Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii
Retired Admiral Thomas Wellesley Stanton kissed Danille, goodbye at the departure terminal. Without a backward glance, they parted and went their own way. He, to a new life and she to her weekly mani-pedi, clueless as to her husband’s plans.
Arriving in San Diego five and a half hours later the Admiral was met by his friend, Navy captain Gerald Hopkins. The two men had dinner together, as they often did whenever Stanton was in town.
The next day, unbeknownst to Hopkins, the Admiral flew to Rio de Janeiro under the assumed name of Elliot Walker.
in Kotzebue, Alaska;
30 Miles North of the Arctic Circle
Donnie Ostend shuffled drunkenly along the narrow icy street. His dirt-encrusted ears were near-frozen despite his head being wrapped around with what pieces of cast-off clothing he could scramble up. Some kind soul had thrown him an old, torn coat and that had kept some of the cold from his bones. An even kinder soul had tossed him a bottle of cheap whiskey from a car and that hadn’t last long.
Donnie was forty years old but years of living on the streets of whatever god-forsaken town he found himself in had exacted its price and he felt like an octogenarian. A sick one, at that.
Donnie couldn’t remember when he last had a hot meal, when he last pissed into a toilet instead of emptying his bladder where he stood.
He couldn’t even remember when he last had a bath. Or how he’d ended up on the streets. Something to do with Chinese policemen many years ago. Brown-skinned ones, too. All jabbering among themselves in a language he didn’t understand and speaking to him in what the locals termed ‘Singlish’. He’d met a friend, Bob…can’t remember his last name now. He vaguely remembered that he and Bob got drunk with a bunch of sailors and there had been trouble. Someone died. He’d been arrested, thrown in jail then deported back home to the US. Hell knew how he ended up in Alaska, in this cold, bleak little town.
Donnie dragged himself into an alley hoping to find a dumpster he could climb into before night fell – which would be soon. Daylight, if it could even be called that, was only an hour long at this time of the year. Maybe he could find a church building. He’d broken into one a few years ago but instead of throwing him out, the priest had allowed him to stay the night and had even given him some warm clothing and leftover food.
That was a short-lived piece of luck. He’d been thrown out the next day because it so happened the priest had left to take up a position in another church in another town. Hell if he knew who the sonofabitch was that replaced the priest but he got Donnie dragged out of their pissy little building and told him to stay out. God-forsaken, that’s what that church was, Donnie muttered to himself. How the hell did he get here again? Damn if he could remember.
The slam of car doors had Donnie looking up and peering blearily at the two men approaching him.
“Hey, Donnie.” One of the men called out as they reached him. “Remember Father Patrick? He’s arranged for a place for you to stay for as long as you need.” The man crouched down to Donnie who was huddled in the corner of the alley. The snow was falling fast and Donnie had just been thinking this would be his last night alive. “You remember Father Patrick, don’t you?” the stranger asked. His companion was stamping his feet, looking like he wanted to be anywhere but here in this alley. Donnie looked at them dumbly.
A backdoor across the alley opened and people came out, carrying trash bags and cartons, chatting away loudly. A window opened from the upper floor of an adjacent building and a young woman yelled out at the guys below. Wolf whistles followed with calls for the girl to come down and join them.
“Come on, Donnie. Let’s go.” The first guy stretched out a gloved hand. “It’s freezing out here. We’ve got a nice, warm room for you and a steak dinner. Whiskey, too, if you like,” the man said, glancing at the empty bottle next to Donnie.
Donnie didn’t know who the hell Father Patrick was but he knew it wasn’t the one who let him stay in the church that night because that was a lady. A female priest.
Still, Donnie wasn’t about to turn down an offer of help like that. He scrambled up to his feet. “How didja know my name and who are ya?”
“Let’s get in the car first, okay?” the man said. “Nice and warm in there.” The two men led Donnie away from the alley and into their vehicle.
No one ever saw Donnie Ostend again but no one noticed. In a world already filled with too many homeless hobos, he was just one more.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Dr. Ivo Conceicao was one of Brazil’s best reconstructive/cosmetic surgeons and could name several South American celebrities as his regular clients. He could name members of the White Phoenix, too, but that, of course, would never happen.
Today’s surgeries would be just two of the many Dr. Conceicao had performed for the organization. He didn’t know who those replacement ears and fingers belonged to but knew better than to ask. They had been delivered to his clinic in a special container to preserve them for the sixteen-hour flight from Juneau, Alaska. When they arrived, Dr. Conceicao’s patient was already prepped and ready for the transplants.
A series of operations had been scheduled – transplant of the ears, fingerpads, then the abdominoplasty. His patient’s excess abdominal fat would be removed and the area sculpted. A strict regimen of diet and exercise would ensure a trimmer and fitter physique. A few weeks later, cosmetic surgery would add the finishing touch.
Following the ear transplant, the patient’s own ears would be vacuum-sealed together with the excised portion of the abdomen. These would be flown by private jet to San Diego where it would arrive thirteen hours later for the next phase of Retired Admiral Thomas Wellesley Stanton's makeover.
One week after the surgical procedures, Stanton returned to San Diego the same way he flew out - as Elliot Walker.
Three weeks later, Elliot, once again as the Retired Admiral Thomas Wellesley Stanton, flew his Bell 429 to meet friends in Ensanada, Baja California. He was supposed to spend a few days fishing at Guadalupe Island before he returned to Honolulu. At least, that was the plan as far as Danille and his friends knew.
Stanton had no qualms about what he was about to do, even with regards to Danille. Like everyone else, she was merely a means to an end. Stage setting. Their agreement was that she be the perfect hostess for him and he’d compensate her generously for it. He would not even object to her extra-marital activities as long as she was discreet and he left free to pursue his own interests.
Danille had fulfilled her end of the agreement, attending any and every official function with him without complaint. There was one little thing left for her to do – confirm that the personal effects found at the scene of the crash belonged to her husband. The DNA tests on the remains would confirm his identity and Danille would be able to have closure.
She would be able to eulogize him, brag about his patience, his indulgent ways and how he made her feel cherished and loved without being smothering or over-controlling as powerful men were wont to be.
Naturally, he had several numbered accounts in offshore banks - de rigeur for men like him whose dubiously-acquired wealth went back several generations. Naturally, Danille did not know about them but she would see that he had made ample provisions for her in his will as he had to several charities. So while she might appear to mourn him, there would be no doubt Retired Admiral Elliot Stanton’s demise would make his ex-Playmate wife a very merry widow.
Sierra de San Pedro Mártir, Baja California
4,000-5,000 feet above sea-level
Stanton opened the bag on the passenger seat next to him. Inside were the charred remains of his old pair of jeans and a golf shirt, as well as other personal items, including his passport. Giving a soft grunt of satisfaction, Stanton communicated briefly with the occupants in the helo behind him then bailed out of his own.
The pilotless chopper veered sharply before plunging down, exploding on impact. The Admiral’s belongings were scattered over the rugged pine-covered terrain.
From the second helo the pilot noted the crash site of Stanton’s helo while another man watched Stanton’s chute open and monitored his descent.
“Heading for crash site.” The pilot told Stanton and banked their helo towards the ravine where several smoldering pieces of Stanton’s Bell 429 could be seen.
“Target has landed in the marked vicinity.” The second man reported. He unscrewed the cap off the thermos flask which held the previously-vacuum-packed contents that had been airflown from Rio.
The bloody pieces and the ear were tossed out of the helo. Neither the pilot nor his companion knew who the body parts belonged to and they didn’t want to know.
“Standby, Alpha-Dog.” The pilot told Stanton. “Package has been dropped. Expect extraction in five minutes.”
The plan went off without a hitch and later that same evening, Elliot Walker boarded a private plane back to Rio de Janeiro where he would be based for the next few years.
___END OF PROLOGUE___