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Saturday, June 25, 2011

("cause I'm leavin on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again. Oh babe, I hate to go")…John Denver

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

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Gabriel's Promise
a novel by nicholas sheridan stanton

Chapter Twenty-nine
Delta Flight 1124, LA to Paris…Monday, August 15th, 2005…11pm

There were definite perks to travelling as my alter-ego, Jean-Luc Rojier. The optimum one at the moment was the luxury of being able to fly first class with my entourage, consisting of two security personnel and my chief of staff (i.e. Sandy, Roman, and Randy respectively). It would have been even cooler if Grover had left instructions for his Lear-Jet to be at the G.A.W.D. Foundation's disposal, but I don't think he expected that he'd be leaving the Earth when he did. Anyway, First Class on any major Airline was still a luxury the four of us weren't unaccustomed to. Actually, it was a little hard staying in character as the dashing Jean-Luc and pretend to be unimpressed by all of the perks and the close attention from the flight attendants catering to our every whim. Sandy and Roman were almost childlike with their "did you see this" and "did you see that" comments muttered loud enough for the entire cabin area to wonder what sort of hillbillies had wandered into their inner sanctum?

"Hey Pat, I mean Luc, check this out homeboy, real silverware man, none of that plastic shit like back in Coach. We're stylin now baby!" Roman said, patting my headrest like a kettledrum.

"Take it easy Jethro, act like you've been here before will ya," I replied without turning around. I took a look out the window and watched the baggage handlers mill around waiting for the tram to bring the load of suitcases and bags to stow in the cargo area of the Boeing 777-200ER. Admittedly I didn't travel much in my former life as a welder so all this stuff was still new and fascinating to me.

Randy Patel stirred in the seat beside me as he fumbled with the backpack containing his laptop. He was a nervous flyer and needed to be blindfolded at take off with an MP3 blaring Ozzie Osborne's "Crazy Train" through his Sony earphones in order to keep him from freaking out and heading for the nearest exit. As long as he was blind and deaf to what was going on he could just pretend he was riding the Space Mountain roller coaster at Disneyland.

"Hey Luc, have you seen my shades man?" Randy asked, frantically searching through his backpack for the thick satin blindfold he had bought at Hudson's in the terminal before we boarded at the gate.

"They're on your head Einstein," I answered, tapping him gently on the forehead.

Giggling he pulled them down over his eyes and settled back into his chair, cinching his seatbelt as tight as he could stand, "Thanks," he grunted.

"I hope you don't need to pee anytime soon," I said smiling. Randy couldn't see my mocking expression but I know he heard it in my voice as he smiled back.

"No worries, I'm freaking a camel when it comes to bladder functions," he replied, placing the earphones in his head and scrolling through his iPod for his prerequisite travelling song.

"Are you ready for this mon ami?" asked Sandy, as he returned from the forward head and took his seat next to Roman right behind Randy.

"Look at you! When did you start picking up French?" I asked, actually curious.

"I pay attention Jean-Luc, I pay attention," he replied in a matter of fact tone, blowing on his fingernails and buffing them on his shirt for affect.

"I see, so in other words my Dad's been schooling you, am I right?"

"Pretty much, cest la vie mon frère," he answered chuckling as he buckled up.

"Touche," I replied.

I watched a flight attendant close the main hatch, she was rather petite and I wondered if she weren't too small to accomplish the task. I know, that was a pretty sexist thought, so sue me, I'm all male! A moment later the screens in the headrests came alive blathering out the usual pre-flight chatter. Tuning out the cheerful voice overhead I closed my eyes and mentally reviewed the details surrounding the next steps of our ongoing assault on Standard Pharmaceutical's billions and billions. Papa and Wesley had gone ahead of us to Cannes in the south of France where Jack O'Shea, check that, where Jackson Peck had moored two brand new cigarette boats for them to modify and equip with the cloaking devices. He had christened the new boats, Heckle and Jeckle, after the battling magpies in a favorite childhood cartoon show. They were exact duplicates of Pixie and Dixie, the first two boats that we scuttled off the coast of Baja California after hitting The Riviera in June. With the exception of the two much larger engines they vessels were identical, right down to the dull paint jobs the cloaking process required. Turns out that we needed the extra horsepower to support the greater distances we'd be covering on this Mediterranean arm of our master plan to pump as much money as possible into G.A.W.D. by draining as much money as we could out Sanford Peck's cheesy empire,the pig!

Jack, who preferred to be called by his given name, Jackson, now that the cat was out of the bag, had spent the last eight weeks kowtowing to his egotistical father, successfully lulling him into a false sense of security by taking credit for eliminating the whole Mexican Riviera pirate problem. Pretty easy to do when you ARE the freaking pirate! Enough time had passed that we felt confident in starting up again on the other side of the world. We had a couple of weeks to get settled before Jackson would join us in Cannes to help plan the virgin assault on dear old dad's Mediterranean fleet of cruise ships. We figured we had about a six week window of opportunity once we made the first heist to grab all we could before we'd have to shut down the operation and go underground again, possibly resurfacing back in the Pacific on the Mexican Riviera again or maybe in the Black Sea around Odessa, although, that option had some serious aspects to consider. Papa advised against it as he said that it was too risky given the fact that the "New Russians" would likely be a factor in that part of the world. Mixing it up with a greedy captain of industry was one thing, it might cost us our freedom, mixing it up with the freaking Russian Mafia was another altogether, it might cost us our lives!

The two Pratt & Whiney 4090 engines began their high pitched whine as they revved loudly in preparation of the race down the runway. Randy was hunkered down in the dark wall of sound he had created, pretending he wasn't where he was. Sandy was looking out the window and cramming a Snickers bar into his face, while Roman rubbed his crucifix between his thumb and forefinger and prayed not so silently with his eyes closed. Everyone has their little rituals I guess, even me. As for mine, well since putting God on the backburner while I followed this self proclaimed noble albiet crooked path to redemption, I had replaced prayer with superstition by resurrecting an old habit from childhood. I'd count backward by tens from 500 to see if I could reach zero before the giant airplane's wheels left the ground. It was a little game that Papa had taught me on long family trips in the car to keep me from asking "are we there yet" over and over. It was a clever little trick / diversion, and it probably saved me from a spanking or two over the years, not that I was spanked often as a child. My dad was a clever disciplinarian, never a mean spirited one. Papa's steadfast rule was never to punish with anger, only with love. It was a philosophy he'd adopted in an effort to avoid repeating the mistakes his own father had made with him and his four brothers when they were children. He wasn't a peacenik, against corporal punishment, he just believed in making the punishment fit the crime so to speak. He did not believe in forcing his will onto his children or his wife, or onto anyone for that matter.

"The only thing you accomplish by pushing on someone, especially someone you love, is eventually pushing them away," Papa would always say. That was some of his home spun wisdom that he shared with me often as I matured and eventually started my own family. Good advice I thought.

These were the thoughts floating through my brain as we raced down the tarmac and gently left the safety of firm hard ground for dangerous and uncertain skies, on our way to write next chapter in G.A.W.D.'s even more uncertain future. A little scary, but a whole lot of exciting!

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