“They are going to be running a lot more of those promotional TV spots now,” Mike said. “Those guys on the entertainment committee have decided to run the shows as we get them ready. I have five shows ready to go and a crap load of raw video laying around.”
“Why are you telling me this? I just don’t care.” I informed him over breakfast under my huge poster that same morning.
“Because I can’t go on the cruise with you,” he said. “I need to stay here and edit video for the show.”
“You know damn well Gwen is going to be hiding in the cabin, when the shit flies. You are the go to guy, to keep my ass out of prison.” I was very upset to say the least. “I might have to cancel the gig. I can’t trust her.”
“Don’t cancel anything. There is a guy I know who is going to shoot for me. He is not working now, and he is damn good with a camera.” Mike said.
“I don’t like this at all Mike.” I said it honestly. “How long have you known that you weren’t going to be going on the cruise?”
“A week is all and I spent that time trying to find a replacement. I did a damn good job of it to. “
“Mike, if I go to prison because some asshole is afraid to stand up and do his job, I will kill your ass before I go in.” I said.
“I know you will. Trust me this guy is the best. He was in Iraq and Afghanistan. Also a lot of hot spots that never made the news. You never heard of him, but all the people in TV circles know him.” Mike said.
“If he is such a hot commodity, how did your piss ant network get him to do this?” I asked.
“He had a heart attack three months ago. Nobody in hard news will use him again, ever. You can’t stop breaking news to save a man’s life and you can’t not save his life. He is too much of a gamble for them. It was this or work as a cameraman on the Today show. Unlike the news shows, we can afford to gamble and he is available on short notice,”
“Really short notice,” I said. “My guess is we will get the travel itinerary today.”
“Yeah, I think so as well. If not today then surely tomorrow,” Mike admitted. “Sorry for dropping this on you, but you always said you don’t give a shit about the details.”
“True, but like I also always say. If you get me killed, I will make your life hell even from the grave. I will haunt you till you join me in the grave.”
“Yeah and I believe that if anyone can do it, it will be you.” Mike said.
“So what’s this news photographer’s name?” I asked just so I would know what to call him.
“Bobbie Morris,” he replied.
“Never heard of him,” I said.
“I told you no one outside the business has.”
I worked out how I felt about the new bombshell as I walked the first of my three miles at the mall. If he was a news photographer covering the two wars, then he most likely wouldn’t be gun shy. That was really all I needed him to be. Point the camera at the bad guys to document that they were shotting first or at least were armed pirates.
If we got that on film, then the rest would be just making sure we handled the threat appropriately. There could be no shooting of them for sport. Every single shoot had to be righteous, or we could still do time. Machine gunning them in the water, no matter how appealing, was a definite no, no. It was my job to see that nothing like that happened.
So when the phone call came from Jen, I was ready to move forward. It came on the last lap of my mall walk. I was glad that it wasn’t while I was on the bike. That thing was tricky enough without dealing with the cell phone.
“So are you packed?” Jen asked.
“What’s to pack a few pair of clean panties and I’m good to go.” I said.
“Take a little more than that please. You are going to be gone a few days at least.”
“Party pooper, so when do we leave,” I replied.
“You leave here for New York tomorrow at noon. Then you lay over for few hours and then leave New York at 9PM for Athens, a direct flight by the way. You arrive at the Athens Airport about ten hours later. or about 2pm their time. There will be someone to meet you there.” Jen informed me.
You did know that Mike is not going?” I asked.
“Yeah some guy named Bobbie Morris is meeting you in New York. I already talked to him. I explained that, if anything happens to you, because he didn’t do his part, there would a long line of people waiting to kill him.” she said it with a laugh.
“And what did he say?” I asked.
“Funny his exact words were, ‘likewise I’m sure,’” Jen laughed as she spoke.
“Well we will see what happens, when it happens,” I said.
“So you want to have dinner with me and Bob, tonight?” Jen asked.
“No, I think I’ll see if Cheryl and Kate want to have that threesome, which I turned down last time.” I laughed as I broke the connection.
What I actually did was ride the bike home, then take a long soak in the tub. I wanted to start out totally clean at least. Fresh water is at a premium on any ship, so I knew it would be quick showers and whore’s bathes for a while.
I made my own lunch. It wasn’t difficult, since it was stew from a frozen block. Helen had sent it to me via Cheryl. She made the stew with a wine gravy that was to die for. If I had been at one of Helen’s functions, there would have been a bed of wild rice under the stew. Since I was alone in my small apartment, mine went over a piece of white bread.
During the afternoon, I napped. I knew that sleep was going to be at a premium for the next few weeks, as well as fresh water. I also knew that it would be hard for me to sleep the night before. Before I caught a plane to what could be my place to die as my dad always said.
I woke to the sound of the Mag7 theme. I found the phone and answer “Hello.”
“Hey Maxine this is Cheryl your sometimes girlfriend.” she said happily.
“What you doing?” I asked.
“Getting ready for a rehearsal dinner. I called to see if you wanted me to bring you a plate when we are done.”
“No thanks hon, I think I want Barbecue tonight,” I replied. Even though I had talked a big game to Jen, I really didn’t want to go out with anyone.
“Okay, so what’s your plan for the evening?” she asked. Cheryl had no idea that I would be leaving so soon. I figured that it was as good a time as any to tell her.
“I’m going to go out and eat, then I’m going to come home and watch some TV. I am also going to bed early. I found out today that we are leaving on a job tomorrow at noon.”
“Damn, do you want me to tell Helen something came up. I can take the night off.”
“No honey, I need to be alone to make my peace.” I said.
“You know that it scares me, when you talk like that,” she informed me.
“It isn’t depressing hon, I just commune with the inner me. Find what strength I have.”
“Will you at least call me before you go?” she asked.
“Of course I will,” I replied.
After she hung up I began thinking about all the people who had come and gone in my life. The good, the bad, and the ugly so to speak. The one who occupied my mind most was the Gunny. Thinking of him put me in the mood for the barbecue I had mentioned to Cheryl. The best of the barbecue places in town was made from a trailer type diner with a concrete block building attached for cooking. It had a name, but Gunny always called it the barbecue shack, so that’s how I thought of it that night.
“Hey Max, you ain’t been around for a while,” the owner and cook said as I entered.
“I been trying to eat healthy,” I replied winking at the waitress.
“Hey barbecue is healthy,” he replied with s smile. “As long as you don’t eat the fries or the hush puppies.”
“Or drink the iced tea,” I added.
“Now, that warning was only for diabetics,” he said with a grin.
“Since I’m breaking bad, just send me an order of everything. I’ll take the rest home to leave out for the mice tonight. Poor things will all have high blood pressure tomorrow.”
Gwen walked up and sat with me. She wasn’t supposed to, but she did. “We need to talk,” she said.
“Gwen, I will talk to you about anything, at almost any time. But sweetie barbecue is a religious experience for me. Can this wait till I am finished?”
She nodded, then said to the waitress who had brought my order. “I’ll have what Max is having.” I had to smile. Gwen was as good as her word. She didn’t speak to me again, until the last of the hush puppies was gone.
“Okay you waited patiently, so what is so important you have to break your own rules,” I asked
“I’m afraid,” she said.
“Gwen, being afraid is nothing of which to be ashamed . It is also nothing you need to share. We all have our fears on nights like these.” I tried to explain.
“I know that in my mind, but my heart tells me I need to explain,” she said.
“Tell me this, can you do your job, even though you are afraid?’ I asked.
“I can, if you promise to take care of me,” she said. “I know we got off on the wrong foot, but I feel I need to make it up to you before we leave on this trip.”
“You don’t need to do anything. We are fine, just do your job and try not to whine,” I suggested.
“I know but I am afraid to be alone tonight. I’m afraid that I will lose my courage and just hide tomorrow, when time comes to leave.”
“If you feel that way, maybe you should.” I know it was cruel but I didn’t need to take care of anyone. I had a boat load of men I was being paid to keep out of jail. That would be taking up all my time, I was quite sure.
“You know I have to go. This is my big chance. I can’t give up on it,” she explained.
“Then go home and get a good night’s sleep. We will be leaving the apartments before 10AM to be ready for the flight at noon.
“I want to stay with you tonight,” she informed me while looking at her empty plate.
“Why not with Lucas?” I asked.
“Thing have been rather cool between us, since the Atwater thing.” she said. Yes, I could have asked why and maybe helped her out, but I honestly didn’t care.
“You know that if you stay with me unpleasant things might happen to you.” In my heart I knew that she was safe. My heart just wasn’t in it.
“I don’t want them to happen but I need to be with someone tonight,” she said.
“Then turn off the camera in the bedroom,” I said that with a smile even though I knew that nothing was going to happen. Yes it was an evil thing to do, but hey she needed to pay somehow.