Barry had been concerned about keeping awake through the long flight on the Big Bird. Flying the little jets, falling asleep wasn't possible - unless you were Bill, anyway. There was too much to pay attention to, and the small planes felt the shifting of the air currents more easily. The "fancy army plane" had an autopilot system that was even better than TWA, and Pete's primary job last time had been to keep Barry awake after the first few hours of flight. With no copilot, Barry thought he would have trouble. But he was so edgy about what would happen once he landed that he had no trouble at all keeping awake.
It didn't help that, at the last minute, Jorge had called to tell him there was a change of plans and he was to land at a different airfield. A much more remote airfield, over sixty miles from the warehouse where they'd landed before.
"Is... is everything okay?" Barry had asked him.
"Si, si, Barry, todo bien. See you soon, eh?"
"Soon" was now about an hour away now. Barry spent that last hour imagining every kind of horrible torture he had ever heard of, and realizing that about half of them had already been committed by Pablo Escobar. Far too soon, the runway came into view, and Barry began his descent. "Shit," he whispered to himself. He clutched the wooden cross around his neck, feeling the tiny figure attached to it, and took a deep breath.
He steeled himself, and completed the landing. It was about ninety minutes after dawn here, and Barry could easily see the long line of army jeeps arranged across the end of the runway. His heart sank at the sight of the soldiers. "Fuck."
Barry opened the window and waved. "Hola! Jorge Ochoa?"
Barry shuddered with relief at the sound of the familiar voice. "Hey, amigo!!" Feeling a lot better, Barry shut down the plane and opened the cargo bay doors. He noticed that several of the jeeps had now moved to the back of the plane, and there were large cargo trucks maneuvering to get around back as well. He was soon surrounded by jeeps and soldiers. Barry told himself there was nothing to worry about, and he began to trot down the ramp, looking for Jorge. But about six soldiers dropped off their jeeps and trained their weapons on him.
"Whoa!" Barry froze. "Jorge??"
"Stay there, Barry!"
"Okay. Can... can you tell me what's happenin', amigo?"
Jorge came out from behind the line of soldiers. He jogged over and came up the ramp into the plane. "Hello, my friend," he said, shaking Barry's clammy hand. "So! I want you to take pictures, okay?"
"You still have the cameras here?"
"Yeah," he said hesitantly. "They're here, but-"
"Trust me, Barry, okay? Take pictures. But wait for me to leave. Do what you're supposed to do, okay?"
Barry swallowed. "Oh... okay, Jorge. Sure, whatever you say."
Jorge smiled and left the hangar again. Barry stood nervously beside the bulkhead, waiting for the workers to come up. He scanned the area and made sure that Jorge was nowhere in the line of sight, and when he was sure, he casually leaned against the wall and started taking pictures.
Case after case of guns was moved out, along with the latest gifts for Jorge the other cartel leaders. Case upon case of alcohol, as well as several new Atari's for the kids, and a bunch of other things Barry remembered Jorge mentioning he liked. The boxes were all out, except for the last three, when one of the workers glanced around the hangar, and then peered up directly into the lens of the camera. Barry's thumb moved automatically, taking a picture of the frowning man, and then another of him pointing at the camera before he realized what was happening.
"Hey!!" the worker shouted. "Una cámara!"
Barry jumped and stared at the man in complete shock, snatching his hand away from the camera's wire. "No. No, no, no ca-"
"Hey, mira! Mira!" The man shoved Barry out of the way, and yanked out the white cord.
The worker shouted again and shoved Barry hard to the floor of the plane. Before Barry could get to his feet again, the man - still shouting obscenities - dragged Barry roughly out of the plane with the help of the other worker. Barry tried to resist, but their rage was unstoppable, and he was bodily dragged out, amid screams and furious shouts. The soldiers joined in, screaming and shoving at him with their guns. Finally, someone called to them to look. "Mira!" They looked up, and there was laughter, then Barry was shoved forward toward the plane again. "Look! Look at me, gringo traitor!!" Shaking, Barry looked up to see one of the soldiers using the cord to take pictures.
The men shoved and pushed him, while the soldier inside the plane laughed and continued to take pictures, shouting at him about how his government would love to see these. Barry called out to Jorge, but the other man was nowhere to be seen or heard. Finally, Barry was forced onto his knees, and a solder pressed a gun to his head. "Wait, wait," he cried. "Oh shit, shit, shit! Fuck, JORGE? Jorge, where-"
"Hey, American!" Barry looked up toward the plane. "Smile!"
"Shit." Barry's limbs shook uncontrollably, and he stared up at the plane. Suddenly, a dark hood was thrust over his head, and he could see nothing more. "Wait!" he shouted. "Jorge?? Oh, Jesus." A shot was fired, and at the same time, Barry was kicked down to the ground. He cried out, but there was no other pain besides the kick to his side. Was he dead? Shouldn't his side have stopped hurting if he was?
Seconds later, he felt strong hands gripping his arms. "Get up, Barry." Jorge!
"Jorge? W-what are you-"
"Get up!" The hood was yanked off him, and he saw Jorge crouching near him, tugging at his shirt. "Take of your shirt, amigo."
"What?" Barry blinked, beyond confused. Amigo? Take off his shirt? Was the torture going to start now? The gunshot must have been to terrify him - they were playing with him!
"Barry, take off your shirt! Come on, Ramon, rapido!"
Jorge began to take off his red shirt, and, hands still shaking, Barry began to help. They got the shirt off, and then two soldiers dragged Barry back behind the line of jeeps. He saw a hooded, bound man pulled from a different jeep, and dragged toward the plane.
Barry turned, dizzy and sick to his stomach, and looked around the side of the jeep. The soldiers seemed only half-concerned with him - the guns were at their sides, not pointed at Barry. But one of them put a hand on his arm and pulled him back, saying something to Barry about "sight" and "camera". Barry stayed behind the vehicle, but peered underneath the wheels of the jeep.
He could see the bound man being untied, then forcibly dressed in Barry's shirt, while the soldiers shouted at him. He was dragged away, toward the plane. Barry lost sight of him when they took him up the ramp. A moment later, he saw three booted feet running back down the platform. Someone shouted, and then the gunfire began. A jarring, petrifying din, shot after shot, that seemed to surround Barry and beat him to the ground. He cowered, covering his head with his arms and gritting his teeth.
Finally, the gunshots stopped. Barry stayed crouched on the ground, his forehead on the dusty runway, shuddering and gasping for breath. A few moments later, he heard footsteps approaching him. He tensed, but lifted his head and made himself open his eyes.
Jorge came into sight a second later, a huge smile on his face. "Heeeeeey, Barry!! Congratulations, Ramon! You're a dead man!"
Barry sat back on his haunches and stared blankly at Jorge. "I... What, now? I'm a-"
Jorge laughed jovially. "Ay, Ramon, estas loco! Crazy gringo, you're dead! We just killed you for the DEA, amigo!"
Barry blinked again, and then a slow smile spread across his face. "You crazy son of a bitch."
Jorge laughed again and pulled Barry to his feet. He put an arm around Barry's shoulder and patted him firmly. "I told you, you trust me!"
"Yeah," he said breathlessly. "Yeah, you did. Holy shit, Jorge you scared the SHIT outta me!"
Jorge just laughed again. "Lo siento, amigo, I know I know. But it wouldn't look good for the camera to see you and you weren't really scared."
"Right. Sure." Barry jumped at the sudden sound of shattering glass. "Fuck!"
"Tranquilo, Barry. We have to make it hard for them." He gestured toward where two men were starting a fire inside the plane, using a bottle of the booze he'd brought.
"Who... who was that guy, Jorge? The guy they-"
"A traitor," he said, then spat on the ground. "He was going to sell us out to the government. But now we find a use for him, eh?"
He laughed grimly, and Barry swallowed. "So... What now?"
"Now? Don't worry, amigo. We found a use for you, too. Come on."
The small white plane landed flawlessly on the hot tarmac. It rolled to an easy, gentle stop just outside the first of three small hangars. Barry smiled, big and bright, and he felt like his whole insides were glowing. Pete jumped down out of the cockpit and let Lucy out. She ran to Barry and slammed into him, wrapping her arms tight around him.
She was crying, and Barry held her tight. "Shhhh, it's okay, baby. I love you, everything's okay now."
"They told me you were dead! They... they showed me fucking pictures of you getting shot!"
Barry scowled, furious that they would show her such a thing, and he pressed her tightly to him. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, Luce."
She shook her head and gripped him even tighter. "I didn't even believe Pete at first." She pulled back and looked at him, holding his face in her hands. "I love you so fuckin' much, Barry."
"I love you, baby. Hot damn, it's good to see you." She grinned. "Kids asleep?"
"Well go wake their little asses up!" He turned her to the plane and swatted her behind. She laughed, and while she trotted to the plane, Barry turned to Pete and they grinned at each other.
"You lucky son of a fuckin' bitch!"
Barry laughed and hugged his friend. "Thank you, man. Thank you so much!"
"Anytime, boss. I told you I'd see you again!"
"You sure did."
"Sorry it had to be a month instead of a few days, but those fuckers were like hawks around her."
"You did the right thing, Pete. Wouldn't have done me no good if you brought the DEA right to me."
"Yeah, I figured-"
Barry turned and was immediately surrounded by his kids, clamoring to get into his arms. He lifted Christina up and squeezed her. "Hey, Sunshine!"
"I missed you, Daddy!"
"I missed you too, baby, I missed you so much. But nobody's gonna separate us again, you hear me?" She nodded, and he put her down and gave some attention to the boys. When they started to squirm from all the hugging and kissing, Barry stood up, kissed his wife again and took her hand. "Hey, wanna see somethin' neat?"
"What is it?" she asked.
"C'mere." He led her back behind the plane, where they had a clear view of the runway, the hangars, and the sign above the office door. The sign read "Vacaciones del Horizonte". "You like that?"
"Sure! What does it mean? You work here or something?"
Barry smiled. "I own it."
She gasped. "What?"
"Yup. A gift from Jorge."
"No shit!" Pete said. "But I thought you told him you can't fly no more."
"I don't. Not cargo, anyway. This is Vacations of the Horizon," he said, waving his arm at the great expanse of runway. "It's a legitimate private airport. We fly rich people around. And when Pablo or Jorge or Carlos wants to show their fancy clients around, I take care of it. When they wanna take the kids away for vacation without worrying about the government knowing? They come to me."
"All legal?" Lucy asked.
"Legal as it can be when the bosses are..." He glanced over to where he kids were investigating the inside of the hangar. "You know," he said softly. "But I'm nobody now, Luce. A ghost. I got a new name, and there ain't no way anybody can connect me with them. I just fly clients around. And they even use fake names, and have their clients use fake names when they fly with me."
Lucy smiled and stroked his arm. "That's great, baby. They... they did all this for... because you told them about..."
"Yeah," he said. "Jorge and the rest of them were real grateful for what I did. They bought us a house, too. Clean, no connection to them, and we have different names for you and the kids, too."
Lucy raised an eyebrow. "The kids are gonna have a tough time with that."
Barry shook his head. "All the first names were made into their middle names on the paperwork. So we don't have to change anything at home if we don't want to. Besides, we're gonna have tutors for them, we're not sending them out to any school. It's all good, baby. I don't make as much money as before, but..." Here, he winked at her. "Tell you one thing, it pays a hell of a lot more than TWA."
Lucy laughed and hugged him again. "Baby, that's great!"
He winked. "Wait'll you see the house." She kissed him, deep and long, then went off to see what the kids were doing.
Barry turned back to his friend. "Thanks again, man."
"Don't mention it, Barry." They looked out over the land, watching the heat waves rise off the runway. "So..." Pete said at last. "You lookin' to hire any new pilots?"
Barry laughed and turned to the office, beckoning to his friend. "C'mon, I'll get you an application."