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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

("Everything's a blessing in disguise. You wear yours and I’ll wear mine…")…Seven Mary Three

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-nine

Pink's Famous Hot Dogs, Los Angeles, Friday, August 29th, 2005…8PM

Lizzie had lucked out and quickly maneuvered her little Honda Civic into a really choice parking space just two doors down from Pink's on LaBrea. She'd been dreaming of their world famous chili cheese dogs all freaking day. The poor girl was famished having worked through both breakfast and lunch on an ultra-busy Friday from hell at LA General. A ten car pile up on the Hollywood Freeway during the wee hours had left several trauma patients stacked like cord wood in the ER. When she arrived at work at 6am it was as if she'd walked into a Stephan King novel. Her day started with a compound fracture of the right femur of a nine year-old girl who was writhing in pain right next to her mother who'd suffered a fractured pelvis and severe facial lacerations after her air bag failed to deploy.

As she tended to the child's wounds Lizzie remembered thinking "now there's a lawsuit" and wondered if she'd be subpoenaed in the case. She decided that she probably would and surrendered to that inevitability. Freaking lawyers left few stones unturned when they were on a money trail. Well, with the possible exception of the rock they personally crawled out from under. Actually that was unfair, and she regretted thinking it as soon as the thought faded from consciousness to unconsciousness. After all, her Aunt Brenda and her cousins Jace and Noah were all lawyers and they were pretty cool. She loved them, so she forgave them for their poor career choices. Lizzie wasn't exactly sure when her negative opinion of the profession started but she knew exactly where it stemmed from. It came from dear old dad. Sean Andrews was a well known barrister hater, and never missed an opportunity to take pot shots at an attorney and bash their good name.

The root cause of daddy's anger was no big secret. His overbearing father, Liam Thomas Andrews, Esq. had been an attorney at law as had his father and his father before him. So keeping with tradition, Grandfather Liam had tried earnestly but unsuccessfully to encourage his only child to follow in the family business. By the way, encouragement in an Irish household took many shapes, from gentle coaxing to stern cuffing to what amounted technically to assault and battery! But her dad was stubborn as the day was long and head strong to a fault. If you wanted a guarantee that he would not do something just tell him he had to! Where that trait was concerned the apple hadn't fallen far from the tree either as Lizzie was very much like her dad in that respect. Fortunately for Lizzie her black and white tendencies were governed by a soft and compassionate heart courtesy her mother Carla, who taught her that the world was mercifully moderated by shades of gray.

Lizzie hopped out of her car and secured it with her clicker, with the machine dutifully beeping an acknowledgement that she was good to go. She was so late! She was supposed to have met her cousins, Jace and Noah Kelly for her make-up birthday bash over an hour ago. The place was packed too, typical for a Friday night, the crowd moving forward at a snail's pace in a long winding, switchback line resembling a human GI tract working in reverse. Lizzie spotted Jace right away. He was about 20 bodies back from the order counter. His posture and the look on his face betrayed the fact that he had been standing toe to snout with a heady variety of chili dog fans from neighborhood locals to drive-by diners heading to or from the clubs along the Sunset Strip, to the camera flashing tourists hoping to score a celebrity sighting, which wasn't an altogether impossible wish at this place.

"Hey! Sorry I'm late, traffic sucked," Lizzie hollered over the chattering masses and traffic noise from the street as she pushed her way through the less than cooperative crowd to reach her cousin. Ignoring the grumbles and unflattering references to her family tree she kissed Jace on the cheek, hugging him tightly and seeking sanctuary in his six foot two inch frame. She felt safe there for the moment but secretly down deep hoped his twin brother Noah wasn't too far away just in case.

"Where's your other half anyways?" Lizzie asked scanning the crowd for Noah.

"Where you do think? He's sitting in the car texting the old ball and chain, what a chump! I warned him about the…" Jace answered, abruptly interrupted by Lizzie when she reached up and squeezed his lips shut.

"Uh uh uh, that's not fair and you know it! Leave Noah alone, he's happy. So she's not exactly your dream girl. That doesn't give you the right to judge buddy boy!" scolded Lizzie, removing her fingers before Jace bit them off.

"Come on Elizabeth, you've met her. She's just using him. The girl is never satisfied with anything for very long. She's always looking for more. As soon as Noah can't deliver she'll dump him like a bad habit!" Jace spat out in frustration, partly from his brother's situation and partly because of the slow moving line.

"Happy birthday by the way, again," he added patting his tiny cousin on the top of her pointed little head.

"Thanks," Lizzie replied, hugging him again.

The line suddenly began to move as a large group of teens filed past them with their trays of chili dogs, chili fries, and chili burgers, the All American meal. The stuff looked disgusting, painted in ghastly shades of baby shit brown with patches of yellow, green and white courtesy the mustard, relish, and onions. As bad as it looked, it smelled soooo good, and Lizzie was starving. She swooned and swayed while she followed the group with her nose as they made their way to an empty table and laid out their yummy meal of heartburn inducing cholesterol bombs. Lucky ducks!

"Easy Lizzie, I just got this shirt. If you drool on this Club Monaco I'll have to burn it!" Jace said, teasing her. Lizzie socked him in the arm protesting, "Come on, that's gross Jace, I'm not drooling," she insisted, swiping at the corners of her mouth with her thumb and forefinger just in case.

She was about to sock him again to wipe that shit eating grin off of his piggish face when Noah appeared suddenly, his presence announced by more jeers from the impatient crowd he'd just cut through. Noah turned to face the 30 or 40 people he just passed and bowed like a bad actor on a curtain call. His gesture was immediately met with more jeers, one or two veiled threats, and a proposal of marriage from some hippie chick near the end of the line. Not surprising really, the Kelly twins were pretty darn cute for half breeds, the progeny of an Irish father and an Asian mother. Noah turned back and grinned at Lizzie and Jace.

"Kinda crowded, huh," Noah said stating the obvious.

"No shit Sherlock," replied Jace.

"All done kowtowing to the Queen bee I see," Jace said sarcastically.

"Sticks and stones my brother, sticks and stones. You're just jealous," Noah answered, turning his attention to Lizzie.

"What kept you this time cuz?" Noah asked, giving Lizzie a little hug.

"The usual, blood, guts and mayhem," replied Lizzie.

"I see. Hey before I forget here's the skinny on the French guy from G.A.W.D. the one you asked me to check out," Noah said handing her a thin manila folder.

"Thanks, what you find out?" Lizzie asked, opening the folder and skimming through the pages inside. She held up two sheets of paper and shook them in front of Noah's face.

"Is this all there is?" she asked disappointed.

"I'm afraid so, and I even called a friend who works for the FBI," Noah answered, shrugging his shoulders.

"Really?" Lizzie asked.

"Yeah, really," replied Noah.

"You know what that means, right?" interjected Jace.

"No what?" asked Lizzie.

"In the Corporate World a blind alley usually means alias, or in other words a false front protecting a hidden agenda. If this is all there is on Jean-Luc Rojier it's because he didn't exist prior to January, 2005. Whoever he is, he covered his tracks very well," Jace explained.

"Not necessarily," Lizzie said thinking out loud.

"What do you mean?" asked Noah.

Lizzie chewed on pursed lips as she thought about how to answer him. She'd read the two pages of information all about the generous Frenchman who was responsible for so many kids getting second and third chances at life, no matter the cost. And while the words hadn't shed much light, the photos were brilliant as the sun. Lizzie knew that face, absolutely knew it. She vividly remembered the Bouchard's, Gabriel, Monica, and Patrick, apparently a.k.a. Jean-Luc Rojier. She was certain of that now.

"I recognize this guy," she said to nobody in particular as she tapped a picture of Patrick Bouchard standing outside Gabriel's room, watching him sleep through the window.

"His son was one of the first kids I ever treated after transferring to Hem/Onc from the ER a couple of years ago," she added.

"Hem/Onc?" asked Noah puzzled.

"Hematology/Oncology," Lizzie answered.

"Oh," Noah replied.

"So what's got your panties in a bunch? So the guy wants to do good deeds in the shadows, big deal, Batman does it everyday," Jace said sarcastically.

Lizzie ignored his comment. She held Patrick's picture up to her face and spoke to it, "Why is this bothering me? So what if you're pretending to be someone else. That someone else is a wonderful man. I just want to know what you're up to, maybe I can help. I know who you are now, and I've got a pretty good idea why you're doing this," muttered Lizzie as they reached the counter.

"You think too much Elizabeth. Look, sometimes good people do bad things for good reasons, simple as that. Come on now, let's eat, I'm starving!" Jace said anxiously looking over the menu board that he'd already memorized.

Without any discussion he ordered them each two chili dogs with the works and a large helping of chili-cheese fries for them to share. He topped it all off with three Dr. Peppers to help them wash it all down and they watched as the Pink's crew went to work whipping up their meal, finishing in less than three minutes. It was quite an operation, fast, simple, efficient, and profitable, a textbook example of a successful business model. Give the public what they want. Give it to them fast and give it to them cheap, then sit back and reap the rewards. If shear volume was an accurate KPI, or key performance indicator, then Mr. Pink had to be rolling in piles of green! Jace, visibly impressed was thinking franchise opportunities, while Noah busily answered the latest text from the Queen bee, and Lizzie continued to chew on the facts. All she had to do now was decipher the code that hid the link between Jean-Luc Rojier and Patrick Bouchard. She was as stubborn and determined as her old man when she got her Irish up. She'd figure all of this out sooner than later. She just didn't know what if anything she'd do afterward. Lizzie decided to cross that bridge when she came to it.

Jace and Noah grabbed two trays piled high with food and drink while Lizzie stopped to gather some utensils and a boatload of napkins. The three cousins went around back and opted to eat outside versus inside so they could hear themselves think. The inside dining area was loud with old music from the 1950's and table chatter from a pretty rowdy crowd. Noah dealt the food like he was dealing a hand of poker while Jace opened the pop bottles. Lizzie placed a plastic fork and knife on top of a stack of cheap paper napkins in front of each of them, then devoured her first chili dog before either of the boys and taken a second bite. You wouldn't know it to look at her, but this girl could flat out EAT!

"Slow down honey you're gonna lose a finger!" exclaimed Noah in awe.

"Thorry," said Lizzie, lisping a reply with a mouthful of food.

"Nice manners Elizabeth, no wonder you're still single dude," Jace said rolling his eyes. Lizzie flipped him off with a smile, stuffing a handful of chili-cheese fries into her face.

"Hey, I almost forgot. Do you remember our Aunt Alma?" Noah asked out of the clear blue sky.

"No," she mumbled as chewed.

"She's not our real Aunt, but we've known her like forever," explained Jace.

"Like your mom's not my real Aunt but I've always known her as such, something like that," replied Lizzie.

"Yeah, like that. Well Aunt Alma wants you to call her right away about something. She said it was important," Noah mumbled, uncharacteristically speaking with his mouthful.

"About what?" asked Lizzie.

"I dunno kiddo, you'll have to call her and find out," answered Noah, shrugging as he finished off his first chili dog.

"Alright, gimme the number," she said holding out her hand for Noah to either hand over a note or scribble the telephone number onto the palm of her hand.

"Here ya go," he replied, fishing a crumbled piece from his pants pocket.

"Thanks," Lizzie said, unraveling the crumpled piece paper.

She quickly read the note a couple of times;

Hello Elizabeth,

I doubt that you remember me as you were but a small child when last I saw you. Be that as it may, I must speak with you right away about one of your patients, Katherine Tate. Please call me the moment you receive this letter regardless of the time. I am currently travelling in Europe doing business for the Foundation with Jean-Luc, but I will stop whatever I am doing in order to speak with you. This is quite urgent so please do not delay with your reply. I will await your call.

Alma Donnelly

Lizzie stuffed the note into her pants pocket and worked on the last couple of bites of chili dog number two. She sat silently and processed Alma's note and Noah's research on Jean-Luc Rojier as she chewed. Alma Donnelly and Jean-Luc Rojier, what was the connection there and how did Patrick Bouchard factor into all of this? This was almost as good as a Sue Grafton novel, Lizzie's favorite author. What would Kinsey Millhone do she wondered. What indeed?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

("Time is on my side, yes it is. Oh, time is on my side, yes it is")…Rolling Stones

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-eight

Monte Carlo, Principality of Monaco, Saturday, August 30th, 2005…11am

It tickled Alma Donnelly something fierce to be referred to as Baroness, it just sounded so regal for a country girl from Fresno, California. This was her first visit to the small country of Monaco, or rather principality, and Alma had no idea what the difference was? Frankly she didn't give a fiddlers fig, the place was lovely and just being here made her smile. All she knew for certain was that this was where Grace Kelly, a favorite actress from her youth, had come here to marry into a real life fairytale when she agreed to wed Rainier Grimaldi III, an actual Prince, thus becoming Princess Grace in the process. So romantic thought Alma. From her perch outside the bridge of the huge ocean liner named for Her Royal Highness she gazed at sprawling hillsides dotted with quaint little cottages of ancient architecture existing side by side with palatial chateaus, opulent casinos, and street bazaars. It was typical of what one would expect to see in the south of France. However this wasn't just the south of France, this was Monaco, a living breathing fairytale right out of the pages of the Brothers Grimm.

The marine layer, typical for this time of year, had nearly burned off as the last cloud of any size drifted by the noonday sun and bathed the small hamlet with warm sunshine. The appearance of brilliant sunlight caused Alma to squint. She turned away and allowed her eyes to adjust as she surveyed the immensity of Sanford Peck's flagship ocean liner. Quite a legacy for the actress turned Princess she thought. The whole fairytale notion made her think of Arthur, God rest his soul. The big lug had been her Prince, Lord above, how she missed that man! Alma Donnelly looked at the modest gold wristwatch that Arthur had given her after their first vineyard harvest back in 1958. She frowned remembering how she had scolded him for his extravagance, the gift was more than they could afford back then as every nickel they had went into that first harvest and virgin vintage of Swallowtail Farms' award winning Chardonnay. It seemed like only yesterday and she allowed herself to daydream for a moment. Oh yes, how she missed her Arthur, the gentlest six foot five inch giant the good Lord ever created!

"Excuse me Baroness, but the Captain wishes to inform you that Messier Peck is waiting for you in the main salon on the Lido Deck. If you would be so kind as to follow me I am to escort you," explained a rather young purser. He was tall and lean, and in this light as well as her current state of mind, the boy reminded her of Arthur.

"Yes, of course young man, please, lead the way," she replied smiling warmly.

"Has Messier Rojier arrived yet?" she asked, taking the handsome young junior officer's arm.

"I'm afraid Messier Rojier sends his apologies. He will be unable to join you this morning but said to assure you that he will be in attendance at the Gala tonight," answered the ship's purser.

"Oh phooey," pouted Alma, patting the young man's forearm to let him know she was ready to proceed on to meet with the top dog himself, Sanford Peck.

Actually Alma was slightly miffed that Jean Luc would not be there to shield her from that awful man. She despised the over bearing rascal. And quite a rascal he was according to her people. Goodness she had heard some terrible stories and she hoped that they were just that, stories. In any event, she could handle herself well enough Arthur Donnelly had made sure of that. He had always involved her in their business affairs so she'd have the right skills to succeed in a man's world. She appreciated that about her husband, he was thoughtful that way, always putting her needs first, always.

They believed a strong marriage was built on openness and honesty, even when it was worrisome or even painful to tell the truth. While those words weren't part of the official vows, they were implied. The Lord was wise enough to understand that everyone is weak at sometime or another in a lifetime together. So He didn't require you pledge allegiance to an impossible feat. He did however require that you to pledge to work through all of the bumps along the marriage road, hence the vow "in sickness and in health" (there are ALL kinds of sickness and they don't always come with sniffles and coughs). The key was to have faith that ALL things are possible through Him. Alma believed that and so did Arthur, they got it.

The young officer led her from the bridge down to the Lido Deck and the Grand Salon, reserved for Captain's Table social events, and, whenever he was aboard, the private use of Sanford Peck and his guests. As they arrived Alma gasped audibly at the beauty of the room she was entering. The Purser waived a key fob past a black square device mounted on the wall. The red light changed to green and the two large mahogany doors slid open quietly revealing the Grand Salon in its splendor. The first thing that caught Alma's eye was the high ceiling spanning at least two decks. At the center of the foyer where she stood in awe was a massive crystal chandelier hanging motionless high above her head. Directly ahead of her were twin staircases that swept up to an ornate second level Library. She could see floor to ceiling mahogany bookshelves with lattice ladders on rails at each end. Spaced at equal intervals and alternating between facing the railing and facing the Library shelves were several large Queen Anne chairs arranged for privacy to provide the reader with a personal comfort zone where they could lose themselves in whatever story they desired to escape into.

Beneath the Library was the Main Salon complete with a walk in stone fireplace which just floored Alma. How on earth can you have a huge wood burning fireplace on the high seas she wondered? The Salon was decorated in deep brown masculine tones with just a hint of feminine intervention noticeable courtesy the soft lighting, lace doilies, and colorful quilts covering the arms and backs of chairs large enough to support a linebacker. Apparently Sanford Peck didn't pull all the strings in his household. That surprised Alma a little but she didn't let it influence her impression of the man. He was a lout and a brute and she didn't like him. But she was a practical woman and paid heed to Jean-Luc's assessment that the G.A.W.D. Foundation needed Standard Pharmaceutical's support and cooperation in the good work they were doing for the kids. Small price to pay for such a large prize she thought.

"Alma dear, so wonderful to see you again, it's been too long," said Killeen Peck as she entered the room. The elegant woman dressed in a lavender sundress and sensible shoes walked up to Alma bussing her softly on each cheek, taking care not to leave a lip gloss smudge. She paused to look Alma over, holding her hand as she nodded approvingly.

"I just love your outfit, it is perfect for this time of year," Killeen said, sincerely complimenting Mrs. Donnelly on her wardrobe.

"Why, this old thing? I just threw this together before I left my stateroom," Alma replied, telling a little white lie. Actually she had agonized for better than an hour over what to wear to meet the Peck's on board their big fancy boat.

Alma Donnelly had money but she hadn't grown up with it like Killeen Peck had. Alma had to work for what she had. She and Arthur had done quite well for themselves over the years, but everything they had, they earned, and to be completely honest Alma was always a little embarrassed by their wealth. The world preaches wealth means health. So many people are only happy when seeking more, more of this, more of that. What's wrong with wanting more they ask? Alma wasn't one of the "more people" she was comfortable with having what she needed. Be that as it may she wasn't one to judge. Live and let live she always said. She smiled back at Killeen Peck and returned the compliment.

"I do declare Mrs. Peck you are just lovely. What is your secret for staying so young and vibrant?" Alma replied smiling broadly.

"Why thank you. Please, call me Killeen. We're friends now aren't we?" insisted Killeen Peck.

"Of course Killeen, of course we are," replied Alma Donnelly.

Mrs. Peck gestured toward a large overstuffed sofa and bade Alma to have a seat as she turned to address a lovely young lady in uniform, no doubt a member of the ship's company. She caught sight of her husband who was entering the Salon and Alma thought she saw her expression sour for a millisecond before she spoke to the young crew member.

"Jessica love, we'll have tea right here in the Salon. Please ask Caesar to prepare some refreshments as well, perhaps a light lunch. Would that be all right with you Alma?" Killeen asked turning to address her guest.

"That would be nice, thank you Killeen," Alma answered sweetly.

"It's settled then, thank you Jessica," Killeen declared, dismissing the young lady with a smile.

"Very good madam," Jessica said as she turned to leave the room.

Sanford Peck nodded at Jessica as she passed by him. The girl didn't even look up to acknowledge him and seemed to hurry on past the man. His reputation may not be exaggerated after all thought Alma as the fifth wealthiest man in the world strolled into the room to join her and Killeen. Sanford Peck wasn't a particularly large man nor a physically imposing figure by any means. However he did have an air about him, a presence that made him appear larger than life. Alma had read all about him on the flight from New York to Paris and again on the train from Paris to Monte Carlo. Like she and her husband Sanford Peck had not been born into money, he also earned it, an impressive fortune. Of course he did have a head start on the Donnelly's as he married into wealth by wedding Killeen Gateway. Actually, that was one aspect of the man that Alma admired. Apparently the seed money his wife's dowry provided was repaid with interest as fast as Sanford earned his first twenty million dollars, which according to Forbes was pretty darn fast.

Say what you want about the man, as evil as he probably was, he seemed to possess at least a few scruples. Alma doubted that would save him from the hellfire he was headed for though. Even the face of evil was able to smile convincingly. On the surface that responsible gesture seemed like an admirable quality but there was something lurking between the lines on the pages she'd read about the man. There were unwritten words that appeared on Killeen Peck's face when she noticed her husband enter the room. The same words were expressed in the stiffness of the young crew member as she passed him only a moment ago. Alma couldn't put her finger on it, but there were volumes missing from those pages she'd read, she sensed that deeply.

"Ladies, I see you're getting reacquainted. How are you Mrs. Donnelly? I trust your stateroom is satisfactory?" asked Sanford Peck as he took a seat in a very large leather chair across from the sofa the two women were seated upon.

"The room is lovely Mr. Peck, and so unnecessary, it is much too large for just little old me," Alma answered humbly.

"Nonsense, you're our guest, we can't have a lady of your stature in anything less. And please, call me Sanford," he replied staring right through her.

"Alright, if you insist, thank you," Alma said returning his gaze with equal intensity.

"I understand that your Foundation partner, Messier Rojier, is unable to join us this morning," Sanford said as a waiter appeared as if on cue with a thick tumbler filled with a generous amount of what was probably 50 year old scotch.

"Yes, I only just received word of it myself a moment before coming down to meet with you," Alma explained.

"Pity, I was looking forward to chatting with him at length without the distraction of the Gala this evening," Sanford said as he sipped his drink and dismissed the server.

"I'm sorry, I am sure that Jean-Luc has a good reason for his absence," Alma said defending her partner. She didn't like his tone and sensed a message in it?

"Is there something I can help with, there are no secrets between Jean-Luc and myself," Alma added, in a cool, calm voice, subtly challenging Peck to reveal his intentions or his hidden meaning.

Sanford Peck laughed out loud at her statement, amused by her naïveté, "Hahahaha, Mrs. Donnelly, you are delightful. Madam, everyone keeps a secret or two, I dare say even you my dear. I know that I do, that Killeen does. Why else do we clothe ourselves or deal playing cards face down or cast our votes behind a curtain? Deception is a part of every business, a part of every life!"

Alma grinned at the arrogant bastard but held her tongue, partly because she loathed his pompous banter, and partly because he was right. She had been a righteous woman all of her life, but she understood the simple truth that everyone holds something back. There are just some things between you and God, no matter how open one thinks they are. She and Arthur believed that trusting your mate with the truth was a true measure of pure love. She also knew that the truth wasn't always revealed in words. She knew that sometimes truth came in a sorrowful look that didn't need words to express the pain behind it. Those precious moments when a man and a woman surrendered their unspoken secrets with tears and whimpers that said in deafening silence "I trust you my love with my vulnerability while I protect you from my pain."

Arthur had been in the war. He had seen things he didn't want her to see, and done things he wanted to protect her innocent heart from. It was fair and just that he suffer memories of ghosts and deeds that he alone would have to answer for. In those private moments he allowed her to see inside his soul, his far away stares always ending with her holding his face in her tiny hands until quiet tears came to wash away his guilty pain. It always made her heart swell with love so powerful that her chest ached knowing she was the one person on Earth who would ever witness his silent confessions. She didn't need to hear the details, it was enough to know he loved her enough to be weak in her presence and allow her to be strong for him.

That wasn't the meaning in Sanford Peck's words, there was another message there, but she no idea what it was, nor did she care. Jean-Luc could deal with the man. She was content to stay in the back seat and let her partner drive the machine that was the G.A.W.D. Foundation.

Sanford Peck cleared his throat noisily, "Ahem, I hope I didn't offend you with my open candor," Sanford said studying Alma's face.

"Heavens no, I was just remembering how my late husband used to say something quite similar," Alma said as Jessica returned with tea.

"Splendid! Why don't you enjoy lunch and then I'll have Captain Illoken give you and my lovely wife a tour of this vessel. I am quite proud of this ship, it is not only the largest sailing vessel in our fleet but in the entire world," Sanford boasted as his wife filled cups with tea.

Not just any tea mind you, but with Tieguanyin tea, reportedly the most expensive tea in the world and roughly $1300.00 a pound. It was a green tea from China, in the central Fujian province. Named for a Buddhist Saint, Guan Yin which literally translates to Iron Goddess of Mercy, it was a beverage with supposed magical medicinal powers to ward off everything from cancer to cavities. Alma wasn't impressed, she wasn't planning to live forever, and the stuff tasted like crap! She smiled at her hosts and sipped more of the foul green poison. She glanced at her watch once more and wondered what had kept Jean-Luc from being here? She would call him just as soon as she could. For now she would allow herself to be impressed by Sanford's prideful braggadocios.

"Won't you be joining us Sanford?" Alma asked her host.

"I'm afraid not dear; something has come up at the office. Duty calls you know," Sanford replied with a look that made Alma shiver as if she were seated on a bag of ice.

"I'm sorry to hear that, we'll miss your company," lied Alma sweetly.

"Yes, well. If you ladies will excuse me I really must attend to business. Alma it was a pleasure, I will look forward to seeing you later tonight. And we can visit longer once we sail tomorrow as Killeen and I will be joining the cruise as far as Lisbon before we need to fly home to San Francisco," Sanford explained as he rose to leave the two women to their brunch. He gently shook his guest's hand and then kissed his wife coolly on the forehead before taking his leave.

Alma watched him walk away and saw a short, square shouldered man waiting for him at the sliding mahogany doors. Sanford stopped to speak to him, his body keeping Alma from getting a good look at the mysterious stranger. She studied the two men while Killeen blathered on about her role in designing the ships décor. There was something sinister about the way the two men conducted their business and it caused her to feel threatened, not personally, but for whomever they were talking about. She couldn't explain it, but she knew that their business was unpleasant, and that it was about someone. Those two were planning something awful together; she felt it in her bones. She shuddered and broke free from her obsession with their unknown conversation and turned her attention to her own with Killeen Peck. She would make two calls when she got back to her stateroom. The first call would be to Jean-Luc to hear his explanation for his absence and to share her woman's intuition about Sanford Peck. The second would be to Linda Bradley at LA General to talk about Katie Tate. The poor child was beyond G.A.W.D.'s help now; she was in the hands of the Almighty. Perhaps it was time to consider an option of last resort?

Mandelieu Marina…France, Saturday, Saturday 30th, 2005…12:00 noon

His eyes were swollen nearly shut and what he could see was blurred by tears and blood. Wesley Allendale was at death's door and he knew it. He'd been beaten and drugged for days but had revealed nothing. He knew his captors were convening nearby to discuss their options. If they continued with their current methodology Wesley would be dead in an hour or less, and they would have gained nothing. If they delayed and allowed him time to heal enough to endure yet another round of interrogation he might be able to hold out long enough for the crew to hit The Princess Grace and beat it out of the Med and up to Odessa and the Black Sea to plan the next job. Either way he would give his life for the cause, Wesley had already made a pact with himself where that was concerned. He would do his part to keep Gabriel's Promise. That's what they'd all swore to do. Aussie's keep their bleeding word, always!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

("Against the wind. I'm still runnin' against the wind. Well I'm older now and still runnin' against the wind")…Bob Seger

WISHES CAN COME TRUE!!!>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

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-seven

Mandelieu Marina…France, Friday, August 29th, 2005…4pm

Where the hell was Wesley, Jack wondered, glancing at his watch. The freaking Aussie had been gone better than half an hour on a five minute errand, WTF? Did he have to do everything himself Jack groused while he finished integrating his cloaking software with the electronic countermeasures Randy Patel had developed for the run on The Princess Grace? For a while there Jack wasn't even sure if there'd be a run on the flagship of his father's Mediterranean cruise line. When Pat and his crew ambushed him the other day with their 21st century version of the Spanish Inquisition, Jack had thought for sure they would all opt to bail on the whole operation and lay low before his father's security team caught up with them. They weren't fools, they knew that Sanford Peck didn't play by the rules and they suspected he was capable of just about anything.

They were right about that and they should have followed their instincts instead of buying into his convincing line of bullshit. They were to a man fiercely loyal to Pat, who of course was driven by his blood oath to keep a dumbass promise to his kid. Jack didn't give a flip what happened to any of them. All he cared about was this run on The Princess Grace. That was going to his father's Waterloo. That was Jack's promise to himself and to his mother, albeit a promise she was ignorant of. A mountain of cash wouldn't be the only wealth the rat bastard would lose tomorrow night. His heart would drip rubies onto the Promenade Deck before Jack was through extracting his own form of vengeance. Sanford Peck would bleed just like Jack and Killeen Peck had bled on so many occasions over the years by his hand. It was time to pay the piper as they say. Sanford had always said he wanted his son to follow in his footsteps. Well, he was about to learn first hand how true the old saying "be careful what you wish for, you just may get it" could be, especially for him. For Daddy Dearest it would be more prophesy than witticism.

"Hey Professor, need you topside ASAP!" shouted Sandy Lucci from Jeckle's deck above.

Jack rolled his eyes, what now he thought. "Give me a minute I'm almost done here,"
he hollered back as he stripped the insulation off of black three ground wires.

"Make it snappy egghead, we got problems up here," Sandy replied, his voice trailing off as he hurried away, not waiting for a reply.

Jack busied himself with the last few connections between the two devices. He took his time in spite of Sandy's urgings. Too much was at stake to risk a foul up by rushing and crossing wires. Whatever the problem was it could wait until he was sure the installation was complete and perfect. Besides, he knew the likely cause of the panic was Mr. Price. All the more reason to be sure that things were done right as time was running out. Jack inserted the three bare copper wires into their slotted nests and clamped them snugly in place with a quick twist of a screwdriver. Trading the hand tool for a battery powered nut driver he replaced the back panels of the two devices and fit them back into the equipment rack mounted on the galley countertop. Jack powered up each unit and smiled as a line of LEDs illuminated like a traffic light, red, yellow, and green.

"Perfect," he muttered, patting the black boxes stuffed with miles and miles of wires, integrated circuits, microprocessors, and whatnot, the fruit of his genius, and Randy Patel as well, Jack thought smiling, giving his former student an honorable mention.

"JACK-O! Come on man, shake a leg dude we got issues!" Sandy bellowed, rapping the deck overhead hard with his fist.

"I'm coming, keep your shirt on!" Jack bellowed back, as he jogged aft to climb out of the cabin.

"MAKE A HOLE!" Jack shouted climbing the teak ladder swiftly, taking the rungs two at a time.

We were all waiting for him when he popped out into the sunlight, all of us except Wesley that is. Jack squinted slightly as his eyes adjusted and Randy tossed him a pair of sunglasses as he set foot set foot on the deck. Jack coolly caught them and put them on in one fluid movement. He looked my way then at everyone in turn, counting noses. He gave a head nod and asked, "Where's Wesley?"

"That's what we came to ask you dude," Sandy answered icily.

Jack sneered at Sandy and replied, "All I know is that I sent him over to Heckle to get the volt meter from Randy. That was almost 45 minutes ago?"

"I never saw him," Randy said holding up the aforesaid volt meter.

"Interesting? I take it you haven't been able to reach him on the cell either?" Jack said speculating.

"Nope, what do you make of it professor?" Sandy quipped accusingly.

"Can it Sandy!" I said getting between the two of them.

"Look Jack, you said your dad's goons would be right behind you. Do you think this has something to do with them?" I asked searching his face for any trace of deception. Papa was doing the same from another angle, neither of us expecting him to give us a completely honest answer. Jack removed his shades and rubbed his eyes.

He gave the lenses a quick polish before putting the sunglasses back on his face and replied. "If Wesley isn't answering his cell it's because he can't. He can't because he's dead."

"What are you talking about man," Sandy said, lunging at Jack.

Papa and I quickly got between them and held Sandy back, no easy task where my angry friend was concerned. Randy stepped back a step or two, staying clear of any altercation. I was grateful that Roman hadn't made the trip or we'd have a bigger problem right about now as he would have sided with Sandy and beat the shit out Jack just for GP. Jack stood cool as a cucumber, never even flinching. He stood and stared at us while we struggled with Sandy for a moment before reacting. He turned and walked forward to the wheelhouse and sat in the Captain's chair, spinning it around to face aft.

"Look, let's all try and keep our heads here, okay? I guarantee we are being watched right now," Jack said nodding his head toward the buildings across from the dock.

Sandy stopped struggling and looked over his shoulder. Papa and I relaxed our hold him and the three of us stopped breathing hard. We all looked back and forth between the dock and Jack waiting for whatever he was going to say next. We didn't have to wait long.

"We don't have much time to adjust the game plan from 5 to 4. We're a man short now and we need to compensate straight away," he said calmly, without any emotion whatsoever.

"Are you nuts? We're done her Jack-O, this whole op is buster man!" exclaimed Sandy as he caught his breath.

"He's right Jack, I don't see how we can go forward now under the circumstances," Papa added taking the seat beside Jack in the wheelhouse.

"Is that how you feel Pat?" Jack asked, looking at me eye to eye through the reflection of his sunglasses.

"I don't know Jack, I don't want to quit but what choice do we have. Nobody was ever supposed to get hurt, that was the one rule we all agreed to," I replied rubbing the five o'clock shadow on my face.

"Come on Jean-Luc, what bout the promise to your kid? Are you willing to renege on that?" Jack asked poking at my Achilles Heel.

"That's not fair Jack, don't listen to him son," snapped Papa.

"Yeah, come on Jack, we can just lay low for a while and wait your dad out. He'll forget about us and we will think of some other way to fund the Foundation and keep Gabriel's promise," Randy said finding his voice.

"I suppose we could do that but the Foundation's got legs now and Jean-Luc's wealth is a myth. Without Standard Pharmaceutical's fat "donations" G.A.W.D. will just dry up and blow away. Another fair weather charity fallen by the wayside. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, nobody ever cares for long, am I right?" Jack replied, nudging at my convictions with my wife's favorite line.

I stared past him for a minute or two before saying anything. He was right of course about G.A.W.D. fading away quickly. Especially at the rate we had been handing out funds to children around the world. The right thing to do was fold up shop and beat it on back to the States to fade into anonymity. That was the safe thing to do, although our anonymity was not guaranteed as it was painfully obvious that Sanford Peck had us in his cross hairs. That fact had already cost one man his life and my brain was screaming at me to do the right thing. But I was beyond thinking rationally, my heart was in charge now and it was determined to risk everything, with or without the rest of them. I had become drunk on the elation of keeping my promise one child at a time. I couldn't stop now, too many needed me to keep trying, too much was at stake, God's work was at stake, I truly believed that.

I looked at my friends and my father, making eye contact and holding it a few seconds with each one of them. I didn't have to speak, it was if they could read my thoughts and they each nodded in the affirmative, Papa sighing audibly as he did so. My heart swelled with pride and love for their loyalty and devotion to the cause and to my son. It was decided then, silently, we would go ahead with the assault on The Princess Grace next weekend. In the mean time I would attend the G.A.W.D. Foundation gala tomorrow night in Monte Carlo with Alma Donnelly as Jean-Luc Rojier, just as planned. I would shake Sanford Peck's hand and stand eye to eye with the man I held responsible for Gabriel's and Monica's death as well as the murder of my friend Wesley Allendale. I was unsure how much he knew, for all I knew he would be shaking Jean-Luc's hand but staring into Patrick Bouchard's eyes. The thought was disconcerting but I wasn't going to let it shake me loose from my resolve. I was in this for the long haul and even that evil man could not change that fact.

"We go as planned," I said finally, staring directly at Jack, silently warning him with my expression. If he planned to betray us, he'd not live to boast about it.

"Good! Let's fire up these boats and shake my father's goons. François, you pilot Heckle and follow me," Jack said spinning around in the Captain's chair and turning the ignition switch. The powerful twin inboard engines roared to life as Randy leaped onto the dock and jogged over to Jeckle's sister craft. Papa leaned over toward Jack and shouted over the engines, "Where to? What heading?" he asked.

"I'll let you know when we get there," Jack shouted revving the engines to clean out the fuel lines.

Papa turned and ran off the boat, jumping down to the dock and tossing me the bow line. Sandy and I simultaneously decided to ride with Jack, just in case. Part of me worried about what I just committed us all to, part of me grieved for Wesley and his sacrifice, and part of me anxiously awaited whatever fate had in store for us. Whatever happened next would be God's will. I still had faith enough to admit that.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

("Praise with elation, praise every morning. God's recreation of the new day")…Cat Stevens…Morning has Broken

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-six

LA General Hospital, Thursday, August 26th, 2005…10:30am

Carrie Soo was officially late. The girl might be a brilliant oncologist but punctual she was not! Fortunately Linda Bradley was well aware of the idiosyncrasies of the hospital's latest acquisition. An acquisition by the way, courtesy a well executed power-play on her part she thought, mentally patting herself on the back. Linda and a small team of recruiters based in Tokyo, Japan had beaten the odds and their long time rival Boston General by landing the biggest fish in the pond, one Dr. Carrie Pak Soo in an unofficial competition for the world's best medical minds. Actually LA General had no business winning out over BG, an older, well established center of excellence specializing in cutting edge cancer treatments. But what LAG lacked in prestige, reputation, and the kind of opportunities a progressive thinker like Dr. Soo would require, they made up for with the deep pockets of Sanford Peck and his Standard Pharmaceutical Empire.

In a side by side comparison LAG didn't come close to measuring up to BG, but with pockets that deep, old man Peck had the edge in an all out bidding war, which is exactly what it came down to where the young Korean doctor was concerned. You need the right bait to land a fish that big, namely, money. And in the Asian culture cash is king! A blank check was the ace up Linda's sleeve, that and authorization to go as high as eight zeros. It didn't take long to sway Carrie, especially after the company assured her that they would bankroll her relocation as well as her family's'. Carrie's biggest stipulation was that she didn't want to leave her family behind in North Korea. Getting them all out of that rotting society, free and clear, would require a king's ransom, and to his credit Sanford Peck was willing to foot the bill. It was by no means a soft hearted gesture on his part, no, not in the least. It was good business, plain and simple. Dr. Soo was young, and she was brilliant, already a force to be reckoned with on the world stage in her field of expertise.

Getting her to commit to a very long term arrangement with Standard Pharmaceutical was going to pay huge dividends in the long run by way of research grants from the Feds and significant upticks on Wall Street. In fact her recent paper in the Harvard Journal of Medicine introducing the world to her breakthrough in early detection methodology of deadly strains of childhood cancers, specifically rhabdomyosarcoma, had already bolstered Standard shares by a noticeable 8%. Not bad for a rookie thought Linda. A sudden rap on the office door startled her and she caught her coffee mug before it tipped over and spilled the last swallow onto her desk.

"Yes?" Linda said curtly as she tidied her desktop.

"Sorry Ms. Bradley, but Dr. Soo is here. Shall I send her in?" asked Derek Frost, her usually quiet executive assistant.

"Okay, give me a minute then send her in. She can wait a sec while I refill my coffee cup," Linda said reaching for the thermos on the credenza behind her.

"Serves her right for being fashionably late," Derek said as he exited her office, closing the door gently behind him.

Linda wasn't exactly looking forward to the meeting. As she sat down with her fresh cup she put on her reading glasses and opened the chart in front of her. Linda had already studied the contents several times. The decision was clear to her. Dr. Soo's recommendations were direct and correct, as clinical as they come, sans any what if scenarios and troublesome emotions. The girl was one cool cucumber. Perhaps that was cultural? Linda forced herself to abandon that thought for fear of prejudice. Picking up her mug she took a sip as Carrie walked into the room. She was thin, and tall compared to most of the Asian women Linda had known, standing at 5' 9" in a pair of hospital flats. She was dressed in a stylish pair of ecru colored slacks with an amber cashmere sweater over a white long sleeved blouse. All of which was covered by a freshly pressed white lab coat. She wore her hair pulled back into a long ponytail that made her look even younger than she already did. No wonder Wallace Tate referred to her as Doogie Howser. Carrie smiled at Linda and sat across from her in one of the two leather arm chairs in front of her desk.

"You wanted to see me?" she asked with the voice of a 12 year-old.

Linda stared to smile and stifled it, "Yes Dr. Soo, I did. I wanted to chat with you before you spoke with the Tate's about Katie," she began.

"Alright. What about?" Carrie asked.

"Your recommendation, you are quite sure about it?"

"Yes, absolutely, without question," replied Carrie, her face expressionless.

"Carrie this will be the first child you've lost, what does that mean to you?"

"She is a patient who happens to be very young. Young people get sick and die too. We cannot stop the cancer from taking her life. It is inevitable. It is no longer practical to treat her. Hospice is the only choice medically," answered Dr. Soo.

Linda studied the young doctor and found herself envious of her ability to tune out everything but the facts. That amazed her and at the same time repulsed her. She wondered for a moment if there were a Carrie Soo behind that stern expression or if only Dr. Soo existed? Linda wondered if that was how she looked herself whenever she tuned out the world to deliver a harsh message. She thought about Wallace Tate and his "always too soon to quit" philosophy and was sad that it wasn't true, for Katie anyway. For some reason she thought of Nikko and wished she had met Wallace sooner and heard his words of loyalty and witnessed his dedication to someone he loved. There was a lesson she could have used.

"Ms. Bradley?" Carrie asked, breaking Linda's trance.

"Sorry, I was just concerned that about your meeting with the Tate's. What time are you seeing them again?" Linda replied.

"I will meet with them at 3 o'clock in Katie's room. Joan Wilson from Social Services will also be there. We'll explain the DNR documents and then discuss a discharge date which will be as soon as home care is arranged. I believe that the G.A.W.D. Foundation has offered to help with this transition, no?" explained Dr. Soo.

"I see, did you ask the Chaplain to come along?"

"No, do you think that will be necessary?"

"I think so, for Mrs. Tate's sake anyway."

"Understood. What about Dr. Andrews," Carrie asked.

"What about her?"

"Shall I ask her to be present?"

"I thought about that. She starts her shift around that time. Page her before you go to see the Tate's. Let her decide. I think she'll want to be there," said Linda.

"Alright. Is that all then?"

"Yes Dr. Soo, that'll be all. Good luck," Linda said as she removed her glasses.

Carrie Soo stood and started to bow, catching herself halfway into the foreign custom and turned to leave the room. Linda closed the file as she watched the prim and proper doctor exit her office. She turned in her chair to look out the window. She was sorry to see the morning disappear and turn into midday. The hope that comes with every new day was turning into harsh reality as the sun raced to its apex in the bright blue California sky. By evening the Tate's would be dealing with the news of the day. It would be a long time before they recognized hope again in a daybreak.

Tomorrow Linda would call Nikko and apologize for being a coward, for running away instead of fighting for the love she always claimed to have for him. Nikko may have loaded the gun with his lies and deceptions, which was reprehensible. But she was the one who picked it up and used it to kill their marriage. That was cruel and unfair. She never saw herself as a quitter, and sought comfort by calling herself a survivor. But she didn't feel like a survivor, not even when her friends and family said she was. She felt like a quitter and she didn't like it. Wallace Tate never quit on his daughter. Linda knew that even after this afternoon's meeting the man would still be hopeful, right up to the moment Katie took her last breath and God brought her home. That's the kind of dedication that comes with true love. That's what she swore she had for Nikko, until she took it back. Words on paper she had said to him. Linda began to sob softly, suddenly feeling very alone.

"Ms. Bradley, are you alright?" Derek asked peeking in on his boss.

"No Derek, I'm not…leave me alone please," Linda replied in a soft voice, as she massaged her temples with her right hand stretched across her brow.

"Yes ma'am," Derek replied, closing the door gently behind him.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

("I was round' when Jesus Christ had his moment of doubt and pain…Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name")…Rolling Stones

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

MAKE LITTLE MADDY'S WISH COME TRUE...>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
click on the photo and read Katrina's and Vyha's stories

Gabriel's Promise
a novel by nicholas sheridan stanton

Chapter Thirty-five

Manhattan café, Mandelieu la Napoule, Wednesday, August 27th, 2005…8am

The sun had risen only a couple hours ago and already the summer heat had evaporated the morning dew from the awnings, tables, and chairs at quaint sidewalk cafes scattered along the boardwalk. They catered to early rising tourists grabbing a meal as they planned their days and locals on their way to jobs around the little seaport. A small crowd of early birds noshed on Euro style breakfasts consisting of coffee, tea, and teasingly small portions of oeufs braconné, foie de volaille, and fromage, or in other words, poached eggs, chicken liver and some cheese. Everything sounds so sophisticated in French doesn't it, how do they do that? I had to admit, the presentation was beautiful. Each item rested daintily on a tiny plate of fine bone china that were arranged around a large wicker basket at the center of the table which was filled with a variety of still warm, freshly baked bread. The aroma of the breads alone was nearly intoxicating, but Sandy Lucci wasn't impressed, he was hungry, as usual. And why not, it had been a whole six hours since his last meal, too funny. I watched him as he stared at the pitiful excuse for chow and make a face like he'd just bitten into a big, fat, juicy lemon.

"Goddamn Frank-o, no wonder you beat it outta this cheese hole of a country, you must have been starving!" Sandy said to Papa as he made himself a scrambled egg and chicken liver sandwich. Sandy Lucci was nothing if not resourceful. He was probably missing Roman right about now and wishing he had a big flour tortilla to roll all this stuff into a pig-out burrito!

"Man, I'd kill for a side of bacon right now, extra crispy. Where the hell is that fat little bastard, Oscar Mayer, when you need him?" he joked, stuffing half of his concoction into his face and spraying tiny bits of egg across the small table toward Papa and me.

"Pipe down will ya; and try not to be the poster boy for the "ugly American" alright?" Papa quipped in disgust as he brushed the egg shrapnel from the front of his clean white polo shirt with a cloth napkin.

"And if I have to tell you one more time my name is François, I'm going to part your hair with the closest blunt object I can find!" added Papa smiling disingenuously.

"Alright, alright François, don't get your panties in a bunch Frenchy," Sandy mumbled, stuffing the other half of his sandwich into his mouth as he spoke.

"All I want to know was where a man can find a decent diner in this pissant country of yours, that's all I'm saying," he added washing down his breakfast with the cup of hot coffee in front of him.

"Hey, not bad! At least this joint makes a good cup of Joe, I'll give them that much," Sandy said, delivering a rare but genuine compliment.

"Mon Dieu, you are an impossible man," Papa said under his breath as he sipped at his cup of tea.

"A little less mouth and a little more ear would be helpful buddy. You heard Jack last night. You know what we're dealing with now. We have one chance at The Princess Grace next weekend and we don't need to be worrying about having to bail you out of the hoosegow because you insulted a local or something worse, can you dig it?" I said sternly, poking a little at my hot headed friend.

"Yeah, yeah, I get it. Where is the professor anyway? He's late as usual," Sandy replied.

"He'll be here shortly, keep your pants on Shirley," I teased trying to keep him from sailing away on an expletive riddled tirade.

"He does make an interesting observation though," Papa said, suddenly jumping into the conversation.

"I do? What was it?" Sandy asked with a goofy grin.

"You're right about Jack always being tardy, no matter what the occasion," Papa replied rubbing at his chin whiskers, his face a human question mark.

"So what, so is Randy, and for that matter so am I dad," I said, perplexed at where Papa was going with this.

"Randy's a scatter brain, brilliant, but a scatter brain nonetheless. And you my son have ALWAYS been late, your whole life. You’re a procrastinator, always have been," Papa explained.

"Really?" I asked back.

"REALLY," Papa quipped, still agitated by Sandy's uncouth behavior.

"What's your point Frank-o?" Sandy asked.

Papa puffed out his cheeks exhaling deeply, exasperated with Sandy's ability to piss him off before answering. I knew he was counting to ten before he spoke. It was a habit of his that had frankly saved me from many a spanking when I was a kid. By the time he reached neuf (Papa always counted in French) the muscles in his face had relaxed and he was visibly calmer.

"The point is Sandy…by the way, what is Sandy short for anyway?" Papa asked suddenly distracted.

"Samuel," answered Sandy.

"What?" Papa replied.

"Long and boring Grandma kinda story," Sandy said, finishing his coffee and waiving his cup over his head to signal for a refill.

Papa rolled his eyes again and continued, "It doesn't matter. As I was saying, the point is I am a little suspicious of Jack, especially now that he is back with his father, in the lion's den so to speak. Is it just me or does it seem to any of you that Jack may have his own agenda? Frankly I am more than a little worried about what this guy is hiding from us. Whatever it is I think it's worth asking him about," speculated my father.

"Well, I think it's pretty safe to say it isn't money he's after, the egghead is swimming in cash courtesy Big Daddy Warbucks," Sandy replied as his coffee arrived.

"Mercy," he said to the server, purposely mispronouncing the French word for thank you. The waiter mumbled something undecipherable as he walked away. Whatever he said it probably wasn't a compliment based on the sneer on his face. Luckily for him it went unnoticed or else that would have been all she wrote! Papa sighed and I watched him mentally count to ten again before continuing.

"Good point Samuel," Papa said to Sandy, smiling for the first time.

"So if money isn't what Jack's in this for, what is? It isn't a dedication to the cause, he could care less about the Foundation and the work you're doing son," Papa said.

"What are you suspecting then Dad?" I asked puzzled.

"I don't know Pat, I just have a nagging suspicion that whatever's eating at him runs deep, and my gut says it's likely to blow up in all of our faces, and at the worst possible moment too," he answered as he leaned back in his chair and pushed his cup away.

"Look man, let's just confront the dude. He's back at the slip with Wesley and Randy right now. They're installing some kind of jamming equipment on Heckle and Jeckle, electronic countermeasures Randy called them. I don't know, I don't speak geek man, you know how it is," Sandy said.

It wasn't a bad suggestion. The direct approach was usually the best approach. That's what my High School football coach always preached. The best defense is a strong offense he told us time and again. That sounded profound at the time but then again we lost nearly every game all four years I played for him. Apparently the competition had learned the other side of the equation, that a strong defense cancels a strong offense. Let's face it, if you can't score, the best you can do is tie, am I right? By the way, we usually lost by 20 or 30 points all four years. I guess we used the wrong equation? So, the question was which equation was Jackson Peck using? Was he an offensive player or a defensive one? I guess we'd find out soon enough, I decided that Sandy was right, we had to pin him down and see what was what. The Princess Grace was days away and too much was at stake. If Jack was the monkey in our wrench now was the time to find out!

"Alright, let's go down to the marina and play twenty questions with the professor," I said, signaling the server that we were ready for the check. Papa nodded an affirmative and Sandy drained his cup of coffee and slammed it down on the glas tabletop.

"Damn straight!" he said getting up quickly from his chair. He punched his open left palm with his right fist.

"Damn straight!"

Mandelieu Marina…France, Saturday, Wednesday 27th, 2005…8am

The two speed boats were actually quite impressive thought the man with the high powered binoculars. With the sun at his back there wasn't any risk of detection of the sun's reflection off the large instrument's thick glass lenses. He spied on the crew busing themselves with whatever they were doing, hopping from one boat to the next with tools and electronic equipment of some sort packaged in expensive looking shipping containers. Whatever they were doing these men looked like they knew what they were doing. Of course he knew that they would, he knew the fellow giving the orders and doing most of the talking. The man lowered the binoculars as his cell phone vibrated in its holster on his hip. He removed the phone and spoke without taking his eyes off of the activity across from the hotel balcony.

"Bonjour," he said in a monotone (hello).

"Qui," he replied to whatever question was asked (yes).

"Je le vois," he answered (he is here).

"Oui, bientôt," he said softly into the cell phone (yes, soon).

Mr. Price closed the cell phone ending the call and returned it to its holster. Raising the binoculars once more he continued to study the activity in the marina across the way. The busy little bees were still circling the two hives doing the queen's bidding. He glanced at his Rolex and noted the time. The others would be coming soon. He would count noses then to make sure nobody from his target manifest was missing. The next few days would be spent observing and logging every detail of how this band of fools operated. They would not see him or feel the least bit uneasy by his presence. He was a professional, one of the best at his craft. He would be a ghost until he decided to strike. The end would be swift for all but the leader of this band of vermin.

Herr Bouchard would suffer much more than his brat Gabriel ever did. Those were Mr. Price's instructions from Der Meister (the master). It was a pity that young Jackson was to be spared the same fate, Mr. Price detested traitors. But he always followed instructions to the letter, always a slave to his pedantic nature. He actually admired Sanford Peck for the strength of his resolve, to murder one's own child. That took the kind of nerve only afforded the truly evil. He respected that.

Herr Price sat down at the table on the balcony of his suite and began scribbling notes into a leather cased notebook. Before the time came to execute his orders he will have filled at least two of these notebooks. The man was nothing if not thorough. He wrote for several minutes without looking up and then peered once more across the street. He saw them approaching from three different directions. They would arrive at intervals in an attempt to go unnoticed. He smiled at their naïveté and jotted down a couple of more lines with a wry grin. He waited a few minutes for Jean Luc Rojier to appear, he knew that he would arrive last. As soon as he saw him walk up to the boats he made a final notation and then went inside to relax. He didn't need to see anymore. He knew they would be there for a while and his lieutenants were in place to notify him if they made any unexpected moves. They wouldn't, they were armatures. Herr Price closed the French doors to his suite and called room service for brunch. Might as well enjoy himself, he had always loved the south of France.

"Ich bin ausgehungert!" he muttered (I am famished), as he picked up the phone from the antique desk in the center of the room to order his lunch.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

("it's our God-forsaken right to be loved loved loved loved loved")…Jason Mraz

MAKE A LITTLE GIRL'S WISH COME TRUE...>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Just a slight detour today while I polish chapter 35 in Gabriel's Proimise, which I will post sometime tomorrow. Until then please take a minute to click on the photo on the right and read Katrina's story. Afterward take one more minute to read what's on my mind today...


Okay, I admit it, I live with a ghost. That's right, I said ghost! She's not Casper but she's just as friendly and that's nice. For the last 16 months she's been the angel on my shoulder, the monkey in my wrench, my conscience, advisor, cheerleader, and inspiration. The last 6 months she's been my companion, my guardian against all odds, from outside and from within. She constantly reminds me that I am better than what anyone may say or think, that I am better than I even give myself credit for, which isn't saying much these days.

She loves me unconditionally like she does everyone, and encourages me to do likewise. And she makes me understand why that's so important with a warm feeling that envelopes me whenever I do just that. She quotes me scripture I never knew she knew? She whispers in my ear to let GOD be in charge, that He has plans for me, and jokes with me not to let that go to my head because He has plans for everyone.

She tells me to listen when all I want to do is shout. She tells me that there is peace in silence and wisdom in patience. She tells me that there really is power in love, and that bitterness is just love in progress. Stay tuned she says to me. She tickles me when I need to laugh and she fills my head with memories when I need a hug. She tells me that even when I am lonely that I am never alone. She tells me that she will always be with me because my heart is one of her many homes now.

She is there when I open my eyes each morning and there when I close them each night. I am so lucky, I am so blessed. So are you…

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