Chapters 1 – 2
Chapter 1 – No Street Barths Today
It was almost midnight, and Little Jinny Blistov hug over the railing of the sixty foot luxury sailboat puking his guts out. He’d gotten sick back in the cockpit, where the others were sitting, but they had hit him with towels and tote bags, driving him forward towards the bow. Little Jinny was one of the toughest small time Russian gangsters you’ll ever want to meet, so they didn’t know why he was the only one getting sick on what were only slightly rough seas, but they decided to take advantage of it and give him all the shit they could dish out.
There were six others in the cockpit, all but one of whom had been involved a couple of years earlier, along with Little Jinny, in stealing a load of second class artifacts from warehouses of the Hermitage Museum, in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Just a few days earlier this team had ended production of a world class ballet, which had occupied them for much of the last year. And yesterday morning they had left the port of Charleston for a long awaited trip over to St. Barths, and a much needed vacation. This was the first time the crew of new sailors had taken the boat this far out into the Atlantic and headed for a foreign port. Before this they had ranged up and down the coast off of Charleston, learning to sail and handle the big boat, and had come to view themselves as advanced beginners with a modicum of sea toughness. They all thought that with this time on the water they would be immune to seasickness, and here was their toughest member, hanging over the side, feeding the fish.
Gwen and Roger June had their arms around each other, luxuriating in the feel of being free from the responsibilities of managing a major ballet production, which had been their lives for what seemed like a very long time. Slev and Constantine Gromstov were the commanders of the boat, having spent the most time on the water over the last year learning to sail, what to do and what not to do, readying themselves to sail around the world. The remaining two crew were women; one was Jinny’s girlfriend, and one a long time friend of the Junes who they referred to as Gale the Mouth. She was beautiful, a fashionista of the highest order, and gregarious as hell. She was living up to her nickname now, raining verbal abuse down on Jinny without mercy.
“Jinny. We’re barely out of the harbor, and here you are, sick as a dog. Jinny, Guignard’s never going to kiss you again after watching you puke like this. Jinny, Mr. Toughguy, what are you doing on your knees, when we’re all back here eating canapés and drinking champagne? Jinny, don’t come back here till you brush your teeth with dishwashing detergent, cause we don’t want to smell you like you are now.”
Gale would have gone on, but Guignard, his girlfriend, took mercy on him and stuffed a sock in Gale’s mouth. She appreciated the humor as much as the others, but had to cut her man a break. Gwen heard the satellite cell phone ring down in the cabin. After a year of acting as impresario of the ballet production, Gwen never wanted to talk on the phone again. Her ear was worn down to a nubbin. She wanted weeks of hanging out at St. Barths with no responsibility, just being with Roger, eating and drinking well. No one else seemed inclined to answer, and she was tempted to let it ring itself to death, but an intuition made her go below and take the receiver from the wall rack.
“Gwen, it’s Richard. How are you out there?”
“All of us are good except Jinny. He’s sick as a Russian wolfhound. We have a few waves rolling out here, and it’s killing him. How are you?” Gwen was on alert, knowing no one would call them this soon after leaving Charleston unless there was a problem.
“Gwen. Something’s happened. It’s serious.”
She could tell that by the sound of Richard’s voice, which exuded stress. With a sense of command, Gwen said, “Yes, Richard. Tell me. I’m here.”
“They’ve been kidnapped. Paul and Stella and Anna. They’ve been kidnapped.”
Chapter 2 – Confluence on King Street
It was a Tuesday night with very few people on the street, and Paul McCartney, his daughter Stella, and her friend Anna walked down King Street about 9pm after having dinner at La Fourchette, a French bistro. The restaurant cooks their chicken in tomato sauce recipe for ten hours, and it is delicious, especially when paired with a 100% grenache based Chateauneuf du Pape with a few years of age on it. That’s what Paul had had, and he was a happy man. They were heading back to the Charleston Place Hotel, just two blocks away, where he and his daughter were staying after having attended the final performance of Stravinsky’s Lost Ballet, a few days earlier.
Two separate groups approached the McCartneys, one coming towards them from ahead, and another encroaching from behind. The group facing them consisted of a woman and a man, the woman good looking, well dressed, about fifty-five years old. The man was tall and dressed in a light gray suit made of 80% three season wool and 20% silk. No tie. The other group behind the McCartneys consisted of three men, all dressed in black clothes, with the exception of a pair of white sneakers on one of them, which rendered a discordant blotch on that group. The two groups noticed each other as they converged on the McCartneys, cursing the bad luck. Five minutes ago hardly anyone was on the street, and now both groups would have to deal with other people interfering in their business.
The leader of the men dressed in black was aggressive, and instantly decided to go ahead with his plan despite the presence of the other group. As he came up behind the McCartneys he took out a gun, stuck it in Anna’s back, and said, “Hey babe, easy does it. Let’s stop right here for a minute, let these other folks go by.” Stella and her father didn’t pick up on what was happening, but Anna felt the gun, sized up the man holding it, his two friends, and knew it was a bad situation.
When Anna stopped walking, Stella said, “What’s up?”
Anna said, “Hold on a minute.”
The group of six stood on the sidewalk under a shop awning, with four of them knowing the score, and the other two starting to wonder. As the other group approached them, the man with the gun smiled a tight smile. The man in the gray suit, seeing the three men in black stop at the McCartneys rather than walk past, didn’t smile, sensing a kink in his mission. He looked at the six people in front of him, deciding that three of them were harmless, and three of them were harmful. The woman with him was a step behind in terms of understanding the situation, but then she saw it. Instead of passing by, as the three men in black hoped, they stopped about ten feet away and looked from the three innocents to the three not so innocents.
Anna wondered too, understanding she and her friends were being accosted at gunpoint, but not quite sure why these other two people had stopped. The man and the woman weren’t acting normally, like passersby on the street, but seemed to have a reason for stopping. Why were these two groups interested in them at the same time? Eating dinner with Paul McCartney had been interesting, and now things were getting more than interesting. Despite knowing Gwen and Roger were on a boat sailing to St. Barths, Anna looked around, expecting to see them, because they had a way of causing weird things like this to happen.
The man in the gray suit said, “Evening, Paul. How’s it going?”
Paul said, “Nice. The wine was good, and if you like great chicken stew, stop in at La Fourchette, down the block.”
The man’s partner asked Paul, “Who’re your friends?” She didn’t mean Stella and Anna.
“Don’t know. They’re new friends. We just met.”
The aggression minded man with the gun was as confused as anyone, but he said, “We’re just having a little chat.”
Noticing the man had his hand behind Anna’s back, and kept it there, the well dressed woman said, with an edge to her voice, “The five of us were just walking back to the hotel. Y’all ready?”
Anna sorted out the situation. The three guys were bracing her for some reason, and the other two were interceding on her behalf. The three groups were strangers to each other, and the interactive dynamic was heating up. So far there was only one gun out, but she bet the guy in black’s friends were heeled, and she knew she was, which, as always, was a comforting feeling. She turned her internal scanning device on the man in the gray suit, and it bonged gun gun. So, eight people and five guns. Paul had a harmonica in his pocket.
One of the other guys dressed in black said to his boss, “What the fuck is this? We ain’t got all night. There she is. Let’s go.” As he said ‘there she is’ he gestured towards Anna.
This new information caused the man in the suit and his companion to recompute. So the men in black were bracing Anna, not Paul. The boss man in black said, “Easy does it. No need to rush. Nice evening out here.” He looked at Paul and Stella, and again found them uninteresting. He looked again at the man in the suit and the well dressed woman, and found something compelling about them, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He said to the woman, “You may have to go on alone to the hotel. We have some business with this young lady. Or you can take these other two with you. Anna here, she’ll be down there with you shortly.”
Anna waited calmly, knowing she could pull her gun on these clowns in a heartbeat, but she wanted to see if this would sort itself out without her having to do that.
Stella said, “But she’s with us. We’re going home. What do you want with her?”
“Like I said, just a little business. She’ll be back with you soon.”
The second guy dressed in black snorted at this statement and said, “Yeah, soon.”
Paul looked at Anna but didn’t say anything. The man in the suit and the woman were sizing things up. They both knew there was a gun in play, and it seemed the three guys were interested in Anna, not Paul and Stella. They, of course, were interested in Paul, not Anna and Stella. Stella, it appeared, was unwanted by anyone at the present time. The group of three men looked at the McCartneys and Anna, and man and the woman looked at the McCartneys and Anna, and then they looked at each other. What had promised for both groups to be a simple little kidnapping had turned into an awkward night out on the town.
The second guy dressed in black said again, “C’mon, boss. Grab the bitch and let’s get out of here.”
The boss man in black looked at his partner, feeling some irritation, which caused him to drop the hand holding his gun away from Anna’s back and towards the ground. When the man in the suit saw this, he acted instinctively, sweeping the right hand panel of his suit coat aside and drawing a gun from the holster just to the rear of his hip. With one part of her mind Anna watched the smooth draw with admiration, while another part of her mind directed her right hand to brush aside her silk jacket and draw her own gun from its holster to the rear of her right hip. The draws were almost simultaneous, and the result was two guns pointed at the head of the boss man in black. The well dressed woman wasn’t surprised to see this action of her companion, but she was surprised to see a similar action and result by Anna. The three guys were very surprised by both actions, and dismayed at the results. Paul and Stella, being artists, were surprised by just about everything that had happened since the three groups converged on the King Street sidewalk under the shop awning.
The woman acted first to sort things out, stepping forward and taking the gun from the hand of the boss man. Knowing where the threat lay, she motioned the three guys back against the shop window, and motioned for everyone else to take a few steps away from them. She said, “Look, we can’t stand out here forever, someone is going to come along and see us waving guns around, and then where will we be. Let’s get this done and get out of here.” She handed the gun she was holding to the man in the suit, and pointed to the boss man in black. “What are you doing here?”
“Like I said, we have some business with the lady.”
She looked at Anna and said, “You know these guys?”
Anna shook her head, no.
She looked at Paul and Stella, wordlessly asking the same question. They shook their heads, no. She looked at her companion. “You said this would be easy.” He didn’t answer in words or through body language, but remained passively alert and calm, holding his gun on its target. Looking back at the boss man she said, “So you’re not interested in him or her,” pointing to Paul and Stella. He shook his head, no.
He said, “What are you doing here?”
She said, “We have some business with the gentleman.”
He looked at Paul and said, “You know these two?”
Paul shook his head, no.
He looked at Anna and Stella, wordlessly asking the same question. They shook their heads, no. His two companions said to the boss man, “You said this would be easy.” He didn’t answer in words or though body language, but said to the woman, “So you’re not interested in either of them,” pointing to Anna and Stella. She shook her head, no. He said, “Well, shit.”
The woman was too refined to say the same thing, but she thought it.
The eight people, two of whom held guns in their hands, stood around waiting for someone to figure things out. The man in the suit, being a butler by trade, waited for his boss to do this. Paul, being a songwriter, was writing lyrics in his head, trying to find a word that rhymed with kidnap. Stella, being a fashion designer, stood looking at the white sneakers on the feet of one of the guys, wondering how his friends had let him out of the house wearing them. The three guys in black all wondered if this unforeseen occurrence was going to cost them their three million in ransom money.
The three innocent people and the two refined kidnappers instinctively felt an affinity with each other, and against the three unrefined kidnappers. Taking advantage of this, the man in the suit lowered his gun and looked at Anna. Feeling a sense of trust with him, Anna lowered her gun, at which point the man in the suit, with a hint of smile on his face, snapped his gun into firing position, pointing at Anna’s face.
Anna said, “You little shit.”
The dressy woman smiled, walked the few steps to Anna, and took the gun from her. She returned to her position, noting her escort had repositioned his gun towards the three guys in black. She said, “Ok, let’s get this done, we can’t stand here on the street all night.” She asked the three guys, “You know who this is?” pointing towards Paul. The boss shook his head. “He’s Paul McCartney.”
The three guys looked at Paul. The boss started humming Hey Jude, another hummed Back in the USSR, and the third guy hummed Yellow Submarine. He was the dumbest of the three. “No shit. Paul fucking McCartney. A Beatle. He looks kinda old.”
The woman said, “Well, he is old, but he’s still writing songs, rock n rollin. That’s why I want him.”
“I thought you were friends of his. Them.”
“Not exactly. But we’re going to become friends. Aren’t we, Paul?”
McCartney said, “I’m just in town for the ballet performance. And to visit with my daughter. I’m leaving tomorrow, back to London. Got a gig playing for the Queen’s birthday.”
“Sorry to tell you this, but you’re going have to miss that gig. Maybe you can call up Ringo, ask him to fill in for you at the birthday party. You’re going to be working another gig for awhile. For me.”
Paul looked at the woman, not understanding. Neither did Stella, but Anna did, and so did the boss man in black clothes, who said, “You’re kidnapping Paul McCartney? That’s kinda what we’re doing here, only not him, her,” pointing at Anna.
Everyone looked at her, and the butler said, “Who’s she?”
“She’s the granddaughter of someone we don’t like.”
The butler looked at the woman he was escorting, and said, “What do we do now?”
The woman looked up and down the street, and saw a couple a block down on the other side, walking towards them. “We gotta get out of here, so let’s recapitulate the situation. We came to kidnap Paul, and don’t care about the other two. These guys came to kidnap this woman, not knowing she was with Paul McCartney and his daughter, and not caring about them. We all came together at the same damn time, and we all have guns.” Which made her think, and ask her escort, “Did you check the other two?”
He had not, which was quite an oversight for a bodyguard, even if his principle duties were butlering. He handed her his gun, went up to the other two guys in black, the dumb one still humming Yellow Submarine, and frisked them. He found two more guns and handed them to the woman, who now had three of them on her person, and took back his own gun, which he again pointed at the guys. He said to his boss, “Sorry.”
The woman looked at Paul and said, “This is your daughter? Which one?”
“Stella. The oldest.” And he smiled at her.
“Stella McCartney, the fashion designer. Well, well. What are we going to do with you?” Now she looked at Anna. “Who is it these gentlemen don’t like? Your grandfather or grandmother?”
“Must be Granddad.”
“Why don’t they like him?”
“No idea. But there are quite a few people who don’t. I’ve never seen these guys before.”
The butler lowered his gun because the couple on the other side of the street was getting close. The boss man in black thought of making a dash for it, but decided he wanted to know how this was going to play out. He said to the woman, “Well?”
“Well, I think we got lucky. Not only are we going to have someone writing music for our opera, we’re going to have someone designing costumes. Two for one kidnapping. Our lucky night.”
“What about her?” nodding at Anna.
“She can go.”
The butler said, “These guys came to kidnap her. What if they mess with her after we leave?”
The woman thought for a second, said, “We let her go first. Then they can go.”
Anna thought this was one interesting night. First she has dinner and wine with Paul McCartney, now she’s in the middle of, not one, but two attempted kidnappings, one of them her own. Again she looked around to see if the Junes were going to show up, because this was just like something they would be involved in. When she didn’t see them, she decided to deal with things. The inconsequential people were the three guys in black. If the man and the woman hadn’t gotten involved, she would have aborted her kidnapping, and possibly issued a penalty to the unsuccessful kidnappers in the form of shooting one or all of them in the legs. The consequential people were her two friends, and the two people who, evidently, were intent on procuring Paul’s and Stella’s professional services. There wasn’t much thinking to be done.
She said to the woman, “I’m not leaving. I’m going with you.”
The butler looked at the woman, who looked at Anna. The three guys also looked at Anna, who appeared to be volunteering to be kidnapped along with Paul and Stella. The woman said, “Honey, we don’t want you. We got two people here we do want. You run along home.”
The boss man in black said, “Wait a minute. We came to kidnap her. If you don’t want her, we do. She’s worth a lot of money to us, and other stuff too.”
The woman said to Anna, “If you want to be kidnapped tonight, there’s your chance. Go with them. Or, you can leave now and go home, and we’ll see these boys don’t follow you.”
Anna said, “Obviously, I’m not going with these idiots. And I am going with you. That’s the deal.”
The man with the gun pointed it at Anna, and said, “We don’t want you. Get lost.”
“Look, you said Paul is going to write music for you, and Stella is going to design costumes. I can help with that. I’m a pianist, and I’ve written half of a score for a ballet. If you’re doing a production, I can help.”
The woman said, derisively, “That’s like writing half a book. What good is it?”
“I got interrupted with the music thing. Got an offer I couldn’t refuse. I’ll finish the score soon.”
The butler asked, “What was the offer?”
“Movie. Act in a Spielberg movie.”
“Not out yet. We just finished filming, in France. That’s where I met her,” nodding at Stella.
He asked Stella, “What did you do?”
“What do you think? Costumes.”
He looked at the well dressed woman, who looked first at Paul, then Stella, then Anna, and then at the three thugs in black. She said, “What a night! We come to kidnap Paul McCartney, we interrupt another kidnapping, and now we’re going home with three people. When it rains, it pours.”