By: Jake Normington
It was a busy night at Baltimore International Airport. A crash on Wall Street had everyone in Washington on edge. It was not a good time to have just invested every dime of savings into the market, and Nicholas Harding was certainly struggling to keep himself together. He was now on his way back to Kansas after a gut wrenching three-day trip to the capital for his sister’s funeral. She had died young, a life cut short at thirty two by cancer, lymphoma, just like her mother. He thought of his wife, finally fed up and jumping from the sinking ship that was their marriage.
Legal fees from his pending divorce had soaked up all his income and tore apart his family. After years of trying to get pregnant, his wife was now in her third trimester and packing her bags. Nicholas had found little time to focus on work and, with projects piling up in the weeks before, his employer had finally pulled the plug and let him go.
A voice crackled over the airport intercom, reminding travelers to stay alert and, in turn, pulling Nicholas out of his thoughts. Nick was standing in line at airport security, desperately hungry and deathly tired. The line had barely moved since he had gotten there and, with only forty five minutes until his flight departed, worry was a reasonable sentiment. However, he was too tired to care.
As more personnel arrived to work, the line began to move more quickly. Nicholas was shuffled through the metal detector and, after collecting his hand luggage, made his way towards the gate. He walked briskly past all the food kiosks, knowing that he had no money to spare for a quick meal. He would have to wait for the snacks onboard the flight.
Settling down at the gate, Nicholas was white knuckled, gripping his boarding pass as if it was his golden ticket for a fresh start. A ticket for a new opportunity, a chance to make something of himself and put the past in the past. Just as Nicholas was about to fall off to sleep, a man sat down next to him and knocked his shoulder forcibly. Startled, Nicholas turned to face the man, expecting an apology. Instead, he was greeted by a cold, emotionless face staring sternly into his eyes.
The man immediately began speaking in a hushed voice, “May I ask a favor of you?”
Nick was hesitant to respond, he was irritated and sick of consciousness. Nicholas began to turn away but stopped when the man spoke once more, “Of course there would be a generous reward”
The man produced a stack of bills from within his coat pocket. This was easily the most money Nicholas had ever seen in person. It had looked to be about an inch and a half thick of stacked one-hundred dollar bills. Nicholas was stunned. Sounds began to fall out of Nick’s mouth, only vaguely resembling words.
“Oh, uh… yes of course” he said, struggling to keep himself composed.
“It is simple. Take this bag with you and, once you have landed, deliver it to my associate at baggage claim number four, terminal two,” He said smoothly.
The man got up and swiftly disappeared into the terminal, leaving the bag resting on the seat next to Nick.
Well s***, Nick thought.
Nick snatched up the money and tucked it into his jacket, then he looked towards the bag. Cautious not to raise the suspicions of any onlookers, he casually moved the bag onto his lap and opened the buckles. Peering into the bag he met hand-sized plastic packages of white powder, presumably drugs.
F*** it, Nick thought, it’s not like my life can get any more screwed
The overhead compartment at his seat was nearly completely filled by the time Nick got there. Stuffing his bag between two others, Nick felt his stomach rumbling aggressively. Nick took his seat and discreetly pushed the package beneath the seat in front of him. He glanced around to check if the other passengers had seen anything and then sunk into his seat. Nicholas had a little more than two hours before he landed in Kansas and he simply could not will himself to stay awake any longer. He welcomed sleep graciously.
A firm grasp on his shoulder woke him from his sleep.
“Give it up now, mate,” a voice hissed, “now”.
Nick struggled to find his bearings. He turned to meet a large man hissing through crooked teeth. Nick was terrified.
This is not how it is supposed to happen, Nick thought desperately.
Before Nick could react, the man reached towards the seat back in front of him, snagging the package. The man recoiled, catching the side of the package on the seat, ripping it open and dumping the contents on to Nick’s lap. Six or seven white powder-filled baggies, maybe more, sat lying on Nick’s lap.
The man took off running down the aisle, a loom of wires now visible protruding from the tear in the package.
Christ, Nick thought, It’s a bomb.
Nick’s mind raced. He struggled to piece together what he had just seen. He reached for the call button, desperate for someone to help. He pushed the button and waited. He began rehearsing what he was going to say to the flight attendant. Beads of sweat gathered on his face. He pushed the button once more.
The plane shuddered, a pulse of energy swept through the cabin. The lights went dark and the plane fell eerily quiet. The engines were out and, in an instant, the plane pitched left. The cabin filled with the screams of the passengers.
Up the aisle, Nicholas saw three masked men struggling to get the emergency door open. They were outfitted in full oxygen masks and jumpsuits that covered them head to toe. Nick got up from his seat and ran down the aisle. The door flung open, depressurizing the cabin. Freezing cold wind screamed past Nick’s ears, the force knocking him into the chairs next to him. When Nick looked up there were only two men left standing there. The second man took one step towards the door and disappeared. Nicholas sprinted towards the third and hurled himself towards him, striking his chest at full force.
Nicholas and the man tumbled out of the plane. Within seconds the plane was not much more than a speck. Nick’s brain was paralyzed, he started to feel his eyes roll into the back of his head. Nick was greeted with total blackness and the deafening roar of the wind rushing past his ears. He felt his consciousness begin to fade.
Nick woke to an excruciating pain. His arm was trapped within the straps of the man’s parachute. They were falling, plummeting to the earth. The man seemed to not make any effort to fight Nicholas off. Nick gasped for air, the freezing cold air stung his throat, bringing tears to his eyes. He grabbed the strap that trapped his arm and pulled. The parachute loosened and his arm came free, leaving Nick with a chance of survival. He desperately grabbed hold of the man, fighting to stay close enough to snag the chute. Nick reached for the center buckle and punched it as hard as he could manage. He could feel time running out, with every second the pair neared the unforgiving ground. He reached for the buckle once more and pushed.
The buckle came free and the two men were separated. Nick clutched the chute as he was sent into a barrel roll away from the man. He struggled to get the straps around his shoulders, the pain still numbing all feeling in one arm. He couldn’t tell if he had gotten it on correctly, although he was nearly certain he had heard the click of the buckle.
He pulled the cord and immediately felt all of his organs begging to shoot down his legs and out through the soles of his feet.
Nicholas promptly passed out.