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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

("You say,I only hear what I want to. You say, I talk so all the time…so.") Lisa Loeb

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 Forty-two

Monte Carlo, Principality of Monaco…Saturday, August 27th, 2005…8PM

If you've never seen an ocean liner up close you're missing one of the true wonders of human ingenuity, really, quite an extraordinary feat of engineering. Maybe you remember the first time that you saw a plane flying overhead and wondered what kept it from falling out of the sky. Or maybe you've stood at the base of a skyscraper looking straight up the steep face getting dizzy as you wondered what kept it from tipping over in a strong wind. Randy Patel sipped on a cup of tea at a small café with a harbor view admiring The Princess Grace in much the same way, wondering what kept the gigantic heap of iron and steel afloat. The majestic vessel was a sight to behold, all lit up like a Christmas tree as it waited on passengers enjoying a weekend port of call in the casinos and marketplaces of the fabled city. In two days The Princess Grace would set sail headed for Cannes and then Gibraltar. One hundred and seventy-two hours from now the Jack o' Broken Hearts would be waiting for her in the shipping lanes between those two dots in the Mediterranean.

The conversions were complete on both Heckle and Jeckle and they were good to go as far as he was concerned. Of course Jack and François had the final say, but Jack seemed pleased with the way the cloaking devices had integrated with Randy's electronic countermeasures. They'd run two separate shake down qualification tests without incident, sneaking up on two slow moving freighters on a quarter moon night, neither one of the sluggish albatross' saw them coming or going, Randy's countermeasures had shielded the speed boats from the freighter's radar sweeps by absorbing the probing radio wave and breaking it into dozens of return waves causing the operator to write them off as a pod of porpoise or school of tuna, which, when coupled with the cloaking devices rendered them virtually invisible. Their only Achilles' heel would be a deep sonar probe or a pair of really sharp eyes on a dead man's watch in the cruise ship's crow's nest. Neither was likely.

"Excuse me sir, would you like more tea?" asked a very young girl waiting on tables. She couldn't have been much older that 13 or 14 thought Randy, probably the owner's daughter he surmised.

"No thank you," Randy answered with a smile.

The girl hugged a menu close to her, clearly bored, "Are you a passenger?" she asked pointing at The Princess Grace.

Randy blushed, embarrassed that his interest in the cruise ship had been so obvious, "No, I'm just amazed that something so big can sit on the water like that," he replied.

"Oui, it's a wonder, no." she said nodding in agreement.

"You are American, yes?"

"Yeah, what gave me away?"

The girl pointed at the large gold lance class ring with the ruby red stone in the center that he wore. "CAL TECH," she said reading the lettering slowly.

"Where is that?"

"California," Randy replied getting up to leave before he got drawn in any further into the idle chit chat.

"You are leaving Messier?" the girl asked looking genuinely disappointed.

"I'm afraid so, thank you for the tea," he answered leaving a ten Euro coin on the table, five for the tea and five for the child.

She smiled and picked up the coin, "Merci Messier," she said cheerfully.

Randy smiled back and walked away from the café toward the scooter he had parked across the street. He didn't see him at first but as soon as he did he stopped where he stood. Jack stepped out from behind the trunk of a good sized Cypress tree. Randy had no idea how long he had been there but judging by the smirk on his face it was long enough to catch his little exchange with the child labor. Preparing himself for a smart remark he continued on across the street to his ride.

"Did you get her number Casanova?" Jack asked, teasing his former student.

"Don't be an ass!" Randy retorted snidely as he climbed on his scooter and donned his helmet.

Jack stood on the curb with his back to Randy. He knew that they were being watched but decided to pretend that he didn't know. No use making it easy for them, those being Standard Pharmaceutical's security goons. They were going to be pretty busy tonight trying to cover all the bases. They'll be spread pretty thin trying to shadow Pat at the G.A.W.D. event, the boats in the marina, Randy, himself, and Pat's dad, François. Jack doubted that they knew about Roman arriving tonight from California, he was replacing Wesley, the poor bastard. But even if they did that would just make their net even thinner, which suited Jack just fine. He had some work to do outside the box with regard to the game plan. Jack had a plan within the plan, his own plan per-se. Jack had been planning this event for a long time in his mind. Once Pat and his crew have emptied his father's piggybank, Jack would take what was left, his life, payback for a lifetime abuse and neglect. He wished he could share his plans with his mother, but alas, she was still under the old man's thumb. But that would be changing soon.

"Don't go back to the apartment right away, don't do anything routine. Just hop around in public places and then meet François at McCarthy's over on Rue du Portier. You know where to find it?" instructed Jack quietly without looking back, referring to Monaco's one and only Irish bar. Funny how every city seems to have at least one.

"Yeah, sure I do, when, and what time?" Randy asked, starting up the scooter.

"In two hours, don't be late. Remember, hide in plain sight. These guys are pros, don't make it easy for them," Jack replied, stepping off the curb to cross the street.

Randy pushed back the kickstand and revved the small engine, "Where are you going?" he asked checking traffic.

"To pick up Roman, he's taking Chumley's place, remember?" answered Jack as he disappeared into a small crowd walking past the café.

"That's cold blooded Jack, you really are an asshole, ya know that," Randy hollered as he sped away, disgusted with Jack's disrespectful poke at Wesley Allendale, who, as Jack explained had likely ended up as chum (bloody bait) on some unsuspecting tourist's shark hunting adventure.

Pulcinella restaurant, Monte Carlo…Saturday, August 27th, 2005…8PM

François Bouchard sat in wonderment as he watched Sandy devour
plate after plate of spinach, beef, and then cheese raviolis. Drenched in a tangy tomato sauce that was more vegetable base than marinara, the dishes looked positively scrumptious and given the grunts and groans from across the table François was sure he was probably right about that. Sandy was a man on a mission, apparently determined to eat his way through the menu. He and François had stumbled upon this place a couple of days ago on a tip from Pat's company driver, Gary, and they had eaten every meal there since then. Well, except for breakfast of course, but not lack of trying as Sandy had tried to convince the owners to open at the crack of dawn to satisfy his early 'bird gets the worm' feeding.

"Oh man, Franco, have you ever tasted sauce like this?" Sandy asked with his mouthful.

"Can't say as I have my friend, can't say as I have. By the way, you've got a glob of said sauce on your chin," replied François pointing back at his glutinous fellow miscreant.

Sandy wiped away the sauce on his mug with a slice of crusty bread and proceeded to consume said bread, waste not want not was a creed he lived by. He winked at François and emptied his glass of vino, "Thanks Franco. So, where did the professor say to meet up with him and his offspring, the Geek Crusader?" Sandy asked, referring to Jack and Randy.

"At McCarthy's in about an hour or so, and how many times do I have to tell you to stop calling me Franco?"

"Sorry pops, I mean François," replied Sandy with a shit eating grin.

"No you're not. Finish your meal so we can get out of here, McCarthy's is clear on the other side of town."

"Don't rush me, we have time. Besides, this sauce is to die for! All this time I thought my old granny had been making me real Italian marinara. Now I taste this slice of heaven. If she were here now I'd punch her right in the face," Sandy said half joking.

"You're a class act Lucci, a real class act. Come on, let's get going," François said sarcastically, pushing away from the table and standing to leave.

"Alright grandpa, have it your way. I could go for a pint of Guinness with a Jameson chaser anyway," Sandy replied, standing to follow François out of the restaurant.

Sandy reached into his shirt pocket to settle the bill, tossing more Euros than the bill actually called for onto the table, always the big tipper, then broke into a trot to catch up with François who was already outside. The night air had a bit of a bite to it as the unseasonably cooling trend drove the temperature down a couple ticks to a chilly fifty-one degrees with the sea breeze. François was better prepared than his glutinous comrade having brought along a fleece lined windbreaker, while Sandy physically shivered in his tank-top and cargo shorts. The two men turned toward the marina and began walking the six blocks to McCarthy's to wait for the others. François smiled, snickering under his breath as Sandy beat at his bare sunburned arms while they walked to ward away the cold.

"What time does Roman's plane get in?" Sandy asked rubbing his bare arms.

"Right about now, Jackson is picking him," answered François.

"Did Pat tell him about Wesley?"

"Yes, he did, I was in the room when they spoke."

"He told him everything then?"

"He left out the gory details, but everything else."

"Well you can count on Jack-o filling him in on the way over," Sandy said.

"Probably," replied François with a frown.

As the two men rounded the corner onto Rue du Portier with McCarthy's green façade visible just ahead, Sandy stopped suddenly. Grabbing François' arm he nodded toward a car parked at the curb about twenty meters away. A long plume of smoke coming from the passenger side had caught his eye. A quick surveillance of the area had drawn his attention to several butts on the curb beside the car. Whoever was puffing away inside the automobile had been there for a while, like a cop on a stakeout or worse. Sandy's spider sense told him to assume the worst causing him to instinctively consider fight or flight.

"What is it?" asked François.

"I don't know yet. See that little Renault up ahead at the curb?"

"What about it?"

They stood there and studied the little smoking sedan together for a ten count, surveying the entire block with a heightened awareness and two pairs of darting eyes. François turned slowly to survey the 180 degrees behind them while Sandy kept his attention on the car ahead. There was an electrical element added to the tension of the moment, Sandy could feel the hair rising on his neck and forearms. The sedan ahead stopped smoking and they could feel eyes on them, whoever was in there had been waiting for them. François felt his heart beating in his chest and he could hear Sandy's slow and deliberate breath. They were both cocked and ready to fire.

"New plan Franco, McCarthy's is buster, time to boogie. You intercept Jack and Roman. Take them to the safe house. I'll get Pat and meet you there," Sandy softly, almost in a whisper.

"Okay, what about Randy?"

"He'll know what to do. If he's not dead already that is."

"Split up when we reach the café," Sandy said taking a short step backward.

The doors opened on the little Renault parked ahead. Sandy and François didn't hesitate, or wait for an invitation. They didn't need confirmation that whoever was getting out of that car was trouble. Survival is the most basic instinct in all forms of life and right now the alarms were going off.

"Run." Sandy said in a monotone.

François sprinted straight ahead without looking back while Sandy turned and darted across the street like he was shot out of a cannon. He turned up the street then right down an alley between a confectioners and small produce shop. Neither looked back knowing that doing so would only slow them down. They had one chance to escape fate and their advantage that they already knew where they were going. They were well prepared and had a plan. Jackson Peck may be a son-of-a-bitch, but he'd briefed the team well on what to be on the look out for and had schooled them equally as well on what to do if they encountered any of tem. The routes they took weren't random. There weren't any blind alleys to worry about or dead ends to deal with. If they kept to the script there was a good chance they would survive, better than 50/50 odds.

Sandy had put a lot of distance between his pursuer(s) although he didn't know that. He was flat out hauling ass and following the plan, not looking back! He'd ducked into the back of a Greek restaurant, walking through the kitchen and then dining area like he owned the place. He grabbed a copy of Le Monde from an empty table and walked out onto the street like any other tourist full from a big meal. He held the paper open in front of him and surveyed the neighborhood while he feigned reading. He repeated in his mind, no looking back and continued to up the street. He'd run all the way to the center of Carré d'Or Square which said a lot about both his stamina and the level of his terror. There was a taxi stand outside the Hotel Novotel. It was only a block ahead of him. If he made it that far he'd hail one of the cabs and ride in relative peace to the safe house. He wondered if François was doing as well, but shook off the thought, he'd worry about him once he was in the clear.

McCarthy's Pub, 2 Rue Du Portier…Saturday, August 27th, 2005…10PM

The house band was playing a favorite Irish rebel song, James Connolly chronicling the execution of one of the leaders of the Easter Rebellion of 1916. The crowd was in full cheer by this time and ready to sing a Saturday night into the wee hours. The boisterous crowd of Euros, all Irish by proxy for the evening sang with passion:

He went to his death like a true son of Ireland,
The firing party he bravely did face.
Then the order rang out: ‘Present arms, Fire!’
James Connolly fell into a ready made grave…

Randy Patel listened from a booth in the far corner of the crowded bar as the party goers carried on. He was sandwiched between two casually dressed men whose profession he didn't have to guess at. He was scared shitless and wasn't too proud to show it. Across the table from him was another man, more conservatively dressed in a charcoal gray Armani suit, white button down shirt and periwinkle silk tie. He was clearly in charge and was staring right through him. He wasn't physically impressive like the two guys flanking Randy but he was a whole lot scarier. It was his eyes. They were dull and lifeless, like a doll's eyes and he had been looking at him for better than thirty minutes and hadn't blinked once. That wasn't right! That was just freaking creepy! The only words spoken were after they appeared beside him from out of the crowd. The two casual boys stood on either side of him and "escorted" him from where he was standing to where he was now sitting, trapped like a rat. The suit trailed behind them and addressed him only after Randy had been wedged into the booth between Mr. A and Mr. B.

"May I join you Mr. Patel?" the suit man asked in a frightening monotone. His accent was subtle but it was definitely Germanic.

"It your party pal," Randy replied, trying to appear cool, calm and collected, which is pretty hard to do when your knees are knocking together.

"Danke," Mr. Suit said as he sat across from him in one fluid motion.

Yep, German, Randy thought as he pondered his situation. There was no way he was getting past the two goons crowding him, that was a given. He started to sweat as he pictured himself winding up shark bait like Wesley Allendale. This wasn't how his life was supposed to go, what a fucked up mess! Mr. Suit was beginning to bug him with his constant stare and Randy contemplated a futile act of rebellion and reaching across the table and giving the jack-hole five across the eyes! But of course, he didn't have balls big enough to do something like that. Too bad Sandy Lucci wasn't here with him. They might still wind up chum but at least he would have wiped that smug look off of Mr. Suit's face.

"WHAT?" Randy hollered in frustration, hoping that maybe someone would see what a pickle he was in and call a cop or something. Mr. Suit's expression didn't change and he still didn't blink.

"You will please keep quiet Mr. Patel," he said shifting his gaze for a nano-second to Mr. A on Randy's left.

In the blink of an eye the large man beside Randy silenced him with a well placed jab to his rib cage. Randy winced but didn't cry out for fear of a second punishment. He sucked in his cheeks and bit down on them to keep himself quiet and transfer the pain from his broken rib. If there were ever any doubt that this was going to end badly it had been erased. Randy breathed shallowly through his nose to keep the pain at a manageable level. He stared back into Mr. Suit's dark shark's eyes and waited for whatever was coming next. He didn't have to wait long. Mr. Suit reached into his coat and Randy closed his eyes, convinced he was about to be shot where he sat, executed while he sat in a chair, just like the Irish rebel James Connolly that the crowd was signing about.

He opened his eyes a couple of seconds later after the fatal shot he was expecting didn't materialize. Mr. Suit was on a cell phone, listening to someone giving instructions. The bastard was still staring at Randy only this time Randy thought he detected an odd expression on his face, like a child who'd just been told no. Mr. Suit listened for a couple of seconds more and then replied.

"As you wish," he said, signing off and returning the cell to his inside coat pocket.

"Your friends will not be coming Mr. Patel and so I am to leave you here relatively unharmed. Those are my instructions, my apologies for the inconvenience and the slight discomfort. We'll be leaving now," explained Mr. Suit as he got up to leave.

Mr. A and Mr. B gently helped Randy to his feet as they all exited the booth. They stood beside him until he was able to stand unassisted, handling him as if he were a child, almost compassionately, it was too weird? Randy watched them disappear into the hard partying crowd, exhaling deeply as soon as they were out of sight. He had no business being alive. He knew without question that was his mother's prayers being answered. He stared at the crowd and decided to avoid further injury by trying to wade through them with a broken short rib. Behind him was a rear exit into the back alley. The way was clear for the moment and he went for it. As soon as he got outside he drew in a deep breath of cool fresh air in spite of the pain. The question now was what to do with his good fortune. Did he count his blessings and beat it back to the States and put this all behind him or did he follow the plan and head for the safe house? Randy knew what the smart thing to do was, it wasn't exactly rocket science.

"Oh fuck me…I should be sterilized," he muttered as he walked out to the street and headed toward the agreed upon meeting place.

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