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Friday, May 20, 2011

("It's hard to know, how far or if at all I could go, I've waited far too long for somethin I forgot was wrong") Gin Blossoms

Anh yêu em Tuyet...
Tôi yêu con gái KaSandra & Katrina...
Tôi thương con trai của bố Luc…

Gabriel's Promise
a novel by nicholas sheridan stanton

Chapter Twenty-two

Oldtown San Diego, California, Friday, June 24th, 2005…3:00pm

The strolling mariachis were beginning to get on Sandy’s nerves. He was already two bowls of chips with salsa and four cervezas into a Friday afternoon and his crew was late. That didn’t really surprise him though, I was always late. In my defense though I did have to stop and pick up that little egghead Randy and his smartass buddy Jacko on the way. Randy Patel was even less punctual than me, a factoid that really worried Sandy given what we had planned. He sighed audibly as the waitress approached his table.

“Another beer Senor?” she asked.

“Why not, uno mas,” Sandy replied, frowning at his wristwatch.

The girl collected two empty Corona bottles and signaled for a busboy to bring another round of chips and salsa for the gringo. She smiled at Sandy who winked back and then walked away. He was about to check the time again when he caught sight of me and the boys entering the outdoor seating area of the small restaurant. Sandy leaned way back in his chair, rocking it back on two flimsy legs and shook his head.

Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in!”

“Alright, alright, we’re late, I get it!” I replied, removing my shades and taking a seat across from him. The others did likewise, Randy, Jack, and Papa.

“Where are the others?” Sandy asked.

“Roman and Wesley are at the marina keeping an eye on things, “I answered, helping myself to a couple of salty homemade tortilla chips.

“So, we’re still a go, right,” Sandy inquired?

“Just like we planned,” I answered.

The Riviera set sail about two hours ago and should be in Mexican waters very soon," said Papa. He and Sandy glanced at their wrist watches simultaneously.

“That gives us about four hours then,” noted Sandy.

“More like five, those vessels are pretty slow and they reduce speed at night,” interjected Jack.

Sandy shot him a sideways glance, “Perfect, then we got time to eat first,” he said sarcastically. Sandy still hadn’t warmed up to Jack, actually nobody had, myself included. He just wasn’t an easy guy to like? He kept to himself mostly, except when he had a chance to push Sandy’s buttons, and he did that often. The waitress returned with a busboy to deliver another bowl of chips and Sandy’s beer, “What can I bring the rest of you?” she asked.

“Coronas all around girlie, and bring a couple menus too,” Sandy barked, answering for the table.

“Okay, I’ll be back in a sec.”

Sandy watched her walk away, “Nice ass,” he said appreciatively. I waited a moment for her to put some distance between us and then spoke to the group.

“Let’s run through this once more. Jack will skipper Pixie and Sandy has Dixie on this run. The whole mission begins and ends with Jack's cloaking device. That means that there and back we take orders from Jack, understood,” I asked, looking from face to face.


“What!" Sandy shouted, drawing a few sideways glances from a neighboring table.

"Yeah I got it, the egghead’s in charge at sea,” he added in a quieter tone.

"Good! Look, we were lucky on the Prince Vigo run, damn lucky! Too many mistakes were made on the approach, and if not for a sleepy radar operator on the bridge of the cruise ship we would have been met on board by the freaking Coast Guard!" snapped Jack, staring icily at Sandy.

"Careful professor, you're not as tough as you are smart," replied Sandy coolly.

"That's enough you two. He's right Sandy; you fucked up. You veered from the plan and could have ruined everything. We've got to be in complete lockstep this time. We can't afford not to be, understand?" I said, jumping in between the two chuckleheads before things got out of hand.

"Ail I did was zig instead of zag, it was no big deal, we got on board alright," Sandy said defending himself, his tone bitter and icy.

"That's not altogether true bub," Jack replied, accepting the beer that our waitress had just arrived with.

Jack pushed the little wedge of lime into the long neck bottle and stared at Sandy, daring him to say something stupid. I held my breath waiting for whatever was going to happen next. Jack had stepped over the line this time and nothing I could do would stop the beat down that he'd earned with his arrogant attitude. But to my surprise all Sandy did was smile and sip his beer. He leaned forward onto his elbows and pointed the long neck Corona at Jack and smiled.

"Alright slick, tell us what I did that's got your panties in a bunch," Sandy said calmly.

Jack looked around the table and then turned his paper placemat over. He reached into the small metal pail in the center of the table that held an assortment of crayons for the kiddies and proceeded to storyboard the Prince Vigo assault. He drew a like an engineer, neat and precise, and after a minute he spun the placemat around for us all to look at. He tapped the two smaller oval shapes labeled "P" for Pixie and "D" for Dixie. They were a couple of inches in front of the larger oval shape labeled "V" for Vigo.

"This is where the rudder meets the wave so to speak," he started, looking only at Sandy.

"It's all about timing gentlemen. There isn't any room for improvisation. If think you can't meet your mark in the script then pull the red handle and signal buster, it's as simple as that," he continued, never taking his eyes off of Sandy. I was starting to get worried again as Sandy was holding Jack's stare, neither of them blinked even once.

"The sky was clouding up dude, and you said we needed the full moon to operate the cloaking devices. You were taking too long so I decided to gun and run, I figured you'd follow my lead, which you did. So what's the problem?" Sandy said defensively.

"The problem Gilligan is that your hasty maneuver separated us giving the ship's radar operator two blips to track. One pod of porpoise wouldn't attract attention but two moving in different directions might have sent a spotter forward to see what was what. You could've tipped our hand and we would have boarded the Vigo met by half the ship's company. That would've been no bueno dude, no bueno!" replied Jack.

"Yeah well that didn't happen Jacko so quit you're bitchin," Sandy snapped, taking a long pull on his beer.

"That's only because the Vigo's scope dope was even less competent than you!"

I took the opportunity to intercede during a pregnant pause in their debate while Sandy was likely deciding exactly which of Jack's favorite bones he was going to break. I got up and leaned over the table to look at the diagram Jack had drawn. Grabbing one red crayon and one blue crayon from the pail I drew two lines from "P" & "D" simultaneously to "V" emphasizing the need to work together. I drew a red "x" portside and a blue "x" starboard and dropped the crayons for effect.

"Jack's right, we stick to the script, no exceptions," I said, tapping a finger on the table.

"Are we all on board with that?" I asked.

My question was met with scattered nods and grunts which I took as an affirmative. Sitting back down I grabbed my beer and a fistful of tortilla chips and noshed on the snack for a minute while the table remained silent, waiting out the tension. I washed down the last chip and continued the meeting.

“Alright then, Sandy you’re in charge of the strike team. Once we’re on board the cruise ship you and Roman get Randy and Papa to the Communications Room as quickly and as quietly as possible. Once you're in and have neutralized the technician on station, post yourselves outside and keep watch while they do their thing. Meanwhile, me and Wesley will secure the bridge. Remember, once we board we’ve got exactly 30 minutes to get in and out, no more, no less. After that we beat it back to Pixie and Dixie and jet off back to the slips in San Felipe where we'll stash the boats and split up, any questions?”

“Yeah, I have a couple,” Jack said, pausing when our waitress stopped by the table to check up on us. He took the menus and thanked her, asking for a few more minutes to decide. She smiled and moved on.

“We know Sandy, nice ass,” I said, speaking for the table. He snorted and gave me the finger.

“Alright Jack, what’s on your mind?”

Jack stared at Sandy while he spoke, “I just want to make two points. One, everyone needs to remember to stay below deck until we’re along side the vessel. Any shadows topside will fuck up the effect of the spinning mirrors and give us away. Two, We're leaving PRECISELY 30 minutes after you board the cruise ship, NO EXCEPTIONS!”

Sandy glared back at Jack and replied, “We got it Jacko, we ain’t kids on a field trip asswipe!” Sandy quipped.

Jack smiled, “So long as you know, 30 minutes exactly, remember, timing is everything.”

“He said we got it Jack, don’t push it man,” Roman added icily.

“Right, well if you boys are through figuring out whose got the bigger dick can we let Patrick finish,” Papa said tiredly. The table grumbled an affirmative and waited for me.

“Like I said, once you reach the Com Room Sandy pops the tear gas canister, then Randy and Papa will chloroform the techs inside. Your gas masks will shield your faces from the cameras. Remember, in and out, 15 minutes total once inside. Papa, you black out the camera while Randy routes the ship’s bank to our numbered account in the Caymans. Five minutes, alright guys?” The two of them nodded a reply, Randy snorting and Papa rolling his eyes.

The waitress reappeared suddenly, her order pad in hand. “OK boys, have you decided yet?” she asked. Roman ordered for us in Spanish while the rest of us sipped on our beers quietly.

“Corn or flour tortillas?” the girl asked as she finished taking our order.

“Surprise us,” Sandy said flirting. He tipped his baseball cap back with the business end of his longneck Corona. The waitress smiled and walked away.

“Classy,” Jack said sarcastically. Sandy started to reply but I cut him off by pushing the chips in front him.

“Let it go Sandy,” I said. Capitulating he bit into a chip as if he were tearing off a piece of jerky.

“The biggest unknown is the bridge crew. There’s five on duty at that time of night, and if our G-2 is accurate we’ll be boarding right after the change of watch, which means there will be at least 60 minutes before the XO makes his rounds. Is that about right Randy?” I asked our IT super-geek.

“Like clockwork on each of the five cruises your dad and I tagged along on,” he replied, Papa nodding in agreement.

“Still, that’s cutting it pretty close. Alright, last chance to abort, speak now or it's a go,” I said not expecting any answer.

The table was silent for a couple of minutes before Jack spoke. “I just want to say once more, for the record, that I think it’s a mistake going in unarmed. I mean what if something goes wrong?”

“Then we scurry like roaches, exiting stage left, like Snagglepuss!” Sandy answered curtly.

“I see,” Jack replied. “Well roaches get stepped on all the time ace, that’s all I’m saying.”

NO guns Jack, that’s the end of it! We’re not terrorists or gangsters, just idealists with a grudge. The only blood we’re after is old man Peck’s, and only his green corporate blood. And we’re taking that drop by freaking drop,” I said, cutting into their exchange before it could escalate.

Mercifully the food arrived in time to keep me off of my soapbox. We took turns making eye contact, a veritable ocular circle jerk as our waitress set several hot plates around the table. Months of preparation had culminated with the assault on Prince Vigo, which in spite of the rocky start had proven to be a huge success. The initial take filled the Cayman kitty handsomely, and the framework for the foundation was now in the capable hands of Grover Gateway. The implementation phase was already in motion. I held back a smile as I contemplated the arrogance of my break with God and the pride I was feeling for what we were doing and for how we were doing it. The G.A.W.D. foundation had already reached out to its first recipient and I wished I could have been there to witness it. But from now on Patrick Bouchard the blue collar welder would be taking a back seat to Jean-Luc Rojier the philanthropist, while the law chased after the Jack-o-Broken Hearts, the 21st Century Robin Hood.

The team busied themselves with their meals while I looked out the window at a clear blue sky. The moon would be full and high in the sky tonight, perfect conditions for Jack’s cloaking device. I stared at a single cloud forming on the horizon, and imagined Gabriel watching over us.

“Wish us luck little buddy, and hug mommy for me, even if she doesn't want one from me,” I muttered.

“We’ll need it!” my father added, winking at me from across the table.

LA General Hospital, Friday, June 24th…3:30pm

Linda Bradley was happy that little Katie Tate was returning to LA General to continue treatment, clinical trial or not. But she was suspicious about how the Tate’s had raised so much money. The sum they had prepaid the hospital (a deciding factor in reopening this case according to the board) was astronomical to say the least and possibly criminal to say the most. Did they rob a bank or what? She looked again at the copy of the cashier’s check and then again at the statement indicating that the check had cleared.

Amazing she thought. What was the Tate’s connection to Grover Gateway she wondered, and what about this new foundation? She studied the imprint on the check, Gateway Associates Worldwide Donations, curious? She chuckled recalling the day Elizabeth Andrews had burst into her office unannounced with Mrs. Tate in tow. They were both beyond excited, they were positively euphoric!

“Miss Bradley, you’re not going to believe this,” Anita Tate had shouted! She pulled an envelope from her purse and waived it frantically in front of Linda’s nose. Anita and Elizabeth Andrews squealed like two school girls, jumping up and down in the middle of her office.

“What's this?” Linda had asked loudly over the noise.

“It’s a gift from God, manna from Heaven Linda,” Lizzie had answered, handing over the envelope. Inside was the very cashier’s check that she was now staring at. It was a check from God alright, a huge check from G.A.W.D.

“Gateway Associates Worldwide Donations,” Linda read aloud. The irony made her smile.

Mysterious ways, I guess that old saying's true,” she mumbled, closing the file.

“Mysterious ways indeed,” she muttered as she turned in her chair to look out the window at a beautiful day.

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