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Free – CHAPTER 3 – Enjoy!
Several minutes later, the limo merged with traffic streaming toward the Lincoln Tunnel. They sat in the back seat, alone, silent, staring at the reflections of grimy buildings sliding past. During the drive, Justin wondered what William thought of him as a father. His own old man had been a terrible father. The boy had no idea how lucky he was.
Twelve miles later, at the airport, they checked in at the passenger desk of Atlantic Aviation before being ushered onto the tarmac where they walked through the pungent odor of jet fuel toward a waiting Cessna Citation X.
The jet’s sensuous fuselage with the enormous air intakes in front of its radically sweptback wings made it the world’s fastest civilian aircraft. Even though he didn’t own it, Justin took a large amount of pride in that plane. It was Farnsworth’s jet, built for work. Justin had crossed the country several times in it, head buried in work papers.
“We’ll be flying faster than commercial jets. About seven hundred-miles-per-hour,” Justin said.
William was as accustomed to flying on a private jet as Justin had been to riding horses as a kid. He wondered if the two experiences were that different. Deep down he knew they were — you were never totally in control of a twelve-hundred-pound horse — anything could happen, like the time a horse he was riding had stepped on a hornet’s nest and bucked him off. Planes were safer.
The cabin smelled of leather, like a new luxury car. There was a small conference table in the front corner near the cockpit. Tan leather seats occupied each side of the twenty-four-foot-long aisle.
The co-pilot stowed their bags and asked them to take a seat. Justin let William choose his seat first — otherwise the boy would have distanced himself as far as possible. It was a dance they played, in restaurants, theaters, whenever they were together. William flopped into a seat and stared out the window. Justin sat across the aisle.
“Buckle up, son.”
“There’s more work space up front. Why don’t you sit up there?” William asked with tight lips.
Those lips came from Ashley, and although she was an undeniably beautiful woman, he’d come to despise the angles that defined that beauty. It was hard to see them on his son. As he tried to do with Ashley, Justin ignored him and stayed put.
Several minutes later, the jet rolled into position on their assigned runway. The pilot jammed the throttle to the firewall. The plane shuddered and then shot ahead. Gravity slammed William deep into the seat. The boy looked at the ceiling, eyes bright. His lips trembled and then he almost smiled. Justin remembered seeing that look on William when he was five and had righted himself on a two-wheeler. In this, he could see his son’s love of a thrill, a challenge, and he felt that under all those layers of his mother’s DNA of disdain there was something of him in William.
Justin closed his eyes and felt the power of the jet engines propelling them to Montana. The fastest transportation at the ranch had been Old Tan, the ancient truck that was grouchy as an old lady wracked by rheumatism.
In no time, the jet reached an altitude of 32,000 feet above a solid cloud deck. William played the video game, the tapping of his thumbs a counterpoint to the sound of the engines.
Justin drifted into his adult concerns. He’d been suffocating under a mountain of debt from the failed internet IPO, the divorce and their lifestyle. That had changed, now that he had closed this last deal. After paying off Farnsworth, he would be free to leave with the equity he’d earned. That would be enough for a luxurious retirement, but he wanted more. That opportunity had presented itself last week when Brad Duncan, Chairman of the world’s largest private equity firm, invited him to join as a senior partner and promised he’d have a shot at the chairmanship.
Justin pressed his forehead against the plane’s window and watched clouds billow upward with explosive fury. Justin turned toward his son, still engrossed in the video game.
“Let’s talk about the bomb.”
The kid’s thumbs didn’t falter. “Let’s not.”
Justin reached across the aisle, grabbed the game and put it on his lap. “What do you want to talk about?”
“I want my game back!”
“After we talk.”
The boy folded his arms across his chest and glared out the window.
Justin jammed the game player in the chair-back pocket. If this were a test of William’s patience, Justin would win. Years of negotiating had given him more than enough experience to out-wait an eleven-year-old addicted to video games. He leaned back, closed his eyes and waited.
He had assigned his assistant the impossible task of finding another summer camp. Most were booked years in advance. He told her to offer a generous bonus for a last-minute acceptance. Money talked, but apparently not this time. The private system was tight; one phone call to his school revealed the bomb incident, and no one in a post-9/11 world wanted to accept the boy. His last assignment for his secretary had been to find a boarding school.
Justin heard a gagging sound. William held his hands over his mouth.
“What’s wrong?” Justin asked.
“I throw up on planes unless I can concentrate on a video game,” the boy muttered between his fingers.
Justin watched him gag and couldn’t tell if he was telling the truth or pretending. If this were a power play, the kid would threaten to throw up every time he didn’t get his way. He realized he didn’t know his son very well. If he had pulled a stunt like that when he was William’s age, his old man would have laughed and said, “Fine. Who cares?”
William gagged louder.
He had the choice of giving in or taking the risk of flying the rest of the way with puke smell.
“Okay, I believe you get sick on planes, but don’t try to pull that trick anywhere else.” He gave William the game player.
The boy made a miraculous recovery.
Copyright 2011, JB Winsor