42. Of Pods and Choppers

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Valerie explained to the others what Donovan had said, concluding with, "He lost radio contact with Patrick when he descended below line-of-sight. He'll call me again as soon as he hears more."

Jack nodded. "Yeah, Patrick has the chopper by radio, so the pilot can guide him to their position. Much easier to find them that way."

"The pilot could also give Patrick the GPS coordinates," Garth added. They'd have a chartplotter aboard, and she'd have entered the position in the chopper's log."

"Good point. Very easy to find."

Valerie breathed a deep sigh, then drained the last cold bit of her coffee. "As much as I hate to, I'm going to add another pod to the landfill." She switched the machine on, topped up the water tank and sorted through the box. "Did either of you find a good one?"

She watched their heads shake, then looked at the three discarded pods and considered a different colour. "At least with boxes of chocolates, the guide grids let us know what to expect. Here, it seems nothing but an irrelevant concocted name and blather."

Chloe looked up from her computer. "Their site is full of what you call fluff, Mummy. It appears to be more about selling than informing."

"Yeah, they wouldn't want their converted to learn the truth." She looked over Chloe's shoulder at the screen. "Do they have anything about how the colour coding relates to flavour and intensity?"

Chloe explored the site while her mother watched. "Here's what it says when I click the pink one."

Valerie leaned closer and read the text aloud, "On a soft base, this blend of Colombian Arabicas deploys typical notes of red fruits jam, and echoes winey flavours

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Valerie leaned closer and read the text aloud, "On a soft base, this blend of Colombian Arabicas deploys typical notes of red fruits jam, and echoes winey flavours." She straightened up and shook her head. "Does anyone have any idea what this means?"

Chloe chuckled. "Yeah, it means they're duping the gullible public."

"There's a pink one in the box here, Val," Garth said. "You can see if you find the wine and the berry jam."

"Yeah, and the soft base, deployed notes and echoes." She took the pink pod as Garth handed it to her, placed it in the machine and pressed the button. When the process had finished, she picked up the cup, took a sip and slowly savoured. "Well, it's caffeine." She shook her head. "It's like religion, isn't it? The converted will heed the written words and bow down without thinking."

Garth nodded as he selected a pod for himself. "Sounds as if you're into marketing, Val."

"Mummy owns a conglomerate bigger than Daddy's."

"Chloe!"

"It's true, Mummy. I've been researching."

"We've talked about this, Sweetheart. Boasting isn't proper, nor does size matter. What matters is the quality and —" The ring of the phone startled her, and she scrambled to pick it up and answer, switching it to Speaker as she did. "Yes, Donovan."

"Patrick popped up a minute ago to establish radio contact and to inform us of his intentions. He's gone back down to the site. He cut me off as I was telling him to wait until daylight."

Why wait? "Did he say where they were?"

"He told me they reported being in a stable position on a broad slab near the mouth of a hanging valley, twelve hundred feet above the valley floor and twenty-five hundred feet below the summit ridges. He gave me the GPS position and —"

"And what were Patrick's intentions?"

"To bring them out."

"Good."

"Risky at night. I tried to dissuade him, but he dipped out of contact."

Great initiative, Patrick. "Good, I'm pleased."

"Pleased?"

"Yes, that he's taken the initiative to go down to get them. It'll be cold up there, and they're not prepared for that. If Patrick has faith in what he's doing, I have faith in his pulling it off."

"But, it's putting another of our helicopters at risk."

"And the risk to the five people up there? Helicopters are cheap and easily replaced. People aren't. Nor is their comfort and safety."

"Yes, but —"

"Thank you for this, Donovan. Call me as soon as you hear."

"Yeah."

Valerie closed the call, then looked up with a beaming face. "I'm pleased Patrick knows how to take charge when needed."

Garth nodded. "It's one of Mr Benton's prime hiring criteria."

"Yeah, and mine." She picked up her coffee and took another sip. "Well, the pink is also a loser. How long should this take, Patrick?"

"Depends on how tricky the landing is. If there is space and the pilot is on her toes, she would have had a landing pad cleared and marked." Garth retrieved his cup from the machine and took a sip. "Green is a bust as well."

"So, ten minutes?"

"Yeah, give or take. There are no injuries, so it should be quick." Jack rummaged through the box of pods, searching for an untried colour. "Approach and landing will take the longest."

"Can he take them all in one load?"

"This page shows the chopper can take six plus the pilot, Mummy." Chloe turned her computer so the others could see

Valerie knelt beside Chloe and put an arm around her shoulder as she examined the screen

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Valerie knelt beside Chloe and put an arm around her shoulder as she examined the screen. "Yeah, a Bell 206. That's what Donovan said he had, didn't he?"

"Yeah, I looked it up after he mentioned it."

"You don't miss anything, do you?"

"I miss Daddy."

Oh, God, child. She pulled Chloe into a hug.

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