The Eighty-eighth Key, Ch. 32

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Part IV

Chapter 32

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Lloyd Callahan wasn’t quite frantic, yet, but it had been five months since he’d last seen his son, and that had been just after the premiere of Imogen’s concerto.

Harry had changed. Sara’s murder had done something he’d never expected would happen to his boy: Harry appeared to have simply given up. Like a party balloon that had slowly deflated, by the time Harry and the team made it back to Israel – after the brief stop in Davos – his son looked like a different human being.

He’d stopped eating and his eyes seemed to have sunken deep within their sockets, and around his eyes Lloyd had noted splotchy dark circles. When offered food Harry pushed it away, though from time to time he drank coffee…black coffee.

Then he’d done something Lloyd never expected: Harry had gone out to his mother’s crypt. He’d been followed, of course, but even his followers had little to report. Harry had reportedly sat in some modest shade and had talked – quietly – for an hour or so…to at least two people who remained invisible. When Colonel Goodman relayed that information, Lloyd felt sick to his stomach. 

Was Harry coming undone? Would the affliction that had plagued Imogen all her life now come for their son? Would Harry fall under the dark spell of that voice?

That Goodman girl wouldn’t let him to see his son, and he’d immediately resented her for that unwarranted bit of sanctimoniousness. And though he’d sat next to his boy at the premiere, Harry had sat there quietly, almost stoically, through the entire performance, the only emotion on display coming as the final crescendo approached. Lloyd had seen his son’s hands grip the armrests, could feel the tension rise in his boy’s quivering arms and legs, but then there had come un unexpected release, like the explosion Harry had been expecting didn’t come. And at first Harry had seemed confused, then relieved when the expected calamity didn’t materialize…

But then…nothing.

Harry had returned to the compound and disappeared into his room – what had once been his mother’s and Avi’s room – and the next morning he was gone.

And now, after one round trip to Hong Kong just completed, Lloyd was home for a scheduled rest-leave and not due to captain another sailing until early December. With almost a month on his hands, he had wanted to tackle some long overdue home maintenance – but had halfway been expecting his boy to come around to lend him a hand.

He was sitting on the covered front porch sipping his favorite Good Earth tea, watching homes come alive as his neighbors got home from work. Dogs were leashed and taken for walks, backyard grills lit-off and grilling burgers filled the air with their own uniquely familiar aroma, and, yes, he could hear a loud argument over mismanaged money already underway just across the street.

Life on the street was as boringly predictable now as it had been almost forty years ago, but even so he couldn’t stop himself from thinking about Harry’s girlfriend, June. He looked to the right, looked where their old house had been before some yuppies came in and built a multi-unit condo. In another world, another life, maybe she would be sitting out here with him, both of them waiting for Harry to get in from work. Or better still, Lloyd Callahan thought, Imogen would be in the kitchen…making dinner for the four of them.

Nothing had turned out the way he’d expected, he thought. Or wanted.

And now…all this bullshit with vigilantes and Columbian drug-lords, the police department in tatters and his son’s career up in the air.

It felt like the entire world was coming undone.

The Iranians taking the embassy almost four hundred days ago, all those people still hostages, Ronald Reagan looking like he might actually run that that peanut farmer out of the White House. The commies in Cuba lending a hand in Nicaragua, exporting their revolution to Central America, while the U.S. still seemed to be lost inside some kind of narcissistic coma after the Fall of Saigon.

Yeah…what had happened?

It wasn’t all that long ago, he thought as he sipped his tea, that Kennedy had challenged the nation to land men on the moon. And these crazy Americans had pulled it off, too. They’d fought a war in Southeast Asia and done it all at the same time, hadn’t they?

Then Oswald and the Grassy Knoll became a part of the lexicon, just before John, Paul, George and Ringo came along and She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah was all the rage.

Was that all a happenstance, he wondered? Could we have had the Beatles without Kennedy falling by the wayside? Would they have made sense to us without all that despair? Could everything that happened after – the free-speech thing over in Berkeley, all those wild groups up at the Fillmore giving birth to the next ‘real’ counter-culture – have happened without Kennedy’s murder? And all the murders that followed?

He looked down into his tea, swirled the cup and looked at the scattering leaves, wondering what might come next…

“Hey Dad.”

He looked up, saw what looked like just another long-haired freak standing on the steps to his house, but no…there was something in the eyes…

“Harry?”

“Yeah Dad, it’s me.”

He stood, almost stumbled to the floor but his son caught him; they stood staring at one another for a moment…then Lloyd Callahan grabbed his son and pulled him close, wrapped his arms around this cool echo of himself and held on tight.

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They walked down to the waterfront, down to their favorite clam-shack for a basket and a schooner of beer, and Harry talked to his father about where he’d been, and a few of the things he’d done. About the girl in New Orleans and a friend of his from ‘Nam out in West Texas. About his bus ride from there up through New Mexico, where things had gotten dicey…

“Dicey? What do you mean by dicey…?”

“Oh, the bus stopped in the town out in the middle of nowhere, Farmington…something like that. Time enough to go into this little diner for a burger. Some redneck started to beat up on his girl and she was like nine months pregnant. She went down hard and, well, so I intervened…”

“Which means what? You beat the ever-lovin’ crap out of the guy?”

“Something like that, yeah.”

“And…?”

“He was the mayor’s kid.”

“Hoo-boy. Have your badge with you?”

“No. I called Didi from their little jail.”

“Jail? No shit?”

“No charges filed. Turns out the kid’s father went and beat him up even worse.”

“What did Didi do?”

“Shit, I don’t know. About a half hour later they let me out and the mayor put me up in a hotel.”

“What happened to the girl?”

“Baby boy, healthy.”

“Uh-huh. What are you not telling me?”

“She wanted out. Out of that town, out of that relationship…”

“So you made that happen too, right?”

“Yeah.”

“What? Did you buy her a house?”

“Something like that?”

Lloyd shook his head. “Harry, man, I don’t know what’s eating you, but I’m not sure buying-up other people’s troubles and making them disappear is going to make all yours go away…”

“Yeah? Maybe not, but let me tell you something, Dad. If you’ve ever looked into someone’s eyes and seen despair, and I mean real despair, and you had the capability to snap your fingers and make it all go away, are you telling me you wouldn’t? Because the look in peoples eyes when you do that is something you wouldn’t believe…”

“I don’t know, son. Is it really your place?”

“Who’s place is it, Dad? I mean, really, and I hate to get all holy-roller on you, but didn’t someone say we should strive to be our brother’s keeper? Ya know, like once upon a time? To treat others as you’d treat yourself?”

“I know, but…”

“There aren’t any buts about it, Dad. No man is an island, right? We either look after one another or we don’t. Only thing I can tell, really, is that helping people when they’re down makes a difference. It changes things. Like a domino falling, maybe. You never know what the end results might be, but that doesn’t matter. If you see someone down on their luck and simply ignore them, think of it as a missed chance, or a missed opportunity to change the flow of all our falling dominoes.”

“Okay. So that’s what you’ve been up to?”

“I wasn’t up to anything, Dad, at least not anything I can make sense of yet, but all of a sudden I felt like I was drowning in history. My history. June, An Linh, then Stacy and Sara, all of it. I kept falling – back – into that stuff and as I was listening to mother’s composition I heard something different. Like a voice within the music telling me that it was time to, well, fall…forward? Does that make any sense?”

“Fall forward? I don’t know. Not really…”

“I know. It’s hard to describe the feeling, but it was there, in the music. As clear as any voice I’ve ever heard. Stop looking to the past. Move on to the future. And moving on, to me, meant finding a way to change the course of some of those falling dominoes.”

“Son? Don’t all dominoes, sooner or later, end up falling?” 

“Maybe so, Dad. But there’s something else going on here too, something I really don’t understand. And I’ve kept thinking about it, too… Take that girl in New Orleans. What drew her to me? Why did she follow me? Why didn’t I push her away, let her domino fall. Now, suppose she actually does become a physician, and suppose she ends up saving a bunch of lives? I mean, think about it, Dad. Is it all simple coincidence, or is their something else at work here…?”

“I don’t know, Harry. You’d have to go to seminary to find answers to questions like that…”

“Seminary? Oh no, Dad…you’re not going to put all this on God, are you?”

“What else?”

“Seems unfair. Everything we don’t understand gets dumped on Him. Kind of lazy.”

“Lazy?”

“Yeah, Dad. Like we really don’t take the time to look at things like this. The things that are hard to explain. We don’t even take the time to acknowledge them, let alone the why of it all.”

Lloyd looked at his son then shook his head. “You seem…different. What are you going to do now?”

“Get back to work.”

“At the department? Really?”

“Yeah, sure…why not? Got eight more years, ya know, ‘til I can draw retirement…”

They both laughed at the absurdity of that idea.

“What about you, Dad? What are you up to?”

“I’ve got four weeks off. Gonna get new shingles on the roof and paint on the gables.”

“Want some help?”

“I don’t know. You up to it?”

“Hey, Dad. I just put up three miles of barbed-wire fence in Alpine Texas. You got no idea what that means…”

“Fence is fence, Harry. What was so…”

“Rattlesnakes. I’ve never seen so many fucking snakes in my life…”

“I hate snakes,” Lloyd whispered.

“Who doesn’t?”

“Did you kill any?”

Harry looked away, and Lloyd could feel the change that came over his son in that seismic moment. 

“Only one more snake to kill, Dad.”

Lloyd nodded even as a chill ran down his spine. “So, you’re gonna go through with it?”

“She killed my wife, Dad. She made it personal.”

“Did you ever stop to think…”

“It doesn’t matter what she thought, Dad. She did what she did. Her choice. Now I’m going to do what I’ve got to do.”

Lloyd looked at his son and could only shake his head. “You know, Stacy was a little girl too, once upon a time. Maybe she just made a mistake, Harry. Maybe there was nobody around to keep her domino from falling.”

“Yeah. Ain’t life a bitch.”

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“I’m glad the pitch is what it is!” Harry called down to his father. “Not sure I could handle it if this was any steeper.”

“We’re makin’ good progress, son. At this rate, we may finish by sundown.”

“What do you make it? Two more squares?”

“‘Bout that. Maybe a tad more.”

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“Why red?”

“What?”

“Why red shingles. Don’t you think that’s carrying the whole red thing a little too far?”

“They’re not red, Harry. The color is called Redwood Breeze.”

“Looks fuckin’ red to me, Dad.”

“I just couldn’t see doing gray again. She needs something new.”

“She?”

“This old house. She’s carried us through some times, ya know?”

“Reckon so.”

“Besides, after I’m gone you can change the color to whatever you want.”

“Dad? Would you stop with the ‘after I’m gone’ bullshit? It’s creepy.”

“Creepy?”

“Yeah, creepy.”

“I haven’t heard that one since you and Junie watched those horror movies…”

“Horror movies?”

“Oh, you know, like that Beast from 20,000 Fathoms thing. Crap like that.”

“That wasn’t crap, Dad. That was Art.”

“You say so.”

“Gonna need some more nails up here soon.”

“I’ll go get some. Why don’t you knock off for a minute? Go get us a couple of Cokes?”

“Will do.” Harry put his roofing hammer down and walked over to the ladder, then made his way down to the yard. Everything about this old place still felt like home, like a pair of old shoes…comfortable old shoes. He took a deep breath and turned to face the sun, held his arms out to soak up all the sun’s warmth, then he looked away, shook his head and went inside to the kitchen. 

It was the same refrigerator that had been in the same spot from when he was a spud, the same faucet at the sink, too…everything was the same, like his dad was afraid to change anything, afraid he might lose all his associations that had formed between Imogen and the things in this space.

He pulled a couple of glasses down and filled them with ice cubes, and he heard his dad sitting on the front porch as he poured the drinks. 

“Want anything to eat?” he called out.

“No, I’m good.”

He carried the drinks out, sat down beside his father as he passed over a glass.

“Feels good to do this together again, Harry.”

Harry nodded. “Yeah. It almost feels like we’re connected to the earth through this place. When I think of home, this is it. I really used to like it when we put up the tree, had all those Christmas decorations and lights up.”

Lloyd nodded. “Took me a while to get used to all that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I grew up in Scotland, son. Christmastime in the 1930s wasn’t exactly like California in the 50s. If I got a new sweater for Christmas that represented a real financial burden for my parents. Things got different after the war, after the depression ended.”

Harry shook his head. “Hard to imagine.”

“People have gotten used to this life. Not sure they could go back to the way it was.”

“Maybe we won’t have to.”

“Things change, son. And if it’s predictable, it ain’t change. Remember that, okay?”

“Dad?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s okay. We’re gonna be alright.”

Lloyd took a deep breath, held it a second then let the air slip away. “Yeah, I hear you.”

“What did you think of Mom’s concerto?”

“Over my head. A couple of parts seemed unfinished, the ending most of all.”

“Yeah, I felt that too.”

“It felt like, to me, that the last few minutes of the thing were written by somebody else.”

“Yeah. Like somebody was trying to hide something,” Harry added.

Lloyd nodded. “Yeah. I was just going to say that.”

They both sat there for a moment, then Lloyd spoke again. “You think she was trying to tell us something?”

The thought hit Harry, and he leaned forward, took a sip of Coke from his glass. “Not sure, Dad. I thought it was more like that conductor had, maybe, changed something.”

“Why would he do that?”

“Again, I’m not sure, Dad, but something felt wrong.”

“Anyway you could check?”

“Well, I’d have to compare her original composition against what’s published, but the only person who was there was that Karajan fella, so he’s the only one who truly knows what she meant to say.”

“Who has the original?”

“I’m not sure. Technically, it belongs to me.”

“Who can you call to find out?”

“Didi.”

“Does that girl know everything?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“She’s cute, don’t you think?”

“I don’t want to think about her like that. I can’t. She’s holding things together for me right now.”

“Well, if you can ever get your head out of your butt take a good look at her. She’s cute as hell, son.”

“Why don’t you go after her, Dad?”

“No way. That goddamn psychiatrist squeezed the bejesus out of my nuts. I’m done with all that for a while.”

“What? No more Caverject?”

“Well now, I didn’t exactly say that…”

“Man, I don’t know how you do it…”

“Do what?”

“Give yourself a shot, in the willie…”

“You think about something else. Notably, about how good it’s gonna feel to pop your nut…”

“The doc? How was she?”

“Kinky as shit.”

“No kidding?”

“Yeah. They do things differently in Switzerland.”

“Really? Not just tab A into slot B?”

“No way. She was a fuckin’ trip, son. Leather, whips, chains…”

“Whoa, Dad! Too much information!”

Both of them laughed, nervously, like fathers and sons often do.

“Anyway, I couldn’t handle her kind of medicine.”

“Jeez. I had no idea.”

“You know who’s weird? That Frank Bullitt character.”

“Frank? Really? How do you mean?”

“The whole time back at the compound, that woman never let up on him. Screaming at him all the time, and he just takes it.”

“He loves her, Dad.”

“Yeah? I’d sure like to know why, because I couldn’t live with anyone who went after me the way that woman went after him.”

“I must’ve missed something…”

“She was hitting on him, Harry, biting, you name it…”

“Maybe it’s menopause?”

“Yeah? Maybe. Anyway, I doubt those two will last much longer.”

“Too bad. I’ve always liked Cathy – kind of classy, ya know. Too bad.”

“Well, maybe they’ll get it together,” Lloyd added.

“You get those roofing nails?”

“Yeah, I put ‘em down by the ladder.”

“Oh well,” Harry moaned, “we better get back at it. We’re burnin’ daylight.”

“You gettin’ tired?”

“No. You?”

“I got a little bit left in me.”

“Well, let me buy the clams tonight, old man.”

“You ain’t exactly a spring chicken, ya know?”

Harry finished up the shingles, even running the ridge-line, then he went down and helped his dad get paintbrushes into thinner. After a quick shower, they met out front and were about to walk down to the waterfront when an old green Ford Mustang pulled up out front. Frank Bullitt jumped out of the car and ambled over.

“Lloyd,” Bullitt began, “good to see you again.”

“You too.”

“Harry? Long time no see. You get it all figured out?”

“Think so. What brings you out here?”

“Just thought I’d drop by. Y’all headed out?”

“Just down to the clam-shack. Wanna join us?”

“Sounds great. Wanna drive down?”

“Nah,” Lloyd said. “I need to work the kinks out. Legs’ll cramp up if I don’t.”

Bullitt nodded as they began the short walk down to the waterfront. “So, Harry. Where-ya been?”

“All over. New Orleans, Texas, New Mexico. Just looking around.”

“Oh? So…What are you going to do now?”

“What’s going on at the department?”

“Same ole same ole, but it doesn’t feel the same with Sam gone.”

“Nothin’ feels the same, Frank.”

“I know,” Bullitt sighed. “Anyway, Dell made lieutenant, so I just lost him.”

“When’s the next captains’ test?”

“December,” Bullitt replied, matter-of-factly.

“You going for it?”

“Yeah. Sam thinks I should.”

“I do too. It’s time. The division needs someone like you.”

“We could use you too, Harry.”

Callahan looked down, then nodded. “I kind of figured I’d put in my time, put in my twenty, anyway.”

Frank looked at Lloyd. “What are you going to do, sir?”

“I was eligible for retirement last year, Frank. I’m just not sure I’m ready to retire to my back yard yet.”

“Uh, Dad…we don’t have a back yard.”

“Goddammit, Harry, you know what I mean.”

Frank shook his head. “So, you going to keep at it a few more years?”

“Ya know, I’ve been wanting to go back to Scotland, visit relatives while I can still get around easily…”

“You’ve never mentioned that before, Dad…”

“And I’ve never told you I have hemorrhoids, either. So what?”

“I’d like to go with you, that’s all. That’s a part of me I know nothing about.”

“Are your folks still alive, Lloyd?” Frank asked.

“Goodness, no. They both passed during the war. I’ve got a sister in Glascow, though. I’d love to see her again.”

“I have an aunt? And I know nothing about her?”

“Aye, that you do, laddie,” Lloyd said…only now speaking in a thick brogue. “You’ll no doubt be awantin’ to meet her too, I reckon.”

“So, when are we goin’, Dad?”

“Well, she wants to come visit here. That may happen first.”

“Oh.”

“Anyway, I’m shipping out in a month. I’ll be gone through the new year, but we can talk about it when I get back.”

They arrived at the clam-shack and grabbed a table out on the wood deck overlooking the water; the tide was out and the briny shore was strong-smelling after a few hours in the sun. The last of the afternoon sun was slanting through houses and trees across the street, and a waitress clicked on patio heaters as the deck fell into shadow.

“Almost too cold for a beer,” Lloyd said.

“Never thought I’d hear you say that, Dad,” Harry said as their waitress walked up to the table.

“What’ll it be tonight, fellas?”

“I’m starting with an Irish coffee, Stella. The boys will be taking a pitcher of Anchor Steam, if I’m not mistaken. Then let’s have some fried clams. Any scallops tonight?”

“Yup, and fresh, too.”

“I’ll have a plate of broiled scallops then, Stella.”

“Me too,” Bullitt said.

“Better make it three,” Harry added.

“Slaw and fries?”

“Yup,” Lloyd said, just as Stella dropped her pencil. He bent to pick it up just before she did, and the sniper’s round slammed into her left shoulder before the sound hit the patio, spraying Frank and Harry with blood and bits of flying bone fragments. Everyone on the patio dove for cover…

…Everyone but Bullitt…

…who sprinted from the deck, his 45 drawn…

“You carrying, son?” Lloyd asked as he cradled Stella in his arms.

“Nope. I’ll get an ambulance headed this way…”

“You do that, boy,” Lloyd whispered, then he turned his attention to the wounded girl. “You hang on now, you hear? Help’s on the way, so you just hang on…”

He looked into her eyes, saw the stark terror lurking in her eyes, then came the fast, ragged breaths, the bloody foam from her mouth and nose…

“It’s alright now, lassie,” he whispered as he took the girl’s hands  in his own. “That warmth you’re feelin’? That’s God’s open arms cradlin’ you, cradlin’ you in his love. There’s nothin’ to be afraid of now, lassie. You’re going home now…”

She squeezed his hands once, tried to speak one more time – then she was gone.

Lloyd Callahan held her until the paramedics arrived, and when Harry found his father he was still sitting on the patio deck, his face awash in tears, his bloody hands shaking uncontrollably…

Frank had a patrolman drive them up to the house, and the two of them wrestled Lloyd into a hot shower before they got him into bed. Harry poured his old man a Scotch and made him drink a few sips, then he went out to the front porch.

Frank was waiting for him.

“Witnesses say it was a black Sedan de Ville, only plate information is the last three: 274.”

“It’s Threlkis,” Harry snarled.

“This isn’t over yet, Harry. Not by a long shot.”

“You got my paperwork ready?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, I’ll be in first thing in the morning.”

“Could I make a suggestion?”

“Sure.”

“Get your dad outta here. Ireland might be far enough away, but I doubt it.”

Harry nodded, and after Bullitt left he went inside and called Didi…

© 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. 31

88th key cover image

(quick note: still in hospital though sitting up to write less burdensome, hopefully home later this week…)

Part IV

Chapter 31

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Callahan came-to in a field of flowers, and he lay easily on a bed of tufted grass – watching bright puffy clouds drift by overhead on the cool breezes gently caressing his brow.

He heard music, familiar music, adrift on one passing current; he sat up at once, rubbing his eyes, looking for the music’s source…but he only grew more confused. Across one of the fields beyond the softest breeze he saw a house, and while he knew the music had to be coming from there, this place he now found himself in felt utterly unreal…like music didn’t belong here.

He stood, still confused, and he continued to feel that nothing about this place was real. First of all, the clouds overhead were white, true enough, but the color of the sky itself was pale yellow, and though the view was in a way calming, so too was it unsettling. And the clouds? He felt as if he could almost reach up and touch them. He looked down, saw the grass in the fields was pure white, the leafy trees surrounding the house the color of fresh cream…almost like an infrared photograph, he thought.

“What is this place?” Callahan whispered. “It’s not real, whatever it is.”

Yet even as he expressed skepticism the music on the breeze grew even more insistent.

Chords he’d never heard before took root inside the house across the field and blossomed into the sky, leaving traceries of gossamer cloud well beyond the moment their creation, weaving crystalline kaleidoscopes across the sky that seemed to coalesce around a certain feeling.

He stood and took a deep breath, feeling most-of-all that the air in this place was of shattering purity, and that sounds traveled with equal precision. He looked at these new, swirling clouds and felt the music, really felt emotive expressions within each new shimmer…

“How can this be?” he said to this surreal landscape.

“How could it possibly be otherwise?”

Callahan jumped at the sound of this new voice, yet in an instant he knew exactly who was speaking. 

He turned and saw the Old Man in the Cape standing by his side.

“What are you doing here?” Callahan whispered.

“I thought that, perhaps, you could use a hand this evening.”

“What do you mean? Why would I need your help?”

“First June, then An-Linh. Your mother, so suddenly? And now Sara? So much loss, so much pain. I really don’t know how you’ve endured all of it. Or…have you?”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Have you endured? Any of it?”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m not so sure,” the old man began, “that you’ve ever felt anything at all, not really. Maybe pain is just an abstract something you simply brush aside, like lint off your sleeve.”

“Maybe you should get the fuck away from me while you still can.”

And that made the old man laugh for a moment, yet then he produced his ornate cane and pointed to an emerging cloud. “Listen to it, Harry. I mean, really listen.”

Callahan looked at the old man for a moment, then did as he asked. 

And yes, there was something strange about the swirling chord. Standing here next to the old man the impression it left was fleeting – but hardly unambiguous.

“Loss,” Callahan whispered. “Like a dirge.”

The old man simply nodded as he flicked his cane, shifting to a minor key. “And now?”

Callahan’s head tilted and his eyes closed. “Something deeper than loss. Something beyond.”

The old man flicked his cane and a new stream of consciousness emerged within the music coming from the house.

“And now?”

Callahan tried in vain to feel the music within but the struggle left him desperate, winded. “I’m not sure,” was all he managed to say.

“Try not to think of a specific feeling, Harald. Think more of a time you felt this structure.”

“A time? What do you mean?”

“You do know that other senses evoke memory? Scent, for example, can revive a childhood memory?”

“Yes.”

“Well…that’s what I mean. Reach into the chord, Harald. Let the music carry you to the memory, to the moment of the memory’s creation in your mind.”

“The pines outside my window. The way they brushed the glass when a storm approached…”

“What else?”

“Mother. Downstairs, playing the piano.”

“And what was she playing? Can you feel it?”

“It was almost always the same thing. She seemed to be playing to the approaching storm, like she was…”

“What, Harald? What was she trying to do?”

“It was like she was waiting for the storm to tell her something.”

“What else?”

“Well, it was like she was summoning something from within…”

“From within…what, Harald? The storm?”

“I’m not sure.”

The old man bent low over his cane and with sudden fury he flung another chord into the sky, and this time, when the full impact of the music hit, Callahan doubled over in crushing pain.

“Stand up, Harald.”

“I can’t,” Callahan whispered. “What is that?” he added, grasping at the stars that filled his sight.

“What is – what?”

“So many stars…”

“Yes. Find the one calling to you now…”

“What?”

“Reach out, Harald. Reach out…”

He felt hands reaching up, reaching for something far, far away, then he felt other hands on his own, clasping and pulling, pulling him back into the light…

And when he opened his eyes he saw Colonel Goodman standing overhead, then Frank and Al by his side, helping him stand.

“Sara?” he asked. “Where is she?”

But all he could hear now was that last shattering chord, fading away slowly on a dying breeze, and beyond those last fleeting tendrils only the Old Man’s voice remained…

“Find the star calling to you, Harald. Find her voice, now…while there is still time.”

____________________________________

Didi Goodman was the first to reach Sara Callahan. She had seen the helicopter flying up the valley, flying far too low for a commercial transport, and training and instincts had kicked-in at that point. By the time she reached the clinic the helicopter was already departing the area, and when she ran inside only a few sleepy nurses were looking around, trying to figure out what had just happened…

But by then word was spreading fast: the big American girl had been seen running through the wards with a pistol raised by her face, and she hadn’t been acting unbalanced – not at all.

Yet not one nurse thought to look-in or check-on Sara, even as Stacy Bennett made her way to the rooftop heliport…

…so it was Didi Goodman who found Sara. She found the body contorted on a blood-soaked hospital bed, the explosive head wound a massive wreck of shattered bone and brain; the immediate conclusion Didi reached was presumptive, but accurate, in its finality. Though Didi found a thready pulse, she took Sara’s hand in her own, held her while she slipped away, held her until nurses and doctors arrived, then she called her contact in Tel Aviv and passed along all she knew.

___________________________________

In the aftermath, Callahan and the rest of the team had to admit that all their efforts had been compromised, and the conclusion reached was obvious: Stacy Bennett had been on the inside all along. Who had turned her, they wondered. Escobar? Someone in the Bureau? Even personnel within the San Francisco Police Department were considered, but in the end none of that mattered.

Captain Sam Bennett receded from view after this last betrayal, the verdict more than he could stand. Frank Bullitt returned to Israel to join Cathy, who seemed particularly wrung-out by the news of Sara’s murder, and when she demanded that Frank quit the department he didn’t argue. Al Bressler stuck close to Harry after the funeral in Davos, and rarely left his friend’s side afterwards. Captain Jerome McKay disappeared soon after word of Stacy Bennett’s betrayal reached the group, and though Goodman wouldn’t say exactly where to, everyone assumed McKay made the trip east on the Israeli Jetstar – to a professional interrogation facility.

And this last effort turned the tide. Dozens of Escobar’s deepest assets were uncovered and arrested, the Chalmers’ dealer network was similarly laid bare and dismantled. Escobar reportedly gave up his ambitions on the west coast, concentrating on his operations in Florida, Louisiana, and New York, and though it was now assumed Stacy Bennett had been Escobar’s asset from the beginning, she had completely disappeared from view. Neither the Mossad nor Interpol had the slightest bit of luck finding here, and within weeks all leads dried up.

_________________________________________

The team gathered at Avi’s house in the compound after the funeral, but Goodman didn’t bother with his usual debrief this time. The group was simply too disoriented now, too incapable of further introspection, too upset by Stacy Bennett’s betrayal. And most of all, too rattled by the changes they had noted in Harry’s behavior in Davos. 

On their way to Davos the team had gathered protectively around Callahan – not simply to console him but to keep the outside world away – yet despite all that by the time they reached Davos, Callahan was little more than a trembling wreck.

When he slept, which he did too frequently now, he talked incessantly to someone on the far side of his dreams. Violent spasms followed, like he was wrestling demons in the night. 

When he met Sara’s parents at the funeral home he was tearfully guilt-ridden and unnervingly apologetic. When Callahan saw Sara’s closed casket he fell to the floor, completely undone.

Didi Goodman, not surprisingly, moved in and assumed the role of protective Mother Superior at that point, taking Callahan to the house and virtually isolating him there. Only Al Bressler penetrated her sudden impenetrable veil, though Frank and Cathy tried to break-through – and more than once. Still, Didi asserted an unusually deep hold on Harry now, and Frank began to grow concerned.

After the funeral, the team, and Didi, returned to the compound, waiting for the premiere performance of Schwarzwald’s Fourth Piano Concerto. Harry Callahan left the compound only once during those two weeks, to visit the Rosenthal Crypt – to talk with his mother, he said.

_______________________________________________

And the premiere turned out to be quite an event.

Because Imogen was still regarded as a native daughter, it seemed half of Denmark turned out for her last piece. Because of Saul and Avi Rosenthal’s deep roots in Copenhagen, their memory, too, played a modest role in the huge Danish presence. Avi’s stature in the Labor Party assured a huge Israeli contingent, and the simple fact that Herbert von Karajan was conducting the Berlin Philharmonic in Tel Aviv implied a sort of German apologia, which demanded an international presence of politicians and diplomats from Europe and the Americas.

The performance was startling.

The music seemed to carry the performers into deep emotional states, to possess the audience inside an almost otherworldly, trancelike state, and in the end all who came to the premiere agreed the concerto was one of the most significant works of the twentieth century. Deutsche Grammophon and TelArc had both recorded the performance and post-premiere sales were colossal; the Rosenthal Music Company of course had the publishing rights and sales were brisk. Symphony orchestras in San Francisco, New York, and Paris soon advertised their own performances.

And so, in the end, one Harry Francis Lloyd Callahan went from being a modestly wealthy young man to being positively filthy rich. 

So, of course, he disappeared completely from view.

___________________________________________________

For the first few months of this second act in the Life and Times of Harry Callahan, he turned up in New Orleans. He played piano in a bar that catered to people who had chosen to live on the other side of  life. He played Cole Porter songs for the most part, but Gershwin too from time to time. Men dressed like little girls nursed fruity five-o’clocktails while they watched Callahan play, while butched-up girls dressed like Bogart or Grant cruised the perimeters, looking for fresh meat hiding in the shadows.

There was a special kind of Hate for sale in the little bar just off Bourbon Street, too. Self-loathing cloaked behind veils of inward leaning pity, hiding in plain sight all the while, yet just beneath all those juxtaposed veneers a new currency emerged: patrons willing to sell their souls to whatever devil happened to be on hand. Anything to debase the moment, anyplace to explore the hidden depths of despair, yet no time for the moment.

Callahan watched new symphonies take shape around his piano night after night, and at one point he began to conjure new chords to paint the scenes around him. He began setting the scenes to music in the early morning, just after the bar closed, after he walked down to the Morning Call for thick chicory coffee and plates of powdered-sugar-covered beignets, where he put notes to paper for the first time in his life.

He’d rented a room off a splashy courtyard in Jackson Square, and most mornings, while he scribbled on his score, hookers came down for coffee before knocking off for the night. He was soon a part of their landscape and, without knowing the how or the why of such things, he wasn’t too surprised when a couple of girls started sitting next to him. One of the girls stopped by one night and started their first conversation:

“What are you writing? A book?” she asked that morning.

“Music,” Callahan sighed.

“What kind?”

He shrugged: “A symphony, I guess.”

“You mean, like with strings and all that stuff?”

“Yup, all that stuff.”

“You sure are writing a lot.”

Callahan nodded before he picked up another beignet, the slightest breath from his nostrils causing a blizzard of powdery-sugared chaos to drift across the pages on the table.

“You got to be careful with those things,” she said, grinning.

“Want one?” he asked as he picked up his cup of coffee.

“Sure.”

“Help yourself.” And he watched her as she ate. A farm girl, he guessed, mean father, rebellious spirit, run off from her home by a vindictive mother…he could see it all as he watched the girl. She wasn’t ugly – far from it – but she was damaged goods. Broken. A broken girl living a broken life.

“You live around here?” she asked.

“Renting a room,” Callahan said, pointing to the square, “over there.”

“Got anyone?”

“Anyone?”

“You married, someone like that?”

He looked away. “Not anymore.”

“Oh? Divorced?”

He looked up, looked at the ceiling fans turning lazily overhead. “No, not divorced.”

“Oh,” the girl said, “I’m sorry. Ya know, I was tellin’ my friend you look kinda sad. Like somethin’ real bad just happened to ya.”

He looked at her, but didn’t say a word.”

“Look, I didn’t mean to bother you…”

“You’re not bothering me.”

“Well,” she said, standing up abruptly, “thanks for the donut. Maybe, uh, I’ll see you around.”

Callahan nodded. “Yeah. Maybe.” He watched her go, not at all sure what he felt, not at all sure what Sara’s passing had done to him. Or…what it was doing to him…

He walked across the square to his room, passing a little fountain just outside his door, and he stopped now and looked down into the black water, watching his reflection as it morphed and rejoined over and over again.

He swallowed hard and blinked back a tear, walked to his door and opened it.

It was a glorified hotel room, nothing more, nothing less, but the quality of the decor was, maybe, just a little upscale for a hotel. He went to a cupboard and found a bottle of bourbon and poured two fingers, then loosened his tie and slipped out of his shoes. He sat on the sofa and looked through the thick plantation shutters as light came back to the city, and a few minutes later he was asleep…

…and back on the mountain in Davos, waiting for the Old Man in the Cape…

_______________________________________

The same girl was walking with her friends when she saw him walking on Bourbon Street the next night, and she followed him until he disappeared into one of those seedy underground places the real weirdos hung out in. She couldn’t decide what to do, either. Follow him, or just blow it off…this feeling she’d had all day.

The bar was in an obscure little alley off St Anne Street, between Bourbon and Royal, and the peeling front looked like it had been painted with old mustard. The entry was cleverly disguised as a ‘front porch’, the door suffused with the putrid glow of black lights mounted somewhere within the warped ceiling. There was only a small sign denoting the place, a large, rusted piece of flat iron that had had the word Dungeon cut into it with a welding torch.

“I don’t think this place is safe,” the girl’s friend said. 

“How do you know?”

“My parents told me. This place has a bad reputation.”

“For what?”

“I don’t know.”

Yes, the Dungeon had an unearned reputation, but mainly because all the local “pervs” came to the place. The social outcasts and the druggies with the ‘golden arms’ hung out in the shadows here, the latter dealing horse and hash in equal measure, while trannies and burnt-out socialites huddled by the bar and, as soon as Callahan arrived, the little tables clustered around the piano. The air seemed purple to the girl as she made her way in, and her nose wrinkled as scents ranging from patchouli and sandalwood, and the less noticeable shades of heroin melted in spoons, wafted by.

She went to the bar and ordered a Coke, then she settled-in and watched this bizarre parade of humanity roll by. The first thing she noticed was that life inside this haven had split into the times before and after this strange musician started playing, because as he approached the piano a gentle hush fell over the room; after he began playing she felt a sigh of relief roll around the room like a purple haze.

And she knew that first song, too. He played Cole Porter’s, surely the patron saint of decadent parties, ‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin,’ which must’ve made the heroin dealers smile. But now she watched him, watched the way he played, and she felt mesmerized as she watched the interplay of his music within the room. His eyes closed some of the time and never on the keyboard, he was a virtuoso, some kind of savant, the music drifting seamlessly between jazz classics for one set, then hitting such Beatles standards as Lady Madonna and Yellow Submarine. If a regular asked him to play something he did so with a nod and a smile, and the huge brandy snifter on top of the piano filled with dollar bills as the night went on.

Every now and then he took a break, went up to the bar and picked up a club soda with a slice of lime, and she hid from him the first time he did so, watched how people came up and thanked him. Then she picked up an errant thread of conversation; this guy had just showed up one night and started playing. No one paid him, no one knew his name. Business picked up, regulars started coming by almost every night instead of once a week or so, and the owners even asked the stranger if they could pay him. The rumor was, or so she heard, was that he’d declined. More interesting still, she heard his tips on the piano were split between the cocktail waitresses.

Which, for some reason, she didn’t find all that strange. Not for this guy, anyway.

Some time after midnight a glamorously attired platinum blond materialized, a semi-retired movie star now living in the quarter, accompanied by a few too-masculine hangers-on in her large retinue, and she moved through the bar like an ice-breaker, pushing aside the riff-raff on her way to a table by the stranger on the piano.

He looked up once and finished what he was playing, then got up and walked out of the bar.

She dashed out of the confusion and followed him, keeping to the shadows as he made his way to the Morning Call. He was early and the place was crowded with late-night revelers and that seemed to put him off, and she watched as he got his order ‘to-go’ before he walked across the street to the square, pushing aside a few seagulls and sitting on a vacant bench.

And she walked right up and sat beside him.

“That was quite a show,” she said as she smiled at the surprise in his eyes.

“What was?”

“The way you walked out on that Hollywood bitch.”

He grunted, then held up the paper-plate loaded with warm beignets.

She took one. 

“Thanks,” she said, not in the least surprised by his easy-going generosity.

“What are you doing tonight?” he asked.

“Watching you.”

“I see.”

“I heard someone say that you just showed up and started playing. No pay.”

“Yup.”

“So, why’d you walk out on her…?”

Callahan seemed startled by the question. “What? Walk out on who?”

“On Miss Hollywood.”

“Oh. I don’t know. Just the whole ‘look at me’ thing. They way she pushed her way in.”

“Okay. What are you running from?”

Callahan grimaced, then shrugged…but still he didn’t answer the question.

“It’s not fair if you get to choose which questions you’ll answer.”

“What makes you think I want to answer your questions.”

She bunched up her fist and gently placed it on his chest. “Because there’s a great big hole right there, and all I can see is pain inside.”

Callahan put his coffee down on the bench and started to leave…

“Please don’t go,” the girl said.

Callahan took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of his nose, then he looked down and slowly shook his head. “What do you want?” he asked. “Money? If I give you some money will you go away?”

“I’m not after anything.”

“What about money? Can I pay you to…”

“No, sorry. That won’t work, either.”

He sat up and looked across the square to the Morning Call, saw that the late night crowd had thinned out a bit. “Well, I’m gonna go get my table. If you’re coming, come on.” He got up and walked across the street to the café, found his usual table and sat.

“You must be hungry,” she said as she sat beside him.

He spotted his waiter and held up two fingers, then turned to face her. “What’s your name?”

“Deni.”

“Let’s see. The other night I had you pegged for a farmer’s kid, mean daddy, and you ran away from home.”

She grinned as she shook her head. “Nope, not even close.”

“Okay. Tell me your story.”

“I will, if you’ll tell me yours.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty something. You?”

“Thirty something.”

“Where are you from?”

“I’ve been trying to figure that one out,” he said.

“Okay, where were you born?”

“San Francisco.”

“No way! I’ve always wanted to go there…”

“City of Broken Dreams, kid. Not for the faint of heart.”

“What’s your name?”

Callahan took a deep breath, let it slip out slowly. “Harry.”

“So, Harry the piano player. From San Francisco, no less.”

“No less.” His waiter arrived with two coffees and two plates of fresh beignets; he took one and his fingers reveled in the warmth.

“They sure are good when they’re hot,” Deni said, taking one and popping it into her mouth.

“What do you do around here, Deni?”

“I go to Tulane,” she began, but she stopped when she saw the look of disappointment on his face. “What’s the matter?”

“I don’t handle liars very well.”

She deflated as his words bit. “Sorry. Can I try again?”

“No lies this time.”

“No lies.”

He nodded, crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back in his chair.

“I’m from Houston, and…”

“And how old are you? Really?”

“Eighteen.”

“And you ran away from home?”

“My dad kicked me out.”

“Why? Drugs?”

She shook her head. “My step-mother. We didn’t get along.”

“So he kicked you out for that? Come on, tell me the truth?”

“You know what? You sound just like a cop.”

“That’s because I’m a cop.”

“What? For real?”

“For real.”

“So, I asked you before…what are you running from? Did you kill someone?”

“No – not yet, anyway.”

“You’re gonna kill someone? Who? A friend?”

“I used to think so, once upon a time.”

“What happened?”

But Callahan simply shook his head.

“Okay, why are you here, playing the piano night after night, and for free?”

“Why not?”

“That’s not an answer.”

“So, why are you here?”

“My best friend from school lives here. It was the only place I could think of to come to. I got accepted to Tulane, and I’m trying to find a way to get a scholarship or something.”

“You’re not a hooker…?”

ME? GOD no!” she cried. “Jesus…do I look like a – a fucking prostitute?”

“I don’t know what you look like.” But no, he thought, that wasn’t quite true. You remind me of my Looney Junes…the same legs, a little too much hair on the forearms, and almost the same eyes behind those thick glasses. But he could see now that she was genuinely upset. “So, tell me about Tulane,” he continued. “I heard its a tough school to get into.”

“It is.”

“What about scholarships? Hard to get?”

She nodded, looked away.”

“What do you want to study?”

“Pre-med. But I want to get into English literature, too.”

“What, like Milton and all that jazz?”

“Yup.”

“So, you wanna be a doc?”

“Yes. I think it’s all I’ve ever wanted to be. Pediatrician.”

“And your dad just dumped you?”

“Yup.”

“What about your mother?”

And the girl turned away from the idea. “She’s engaged to Prince Valium, not really part of life anymore, ya know?”

“You said you’re staying with a friend? I don’t get it…you’re from Houston, but she’s…”

“I went to a boarding school, in San Antonio. My Grandmother paid for it.”

“But she can’t pay for…?”

“She died. Two years ago.”

“How long have you been staying with your friend?”

“Too long, I think. Her parents are getting a little wigged-out about it…”

Callahan nodded, and seeing the depth of her predicament he knew what he had to do now. He finished his coffee and stood, yet she just sat at the table, not knowing what to do. As he looked down at her he could sense her anxiety, but above all else he could plainly see her need.

“You’re coming with me,” he said, and he watched as she stood.

“Where?”

“Off the street, for now. You got any clothes or stuff?”

“Not really.”

He nodded. “Okay.”

They walked over to the Royal Orleans and he got her a room, and he made sure she had access to room service before he took her up to the room.

“I’ll be by at nine o’clock sharp. Take a shower and be ready.”

“Ready for what?”

“Ready to get to work.” He turned to leave…

“You’re not staying?”

“What?”

She looked at the bed. “You don’t want anything?”

His growl startled her, and she stepped back from the horror in his eyes.

“Nine o’clock,” he repeated. “Be ready.”

_____________________________________________

He took her to breakfast at Brennan’s, then on a long walk down Royal Street for new clothes. Back to the hotel, and he waited downstairs while she showered and put on clean clothes, then they took a taxi out to Tulane, to the admissions office. She stood there by his side in mute awe as he whipped out a checkbook and paid for her tuition, room and board – for four years – and secured rooming for her at the school for the rest of the summer by enrolling her in summer classes.

The sun was setting by the time they finished getting her set-up in the dormitory, and they rode back to the Royal Orleans in another taxi. He fed her and sent her up to her room, told her to be ready to go at nine the next morning and left.

He walked down to the Dungeon and slipped behind the piano. It was as if nothing had happened the night before, and the usual lonely hearts gathered around and listened as their stranger played the music of the dying and the damned.

The next morning he took Deni to a bank by the campus and set up accounts for her, then took her to lunch at the Court of the Two Sisters.

“I think you’re good to go now, kid.”

She just stared at him, not knowing what to say.

A waitress came by and dropped off menus, and Callahan ordered minted iced tea for two.

“Are you gonna talk to me?” Callahan asked as he tried to ignore her stare.

“I wouldn’t know what to say.”

“Okay.”

“I love you. I know that much.”

“You’re confusing love with gratitude, Deni.”

“I don’t think so, Harry. I think you’re afraid of love. Maybe even running from love. But what you just did for me was an expression of pure love. Love like I’ve never experienced before. And I really don’t know what to say.”

“How about ‘Thanks?’”

“Okay. Thanks, Harry-whatever-your-name-is. Thanks for making my life complete. Thanks for being there for me. Thanks for letting me love you.”

He nodded as he took out an envelope and handed it to her. “This is my contact information, Deni. If you need anything call the number in there. I’ll drop by from time to time, see how you’re doing. Let me know if you make it into medical school, and if you need help paying for it let me know.”

“One question, Harry. Just one, okay?”

“Sure. Fire away.”

“Why? Why me? Why are you doing this for me?”

“I’m paying off a debt, Deni. To a little girl I used to know, a girl just like you.”

“You loved her, didn’t you?”

“Very much. More than I thought possible.”

She nodded, took his hand in her’s and kissed it.

“Now, about your father. I’d like to pay him a visit.”

She shook her head. “No, Harry. Not necessary. You’re my father now.”

The words startled Callahan, set him back in his chair. “I am not…”

“Well, you won’t let me in like a girlfriend…”

“Because I’m old enough to be…”

“My father. Right, I get that, and I love you for the respect you’ve shown me. You just need to accept what I’ve given you.”

“I’ll have to think about it, Deni.”

________________________________________________

He turned up next in Alpine, Texas.

He rented a small room in an old boarding house, one that had seen better days when cattle drives were still a big part of local life.

There was a saloon of sorts down on Main Street, but these days about the only things you could find behind the bar were Lone Star longnecks and a couple of decks of worn-out cards. An old gal named Millie held court behind the bar, and locals liked to say that Millie had been “rode hard and put away wet” more than once, but the truth was far simpler than that. Millie’s one true love had blown through town one weekend something short of thirty years ago, and when this tumbleweed decided to keep on rolling her roots held fast. She had turned into something inert after that, like a gas in the bottom of a beaker, and she had been changing dollar bills for cold bottles of beer ever since. 

Callahan walked into the bar in the middle of the afternoon and looked around. The old pine paneling the covered the walls had turned orange decades ago; now the wood look depleted, completely worn out. He saw an old upright piano against a far wall and walked over to it. Standing there, he reached for a memory and played it, found the tones the old girl made kind of pleasing, until he heard from Millie:

“Get the fuck away from my goddam piano!” the woman screamed. “And get the fuck outta here!”

Callahan turned to face the voice, then he walked up to the bar, put his hands out and caressed the old wood. “How old is this place,” he asked as he looked at the old wood.

“Older than you, asshole.”

He looked around, took in the posters for rodeos stapled to the wall by the door, flyers for bands that had played here years ago, but everything he saw was in the past. A dead space, he thought. Waiting for something, anything to happen.

“Do I need to call the sheriff on you? I told you to git!”

He turned and looked at the woman – instant ferocity clear in his eyes: “I’m looking for Don McCall. Know where I can find him?”

He watched the change come over her, a softening inside her glaring eyes.

“You know Donnie?”

“We flew together in ‘Nam. He saved my life.”

She nodded. “That’s our Donnie. Sooner or later he saves everyone, but no-one is ever there for him.” 

He heard the bitterness in her voice and the grating sound bothered him. “Why do you say that?”

She shrugged. “That’s just the way it is, mister.”

“Harry Callahan,” he said, holding out his hand.

She took it. “Millie. You really a friend, or you from the bank?”

“Friend. What’s with the bank?”

“His dad. Took out a big loan when the drought hit. Drought didn’t end, lost their herd. You do the math.”

Callahan nodded. “Got any cold beer?”

“Do bears shit in the woods?”

“Better give me one.”

“I ain’t givin’ you shit, Callahan…”

He pulled out his wallet and passed her a hundred. “Open up a tab for me, wouldya?”

“Sure thing,” she said as she passed over a Lone Star longneck.

“And call Donnie for me, please. Tell him I’m here and that I’d like to buy him a beer.”

“Okay.” Millie disappeared into her office and Callahan turned around and leaned against the bar. He could just about imagine Judge Roy Bean walking in the door, calling out for Lillie Langtry or brandishing a hangman’s noose…

Alpine, Texas, he thought as he walked over to one of the large windows that looked out on Main Street. Hot as hell out, and dry too, but at 4500 feet above sea level the nights were supposed to be cool. The town was surrounded by low, wind-sculpted mountains – more like hills, really – rising from a flat prairie that seemed, to Callahan, like a good place to raise rattlesnakes.

His thoughts drifted back to Hue City and those mad-flights out to C-Med to pick up the dead and the dying, and McCall sitting beside him in their Huey night after night. Quiet and even tempered, Callahan looked at this landscape and nodded.

This land looked like Don McCall – quiet, purpose built, solid and steady. 

“He’ll be here in about twenty minutes,” Millie said. “And he said I should treat you right, so you go ahead and play that piano if you want.”

“You serve dinner here?”

“Yessir, come about four-thirty or so. Tonight we’re servin’ t-bones and enchiladas, side salad if you want it.”

Callahan looked at his watch. “Better get a couple ready. I’ll be hungry as hell by then.”

“Alrighty.”

He moved over to the piano and sat, began a ragtime that sounded a little like The Yellow Rose of Texas, and Millie came over and sat behind Callahan, watched him play and felt the change that came over her old saloon.

“That was wonderful,” she whispered when Harry finished. “Reminds me of the times we used to have here.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know. I think most of us forgot what it’s like to live as a group of people, to look after one another, especially when times are tough. It feels like it’s everyone is out for his or her self these days, like…”

She stopped when a battered Chevy pickup pulled into a space out front, and she smiled when she saw Don McCall bounding into the saloon…

And Callahan met McCall as he crashed into the saloon.

“Dear God in Heaven!” Don cried. “It is you! Well, Harry Callahan, as I live and breathe, what the hell are you doing out here?”

Callahan turned to Millie. “Waitin’ for this lady to make me an honest-to-Pete West Texas t-bone steak, for one. She needs to get you one of these Lone Stars, too. Pretty good beer, I reckon, even if it is from Texas…”

McCall made to roll up his sleeves. “Them’s is fightin’ words, mister,” he said, grinning. “No one, and I mean no one makes fun of the National Beer of Texas…”

Callahan sidled up to the bar, McCall in tow, while Millie popped the tops on two more Lone Stars; McCall downed his in one long pull so Callahan followed suit.

“Millie,” Don barked, “keep ‘em comin’ ’til our toes are point’n at the ceilin’!”

“Better get those steaks going,” Harry whispered. “Maybe some bread, too?”

“Well Harry, sit you down and tell me a story…”

They moved to a table in back by the kitchen, Callahan beginning to think that this might be the best beer he’d ever had – at about the same time enchiladas baking in the kitchen began to fill the air with a magic all their own.

“Damn, Donnie, it’s good to see you. You’re looking good, life must agree with you…”

“It sure is good to see you too, hooch-mate. It’s a long way from Hue, ain’t it?”

Harry shook his head. “Man, that feels like a million lifetimes ago, ya know?”

“Don’t it? And every day over there felt like a lifetime.”

“Because it was.”

Millie brought out a basket of peanuts and plopped them down, with two more beers coming a moment later.

“So, what are you doing out here, Harry? Really…?”

“Just followin’ the wind, Amigo. Keepin’ my nose clean as best I can.”

“Give up on the cop thing?”

“Leave of absence. Taking some time off.” He slammed down half of the latest bottle and tried to stifle a burp, but it slid out through his nose and he grinned. “This stuff is really good.”

“Yeah, it is,” McCall said, his voice sliding down an octave.

“Millie mentioned problems with a bank?”

“Millie talks to much.”

“Maybe she just cares.”

“Maybe. So, yeah, bad drought out here the past few years, we lost the herd and dad decided to put up half the ranch as collateral so we could buy more cattle. Then the drought got worse.”

“How much is he in for, Don?”

“More than we’ve got. Damn, those steaks smell good. You know, Millie’s a damn fine cook.”

“Anything I can do to help?”

McCall looked down and grinned. “Sure Harry. You got an extra sixty large lyin’ around you could spare?”

“Sixty? Is that what you need? Anything else?”

“Harry, I got a list about as long as my arm. Things we got to repair or replace, including about ten miles of fence that needs some real work, and real soon, too.”

“How hard is that?”

“What?”

“Working fences.”

“Why? You volunteering?”

“Sure, why not…?”

“Yeah, right.”

“Would two hundred get your head out from under the water?”

“Two hundred what, Harry?”

“Thousand.”

“You got two hundred grand lyin’ around you just want to give me? Is that what you’re sayin’ Callahan?”

“Just tell me what you need, Don. I want to get this done before Millie gets back out here.”

“Are you fuckin’ serious, Callahan?”

Harry took out his checkbook and took a pen out of his coat pocket. The pen hovered over a check. “What do you need, Don?”

McCall shook his head. “Man, you’ve always been fuckin’ nuts, Callahan, but okay, let’s see. Dad needs a hundred to wipe out the loan. We need about fifty to get deferred maintenance out of the way, another fifty, maybe seventy to get the fence line, and we could use another hundred to get an up to date house on the property.”

“So, three, three-twenty gets you going, but what about cattle?”

“Call it another hundred.”

Callahan started writing. “No, let’s call it an even five hundred,” he said as he filled in the numbers, then he signed the check and peeled it out of his checkbook. “You wanna deposit it now, or wait til morning?”

“Are you shittin’ me, Callahan?”

“Nope.”

“I’ll be right back,” McCall said as he took the check and ran for his pickup; a few seconds later the Chevy was fishtailing out Main Street, headed for the bank.

“That was pretty cool,” Millie said from behind the swinging doors that led to the kitchen. “Is that why you came?”

“No, I just wanted to see an old friend.”

“The world needs more friends like you, Callahan,” she said as she disappeared back into her kitchen.

“Maybe so,” he muttered, taking a peanut and breaking the shell on the table then eating the nuts. Millie brought out a salad and promptly disappeared again, so Callahan went back to the piano, began playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, only very slowly.

McCall returned a while later, and as soon as he took his seat Millie brought out her steaks and enchiladas, and she joined them, taking her own dinner at the table.

“So,” Callahan said as he finished, “how hard is it to set fence posts?”

“You wanna set some?”

“Yeah, as long as you’re out there with me, I’ll give you a couple of days.”

“And the steaks are on me, gentlemen,” Millie added, “when you knock off for the day.”

“It don’t get much better than that, Harry.”

“I reckon I’m in.”

“What are you going to do, Harry? What’s next?”

“I miss the street. The work. I think I’m going home. I’ve got a few things I need to finish up there…”

© 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. 30

88th key cover image

[a little note: surgery as expected a week ago, an unexpected post-op infection intervened and I’m in a new hospital, trying to beat that back. Well enough today to write, so finished this chapter. Not on email (Sorry, Christian). More as I know it…A]

Part IV

Chapter 30

____________________________________

Callahan and  his spotter were standing in a field just north of the little airport in Hayward – and they were kitted-out as surveyors, complete with blueprints for a golf course that was slated to be built on the property – and they were indeed surveying, in a way…

“The prevailing wind is generally from the north on this side of the bay, isn’t it?” his spotter asked.

“Yeah,” Callahan said, “but more often than not a little west of north, coming right out of the Gate. If the plane comes in at night they’ll likely land on 2-8, and if it’s a twin it’ll be on 2-8 Left.”

“Can you target an engine from head-on?”

“I can hit it, sure. The real question is what happens if the bullet hits the prop instead of the cylinder head. Nothing would happen, for all intents and purposes, except maybe a badly deformed bullet.”

“Could you hit a tire?”

Callahan shrugged. “I dunno – that might be more a matter of luck than skill, especially at night.” Callahan kept talking as a patrol car motored by, and when the cop inside waved at them Callahan waved back. “That’s the second time that patrol car has been by.”

“Okay, car number 245,” his spotter said. “We’d better pack up and get some lunch, do what a survey crew would do around noon.”

“Ever been to a Del Taco?” Harry asked.

“No…? What’s a del taco?”

Callahan grinned. “Take my word for it…you’re gonna love it.”

“Right. Let’s go…”

_________________________________

Al Bressler was spotting for Frank Bullitt near the SFPDs headquarters building, tracking down a rumor that McKay had been seen going into the building just after midnight. They’d been staking out the secured personnel entry ever since, but they hadn’t seen a thing.

“Maybe he left something in his office, ya know?” Bressler said. “Decided to sneak in and get it and leave without being spotted.”

“Maybe,” Bullitt grunted. “Whatever. Either he ain’t here or he’s already blown us off. You got his home address?”

“On Bismarck Street in Daly City.”

“Anyone watching it?”

“Yeah. One of the Israeli kids.”

“What about his wife? Anyone seen her?”

“No, and there’s been no movement inside that house, either.”

“Any intel on him would be more than useful right now, know what I mean?”

“Well…” Bressler said, his voice growing conspiratorially low…

“Well, what?”

“This is off the books, okay Frank? But he’s a weenie-wagger.”

“What?”

“He’s been spotted at those weenie-wagger arcades.”

“Speak English, would you?”

“Adult bookstores, ya know? The video booths? He’s got a habit, Frank?”

“A habit? What kind of fucking habit, Bressler? Heroin?”

“The man’s got to pull it off about every three or so hours…”

“Goddamnit, do you not fuckin’ know how to speak English?”

“He jacks-off a lot, Frank. Two, three, sometimes four times a day, usually at adult bookstores, usually out near the airport.”

“There. Was that so hard?”

“Sorry, Frank…”

“Man, you guys in Vice need to get out more…try walking around in daylight once in a while…”

“Yeah, I know.”

“So, are there any bookstores he hits frequently?”

“Yeah. All of them.”

“No shit? Pencil-Dick?”

“That ain’t the worst of it, Frank.”

“What?”

“He, uh, spends a lot of time on his knees.”

“Pencil-dick? No shit?” Bullitt chuckled, now shaking his head. “How did you find that out?”

“We run CCTV surveillance up in the ceilings in almost all of them. Besides guys sucking other guys, a shitload of drugs run through those places.”

Bullitt nodded. “Okay, we’re wasting time here; let’s head south, see if we can pick up a trail.”

Bressler got on the radio and called in their change of plans. Goodman replied and approved the move; Frank headed for the One-oh-one, still shaking his head. “So, Pencil-dick is in the closet, eh…? Well, that’s just too-fuckin’-rich. So, Al, you wanna rain on his parade a little?”

“He might be more valuable as a hostage that as a target…”

“Yeah,” Bullitt sighed, still thinking, “it’s the holy rollers who are wound the tightest.”

“McKay has always been wound pretty tight…”

Which only cause Frank to smile.

________________________________

Callahan loaded his spotter down with a couple of tacos and three bean burritos; the results after two hours had been, so far, predictably spectacular. The poor guy squirmed in his seat before quietly lifting a cheek and letting another SBD loose…

“Nice one,” Callahan grumbled before leaning over and letting another one rip.

“How do you do that?” the kid asked.

“Do what?”

“Make them so loud?”

“Practice, man.”

“So, you eat a lot of tacos?”

“Only when I need to clear the air.”

They both laughed…until the radio chattered and came alive.

“X-ray One, go ahead,” his spotter said

“Possible target information,” Goodman said from the safe house. “DC-3 inbound from KSAN.”

“Got it,” the kid said.

Callahan shook his head. “What the hell are we supposed to do with a ‘possible’ target? Shoot them down and hope they turn out to be the right target…?”

“Maybe wait ’til they come to a stop, shoot out the tires and nail anyone who comes out the door.”

“I don’t like it,” Harry snarled, now looking at the fence line along the west side of the airport. “There’s cover over there…”

“What’s the range from there to those hangers?” the kid asked, pointing at a row of hangers on the east side of the airport.

“Looks like six, maybe seven hundred yards.”

“How long does it take you to set-up that scope?”

“A minute or so. Maybe a little less.”

“Let’s move over there.”

The radio crackled to life once again and the kid answered: “X-ray One, go head.”

“Suspect DC-3 approaching San Jose. Get in position.”

“Roger.”

“Okay, that does it,” Callahan whispered as he started the Chevy Blazer. He looked at the fence line, and the glassy-smooth bay beyond, then shook his head. “We’ll be too exposed over there, and it’s the middle of the afternoon. This is nuts…”

“We can set out the surveying gear, hide by that pile of rocks and debris.”

Callahan drove slowly, carefully, not wanting to attract attention, until he found an old dirt track that led alongside the airport fence and took it. Once by the pile of rocks they set out all their surveying equipment, and Callahan took his H&K PSG-1 out of it’s case and began to enter all the physical parameters he’d need for the shot.

The kid tuned the radio to the SF approach control and they listened as the DC-3 reported leaving San Jose airspace, making for the East Bay and Hayward Municipal…

“Tuning in the control tower now,” the kid said.

Callahan took out a pair of binoculars and scanned the area: men in the control tower were looking to the south; ramp activity across the airport by the fueling stands looked normal; traffic on nearby roads moving slowly as the evening commute began…and a patrol car parked in deep shade by a building, almost out of sight – but…not quite…

“Pack up. Let’s go,” Callahan snarled.

“What is it?” the kid asked.

“We’re being watched. This is a set-up.”

“What?”

The radio crackled to life again, and this time the DC-3 checked in with the tower at Hayward Municipal, which cleared the aircraft for a straight-in approach to Runway 28, then cleared them to land.

The kid packed up the equipment while Harry slipped the rifle back in it’s case, then Callahan heard the DC-3 out over the bay. He turned and watched as it came in south of the San Mateo Bridge, heading for Union City…

“That’s not a straight in approach…?” he said. “Get in, let’s move…”

As Callahan moved to get in the Blazer he stopped and watched the DC-3 as it turned on final. He could just see the flaps lower, then the landing gears as they extended – when he saw a puff of smoke emerge from an industrial area underneath the aircraft, then a streak of flame as some kind of missile leapt into the sky, streaking for the DC-3…

…and the missile struck the DC-3’s left engine, severing the entire wing from the fuselage. The aircraft wallowed sideways once then fell straight down into a cluster of mobile homes. The explosion was devastating, and Callahan could see wildfires erupting all over the hillside beyond the homes.

And then five patrol cars emerged from their hiding places and streaked across the airport towards their Blazer.

Callahan slammed the transmission into Drive and turned towards the bay, driving across the rough landfill towards the water’s edge. He could see the kid on the radio, telling Goodman the situation as Callahan maneuvered the truck between piles of rock and construction debris…

‘Got to get that rifle,’ he said to himself, ‘secure it or swim out and dump it where no one can find it. Incriminating…’

Then, just ahead, a group of men stood and began firing at the Blazer…

“Get down!” he yelled as he spun the wheel…

Glass shattered and rained down on them as he made his way to a huge pile of rock.

They slid to a stop; Callahan grabbed the H&K from behind his seat and ran for cover, the kid not far behind – carrying an MP-5 of his own. Bullets slammed into the rocks and wet sand as they slid into positions of cover.

“You get the radio, kid?”

“Yeah.”

“Tell the Colonel we need some sort of diversion.”

“He’s working on it.”

“Good.” Callahan could make out at least five men working their way inland – towards their position – from the bay, and the patrol cars had stopped on their inland side – so they were effectively trapped between two lines of opposing forces. ‘Do I want to take them out?’ he asked himself. ‘If they’re cops, some might belong to the group, but, then again, some might not. Do I take a chance I might take out an innocent cop?’

He took out the PSG-1 and brought the scope up to his eye. Swinging it left, then right, he found the first cop, the one that had driven by that morning, and he studied his face. Not scared, he saw. Acting more like he was enjoying himself, this cop had his Smith & Wesson drawn and was holding it up beside his face.

‘200 yards, no wind, no elevation change,’ he thought as he dialed in the parameters, then he sighted in on the cop’s revolver and fired once.

The cop jumped back, holding his hand and screaming bloody murder as he hopped in a circle, but Harry could see the man wasn’t injured, just shaken-up a little…

Bullets slammed-in to the debris just overhead and rock fragments rained down on his head.

The kid let loose with his MP-5, spraying 30 rounds in the direction of the men coming in from the water. “That ought to make ‘em think twice,” the kid snarled.

Then dozens of rounds slammed into rocks overhead.

“Or maybe not,” the kid added as he slammed another magazine into his MP-5.

“You been in combat before?” Harry asked.

“Once or twice. I forget.”

“Right. Conserve your ammunition…” Callahan said, but the kid was already on the radio again.

“About five minutes out,” the kid said, hunching down as more bullets hit – and another shower of rock fragments rained down.

“Who is?”

“Air support.”

“Really?” Callahan looked out over the bay and yes, there were several helicopters up over the city. But…why so many?

More bullets slammed into the rocks, these coming from the police by the fence line, and Callahan rolled to a new position and sighted-in on a cop with a Remington 870 pump shotgun in hand. Callahan moved the reticle to the 870’s receiver and fired one round; the shotgun literally flew out of the officer’s hand and all of the others by his side ducked behind their squad cars – again.

But by then the sound of several inbound Hueys filled the air, soon pushing aside all other sound, and Callahan raised his head enough to see three Army Hueys flaring over the landfill – and dozens of troops repelling down to the mud. The men by the water stood up, looking confused now as their plans fell apart, as a fourth Huey, this one painted in civilian colors, flew directly to the kid and settled on the mud.

“Mickey” Rooney waved at Harry, then thumb-gestured that he and the kid needed to hop on the skids and get settled in. Callahan picked up the H&K and made for the sliding door, just as a round slammed into the Huey’s windshield.

Harry spun around and saw the first cop, the one he suspected was a bad apple, getting ready to shoot at Rooney; he sighted-in and fired one round – taking out the cop’s left hand – before he climbed in the back. A second later they were airborne, headed across the bay towards the north side of San Francisco International.

Callahan scooted forward until he was right behind Rooney.

“What’s going on?”

“Frank just got McKay. We’re gonna pick ‘em up.”

“No shit?”

“Hey, I just move the pointy end and go where they tell me. Better put on a headset, listen in on COMMs 2 and get up to speed.” 

Callahan put on a spare headset hanging behind Rooney’s head and flipped the rotary selector to COMMs 2; he listened as Bullitt told Rooney where they were, exactly, and where Rooney might be able to land.

“Roger,” Rooney replied, “ETA about five minutes.”

Then ‘Mickey’ turned to Harry. “You know the area?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, come up and take the left seat.” The Army co-pilot got out and climbed aft, leaving Callahan to crawl forward and slip into the seat. “What kind of hazards around the area?” Rooney added.

“Intersection: Linden and Airport Drive, a few open lots and what looks like a lot of open grass on a hill, but power lines run through the area…”

Bullitt came in on the channel again: “Okay Air 1, there’s a big vacant lot just north of the intersection, no power lines there.”

“Got it. We’ll be coming in from your northeast, from Brisbane.”

“Understood. We’re in the clear, no contacts.”

“You know the area, Harry?”

“Affirmative.”

Rooney was skimming the waves just then, keeping out of SFOs traffic pattern, and he came in over the One-oh-one freeway about fifty feet over the concrete…

“Okay Harry, your airplane…”

Callahan slid his feet on the pedals, his left hand on the collective, his right on the stick…

“My airplane.” 

He followed the freeway ’til they crossed Oyster Point, then he began flaring, bleeding speed and angling right so he’d get a better view ahead for his final approach…

Then he could see the intersection – and a Japan Air Lines 747 turning onto final for Runway 10 Left – before he saw Frank in a low crouch, his Sig 220 drawn, and someone face down on the ground at his feet.

“He’s taking fire!” Rooney called out.

The aft doors slid open and two Army gunners leaned out as Callahan put the 212 into a deep flare; they covered the last few hundred feet to Bullitt’s position at a twenty-degrees nose up AOA…

When the tail skid hit he brought the nose down, just as…

…the gunner in the left door fired a short burst. Then Callahan felt the Huey shift a little as men jumped on board, followed by the adrenalin-amped  shouts of: “GO!-GO!-GO!” as he pulled up on the collective and he twisted the throttle, adding power to his climb…

“Where’s that fucking 747!”he yelled.

“At your ten-o’clock, about five hundred AGL,” Rooney replied.

“Got him…! Bet that poor sum-bitch just shit his britches…”

Callahan cleared the power lines and flew due west for a minute, then…

“Your airplane, Mickey,”

“My airplane.”

Callahan undid his harness and climbed aft, went to check on a surprised Frank.

“What are you doing here?” Bullitt asked when Harry slid onto the mesh bench on the aft-most wall. “Thought you were in Oakland?”

“We were set-up, ambushed. That McKay?”

“Yup.”

Captain Jerome McKay was still face down – with a black nylon sack over his head, only now on the Huey’s floor, and he wasn’t wearing any pants.

“I’d like to ask,” Callahan said, grinning, “but, ya know, now just doesn’t feel like the right time.”

Bullitt grinned. “Yeah. This was one for the books. Did you say ambushed?”

“Yeah.”

“So, they know we’re here. That’s just great.”

“Yeah.”

“You have no idea what’s comin’ your way, you fuckin’ assholes,” McKay growled.

“Neither do you, Pencil-dick.”

“Don’t call me that!”

“Well,” Frank said, “from what – little – I saw, Jerry, Pencil-dick just might be a little on the generous side.”

“Frank? Fuck you…”

“No thanks, Jerry; I’m tryin’ to quit.” 

____________________________________

The Huey landed near the cliffs just north of the little airport at Half Moon Bay; Frank tossed McKay into the back of a van and drove off towards an address in Santa Cruz; Callahan followed with everyone else in another van. When they arrived at this new house, Callahan found Sam Bennett was already there; so he concluded this initial foray had been almost a complete bust – except that Bullitt had nabbed McKay.

Goodman took McKay and, in heavy restraints, put him in a small concrete tomb in the basement, then he returned to the team – still waiting for him in the living room.

“Harry, what happened?”

“As soon as we started to set up a patrol car started cruising the area, scoping us out. He was just waiting to get us in place and they shot down that DC-3. My guess is they planned to put the blame on us.”

Goodman nodded. “It was a church trip, kids returning from a trip to the San Diego Zoo.”

“They’re playing hardball, aren’t they?” Sam Bennett growled.

“They caught us in a pincer,” Harry added. “Without extraction, they had us. By the way, who got the Army involved?”

“That was Rooney’s idea,” the Colonel said. “He figured we’d need a massive show of force to pull you guys out of there.”

“Well, that was a good call. Definitely saved our ass.”

“Now Frank, tell us about McKay?”

“I’d better let Al take this one, Colonel.”

“Okay. Al? What’s the score?”

“Well, you all know I was working Vice before this other stuff happened. We started picking up on McKay’s movements after we started watching peep-shows down around SFO. McKay turned out to be a regular.”

Bennett seemed shocked. “Jerry? Peep-shows?”

“Well, Captain,” Bressler continued, “yes, and no. Most of these places have video arcades, they’re kind of notorious. Limp-wrists hang out there, cruise the cabins, looking to…”

“You talkin’ faggots, Bressler?”

“Yessir.”

“Well, just come out and say so, would you? Now, you’re telling us that Captain McKay was hanging out in these places?”

“Yessir.”

“And?”

“And, well sir, he’s been, uh, servicing other men…”

“WHAT!” Sam Bennett cried. “You’re talking about a captain in the San Francisco Police Department, Inspector. Are you certain? You have proof?”

“We have closed-circuit video recordings, Captain.”

“Of McKay? Having sex – with men?

“Yessir.”

Bennett turned and stormed from the room; Callahan looked at Bullitt – who simply shrugged before he spoke: “They were in Academy together,” was all he said.

“Middle-age-crazy,” Callahan sighed, shaking his head.

“It happens,” Bressler added, “more often that you think.”

“Well,” Goodman said to the group, “we’ll have to break him, find out what he knows. In the end, his capture could really turn things to our advantage.”

“Break him?” Bressler asked. “What does that mean?”

“Torture, smart guy,” Frank snarled.

“Oh.”

“Well,” Callahan interrupted, “they were waiting for us, so we’re compromised.”

Goodman nodded. “From the beginning, but it’s interesting they were expecting us…or you, I should say. On the other hand, they weren’t in place to intercept Frank or Sam.”

“Which means what, exactly?” Bressler asked.

“Perhaps someone spotted Harry by chance. Right now, the prudent thing to do is pack up and leave. Maybe sit it out in Switzerland, at least until things settle down.”

Bullitt stood and began to pace the room. “Look, I left Cathy in Tel Aviv and she’s just about had it. She needs to get back to work, and, well, I need to start figuring out what comes next.”

Harry heard the pain in Frank’s voice and wondered how he could help. “Her house ought to be ready to go within a month. She can start on my house as soon as she gets back…but what about you?”

“Well, it kind of depends on what happens with Sam. My retirement, or whatever you want to call it, was a ruse coordinated with Sam. On the other hand, the paperwork was officially submitted, so only Bennett has the capability to reinstate me. I can return, or I can remain retired, ya know what I mean? I’m trying to figure that out.”

“Cathy’s the problem, right?” Harry asked, and Frank nodded.

“Yeah.”

“Why haven’t you two gotten married?”

“I don’t know. I guess because on one level I always felt like she already had one foot out the door.”

“Why’s that?”

Bullitt looked down. “She’s an architect. I’m a cop, ya know? The other side of the tracks.”

“So?”

“Sometimes it feels like we don’t go out with her friends…because she’s, well, we don’t because I’m a cop.”

Al looked thoughtful: “Do you get along okay with her friends?”

Bullitt shook his head. “Not really. They’re artists, ya know? Into pot, doing mushrooms, LSD…all that psychedelic shit, so…”

“Does Cathy do that stuff?”

“Not really. Yet…sometimes I get the feeling she’d like to be able to cut loose. It’s like I’m holding her back.”

Harry shook his head: “This story usually doesn’t have a happy ending, Amigo. Y’all need to talk this through, see where she wants to go from here. And where you want to be.”

“The only thing I know, Harry, is this job. When I think about what I want to do, it’s the job. I’m a cop, ya know? Retirement is not something that feels comfortable to me. It feels like a dead end.”

“What are you gonna do, Harry?” Bressler asked.

“I’m going to get to know Sara, spend a lot of time with her. Then I’ll see. A lot will depend on her, and how comfortable she is. Maybe how confident she feels.”

“Harry, I don’t want to bring this up too often, but the premiere of your mother’s last piece is coming up next month.”

“I know.”

“I don’t mean to be pushy here, Harry,” Al said, “but I’d really like to be there for that.”

“Me too,” Frank said.

“Okay,” Harry said. “I’d love to have you all there. With Sara.”

A messenger came in and handed a note to Colonel Goodman, and everyone watched him as he read the contents, his face turning brilliant red, then a ghostly white.

“Harry? It seems we may have made an unforgivable error. Stacy Bennett was picked up at the clinic in Davos by helicopter.”

“What?” Harry said, the room suddenly spinning underfoot.

“But not before she made an attempt on Sara’s life.”

Callahan closed his eyes as he fell to his knees, and nothing lay ahead but a vast field of stars.

© 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. 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.]