Laura knew she had to find the lab quickly. She walked into the foyer and over to the security guard's desk. "Hi" she said to Patrick, one of the slower, but likable guards. Laura knew Patrick from Boston where she had spent a month reconfiguring their security plans a couple years before. He was a nice young man who joined Alexander Resources after graduating high school. They had eaten lunch together, along with others, every Thursday while she was there. He sat reading the two-month-old copy of Sports Illustrated he had brought with him from home. Security personnel on the island typically rotated from various Alexander Research facilities every three months. To the company's approximately 250 security personnel, three months on an island paradise was one of the perks of the job. As there had never once been a security threat, it was more a vacation than a deployment, particularly as spouses were not allowed. "Hi Laura" Patrick responded with a smile. "I'd heard you were here." "Well, actually, a corporate emergency has come up and I'm on my way to catch my plane but Dr. Smith wanted to see me for a moment before I leave. He said he's in the lab but I haven't been here long enough to figure out where it is. Can you help me?" she asked as her arms made a sweeping motion towards the three hallways she had not been down. "It's that hallway there." he said pointing towards the first hallway on the left. "The lab is near the end on the left, before you get to the metal doors." "Thank you Patrick" She said, as she moved quickly in the direction of the hallway, but not so quickly as to attract attention.
Patrick was of course right and she found the lab at the end on the left. She could see through the glass window that the room was a reception or prep area, where a nurse might take one's vitals before the doctor came in. At the center of the room was a cushioned chair similar to one in a dentist's office where the patient could sit and feel comfortable while pulse and blood pressure were taken. The room was largely devoid of any intimidating medical equipment and looked rather warm and welcoming. That was no doubt by design. Seeing that the room was empty, Laura walked in. She closed and locked the door behind her and immediately closed the blinds so that anyone passing down the hall could not see inside. She crossed the room and stopped on the far side near another panel window, this one looking in on the lab itself with its phalanx of medical and diagnostic equipment. In the middle of the lab was a medical table. Jonathan was lying on it naked, except for a towel. His eyes were closed. Behind him, facing the far wall was David Smith and two other doctors who she didn't know. They were examining some kind of sample, each taking turns looking through a microscope. She knew that with their backs turned now was the time to act. She removed the short barrel 9-mm Browning automatic from the holster under her shoulder. She slowly pushed the swinging door open, sure the door would squeak and give her away. To her surprise and thankfulness, the well-oiled door didn't make a sound. She walked through and guided it back with her left and as she pointed the weapon at the men who were oblivious to her presence ten feet behind them. "No, you're not seeing it" David said to the doctor who was looking through the microscope. "It's in the upper half on the right" he said, referring to something Laura could care less about although she was thankful for the cover David's voice provided as she stepped towards Jonathan. She touched his arm, but there was no movement. She squeezed it a second time, this time very hard but still no response. She looked over at the shelf near Jonathan's head. Sitting on it was a syringe. Next to the syringe was one of those medicine bottles with the rubber top with the hole in it so that medicine can be drawn into the syringe by the needle. Laura picked up the bottle and looked at the label, which read "ACX". She dropped the bottle and looked at the three doctors facing away from her. "You sons of bitches" she said in a low but unmistakably dark tone "Turn around now." The startled trio turned around in unison. Their eyes grew as large as silver dollars as all three focused on the gun pointed at them. "Laura" David said, "what are you doing." "Shut up David" she replied pointing the gun directly at him. She had read about ACX the night before in the Monkey Games file. It's a tranquilizer used to slow the body's bloodflow and metabolism to levels necessary for the body to survive the trauma induced by the transplant. Apparently it was a slow moving drug and it takes three days for it to fully take effect. She remembered in the file that it said that unless the subject was completely immobile it could not work. Moving about would cause the body's heartbeat and bloodflow to move too quickly for the drug to take effect. She knew she had to get Jonathan up and moving. "Do you have an antidote to this stuff?" she asked nodding her head towards the bottle of ACX. All three simultaneously shook their heads. Knowing from the file that if she could wake him before it fully took effect he would be able to walk it out of his system. She had to elevate his bloodflow quickly to render it ineffectual; otherwise it would be too late. She leaned over and tapped David on the face. Nothing. She did it again a little harder. Still nothing. She looked up at the three of them and shook her head saying "Hippocratic Oath. I should kill all three of you right now." Her eyes narrowed and she added as she looked down at Jonathan, "And if I can't wake him I will." She smacked him across the face, this time as hard as she could remember ever hitting someone. "Wake up damnit!" she said "Wake up!" Nothing. She looked around. Near the red biohazard receptacle for used syringes was a light blue cardboard box with a dispenser at the bottom. The box was labeled Ammonium Carbonate, (NH3)2CO3·H2O. Laura walked over and removed one of the thin Tootsie Roll shaped pieces from the bottom as the one above it dropped into place. Still holding the gun on the doctors she snapped the piece of what is more commonly known as smelling salts in half. She waved it under Jonathan's nose. He began to move his head from side to side with a dazed look in his blurry eyes. He was groggy. She smacked him again. She pulled her hand back to smack him a third time when he grabbed her hand and stopped it. He had finally focused on her and was looking in her eyes. As he held her left hand he followed her right arm as it was extended out above him. In it he saw was holding a gun. He followed the trajectory and it was pointed at the three doctors who just 20 minutes before been checking his vitals had given him an injection. "What's going on?" he asked her rather unsteadily. "There's no time to explain," she said in a soft but stern tone. She kept the gun on the three as she instructed him to get up. He obeyed, rather groggily. When he questioned her again she gave him a look that left no doubt that he should shut up. He did. She helped him to the floor and over to the chair in the corner where he had piled his clothes. He dressed himself although she had to help him with his shirt.
Most of Jonathan's last three hours had been spent under the cameras of General Electric's most powerful MRI machine in the lab in the next room. With over 100 pictures of his brain, the doctors had planned to create an active, three-dimensional map of his head that included the location, size and layout of every single nerve, artery and vein that serviced his brain. In addition they would have a precise indication of the rate of bloodflow to and from every section of the brain. After the MRI they brought him into the lab in which Laura found him and injected him with what was to be the first of a series of ACX injections. The tranquilizer was so effective and it slowed a body's functions to such a degree that after a rapid examination a doctor might mistake the person for dead. It was a biologically induced state, not significantly different from when a body is suddenly submerged in freezing cold water. The body immediately understands that it must reduce its energy consumption so that it can survive the trauma. The only difference is that with ACX the metabolic slowing takes days rather than minutes. The benefit is that the body does not sustain physical damage or internal trauma that can be associated with exposure to freezing temperatures or loss of oxygen. Although their experiments had shown that patients could easily sustain such a state for a month without any negative consequences, they were certain the state could be extended almost indefinitely. ACX provided what was as close as science had come to the fictional "suspended animation" that had inhabited scenes from sci-fi movies and comic books for decades. If things went as planned, Jonathan would have been in that cationic state for the next three days. During that time they would have run a battery of tests that would build on that morning's 100 digital brain scans. All of that data was to be used to build a perfect 3D model of his brain and its cradle. Alexander was scheduled to undergo the exact same process starting later that day and the transplant was to occur three full days later on Saturday. The physiology of humans and monkeys are sufficiently similar that the team was confident that this operation would be a complete success, but they were nonetheless somewhat unnerved by the unexpected jump in the calendar and the lack of a human trial. Unfortunately, Estaban's death and Alex's accident left them with no other choice. While it appeared that Alexander was as healthy as one could expect from the waste up, the reality was that the loss of blood pressure had put a strain on his heart and he could suffer a fatal stroke at any moment. Much like anyone who has suffered heart distress, it was possible he could live another 100 years or he could die tomorrow, there was just no saying. Alexander had come too far to take a chance with a few more months now. He was never a betting man and he had no intention of gambling when he held all of the cards right now. He had decided the operation would take place now and the team was ready to go.
As Jonathan leaned on Laura, the three doctors stood motionless. To a man they stood there, each one knowing they had made a pact with the devil when they signed on to this project twenty years before. Despite the obvious macabre nature of the entire project, each one had signed on knowing that this day would come. Not that they would be standing with their hands up in front of someone who was obviously more than prepared to kill them without a moment's hesitation, but the day when they would be taking a human life. Regardless of the rationale each used, and each one came up with his own way of justifying the millions of dollars they had received over the years, the fact of the matter was that they had taken the first steps towards killing a human. Now someone was standing in front of them with the barrel of a gun pointed at them with the intention of stopping these 20 plus years of work. The thought of trying to use physical force against her never entered their minds. She had a gun and by reputation was known as a cold-blooded bitch if she needed to be. None of them wanted to find out first hand.
Laura maneuvered Jonathan near the door and leaned him so that he could look out the panel window into the reception room. She placed a wooden beside him so that he could steady himself. "Watch that door" she said pointing to the door that opened onto the hallway. She continued "and let me know if you see anyone." She then turned to the doctors. "Turn around you two" she commanded the pair doctors whose names she did not know, waving the gun at each. "Down on your knees with your hands behind your backs" she continued. She switched the gun in to her left hand. She walked up to David and stopped six inches from him. She then lifted her knee into his groin. It landed with a thud and was followed by a whoosh of expelled air as he doubled over. She stepped back as he fell to the floor. The other two turned to look back at him. "What are you looking at?" She asked them. "Turn around" she commanded. She then knelt down next to David, "Now, David" she spoke quietly at ear level. "From what I read last night, once the ACX dissipates there will be no after effects. Is that accurate?" she asked as she put the nose of the barrel roughly against his cheek just below his eye. As he was staring up at her his eyes had become almost black as fear had dilated his pupils to almost double their normal size. He nervously shook his head as blood dripped from his mouth. She didn't know if it was because he bit his tongue because of the knee to the groin, but she didn't care either way. She rubbed the nose of the gun over his cheek and through the blood, stopping at his mouth. "How long will it take to dissipate from his system?" she asked, adding "Don't lie to me David because I will kill you without a second's hesitation." As his eyes were furiously blinking, he nodded and said "One hour, I swear. He'll be fine after an hour." "Good!" she said, standing. "Now get up and turn around!" she commanded before looking over to check on Jonathan who was leaning against the door. Grabbing a one-inch roll of medical tape, she proceeded to tape the hands, feet and mouths of the three. Once each was taped she had each of them lay on their stomachs with their legs bent and their feet in the air. Quickly she pulled them together like three spokes in a bicycle wheel with their knees in the middle. She then taped their legs together. This would at least immobilize them long enough for them to escape. She grabbed Jonathan's hand and they walked through the reception area. She lifted the blinds so that she could peer into the hallway. No one. She hadn't really expected there to be anyone. She knew that the guards made their rounds but the island's small security detachment was far more for protection from what the ocean might bring in the way of South American guerrilla boats than from anyone inside the compound. As such, rounds within the building occurred only a couple of times a day rather than a couple of times an hour at facilities that might have been under a greater degree of risk. Nonetheless she knew they had to be careful. They had to get off the island and they had to get to the plane before Alex or Albert discovered their escape. If Albert told Jack to leave, they would have no way off. She had really no idea of how long they might have but she figured if they could escape detection for fifteen minutes they would be OK. As she was opening the door to the hallway she suddenly remembered the panel window looking into the lab where the three doctors were now tied together. She leaned Jonathan against the door and told him to stay still for a second as she ran back inside the lab and closed the blinds. "Damn" she said to herself after she lowered the blinds and headed back out into the reception room, looking for a way to lock the swinging doors and finding none. Locking the door to the hallway would have to suffice. She looked one last time out the window and down the hall. Once they were out in the hall and the door was locked, there was no turning back. Satisfied there was no one out there she opened the door and helped Jonathan through. She locked the door and closed it behind her. "Can you walk by yourself, Sweetheart?" she asked the still wavering Jonathan. "Yes" he said with more hope than conviction. They had to get the airstrip but they had to get out of the building first. The compound was on the western side of the island, about two miles from the airstrip. Under normal circumstances both of them could easily cover the two miles on foot in less than ten minutes, but given Jonathan's state there was no chance. She decided that the only way to get there quickly was to take one of the Range Rovers, which meant they had to get to the carport, on the other side of the compound. The first thing they had to do was to get through the foyer.
Walking more steadily now, Jonathan looked forward, although his pupils were still dilated and he looked like he had just woken up. As Laura and Jonathan moved towards the front door, Patrick asked if everything was all right. "Jonathan is having a negative reaction to one of Dr. Smith's allergy medicines" she told him. "He spent the last two hours in the bathroom and David said he could probably use a walk" she continued. "I'm taking out to get some fresh air." Wondering when his replacement would arrive and canvas the lab, she asked, " Are you getting off soon? Jack's delayed the flight a little while so we're just going down to relax on the beach for a while. Would you like to come down?" "I'm here for another 45 minutes" he responded, "but maybe I'll join you later on." "Great" she said, waving as they exited the lobby.
Once outside the sliding doors she immediately looked for one of the four Range Rovers on the off chance they might have been left out front. Not that the facility really needed four, but much like the military frequently does, it's easier to have one backup vehicle from which to cannibalize replacements than it is to have a warehouse full of replacements. "Damn!" none of them were out front. That meant they were probably parked under the giant carport north of the building. Keys would not be a problem as she was sure one set was always kept in the glove compartment, a common practice at most secure Alexander Resources facilities. The problem was that Alexander and Albert were on the patio and she and Jonathan would have to go by that part of the compound to reach the carport. The only way they could reach the carport without literally walking right by Alex and Albert was to go back and access it from inside. It would be dangerous, as the patio where Alex and Albert were sitting looked in on the hallway as well, but they didn't have any choice, she knew they had to move quickly. They would have to chance it.
Patrick was surprised to see them return but any questions he might have were put to rest when Laura told him "I figured it would be better to keep him here close to David just in case. I think I'll let him relax by that saltwater pool instead. Have you been in it yet?" "Not yet" Patrick replied. "Well, you should come by later and try it out. It's rather refreshing." Patrick, hoping against hope that she was coming on to him rather than just being polite, said he'd try to make it. As they made their way down the hallway that abutted the patio and led to the carport, Laura slowly looked through the glass-paneled door that opened onto the patio. It was one of those vintage 1960s doors that had a large glass pane in the top 2/3 of the door. She saw that Albert was standing behind the bar pouring he and Alex a drink. The doctors suggested Alex stick to red wine but he would have no part of it, at least not until he started the ACX. His preference was a Stoli screwdriver, and although he did not follow their recommendation on the wine, he did acquiesce when it came to limiting himself to two within any 24-hour period. Albert, drank his usual Glenfiddich, straight. Not the most sophisticated of whiskeys, but it was the drink his grandfather had introduced him to at 15 and it had been his favorite ever since. Although it may have been morning on La Playa Arena, it was still evening in Paris and they were going to drink as if they were still there. "Stay low" Laura commanded, as she and Jonathan crawled across the glossy hardwood floor, Laura looking back to make sure that no one saw them from the foyer. Once they were past the windowed walls of the patio they stood and opened the exit door at the end of the hall. They quickly crossed the 100 yards on the covered sidewalk to the carport. Just as she had expected, all four of the Rovers were there. They couldn't take the Parts Shop, which Jack had explained was what they called the tan Rover in the first bay because it didn't run due to parts being stripped from it to keep the other vehicles running. They could however take the blue one in the second bay. They jumped in and Laura grabbed the keys from the glove compartment and started the engine. She pulled out of the driveway slowly, now wanting to attract attention then turned left onto the gravel road. "Now can you tell me what is going on?" Jonathan asked. As he looked at her with his deep blue eyes, Laura knew that there was not enough time. "No, I can't explain it right now, but you were not safe back there," she said. "We have to get off of this island right now. I'll explain everything when once we're gone!"
Albert was standing on the patio drinking his Glenfiddich when he heard the Rover drive away. He would have not have given it a second thought except that rather than heading north towards the town, it took the gravel road East, and the only destination to which it could have been headed was the airstrip. There were no arrivals scheduled for today and Laura wouldn't leave without saying goodbye. It was probably just the pilot Jack, checking things out before they left. Albert didn't think anything else of it until a couple of minutes later when he thought he saw Jack walking towards the carport with a bag in his hand. Albert walked off of the patio and went to the lobby where Patrick was still on duty. "Was that Jack who just left here with a bag in his hand?" Patrick nodded yes. "Did he just send someone out to the plane about five minutes ago?" he asked. "I have no idea" Patrick replied. "Then who left five minutes ago?" Albert pressed. Again Patrick had to plead ignorance. "The only people I've seen in the last half hour were Laura and Jonathan who came through here about five minutes ago." "What?" screamed Albert, knowing that Jonathan was already supposed to be under sedation. "What do you mean Laura AND Jonathan?" he demanded. Albert wasn't even listening when Patrick told him that Jonathan had had a bad reaction to some medicine and Laura was just taking him to the pool to relax. When Albert reached the lab he knew he didn't want to open the door. Knowing what he would see, he reached for the doorknob and turned. Nothing. "Damn" he said to himself "It's locked!" For a moment searched his pockets for a key then realized he didn't have one. "Patrick" he hollered down the hall. Get over here and open this door. As soon as he said it he realized he didn't have time to waste. He kicked open the door, breaking the glass in the process and rushed across the reception room. He slammed open the swinging doors. He stood there astonished with his arms holding the doors open as looked down on the three doctors taped together on the floor. All three had careened their necks and were staring up at him anxiously. Quickly turning he ran through the reception room and down the hall. "Patrick, get on the phone and call Anderson at the airfield and you tell him that that plane is NOT to leave this island!" "I don't care if he has shoot Laura of drive a truck into the dam thing, that plane is not to get off of the ground!"
As she approached the airfield, she knew they were too late. Somehow Albert had alerted Anderson the island security chief and he was running with a field crewman towards the plane. Laura crashed the Range Rover through the gate and headed for the plane as well. It would be close but she thought she could reach it before they could. The rover bounced as it bounded over the grassy field. Although the airstrip itself was asphalt, the surrounding field was very much natural terrain. As the Rover approached the men, Anderson turned around and fired three shots. Running as he was, he was as close to hitting his partner Milton as he was hitting the Rover. Laura shifted the Rover into third gear and pulled alongside the pair. She wheeled the vehicle to the right, knocking both men to the ground. She immediately slammed on the brakes and told Jonathan to grab Anderson's gun. Jonathan half-stumbled from the Rover and reached down for Anderson's gun, which had flown from his hand when he hit the ground. Anderson reached for it as well. Jonathan grabbed it first and quickly picked it up. Although Anderson began to wrestle for the weapon, he was no match for Jonathan, even in his slightly handicapped state. Laura came around from the other side and held a gun on both men as they rose to their feet. "What the hell did you think you were doing?" she asked.
"Albert called…" Milton started to explain as he and Anderson climbed to their feet. "Nevermind… Shut up." Laura commanded, adding "It doesn't matter now anyway". She calmly leveled her gun just below and to the right of Milton's kneecap and fired, successfully glancing rather than shattering the bone. He screamed and fell to the ground wreathing in pain and grabbing his shin. She then aimed at Anderson's leg and did the same. She did not want to kill them, but she didn't have time to tie them up and she could not take a chance of them somehow stopping them from taking off. Those bastard doctors would take care of them.
Jonathan just stared at her. He had no idea what to make of what he had just seen. "What was that?" he asked? Not even stopping to answer, she said "Let's go!" She was running to the plane when she noticed that Jonathan was still standing by the Rover looking at Anderson and Milton. "Jonathan" she screamed "We have to get out of here now!"
Still no movement. She ran back to him and grabbed his hand and took the gun from it. Still he stood. She walked in front of him, gently put her hands on his cheeks and said "Sweetheart, we have to go. They will be fine. It is only a leg wound and the doctors will take care of them." She glanced back over her shoulder at the two men who were wreathing in pain on the ground behind her. "It was either us or them, I didn't have any other choice. Please Jonathan lets go. I'll explain everything on the plane, I promise."
It had been fifteen years since Laura had flown a plane. Her uncle Stephen had taught her over the course of two summers she spent with him on his ranch just north of Dallas. While she had always thought flying a plane was the closest thing to true freedom one could achieve on this planet, she always had a difficult time with the plane on the ground. The simple matter of steering with her feet rather than her hands was one of those things that simply never came naturally to her. She had always been an incredibly coordinated child having been the captain of the ski team in high school, as well as the New York State Woman's Racquetball Champion in college. She therefore found it inexplicable and rather irksome that given her rather deft mastery of her own motor skills in virtually every other aspect of her life, she was so uncoordinated in this one. Although she loved to fly and she became a skillful pilot, she never became completely comfortable with steering with her feet.
It was not her lack of coordination on the ground that that had kept her from flying for fifteen years however; it was simply a matter of time. Her schedule had been such that it was always much faster to have someone else fly. Even if she had to fly commercial, it was invariably less chaotic and faster than it would have been for her to get a plane and fly herself. Besides, she often read or worked on flights, something that is particularly difficult if you are the one actually flying the plane.
She took the pilots seat and ordered the still sluggish Jonathan to lay down on the sofa. She turned to him and said "make sure you put your seat belt on." The plane was the same one that had brought her from Paris and them from Aislado, a brand new Gulfstream V-SP capable of flying almost 7,000 miles at mach .8. This was a far cry from the Gulfstream III her uncle owned but luckily much of the instrumentation was the same. The controls too were slightly different but within a couple of seconds she felt right at home. As she wheeled the plane toward the runway she could see the dust coming up from the road leading from the compound. She knew she would beat them, but it was going to be close. She turned onto the runway and shoved in the throttle and pulled on the yoke. The pair of Rovers approached the gate just as the plane was taking to the air. "Yes!" Laura said as they lifted off. Although she could not hear them she could see two men taking shots at them as they passed above. Luckily neither of them was a particularly good shot. Once they had reached 2,000 ft she leaned back and looked over to see Jonathan already sleeping on the couch. Not sure that all of the ACX had worked its way out of his system, she called to him "Jonathan, wake up Sweetheart!" No response. "Jonathan!" she called again, again with the same response. Finally she picked up the cockpit microphone and demanded "Jonathan! Wake up!". He groggily lifted his head and slowly focused on Laura. "Sweetheart" She said, "Come up here and sit with me. I don't think it is a good idea for you to sleep yet. Slowly he stood and steadied himself before he made his way to the cockpit. Even if he was not still groggy from the effects of the ACX, the sight of that cockpit would still have amazed him. He had never seen anything so complicated in his life. As he sat down Laura could not help but look at him with disbelief. Just six days ago she was completely contented going about her comfortable life, with her great job, and the ski trip she had been so looking forward to. Then out of the blue this stranger, part little boy, part man and part Adonis walks into her life and now she can think of nothing else. Stranger still was her Kafkaesque awareness that if she had simply followed the plan as it had been written, he would have been dead at the hands of her boss within a week. While the plane was jetting through the sky her mind was spinning thorough the clouds.
Jonathan asked "Where are we going?" but she did not respond. "Laura…" he said, and still no response. Suddenly she felt him touch her arm "Laura… are you all right?" Startled out of her thoughts, she looked over and said "I'm sorry Jonathan, what did you say?" "Where are we going?" he repeated. She looked at him. It dawned on her that she had no idea where they were going. "Honestly sweetheart, I haven't figured that out yet." she said. She knew she had to come up with something quickly. Alex and Albert would certainly have someone after them within an hour. While they were stuck on the island without a plane, they had the best communications equipment available and Alexander had friends around the globe. "Grab that map." she commanded, pointing to the map book beside Jonathan's chair. He picked up the book and immediately opened it to the chart that covered their part of the South Pacific. Although he had never been off of his island, he was nonetheless well-versed in geography and quickly found their location on the map. They were about a three hundred and fifty miles off the coast of Peru, not far below the equator. With a full tank of gas she knew they could reach just about any place between New York and Auckland. Unfortunately Alexander's connections made most metropolitan areas off limits. She had to find a place where they could lay low for a couple of days so she could figure out what to do next. She decided on Martinique, a French island she knew well, having spent a summer there long before she joined Alexander Resources. While it was fairly popular island amongst French travelers, she knew Albert and Alexander did not have strong connections there and its underground economy would allow them to quickly assemble fake papers. She didn't know what they were going to do from there, but she knew that it would take money and the few hundred thousand she had was in banks could easily traced. Luckily, whenever she traveled for Alexander, he wanted her to carry cash, and this trip was no different. She had $50,000 worth of Dollars, Yen and Euros in her bag.
Slowly she looked over at Jonathan. As surreal as all of this was to her, it must have been exponentially more so for him. While she found it hard to believe that this was happening, for him, this was going to be nothing short of baptism by fire into the dark side of humanity. Where would she begin? How could she begin? How could she tell him the truth?
"Jonathan" she said…"I don't really know where to start." He looked at her blankly, still not at all sure what had just occurred. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, Laura spoke with tears in her eyes. "I don't know where to start, so I'm just going to start at the beginning." He looked at her with a blank stare. "Everything you've ever known or been told about yourself is a lie." "I don't know how much Sebring knew, but of the most important part, I cannot imagine he had any knowledge."
"You've heard me talk about Alexander Cooke, the man for whom I work. He's the man who had me bring you to La Playa Arena, the man who Albert said was your father and the man you were supposed to meet this morning." Jonathan nodded his head. "Well" she started, not sure where to go. "He is one of the richest men in the world and his company, Alexander Resources is the largest medical and biological science organization in the world. Their primary interests involve organ rejection drugs and genetic engineering." Thinking that she had started down the wrong route, she decided to stop and start again. "Here" she said, "let me start again." "Do you know what cloning is" she asked him. "Yes, I think so…" Jonathan responded. Breathing deeply she hesitated for a moment and finally began " Everything Albert told us about your family was a lie." "The truth is that Alexander is not your father. You did not have a mother named Brooke who died at childbirth. You did not have a mother and father like everyone else." "The truth is that you were born of DNA taken from Alexander." Jonathan looked at her, giving her no sign that he had a clue what she was talking about. She decided she had to be as straight as an arrow. "Jonathan, Alexander Cooke had a clone of himself made, and you are him." Jonathan's eyes narrowed and his brow tightened like a schoolboy trying to solve a math problem in his head as he tried to understand what she had just told him. Looking at him once again she said, "Sweetheart, you are Alexander's clone" adding "that does not mean that you are not just as human as everyone else on the planet, it just means that rather than growing from two people, you grew from one." Not wanting to give him a chance to ask a question that she could not answer, she continued "It is true that you were born twenty years ago. Everything else was a lie. Alexander's DNA was implanted into an egg and a woman on La Playa Arena was paid to carry you to birth. When you were two years old you were sent to Aislado to be raised by Sebring." He wanted to say something, but he had no words. "There's more," she said tentatively, knowing the most difficult part remained to be said. "He had a plan for you. And it was not a good one. It was downright despicable." Struggling for words as the tears streamed down her face, she finally took one last deep breath and said what was possibly the most horrible thing she had ever said in her life "he cloned himself so that he could use your body." "You never had an immune deficiency problem. That was a story to keep you from asking questions. You are actually in perfect health." "You know those checkups you've had twice a year for as long as you can remember?" she hesitated, looking over at Jonathan. His eyes were closed, but he nodded his head. "Well the last one showed that you were in perfect shape. Literally, in almost perfect shape. I know, I read it" "You were created" she continued "so that Alexander Cooke could live forever in a perfect body. Your perfect body. You were not brought to La Playa Arena to receive treatment for some condition. You were going to be killed. Alexander planned to take your body. He was going to transplant his brain into your body." Jonathan looked at her with a glance that was one part disbelief, another part revulsion and as the truth of what she had to say was becoming clear, another part fear. "How do you know all this?" Jonathan asked. "Are you part of this?" "NO!!! Of course not" she replied. Taking a moment, "No, I'm sorry," she said. "I had no idea about any of this." "What I told you on Aislado is what I was told, that you were going to meet Alex and receive a treatment for your immune system condition that would allow you to leave the island and go anywhere you wanted." "It was purely by accident that I found out about any of this. I stumbled across the files late last night but didn't put two and two together until this morning when I saw Alex's birthmark, it's exactly like yours." Jonathan looked down and touched his birthmark. "He told me that his injuries were of little consequence and that the most important part of his body, his brain, was uninjured." That's when I realized what was really going on. From what I could tell the operation was not scheduled for another couple of years, but Alex's accident necessitated a drastic advance of the timetable so that he would not die before the transplant could be completed."
"Sweetheart" she said as she searched his eyes for some sign of confidence. "Two seconds after I recognized the plan I was heading towards the lab to get you. You've got to believe me." After what seemed an eternity with Jonathan staring out at the horizon ahead, he turned at her with what for a moment was a steely cold glare. A moment later the glare gave way to compassion. "I do," he said as he reached and grasped her hand as it still gripped the throttle like it was a rope hanging from a lifeboat. "I'm sorry I was so startled at the airfield. I had never seen anything like that. I know you've risked everything to rescue me. I don't think I could believe you were part of this if I wanted to." His eyes dropped to the row of red and green lights that line the bottom of the control panel which would indicate problems with various elements of the plane if they were flashing, which thankfully right now the were not. "Sebring" his voice trailed off. Laura spoke, "I have no idea how much of this Sebring knew or knows, but after meeting him and seeing the genuine love that he has for you I cannot imagine that he would have any knowing part in this plan." He nodded his head in agreement as tears finally streamed down his cheek as the words of the last hour finally sank in. The range of emotions that he felt was unexplainable. He had in the last hour been introduced to everything dark that he had only read about in books from greed to conceit to deviousness to hate to rage to cruelty to deception to evil. It seemed so unreal, yet he knew it was true. The bottom-line was that he was nothing more than replacement parts, or more accurately, a replacement part. He didn't know what he was supposed to feel in this situation, it was so unlike anything he'd ever experienced or even imagined. Did this mean that he was destined to be as cruel and evil as Alexander? Did this mean that his story was written before he had had a chance to live it? Questions and concerns were racing through his mind at a million miles a second, but he could not put any of them into words.
They flew in silence with Laura knowing there was no way possible for her to conceive of what was going through Jonathan's head. He must have felt like he was watching as some three-dimensional storybook spin out its macabre tale right in front of him and he couldn't close it if he wanted to. He was being forced to watch.
Finally, after what seemed like forever Jonathan looked over and broke the silence "What now?" She reached over and grabbed his hand. They were both trembling. "I'm not sure Sweetheart, I'm just not sure." "I don't have any idea how this is going to play out, but you've got to know that Alex has more resources at his disposal than God and he will stop at nothing to get you back. The first thing we are going to do is to go to Martinique. From there we'll go to Switzerland. There is a safety deposit box we need to get to. We will need money and proof if either of us is going to survive. I know we'll find the money in Zurich but I'm not so sure about the proof. That may be a little more difficult to come by."
Her mind was now running at a million miles an hour. Whatever they were going to do they needed to get rid of this plane or at least make it less recognizable. She knew she needed to think fast. On Martinique they could both get the documents that would allow them to travel unfettered in Europe and change the identification numbers on the plane. With open borders throughout Europe the odds were against them needing any documentation at all, but in the off chance that they were stopped by police at some point she needed to make sure they had some kind of documentation. From the island they would fly to Zurich.
They would use Alexander's money against him. He had had her set up a secure account about four years ago. He did not tell her what it was for but simply that it should be an unnamed account, which could only be accessed by a matching the retina scan and hand print of either of the two authorized persons. He had her deposit $15 million cash, a mix of Dollars, Euros, Pounds, and Swiss Francs plus an equal amount in German bearer bonds. At the last moment he gave her an envelope to add to the bag. She wasn't sure what was in the letter, but Alexander had said, "it might eventually be very important" and that it was "a will of sorts." The implication from the money was obvious, if something ever went awry and he needed cash quickly without any questions, he could find it there. When she set it up she could not imagine any kind of scenario where he might need money in such an unconventional way. It seemed odd, but most people had their idiosyncrasies and with rich people they often involved money. She never went back to the box and had never read the letter, but in light of the recent events it seemed reasonable that it might be of some value to them now. She knew they needed to get to that box before Alexander got to them.
They arrived at Martinique four hours after they escaped La Playa Arena. Four hours was a lifetime in the world of instant communications and Laura could not be sure that Alexander and Albert had not somehow sent out a blanket alert for a stolen plane. She contacted air traffic control and gave them a fictional identification. Upon landing she taxied the plane directly to general aviation.
Martinique was no different than airports round the world, most of which have a rather porous underbelly that can typically be found in or around the cargo or general aviation areas. Like most pilots who come through various Caribbean airports seeking stealth and favors, Laura had money and she was willing to spend it. As they stepped out of the plane they were greeted by Roland the Chief of General Aviation and Oliver, who, by virtue of being at general aviation, was the lowest man on the Martinique Customs Office totem pole. His status as such had little to do with the rigors of the job, which frankly were largely confined to leaving a sweltering office and walking across the tarmac two or three times a day to ask a bunch of American tourists if they had anything to declare. Rather, his situation at the bottom of the hierarchy had much more to do with the fact that his father was at the top of the pole and Oliver had angered him for the last time by failing out of college. His parents had saved for years to send him to school in the United States. He lasted all of 18 months at Florida State University, having spent far more time knee deep in beer and women than books. Upon returning to Martinique, Oliver's father, Carlos, didn't even want to let him back in the house. After a week of pummeling by Kristeen, Oliver's mother, Carlos relented and allowed him into the house and gave him a job at the Customs Office. But he was damned if he was going to be cowered into giving him a job worth having so he set him up in general aviation. His goal was to make Oliver so miserable that he would want to go back to school. In the month Oliver had been there before Laura and Jonathan landed it really hadn't worked out that way. Not only was Oliver happy to sit in his little office and read or play video games, but his friends would come and visit with him and no one could tell them to leave. In addition, on two occasions he had struck up conversations with women who had been on incoming planes that culminated with him spending the night in their hotel rooms. When Laura and Jonathan stepped off the plane Oliver didn't actually look at Jonathan because he couldn't take his eyes off of Laura. Tall with cascading auburn hair, she was nothing less than stunning. As they approached the bottom of the stairs he was standing there, waiting. "Hello" he said smiling at Laura. "Welcome to Martinique. My name is Oliver and I am with the Customs Department. May I see your passports please?" "I'm sorry, we don't have them. They were stolen when we were on Vacation in Haiti two days ago. We filed a report with the police in Port-au-Prince. I have a copy of the report on the plane. Would you like to see it?" she said, hoping he would not. He didn't. She continued, "They were supposed to fax a copy over to he Council Regional's office. We can call them if you would like." "No, I'm sure that will not be necessary" Oliver said Laura picked Haiti primarily because the entire country was nothing but chaos and its dire condition was such common knowledge. Nothing worked in Haiti, particularly the government. As such, she knew that she could plausibly say that they had reported the theft and it would be almost impossible to disprove with any degree of certainty. Not that any of that seemed to matter one way or the other with Oliver. He had not released her hand since she reached the tarmac. Still shaking it, he asked "So, what brings you to Martinique?" "Well," she started "We're would like to go to the Council Regional to get our passports replaced." "We?" he asked, for the first time noticing there was someone with her. "My husband," she said, moving to her left as Jonathan reached the tarmac from the bottom step. "How do you do?" Oliver asked in a noticeably chilly greeting, looking and noticing that neither wore a wedding ring. "Very well" Jonathan said as he stepped forward and shook Oliver's "Please forgive me. I let my wife do most of the talking as my French is so poor." "Certainly. Very nice to meet you" said Oliver, barely even seeing Jonathan and rather unhappy that he had to let go of Laura's hand to shake the hand Jonathan had extended. Turning again to Laura and once again grasping her hand, Oliver said "Roland here will be happy to let you know where everything on the island is. If there is anything I can do to help, please do not hesitate to ask." He kissed her hand and finally let it go before patting Roland on the back. While having no problem spending time with another mans wife, Oliver was never interested in trying to pick her up while her husband looked on.
Laura looked at Jonathan as he watched Oliver walk away. Jonathan found himself wondering about those rather dark unfamiliar thoughts he had just experienced watching Oliver cling to Laura's hand. Jealousy and anger were not feelings he was particularly familiar with in practice, although he was certainly familiar with what they were. He was pretty sure the feelings he had just experienced and which had noticeably quickened his heartbeat were a combination of the two. Seeing the flashes of emotion and uncertainty in his eyes Laura reached for his hand. "We dodged a bullet there," she said, referring to the fact that Oliver had not wanted to see the report she lied about having. He looked at her not knowing exactly what she meant. "Entering a country without a passport could have caused big problems. We were lucky with Oliver," she whispered as she feigned brushing something off of Jonathan's shirt. With Roland now standing right next to her she left it at that, although she knew that Jonathan had no idea that entering a country without a passport could mean immediate expulsion or even land you in a cell block if someone really wanted to play hardball.
Roland, who had been quiet the entire time led the pair to his office in the general aviation building. Upon entering his office the impression one quickly came to was that Roland was just another petty banana republic government official who ruled his little fiefdom like he was a dictator. On the wall behind his chair was a picture of the President of the General Council in a gaudy tin frame and on the desk was a small oscillating fan. The unsteady metal chairs were no doubt uncomfortable by design. There was even a skull sitting on top of a rusty filing cabinet in the corner. In reality it was a Halloween candle holder that some tourists had left a few years back. Despite it's first impression, a closer look at Roland's office revealed perhaps something of a more refined officeholder. On his desk sat copies of the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, which were delivered from Miami once a week, a copy of Martin Gilbert's "Churchill - A Life" and a picture of Roland, in his Chief of General Aviation uniform, being besieged by three lovely daughters as he holds a guinea pig up out of their reach.
"Please sit" Roland said as he gestured towards the rickety chairs. "I wish I could make you more comfortable, but you know how red tape can take something as simple as purchasing chairs and turn it into a quest for the Holy Grail." Sitting, he started "Now, why don't you tell me what is really going on." Laura, taken somewhat aback answered "Pardon me?" "Miss…" "I'm sorry, I don't think I caught your name?" "Laura" "Ms…Laura, I doubt you were in Haiti, I imagine you did not get your passports stolen and I'm certain you do not have the documents necessary to get passports legally issued here." "Why would you say that?" she asked. "First, people who can afford $50 million dollar jets don't vacation in Haiti and if they do have that kind of money the French consulate at Port-au-Prince would have certainly figured out a way to issue new passports already. And second, you flew in with your transponder turned off which suggests you didn't want anyone tracking you. And if there needed to be a third reason, I would simply call it a hunch. Laura stared at Roland for a moment, weighing how much she should tell him. Picking up on his statement that they likely didn't have the documents necessary to have passports legally issued to them she decided to take a chance with him. If there was a black market in documents, typically the Chief of General Aviation, as the main government contact with small private jets, would be in the loop or was at least paid to turn a blind eye. If she was wrong about him she would likely find out very quickly. "Well, Mr…" "Please, call me Roland" "Thank you, Roland. You are quite perceptive." It didn't take rocket science to figure out they hadn't been to Haiti. She was glad that Oliver was more interested in her than he was her papers. " I was a little surprised Oliver hadn't been more inquisitive." "You shouldn't have been. His interests, as you could no doubt could tell, lay elsewhere." Unsure of what to say next, she looked at the picture on the desk. She looked up at Roland and again at the picture. The little girls had the most beautiful smiles in the world and right in the middle was this man in front of her. There is never any certainty in life but sometimes one simply must go with one's gut instinct and the smile on Roland's face with those beautiful little girls told Laura to trust him. If it was a mistake she would deal with consequences as they came. "You are of course right. We were not in Haiti and our passports were not stolen. But I have to tell you, we are not carrying drugs or arms or contraband of any kind. You are welcome to search the plane if you would like. There is someone looking for us who wants us dead. We cannot go to authorities because he has moles everywhere and he would find us instantly." She looked over at Jonathan and then back at Roland, "I don't know if you can help us, but if you can I can pay. It is not a great deal right now, but I will promise you more when we get to where we are going." "And where are you going?" He asked as he looked at Laura and then at Jonathan and then back to Laura. He surveyed their faces looking for something that would suggest whether or not he should trust them. With Laura he could tell almost immediately that she was ramrod straight and no-nonsense. Jonathan he could not make out. He was a good looking young man but to look into his eyes seemed to be looking into an abyss. He remembered once reading that someone said that 'the eyes are the window into the soul' although he didn't know who it was. Jonathan's blue eyes literally gave away nothing, it wasn't as if he was hiding something, it was simply that he had nothing to hide. Between the two of them he couldn't be quite sure. Laura reached over and put her hand on Jonathan's. He reached up and grasped hers. Neither took their eyes off of Roland as he sat there for what seemed like an eternity looking at them, seemingly inspecting them. Roland was not sure what he just saw happen in front of him, but when their hands clasped it was almost as if both of their eyes leapt with happiness or comfort or something he could not identify. He remembered the news programs he used to watch during the early 70s when the OPEC members would negotiate with the west over amount of oil they were willing to pump and the price they would extract. In those negotiations the OPEC ministers always wore black glasses so that no one could read their reactions or emotions from their eyes. Jonathan and Laura were not wearing glasses and Roland was sure that he had just read them. He was not certain what was going on with them, but the one thing he was willing to bet on was that they were telling the truth. He might be wrong but he decided to take a chance, telling himself "If I'm wrong I'll just have to solve whatever problem I create." Finally, after what seemed to Jonathan and Laura to be hours but was in reality less than a minute, Roland spoke. "OK, tell me what you need" A feeling of relief swept over the pair. Both smiled nervously. "Thank you sir" Jonathan said. "Passports" said Laura. "French preferably." "Oh, and fuel." she added. Roland picked up the phone. Laura and Jonathan looked at him, not sure exactly what had just happened. "Was he calling the police on them now" Laura asked herself. "Get me Thomas" Roland barked into the phone. Exactly 20 seconds later Roland picked up the ringing phone. Without asking who it was, Roland said "Thomas! How the hell are you? Good. I need something. I need two of your best documents." Not waiting for a reply, knowing that Thomas understood what he was asking for, he continued, looking at Jonathan, "Male 21,"Female …40…" Studying Laura after he said 40, he quickly added, no, "Female… 35" Laura nodded a thank you to him. "We'll meet you in an hour. Yes, French." Hanging up the phone he looked at the pair. "Done" he said. "We'll pick them up in an hour. We will take the pictures here and we will take them with us" he said gesturing at the camera near the wall that they used when issuing Martinique pilot's licenses. "Fuel is no problem. It that it?" "Well, actually there is one more thing" Laura said somewhat hesitatingly, not wanting to ask too much, "We need the designation changed on our plane." Like a license plate, the designation number on a plane told exactly where it came from. Not only visible from the ground, it was the number that a pilot gave to the Air Traffic Controller when seeking clearances of any kind. If they kept their old number, just like a car license plate, they could be spotted or found. Roland smiled, that was an easy request.
The passports would reflect that they were issued on Martinique. This was of particular importance because if they ran into any difficulty in Zurich it would likely take a couple of days to verify their issuance because of the island's distance from the Continent. Those couple of days might give them time to solve whatever problems they might run into. "Let's go," said Roland as he headed for the door. "We'll get some lunch and wait for Thomas." Stopping at the door Roland turned and saw Jonathan and Laura staring at him. Laura turned her head towards the pilots license camera. "Oh. Of course, we take the pictures first." He put Laura in front of the white board on the wall and took her picture with a Polaroid. As the picture came out Laura thought to herself that she didn't even know that they still made those. The picture had an outline of party hats and banners saying "Merry Christmas". She looked at the picture and up at Roland rather inquisitively. He shrugged his shoulders. "We bought five boxes in January. They gave us a great deal on the price. Besides, we don't use the frames on the licenses." "Believe me" he said to her as she handed him back the picture, "It was it was much easier to go to the drugstore and buy them than try and get them through supply channels." She nodded, understanding exactly what he meant and looked over at Jonathan. "Your turn." Jonathan, having never had a flash picture taken of him hesitated as Laura walked him over to the wall and turned him toward Roland and the camera. Laura, sensing his discomfort said "Sweetheart, don't worry. It is just like an x-ray" knowing that he had had quite a few of them, "except it captures the outside". His picture came out with the same Christmas border. Roland quickly put each picture in the square holepunch that cuts away the frame, leaving only the central image there. Roland put the pictures in an envelope on his desk and they headed for his vehicle.
Roland instructed his mechanic Leon to change the planes' designation. He gave Leon the numbers with which to replace the current designation and said they would be returning in two hours and he wanted the plane refueled as well. The trio piled into Roland's black 2003 Toyota Pathfinder and headed to the capital, Fort de France. While they would not be going through any official channels to get their documents, like a contracted Chinese shoe factory that produces authentic Nikes during the day and knockoffs at night, their source for the fake documents actually worked at the permits office of the Consul Regional. After Roland parked the vehicle in a lot in the bustling center of the town they walked down the street and into the Coco Loco Bar and Restaurant. It was early afternoon and just as Roland had expected, the jazz club was dark and almost empty. He immediately headed for a table located near the back with a view of the entire restaurant and with access to the kitchen and the back door. Watching him as he moved swiftly while observing everything about the restaurant, Laura commented "You're very good at this." "Ms. …" he hesitated, realizing he did not know her last name, "Laura, in this aspect of my work, attention to detail, including ones surroundings, is merely common sense. If one is not aware and alert it makes for a very short career."
A waiter quickly arrived with three bottles of Evian and a bottle of Chateau Rouget Pomerol, 1999, Roland's current favorite. Noticing the way his two companions looked at the pasta that was delivered to the table across the room, Roland told the waiter that they would be having lunch and they were in something of a hurry. He repeated the fact that they were in a hurry because he knew that without the added emphasis the waiter would think he was just posturing. Laura quickly perused the menu for something that would not be too rich for Jonathan's rather inexperienced digestive system. Given that French food, with its extensive use of cheeses and rich sauces might prove to be rather unsettling for Jonathan, she quickly decided on two orders of plain pasta and baked chicken breast. The waiter's chilly reaction to her special request made it clear that Martinique and Paris were not so far from one another.
As soon as their food arrived so did Thomas, the official from the permits office. A rather obese Parisian, Thomas had decided to escape the rain and traffic of Paris nearly twenty years ago. He and Anne had come to Martinique for a well-deserved rest after a very un-French two years without a vacation. As soon as they stepped off the plane on that late January day they both knew this was where they wanted to be. In a matter of months after returning to his position as secretary to the Conseil General for the Il De France he found a position in Martinique which would allow him to transfer without losing his rather generous state funded retirement benefits. Once in Martinique Thomas quickly became an expert in finding creative ways to use his new position to line his pockets. While selling assurances to "Preferred" applicants that their routine permits and applications would not be "misplaced" provided him with a supplementary income that was about equal to that he received from the state, the real moneymaking potential of his position was in "unofficial" official documents such as passports. Today he brought with him two passports. One for a young man who was born 20 years ago in the capital city of Fort de France and the other for a woman born 35 years ago in the Atlantic city of Basse-Pointe. Both had fictitious names and were completely legal, down to the perforated stamp issued from the Permits Office of the Consul Regional.
As Thomas approached the table Roland stood and invited him to sit, gesturing to the empty chair. "Thomas my friend. Welcome" Roland said as Thomas sat rather unsteadily down on the small wooden chair. Without bothering with introductions, Roland nodded to Laura who then placed a manila envelope on the empty chair that sat between she and Thomas. Inside was $4,000 in crisp $100 dollar bills. Having done business with Roland for a decade, Thomas knew that there was no need to count the money, particularly as it was only $4,000. Had the documents needed been export or import licensees worth millions to a manufacturer or hundreds of thousands of dollars to broker, he might have chosen to count what would have been a much bigger envelope. After placing the manila envelope in the right breast pocket of his cotton jacket, he pulled a plain white envelope from his left pocket, placed it on the table and slid it to Laura. Laura opened the envelope and found two brand new passports, one for a Jean Reajuan and one for Michael Colbert. Finding the official seal and dates that were approximately right for both their ages, she folded them and returned them to the envelope. As she nodded to Roland, the waiter approached the table to check on the meals that no one had tried. Smiling, Thomas quickly stood and left. Although he and Roland were good friends, this day he could not stay for long because Anne had insisted he come directly home as there was still much to unpack in their new house.
Jonathan was a bit hesitant about the plate in front of him, as it looked unlike anything he was used to eating, but Laura assured him it was fine. Jonathan found the lightly seasoned dish quite tasty, particularly since he had not eaten in over 24 hours. The plane would be ready to go in less than an hour so they would head back to the airport immediately after they finished.
As they walked back to the Landcruiser Jonathan was taking in the sights of the beautiful island. The cacophony of the streets was the perfect temporary antidote to the very heavy matters suddenly weighing on his shoulders. Fort de France was the first town he had ever been in and its sights and sounds mesmerized him. While Laura kept a firm grip on his hand he was looking at everything around him trying in vain to take everything in. The sounds of so many people talking so quickly and simultaneously. Buildings that seemed to rise to the sky. Flashing lights and cars that seemed to drive with no concept of order or coordination. Brilliant signs of all shapes and sizes that seemed to be made out of more colors than he had imagined could exist. In awe, Jonathan could not help but find everything around him fascinating, although the excitement was very much tempered by the violent and unimaginable events of the last twelve hours. Probably the most interesting thing Jonathan saw was a policeman who was clad in white sitting atop a glistening tan horse. The trio walked past him as they were crossing the street to the parking lot. Jonathan had seen the animals in books, but there was no way a book could prepare him for the beauty and the majesty of such a beast. It was standing in the middle of the street as the policeman directed traffic. Its skin glistened in the sun and sweat was rolling down its legs. As they passed in front of it, the horse lifted its head and Jonathan stopped without even realizing it. Laura, not losing sight of the fact that they needed to get going and that sitting on top of the horse was a policeman, tightened her grip on Jonathan's hand and pulled. Startled, Jonathan looked back at Laura for a moment and then continued walking.
Once in the vehicle they headed back to the airport. As they left the confines of the city, Jonathan simply stared out the window at the buildings. There were different shapes and sizes and colors but they all seemed to coalesce to create a canvas of chaotic beauty. Approaching the airport Jonathan was swiftly brought back to his current situation when Roland indicated that they would have to leave immediately. He had heard on his Air Traffic Control radio that a dispatch had just come over the radio that the Peruvian Air Force had put out an alert seeking the location of a plane like theirs.
Laura quickly checked the plane's markings to make sure they had been changed. After talking to Leon, Roland assured her the tank had been filled. They quickly returned to Roland's office and attached the pictures in his pocket to their newly acquired passports. Laura examined both documents to make sure that the pictures were secure. Assured that she was comfortable with them, Roland then used a stamp machine to impress a seal onto each. He held both up, admiring his handiwork. Smiling he handed them to Laura and said "I guarantee you will not have any problems with either of these." In flawless French Laura thanked Roland for his help as she handed him $5,000. As she embraced him to give him the traditional French kiss on both cheeks she looked into his blue-gray eyes, wondering if they conveyed betrayal or trust. Although she had only known him for a few hours, she was certain that it was trust she saw in his eyes and felt in his genuine embrace. She was certain he would not inform anyone of their stop.
Back in the cockpit Laura looked over at Jonathan. She could see the nervous energy in his face. It was hard for her to imagine what he must be going through. She knew there was no way for her to understand exactly what the world must look like to him. Once they were in the air she decided that the best way to relax him was to take his mind off of everything going on around them. She knew the best way was to start was to focus his mind on something else. She decided what better source of distraction than a flying palace. She spent much of the next few hours explaining the various elements of the plane and its instruments to him. Once again he amazed her. He had a mind like a steel trap. He quickly knew the names and functions of the dozens of instruments in the Gulfstream's cockpit. She even let him fly. When a few hours later she found it necessary to powder her nose, she felt sufficiently comfortable with his abilities to allow him to fly rather than turning on the auto-pilot. When she returned she put the plane on autopilot and took him to explore the plane. He took everything with a great deal of excitement. From the bed to the kitchen to the leather seats everything was fascinating. He was particularly intrigued when she showed him how the toilet worked as the loud suction seemed to make the blue water disappear instantly. She finally showed him how to turn on the satellite television and he was mesmerized, never having seen a television before. As he sat on the leather couch he simply rolled through the channels, too exhausted to focus on anything.
The trip was going to take them approximately ten hours so she suggested that Jonathan get some rest. He went into the bedroom and despite his best efforts, it took him three hours to finally get to sleep as the images and ideas running through his head gave him faint hope of actually relaxing. Less than thirty minutes after he finally did get to sleep he was awoken by the bouncing of the jet as they landed in the Azores.
Martinique to Zurich was almost 8,000 miles, which meant they could not make the trip on just one tank of fuel. While Laura did not like the idea of stopping on the islands as they were relatively small and strangers might stand out, she decided doing so was a better option than trying to reach Europe on fumes. Besides, Alexander no doubt had many eyes looking out for them so this might be just the right place at the right time. They were on the ground for less than an hour and were back in the air at 35,000 feet by early afternoon. Jonathan was captivated by the sight of both the billowy clouds and the land below them. As they crossed into the Mediterranean he could see the Straights of Gibraltar and later the boot that was Italy. He had seen both on maps but he never imagined that he would see them like this.