“I’m not interested in excuses, gentlemen. I want him found. This man had to go somewhere. We have to find out what he’s up to and how he does it. And if he can, who knows who else can? How can we protect ourselves against even one fanatic who can turn up where and when he wants and do whatever he likes when he gets there?”
Len Showper paused, but his audience knew when to speak and when to stay quiet. They remained silent. Showper hadn’t finished his rant. “Now multiply that by who knows how many if there’s a team of them.”
Lieutenant Commander Cameron Alexander didn’t know how many others were on the video conference. He had just reported what he had seen and heard at the captain’s planning meeting. The angel had disappeared. Again. Alexander could imagine the same scene being played out in the security and intelligence organisations of perhaps a dozen countries. People in high places would have questions, and they paid people like Len Showper to find answers.
This time the pause was longer and somewhat different. Showper now wanted feedback—better still, answers. “The daughter is the only lead we have, sir,” Alexander offered. “She seems to know where he will turn up next, but we haven’t figured out how. She claimed she had no idea her father was the man, or one of the men, involved. And I believe her. She looked as surprised as anyone else by what happened. But if anyone knows where he’ll show up next, it’ll be her.”
“Would she help us?” Showper asked.
Cameron Alexander was good at his job. He’d prepared well for this conference. He’d thought about the obvious questions and had well-reasoned answers ready. “It’s unlikely, sir. She’s a smart cookie. She knew we monitored her on the last visit and obviously guessed about her boss. And she wasn’t afraid to point the finger. No, I think she will be very cautious, especially now that she knows we’re looking for her father.”
He waited for the others to absorb his answer and prepared himself for the obvious follow up. “Who’s close to her?” asked Showper. “What about them?”
“They’re a close-knit unit, sir. I think they’ll be on guard against any attempt to come in through one of the other two. But this new man, McAllister, he’s an unknown quantity.”
“We’re doing some homework on him, Cam. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to have someone start making a connection there. Not you, though. What were the vibes between the girl and McAllister?”
Again Cameron had foreseen the question. “Hard to tell, sir. They’d only just met, but they’ve been through some pretty spectacular events together. They seemed friendly enough, but no more than I’d expect, given the circumstances. But I’ll have my people keep their eyes and ears open.”
“Right. Anything else, Cam?”
“I’ll let you get on with it then. Next call at 1800 your time.”
The screen went blank. Alexander breathed a sigh of relief before he swivelled around in his padded chair and looked at the three people who had heard everything.
“Well, you heard the man. Any ideas?”
A young man in a seaman’s uniform answered first. Like his boss, Rion Blake could anticipate obvious questions. “There’s not much more we can do in terms of monitoring. We have covered everywhere they’re likely to go. It helps that the media keeps them from walking about too freely, and I doubt they’ll risk going up on deck. If they do, we have directionals available. They should be more than enough to pick up everything.”
Alexander nodded. Rion may look young and inoffensive, but he was a whiz kid when it came to things electronic. Cam had learned that if the kid was happy, then he should be too.
“Diane?” he asked, having turned to a raven-haired woman in her late twenties, dressed in a naval lieutenant’s uniform.
Diane Walker could read the signs. I’m the only one who can “make a connection” with the big Swede. He shouldn’t be too difficult. Think of it as more of a sporting challenge. I’ve had to do a whole lot worse than get inside your confidences, Mr. tall, blue eyed, blond Viking.
“I’ll target the Swede, Cam,” she answered calmly, showing none of her growing enthusiasm for the task.
Alexander acknowledged her suggestion. “Good. What about you, Sean?”
Sean Gallagher could never have passed off as a sailor. He was too old, too short, too overweight, and too belligerent. On this trip he had settled in quite easily as one of the more irascible, but always entertaining, members of the press corps.
“I’m tossing up between the fellow reporter routine with the girl and the fellow countryman with the priest. What do you reckon?” he said.
Alexander looked at the other two for comments.
Diane spoke first. “I’m guessing she’s a bit gun-shy, Cam. They all are, but I’m guessing you might have more luck with the priest. Have you got a Jameson bottle tucked away somewhere?”
Rion said nothing.
They all looked at Alexander. He made the decisions, and he carried the can.
“I agree. Go with the priest. Do you have any issues there?”
Sean bristled. He wasn’t just playing a part. He was naturally belligerent, irascible and thoroughly anti-authoritarian. It wasn’t Alexander personally or the way he asked his questions. Gallagher just had an intense dislike of anyone who challenged him. But he also knew who paid for his ongoing supply of Jameson, not to mention the rest of his sizable living expenses.
“No issues,” Sean growled. “I haven’t gone to confession for a long time and don’t plan to start now.”
“Good,” Alexander confirmed. “That’s the way we’ll play it. We’ll meet here again at 1730, unless something comes up before then. Everyone but Rion will be at the press conference, but I’m sure you’ll see it.”
“Sure will, boss.”
“Right, go to it. I’ll see you all at 1730.”
Alexander watched them depart, focusing a little longer than necessary on the sensual curves of the woman in the naval lieutenant’s uniform.
“That Viking doesn’t know what he’s up against. Poor man,” he said just over his breath. “Or should that be you lucky bastard?”
* * * * * * *
The media conference took its toll on Sarah. “I don’t believe it! I’m absolutely shattered,” she confessed to her friends. They saw nothing to doubt her sincerity. “All I want to do is lie in a bath for a week and sleep for a month.”
The others wanted to say something that might help, but knew Sarah would not appreciate the often meaningless and hackneyed phrases trotted out at times like this. Words which were supposed to “encourage” the sufferer were often used to make the deliverer a little less self-conscious.
Terry and Eddie just walked with her, providing a degree of protection from the now constant inspection by every pair of thousands of prying eyes. She was the angel’s daughter, and that wasn’t going to allow her a moment’s obscurity. She still could feel the lens of every camera in that media room. She could do nothing as they inspected every line and crevasse on her face. By now the world and its brother would have an opinion about her. He probably didn’t mean to, but with Daddy gone, she was the one in the firing line.
“There’s no point in staying here now,” she said. “I don’t imagine Daddy is in any hurry to return. When do you think we can get off this god-forsaken barge?”
Terry wanted to jog her out of her funk. “That’s an interesting description,” he said lightly. “But god forsaken doesn’t quite work for me. The people here aren’t exactly forsaken by God.”
But it fell flat. “Not now, Terry,” she pleaded. “I’m not up to it. I just want to go home. I’ve had enough of gallivanting all over the globe. I need a few days off to get my head together. And, most of all, I want to spend some time with my father.”
Terry wanted to say, ‘You’re not the only one’. But he needed to soften it and said, “Given that everyone wants to see where you go, that may be a problem—for the two of you.”
She just nodded and stared bleakly past him into the never-ending maze of grey. God, this is so depressing. How can someone who wants to do good, to do the right things, end up causing so much confusion and pain? What the hell is wrong with this bloody world?
“Yeah, I know,” she said aloud. She heard a gentle cough behind her and swivelled slightly to focus on Eddie who trailed the small group as they pounded the passageways back towards their quarters. It gave her reason to think about something else. “What about you, Eddie? There’s no reason for you to stay on here. What do you want to do now?” Then a new thought entered her mind. “How would you feel about a trip back to our place? Have you ever been to New Zealand?”
Eddie had been so caught up in the wonder of the moment and then the aftermath that he hadn’t bothered thinking about the future. “No,” he replied. “I haven’t. But my agreement with the University is pretty open. I imagine they’re doing quite well from the publicity so far, so I wouldn’t expect any arguments from them. And there’s no one I need to look after back there. When you said we may be away some time, I arranged for a neighbour to look after Keavy, my cat. That makes me a free agent.”
The three of them reached the nautical version of a crossroads, where they paused to allow other human traffic to pass in both directions. With no traffic lights, Eddie wondered how they managed in rush hour traffic. But it was only a temporary distraction. He still needed to respond to Sarah’s offer.
Finally he said, “For my part, if there is any chance at all of meeting up with your father, I would very much like to be there.”
Sarah gave a half laugh as they trekked onwards. “You know I have no more of an idea where he might show up again than you do, Eddie. But he must go somewhere when he’s not ‘doing his thing’ in some desolate, yet deserving, part of the world. With what he’s into now though, that could be anywhere on the planet, or even beyond it.”
The three of them stopped behind some stairs to allow another group of sailors to pass them heading in the opposite direction. As always there were stares from the passing eyes. It was bad enough before the media conference, but it was so much more obvious now.
“Would he go back home? Does he have people he’s responsible for?” Eddie asked within the cramped confines of their layby.
“No, not really,” Sarah replied as she encouraged him to take the lead as they continued towards their quarters, making it easier for her to talk to him. She knew Terry wouldn’t mind taking a turn as tail-end Charlie.
Sarah continued, “Now that Mum is gone, there’s only my brother Jack and me. Jack’s married and last I heard was working on an oil rig somewhere in the North Sea. They have one little boy and live in a house in the north of Scotland somewhere. I guess by now he’ll know about all this. I hope he and Sylvia don’t have to put up with the same sort of garbage I’ve just been through.”
“Where is home? Where would your father go?” Eddie asked as they turned the penultimate corner before reaching their destination.
“Dad put a manager on the farm, but kept the old homestead to live in. That would leave him free to move about without anyone asking too many questions. He might go back there. But too many people will know about that now. He could never escape from them there. I did hear he was spending a lot of time at a bach in the Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island. That’s probably more like it.”
“Is that where you’ll go to look for him?”
Maybe, maybe not. I really have no idea. Hell, haven’t I just told the world that? Why can’t anyone believe me? No, take a deep breath, Sarah. This is sweet little Eddie. He’s as lost as I am in this mire of the unknown, the unseen, and the unsettling. And he’s only trying to help.
“Possibly. But I don’t know where the place is. There are thousands of holiday homes in that part of the country. I’d need to track down his friends to find it.” She allowed herself to reflect on what she knew about her father, what he liked, what he was like, and what he was likely to do. “But he might show up at the farm. He still loves the place, in spite of what happened. There are a lot of good memories there.”
The three of them turned the last corner before their quarters and were surprised to see a familiar shock of blond hair emerging from the quarters next to Sarah’s.
“Sarah,” Bjorn was clearly as surprised by their meeting as the three musketeers. “Press conference over?”
Why am I so pleased to see him? Sarah felt a flush of warmth slide up her face like someone opening a Venetian blind. “Yes, Bjorn. And I’m very glad it’s over.” Was that tingling a residue of her newfound glow?
“I thought you did remarkably well,” the pirate replied. “I saw most of it on the ship’s CCTV. You were beamed live into every nook and cranny.”
“Don’t use those words, Bjorn. The whole world has just had a full-frontal view of just that, and it does not feel good. I’ve lost any illusions about the benefits of fame and fortune.”
“So you’re off to get some sleep and to dodge your recently acquired angel-adoring fan club.”
“You got it in one, Blondie.”
“In that case I shall be quiet when I return. It would not be a good move for me to wake up the sleeping beauty, huh?”
“No brownie points at all.”
“Thank you for the warning, Your Royal Highness.”
“Whatever. I’m too tired to be clever, Bjorn. Perhaps I’ll see you again in the morning. I hope I’m back to normal by then.”
“I shall look forward to that moment. Good night, Princess.”
“Thank you, Bjorn, and a good night to you too.”
They parted, she towards the anonymity of her quarters, and he towards everything she was avoiding. McAllister showed no sign of being even remotely concerned. Sarah turned back for a moment and watched as he strolled down the passageway and around the corner, whistling something none of them recognised. Soon afterwards the music had disappeared as well.
She turned to her two escorts. “Thanks, fellas. I think I can take it from here. Why not go and enjoy yourselves?”
The two men said their respective good nights and did as she suggested.
Sarah closed the quarters’ door behind her, threw her bag onto the floor, and collapsed onto the bunk, looking up at the now familiar pattern of pipes and cables. How can people live in a place like this, day after bloody day? It must drive them mad. Oh, God, I so need to get out of this place.
She was still lying there, fully clothed, three quarters of an hour later when the phone woke her. What the hell? I thought they had agreed not to put any calls through unless it was…
She heaved herself into vertical, grasped the offending instrument, and slumped back onto the side of the bunk, noticing she still had on her boots, which really did need a clean. “This is Sarah Long,” she said into the mouthpiece.
“Good because that’s who I wanted to talk to. You’re a hard woman to get through to. Has all the exposure gone to your head?”
“I really don’t need that, Dan. You just woke me up. Again. This better be important.”
Williams took no notice. “You did great, Long. And the same for Gunn’s camerawork. This is one hell of a story.”
“Like I didn’t know that?” No, that’s a bit harsh. He sounds almost complimentary and that’s not the Dan Williams I know and love. Is he trying to be nice? “I’m sorry, Dan. I’ve had a rough day, with far too many people asking me far too many questions that I don’t know the answers to. Please tell me you don’t plan to do more of the same.”
After an almost imperceptible pause, he said, “Well, as the guy writing the cheques you’re cashing right now, I’d appreciate some idea of what you might do next.” Dan’s tone was quite conciliatory, so she felt obliged to answer him in kind.
How odd; that’s what I was asking Eddie an hour or so ago, and I haven’t even thought about it properly myself. “Right now, I just want to come home. I’ve no idea where Daddy will show up next, but home is probably as good as anywhere. And I really could do with a day or two away from all this. Maybe he’ll show up, and maybe he won’t. But I still need a break. You got any problems with that, Boss Man?”
Another pause, longer this time. “That could be a good idea. Why not get yourself back here as soon as you can. We can follow up on a few things, and who knows, maybe Sam will pop up out of the woodwork, or worm hole, or from wherever he’s hiding.”
The last thing I want is a TV camera around when I finally get to spend a few minutes with him. How can I say that in a politically acceptable way to the guy who pays my wages?
It made her anxious enough to start pacing the floor again, preparing to defend her father against all comers. “I know he’s a great story right now, Dan, but he’s also my father. I don’t want people leaning on him. Understand?”
“We can talk about that when you get home, Long. You sound tired. Get yourself onto a plane, and we’ll talk about it when you get here.”
She stopped pacing and stared into the back of the quarters’ door. Then she suddenly changed direction as she remembered her afternoon meeting with Captain Creen. “I eyeballed some of the guys who have been hassling you, Dan. I know they’re listening, so we don’t have to pretend. They can no doubt arrange whatever we need to get ashore tomorrow. And I want to invite Eddie Nolan to come home with us. I think he has a part to play in what happens next. Don’t ask me why because I have no idea. It’s just one of those things I know. And my instincts haven’t let you down so far, right?”
Having got that off her chest, she sat back on the bunk once more.
There was an even longer pause this time. I wonder if that’s for the people with him or because he’s having to think about Eddie? “Hey, bring him down if you want. What have we got to lose? We’re getting enough for the use of Gunn’s footage. I can afford to be a little generous. What about the other guy?”
“What other guy?”
“The guy you met in the village—tall, blond, needs an eye patch to complete the look.”
She flopped back full length on the bunk. “Sorry, Dan. Like I said, I’m half asleep. Why him?”
“Well, he’s as much a part of the story as Nolan. He was there when you saw your dad in action. And he’s a lot more photogenic than the priest.”
What on earth is he on about? I don’t get it. “You want me to invite him. Is that what you want?”
“Yes, Long.” Sarcasm doesn’t become you, Danny Boy.
“Okay, I’ll ask him in the morning, but I can’t promise anything. He may have other plans for all I know. The poor man lost pretty much all he owned in the tsunami. He might want to sort his life out. I mean how long does it take for insurance to pay out on a thing like that? He may have family he needs to go and spend time with.”
“Or he might like to come to New Zealand and buy a nice new boat here? Come on, Long. What are you trying to do, make excuses for him?”
Yes, what am I trying to do? Is there some reason I don’t want him coming home with Terry and Eddie and me?
“I said I’ll ask him in the morning, Dan.”
“You do that. In the meantime, if there are any sudden changes in the plan, you will let me know, won’t you?”
“Sure, Dan. Can I go back to sleep now? Then I can wake up and ring you when you’re trying to do the same, just to show there are no hard feelings.”
“Of course you can. Sleep tight.”
She didn’t bother with a reply. He doesn’t deserve one. She leapt off the bunk and hung up with no little enthusiasm.
If I’m going to get some sleep, I may as well do it properly. I could sure use a shower and a comfort stop first.
Sarah crossed to her travel bag and extricated a towel and cotton robe that would allow her a little dignity as she scampered back from the communal shower. She leaned over and grabbed her toilet bag with all a girl’s necessities, opened the door, and turned left into the corridor beyond.
* * * * * * *
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The three of them had reached Changi again. They looked and felt tired. But not for want of sleep. Sarah knew the cause—the constant uncertainty, mixed with the fear of the unknown, that niggled away at them, especially at her.
With more than a couple of hours to wait for their flight, like thousands of others, they were imprisoned in the no man’s land that only airport terminals create—transit. You wait. You can’t sleep, but you’re not fully awake either. You’re just ‘there’. You can see most of the known world passing by, and most of the known world can see you.
Normally, that wasn’t an issue. Normally, most of the known world didn’t bother to look all that hard at people posing as planter boxes. But now she had discovered that people did notice. She was recognised wherever they went, making it hard to simply blob out and pretend the world didn’t exist. It made no difference whether they walked or sat, whether they split up or stayed together. She couldn’t avoid the hushed murmurs as she walked by, the pointing fingers, and the long stares of shocked disbelief.
The two men had gone off somewhere. Sarah had chosen to sit alone, gazing at the walls, and wondering what it would take to climb them. What would it take to drive her to do so? Then, suddenly, she felt cold. She didn’t shiver, but she could feel a chilling throughout her body. Something was wrong. Sarah sensed someone nearby. She had to shake herself out of her state of almost suspended animation. She looked up and saw the familiar features of her father standing in front of her, gazing at her with those loving eyes. She instinctively knew the cold wasn’t coming from him. Is that you, Daddy or just an apparition, a mirage in the middle of this emotional wilderness?
“Don’t take the flight you’re booked on, Sarah. Book yourself on a later flight or change airlines.”
“What? Daddy, what’s going on? What do you mean?”
People began to stare at her. Was she talking to herself out loud? Couldn’t they see him?
His tone didn’t change. “Just what I said, Pumpkin. Take another flight. Yours is not safe.”
And then he was gone.
Did I really just see him? But, wow, I’m still cold. Something is wrong with the plane. But it hasn’t even arrived yet. How could he…?
“Are you okay, girl?” Terry’s voice shocked her back to the present.
“Terry, I just saw Dad. He was right here.”
Terry dropped onto the chair next to her while Eddie took up station on the other side.
“How long ago?” Terry asked, with a frown increasing the creases etched in his face. Nolan showed a similar reaction.
Sarah was only partially surprised. She wasn’t sure about what she had seen. Did I really see him? How come no one else seems to have? Am I losing the plot? What the hell is going on here? “It was less than 30 seconds ago. Didn’t you see him?”
“We’ve been watching you as we came this way, girl. I certainly would have seen him if he was here.” He leaned forward to make eye contact with her other escort. “How about you, Eddie?”
Nolan looked somewhat dejected at the thought of having missed another opportunity to talk with the angel man. “I’m sorry, Sarah,” he said. “I certainly didn’t see him either. I’m sorry I missed him. I do want to meet him again. We have so much to talk about.”
Sarah sighed. “I guess this wasn’t the time or the place, Eddie. I’m sorry too, guys. Either it was all in my imagination, or he appeared there.” She got up to reinforce the point and stood on the exact spot where she had seen him. “Right here,” she said, pointing to the floor between her feet. “He stood right here,” she repeated. “And he told me not to get on the plane we’re booked on. He said it wasn’t safe.”
The two men exchanged worried glances, and not just because of the content of the message. Then they instinctively looked back to the one they were worried about. Her eyes showed no lack of conviction. They carried the look of determination that Terry had seen so many times before in situations where she was under threat. All her body language told the same story. She was standing her ground again, right now—both physically and mentally. She would not back down until they accepted what she had said.
“How would he know that?” Terry asked the same question she had.
“I don’t know. Probably the same way he knew about Mike Seymour’s helicopter. But our plane hasn’t even landed yet. I have to tell you guys that there’s no doubting the message. I felt icy cold just before he appeared. I knew something was wrong, but I had no idea what. Then there he was.”
Seeing that they were now taking her seriously, Sarah allowed Eddie to stand up and guide her back to her seat. “Do you still feel that cold now, Sarah?” he asked quietly.
It had been a good idea to sit down again. The last thing she wanted was to attract even more public attention. “Yes, it’s still there.” She spoke quietly too, but loud enough for Terry to hear as well. “It’s not as powerful, but it’s still there.”
This was foreign territory. Unexplained chills, an apparition, warnings of danger. None of them knew what may have caused them. But there was no point in focusing on what they didn’t know, so Terry changed the subject. “We can’t do much about the why and the how. All we can do is work out what to do next. So what do you want to do?” he asked her.
Sarah shrugged. “I guess we have to cancel our booking and look for another flight. But what worries me is what about everyone else who is booked on that plane? Are they at risk too? Surely if there is something wrong, we need to say something to someone in authority.”
Terry probed ever so gently, “But?”
Sarah looked as if she hadn’t understood his question. She had, of course, but she wanted more time to compose her response. Anything for a moment’s respite from the relentless assault by things she couldn’t entertain, let alone explain.
Terry continued, “I agree with what you’re saying, and I’m pretty sure Eddie does too.” He looked for and received a confirmation. “But do I sense a ‘but’ in there somewhere?”
She tried a tired smile. It almost worked. “I’m more than a little worried that they might think I’m some sort of nut case, Terry. You know, ‘crazy woman makes scene’. Part of me is dying to take the easy option of quietly cancelling the booking and arranging another one. All that part wants is for me to get as far away from here as possible, as soon as possible.”
The smile had well and truly worn off. It had been replaced by a hard veneer of worry as she continued. “But then there is the part that insists other people could be at risk if I don’t say anything. But what could I tell them? I saw a vision of my father in the middle of the terminal? Did anyone else see him? No, not even my friends who have met him before and would be able to confirm it was him. You have to admit it sounds pretty weird.” She turned back to Eddie. “Would you take me seriously?”
Nolan smiled his wonderful smile again. “I already am, Sarah. But I’m prejudiced!” That lifted the huge weight of her anxiety, if only briefly. But every little bit helps. Thank you, Eddie. “But it’s not me you have to convince, is it?” Eddie went on calmly. “So can I make a suggestion?”
The other two nodded encouragingly in his direction.
Eddie leaned forwards so the two could hear him clearly. “I agree that just rolling up to the ticket counter and telling them might not get the result you want. But what if you could get to see someone higher up in the organisation? If that person had read of your, our, experiences, they may be open to a quiet, rational discussion behind closed doors. That might at least get them to do a much closer check of the aircraft. They could then make the decision about whether to delay the flight or not.”
He sat back again to indicate he had finished. The other two looked at one another, hoping for a clue about what the other was thinking.
“Sounds good to me.” Terry answered her unasked question.
“So how would we get to the right person?” she asked.
Eddie continued. “We could ring someone on the outside, someone with enough influence to get someone important to come and find you. Do you know anyone who could do that?”
Sarah thought for moment or two before suggesting “the only one I can think of is Dan. He must know people back in Air New Zealand’s head office. They could make it happen.”
Terry agreed. “I’m not sure I feel all that good about asking anyone else. There are too many people out there with possible reasons to mess with the plane. I don’t know if you’re the target, or we all are, or none of us. For all I know, our friend … what was his name … the spook on the ship?”
“You mean that guy Alexander?”
Terry nodded again. “Yeah, Alexander. For all I know, they could be involved. I’m becoming so bloody paranoid that I’m seeing threats all over the place.”
“But,” Eddie said calmly, “isn’t he the one who warned us about such threats?”
Sarah disposed of her anxieties a lot more easily than she had acquired them. It was as if she had received a whiff of old fashioned smelling salts and been snapped back from the oblivion of a bad dream. “It doesn’t matter now, guys,” she said with newfound confidence. “Let’s go with Big D and leave him to make it happen. He’ll probably get a real kick out of it. You know how he loves to be a part of the action. It’ll give him a chance to throw his weight around.”
Before they could agree or argue, Sarah had pulled out her phone and keyed in the pre-set dial.
“Do you know what time it is, Long?” Dan obviously had recognised her number on the phone near his bed.
“Gee, Dan, I quite forgot about the time,” she said ever so sweetly. “I’m sorry about that. I mean I know you would never do such a thing to me, would you now?”
“Don’t get smart with me. You may be the world’s great story right now, but remember who’s still paying you.”
Sarah was enjoying this. After all the times he had interrupted her sleep in recent days, she was going to keep on enjoying it for a little longer. “Oh, how could I forget the care and attention my employer showers me with, especially when things are looking a bit rocky ahead.”
There was a pause at the other end. “What’s happened?”
“I’m giving you a chance to do unto others what I have just done unto you, Dan.”
“Talk to me, Long. And you know what we’re up against.”
Her excitement compelled her to begin to walk and talk. “Yes, I think I do. But the boys listening in know that we know, so it’s all a bit of a game really, isn’t it?” She winked across to her two friends who were watching her carefully, trying to read the signs.
“You didn’t ring me up for that, Long. Where are you? Singapore?”
“Yes, and that’s where the rocky bit comes in, Dan.”
“I have reason to believe that the plane we are booked on has a problem. I’ve been warned not to go on it. I’m taking that seriously and intend to re-book on another flight.”
“And…? You’ve never asked my approval for something like that before. Why now?”
“I’m concerned about all the others who could be getting onto that flight. I have no proof of anything being wrong, but take it from me, I just know. I don’t want to make a scene at this end. I was hoping you might get in touch with someone you know at Air New Zealand. I want to talk to someone in authority, not have a public argument with a check-in chick.”
Another pause. “I think I get it. Do you have any idea at all what the threat might be?”
Suddenly, she began to feel isolated and alone. She stopped prowling, turned back to where the others were sitting, and then made her way back to sit with them. She was less certain of herself now and wanted to feel the support that comes from being among people she knew and trusted—and who knew and trusted her. “No, Dan. Sorry, but I don’t. And the plane hasn’t even landed yet, so it could mean they need to maintain a very close watch over it when it gets here. It could be that someone wants to stop us from getting back home. Hell, someone else on the flight could be the target. Or it could be a mechanical fault of some sort. I wish I knew more, but I don’t. I’m asking you to trust me on this, Dan. The worst that can happen is some people get delayed. On the other hand, you could be someone who helps save a whole lot of lives. That can’t hurt the image of the organisation, now can it?”
She could almost hear the cogs whirling in Dan’s head. “Okay, so you want someone senior from the airline to contact you, so they can talk to you privately about it, right?”
“How long have I got?” His tone was much more accommodating now.
“The flight’s due to leave in about two hours. I don’t know when the incoming flight is due to land.”
“And where are you? I presume the three of you are together.”
“We’re in the transit area at Changi. Give them my number if you want, so they can contact me directly.”
“I’ll get on it. I just hope for your sake it doesn’t backfire on you. This will cost me a few favours.”
That’s our Dan. He’s not one to go down without a fight. That’s okay; I’ll play along.
“Think of it this way, Dan. If I’m right, the airline will be in your debt in a very big way. You’re a gambling man, aren’t you, Dan? Well, I’m telling you. This is a dead cert. I hope that’s not an accurate description.”
“Either way, it could still be a hell of a story. I’ll get on it now. Stand by your phone.”
“Thank you, Dan,” she added, but she ended up talking to herself again. She closed her phone slowly and looked at her two companions. “He’ll do it.”
Relief washed over them all. But the remnants of the chill were still there.
How should I read that? Is it because I’m getting used to it or is it better because we’re doing the right things here? What on earth are you into, Daddy? Now we’re getting tied up in it too.
“So now we wait for someone to ring,” she continued. “Then I’ll have some explaining to do. Meantime, it won’t hurt to look for alternative flights.”