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|Chapter 18: Errors of Omission|
The second night at the club proved somewhat better than the first. Keith had succeeded into rounding up two part-time strippers, which helped avoid the burnout problem with the audience they’d had the night before. Eric had repeated his performance behind the bar, donning the mask and leather shorts again, but he limited himself to a dance on top of the bar, well aware that he’d made a hash of it onstage the night before. It irked him a little: a challenge he hadn’t yet mastered.
After closing, Keith paid off Charlie and the two strippers, who were eager to be on their way. As soon as they’d gone, Keith locked up and again counted the money on the counter. “Fourteen hundred and eighty,” he said, relieved that the take hadn’t been lower, though fully aware that it was not what it could have been. “That puts us about two grand ahead, including our tips. Eric, are you okay with half, like we talked about?”
With a one-shouldered shrug, Eric replied, “Nope. Look, I know you guys didn’t make what you’d hoped, and you lost your jobs too. I rented this place for rehearsal space, so as far as I was concerned that money was gone. What you two did this weekend let me see the routines, so from my end, everything’s good. There’s also the fact that I’ve had fun. I don’t get out much, so this was a real change of pace for me. Anyway, the way I see it, you guys owe me about a hundred bucks for the additional electric bill, and that’s it.” Eric reached out and grabbed a stack of banknotes, peeling off six twenties for himself before handing the depleted pile back and adding, “The extra twenty bucks is just to piss y’all off after I said a hundred.”
Jansen laughed, and Keith began to object, though Eric’s expression, combined with the dancer’s own financial mess, deterred him. Instead, as one, Jansen and Keith replied, “Thanks.”
With that settled, Eric asked, “I wrap at the studio on Tuesday night, so any problem with a Wednesday morning departure?”
Jansen and Keith, with visions of exotic islands in their heads, shared a grin. “Sounds great! No problem here.”
Perplexed, having no idea what the General could be up to, Wilhelm gave the order to return to the compound, double-time. As the platoon moved out, he said to the General, “There’s too much open ground in the compound, it’s not defensible.” General Bradson didn’t answer.
Moving to the head of the column, General Bradson led the platoon into the compound, heading straight for the flagpole. He noticed Yuri, standing off to one side, watching with puzzled interest. Reaching the twenty-foot pole, General Bradson turned to face the platoon. In a booming voice, he declared, “How about we make those guys go running again today? Help me get this flagpole down and broken up for firewood!”
Wilhelm watched in stunned silence as the men of his platoon surged forward, some cheering as they attacked the flagpole, but all clearly enthusiastic. It wasn’t the fact that the General had won again that most impressed Wilhelm; it was the fact that the General had so smoothly gained the support of the men… Wilhelm’s men. Wilhelm held command, but the General, it was plain for all to see, was the leader. That realization was a bitter one for Wilhelm, and the thought of Felecia’s likely reaction to a second loss did nothing to cheer his mood.
The old wooden spar surrendered to the troop’s assault with a groan and then a snap, toppling to slam into the dust. Eager hands picked up the broken wood and without waiting for direction from the General, they slammed it down against a rock, splintering it and breaking it in half. More effort was required before the flagpole was rendered into pieces, none longer than two feet, and stacked in the remains of the morning’s campfire.
The campfire’s glowing embers ignited the dry, splintered wood and within minutes, a roaring blaze engulfed the remains of the flagpole. Smiling at the General’s ingenuity, Yuri turned to walk up the steps of The Scar’s house.
Helen leaned back in her plush leather chair, surveying the glaringly neat surface of her oversized desk. The day’s mail had been delivered, and once again, nothing from one particular RSVP.
With a snort of irritation, Helen decided that there was no point in delaying the inevitable. The choice of which one to speak to was easy enough, but reaching her, less so. Taking a chance, Helen picked up her phone and dialed the one number she had.
A woman’s voice answered on the third ring, and Helen allowed herself to hope as she said, “Hello, Mrs. Carlshitski. My name is Helen, and I’m your sons’ manager. Can we talk for a moment?”
“Is anything wrong?” Jane Carlshitski asked, with a hint of concern.
Choosing her words with care, Helen replied, “Everyone is okay, that’s not the reason for this call. Are you free to speak?”
“I’m not busy, but if you’re referring to other matters, JT is out, and I’ll speak to whom I damn please in any case, so yes.”
Taking a deep breath, Helen said, “This concerns the wedding. I need an answer regarding the RSVP I sent. I do hope that one or both of you can attend.”
“What wedding?” came the sudden reply. “I’ve received nothing.”
Thinking that there may yet be hope, Helen replied, “I sent it via registered mail, so the invitation was received. The wedding, Ma’am, is that of your son, Chase Carlisle, and Brandon Wolfe.”
After a long silence, Jane said in a pained voice, “I’ve read that they’re getting married. I’m… not entirely comfortable with the idea. I didn’t think that JT or I would be welcome there, in light of… what happened in the past.”
Daring to smile for the first time during the call, Helen replied, “You were sent an invitation. You would be very welcome.”
In a firmer, more businesslike tone, Jane asked, “Helen, if you are able to, I should like to know the day and time the invitation was delivered. I was unaware of it until your call, and I think we both know what likely happened. As for the wedding, if you are sure no one would object, I would very much like to see my sons again, so I would like to attend. I have my own car, so JT can’t stop me from going. When and where will it be?”
“I’ll find out the approximate delivery time and let you know. However, you can’t drive to the wedding, Ma’am. It’s in the Canary Islands, this Thursday.” Helen heard a disappointed sigh from the other end of the line and added quickly, “I can pick you up Wednesday morning at whichever airport is convenient for you. You don’t need to worry about accommodations or transportation arrangements; they’re all taken care of.”
There was no hesitation in the reply. With a voice firm with resolve, Jane said, “Payette Municipal Airport would be ideal for me, and they can take a business jet, which I assume you’ll be using. Just tell me when and I shall be there.”
Smiling with relief, Helen said, “Ten o’clock, Wednesday morning.”
Another pregnant silence followed, and then Jane said, in a less-certain tone, “If you call back and speak with JT, please don’t mention that I’m going, or aware of the invitation.”
“I won’t call at all, Ma’am, and I look forward to meeting you.”
As the resort’s bellhop led the way with the luggage, Eric watched Jansen and Keith while they stared at the resort, acting like little kids at Christmas. Their joy was infectious, and Eric felt it vicariously, seeing the resort anew through their eyes.
Reaching the first suite, the bellhop opened the door and all three guys followed him in. Jansen and Keith looked around, seeing the lavish Spanish-style living room with terra-cotta floors, which opened, onto a private, walled patio, and then checking out the two well-appointed bedrooms. The bellhop said, “Gentlemen, please call if you need anything at all.” Turning to face Eric, he said, “Mr. Carlisle, you have the single suite across the terrace, the same one you had before.”
The bellhop hurried out, waiting for Eric to follow. Eric glanced at Jansen and Keith to say, “I’ll be back in a few minutes,” and then turned to leave before the dancers saw his knowing smile.
The bellhop closed the door as soon as Eric was through, leaving Jansen and Keith alone in their suite. They were excited enough that they felt no hint of jetlag. Keith settled gingerly into the plush couch, his head still awhirl from the events of the day. He and Jansen had never seen a private jet close up before, let alone ridden on one, and that had been but the first event of the day. They were as much strangers to Eric’s world as he was to theirs, and they’d felt it, in full force. Eric had been friendly and happy during the flight, but both Jansen and Keith had seen him in his element and it had re-enforced to them the fact that Eric, though he might play the role of a friend, was part of a very different world, a world with rules they did not know.
Jansen sank into a recliner, his eyes still roaming the suite’s living room, and Keith hated to bring him down, but there was a matter that could not wait. “The bellhop said Eric had a single suite. That means one bedroom. So how come we’ve got a double?” Keith said, arching an eyebrow meaningfully in Jansen’s direction.
It took a second, but Jansen realized what Keith had meant. “Maybe Eric didn’t want to book two guys into a one-bedroom?”
Shaking his head, Keith replied, “I doubt that’s why. He’s hosting a gay stag party and a gay wedding, so I don’t think putting us in a one-bedroom would worry him that way.”
“Got me… Maybe we should just ask him?” Jansen suggested.
Shaking his head earnestly, Keith replied, “No, that might open up subjects we don’t want to discuss. Hell, maybe it’s just a booking mix-up. All I know is, I was expecting something more like a motel room and this place is like a dream. This is going to be paradise, man.”
Jansen got up out of his chair, and said as he headed towards his suitcase, “Yeah, I can’t wait to get out there and see this place. Did you see those pools?” Jansen fished out a pair of shorts, and headed for a bedroom to change, lugging the case along behind him.
Answering the door a couple of minutes later, Keith stood back as Eric walked in, decked out in flame-print boardies and sunglasses.
Jansen, who felt more comfortable around Eric, did stare for a moment, nodded approvingly, and said, “You look like you’re ready to hit the pools or beach. Us too. Want to show us around? Don’t forget the party venue; we’d love to see it.”
Grinning, Eric said, “Yeah, sounds like a plan. This place is great; you guys will love it. Pools all over, swim-up bars, weight rooms, a disco, you name it, it has it.”
Eric spent the rest of the afternoon showing Jansen and Keith around, all three guys enjoying the sun and warm breezes. Keith, with Jansen in tow and Eric watching, checked out the party venue, taking almost an hour, making sure everything was just right. His verdict was the one Eric had hoped for. “You’re right, this is perfect. A kick-ass location. Can we rehearse here a couple of times, to get the feel of the place?” Keith asked.
“Yeah, no problem, just have me notify the front desk first. There’s a dinner scheduled for later in the week, but aside from that, it’s all ours. I even had a couple of ideas to throw at you guys,” Eric said, struggling to keep a straight face as he wondered how they’d handle the suggestions he had in mind.
Keith nodded, taking a last walk around the dance floor. “Great. Okay, any way we can help with the stuff you need to do?”
Eric shook his head. “Nah, I’ve got it pretty much handled. I figure this is mainly vacation time.”
That night, after finishing dinner, Eric spied Linda and Jim, sitting in a cozy booth. Turning to face Jansen and Keith, he said, “I want to introduce you guys to some other friends of mine. Follow me.” Arriving at their booth, Eric handled the introduction. “Jansen, Keith, this is Jim, who handles some of our security, and his wife Linda. They’re here on their honeymoon.”
The big biker, dressed in a very loud Hawaiian shirt, grinned. “Pleased to meet you guys. I hope Eric isn’t driving you crazy?” Jim said with a laugh.
“Always,” Jansen replied with a smirk, “He’ll soon have us as crazy as he is.”
Linda pointedly stared at Jansen and Keith before saying, “I know who you guys are. Very nice. Good choice, Eric. This is one act I’m really looking forward to seeing.”
The waiter chose that moment to arrive, carrying two flaming game hens. As soon as the waiter had departed, Eric said, “We’ll let you guys eat in peace, I just wanted to introduce you. Now, I’ve got to go kick Jansen and Keith’s asses in the video arcade.”
As soon as Eric and the dancers were gone, Jim said, “Is it just me, or is Eric steering clear of us since we’ve been here? He never sticks around long.”
Linda chuckled. “Yes, he is, and it’s because we’re on our honeymoon. I think it’s very sweet of him. He doesn’t like to show it, but he’s got a big heart.”
“That he does, that he does.”
The next day, their first full day on La Palma, began with a late breakfast. Eric took his reluctant leave of the dancers and headed off to make the remainder of his phone calls.
The first call Eric made was to Helen, who answered with a groggy, “Hello?” and then proceeded to explain to Eric, at full volume, that late morning in La Palma is four AM in Los Angeles. Cringing a little from that oversight, Eric listened as Helen outlined the travel arrangements she’d made: The stag party guests: Brandon, Chase, and Jon, along with a dozen of the more open-minded members of Instinct’s crew, would be flying out via a chartered Gulfstream the day before the party. The wedding-only guests, which included Helen, Barbra, and a few older members of Instinct’s official family, would fly out on a Learjet, both from the same agency that Eric had used: Consolidated Jet Charters. Eric breathed a sigh of relief when he learned that the wedding guests, along with Helen and Barbra, would be arriving the day after the party, thus relieving him of the need to keep Helen away from it.
Helen had very carefully not told Eric that the Learjet would be making a detour to Idaho. She had been so intent on phrasing that evasion carefully that she forgot, until the call had ended, to ask Eric how the plans for the wedding were shaping up. She made a mental note to do so the next time they spoke.
Eric, on the other hand, was intrigued by the choice of aircraft, or more precisely, their source. He knew that one of those flights, perhaps both, would likely be piloted or co-piloted by a member of the same crew who had taken General Bradson to his destination.
After the call to Helen, Eric stopped by to see Jim and Linda, and listened while they told him excitedly about their scuba-diving adventures. Heartened that they were enjoying their honeymoon, Eric returned to his suite to make one last round of calls for the party.
By early afternoon, he was done, and sat back, basking in the realization that he now had several free days to spend relaxing, along with some friends to enjoy it with, in a place where, with a few precautions, he was unlikely to be recognized. Pure freedom awaited, and Eric decided that a walk on the beach was in order. With that in mind, Eric began rummaging through his luggage in search of his favorite swimsuit.
A few minutes later, Eric, wearing wrap-around sunglasses and white speedos, set out in search of Jansen and Keith. He knocked on their door, which Keith opened, giving Eric a view of Jansen on the phone. Eric strolled in, and Jansen stared for a moment, only to replace the phone in its cradle and say, “I just left you part of a message. We wanted to go rehearse…”
“Well, I’m here,” Eric said with a lopsided grin. “You guys feel like checking out the beach after rehearsal?”
Keith looked at Eric’s brief, low-cut swimsuit, and cocked his head sideways, a bemused smile on his face as he needled, “You’re going to the beach dressed like that?” In so doing, Keith surprised himself a little; it was the first time he’d treated Eric like a friend, without the tempering reserve of deference to an employer.
Eric laughed. “This isn’t California. Most of the tourists here are European, and a lot of Europeans wear speedos. So, why not take advantage of it? And since when do strippers worry about showing too much skin in public?”
Crossing his arms, Keith answered in an over-done tone of mock pomp and indignation, “The term, sir, is exotic dancers. We are, perchance, perhaps not incomparable paragons of modesty ourselves, and merely felt, for your own protection, that we must forewarn you to the potentially temerarious potentialities of so displaying your pulchritudinous self on a public shoreline. I daresay that, as your loyal vassals, it becomes exigent upon Jansen and myself to share your hazard in full.”
Eric looked at Keith for a few moments, before turning to Jansen and asking with a chuckle, “What did he eat for breakfast, a dictionary?”
With a shrug, Jansen flicked a thumb in Keith’s direction and answered, “Mister Show-off over there is painfully proud of his vocabulary, though he usually picks weird times to display it. When we were growing up, he’d do that to me all the time. I had to expand my vocabulary to know what the ass was saying. Allow me to translate from Keithese into English; he just said you’re damn hot, going to the beach like that is reckless, and therefore he’s volunteering us to dress the same way, so you won’t make too much of a spectacle of your hot self. Safety in numbers, and all that.”
Eager to stop Jansen from talking, Keith jumped in to say with a wink, “Actually, Jansen and I need to work on our tans for the party, so we might as well join in your exhibitionist ways on the beach.”
Crossing his arms in mock disgust, Eric grumbled, “I can’t believe I’ve just been called an exhibitionist, by a stripper!”
Speaking as one, Keith and Jansen replied in the same pompous tone, “The term, sir, is exotic dancer!”
As Jansen and Keith cracked up, Eric controlled his own laughter enough to say, “Potato, puh-ta-to, whatever! Get your dancing asses dressed, or undressed, and let’s get going, sun’s a wasting.”
“We’ll be stripping down to speedos at the rehearsal, we’ll just leave ‘em on. Let’s go show you one of our routines for the party first, I think you’ll like it,” Keith said with a hint of pride.
Twenty minutes later, Eric sat watching from a table near the dance floor, enjoying the show as Jansen and Keith finished up their act. It was to be the second act for the party, and included some hot gymnastics moves.
Stripped down to their matching light blue speedos, Jansen and Keith took a bow, and then joined Eric at the table where Keith asked apprehensively, “So, what do you think?”
Eric had kept his expression blank on purpose, and then broke into a broad grin as he began to clap. “I love it. Perfect for the second act,” he said.
“Tomorrow we’ll show you the first act, the one where one of us starts out dancing with Linda, and then we dance with each other.” Keith said, having picked up on the fact that Eric had kept a blank expression in order to tease him.
Eric grinned and slid his sunglasses on, “Okay, sounds good. Now let’s hit the beach.”
Eric led the way out of the building, turning left to walk on a concrete path towards the ocean. The route wound between several sprawling pools constructed to look like tropical lagoons, and Eric looked forward to feeling the sand between his toes. After passing between the last of the pools, Eric slowed as he found himself staring at a low wrought-iron railing which barred their path. It wasn’t the railing that surprised him; it was the view of the ocean beyond.
Eric jogged to the railing, with Jansen and Keith at his side. Gripping it and looking down at the sea below, Eric felt an icy pang of worry. Looking down, feeling a touch of vertigo, Jansen gripped the railing and asked, “Didn’t you say there was a beach, and that’s where Brandon and Chase are getting married?”
Swallowing once, still peering down the ragged face of the hundred-foot vertical drop at the surf-lashed rocks below, Eric replied, “Yeah. The website for this place said it was right on the ocean. I thought that meant it had a beach, not a cliff!”
Keith nodded dourly, seeing that they did indeed have a problem. “I don’t think Brandon and Chase would want to get married on a cliff… so maybe we’d better find a beach.”
Nodding, Eric spun around and headed towards the resort’s main office. “I’ll ask; there must be one around here somewhere. The problem is I need a private beach; otherwise, the press might show up and ruin everything. Shit, Brandon and Chase are going to fucking kill me… if Helen doesn’t beat them to it.”
Jogging to keep up with Eric, Jansen said, “Maybe you should ask the minister if he knows of one?”
Eric slammed to a halt and spun around. “Minister? I haven’t booked one yet. I was going to do that later. The wedding is on a weekday, so I figured it would be easy finding one.”
Suppressing the urge to roll his eyes, Keith replied, “Not for a gay wedding, dude. Lots of ministers won’t do those.”
Eric began pacing in a circle. “Fuck, fuck, FUCK!” he said, irritating some nearby guests in the process. “I was so busy planning the party, I pretty much blew off some of the wedding stuff. I figured a minister would be easy.”
After chewing on his lip for a moment, Keith asked, “Okay, start at the beginning. What do you have done for the wedding?”
“Helen has the flights arranged, so that’s covered. I’ve reserved rooms here, so that’s covered too,” Eric replied in a depressed tone of voice.
Eric’s crestfallen expression tugged at Jansen’s heartstrings. Eric, he was coming to realize, was like a fish out of water in some ways, and also headstrong: he’d clearly focused on the party to the exclusion of all else. With no hesitation, Jansen decided to help. “Okay, we have a problem, but we’ll deal with it,” he said, and cast a pair of pleading eyes in Keith’s direction.
Nodding, Keith said, “We need to take care of three big things: the marriage license, the wedding location, and the minister. I’m the business major, so I’ll handle finding out about the license. That should be easy. The minister and location will be harder.” Wrinkling his brow as a sudden thought crossed his mind, Keith asked, “Wouldn’t a big, fancy place like this have a concierge service?”
Eric slapped himself lightly on the forehead. “Helen always takes care of all the detail work when we’re traveling, so I’ve never really dealt with any of that kind of stuff before.”
Keith chuckled as he threw a friendly arm over Eric’s shoulders, “Strippers to the rescue. Me and Janse have worked a few private parties at hotels, so we’ve seen the way the high-end places handle all the details.”
Echoing Keith’s earlier tone of facetious indignation, Eric said, “The term, sir, is exotic dancers, and don’t you forget it!” Shifting back to his normal voice, Eric added, “Let’s go find the concierge and see what they can do.”
The formally attired desk manager didn’t bat an eye when the three nearly naked guys walked in, and simply did as asked, phoning for the concierge.
The concierge, a tall, rail-thin man in thick spectacles, hurried to the foyer, and within minutes was hurriedly scribbling notes. Once Eric had stopped talking, the concierge successfully fought the urge to roll his eyes at the lack of preparation. The concierge, being meticulous by nature, believed in planning everything down to the smallest detail. That was, after all, what he did. Reviewing his notes and then pausing to think for a few seconds, the concierge broke the tense silence to say, “I’ll get on it right away, Señor Carlisle. This is not the first same-gender wedding that I have handled. I have a minister in mind. The license can be obtained by taking the couple to the courthouse in Las Indias, a village about a mile inland from here, any weekday afternoon; I shall arrange it. The resort can handle the reception, including catering. The only difficulty that I foresee is finding a private beach. There are very few beaches of any kind on La Palma and to my knowledge, all are public. I would suggest that you hold the wedding here at the resort, or perhaps in the minister’s church.”
Letting out a sigh of despair, Eric sank down in this chair. “Brandon and Chase want to be married on a beach. I’ve got to find one.”
Nodding, the concierge shrugged and raised his hands, palms upward, “I am sorry, Señor Carlisle. The geography is against us. La Palma is a very steep island; the steepest in the world. Most of the coastline consists of steep cliffs, which plunge into deep water. For example, I do know of a beach less than a mile to the north of us, called Playa Zamora. It is tiny, a black sand beach set into a cove. It is however accessible to the public via a pathway down the cliff. There are some similar small beaches further north, but some are reachable only by sea, and many of those are at the base of thousand-foot cliffs. One difficulty with those, other than access, is that the cliffs consist of loose tuff in many places and are prone to rock falls.”
Becoming a little more animated as he perceived a ray of hope, Eric asked, “This… Playa Zamora, it’s a mile from here and it’s perfect except for being open to the public, right?” The concierge nodded, and Eric, beginning to smile as he realized that his problem was probably solved, said with a smile, “We’d like to see it.”
The concierge shoved his glasses further back on his nose and blinked in surprise. He was surprised that Eric would be willing to hold a celebrity wedding in a public locale, but he’d heard of stranger things, and he knew better than to argue with a guest. Picking up his phone, he spoke in rapid fire Spanish before hanging up and saying, “The resort’s car and driver are at your disposal. The driver speaks no English, but I have told him where you wish to go. He is waiting at the main entrance, immediately past the front desk, anytime that you are ready.”
Standing, Eric said to Jansen and Keith, “Let’s go have a look at the beach.”
With Jansen and Keith flanking him, Eric strolled through the large, multi-story foyer, and through the main doors, heading directly for the open door of the resort’s black Mercedes, held open by the driver. Eric slid into the back seat, followed by Jansen and Keith, who in spite of their profession felt a little under-dressed to be going for a drive. Jansen and Keith shared a glance, and then looked at Eric. Seeing his nonchalant expression, they again locked eyes and shrugged, assuming that he knew what he was doing.
Without a word, the driver pulled away, navigating the resort’s long, palm-flanked driveway and then turned left on a paved road.
Looking out the window, Jansen noticed that the road was lined with thick stands of banana trees – though not technically trees at all – something he’d never seen before arriving on the island. It was just one new thing amongst many, but he enjoyed it nonetheless.
The driver took a branch to the left, which soon turned into a graded gravel road. Just under a mile later, he turned left again, and bounced along a rutted dirt trail for a hundred feet, following the curve of a stand of banana trees, before bringing the car to a halt parallel to the edge of a cliff to the left. Without a word, but with a cheerful wave of his cap, the driver opened the right-hand rear door and ushered his passengers out, pointing past the front of the car.
The three boys, treading carefully to avoid the few pieces of lava rock which occasionally protruded through the dirt, walked north for a dozen feet. There, they found a narrow pathway which zigzagged down the nearly vertical cliff. Stopping to have a look, Eric began to smile, “This looks perfect. It’s close to the resort and a beautiful spot. Let’s go check out the beach.”
Following Eric down the paved pathway, which was bounded by a low stone wall on the downhill side, Keith had to agree: it looked like a spectacular setting, perfect, except for what looked to be about a dozen tourists clustered under gaudy beach umbrellas.
Reaching the bottom, Eric broke into a run, racing across the coarse black sand. Reaching the surf line, he bounded into the cool sea and turned to face the shore. It was then that he began to grin: he knew he’d found the place.
Eric waited patiently for the few seconds it took for Jansen and Keith to catch up, and as they reached the waterline, Eric kicked a small spray of seawater in their direction and raised his hands over his head in celebration. “Guys, this is the place. It’s perfect!”
Chuckling, brushing off the few drops of water, Keith turned his head towards the tourists thirty feet away and asked, “What about this being public?”
Aiming a wink at Jansen and Keith, Eric chuckled and said, “I may not be too good at handling some kinds of stuff, but this I can take care of. Trust me.”
For a few minutes, Eric, Jansen, and Keith chased each other through the surf, running the length of the beach, splashing and yelling.
Upon returning to the resort, Eric suppressed a grin as he came to a halt outside the concierge’s office and told Jansen and Keith in a serious tone, “I’ll be right out.”
Leaving a puzzled pair of dancers outside, Eric ducked into the office and spoke with the concierge for under a minute. He then emerged, smiling confidently, and announced as casually as he could muster, “All taken care of. I’ve had the beach closed to the public for the wedding and the local police will be enforcing the order.”
As Eric had expected, Keith and Jansen’s jaws dropped in unison. Shaking his head slightly, Keith asked, “How the hell did you manage that?”
“I’ll never tell. A rock star’s gotta have some secrets.” Eric replied with a wicked grin as he breezed past the two dancers, “Race ya to the pool bar!”
Jansen and Keith watched Eric dash away, and as they turned to follow, Keith said, “Maybe whatever he did has something to do with money, but damned if I can figure out what. He’s having us on, I know he is. He thinks it’ll drive us nuts if he doesn’t tell us how he pulled that off.”
Passing through the door onto the pool deck, Jansen replied with a grunt, “Yeah, and he’s right…”
After a few drinks with the guys at the sunken bar, where Eric once again resisted the siren song of tequila, Eric took a call on the hotel phone. Once the call ended, he sighed and shrugged. “No more alcohol for me today. That was my manager; I’ve got a conference call in two hours, with the sound engineer for our next album. It’s business, I’ve gotta do it. These things usually last for hours, so you guys are on your own tonight. Maybe you can go have a romantic dinner under the moonlight,” Eric said, hiding a grin.
“Uh, yeah, okay, but that sucks for you. Bummer,” Jansen said, while receiving a warning glance from Keith. Shifting the subject, Jansen said, “Come on, tell us how you pulled off closing the beach.”
“We’ve all got our secrets,” Eric replied with a sly grin, before doing a back flip off the submerged barstool and swimming away.
Shaking his head in frustration, Jansen told Keith, “Now I’ve gotta know,” and took off after Eric.
For the next two hours, Eric lounged in the sun with the two dancers, mainly chatting about the wedding and party plans. Just before he had to leave, Eric remarked in an offhand way, “Hey, I was thinking about that first act you guys will be doing. After you guys get each other’s shirts off, pull into a kiss, a really hot, long, and deep kiss. What’da’ya think?”
After a few second’s silence, Keith answered, “Yeah, that’s a possibility.”
Letting the subject drop, Eric bid them good night, and headed for his room to make the conference call.
Watching him go, relaxing in the rays of the setting sun, Jansen lowered his voice to a whisper to tell Keith, “I feel bad lying to him.”
“Me too,” Keith replied with a nod. “But we’ve gone this far, so we better stick it out. Maybe he’ll forget that idea.”
Watching the sunset a few minutes later, Keith said, “There’s a disco somewhere in the resort. Want to check it out after diner?”
With an unenthusiastic shrug, Jansen replied, “Might as well.”
Entering the small office, Yuri took a seat as The Scar asked, “I heard cheering outside. What is the General up to?”
Barely restraining his laughter, Yuri replied, “He has turned our flagpole into firewood and has it burning merrily.”
The Scar looked up, remaining silent for a moment before nodding approvingly. “Very clever of him. Felecia can’t run up her flag on a nonexistent flagpole, so he’s won, yet again, by using Felecia’s own rules against her. I do hope she appreciates the delicious irony. This also proves that I am right about him; he’s as able a tactician as I’ve heard, even in ground combat which is not his area of expertise, nor where we need him. He thinks laterally, coming up with innovative, unconventional solutions on the fly. This is why we need him, Yuri. He will serve us well in our quest, so long as he is kept in the dark.”
© 2008 C James
Please give me feedback, and please don’t be shy if you want to criticize! The feedback thread for this story is in my Forum. Please stop by and say "Hi!"
Many thanks to my editor EMoe for editing and for his support, encouragement, beta reading, and suggestions.
Thanks also to Shadowgod, for beta reading, support and advice, and for putting up with me.
Special thanks to Graeme, for beta-reading and advice.
A big "thank you" to to Bondwriter for final Zeta-reading and advice , and to Captain Rick for his advice.
Any remaining errors are mine alone.