THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 121

…“We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone with an update, “And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”

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Houston, We have a Problem by Dadara

Roy’s text stream reads a continuous, “HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!

The details of which are just coming in:

***   Samiq Gaad {alias Gurkhas Shah Dhangotma} freed before being transferred to Washington D.C. — Two Mil Mi-38 Hind Russian Attack Helicopters headed south out of Houston — Possibly on way to Central or South America ***

***   Aldona Afridi critically wounded on a flight to Galveston from Turkey — Shooter apprehended by US Marshall aboard ***

 “We’ve got a big problem Roy!” Braden King is on the phone. “An hour ago 2 helicopters and a small army attacked the motorcade that was transporting Samiq Gaad to the CIA office in Dallas. They were able to free Gaad and take off to God knows where.”

“Who is Samiq Gaad?”

“He is the imposter you captured back at Gantry #2, you know hero stuff? You knew him as Gurkhas Dhangotma.”

“At least they got that straightened out.”

“On top of that, your friend Aldona Afridi was ambushed in the washroom on a Turkish Airlines Airbus A2100 in the middle of the Atlantic last night. The latest news about that is sketchy, but he was on his way for an interview at Lovell SC and he is still alive.”

“I asked him to come to LVC… I didn’t think he would get security clearance so quickly,” Roy is starting to feel guilty about his absence.

“And to top off a perfectly wonderful day, Deke and Gus never made it to the bus that takes them home to King Ranch.”

“I am on my way back to Houston,” he tells Braden.

After a few minutes of texting back and forth with the NSA, some of which is sorting the known facts from the suppositions, Roy makes his best judgment call.

“I heard your end of the conversation, just go,” Francine can tell that their fairy tale has come to a screeching halt.

“Are you alright with staying here? I do not want you in the line fire again.”

“I’m a big girl, I’ll be alright here,” she grabs his chin to get his attention. “You better give me updates when you can. I am going to book a commercial flight back to my apartment in Houston, but you can bet that I’ll be working the story on my end and see if I can track down some leads.”

“I will keep you in the loop Francine,” he gives her a huge reassuring kiss. “Just remember, I have that job for you when get back, so be ready to rock!”


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Episode 121


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 120

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 120

…Four days have the feel of forty and what is formerly a 2 week acquaintance has leaped the boundaries set by the fortnight; a foundation is being laid for a lifelong friendship….

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Friendship Digital Art by Astrid Rieger

The following days slow to a satisfying crawl, their pace of life measured by the inch not by the mile. No more fertile an environment can there be to bring people closer. The kinship of this trio {Roy, Francine, Roger} builds down every new road, at each sacred island shrine. The driver of the car has become an integral element to their experience; which is incomplete when he isn’t around to steer them right.

Flying Fish and Lazy Days Waikanae by Gillian Cronin

Four days have the feel of forty and what is formerly a 2 week acquaintance has leaped the boundaries set by the fortnight; a foundation is being laid for a lifelong friendship. So complete is the blending of Roy into Francine, or vice versa, that any thoughts of the New Mayflower or Mars and KHST or celebrity, are dispatched from the foreground of priorities.

When they aren’t being guided by Roger the Dodger, they can be found lounging by the pool or ocean, SILVER SEAS both. In the case of this lazy day, they employ their newly acquired skill in the street side marketplace. With their considerable discretionary funds irretrievably commingled, joint bargaining has become the rule, when in natural dealings with purveyors of goods and their merchandise of fluid value.

Navy F-77N’s

While ferrying one of their spending coups back to the SILVER SEAS HOTEL, from the interior of the island, the tranquil skies are buzzed by a pair of jets, certainly not of Jamaican or Cuban ownership. “F-77Ns in a big time hurry and they are peeling off to the west.” Roy determines after getting a clear look at their low-level wake. “Something big is up.”

“What are they doing down here? Do you think it has to do with Cuba?” Francine wonders aloud.

“Well that isn’t a bombing run and they are going fast enough to reach the Mainland in 2 minutes. “I think the Atlantic Carrier Strike Group Two (CSG2) is having joint maneuvers in the Gulf with the Brits, but the attitude of those pilots are taking screams urgent. Let’s get back to the hotel.”

“I’ll call Roger,” Francine thinks ahead.

In the meantime, Roy’s dormant PDA is vibrating off his waist. The text stream reads a continuous, “HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!”


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Episode 120


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 108

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 108

…there is nothing but 1350 miles of 80 degree bath-water between Houston and Montego Bay – rest stops and dry land are few

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Montego Bay Port by Jeffrey Samuels

True to his word and happy to do so, Roy and his limo cruise into Hobby (Airport), with one worn-out Samsonite suitcase and a pocket full of American cash.

Tucked away in an obscure corner hanger, at the far end of the airport’s least used taxiway, sits Roy’s expensive toy: a vintage Sikorsky S-76D.

And never mind that 30 year old Learjet sitting next to it. He does not own an automobile, too slow.

Francine pulls up to the open hanger door in a Cooper Mini Taxi whose tail is dragging from the weight of her bags. Roy is busy talking to his hanger’s mechanic about the critical pre-flight inspection. With nothing but 1350 miles of 80 degree bath-water between them and Montego Bay, rest stops and dry land are few. And with Cuba still stuck in the political Cold War, it is not an alternate landing spot.

It is a brisk late January, where 50 above zero winds do chill those with Southern roots. Not the sort of weather for wide-brimmed plantation hats or a sundress, which is exactly what Francine is wearing. She fights to keep the mid-calf hem below her waist.ouch-001

Roy catches a glimpse, peaking from under an engine, dropping an extra-large crescent wrench on his foot.

“Come in and get out that darn wind,” he insists while hobbling on one good foot. “I see that you dressed for the destination.”

“86 degrees with a chance of clouds, yep. The Chief Meteorologist at Channel 13 gave me my farewell forecast, the 14-day outlook, is that far enough out?”

“We’ll see. If Braden and the Colony-Incident Audit come up with something on Korea and Talibanistan, I may have to bail early,” he takes a shop rag to his hands, handing the wrench to the hanger mechanic. “You look fantastic… and me in a pair of coveralls.”

“I love a man who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty,” she may be speaking euphemistically about ex- fiancée (Larry).mr-silly-001

“Didn’t you bring any luggage; a month is a long time you know.”

Silly, silly unsuspecting man. Francine’s taxi backs up to the hanger door. “Where is the skycap?”

“This thing usually seats 12, but I took out seats and replaced them with fuel reserves that triple its range, so I will need to turn away any other passengers…and you will need to sit in the copilot’s seat.”

“Isn’t that secretary of yours coming along?” It would not be farfetched for that platinum blankety-blank to implicate herself.

“Are you kidding? I may be impulsive, but stupid I am not.”


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Episode 108


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 107

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 107

CHAPTER SIX

Timeout

…“He is not just any guy, he’s twice the man you are and BTW, who puts up with a woman who stonewalls her fiancée for 5 f***king years?”…

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True to her word, Francine Bouchette has packed up her future and stuffed it into two underused Samsonites; but she will be lucky to get out of Houston with her head atop her shoulders.

As she may have guessed, given the element of surprise, lack of warning, the upcoming February Related imageratings slotting, and her jilted fiancée, she has upset the KHST 13 apple-cart. She does not care for threats, but she is threatened with disciplinary action for “breach of contract”.

Her United Talent agent is beside himself, given his income is tied to his clients and she is his biggest.

“They will take you off the anchor desk.”Image result for talent agent

“Go ahead.”

“They can reduce your salary by 75%.”

“I can live on $250,000.”

The intended (Larry) weighs in on her irrational behavior, “You are throwing away your future, for what, a guy you just met?”

“He is not just any guy and he’s twice the man you are. Who puts up with a woman who stonewalls her fiancée for 5 f***king years?”

So it is and that is that. With him watching her pack everything from a bikini he had
bought her and she never wore, into two duffles stuffed with evening wear and lingerie (Larry), KHST VP is left standing aghast and agape, watching his fragile pride walk away from her penthouse without turning or looking back. The only thing she does do, is issue the following order, “Make sure you take anything that you value, leave your set of keys in the foyer and lock the door on the way out.”

She takes a taxi to William P. Hobby Airport and pity the poor driver who has to handle her crammed to the brim hard suitcases and hefty Hilfiger bags. She neglected to ask the helicopter owner whether there was a weight limit. —


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William P Hobby International

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 69

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 69

…All of a sudden she is losing the “pretty face” tag and buying into real journalism, irrespective of cashing in on Space Colony or not…

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Francine’s shiny sports car sits conspicuously close to the entrance of the station, where lighting is brighter and security tighter, for her new four-wheeled two-seater. For the first time in the Chevy’s 550 mile life, its 2031 Model Corvette rear tires lay down matching black stripes on a paved surface, through gears 1 & 2. She uses every side-street-shortcut available, ignoring some red lights and praising the cooperating green ones. Her biggest roadblock is the exit/entrance ramp from the South Sam Houston Tollway, those damned tolls are always backed up on the weekends.

Related imageAs expected the lanes are stuffed with Houstonian peons, but the far right lane is closed for maintenance. Risking scratches to the Honeysuckle Red Fiberglass frontend, she plows through the gate, leaving the metal breakaway logjam in her wake.

The dusty display of driving catches the eye of a Tollway officer, who stands pointing an accusing finger at the violator whose picture has been taken and there will be a price to pay. The scornful look on his face produces momentary guilt from Francine, for 2 meaningless seconds, and then she is back laying rubber as she jumps on the 45, watching the speedometer leap past 100 in two-shakes of an angry man’s finger

Once on the Interstate she finds it free of southbound traffic, free to focus her memory on the mysterious Arabic caller that started these present events in motion. This went down in such rapid succession that she was afraid that some important detail would fall through the cracks of awareness.

The most amazing thing about this whole ordeal, now an international big deal, was the wide exposure she had fallen into. Her name is on more tongues tonight than in any single Texan year in the last 10 and her agent is probably on the phone with news directors in the #2 & #1 markets, if not network television.

Related imageAll of a sudden she is losing the “pretty face” tag and buying into real journalism, irrespective of cashing in or not. For the second time today, Francine steps back to examine her soul, wondering just what has come over her. The “values” transformation is in direct opposition of everything she had become up to January day into night.

Pre-disaster Francine was a bitter person, so caught up in vanity that she never learned how to relate with all people, not just the important ones. Her idea of intimacy was to string along a poor sucker local TV broadcast exec, allowing him to think he had a future with a “trophy” catch.


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Visual Journalism

Episode 69


 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 53

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 53

…Out of the blue, an idea bubble forms above her head

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Hurriedly, without checking a mirror first, KHST 13’s lead weekend anchorwoman heads straight for theFrancine Bouchette newsroom. She is advancing at a pace that takes out 2 interns and an IT nerd, casualties of the ardent instinct that drives the best newshounds. And if she has the look of preoccupation, the end justifies the means.

The standard method of breaking a news story of this magnitude would to lead off the next scheduled newscast with it, replete with file footage, bios, and interviews. OR, she could fire up KHST’s news crawl at the bottom of the screen, but that would only tip off the competition and she will not have any of that.

Neither one of the above methods would benefit her rating-card, that already was #2 with a bullet. On top of all this, the station has stuck her with a stiff of a co-anchor, hired from an independent in Indianapolis and she would have to let him in on the action. Sharing is not one of her redeeming qualities.

Out of the blue, an idea bubble forms above her head, “What if I do a programming break-in, like they did back in 2017 when Barack Obama was assassinated… wow that was 13 years ago already and I am still in local TV?… it’ll be an outrageous stunt, but most of management is teeing off on Image result for thought bubblethe 14th hole at their country club or at a spa… no one is around to get in my way.”

It was a BIG bubble.

Shuffling feet and adolescent whispers signal the presence of Hightower Junior High speech class, whom she had forgotten about, them and their Junior-Journalism field trip. And who is the tour guide for these kids, none other than Steven Sharkey, the albeit handsome hick from Indiana? Before she can head for the hills, good ol’ Steve uses her as an excuse to use her pretty face as a backdrop to the newsroom.

“And by demand of her adoring fans, I’d like to introduce, you media students, Miss Francine Bouchette, our lovely and talented weekend news anchor and weekday reporter.” Steven coaxes her out of her chair, giving her a warm hug, like a good friend, instead of the rivals that they actually are.

Queen Francine manufactures an agonizing smile, this not being a good time for her. There is some applause {eyes glued below her neck} from the 14 year old boys and gigglies from the envious {of her breasts} girls. Steven takes the opportunity to horn in on her story, “Please notice how fast she is flying through those web searches. What are you working on Francine?”

“I am actually working on a story about a tour guide accused of inappropriate touching…. and look who shows up?”

Dost thou feel the scorpion’s sting fledgling Steve? She dashes off, leaving Steve to distract the students by moving on to see the studio set.


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Big bubble by kritsaft deviantart.com

Episode 53


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 50

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 50

Broyles whispers at Larry, “That is some classy lady, she is going places.”…

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Prima Donna by Brenda Ferguson

“Francine my little filly, I surely think you are going to make it big in this business.”

“Unfortunately Senator Boyles, my interviewing skills and 20 bucks gets me a bus trip to Beaumont, unlike your friends in high places,” she pulls a small mirror from a handbag to check her hair, “as you well know. Your path to Washington started as an alderman back in Austin, if memory serves.”

“Well Honey, you are soooo right about know the right people and considering the innumerable favors you are doing me in this all-important election year, I would like to number you as a good friend and my good friends always come out on top.” And he means it. “In fact, if you are thinking about doing a story about my work in ol’ D.C., I would gladly throw a wing-ding party in your honor; then you can take national stardom to the bank.”

“That would be wonderful Senator Boyles,” she leans over to give him a peck on his rosy cheek. He would appreciate this kiss even more, had he known how hard it is for her to be nice to anyone. “If you will excuse me gentleman, but I have a script to edit for the 5:30 cast; bound to be a shitload of mistakes by my writer.”

She leaves the set in her typical prima donna style; no words of praise for the set-crew, head tilted back prima-donna-intersectionwith skirt swinging from side to side, as if propelled my some mysterious force.

Broyles whispers at Larry, “That is some classy lady, she is going places.”

Queen Francine. All the director/lackey can do is roll his eyes….and think about the heel marks on his backside.

Francine makes her way through the maze of hallways and stairways that snake through the modest four-story KHST building. She whizzes past offices… sales and on-air talent, engineering facilities, editing stations, and rooms storing old-school tape and video. Even the room that harbors the most activity, the reporter’s’ area is left in the dust; all those poor stiffs with eyes fixed on computer monitors, listening to police scanners and the five competing television stations in the Houston market.


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Episode 50


 

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