Charlie Blevins knew the moment he boarded the plane that something was wrong.
It wasn’t anything readily identifiable, nothing like a weird noise or a vibration or even something about the other passengers, it was just a feeling, a premonition, if you will, and the little voice we all hear in the back of our heads that we more often than not ignore was screaming at Charlie to climb back down the little stairway and run. But, of course, he didn’t listen.
The props on the Piper Chieftain were already turning when Charlie boarded. He was the last passenger out of roughly a dozen on the little turboprop headed to Barrow, Alaska and so he got the seat all the way aft on the port side, pushing sideways down the narrow aisle, holding his black calf’s leather briefcase over the heads of the other passengers, fielding icy looks as he shuffled past, late as usual and holding up the whole affair. They had waited for Charlie for about fifteen minutes and everyone, including the pilots, was less than pleased. Screw them, he thought as he finally reached his seat. I paid just as much for my ticket as they did.
His seatmate was an older gentleman, at least in his early sixties, silver haired and sloppily dressed in an ill-fitting Sears and Roebuck business suit, the wrinkles in his shirt and sport coat augmenting the lines etched in his tired and drooping face. He smelled of Aqua-Velva and cigarettes and wheezed like an old hand organ with each labored breath. Charlie wondered if the old man would survive the three hours to Barrow. Or if I will for that matter. As he stowed his briefcase and settled into his seat on the aisle the old man shifted in his seat to accommodate him, breathing his Marlboro breath in Charlie’s face and smiling as they greeted one another, showing a set of yellow dentures which moved in his mouth as spoke. (more…)