The Mississippi Company
by Mark Kertzman
The wide-bodied double-decker aircraft’s wheels hit the runway with a screech and a jar. Three dozen metres above that, Jon felt it in the seat of his pants. He watched the runway blur out the window. Beyond that, the wide low glass-walled terminal building suddenly appeared, tracking through his field of vision as the plane’s front wheels touched down. He had a good view of almost the entire terminal as the plane slowed, pushing him forward against the seatbelt.
As they turned off the runway and headed for the now-invisible terminal, Jon admired the steel and concrete towers in the distance. They formed a massive saw-toothed skyline, punctuated by garish corporate signs and advertisements lit and visible even in the middle of the day. Tiny motes moved between and above the towers. As in India, the sun beat down, but the sky was flecked with tall white clouds.
The plane lurched to a stop, and suddenly everyone on board stood up. Ordinarily, Jon would have waited and let everyone off, but not today. He was too keyed up for that.
“Excuse me. Excuse me, please.”
By dint of sheer will and stepping on a few toes, Jon managed to get to the front of the aisle. A wide stairway opened beneath him, but it was already filling with deplaning passengers. Lugging his travel bag awkwardly behind him, he lunged for the now-open cabin door across the two rows of seats on his level.
“Sorry. Sorry. Excuse me.”
Shouldering himself past a few passengers in the aisles, he finally made it to the door.
“Thanks,” he muttered to the stewardess as he popped through the cabin door and into the terminal gangway. Even as he walked briskly down the little tubular bridge, he was digging in his pocket for his phone.
“Yeah, hello!” Fifteen seconds later, he was holding it up to his eyes, trying to talk into it and not trip over anyone at the same time.
“Hey, Doug. I’m on the ground. Have you set me up with the Singapore police yet?”
“Good morning, Jon. Nice to see you, too. How was your flight?” The tone of Doug’s voice was sarcastic and overly pleasant.
“Yeah, yeah. Good morning to you, too. Now can we get to this? What about the Singapore police?”
“Well, I set up a liaison with the locals, but I don’t think it’s going to matter.”
By this time, Jon had reached the end of the gangway. He gratefully stepped around an elderly Indian woman in front of him and continued on into the terminal proper. His shoes clacked loudly on the polished floor as he hurried towards what he figured was the exit.
“What do you mean, ‘It’s not going to matter’?”
“We got another transaction hit off of the Mastercard cash card.”
Jon stopped dead in the middle of the wide terminal corridor. He was oblivious to the flow of people around him.
“Where was it?” he asked urgently.
“Singapore International Airport.”
“Right here, ” Jon muttered, just loud enough for Doug to hear him.
“So you’re still at the airport.”
“Yeah. What about the transaction?”
“Ravi bought a one-way fare from Singapore to Woomera on Quantas, departing at eleven-fifteen Singapore time.”
“This morning?” Jon asked.
“Then he’s already left.”
“You think maybe it’s a false trial?”
Jon stood in the middle of the terminal, thinking furiously. His travel bag dangled from his hand, and the phone’s screen lit his face bluishly.
“No, it’s not a false trail. He’s really headed for Woomera. Tell Mary I’m going to need another plane ticket.” He started to move again, regaining his usual rapid, confident pace. “I’m going downstairs to try and get a flight.”
“You might not get on one today.”
“I know. Tell Mary I might need a hotel room for the night here, too.”
Doug nodded, then looked out of the little screen at his friend. “How do you know he’s really going to Woomera?”
“There's only one reason why anyone goes to Woomera.”
Copyright © 2011 by Mark Kertzman