Anh yêu em Tuyet...
Tôi yêu con gái KaSandra & Katrina...
Tôi thương con trai của bố Luc…
a novel by nicholas sheridan stanton
12 Rue de Valore…Monte Carlo, Saturday, August 27th, 2005…1am
As safe houses went I guess this was safe as any other. Actually, I've never had the compulsion or the need to utter those words in the same sentence before, other than to declare my own home a relatively safe place to live. I do recall a time though when my son Gabriel's pre-school teacher sent home an exercise requiring him to meet with his family and map out escape routes in case of a fire or an earthquake. He was so serious about his homework and he kept insisting that Monica and I "pay attention" because he was in charge! He was such a cute little tyrant; we could hardly contain ourselves as he led us from room to room pointing out deficiencies with our home safety program. He probably would have made a great Fireman or Safety Engineer had he survived the cancer. Suddenly my pleasant memory turned into an angry thought and I shut it down before it could cloud my judgment. Now was not the time for reactionary stumbles. I needed a clear head to cipher on what Jack and the others had shared tonight.
Clearly there was no turning back now. We were committed to a man, a fact that I was simultaneously grateful for, proud of and frankly surprised by, given the components of my small pirate crew. Specifically, Randy Patel who after surviving his encounter with the men who were likely responsible for Wesley Allendale's death, had decided to stay on board, and without reservation. Isn't it curious how people will surprise you? As soon as you've labeled someone like Randy as the weak link, bammo, he goes and does something heroic like this. Expect the unexpected they say, I suppose that'll just have to be my new mantra.
Nevertheless, I'm glad he chose to stay the course, and secretly down deep, I'm hoping against hope that I haven't led him and everyone else for that matter down a primrose path to a lengthy incarceration or worse! We all agreed that after this job we'd beat it on back stateside and regroup. Randy's discovery of a cyber path buried many layers deep in the Standard Pharmaceutical mainframe led to a veritable mountain of cash in what had to be a personal slush fund for Sanford Peck himself. That made the decision to lay low for a while a no brainer.
The G.A.W.D. coffers were swelling with our pirate booty as well as mega millions from more legitimate sources. The Foundation had grown legs since Grover Gateway's passing and we could afford to rely on those funds to support our continued Good Samaritan mission. The old man's friends came out of the woodwork to help the cause and he had lots of deep pocket friends, both personally and professionally. Truth be told picking Sanford Peck's pocket was no longer a necessity, it was purely punitive now. It was all mean spiritedness, and revenge on my part. We had kept my promise to Gabriel by building this organization with Standard's seed money and Grover's support and guidance. A little voice inside of me kept telling me that he knew all along who I was and what I was up to. That only made me admire him more. A great man recognizes greatness in others and he recognized Sanford Peck for the bastard that he was.
"We're leaving now son. We'll meet you at the docks on Friday. Watch yourself, I don't trust Jackson," Papa announced appearing suddenly and startling me from my deep thought.
"None of us trust that Richie Rich prick Pat. Do like your Pop says and watch your ass," added Sandy coming from the kitchen with a sandwich in hand that he made for the long drive.
Sandy, Papa and Roman were driving back to Mandelien-La Napoule tonight together in a rented Audi. They'd put the finishing touches on the boats and make sure they were prepped and shipshape for the run at The Princess Grace. Jack and Randy were heading there as well by different means and using a different route to confuse the enemy. They'd get back to the marina by way of Paris first, where they would split up. Randy would continue on to Madrid by air then take the rail to Marseilles, where he'd meet up with Jack again who would have backtracked in a chartered jet. The plan was to keep the Standard security goons guessing right up to the last minute. If that seems convoluted and excessive it's only because it is. We weren't trained spies by any means, the whole Chinese fire drill was right out of the James Bond movies and Robert Ludlum books we'd collectively watched and read respectively. It would have been comical if it hadn't been so serious. I was to leave in a day or two with Jean-Luc being called away on family business in Normandy. Jean-Luc Rojier would leave Monaco and Pat Bouchard (a.k.a. the Jack o Broken Hearts) would arrive in Mandelien-La Napoule in time to lead the assault on the princess.
"Alright buddy, message received," I replied shaking Sandy's hand. Sandy pulled me in close and hugged me like a big brother, slapping me on the back, "No shit Pat, watch yourself. You're alone here now. These guys mean business man, you don't wanna wind up fish bait like Wesley!" he said giving my shoulders a firm squeeze.
"Let's go homeboy, the car's gassed and ready to go," Roman announced, poking his head in the doorway.
"Gotta go dude, see ya on Friday," Sandy said turning to leave.
"See ya," I replied looking over at my father who was staring at me.
Papa looked at me with sad but admiring eyes, studying me, "We've taken this a lot further than we ever planned to, didn't we son?" he said not expecting a reply. We just stared at one another for a long moment.
"Was it worth it?" he asked finally.
I breathed in deeply and sighed a reply, "Yeah, it was to me," I said tiredly.
Papa slapped me on the arm and turned to leave. He stopped at the doorway and asked one more question without turning to face me, "Is it enough?"
I didn't hesitate with my answer, "Not by a long shot!"
The Princess Grace, Donnelly stateroom…Saturday August 27th…1am
Alma Donnelly sat up in the large bed, propping herself up on two huge overstuffed pillows with satin cases. She wasn't used to such luxury and she missed the comfortable queen sized Serta Perfect Sleeper back home, the one she and Arthur shared for the last twenty of their fifty years together. Actually she just missed being home altogether. No place is ever more beautiful than home, if she had on Dorothy's red shoes she'd gladly click the heels twice to whisk herself back to the ranch in California. Alma removed the soft felt sleep mask covering her tired eyes and surveyed the dark room. As her eyes adjusted to the light she noticed her cell phone blinking silently on the nightstand beside her.
"Land sakes, now who could that be?" she wondered aloud.
She leaned over and switched on the lamp and picked up her phone and reading glasses together. Adjusting the spectacles on her face she read the note displayed on the cell phone's screen. "Voice Mail" it read. Alma pressed the highlighted icon and held the phone to her ear.
"Hello Mrs. Donnelly, this is Dr. Elizabeth Andrews over at LA General Hospital in California. I received your letter the other day and am calling to inform you that Katherine Tate was released to Hospice earlier today. Frankly I was reluctant to make this call. But when my Director informed me that you were connected to the G.A.W.D. Foundation I decided that we owed you at least a courtesy call after all that you have done for Katie and her family. I must admit that I am confused by your interest though. If you don't mind my asking, are you acquainted with the Tate family? If you are, don't wait long to contact them, Katie has very little time left. I apologize for being the messenger with sad news. Goodbye…"
Alma set the phone down, resting it on the blankets that covered her. She removed her glasses and rubbed at her eyes for a moment. The poor child, her poor family, her poor mother and poor father she thought. Alma was no stranger to tragedy; Lord knows she'd seen plenty of it in her lifetime. Death and taxes, two things in life that are unavoidable, or so they say. She new little about taxes or high finance and frankly could care less. "Let the government have their pound of flesh," her Arthur would say every year at tax time. But she did know a thing or two about cheating death. Well, not exactly cheating, you couldn't really call it cheating if the method involved a by God miracle, right? Well, that was her opinion anyway, and she had good reason to think that way.
Alma Donnelly had a secret that she kept near and dear. It had been years since she thought of it. Her Arthur took the same secret to his grave as did Grover Gateway. It was after Grover's death when she became aware of Elizabeth Andrews. She had shown Jean-Luc a picture of Katie Tate with members of the Make-A-Wish program granting Katie's wish to meet a popular singer. Luc seemed to recognize Dr. Andrews although he didn't say so. It made Alma curious and when she inquired about the young doctor she discovered an unexpected link to the secret she kept. Dr. Elizabeth Andrews was somehow related to a face from the past. One of the few people intimately involved with the secret she kept. Elizabeth's uncle, formerly Father Ethan Kelly now Reverend Ethan Kelly was witness to the same miracles Alma had been witness to. She would contact him when she returned to California. Perhaps there was time yet to help the Tate child. He would know. Prayerfully he would know.
Alma put the phone back on the nightstand. She turned out the light and covered her eyes with her sleep mask as she slid back under the blankets. She was tired, tomorrow was another day, and morning always brought new hope. Alma drifted off to sleep with that thought…