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The Condiment Code -Thomas Calabrese

By   /  September 24, 2023  /  8 Comments


By The Misty Backdoor Light

Thomas Calabrese – Xavier Bond retired from the Navy Seals with 24 years of total service after attaining the rank of Commander. At the time that he left military service, he was in command of four 16-man teams and a company size support element. ‘X’, X-Man, X-Factor or X Marks the Spot, as he was sometimes called by his fellow Seals served with honor, distinction and humility at dangerous locations around the world. Going into harm’s way was his lifestyle.

A Special Operator was well aware that if he was under the command of Xavier Bond that he’d better know his X’s and O’s before a mission because there would be hell to pay and no forgiveness given for laziness, negligence or incompetence. Once a Special Operator earned the trust of the X Man, there was no highest recommendation that he could possess than to say that he was bonded.

After obliterating a heavily fortified terrorist compound in Afghanistan, one Navy Seal walked over to X and asked, “What you do want to do with the tunnel complex?”

            “I like my terrorists shaken, not stirred,” Xavier said calmly.

            “Roger that, shake, rattle and roll, I like the sound of that tune,” The Navy Seal smiled and ten minutes later a series of explosions destroyed the elaborate underground enemy installation and the ground collapsed into a large hole.

Xavier had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and he read extensively about a variety of subjects. In every country that he served, X thoroughly researched its history and culture. If he saw a movie, he read about the actors, director and the backstory of how the movie came to be. If he heard a song and the title or a lyric stimulated his interest, he read about it.  It could be almost anything that would stimulate his interest, and health and nutrition were high on his list. Wherever he was in the world and time permitting, X would seek out doctors and educated individuals and discuss various issues with them. X firmly believed that knowledge was power. He became an avowed student of Eastern medicine practices. (Eastern medicine encompasses both traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda techniques, which are holistic systems of medicine that have existed for far longer than conventional Western medicine.) Xavier Bond spoke five languages; Japanese, Mandarin, French, Italian and Russian and was learning Arabic. While he didn’t have a photographic memory, he did possess a high functioning eidetic memory which meant X retained mental images from years past in accurate detail. An Eidetic memory includes highly perceptive auditory and sensory abilities across a wide range of stimuli. For example, if Xavier Bond was reminiscing about an incident that occurred twenty years ago, he could visualize it in the same detail as if it was occurring right before his eyes in the present.

When a man possessed the unique skills, extensive education and numerous experiences of Xavier Bond as well as a Top Secret Clearance, his services were in great demand in the civilian sector. There are some rare employment opportunities that most people don’t even know exist and one such position was called an elite courier. There are various products and information in this world that are so valuable and in some cases priceless and the people who possess them are willing to pay exorbitant fees to transport them. It takes a unique individual to take on this kind of responsibility and one such man was Xavier Bond.

The import export company used the cover of transporting regular commodities to hide its other purpose. X was assigned to the Pacific Rim region and this area included; Japan, China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. He chose to live in Oceanside, a short distance from the Carlsbad International Airport in a gated community.

X was an enigma, he was detailed and analytical in most aspects of his life, but was self-deprecating and light hearted when it came to his social interactions with his friends and comrades. He maintained a high level of secrecy from the world, but to those who knew him, X was completely genuine in his behavior. His four bedroom house was titled in the name of a shell company as well as the registration of his two vehicles. The utilities were paid by a property management company so basically nothing was in Xavier’s name. The house had an elaborate alarm system and the master suite was on the ground floor and its walls had metal plates behind the sheetrock. The entry door was solid steel and the windows were double pane bullet proof glass. A state of the art safe was hidden inside a wooden armoire and extended from floor to ceiling. The backyard was big enough to include an outdoor kitchen, a small greenhouse, swimspa, sauna, cabana with large screen television and a pickleball court. X turned his family room into a fitness center equipped with a speed bag, heavy bag, dumbbells, barbells, inversion table, pull-up bar, exercise mat and massage chair.

He conducted a lot of business in Singapore so X had his clothes and shoes custom made by skilled craftsmen. He was routinely tested by a Malaysian doctor to make sure that his body was receiving the proper nutrients and antioxidants.

After delivering a valuable work of art to a Thai billionaire, X called his female friend, Tory McCain, “I’m coming in on Wednesday, are you available on Thursday?”

            “I’ve already made plans with my daughter,” Tory responded, “I wish you would have given me more notice.”

            “I finished earlier than I expected, this is on me, not you.  I’ll be home most of the day on Friday if it fits into your schedule.”

            “I’ll try,” Tory said.

            “I’ll look forward to seeing you, but I won’t expect you,” Xavier said, “You’ll always have right of first refusal with me.”

There were certain formalities that X expected from his friends and one of them was that he didn’t like people stopping by unexpectedly so while flying back to Carlsbad Airport in a private jet, he sent a group text to several of his friends, “Get together on Friday evening, let me know if you can make it.”

Xavier’s circle of friends included former Navy Seals, Marines, a Highway Patrol officer and two Oceanside Police Officers. Guests started drifting in about 6pm and while nothing was required, everyone brought something to eat or drink. That was the kind of people that they were. The grill was in full operation and meat, fish and chicken were grilling and a variety of side dishes were available. Some of the men brought their girlfriends or wives and other came alone, but everybody knew each other and it was a casual and welcoming environment.

Mike McNellis, a former Marine asked, “How was the trip?”

X responded with a sly smile, “No matter where I go, I always relish the opportunity to come home and catch-up on my Pickleball. I don’t care if it’s sweet, dill or kosher.”

            “They don’t call you the big cucumber for nothing,” Mike said.

A couple hours later, Tory showed up and Xavier greeted her with a warm smile, “I’m sure glad to see you. Any day is better with you in it.”

            “It’s good to see you too. I planned on getting here earlier, but surgery ran a little longer than expected.” Tory said, “It looks like most of the gang arrived.”

            “Somethings and some people are always worth the wait and you’re one of them,” X   called out, “Tory is in the house!” Everyone cheered and applauded.

X stood six foot four inches tall and was a solid 225 pounds and Tory was five foot eleven inches. Physically they made for an imposing and attractive couple, but it was their similar values that bonded them. X and Tory teamed up in Pickleball and after several games where they went undefeated, they relinquished the court and sat down on the couch in the outdoor cabana.

Tory commented on their dating dynamics, “I’ve got a busy career that takes up a lot my time and even though my two children are in college, they still require me to be a part of their lives. Do you ever wonder if you might be getting the short end of the deal?”

            “In every relationship, there are three lives involved, your life, my life and the life we share and we are continuously trying to find the right balance between the three. The journey is just as important as the destination. Your family should always take priority over me and they were with you long before I came into your life. I’m not complaining about where I rate because a big part of who you are and why I care about you is your strength and your commitment to doing the right thing. I’m here to support you, not weaken or make you doubt yourself. If I see something I don’t like or can’t handle, you’ll be the first to know, but right now you’re close enough to perfect for an imperfect person like myself.”

Tory’s emotions got the best of her and it took her a few seconds to compose herself, “My mom was a big Elvis Presley fan and there was a movie he made called Kid Galahad. The lyrics from one of his songs in that movie was called, I Got Lucky. It seems very appropriate right now. It goes like this,” and Tory proceeded to sing; “Never found a four leaf clover to bring good luck to me, No rabbit’s foot no lucky star no magic wishing tree. But I got lucky, yes I got lucky when I found you, oh yeah! Got no rainbow around my shoulder, no horseshoe on my door. But I got you to hold me tight and who could ask for more. Oh I got lucky, yes I got lucky when I found you,” and kissed Xavier.

Doctor Tory McCain was an orthopedic surgeon who served in the Navy for eight years before going into private practice. She was a widow and her husband was a Marine Corps fighter pilot who was killed when his F-35 crashed during a training flight. She was prepared to spend the rest of her life focusing on her career and family and had no interest in dating. That changed when she was at the farmers’ market in the Vista Courthouse parking lot on a Saturday morning. She was carrying two large bags of fresh produce and one of the bags broke. Out of nowhere, Xavier appeared to offer his assistance. Tory thanked him and he was gone. Her plan was to do some early shopping then go to the hospital to check on two of her patients, but then her car didn’t start.

Once again X appeared out of nowhere and inquired, “Can I help?”

            “I don’t what it is, I just had a 50,000 mile check-up and the battery was replaced a few weeks ago,” Tory sighed, “I need to be at the hospital and can’t wait for a tow truck right now.”

            “My name is Xavier Bond and I would happy to offer my chauffeuring skills.”

Tory was a good judge of character so when she looked in the man’s eyes, she could see his sincerity, “Are you former military?”

            “I am,” X responded, “What about you?”

            “Me too.”

X smiled, “One veteran helping out another…nothing wrong with that.”

X drove Tory to Tri City Medical Center and waited for her until she had completed her rounds then drove her back to Vista Courthouse parking lot and waited until the tow truck arrived. When they couldn’t start the vehicle, X drove Tory to her home in the Vista Hills. The whole thing took about three hours.

            “I’m deeply grateful, I took a lot of your Saturday,” Tory said.

            “You didn’t take anything, I gave it willingly,” X smiled.

Fate had a major part in the initial meeting of X and Tory, but it was respect, loyalty and a strong mutual attraction that kept them together. They often called themselves the antisocial socializers because an exciting date night for them usually consisted of a workout in the fitness center, a few games of Pickleball, time in the spa and sauna, a healthy dinner and watching a movie on the big screen television in the living room. Many times they fell asleep next to each other before the end because they were so relaxed.

It could be a couple months between assignments or as often as three jobs in a month for X and he was always prepared to leave on short notice. Tory accepted the dynamics of X’s job without being too inquisitive even though she sensed that there was more to his employment than merely exporting or importing products. Her daughter, Crystal and two of her friends were going to Phuket, Thailand for a three week vacation and Tory was going to join them for one week. She asked X to go with her and he accepted her invitation.

Two days before they were scheduled to leave, X received an assignment so he reluctantly told Tory that he would have to cancel, “I’ll be in the area so if I can get away, I’ll meet you there. That’s the best that I can do.”

            “Like you always tell me, I’ll look forward to seeing you if you can make it.”

The procedures were simple, X would deliver the item in question to the buyer, would have the opportunity to verify its authenticity before completing the purchase. Money would then be wired to an off-shore account and from there it was transferred to the seller.

The particular item in question was a five hundred year-old jade statute encrusted with rubies, sapphires and emeralds. It was valued at 425 million dollars and the sell price was 400 million dollars. The buyer was required to put up five million dollars as a sign of good faith, X went to a palatial estate in Saigon and met with billionaire criminal kingpin Nhat Pham Yuong and handed him the briefcase. Without opening it, Nhat Pham Yuong boasted, “I’ve decided that five million dollars is more than fair.”

            “The agreed price was 400 million,” X said calmly, “The balance is 395 million.”

Nhat Pham Yuong demanded, “Give me the code for the briefcase.”

Several men pointed their weapons at X, who gave up the code, “3967.”

Yuong opened the briefcase, pulled out the statute and looked at it with great appreciation, “You can go now.”

X left the mansion and Yuong’s resident expert on artifacts entered five minutes later, examined the statute and commented, “This is an imitation.”

Yuong suddenly realized that he didn’t save 395 million dollars, but actually lost five million. This enraged him and he yelled to his henchmen, “Go find that courier and bring him to me!”

 Five armed men walked down the street looking for X. Suddenly the former Navy Seal appeared from behind them and shot each one and continued on his way. While on the private jet, X called his employer and briefed them on what happened. The response was quick and short, “Termination authorized.”

            “Confirmed,” X replied.

The company that X worked for had a reputation to protect and they couldn’t let anyone get away with violating the rules of the sales. To allow Yuong to go unpunished would send the wrong message to current and potential clients. There are three things that you never want to do, don’t tug on Superman’s cape, don’t steal John Wick’s car and kill his dog and most important of all, never violate the rules of the contract when Xavier Bond is the courier.

 While in flight X sent a message to a group of men. The words were short and to the point, Mission Priority, Rendezvous Phuket, Confirm, X Man.

Xavier met Tory at the Phuket Marriott Resort and Spa at Merlin Beach and she said, “I’m glad you made it…how long can you can stay?”

            “As long as you can,” X replied.

Over the next few days, Tory started noticing men arriving at the hotel, sometimes two or three at a time. Even though they were wearing casual clothes, she could tell that they were former military from their demeanor. Another thing that aroused her suspicion was the way that they deliberately avoided making eye contact with her when they passed by. She assumed it was their subtle way of showing respect to X.

When it came time to check out and return to California, Tory was waiting for X to tell her that he wasn’t coming. Two hours before leaving for the airport, he confirmed what she suspected, “I’m going to stay a little while longer, something came up.”

            “I’ll see you when I see you, “Tory joked.

            “Have a good flight,” X kissed Tory and left her room.

Just before leaving for the airport, Tory decided to call the airline to confirm her flight was leaving on time. She found out that there was a mechanical issue and they weren’t sure how long the flight would be delayed. Tory left her phone number and asked the airline to contact her when they found out more. She didn’t hear anything for several hours and when the airline representative called, she said, “The issue is more serious than we expected, I can book you a flight tomorrow afternoon if you want.”

Tory replied, “If that’s the best you can do then I’ll take it,” then call the front desk and told them about her airline issue and she would be staying one more night. While going down to meet her daughter for dinner, Tory passed one of the banquet rooms and saw the men that had been arriving all week sitting at tables and X was speaking to them.  She made eye contact with X and continued on her way. Three days later, Xavier Bond led an elite strike team against Yuong and his men at his mansion in Saigon and killed all of them. 

 Later that month, there was the usual get together at X’s on Friday night and the regulars were in attendance. X and Tory never mentioned that last day in Phuket and they picked up right where they left off.

X joked with Tory before they got on the court to challenge another couple, “When I was in the Navy Seal, our motto was ‘The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday, but now I live by the Condiment Code and relish the opportunity to catch up on Pickleball with you.”

Tory responded in song, “By the misty backdoor light, by the flickering firelight of the barbecue grill, any place is alright as long as I’m with you.”

The End


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  1. Tom says:

    Happy Sunday Tom! A thoroughly enjoyable tale. Thanks for sharing it with us! I’ve never played pickleball but I hear it is great. No doubt Dean Martin would also sing that song that Tory sang!
    Cheers, SF

  2. Clyde says:

    I thoroughly the enjoyed story. I put X in the excellent box.

  3. John michels says:

    Nice story. Musical pickleball?

  4. Jon Gregory Nielsen says:

    Mr. Tom,

    I realize this morning that I am overdue sharing with you my over these past years sincere appreciation to you.

    Your stories have always stayed true… they encourage me to keep pursuing those IDEALS that you so well put forth with every tale you weave with history. Amen !

  5. wolf says:

    enjoyed it. another story that could be movie.

    Xavier Bond very simitar to Fank Martin in the Transporter movies

  6. Tony says:

    Mr. Thomas Calabrese writes the most intriguing and enjoyable stories that I follow each week, of any writer I have ever read. This Sunday story in the Vista Press is a prime example. Mysterious, whimsical, light hearten, professional, yet entertaining with a great plot with all the right elements to make a great story. Even, including the latest craze of Pickle Ball, great game by the way.I wish I was agile enough to play this enticing game but Bocce Ball will have to do. Mr. Calabrese never seems to skip a beat when it comes to writing a entertaining story that the entire family can read. This Sunday’s story is just such a story and I certainly like the cliche’s and descriptive words Mr. Calabrese is able to conjure up or invoke in his stories too. I find they add humor to the subject of the matter. As always, nicely written and very entertaining.

  7. Jeremy says:

    A very enjoyable story.

  8. Steve says:

    Xavier Bond…one of Tom’s many legendary heroes.

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