"You want me to what??"
"I want you to pack up the kids and as much of that money as you can fit in the trunk, and drive to Louisiana."
"What? WHY, Barry? Did something go wrong own there?"
Barry sighed and gripped the phone tightly. "You could say that."
There was silence on the other end. Then, her hushed voice. "Shit. Oh God, Barry."
"Now, Luce, now don't panic, honey. Everything's gon' be okay. You just-"
"HOW? How, Barry, you can't cross people like that!"
"Honey, I know that. Please, just... this is what you're gonna do. Tell the other mothers your old best friend from high school or something is pregnant and needs help. You're takin' the kids and you're gonna help out for a few weeks, okay? Then you take as much of that money and our stuff as you can fit in the car, or even a little trailer, and go to Baton Rouge. You page me when you got an address and I'll find you."
Luce sighed. "Shit!"
"Please, honey. I... I know I put you through a lot. I just need you to trust me. Just one... no two more times. You trust me, right?"
Barry sighed and shook his head. "I'm sorry, baby. But I... I'm tryin' to fix it so we can be together, okay? Just..."
"Alright," she said softly.
Barry sighed again, this time with relief. "Okay. Everything's gonna be fine. You'll see. I love you."
"I love you too, baby."
Barry hung up, and turned back to the plane.
"I am tellin' you, them boys almost killed me!"
"There's not a fucking thing we can do with this, Seal!" the DEA man shouted. "We sent guns out here and let you cart drugs for NOTHING!"
Barry held his hands out. "Hey, look mister, you had to know that was a possibility! You're the one who told me you knew the risks involved!" Rangel glared at that, but Barry didn't care. "Now you musta known Escobar would be keyed up after all that shit he did! He's like a fuckin' wolf backed in a corner right now!" The DEA man was still angry, but Barry could see that his words were getting through. He didn't look quite as closed off. In a calmer voice, Barry continued. "Next time they call me down-"
"Wait, what the hell makes you think we're sending you out a second time?" he shouted, all the bluster back again. "We ought to throw you in prison! You-"
"Look, will... would you hear me out?"
"-for a fool with those useless-"
"Listen, I'll get them to the plane next time!"
"How?" Rangel snapped, arms folded tightly over his chest.
Barry took a breath. At least he was listening again. "Nothin' went wrong with the shipment this time, see? That means they're bound to trust me all the way again. I proved I'm still just good ole Barry. So this time, if I ask them to come see the plane or somethin', they're not gonna think anything fishy is happening, and they'll come close enough for us to get the pictures." The DEA man considered it, looking thoughtful at last, instead of pissed. "Trust me," Barry said. "I know these people."
He sighed and nodded curtly. "Fine. You get one more chance. But if you fuck up again, Seal..." He raised a warning finger. "You might as well not come back."
Barry pursed his lips together. "Yes sir. I... I get the picture."
Barry looked over the packages on the large table, checking everything over again and again. All was in order as well as he could make it out with the level of stress he felt closing in on him. Jorge had called after a week. It was time for his last run.
At ten, just as he'd asked, his snowbirds met him in the hangar. They stepped in hesitantly, but Barry stood up and smiled warmly. "Hey, boys."
"Bill. Pete. Y'all come on in."
They came in and stood in front of the table, looking at the envelopes. "What's up, boss?" Pete asked.
"Yeah," Bill said nervously. "Everything all right?"
"Um..." Barry lowered his eyes for a second, then looked up and shook his head. "No, fellas, everything ain't all right. Now, I'm sorry about this, boys. But I gotta close up shop. Right now, it's basically a choice of whether I'm gonna get thrown in prison for the rest of my life by the DEA, or take my chances with the Medillin. I don't want y'all to have to make that same kinda choice. So. This is y'all's ticket outta this." He put his hand on one of the four packages on the table.
"What is it, boss?" Buzz asked.
"That's the bill of sale of your plane, signed over to you, with clean ID numbers. I already fixed the tail numbers for you, but... you might wanna double check 'em before you head out. I been a little scattered today, trying to get everything straight, I might have..." He looked down again, then cleared his throat, and looked into the grim faces of his friends, answering them with a smile. "So. I put about three million cash in Samsonites in each of them planes. Passports're in the envelopes. Y'all head wherever you want to go, you should be able to make a good life for yourself with that."
"What about you, Barry?" Bill asked.
"I'm... gonna take one last shipment to Nicaragua, and... I'm just gonna pray they give me a different job, and don't shoot me."
They paled, and Barry smiled again. "Jesus," Pete whispered.
Barry glanced at him, then clapped his hands together. "Okay, boys. Here you go." He pushed the envelopes closer to them. "I want to thank y'all for everything, you been real loyal, and... y'all are some damn fine pilots. You gon' be just fine."
They stood looking at him for several seconds, and Barry started to feel uncomfortable under their barely-veiled pity. Finally, Pete reached out and took his package. The others followed suit. He walked them toward their planes, and said a personal goodbye, shaking hands with Bob and Buzz, and getting a tight hug from Bill. "Good luck, man. Good luck."
"Thanks, Bill. You, too."
Pete was the last, and he stood looking at Barry, standing beside his plane. "You flyin' all the way to Nicaragua alone?" he asked.
"Gonna have to."
Pete frowned. "Now, I said I would help you if you need me, boss."
"I ain't your boss no more, Pete," Barry said with a smile. "Just gave you your pension, remember?"
Pete smiled, but it was just a brief glimmer, before he turned serious again. "I meant it, if you need me, tell me, man. You saved my ass back there, and you've done it before then."
"Um..." He cleared his throat. "Actually, I'm glad you hung back, Pete. I... I might need somethin' from you."
"Luce's gone to Baton Rouge with the kids. If the DEA gets wind of me leavin', they're gonna go after her. I... I want you to bring her to Nicaragua."
Pete was surprised. "You're gonna take her down there with them?"
"Only after I know it's safe," he said. "Once I get there, if... Well, if I make it... If everything's okay, I want you to bring her to me. Keep your pager on for me for three more days. If you don't hear from me by the fourth day..." Barry lowered his eyes. "Well you call Luce, and you tell her I'm sorry. I done the best I could. If you get a call, I'll ask you to bring her to me, then that's it. Okay?"
He nodded. "You got it."
"Much obliged, Pete."
"Don't mention it, boss." He sighed and looked away, looking out over the runway. "Listen. I'll see you in a few days, Barry."
"I sure hope so."
"I will." Pete turned back to him and smiled. "You're one lucky son of a bitch, Barry. You gon' be okay. You're gonna make it."
Barry smiled. "Thank you, Pete. See you in a few days."