A Crowdsourced Novel
Read it here – Say what comes next.
They probably removed the back seat of the Cessna to make room for contraband. Whatever the reason, something dug into Frank’s bruised side as he lay face-to-face with Roya and the turbulence got stronger.
Frank craned his neck and looked between the seats. The cockpit glass had the appearance of a fresh coat of white paint when they first entered the cloudbank. Now it took on a nasty shade of green-gray. Post lights illuminated the instrument panel. Luigi wore an old green David Clark headset that stuck out ludicrously from both sides of his head. The man would keep his vision glued to his instruments and the headsets would isolate him from everybody but air traffic control.
Gort bumped the headliner and jerked his shoulder belt tighter as the dip and yaw of the little plane grew more violent. Bound as he was, the movement pressed Frank’s arms and feet against the cabin wall. Lightning flashed simultaneously with a thunderclap—louder than anything he’d heard since artillery in the desert. He knew all about avoiding a thunderstorm and he’d gone directly through only once, during training in California. The air force didn’t risk its jets that way—not if they could help it. What kind of power did this Uomo Grasso wield to compel two thugs to fly into a storm in a light plane? Was it so important to be on time for a meeting in Chicago? Maybe these guys were tough but they must be scared to death of their boss. Luigi fought to keep the plane straight and level—over-controlled. It looked like he was trying to outmuscle the storm. An amateur pilot. If he made one correction too hard, he might tear off a wing.
Turbulence was nothing new to Frank and he lay on the floor brooding. The loud drone of the single prop bore into his skull. The buck and sway lulled him into a daze. He’d gone a tour of duty fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and not a scratch. Two more in Iraq and his wife walked out on him. Thank you very much, Peggy. He came back to the States in the middle of a recession. His job at the mortgage company—gone. The airlines–not interested. He worked a few months for the US Census then found an insurance agency willing to put him at a desk while he went through training and exams to get licensed as an agent. And he was good at it—already built a book of clients. He put the Air Force behind him. Ignored news and politicians 24/7. Life seemed almost normal when everything changed in the space of a minute on a quiet street near his home.
Something in his thinking snapped and he felt his anger grow. What made these scumbags think they had a right to treat him this way? To treat Roya like that? There had to be something he could do about it. His military survival skills and warrior instinct began to surface—something he thought he’d left behind for good. They trained him to kill in so many ways.
A flash of lightning and an immediate thunder clap. Roya rolled onto her back in an awkward arched pose and worked her hands against the seat rail. In a moment, her arms came free and she unwound the tape from her ankles. When she leaned over and spoke directly in his ear, static electricity pricked his skin. “Can you fly a plane?”
He nodded. He wished he knew more about her but he had to trust Roya Fetova. Like it or not, they were in this together.
Roya rolled him on his belly and pulled tape from his wrists. The plane pitched wildly and while he unwound his ankles, Roya unfastened one pearl button after another. Unhitched a strapless bra and slipped it out of her top. In one motion, she looped it over Gort’s head and pulled.
Frank stared. Nothing in all his years of war surprised him more than this.
Gort’s hands came to his throat. Roya planted her knees against the seat and leaned back, her arms straining, her teeth bared and gritted as she tightened the noose. Gort arched his back, his mouth wide. He had to be making noise but Frank couldn’t hear it amid the roaring prop and thunder and violently pitching aircraft.
Roya flashed a look at Frank–that same fierce look he’d seen when Gort had held her like a rag doll. It broke him from his stupor. He turned his attention forward. Luigi’s black oily hair. The headset protruding from both ears. The man turned toward the struggle. It looked like he reached in his coat. Frank took hold of the man’s head with both hands and in one quick movement snapped his neck. Then he leaned over the seat and punched the autopilot.
Roya tied the giant’s neck to the headrest with her bra and Frank motioned for help. Together, they unbuckled the Italian, hauled his body over the seat and dumped it in the back of the plane. Both thugs were dead—there was no doubt about that.
He scrambled into the pilot seat, checked the gauges and donned the headphones. When he reached back and handed a second set to Roya, she was doing up her top. She slipped its spaghetti straps back on her shoulders, put the phones over her head and adjusted the mike. “Can you hear me now?” She repeated the slogan and grinned.
The adrenaline rush left Frank breathing hard and fierce with no room for her joke. He was horrified. He’d just killed a man with his bare hands. Roya’s actions had taken him completely off guard. A giant corpse sat next to him, tongue lolling out like a hound.
“Testing, testing.” Roya’s voice over the intercom—strangely clinical. Didn’t anything faze this gal?
“Loud and clear.” All he could think to say. The clouds lit up and thunder roared, but not as deafening with the tight headsets. The plane dropped a wing and Frank switched off the autopilot and took command.
Her voice, metallic in the headphones, “You did okay. Next time, keep your eyes on business where they belong.”
“I didn’t…I mean I didn’t expect—“
“Yeah, sure. I heard it before. Hey, don’t turn around again, I’m getting decent.”
Frank blushed shamefully and focused on the instruments.
She made an exclamation and this time Frank recognized it as Russian. Then her accent quickly vanished. “This monster here killed my Sergey. We would have been married. Uomo Grasso ordered it. Turf war with the Russian mob.”
A wing dipped and Frank gently brought the plane to level. “You’re with them?”
“No, undercover. Special task force. They pulled me off the case—said I was emotionally involved.” She stopped talking.
After a moment Frank turned. She’d closed her eyes and tears lined her cheeks. “Nobody can stop me from getting justice.”
A voice on the radio, “Continue straight to ILS approach. Runway 22L. Be advised–wake turbulence. 747 on approach. DC-10 at your six. Can you give me 140 knots all the way?” Frank knew that was way past the Cessna’s landing speed. Where were they? He studied the chart mounted to the yoke. Midway airport.
Again the radio, “3-6-Victor, do you copy?”
HOW TO PLAY–This is an interactive story based on Nate’s game in my novel. You get to say what comes next:
1.) KEEP IT SHORT – It’s easy to play Nate’s game. Just enter your idea as a comment like, “their jeep drives off a cliff.” Don’t worry about form—just suggest the next step in the story. I’ll pick one, write it, and post it as a scene in serial form.
2.) KEEP IT CLEAN – I hold the veto pen. Since this is an experiment, I get to add rules as we go along. In general, if it wouldn’t fly in an old 60’s Bond movie, then it’s out.
3.) SHARE – Your posts are a precious gift to me. Maybe you’ll help write my next novel. Maybe we’ll just have a great time. I take you at your word that all ideas are your original thoughts. No criticism. No arguments. No lawsuits allowed. Let’s have some fun.