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Saturday, July 16, 2011

("It’s a still life water color Of a now late afternoon And the sun shines through the curtain lace And the shadows wash the room")Simon & Garfunkel

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 Thirty-two

Mandelieu Marina…France, Saturday, August 22nd, 2005…1pm

Situated halfway between Cannes and Monaco is the beautiful seaport of Mandelien-La Napoule. While summertime in the south of France can be on the crowded side, this small hamlet if you will; was an enclave of peace and quiet. Why it didn't attract the same throngs of Kodak moment tourists that Cannes and Nice did was a mystery to me, but it was a pleasant mystery nonetheless and a useful one that suited our purpose perfectly. The less attention we attracted the better. I or rather Jean-Luc was staying in a small, modest Châteaux courtesy Jackson Peck and his family's wealth, overlooking a small natural harbor. This perk allowed me to continue to play the role of a wealthy French aristocrat / philanthropist as well as keep an eye on the progress Papa and Wesley were making as they outfitted the two new boats, Heckle and Jeckle. How ironic I thought that the very mogul we were fleecing was unwittingly bankrolling our entire operation, right down to these ostentatiously comfortable digs. I almost felt sorry for the rat bastard, well, almost.

Papa thought that the boats would be ready for a shake down test run in a week or ten days which allowed me plenty of time to host the G.A.W.D. Foundation fundraiser scheduled for the 29th in Monte Carlo. It was an end of summer gala planned by Alma Donnelly, the First Lady of wealthy land baronesses from central California. It had been Alma who had introduced me to Grover Gateway and the rest as they say is history. The kindly old woman with the down home sense of humor had taken quite a shine to Jean-Luc Rojier, which wasn't hard to imagine as I was actually quite charming in my role as the French do-gooder, much more so than I was as Mr. Nobody Special, the blue collar welder from San Pedro. The trinity of friendship between Alma, Grover and I was an advantage that opened doors otherwise closed, and established G.A.W.D. as a legit venture. The Foundation was the engine that would allow me to keep the promises I made to Gabriel, and to Monica for that matter, God rest their souls. I doubt that they would have approved of my methods, or the risks associated with them, but they couldn't argue with the success so far. Robin Hood had nothin on this crew; we were on a roll with loaded dice!

The telephone startled me out of my daydream, beeping loudly in that mellow yet maddening, uniquely European ring which I have yet to grow accustomed to. Two quick baritone beeps followed by a quarter note rest and then repeated over and over until someone lifted the receiver from the cradle and ended the insanity. I walked briskly over to the small antique writing desk where the nagging instrument pestered me for attention and picked up the handset, answering in a clear calm voice, mindful to stay in character.

"Oui," I answered in French.

"It's me Frenchy, you can drop the act Pat," replied Sandy's familiar voice.

"Right, sorry, just playing it safe dude which is exactly what you're supposed to be doing. Why didn't you call me on the cell phone, you know the protocol man?" I said, scolding Sandy for his breech of procedure.

"Protocol? You're sounding more like the professor every day! Look man, I called your cell like five times and only got voice mail every time. Speaking of the professor, the dill hole called your Pop and told him that he would be arriving on station tomorrow and that he wanted to get us all together for a little pow-wow," Sandy said, dishing out a little scolding of his own.

I reached for my waistband and felt for my cell phone and quickly realized that I had left it in the charger in the master bedroom, several rooms away from where I was which is why I never heard it ring. I felt stupid and scolded myself silently before eating crow and apologizing to my old friend. Nobody hates being wrong more than I do and nobody enjoys proving me wrong more than Sandy does. Well, nobody since Monica that is, he assumed the top spot in that category after her passing. I kicked at the Persian rug beneath my stocking feet. Even now I still followed Monica's Asian household rules. And exhaling deeply I replied, "Alright, sorry dude, I left the thing in my room. Call me back in five on the cell, nes pa?" I replied, hanging up without waiting for a response.

I jogged out of the foyer and down the long hall to the master bedroom suite determined to get to my cell before Sandy rang my number. I knew he would start dialing the instant I hung up on him just to spite me. Sure enough I entered the spacious room greeted by the loud ring tone of my iPhone, the green LED on the charger blinking frantically as if to say hurry up, hurry up, hurry up!

"You're a piece of work, you know that!" I hollered into the cell.

"I know. Now like I was saying, Jack is coming in from the States tomorrow to meet with all of us. Must be pretty important because he wasn't due to arrive here until next week, right?" Sandy replied calmly.

"No he wasn't. Did he say anything else? Did you talk to him directly or did he just send a message?" I asked him.

"He talked to Randy Patel a couple of hours ago," he answered.

"Why didn't Randy call me then?"

"He did nimrod, check your phone for messages. When you didn't answer he called me and told me to track you down. I'd have come over there but I was eating lunch."

"Of course you were. Where's Randy now, I want to talk to him?"

"He's hold up in his geek cave back at our apartment playing with his toys," Sandy answered sarcastically.

"I see, well, do me a favor, call him and tell him to meet me at "LE PAPOUNET" over on Place de La Fontaine in an hour, okay?" I asked, listening to him chew as I talked.

"You mean the pizza joint? I didn't think Jean-Luc Rojier would be caught dead in a common pizzeria?" Sandy replied, chuckling with a mouthful of whatever he was grazing on.

"Just tell him smartass, I'll meet him around 2:30, alone," I said, hanging up before he could ask me why.

I put the cell back into the Apple charging station/radio/digital clock and flopped onto the tall oversized bed beside the nightstand. Staring up at the ceiling fan, I watched it rotate slowly overhead while I calmed myself by counting the revolutions, a tactic I had perfected whenever Monica was on a pillow talk rant over our finances. I knew exactly why Jack was coming and why he wanted to talk with us. Randy had confessed to me that he had taken some liberties on the heist of Peck's Mexican Flagship, the Riviera. Apparently he had stumbled onto a path and had been able to access much more than the casino accounts when he was transferring the ships bank through his elaborate laundering system that circumnavigated the cyber-world into the G.A.W.D. Foundation's coffers in Zurich, much more! There hadn't been time to warn Jack about that revelation and what the ramifications might be on his end as the person in charge of dispensing with the party or parties responsible for larceny of this magnitude.

Essentially Randy had hit the jackpot and had greedily raided Peck's piggy bank to the tune of three quarters of a billion dollars. It was a drop in the bucket given the size of the piggy bank however it would likely be a big enough drop to put us on Sanford Peck's personal radar, a reality that Jack would be dealing with right about now I suspected. Randy called me yesterday afternoon to inform me about all of this, and I did try to reach Jack but he was in a Board Meeting at Standard Pharmaceutical with his father. I decided to look on the bright side and postulate that since he was on his way here to meet with us that the lid hadn't blown off yet. But I needed to get all of the facts together for him when I met with Randy at the pizza joint.

If we're lucky and the coast is still clear we'll need to cover any trail that Randy might have left when he raided the cookie jar. If Randy's lucky the professor won't beat the stuffing out of him tomorrow at the team meeting. If we can get through tomorrow without killing one another we're be in business here in the Mediterranean, and Heckle & Jeckle's maiden voyage will take place just as planned in a few weeks. The Princess Grace was our mark, the flagship of Peck's Mediterranean fleet. Her ship's coffers would be fat with Euros belonging to scads of wealthy tourists from all over Europe and Asia as they cruised the deep blue on blue waters, sailing from Sicily to Gibraltar, directly into the path of our waiting speed boats and right into the skilled hands of our little band of pirates.

I stopped counting the fan blades rotating above me and closed my eyes for a few moments. The restaurant was only five minutes away by auto so I could afford a ten minute catnap. Truth was I had been expecting Jack's call and had been fretting over his reaction. I needed Jack to keep G.A.W.D. afloat. He was the lynchpin to its success and to my ability to keep Gabriel's promise. I knew that, and so did he…

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