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datatime: 2022-11-27 17:36:41 Author:PyYgGFEF

'Easy now, my good old mate,' Nick said soothingly. He wrapped the tablecloth rope twice around Craig's lower forearms and knotted it tightly. Craig's elbows flapped and he uttered a strange weak scream. 'There' Nick said, standing up. 'Trussed as neatly as Father John's Christmas turkey. We've even got a spare if that one looks like not holding.' He sat on the edge of one of the tables and looked at Bob Jenkins. 'Now, what were you saying when we were so rudely interrupted?'

Well, she had wanted to have an adventure, just one adventure, before middle-age settled in for keeps. Wasn't that true? Yes. And here she was, proving Tolkien right - she had stepped out of her own door last evening, just the same as always, and look where she had ended up: a strange and dreary version of Fantasyland. But it was an adventure, all right. Emergency landings ... deserted airports ... a lunatic with a gun. Of course it was an adventure. Something she had read years ago suddenly popped into Laurel's mind. Be careful what you pray for, because you just might get it.

Nick pressed his makeshift napkin compress against Craig Toomy's headwound and looked up at her. 'You're Laurel, right?'

'Easy now, my good old mate,' Nick said soothingly. He wrapped the tablecloth rope twice around Craig's lower forearms and knotted it tightly. Craig's elbows flapped and he uttered a strange weak scream. 'There' Nick said, standing up. 'Trussed as neatly as Father John's Christmas turkey. We've even got a spare if that one looks like not holding.' He sat on the edge of one of the tables and looked at Bob Jenkins. 'Now, what were you saying when we were so rudely interrupted?'

Then Nick did something that shocked all of them, even those who had seen the Englishman twist Craig's nose like the handle of a bathtub faucet. He drove a short, hard kick into Craig's ribs. He pulled it at the last instant ... but not much. Craig uttered a pained grunt and shut up.

Don returned with a red-and-white-checked tablecloth in each fist.

'Do you have to be so rough?' Laurel asked sharply.

Nick gazed at her for a moment, and she dropped her eyes at once. She could not help comparing Nick Hopewell's eyes with the eyes in the pictures which Darren Crosby had sent her. Widely spaced, clear eyes in a goodlooking - if unremarkable - face. But the eyes had also been rather unremarkable, hadn't they? And didn't Darren's eyes have something, perhaps even a great deal, to do with why she had made this trip in the first place? Hadn't she decided, after a great deal of close study, that they were the eyes of a man who would behave himself? A man who would back off if you told him to back off?

'Easy now, my good old mate,' Nick said soothingly. He wrapped the tablecloth rope twice around Craig's lower forearms and knotted it tightly. Craig's elbows flapped and he uttered a strange weak scream. 'There' Nick said, standing up. 'Trussed as neatly as Father John's Christmas turkey. We've even got a spare if that one looks like not holding.' He sat on the edge of one of the tables and looked at Bob Jenkins. 'Now, what were you saying when we were so rudely interrupted?'

She had boarded Flight 29 telling herself that this was her great adventure, her one extravagant tango with romance - an impulsive transcontinental dash into the arms of the tall, dark stranger. But sometimes you found yourself in one of those tiresome situations where the truth could no longer be avoided, and Laurel reckoned the truth to be this: she had chosen Darren Crosby because his pictures and letters had told her he wasn't much different from the placid boys and men she had been dating ever since she was fifteen or so, boys and men who would learn quickly to wipe their feet on the mat before they came in on rainy nights, boys and men who would grab a towel and help with the dishes without being asked, boys and men who would let you go if you told them to do it in a sharp enough tone of voice.

There was no confusion in Nick Hopewell's eyes ... but there was no mercy in them, either. They made Laurel feel shivery, and there was nothing romantic in the feeling.

Craig groaned and waved his hands feebly. Bob Jenkins stepped away from him the moment he began to move, even though the revolver was now safely tucked into the waistband of Brian Engle's pants, and Laurel did the same, pulling Dinah with her.

Bob looked at him, dazed and unbelieving. 'What?'

Then Nick did something that shocked all of them, even those who had seen the Englishman twist Craig's nose like the handle of a bathtub faucet. He drove a short, hard kick into Craig's ribs. He pulled it at the last instant ... but not much. Craig uttered a pained grunt and shut up.

Bob looked at him, dazed and unbelieving. 'What?'

'Is anybody dead?' Dinah asked nervously. 'No one is, are they?'

Nick pressed his makeshift napkin compress against Craig Toomy's headwound and looked up at her. 'You're Laurel, right?'

'It's okay,' Laurel said. 'It turned out all right, Dinah.' Then she looked out at the empty terminal and her own words mocked her. Nothing was all right here. Nothing at all.

Nick pulled Craig's hands out from under him, then brought his wrists together at the small of his back. Craig groaned again, louder this time, and began to struggle weakly.

'Marvellous,' Nick said. He took one of them and spun it quickly and expertly into a rope. He put the center of it in his mouth, clamping his teeth on it to keep it from unwinding, and used his hands to flip Craig over like a human omelette.

Would she have been on Flight 29 tonight if the photos had shown Nick Hopewell's dark-blue eyes instead of Darren's mild brown ones? She didn't think so. She thought she would have written him a kind but rather impersonal note Thank you for your reply and your picture, Mr Hopewell, but I somehow don't think we would be right for each other - and gone on looking for a man like Darren. And, of course, she doubted very much if men like Mr Hopewell even read the lonely-hearts magazines, let alone placed ads in their personals columns. All the same, she was here with him now, in this weird situation.

'Go on,' Nick said. He might have been an interested lecture-goer instead of a man sitting on a table in a deserted airport restaurant with his feet planted beside a bound man lying in a pool of his own blood. 'You had just got to the part about Flight 29 being like the Mary Celeste. Interesting concept, that.'

Bob looked at him, dazed and unbelieving. 'What?'

'And you want me to . . . to just go on?' Bob asked incredulously. 'As if nothing had happened?'

Nick pressed his makeshift napkin compress against Craig Toomy's headwound and looked up at her. 'You're Laurel, right?'

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