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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

("I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain. Its laughter and its loving I disdain. I am a rock, I am an island.")…Simon and Garfunkle

"And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries."

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-seven

The Studio Diner, San Diego, California…Saturday, June 25th, 2005…9am

I got the news about Grover Gateway's death at six this morning from two different sources. Papa had called The Hotel Del Coronado where Jean-Luc Rojier was staying to inform him/me at the same moment CNN was telling the rest of the world of the great man's passing. I have to admit the news caught me by surprise even though the gentleman was as old as Methuselah! He never showed any sign of slowing down and appeared to be in incredible health given his advanced age. For a man that was in his late nineties he was in remarkable shape!

Selfishly I began to worry that next weekend's G.A.W.D. event would be postponed or maybe even cancelled altogether. That would be a shame as I'd been looking forward to his annual summer gala at the Gateway Building in San Francisco. It was sure to be the event of the season, a great party, but the draw for me was the fact that Sanford Peck himself would be there to unwittingly present a hefty check to the very pirate responsible for the current down tick in Standard Pharmaceutical stock, it was a bit of irony that I wanted to cherish. As sweet as that would be, I had to remind myself to avoid the temptation to rub it in his rat bastard face with any "remember me" comments.

"Excuse me sir, would you like me to top off your coffee?" asked a cute waitress, in a tight white polo shirt and an even tighter pair of short shorts.

Startled I answered, "Sure, why not," looking toward the front door, wondering which of the knuckleheads would be first to arrive.

The young lady smiled and walked away as soon as my cup runneth over, making sure to move slow enough for me to get a good long look at her personal assets. Now I knew why Sandy insisted that we make this place one of our clubhouses! I didn't blame him, nothing wrong with looking I guess. Made me miss Monica though, my wife had an ass cut out of marble, one that Michelangelo himself would have been proud to sculpt had he had a chance to see it. I hate when I get melancholy, it makes me feel weak and vulnerable. Those aren't very good characteristics for the team captain are they?

Loneliness does that to people though, makes them fret over what they let slip through their fingers. Makes them wonder why they weren't paying closer attention to what mattered most. We sacrifice our lives and give our love. When will we learn that love is life, that's the Father's basic plan isn't it? You give one to create the other. I wished that I'd realized that sooner. Maybe I could have cheerfully given Monica all those mores, just like she wanted.

"EARTH TO PAT!" Sandy bellowed, snapping his fingers in my face to break my trance. I flinched and swatted his hand away.

"Cut it out will ya!" I hollered back as Sandy and Roman slid into the large booth beside me.

"Where are the others?" I asked sipping my coffee.

"Your Pop's in the john taking a leak. Randy and the Professor are right behind us. Jack's parking his egghead-mobile away from the masses of great unwashed, or something like that. I don't know, I don't understand half of what he says most of the time anyway," Sandy lamented, signaling the cute waitress to come hither and present herself for his inspection and take his order. She signaled that she'd be right over with a nod of her head. Sandy smiled at her and the then snarled a lewd comment at us.

"Oh man, how far would you drag your balls over broken glass just to sniff the chair she sat on last?" he asked rhetorically. It wasn't a question that warranted an answer anyway, Sandy could be pretty crude. Once a sailor always a sailor!

"Was that really necessary young man?" Papa asked disgustedly as he slipped into the booth beside me. Sandy ignored him and flipped through a menu.

"Have you talked to Mr. Patel yet?" my father asked me.

"No. Not yet, why?" I answered.

"Never mind, he's coming down the aisle now, I'll let him speak for himself," Papa said ordering coffee from the waitress standing beside him. She was savvy enough to know that she was safer next to him than to my leering friend on the other side of the table. She scribbled down his coffee order as well as Sandy's two beers and onion rings order, excusing herself and assuring us she'd be right back after Jack and Randy got settled. Randy slid in next to Sandy who scooted over, pining Roman against the window in the process.

"Do you mind ese!" Roman protested pushing back a little. Jack pulled up a chair and sat unorthodoxly at the head of the table.

"Wesley's not coming, I asked him to run an errand for me up in LA. I need a couple of things for the new boats," Jack said, filling us in and declaring a quorum.

"You mean Heckel and Jeckle?" Sandy asked sarcastically.

"Yeah, that's right. You have something against magpies, squid?" Jack shot back.

"That's enough children," scolded Papa, keeping a lid on the meeting.

"I think you better let Randy say his piece," added Papa as his coffee arrived.

I looked across at Randy and was immediately put off by his demeanor. He wasn't his usual kid-like self. He seemed nervous and struggling with something. We waited a long thirty seconds before he got around to speaking up. Taking a long drink of ice water he began slowly, also unusual for randy who was a fast excitable talker.

"I think I'm being followed," he said with both eyes drilling into mine sans a blink.

"You mean like a tail, like the five-0?" Sandy asked, teasing nervously.

"Not exactly, I mean electronically, like the FBI or CIA, a cyber tail," answered Randy clarifying.

"That can't be good," Roman muttered.

"No, it can't," Jack added, grabbing one of Sandy's beers and taking a long drink.

Sandy didn't even protest and that spoke volumes about the rapid mood swing all around the table. Things were going so well, we had pulled off one medium and two huge heists without a single hitch. We were as invisible on land as the boats were on water. What had gone wrong? We sat there in silence, alternating between staring at one another and out the big bay window next to us. I could read my father's face, his expression said play it cool and close up shop, count our blessings and say job well done. He was a glass half full conservative. The look on Jack's face was very different. His expression was angst, like a teenage kid who'd just been grounded. He was an all or nothing gambler. Roman and Randy were blank pages, and I was somewhere in the middle. But before I gave up the ghost I was going to hear it all. If there was one lesson I've learned real well in all my years it was that it's always too soon to quit, there is a solution to every problem if you have a willing spirit and a patient heart.

I don't know why, but that inspired another flash back of Monica. My wife did not have the patience God gave a tsetse fly. Translation, she had no patience whatsoever, it's what made her mean or blunt as she liked to refer to herself whenever she was driving home a point. She could be harsh but she was always cute, and deep down I knew that she meant well. "It's just how I was raised" she'd lament when she'd eventually come back to apologize for "bluntly" hammering me into the next dimension!

"Alright, let's not panic here. Why don't you walk us through the instances that are giving you the impression that you're being watched," I said to Randy. That got a couple of head nods from Jack and Papa. Randy grabbed Sandy's beer took a sip and handed it back.

"Keep it kid, I'll order a pitcher for the table," Sandy said, signaling the waitress.

"Thanks. Okay let me spell it out. It started the day after the Riviera job, when I was laundering the money from bank to bank through our stable of business fronts around the world and eventually to our Swiss account. The trail is intricate and you'd need the equivalent of an old Cray computer system to crack the 10x encoded ciphers directing our traffic pattern," Randy explained.

"Clear as mud junior, now get to the spy stuff already, who's watching you and your computer?" replied Sandy impatiently.

Jack gave Sandy a dirty look but uncharacteristically kept silent. He must have already heard all of this on the way over. Whatever he was thinking he was waiting for the right moment to share it. This computer stuff was over Roman's head and frankly I wasn't standing too far above him on that ladder. We didn't have to wait long for Randy to get to the meat, taking Sandy's cue and cutting to the chase.
"Alright, I did a little reverse engineering and backtracked looking for who was following our trail. Hold onto your hats, it led me back to Standard Pharmaceutical, right back to Sanford Peck, but with a twist," Randy said, confusing everyone, almost. Randy stopped and looked at Jack, causing us all to do likewise.

"Maybe you should take it from here Jack," Randy said finally.

Jack O'Shea leaned back in his chair and folded his arms in front of him. It was time to live in the light. If he was going to get his chance to drive a stake through his father's heart he'd need to convince this group that he was able to shield them from detection, that he could be their Trojan horse. It was plausible, it could work, all he'd need to do is pretend to be interested in the family business, convince dear old dad that he had come to his senses and was ready to take his place as the heir apparent. He sighed deeply, leaned forward onto his elbows and addressed his fellow pirates.

"My real name is Jackson Peck. I am Sanford Peck's only child," Jack said as a matter of fact. Nobody said a word.

"SURPRISE!" Jack added sarcastically.

"Not funny Jack! What's going on dude? Are you a spy, are we going to jail? Are you in this for kicks? What?" Sandy said, squeezing his paper napkin into a lump of pulp.

"Seriously Jack, what are you up to?" I asked.

"Yes son, why would you help us ruin your own father?" added Papa.

"Why am I doing this? I'll tell you why. Because kids like Gabriel shouldn't be sacrificed to protect profit margins. Because men like my father who worship cash and possessions shouldn't get rich denying the innocent their right to fight while there is hope. That's why!" Jack said, lying convincingly. If we'd known what he really had in mind what happened next would never have happened.

"Well, well, well, so Jackie-kins hates big bad daddy-kins, how nice," Sandy said laughing out loud.

"Knock it off Sandy," I replied harshly.

"Look, can you throw your Dad's security team off of our trail?" I asked.

"Yes, I'm sure that I can, but we'll have to come up with a Plan B because we're done raiding in this hemisphere," Jack answered.

"What does that mean?" asked Papa.

"It means I have an idea, but its way out of the box," answered Jack.

"How far out of the box?" asked Roman.

"Gibraltar is that far enough for you?" said Jack, answering a question with a question.

"Oh I get it! Your dad has a Mediterranean Fleet as well, and he owns a big ass resort and casino on Gibraltar, right?" Randy said perking up, relieved that Jack could call off the hounds.

"Exactly! I can pretend to go to work for my father and feed his security team false leads while we shift gears and take this operation to the other side of the world, its brilliant!" Jack said feeling pretty proud of his quick thinking.

"Whoa, hold the phone rich boy! We don't have that kind of bank to just up and go traipsing off to freaking Europe," Sandy said trying to be the voice of reason.

"I've got to agree with Sandy, it's just not feasible," I said.

"No, it is. Think about it, I DO have that kind of bank to fund the whole operation. What did you think all of the equipment and those speedboats were; Manna from Heaven? Look I'll just hire some fictitious IT geeks, you guys for instance, and viola, we're all living in the south of France, raiding dad's Club-Med Fleet while he thinks I chasing pirates in the Pacific. Think how ironic that'll be. The poor bastard will be paying us to rob him blind!" Jack explained convincingly.

"Can I bring my wife with me?" asked Sandy.

"Do you want to?" Jacked replied.

Sandy thought about it for a nano-second, "Yeah, probably be a good idea," he said while he fantasized about a bachelor operation.

"How much of all of this does she know?" asked Jack.

"She knows it all," answered Sandy.

"Then I guess it's moot…bring her," Jack said.

"How long would it take to make the move?" I asked.

"Realistically, it'll take two or three months to set us up over there. Wesley and your Dad can go over now and start setting up a base of operations. I'll stay here to set the hook with my father. You and Sandy can follow in September. We can be operational by Halloween. Actually, that would be a great job to plan, the casino and the ocean liners will be full of bank going into the Christmas holiday season. And by then we'll have lulled my dad to sleep," answered Jack.

"Sure, that'll give me time to establish Jean-Luc as Grover Gateway's successor for the G.A.W.D. Foundation. You all heard that he passed today right?" I asked.

"Yes I did, such a shame," answered Papa.

"Who's Grover Gateway," asked Sandy.

"Did your parents have any children that lived?" asked Jack sarcastically.

"I'll explain it to you later buddy. Right now we need to outline the next steps because I need to be at Rady Children's Hospital in three hours as Jean-Luc Rojier, and it takes me at least an hour to get my French on," I said pulling a yellow legal pad and a pen from the backpack Monica gave me for Christmas a few years back.

"Oui, oui, Mr. Fabulous, but can we order now, I'm starving," Sandy said, whistling for the waitress.

There was much to plan, and I needed to think how I was going to approach Alma Donnelley and ask her to take Grover's place as the Foundation's spokesperson. I reached over and grabbed Sandy's beer, and took a swig while he protested. I looked over at Jack and studied his face. He was smiling but I sensed it was only on the surface, and only for our benefit. There was a storm brewing inside that man and I wasn't sure when it would arrive, but I knew it was going to be a doozie!

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