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Sunday, August 12, 2012

(”Before you go to sleep, say a little prayer. Every day in every way it's getting better and better. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful boy. ")…John Lennon

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra, and Luc
my inspiration


Epilogue


La Maddalena, Sardinia, Monday, September 5th, 2005…9pm GMT


I felt myself beginning to doze off, which would have made perfect sense after listening to a five hour dissertation, if it weren't for the fact that it was me doing all the talking. Well, at least I wasn't alone; 'Chicken Little' and 'Chumley' (the two dullards who were supposed to be keeping an eye on me) were already snoozing at their post near the door. Not surprising given their limited command of the English language not to mention the absolute absence of any Italian skills on my part. Captain Gianetto on the other hand appeared fascinated sitting across from me with a look of astonishment on his chiseled face. He scratched at his five o'clock shadow and studied me for a few moments, while I did my best to avoid eye contact letting my eyes dart around the room indiscriminately to avoid his probing gaze. It proved to be a futile attempt though as his loud boisterous laugh drew me in anyway.

"So! Patrick or Jean-Luc as the case may be, am I to assume that the 'jack of broken hearts' rests for eternity at the bottom of the Mediterranean?" asked the amused policeman, clapping his hands together and leaning forward onto the tabletop with his elbows, closing the gap between us considerably. That was just the pick me up I needed to keep me from nodding off like the two chuckleheads by the door. I leaned forward onto the table as well and met him in the middle.

"You know, if it were up to me, Jean-Luc Rojier would walk outta here a free man and continue his work," I answered trying to read the face of my captor.

"That would be the more interesting of the two possibilities," he replied, his expression changing ever so slightly. His face was still smiling but his eyes weren't. He was thinking hard. I went on the offensive sensing an opportunity.

"Two possibilities?" I said raising an eyebrow.

Captain Gianetto pushed away from the table and stood abruptly. Wagging a finger at me as he circled the table like a shark he explained himself, his voice rising and falling with the rapid pace in which he spoke, a common phenomenon among the Italian people, fast talking and animated. In spite of the pain I was in I couldn't help smiling as I watched and listened.

"Si, si, two possibilities Signori. On the one hand I am compelled by the law to hand you over to the authorities. That is my duty, my responsibility. And I should tell you it is also my good fortune since the American company Standard Pharmaceutical has offered a handsome reward for your head on a stick," explained Captain Gianetto, wagging an index finger to accentuate that last point.

He paced another lap around the table keeping time with the rhythmic snoring of his two deputies asleep on the job. He stopped behind me and I felt him place his hands onto my shoulders. He was more powerful than he looked and I winced a little when he clamped down on my collar bones, the same move my Dad used whenever he wanted to get my attention and drive home a point he was trying to make. I made a weak attempt to wiggle free of his grasp but he just squeezed harder and I abandoned the effort.

"Of course there is always the other hand, no?" continued my captor or perhaps my benefactor, at the moment I had the sense that it could go either way.

"I see. Shall I assume that you won't be turning me loose out of the goodness of your big heart?" I replied sarcastically, sensing what was coming next. Greed has a stench of its own, like evil and hate, they're characteristics cut from the same filthy cloth. The good captain had something up his sleeve and I could feel the weight of the dollars signs dripping from the tone of his voice.

"Very amusing Signori," the police captain replied, his face near enough to mine for me to enjoy his wife's cooking through his garlic breath. He increased the pressure on my shoulders and I swallowed a yelp.

"No Signori, I'm afraid that my heart is not that big, however the needs of my family are. You know how wives and children are Signori, never satisfied long, always longing for more. The American company's reward is attractive but limited. I suspect that as a free man you could do much better. Why settle for a liter of milk when I could own the cow, no?"

And there it was, greed trumping ethics once again. Well, that was certainly one way of looking at it. Another would be divine intervention. Perhaps the Almighty was using Captain Gianetto's weakness to perpetuate a greater good. Letting me rot in prison wasn't going to help anymore children escape hospice and get another chance at life. Let the world think Patrick Bouchard perished at sea with his pirate band as well as his alter ego the 'jack-o-broken hearts', what did I care, my life was over anyway.

Gabriel and Michelle were gone; my father was likely gone as well. As Patrick I'd be alone, left with only bitter sweet memories. However as Jean-Luc there was a purpose larger than myself; I could dedicate myself to their memory, make them proud every time G.A.W.D. spared a family the agony of losing a child too soon. If that sounds sappy and overly noble it's only because it is. I'm exhausted and grabbing at straws here. I don't want to spend even one minute in prison much less twenty or thirty years, or whatever the going rate was for piracy in this part of the civilized world.

"Do I bore you Signori?" asked an agitated Captain Gianetto.

"No, not at all, it's just a little late to be crunching numbers and I've got a splitting headache. And kneading my shoulders like they were so much pizza dough isn't helping either," I replied with an attitude of my own.

He released his grip and returned to the seat across from me, "my apologies," he said sitting back down, "better?" he asked.

I rocked my neck side to side and listened to the cracking sounds, enjoying the relief that it brought, "yeah, much…thanks," I said making eye contact with the man.

"So, what are your thoughts Signori Bouchard? Or shall it be Messier Rojier?"

I stared back at him for a full silent minute before answering, "call me Jean-Luc," I said, coyly indicating that we had a deal, whatever it would be, so long as it did not include any jail time, I'd already had all I cared for cooped up for the last ten or twelve hours here on Sardinia. Captain Gianetto laced his fingers together and smiled, "excellent," he said, retrieving a cell phone from his pocket. I watched him read a text and waited for whatever was to come next. He typed three keystrokes which I assumed to be 'yes' and flipped the device shut.

"You have visitors," he said turning to shout at his sleeping deputies.

Il mio Dio, imbecilli! (my God, imbeciles)," he shouted.

The sleeping deputies awoke startled but not surprised. Apparently this wasn't the first time they'd been caught napping. They sort of snapped to attention, rubbing their eyes and pulling at various other body parts. Captain Gianetto waved them off with instructions to fetch my visitors, whoever they might be. I expected it to 'Johnny Law' by way of Interpol or the Feds or possibly Herr Price and his death squad from Standard Pharmaceutical. Boy was I way off!

I wish that I could have seen my own face when much to my surprise Killeen Peck walked into the little room with a young woman whose face was familiar but whose name my tired brain could not recall. They walked over to Captain Gianetto and exchanged pleasantries. While they shook hands and introduced themselves I studied this new development, trying to makes heads or tails of it. Why was Killeen Peck here? Possibly to accuse me of murdering her husband Sanford? But that didn't make sense as the last thing Jack had said to me was to seek her out; that she was on board?

As for the young woman, I remembered her name now. She'd been one of Gabbie's doctors, his favorite doctor actually, the doctor he'd cry for whenever he hurt the most. Andrews was her name, Elizabeth Andrews. She was looking at me now, a strange smirk on her face. Not quite a smile but almost. It was a mixture of pity, curiosity and something else, I don't know what. The two women came over to the table I sat at while Captain Gianetto left the room with his two sleepy deputies. We were alone. Killeen Peck was impeccably dressed in a very stylish mid length skirt, a white chiffon blouse and off white blazer, something you'd expect from a woman of her wealth and station. Her jewelry, make-up and accessories were modest given her means yet she had an air of sophistication about her. The woman was demur and confident, she was in charge and she knew it. Dr. Andrews on the other hand was the flipside to Killeen Peck. The young lady was dressed as casually as you could be and appeared as though she had slept in the clothes she was wearing. When I couldn't hide my amusement, she blushed and gave me the stink-eye.

"Excuse me ladies," I said staying in character as Jean-Luc Rojier.

"I would stand but as you can see my movements are somewhat limited," I added indicating the stainless steel handcuffs shackling me to my chair.

Killeen Peck removed a kerchief from her handbag and dusted off the seat across from me. She sat and folded her hands neatly in front of her on the table between us. She looked at me for several seconds before speaking and then in a soft and even voice said what she came to say. "There's no need for deception Mr. Bouchard, I know who you are. I believe that my son told you that I was on board, or something to that effect," she said, never taking her eyes off of me. That made me a little uncomfortable.

"How did you know that?" I asked, as if it mattered…stupid Pat!

"Herr Price planted a listening device on your boat, we monitored everything," she replied still staring at me.

"In that case I apologize for the colorful language," I said trying to lighten the air.

"Yes, well I assure you I've suffered worse. May I come straight to the point sir?" she asked politely.

"Please do," I answered.

"As you know, my husband and my son are both dead. So, that leaves me as the CEO of Standard Pharmaceutical now. Sanford was not a nice man, and was an awful husband and father as well. Suffice to say he had his demons, everyone does, I do Mr. Bouchard, and so do you."

I didn't know what to say and had no idea where she was headed so I just nodded like I did when my mother would lecture me as a child. Killeen Peck continued to stare at me. I glanced at Dr. Andrews; she looked as uncomfortable as I did.

"Dr. Andrews and I had the opportunity to speak openly on the flight here. I believe that you know Alma Donnelley, isn't that so Mr. Bouchard?"

"Yes, I do. She's on the G.A.W.D. Foundation's Board of Directors," I replied.

"Yes she was," said Mrs. Peck.

"Was?"

"Yes, the poor dear passed away recently while my guest on The Princess Grace. You're familiar with the vessel aren't you?"

"If you're on board like Jack said then you know that I am," I replied, annoyed with how long she was taking to get right to the point.

"Touché. Well the three of us in this room have Alma in common but under very different circumstances. You were her partner, Elizabeth was her last confidant, and after my own mother died I became the child she could never have on her own."

"What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?" I replied flippantly.

"It means Mr. Bouchard that I am in a forgiving mood. It was never my intention that you survive, that was Jackson's request. We've both lost a son and a spouse; we have that in common as well."

"I didn't kill mine," I said icily, my snide remark having no impact. Now I knew what it must be like to talk to a sociopath.

"Captain Gianetto is arranging for your release as we speak Jean-Luc. Jackson and Sanford were disintegrated in the blast that you survived. The body he had brought with him was his father's," Killeen said, still not blinking, that had be some sort of a record. Note to self, contact the Guinness people.

"You're sure taking the long way around the block for someone who wanted to get right to the point. What exactly do you want from me Mrs. Peck?"

"I want you to keep your promise Jean-Luc," she said softly with a resonance of sincerity that was impossible to ignore. I didn't know how to respond.

"I'm not the monster that I must appear to be to you. I'm a good person really, I've a good heart. It's just been calloused over after so many years of abuse and disappointment. I've done some terrible things Jean-Luc, but I have suffered much worse. Alma and Arthur Donnelley and were saints, I envied their goodness. You have many of Arthur's qualities, and young Elizabeth here has many of Alma's. I want the two of you to keep G.A.W.D. alive.

I'll pledge my support for as long as the Board allows me to chair it. But I caution you, I do not know how long that will last. Until then the company will fund the foundation outright and make new policies directed at maximum care versus maximum profits for each of its HMOs. You should know that this will not be received well on mahogany row, which means that the gravy train won't last for long. And when I am eventually removed and replaced, well, you'll just have to revert to the skills you've acquired over the last couple of years and deal with that inevitability. Won't you Captain Jack?" Killeen said, her eyes actually twinkling as she allowed herself to smile, something she probably hadn't done in a very long time.

Leaning back I sat up as straight as I could given my restraints and looked over at Dr. Andrews, trying to read her expression. "What do you think?" I asked, studying her. She glanced down at her shoes and then to Killeen and back at me. "I don't know," was all she managed with her voice, but her eyes revealed much more. I smiled at her and looked back across the table to Killeen Peck, her hand was extended. I covered it gently with both of my own.

"Alright Killeen, Jean-Luc Rojier is on board," I said softly. She smiled back.

"What about Captain Ginaetto, he could be a problem," I asked suddenly.

"Don't worry about the good captain, Herr Price will explain our arrangement," she answered coolly, her eyes shifting from bright to dull and back to bright again in an uncomfortable nanosecond. It sent a chill up and down my spine.

Note to self………watch your ass Jean-Luc!



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