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Sunday, August 5, 2012

("The days are bright and filled with pain. Enclose me in your gentle rain. The time you ran was too insane. We'll meet again, we'll meet again…")…The Doors

For Tuyet, Katrina, KaSandra and Luc
my inspiration


Chapter Fifty-seven

The Mediterranean Sea, Sunday, September 4th, 2005…5:00pm


The setting sun painted a beautiful orange-red seascape as it dipped low on the horizon. Sundown was coming earlier and earlier now as the seasons were about to change and the fall grew near. To be perfectly honest, as spectacular as these moments were to behold, I was sort of hoping for Indian summer tonight. At least that would provide a few more hours of daylight as we sped toward the island of Sardinia. You'd think I'd be more at home on the waters than I am given the many years I'd spent at sea or more specifically under it, but I'm not. It's just that oceans, seas, lakes, for that matter any large body of water, makes me feel puny and vulnerable, especially so at night. Now it looked like the Almanac wouldn't be cooperating, so like it or not, darkness would be upon us soon. I'm not ashamed to admit that I've been frightened of total darkness since childhood, and that hasn't changed much over the years! You can call me a coward if you want to, I don't care! FACT, most bad things happen in the dark; check it out; you'll see I'm right.

In any event we were still hours from our destination and my butt was numb from the vibrations this cushioned seat was being subjected to. Smooth as glass my ass! If Jack weren't below taking a beauty nap (translation…sleeping off a case of beer) I'd punch him out, freaking egghead! Reaching to my left I gently tapped the fuel gauge as if that would make the reading more believable then cursed my stupidity, realizing that the goddamn thing was a digital and not an analog device. Meaning that there wasn't a mechanical needle to get stuck or frozen, just some bright green LCD numbers staring back at me which according to the chart directly above the gauge were well within the range of normal operation. Still, I was amazed at how efficiently we were consuming fuel given our speed and the distance we'd already covered. Sandy and my Dad had done one helluva job converting this vessel. Those two guys were true craftsmen. Suddenly, a loud belch and the unmistakable aroma of beer announced the arrival of Jackson Peck; recently back from the sleep of the dead.

"What's the heading sport?" he asked as he poured himself into the chair beside me and slouched.

"That-a-way," I answered sarcastically, pointing at the setting sun.

"Brilliant, you're a better first mate then I gave you credit for," he replied, taking a cold beer from the cooler under the passenger seat.

"Hair of the dog I presume," I said sarcastically.

"Just what the doctor ordered," he replied, guzzling half the beer.

Jack twisted his left arm rolling his wrist toward him and glanced at his Rolex. He grunted and downed the rest of his beer, flippantly tossing the empty bottle over the side. He stood and belched once more, then tapped me roughly on the shoulder, "Alright sport, shift change, I'll take it from here. Why don't you go below and grab some sack time," he said, continuing to tap me until I got out of the pilot's chair. I got up reluctantly, not sure how safe it was to give the con to someone still half in the bag so to speak. I decided to keep the faith as it had gotten us this far and it just seemed prudent to stay the course and see if fate led us to providence or peril. Honestly, I was prepared for either, so long as it was on dry land! I was halfway down the ladder to the cabin below when I heard Jack open another long neck and guzzle the first few swallows. I waited for his usual "ahhhh" and then disappeared below. The sooner I closed my eyes the better I'd be.



LAX, Los Angeles California…Saturday, September 3rd, 2005…11:30pm



Generally speaking red eye flights suck! But they are cheaper. Lizzie might be a doctor and all, but she was only a second year resident which means she was a poor doctor. So, smart girl that she was she traded the first class ticket Alma Donnelley had sent her for a Coach seat and pocketed the variance. Nice little windfall if did say so herself, she wasn't embarrassed a bit either, who'd know anyway? She squirmed in her seat at the gate and made herself as comfortable as possible while she waited to board her 12:30 flight. Lizzie pulled both feet up onto the seat, hugged her legs and rested her head gently on her knees, deciding a little catnap would be the best way to pass the time. She had no idea what to expect when she got to Marseilles but she was eager to find out for a couple of reasons. One, she had a new admiration for Patrick Bouchard and admittedly a school girl crush on Jean Luc Rojier. Yeah, they were the same fella, but that's what made it so irresistibly cool. And two, if what Alma and Uncle Ethan told her was true, and Alma could prove it, then maybe there was hope for little Katie Tate. That would be even cooler. How many people can say they witnessed an honest to goodness miracle? Not many she expected. Not many. She found herself praying that she could be one who could say she had at least once in her life.


The Princess Grace, Sunday, September 4th, 2005…8:00pm



Killeen smoothed out the sheets and blankets that covered her on the large queen sized bed in her private stateroom. Earlier in the day she had moved out of the apartment that she and Sanford had shared. It still had an aura of death within it, his death. It wasn't the stench of a corpse or anything morbid like that which made her uncomfortable. It was the feeling of satisfaction that she felt that repulsed her. She was NOT like her late husband and did not like the familiarity of that satifactory feeling, or the disconnection from her humanness that came with it. That was exactly how Sanford would have felt and she loathed herself for recognizing it so easily. The new stateroom had nothing in it remotely associated with him and she was hoping that would help her to absolve herself of her great sin against God and his commandments. She needed a clear head now. She needed to put everything in perspective, everything and everyone in her life as she wrestled with what was to be done next…or not…she was yet undecided. Killeen picked up the cell phone resting on the mattress beside her and flipped it open. She pressed the number one on the keypad, speed dialing Herr Price. He answered on the first ring as always.

"Madame," he said coolly.

"You are tracking them now?" she asked, quietly inspecting her manicure.

"We are Madame."

"And?"

"They are approximately eight hours from Sardinia."

"I see. When must I give the order, if I choose to give it?"

"Beyond Sardinia the device will be out of range. After that you would need to consider alternative methodologies."

"Very well then Herr Price. I will rest now. Kindly ring me before that time."

"As you wish Madame," replied Herr Price, disconnecting instantly.

Killeen Peck closed her cell phone and place it beside her again. Reclining she pulled the sleep mask over her eyes and rested her head snuggly in the folds of two goose down pillows. Her eyes closed under the cool satin mask and she allowed herself to drift off to sleep. She had a lot to dream about.



The Mediterranean Sea, Sunday, September 4th, 2005…11:00pm



The rack below decks was really quite comfortable yet even in the lap of luxury I tossed and turned as I tried to sleep. I was having a nightmare where I was being confronted by the spirits of Michelle and Gabriel and they were not at all pleased with the decisions I'd made or the direction in which my life and my soul were headed. I tried to argue my point of view, to explain to them why I did what I did, but trying to convince anyone, even yourself, that somehow wrong is right, no matter the circumstances, is never a solid platform upon which to stand. At the end of the day the best you can hope for is forgiveness. God always forgives, people don't.

Unconsciously, I was suddenly aware that the soft red glow I had fallen asleep to and changed hue. The backdrop to my dreamscape had changed from soft red rose petals to a Kelly green Irish glen. How weird? My mind's eye enjoyed the soft shift in coloring for a moment and then my eyes opened abruptly. I lay on my side and stared into a bright green bank of LEDs directly in my line of sight on a piece of Jack's equipment mounted in the rack on the galley countertop. They weren't any different than all of the other lights on the row of gadgets that comprised Jack and Randy's cloaking system. I had seen them before, I thought. Why did these look different to me? Why was I concerned with them? Why did they wake me from a deep sleep? I sat up abruptly. "HEY JACK!" I shouted

Jack's head appeared in the hatch above me, "What is it sleeping beauty?"

I pointed at the line of green lights on the bottom black box in the rack of electronic devices, "I thought the cloaking lights stayed red until they were engaged?" I asked curiously, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. Jack slid down the rails to the cabin, skipping all the steps and scurried over to the galley counter. He squatted and studied the piece of equipment for a moment then fished out a small electronic device from the front pocket of his cargo pants. It looked like the small garage door opener that Michelle and I had back at our home in Long Beach. He held it beside the block box on the counter; both devices were backlit by green light emitting diodes (LEDs).

"FUCK ME!" hissed Jack under his breath. I stood up quickly and looked over his shoulder.

"What?" I asked suddenly wide awake.

"That's not the cloaking device Pat," Jack replied, scratching at the five o'clock shadow covering his face.

"What is it then?" I asked inching closer to the galley.

"It's the detonator for the fireworks you're supposed to set off when you get to Sicily," he answered.

"What?"

"The C-4 numb nuts," Jack added, opening the doors below the counter revealing stacks and stacks of dull gray bricks of plastic explosive, each marked in bold as C-4.

"So what's the problem? You have the only trigger device in your hand right there, right?"

Jack sighed, clearly annoyed with my stupid questions. I instinctively knew something was wrong but like most humans when faced with bad news I tried asking questions that might lead to a happier ending. It rarely works by the way.

"Apparently not Pat, and let me answer your next question before you ask it. No, I did not accidentally engage the system while I was drinking all those beers. And no, it cannot engage itself," he said quietly as he tried to think in spite of me.

"So, what are we looking at here?" I asked calmly.

"Big trouble Jean Luc," he answered flippantly pointing at a digital clock above the bright green lights. I hadn't noticed it before but there it was, running backward to zero from 03:05:41.

"Does that mean what I think it does?"

"Yep, it means that three hours, five minutes and 41 seconds from now…BOOM!"

"Well, if you didn't arm this thing and it didn't arm itself, who did?"

"Herr Price comes to mind first. But, he's not like that, he's not an independent type, he needs to follow orders, he's a good soldier. No, not Herr Price," answered Jack tapping at his chin as he pondered my question.

"Who then, what are you thinking Jack?"

Jack stood and turned to face me, "I think I killed one parent too few, that's what I think," he replied folding his arms and leaning back against the counter.



West Hollywood, California…Sunday, September 4th, 2005…1:00am



Linda leaned back on the sofa and closed her laptop quietly, not wanting to risk waking Niko who was sleeping peacefully in the other room. She couldn't believe the email she'd just read, in fact she did not believe it, not at all. Actually, she was pissed at herself for allowing Elizabeth Andrews to talk her into such a fantasy. How was she going to explain all of this to the Board of Directors? Faith healing indeed! She was going to lose her job, her brilliant career thrown away and for what? She'd let her emotions get the better of her. She'd let the Tate girl get under her skin. She knew better than that. This wasn't the way an executive acted, this wasn't right! There was that word again?

Linda caught herself before she started analyzing everything over again. She caught herself before she unraveled all of the changes she had just made in her life. She caught herself before she talked herself out of doing the right thing in favor of being right. This new skin of hers was still a little itchy and she decided to just scratch it gently instead of peel it all off. Linda raised the screen of her laptop again, the soft light to illuminating her face. She opened Lizzie's email and read it again, this time with a faith in what she did not know or understand, instead of the narrow bandwidth of what she knew to be true. Linda had never seen a miracle, she didn't believe in them. But she wanted to.



The Mediterranean Sea, Monday, September 5th, 2005…1:00am



The digital clock read 01:01:24, and seemed to be picking up speed as it ran. The island of Sardinia was directly ahead of us, getting larger and larger as we approached. I tried to keep my mind on piloting 'Jeckle' toward the straight but my mind was below decks with Jack trying to disarm the IED he'd created to cover our tracks. By the number of F-bombs I counted over the last hour or so things weren't going all that well. I was tempted to turn this tub around, drag Jack topside and abandon ship before the inevitable KA-BOOM, but stubbornly stayed the course as instructed. I don't think I was destined to come this far only to be blown to smithereens with a silver spooned egghead.

My methods may have been questionable but nobody could tell me we hadn't helped a lot of people along the way. If not for G.A.W.D. hundreds of kids would have been taken from their families and this life. We were doing good things for good people in the face of the bad policies of a greedy corporation and its leadership. We may not be right but we were doing right. At least that was how I chose to look at it. If that was wrong then I was ready and willing to pay the price for it. My regret was that I had underestimated the costs. Friends were dead, my friends, good people each of them. I had no right to draft them into my insanity, Wesley, Randy, and my best friend Sandy. The amazing thing was that I didn't draft any of them, they enlisted, and they were heroes in my book. I would not let their sacrifice be in vain. Stay the course Pat I said to myself, we're in good hands I added. Even if those hands belonged to Jackson Peck.

Jack appeared in the hatch from below deck and shouted over the engines, "Throttle back a little Pat. Reduce speed to 10 knots, okay?" I looked his way and replied, "10 knots, gottcha. Why, did you figure it all out?" I replied.

"You could say that," he answered disappearing below deck again.



The Princess Grace, Monday, September 5th, 2005…1:30am



The cell phone beside Killeen Peck began to wail and vibrate. She awoke without a start; she wasn't sleeping deeply and had been expecting the device's interruption. Killeen turned to face the noisy alarm and turned it off. She remained on her side and waited for the phone to ring, Herr Price was nothing if not punctual. Ten seconds later the cell phone rang with a favorite Braham's concerto, her ringtone of choice this month. Killeen flipped the phone open and laid it gently on her ear, "prompt as usual Herr Price, thank you," she said softly.

"Yes Madame, it is my responsibility to be so," he replied.

"So, there is still time?" Killeen asked, staring at the bureau across the room.

There were several family pictures arranged in no apparent pattern which in itself was a pattern. She focused on a photograph of her son that she especially fancied. Jackson was ten years old in the picture. He was eating an ice cream sundae and had some whipped cream on his nose. She remembered that day like it was yesterday. It was her birthday, November the 16th, and Sanford had been uncharacteristically attentive to both her and Jackson that day. It was one of those days where she fantasized about forgiving him and that maybe all could be right with the world. Later that day, after she had put her son to bed and he had been asleep for an hour or so, Sanford reverted back to himself, beating her soundly after raping her repeatedly. A single tear rolled down Killeen's cheek as she recalled that humiliation. She stared at her son's image in the photo and came to her decision.

She loved Jackson so dearly and wished him no harm. But he was a male after all, and he was his father's son, and sooner or later Sanford would show himself in Jackson's own actions. The apple never falls far from the tree does it? Killeen closed her eyes and wept silently. She didn't want that life for him, not if could be prevented. Herr Price's soft voice came over the telephone line, "Madame?" he said, asking his question with the tone of his voice. Killeen opened her red and swollen eyes, "carry on Herr Price," she said, ending the call.



The Mediterranean Sea, Monday, September 5th, 2005…1:48:36am


We were getting close to Sardinia, even at this speed we'd covered a lot of ground, well, not ground, but water. In any event we were close enough to see lights on the island and large ships ahead of us in the distance. Whatever Jack was going to do he'd better do it soon or we were going to attract a lot of attention when this candle got lit. If I could have seen the digital read out below it would have displayed 00:11:24. What the fuck was Jack up to? He'd been too quiet for too long. I hadn't heard one expletive in half an hour; that could be good or bad. Either he'd figured out how to disarm the IED or he'd given up. I couldn't wait any longer. I powered down and reduced the speed to 5 knots and went below. I should have been ready for what I saw but I wasn't. Jack was sitting on the bed drinking a beer. He had a nine millimeter Glock beside him.

"What took you?" he asked cool as a cucumber.

"Everything okay?" I asked knowing that it wasn't by the glare of the green LED's on the galley counter.

"It will be," he answered, setting the beer down at his feet and picking up the handgun. He gestured with it for me to climb back up the ladder.

"Topside mate," he said, calmly pointing the weapon in my general direction.

I backed up the ladder careful not to take my eyes off of the gun in my face. He followed me up at a safe distance and we stood together on the bridge. The air was cool at this hour and I felt a chill. I looked over my shoulder at the island in front of us, trying to guess the distance. Jack read my mind, "looks like about three miles, think you can make it?" he asked. I looked over my shoulder again.

"Maybe," I replied.

Jack spun the pilot's chair toward the stern and sat facing me, still pointing the gun at me. He reached behind him and throttled down further to where the engines sounded as if they were idling. I had to work at steadying myself as we slowed abruptly. Jack scratched his nose with the barrel of the Glock, not a very smart move if you ask me, and then gestured toward the stern with it. I knew what he wanted me to do and I didn't want to do it. Not because of the swim, I could do that in my sleep. I suddenly realized what he was up to. He was going to turn back to sea and scuttle the vessel. He was going to sacrifice himself for the cause. He was going to make sure Jean Luc and G.A.W.D. did not disappear from existence. He was showing me his true colors. I had been wrong about him all along. We all had. I felt sick to my stomach because he was doing the right thing and teaching me a lesson I'd never forget.

"You don't have to do this," I said.

"Of course I do," he replied.

"It's not far we can make it, I could help you, I'm a strong swimmer man," I said pleading for him to be reasonable.

"Not the point Pat and you know it. We started this for good reasons. Don't let it all go for naught. You're the catalyst. You have to carry the ball now or everyone died for nothing man!"

"There's gotta be a better way."

"There isn't and there's no time to think of one. Contact my mother when you surface as Jean Luc again. She's a good person who's had to make some hard decisions. This is one of them. I figured that out below," Jack explained.

"How did you do that?"

"I called her."

"She knows then?"

"She knows it all Pat, and she's on board. Don't let me down man. Trust me, this is for the best."

"I don't understand."

"I know you don't. You can't. I don't want to become my father. When I killed him I guaranteed that I would do just that. Mother knew that. She's ending that nightmare, for both of us."

"Yeah but…"

"No buts Jean Luc, over the side or I'll put a hole in one of your flippers," Jack said getting out of the chair and putting a round in the chamber.

I started to say something but there was nothing to say really. Time had run out and he was right. Carrying on wasn't right, but it was the right thing to do. I turned, dove into the warm water and swam a few yards away from the boat. I heard Jack go full throttle and watched him spin 'Jeckle' to starboard and jet away in a wake of foam. I should have turned and swam toward Sardinia but I just tread water where I was and watched as he sped away. The sound of the engines got fainter and fainter as the foamy trail dissipated back into the sea. He was a mile or so away when 'Jeckle' exploded in a brilliant fireball that lit up the dark moonless sky just like Jack had said it would. I felt the concussion wave a couple of seconds later and a few more seconds later the debris stated hailing down around me.

As I turned and started swimming for shore something creased my skull. It felt like I'd been hit with a rock and it hurt like hell. I recognized the familiar feeling of my own warm blood running down my scalp behind my right ear and fought the urge to stop and investigate. Whatever the damage was I would just have to live with it. Three miles by Jack's estimate was a pretty good challenge for me even at 100% power, and I was going to have to cover that distance with half that. I'd do it too, because I had to. Patrick Henry Bouchard was dead now, blown to bits with a friend he never knew he had. It was up to Jean Luc now to keep a father's promise to a son. It'll be done, I swear. Why? Why indeed, because it's the right thing to do.

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