Hello, Lana. My name is Levi. I’ll be assisting you. Thank you, Lana tells him. I’m sitting next to you on your left side. She reaches over and pats his leg and finds his hand. You’re very strong, Levi, she says feeling his forearm. I served in the IDF in a special unit. What was selection like? She asks him. That was a lifetime ago, he replies. I have the upmost admiration for you; anyone else would have been locked up with fear. I’m a has-been, she replies. We’re all has-beens, Lana. How did you end up as an paramedic? It’s just a temporary assignment. You may know my boss, Saul Zeller. Lana draws in a sharp breath and suddenly hugs herself and turns away from him slightly. Relax, Lana. Samantha would kill me if Bettina or you came to any harm. What have you done with Bettina? She’s being dropped off at the residence of a Captain Howard, NOPD, none the wiser. She’ll be given a ransom note once she steps out of the cruiser. He sees Lana take several deep breaths. I cannot help but notice the engagement ring, Levi says. Lana doesn’t respond, and feels the bench with her hands, and scoots away from him as far as she can into a corner. Relax, Lana. I’m not going to harm you. She curls up in the corner. He says something in Hebrew, and Jewish reggae comes on the stereo. The words are in English. He sees her uncross one arm and put her palm against her head. His phone rings, and he says something in Hebrew, and the music turns off. Bettina has been dropped off. We’re going to switch vehicles soon, Lana. He says something in Hebrew, and the reggae comes back on. The singer chanting “Jerusalem”.
Five minutes later, they come to a halt, and the music stops. Time to transfer, Lana. Please cooperate. What is Sam’s alma mater? She asks. Brown, Levi responds. Hurry up. Lana stands up, and suddenly tears apart her summer dress, and steps out of it. Levi swears. And jumps back into the ambulance and scoops up Lana, now in her bra and panties, and carries her out of the ambulance into a waiting limousine and deposits her carefully. We’ve got eyes on us, Lana hears someone say. Levi swears fiercely. Lana scoots over against the other door and is fumbling for the latch, when Levi presses his shoulder against her and pins her elbows. She hears the doors latch and then the car takes off. Are you going to behave? He asks her. She tries to headbutt him, but he sees it coming and scoots back across to the other door. She feels for the window button, and finds it, but nothing happens. You have a beautiful body, Lana. Levi tells her. She curls up into a ball, and leans against the far door.
Half an hour later, they arrive at the private section of the airport. Get a blanket for the pinup girl here. The driver comes back with one two minutes later. Levi cuts a slit in it with his knife out of the middle. That’ll do, he says to himself. And he throws the blanket at her. I cut a slit out of the middle. Put your head through that. Lana doesn’t move. I’ll cut your bra off, he warns her. She does as she’s told. I should be a fashion designer, he says chuckling. Lana scowls. There’s a change of clothes in the plane. You should keep the top though.
After takeoff, Lana comes out of the lavoratory wearing sweatpants and a hoodie. Levi guides her verbally to her seat. Here’s a blanket. Thank you, she tells him. There’s a water bottle on the seat next to you. I’ve some sleep meds, if you want them for the flight. No thank you. What you did was the one contingency that I didn’t plan for. Lana doesn’t say anything, and fumbles around for the recline button. Right here, Lana. Levi takes her hand and places it on top of the button. Thank you, Lana tells him. Please don’t touch me again without my permission, Lana tells him softly. Do you want a pillow, Levi asks her. Yes, please. He gets a small travel pillow and places it on her lap, and she takes it and places it behind her neck.
Lana, we’ve arrived. Levi tells her three hours later. She stretches and takes a drink out of her water bottle. Do you need to use the lav? Maybe in a half hour, after I start moving around, she tells him.
A car is meeting us inside a hangar. It’ll have some flipflops for you; is there anything else you’d like? No thank you. I’d like to carry you down the gangway. Lana nods.
Setting you down, he says a minute later. She latches on to his elbow, and he escorts her over to a car. Watch your head, he tells her. Thank you, Levi. She tells him. Hands clear, and he shuts the door.
My niece, Samantha, loves you. A man sitting next to her says. She doesn’t know about your journey. Thank you for not harming Bettina, Lana says softly. Lana, I cannot have you working against me. Lana chortles with laughter. I’m blind, completely useless, totally dependent upon others.
You warned Ortega. Lana brings her palm to her face. You have her car bugged? His car: a Mazda 3 Premium AWD Hatchback with a hole in the roof. Lana grins. I wish I could have seen it, she says wistfully. Lana – Sam is like a daughter to me. Now she’s fallen in love with this playboy. It’s mutual, sir. Lana says softly. Please let her be happy. The old man doesn’t say anything for a long time. My desire, Lana, is for the empire I’ve built to continue on after I’m gone. How would you advise that I do that?
The five good Roman emperors were adoptives, Lana says suddenly. Nerva got the peace. Trajan expanded the empire. Hadrian consolidated the empire. I don’t remember the next ones. Then Marcus Aurelius, who died on campaign. His son ruined it all. So Roman history makes a strong case against nepotism. Why don’t you handpick your successor, sir? He doesn’t answer. You already have, she says. And Sam being Sam resented that and bullied him. Levi?!?
It’s a beautiful thing watching your mind work, Lana. The old man tells her.
I don’t understand what you want from me, Lana tells him. I want to help you. Your friend Jon reached out to me. He did? Lana asks, utterly astonished. There is a heli coil procedure that you can elect to undergo. It’s a binary outcome. Either you regain your sight, or you’re dead on the operating table. Yes. Lana says without hesitation. Sir, if it isn’t a success, please have them keep me alive long enough to donate my heart and kidneys and liver. This isn’t going to be a sanctioned operation, Lana. You can drop them off at a hospital in a cooler. Lana Radley. B-positive. Given with her consent.
What do you want done with your body? I’ll get a new one at the resurrection, so it really doesn’t matter. She pauses. I would prefer to be buried. Out in the Pine Barrens is fine. Sam’s uncle chuckles.
What do you want done with your engagement ring? I like wearing it. It feels nice. And I want to see what it looks like. If I die, then please see that Jax gets it back. And please thank Jon for setting this up. Good luck, Lana. I hope we meet again, sir. She hears a window roll down. Take her to the clinic.