Gordo, the virtual hero
by L. Stewart Marsden
Chapter 5: Surprise!
Gordon met Alyssa in the dining room of the hotel for breakfast as agreed.
“I’m not used to getting up this early,” he complained as he sat down.
“I am. I’ve already been up and ran five miles — showered, and I’m ready for the day,” she grinned. She was already working on a grapefruit and a bowl of oatmeal.
“Two eggs sunny-side up, wheat toast with marmalade, and a small orange juice,” he told the waitress when she appeared.
She poured and left.
“I suppose that’s strike one,” he said, sipping his coffee.
“Me not being a morning person. Plus, as far as activity goes, our simulated walk was the first exercise I’ve had intentionally in months.”
“I figured as much. We’re just here to have a good time and enjoy each other’s company, Gordon. I’m not rating you or anything.”
“That’s a relief. Without all my gadgets, I’m not sure what to do with myself. I think I’m going through withdrawal!”
She laughed. The waitress returned with his order and placed a large plate of food in front of him.
“Eat up!” encouraged Alyssa. “We’ve got a full day ahead of us.”
* * * * *
The full day was hang gliding on Jockey’s Ridge.
“Couldn’t we simulate this? I mean, it looks like a person could get hurt doing this,” Gordon protested.
“Where’s the fun in that?”
“Well, I’m counting on there being a whole lot of fun in that,” he replied, thinking of his work.
Alyssa had the foresight to hire an instructor for only Gordon and herself, as she had sensed correctly he would not do well in a group setting.
“Was that intuition, or what?” he asked her.
“It’s pretty much written all over you,” she replied, smiling broadly.
“Comic books . . . App development career . . . Lone wolf business — you’ve never become part of a large firm. You keep your holdings close to the chest — and, of course, Shangri-La. Out in the middle of nowhere where no one can get to you for any length of time. Unless by helicopter.”
The day went easily for Alyssa, whose natural athleticism helped her — as well as her knowledge of aeronautics.
Not so much for Gordon.
“You’ve done this before,” he complained, as she walked her glider back up to the top after gliding down the dunes like natural on her first launch.
“Have not! Keep trying, Gordon, you’ll get it!” she encouraged.
The instructor was obviously taken by Alyssa, and was more prone to help her with her gear than he helped Gordon.
“He’s just doing that because I paid, and he wants a big tip,” she laughed, when Gordon, covered with sand from head to foot, pointed the obvious out.
“Yeah. He wants a big something — but I’m willing to bet it isn’t a big tip,” he said, emphasizing the p.
As Alyssa predicted, Gordon finally got it, and soared down the ridge at last, whooping the entire distance.
* * * * *
That evening Alyssa took Gordon for the best seafood he had eaten.
“How’d you know about this place? It’s great!” he asked. “Absolutely delicious!” he declared, washing down a bite with his second glass of beer. “I’ve never had soft-shelled crab before!”
“I’m glad you like it,” she replied. “Actually — and you’ll appreciate this — I found it online.”
“You brought electronics?” he asked. “Thought that was verboten.”
“Before I left. I have everything mapped out.”
And she did. After dinner they walked that night along the beach, talking about the hang gliding and the food, and about her. She refused to let him talk about work.
“Army brat,” she replied, when Gordon asked about how she grew up to be who she was.
“My mom died of cancer, and dad buried himself in the military. I was the only child.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“No — it was the best thing that could happen to me. He was a mechanic and worked on jets. I used to love to go out to the air field on weekends and watch those pilots work their maneuvers. So, when I was fourteen, I got my pilot’s license. And Dad was all for it.”
“That was like a layover until I got to do what I wanted to do — which is what I’m doing. I never intended to be an engineer professionally. I just like to know how things work. It all fits.”
“So, how does this vacation — and me — fit exactly?”
“I don’t know. Like I said, I really enjoyed our simulated experience, and wondered how a real live experience would work out. Plus, you brought up the Wright Brothers — and that certainly fits with my interests . . .Why do you need to know?”
“For me — the few girls that showed any interest in me have only been since my success. And that interest hasn’t exactly been in me, but my money.”
“Didn’t you have girlfriends growing up?”
“Guys with the nickname Gordo don’t have girlfriends, period.”
“So, no. No girlfriends. No dates. No proms. My closest girl friend even today isn’t even a girl.”
“She has no hidden agendas — no expectations. She’s loyal, helpful and friendly to me . . . “
“Sounds like a Boy Scout.”
“She was really worried when I told you I’d come to Kitty Hawk. She told me it would end badly — even though I told her there was nothing between us. And there is, right? Nothing between us, I mean.”
“No, not if you don’t want it.”
“So, there is something?”
“There’s . . . potential — maybe. See, these things aren’t one-way streets, Gordon. Two people have to reach some point of agreement. Like, when I got the notification to beta test iFit, I still had the option to not opt in.”
“So, is this like a beta test? You and me here?”
“What it is, is safe. Safe for me and safe for you. I’m not going to reel you in and swoop you up in a net, if that’s what you’re worried about. And for me? I’d like to know that you are a genuine person — not a simulation or a composite of all the creeps I’ve known in the past.”
“You’ve know a lot of men?”
“Not in that way. I told you — I’m an old-fashioned girl. I always imagine my dad out with me on dates, and I’m always checking in to see what his opinion is of who I’m with.”
“So, if I pass muster here, I guess the next stop is to meet your dad.”
“That’d be difficult. He died when a pilot landed and the plane caught fire. Dad was trying to get him out of the cockpit when it exploded.”
“Wow. I’m sorry.”
“But, he’s always right here with me,” she said, tapping her chest.
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“See that you do. Well, we’d better call it a night. Big day tomorrow. Oh-four-hundred in the dining room for breakfast. They’re opening up early just for us. And wear shorts and a T-shirt. And bring a hat. Oh, and plenty of sunscreen.”
“God, Alyssa — if I had known ahead of time –“
“Yeah. You wouldn’t have come. But you did.”
* * * * *
It was a day of deep sea fishing. Ten miles out, trolling and wrestling with various fish: amberjack, that took the bait and headed straight to the bottom. Mackerel and barracuda, plus one small sand shark that almost grabbed Gordon by the foot as it flopped on the deck.
Alyssa wore a blue scarf tied about her head, and dark sun glasses. She reminded Gordon a bit of photos of Jackie Kennedy he had seen. They were both exotic and beautiful, except Alyssa was alive and real, and only a few feet away.
Eventually the mixture of diesel fuel and fish combined with heavier afternoon seas got to Gordon’s stomach.
“Whatever you do,” said the captain, “don’t go below if you’re feeling seasick. It’ll only get worse.”
How worse could it be? thought Gordon as he lurched down the steps into the bulwark of the small boat, and collapsed on one of the small bunks.
He found out. As he emptied his stomach of breakfast, two baloney sandwiches and three Coronas into the small stainless steel toilet, he heard Alyssa come to the top of the steps and call down.
“Are you okay, Gordon? Anything I can do?”
“Nooo!” he replied to both questions, thinking to himself if you blow chunks and she bolts, it was never meant to be from his favorite movie Wayne’s World.
That night there was no dinner out, nor walk on the beach, as Gordon nursed his upset stomach and throbbing head in his room alone. Alyssa offered to help, but he declined.
* * * * *
“So, how’s the stomach,” she said, looking up next morning from the table in the hotel dining room.
“Not that better.” He sat down and the waitress brought a pot of hot coffee. “You didn’t bolt.”
“What?” she asked, confused.
“Never mind. Inside joke. So — last day of our excursion. May I ask where we are going?”
“The reason we came here in the first place. Kitty Hawk. Where the Wright Brothers started it all,” she replied.
“Technically, it started before that,” he countered. “I mean, they had pretty much done all their engineering in Ohio, right? They came here for the winds.”
“I’m not sure. I guess we’ll find out.”
* * * * *
For him the visit to the museum was anticlimactic. Not so for Alyssa. Perhaps it was the lingering seasickness, he argued to himself. But he knew it wasn’t. It was something else. It was the end of their time together, and he was feeling he wanted to be someplace else with her.
She was like a princess delighting in an enchanted forest. She spun from exhibit to exhibit, reading and examining. Oh how she wanted to touch as well, he could see. And, gradually, Gordon caught Alyssa’s enthusiasm.
Outside along the track that marked the first flight, she almost reverently walked the distance.
“From here, Gordon, all our aero technology got off the ground!” She grinned at her own pun. “I wish my dad could be here to see this.”
“Isn’t he?” Gordon reflected, tapping his chest.
“Yeah. I guess he is,” she said, and walked on ahead. Gordon wondered if he was working his way into Alyssa’s dad’s approval, but he was too afraid to ask. The thing was, she was certainly working her way into his.
That night they had a special dinner on the end of Jennette’s Pier. Once again, Alyssa had parlayed a private table, replete with shrimp cocktail and champagne, served by a uniformed waiter.
“I never knew airline pilots had the kind of money to throw about like this,” he commented, clinking her glass with his.
“It’s called saving and not spending-as-you-go,” she said. “One of Dad’s top economic principles. Plus, when he died, there was no one else to have to contend for his estate. A lifetime pension and other benefits in the military ain’t chopped liver, as they say.”
“I guess not. So, tell me how I’ve done. I mean — if you were going to grade me.”
“Pretty gutsy question, Gordon. You sure you want to know the answer?”
“No, I’m not sure. But tomorrow we go our separate ways.”
“Right. Give me your hand.” He reached across the table, and she took his hand in hers. Then she stood up and moved around the table to where he sat, pulling him up from his chair lightly. She dropped his hand and put hers on his waist and drew close, leaning her face up to his, tilting her head ever so slightly.
“I’d say,” she whispered, looking him in the eyes, “that on a scale of one to ten?”
She kissed him, her warm lips lightly pressing his innocently.
“I’d say that really being with you beats virtually being with you — hands down.”
“I believe he would agree with me.” She kissed him again, her lips discovering his with more urgency and passion.
* * * * *
Alyssa was in control. The trip, the hang gliding, the deep sea fishing, Kitty Hawk — everything was in her grip — and Gordon was delighted. He willed himself be pulled along in spite of the echo of Marilyn’s warning, Remember what happened last time.
You’ve got to admit, it’s getting better . . . he hummed as she took his hand in hers and swung their arms gently, walking down the gentle slope from the pier to where her car was parked.
The lot was empty. It was past midnight, and into the next morning when they were to take their leave of one another.
But for how long? he wondered. And where is this going? he couldn’t help ask himself.
“Just enjoy the moment,” she said, as if reading his mind.
She opened the passenger side door for Gordon, who slid into the leather seat. It was a Mustang. Bright candy blue. The top was down.
She got into the driver’s side and shook her hair about her shoulders, then inserted the key into the ignition.
It seemed to Gordon that what happened next was in slow-motion,. He was staring into Alyssa’s eyes and at her pouting lips, debating the impulse to lean forward and kiss her again.
A man appeared suddenly beside the car on Alyssa’s side. He was dressed entirely in black. His face was hidden by a black ski mask, and he wore black leather gloves.
“Don’t do anything you will regret!” he ordered, covering Alyssa’s mouth with his left hand while he pressed a handgun against the back of her head.
She struggled briefly.
“I said, don’t!” he growled, tightening his grip on her mouth.
Gordon turned in his seat as a second man brushed Gordon’s ear with a gun and whispered, “Don’t be a hero. I’ll blow your brains all over this Mustang.”
The men jumped into the back seat.
“Pull out of the lot and head left,” the driver’s side man growled. “No funny stuff, or your boyfriend gets it.”
Alyssa started the car and turned on the headlights, then backed out of her space, shaking from head to foot. She pulled out onto the boulevard and began to drive.
“Cross the bridge and keep going,” ordered the man behind Alyssa, and she headed across the Pamlico Sound and past Manteo.
“Whatever your being paid, I can give you ten times that amount!” Gordon blurted loudly.
“Shut the hell up!” came a quick reply.
Alyssa glanced towards Gordon. He could see the fear in her eyes, but also a plea to obey the gunmen. He was sweating, and a wave of nausea broke over him. He clenched his teeth and literally bit back food trying to back out of his mouth.
They travelled over the second longer bridge, ascending and descending the arched portion that allowed boats to travel underneath it.
A short distance on land the gunman behind Alyssa ordered “Turn here,” and she veered left down another road. Further on he commanded her to slow down and turn onto a narrow paved road that would through the marshland.
There were no other cars on the road. Gordon wished he had his iLenses. The kidnapping would have been over by now, he thought, and he and Alyssa would be free. Depending on the competency of the local police and sheriff.
They drove along a road and whizzed past a sign. Alligator River something refuge was all Gordon caught. Enough for the iLenses, though. Damn!
“Park with your headlights shining out there,” said the obviously lead gunman, and Alyssa complied, turning the car to a stop, the lights shinning onto an empty field of some sort.
“Leave the lights on, and turn the engine off. Give me the keys.”
Again, Alyssa obeyed.
“Both of you — out of the car and lean against the car. Face each other and put your hands behind you.”
Again they obeyed. Gordon looked into Alyssa’s eyes as the gunmen tightly strapped their hands together with zip straps.
“Let’s go out into the field,” the lead gunman ordered.
So here it was, thought Gordon. A surprise Alyssa hadn’t planned. One that came out of the blue and was about to potentially change everything.
“Gordon, I’m sorry!” whispered Alyssa as they walked out into the dark field, illumined by the headlights of her car.
“I said — shut the fuck up!” the lead gunman ground out. “That’s far enough!”
In the relative silence of the night the sound of a distant helicopter could be heard approaching, the whop-whop-whop-whop sound of its blades becoming louder, finally drowning out the sounds of the nearby crickets and katydids.
The helicopter landed a few yards from the group, blades still whirring, dust thrown into the air.
“Okay, missy — you first,” said the lead gunman, pointing towards the grounded helicopter.
Alyssa looked imploringly at Gordon, who smiled and nodded her on. It’s all right, he smiled.
Alyssa bowed her head and upper body and ran toward the craft, her gunman prodding her from behind. Once they were in the helicopter, the gunman still with Gordon turned towards him.
“On your knees, Mr. Seltzer.” It was the first time anyone’s name had been used.
Awkwardly, slowly, Gordon dropped to his knees. He heard Alyssa scream “No!” from the helicopter, and turned his head to see her gunman club her unconscious with his gun.
“If you know who I am, then you know when I say I can pay you more — I can pay you more!” he pleaded.
“Shut the fuck up!” came the reply again as the gunman struck Gordon in the back of the head with his gun.
Gordon’s head erupted with pain and sound — a blaring mixture of crickets, katydids and whirling helicopter blades as he lost consciousness and fell forward onto his face. The sound of the helicopter diminished as everything went black.
* * * * *
Copyright © by Lawrence S. Marsden, 4 August, 2014