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click on the photo and read Katrina's and Vyha's stories
a novel by nicholas sheridan stanton
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.
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.