This is the last installment of Murder at 30,000 Feet! Hard to believe ten weeks have flown by so quickly (pun completely intended.) Next week I’ll hold the drawing for the $50 Amazon Gift Card. Anyone who leaves a comment on all 10 posts will have a chance to win. 🙂
As the plane begins it’s descent, you grab the seat back to steady yourself. A hollow ding sounds over the speakers, and the ‘fasten seat belt’ light flickers on. You meet Mara’s gaze and her brows raise. She’ll never admit to anything. Durland–if that’s even his real name– doesn’t look too forthcoming either with the firm set to his jaw and the steely determination in his eyes.
Maybe Claire Wilson’s social media page wasn’t taken down after her death. Would there be pictures of Mara? Maybe even her brother, Sam? You open your Banter app and search Claire’s name. Bingo! The page is active.
You scroll past a series of posts left by friends and family who mourned her loss and reminisced over happy times they’d shared. Finally, the photos. You thumb through the gallery and stop. There’s Mara. Her arm draped around Claire’s shoulders as the pair stood in front of what looked like a view of the Rocky Mountains. Family vacation, perhaps?
In the next picture, a familiar face joins the pair. You look up and lock eyes with Mashal Durland, who, according to the photo tag, is Claire’s brother Sam Collison. He looks away. Even if Durland–or Collison, rather–tries to smooth-talk his way out of this predicament, he can’t explain away the fact that he is on the same plane with the corpse of the man who most likely murdered his sister.
“This wasn’t the way to handle it.” You lower your phone, shaking your head. “There are laws to–“
“They failed.” Sam runs splayed fingers through his hair. “That monster killed my sister, and got away with it. There was no justice.”
“But you murdered him, and that wasn’t the answer.” Maybe it felt like Jeff Archer had gotten everything he deserved. But murder was always wrong. Your ears pop as the lights lining the runway come into view through the oblong window to your left.
“It wasn’t me.” Sam shakes his head. “I’ll admit, I’ve been tracking him for months. And I knew he’d be on this flight. He’s been tailing Angie. I had to keep an eye on her. Make sure she didn’t end up like Claire. But I didn’t cut that monster’s throat. I was just as shocked to see that dead body as you were, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy about it.”
“Why impersonate an officer?” It doesn’t make sense.
“I’d have killed him. Planned to, but someone already finished the job.” He chews the inside of his lip. “The cop act would have been a cover. A way to get off the plane quickly.” He shrugs. “If I had a killer to return to Australia for extradition, they’d let me through, no questions asked.”
“Why should I believe you didn’t do it?”
“If you knew him like I do, you’d realize that I’m not the only one with a vendetta.”
You cut a glance at Mara, but she’s shaking her head. A smirk plays across her lips. Then she glances to something or someone behind you. You look over your shoulder.
Jessica is standing at the emergency exit, hand on the handle. The passengers who had occupied that row run to the back of the plane, shouting, fear lines their faces. Is she crazy? Opening the emergency exit with the plane still in motion could be dangerous, even if you aren’t at cruising altitude.
“Jessica, don’t. Running will only make things worse.” You take a step toward her. Probably not the best idea, but if someone doesn’t diffuse the situation, there might be consequences.
“He killed my sister.” Her knuckles whiten as she grips the handle. “He can’t get away with it. But I can’t spend the rest of my life in jail.” She swallows hard. “I need to help people. To do some good. And ridding the world of that evil man is just the first step.”
The wheels bounce off the runway. You grasp the seat back beside you. “Did you know he’d be on this flight?”
Jessica’s eyes dart to Sam and Mara. She squares her shoulders and yanks the handle. The emergency door flies open, and passengers’ screams punctuate the air. The sudden rush of humid air sucks at your clothing, pulling you toward the opening.
The flight attendant jumps onto the inflated slide and slips down. You cling to the seat, watching her descent. With the airplane still taxiing down the paved strip, the slide flails and pivots, sending Jessica flying through the air. She misses the safety of the cushion, and lands on the pavement. with a sickening thud.
How could she survive such a jarring fall?
The plane stops.
You run to the exit and peer outside, praying the scene won’t be as awful as you imagine. Maybe Jessica will brush herself off and run toward wherever to escape the consequences for her actions.
But her body lays in a mangled heap on the pavement. A dark stain spreads beneath her head. You look away, gut twisting.
Melani Hyatt screams then buries her face in her husband’s chest.
Angie Garrett hold her son close, facing him away from the grisly image that would probably scar his mind forever. Tears streak her cheeks.
Mara and Sam sit in their seats. Mouths agape and eyes glassy.
Griz bows his head. Perhaps honoring her with a moment of silence.
Flashing lights and wailing sirens drown the sobs in the fuselage. Medics rush toward Jessica’s form. One kneels beside her, places his hand on her neck, then shakes his head.
The pilot calls for the passengers to disembark. As if in a trance, the men an women pressing against the emergency exit scatter. Overhead bins click open and shut behind you, but you’re frozen in place.
Such a waste. It’s a blessing Jeff Archer can’t hurt anyone else, but you hate yourself for thinking so. You swallow past the dryness in your throat. Did Jessica really plan this alone? Sure she had motive, but it seems like too elaborate a plot for her to construct single-handed.
You turn, scanning the empty seats. Alone. They’re all gone. Back to their business as if nothing happened at all.
You grab your carry-on and walk the jetway into the airport. Men, women, and children bustle around you as if life hasn’t changed. As if Jessica didn’t jump to her death before your eyes. Somehow, everything feels surreal, like you’re floating through a dream.
Angela and Devon stand near the McDonald’s in the terminal. She has an arm draped around him as he licks at an ice cream cone. Griz stands beside her and rests a hand on her shoulder. Something between them feels familiar. How do they know each other? Mara and Sam join them, faces wreathed in smiles.
Sam glances your way. His grin widens, and he lifts his index finger to his lips.
Your heart plummets into your gut. Jessica didn’t act alone, but how can you ever hope to prove it?
I hadn’t planned on such an unsatisfying ending, so I hope you don’t black-ball me for it. As I was writing, the cut and dried ending I had planned just felt too much like cardboard. This is what came to me organically.
This has been a fun and challenging journey for me, and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
Would you like to do another? Is there a particular setting you’d like to see? Drop your ideas below, and I’ll do my best to make them come alive!
As I mentioned above, I’ll draw for the $50 Amazon Gift Card winner next week and post it here. Thanks for keeping with me. I appreciate each on of you!