I am currently rewriting this story.
It was originally called Brussels but I have changed the name because the story has become something different and the actual heist it was based on has also changed in its story, since the criminals appear to be captured.
Anyway, if you choose to read this story, please understand it is under complete reconstruction. : )
The Catalyst Heist
John Winterspoon’s heart raced gripping the steering wheel of the Mercedes Vaneo and he felt sweat forming in his palms as they sped into Brussels Zaventem International airport.
He looked in the rearview and the others were still close behind as they turned into and parked in a quiet parking lot under construction on the perimeter of the airport.
John’s co-pilot got out and began cutting the fence. John thought he would be sipping something from a flask right now but wasn’t, out of respect for the man in front of them so efficiently doing his work. It would be a perfect time but he wouldn’t want to get caught doing it. John bit his nails instead.
Thirty seconds later, Black Simon was back in the minivan’s front passenger’s seat and John nodded his approval of the job. Black Simon accepted the compliment with raised eyebrows, now with earbuds in somewhere under his dreadlocks, listening to either the Strokes or TV on the Radio. Black Simon was also known as the Rock ‘n’ Roller.
John looked at his watch and slowed his breathing.
Now they would wait for seven and a half long minutes.
He turned and looked in the backseat at Charlotte and Guidin.
They were already wearing their masks and their exposed eyes showed a calm preparedness that had always surprised him about the two of them, maybe more than his own complete willingness to be a part of what would be one of the greatest diamond heists in history, if they pulled it off.
He didn’t really have doubts because they were like the apostles and Spencer was the messiah.
Seven weeks and a day of training, months of scheming before that, and of course, their reason for the heist was enough for Spencer to convince everyone involved this would not fail.
John looked at his watch again as he heard Spencer’s voice on his blue-tooth headset.
“Five minutes,” Spencer said in French.
In exactly ten minutes they would be driving away with more than fifty-million dollars in un-cut diamonds and other jewels.
In the other car Spencer sat at the wheel smiling, allowing himself one brief thought of his wife, Anna, and then was back to encouraging his navigator, the sick, feverish Mathieu Archambault, who had come down with influenza three days prior. Mathieu had been the only one with some semblance of sleep in the last forty-eight hours, albeit feverish half-sleep.
“You’ll see your bed in Cote d’Azur in twelve hours,” Spencer reassures him in French.
“Je suis sûr,” Mathieu nods, massaging his salt and pepper scalp.
In the backseat the Creole and the Texan were playing two-man Bourré, which the Creole hated without seven or more players, but the Texan had convinced him to play since the game was still new and exciting to him.
“Trois minutes, mes amis,” everyone heard Spencer say.
John Winterspoon looked over at the Rock ‘n’ Roller and the two weapons he held.
Mathieu’s family had provided all eight of the old but still in good condition AK-47s.
They each had learned to adequately handle them and fire the antiques, as Spencer called them.
While Spencer and Archambault looted the airplane’s cargo hold the rest would be using them to threaten the pilot, copilot, two security guards and two more ground crewmembers but not to fire them, Spencer assured them they would not need to.
John looked at his watch. In two minutes they would break through the fence.
At that moment another vehicle pulled into the dimly lit parking lot with flashing lights.
“Stay calm, John,” Spencer communicated.
It was airport police.
An official got out of her car and motioned for John to roll his window down.
“What are you doing?” the officer asked, speaking Dutch, with a suspicious look on her face.
John said nothing but smiled and showed her a Ministry of Defence badge.
The officer looked at him and even longer at Black Simon sitting in the passenger seat.
John thought of every scenario they had rehearsed if this were to happen as he stared at the officer and matched her authoritative smile.
She shined her light into the back seat at Charlotte and Guidin, who had removed their masks.
Her smile weakened as she apologized.
The officer walked back to her patrol vehicle and drove away.
“Do you need to change pants, John?” Spencer laughed in all their ears.
The final minute felt the longest to John and he wondered how the rest were doing.
They waited for the green light from the team inside the Brussels Airport Security center.
In his car, Spencer looked over at Archambault. He wasn’t looking any better.
Turning to look in the back he saw that the cards had been put away and Spencer thought he heard the Creole say something quietly about his wife and daughter.
A deep guttural but clear affirmative from German, Thomas Oberhauser, aka Kölsch, and then one long moment later another word from John Witherspoon’s brother, James, and then the next would be Spencer’s.
“Let’s go!” Spencer ordered.
John looked at the Rock ‘n’ Roller and then the rear view, “It’s time!”
He gunned it and the minivan broke through the hole in the fence that separated them from an outer airport runway.
The two vehicles with blue flashing police lights sped down the airport tarmac toward their target, a Helvetic Airways jet set to takeoff to Switzerland.
In two minutes, coming to a screeching halt between a Brinks truck and the Zurich bound passenger airliner, all eight of them jumped out fully masked, brandishing the antiques.
John and the Rock ‘n’ Roller took the cockpit while the Creole and the Texan forced the Brinks security guards into the back of the armored truck at gunpoint. Charlotte and Guidin secured the two grounds crewmembers while Spencer and Archambault would handle the airplane’s cargo hold.
Mathieu Archambault was an expert lock picker so the Swiss Fokker 100 cargo hatch would be easy, except for the fact that he was now showing signs of delirium.
“It’s a very big plane,” Mathieu shouted.
Spencer shook off the nonsense, sprinting to the cargo hold, but then noticed Mathieu wasn’t.
“Archambault!” he yelled, dragging him to the side of the plane, “The Hatch!”
Looking at Archambault’s condition, Spencer began thinking of ways to open the hatch.
Sensing Spencer’s doubt, Mathieu Archambault smiled, closed his eyes, put his hands together palm to palm, and slowly shook his head.
“C’est facile,” Mathieu said, nodding and slowly beginning to focus.
In one small quiet moment, as if it were the only thing in the world happening at that moment, Spencer marveled at the sight of Archambault’s large hands doing such delicate and precise work.
Seconds later, the hatch was open and Spencer and Archambault were carrying packages from the plane to the cars.
One hundred and twenty seconds later they had all they came for.
“C’est fini,” they all heard Spencer say.
In another two minutes they sped away through the same hole in the fence they came through.
The raid was a success.
No one was injured. No shots fired.
Ten minutes later, the diamonds were safe and sound in the private jet of the Amsterdam Twins, Jade and Jude ‘Tad’ Arminias, taking off from the same airport they were stolen from, headed to Switzerland.
Five minutes before, in a garage, the exchange is made.
John Winterspoon screeched into a large open garage followed by Spencer.
Waiting for them was Tad Arminias dressed as a chauffeur, whose real name was Jude but Spencer called him Tad because he was a tad taller than his twin, Jade.
Siobhan was also there, waiting, to help Spencer dispose of the vehicles.
Spencer and Tad loaded the diamonds in a limousine Tad would be taking to a private jet back at the airport where Kölsch and Tad’s brother, Jade, would be waiting for them.
John Winterspoon and the Rock ‘n’ Roller said their goodbyes to everyone and left together as did the Creole and the Texan.
Tad would be taking Charlotte and Guidin to the airport for their flight to Los Angeles before driving to the jet.
Mathieu Archambault seemed to be feeling well enough as he said goodbye to everyone and drove away in his McLaren back to his villa near Nice.
New York was Spencer’s final destination but first the cars would be burned up.
“It was perfect, Siobhan, the whole thing,” Spencer said speeding away, watching the burning Mercedes minivan in his rearview mirror.
Siobhan didn’t speak or look at him but touched the interior of the car as if he’d never felt leather before.
Spencer noticed his silence.
“I know you’re not happy about the money. You’re going to need to be patient,” said firmly.
“Aye,” Siobhan grunted.
Siobhan Di Sicario, as his name might indicate, was a Scottish-Italian raised in Rome and completely Italian and although he hated his mother’s Gaelic side of the family he said ‘aye’ when he was unhappy.
Siobhan was peeved about how the money would be distributed even though he had no qualms with the plan when originally presented. Maybe he thought he could change the plan since he was the bookkeeper for the heist and so closely tied to everything financially but for reasons we didn’t know at the time Siobhan decided the plan didn’t suit him.
Spencer tried to do what he did with all of us, keep Siobhan focused on seeing it all the way through and for the right reasons.
“Siobhan, this is for your son, remember? And it’s going to pay off a hundred times, a thousand times. You know it.”
“I don’t know it!” Siobhan insisted, “And none of this will help Nils.”
Spencer saw that Siobhan had a gun pointing at him.
“That won’t help Nils,” Spencer said raising his right hand.
“Keep both hands on the steering wheel and shut up. No more talking. That’s all you’ve done is talk.”
“And steal fifty million in…”
Ten years later eleven people receive the same text message:
Lincoln Center. First Communion.
Anyone who cared about house music or electronica not only knew the name of John Winterspoon, they worshipped it. To the rest of the world he was known as DJ THUNDA. He was an American globe trotter who had branched out from deejay to clothes designer and travel expert with reality shows in both for six years strong.
From behind his mixer and sunglasses DJ THUNDA looks like half-god, half-mantis stretched out in full on prayer, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
DJ THUNDA received his text message at 2:48am Tokyo time as he rocked an entire 400-person capacity house of Tokyo’s Ginza elite.
In California, USA:
A full moon smiled down on a pair of reunited friends as they walked along Thousand Steps beach, California. It had been ten years since they had seen each other face to face and over thirty years since they held hands the first time as high school class mates. It was their one night together in high school. Since then Charlotte Brown and Rafael Guidin had been lifelong soul mates. Together they had experienced a total of five marriages, some ending in tragedy and others no less tragic divorce, but they had never married each other and although they knew they could never live life without one another they had never spent another night together after their one night in high school. As always, it felt perfect holding hands, enjoying the cool blissful nighttime sand under their bare feet.
Rafael received his text and then Charlotte received hers a second later. They held hands tighter.
In Louisiana, USA:
A rough and abrasive Creole, Vance Crane, sat in the captain’s seat of a high-tech bridge console, shouting instructions into a microphone, the same orders he had given nearly every single day the past ten years, steering his state-of the art tug boat down the Mississippi just minutes from its New Orleans destination.
He looked at a picture taped to the bridge console of a woman embracing a little girl.
“Almost home, girls.”
Twenty four straight hours deserved a rest he figured but it wouldn’t last long, especially after receiving his text. Crane reached up into an overhead compartment and pulled down its contents onto the floor of the bridge. He spotted what he was reaching for and picked it up. Picking up a logbook and scribbling nervously he thought about the text message. New York City! God, he hated New York.
Crane had heard of Lincoln Center but what the hell was first communion?
In Ohio, USA:
In Cleveland it was lunch time for Black Simon Davis and he was starving (Black Simon was a name he gave himself, when he was in a band with another Simon of another race). He would buy his lunch today, not that he was on a budget. He was frugal. He had plans for his money and it wasn’t to eat out every day or pay for cable TV or much of anything. He had done enough in the past to waste it. He had plans for his money, but today he was taking a nice lunchtime walk and would be eating at North Point. Black Simon loved his job at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It was his retirement, his way to stay busy. Studying rock and roll everyday had become his life. It’s not working if it’s something you love he had always said to his son. Black Simon walked as he looked at his phone and shook his head, reading his text. He sent another text to his sponsor. I’m definitely going to NA tonight.
He shook his head again and sighed as he opened the door to the restaurant.
In Texas, USA:
Sean Sutton received his text after rolling out of bed. He was thirty two years old and still living at home in an upstairs loft but no one blamed him. He was autistic and mute. But that didn’t mean he didn’t have friends or a job. It just meant nobody expected him to “change the world” and certainly no one in the world complained about him waking up at ten ‘til noon on a Monday morning, except maybe sometimes his mother.
He could get his work done by three and go back to bed if he wanted. He freaking wrote code in his sleep. And he got paid well for it. Not bad for someone who can’t talk and doesn’t know ‘how to relate’ to people.
When Sean received his text he was simply elated. He absolutely loved New York! It was his favorite place he remember his father taking him before he died. In fact, he was wearing one of the twenty or so ‘I (heart) NY’ tees he bought the last time he walked down Canal Street. His heart pitter pattered when he thought about more t-shirts and watches and Chinatown and Chumley’s and Central Park and Broadway and The Village, both East and West. His mind was going two miles a minute. He was booking his flight right now!
In the South of France:
She didn’t question it. Ever. She didn’t want to know. A plumber isn’t normally this rich or as tan. She knew that. Sometimes when she inadvertently snapped into reality it scared her to think that maybe he was a mobster from the Unione Corse or someone bad like that. Vous vivez seulement une fois. He was older, yes, but very tall and handsome, and insanely strong. Oh my god, how strong he was, and filthy, filthy rich! And to make it perfect his name was Mathieu, the same first name of the actor who played “Nino” in her favorite movie, Amélie, the one with Audrey Tautou. She called him Nino and he called her Amélie because that was her name. Amélie thought it wouldn’t last but spending night after night in his amazing Cote d’Azur villa was one fantasy after fantasy. Fantasme!
And tonight when he took her to dinner she would wear the silky red dress he bought her.
Mathieu Archambault’s phone vibrated, tinged, tinged and tinged again. Amélie picked it up, seeing one incoming text.
“Nino! c’est votre telephone!”
In New York, USA:
Sipping tea and sending text messages in a grayish green jumpsuit in the middle of Manhattan is nothing unusual because nothing is unusual in New York City. When it’s time for tea, it’s time for tea, no matter what you’re wearing. That was Spencer’s motto.
He was a tea drinking text sending janitor.
Spencer was also a mastermind.
In Tokyo at a few minutes past 3 a.m. DJ THUNDA graciously hands over mixer control to capable hands and his night is done. Far East promoter and long-time friend, Flame, escorts him out of the club, stopping more than a few times to allow for goodbyes from club staff, VIP guests, and fanatics, and into a courtesy car that had been patiently waiting for three minutes on a corner of the Sukiyabashi intersection.
“I want to rest at the hotel before the airport,” DJ THUNDA tells the promoter who is on the phone. Flame nods and ends the call as they speed away.
“The flight leaves at 9:55. How’s that?” Flame asks.
“Nice. Thanks. And-”
“I got it,” Flame interrupts, “Send everything to Texas.”
DJ THUNDA nods, looking over his sunglasses with a huge smile.
Flame shrugs and laughs.
“Why worry? I always got you. And why the rush?” Flame says.
“Business,” DJ THUNDA says nonchalantly.
“Oh,” Flame says remembering, pulling out a vinyl LP record jacket from his brief, “Here.”
DJ THUNDA holds the record jacket in his hand, touches the edge of the record inside with his fingertips, brings the jacket close to his face, and with deep inhalation smells it.
He thinks of how big an LP was in his little hands as a child and his mother reminding him not to scratch it when taking it off or putting it on the turntable.
The days of the needle were gone, and his mother too, but their power still lived on in DJ THUNDA.
“You going to tell me what you’re doing?” Flame asks.
“Maybe someday,” DJ THUNDA says, reclining, as the courtesy drives them through the packed Tokyo traffic to the Mercure Hotel.
A few hours later, feeling rested and almost transitioned from his role as god-like DJ THUNDA, John Winterspoon takes one last slow sip of Cîroc and toasts to Diddy. NOW he’s ready to be John.
John met Anderson Spencer, the mastermind of our story, after a show in a small breakfast café in Paris in 2011. They laughed and talked and exchanged info and over the next eighteen months developed a deep friendship, the kind that, because of shared experiences, would never end. They didn’t meet again in person until three weeks before the Brussels Airport heist, when he met everyone, including Spencer’s daughter, Angelina. She was six then. He had heard from Spencer that she had become a fan of his and the record Flame had given to him was for her. John laughed at the thought of Angelina growing up and looking like her father.
Spencer was somewhat of a short round jovial hunchback. He had a long curved nose and wore thick glasses. Somehow he had wooed and married his childhood sweetheart, the lovely Anna, and this before he had made any money to speak of. Surely Angelina favored her mother by this time, John thought, as he stretched out his legs in the last few minutes of the non-stop to L.A. Anna had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer but had now been completely cured for the last eight or nine years.
She’ll probably be there too, he figured. He assured himself there was nothing to worry about.
That same morning, Rafael Guidin drove to Charlotte Brown’s garden apartment in Los Feliz.
She said goodbye to her animals and promised them that their neighbor, Nancy, would be coming by to check on them and Rafael drove them to their favorite breakfast spot in Glendale on the corner of Chevy Chase and Brand.
John Winterspoon was waiting for them in a booth when they arrived.
He waved them over and got up to give each of them a hug.
“When did you get to L.A.?” he asked Guidin.
“A couple days ago,” Rafael replied, smiling at Charlotte.
“And to think I knew you when,” Charlotte says, studying the face of the man sitting across from her, now a global superstar.
“Is everyone supposed to be in New York?” John asked.
Rafael and Charlotte both shook their heads with some nervousness.
“Everything’s okay, isn’t it, John?” Charlotte asked.
He shook his head and shrugged.
Four hours later they took the same flight together to New York.
In Louisiana, Vance Crane woke from his long needed rest, still smelling like a tug boat, and stumbled into his kitchen. He was just in time to have brunch with Amanda, his teenage daughter, who would be leaving for her afternoon class at the university in Baton Rouge.
“School’s going good?” he asked.
“Yeah, Dad,” she said with muffled words behind a piece of toast.
“Do you need anything?”
“No, Dad. I’m good. When will you be back?”
Crane looked at her eyes. They were permanently tired and sad, like his.
His strong face hid his apprehension.
“I’ll be back soon, love,” he said smiling calmly.
She kissed him on the forehead, out of love and out of pity.
He didn’t blame her for thinking he had lived a life of tremendous underachievement, as if he had stopped living when her mother died.
He watched her walk from the kitchen to the front door. It was the way his wife walked, with a sway he was afraid someday he would forget.
That afternoon Vance Crane boarded a plane to New York City.
Black Simon Davis was a recovering heroin junkie and a lover of rock and roll. He had been clean for over twelve years, just one year clean time when he first met Anderson Spencer at an NA meeting, Spencer being clean and sober for several years by that time. It was Black Simon’s story that compelled Spencer to include him a plan to steal fifty million dollars worth of uncut diamonds from one of Europe’s most secure airports. Spencer gave him the nickname, the Rock ‘n’ Roller.
Dropping everything to meet with Spencer was an easy decision. He owed it to him for everything and certainly Spencer owed him.
However, a nine-hour drive can give you time to think, and worry.
Maybe after this weekend, the burden of carrying his secret would be lifted.
Four hours into his trip along I-80 from Cleveland to New York City, the Rock ‘n’ Roller stopped for lunch at an Amish restaurant. Enjoying a hearty plate of meat and potatoes he thought about how this was the second day in a row he’d eaten out for lunch. It probably doesn’t matter now he figured.
In Dallas, Sean Sutton spoke to his mother in sign language.
I told you. I’ve been planning it for a while.
When were you going to tell your mother?
Mom, I’m thirty-two. Dad was twenty-two the first time he went to New York by himself.
She shook her head and signed. You still have to be considerate, at any age, Sean.
I’m going with Mr. Crane, Sean signed to his mother.
Staring at her son, she didn’t say anything back to him.
I’m packed and ready. Are you taking me to the airport or not?
Sean’s mother picked up her keys, smiled at him, and shook her head again. Let’s go.
Mathieu Archambault wasn’t the kind to write love notes like so many of her previous lovers but Amélie’s heart skipped a beat when, while laying in bed leisurely becoming familiar with the new day, she saw a note, as sure as the morning sunrise, with her name on it tucked into the expansive vanity he had bought for her. She hopped up and bounced on the bed as if it were a trampoline, bouncing off and over to the make-up table. Amélie snatched the note and took a deep breath.
Nino, she sighed. He was truly the best. She held the note close to her heart before sitting down at the vanity to read it, thinking of his large hands wrapped around a little pencil, writing something for her eyes only. Mathieu never does or says anything before leaving for work.
This morning was the beginning of a beautiful day! J’aime ma vie!
But her heart sank as she read the note.
Stay as long as you like, my little weasel. I don’t know when I will be back. –Mathieu
For the next hour Amélie cried on the expansive bed, dejected. But then suddenly she felt happy when it occurred to her that SHE was his little weasel.
Anderson Spencer was not a frequent visitor of the theater. He had never seen an opera and until now had no other reason for ever stepping one foot inside the Lincoln Center for Performing Arts but this was a special day. He could make a habit of this, he thought to himself, as he looked at the tuxedo hanging in his bedroom.
In the bathroom he could hear his wife, Anna, humming. Spencer could think of no sweeter sound than his wife’s little hums when she got ready for an evening out on the town. He sat at the foot of the bed listening to her, taking it in.
He would never forget this night, no matter what the final outcome.
Twenty Lincoln Center Plaza was this evening teeming with socialites, models, fashionistas, celebrities, as well as opera enthusiasts and one by one Spencer’s guests arrived.
It was opening night of New York Opera’s 2023 version of the opera world’s favorite production, “First Communion”. Based on Guy de Maupasant’s “La Maison Tellier”, the opera is set in France and the central figures are prostitutes with the main character being Madame Tellier, the owner of the house of disrepute. In the story, Madame Tellier closes up shop and takes her employees on a train ride to the town of her brother, the carpenter, to witness her niece’s first communion.
The popularity of “First Communion” was beginning to rival any major motion picture of its day and seemed to be single-handedly bringing the opera back into mainstream entertainment with its 2020 Paris Opera production becoming one of the most downloaded live performances in history.
They were to meet outside on the famous lighted steps of the David H. Koch Theater.
Spencer spotted Mathieu and strode to him with outstretched arm to shake his hand.
“I am so glad to see you tonight,” Spencer said.
Mathieu nodded and took in the scene, looking for any clue that their meeting on the steps outside the opera house was being observed.
At that moment the three travelers from California walked up.
They shook hands and hugged and patted each other on the back.
Spencer looked inquisitively at the album John Winterspoon held.
“For Angelina,” John said.
Spencer nodded and smiled appreciatively.
“Where’s Anna?” asked Charlotte, dressed exquisitely in a black silk gown and a necklace of pearls.
“She’s inside,” Spencer answered, “Rafael, your date looks exquisite.”
“Yes, she does,” Rafael answered, grinning at both Charlotte and Spencer.
Vance Crane and Sean Sutton were next to join the group. Appearing to have arrived together, both in perfectly fitted tuxedos, they made their greetings to everyone.
The Rock ‘n’ Roller sent a text that he would be arriving just in time, since he had a flat tire just on the other side of the Hudson.
Spencer glanced around the crowd outside the performing arts center and ushered them inside to their seats where they met Anna.
Anna Spencer was stunningly dressed in a beautiful flowing couture gown and John Winterspoon looked at her and Spencer standing together, still amazed at the sight of love.
Just as they sat down the empty seat was filled by the Rock ‘n’ Roller, appropriately dressed but appearing to be a bit frazzled and slightly sweaty. He nodded hello and made eye contact with everyone in the group, last of which was Spencer, who was sporting an immense smile.
Anderson and Anna Spencer were proud parents. Tonight they would witness their daughter perform in her dream production. Angelina had a beautiful voice. Her soprano skillfulness as well as her physique had landed her the role of Rosa the Bitch. When she stepped on stage John Winterspoon saw that she had indeed taken after her father in size, short and stout. But Angelina could sing like her mother and she had Anna’s beautiful face with a miniature version of Spencer’s nose.
Act I went by quickly and so did intermission.
Act II slowed down and minute by minute became increasingly emotional. It could have been because Angelina’s character had a very emotional scene but it was affecting Spencer’s group more than the other audience members.
At a powerful moment of heightened drama in the opera a Kyrie Eleison is performed by the entire cast and then the priest has his solo, which every single time it is famously performed takes audiences, according to many, beyond what most experience emotionally in entire their lifetimes.
It is during the priest’s aria that John Winterspoon began to feel something. He stretched his eyes behind his DJ THUNDA sunglasses and tried to hold back what started welling up inside him but it was of no use. Tears rolled down in a steady stream as he thought of his mother, being in church with her when he was a small boy, and how much he deeply missed her kisses and hugs and the encouragement she had given him while she was alive.
He then thought of how blessed he was to have the life he had been given and had worked so hard for, the friends and confidants like Flame and so many others. An overwhelming sense of the richness of life had come to rest in his heart and it was impossible for those around him not to notice his blubbering. It was a quiet lamentation at first but as his emotions took full hold it became an uncontrollable fit of sobbing. He pulled his glasses off and began wiping his eyes and nose and shaking his head in apology to those near him. Charlotte who was sitting next to him took his hand and held it.
It was then that he supernaturally transferred everything he felt to her soul, an already willing and open vessel. Regret, shortcomings, and memories of her past surged through her heart and Charlotte began to cry a river of mournful tears. Rafael who had already been holding her other hand lost control with the same outpouring of feeling. All this seemed perfectly appropriate while the priest on stage performed a beautiful tenor song of praise.
Spencer who had felt the whole thing from the beginning held the hand of his beloved Anna and soon wiped a few tears from his eyes. Slowly scanning his entire row of friends, Spencer could see that everyone in the group was bawling.
Both the Rock ‘n’ Roller and Sean Sutton sat in their seats tears filling their eyes and streaming down.
The rugged tug boat captain was as swiftly sorrow stricken as the rest. He bowed his head in his hands, his thick trunk of a chest heaving as he sobbed uncontrollably. Mathieu Archambault sat with his legs crossed with one hand on the Creole’s back and the other covering his eyes.
As the priest finished his aria the entire audience was in tumult and in tears. Socialites, fashionistas, celebrities, and all, they were all sobbing and weeping and then suddenly applauding the priest for evoking the great emotional manumission.
When the extended applause had finally died the audience who had been brought to their feet in ovation seemed to collectively sigh as one by one they sat down, emancipated.
A tranquil quietness, like the peaceful scenery of the countryside after a thunderstorm, now settled on and rested in the hearts of everyone in the theater, including the actors on stage. So much so, that the blissful hesitation that enveloped the performers caused the stage manager behind stage to question ‘what in God’s green earth was going on?’ as he urgently prompted the actors to continue.
When the production came to a close no one could explain the enchanting experience. For over a quarter of an hour constant applause and adoration from the audience was showered on the cast and crew of the production that could still be heard by the actors in the dressing room long after the final curtain call.
Spencer had a fully-stocked banquet room in the Lincoln Center reserved as a reception for Angelina and they all eventually made their way there. After much of the food and drink had been consumed, those who would not be a part of Spencer’s Grand Finale were politely led out by two large men appearing to be security.
Angelina had other parties to attend so she thanked everyone for coming and gave her favorite, DJ THUNDA, a hug for the signed album, and she left. Only three others outside of Spencer and his seven accomplices remained.
Anna stood among them, radiant. Two distinguished looking middle-aged men that John Winterspoon and the others did not recognize mingled at Spencer’s request. The other two large dark-suited security-looking men stood outside guarding the door and it made John nervous. He knew the others had to be as well.
Spencer gained every person’s attention and asked them to raise a glass in a toast.
“I am so happy everyone made it here tonight. Thank you for coming to see my beautiful Angelina. But the rest of this night is for you! Needless to say, it has been a beautiful evening. We have all been waiting for tonight and it is finally here. Ten years ago the eight of us met to finish preparing for something that no one had ever done and hasn’t since. And we did it. But as we planned, it was just the beginning, a necessary catalyst to spark an even greater result. And that has been accomplished as you all know. But it hasn’t been without a price. You risked, we risked, our lives, our futures, for the greater good, in the name of something much more important than our lives. Because of your sacrifice Anna is here.”
John saw Spencer studying the anxiousness in the faces of his friends.
“And that is why these two gentlemen are here tonight,” Spencer continued, “If you have not already figured out who these men are let me introduce them. To my right is Deputy Central Director of the French Judicial Police and President of Interpol, Stéphane Miroux and to his right, Dr. Bertrand Delpierre. I can see by your faces you know who they are. The good Doctor has kept my Anna alive and our brilliant Deputy Director continues to keep us out of jail.”
Spencer began pacing back and forth as he continued to speak.
“I wish to applaud everyone one of you because you could have demanded more than you have received. You could have disappeared and abandoned the plan. Just one of you could have destroyed everything we have worked for by talking. But not one of you has to this day. Above all that you have risked your lives and possible imprisonment until the day you die. But we all know why we did it. To the rest of the world, from the very moment we did it, it was for money. But we know it was for something greater than money. It was for love. It was for life. That is our reward and it is a reward we can secretly share with so many others.”
“No, we’re not being arrested tonight and we’re not turning ourselves in,” he said.
The others laughed but nervously.
“Be assured, my friends, thanks to Stéphane, what we have done continues to be a well-guarded secret safe with us. Tonight is a celebration,” Spencer continued, “We are celebrating our success. We are celebrating Dr. Delpierre’s success and he is here to thank you for your sacrifice. And that is why Anna is here, to thank you in person. She wanted so badly before now to tell you in person. When she was diagnosed we were devastated but not destroyed. As you know we did everything under the sun we could think of to find her a cure, even made contact with some of the most powerful families in Europe, asking for their help. This is how I met Mathieu.”
Spencer walked to Mathieu and embraced him in a side hug, facing everyone.
“You know Mathieu’s story, his wife Sasha died after a two years fighting cervical cancer. He responded to my call immediately, completely sympathetic to my plea and we started coming up with a plan. I had already gotten to know the Dr. and he told me what it would cost if he had all the resources needed, not just to save my Anna, but to come up with a real cure for cancer, a dream many had given up on. It was an astronomical figure but Mathieu’s family and several other investors were willing to pay for it if I could come up with my fifty million. And so that is where all you came in.”
Spencer began pacing again but then faced Rafael and Charlotte.
“You both have lost spouses to cancer. Dr. Delpierre introduced us when you three were here in New York before I had this crazy plan. I knew when the time was right and I asked you, you wouldn’t hesitate. I remember you saying, Rafael, ‘I have nothing left to lose, other than Charlotte.’ And that stuck with me.”
“It was not by chance,” Spencer said turning to John, “that we met that one momentous morning in Paris. You were mourning the loss of your mother and I had just found out about Anna’s diagnosis.”
“And Black Simon, our meeting was fate. We’ve had similar battles and you lost your son to Leukemia, when he was only eighteen, a talented musician whose band had just signed a record deal. You were my right hand in everything. Black Simon, you knew Mr. Crane from the Mayo clinic, when his wife and your son were there. And when Crane heard we needed one more person he thought of Sean, the son of his childhood friend, Arthur, who had died in Texas of colorectal cancer.”
“And our team of eight was set. We trained for fifty days with Mathieu and his people, they trained us like navy seals, and we did it just exactly what we planned. We were in and out of that airport within five seconds of our estimated plan. Mathieu helped me sell the diamonds for more money than we originally planned to some very generous buyers in Antwerp and Dr. Delpierre had the down payment of his funding.”
“The next step was hiding the trail of funding and that’s where deputy Miroux has helped and the Unione Corse, thanks to Mathieu. Twelve months later Anna was cleared of all her cancer and another twelve months later the Doctor had six others cured because of his work, which brought in more funding. As you know, the rest is history. Dr. Delpierre’s discoveries have literally saved hundreds of thousands of the lives of diagnosed cancer patients who are now cancer free, coming up on close to one million. And it has led to more research and greater funding.”
“To this point my friends, you have accepted nothing but the satisfaction that you helped fund the cure to the greatest disease the world had ever known. Tonight I have an envelope for each of you. It is a reward for your sacrifice. If you accept it, know that you deserve so much more. If you decline it, be confident that every person in this room will do everything in their power to take care of every need you will ever have, if you only ask.”
Spencer took two glasses of champagne, giving one to Anna. They all held up a glass.
“This is my toast to you, my friends, my partners, my heroes. Cheers,” Spencer said smiling.
All of them raised a glass and toasted to each other as the Deputy Director Miroux received a message from one of the large dark suited men. Miroux, in turn, whispered the message to Spencer.
“My friends,” Spencer said, “Don’t lower your glasses yet. We can now begin celebrating the real reason I asked you to come tonight. The Deputy Director has an announcement.”
Miroux cleared his throat.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you know…”
The celebrating went until the wee hours of the morning and no one slept.
After breakfast, they said goodbye and went their separate ways.
A thumping bass is felt through the pulsating walls as DJ THUNDA relaxes, completely stretched out on a couch in the tiny green room, feet propped up on a coffee table next to a chilled bottle of Cîroc.
There’s a knock on the door.
“You may enter,” DJ THUNDA says in Japanese.
“You ready?” Flame asks, sitting down next to DJ THUNDA.
DJ THUNDA nods.
“You going to tell me now, where you went?” Flame asks, smiling.
DJ THUNDA nods, “Yes, and I’ll tell you why, after the show.”
DJ THUNDA hops up, “It’s time.”
In California, USA:
Please fasten your seatbelts is heard over the plane’s PA system.
“No more secrets,” Rafael Guidin says quietly as he hears the landing gear unfold.
“We’ve never kept secrets from each other,” Charlotte says turning to him.
“I know. But I have one I need to share with you,” Rafael says, swallowing.
“Okay,” Charlotte asks, smiling.
“I want to marry you,” Rafael says, shaking.
“That’s not a secret, my dear,” she says, taking his trembling hand and kissing him.
In Louisiana, USA:
Vance Crane flew into New Orleans Sunday afternoon and went straight to bed, waking up Monday morning to the sound of his Amanda making breakfast. He stumbled into the kitchen.
“Good morning,” he said sitting down.
She poured him a cup of coffee and handed it to him.
“Good morning, Dad. You look better. Where did you go?” she asked.
She set two plates of hot scrambled eggs on the table.
“New York,” he answered, watching her response.
“New York? Dad, what were you doing in New York?” she asked sitting down across from him.
He smiled, enjoying her sudden attention.
“It’s a very interesting story about your old Dad,” he laughed, “It has something to do with your mother, too. Do want to hear it?”
“Yes!” she said.
In Ohio, USA:
Black Simon Davis drove from New York City to Cleveland without any sleep, driving straight to a meeting with his NA sponsor, Ray.
Ray was the first person Black Simon spoke to when his son died. He had confided in Ray everything in his life, every struggle, every failure, everything except the heist.
He would tell Ray everything, and then he would let it go.
“Hey Ray!” Black Simon said smiling, sitting down in a booth across from his sponsor.
He took a deep breath.
“I’m going to buy the record store,” he said to his sponsor.
“That’s what you wanted to tell me?”
“Yes, but that’s not all. You know Anderson Spencer. I introduced you to him when he visited last,” Black Simon said.
“He knows what I’m about to tell you but I wanted to tell you too,” he felt better already as he began to tell his sponsor everything that had happened.
In Texas, USA:
From the airport, Sean Sutton went straight to bed after making sure his mother tried on her new ‘I (heart) NY’ tee shirts.
From below, in the living room, she listened to him crawl into his bed.
He would probably never tell her, she thought, but she knew, and she was proud.
“Your father would be proud of you, Sean,” she said to the ceiling.
La Réserve de Nice, France:
Amélie sat patiently in the restaurant, dressed in her silky red dress, looking through the window at the lighthouse.
Her eyes turned and she saw him, Mathieu Archambault, standing at the threshold of the restaurant.
Shooting up from her seat, she ran to him and leapt into his arms.
He smiled apologetically to the other patrons as she hung on his neck.
“Ma petite belette,” Mathieu Archambault whispered in her ear.
“Nino,” she whispered back.
New York, USA:
That next day was like any other day for Anderson Spencer. Twelve-forty-five in the afternoon and it was time for tea. He sat in the café sipping tea, texting Anna and thinking of his friends, looking at seven envelopes he had to come up with a good use for.