Serenity: Full Circle – Chapters 11 and 12

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Island in the Mainstream

Marc and Dara disappeared into the bungalow; Eyan gathered up his clothing and followed their lead.  Around two in the afternoon, Marc walked Dara to her car; she had a late afternoon flight to The Hague, where Europol’s main headquarters are located. She needed to fill out the paperwork necessary to facilitate her temporary transition to the private sector.  Neither Marc, nor Dara, had any false hope for the future, but both knew what had evolved was much more than simple infatuation.  He kissed her and helped her into the car, shutting the door after her.  Dara dropped the window down and said, “Marc, I know we’ll both be horribly busy for a while, but I would like to see you again, whenever we can work it out.”  Marc put his hand down on her arm, lying on the windowsill and said, “Sounds like a plan; watch your six.  On second thought, I’m sure it gets watched enough,” smiling, as she pulled away.

A while later, Marc was poolside when Eyan emerged from his bungalow and joined him.  Marc asked how his arm was doing.  Eyan said, “Actually, I think the swim helped it more than hurt it; it doesn’t seem as sore today.  Where’s Dara?”  Marc gave him the run down, then the conversation changed to the early morning discussion of the Island.  Eyan said, “I laid awake for an hour, thinking about what you said about the Island. Why hadn’t you said anything before?” Marc looks up and said, “Eyan, the reason is that I was pulling it all out of my ass!  I had no plan at all; Dara was right.  I just couldn’t let her know it. That’s what I was thinking about when you just walked up.”  Eyan said, “Marc, I think you and I should take a lesson from Martin here and shake hands, throw our joint money in a pile, and start constructing our base of operations.”  Marc replied, “OK, but we’ve never even seen the Island.  We need to go there and get a feel for what we have to work with, agreed?”  Eyan got up from his chair, walked over to the bar pit and retrieved two beers, bringing them back to the table.  He popped the tops off and said, “Your eyes are too bloodshot to look straight into right now, so we’ll just have to drink to it, if you don’t mind.”  They tapped the bottles together and a true partnership had begun.

At dinner that night, they thanked Martin for his generosity.  They also spoke of their plans for the Island and announced their planned departure the next day.  Martin offered them his corporate aircraft to get them back to Hawaii, which they graciously accepted. Martin also said that if they found a need for specialized equipment, he might be in position to help out, and to feel free to contact him.

After dinner, when they had returned to the bungalows, Marc joined Eyan for further discussion about the plan.  They first compiled a running tally on available funds.  They quickly ascertained that without using funds from dive shops, they could muster nearly three million, not counting the windfall of one million each that had been donated from Martin in stock from Die-Hex/Corp.  Eyan fired up his computer and opened up Google Earth.  With a minimal search he found the deeded Island, and then he began to peruse the graphics. As they pushed in tight on the postage-sized island, it revealed some promising traits.  Eyan brought up the distance scale in the application and determined that the Island itself was nearly a mile and a quarter in length, and almost a quarter of a mile at its widest.  According to Google Earth, most of the island was flat and rose only sixty to seventy feet out of the water, with one exception.  The shape of the island resembled a cowboy boot, similar in shape to Italy; the area around the heel rose up on an outcropping of what appeared to be rocks.  It protruded upward slightly more than 200 feet, the highest point on the island. The top of the boot pushed to the west, the heel was to the east and the toe pointed nearly straight north.  There were two areas around the Island that had large expanses of white sand beaches.  First was the entire top of the boot; the second was the top bridge of the boot, where the toe rounded to the boot top.  That area appeared to be a natural cove; they could also see what appeared to the remnants of an old dock.  One of the first realizations that hit them was that eventually they would need an aircraft. A three or four-day boat ride to the nearest airport would not work out logistically.

They decided to call it quits for the evening.  Martin had said that the corporate aircraft would be available shortly before noon.  This would leave them plenty of time to pack and say their final goodbyes.  They had made arrangements with Ricardo Ruiz, the owner of the arms distribution business in Madrid. At first, they just wanted to rent some space to place the equipment they had purchased from him in storage.  He said that he had working arrangements with other international clients that may suit their needs better.  He would, at a discounted price, buy back the used equipment and hold the funds in escrow in their open account.  When they were in need of other or possibly different equipment, he would, at a discounted rate, sell them new items, depending on their needs at the time and their account balance could be applied at that time.  He explained that this system was most expedient for his premium customers.  This would also save him labor and storage space and that, compounded with the fact that a great many of his lessor clients preferred to buy used equipment, only made it better.  Ricardo was a true entrepreneur and both Marc and Eyan could see the advantages of doing business with this man in the future.

It was about one-thirty in the afternoon when the corporate jet lifted off the runway at Madrid’s Barajas airport.  During the flight they brainstormed the possibilities taking copious notes.    Once they had arrived back in Hawaii, they had already made up their minds; they were going to continue on to their Island.  After arriving, they crashed for nearly 18 hours, readjusting to the time zone changes.  They didn’t have many connections on the islands, but Marc decided to contact “SilverCrest Flight Services,” the firm they had contracted for their flight to Madrid.  He was aware that they didn’t deal with boat rental; however, they catered to the rich and famous, so logic says they would know who to call.  Everybody refers their clients to their connections and, in turn, a referral fee is usually in the offing.  Marc made the call to SilverCrest.  When the call connected, a woman with a pleasant voice answered.    As soon as she pulled up the records on her computer verifying that Marc was indeed a client, the tone of her voice became even more pleasant.  Ten minutes later, Marc had the contact information of no less than three for-hire craft, with the range capability necessary for the trip.  At the end of the conversation she said, “Just have them call Alexis here at SilverCrest for any information they need for billing. Will you be using the same accounts for this booking, sir?”  Marc answered saying, “Yes, the Serenity Group; everything’s the same as before.”

It was just after lunch when they arrived in the harbor district at SeaBourn Charter. While talking on the phone to the owner, Marc had discovered he was ex-Navy man.  Marc’s allegiances ran deep; he made it their first stop on the list.  Mike Schell, the owner, was in the office at his desk just inside the main gate.  As they walked up, he looked up from his desk and said, “Two bits says your name is Marc.  I can spot a Sea-Dog a mile away,” as he stood up and moved out from behind his desk to greet them.  He looked like any one of a hundred other Navy men Marc had known, with one exception.  He was sporting a prosthetic leg from the knee down on his right side.  He moved as quick and graceful as anyone would without the impediment.  Marc’s first thoughts were, if he were not wearing shorts, he simply wouldn’t have noticed.  Mike shook hands vigorously with them both, asking them to have a seat, and then offering them both an ice cold beer.  Eyan looked over at Marc and laughed and said, “Sure, sounds great, thanks,” As soon as they had had a couple sips of beer, Mike asked how he could be of service.  Marc said, “We work for an organization named Serenity Group and we need to do some survey work on a small island about 1,800 miles to the west-southwest of here and we’re need of a craft.  Are you interested in the charter?”  Mike said, “As long as it’s all on the up and up, no drugs and no partying.  I can supply the boat and I’ll skipper her myself.  If you guys want to hold the price down a bit, you can work the ship with me and we’ll only need one other person on board to cook and check gauges.  You pay the fuel, food and five hundred a day.  What ya say?”  Eyan said, “Well, it sounds OK, but I’ve got to have a few beers along the way.”  Mike laughed and said, “Hell son, I couldn’t find my way out of the harbor if I didn’t have a six-pack under my belt. I said partying; you know – girls, sex and loud music – especially that rap shit.  I had one charter where there were half-naked girls all over the boat at all hours of the day and night; hell, I didn’t sleep for a week.  I was lucky I didn’t have a heart attack!”  After a bout of laughter, Marc said, “Mike, sounds like a deal.  We’ll need about two days on the island.  I can’t see being there any longer than that, and we’ll take you up on the offer to work the boat.  What’s your time schedule to push off?”  Mike smiled and said, “I’ll have the supplies ordered and get her fueled up this afternoon and get the supplies on board by noon tomorrow.  I’d say, let’s look at about two tomorrow afternoon.  That work for you guys?”  They stood up, Eyan saying, “Mike, it’s been a pleasure meeting you, and in all honesty, we’re looking forward to this,” as they started toward the door.  Marc turned and said, “Call Alexis over at SilverCrest.”  Mike cut in saying, “Yeah, I know the drill; she’s my wet dream, ya know.”  Both Marc and Eyan were laughing, as they walked to their car.

It was nearing eleven o’clock in the morning when Marc and Eyan arrived at SeaBourn Charter.  They began to on-load the gear that they had been gathering for most of the morning.  Mike’s boat was a fifty-eight-foot V-hull Meridian-580 pleasure craft with twin screws matched up with twin Cummins marine diesel engines called Eve’s Revenge.

Mike was busy working below deck when they came aboard.  Marc called out to him.  He replied, “Down here, in the mechanical room, replacing a bilge pump.  They found their way down just in time to see Mike picking up and throwing his tools back into a five-gallon bucket. He then stood up as he rubbed his hands with a rag. He looked over at them saying, “Good timing, I just finished the dirty work,” with a smile.  Both Eyan and Marc were amazed looking around the compartment; it was spotless.  Mike moved over to a cabinet near the bottom of stairs and began wiping his tools off as he stowed them each in a preformed slot.

They finished loading the supplies aboard and were ready to castoff.  Mike said, “Oh, I nearly forgot, I had a booking come in after you guys left yesterday on my big boat.  The cabin boy/cook was needed on that cruise so will be a bit short handed.  Do you mind?”  Eyan said, “If you can put up with Marc’s cooking, works for me.” As they dropped the mooring lines, it was almost noon – straight up – when they cleared the breakwater.

As they settled down to a cruising speed of about twenty knots, Marc was somewhat surprised that the craft was nearly vibration free. The weather was fair and the sky was cloudless and extremely blue.  He looked at the charts and did some quick calculations; it was 1800 nautical miles to the island.  At cruising speed, they would arrive there at about sunset on the fourth day out, with good weather and smooth sailing.

The trip went by quickly; the three of them became well acquainted and played a lot of poker. The ship had all of the best navigational equipment along with RayMarine Autopilot, backed up with an E120 Radar/GPS/Chartplotter of the same manufacture.  They had been blessed with favorable weather all the way and had made great time.  Shortly after noon of the fourth day, the Island came into view on the radar.  As they approached, they still had several hours of daylight.  They circumnavigated the Island clockwise.  They were closely inspecting the coastline and as they did so, they saw some signs of former habitation, but very few.  They had approached the Island from the northeast now and, as they were completing the full circle, and found themselves near the top bridge of the boot’s shape. They could now see the pilings from an old dock protruding from the water in the cove.  Mike maneuvered the craft into the mouth of the cove and dropped anchor.  They dropped the runabout, Carrib Tender, off the fantail of the ship and loaded a few items, then went ashore.  As they approached the beach, the water was so very clear, it appeared shallow.  Marc jumped off the bow of the tender, so that he could pull the boat to shore.  This would allow Mike to shut down the engine, avoiding prop damage from old coral.  As Marc entered the water, he knew immediately that he had misjudged its depth.  He sank to his neck before touching bottom; both Eyan and Mike almost lost it, laughing so hard.  The look on Marc’s face was priceless.  Mike hit the switch to raise the engine’s shaft from the water, as the bow of the boat silently slid to a stop on the sandy beach.  Eyan stepped out onto the beach and turned to Marc with a straight face and said, as he walked ashore, “We’re going to check out the Island.  When you’re done with your swim, why don’t you join us?” Mike was still laughing so hard, he couldn’t get out of the boat.

A minute later, Marc was ashore and sitting on a remnant of an old foundation wall at the head of what was long ago a dock and building.  He was rinsing the sand from his shoes.  Eyan and Mike were securing the tender to a palm tree, near where they had beached it.  Marc walked up on to the beach and, as he did, he saw what may have been a path through the dense foliage.  He called to the others and pointed to the opening as they approached.  They collected some items such as Machete knives, side arms and water from the tender, before starting out.  Mike had suggested the side arms because the Island was large enough to potentially have wild boars on it, and it was better to be prepared, than not.  The path was inclined as they moved into the foliage, making it difficult to maneuver through.  They could see an opening about twenty yards ahead.  Just before reaching the opening someone had moved large stones onto the path to use as steps up an embankment about five feet high to the opening.  As they emerged into the open and looked around, they could see a large area that had at one time been cleared of old growth trees and palms.

The undergrowth had begun to return and the grass was about knee high.  As they walked out into the opening, it was much larger than it first appeared, Eyan stopped and looked up.   The large trees on the sides of the opening had grown a full arch canopy.  They had entered the clearing from the north side of the Island and were now facing south, as they came to its center.  To their left to the west was the boot heel; there was a large hill of what appeared to be dark volcanic stone covered in dense green shrubs and hundreds of palm trees rising up to 250 feet.  As they turned in the opposite direction, the clearing seemed to go on forever, but they could see an opening – quite large in the distance – up to the top of the island’s bootstrap, to the west.  It was now four in the afternoon.  They decided to clear the path from the beach with the machetes for easier access during the next few days.  When they had finished the task they returned to the boat at anchor and had a swim before dinner.  As the sun was setting in the west, the three were lounging on the fantail having some ice cold beers and talking about the Island.

The conversation became a bit speculative between Marc and Eyan, and then Marc turned to Mike and said, “We’re not really surveying the Island,” and before he could continue, Mike said, “Yeah, I figured that out on my own.  Why do you think I asked you if everything was on the up and up?  I figured you’d tell me when you got around to it.”  Marc apologized and began to tell him the story of how it had all come about.  When he was done, Mike said, “So, you two lease this pile of sand, do ya?  Well, things make a whole lot more sense now.”  Marc gave him a synopsis of the plan he and Eyan had pieced together, then Mike said, “I told you guys I was in the Navy, but that’s not the whole story.  I know you’re curious about the missing leg; it was a service-related injury from early on in the Afghan war, right after the war started.  I was a lower-grade officer in the Seabees; we were building some underground bunkers just outside of Kabul.  I was on a D-9 Cat scraping out the hole, when a grenade bounced off the cage and landed right next to me.  I jumped down on the far side of the seat, but the transmission tunnel wasn’t big enough to completely hide behind. They tried to save it, but by the time they got me to the med station, it was too late.  But – back to the point I was trying to make – I can help you put this place together; that is, if you need some help.  I have a Civil engineering degree and a Master’s in structural engineering from Ohio State. Hell – I had hopes of becoming an architect when I was a kid.  But building things in the middle of the desert with no materials – that taught me more in six months, than six years in school ever did.”  Marc went below and then returned with a document tube.  He popped the cap off, opened it up and then thumbed through several charts.  He then extracted an enlarged chart of the Island.  They moved into the main cabin, spread the chart out on the large table and turned on the overhead light.  After having a chance to actually see the lay of the Island, Marc said, “We need to walk the distance to the far end and see what we have to work with.”  They talked and had a few more beers before calling it a night.

The next day, some low clouds were moving overhead during the early morning with the obligatory rain showers, but disappeared before ten.  Marc and Eyan had begun their hike up the Island toward the top of the bootstrap about eight.  Mike stayed back and assessed the potential of rebuilding the dock and constructing a building to house the pumps and tanks for the island’s fuel supply.  He had completed this chosen assessment by one in the afternoon and was now making his way along the path they had cut yesterday, when his radio crackled and came to life.  It was Marc; he and Eyan were about half way down the Island.  He thought it would be prudent to check the range on the hand-held radios; they were not military issue, just commercial over-the-counter units.  He estimated that the trek would take at least another two hours to reach the west end of the Island.  Mike was planning to pick them up in the tender runabout when they arrived on the sand beach at the top of the boot.

Mike emerged from the path into the open area, and decided to check out the rock formation to the east.  He made his way to the base of the rise, and then realized it was more of a climb than he was up for.  He followed the base of the small hill to the north.  It curved back around to the east; the approach from this direction was more gradual and also had fewer rocks to navigate.  He made good time moving up the hill, he had adapted well to his disability.  Most other men in their forties would have had difficulty staying up with him with two normal limbs.  It took him fifteen minutes to reach the summit.  From the top of the butte, the view was surprising.  He walked to the edge of the bluff facing to the east and looked down; he could see the waves breaking on the rocks almost 200 feet below.  After a moment he turned to the west.  The Island was much easier to visually assess from this vantage point.  He could see where the trees thinned out toward the top of the boot to the west, and then the large expanse of white sand beach that led to the very west end of the Island.  He checked his watch and noted that he would be expected at that very same beach in less than an hour.  He took some mental notes and measurements of the flat area on top of the bluff.  He turned and began descending the hill.  He didn’t want to be late for his appointment with Marc and Eyan.

A short time later, Mike beached the tender next to where Marc and Eyan were standing at the very tip of the Island.  They cruised back to the cove and put some sandwiches together and began to discuss the events of the morning.  One of the more interesting things Marc and Eyan had discovered was that at one time there had been a landing strip down the middle of the Island.  Grass was covering it now, but they could still follow it without effort.  The other thing that they found interesting was the fact that the overhead tree canopy extended over two-thirds of the way down the Island.  Eyan’s description of the canopy was, “It was like walking through a straight tunnel with a light at the end.” The Island was proving to be much more than either Eyan or Marc had imagined.  As the day wound down to the early evening, they all bantered about the basics of the project and how to proceed.   It wasn’t long before Mike had taken the lead voice in the planning stage.  Both Eyan and Marc had begun to defer to his obvious knowledge of both the potential and the reality of the island’s development.  Mike’s first love of life was building things.  After his discharge from the military, he had rechanneled his building instincts to the construction of his charter/cruise business.  He and his wife had done well.  She had received a settlement from her first husband from a divorce.  Her ex had deep pockets, no pre-nup, and rampant penchant for infidelity.  Two years ago, she had been involved in an auto accident and died instantly as a result.  Mike had submersed himself in the charter side of the business and tried not to look back. As a result, the business was somewhat like the dive shops Marc and Eyan shared – very profitable.  Mike had been growing ever so tired of the repetition of the business over the last year and he said as much to Marc and Eyan.

The next morning, Mike said that he would like to show them something that he had tripped across the day before.  He guided them to the hilltop where he had been yesterday morning.   He had already formulated a plan for its utilization.  He pulled out some sketches on a pad and said, “Try to visualize this – the hilltop’s measurements are large enough for a sizable house.  If we were to face the structure to the east and cantilever the rear off the back of the hill just far enough, we could utilize the entire hill as a superstructure for the facility.  We would need to cut into the hill at the bottom, west side to complete the lower floors of the building, but it would be a fully weather-tight facility and easy to air condition.  We would need to run an elevator shaft from the back of the top housing facility straight down the hill.  About half way down, it would enter the ground and emerge on either the second floor or the bottom hanger where the aircraft can be housed.  The bottom level would be the same level as the tarmac.  My preliminary estimate of the square footage would be about 14,000 square feet.  That’s inclusive of the hanger, of course!  Both Marc and Eyan’s heads were spinning.  Neither could believe that he had conjured the vision and sketched it out overnight.

On the way home the next day, Mike was hard at work refining the drawings and adding auxiliary implements along the way.  As he was working, Mike realized that it was the first time in a very long time that he was truly enjoying what he was doing.  That evening at dinner, Mike brought up the subject of the construction on the island. Before he could phrase his questions and ask if they had someone lined up for the construction of the project, Marc said, “Mike, Eyan and I want to know if you might be interested in managing the project for us. We know it could be extremely difficult, especially considering you have a thriving business of your own to tend to.  But we just never realized the extent that this project could reach and, all in all, it’s more than we can handle and also generate the cash needed to complete it.”  Before Marc had finished his sentence, Mike was already smiling. It was as if Marc had read his mind.  Mike said, “I have a secret to share with both of you.  I was just about to ask you guys if you would consider using me to put this thing together.  I have contacts all over the islands and even some of my old buddies from the Seabees are hanging around looking for things to do.  We can do this thing and, if I’m not mistaken, for a lot less than one might suspect.”  Eyan said, “How and where do we save on the costs?  I don’t follow.”  Mike said, “As far as the logistics go, I know several companies that handle shipping to and from the islands. There are always ships available, especially in the lesser season that can be had for pennies on the dollar, and then when you consider I have the crews to man them and the licensing to contract them, it’s a snap.  Then, looking at the actual building on the Island, remember we are our own government.  We inspect our own work and we can use unconventional methods in our building, so we can circumvent the cost of elaborate architectural and engineering fees.  As I said, we could use the mountain itself as the structural backbone of the project.  That alone will save tens of thousands of dollars in materials.  We stay with the basics – steel imbedded in concrete, use the latest in free-form design.  It’ll be as green a building as any being built around the globe at a fraction of the cost.”

At this point, both Marc and Eyan were excited as to the prospects of the venture.  Eyan said, “Mike, what do you want out of this?  How can we ensure mutual equity?  This is going to be a big project.”  Mike said, “Will use the KISS system – you know – ‘keep-it-simple-stupid.’  You guys oversee the payments as they come in; that keeps you up-to-date on all the funding.  I’ll submit all requisitions in advance – let’s say over $25,000 dollars – for your approval.  We keep a $25,000 slush fund for the incidentals. As for me, how does cost, plus two percent monthly, sound?  Once we have an idea of the total scope of the project, we can revisit the money issue, if necessary.  I can probably have a ballpark estimate within a couple weeks.”

Before they arrived back at home port, the three of them had created a strong bond of friendship Once again, the years they had all served in the Navy was a strong elixir.  Over the next few weeks, Marc worked with Mike to formulate a general design for the Island.  Eyan had taken a trip back to California to amass the general funds needed to start the job.  He had also had several meetings with Robin Evans, the manager at the two dive shops.  He and Marc had decided to take him on as a third partner in the venture and all they would ask of him was his signature.  He had, from the very start, been the primary catalyst in the business, and they both agreed that he had earned the partnership many times over. They also discussed the plan to move – both north to the San Francisco area for a third shop – and westward to Honolulu for a fourth.  Robin had been a “hands-on” type of manager, but now he would need to step back and take an overview position and train new managers for all the shops.

Before Eyan returned to Hawaii, he and Robin went over the books for both locations.  Robin was smiling when Eyan began to understand that the shops had redoubled their profits from only a year earlier.  The second shop hadn’t been open a year yet, and it was surpassing the San Diego shop’s numbers.  There was almost two million dollars in the primary account, and a vast overallotment still in the payroll account.  Eyan rolled a million and a half from the primary account to the Serenity Group’s General Construction Account which he had just opened with a little bit over $3,000,000 with a contribution from Marc and himself.  The dive shops were listed as a subsidiary of “The Serenity Group” and Robin had no signatory rights above the dive shop’s level.

When Marc picked Eyan up at the airport in Honolulu, he was more than surprised to learn of the unexpected windfall from the shops.  They drove to the harbor, pulled into Mike’s facility, parked next to the office and walked inside.  Eyan had also closed out their apartments in California and either stored or shipped the remaining things to Hawaii before returning.  Mike was on the phone when they entered his office.  He raised his hand with his index finger in the air indicating he would be a moment.  Both Marc and Eyan took a seat and waited.  When Mike finished his call and hung up the phone he said smiling, “Well that’s the icing on the cake.  The Reinhold, a ship, is available for four to six months; she’s an inter-island-sized freighter, equipped with dock booms and a crane aft, with a commercial-sized hold.  She’s big enough for a cat-bulldozer with full blade.  The equipment company is giving us great pricing on anything we need; this down economy is kicking their butt.  Their lot is crammed with rental stuff and the insurance alone is choking them.  I’ve talked to nine of my old buddies, seven have signed on and two of them said they had several reliable, but more importantly, qualified friends that would jump at a chance of a good, stable job.

Mike pulled out some large rolled blue prints from the side of his desk and opened them up.  Eyan’s surprise was all over his face.  Mike and Marc had been hard at work putting the plans together. They had drawn it on enlarged satellite maps of the Island. Now the Island had a name.  Eyan had to smile as he looked over a map naming the Island Serenity.

He could see the position of the runway down the center of the island, running right up to the hill at the heel of the boot.  They had a large structure cut into the side of the hill where the runway terminated at a large tarmac.  He could see another outline that followed the entire top of the hill and extended out over the structure at the bottom of the hill. Marc explained that this would be the perimeter of the house that would sit on top of the hill; some of it directly above the hanger facility far below, but still connected by an elevator.  He could also see a dock and pump house located in the cove area.  Next, Mike pulled out more drawings that even Marc had not seen; now it was his turn to be surprised.  Mike had a full set of drawings for the house as he proposed it.  Marc said, “I’m not even going to ask when you had time to do these,” knowing that they had worked together eight and ten hours a day – almost every day – over the past two weeks. The drawings were not just floor plans but were, in fact, full color pencil renderings of the rooms and exterior deck, kitchen and workout room with tech facility center.  The house itself was 4,600 square feet.  It was constructed of free-form concrete and structural-tied rebar, as were the other two structures making up the compound.  The house was an amazing feat of engineering; the ocean side of it was nearly all glass floor-to-ceiling.  Each six-foot wide section of one and a half-inch thick glass, pivoted on a center axis, working like multiple giant vertical louvers. The automated weather sensors continually adjusted the doors to shunt any excessive wind or rain from the structure.  The exterior terrace that surrounded the entire house was slightly over twenty feet wide, constructed of concrete with imbedded crushed black lava rock.  Each of the large four bedrooms had a double pivotal glass doorway to the exterior deck and large private bath.  The main room that faced the west, looking through the pivoting animated glass panels, was somewhat pie-shaped.  The point of the pie was a large open kitchen area that led to a central hall to the rear of the house.  Off of the hallway was a fifth bathroom and workout facility with all the toys, sauna-room and a whirlpool bath included.  Moving on down the hallway was the entrance to the elevator that descended to the hanger facility that was carved into the rocky hill that the house sat upon.  Beyond the elevator, on down the hall, were the doorways to the four bedrooms.

Mike then opened up more drawings; these were of the lower supply and hanger facility.  The floor plan would accommodate two auxiliary living quarters, each 700 square feet, with a sizable general storage room on one side of the hall.  On the other side were two areas, one a small electrical mechanical room equipped with bathroom and storage facilities for aircraft general maintenance.  The other, a large storage area for dry goods and fresh and frozen foods.  Then, of course, was the actual hanger itself – big enough for a large corporate jet.  Above the hanger, on the second level, was the in-door shooting range and armament room.

Marc had been on the phone with Martin Colby in Madrid several times during the prior week discussing his thoughts about a possible aircraft for The Serenity Group.  After arriving at the fact that there were several needs that could not be overlooked before acquiring such a craft, Martin said that he might be able to help them acquire a craft that both filled their needs, and would be financially within their reach.  What he proposed was that The Serenity Group lease Martin’s Gulfstream G150 from the Die/Hex Corp.  There were tax benefits for his company in buying out the aircraft’s lease, and he had a new G250 due for delivery in a month or so, anyway.

Knowing the size of the aircraft was helpful in designing the hanger facility without a doubt; however, Colby’s offer solved a more pressing problem that either of them had really considered.  The Island of Serenity was located in such a remote area that a small aircraft simply didn’t have the range to reach it. This forced them into a larger aircraft that would cost much more to operate and maintain.  They had amassed a small fortune and that was the problem – that they had amassed a small fortune.  They now realized Serenity was going to cost more – much more.  Over the next few days, the three of them worked to refine the plan for Serenity.  When they cleared the runaway for use, they would leave the overhead canopy intact.  This would save time which would translate to money.  It ran almost two-thirds of the length of the island’s runway.  But because of the rise at the heel of the boot, one could only land or takeoff in one direction; takeoff to the west and land to the east.  The dense foliage on all sides would also help shield the landing and takeoffs from extreme cross-winds.

Mike had made arrangements for his second-in-command to take over the cruise and charter business for the interim.  He was far too busy to do both jobs.  He and Eyan set sail for the Island the next morning to begin doing the survey work in advance of the first of many island freighters that would be arriving over the next few weeks.

Marc, on the other hand, was packing his bags, enroot to Spain to finalize the paper work with Martin on the G150’s lease.  Marc knew that this could most likely be done by e-mail, but the real fact was, he wanted to see Dara again.

CHAPTER TWELVE

Reality Sucks

When Marc arrived at Madrid’s Barajas Aeropuerto, he was retrieving his baggage from the turnstile when he heard a familiar voice from over his shoulder say, “Hey, stranger – need a ride?”  He turned to see Dara standing directly behind him, wearing a glowing smile.  He reached out and pulled her toward him and whispered in her ear, “I’m looking for the ride of my life; how about you?” She said, “It could be arranged, but only if you’re ‘up’ for it,” as she returned the smile.  He retrieved his luggage and they made their way to Dara’s newly-purchased split-level townhouse, a short distance down the road from Villa Martini.

They pulled into the driveway and turned off the car.  Marc said, “So, how’s the new job working out with Martin?” Dara looked over at him and said, “What you see is what you get.  He’s fine – a perfect gentleman in public and in private, he takes no advantage.  It’s amazing, in general.  It’s a lot different than working at Europol but, I have to admit, I miss the excitement a lot.”

As they got out of her car, Marc’s attention was pulled away from Dara’s lure, and he finally noticed that the car was a brilliant blood red as he closed the trunk lid, after retrieving his luggage.  He said, “Nice ride – and I like the color.”  Dara’s reply was, “If you work for Martin, you learn to love red through osmosis; it comes with the paycheck.  Besides, it’s hard to bitch about a $230,000 work vehicle,” as she pressed the lock button on the remote to the SLS-AMG Benz.

As they walked up the narrow entry to Dara’s front door, Marc noticed from behind that Dara had cut off a sizeable length of her hair.  As she keyed in her entry code on the door lock, Marc said, “Do you change the length of your hair often?”  He suddenly realized he really didn’t know a great deal about her.  Dara opened the door, and then turning to him said, “You know, you would have made a great detective.  And the answer to that is no, I don’t usually, but I find myself at a lot more social functions in strapless gowns.  So, I wear my hair up and it’s a lot easier to do at this length.” She reached behind her and swirled her hair up into a bun, striking a model’s pose.  Marc dropped his baggage, as he stepped closer to her and took her in his arms.  He held her for an instant; there wasn’t a nook or cranny of either of their bodies that didn’t fit perfectly together. Marc said, “I’m ready for that ride right now!”

The next morning, Marc and Dara drove to Villa Martini and were greeted at the entrance to the main house by Martin.  After the niceties were shared, they got down to business, discussing the aircraft lease.  Martin as usual, had everything broken down into a simple contractual agreement.  Marc was astounded at the information.  Martin had also put together a projected ownership cost evaluation so that there would be no rude surprises for The Serenity Group.  After reviewing the information, Marc was satisfied that he and Eyan would indeed be able to support the outlay of capital necessary to support this part of the venture.  He made arrangements with Martin for the aircraft to be delivered to the airport in Honolulu when he received the new Gulfstream 280 that was on order.  Later, after signing all the paperwork and finalizing the deal, they, including Ashton Stiles, had drinks and caught up on the information on the Island project.  They then enjoyed an amazing dinner prepared by Martin’s new chief chef at the villa.  A short while later, Marc made a reference to being tired, possibly from the jet lag, and suggested they head toward her condo.  Martin and Stiles smiled, they both knew he was looking for some private down time with Dara.

Early the next morning, Marc remembered his e-mail alert on his phone chiming sometime during the night.  He retrieved his phone and read his messages.  One from Eyan said that he had returned to the main Island to order some special equipment for the work on Serenity and was planning on returning to the Island in two days’ time on a supply boat. One of the other messages was from Robin Evans, their partner in the dive shops, saying he had found the location for the third shop just below Santa Cruz and was negotiating a lease for the property.  The last of the mail was from someone that Marc did not know, named Nicklaus Marquand.  The voice mail said, “I have been given your contact information by Martin Colby.  He has assured me that you possess the qualities necessary to assist me in extracting my son’s wife and my grandson out of Cairo, Egypt.  As you may know, the social unrest has grown far beyond what was expected, very quickly.  My son’s wife and my grandson were visiting him when all this occurred.  He was at work at his station at the U.S. embassy when it all started to come unraveled.  He was assigned courier papers and given orders for extraction by Marine helicopter to a ship in the Mediterranean two days ago.  My daughter in-law, Renae, and grandson, Max, were at his residence.  We have been in contact with them by cell phone a few hours ago.  They are safe, but sequestered in their apartment near Tahrir Square.  I don’t know anything about the Serenity Group.  Martin was playing it very close to the vest, but I trust him.  Please contact me at your earliest convenience.”

Marc wrote down the contact information and dialed Eyan, hoping to catch him still on the main island.  He and Dara had also planned to spend a few days in Valencia at the Mediterranean Shores Boutique Spa, playing with the go-fast boat and such, but reality sucks at times.

He was able to catch Eyan before his departure back to the island and fill him in on the call from Marquand. He asked Eyan to begin assembling the gear needed for the retrieval before ending the call.  He then returned Marquand’s call and was filled in on the missing information.

Marc called Martin and thanked him for the referral also saying that if any paperwork needed to be signed on the Gulfstream, he would need to do it quickly not knowing how long it would take to get a flight out.  Martin said, “Marc, I have no pressing need for the aircraft.  How about I have Stiles drop over and pick you up?  You can be on the ground in Hawaii by sunrise tomorrow, and back in Cairo the next.  We can settle up later, and it will give you an idea of what you can expect of the aircraft.”  Marc was once more taken by Martin’s generosity and said, “Martin that’s a generous offer but things are beginning to get a little out of balance, don’t ya’ think?” Martins answer was simple, “Not when you consider that I still have Laurel to watch grow-up.  I’ll have Stiles call you as soon as he can get the plan in action.” And then he said, “Goodbye.”  Marc had met a lot of people worth a lot of money, but Martin was one that stood above all the rest, he was possibly the most unpretentious person he had ever met.

Just then, Dara came walking out of the bedroom to the main living room. She was still towel drying her hair having just stepped out of the shower.  She was positively radiant with her usual full-body tan.  It must have been the look on Marc’s face or perhaps she was just a bit clairvoyant.  She knew something was up saying, “Why do I have the feeling were not headed to Valencia?”

Copyright © 2016; All Rights Reserved

Published by

Laura Brooks

Published author of four books. See more about me on Amazon's Author Central.

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