Marisol’s golden nametag reflected light like Morse code as the airplane shook violently in the sky. Her face was a work of soft and smooth curves. Her eyebrows arched delicately around her wide eyes and her cheeks flowed like a gentle bend in a river down to her featureless jawbone. The frumpy blue uniform could be considered criminal by the way it stole her naturally buxom features away. Her tanned skin and dark eyes did a good job at hiding her nervousness in front of the small group of passengers. “Please remain calm, this is perfectly normal.” Marisol said in response to the flood of complaints and worries the nervous travelers sent at her. But the way she ran her hands over each other and the way her eyes looked out one of the small porthole windows betrayed her false display of nonchalance. “I’ve flown all over the world, and I’ve never felt anything like this!” An older gentleman said as he embraced his young beautiful wife. “Can’t you do anything?” The wife said as she wondered if she’d have the chance to watch her old husband pass away and then inherit his large fortune. “We’re almost there, this won’t last much longer.” Marisol replied. The plane sliced through the air like a dull knife through streak gristle. The plane was a patchwork of metal patches, pieced together engines and various other shoddy repairs. It had flown countless missions in World War Two and like a retired soldier showed it’s displeasure with carrying wealthy snobs instead of diving through walls of flak and bullets. The sky was an ocean of thick humid pitch black air. The only relief from the blackness was a nonsensical array of light beams crushing their way towards heaven. The airfield would be somewhere in that mess of lights. Inside the plane the passengers continued their complaining. “I expect some sort of compensation!” A younger man in a well tailored suit said. His suitcase had been jostled loose from underneath his seat and now resided somewhere in the back of the cabin with most of the other passengers’ luggage. “You’ll have to speak with someone in the city sir.” Marisol tried to explain. She wondered just how much longer she’d have to put up with the complaints and the unsettling shaking of the plane. She knew that they were close to their destination, but she was also well aware of history of the plane and that made her wonder if its current trip would be the one that put it into a watery grave. Either conclusion to the trip would be a welcome release from the situation she found herself in. The other passengers took their turns pressing Marisol for answers she didn’t have, and she responded with a tired pattern of comforting words and half baked explainations. The only passenger who didn’t seem to have devolved into a screaming child was a man in the farthest back seat. In fact, his expression seemed to be one of boredom and annoyance rather than fear and excitement.
His arms were crossed across his chest. His muscular build could be seen beneath his white wrinkled shirt, but he couldn’t be considered bulky. His muscles looked like products of a life of work rather than some conscious effort to sculpt his body. His green eyes lazily looked out the window next to him as if he had spotted something out there in the thick darkness that no one else noticed. Marisol had seen her fair share of passengers in the recent years and recognized that look. It was a knowing look. One that said that the person who owned it knew that there were dangers out there beyond what was in front of them. It was a look that said that every tepid handshake, every turbulent flight, passing wave, every turbulent flight held secret attributes. Regardless of the shady nature of this look, Marisol found it comforting. The short stubble on the man’s face stood at attention like a cat’s whiskers. The subtle lines across his forehead and at the corner of his eyes and lips looked like deep abysses of memory in the dim light of the cabin. His dark brown hair, speckled with grey, was matted down with sweat making it look almost black. He was an intense looking man, the type of person that intelligent people kept a cautious eye on, and who fools confront. A pair of khaki slacks covered his legs, and a pair of well worn brown boots covered his feet. Between his feet a single duffel bag sat, pinched between the man’s ankles. The plane gratefully began its decent towards the runway. A pair of swinging spotlights painted across the sky, signaling to the pilot where the plane should be directed. The turbulence inside the plane grew stronger, even though most of the passengers didn’t believe it could. Suitcases slammed against the walls, breaking open, spilling their contents out in a brilliant rainfall of undergarments and souvenirs. The man in the pack calmly raised his hand to block himself from a barrage of foolishly packed woolen slacks and a small wooden idol, purchased from the airport of departure. The plane drew closer and closer to the ground at a rapid speed. It was as if the plane itself was excited to touch down. It threw its passengers well being into the wind as it reached out for the embrace of the cracked asphalt’s touch. One wheel, then the two on the wings, then finally the small back wheel all touched the ground, a loud squeak and plume of burnt rubber smoke accompanied each wheel as it began to roll along the ground. The aircraft bounced a few times like a decapitated chicken trying desperately to feel the wind through its feathers one last time before death consumed it completely. But eventually the plane came to a stop. The engines continued to creak and moan as the fuel ceased to flow through them and all combustion inside stopped. A small team of mechanics approached the plane, bringing with them a rickety set of steel steps that they placed under the side door. The door swung open immediately and Marisol scurried out and down the stairs. Her legs had been accustomed to the artificial ground of planes, but even her experience couldn’t stop the shaking and uneasy feeling that spread through her calves as she reached solid ground. “When are you going to scrap this miserable piece of shit?!” She yelled out in Spanish, her first language. The mechanics replied with jokes and laughs, none of which Marisol found amusing.
The flight attendant took a few deep breaths before standing upright. She smoothed out her uniform and put on her best pleasant face. She muttered a few more swear words through a tight smile as the first of the passengers began to depart. Each one still overflowing with complaints as they climbed down the stairs. Marisol did her best to direct them to someone else who could amend the offenses the passengers felt they had collected. Finally after the complainers had all passed, the man from the back of the plane emerged and descended the stairs. He stopped at the bottom of the steps and stretched out his back and shoulders. “I’ve been in a lot of crappy planes…” The man began to say. His voice was quiet and low and if it hadn’t been for his diction, he would’ve sounded like a mumbling maniac. Marisol cringed lightly, preparing herself for another complaint, from the one person she thought she was safe from. “but I’ve never seen one handled so well as this one here. Remind me to buy the pilot a drink.” The man added, to the surprise and relief of Marisol. “That’s good to hear, I could use a whiskey sour right about now.” A woman’s voice said from behind the man. Her words were joined with the clinking sound of hard leather soles on steel stairs. The man turned around to see the lithe, intriguing form of the body the voice belonged to. Her body was long and skinny, a pair of tight tan pants stretched over her long legs and small hips. A pants were tucked into a pair of black knee high worn boots. A black shirt clung tightly to her small breasts and was unbuttoned suggestively, leaving little to the imagination. A mess of short blonde hair, done up like a pixie, sat upon her head reaching only as far as the nape of her neck in the back and her cheeks in the front. “You’re kidding me right?” The man said, surprised at the possibility that this woman could’ve been the pilot that brought them down from the unyielding darkness to the ground. “Don’t tell me you’re one of those hard headed boys who don’t like the idea of a woman flying.” The woman said. “No, not at all. I’m just used to seeing a woman like you painted on the sides of planes, rather than flying them. Where’d you learn to pilot?” “I helped my father dust fields in California before taking up with one of the big companies. I was a test pilot while all you big strong boys were overseas playing with the Krauts. But now that the war is over, except for the Japs, those bastards wanted men behind their new planes. So I ended up here. But that’s a longer story than I care to say right now.” “Not all of us were over there playing.” “True, but you were, weren’t you?” “Maybe, what makes you say that?”
“There’s been talk of an American coming here. Supposedly this guy is going to do some work, dirty work, for the man on top around here. Now I’m no detective, but I took a look at the other passengers and none of them seem like the type, except you. I’m thinking that you’re Jack Lark.” “Jackson. So it seems that I’m already in the rumor mill.” “You could say that. Most people don’t have a clue of what’s happening. That’s how the big shots like it, I don’t really understand why, but I’m sure they have their reasons. This is a strange place Jack. But you’ll figure that out.” “Everywhere is strange when you really look at it, but maybe you could tell me a little more about the special brand of strangeness here.” Jackson said drawing closer to the woman. “I’d love to, but there’s two things. One, you never asked what my name is, and two I’m guessing those nice men driving over here aren’t for me. I don’t usually get chauffeur service.” The woman said pointing over to a jeep bouncing over the rugged field between runways. “Sorry, doll, manners have never been my strong suit.” Jackson said ignoring the jeep. “Etta, Etta Joy. Look me up when you’re not out doing the things we lowly peasants aren’t supposed to know.” Etta said as she turned from Jackson to talk with the mechanics. The jeep pulled up behind Jackson. It’s shocks squeaked as well as the brakes and engine. But compared to the plane, still being worked on by the mechanics, it seemed like a luxury limousine. Two men climbed out of the vehicle, both in matching black suits. Their faces carried the stern looks that was held by all hired men. They removed their hats in unison as if they had practiced the routine over an over. If it wasn’t for subtle differences in the lines on their faces, they might’ve been considered twins. Their hair was worn in the same slicked back fashion that matched the shine on their shoes. “Mr. Lark, correct?” One of them asked. He sounded as if he was fighting desperately through his accent, but his words were clear enough. “Yeah?” Jackson replied. “We’re here to take you to your hotel. Patricio wishes for you to have a good rest before he meets you tomorrow.” “Patricio, the man on top right?” The men looked at each other puzzled. Everyone in New Constantinople knew Patricio was their leader. He had been in power for decades. His face was instantly recognizable, his name even more so. Even newcomers to the island knew of Patricio. What the men didn’t know was that Jackson was fishing. He knew who Patricio, it was him who had contacted Jackson via letter in the first place. But what Jackson didn’t know was what this Patricio character was like and the best way to figure that out was by the way the men who worked for him reacted when his name was mentioned. Jackson already knew a few new things just by that puzzled look.
“Yes, he is our great leader. He guides our land towards a future we never thought possible.” More new things that Jackson now knew. “Okay then, lead the way. Jackson took one more look at the blank sky above him. There wasn’t a single star in the sky. The ambient light from the city took care of those. The clouds rolling in for a night rainfall took care of the moon. The only thing now that could be used to find direction was the glow of the city in front of Jackson. A beacon in the night, a city filled with all the technological advances of the day, but with ancient planes to bring people in and out. It was a strange duality that Jackson refused to ignore.
Published on Jun 3, 2011
First chapter of my new crime story set in the 1940s. In this chapter we're introduced to our main character Jackson Lark, as well as some o...