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datatime: 2022-09-29 04:20:11 Author:IjZmsZEJ

Are you sure? a voice whispered, and Laurel shut it up at once.

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.

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

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.

'I should have heard him sooner, but I was listening to the man who sounds like a teacher.'

'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?'

Craig cried out and his eyelids fluttered.

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

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

'Do you really have to do that?' Laurel asked quietly. 'The man is unconscious, after all, and bleeding.'

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

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

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.

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.

Craig cried out and his eyelids fluttered.

'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?'

'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.

'Well, Laurel, let's not paint it fine. This man is a lunatic. I don't know if our current adventure did that to him or if he just growed that way, like Topsy, but I do know he's dangerous. He would have grabbed Dinah instead of Bethany if she had been closer. If we leave him untied, he might do just that next time.'

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.

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

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

Are you sure? a voice whispered, and Laurel shut it up at once.

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

'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.'

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