For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
Chapter Fifty-threeDonnelly Stateroom, Saturday, September 3rd, 2005…12:55pm
Herr Price sat motionless in a small chair beside the writer's desk near the stateroom's entrance. He made no sound, not even a gentle whistle as he drew breath. He was as silent as the corpse weighted down in the bath under a dissipating film of scented bubbles, the late Alma Donnelley, his current assignment. A silenced Sig Sauer P226 nine millimeter pistol rested in his lap, cocked and ready to fire. Were Jean-Luc Rojier to walk into the room he would just have to meet his fate earlier than planned, a fact that did not bother Herr Price in the least. Frankly he didn't care much for Sanford Peck's propensity for the game of cat and mouse, he was more direct, and more disciplined, more German.
His eyes were transfixed on a brass knob in the center of the raised panel door. He waited for the fixture to turn, prepared to let fate dictate whatever was to happen next. There were muffled voices in the hall beyond the closed door. Someone (and he had a pretty good idea who) had unexpectedly joined his prey in the corridor. This was a significant development, not expected, but then again not totally unexpected either. It should have rattled him, it would have rattled most, but he showed no sign of concern. Herr Price was a machine, not easily distracted; never one to panic. He'd already thought of every contingency, and he was prepared to do whatever needed to be done.
He counted silently, giving the future a chance to merge with the present, eins - zwei - drei…and then the absence of sound. Stone faced he continued counting, vier - fünf - sechs - sieben…still no sound. The corridor was empty. His prey had literally dodged a bullet, for now. Herr Price moved for the first time in several minutes. He gently released the hammer of the hand gun, returning it to an idle state and reset the safety. Fate had been kind to "the Jack of Broken Hearts" this time, but it was only a stay of execution. The amateur pirate would be dealt with later, as originally scheduled, Herr Price would see to that personally. He waited another minute before he rose to leave. Retrieving a cell phone from his coat pocket he pressed the send button and delivered a pre-written order for subordinates to come and clean up after him. He tucked the phone back into his coat and left the room as slowly and silently as a creeping nun.
JFK Airport, New York, Saturday, September 3rd, 2005…7:30am
It hadn't taken long for whoever the nosey old bag at the reservations desk was signaling to make a move. Sandy spotted them right away. Two men dressed as a couple of Joe Average baggage handlers suddenly appeared to collect luggage volunteered for stowing by some cooperative passengers on the over booked flight for Los Angeles. These guys were too efficient going about their business, no chit-chatting or jive talking. They were too clean, it wasn't natural, and Sandy quickly deduced that their business at hand had nothing to do suitcases and totes. He looked toward the old broad at the desk, she was gone. Not a good sign, she was likely taking cover before the lead started flying. Nuts! That left the three of them and the two goons dressed in cobalt blue coveralls pretending to futz with Dick and Jane Passenger's oversized suitcases. He glanced over at Roman and François; they had noticed the same thing so at least the three of them were on the same page mentally. The time to boogie was right now! The random element was how many others were out there watching them. These guys were pros; they wouldn't have come to a gunfight with baseball bats and no back up. They'd have plenty of firepower and Sandy knew that he and his amigos would probably wind up in a wicked cross fire, sorta like the one Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid ran into in Bolivia during the final scene of the movie named for them. No way out man, no way out!
François walked over to Sandy, obstructing his line of sight for a moment. He didn't speak but looked directly at Sandy and then rolled his eyes slightly toward the window where Roman stood nervously scanning the area for more trouble. Sandy frowned, not understanding what François was trying to communicate. And then all of a sudden it hit him square in the face. Their escape route was right in front of them. The Standard Pharmaceutical murder squad may have had the terminal covered inside but not outside. The jet way was their way out, and it was only twenty feet away, and, for the moment they seemed to out number the bad guys.
It was a bold plan born out of desperation but Sandy and Roman were combat veterans even if was a lifetime ago. They knew how to shoot and scoot. Sandy tactically surveyed the area, the way he was taught in Recon back at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. He did the math while François pretended to chat with him. The old man was going to be a liability; that was clear. Two of them would have a chance to get past the two heavily armed and beefy obstacles blocking the entry to the jet way, a slim chance, if one of them could cause a big enough diversion. Someone (Sandy) was going to have to take one for the team, nuff said. He looked Roman's way and they made eye contact. Sandy blinked S - B - R in Morse code at his former brother in arms, student body right. Roman knew that play well; they had used it many times in the Nam dodging Mr. Charlie and his Viet Cong cousins in the black pajamas. It was on now!
Roman bent down and removed a hairbrush from his carry-on. He stealthily separated the handle from the business end of the brush, unsheathing an eight inch serrated blade, and then quickly dashed toward the jet way. Sandy shoved François into Roman's path and they traded packages. Roman grabbed François and headed for the wide open jet way while Sandy took the blade and headed straight for the two goons who were quickly reaching for whatever weapons they were concealing. Sandy was a step too slow and the would-be handlers were a shade faster than he had anticipated. In a New York minute gunfire erupted at the gate, scattering passengers and airline employees in the chaos of the moment. François grunted audibly as a nine millimeter round hit him just above his right hip, tearing through his flesh and rupturing his spleen. Roman felt him lunge against him and he became dead weight a heartbeat later. He dropped to a knee instinctively to lift François onto his shoulders in a fireman's carry, the quick maneuver saving his own head from being blown off of its perch atop his broad shoulders as several more rounds passed through the vacated air space and slammed into the jet way, ripping fist sized holes in the thin metallic structure.
Roman knew that the first rule of survival in a fire fight was to only concern yourself with what's in front of you. Whatever's behind you is either gonna be left behind or climb up your behind! The only smart move was to haul ass down the jet way and get out to the tarmac. Sandy would buy them the ten second head start that Roman figured he needed. One way or the other Sandy would come through, he always did. Roman grunted as he got back onto his feet with his heavy load and started running as fast as he could. He made his way down the narrow corridor in a serpentine pattern heading for the outlet at the end that led to the tarmac below. There was no need to look back, he didn't need to, Sandy would hold up his end and Roman would be damned if he wasn't going to do likewise. That was the only action that could justify Sandy's sacrifice. He and François were getting outta here or die trying, nuff said!
Sandy Lucci dove at the two Standard assassins, slamming into them like an angry 220 pound Italian battering ram. They'd seen him coming at them, but too late, and were unable to avoid his bull rush. The impact sent the three of them sprawling toward the reservations counter and Sandy plunged Roman's knife deep into the chest of the thug nearest him. The man gasped as his lungs emptied and his punctured heart pumped foamy bright red blood out of his mouth, soaking his blue coveralls. Sandy rolled over the top of the dying man toward his buddy, pulling the knife from thug number one's chest in one fluid motion and springing to his feet to take on thug number two. It was a pretty cool maneuver, worthy of any action flick he'd ever seen, but it was too slow and unfortunately too late. The second assassin was already on his feet with a Mac-10 leveled directly at Sandy's middle. In the nanoseconds that followed he flipped the knife blade back into his palm and threw it with all of his might at the blue clad assassin six feet in front of him. The heavy knife rotated once before it slammed into the chest of its intended target. Simultaneously, at least half a dozen rounds from the Mac-10's short burst ripped into Sandy Lucci body, one of them wiping the shit eating grin off of his face forever.
If there's a God and if there's a Heaven, then Santino Alberto Augustus Lucci would be feasting on his Mama's sausage & peppers later on with Jesus Christ Himself and His twelve Jew Apostles, the ones that Father Nick at St. Gregory's back in the old neighborhood had spent so much time teaching him about.
Jean-Luc Rojier's Stateroom, Saturday, September 3rd, 2005…3:45pm
The hot shower had helped chip away some of the ice acquired during my little meeting with Jack in the freaking meat locker below decks. I glanced at the Rolex on my wrist, time was up, I needed to scoot if I was going to be on time to meet with Sanford and keep his attention on me and me alone. I'd thought a lot about what Jack had said about his father. How he enjoyed toying with people, especially if he felt he had the upper hand, which he usually did, wealth affords you that advantage most of the time. Jack gave a few hot buttons to push to keep the old man off guard if I felt like I was losing control of the situation but he warned me to beware the consequences as even he could not predict how Sanford Peck would react. He's a game player Pat; remember that he said to me.
He told me that his father would try and place me in a position of weakness allowing him to assert his power over me. You won't be playing Cribbage, that wouldn't allow him to study you and your reactions to his subtle prying. Expect him to change that, probably chess. If he tries to steer you to the game table take the seat on the white side of the board, you'll have your back to the room but clear sight of the grandfather clock. That'll help you keep you from looking at your watch and tipping him off. Remember, we don't know how much he knows so assume he knows everything, but don't admit to anything or let him get you out of character. "Remember, you ARE Jean-Luc Rojier, NOT Pat Bouchard, get it?"
I had to admit, that made me nervous, but there wasn't anyway out of this now. I had to play this through to the end; I owed that to Gabriel and Monica, to everyone who'd sacrificed so much. I was too proud to be scared so that just left me with mad, and I was plenty of that in both connotations of the word. I grabbed my sport coat from the back of the chair and slipped it on, checking my look in the mirrored wardrobe door. At least I looked the part of a French aristocrat. I suddenly thought of my father and wished I could call him. I wanted to make sure he was alright, that he and the guys had made it home. But that was going to have to wait. I would just have to hope for the best. The old Pat would have prayed on it, but praying hadn't helped old Pat very much so far, so the new Jean-Luc would just leave it to fate, whatever that may be…