Kevin’s throbbing head, the low whine from the chartered Gulfstream’s fans and the dust the wind kicked up off the tarmac had turned his ‘We should take separate flights’ pitch to Cheryl into a whiny duet with the idling jet. The briefcase with over five million dollars inside did a little dance between them every time Cheryl tugged on it with both hands and Kevin pulled it back.
“There’s no good reason why we can’t take the same plane, Kevin.” Cheryl almost got the briefcase away from him. He yanked it back hard enough to get it away from her and clutched it to his chest.
“Yeah, Kevin.” Maddie checked her lipstick in the bottom of the tube. “The three of us again. Mile high club? Do you just not like women, Kev, is that it? Or is it that little patch of gauze on your head that’s the problem? Not today, darling, I have a headache?”
“I like women fine and I do have a fucking size twelve headache, thank you very much, ” his indignance building. “What I don’t like is women who crack me with a gun, stuff a soapy washcloth in my mouth, cable tie me into a pretzel and rob me.” He tried a glare on Cheryl, raised a finger off the briefcase, pointed at Maddie. “And I think that bitch standing next to you was one of them. I know she was.”
“You know nothing of the kind. She had her way with you earlier, without cable ties or hitting you on the head. Your weak bullshit about getting whacked on the head and losing Randy’s car money was past it’s sell-by date before you finished spewing it the first time. You stashed Randy’s one-sixty somewhere for the Benz and now you want to take the rest of it and disappear. That dog won’t hunt ’cause half that’s my money. Get your butt on the plane, now, or give me the briefcase and hit it.”
“You are mad about the hot tub. Your new boobs are between you and me, Cheryl. I didn’t mean it like that. I mean the massage never happened, Randy doesn’t need to know about me and your boobs and a little stiff and sticky in the hot tub. He’s going to be pissed enough about the car money. I thought look, if this plane goes down, Randy is stuck down there with nothing. I was thinking of his, like, uh, welfare.”
“My ass. You first.” Cheryl grabbed his arm, turned him toward the Gulfstream’s boarding steps. “Maddie?”
“Right behind you. You don’t know how much I appreciate you two letting me tag along. I’ve always wanted to see Acapulco. Bumpers, huh. What kind of place is it again?”
“You’ll be right at home, Maddie. Trust me.”
Maddie hugged them both from behind, pinched their butts while the attendant raised the steps. “Going home sounds like so much fun. God I love to meet new family. Don’t you?”
Harli stuck the phone in her bra, stuffed her carry-on in the overhead bin, slid into her seat and stared out the window. There was no reason to feel like she did. She and Flash had split the money and the pizza, Maddie had left them alone and they’d talked. A lot. That’s all. Until Kevin called from the ER for Flash to pick him up. He’d smiled his car thief smile, said, “Bye, neighbor to the South,” squeezed her shoulder like she was a girl bud. She pulled off the Niner’s cap she’d “forgotten” to give back and got a little wistful. Jesus, she’d spent yesterday riding around her home town in stolen cars with a stranger, whacked a guy she didn’t know on the head with a gun and committed an armed robbery with her Dad’s top erotic retreat hostess. On the way to Summa cum Laude international finance grad students didn’t do things like that. Well, not until yesterday.
“Miss Davidson?” The flight attendant who had been starched into his clothes and shaved with a new blade twice checked the small slip of paper in his left hand, wrestled her bag out of the overhead, and backed down the aisle to let her out. “I need you to come with me, please.”
Her heart sank. Shit. They’d been busted. For all of it. The stolen cars, the money, the head whack. All of it. That asshole her dad knew hadn’t liked her attitude about the surcharge when she sent her $80,000 offshore and had called her out. Shit. She could feel her glass ceiling getting lower in real-time. Nobody wanted a convict accountant except politicians and other convicts. She shouldn’t have worn the Niner’s cap. That was it. Security had spotted her. She thought about trying to cry her way out of it.
“Where are you taking me?”
“First Class, Miss Davidson. Your ticket was upgraded at the counter. Don’t you remember?” He smiled like he owned three dentists and wanted his money’s worth.
“Right. Forgot.” She hadn’t done anything at any counter, but whatever. First Class wasn’t jail. She sat where the flight attendant pointed before he took her bag and stacked it neatly in a closet close to the front. It was harder to see the baggage guys practicing their long-distance loading techniques from her new window, but she could see the pilot talking to the light stick and headphone people. She felt someone land on the other side of her first-class console, caught a faint whiff of a nice, light cologne. Probably some money-guy suit on the way to Acapulco to see her dad and his “hostesses.” She hoped he wasn’t a talker. And dammit, who would be texting her?
He poked her arm. “Saw you go to the restroom twice, think about a huge cookie five times before you got on the plane.”
“Shit! What are you —”
“I can’t miss this one.” He handed her a cellophane-wrapped chocolate chip cookie the size of a cow pie.
“Yeah? I thought you were out of clean underwear, art poser.”
“I was. I’m functionally artsy. I can do laundry and shop a little.”
She broke off a piece of the cookie, handed it to him. “A cookie bribery car thief stalker with domestic skills following me to Acapulco? Is this part of a master plan?”
“Not yet. The essence of man is to be, not to plan.”
“God, Berkeley has rotted your brain.”
She switched her phone off. Dad could sit on that one for a while, she had a takeoff hand to hold. And it had to belong to a freaking car thief working on a liberal arts masters. Her dad was going to kill her. Her mom might commit suicide.
She decided a single seat in first class was big enough for both of them, if they stretched out. She needed to tell him when she climbed over the console that she drooled in her sleep sometimes. So he should get a towel in case she passed out on his shoulder.