The small jet was much like the pictures Bill had seen in brochures. White stitched leather covered the chairs. A small bathroom was wedged in the back of the cabin. The airport’s tension was behind him, but Bill’s body remained taut as he huddled close to Joshua, who sat opposite of him.
Bill said, “Let me get this straight. A brother I don’t remember signed on with the CIA because his father’s friend betrayed their family, caused his parents’ deaths, and decimated the company.”
Bill continued, “After that, Harold agreed to work with the CIA to save his father’s company. However, a sting Harold was involved in failed because a tracking circuit designed by some CIA engineer blew their cover.”
“Now, this guy is after the CIA operative, right?”
Joshua answered, “That about covers it.”
Bill raised his eyebrows, “How do you figure? Why would this guy care about any of us? I thought you said he credited Harold and Darla with saving his life once. Why would he come after me? Harold and I don’t even know each other.”
“You said you think he called you when you were living in uptown Charlotte. Did he believe you when you said you didn’t know Harold?”
“The guy didn’t sound as if he cared. It was like he was trying to convince me that it was a fact more than fish for information. I thought it was a scam.”
Joshua answered, “Possibly.”
Bill asked, “Besides, you and Darla were back in the warehouse. Why didn’t they grab one of you? Those guys asked for me.”
Joshua shrugged, “I’m afraid you’ll have to ask Darla. That’s a question for the CIA.”
Bill sat up and looked out over the teal waters of the Caribbean. The shadow of coral and other objects appeared through the clear water.
He looked back and to Joshua and raised his voice, “How much longer?”
Joshua looked out the window, “Oh, we should be landing very soon.”
“Where are we?”
Joshua answered, “I’m afraid I never figured that out. Harold and Darla say it’s outside U.S. waters. Harold owns his own little country, in a sense.”
“So, my brother is a king and a Chairman of the board?”
Joshua smiled, “Something like that.”
Frank turned around from the cockpit and hollered, “Buckle up, we’re ready to land.”
Bill noticed Joshua tightened his seatbelt, so he followed suit. Joshua’s knuckles were white as the plane descended closer to the water. Bill faced the rear of the plane from his chair. The jet slowed, and an alarm sounded intermittently from the cockpit. Each time it clanged, the engines increased and then decreased again. The aircraft was so low that Bill was afraid they would hit the water.
He barely caught a glimpse of the runway extending out into the ocean when the wheels firmly planted on the asphalt. For a moment, his back was pressed hard into the seat, unable to move. The brakes released, and they slowly rolled several feet before pulling to the side.
The two men unbuckled, and Darla appeared from the cockpit.
She looked over at Joshua, “I hope that wasn’t too dramatic.”
Bill asked Joshua, “You don’t like to fly.”
“I don’t like small planes. Darla, you did an excellent job as usual.”
Frank hollered from inside the cockpit, “I heard that. You’re going to hurt my feelings.”
Joshua answered, “It’s alright, Frank. You’re a close second.”
The three gave a short laugh, and Bill stretched his arms and touched both sides of the cabin.
Joshua turned to Bill, “Please, wait here for a moment. I don’t know if Harold knows you’re on board.”
Darla spoke up, “Trust me, he knows.”
Joshua nodded once, “Well then, it’s time to meet your brother.”
Frank remained in the cockpit, checking instruments and writing in the log. Darla opened the door and led the way. Next came Joshua. Bill walked to the opened door, and his eyes grew wide.
Two men with sub-machine guns stood a few yards away. A young Hispanic woman barreled into Joshua and squeezed his waist until his face was crimson. Darla embraced a large man who was standing just beyond the stairs. Bill was shocked at how different Harold looked in person than his business magazine photos.
His red hair was no longer professionally styled, and he had grown a furry, red beard. Bill thought the man resembled a lion. A warm breeze hit Bill in the face, and his flannel shirt and jeans that were so comfortable a few hours ago in the mountains only added to the sweat from his nerves.
Bill made his way down the short steps, and Harold walked briskly in his direction. Bill extended his hand, and Harold caught him up in a tight embrace and lifted his feet off the ground. Bill could feel his face flush for what felt like several seconds.
Harold finally put him down and said, “I’ve waited for this moment my whole life.”
Pain emanated from Bill’s side. He rolled up his sleeves as sweat dripped off his forehead.
Harold asked, “Well, what about you?”
Bill cleared his throat awkwardly, “I’m sorry, I’m not sure what to say. I didn’t know I had a brother until today.”
Harold’s eyes narrowed, and his gaze dropped to the asphalt.
Darla stepped forward and spoke up. “Honey, Chuck’s men gave us a sendoff.”
He looked up and grabbed Darla’s arm, “What? Are you alright?”
Darla nodded, “Bill made sure of it. I’m afraid he’s as protective as you. I didn’t have any suspects to interrogate.”
Harold turned back to Bill, and a broad smile poked out from his bushy face. “Oh, you took out the bad guy?”
Bill shrugged, “Something like that.”
Harold gave him a light punch on the shoulder, “I appreciate that, even if my wife doesn’t. It seems the CIA teaches their agents that it’s worth taking a bullet just to gather information.”
Bill looked down, “I’d rather not talk about it.”
Harold whispered, “First time?”
Bill shook his head.
Harold spoke softly, “I understand. We’ll talk later.”
Joshua spoke up, “Why don’t I show Bill to his bungalow.”
“Bungalow?” asked Harold. “I don’t think so. Bill can stay in the main house.”
Bill raised his hand, “Do I get a say in this?”
Harold answered, “Of course.”
Bill responded, “If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to stay near Joshua, at least for now.”
Harold took a step back, “Then the bungalow it is. Joshua will show you around. I would be honored if you’d join Darla and me for dinner. Joshua, you and Maria are invited as always.”
The Hispanic woman Bill noticed earlier walked up and inserted herself between Harold and Bill. “I guess you didn’t notice me. Boys have no manners. I’m Maria Zeev, Joshua’s wife.”
The twinkle in her eyes made Bill smile. She opened her arms, and Bill gave her a hug. Something was inviting about Maria. For a moment, Bill could imagine himself in his mother’s arms, if he had had a mother.
She released him. “Joshua and I will take you to where you’ll be staying.”
Harold stuck out his hand and shook Bill’s. “I’m so glad we’re finally together. We’ll talk more at dinner.”
He and Darla grabbed an empty jeep and drove away. Joshua directed Bill to another jeep, and they all piled in. Maria took the driver’s seat and then turned to Bill and asked, “Did you bring a change of clothes?”
Bill answered, “Just what I have on my back. We had to leave in a hurry.”
Joshua answered, “I’m afraid Chuck’s men insisted.”
Maria pursed her lips and then asked Bill, “Was there shooting?”
Maria slugged Joshua in the arm. “I told you. You see, you shouldn’t go on these missions. There’s always shooting.”
Joshua rubbed his shoulder, “We were perfectly safe.”
Maria said something in Spanish that Bill couldn’t understand, but it was not pleasant judging from her tone. Joshua grimaced. She turned, started the vehicle, and spun the wheels as they headed away from the airstrip.
Maria eased off the gas pedal as they turned a corner. Joshua pointed over towards a narrow road, “Over there is the pier and fishing boat. Do you do any fishing?”
“What Carolina boy doesn’t?” answered Bill.
“Ever do any ocean fishing?”
Bill answered, “Only up in new England.”
Joshua said, “Good, we’ll have to go out. Harold’s a big fisherman too.”
“From the looks of him, Harold is a big everything.”
The three laughed as Maria stopped the jeep between a two-story bungalow with a huge front porch and a single-story building.
Maria said, “This is where we get out.”
Joshua asked, “Maria, do you mind if I take Bill by myself to his bungalow?”
Maria answered, “Okay. I need to call Frank and see if we can get Bill some clothes. In the meantime, I’ll pick out a couple of things from your closet. You two are about the same size.”
Bill said, “Thanks.”
The two men entered the building. Joshua pointed around the open floor plan, “There isn’t much to it. A kitchen over there, and you’re in the great room. Through those sliding doors are the master bedroom and bathroom. I hope you like marble because the master bathroom is covered in it.”
Bill responded, “Harold didn’t strike me as the marble type.”
“It was the previous owner.”
Bill asked, “Anyone I’ve heard about?”
Joshua walked towards the front door, “He’s dead, so it doesn’t matter. Let’s just say this place was like Epstein’s island before he made the news.”
Bill crossed his arms, “I hope you cleaned the place up.”
Joshua chuckled, “Cleaned and sterilized. Check the place out, and when you feel up to it, come on over, and we’ll talk for a little while.”
Joshua left, and Bill walked over and looked inside the refrigerator. To his surprise, it appeared to be freshly stocked with Juice, Milk, meats, cheese, and every other staple he could think of. He checked the cabinets, and in addition to glasses, plates, and utensils, he found a fully stocked spice rack. Bill stretched and made his way into the bedroom.
The king-size bed looked comfortable, and the cold breeze coming from the air conditioner made him feel sleepy. He peeked inside the bathroom. Marble covered the jacuzzi garden tub, standalone shower, and even the sink pedestal. Bill rolled his eyes and then walked over and laid down on the bed.
He yawned and reached for his phone to call Carol. Bill stopped himself, rolled over on his back, and slapped the bed.
He looked up at the ceiling and said, “Of course, she crushed my phone. I guess I’m a bird in a gilded cage.”
Bill closed his eyes for a moment. His breathing soon slowed. After a few minutes, his eyes began to twitch underneath his eyelids, and his breathing became shallow.