the university; apparently, they wanted to purchase the Schwarzwald house ‘as is’ – for use as faculty housing, but Harry seemed non-committal about the idea, and he told the officials he would think about it and let them know.

When they were back in Goodman’s rented Audi Harry asked him what the house was worth.

“In dollars? Perhaps a half million, maybe a bit more.”

Harry shook his head. “You know, about three weeks ago I had a couple hundred bucks in my checking account, and maybe, and I mean maybe, a thousand in savings. It’s hard to think about numbers like these without falling into a kind of fog.”

“Perhaps you should hire a business manager to look over these assets?”

And then Lloyd spoke up: “Doubtful, Ben, that Harry could find someone he could trust to handle all these things – and not rob him blind.”

“My daughter could handle it, and I guarantee her honesty.”

Harry grinned. “Well then, maybe I should meet her soon.”

“Have you decided about the house in Davos?” Goodman asked.

“Keep it.”

“Good. What about the girl?”

“Id like to head that way right now, unless there’s more I need to work on here?”

Goodman shook his head. “No, we are at a good enough stopping place now. I think you should go and see to her needs. For both your sakes.”

“What’s going on back in California?”

“All of the bodies from the ground assault team have been identified; all Columbians, most active-duty military personnel.”

“Now, why is that surprising?”

“Why do you say that, Harry?”

“Seems like it would be a lot of trouble to get so many active-duty mercenaries into the country at one time.”

“Unless they entered illegally.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah. What about the men in the helicopter?”

“They are examining dental records, but frankly, if these people were not U.S. citizens that will be a dead end.”

“Where’s McKay?”

“Well, he wasn’t on the helicopter, that much is certain. He was seen at work two days ago. Also, he is no longer using telephones we have tapped, so we have a new hole in our network information gathering capability right now. Everyone has gone silent, as a matter of fact.”

“Escobar? Where is he?” Harry asked.

“Last seen leaving San Francisco through the Golden Gate in some sort of speedboat. A Donzi, I believe. And the odd thing? The boat was reported abandoned and adrift out past the Farallon Islands.”

“I suppose it would be too much to hope the sharks got him.” Lloyd sighed.

“No storms to account for that, and the fuel tanks were nowhere near empty.”

“So,” Lloyd added, “someone picked him up out there.”

“That’s what your Coast Guard thinks, but of course there’s neither evidence of that, nor any proof.”

“Okay,” Harry said, crossing his arms over his chest, “Escobar is on the loose and McKay is home-free, laying low for the time being. What’s our next move?”

“Well, this is the hard part. Avi was spearheading this effort through the PM’s office, but now that he’s gone there is little willingness to continue the operation in California, at least at current levels. I’ve convinced the PM to let us have a month to wrap this up; after that, you may be on your own. Of course, this depends on what we uncover concerning Escobar and his efforts in Beirut.”

“Swell. Have you told Sam this?”

“No, not yet. And I’m not looking forward to doing so, either.”

“What has Stacy decided to do,” Harry asked.

“Complicated, to say the least. That friend of yours? The Army physician she’s shacked up with?”

“Parish?”

“Yes. Well, I think they’d like to get married, and she’s mentioned his family has a dairy farm in Oregon or Washington, someplace like that. I wondered about getting her Israeli citizenship, a new name and passport, and letting her immigrate from here.”

“That’s insane,” Lloyd said. “She’s a citizen, for chrissakes.”

“She also killed an FBI agent,” Goodman said gently. “A corrupt one to be sure, but an agent nonetheless.”

“Just cook up some fake U.S. papers,” Harry sighed, “and let her slip in that way. Then we can get her up to Oregon and into her new life. Should be easy.”

“Okay,” Goodman said, and this time even Lloyd noticed Goodman’s odd new deference. 

“So,” Harry continued, now thinking out loud, “we have a month to wrap this thing up. I suppose we have an idea of who the remaining targets are within Bay Area law enforcement agencies?”

“Approximately, yes.”

“Enough to establish probable cause for an arrest?” Harry added.

“Doubtful on two counts. Remember, we’re dealing with information gleaned through illegal wiretaps. Further, we’re identifying possible suspects by voice-print analysis, and that’s rarely been held up as valid by U.S. courts.”

“So, is your team comfortable with the information they have? Comfortable enough, I mean, to hit these people?”

“No, and that’s why this conditional list is still around.”

“What about McKay? Is the evidence on him iron-clad?”

“The team is about evenly divided on that, Harry. Half are convinced he’s the mastermind behind the whole thing; the other half think he’s a fucking moron.”

“I’d vote for fucking moron,” Harry sighed.

“Frank and Sam have both said as much. With a few extra embellishments tossed in for good measure.”

“Understandable. So, we need to firm up the people on this list and take action in the next month…is that about right?”

Goodman nodded. “Yes.”

“Dad? Why don’t you go back to the compound with Ben? I’ll be back in a few days, and we can go over plans to return then.”

“I’d rather stay with you, son.”

Harry sighed. “Dad? I’m old enough to stay out past my bedtime…ya know?”

Lloyd Callahan nodded and looked away.

“This might not be easy, or it could be the easiest thing that ever happened to me…”

“I just want to be there for moral support, son.”

“You always have been, Dad. This won’t be any different, and if I get in too deep, I know who to call.”

The Audi pulled into the departure lane at Kastrup Airport and Goodman maneuvered to the Swissair area. Harry made sure he had his passport and wallet before he hopped out of the car, then he disappeared into the jostling crowd…

/////

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and 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 (a little virus, not to mention a certain situation in Washington, D.C. springing first to mind…) so waiting to mention sources might not be the best way to proceed. 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 Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the television reporter 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. Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a 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? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred, though 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…given life by two actors who will stand tall through the ages.]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 25

88th key cover image

Part IV

Chapter 25

____________________________________

Bullitt’s Israeli handlers, the ‘Kildares,’ showed up at the Hyatt a little after four in the morning, and they came to the hide-out room as the bearers of bad news.

“Callahan, you really stirred up a shit-storm last night. Not only are Escobar’s people out looking for you, the Threlkis mob is too. And Frank? What the hell did you hit Paddy with?”

Bullitt pulled out a pair of black leather gloves, the tops of the hand and fingers filled with lead shot. “What? Did I break something?” Bullit said, grinning.

“Yeah, like the left side of his face. He’s still in surgery, too.”

“Gee, that’s too bad,” Frank said, still grinning.

“Who are these people?” a suddenly watchful Senator Walter Chalmers asked.

“Not important,” ‘Mr. Kildare’ said, his face an unreadable mask. “Okay, first things first. Senator, we confirmed there’s a hit out on you, and as far as we’re concerned elements within the FBI have been compromised, so the smart money says we keep you away from federal agents for now.”

“Even the Secret Service?” Chalmers cried. “You mean to tell me that…”

“All we’re saying is that we don’t know how deep your government has been penetrated.”

“My government?” Chalmers growled. “Just who the hell are YOU working for?”

Callahan stood up, walked over to the senator. “Nobody you need to be concerned about.”

“And who the hell are you?” Chalmers snarled.

“Harry Callahan, Homicide.”

Chalmers instantly backed down. “Oh. Dirty Harry. Yeah, I’ve heard of you.”

“Don’t sweat it, Chalmers,” Bullitt added. “Our job right now is to get you the fuck outta Dodge, and Harry, too, before someone stumbles on this little hideout.”

“But…who put a hit out on me?” Chalmers cried.

“McKay, or whoever is pulling his strings,” Kildare said,  adding: “Sam Bennett is on his way in right now. He should arrive at SFO in about an hour. Colonel Goodman suggests we meet the aircraft there, preferably after it refuels, then we board and head home, let things cool down for a while.”

Bullitt shook his head. “No way. That leaves Cathy alone, and exposed?”

“We have her under surveillance,” ‘Mrs. Kildare’ replied. “She’s in a remote area…”

“Not good enough,” Frank said matter-of-factly. “If we’re gonna boogie, she’s comin’ with us. Simple as that.”

The Kildares huddled and an animated discussion followed, and a moment later Mrs. K left the hotel room – in a hurry. 

“How long would it take you to drive up there and pick her up?”

“Too long,” Bullitt said, scowling.

“Yeah,” Harry added, “it’s a hundred-miles-plus on the PCH,” referring to the Pacific Coast Highway, “and it’s hard to average more than forty miles per hour…”

“What if you were in a Porsche?” Kildare asked hopefully. “Say a 930?”

Callahan shook his head. “You can make decent speed if there’s no traffic, but with all the little towns – and the morning commute – it will simply take too long to get there and back, period.”

Kildare took a deep breath and looked hopefully around the room: “I’m open to suggestions.”

“You don’t happen to have a Huey sitting around we can get our hands-on, by any chance?” Callahan added.

And then Kildare grinned. “Well, ya know…as a matter of fact…”

__________________________________

Colonel Goodman boarded the S.S. California right at noon the next day, and a purser took him directly to the captain’s cabin. Lloyd Callahan was seated at the dining room table reading over notes, and an impressive spread had already been laid out.

“So, Colonel, what did you find out about the concerto?”

“Well, apparently the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic was helping Imogen score the piece, and as it happens he was with her when she passed. The PM has invited this von Karajan fellow to conduct the premiere performance in Jerusalem this coming June, and he’s agreed.”

“Any word about Harry?”

“They are being pulled in as we speak. Apparently, your son shot up a bar, killed a few people last night…”

“Yup, that’s my Harry…”

“Well, from what I can tell so far, there are several groups out looking for him right now…”

“Colonel, do you know where my boy is right now?”

“At a downtown hotel, and we’re working up a plan to get all of the team out of the country as fast as we can.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“No, not really, though I’d expect we’ll need to set up some kind of protective detail for you upon your return.”

“If you’re taking Harry to Israel you might as well get me there too. I can take time off after we arrive next week, and besides, I’d like to be there for the premiere of Imogen’s work.”

“Yes, I rather hope I can convince Harry to stay for that,” Goodman added.

“If you can’t, I will.”

“Thanks,” Goodman said. “There’ll be a lot to go over before that happens, yet it would be nice to have an ally.”

“Yes, indeed. Well, let’s eat…I’m sure you have better things to do than hang out on a cruise ship…” Yet Lloyd Callahan spoke now as if his thoughts were far, far away.

__________________________________

“What is this thing? Based on the 212?”

“Yeah, that’s right,” the Army pilot mumbled, “only our designation is UH-1N. So, I hear you flew in ‘Nam?”

“Yup. Even flew out of here a few times.” Here was Crissy Field, located on the San Francisco waterfront at Fort Presidio, just west of the marina and Exposition District.

“Well, sorry, but you’ll have to take the left seat. I officially signed-out for this little joy-ride, so I’ll assume pilot-in-command for the log.”

“Fine with me,” Callahan said as he looked at the armaments pods above the skids. “What are these?”

“Quad-fifties, no door gunner needed. There’s a gunsight on both sides of the panel.”

“No kidding?”

“This isn’t exactly the same Huey you used to fly.”

“Besides twin engines, what else is new?”

“Full IFR avionics, right down to triplex ILS on two heads. Theoretically, we’re good to Cat III…assuming you’ve got an airport that’s suitably equipped.”

“Now that’s…”

“Excuse me,” Bullitt said, sounding more than a little cross, “Y’all think you could stop drooling over this thing and get us up in the sky?”

Callahan shrugged.

“Well, let’s do this,” Warrant Officer Alvin “Mickey” Rooney said as he climbed into the right seat. Harry went up to the left seat, leaving Bullitt to settle-in aft with two heavily armed Army special forces types.

“Need a hand?” Harry asked.

“Here’s the sectional. Go ahead and dial PYE into both NAV heads, and we’ll be with Oakland Center all the way on 118.3.”

“PYE into NAV one and two, roger.” He looked at the chart and found the frequency for the Point Reyes VOR and set the two receivers to 113.7. “Want me to set a stand-by?”

“No need. We’ll hug the coastline all the way to Sea Ranch.”

“Okay.”

Rooney started the engines and signaled the cart attendant to pull power. “You wanna take it?”

“Yeah,” Callahan said, smiling now.

“Alright, your aircraft.”

Harry worked the controls once, then ran up the throttle while he added collective; at a hundred feet AGL he nosed over and turned towards the Golden Gate…

“Head for the radomes on top of Tamalpais. Try 2-8-5 degrees,” Rooney said. “Should pick-up the VOR there.”

“Is that about 2500 feet?”

“Twenty-six. Climb at one-oh-five knots indicated.”

“‘Bout the same as the old Huey.”

“Yeah, but this bitch will carry about twice the payload.”

“What’s the ceiling?”

“Seventeen and change, depending on the load.”

“Interesting. Max cruise?”

“One twenty, and yeah, that’s lower, too. Like I said, this thing was designed to carry heavier loads than what you were used to. The civilian version was designed for working the offshore oil patch off the Gulf Coast, as well as fire suppression duty.”

“Okay, VOR active.”

“Can’t you make this motherfucker go faster?” Bullitt called out over the howling engine noise. “My grandmother can go faster than this crate – on her fuckin’ skateboard…”

Rooney shook his head. “What’s his malfunction?”

“We have reason to believe that a whole bunch of pissed off drug dealers are en route to kidnap his girlfriend.”

Rooney looked at Callahan. “My aircraft,” he said.

“Your aircraft,” Callahan confirmed, and Rooney pushed the nose hard over and ship’s speed increased to 125, then 130. He flipped a couple of switches on the overhead and a bright bullseye appeared over the main panel – like the reticle was hovering in the air.

“That’s the gunsight,” Rooney said. “See the red hat-switch on your stick?”

“Yeah?”

“Toggle it to the left.”

Harry did, and the bullseye drifted to the left a little.

“You have to aim with the rudder pedals, but you can fine-tune aim with your hat-switch.”

“How many rounds?”

“Five hundred per barrel, so two thousand per side.”

“Did you say fifty caliber?”

“Yup.”

“Man, you’d have to strain the remains for fingerprints.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Rooney snorted, “but good luck finding any fingers.”

Once the Huey cleared Point Bonita they picked up the VOR again, and Rooney pushed the ship a little past 130 indicated. Engine temps and torque began to approach redlines.

“About 80 miles from here,” Rooney added as he resettled into his seat. “Shit. Getting iron-ass already.”

“Some things never change. Always amazed me they couldn’t design a comfortable seat.”

“Cheap bastards.” 

Harry turned around and got Frank’s attention, then indicated 4-0 using hand signals, then pointed to his wristwatch. Frank nodded, at about the same time Harry noticed the H&K MP-5 in Frank’s lap…and the bead of sweat forming on his forehead. The army types, on the other hand, looked positively bored.

“Ready to take it again?” Rooney asked.

“Sure.”

“Your a/c. You know Drake’s Bay?”

“Yeah.”

“Head right up the main channel. Once we clear the little hill you ought to see Bodega Rock; we’ll be 35 miles out there…”

Callahan was soon in the zone, scanning his instruments then the horizon ahead, and like his last two flights with Danson and Escobar finding that he really missed being up in the air again.

“What are you going to do once you’re done with the Army?” he asked Rooney.

“Oh, I’ve already signed on with PHI…”

“Who?”

“Petroleum Helicopters Inc. They have several new bases along the Gulf Coast servicing all the new offshore oil fields, and from Texas to Florida. The pay is decent and it’ll allow me to build fix-wing time; I’ll try to get on with a major carrier if I can…if not I’ll just keep flying flutterbugs.”

Callahan nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”

“You miss it?”

“I didn’t think I did – until a few days ago.”

“Try the reserves.”

“Too old.”

“It happens. See the rock up there?”

“Yeah, got it.”

Rooney turned around and, using sign language, indicated that Bullitt should put on one of the headsets. One of the Rangers helped get it situated and set to ‘Intercom.’

“Yo,” Frank said.

“What part of Sea Ranch are we headed to?” Rooney asked.

“The house is above the rocks at the end of Sculpture Point Drive…”

Rooney shrugged. “Got a landmark?”

“The south end of the runway is about a quarter miles inland.”

“Okay, got it. We’re about fifteen minutes out.”

The Army types checked their weapons – also MP-5s – and handed Bullitt four more magazines, then they passed him a bullet-proof ‘flak-jacket.’

“You know where his house is?” Rooney asked Callahan.

“Kind of, but I’ll know it when I see it.”

“Is there enough yard to set this thing down?”

“Yeah, either in the street or outback, between the house and the cliffs.”

“You comfortable putting this thing down?”

“No problem.”

Rooney nodded. “You know, you shoulda never left…you belong up here.”

Callahan nodded, then shook his head. “Tough call. I like what I do now. It’s a necessary evil, I know, but the truth of the matter is there are bad people out there. If we aren’t there, what happens? Do we revert to carrying six-guns everywhere we go?”

Rooney grinned: “There wouldn’t be as many lawyers running around.”

“I see your point. Okay, we’re coming up on the south side of Sea Ranch. Only a couple of miles now.”

Rooney turned around and held up his fist, then extended two fingers.

The commandos nodded and slid the side doors open, crouching there and ready to jump on contact. Bullitt joined the guy on the left side, crouched right behind Callahan.

“Okay,” Harry added, speaking on intercom now, “I got eyeballs on the house. Black van in the driveway. Men getting out. Rooney, you take the gun, I’ll line up on the van.”

“No way, Callahan! This is not a law enforcement vehicle, and I have no reason to fire on civilians, especially without authorization…”

“Well, I’m law enforcement…”

“Fine. You pull the trigger, Amigo. That’s paperwork I don’t want hangin’ over my ass.”

“Arm the system, safeties off.”

“Safeties off.”

Callahan lined up on the van and at two hundred yards opened fire; the van disappeared in a dusty brown haze, then the garage door and right side of Cathy’s house seemed to disappear – in another haze of splinters and concrete.

“Oops,” Harry sighed as he reefed the Huey into a steep, banking turned to the right – bleeding speed and losing altitude fast, then he lined up into the wind coming right off the sea and set the ship down behind the house…

…and as suddenly they were taking fire from men hidden in the trees…

…Rooney cried out once and grabbed his right arm…

“I’m hit!”

…Callahan pulled up on the collective and at twenty feet Above Ground Level brought his gunsight to bear on the treeline and opened fire. He pumped the rudder pedals, sweeping over everything that looked like a hiding place…

…until he saw Bullitt – and Cathy – running out the back of the house…

…then he saw bullet impacts on the ground – headed for his bird – and that only meant one thing…

…he jinked hard left and looked for the other helicopter, saw a shadow and dove for the surf-line…

…expecting the other bird to pursue he pulled up on the stick then kicked the left pedal and spun the ship, opening fire on the same Jet Ranger he’d flown two nights before…

‘Good, impacts on the boom…shattered glass…got him…’

He returned to the back yard and landed harder than expected; felt people boarding then heard the frantic cry “GO! GO! GO!”; he pulled up on the collective and rolled on throttle, ran just above the ground until the Huey was out over the sea again, then he dove for the waves, building speed and hoping to gain an edge in distance…

The waves to his left exploded as another volley of machine-gun fire hit…

‘Okay,’ he thought, ‘the only advantage I’ve got is a higher service ceiling…’ so he ran his speed up to 130 and then started an 800 foot per minute climb, still jinking left-right-up-down all the while…

…then he saw a solid bank of clouds ahead and a few thousand feet above and he made for it, guessing it would take a few minutes to cover the distance…

One of the Army types had pulled Rooney from the cockpit and was bandaging his shoulder, then Bullitt leaned over his right shoulder and clapped his back.

“You okay up here?” Frank asked.

“Nominal.”

“The other helicopter is about five hundred yards behind us, holding steady.”

“Right. How’s Cathy?”

“Scared.”

Callahan nodded. “Anyone else hurt back there?”

“One of the Rangers. Hit in the thigh, bleeding under control.”

“How’s Rooney?”

Another voice came over the intercom now: “Pressure dressing on, but we need to get him to a hospital A-SAP.”

Callahan moved the transponder to 7700 and switched from Intercom to COMMs 1 and keyed the mic: “Oakland Center, Army Three Three Bravo squawking 7700, inbound from Bodega Bay to Crissy Field direct, medical emergency onboard.”

“3-3-Bravo, Oakland Center, squawk ident.”

“3-3-Bravo.” Callahan hit the little nub on the transponder panel and illuminated his ship on radars all over Northern California.

“3-3-Bravo, we have you at 2-2-hundred AGL, heading one-four-zero at one-one-five knots.”

“Oakland, 3-3-Bravo, be advised we are being pursued by another helicopter and we are taking fire.”

“3-3-Bravo, say again, advise you are taking fire?”

“Oakland, that’s affirmative. We are a combined military-law enforcement flight, pursuing aircraft belongs to an organized crime syndicate.”

“3-3-Bravo, received. Stand-by one.”

“3-3 standing by.” Callahan then switched to Intercom: “SitRep, please!”

Bullitt replied: “Pursuing helicopter hasn’t gained on us; Rooney is still losing blood.”

“3-3-Bravo, Oakland Center.”

Callahan switched to COMMs: “Go ahead Oakland.”

“You are cleared direct to NAS Alameda; be advised we have pursuing aircraft on radar and two Phantoms from Ready Alert are inbound from the Enterprise, ETA three minutes, call-signs Reaper-Three and Reaper-Seven, and they are BUSTER on this frequency.”

“3-3-Bravo, we’re about to enter clouds.”

“3-3-Bravo, this is Reaper Three, can you keep your target in the clear?”

Callahan groaned; he knew what the Navy pilot wanted, but that meant keeping his ship exposed…

“3-3-Bravo, we’re starting a rapid descent to minimum safe altitude on three-two-one–GO!”

“Okay 3-3-Bravo, I’ve got him and we’re locked on, firing now…”

“Got it, Reaper.”

And moments later: “Harry!” Bullitt cried. “The other helo…is fucking gone!”

“Reaper-three, 3-3-Bravo, we confirm a hard kill.”

“Thanks, Bravo. One more and I make Ace!”

“Oakland, this is 3-3-Bravo, could you give me a vector?”

“3-3-Bravo, make 1-2-0 magnetic and your minimum safe altitude is 2-3-hundred feet, and advise when you intercept VOR/DME 1-1-6 decimal 8 inbound.”

“120, 2-3-0-0, and 1-1-6 decimal eight, 3-3-Bravo. Be advised we’ll need trauma surgeons standing by for multiple gunshot victims, one serious.”

“Oakland, received.”

“And be advised I have the radial.”

“Okay, 3-3, straight in approach for the red smoke. You’ll be setting down next to a C-9 Nightingale; trauma teams onboard the aircraft are standing by, and I’ve been advised to tell you that all personnel onboard your aircraft are to board that aircraft through the rear air-stair.”

“All to board the C-9, understood. 3-3-Bravo, have airport in sight.”

________________________________

As Callahan flared over the tarmac he noticed the Douglas-DC-9 based Medevac jet had no obvious markings – save for registration numbers – in light blue – on the tail. 

‘So…this is an Israeli jet,’ he sighed, instantly knowing what that meant. ‘I should be getting frequent flyer miles on El Al…’

Medics moved Rooney and the wounded Ranger to the C-9, and Callahan led Frank, Cathy, and the remaining Ranger to the stairway directly under the aircraft’s tail, yet he was totally surprised to find Colonel Goodman already seated onboard, his head down as he read through a pile of dispatches. Not quite knowing what else to do he went and sat across the aisle from him.

Seconds later the converted airliner was roaring down the runway, then slowly turning almost due north.

“Where are we headed this time, Colonel?”

“Seattle. We’ll drop off your military personnel there and pick up some gas before he head home.”

“Home?”

“Tel Aviv, Harry.”

Callahan’s face flashed sudden anger: “I’ve told you before, Colonel Goodman, I’m never going to talk to her again.”

“I understand, Harry. And you won’t.”

//////

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and 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 (a little virus, not to mention a certain situation in Washington, D.C. springing first to mind…) so waiting to mention sources might not be the best way to proceed. 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 Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the television reporter 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. Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a 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? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred, though 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…given life by two actors who will stand tall through the ages.]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 24

88th key cover image

The Eighty-eighth Key

Part IV

Chapter 24

____________________________________

 Senator Walter Chalmers was in the living room of his house in The City, pacing back and forth across the vast, ornately decorated room, stopping from time-to-time to take a sip from a glass of ice-cold Chardonnay. He had started the afternoon in an angry state-of-mind; now, as the events of this morning came into sharper relief, he was growing more and more afraid of a certain, and, he feared, an inevitably terrible outcome to his brother’s latest debacle.

Four years ago Paddy had been approached by two South Americans who desired a meeting with the U.S. Export-Import Bank, their stated aim being to secure financing for a new airline to link Columbia, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Peru to gateways in Miami and Houston. The men claimed that they had secured financing from these countries, but only enough to fund about seventy percent of the proposed airline’s first two years of operation. Neither Boeing nor McDonnell-Douglas would commit to sales without one hundred percent of two years operations on hand, leaving the group only one option, to lease their first aircraft from ILFC…and this the group did not want to do.

The group had wanted to know if Senator Chalmers could intercede on their behalf and arrange for the US Ex-Im Bank to provide bridge financing, so Paddy arranged the meeting. After looking into the matter, Senator Chalmers learned that the South American group would need to take on a few U.S. investors, and with U.S. interests represented the Ex-Im Bank would have little reason not to lend the money, and though numerous meetings had been necessary, in the end, the group got their financing – and Boeing sold ten more 757 airliners.

Easy enough, Walter Chalmers had thought at the time, or so it seemed because it looked like everyone had come out winners – even before ink met paper.

Except that the investors Paddy Chalmers located here in the Bay Area soon wanted more return on their investment. A lot more, as it turned out.

Notably, they wanted easy little favors, really easy, at least in the beginning. Simple little things, like getting a nephew a job at one of the Chalmers family auto dealerships. More problematically still, Paddy had not objected to all the little favors that followed, though over time Paddy kept Walter out of the loop as ‘things’ progressed beyond simple nepotism. In a word, Paddy was in deep.

And by then, both Walter and Paddy had been invited to Medellin, Columbia, to meet with one of the biggest South American investors in the new airline, and Walter had – reluctantly – accepted. Yet he and his brother were both more than impressed with the grand estancia of their host, a soft-spoken man named Pablo Escobar, and when Walter returned to D.C. he did so with a very large campaign contribution in hand – not to mention a promise of more to come as time passed.

Of course, things went downhill even faster after Escobar had a US senator in his pocket.

When Senator Chalmers first met Escobar he had no idea who he was, so he had no idea how Escobar had made his fortune; yet all that didn’t matter now because he’d been bought and paid for, and as a result he was neck-deep in the largest criminal drug cartel operating on the West Coast…

“How fucking ironic!” he muttered as he paced the living room. He’d begun his career as a ‘Law and Order’ Republican riding on Richard Nixon’s coattails, only now it looked like he was about to go down in flames, forever linked to the very cartels he’d hoped to run out of the country. Worse than that, he’d be branded as just another corrupt politician bought-off by the most nefarious drug dealer in the world…

Yet the most ironic thought that crossed his mind that afternoon was far more troubling to him, and on a very personal level, because he finally understood where Frank Bullitt had been coming from during their final confrontation at SFO – just before he’d looked on passively as Bullitt killed Johnny Ross. Even worse, Senator Walter Chalmers had begun to see that the only person who could conceivably extricate him from this mess was none other than that very same Lieutenant Frank Bullitt. 

“My legal idealism,” Chalmers sighed, “pitted against Bullitt’s life of experience on the street. I should have known better, even then.”

But when he’d called the department earlier that afternoon – hoping to find the detective – he learned that Bullitt had recently retired…and after that bit of news he’d grown utterly despondent.

But ironic or not, his fevered thinking went, one thought kept running through his mind: ‘I have to find him…find out where he’s living. He’s the only one in the department who knows the real score.’

The sun was setting, the temperature falling rapidly now, yet Chalmers walked out onto the huge terrace that almost completely surrounded his house, and he walked over to look at the Golden Gate.

Why, he wondered, had that bridge become such an important metaphor about this city by the bay? Was it a symbol of a real ‘can do’ attitude that was even now slowly fading into a distant, unrecognizable past? Had the pursuit of easy money crushed that spirit?

But another heavy fog was rolling in, hiding even the bridge from view and, in a way, obscuring the future…and he shivered as a wave of cold, humid air whispered through the pines that flanked his most cherished view of the world.

“Easy money,” he said to the wind. “That’s all I wanted.”

Paddy was on his way over for dinner now, and he’d seemed jolly enough on the telephone. His brother had told him he’d found the answer to all their problems.

And they really needed to talk about it over dinner.

He looked at the pines bending to the suddenly insistent wind-borne flow, then he looked down on the city as it disappeared is this sudden, plaintive evensong.

‘Disappearing like this life,’ he thought. ‘Because without Frank Bullitt, there’s no way out. He’s the only person I can trust now.’

“…Like sand running down in an hourglass,” he said as he turned to go inside.

_____________________________________

Colonel Goodman paced the dock slowly, thinking about the cascade of events that had befallen his world over the last week.

First, Imogen’s unexpected cancer diagnosis, then her sudden, if a little mysterious death.

Avi’s heart attack, and with it another dear friend taken from this life.

And now, foremost in his mind was a promise he’d made to Avi years ago, that he was to protect Harry Callahan at all cost, and see to it that Avi’s final instructions were carried out.

‘But now Harry is out of reach,’ Goodman thought. ‘Worse still, he was sailing into harm’s way, carrying out the plan I have devised. If he is killed, his death will be blood on my hands, and I will have let Avi – and Imogen – down…and in the worst possible way.’

He came to the edge of the dock and looked down into the water, down to his tiny reflection thirty feet below. 

‘My face? That is my face down there, isn’t it?

‘And the eyes? Yes, those are mine, too.’

And yet, there was Harry, too. Looking up at him, pleading with him to let the team go, to let them finish what they’d started.

But that was why he was here. In Osaka. Waiting for Lloyd Callahan.

Because of all the people left in the world, Lloyd had the most at stake in this operation. So it was only fair that he talk to the elder Callahan before deciding how to proceed.

‘But this entire operation,’ he reminded himself, ‘is all about Hate. About cops killing cops because of ethnicity, or because of religious beliefs. That’s why we are there, why I am there. That, and because Avi Rosenthal wanted me there to protect Harry Callahan.’ 

And still he looked at his reflection.

“Or…was it ever really about Hate?” he said aloud.

His reflection was silent as he questioned himself.

“Killing is killing, whether carried out as simple revenge or legally sanctioned retribution. Look what we did after Munich. We hunted the killers down and killed them one by one, but that didn’t make those killings morally ‘right,’ did it? No, we killed them to settle a score. We killed them to let others know that we are not weak. We killed them as deterrence. So doesn’t that mean we killed them to stop even more killing? And if so, wasn’t that the right thing to do? But…what if those killings spawn even more violence? More death? Then what? Were we justified killing the killers of our athletes? Can killing ever be justified?”

“My,” his reflection said, “but that is a very strange question indeed, coming as it does from a man who has killed so many people.”

“But that was war! You can’t judge me for that?”

“Can’t I?”

Goodman was startled by the voice and he turned and looked around, his eyes settling on an old man in a loden cape. His white hair had yellowed as by extreme age, and he was leaning on a cane. But…something within the cane was alive…

Lightning? Inlaid silver strands of…lightning?

Goodman shook his head, tried to clear his mind…but the old man was still there, staring at him.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?”

“You asked if I couldn’t judge you for killing the Munich attackers. Or did I hear you incorrectly?”

Goodman recoiled from the apparition, then drew a Walther TPK from his shoulder holster and without hesitation fired into its face. One shot…two…and then a third…

But the old man just stood there, smiling.

Goodman continued shooting until the little Walther’s clip was empty…

…then the old man simply left, like a butterfly on a freshening breeze…

Leaving Goodman to look at his hands, and when he found that they were awash in deep red blood he fell to his knees…

But my pistol…where is it?

He reached for his shoulder holster and found the little Walther still there, so he pulled it free and ejected the clip, and he saw that not one bullet had been fired.

His hands? Clean now, and he shook his head, tried to remember the old man’s features – yet he found he could barely recall anything at all about him.

And far out in Osaka harbor he heard a ship’s horn signaling the Harbor Pilot’s arrival, and Goodman could see, even from the docks, that this was Lloyd Callahan’s ship.

He walked back to the dock’s edge and looked down into the still water – and the old man in the cape stared back at him…until a faint breeze stirred the surface, leaving only a bare, lingering trace of the visage, fading like a string of echoes across the dappled water.

___________________________________

He watched the ship, perhaps coincidentally named the California, as tugs helped her to the dock, and he saw Lloyd Callahan out on the flying bridge talking to spotters fore and aft on a little radio. Lines were thrown from the ship as she touched, and then men on the dock hurried to tie her off; Goodman saw that Callahan was looking right at him now – and not knowing what else to do he waved.

And Callahan waved back, then disappeared inside the ship.

He was also the first man down the boarding ramp, and he walked straight to Goodman.

“Is it Harry? Has something happened to Harry?”

“No, sir. It’s about Imogen. I’m afraid she’s passed, and Avi Rosenthal, as well.” 

Callahan seemed to stagger back from the news – but caught himself and stood tall as he took a deep breath. “I couldn’t tell from your wire, but I sensed something awful had happened. What was it? Does Harry know?”

Goodman filled him in, spared no detail before he came to the crux of the matter: “Lloyd, I’m not sure how Harry will take the news. And, given the nature of the operation, my sense is that I should wait to tell him. Wait until the operation passes the crisis phase…”

“Crisis phase? What do you mean by that?”

“Well, the members of the team have moved into place, they are making what I’d call first contact with members of the opposition, so, for the first time we are moving into a position where we might uncover the real players…”

“So, telling him right now would, most probably, jeopardize the operation?”

“That is my concern, yes.”

“Well then, I’m sure you understand that Harry and his mother have been, well, let me just say they’ve not had a good relationship lately.”

“Yes, I understand.”

“So, I’m really unsure how he’ll take the news. Really, and I hate to say this, but I’m just shell-shocked. I guess there was a part of me that always wanted her to come home. To come back to me, and to Harry. And now that hope is gone…”

Goodman looked at Callahan and nodded. “You loved her, you took care of her when she needed help most, and you gave her a son – who she cherished most of all…”

But Callahan had turned away, and Goodman could tell that this ship’s captain was having a hard time holding it together. 

“How long will you remain in port?” Goodman asked.

“We leave tomorrow afternoon, 1600 hours.”

“Perhaps you might have an hour or two available?” Goodman asked gently. “Some time we could talk about things?”

Callahan comported himself and turned to face Goodman again. “Why don’t you come up with me now. I’ve just got some paperwork to go over, and we could have dinner in my cabin while I see to the formalities?”

“Fine. You lead the way, Captain.”

The California was a spartan ship, clean, obviously well run and in fine working order. She carried 500 passengers and typically about two hundred crew, as well as a modest amount of cargo, on an established route that saw her leave San Francisco bound for Honolulu, then on to Osaka and Hong Kong. Each crossing took twenty-one days, and Callahan was the ship’s captain for the duration of each passage. When he arrived home again, in three weeks’ time, he’d be off for the next fifty days – or until the next return crossing.

His cabin was just aft of the bridge, the visitors’ area was surprisingly opulent, and the cabin included a dining area as well as a small library. Callahan got on a telephone of some sort and talked briefly, then joined Goodman on a small balcony that overlooked Osaka harbor, and a gorgeously setting sun. They both leaned against the rail and seemed to allow the moment to pass in peace.

“I just had the most ridiculous encounter,” Goodman said as the sun drifted behind a nearby mountain range.

“Oh?”

“Yes. If I’m not mistaken, I think God just paid me a visit.”

“God? Really?”

“I know how that sounds, but…” And Goodman proceeded to tell Callahan all about the old man in the loden cape, right down to his shooting him with his little Walther, and when he was finished he looked at Callahan expecting to find disbelief in his eyes…

“You say there was something odd about the cane?”

“Yes. Inlaid silver, or something like it, yet the stuff seemed to be almost alive. Like it was the essence of lightning, captured, harnessed, and almost, well, caged by the wood.”

And Lloyd Callahan nodded. “Yes, that’s exactly how Imogen described it.”

“What!? You mean…?”

“Yes, from the time she was a little girl. She always said he appeared before truly awful things happened to her, that he was warning her and at the same time comforting her.”

“You know, I think I need to sit down for a bit.”

“Alright. Dinner’s on the way, and I’ve a little whiskey stashed away for emergencies…”

“I think this qualifies.”

Callahan laughed. “I’d say so. It isn’t every day we meet God.”

Goodman shook his head. “I’m not at all sure what I saw. A hallucination, probably. Or overwork…”

“Yes? And the very same man Imogen experienced? Isn’t that a happy coincidence?”

“Oh, come on. You’re a ship’s captain. A man grounded in rational intellect.”

“True enough.”

“So, how can you explain this?”

“I can’t. But I will say this. If what you say is true, if it really happened, perhaps you should think about the gift you received.”

“The gift?”

“I don’t know,” Callahan sighed. “Call it what you will. Even a hallucination, if that suits you. But even hallucinations are grounded in facts of a sort, though they may be distortions or even misrepresentations of the facts. Yet what fascinates me right now is the congruence of experience you share with Imogen’s companion.”

“Companion?”

“Oh, yes. He was with her throughout her life. At times, he never left her side. Especially in that ghetto, north of Prague. I can never remember the name…”

“Theresienstadt?”

“Yes, that’s it. He was with her almost all the time there. Especially when she was writing.”

“Writing?”

“Yes, her music. Her Third Piano Concerto was written there, though to my knowledge it has been played only a few times.”

“I wasn’t aware there was a third. So, the piece she was working on was her fourth?”

Callahan leaned back on the rail and sighed. “So…did she finish?”

“Finish? What, the new piece?”

“Yes.”

“You know, I’m not sure.”

“Do you think you could find out?”

“Yes, certainly.”

There was a knock on the door so Callahan went to answer it; a steward entered the room and rolled a cart up to the dining room table, then set out their dinner. Goodman followed Callahan and sat across from him.

“The chow on this tub isn’t bad,” Callahan said.

“Good lord, I should say not. What is all this?”

“Lobster thermidor, prime rib, asparagus Hollandaise. You know, the basics.”

They both laughed at that.

“The ship’s officers eat pretty much what the passengers eat. By way of compensation, we have our own gym. If not, I’m afraid we’d all look like Santa Claus. So, are you good with iced tea, or do you need a shot of whiskey?”

“I think this is a whiskey night for me.”

“Splendid! Me too.”

They talked around the perimeter of the main issue for an hour or so, then Callahan revisited it: “So, about Harry. Why don’t you leave it to me.”

“What?”

“You give me the go-ahead when you think the time is right, and I’ll tell Harry about his mother, and, of course, about Avi.”

Goodman scowled at the thought: “I promised Avi I would take care of this. Besides, there are other responsibilities entailed.”

“Such as?”

“Well, the estate, for one. And there are other matters involved, but I’m afraid most of these are private matters. Affairs Avi wanted to be conveyed to Harry, and only to him – by myself. Most were committed to paper, though a few were not, and again, these were left for me to convey.”

“You were close friends, then? With Avi, I mean?”

“Yes. Since the early days.”

“Did you know his brother, Saul?”

“Not very well. I met him once, in Copenhagen.”

“Before the war?”

“No, no. In the sixties, if I recall correctly.”

“I see. Well, would you care for some dessert? We could walk down to the café for coffee and ice cream, if you like?”

“No, no. I have kept you from your duties long enough. If you could tell me what time to return tomorrow?”

“Why don’t you come around about noon? Just give the purser manning the ramp your name; they’ll see that you get to me.”

“Very good, and thanks for the hospitality.”

Callahan nodded, his mood different now, as he escorted Goodman to the door. A purser’s mate was waiting there, and she saw Goodman to the boarding ramp.

Callahan went back to the bridge, then walked out on the flying bridge, and there he watched Goodman leave before he made his way back to his cabin.

“Bloody liar,” he muttered as he returned to his desk. “So, if that jackass didn’t kill Saul, who the hell did?”

But after almost forty years at sea, he could read men pretty well, and everything he knew screamed that this Goodman character was a liar and that he had been caught off-guard by the question about Saul. He’d seen it in the man’s eyes, the darting evasions, the sudden hammering pulse, and the eyelid flutter.

“No, he’s hiding something,” he said to a framed picture of Harry and Imogen that sat on his desk. “He’s hiding the truth, and my boy’s life is in his hands.”

_____________________________________

Walter Chalmers was in the living room when the doorbell chimed, and he listened intently as his valet went for the door. He heard the usual greetings, coats being taken and put in the hall closet, then footsteps approaching.

‘More than one, so it seems.’

“Hey, Wally! There you are!” Paddy said, leading another man into the room…

Walter stood, taking his brother’s hand, listening as introductions were made…

“And this is Pat Ryan, from Jersey…”

Chalmers took Ryan’s hand and when he looked into the man’s eyes he very nearly passed out.

The eyes, the set of his eyes, even the grip of his hand…

Bullitt. 

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Ryan,” Walter Chalmers said genially, his heart now racing at this sudden turn.…

‘So, you’re working undercover. You’ve penetrated the operation. You know what’s going on, or at least you know some of what’s going on. Now I’ve got to get you fully up to speed, and I can’t compromise you. But how…’

“Walter,” Paddy asked, “you doin’ okay?”

“Hmm? Oh, yes. I started a new medication yesterday, makes me light-headed when I stand up.”

“Oh.”

“Mr. Ryan, could I get you something to drink?”

“Scotch, neat.”

Walter smiled. “Well, Paddy, what’s this big new plan you’ve come up with?”

________________________________________

Bullitt hadn’t known what to expect.

Paddy calling him into the office, telling him they had an important meeting to go to.

He’d excused himself, gone to the men’s room and activated the incredibly small hidden microphone the Israelis had kitted him out with.

Then, to Paddy’s 911 and the quick ride over to Snob Nob, the nickname for the houses located around Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower…

…but when they pulled up in front of the Senator’s house he felt a sudden lump filling his throat.

“This is my brother’s house,” Paddy told him then. “We’re having dinner with him, maybe go over a few things.”

“Right.”

“Come on…”

And then there he was, Walter Chalmers, the devil incarnate.

Then the sudden flushing, the instant of recognition, and Bullitt was about to go for the little PPK the Israeli’s had given him – for just this kind of situation – 

…until he saw that the Senator was going to cover for him…

…‘What the fuck?’…because all he could think to say was “Scotch, neat…”

And he hated Scotch. Positively hated the shit.

Then, when Chalmers asked Paddy “what’s this big new plan you’ve come up with?” – Bullitt knew he could just sit back and watch these two make their play.

“Look, Walter, one of my guys on the inside just learned that Jerry is going to put a hit on you…”

“What?! You’ve got to be kidding!”

“No way, man. Look, this is legit information…”

“But why? Why take out me? What have I done to them?”

“I don’t think that’s it, man. Me? I think they want you out of the way so they can run their own man to take your seat…”

Walter Chalmers looked down at his hands and nodded. “That makes sense.”

“Your damn right it does, that’s why…”

“Okay, so what’s your plan, Paddy.”

“Well, see, I was watching that Godfather movie a couple of weeks ago, and I think ‘why don’t we knock off McKay, then plant a bunch of bogus stories in the Chronicle?’ You know, tie the police department to the mob…? It’s like two birds with one stone, ya know? Smart, right?”

“You want to take out a police captain?” Walter said, hiding his feelings as best he could while he spoke.

“Yeah, man, and why the fuck not? The guy is as crooked as a cop can get.” Then Paddy looked at Ryan/Bullitt: “And I’ve got the man here that can pull it off.”

Walter Chalmers looked at Bullitt: “Oh?”

“Yeah, man. Look, Wally, Ryan here has made a bunch of hits, all of ‘em back east, so if the heat gets turned up we just send him down to Mexico for a while, then bring him home after things settle down.”

“Uh-huh. And how much for your services, Mr. Ryan?”

“For a hit this big? Fifty.”

“Are you serious?” Walter asked, smiling.

“C’mon, Wally. It’s reasonable, ya know? You’re talking about a cop, a captain even, for Christ’s sake.”

“And tell me, Paddy, how is this going to help us?”

“First off, it’ll get the fuzz off our backs, man. Send them a message, ya know?”

“That would be a message alright. Look, Paddy, I just don’t see why we don’t keep paying them off, you know? Protection is money well spent, right?”

“Not if they’re gonna take you out, Wally. We’re payin’ and they’re gonna do the killin’ – and that ain’t gonna work out so well for us, ya know? Particularly for you, Wally.”

But Walter still looked unconvinced. “Alright, but it seems to me we ought to be worried about the people giving McKay the order to get rid of me.”

“Yeah, but I don’t know who’s pulling his strings, ya know?”

“Okay, but suppose we take out McKay before they can take me out. What or who is going to stop that group from going ahead and making a move on me?”

As Bullitt listened to this exchange it was becoming clear that the Chalmers organization wasn’t the real target, they weren’t part of the vigilante network, let alone the organization supporting them. The Irish mob still seemed to be a part of the vigilante group, at least as far as he could tell from what little intel he’d picked up so far, but the real question still remained unanswered. Who was the prime mover? Who was calling the shots, and to what end?

“What group are you talking about?” Ryan/Bullitt asked, and Walter Chalmers seemed surprised by the question.

“I don’t know,” Walter said. “I wish I did, but I just don’t know.”

“No idea at all?”

Chalmers seemed to hesitate now, like he was afraid of saying too much. “All this started after I helped a South American group secure U.S. financing for a new air carrier. I don’t really know who or why they’d want me out of the way…”

“What your brother said isn’t enough? To clear the way to take your senate seat?”

“Well, I doubt it, because I’ve set up the preliminary organization to make a run for the White House.”

“What?” Paddy cried. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

Walter shrugged. “I’m trying to keep this as low key as possible, at least until I look at some poll numbers.”

Bullitt stood and walked over to one of the windows overlooking the bay. “What if you announced your run, and at the same time made it clear that you were going to resign your senate seat so that you could dedicate all your energy to the campaign?”

“Now that’s an idea,” Paddy said. “What do you think, Wally?”

But before he could reply, Ryan/Bullitt continued: “That’s not the point, at least right now. The first thing you could do, Paddy, is get word out to…what’s the name of this captain?”

“McKay.”

“Yeah, well, so you get word to McKay, then you wait and see what their next move is.”

“And then I’m out of work,” Senator Walter Chalmers said, finishing his wine.

“Better’n bein’ dead, bro.”

Chalmers walked over to Bullitt and genially put a hand on his shoulder. “Ready for some dinner, Mr. Ryan?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Good. C’mon Paddy. Let’s finish this up while we eat. Mr. Ryan, you like cigars…?”

_____________________________

Mason/Callahan met up with Danson after his day job working on helicopters, mainly to have dinner before heading over to the chop-shop, but to shoot the shit a little.

“So, how did you get along with Pablo?” Danson asked as Mason climbed in the beat-up Chevy Nova Danson used to avoid scrutiny by law enforcement.

“Escobar? He seems like a good joe. Laidback once you get to know him.”

“Yeah. The most important thing to know about him is he rewards loyalty. If you’re loyal to him, he’ll be there for you in a pinch.”

Mason nodded. “I kinda picked up on that.”

“You ever been to the Rusty Anchor? It’s a Threlkis place, but I hear they make a mean burger.”

“Sounds right-on to me.”

“Good. I’ve been wantin’ to try it out for a while.”

It took just a few minutes in the late afternoon traffic to get there, but finding a parking place was another matter. Five minutes later they found a place and backtracked to the Anchor…

…And the first thing Callahan saw when they walked in was that Threlkis kid on the piano. The same kid he’d fucked up, so he kept his sunglasses on as they passed the bar – and he kept an eye on the kid at the piano. He scanned the room, looked for handy exits…the he noticed that the kid had recognized him…

Danson ordered a pitcher of beer – and, as always Anchor Steam – while they went over the menu, and they ordered hot pastrami sandwiches after their waitress said they were the best thing in the house.

But Callahan was watching the kid as he stopped playing and went to the bar, and then the kid pointed at Callahan and the bartender went to the phone.

Callahan brought his left ankle up and unsnapped the ankle holster, then he slipped the little PPK under his left thigh, and at about that time the kid and two goons started his way.

And the kid walked right up to Callahan.

“You’re the fuckin’ cop who did this to me, aren’t you?” the kid screamed, holding up his scared hand. “You’re that Callahan fucker!”

And, with those few words, everything slipped into slow-motion.

Danson pushed away from the table and Callahan saw he was reaching for his waistband; one of the goons was pulling out a knife; the kid was backing away from the table, knocking the other goon off-balance and both fell to the floor…

Just like working Hogan’s Alley at the range, Callahan moved by reflexive instinct now, years of training taking hold and coming to bear…

“Assess the targets, prioritize, then shoot…”

For a split second he thought the little Walther might not be up to the challenge, but at this range and loaded with Silver-Tips it was the best he could do…

First shot: Danson, one to the face, one center mass…

Pivot to the goon with the knife, who was now backing away fast: a single shot center mass…

The other goon, on the floor, he was pushing away from the kid, reaching for a shoulder holster: first shot in the neck, the second in the face…

Pivot: once more to the goon with the knife, and one more round in the neck…

The kid was unarmed, so Callahan just dropped him with a hard hit from the Walther’s butt, then he turned and walked slowly towards the rear exit. 

He started down the alley, releasing the little magazine and pocketing it, pulling one of two spares from his coat pocket and slipping it in.

He turned a corner, saw a bus stop, and a bus just pulling to a stop so he ran for it, hopped on at the last second, then went to the rear so he could see if anyone followed.

Nothing. 

‘Gotta get to the city. No way my handler on the ferry…they know that one…’

Then he saw a maroon BMW, a little coupe, as it pushed through traffic and slipped in behind the bus. The brights flashed three times so Callahan reached up and pulled the cord, the chime telling the driver to stop at the next corner.

He hopped out of the rear/side door and waited for the Beemer to pull up.

“Get in!” Al Bressler said as the passenger door flew open…

…and moments later the BMW was headed into The City on the Bay Bridge.

“Well Harry, I’d say your cover is blown.”

“Ya think?”

“Why didn’t you take out the piano player?”

“You were there?”

“Yeah, I’ve been on you for a couple of days.”

“Is Goodman here? I’ve got some intel we need to go over…”

“No. He’s in Japan.”

“Japan? What the fuck is he doin’ over there?”

Bressler shrugged. “I don’t know, man. He pulled us outta Venezuela about a week ago. Sam is shadowing Frank right now, and Stacy is onto some snitch inside the Bureau.”

“Anyone following us?”

“I can’t tell.”

“Remember what Goodman said? When you feel doubt…”

“There is no doubt!” they said in unison, then laughing a little to cut the tension.

“Let’s get down to the wharf. We can lose anyone in there.”

“Right.”

“You got any 380s?”

“Glovebox.”

Callahan pulled out the box of cartridges and reloaded his spent clip.

“No doubt,” he said in a voice so low he thought Al missed it. “No doubt at all.”

“Doubt about what, Harry?”

“Some Columbian. Name is Pablo Escobar…”

“Escobar? Are you sure?”

“You’ve heard of him?”

“Fuck, are you kidding me? You ought to come work vice for a while. Escobar is pouring cocaine into the country, and I mean tons of the shit…”

“I think that’s who’s behind all this crap, Al. I mean, it’s more than a feeling, ya know?”

“Okay, we got ourselves a tail, the real deal, Amigo.”

“Whaddaya got?”

“Looks like a caddy, four men.”

“I’d kill for my forty-four right about now.”

“Got one of those MP-5s in the trunk.”

“Outstanding!”

“What about the parking garage at Ghirardelli Square? We can box ‘em in and take ‘em out there?”

“Go for it.”

“What’s the best way?”

Callahan shook his head. “Man alive. A cop here for how many years and you’re still asking me for directions?”

“Harry, I’d have never made it through academy if you hadn’t been there.”

“Well, I did put out that fire comin’ out your ass…”

“Not now, Harry.”

“Fremont to The Embarcadero.”

“Okay, got it.”

“And…take North Point.”

“Right.”

Traffic was, predictably, heavy as they neared Fisherman’s Wharf and, as always, there were pedestrians all around Ghirardelli Square but, as they pulled into the parking garage they found it remarkably quiet. 

“Go up a few levels.”

“Okay.”

“There, in those shadows.”

“See it.”

As the tires screeched to a stop Callahan bailed out and went to the back of the Beemer; Bressler came with the keys and opened it. 

“What are you carrying?” he asked Bressler.

“Same as you,” Bressler said, pulling an identical Walther. “This little pop-gun.”

“Okay, you take the HK, give me your Walther.”

“You hear ‘em?”

“What?”

“Footsteps. Coming up the ramp.”

“Go over there, beside that column. Wait’ll they pass you, then open fire from behind.”

“Right.”

Harry slipped into a low crouching run and went up the ramp about ten yards and there ducked into another shadow.

Then…

Four men. Two with Uzis, two with shotguns…maybe 870 pumps…

They were passing Bressler now…

Assess the targets, prioritize, then shoot…

But Bressler opened up with his MP-5, and – after a brief, blinding roar – Callahan watched as all four dropped to the concrete…dead.

“Well, fuck me!” Al said as he came out of his hide.

“I got to get me one of those,” Callahan whispered…

Then someone opened fire, bullets hitting the concrete ceiling overhead, chipped concrete dust filling the air…

Callahan ducked into the shadows again, but he couldn’t see Bressler…

…and suddenly everything was quiet. Too quiet.

Because the night was filled with the sounds of approaching sirens. He slipped out into the open and walked over to the Beemer, then he saw Bressler – still hiding and not wounded.

“Come on,” Callahan said. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

They passed several squad cars as they exited the area, and neither he nor Bressler could see a tail as they headed away from downtown.

“Where to?” Callahan asked.

“Ditch the car, grab a taxi, go the Hyatt and wait.”

“The Hyatt? You mean…”

“Yeah. The bar. That’s my bailout. Every night at eleven. If I’m there it’s because I’m blown.”

“Nobody gave me that option?”

Bressler nodded. “That’s why I’ve been on your ass, except when you were out in those damn helicopters.” Bressler pulled into a grocery store parking lot and started to get out…

“Aren’t you going to take the keys?” Harry asked.

“No. That’s the point. Let someone steal it, and then the car becomes a decoy. And a convenient dead end.”

“Right.”

Bressler went to a payphone and called for a taxi, and it appeared a few minutes later. They just made it to the Hyatt in time for the 2300 hrs meet, and a woman walked up to their table a few minutes later.

“You’re all over the news tonight,” she said to Harry as she pulled up a chair and sat. “Not particularly useful, I suppose you know?”

“Doesn’t matter. I need to get in touch with the Colonel.”

“Okay, let’s go.”

They followed her to a bank of elevators, and she pressed the down arrow, then walked off to the emergency stairwell, Bressler and Callahan following. She went down two levels then led them out into the atrium, and from there to a corner room.

Callahan walked in and was almost shocked to see Frank Bullitt curled up on one of the beds, sound asleep. And Senator Walter Chalmers was sitting in an overstuffed chair watching the news on television.

“Get some rest while you can,” the woman said. “We’ll be leaving in a few hours.”

“What the hell is going on?” Callahan said to her, but she just smiled and left the room.

Bressler walked over to the mini-bar and took out a Coke, then rummaged around until he found a Snickers before heading over to the TV.

“And I missed dinner,” Callahan snarled, his stomach growling as he sat on the edge of the second bed.

“Try room service,” Chalmers said. “It’s pretty good here.”

“Swell.”

Callahan grabbed a pillow and curled up on the bed – now too tired to think of food; he fell off to sleep wondering what else could possibly go wrong…

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and 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 (a little virus, not to mention a certain situation in Washington, D.C. springing first to mind…) so waiting to mention sources might not be the best way to proceed. 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 Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the television reporter 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. Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a 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? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred, though 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…given life by two actors who will stand tall through the ages.]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Chapter 23

88th key cover image

The Eighty-eighth Key

Part IV

Chapter 23

____________________________________

Patrick/Frank Bullitt made his way from the lot as the loudspeaker barked his name once again: “Pat, report to Mr. Chalmer’s office…Pat, report to…”

He stopped at the water fountain and took a long slurp before he resumed walking, anything to slow his way there – and several others around the showroom watched with knowing expressions on hand, hoping he’d be fired for this overt display of disobedience.

Because over the past week Patrick had sold nine cars, while all the other salesmen had sold…none.

And now, on this Friday afternoon – payday, of course – they wanted a comeuppance more than anything else.

So Patrick grinned knowingly as he walked into Paddy Chalmer’s ornate office. “You need me for something?” he said, not a little insolently.

“Why yes, Pat, I do. Have you got something working?”

“Yeah, a broad lookin’ at that last 914.”

“Oh, well then, I won’t keep you long. I need you to help me with an errand tonight. Got any plans you can’t break?”

“Nope, I’m all yours.”

“Okay, that’s all then.”

“Right.”

________________________________

“After three months you’ll get a take-home car,” Paddy Chalmers told Patrick as they worked their way across the Bay Bridge – just as dark came on and a sudden fog rolled across the water like smoke. “Just one of the perks, I guess you could say.”

“Okay,” Patrick replied.

“You don’t talk much, do you?”

Pat shrugged. “Nothin’ much to say, ya know?”

“Carmine tells me you’ve put your hands in cold water.”

“Did he?” and Pat replied cautiously now because this was slang for killing someone.

“And I was wondering. What if we need something like that. Should I come to you?”

“Depends on the money, I guess.”

“And that depends on the hit. Yeah, I got that. So, what about a cop? You down for that?”

“A cop? You mean, like some guy walkin’ a beat?”

“No, a police captain.”

“High profile?”

“No, he’s a paper-pusher, a real pencil-dick…”

“All cops are pencil-dicks, Paddy. How does fifty sound?”

Paddy nodded. “About what I figured.”

“Okay, so next time I’ll ask for a hundred.”

And Chalmers laughed with him, then Patrick grinned – if only to seal the deal.

Once over the bridge, they made their way down to Hayward; Chalmers pulled into the airport and parked near a row of hangers.

“Now we wait,” Chalmers said, leaning back with a sigh. 

It didn’t take long.

About a half-hour later a small twin-engined plane landed and taxied to the row of hangers; Chalmers got out, motioning Patrick to do the same, and they walked out to the plane just as the right engine shut down. The pilot climbed out the door on the right side and walked down the wing, then he went aft to the small luggage compartment. Chalmers handed over an envelope and the pilot opened the little door, reached in, took out two duffel bags; he handed one to Chalmers, the other to Patrick, and without a word the pilot got in and started the right engine and taxied over to a fuel depot – leaving Patrick to commit the airplane’s registration number to memory.

Chalmers put the bags behind his seat, then they drove off northbound for Oakland, and, after a few minutes, they were winding through an area near the waterfront that seemed filled with abandoned warehouses, though there were still a few working enterprises here and there. Patrick watched Chalmers’ eyes in the mirror; he was scanning to the rear, checking for a tail as he drove about aimlessly for a half hour.

Then, without warning, he flipped off the Porsche’s headlights and turned hard into a darkened parking lot. Now, heading towards a closed-door Patrick expected an imminent crash – until a larger sliding door opened at the last possible moment…

…and as soon as the door slid shut behind them lights blazed-on and a huge warehouse full of men and painting equipment came into view…

Chalmers parked and got out of the Porsche, so Patrick followed…and it didn’t take him long to spot Callahan, busily masking off the windshield on an orange Porsche 912. Without a word, Patrick fell in behind Chalmers as they walked to an office and sat down. 

Patrick watched the Porsche they had just used drive off, but he saw that an older man now had the duffel bags, and this man disappeared into another part of the warehouse. A few minutes later a beat-up Chevy Nova appeared; Chalmers stood and made his way to the driver’s seat, Patrick following close behind.

A few minutes later they were on the Bay Bridge again, headed back into the city.

But Chalmers drove through the park until he came to a house out near the cliffs, and parked there Patrick saw the Prussian Blue 911 he’d sold to Mrs. ‘Kildare’ – aka his handler. Chalmers then took out a set of keys and handed them to Patrick.

“Get the car and follow me.”

“Right.”

Patrick walked over to the Porsche and got in, started the motor, and as quietly as possible backed out of the driveway. The Nova took off and he followed; a few blocks away they came to what looked like a moving van, only the back doors were standing wide open and there was ramp sloping down to the street. One man stood by the ramp and indicated he should stop at the bottom, and after Patrick got out a second man got in and drove the Porsche inside while the first secured the rear doors. Chalmers pulled up beside Patrick and told him to get in; they sped off towards downtown in silence.

“Smooth, Patrick. Pretty smooth.”

“Yeah?”

“Sorry, but I had to see how you handle a little pressure.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You know what I like about you, Pat? You don’t ask questions. Yeah. I like that.”

Patrick nodded. “Any place around here this time of night got a decent steak?”

And for some reason this made Chalmers laugh.

________________________________________

Mason/Callahan had seen Bullitt get out of the car and what bothered him most was how recognizable Frank was, even with the long red hair and the natty Ray-Bans, so naturally, the first thing he did after Bullitt left was to go to the bathroom and look at his own disguise. Full, bushy beard, scruffy gray hair, and clothes that bordered on ragged…but, yeah, he was pretty sure he still looked like Harry Callahan. ‘So the first thing I gotta do is stay away from cops, especially from San Francisco,’ he thought as he looked at his reflection. ‘Maybe I ought to go skinhead, chop the eyebrows a little?’

Then, banging on the bathroom door: “Mason, you in there?”

“Yeah man. Bad enchiladas…”

“Well, light a fuckin’ match and hurry it up.”

He flushed the old toilet and ambled out, still tucking-in his shirt, and Danson was there with one of the duffel bags that Bullitt had just delivered.

“What’s up?”

Danson unzipped the duffel and took out what looked like a small vinyl pouch, just like you’d find in the trunk on top of a car’s spare tire. “Take five of these and put them with the spare tires in those cars.”

“Just lay ‘em on top? That’s it?”

“Yeah.”

But for some reason Harry knew this was a test of some sort, that people would be watching him, checking to see if he tried to snoop around and see what was inside, so he went to each of the five cars that would go out tonight and dropped one pouch per car in the boot. When he was done he went back to masking off the latest 911, getting it ready for the paint booth – and he acted as if nothing unusual had gone down.

But the cop in Callahan had quickly deduced that the pouches were loaded with either heroin or hashish – the weight and feel unmistakable…

So, the group was not only moving stolen cars, they were also distributing narcotics; the obvious next question was simple enough: where were they getting their product from – because now he knew the ‘real money’ was in those black vinyl pouches…

When his shift was up he had just begun to put away his tools when Danson and two other men walked up.

“Got time for breakfast?” Danson asked.

“Yeah, sure. Can I wash up first?”

“Not necessary,” one of the other men said.

“Okay, ready when you are.”

They walked outside to a Caddie with blacked-out windows and Danson told him to get behind the wheel; once seated one of the other men instructed him to drive down to the airport in Hayward…

He noted it was a little past midnight and the sky was partly cloudy, the temp about 50 degrees…so it made sense they were going to meet a plane, maybe pick up more product?

But no one in the car said a word – until the turned into the airport…

“Turn left here,” one of the men said, then: “go down to the far lot and park.”

From there, all four walked out onto the ramp and out to what looked like a surplus Huey…

Then this same man, the one who appeared to be in charge, spoke again: “They tell me you can fly these things.”

“Well, I…”

The man reached inside his jacket, like he was going for a shoulder holster. “Look, Slick, either you can or you can’t. Which is it?”

“I can, but it’s been a while,” Mason lied – because Goodman had foreseen this moment, too.

“Prove it.”

Harry walked around the Huey and pulled the covers, then up to the starboard side forward where he opened the pilot’s door and climbed in; he heard the aft door port-side open, then it slammed shut after, presumably, the others clambered in and took their seats.

Harry reached for the overhead and flipped on the main bus, then he powered-up the ship’s systems one by one. He got the interior lights on and set to red, then found the headset and got it settled over his ears…and as soon as he did the intercom chirped to life.

“You hear me okay, Mason?” he heard Danson ask.

“Yup.”

“Okay, we’re going to the north tower on the Golden Gate. From there, take a heading of 2-5-5 magnetic. I’ll tell you when to stop.”

“Okay, 2-5-5 from the north tower until advised.”

“And, uh, no radios tonight, Mason.”

“Got it.”

Harry started the turbine and watched his pressures, then he flipped on the intercom again. “Uh, I assume no exterior lights?”

“You assume correctly,” one of the other men said, his accent from south of the border.

“So, no transponder?”

“You got it, slick,” Danson added.

Harry nodded…because that meant he’d have to keep the Huey under fifty feet, and at one in the morning. He dialed in San Francisco approach and picked up the barometric pressure, then set this reading on the altimeter.

“Y’all buckled in?” he asked as he pulled up sharply on the collective, and as quickly he dropped the nose and ran the throttle up smoothly until the flutterbug was racing across the bay…the skids maybe twenty feet above the waves…

‘Goddamn, but it feels good to be up here again, even now…’ he thought, realizing he missed flying more than he’d been willing to admit. 

There were several small boats coming and going across the bay, mainly to and from Sausalito, and he kept well away from this traffic – but in the end, no one challenged him as he made his way across the bay to the bridge. There he set his heading bug to 255 degrees magnetic and drove the Huey out to sea.

“What’s your airspeed,” one of the other men asked.

“One ten knots,” Harry replied.

“Slow to 20.”

“20, Roger.”

“Turn on your rotating beacon for thirty seconds, then power it off.”

“Roger.” Harry flipped the switch on the overhead as he watched the second hand on the clock countdown…

“There he is!”

“What?” Harry asked.

“Flashlight, at your ten o’clock,” he heard Danson say, and then he saw it. One man in a very small Zodiac inflatable boat, more like a yacht tender, was about a hundred yards away.

“Okay, got him,” Harry said as he turned to look at his passengers.

“Two of us getting out here, Mason. Thanks for the ride.”

“Right,” Harry said as he slipped over to the little boat. He heard an aft door slide open and prepared to counter the weight-shift, and when that was done and over with he turned to Danson. “Where to?”

“Mind if I come up?”

“Hell no! Come on, man…it’s too quiet up here!”

Once Danson had settled in the left seat he asked again: “Where we headed now?”

“Back the way we came, down in the waves.”

“Right.”

“That was the best flying I’ve ever seen. Did you go through the entire Army flight school?”

“Yeah. But, well, I got kicked out.”

“Army, huh? Hear that’s pretty tough.”

“The flying wasn’t. All the other bullshit was.”

“You instrument rated?”

“Yup.”

“No shit?”

“No shit.”

“I guess you wouldn’t mind doing more – errands – like this?”

“If the money’s good enough, sure thing.”

“Thousand bucks a run okay? In the beginning, anyway. Maybe some more on the big money runs.”

“I’m in.”

“You haven’t asked what you’ll be carrying? Why is that, Mason?”

“Because I don’t give a flyin’ fuck, Amigo. As long as the money’s good, ya know what I mean?”

Harry could see Danson’s grin reflected in the windshield, so he guessed that was the right answer…

_____________________________

Avi’s head of security was allowed into the cardiac intensive care unit one morning, though he had been cautioned to keep things simple and stress-free…

“How is she?” was the first thing out of Avi’s mouth.

“Fine, actually. Nothing to worry about.”

“What about her cancer? What do we know?”

“She’s had the surgery, and she did well. They’ll commence with one round of chemo, then six weeks of radiation, beginning next week.”

Avi took a moment to digest all that, wiping away more than a few tears in the process, before he continued. “Tel Aviv?” he asked.

“For now. But the doctors think she might be better off doing the whole thing at Sloane-Kettering.”

Avi nodded. “See if you can expedite that, Lev.”

“Yes, I will.”

“And…is there any news about Harry?”

“Not much. He is flying helicopters now, at least once this week. Colonel Goodman is concerned, however. He thinks the equipment is too old to be used as it is.”

“He’ll just have to trust Harry, I assume. The rest of the operation?”

“Sam and Al are…”

“Who?”

“Al Bressler. You remember, the one who lights his farts?”

“Ah, how could I forget. Go on…”

“They followed a lead into Syria but it went cold. They are now in Venezuela.”

“What the hell?!”

“A new lead. I don’t have the details…”

One of Avi’s nurses came in and went straight to the IV; she injected a sedative then turned and shook her head, implicitly telling Lev to cut his visit short.

“Well, I will find out what I can. I’ll be back this afternoon; can I bring you anything?”

“A stripper with huge tits,” he called out for the benefit of his nurses.

Both men smiled, then Avi continued in a lower voice: “Get Imogen to New York, would you? And find out what you can about Harry?”

“I will, my friend.”

And Avi nodded, smiled a little before his eyes clouded over.

The nurse returned then: “I doubt he’ll be awake this afternoon.”

“So, I should return in the morning?”

The woman hesitated, then simply nodded.

“What are you not telling me?” Lev asked.

“Doctor Cooley thinks he may be rejecting the new tissue. There is a new drug he’s trying to get approval to use, but if not, well, things could become very bad, very quickly.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Not unless you can get hold of a supply of this medicine.”

“What is the hold-up?”

“Well, the drug is made by an Israeli company, but there’s some problem with the import license.”

“Indeed. Tell me more…”

___________________________________

She was having a good day. Lucid, the doctors called it, which meant she knew where she was and what time of the day it was outside her little cocoon. She’d just managed breakfast when she went to her Bösendorfer; once her hands hovered over the keys she closed her eyes and cast herself free of time – and she was soon adrift on a sea of memory…the Old Man in the Cape staring at her knowingly.

And von Karajan was agitated this morning, too. He wanted nothing more than to see where she was taking this monumental work, but most of all how she was going construct her conclusion. At the same time, he was growing more and more fearful of this piece, fearful of its underlying power. She had rescored key passages of the second movement only the day before, and as she worked through the closing passages he had found himself weeping uncontrollably, his hands shaking and his pulse hammering in his head. What would older musicians do when they encountered such raw power? Would they survive the telling of her story, indeed, their encounter with such deadly emotion?

Now he watched her hands.

Porcelain white, like purest marble under Michelangelo’s hand, waiting to come to life again.

Then she looked up, her eyes roaming the room until she found him.

“You must not hear this, Herbert,” she sighed. “Let it be a surprise.”

“Imogen, are you sure?”

“I am, but help me with this notation before you leave me.”

He came to her, paper in hand as she placed her fingers on the deepest keys, those leading down to the eighty-eighth key, and he watched as her fingers searched for the meaning passed down from the clouds…

He had never, not once in decades of conducting, seen anything remotely like what she was forming…then her hand found the eighty-eighth key and she played the chord…

He felt his breath sundered, his vision fading to a vast field of limitless white stars as he lost control of his legs and fell to his knees. He tried to write, tried to get these sudden fleeting images of death from his mind, but he found the effort almost impossible. 

He stood, breathing again but with trouble, and he found her motionless – though her hands were frozen to the keys of her creation…and as he wiped tears from his eyes he finished the notation. But…this was just one chord, not a movement…

“Imogen?” he said quietly. “Imogen, are you with me…?”

Nothing. No movement at all, just a slab of cold, white marble…

Then, in a violent outburst, she grabbed the pages from von Karajan and began writing furiously, page after page taking form in the dead quiet living room of Avi’s house in the desert compound. In less than an hour she poured out the final vital passages that lead her to the eighty-eighth key – her shattering finale – buried deep within that one shattering key…

…and then she stood back from her beloved Bösendorfer as if to leave, and then fell to the floor.

von Karajan ran and knelt beside her, feeling for a pulse…

…but there was nothing to be felt now, nothing of this life remaining in her discarded body, and he screamed for the security detail…

…but she was gone by the time they got to her. Dead and gone, and now only the final chord of her life lingered on in the air – apparent.

_______________________________________

Harry Callahan left his little apartment and made his way to Water Street, then walked along the waterfront past Jack London Square on his way to the ferry that connected Oakland to San Francisco. It was almost cold out in the twilight, and a thick fog was rolling in on the tide – making it difficult to see if there was anyone tailing him. Of course, his instructors had taught him the very basic tradecraft, including the most salient fact of all: stopping too often to check for a tail was a dead giveaway in and of itself, and anyone with even a basic understanding of the art would pick up on his evasions in an instant. So…

…he just ignored the possibility and walked hurriedly to the ferry, needing to make the 7:30 crossing…

And once inside the little pavilion he bought his ticket and was able to board immediately. He made his way to a seat with a decent enough view of his fellow travelers and watched them board, and as the ferry pushed away from the pier he got up and went for a coffee. He turned and began to walk away when he heard a voice…

“Excuse me, sir,” an old woman said to him, “but you dropped this.”

“Oh!” Callahan said, patting his coat pocket. “Thanks very much!”

He pocketed the five dollar bill and went to his seat and drank his coffee, then got up and went to the head. Once in a stall he read the message from his controller, committed the address to memory, then flushed the banknote into the sea.

He still hadn’t picked up anything that even hinted at a tail, but suddenly he felt a nagging suspicion tugging at his coattails…‘be careful…be very careful right now…’

And Colonel Goodman had warned them all, and more than once: when you felt that nagging doubt in your mind’s eye, there was no doubt at all.

And as simple as that, he knew he was blown.

As the ferry docked he went to the rail to watch the soft kiss of home, and there he ran his fingers through his hair once, then scratched his right ear a moment later – signaling his handler to abort the meeting.

He walked down to Fisherman’s Wharf and grabbed a bowl of chowder, then made his way back to the ferry and returned home.

_______________________________

When he unlocked the door to his apartment he immediately knew someone had been inside while he was away. An unwanted smell, perhaps? Lingering body odor, maybe one cigarette too many? It didn’t matter, though, did it?

Why would anyone be tailing him, unless…?

And why would anyone search his apartment, unless…?

Unless he was blown?

And there, in his little living room, sat Danson…

…and three mean-looking hoods.

“Whereya been?” Danson asked.

“Went over to the city for some chowder.”

“Any good?”

“Yeah, I guess. One of the guys at work told me about this place…”

“Oh, where’s that?”

“Scoma’s,” ‘Mason’ said, looking Danson in the eye. “Over by…”

“I know where it is,” Danson replied, only a little too brusquely. “Look, we got a shipment coming in…a biggie…so let’s go – I don’t wanna be late.”

Mason nodded and followed the men out the door, still very much aware this might be a hit…then they walked to a beat-up Dodge four-door parked a block away and told him to drive again.

“Back to Hayward?” he asked.

“No, over to the city,” one of the other men said, this one speaking with a very pronounced ‘south of the border’ accent. 

“Man, I don’t know my way around over there…” Mason said as he looked at Danson’s eyes in the rearview mirror.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“Well, how do I get to the bridge?”

Danson sighed, more than a little put out now, then he told Mason to pull over. “You stay up front, but I’m drivin’,” was all he said, and after they crossed the bridge Callahan figured they were headed to Half Moon Bay, and probably to the little general aviation airport down by the water. He leaned back and closed his eyes, and soon fell asleep…

Only to jerk wide-awake as the Dodge rattled over a speed bump.

“You know what, buddy? You snore, and I mean you really snore.”

“Sorry,” Harry said as the Dodge pulled up to what looked like a brand new stretched Bell JetRanger.

“You ever flown one of these?”

“Nope.”

“Well, I hear it’s just like a Huey…”

“But…”

“But nothin’, Mason. You’re either our pilot or you’re not, got it?”

Harry nodded then followed Danson and one of the others over to the Bell, his stomach now in acid-drenched knots. He saw a battery cart hooked-up port-side and a fuel truck that was just pulling away as he climbed-in, and using a penlight he felt more comfortable after a quick scan of the overhead panel. He put on a headset and flipped on the main bus then switched over to the external power cart; when he saw volts were holding steady he powered up the radios and interior lights…then looked at the fuel tanks…

“How far out we goin’?”

“We got plenty of gas, Mason. Don’t sweat it, buddy…”

And that reply only made his stomach knot even more. He burped once…bile filling his throat.

He started the turbine and then switched to internal power, gave a hand-signal to the kid out on the ramp to unplug the cart as he watched pressures and temps build…

“Got a rough heading for me?”

“West,” a rough-looking guy obviously from south of the border said. And this one looked familiar now, too. He’d been on the first trip…?

“Two-seven-zero it is.” He looked aft and saw that Danson wasn’t onboard; indeed, it was only himself and this ‘Mexican’ Svengali.

“I hear you do pretty good at keepin’ low, man. So…keep real low for now.”

Callahan nodded as he added power and collective, and as soon as the little ship was about twenty feet AGL he nosed over smoothly and turned west. They roared over a small trailer park and past a huge radome, then he dove sharply after they passed a huge cliff that faced the sea – and then he settled-in about twenty feet over the waves…

“Make your speed like one-forty, okay mano?”

“Got it.”

Callahan scanned the wave tops as the ship skimmed the sea, his eyes hitting the instruments one by one – but only briefly… One second of lost concentration out here in the dark and at this speed there wouldn’t even be an oil slick to mark the point of impact…

After about a half-hour his companion broke the silence: “Okay, you can ease it up now, go up to a couple hundred feet.”

“Thanks.” And Callahan did ease up – a little.

Then the guy reached up and flipped on the rotating beacon, and Harry watched the clock intently – because after thirty seconds the guy turned them off again…

And as suddenly a small ship lit up, and, in the overwhelming darkness, it looked like the ship was afloat high in the sky…disorienting Callahan for a second and taking him back to that mad flight from Hue out to the Constellation…so many years ago…

“They will be heading into the wind, Amigo. You see the pad?”

And Harry saw it as he circled the ship in the darkness, almost amidships and with the orange triangle marked with a big yellow ‘H’…

Harry continued this wide, arcing approach then he came up alongside the ship’s starboard side, bleeding speed with his nose up about five degrees until the Bell had matched the ship’s speed. When he was settled amidships he slipped left until he was over the pad, still matching the ship’s speed, and only then did he flare gently, settling onto the ‘H’ with not even the slightest hesitation.

“You are a very good pilot, señor. Very good indeed. The last pilot we had couldn’t do what you just did.”

Men on deck hooked up a power cart and Callahan cut the engine, then switched to external power. One of the crewmen ran a static discharge pole to the rotors and then another ran out with a fuel bowser, refueling the Bell out at sea. When that was done the port-side passenger door slid open and a gang of men began tossing black duffel bags into the cabin…

“Got any idea how much all that crap weighs?” Harry asked.

“Just enough, Amigo. Believe me, I have seen the sharks out here, and I have no desire to swim with them.”

Harry nodded. “Swell.”

“So, your name is Mason?”

Harry nodded. “Yup.”

“Well, Mason, my name is Pablo. Pablo Escobar. Nice to meet you.”

Harry looked down at the man’s offered hand and he took it. “Yeah man, you too.”

And Pablo laughed at that. “Mano, you can relax now. You passed my little test.”

“Passed?”

“Yeah. The last guy? The one that couldn’t land out here? Well, next trip out was his last.”

And now Harry laughed. “Well, Pablo, I’m not exactly a great swimmer…”

“Neither was he.”

“Man, I’m gettin’ hungry…how about you…?”

And now it was Pablo’s turn to laugh: “Me too, Mason. Me too…”

________________________________

Avi’s head of detail walked into the CICU not really knowing what to say, let alone how he was going to break the news to his boss – who was if nothing else his very best friend, not to mention a man he looked up to. He walked over to one of the nurses and questioned her about the best way to…

“He can’t handle anything like this, sir. I mean it… You do it and you might as well kiss his ass goodbye.”

“I see. By the way, let his physicians know that the drug they wanted will be arriving in about five hours. One of my men will be carrying it in from Intercontinental.”

The nurse looked at Lev and her eyes blinked rapidly. “How did you…”

“Please, don’t ask.”

“Okay, I won’t. But Dr. Cooley sure will.”

“I’m sure he will. May I speak to Avi now?”

“Just for a minute…”

Lev gowned up, then slipped on a face mask and gloves before he entered the little room, and his ears popped when the door closed behind him.

“So,” Avi said, looking him in the eye, “you bring news? Is it bad?”

“No, my friend. Harry is well, and even now von Karajan is putting on the finishing touches. The premiere is scheduled for the first of June.”

“And, how is my Imogen, Lev?”

“She has been asleep, medications I think?”

“Chemo? Has it begun?”

“I have not heard, Avi…”

And then the old man looked into Lev’s eyes…and he knew.

“You were never a good liar, my friend,” Avi whispered.

“I can not see through people with your skill, sir.”

Avi nodded, then he seemed to relax. “When you next see Harry, please give him the package, would you? And tell him I very much wanted him to attend the premiere. It will mean something to him if I am not mistaken.”

“I will tell Colonel Goodman, my friend.”

And again Avi nodded his head. “If I am not mistaken, Lev, God is calling me now. You will pardon me for leaving you, but…”

Lev took his friend’s hand and held it close while Avi passed, then he went to the foot of the bed and began the El Maleh Rachamim, the Hebrew Prayer for the Dead…

__________________________________

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and now, a brief note 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 (a little virus, not to mention a certain situation in Washington, D.C. springing first to mind…) so waiting to mention sources might not be the best way to proceed. 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 Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the television reporter 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. Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a 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? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred, though 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…given shape and life by two actors who will stand tall through the ages.]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 22

88th key cover image

The Eighty-eighth Key

Part IV

Chapter 22

____________________________________

Walking along Hesperian Boulevard towards Oakland, the man held his thumb out, hoping to catch a ride into the city. He looked grubby, and to most who looked at him as they passed, more than a little dangerous, and so car after car roared by without so much as a tap on the brakes. After a half-mile or so an old pickup truck pulled over to the side of the road and stopped; the man jogged up to the passenger and looked in…

“Where you headed, buddy?” the driver asked.

“Up to Oakland, I guess,” the man said.

“You guess? You don’t know where you’re going?”

“Not really,” the man said, shrugging.

“Well, get in.”

The man climbed into the old pickup and pulled the door to – right as the driver took off.

“So, you just getting here?” the driver asked.

“Yeah.”

“Where from?”

“Joliet.”

“Illinois? Wow, you do time there?”

The man nodded, looked out the window.

“Got a place to stay?”

“No, not yet.”

“You ain’t on parole or nothin’, are you?”

“No, free as a bird.”

“How’d you swing that?”

“Wrongful conviction, case got thrown out.”

The driver whistled. “Whoa, you luck out, or what?”

“Or what,” the man sighed.

“Got a name?” 

“Mason,” the man said.

“What do you do, Mason?”

“Mechanic.”

“Cars?”

“Cars, trucks – and I can do helicopters.”

“No shit? ‘Nam?”

“Yeah.”

“You know how to fly ‘em?”

“I was checked out in Hueys, but it’s been a few years.”

“No shit… ” the driver said. “What did you do time for?”

“Arrested – for stealing cars, but…”

“But you didn’t do it, right…?”

The man smiled and shrugged, and yet both men laughed knowingly.

“Well, Mason, welcome to the land of milk and honey.”

Harry Callahan looked around and smiled. “Looks like everything I hoped it would.”

___________________________

Avi settled in the back seat of his government car and flipped through a folder full of briefing notes he’d missed this morning, but his heart wasn’t in it today. He’d been with Harry for two months and he had to admit he was missing the boy. And he was concerned about his mission, too. Because it was dangerous. Even Colonel Goodman thought it was dangerous, but necessary.

Yet now, Avi Rosenthal looked at Harry Callahan as someone more than his wife’s son: after their time together in Switzerland, and at Goodman’s training camp in the desert, he’d begun to look at Harry as someone more like the son he’d never had. The son that the unsettled circumstances in Europe after the war had conspired to take from him.

He leaned back and thought about those chaotic days…

Trying to get from Palestine to Germany had been impossible, but then he’d received word from Saul that Imogen was supposed to be in a refugee camp in Poland, and that he – Saul – was on his way to find her. Avi hadn’t quite known what to do about Imogen after that…except to let Saul handle it.

Like his older brother always had, he thought – now somewhat sarcastically.

He’d found her, alright. Then he’d conspired with Lloyd Callahan to get her to America. And away from him, and their life together in Palestine.

And it had taken him almost twenty-five years to find her. And…when he did, where was she? Right under Saul’s watchful eye – betrayed, by his own flesh and blood!

And when they were reunited it was too late. She was as barren as the desert, and at night almost as cold.

And that put Harry Callahan in a unique spot, a place Avi considered carefully now. 

His party had asked him to run for prime minister, and while he had considered the idea – briefly – in the end, he’d thought it too politically risky. He had almost as much power as the PM but none of the political vulnerability. And running publicly would thrust Harry into the spotlight, wouldn’t it? And though a few people in the Air Force knew of his exploits, those could never become public knowledge.

But what if Harry embraced Judaism? What if he could be convinced to immigrate to Israel?

‘Don’t kid yourself,’ Avi said to himself as he looked at the passing landscape.

Because he knew as well as anyone that Harry Callahan wasn’t an American. No, he was a Californian, through and through. And while California just happened to be in America, Californians were different from all the other people who lived there…

Too bad, he thought. Still, he had to consider his feelings for Harry now that he’d been asked to run for office…

His car turned into the compound and pulled up to his house, but after he stepped out of the car his security detail met him on the walk.

“How is she today?” he asked.

The head of his detail spoke first: “She is with von Karajan again, going over final arrangements for the performance.”

“But, how is she?” Avis asked, because he could see it in their eyes.

“Fragile, so we took her to the internist yesterday, and we have news.”

“News?”

“She is ill, Avi. Very ill.”

“And?”

“Ovarian cancer, and it has metastasized.”

Avi took a deep breath, then he stumbled, began to fall…

And his men caught him, steadied him as he struggled to breathe…

He grabbed his chest, tried to get away from the pressure that had come for him…

“Oh no,” he whispered. “Not now. Please God, not now…there is so much yet to do…”

________________________________________

The man looked at himself in the mirror – and grinned.

His shoulder-length red hair was drawn into a pony-tail, and he was sporting a full beard now, too. He pulled his tie a bit, loosened it a little – then thought better and snugged it up again. This was supposed to be a job interview, after all.

He walked back to the conference room and the men gathered there looked up as he came in.

“So, your name is Patrick?” one of the men asked. “Patrick Flannery.”

“Yessir.”

“Where’s your family from, Pat?”

“Cork.”

“Well Pat, take a seat.”

“Okay.”

“So, your resumé looks impressive. A top salesman award winner and more than once, great numbers for two years running. But selling Mercedes in New York is an easy gig, don’t you think? So, I take it you think you’re up to the challenges of selling out here?”

“Are you kidding?” Patrick said, his face a stoic mask. “Selling Porsches in California ought to be about as about as hard as…”

“Don’t say it, Pat,” all the other men in the room said, laughing.

“Okay.”

“So, you know how this game is played, I take it.”

“Sir?”

“Don’t call me sir, Pat. My name is Paddy. Paddy Chalmers. And I’m the Sales Manager here.”

“Okay.”

“So, like I said, the stuff on your resumé – and your friends – tell me you’re ready to go, and without much training. That’s what I mean by how the game is played. Anyway, is that about the size of it? You ready to hit the floor today?”

“Yessir.”

“By the way, I like the hair. Kind of a laid-back Hollywood look, ya know?”

Patrick nodded, his face otherwise a mask.

“So Pat, we do things a little different here, but we’ll get into that later. Our mutual friends in Jersey vouched for you, so you’re in. Welcome aboard, and all that shit. I’m going to hand you over to one of our top producers, and he’ll show you the ropes then let you get settled into your new office.”

“Okay,” Patrick said, his face still impassive – yet vaguely menacing.

The other men in the room watched the new guy as he left the room, but they waited for the door to close before they began speaking…

“Boy, he’s a talkative son of a bitch, ain’t he?” one of them said.

“Hard as nails. That’s the word on the street, anyway.”

“Stone cold killer,” Chalmers said. “More than once, too.”

“No shit?”

“Yeah,” Chalmers added, “you don’t want to fuck around with this one.”

“So, you think he’ll play ball?”

“No problem. And we can use him for dirty work if we need to. At least that’s what Carmine told me. Apparently, this guy really loves the wet stuff. ”

“Any problem taking out a cop?”

“Carmine told me this guy is a perfect fit for the operation.”

“We can’t afford no shit this time, Paddy. If we…”

“Look, Sean, if this guy gets outta line, like last time we take him down to the water, take him for a little swim – ya know? Just like the last guy…”

_______________________________

Patrick walked around the showroom with a stuck-up kid from Hillsboro, listening to the salesman’s standard spiel he was supposed to recite…

“Porsches sell themself, Pat. People that come here generally know what they want before they walk in the door; we’re just here to show ‘em inventory and get ‘em the numbers.”

Patrick looked at the kid and nodded.

“So, you sold MBs back in Jersey?”

“Yeah.”

“So, pretty much the same gig. Doctors, lawyers, the usual characters, right outta central casting.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You, uh, don’t say much. That approach work for you?”

Patrick shrugged. “Usually.”

“Well, you got the next one that walks in the door, man. It’ll all be on you, so do your magic.”

“Right.”

“So man, our inventory is kinda slim right now. Twelve 911s and two 930s, a couple of 914s leftover from last year…”

“Discontinued, right?” Patrick asked.

“Yeah, replaced by the 924, and in my opinion it’s an even bigger piece of shit than the 14.”

“What’s the word on the 928?”

“We should get our first one in three, maybe four months. So, you heard about her?”

Patrick nodded. “Where’s the used lot?”

“Man, we ain’t got much used stuff. Anything we take in on trade, if it ain’t a Porsche we wholesale it out, usually same day. Thing is, not many customers come in with a trade.”

“Cash buyers?” Patrick asked, grinning.

“Mostly. Yup, looks we got one…” the kid said as a woman walked in the main door, and he even whistled his approval. “Yowza, man. See if you can get me her phone number, wouldya…?”

But Patrick was already walking across the showroom floor by the time the kid realized Chalmers was there by his side…watching Pat as he seemed to glide across the brightly polished white floor to the woman.

“How does he seem to you, Steve?” Paddy Chalmers asked, his arms crossed across his chest.

“Kinda stuck-up, man. Like a know-it-all…ya know what I mean?”

Paddy watched quietly as the new guy walked the woman around a white 911 Turbo, then over to a Guards Red 924, yet even from a distance, he could tell Patrick was steering her back to a 911.

Then Pat took the woman out to the lot and straight to a Prussian Blue Metallic 911 Targa, and Paddy could tell the new guy was a natural. “Get the keys to that one, Steve.”

“Yes, boss.”

By the time Pat walked back to the showroom for the keys, Chalmers had them in hand and met him at the door.

“If you get her there, tell her a thousand under sticker is the best we can do.”

But Patrick simply stared at him for a moment before he spoke: “I already sold it. For sticker.”

“You what?”

But Patrick was already walking back out to the Targa; he opened the driver’s door and helped the woman get in, then walked around and got in the passenger’s seat…

____________________________

“So, how am I doin’?” Bullitt asked the woman, grinning.

“Not bad,” she said. “But I think you should loosen up a little. You might be scaring these guys a little too much…”

‘She’ was going by the name of Debra Kildare, though she was in fact a Mossad agent assigned to the Bennett team, and regarded as one of  Colonel Goodman’s best operatives…and Frank would be reporting to her during the team’s opening moves. “Oh,” she said as she opened her purse, “you’ll need my license for the title, and here’s my insurance card.”

“We better take it for a quick drive.”

“Keys, please,” ‘Debra’ said, smiling as she started the Porsche and deliberately made a few jerky shifts on her way out of the lot.

“Anyone following,” Bullitt asked as he watched her eyes scanning the mirrors.

“No…nothing yet.”

They drove over to the park, and there they pulled into the aquarium and removed the top, stowing it upfront before returning to the dealership. They walked in together – and straight over to Chalmers, who was still waiting by the door.

“So, how did you like it?” Paddy asked as he introduced himself to ‘Debra.’

She nodded. “Any chance this young man could follow me home? I drove my car down this morning, and…”

“Of course. So, no trade-in?” Paddy asked.

“No. I’m getting this for my husband’s birthday.”

“I see. Shall we title it…”

“I have all the information here, Mr. Chalmers. We’ll register it to our production company if that’s okay with you.”

“We’ll take care of all that, and we can have your new car ready to go in a half-hour or so. Patrick, you have her papers?”

“Yes.”

“Well Pat, let’s get to it. M’am, we’ll be back in a minute or two, if you’d like to wait…”

_________________________________

Goodman’s team had done their homework, had put Callahan out on the street right before Nigel Danson drove from his mechanics job home to his place in Oakland. As the team had seen Danson pick up hitchers more than once, they figured it was even money he’d stop and pick up Callahan, and knowing Danson’s background they’d figured – rightfully, as it turned out – that Callahan/Mason would be an easy recruit…

Danson worked a legit day job at the Hawthorne Municipal Airport, working as a mechanic on small general aviation aircraft five days a week. But he supplemented his income by working at a chop-shop in Oakland, an enterprise that took in freshly stolen cars and trucks, switched out VIN numbers and slapped a fresh coat of paint on the hot cars before pushing them through a shady dealer network all over northern California, providing unsuspecting new buyers with bogus salvage paperwork – papers good enough to pass muster at their local DMV.  

But the real beauty of the operation was the network of legitimate informants around the Bay Area providing precious intel to the thieves, because several salesmen at these dealerships, most often high-end foreign auto dealerships, were providing this growing network with the addresses of new purchasers – as well as spare keys to the vehicles in question – in exchange for a cut of the action. Cars were then lifted in the middle of the night and driven to nearby trucks – that then covertly transported the stolen cars to one of the shops in the East Bay area. As soon as the fresh paint cured, within a few hours these lifted cars showed up in dealerships all over California, places like Sacramento, Stockton, and the Central Valley, and the profit margins made this new operation more than worthwhile financially. Yet, even so, the stolen car operation was just the tip of the iceberg…

And now Callahan was on the inside of the biggest chop-shop in the East Bay – learning the ropes under Danson’s tutelage – while living in a small apartment Danson had miraculously provided, and at an impossibly low rent, too. After one week’s work, Callahan took home over three thousand in cash, and this was in addition to his paycheck from his other job at a nearby helicopter maintenance facility Danson had hooked him up with. Harry figured he’d made more in one month doing this stuff than he would have in almost half a year at the department, and he found that more than a little humorous. At these wages, criminal operations would completely wipe-out legitimate businesses within a few years, and if you extrapolated these new, illegal synergies throughout the economy, organized crime would soon be the single most powerful entity in the region.

And this simply meant that organized crime rings would soon push aside more traditional political parties. After studying the nature of this trend with one of Colonel Goodman’s Mossad instructors, Bennett’s team knew this type of political collapse had already happened in Italy and Ireland, and even now Japan was suddenly at risk. If these organizations succeeded in the Bay Area, after already making real progress in New York and Boston, how long would the United States survive?

Yet the most important question remained unanswered: which nation-state, if any, was behind this operation?

And that, more than anything else, was what the Israelis wanted to know. And what Harry hoped to discover.

______________________________

Avi Rosenthal opened his eyes and looked around the room as best he could; banks of monitors winked and beeped his vitals; he could see two nurses in the room, one of them writing, the other injecting something into an IV hanging overhead…

He tried to talk but found his mouth taped shut, then he felt hard plastic on his tongue just as he realized his throat hurt like hell. 

‘I’ve been intubated, so I’ve already had surgery,’ the said to himself, trying to assert control over his emotions by rationally cataloging the elements of his surroundings…

He tried to turn his head and moaned as the pain in his chest increased, but this caused one of the nurses to turn his way. When she saw his eyes were open this nurse came to him, told him they could remove the tube now that he was awake, then she scurried off and was soon out of sight.

Then he realized the nurse talked with a very strange accent…

But Physicians soon surrounded his bed, poking here and prodding there, one of them pinching his toenails and watching fluid rebound, another shining a blinding penlight in his eyes, yet a few moments later the tube was gone – and in its place a searingly bad sore throat…

“Don’t worry, Mr. Rosenthal,” one of the voices said, “you’ll soon be…”

But Avi was focused on the man’s voice, the strange accent, and now he was growing very worried…

“Where…am I…?” he just managed to get out, his voice more a ragged, hoarse cracking sound.

“Houston. Texas. You’re at Texas Heart, Mr. Rosenthal.”

Avi’s mind raced… Texas Heart…Denton Cooley’s place in Houston. That could only mean one thing…he had a new heart…

The realization rocked him, left him feeling bereft of his senses.

“Are you – Cooley?” he croaked, but his soul screamed when the physician nodded. “So, new heart?” he asked.

“Mr. Rosenthal, you’ve been through a lot the past week. I know you have a ton of questions but we’ll go over everything after we get you through the next day or so. Try to calm down now, or we’ll need to put you under again, and that means another intubation. Just take a few deep breaths and try to think about something less stressful, okay?”

Cooley looked at the man, then at a beeping monitor, and a moment later Avi felt himself falling into the darkest well imaginable…

_________________________________

Imogen sat at her piano, her fingers wandering through vague shadows, her eyes closed as old memories came to her unasked.

Colonel Goodman was with her now almost all the time, and Herbert von Karajan, the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, had rarely left her side since news of her husband’s heart attack reached the house.

She had dropped to the floor, crying at first but soon deep in conversation with another unseen voice. von Karajan hadn’t known what to do, but Avi’s security detail had. They carried her to bed and called her physicians, and the conductor had simply followed them inside her room – and had rarely left her side since. 

But von Karajan was a sympathetic soul. He understood the nature of music, the real purpose of the structures within a piece, and he realized that now was probably the most important time there was.

As soon as she could hear his voice, von Karajan had walked her to the piano and set her free.

And with pencil and paper in hand, he had scribbled down the symphony of memory that had burst free and come pouring from her soul. The music that came from this explosion shattered his soul, the beauty rendered him little more than a mute witness to the birth of something so utterly otherworldly…yet she seemed to be holding back one vital passage as she came to an obvious conclusion…

“Imogen? What is it? What are you hearing now?”

But she had nothing left to give and had begun to fall…

Goodman caught her, and the two of them just managed to get her to the bedroom. Guards were called, physicians were soon at her side.

“Dear God, Herbert!” Benny Goodman cried, aghast at her sudden implosion. “What are you up to?”

“You saw it for yourself. She is talking to God. She is transcribing what was said.”

Goodman tried not to smile, yet he nevertheless turned and walked from the room and spoke with Avi’s security detail.

“Is there any word on his condition?”

“The last donor heart was a match. He should be out of surgery soon.”

Goodman nodded. “I think one of us should contact Harry, let him know what has happened.”

“You can’t do that, Colonel. It is too soon. You could blow their cover, put the whole team at risk.”

And Goodman had then slowly nodded his understanding. “Are they in place?”

“Just barely, and we will need more time to get the Bennetts in place. Please, give it to them, or all this will have been a waste of time!”

“Where is Lloyd Callahan now?”

“If I recall correctly, his ship is en route from Hong Kong to Osaka.”

Goodman paced for a few minutes, then he walked to Avi’s secure phone and lifted the receiver.

“I need to get to Japan, quickly,” he said, then he listened for a while as other people passed along their advice. “Very good. Make it happen.”

He placed the phone in its cradle and walked from the house; his driver then took him to the airbase and dropped him off at the security hanger. His Falcon 20 began the journey east as other assets shifted in the long night ahead.

 

_______________________________________

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and lastly, a brief note 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 (a certain virus, not to mention a madman in the White House springing first to mind, and let’s just agree right here and now to not talk about age…) so that might not be the best way to proceed; and with my thinking along these lines first in mind I’d hate to have this story stop ‘unexpectedly’ without some mention of sources relied on here. Of course, 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 Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the pivotal television reporter 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). Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a 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? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred, though I’d be remiss to not mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan. Talk about the role of a lifetime…given life by an actor for the ages.]

The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 21

88th key cover image

Okay, a little housekeeping before we get underway.

First, I’d hoped to wind this story down by chapter 21, but more and more changes to the original outline have forced a rethink on that… So, looking at a few more chapters (at a minimum), it was either do that or write one massive ‘War and Peace’ length chapter; in the end I’ve decided to break the conclusion down into smaller bits. Today’s chapter is a shorty and will wind down part three of the tale. Chapter 22 will begin Part IV.

Assuming no new stoppages to non-emergent surgeries, I’m going under the knife in early August, so Harry’s story needs to be done before that happens – one way or another. But another story will wrap by then, as well. The working title is ‘Saturday in the Park,’ and I’d say this newest story is more than halfway complete. I wanted to get this info out to you as it is quite possible that, if I finish ‘Saturday’ first, I’ll go ahead and post it before ’88’ wraps up.

So, assuming no major interruptions, both Harry and this new story will be out by the end of the month, and ‘Saturday’ won’t be released in chapter form. Its just one long piece so when it comes out that’s all she wrote, folks…the fat lady will be singing.

These are mad times. Covid has become a surreal part of our day to day routine now, if a most unwelcome part, and Putin’s Puppet (aka Herr Trump) seems to be doing his very best to completely destabilize the world between now and November. Some of you live in parts of the world that are easing up a bit, while others (mostly in the good ole US of A) are still battening down the hatches in one way or another. One way or another, this story has touched us all, and we aren’t close to the end of this tale.

One coping mechanism for many of us has been movies on the various streaming services, and I’ve got a couple of recomendations to share with you. If you’ve got Netflix, I’ve got to mention The Titan as one of the better sci-fi flicks I’ve seen in a while. Their recent documentary on Jeffrey Epstein ought to make your skin crawl, too. Over on Amazon Prime, I ran across a little bit of 60s Cold War nuclear paranoia that you might want to check out, titled The Flight That Disappeared. Really bad score, but the story asks a few important questions in a more-or-less fanciful setting. One last item to put in your pipe…Prometheus and Alien: Covenant ought to be considered as one long thought piece that, in many ways, takes off where Bladerunner left us (and I’d say the Bladerunner sequel, too). The Prometheus storyline is David’s, while Covenant belongs to Walter, but think of David as a stand-in for teleological ethical theory, and Walter as a Deontological döppelganger, while the humans – especially in Covenant – are idiots completely unfit to be roaming around the galaxy. If Ridley Scott gets green-lighted to make his conclusion, it ought to be a real barn burner, but I bring these two up now because there just seems to be something about the current zeitgeist that fits this storyline. Anyway, watch ’em and think about it, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Anyway, let’s jump back into Harry’s story…

The Eighty-eighth Key

Part III

Chapter 21

____________________________________

Walking up to the wreck, Callahan thought it looked like an old Soviet T-54 main battle tank, but now, after several years under the desert sun, the original dark green paint had given way to a lizard-like patchwork of rusty tans and grays, the main turret punctured in at least two places by, he assumed, an Israeli tank that had scored a hard kill then moved swiftly on to the next encounter. 

You had lived on this battlefield by keeping your wits about you, or you died – and quickly, too. But wasn’t it the same on any field of combat, Callahan thought. Nothing had changed since Roman legions walked these plains, and as long as humans chose conflict over coexistence nothing ever would change

But right now he was looking for cover, because he could hear several helicopters – and they would be flying a standard search grid, looking for him – headed up the valley in his direction. He found what he needed by crawling under the shattered bulk of the tank’s main hull, and he waited for the first helicopter to show itself.

It didn’t take long.

The Huey flew over the tank once, then circled before setting down twenty meters away.

And as the rotors spun down his round-faced instructor stepped out of the Huey and walked right up to Callahan…

“Could you possibly have found a more obvious place to hide, Inspector Callahan?” Colonel ‘Benny’ Goodman cried. “Really! Have you not listened to one thing we’ve tried to cram inside that nonsensically thick skull of yours!”

Harry pulled himself out of hiding, brushing sand and gravel off his uniform as he stood, but then he jumped back when the colonel pulled out a holstered Beretta and fired three rounds into the sand by his feet.

“Let alone, Inspector Callahan, that in this heat every cobra within a hundred miles will try to find shade this complete!”

Callahan looked down at the still-writhing snake and shuddered.

“Well, I guess it wasn’t a total loss, Callahan. You evaded for fifty-five hours; not bad for your second time out.”

Callahan stood motionless long after the colonel had turned and started back to the Huey.

“Well, come on, Inspector! Or do you want to walk all the way back to camp!”

‘Camp’ was an odd assortment of tents clustered between a few dozen palms that rimmed a small spring-fed watering hole not far from the Dead Sea. The desert here was warm during the day and positively cold at night, and after two nights of sleeping in the rough Callahan was whipped. He wanted a shower and a steak – in no particular order – then about twenty-four hours of serious rack time…

But no…that was not to be.

He was the first picked-up, but an hour later Al Bressler arrived – looking dejected, at least until he found he’d beaten Callahan…

Then Bullitt arrived – looking worn-out – and put-out. 

That left the Bennetts – Sam and Stacy. She was doing pretty good, too, considering she was dead. Or supposed to be, anyway. After the Israelis found the FBI had been penetrated the decision had been made to get her off the streets, and Jim Parish had been recruited to complete the deception. Still, not even the Israelis had considered the scale of the attack that took out Chip Bennett.

Stacy had some serious training under her belt from the FBI Academy in Quantico, but Sam had been a Marine in the war, so it was still even money who might be toughest of the two. 

“So?” Frank asked the group as he settled in with a bottle of cold water. “Who’s gonna last the longest?”

‘Who cares,’ thought Callahan.

Turned out everyone assumed Sam would come in well before his sister, because – of course – he was much older and therefore had to be in worse shape.

Stacy Bennett came in on the next Huey.

And the Israelis had yet to find Sam, and now Colonel Goodman was growing a little concerned.

“Suppose he fell into a ravine?” the colonel’s aide said.

“Or maybe a cobra found him?” Callahan added, still coming to terms with how close he’d come to another fatal encounter with the snakes out there.

They heard another helicopter approaching, but this one was coming from the coast, yet everyone gathered near the pad and waited for it to arrive.

But no, two new instructors jumped out before the heavy transport helicopter thudded away back to the northwest. 

Six hours later – a little after midnight – Sam stepped out of another Huey and joined the team in their mess tent for a quick de-brief, then everyone filed out and found their way to a tent for some sleep; not an hour later the sound of grenades and machine-gun fire filled the air, and the team bolted from their tents – running low to the ground to prepared trenches – only to be told this latest drill was over.

Callahan grumbled as he crawled back into his sleeping bag, wondering what the hell had happened to the comfortable little world he’d left behind in Switzerland…until he found a dead cobra coiled up on top of his sleeping bag.

“Swell,” he growled…but he was too tired to bitch about Goodman’s sick sense of humor just now…

_______________________________

Saul Rosenthal watched British troops loading German prisoners onto transport lorries, yet he was surprised by his lack of emotion as he watched the scene unfold.

“What a fucking waste,” was about all he could think to say as he looked back over the last ten years. A simpleton, really, a raving Austrian lunatic had appealed to the very worst in human nature, a deeply embedded populist anti-semitism combined with a sense of Aryan superiority, and with this divisive hate as his weapon of choice, Hitler had turned an industrious, democratic society in on itself, and he had taken Europe down the same rabbit hole with him. Not even twenty years after the end of the last war. Like a pendulum swinging back and forth between ever widening extremes, Hitler had exposed the raw edges of humanity’s desire for self immolation to a new light of day; he then watered and fed these impulses until the impulse became undeniable. And unstoppable – at least within the confines of Europe.

Rosenthal had watched as Hitler’s brand of divisiveness spread from the Tirol to Bavaria, from greater Germany to France and Italy. Hitler’s brand of hate wasn’t unique, either; it had laid dormant in Europe for ages, the virulence breaking out every fifty years or so, and he knew it would break out again. Hitler had tapped into this same awesome power of hatred just as the next populist leader would – wherever that might be – and humanity would be dragged kicking and screaming down into the warrens once again.

“Maybe Avi is correct,” Saul said to the wind as the last German troops were transported from Denmark. “Maybe Palestine is the answer. Perhaps the world will simply leave us alone.”

But Avi was the traitor that had leaked the scientist’s departure information to the Gestapo, and all in an effort to arrange his marriage to Imogen. 

And he had vowed to kill his brother, hadn’t he?

But how? How do you kill your own flesh and blood without becoming the very evil you hope to destroy?

Then he was hit by the thought: How could the liberal democrats of the Weimar Republic have killed Hitler – without becoming the very thing they wanted to destroy?

But was the equation ever really so simple?

Probably not.

If left as things stood now, he thought, humanity was doomed to cycle between altruistic periods of intellectual expansion and regressive interludes of irrational mysticism. Yet, if a strict balance was maintained between the two cycles, human development might be stymied; the only way forward would be to keep the irrational mysticism ‘within’ – somehow – under control.

So…how could he keep Avi under control?

‘Avi wants Imogen most of all, correct?’ Saul said to himself. ‘That means he wants a future only she can provide. And that means he wants to take her to Palestine.’

He found himself walking along the waterfront – several British-flagged cargo ships off-loading medical supplies. The shipping area was only now coming alive, after several weeks of bombing and resistance activity, and it felt good to see the city coming back to life. Seamen from all over the British Commonwealth were crawling around the wharves but in amongst this vibrant throng he saw a new, very different queue forming quayside…of refugees, if the look of the tattered scarecrows waiting there meant anything at all, and taken as a whole this looked like a very malnourished group…

‘But…what if I deny Avi the future he craves? Would that be punishment enough for his many betrayals?’

He looked at the ships as he walked along the water’s edge, the rough contours of a plan taking shape as he looked at the destitute scarecrows gathered in the shadows of a broken world. ‘I’ve got to keep her away from Avi, whatever I do. Somehow, I’ve got to break this new cycle he seems intent on starting…’

_____________________________

After another day in the desert Callahan was exhausted and his body felt sore all over, but so too did they all – though the oldest among them, Sam Bennett, still seemed the most ‘on the ball’ – both physically and emotionally. Harry knew Sam was carrying the heaviest burden of those in their little group – the death of his son – yet as far as Chip’s murder was concerned Sam’s sister Stacy seemed to have been the most adversely affected. The ‘attack’ had been uncovered only hours before it happened, and the advance word was a sniper was going to try to take out Stacy. The bomb in Frank’s Porsche had taken everyone, including the Israelis, by surprise; now Sam was intent on revenge and his fury burned with a ferocity that really troubled Stacy.

Yet, after talking with Stacy, Harry learned that what bothered her most of was much simpler, if far more deadly. Someone in the Bureau had ‘burned’ her, had been providing the Bay Area Vigilante Group with detailed reports of her whereabouts – details that had been known only to a very small group of people – and she knew once this person was uncovered they would surely be killed. The problem – for Stacy, anyway – was that every person on that list was a friend. The solution – as she now understood it – involved getting her close enough to the traitor to take him out. and as she told Callahan what she knew so far he began to see the dimensions of her problem. No matter how this turned out, if she took out an agent there was no way she could go back to work for the Bureau. Extrajudicial killings were not tolerated within law enforcement for all the obvious legal and moral reasons, and by ‘going off the reservation’ like this, it would make her a real pariah. 

They were gathering now, after shooting practice out in the desert, in the tent that they’d been using for classroom training, and after they settled in their seats Colonel ‘Benny’ Goodman came in – carrying several file folders that he put on a folding table well away from the tent’s floppy entry. Callahan watched carefully while the old Israeli set out his materials; he knew Goodman well enough by now to see that something was troubling him – and Callahan found that vaguely unsettling too.

“Good evening,” Goodman said as he pulled up a chair and, leaning on the chair, faced the group.

“What’s wrong, Benny?” Sam Bennett asked, for everyone had picked-up on the old man’s sour expression and agitated expression.

Goodman steepled his hands on his knee and nodded. “How many of you know Captain Jerome McKay?”

“Pencil Dick?” Callahan and Frank Bullitt at once, causing everyone – but Goodman, who looked confused – to laugh a little.

“Pencil Dick?” Goodman asked.

Sam Bennett cleared his throat, trying to hide his grin behind a deepening scowl: “McKay is,” Sam began, “an officious, pompous little know-it-all, Benny. He earned the name by being more concerned with budgets than with officer safety.”

“But…Pencil Dick?” Goodman repeated, and Frank held up his fist with only his little finger extended, and this he wagged bag-and-forth a few times.

“Ah,” Goodman said, his understanding now apparent.

“What about McKay,” Harry asked.

Goodman took a deep breath then dove in: “Well, it seems your Captain McKay might be the leader of the network.”

Callahan burst out laughing. “McKay? Are you fucking kidding me? He couldn’t lead a blind man to a goddamn urinal!”

Goodman fed a tape into the hulking reel-to-reel deck on the table and pushed play; scratchy audio filled the tent and Harry could hear cars in the background, as well as sounds you might hear in a busy restaurant, like the recording had been made somewhere like a sidewalk café…

‘What do we have on him?’ one voice could be heard asking.

‘Enough to compromise his chances in the election,’ a second voice said.

‘Photos?’

‘And audio.’

‘What does McKay want to do?’

‘Jerry? Fuck, he wants to kill the fucker…’

Goodman switched off the tape and looked at Bennett. “Well?”

Sam shook his head. “I don’t buy it. They knew they were being watched and they’re setting him up…”

Goodman nodded then looked directly at Bullitt.

“You’ve got something else, don’t you?” Frank said – but Goodman only nodded – before he took a file folder from the table. 

Goodman took several photos from the file then held them out: “Frank, tell me who you see…”

Frank rifled through the images and everyone saw his hands start shaking.

“That’s McKay, alright,” Bullitt snarled.

“And who else, Frank?”

“Senator Walter Fucking Chalmers.”

Sam Bennett whistled then let that settle-in for a moment – before deciding to speak, then: “Okay Benny, what are you not telling us?”

“Well, it looks like, from the information we’ve gathered so far, that the McKay group is either trying to influence Chalmers, or they’re trying to recruit him.”

Bullitt shook his head. 

“What is it, Frank?” Goodman said, wanting to draw this out slowly, let his students come to their own conclusion.

Bullitt scowled before he spoke this time: “If there’s a national leader, it’s Chalmers.”

“Why?”

“Because the bastard always looks for the easy way, that’s why. No scruples. No morals. He’s a psychopath who doesn’t care who or what he runs over on his path to glory.”

Sam Bennett coughed. “You said national, Frank. Why?”

But Bullitt grinned before he spoke again: “Because he’s already formed an exploratory committee, Sam.”

“For what, Frank?” Goodman asked – only now somewhat coyly.

“For president, Benny,” Frank grinned.

“Our sources say he made a name for himself going after the mob,” Goodman said now, leading them to a new conclusion.

“That’s right,” Frank replied.

“The Mafia?” Goodman added.

“Yeah, of course.”

“So, the Italian mob?”

“Yes, Benny, the Italians.”

“So,” Goodman smiled, “the Italians. But just out of curiosity, Frank, are there any other ethnically focused organized crime rings working out of the city?”

“The Chinese,” Callahan said.

“There is growing activity among the Vietnamese refugee community…” Stacy Bennett shared.

“What about the Threlkis family?” Goodman asked Callahan. “Who are they linked to?”

“The Italian syndicate down in L.A.,” Harry replied.

“Okay,” Goodman sighed. “Who have we left out?”

Silence.

Goodman looked around the tent. “Anyone?”

No one spoke.

“Okay. So, Miss Bennett, you work out of the Boston Bureau offices, correct?”

“Yes,” Stacy said, looking a little uncomfortable.

“And what ethnic group runs the biggest syndicate in Boston?”

“Evenly split,” she said, “between the Italians and the Irish.”

“Ah, the Irish,” Goodman said, smiling. “Anyone know Walter Chalmers’s ethnicity?”

“Irish?” Frank Bullitt replied.

Goodman nodded. “And how about Jerry McKay?”

“Let me guess,” Sam Bennett growled. “Irish.”

Goodman nodded before continuing. “And so, let’s go back to the beginning now. The Bay Area is a ripe target for all the economic reasons we’ve mentioned, but what do we know about the various law enforcement agencies in the region? Anyone care to guess which ethnic group has the largest representation within these ranks?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Callahan snarled. “Are you telling us that the Irish mob is burrowing into our department?”

Goodman nodded as he shrugged. “Sorry. But to be clear, their effort started across the bridge, in Oakland. High preponderance of Irish pubs in the area around Jack London Square, and many of those operate as fronts for the Irish mob, just like the Italian mob uses restaurants in New York and Boston. We found Chalmers has invested, and I use the term advisedly, heavily in such properties all around the region, but so too has Captain McKay.”

Sam Bennett squirmed in his seat. “Okay, do we have actionable intel on these two?”

Goodman shook his head. “Circumstantial only, like their investment activities. But…”

“Oh-boy,” Bullitt sighed, “here comes the fun part…”

“Indeed,” Goodman said, smiling. “You and Harry are going in. We have a few leads that need to be run down, the type of information gathering we think is best suited to people familiar with the American way of…”

“Shaking hoods down?” Callahan said, shaking his head.

Goodman shrugged. “You said it, not me.”

“So, me and Harry. Where?”

Now Goodman smiled. “Oh, I think we’ve found something perfect for you, Lieutenant.”

Frank looked at the old man, then he turned and looked at Callahan…

“But first,” Goodman added, “we’ll need to tune up your appearance just a bit…”

“Swell,” Callahan said, still looking at Bullitt. “I love it already.”

“Oh, Inspector, no doubt you will. No doubt at all.”

 ________________________________________________

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and now, a brief note 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 (a certain virus, not to mention a madman in the White House springing first to mind, and let’s just agree right here and now to not talk about age…) so that might not be the best way to proceed; and with my thinking along these lines first in mind I’d hate to have this story stop ‘unexpectedly’ without some mention of sources relied on here. Of course, 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. The Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the pivotal television reporter 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). Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a 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? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred, though I’d be remiss to not mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan. Talk about the role of a lifetime…given life by an actor for the ages.]

the eighty-eighth key, chapter 20

88k p3 image

The Eighty-eighth Key

Part III

Chapter 20

____________________________________

He spent his mornings at the Tagesklinik, the psychiatric day clinic in Davos, and when the sun was out he skied with ‘Uncle’ Avi. When she was well enough Sara joined them, and she proved to be an able skier. In the evening, Avi disappeared for hours on end; Harry assumed Avi was talking with Imogen but little mention was made of these interludes.

After a week and with Sara remarkably improved, Harry took her to dinner at the Alpenhof.

They danced around the edges of their wounds as they talked, and they grew into the moment, seemed to check their cares at the door. He was mesmerized by the candlelight drifting through her story, within the carefree pools of her laughter, and they took drinks after dinner in a small alcove haunted by an ancient fireplace. And at one point he reached over and took her hand.

And it all came so naturally after that. This coming together that had eluded Callahan for so long.

One Saturday morning she joined him on the mountain and just the two of them skipped and danced across the snow; they met Avi at the Weissfluhgipfel for lunch, and even the old physician in his cape drifted by once, helping a young boy who had turned an ankle on the slopes. To Harry the universe seemed reborn, and up here in the sunlight, breathing the enchanted, wind-kissed and sparkling mountain air made everything about this new life feel alive with hidden promise.

And at lunch Avi watched his ‘nephew’ with renewed interest; when Sara excused herself he took the opportunity to say so…

“If I am not mistaken, Harry, you seem to be very much in love.”

Callahan picked up his Piesporter and took a sip, then dipped into his salad before he spoke. “I never knew life could feel this way, Avi. There’s something so sweet about waking up and knowing she’s out there.”

Avi nodded as a sudden memory passed on a breeze. “I felt that way too, once upon a time.”

And Harry watched the old man’s face, his eyes now as he spoke. “Mother?”

Avi nodded. “We would walk on this one beach, not far from the city…”

“In Denmark?”

“Yes. The way the sun played across her face. The way she lifted my spirits. When you find such things, Harry, only a fool lets go.”

And Harry sat back, let those words roll around in his mind – at least until Sara returned.

“My, you both look so serious now,” she remarked as Harry pulled out her chair. “What have I missed?”

“Only the most intimate secrets of the universe,” Avi said, smiling.

“Ah, then it was of love that you were speaking?” she added, smiling.

“What else?” Avi said. “What else could possibly matter on such a wonderful day, with two such people?”

And then Sara turned to Harry. “And you, sir? Do you love me, even just a little?”

“More than just a little,” Harry said. “I can’t imagine anything nicer than the idea of waking up beside you every day for the rest of my life.”

“Careful, Harry,” Avi enjoined. “You’re making serious overtures now.”

“I am. True enough, Avi.”

“What are you saying, Harry?” Sara said as she took his hand.

“Marry me, Sara. Let’s just get away from this world and make a new one all our own.”

And she smiled. “We shall have to give the matter some special thought, no? Perhaps this evening? But first, we’ll need to find our way back down our magic mountain.”

Avi stood and dropped some cash on the table. “Well, you two take your time, but I’ve got to run down to the village. A few pressing errands to attend – before the day is out. Harry? I’ll see you at the house, before dinner I hope?”

“Goodbye, Uncle,” Sara said, letting slip her best, most defiant smile.

Avi looked at the gathering storm and sighed. “Harry? I’d head down to the Middle Station now, and keep away from the rocks.”

“Okay.”

The followed Avi out onto the snow, then watched him go to the funicular station while they strapped on their skis; Harry looked at the clouds slipping up the mountain and frowned.

“I think we will have a white-out, don’t you, Harry?”

He nodded then looked at her. No fear. There was no fear on her face nor in her eyes, just an open willingness to take whatever life wanted to toss in front of her. He stepped over to her and kissed her once, briefly, then once again – and time passed slowly as an unforeseen electric feeling passed from his knees to his gut.

“I love you,” he said pulled away, but then he kissed her forehead. This time when he pulled away he saw a tear or two on her cheek and the sight literally humbled him.

And when she told him she loved him too? Well, all was right in the world, wasn’t it?

“So,” she said, “to the Middle Station?”

“You lead, I’ll follow.”

“I like the sound of that,” she said as she pushed off and skated down the first steep pitch.

“Jeez,” Harry said to himself, “not so fast…”

The first few hundred meters were on fading sunlight, then they entered a thick wall of cloud – before a heavy, blanketing snow filled the way ahead. He tucked-in a few feet behind and turned when she turned, traversed where she traversed, and when she grew winded he stopped beside her.

“How am I doing,” she asked, smiling.

“Beautifully,” he said to her radiant face.

“I think we’re about halfway now,” she added, and Harry agreed…then she pushed off and dropped out of sight.

He caught up with her and they fell into a surreal rhythm, carving delicate arcs across the face of the mountain in almost perfect unison, and Harry realized – quite consciously – that he had never felt so at one with another person, and the feeling was as unique as it was exhilarating.

The clouds thinned and he could see the Middle Station ahead, the valley floor beyond, and Sara’s streams of coppery hair leading him on. 

All he really knew was that he wanted this moment to last forever.

____________________________

Aircraft passed by low overhead during the night, and now there were reports of paratroopers in the woods outside the ghetto…British paratroopers…!

And now Saul Rosenthal slipped through those woods with Imogen in hand, leading them to a proposed meet-up with British forces. The two were traveling light now; the only thing Saul demanded she bring was her score of the Third Piano Concerto…because he knew this was a treasure beyond rubies. 

They fell to the earth when a volley of machine gun fire ripped through branches overhead, and Imogen closed her eyes tightly as bits and pieces of twigs and leaves rained down on her. She heard tiny, scared voices off to the left, then the cries of children running in blind terror – before these were answered with even more machine gun fire. The heartbreaking echoes of children moaning in the darkness, then single shots followed by silence – and her nightmare was complete.

“Czech troops,” Saul whispered. “They are killing witnesses.”

Imogen buried her face in her hands, but she could only pray ‘her’ children were not among the dead.

Many of the elders had already been murdered by Nazi collaborators when word of the parachute drop reached Saul, so he made his move and collected Imogen. His plan, if he didn’t find the British, was to get her to the railway station and head south and west, away from the advancing Russians.

Then more machine-gun fire to the left to the right all around and now there was nowhere to go, no place to hide in the sudden crossfire. Saul pushed her into a slight depression beside a fallen tree and covered her with his body…until he heard men yelling, then running through the forest back towards the camp.

He remained silent and still, barely breathing, until he felt someone poking his leg.

“Yo! Mate! You Rubenstein?” a disembodied voice whispered.

“Uh…Rosenthal, but yes. We are here.”

“Well, let’s get a move-on, mate. Follow me – for the last train to Brighton!”

Saul felt a sudden wave of relief…until he tried to help Imogen stand. And standing there, even in the dark of night, he could tell she was bleeding – and badly, and when she started falling the paratrooper moved quickly to catch her. 

Saul made sure he had the score safely stowed, then they made their way through the forest to a small clearing. As promised, a twin-engined was waiting for them, and a few minutes later a medic helped get Imogen onboard and settled.

“Next stop, Hamburg!” the medic said brightly as the plane rumbled across the meadow and took to the air, then, he spoke to Saul: “I can’t find an entrance wound. Any chance she was pregnant?”

__________________________

 Harry held Sara’s hand as he walked with her to the clinic, and as evening snow fell quietly all around them he realized there was so much he wanted to say…yet she seemed to have been reading his mind when she pulled him close…

“You go to your Uncle Avi now, get cleaned up and talk awhile. I’m not going anywhere, and when you’re ready we can talk and talk until we find the answer to us.”

He held her for a long time, soaking in her radiance like a flower turning to the sun…then he turned and faced the mountain, holding her close even so…

“What is it about this place, Sara?”

She sighed a long, hopeful sigh: “I think we found each other here. This will always be our special place.”

He nodded as he turned to meet her eyes. “I love you.”

“And I love you. Now…be off with you!”

He kissed her gently and he watched as she walked into the shadows, then he turned and began the short walk to the house Avi had rented for the winter.

But Harry did not see the four men who fell in behind him, and so preoccupied was he that the men followed him with ease.

_____________________________

No bombs had fallen around the University, and the Schwarzwald house looked, at first glance, relatively unscathed…but a deeper examination revealed troubling damage everywhere Imogen looked.

And the first thing she noticed was the absence of her family’s belongings – aside from a few paintings on walls here and there. All her possessions were gone, her parent’s too: clothing, personal effects…everything. And there were uniforms hanging in her father’s closet, Nazi uniforms. A high ranking officer, if she read the insignia correctly – but Saul wasn’t with her now and there was no one to ask.

She walked up the stairs to her room and walked to the window that had framed so much of her life, and the view she found waiting for her wasn’t really so different now. The same red tile roofs, and as there ever was…a few large ships tied up along the wharves loading and unloading the needs of the moment.

But these were ships-of-war flying the Union Jack, and all around the harbor there was evidence that real war had indeed visited Copenhagen, and more than once. She spied a warehouse with its roof a splintered jumble of charred timbers, and out beyond the middle of the harbor a small German patrol boat lay drunkenly on its side, aground on a sandbar and with black smoke still faintly streaming from yesterday’s aerial attack on German positions.

The last thing her father had told her was that he would not abandon the city of his birth, and now it looked as if that was the fact of the matter. Still, she wanted…no, she needed to know the truth of his story, and – even as she stood there, framed in the light of truth – she could feel the tortured vibrations of his end throughout the house. Now completely unbidden, music began taking shape in the air all around her and, as she closed her eyes, she surrendered to the insistent force, grabbing chaos from the sky and imposing order through the chromatic notes and chords the Old Man in his Cape had taught her once upon a time.

__________________________

Harry bounced in the doorway and found Avi waiting for him by the fireplace. A small fire was burning, but not a single lamp was one – so the effect on the space was almost primitive…like he had entered a cave.

And when he saw Avi’s flickering face, even standing in the dim evening gloom, he knew something was wrong.

Because just then Avi turned to face him.

“You are an imbecile!” Avi screamed. “An impotent, self-absorbed imbecile!”

And then he saw another man sitting across the room. A hard man, twisted into windblown form by brutal experience. “I simply don’t understand,” this man began saying, “unless you are so truly addled you are no longer capable of thinking like a man.”

“And fuck you, too,” Callahan hissed.

And on hearing those words the hard man stood and walked over to Harry, and then – in a flash of hands he tossed Harry across the room. 

“Fuck you?” the hard man said, his voice now a ragged, coarse whisper. “You couldn’t fuck your own hand if it was all you had left in the world, you simple, stupid oaf.”

Harry pulled himself up and looked at the old man, then at Avi…

But just then the front door opened and in walked four men surrounded by swirling snow…

“What the hell?” Harry whispered as he looked at Frank Bullitt, then to Sam Bennett and Al Bressler. And there behind them all – was that Stacy Bennett?

© 2020 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[and now, a brief note 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 (a certain virus, not to mention a madman in the White House springing first to mind, and let’s just agree right here and now to not talk about age…) so that might not be the best way to proceed; and with my thinking along these lines first in mind I’d hate to have this story stop ‘unexpectedly’ without some mention of sources relied on here. Of course, 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. The Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson. The Samantha Walker character derives from the Patricia Clarkson portrayal of the pivotal television reporter 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). Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as a 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? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: no one mentioned in this tale should be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred, though I’d be remiss to not mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan. Talk about the role of a lifetime…given life by an actor for the ages.]