“Who’s the client?” I asked.
Jeff paused. He said, “I can’t give you that information just yet. But trust me, you’ll be glad you took this one—and you’ll need to be armed.” I was a little apprehensive about committing, not knowing who it was for. But I’d been in the business long enough to know that sometimes this was just how things worked. Until trust is established, information is on a need-to-know basis. You’re contracted for two hours, you show up, execute the assignment, and that’s that. I’d done plenty of details just like that. I told him to count me in.
Over the next two weeks, these people did a background check on me, brought me on board, and I began making the arrangements. Two days before the client was to arrive, Jeff and I did what’s known as pre-advance details, mapping out the best route from the airport to this person’s new home, driving the route together, making note of every stop sign, timing the traffic lights, mapping out any congested areas we might encounter along the way. We decided that I would handle transportation from the airport to the house, and Jeff would be waiting for us when we got there.
On the day of the detail, I arrived at the airport at seven-thirty. At ten o’clock, we proceeded onto the tarmac. At 10:35, a Gulfstream V landed and taxied in our direction. The flight crew and the other drivers started loading the luggage into the SUVs.
First to deplane was a man in his late forties, black guy, neatly groomed but not particularly noteworthy. Then a woman came out. She had a sleeping child in her arms, and she carried him carefully down the steps. They were followed by two other children, both about elementary school age. They all climbed in the car. I thought, Okay, that must be it. I went to close the door and one of the kids spoke up and said, “Where’s Daddy?”
I looked back up at the plane. This man was coming down. He was dressed in all black, his face covered with a black scarf. As he got closer, I noticed his feet: slip-on loafers, slender ankles and white socks sticking out of these high-water pants. He came down, passed me, and climbed into the SUV with the children. I closed the door, got back in the lead vehicle, and we left the airport.
With the holiday traffic, it took us forty-five minutes to get to the house. Jeff was waiting. We pulled into the driveway; the gate closed behind us. My car stopped in front, and the mother car drove around the side to let the family out in private. I helped unload the luggage—there were at least thirty bags and we brought it all inside. Then I went back out to the driveway.
Jeff came out of the house. Over the two-way radio, he said, “We good?”
“Code 4,” I said.
At that point, I figured I was done. I got my subject from point A to point B. It’s a wrap. But the curiosity was killing me.
I walked over to Jeff and said, “So tell me. Who is that guy?” Jeff got this big grin on his face. “Didn’t you see him?” I shrugged. “Sure, I saw a skinny dude, a chick and three kids.” Jeff leaned in and whispered, “That’s Michael Jackson.” I just stared at him. “Get the fuck outta here.”
Excerpted with permission from HarperCollins Publisher India from the book Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days by Bill Whitfield and Javon Beard with Tanner Colby.