Tuesday afternoon we received a call from the White House apologizing that the President was going to have to cancel his dinner invitation on Saturday night. Travis and I were disappointed, but honored to have been invited in the first place. To hide our disappointment, Travis and I joked about what could possibly be more important to the President than dinner with us.
The architect called and told us he was with the builders and would begin clearing the ground for the gatehouse. I called Cal and asked him if he could spare a few minutes.
He poked his head into my office. "What's up, Dale?"
"Come on in, Cal. How are the plans for the Home Security Branch going?"
Cal nodded. "So far so good; we have all the assets in place needed to launch the marketing and run with it."
"Good, I would like to be the first client. I assume you have seen the building plans for the additions to my house."
"Yes, of course I have. I made a phone call to expedite the permits."
I chuckled. "I should have known. I am thinking I need a 24-hour presence at the house. After what happened to Rick, I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I let that get repeated."
Cal just smiled. "Okay Mother Hen, we will make sure all your chicks are safe."
"Very funny! I will have Max and Karen draw up their recommendations for the increased security. Whatever the cost, I will pay it."
"Okay, sounds good to me. Silly question, but you still want Max as your lead."
"Yes that was a silly question; however, if it means more responsibility we should give him a raise."
"I agree. The kid has definitely proven himself. I am positive he can handle the extra duties as well. I will let HR know today."
"Okay, thanks Cal. Travis and I are allowed to bring two guests with us to the dinner Friday night and I was hoping you and Ellis could join us. Clara has already made reservations at the hotel for the extra room but we can change those, if needed."
"I am sure Ellis will be thrilled. You know she is going to panic trying to get a new dress designed and made in time. Who is that new designer the First Lady is fond of?"
"Cal, I am gay, but I am a mess when it comes to fashion, I have no idea who you're talking about."
He laughed. "Jason Wu, that's his name. I really doubt she can get him but she is going to do everything she can. I will make sure she can clear the weekend and go and then let the craziness begin." He headed out the door.
I buzzed Clara. She stepped into the office as if she was standing at the door waiting for me.
"Clara, any chance you could track down a dress designer by the name of Jason Wu for me and see is he would be willing to do something in a rush."
"Thinking of doing Drag Dale.?"
"Why does everyone think they are comedians today? No, I just asked Cal and Ellis to join us for the state dinner in DC this Friday and I was thinking it would be a nice thing to get this guy to do a dress for Ellis. Cal and Ellis have been very good to me and I want to show my appreciation."
"Let me see what I can do?" and she turned and left the office.
About an hour later, Clara buzzed over the intercom "Dale, I have Mr. Wu on the line for you."
I picked up right away. "Mr. Wu, thank you so much for calling so quickly, I am Dale Ryan with INS out of Norfolk Virginia."
"Mr. Ryan, it's my pleasure. I understand you have a dress emergency."
I chuckled and filled him on what I needed. He agreed - after giving me his very hefty price. I arranged for him to fly down in the company jet the next day to talk and work with Ellis. I gave him Ellis' number so he could tell her that he was coming down to do a dress for her. Ten minutes after I got off the phone with him, Cal came busting into my office right behind my desk, stood me up, and gave me a bear hug.
"That's from Ellis. You just made an ally for life and thank you very much from me."
"It's my pleasure, Cal. You and Ellis have done a lot for me and I just wanted to show my appreciation."
"You didn't have to, but thanks again."
The rest of the week flew by as we prepared for our trip to DC. It was going to be quite the entourage. David was invited to the dinner and Cat was his guest. Carl was tagging along to DC to keep us all organized. Of course, Max and one of his officers were traveling with us. He was sending two officers up a day early to coordinate with the hotel security so that everything would be set when we arrived.
Friday morning finally arrived and we all managed to get to the airfield where the company jet was ready to go. The flight up was quiet and uneventful - even with Ellis thanking me - over and over again!
We arrived in DC at 9:00am sharp and two limos met us at the airport. Clara had booked The George Washington Suite for Travis and I with the security team using the second bedroom and The John Adams for Cal, Ellis, David, and Cat. Carl got and executive suite to himself.
A few minutes after arriving, the INS attorney from the Washington office called and asked if he could bring the CIA investigators to our suite in about an hour.
I called Carl.
"Carl, can you have the hotel send up some light refreshments, bottled water, coffee and tea. The CIA pukes are on their way to harass us." I laughed.
"Sure, no problem, Dale. I will also let Max know they are on their way."
Thanks Carl, and make reservations somewhere nice for the whole group for a light lunch."
We disconnected and I went and told Travis what was going on.
"Damn we haven't even had time to christen our room." He had just come out of the shower, wearing nothing but a towel. The moisture was still glistening on his chest and I couldn't help myself. I walked over, dropped to my knees, yanked his towel off, and immediately took his hardening dick into my mouth.
"Wow, Babe that feels awesome." He turned and sat on the bed with me attached to him the entire time. I devoured him as if my life depended on it. In a few minutes, he had a handful of my hair and was tugging it gently. "Oh god, Dale, don't stop now." I went all the way down on him, swallowing the head so that it hit the back of my throat. "Oh fuck, I am coming!" I pulled back slightly so I could get his load into my mouth. It was a huge one and I swallowed every last drop. Just as I was starting to stand up, I heard.
"Mr. Ryan, oh fuck, I am so sorry!!"
I turn to see one of Max's young officers quickly retreating out of our room. I realized we had left the door open. Travis grabbed his towel and covered up quickly.
"'It's okay. Come in please."
The officer cautiously entered the room. "Mr. Ryan, I am so sorry. The door was open and I just didn't think."
"It is okay. It's bound to happen occasionally. It's Todd, right?"
"Yes Sir. Max wanted me to tell you Carl just went down to escort the CIA guys up."
"Thanks, Todd. Have Carl show them to the dining room and we will be right in."
Travis threw on some shorts and a t-shirt while I brushed my teeth. We went out to the dining room and the interrogation was short and very painless. The two agents were very polite and respectful. After the interview, we all gathered to head to lunch at the prestigious Vidalia. Lunch was superb and we all chatted nervously about tonight's festivities. After lunch, everyone retired to their suites to rest and then get ready for the evening. Carl brought Travis and me our uniforms; all pressed and ready to go. We were meeting the United Kingdom's Ambassador to the United States for a private cocktail reception before the dinner.
We arrived at the UK embassy sharply at 4:30 pm. The Royal Marines at the gate stopped us and checked our ID's. Against Max's protest, they disarmed him and Todd. We were escorted by full dress Royal Marines to a beautiful garden where cocktails were being served. As soon as we entered the garden, a gong sounded. The attendant next to us loudly proclaimed. "Your Excellency, Ambassador Sir Peter Westmacott, I present to you Admiral Dale Ryan, Fleet Commander, International Nautical Security; Captain Travis King, Commanding Officer of INS Cyclone; Commander David Stavi, Executive Officer, INS Cyclone and escorting Commander Catherine Mathews, Chief Medical Officer, INS Fleet; Mr. Calvin Macintosh, CEO, International Nautical Security and his lovely wife, Ellis Macintosh. The Ambassador came over, shook everyone's hands, took Ellis by the arm, and dragged her away to meet his wife. Lord Admiral Winthope approached us, greeted us warmly, and introduced his wife.
We had a couple of drinks and mingled with the other guests. A few minutes after 5:00, the Ambassador and his wife excused themselves to prepare for dinner. We were all ushered in to form a receiving line. Travis and I were given the place of honor right next to the ambassador and his wife. We were introduced to all sorts of dignitaries, the Ambassadors from France, Germany, Greece, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Dubai, The U.A.E, Saudi Arabia - and the list kept going. Overall, there must have been close to two hundred people at the dinner.
Before serving dinner, the ambassador stood and went to the podium.
"Esteemed colleagues, honored guests; thank you for joining us tonight to honor the memory of the Fallen Sailors of HMS Clyde. They sacrificed their lives in the line of duty to the Queen and our countrymen. Their loss saddens us and fills our hearts with sorrow." He raised his glass. "The fallen heroes from Her Majesty's Ship Clyde." Everyone silently raised their glasses. "I have something to read for you. This is an excerpt from the captain of HMS Mersery's log." He took a sip of his wine and began.
"After the captured Clyde and the pirate escorts engaged us, we sent a mayday call. We were quite surprised to be contacted by a commercial security vessel operating in our area - the INS Cyclone. The Cyclone did not hesitate to offer assistance. As she mounted her offense, we were in full retreat and heavily outgunned. Then the night sky turned to day and there she was - the Cyclone. Glowing in pure brilliance against the night sky, this sleek, beautiful angel of wrath was flying across the surface of the water; storming her way into the fight. Her fury had no bounds as she cut off the enemy's advance on us and put herself in their sights. It was truly a glorious thing to see. Something out of old history books was enacted right in front of us. Admiral Ryan's voice, through our radio, was still and firm and we could hear where Cyclone's fury came from. Ryan and Captain King took control of the battle; disabled the two pirate escort ships and stormed the Clyde, rescuing the remaining crew and capturing or killing the enemy. After the battle was over and before returning to her duties, the INS Cyclone paused and launched twenty-two individual flares to salute each fallen member of the HMS Clyde. She then silently slipped off into the night. In all my years in the Royal Navy, I have never seen such valour."
"Ladies and Gentlemen, it is that valour, which we honor here tonight. A commercial security vessel, disregarding financial gain to assist another vessel in distress, is something unheard of. Admiral Ryan, Captain King and Commander Stavi, please stand. It is with great honor that I present to you, on behalf of Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of Her other Realms and Territories, Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross. It is awarded for an act of conspicuous gallantry during active operations against the enemy. The Conspicuous Gallantry Cross has never been awarded to a civilian unit." He approached each of us, shook our hands and pinned the medal to our uniforms. "It is with great pleasure, that First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Milton Winthope has deemed the actions of the INS Cyclone so honorable that he has decided to honor the entire ship with The Sea Lord's Valorous Unit Citation." This time the Admiral pinned a medal to all our uniforms, including Catherine.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you Admiral Dale Ryan."
Everyone rose applauded. "Thank you, Mr. Ambassador and thank you distinguished guests. It is with great honor, that we humbly accept the honors bestowed upon us by Her Royal Majesty, The Queen of England and the First Sea Lord. I know that if the situation had been reversed and it was The Cyclone in distress, the Mersey or any of the naval vessels operating in the area that night would have disregarded their own safety and rushed to our assistance. We, at INS, hold ourselves to the same standards. The world's oceans belong to all of us and we all should protect and preserve them equally. Once again, we are deeply honored by this recognition and will display these decorations on our uniforms proudly. Thank you."
The dinner service was exceptional and the meal was elegant. The evening was fantastic. Just as dessert was ready to serve, Max approached our table. "Mr. Ambassador, Mr. Ryan, I am terribly sorry to interrupt but I have an extremely urgent call for Mr. Ryan."
The ambassador signaled an attendant. "Can you show Mr. Ryan to the guest study to take a call?"
"Right this way, Mr. Ryan."
As soon as we entered the study, the attendant closed the door behind us. Max handed me a card that he had written.
He handed me his cell phone."It's Carl."
"Carl, its Dale. What's going on?"
"Oh my God Dale, he is missing." Carl was freaking out - I could hear it in his voice.
"Carl, I need you to calm down and tell me what exactly is happening"
"Nick is missing. The state patrol found his car abandoned on the side of the road."
"Where was he?"
"I talked to him as he was getting ready to leave work; Rick and Shane invited him over to shoot some pool with them and Greg. He never made it there. Oh my God Dale, what's going on?"
"I don't know Carl, but we will find him. I promise. We are on our way back to the hotel now."
I hung up the phone and looked at Max; he nodded and said, "He told me."
"Good; get Karen on the phone and tell her to figure out what is going on. Tell Todd to call the pilot and let him know we are leaving for Norfolk within the hour. I will go grab the rest of the gang and make our apologies to the ambassador.
I returned to the dining room. "Mr. Ambassador, you and your lovely wife and your country have been a very kind host, but unfortunately we have an emergency in Norfolk and must return immediately."
"What has happened?"
"A very dear friend of mine is missing. His vehicle was found abandoned just a short distance from my house." I looked at the group and said "It's Nick."
They all immediately stood up and offered apologies to the ambassador and we were shown out. When we arrived back at the hotel, we found Carl pacing the foyer of our suite. I grabbed him in a hug. "We will find him."
We all packed quickly and headed to the airport. When we arrived home at the company airfield, a whole contingent of INS security officers surrounded the plane and escorted us to a convoy of vehicles. While we were racing back to our house, Karen briefed us on what she knew.
"So the state patrol contacted the house to find you, Dale. Apparently, a business card was found in the car that simply said we will trade your friend for Scott Fernandez. The FBI is already on it and has contacted the state department. The bad news is that just before the BOLO went out, a small charter plane took off bound for Mexico from Norfolk."
"Can't they stop it?"
"No it's already in international airspace. The FBI and State Department are trying to get the Mexican Federal Police to detain the plane when it lands. They are pretty sure once it gets into Mexican airspace, it will disappear off radar."
I looked at Travis. "I warned them. A soon as we get to the house get the plan together."