The boys had already changed clothes, so I didn't have to wait for them, but I needed to get out of my grubby jeans and sweaty shirt. I imagine the cops turned up the thermostat in the tiny room on purpose to sweat out the bad guys, and the good ones like me who had done nothing wrong. Equal-opportunity asshats. It was still hard for me to believe the detective was a real cop.
Isaac looked reasonably good in Zach's new stuff – even though everything was a bit big on him – and I made a mental note to find out if the kid needed any other clothes, shoes or whatever we could pick up for him before Zach and I took off for home.
I grabbed some tip money out of the in-room safe and was sticking it in my pocket when I heard the doorbell ring. Seriously? Our suite had a doorbell? That was crazy. Slamming the safe shut, I walked into the living room. Sighing with relief, it was great to see that it was Director Rick, and he'd been able to get both Steven and Antoine to help us out so quickly. I was even more surprised to see they were both wearing suits and ties. They looked sharp, but that look was definitely overkill. They reminded me of the dudes in the Men in Black movies.
Isaac was busy hugging Steven for getting him connected with Zach, so I went over and shook Antoine's hand.
"Guys, it's great to see you again. Both of you. And thanks so much for helping us out, especially on such short notice."
"It's no problem. Like I told you yesterday, I wasn't doing anything other than hanging by the pool scarfing down on my wife's famous hot wings. I was just about to crack open my first beer of the day when my phone blew up with all these notifications, and I decided to head on in to see if I could help with anything," Antoine said. "I was almost to the hotel when Mr. Lopez called and asked if I could drive you guys around today. I jumped at the chance. You'll be safe with Steven and myself, I promise."
"Antoine worked for a limousine service before joining us. You're in good hands," Rick, the Director of Everything said. "And of course, Steven knows Isaac, so that's a bonus."
"I was at the gym when I heard about it from Mama Sally. She called me when she couldn't get ahold of you and was frantic about Isaac. So I jumped in my sister's car and headed on down. I was halfway here when Mr. Lopez called me. Just like Antoine, I was happy to hear I could help Isaac and you guys out, or anything to get the hotel up and running again."
"Well, we all appreciate it, especially since it's both your guy's day off. The three of us need to get out of here for a while, and especially away from the press. I'll feel much better knowing you guys will be with us today to help keep them at bay. Thank you from all of us. I gotta say though, the suits and ties are overkill, especially in this weather. Maybe lose the jackets and ties?"
There was an awkward silence and bug-eyes all around until I asked Director Lopez, "Can I talk with you privately for a second, Rick?"
"Sure. Is it all right if we talk in the bedroom?"
"Perfect." He followed me in, and I shut the door. We sat in comfy cream-colored chairs overlooking Lake Bellagio below when I asked, "Were you able to make all the arrangements I needed? And do Antoine and Steven know not to say anything to the guys? And seriously, what's up with the suits?"
"I was able to put everything together, just like you asked. Here," he said and slipped an envelope into my hand. "Besides you, only Antoine, Steven and I know what's happening this afternoon, and I feel confident this will go off without a hitch. Those two are great guys, just like you said. I've known Antoine for a while now, and his employment record with us is spotless. And while I didn't know Steven personally until today, he has an excellent employment record in the short time he's been here with us.
"When I met Steven, I was impressed. As for the suits, I've made them temporary security team members for the day, and that's what they wear. They will look intimidating at the Verizon store. I have a friend of a friend, and let's just say the store will be open only for you and the boys. Antoine and Steven will make sure that happens. That means no press, and no one to film you guys if someone recognizes you."
"Wow, that's great. I was impressed with both of them too. Before we left for home, I was planning on talking to the Director of Personnel to see if Steven could become an employee of the month or some other corporate recognition. What he did, recognizing Zach looked just like Isaac, and then getting Zach and Isaac together was way above his job description. Antione, too. He deserves some recognition as well. He always remembers my name and asks us how we're doing and if we needed anything. I manage a department at a large concert venue in Los Angeles, and I'm a firm believer in recognizing and rewarding excellent staff members. Good people are hard to find, so you have to reward them to keep them."
"We have the same philosophy here at the Bellagio. You're in good hands, I promise. I made them swear they'd keep this secret."
"That's so great. Thank you again for putting this together, especially on such short notice."
"It's my job, and I love doing it. Besides, we owe you large for what you did today. No doubt about it. You probably saved lives with your quick thinking. Thank you for that."
"I was only reacting to a bad situation. Like I said, I'm a caretaker, and that's just how I'm wired. I'm glad I was able to help."
"There's one more thing. The Director of Marketing and Publicity was wondering if you would attend a press briefing we're holding later tonight after you guys get back. Would you be willing to do that? We'd make it brief; I promise."
"Ordinarily I wouldn't have a problem with that, but we have another situation going on with the press, and that's the main reason Zach and I came out here. To get away from them. Do you know the name Ziggy Dumont?"
"The B-movie producer? The MeToo guy that skipped town and recently got arrested in some hanky European country? Of course I've heard of him. I think he even stayed here a couple of times. Why do you ask?"
"Yeah, that's the guy, and he's a rat. Unfortunately, he's both Zach and Isaac's father. But fortunately, they're nothing like him. He was basically their sperm donor. Anyway, the press has been hounding Zach for an interview, but they don't know about Isaac. I'd like to keep it that way. So, I don't think I can do your presser as much as I'd like too. There's a reporter who keeps dogging us, and I know she knows about me now. And because I'm all over the news today, she'll know where to find us. I wouldn't be surprised if she's on her way here, as we speak. She's something else."
"Oh, man. That's not a good situation. She sounds ruthless. How about this: Would you be willing to have a sit-down interview with one of our local TV reporters? Just you and one of them? Maybe here in the suite? I know of a young guy that's eager to get a scoop to further his career. He's not out of the closet at work, but I'm sure he'd understand what you guys are going through and why you're protecting your guys. I don't think he'd blindside you."
I let out a deep breath. "The press isn't going to let this go, are they?"
"No, I'm afraid not. Even if you get back to Los Angeles, they'll hunt you down for an interview."
"Shit! I hate this."
"I know. I would too if I was in your situation."
"Let me think about it. Interviews don't bother me, but if I do it, it would have to be a one-on-one kinda thing on my terms. And there would be absolutely no mention of Ziggy Dumont or my guys. The minute they ask a question about that, I'm done and out. And it has to be in another room somewhere. I won't let the press in here, security or no security. They've made our life miserable lately, and I'm not going to subject my guys to any of that. It got so bad I had to hire security 24/7 at my house."
"Okay, I understand that. I think we could do a one-on-one. There's a couple of vacant rooms on the floor above us we could hold it in. Let me see who I can get. I'll call the newbie first, the one I told you who wants to make an exclusive to climb up the ladder. He might not even know who Ziggy is."
"Okay. But ten minutes tops. That's all I'll agree to, and I'll be setting my timer. And like I said, one mention of Ziggy and I'm out."
"Perfect. Sounds fair to me."
"Okay. Anything else I should know?"
"I think we've got it all covered. Are you nervous?" Rick asked me. "I know I would be."
"Very. Scared shitless, to be exact. But this is something I just can't put off. Too much is at stake. And, well…you know all the reasons why I'm doing this, besides the fact that our love for each other is so strong. Sounds cheesy, I know, but it's true. Zach is everything to me. Listen. If you're ever in Los Angeles and want tickets to a concert or a game, let me know. I'll hook you up with front row seats or a skybox. Just give me a couple day's heads up to work my magic."
"That would be great. We don't get out to L.A. very often, but I would dig seeing our Golden Knights whip your Kings butts on their home turf."
"I can make that happen. But just so you know, your Knights will never, ever, beat the Kings at home. Just not gonna happen, buddy."
"Jeremy, you're on!"
"Awesome. Okay, are we ready?"
"Yeah, I think so. Give me a second to confer with security and make sure they're all set." I followed him out of the bedroom, and then he went out to the hall to speak with his people.
I asked, "Is everyone ready to go?" The guys said they were, and when Rick came back inside to tell us it was go-time, we were flanked by security front and back as we walked quickly and quietly to an employee's elevator way back in a dark corner down the hallway.
It was kind of surreal for me because I had never been on this end of a VIP escort. Usually, I helped to make sure VIP's were the ones being taken care of. But this – it felt good to be on the receiving end for a change. I looked at Zach and then at Isaac, and both of them were wide-eyed and excited. I'm sure Zach had done this before with his dad when he was younger, but this was an entirely different kind of thing. This time it was about us.
Isaac couldn't stop grinning, and he looked so much like Zach it warmed my heart. This was going to be a fantastic day; no crazy shooter was going to wreck it. Even Steven was sporting a slight smile, while Antoine was his usual stoic, intimidating self, which I thought was cool. But I'd bet a thousand bucks he was loving it too.
Trooping through the back of the house wasn't anything new to me, or probably Zach, but Isaac was mesmerized, and he was busy taking in everything around us. We got off the elevator at the laundry room, which really wasn't a room at all. It was like a small city, which made sense since the number of sheets, towels, and tablecloths for this size of a hotel must be mind-boggling. Funny thing: No one working gave us a second glance. Guess this was an everyday occurrence, or maybe we didn't look like Hollywood royalty or rock stars or goofy Internet 'influencers'.
Next, we went through the receiving area, another city unto itself, but not very exciting. Kinda like Home Depot without customers. When we reached the loading dock, most of the security people fanned out to make sure no press was lying in wait. I suddenly realized I owed Rick big for putting this together for us.
Two non-descript black SUV's with tinted windows were lined up, engines running and raring to go. I asked Rick, "What's with the other car?"
"I'm having a separate crew go with you, just in case anyone follows you. They'll turn off after you make it to your second destination, and be back when you return."
"Wow. You really think of everything. Thanks for that."
"Well, to be honest, I'm also sucking up. I really want you to do that interview. It would put the hotel in a good light, after everything that happened earlier. I'm sorry for that, but you work in this industry, so you know how these things go."
"I do, and I get it. No worries. See you late this afternoon. And thanks again, Rick."
"Jeremy, good luck."
We jumped into the second black SUV, Antione at the helm and Steven riding shotgun. They were both serious business now, and that made me relax for a minute. I had a second to check my texts. There were so many messages that it was overwhelming. I decided all of it would have to wait. Even with this crazy hoopla, I was still worried that I might not be able to pull this surprise off the way I wanted. But I calmed myself down when Zach laced his fingers in mine. I couldn't help myself and kissed his cheek, and then the back of his hand. Antoine caught us in the rearview mirror and gave me a sly wink. He was such a good guy.
We zoomed south, down the strip, past the iconic Welcome To Las Vegas sign full of people taking selfies, and then past the runway to the airport that practically reached into the intersection. Sitting at the stoplight was freaky because the jets came in so darn low overhead, they rocked the truck, and the noise was deafening. Zach and I almost freaked out, since we weren't expecting the sound, but it didn't seem to bother the other guys.
In fact, Isaac said, "Pretty cool, huh? Welcome to Vegas."
But then once we started moving again, traffic lightened up, and soon we turned into a generic strip mall that looked just like the ones back home. A couple of minutes later, the first SUV pulled right up to the curb in front of the Verizon store, and three of the security folks in the first car quickly jumped out to secure the location.
There really was no need for that, because it was the middle of the day, easily 115 degrees, and no one was around. Most of the parking lot was empty, plus, I had looked behind us occasionally to make sure no one was following us. Overkill for sure, but it made me feel safe, and maybe now I could relax for a moment.
When one of the suits came out of the store and waved us an A-Okay, the five of us got out and headed inside. I was happy to see the store was empty, save for a pretty young woman standing behind the big counter. But then I remembered Director Rick choreographed all of this and I was happy he carried some serious pull around town.
"Steven!" she yelled when she recognized him. "Look at you, all dressed up. I didn't expect you'd be here."
"I know. Who knew? Don't worry, guys. This is my friend Claudia from high school. Chica, don't get used to this look. It's itchy. Hey! I didn't know you worked here. That's so great. It's been a while. I've missed you."
"Me too. Better than working in a strip club, right? Like Amber," she laughed. I liked her immediately. The two looked cute together, and it made me wonder why they weren't dating. I'd have to ask the goofy guy what was going on with that.
"I'll say. Much better than when I was delivering Pizza Hut and had a big order for this strip club over on St. Rose. I couldn't believe it when Amber was on the pole, practically upside down. Not a good thing. Anyway, thanks for helping us out. I owe you big. This is Jeremy, Zach, and Isaac. You might have met Isaac before, I'm not sure. One of Mama Sally's kids. And over there is Antoine, watching the door. Can you believe it? We're on a secret mission!"
"I remember you, Isaac. I met you at a Christmas party a few years ago. But, wow. You're almost grown up now, cutie. My manager said I was the only one that could be here, so this must be something super-secret. Maybe someday you can tell me what this is all about."
"Sorry, Chica. Sworn to secrecy," Steven smiled, and his eyes lit up as he zipped his lips and tossed his imaginary key over his head. "Jeremy, tell my friend what you need so we can get this going ASAP. Time is of the essence here, dude."
"Hi, Claudia. Nice to meet you. Sorry for all of this inconvenience. We need new phones for Zach and Isaac. Zach has an old one that died, but he wants to keep the same number and brought it with him so you can transfer all his data. Isaac has never had one before. Give them the latest and greatest, and add it to my account. Cases, and anything else you think they'll need. And ramp up my data plan. Isaac's probably going to playing Fortnite all the time now," I joked. "Little Squirt's probably going to cost me a fortune, but he's worth it." It was probably true since my sister seemed to bitch and moan about their wireless bill every single month.
Zach leaned over to me and asked not so quietly, "Should we get something like Net Nanny on his phone so he doesn't get into any kind of mischief?"
"Like in case he sends someone a picture of his junk? Good thinking, buddy," I said.
"I am NOT going to do that. That's just sick. And you guys need to work on your whispering. Geez."
"Says every fifteen-year-old," I said. "Been there, seen that. Just ask my nephews how that turned out for them when they were your age. So no worries, we won't get that app. But I'm holding you to that promise."
"I promise I won't do something that stupid."
"Good, because once it's out there, it never goes away. Now get going and pick out your phone. Claudia, show them what you got."
"Will do. Follow me and let's look at phones, boys!" They followed her and her comet-trail of perfume excitedly around the store.
While Zach and Isaac were busy looking over all the different models and colors, I motioned to Steven to walk with me over to Antoine, who was stationed by the door. "I can't thank you both for going out of your way to do this. I really can't. Just know, I will never forget this."
"Well, I'd do anything for Isaac. He's a great kid. And to think I got you guys together. It blows my mind. I'm so happy for you. All of you."
"I meet a lot of people in my line of work, but nobody has been as cool as you guys are," Antoine said. "Thanks for asking me to come along on this adventure. It's something I'll always remember."
I asked, "Are you two worried about what comes next? You know you're both coming with us, right?"
"I'm stoked!" Steven said.
"I am too, but a little scared of heights, but I'll be all right."
"Awesome. Can one of you film it for me? I'll give you my phone."
"I can do that. No problem. I used to make off the wall YouTube videos with my RC cars doing stupid stunts and stuff when I was a kid. I even made a little coin from advertisers. I'll make sure to capture everything," Steven said. "Don't worry. I got this."
"Is it okay if I film it too? You know, just in case so you have a backup copy? Let's not leave something this important to chance."
"That would be terrific. Great idea, Antoine. But guys, when we get there, lose the jackets and ties, okay? I want you to have fun with us, and no offense, you dudes look stuffy. And besides, Rick isn't around to see you."
"I agree," Steven said. "I'm going nuts in this monkey suit. That's why I work at the pool."
"I like dressing up, but it's just too darn hot," Antoine said.
"Great." I looked at my watch and asked, "How long does it take us to get to our next destination?"
"Don't worry," Antoine said. "It's not that far."
"Getting antsy? You don't seem the type," Steven asked.
"Normally, I'm not. But this, well, this is going to be epic, at least I hope, and I don't want anything to go wrong."
"It won't. I have a good feeling about this."
"I do too."
"I hope you guys are right."
Fifteen minutes later we were back in the SUV's, speeding south out of the mall towards Henderson, but not before Steven swapped digits with Claudia. I hoped those two hooked up, because they looked like a cute couple with some serious lust going on.
Isaac was busy figuring out his new iPhone, while Zach started asking questions about where we were headed next. He knew something was going on, because the ordinarily bubbly Steven was uncharacteristically quiet, as was everyone else in the SUV.
"You seem nervous, Jeremy. That's not like you. Should I be worried?"
"Not at all. I think you guys will love what's next. I'm just running things through my head, trying to make sure I've got all the bases covered. I didn't have much time to pull this together. Thank God for Rick's help. Anyway, I think we're almost there, and you'll see in a minute or two what I have planned."
He leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Whatever it is, because you're doing it, it's going to be epic. Have I told you in the last ten minutes that I love you more than anything?"
"As a matter of fact, you have. But you can tell me again. Again, and again and again."
I gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. I was trying to be quiet, but I guess the other guys heard us and shouted, practically at the same time, "Dudes, get a room!" That was hilarious and made Zach and I bust-up. Plus, it cut some of my tension.
Soon enough, the SUV in front of us made a hair-raising right turn onto Executive Airport Drive, Antoine doing the same when Zach exclaimed holding tight to his seatbelt, "We're going to the airport? Why? And what's the rush? I thought we were going to tip over there for a moment."
Isaac asked, "Are we meeting the Raiders? Or the Knights? I know they use this airport. Are they coming in for practice? Holy crapola, this is so great. I'd love to meet Brayden McNabb. He's a hottie, and he's good, too. Oh, shit! Did I just say that? Out loud? Again?"
"Yeah, you sure did, Squirt. But no worries," Zach said, laughing. The rest of us were giggling too.
"I really need to work on my mouth. But I'm just so excited!"
"We are too, Squirt. Steven and Antoine? Should I tell them, or make them wait?"
"Oh, c'mon!" Isaac yelled. "Tell us, Jeremy. Why do you do that? You know Zach, and I can't stand it."
"Settle down, Squirt. Okay, here goes. Ever been in a helicopter before?"
"No. Oh, wait. We're going flying in a helicopter? Super-duper yay!" The kid went crazy, squirming all around in his seat and shaking his arms in the air. And practically singing, "I'm gonna take all kinds of pictures from a helicopter!"
"Are you serious, Jeremy? You're taking me and the Squirt on a helicopter tour?"
"I am. And Steven and Antione are going with us. I was originally planning just a short flight around the strip, but the airspace is restricted right now because of the TV news choppers. So we're going someplace else. You guys are going to love it. I promise."
"And you two are in on this?" Zach asked, pointing to the guys up in front.
Steven said yes, while Antoine only smiled and nodded once.
"Wow. You're really something. And after everything that went on earlier," Zach said. "Um, you told Sally, right? I don't want to get into trouble with her not knowing we're taking Isaac with us. She might not want him to do it."
"We're all good. I have her blessing. In fact, she said on our way back to buzz their house. I don't know if that's possible, but we'll see."
"That's so cool. Thanks, Jeremy. I'd love to fly over our house," the kid said. "That would be so killer."
"I think that would be cool, too, but don't be upset if that doesn't happen, okay?"
"Sure. Where exactly are we going? Utah?"
"No, Squirt. How should I say this? Those people…in Utah…they're not…um…so accepting to us. So we're going somewhere else that has better energy. And it's going to be way better. You'll find out when the pilot briefs on his flight plans."
"This is so super-yay I can't believe it! Thanks again for everything you're doing for us."
"No problem. Like I told Zach earlier, flying in a helicopter is something I've wanted to do for a long time. Okay, looks like we're almost here. While I'm talking to the guys in the other SUV, you guys might want to use the restroom. It's going to be about a three- or four-hour tour, and I'm not sure what the facilities are going to be like once we reach our destination. I'll meet up with you guys inside in just a minute or two. Steven and Antoine, leave your jackets and ties in the car. It's just too hot for that stuff."
"That's an order, and I insist. I'll take all the heat if anyone says anything. And speaking of heat, everyone needs to grab their water bottles and take them with you."
The Executive Airport was surprisingly large. The airport catered to tours like ours, but also VIP's and big-league sports teams that didn't want to deal with the much bigger, and more hectic, Las Vegas International Airport at the end of the strip.
After checking in (luckily Zach's fake I.D. worked as did the Squirt's high school I.D.) we only had to wait a few minutes before an older, friendly-looking guy came over to us and introduced himself to us as Pilot Pete. Zach and I shot a quick look at each other, and instantly, we both knew we were in good hands.
"Just like the story you told me that first night when I couldn't sleep."
"I know. That makes this even more special," I whispered.
After introductions all around, he told us to follow him out to the tarmac, to show us his 'baby'. It was much more than a baby.
"This is an EC-130 helicopter, and one of my favorites to fly. There's three across with theater seating in the back giving everyone an excellent view. Weather is warm, but not windy today, so we'll have a fantastic flight. Before we climb in, we'll need to assign seats."
"Why?" Steven asked.
"Can I sit by the window?" This was from Isaac.
"Because we have to distribute the weight evenly. I think you and, I'm sorry, what was your name again, son?"
"Right. Zach and the kid will need to sit in the middle seats, while the bigger guys will sit by the windows."
"Is it okay if I sit up front next to Pilot Pete?" Isaac asked excitedly.
"That's fine, little brother. Go for it."
"Yay! I can't believe we're doing this. This is going to be so great!"
"You fella's go ahead and climb on in, then click on your harness. I'll go around and make sure you're all buckled up correctly." Once that was done, and the doors were secured, Pilot Pete had us put on cool headphones with small mic's attached to them. That way, we could hear him as he pointed out landmarks and allowed us to ask questions.
The pilot started up the engine, and while it was warming up and the rotors were getting up to speed, I looked over at Antoine. He was in the back with us, on the other side of Zach, and looked incredibly nervous. "Antoine, you doing okay, buddy?"
"Yeah. This is the first time I've ever flown. I've never even been on a plane before."
"Don't worry, son. It's going to be nice and smooth. Once we're up, you won't even realize we're flying. But just in case, there's an airsickness bag in the back pocket in front of you. I promise I won't do any hot-dogging unless you want me too."
"Thanks. Good to know, Pete."
"It'll be all right, Antoine," Isaac said, turning around. "You'll see. I've never flown before, either."
"Thanks, Squirt. Love that name for you, by the way."
Pete was right, and when he took us up, it was indeed nice and smooth. So much different than taking off in a plane.
"Steven, look! You can see everything out the bottom. This is so epic! It's like we're dangling our feet in the sky!"
I couldn't see Steven, but I'm sure he was loving it too, because he said, "Damn."
"We'll be flying over Hoover Dam in a few minutes. It'll be on your left. We're not allowed to fly too close, for security reasons, but you'll have a great view."
I had seen pictures of the dam and Lake Mead, but it truly was an incredible sight. Pilot Pete was giving a narration of the history of the dam when Zach squeezed my hand. I looked over at him, and his smile told me everything I needed to know. His love was just pouring out, and he didn't have to say a word.
Pilot Pete continued, "We're going to fly along the south rim of the canyon for a bit following the river, and I'll point out some the highlights. It won't take us long to get to Hualapai Ranch where we'll land for an hour or so."
"What's there?" Isaac asked.
"The Grand Canyon Skywalk, of course. Have you heard of it?"
"Shit yeah, I have!" The Squirt yelled. Everyone on board howled with laughter.
"Quite the mouth on that boy," Pete said, still laughing.
"Don't worry, son. I've heard worse. Especially in Afghanistan and Iraq."
"Did you fly helicopters over there, like on raids and stuff?" the kid asked.
"Yes. But this is way more fun."
"I've seen pictures of the Skywalk," Steven said, changing the subject. "Does it really hang out way over the canyon, like three thousand feet above the river? And is it really made all in glass?"
"Pretty much. The problem is it's so popular now. You guys might have to wait to go on it."
"No offense, Jeremy, helicopters are one thing, but a glass bridge hanging over the canyon? I'll be sitting this one out," Antoine said. "That's just a whole lot of nope."
"No problem, buddy. There are other things to do there."
"Good. I hope they have beer. I'm gonna need one after this."
Pete gave us a rundown of how the canyon was formed, the history of the indigenous peoples who first populated the area (and still do for the most part) and some scary details about the first guys to raft down the entire length. He also pointed out some of the peaks that were named after Greek Gods. It was kind of interesting until he had to stop talking to us and started communicating with what I guessed was the tower since he had shut off our feed and we couldn't hear him.
Pete came back on a couple of minutes later and said, "Guys, we've hit a bit of a snag. The airport close to the bridge is at capacity, and there's no room for us to land. We have two options: We can land at an auxiliary spot with basically no amenities, or we can scratch the bridge and continue flying along the river and head over to Lake Powell. If we land, we might be there for thirty minutes or so, without much to do until a spot opens up for us back at the bridge. But we can get out, stretch our legs. It's right on the very edge of the canyon. Also, it's great for selfies. Plus, it only holds three choppers so it won't be crowded. You're call."
"What do you guys think? Zach?"
"Doesn't matter to me. We can get out and wait if you want."
"I want to do the bridge," Isaac said.
"No surprise there, Squirt. Steven, Antoine? What are you guys thinking?"
"I'm not going on that bridge, so it doesn't matter to me. We can land and wait it out. It might be interesting since it won't be crowded and probably no one will recognize you."
"I forgot about that. Pete, when you say crowded at the bridge, how crowded are you talking about?"
"Maybe a couple thousand people, kind of scattered around. There are other things to do there besides the bridge."
"Let's land. I don't want you to deal with some sort of situation," Zach said. "We've been through enough of that lately."
"I agree with Zach. Maybe this is happening for a reason," Steven said. "Sorry Squirt, I think you're going to have to be patient. And it might be a good place to take some video." Very subtle.
"Aw, weenie in a bikini." Everyone laughed at that.
Pete asked, "Where did you find this kid? He sure is something."
"That's for sure," Zach said, grinning.
Pilot Pete slowly took us down to a grass and sage-covered bluff, easily three-thousand feet above the Colorado River. The only thing I could see was an orange windsock and a small picnic bench. Not even a porta-potty. It didn't look like much, other than it was on the very edge of the Grand Canyon and the view was outrageous.
There was only one helicopter parked there, and the four folks from it were sitting around the one and only picnic bench drinking wine. Despite that, I had a good feeling about this place, but I wasn't exactly sure why. It just – not sure exactly – felt special for some reason.
"You better keep your eye on Isaac. Don't want him tumbling over the rim," I said. "He wouldn't be the first to go down the canyon trying to get the perfect selfie."
"I was already thinking about that, too," Zach said.
"You think I'm that stupid?"
"No, Squirt. But shit happens, and we're just looking out for you is all."
"I want you to be around for a long time, little brother."
"Okay. Thanks, I guess. But I'm not stupid."
"No one said you were," Steven said before either Zach or I could respond. "You should be happy so many people are looking out for you."
"You're right. I'm sorry guys."
"Good. And I agree. You're not stupid. Don't ever call yourself that word again or you'll have to deal with me," Antoine said.
"Okay, geez. I promise I'll never say that again. Since when did I get all these dad's?"
"You can never have too many dad's," Pilot Pete said. "You're a lucky young man to have so many people looking after you, and loving you so unconditionally. Suck it up, little man, and enjoy it."
"You're right. It's just all so new. I'm sorry everybody."
Pete throttled down the rotors, and when everything was finally turned off, he said, "Well, damn. I wonder what he's doing here?"
"Who's that?" I asked, unbuckling my harness. An older looking dude in jeans, boots and a black cowboy hat had meandered out between the scrubby sage, practically from nowhere.
"He's one of the tribal elders. I haven't seen him in a couple of years. This should be interesting. C'mon, guys, I'll introduce you. He's an amazing man, a great storyteller, and champion for his people. You're going to instantly like him. I have to say though, you boys are in for a special treat."
For those not familiar with Hoover Dam or the Hualapai Tribe Glass Bridge, here are some links:
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