Murder at 30,000 Feet Excerpt

I found the dead guy in seat 42A. Don’t know why I checked for a pulse. I’ve never done that to a passenger before–even to those really old dudes where there actually was some question about their cardiovascular health. I was just compelled to do it. Somehow, I sensed something was wrong.

And I’ve gotta be honest. I was completely creeped out. As soon as I realized that I was touching a dead person--Ick! I jerked my hand back and froze, not exactly sure what I was supposed to do. We had procedures for passengers who were too cold, or had a headache, or were even having a heart attack. But nobody ever told us what to do when they were already dead. Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, is there a mortician on board?

He looked so peaceful, like he was sleeping, eyes closed, head leaning against the darkened oval window. I reached up and adjusted the navy blue blanket that was tucked around his neck. The edge of the blanket fell forward and revealed the thin, black cord around his neck, tied so tightly that it almost cut into the skin.

I actually felt my eyes involuntarily widen. Whoa. This was definitely not in the training manual.

A suicide? No way for me to know for sure, but I seriously doubted it. I could see the knot on the back of the neck. It would have been tough for him to do it, although not impossible. The cord was from the earphones of his portable CD player. But it wasn’t the knot that aroused my suspicions. Two other, less-forensic, factors lead me to believe it was a murder: (1) He was drunk. Not just drunk, but very drunk. Stinking drunk. Three-A.M.-forehead-on-the-tile-floor-of-a-7-11-restroom drunk. He passed out long before that Discman cord ended up around his neck. I know. I saw him after he dropped off, and the blanket was on his lap, not around his neck. And, (2) He was a world class jerk. Not merely the usual disgruntled road warrior after a bad client meeting, but a deep-rooted, rotten-to-the-core, misogynistic bastard. He seemed far too pleased with himself to commit suicide. Hey, I know I’m no psychologist, but my gut said he wasn’t the type.

That meant that, somewhere on board, sitting in one of these rows, was a murderer. And there were just under two hours until we landed.


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