"Barry??" Lucy's voice was strident with worry.
"Yeah, baby, it's me."
"Jesus Christ, Barry, what the fuck? It's been two fucking days, why didn't you call me before now??"
Barry tightened his hand on the phone and sighed. "Um... look, I'm sorry about that, sweetheart," he said. "This is the first time I've been able to get to a phone since I left you."
"Luce, it's... um... It's kind of a long story, and I'd rather tell you everything face to face, okay?"
She paused for a moment, and Barry knew she understood. Either he wasn't alone, or the call was being recorded. In this case, of course, it was both. "Okay, baby," she said, sounding calmer. It was a calm that Barry knew very well was completely fake. "What am I gonna tell the kids? They want to know when their daddy's coming back."
"Well, you tell 'em not to worry, Luce," he answered. "I'll be back in two more days at the latest, and we can all go out for ice cream before I go back to work. All right?"
"Okay, I'll tell 'em. I love you, baby."
"Love you, too," Barry said. "See you soon." Barry hung up the phone and looked up at the two serious men in their dark suits. "I appreciate that, fellas," he said. "She was real-"
"Let's move, Seal. They're waiting."
Barry stood in the center of his empty aircraft hangar and sighed. He'd put up a couple of signs on the walls, motivational stuff for the boys (and for show, of course). Most of those were now gone, or tilted to the floor, half-fallen off the walls. He'd burned his true accounting ledgers, and now, only the clean copy of the books - the ones related to the "honest" operations of IAC, were left upstairs in his would-be office. He wondered if he should have burned those, too.
He was pretty sure the government - the DEA, that is - didn't expect him to shut down his normal operations, but Barry wasn't about to expose the others any more than he had to. He'd told them days ago, when he first realized that Shafer had abandoned him, that they needed to put plenty of space between themselves and Barry for a while. After they'd helped him get rid of the bulk of the bad stuff - flying it under the radar and dumping most of it in the ocean - he'd told them to get clear and lay low until the heat was off. And he'd done it none too soon, it turned out. That very night, after everyone had taken their final loads, and gone off into the blue, Barry had been making one final trip by truck when everything came crashing down.
On the one hand, Barry was grateful that his friends had been away when the heat caught up to him. He was pretty sure whatever magical luck had plucked him out of the claws of the Arkansas DA's office would not have applied to his friends. But now, he felt incredibly alone. Years of hard work and camaraderie, growing wealth (up to more than he could handle), and the fulfillment of an exciting career - all that seemed to be slipping away. Hell, it had slipped away, and now he was hanging by a thread, hoping that he could satisfy the DEA and old Ollie North well enough to keep his sorry ass out of Federal prison.
Barry could feel a deep, uncharacteristic sense of melancholy coming over him. He heaved a sigh and turned away from the depressing scene. He left the hangar, and considered sitting on the tarmac, maybe throwing himself a little tantrum. But the thought just made him laugh - himself kicking and screaming and flailing his arms like that one time Dean had tried to scream his way to extra dessert. And just like with Dean, Luce would be right there to give him a swift kick in the pants (or three), and that would be an end to that. Nope. There was nothing to do now but push through whatever was about to happen, and either he'd get through it, or he wouldn't.
Either way it went, he was gonna need a little help. Barry went back inside, this time ignoring the forlorn, abandoned look of the place, and headed for the phone. He dialed the familiar number, left his own with the paging service, and waited. In under five minutes, the phone rang. Barry picked up and put a brave smile on his face. "Pete?"
"Yup. What do you need, Boss?"
Lucy shook her head. "No, Barry, that's... you can't do that!"
"I don't have a lot of choices here, Luce."
"These are drug dealers, Barry!" she shouted. Then the two of them both looked nervously toward the bedroom. Barry heard nothing, and assumed the kids must not have heard.
"Barry, it doesn't make any sense," she hissed. "They want you to run down there and do their dirty work, and then you come back and what happens? Then they decide to put you in prison?"
"No," Barry said, with a shake of his head. "No, now honey if everything goes right with this, I won't go to prison at all. We'll just probably... probably move from here to another place, and-"
"We have to move the kids again?"
Barry hesitated, and looked away for a moment. "Um... Luce if this goes right, I'm not gonna be making what I used to, you know that."
"And that money I got stashed away won't do me no good here, if the FBI is watching me all the time. I'll never be able to get it out, you see? So..." He looked down with a sigh, and ran a hand through his hair. Suddenly, those feelings he had when he'd looked at his empty airplane hangar were coming back to him. He felt like he'd failed his wife, or he was about to fail her. And the kids, too. They didn't deserve to have to be uprooted because of his stupid mistakes. He-
"Hey." A second later, Lucy's arms were around him. She kissed him briefly and looked at him with earnest eyes. "It'll be okay, Barry," she said. "Whatever happens, we'll get through it, just... come back to me, you hear? You'd just better fucking come home."
Barry grinned and held her close. "I will, Luce. Promise you that."
The first thing that bothered Barry was the plane. It was huge. He'd tried working with a plane like this in the past, and it hadn't been very successful. It had been fun, that was for damn sure. All the boys and all their gear, and everything could be fit inside the monstrous cargo area. But the fuel efficiency was shit, and she was a beast to handle. If there was any trouble with the law, they would be done for, because they couldn't possibly outrun or outwait anything the ATF might throw at them. He'd tried it for one run, with Pete by his side, but both of them had decided it was too risky, and he'd sold the plane again and given fat bonuses to his friends with the proceeds.
Now, he was faced with the same sized craft again. And he had serious doubts about whether this was really going to work. First of all, Barry had been running from the law not long before. He wasn't sure how news managed to travel so fast, but he hadn't forgotten the fact that the Cartel knew about JB's trouble with the cops, just a day after JB had been released. He was pretty sure that the Arkansas arrest would have gotten to Jorge, even if they hadn't been able to find out what happened afterward. He didn't want the damn plane to be a dead give away, he'd be shot down before they even landed.
The next thing that bugged him was the cargo. He looked at the inventory log of all the stuff the DEA had packed up, and he knew he was going to have to change it all. "What is this, televisions and VCRs and such?"
Barry shook his head at the DEA man. "This ain't the kinda stuff I would buy, they already got VCRs and good TVs. You want to replace their video game consoles, we can talk about that. But-"
"Now look, Seal," the man said angrily. "We're not here to buy a bunch of expensive gifts for a lot of drug dealers."
Barry smiled, and the smile got even wider when the DEA man seemed to get more annoyed. "I don't know how many drugs you've personally run in the last coupla years, Mister," he said. "But I've dealt with these boys for some time now. If you want pictures of drug dealers, instead of my dead body wrapped up with a nice pretty bow, then you need to get what I tell you to get."
There was a little bit of a face-down, but after a few seconds, the government man shoved a notepad under Barry's nose, and handed him a pen. The man didn't speak at all, and Barry didn't rub his nose in it. He just took the list and wrote what he thought would be the right kinds of presents to take over to the boys. The DEA man stared at the list with wide eyes for a second, then shook his head. "You can't be serious."
"Yessir, I am. If you want me to get out of there alive, I need to bring stuff that will impress them, and let them know I care."
"This is a load of-"
"Yes, sir, but-"
The DEA man slammed his fist down on the list, red-faced. "Dammit, I am not about to authorize six Harley Davidson's and ATVs and jet skis and... shit for-"
"Well, Mr. Rangel, sir... that's up to you." And he left it at that.
Within about a week, Barry got a call that all the cargo he'd requested had been stowed away, neatly tied down and marked (where necessary) inside the cargo bay of the giant bird. In the interest of good feelings, Barry didn't even bother to gloat, he just thanked the agent and set up a meeting time with him to go over the biggest problem Barry had with the whole operation.
The damn cameras.
Selling Lucy and Pete on the idea of taking pictures of the cartel had been a headache at the very least. It had taken practically all night to calm Lucy down after he finally told her what they really wanted him to do. Not give locations, or just prove that the operation existed and how it worked - but to take actual pictures, personally, with the plane. He tried to explain that it would be just like when he was taking pictures of the communist insurgents, and it wasn't going to be any more dangerous than that. Of course, she hadn't bought that for an instant, and she'd asked how in the hell they would be able to see anything if he was just flying over taking pictures.
The admission of, "Well, they actually expect me to take them while the powder's unloading" had been met with a stream of profanities, and another hour of bringing Lucy down off the ledge.
Pete was hardly any better. He was not sold on the idea of taking pictures of people who had been kind to them in the past, and who might just have them skinned alive and boiled and drawn and quartered. When Barry said that nobody gets "drawn and quartered" anymore, and he was being ridiculous, Pete pointed to no fewer than six articles about the atrocities that had been committed and credited to the Medillin Cartel. Thanks to those helpful reminders, Barry was left to try to figure out ways to calm himself down. He wasn't prone to losing his head, but he intentionally stayed away from stories like that when he was working. It was bad for morale.
When Rangel explained how the cameras worked, Barry could feel his patience and his morale both sinking down to the bottom of his boots. The camera wires were bright white lines laid out in not-exactly discreet areas in the body of the plane. Barry could easily see the lenses peeking out of the cargo bags, and he was afraid they would be just as obvious to anyone else coming into the cabin of the plane. It wasn't as if Pete and Barry unloaded all the cargo themselves. Jorge always had people nearby to do the heavy lifting, while the two of them talked, and Pete checked out the plane.
Pete was also quietly freaking out about the whole thing. Barry could feel Pete working himself up to a frenzy, and he tried to calm him down by being casual about the whole thing. But unfortunately, the things Pete was saying out loud basically matched everything Barry felt. This was going to be shitty, and if they didn't do something better to hide the cameras and wires, and all the other odd additions the DEA had put in, they were going to die out there.
Then, of course, there was the concern about where the pictures were going to end up once they were taken. He'd tried to bring this up in several meetings, and no one could tell him anything. That was why, in part, he brought Lucy and the kids along to see him off at the airport. Maybe Rangel would get it through his head that he needed some kind of reassurance that they weren't going to publish the pictures he took for the whole damn world to see.
Once they had been shown everything inside the plane, and had the cameras explained to them, Barry pulled Rangel aside and asked him point blank who was going to see the pictures. The most answer he got was "need-to-know". Right. But who the hell might need to know something about his case, or about the cartel?? Rangel must have noticed the hesitation, because he did at least try to throw Barry a bone. "We do understand the risks involved here." But the reassurance was gone almost as soon as it showed up. Barry got a good look at his kids, and his wife waving and looking lovely in the front seat of the car, and he had a sinking feeling things were about to go to hell in a hand basket.
He told Rangel that he couldn't really know the risks, and Rangel's whole answer was a barely veiled threat - do this, or spend thirty years in Federal prison. That threat had been at the back of everything ever since Barry was plucked out of the Arkansas courthouse. It was different, though, to have it laid out plain and simple, and in such a casual way, too. Barry let the smile freeze on his face for a moment, pulling himself together internally. Finally, he told the man goodbye, said goodbye to his family (in the usual goofy way), and got into the big bird to start the pre-flight checks with Pete.