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Ground Loop

by

James Warren McAllister

 

I couldn’t help but notice it. That’s what I do for a living, after all.
I’m a FRIAR. First Resort Information Acquisition and Retrieval. If you want to know something, know about something, or have something, we’re who you hire. If you can pay the price. There are about a dozen of us, from what I can figure. I’m not sure, because we always work alone. And we’re not cheap.
There it was, across the aisle and one row behind me in first class. From the almost unnoticeable bulge, I’d say it was a 32 Special. Most likely he was a Sky Marshal, but not a very good one. He had his gun on the aisle side.
One more item caught my attention. A dark haired, almost feminine featured 20-something in silk suit, the type high priced brokers wear to impress wealthy clients. Except high priced brokers don’t sweat before takeoff. He wasn’t a big fellow, but he wasn’t skinny either. More like what you’d call wiry.
The flight attendants wouldn’t be any help, a thin little blonde and a tired grey haired guy who should have retired last year.
I figured I’d have about 15 minutes after takeoff.
I was able to scan the rest of the cabin as we taxied. One, maybe two were with Silk Suit, one of them wore oxygen tubing, but looked way too young for it. I thought about acting crazy to get the flight back to the gate, but decided against it. TSA wouldn’t have listened anymore than the clueless Marshal Dillon across the aisle from me.
The 767 hit the sky smoothly. My head was turned towards the window as we climbed out over Oahu, but I wasn’t looking at the scenery.
Silky waited two hours.
He got up and walked towards the front of first class, like he was headed for the rest room. I knew better. The one with the oxygen was already in there.
Silky stopped next to Marshall Dillon. He had the 32 out before the Sky Marshall could say “Hey!” Another half second and the 32’s bark rang everyone’s ears.
It blew a big hole in the Sky Marshall’s ear.
Another bark, this time straight up. The small hole decompressed the cabin and set off some alarm in the cockpit.
I grabbed the oxygen mask. The lavatory guy was out. He grabbed the gun just before Silky collapsed, then turned towards the cockpit.
I grabbed his oxygen tubing and stuck my leg between his as he turned. He stumbled, trying to point the gun in my direction. He blinked three, four times before he managed to pull the trigger.
It’s really strange to watch a bullet fly towards you. I could see the emergency lights flashing off of the spinning copper jacket. I seemed to take about ten seconds before I felt the tip touch my forehead…
“May I get you a drink, Sir?” My eyes focused on the thin little blonde flight attendant bending over me.
“No, no thank you,” I turned to glance back into the cabin. I couldn’t help but notice it. That’s what I do for a living, after all. There it was, across the aisle and one row behind me in first class. From the almost unnoticeable bulge, I’d say it was a 32 Special. Most likely a Sky Marshal, and not a very good one. The gun was on his aisle side. I thought about acting crazy to get the flight back to the gate…

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