Read Thread of Betrayal Online

Authors: Jeff Shelby

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Hard-Boiled

Thread of Betrayal (5 page)

BOOK: Thread of Betrayal
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TEN

 

 

Denver International Airport was located east of the city, out on the plains before you hit the Kansas border. I’d driven to the airport once before—I couldn’t recall why—but as I sped down the roads that left the highway and pointed me toward the airport, I recognized the giant, white, tent-like structure as it grew larger.

I flew past the rental car center and, unsure of which airline she might be trying to get on, chose the east terminal because it looked like I could get there quickest. I momentarily flirted with the idea of pulling into the parking garage, then changed my mind. If I was able to stop her, there was going to be all kinds of chaos and the least of my worries would be a rental car parked in a pick-up zone.

I found an open spot in the pick-up area and slid in behind a gray SUV. I got out and without looking around, hustled into the airport. No one stopped me. I found a screen listing the departing flights and scanned it quickly. I spotted one flight leaving for Los Angeles at one-thirty.

Which was in exactly nine minutes.

I had to make a decision. Find the airline counter and try to get them to stop the flight or try to get to the gate myself.

I took the latter.

I found a kiosk for the nearest airline and did a quick search of flights for the day. I bought the cheapest I could find—one bound for Topeka, Kansas. I had no intention of going to Topeka, but the boarding pass would get me to the gate.

I went down the escalator, two steps at a time and cut under the empty security line ropes. The stations were nearly deserted at mid-day and I quickly had my shoes and jacket off and was through the x-rays in less than three minutes.

I checked my watch.

I had four minutes.

I jammed my feet into my shoes, grabbed my jacket and sprinted toward the trains to the gates. I slipped into one just as it closed and grabbed the metal pole to keep my balance as it took off.

It couldn’t go fast enough.

The train car pulled to a stop at the terminal and I was yanking on the doors before they finally slid open. I sprinted up the stairs, saw the directions to the gates and ran harder toward the gate the plane was leaving from. I was at Gate 20.

She was at 46.

The numbers escalated as I ran.

26.

32.

40.

And finally 46.

I stood there for a moment, my chest heaving. The seats in the gate area were empty.

And the door to the jetway was closed.

The woman dressed in the navy and white uniform of the airline punched a numerical code in the door and walked toward the podium.

“Wait,” I said, waving at her. “Wait.”

She looked at me, but kept walking toward the podium.

“Wait!” I yelled.

“Were you scheduled to be on this flight, sir?” she asked, glancing at me as she stepped behind the counter.

“Yes,” I said, trying to catch my breath. I glanced out the window. The plane was still at the end of the jetway. “I mean, no.”

The woman raised an eyebrow. “Sir?”

“My daughter,” I said. “She’s on that plane. She can’t go. It can’t go.”

“Sir, if she’s ticketed…”

“Open the door. Call them. You need to stop it.”

“Sir, I can’t…”

“Call them!” I yelled. “She can’t go!”

She hesitated, then looked at her screen. “What is her last name?”

“Tyler,” I said, then shut my eyes. “No. Sorry. Corzine. It’s Corzine.”

She glanced at me again. “She’s your daughter?”

“It’s Ellie Corzine,” I said, looking at the window again.

The plane was still there.

The woman stared at her monitor. “Do you have I.D.?”

I pulled my wallet out of my back pocket and flipped it open. “My name is Joe Tyler.”

“But you told me your daughter’s name is Corzine,” she said.

“I can’t explain,” I said. “Just stop the plane.”

She stared at me for a long moment, then picked up the phone next to her computer.

I turned again to the window.

It was still there.

I started to relax.

“This is Elaine down at B 46,” the woman said into the phone. “I need some help down here with a guest.”

I swiveled back to her. “Call the plane. Please.”

“Yes,” she said, averting her eyes. “A guest here at the podium.”

I sprinted over to the door to the jetway and yanked on it.

It wouldn’t budge.

I pounded on the door.

I pushed all of the numbers on the keypad.

I turned back to Elaine, who had stepped out from behind the podium, still on the phone, her eyes widened in alarm.

“Open the fucking door!” I screamed at her. “Right fucking now!”

People were coming closer to the podium now, watching me, approaching cautiously. I knew what it looked like. I knew what happened in airports if you made a disturbance.

But I didn’t care.

“Open it!” I screamed again.

Elaine was talking urgently into the phone.

Jet engines whirred behind me.

I spun around.

The plane was pulling away from the jetway.

I rushed back to the podium.

Elaine backed away from me. “Sir, please. Calm…”

“Call them,” I said. “Call them right now and tell them to stop.”

“Sir, I cannot…”

I reached and snatched the phone from her. I put it to my ear, but heard nothing.

I pushed her out of the way and looked at the phone console and started hitting random buttons.

“Hey, buddy,” a guy said from my left. “You can’t just go back there. You need to calm down.” He put his hand on my arm. “Put the phone down and…”

I shoved him hard with the arm he had ahold of. He toppled over backward into the group of people standing behind him.

I looked at Elaine, tears in my eyes. “Please. Call them back. It’s my daughter. Please.”

She started to say something, then her eyes swept past me and relief filled her face.

And I knew what was coming.

“Step away from the counter,” a voice commanded.

I turned around.

There were four police officers, all with their weapons drawn, pointed squarely at me.

“Stop the plane,” I said. “Please.”

“Put your hands on your head,” the one in the middle said. “Now.”

“Stop it,” I said. “Please. Don’t let her go.”

“Hands on your head,” the officer repeated. “Now.”

I looked around. There were now hundreds of people gathered around, watching.

I dropped the phone and put my hands on my head.

“Turn around and back up toward my voice,” the officer said. “Slowly.”

I did as he said and watched as several other officers arrived, running at us.

Hands grabbed at me from behind and I was shoved to the ground, a knee in the small of my back, the hands patting me down.

I twisted my head toward the window.

The plane was already gone.

ELEVEN

 

 

“I told you to stay with that Morgan girl,” I said.

“Well, I didn’t know you were going to shut down a fucking airport,” Lauren said, shaking her head and looking away from me.

We were in a holding area somewhere in the airport. A small, square windowless room with gray walls. A single table and several chairs.

I rubbed at my wrists, the bright red lines from the handcuffs beginning to fade. “Either did I.”

The officers had pulled me up from the ground and marched me quickly out of the terminal. I’d kept my mouth shut. The plane was gone. There was nothing to fight at that point. They’d brought me to the holding area and questioned me. I’d told them my daughter was on the plane and she didn’t have my permission to travel. They were more concerned with the fact that I’d bought a ticket not thirty minutes earlier for a trip I didn’t plan to take and then proceeded to disrupt the entire gate area while threatening a gate agent.

My story didn’t make sense to them. My daughter had a different last name. With a Minnesota address. I resided in California. And we were in Colorado. Was this a custody battle? Some sort of lover’s quarrel? Did I plan to harm her? Did I plan to harm the plane? The passengers?

I finally shut up and said I wanted my lawyer. They assured me that would just make it worse. I assured them no one could make my life worse at that moment and I wanted my lawyer. After thirty minutes of silence, I was allowed to call my lawyer.

Lauren showed up an hour later.

And now we were in the holding area and she looked like she wanted to take my head off.

“So fucking stupid, Joe,” she said.

“I know.”

“Then why’d you do it?”

“Because she was on the plane.”

She stared at me, dead-eyed. “And acting like a maniac was going to help?”

“The door was closed,” I said. “I asked the gate agent to stop it.”

“Jesus Christ,” she said, sinking into the chair across from me. “You sound like those idiots in the security line who haven’t traveled since 9/11. You know what airports are like. You can’t go off half-cocked. You
know
that.”

I stared down at the table. “I asked her to stop it. Nicely.”

“Yeah and then you apparently started trying to rip the door down and knocking people over on their asses,” she said. “Well done.”

I rubbed at my wrists some more, but didn’t say anything. She was right, of course. I didn’t have any good answers and any slim chance I’d had of stopping the plane had disappeared the moment I started screaming and banging on that door. But I knew what was going to happen if they didn’t stop the plane.

I’d lose Elizabeth again.

And, like always, nothing else mattered.

Not even making it worse.

“So now what?” I asked.

Lauren took a deep breath and drummed her fingers on the table. “Now, we need to wait and see what they come back with. They’re running background on you. That should be okay. And you need to make a decision.”

“A decision?”

“Do you want to involve them?” she asked. “Do you want to try to bring in federal authorities right now? I honestly don’t know whether they’ll give a crap at this point, given your performance out there. These guys are trained to worry about air travel and air travel only. So I’m not sure they’ll care. But if you want to bring in help, this is the time to speak up. Probably take them some time to get someone here, but we might be able to convince them that you aren’t just some raving lunatic and there was some legitimacy to what you did.”

I folded my arms across my chest. It had been almost three hours since the plane had left. It would take some time to get any federal agent out there to help us, if they were inclined to do so.

Elizabeth was probably already on the ground. Somewhere in Los Angeles. Alone.

And bringing in feds right at that moment might also mean involving my old colleagues in Coronado. I wasn’t ready to do that.

“No,” I said. “Not yet.”

If she disagreed, she didn’t show it. “Okay. Then I’m going to go out there, tell them you’re extremely sorry, that you got carried away and hope they just want to fine you some ridiculous amount of money rather than lock you up.”

I nodded and watched her leave.

I wanted to pace, to burn off all of the nervous energy raging in my body, but I knew better than to get up and start moving. Yeah, the door was locked, but I knew that a windowless room didn’t mean that I wasn’t being watched. If I started moving around, they’d get anxious. I’d already done enough to get their attention, so I stayed in my seat.

I laid my hands flat on the table and stared at the faint red circles around my wrists. I didn’t think Lauren was right. I didn’t think that anything I did would’ve gotten them to stop the plane. I could’ve been calm and collected and polite and the gate agent still would’ve read from the script that the door had been closed and there was nothing she could do. But at least then I wouldn’t have lost more time and turned the entire afternoon into a gigantic mess.

I wasn’t used to getting so close, though. I’d spent so many years trying to find Elizabeth, then failing, that the urgency had been muted. I’d worked with a calm intensity, following leads until they turned dead, then walked away from them, looking for the next. I preached to families to remain reasonable, sensible, level-headed, that not doing so could result in them missing something.

But I’d finally gotten close to Elizabeth and I’d imploded. I’d ignored my own advice. I was now stuck in a mess where  I had only myself to blame. My daughter was somewhere in California and I was no closer to reuniting with her.

The door clicked opened and Lauren stepped back into the room. She came to the table and leaned down, exhaling, resting her hands on the table.

“What?” I asked.

Her eyes were tired. “Good news is they aren’t going to hold you,” she said. She rubbed her temples. “We’ll probably be out of here in about another hour after they do the paperwork. They are going to issue you a citation for interfering with airline personnel and there’s going to be a hefty fine. Probably around five thousand bucks.” She paused. “You’ll have to appear back here in federal court, but they’ll basically admonish you, take your money and send you on your way.”

“Okay,” I said. “I can handle that. What’s the bad news?”

She bit her lip for a moment, then shook her head.

“What?” I asked.

“You can’t go near an airport or get on a plane or buy a ticket for a month,” she said, leveling her eyes with mine. “You’re on the no-fly list for the next thirty days.”

BOOK: Thread of Betrayal
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