“Always a pleasure working with you, ladies.” Captain Isaiah Jones gave the two flight attendants a nod before heading toward the terminal with his co-pilot.
“You, too,” Jenny Collins said.
“Likewise,” Betty McDonald said. “You ready?”
“Definitely. I love the smell of hot tarmac late in the afternoon, but my feet haven’t been on solid ground for more than a couple of hours in days.”
Jenny nodded. “And a layover.”
“That’ll do it. I was—”
A baggage cart whizzed by so quickly, it almost knocked the flight attendants off their feet.
“Idiot!” Jenny yelled, scowling at the bumper of the vehicle. “What kind of fool drives like that? He almost ran us over!”
“He wasn’t even picking up luggage from our plane.”
“Did you get the license number?”
“No. I was too busy trying not to fall. Did you?”
“Same.” Jenny shook her head. “We’re not even safe crossing over to the terminal anymore.”
“Come on. We’re both tired. Every time I agree to work a private flight I end up grumpy and irritated.”
“That’s because people who have power and wealth make such ridiculous demands.”
“You mean you didn’t think Celeste Carmichael’s insistence that we call her Celestial Body of the Stars every single time we approached her was cute?”
Jenny wrinkled her nose, grimaced and pouted all in one fell swoop. “You were lucky, refilling her diet soda glass every five minutes. I was the one massaging her feet all afternoon. Did you see those toenails? Wicked sharp. More like talons. Maybe there’s something to all the hocus pocus astrological brouhaha she spews.”
“People sure buy her books and DVDs. I see her face everywhere.”
They were almost at the flight crew entrance to the terminal when Betty said, “Watch out. Here he comes again.”
“Why is he so close to the building?” Jenny let go of her carry-on handle and began running toward the luggage truck.
“What are you doing?” Betty shouted. “You’re right in his path.”
“Stop!” Jenny yelled as she approached the vehicle. She waved her arms and yelled again. Now that she was closer, she could see that the gentleman driving had some kind of head gear on. Isn’t that illegal? “Stop!”
She managed to capture the man’s attention and he slowed down, rolling down his window as the wheels came to a halt. “Afternoon. What’s up?”
“You almost ran us down a few minutes ago. Why weren’t you paying attention?”
“Why weren’t you paying attention?”
“We were just standing still. You were the one who almost hit us.”
“Almost being the key word there. Are you and your friend okay?”
“Yes, we’re okay, but that isn’t the point.”
“Seems like it’s the point to me. Have a good day.”
“Wait! We’re not done. Aren’t you going to apologize? Why are you driving so close to the terminal? Why did you almost kill us when you weren’t even delivering baggage to the plane we were near?”
“You sure ask a lot of questions. If you have a problem with my driving, contact my supervisor.”
“And who might that be?”
“Mark Hutchins. You know him? He’s a great guy—organized, punctual and fair. You’d like him. If you don’t already know him, I mean.”
Jenny was a bit disarmed by the man’s smile and his good-natured attitude in the face of her angry outburst. His skin was tan, probably from spending so much time outdoors in the sun loading and unloading luggage.
“Was there something else?”
“Isn’t it illegal to wear something on your head that blocks your ability to hear when you’re driving?”
“It’s required. With all the jet engines around here, we’d bust an ear drum or something if we didn’t have protection.”
No ring on his left hand. Mr. Baggage Truck Driver was single. Well, at least he wasn’t married.
“I gotta run. Nice talking with you.” The man smiled warmly, replaced his head gear and drove off.
“You really told him,” Betty said from a few feet behind her.
“I’m not sure what happened. I started out fine, but he sort of took all my sputter away.”
“Why’d he try to hit us?”
“I don’t think he was trying to hit us. Maybe it’s just the way he drives. He gave me the name of his supervisor.”
“Good. Let’s go find him. What’s his name?”
“Clark. No, Park.”
“Would that be his first or last name?”
“McCutcheon. Hm… that doesn’t sound right either. Clark McCutcheon. Park McCutcheon. Maybe it wasn’t even McCutcheon. I know there was an h in the last name.”
“Come on. I can see we’re not going to get anywhere this way.” Betty took Jenny’s hand and led her back to where their luggage was sitting.
“Did you see his eyes? Sort of blue-green, like ocean waves when the sun hits them.”
“You’re the only one I know who can fall in love with someone who almost killed her.”
“Well, he didn’t really almost kill us. We were standing quite a ways from the plane and, hey, I never said I was in love. Where’d you get that idea?”
“Call ‘em as I see ‘em.”
They picked up their carry-ons and entered the terminal.
“Would you hold up for a minute? I never said anything about being in love.”
“You didn’t have to.”
“You’re being silly.”
“We’ll see.” Betty gave Jenny a knowing look. “We’re working together on a flight to Phoenix later in the month. I expect a full report when I see you again.”
“There won’t be anything to report. I don’t even know the man’s name.”
“A little thing like that never stopped you before.”
“Go home. You’re getting delusional.”
Betty grinned. “We’ll see who’s delusional in a few weeks.”
The two women made their way to the Ballinger Air flight lounge, submitted their paperwork, then headed for home.
Before she left the airport, Jenny stopped by the main desk. “Stacy, is there a list of all the baggage handlers who drive the little luggage carts?”
“I’m sure the airport has one, but I don’t have access to that information.”
“Don’t you have to keep track of which luggage goes to which plane?”
“Someone does, but that’s not my department.”
“Do you know whose department it is?”
“Why do you ask?”
“No reason, really, just curious.”
“Fess up. Why do you care about luggage all of a sudden?”
“I don’t care so much about luggage as I care about a particular man handling the luggage.”
“Now we’re getting to the juice. It’s about a guy. Well, I’m all about the love. Let me make a couple of calls. Did this gentleman deliver baggage to the plane you were on today?”
“No. I was on a private flight today.”
“I’ll put my sleuthing skills to work, but you haven’t given me much to go on.”
“I know. Can we keep this between us?”
“Naturally. It’ll cost you.”
“I assumed. How much?”
“Two dozen molasses sugar cookies. No store bought. Make ‘em with your mom’s recipe.”
“Ooh, good choice. Those are delicious. All right, you’ve got a deal, but only if you deliver the goods.”
“For those cookies, I’ll deliver.”