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Pepper Herman

Chapter Eight

            The following Wednesday, the Doomsdayers met at Molly’s.

            “You okay, Moll?” Rob asked her.

            “Still shook up, Rob.  I keep waiting for the police to knock on my door and haul me off to jail.”

            “So,” Ed said, “you’ll spend your last months in the big house.  I’ll come visit you every day.”

            “Don’t be fresh, Ed, or you don’t get that apple pie I made for dinner tonight.”

            Ed made a deep bow, “I am at your mercy, Madame.”

            Referring to some notes, Ed said, “Rob, here’s the game plan.  I checked, and there’s a 4 p.m. flight that leaves Kennedy every day for Barbados.  Get tickets for the 29th -- that’s the Sunday after Christmas.  That’ll give you a few extra days with Cate.  Remember, pay everything with cash so you leave no traces.  Any problems so far?”

            “No," said Rob. “Go on.”

            “Give yourself an alias.  What name do you want to use?”

            Rob thought a second.  “How about ... Randall Cassidy, for my dad’s name and Cate’s maiden name?”

            “Done,”  Ed said, making a notation in his notebook.  But be sure,” he looked up at Rob for emphasis, “that you use only your real name -- the one on your passport -- in customs.  Got that, Rob?”


            “From Barbados, you’ll hop a six-seater to St. Sebastian’s King Frederick airport where the helicopter should be waiting.  Then on to Little Turtle Cay.”

            “What about people in the facility?”

            “All army personnel are off the island by 6 p.m.”  He glanced at Rob.  “You talked to the Scrounger?”

            Nodding, Rob said, “He called yesterday.  What a guy.  He’s so hyped for this.”

            “So what’s the plan?” Molly asked.

            Rob leaned in toward them, his face taking on a mysterious look.  “We’re using napalm.  It’s quick, and won’t harm natives on other islands.”

            “Napalm?” Ed’s eyes widened.  “Jesus, Rob.  How the hell are you gonna get napalm?”

            “He has this buddy that was a Contra during the Nicaraguan war.  He used to steal all types of ordnance from the rebel bases while he was a soldier there.  Seems he made one neat profit for years doing that.”  He looked at them.  “This guy’s still got a big stash from those days.  Weapons, missiles, napalm -- the works -- and is willing to part with the stuff for a price.”

            “Damn, we’re lucky,” Ed replied.

            “But what about the helicopter?  And how do you get the napalm over to St. Sebastian?” Molly interrupted.

            “The napalm’s no problem, Moll.  He simply loads a couple of pods onto a fishing boat that he’ll borrow from his brother-in-law.  The ‘copter is another story.”

            “Meaning?” said Ed.

            “Meaning,” Rob answered, “that the army keeps a helicopter at the airport at all times to transport its personnel to Little Turtle Cay.  Octavius is going to arrange to ‘borrow’ it for me,” he said, a look of question on his face.

            Ed whistled through his teeth.  “Well, there’s one helicopter expended for good cause.”

            “There’s a complication though.”

            “Such as what?” asked Ed.

            “This chopper is called a Bell Jet Ranger and is much lighter than the ones used in ‘Nam.  It’s equipped with a stretcher.”  Noticing their puzzled expressions, he said, “Did you ever notice what it looks like when they rescue someone ... they airlift them by a stretcher?  Well, he plans to place the stretcher strap across the pods and mount them onto the landing gear.  Pretty tricky.”

            “But it can be done,” Ed said.          

            “It can be done, and it will be done,” Rob replied.

            “And you’re confident Octavius knows how to carry out this scheme,”  Molly  asked.

            Rob nodded.  “Trust me, he knows.  He’s got a friend who works at the airport who has promised to hide the pods in a hangar, no questions asked.”

            “It’s going to cost plenty,” Ed said.  “I’m willing to kick in some bucks, Rob.”

            “Me too,” said Molly, smiling.  “I have no one else to leave my millions to.”

            Shaking his head, Rob replied,  “First of all, Octavius won’t take a red cent for this.   He keeps saying it’s payback time for ‘Nam’.  So the only expenses are for the pods and their transportation to St. Sebastian, my travel expenses,  and a little something for Octavius’ airport buddy,  and I intend to handle everything myself.”  He looked at both of them with  warmth.  “This is my thing, guys, but thanks anyway.”

            “So be it,” said Ed.

            “That’s it then,” Rob replied

            There was an awkward silence.

Ed grimaced. “Shit.  This is awful, isn’t it?”

            Looking sober, Rob replied, “No, Ed, it isn’t.  I’ve made peace with myself just like you all have.  I’m committed to it.  My only concern is Cate.  It’s like a knife in my belly.  But as long as I am going out anyway, I want it to be for a reason.  I know Cate will eventually come to understand that.”          

            Ed’s face had sympathy written all over it.  “Look, Rob, I’ll be spending the holidays at Melissa’s house, so I think this is the last time we’ll be seeing each other.” Handing Rob a piece of paper, he continued, “Here’s her number and Molly’s in case you need to get in touch with us.  You already know mine.   Just be sure to destroy them before you do the job.”  He cleared his throat.  “Well, I guess the ball is in your court, now.”  Looking into Rob’s eyes, his voice broke slightly as he said,

“Rob, I’m feeling like ... I mean ... you’re  a friend.  All the get-togethers with you and Cate... it’s like we’re bonded .”  His voice shook.

            Molly nodded.  “This is the only downside to the Doomsday Club ... the attachments.  Rebecca, Diego, and now, you.”  Tears welled up in her eyes.  “I’ll arrange everything, Rob.  I’ll be around as much as Cate wants me to be.  I promise you, Rob, I won’t let you down.  I’ll be there for her...” her voice broke.

            Rob put his arms around Molly and held her close.  “I know Moll, thanks.  She really loves you.  I think she feels like you’re her surrogate mother.” 

He then turned to Ed, heaved a deep sigh, and embraced him.  HIs voice cracked as he said, “Christ, this is fucking tough.”

            “Just don’t lose sight of your commitment,”  Ed said, placing his hand on Rob’s shoulder.

            Rob nodded and quietly replied, “Don’t worry, bud.  It’s what pulls me through.”


Friday, December 20th

            “Can I peek yet?” Cate asked, as she sat in the passenger’s seat.

            “Not yet.  I’ll tell you when,” Rob answered.

            “Did you pack the right things for me to wear?  What about my make-up?

I’ll bet you forgot to pack my hair dryer,” she said, speaking into her hands which covered her face.

            “Listen you, whatever I forgot won’t make any difference.  You’re gonna love this place.  It’s probably got hair dryers, make-up mirrors, -- the works.  And yes, I packed your make-up.”

            He pulled the car up to a gatehouse and rolled down the window.  A gust of cold December air blew in. “Okay, you can look now.”

            The first thing Cate noticed was the sign on the stone gatehouse wall which read, "The Inn at Surrey Hill." 

            “Welcome to Surrey Hill,” the gate attendant smiled.  “Your names please?”

            “Marchand.  Mr. and Mrs. Robert Marchand.”

            Scanning a list, the attendant replied, “Ah yes, here it is.  Marchand.  Go right through the gate and follow the road which winds around to your left. Your cabin is at the end of the lake.  It’s called ‘Serenity.’”  He handed Rob a brochure.  “We have your dinner reservation listed as 8 p.m.  Is this correct?”  Rob nodded.  “The rooms have no TV and no telephones, but there is an intercom in your cabin where you can contact anyone for service at anytime.  Don’t hesitate to use it.  We like pampering our guests.  Enjoy your stay, folks.”

            It was a dream place; all glass, with white wooden beams, vaulted ceilings, and a ceiling fan.  The king bed was covered in a massive white down quilt dotted with throw pillows in various patterns of chocolate brown, sage green, peach and ivory.   The tie-backs on the sage curtains picked up the pattern of some of the throw pillows, producing a watercolor effect throughout the room.  Dried flower arrangements sat in terra cotta pots in front of the fireplace, which was already crackling with warmth.  A bottle of Dom Perignon on ice and two champagne glasses rested on a mosaic-tile Jacuzzi.  At one corner of the tub were a variety of soaps and lotions; at the other corner, a bud vase with one red rose in it.

            Cate was overwhelmed.  “Oh, my dearest darling, what a wonderful surprise.”

            Rob handed her a brightly wrapped gift box.  “Open it, hon.  Merry Christmas.”

            “But it’s not even Christmas yet and I have yours at home,” she protested, as she removed the boxlid.  She gasped as she drew from the box a long white satin negligee with spaghetti straps and tiny seed pearls framing the low-cut circular neckline.  “It’s simply beautiful, Rob.”  Her arms circled his neck.  “Thank you, my darling.  I love it.  But most of all, I love you.”

            Their kiss said much more than just passion for Rob.  It was his final gesture of love to her.  His final goodbye.  “Listen, southern lady, I’ll open the champagne while you set up the Jacuzzi.  You’re going to be loved like you’ve never been loved in your life before,” he said to her, with a catch in his throat.

Chapter 9


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