Welcome to the much awaited sequel of our Avaloner Online Novel - chapter 6!
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by Victoria M. Johnson
Influenced by the experiences of the last 24 hours, my gaze darted around the coffee shop. No scary-looking men, no Annie, no one covertly watching me. Not even Stan, I thought, even though I told myself I wouldn’t dwell on him. Surely I was safe in a secure airport, right? Everyone was watched by airport security and everyone had to purchase a ticket to get through the security checkpoints. No one would be carrying any dangerous weapons, even if they did buy a ticket.
After a final glance over my shoulder, I returned my gaze to the note. I noticed my fingers trembled. This time it wasn’t from the weather. I unfolded the paper and unwillingly I skimmed to the signature. Stan. Stan had left the note.
Annoyingly my heart seemed to flutter as my breathing increased. I took a couple of deep breaths to slow my breathing. Let’s see what Stan has to say. I steadied my hands and read the brief note.
“Sonya, don’t’ leave. Please give me a chance to explain.”
Well the note certainly got off to a good start. Stan didn’t want me to leave! I couldn’t prevent the smile that spread across my face. And my heart did that flutter thing again, as if a horde of butterflies were trapped in my chest. What was that all about? Stan wanted to see me again. He wanted to explain and perhaps apologize for the worst blind date on record.
“I need you to trust me.”
Ha! Fat chance for that. I didn’t know much about Stan. Half of what I knew was good and admirable. The other half was suspicious and dangerous. He’d have to do a whole lot more than write a note for me to even consider trusting him.
“They will continue to follow you. Don’t lead them to Mel.”
A chill went down my spine. I shifted uncomfortably and observed my surroundings again. Who would follow me out of Seattle? And more importantly, why did they want Mel? I felt my pulse pounding past my ears. Mel was in danger! I needed to call her. Suddenly I remembered I switched my cell phone to silent mode. What if she had tried to call me for help? I rummaged through my purse, searching for my phone.
Got it. As my fingers wrapped around my phone, I glanced up and saw a man sitting a couple of tables away. He was watching me, frowning. He did not look familiar from yesterday’s encounters, but he looked mean. My throat felt dry as I sat there staring back. Should I confront him? Should I get up and run? Or should I sit there and wait for him to make a move?
Never one to sit still for long, I rose. Mel’s safety was possibly at stake here. It was my turn to be dangerous. Before I took my first step, the man’s face transformed with a bright smile. He waved his hand. At me? I turned to see a woman approaching behind me. Her face brightened, too. The man stood as she walked over to him and sat at the chair he’d pulled out for her.
Sheesh. If that woman had arrived a second later I’d have made a fool of myself! I checked my phone. No incoming calls. Mel obviously didn’t recognize my new number. With the coffee shop getting more crowded, I decided to find a more private spot to call Mel. No sense getting passengers nervous about strange men chasing me and me warning my aunt.
Finding a nice boarding gate with no immediate flight and few passengers lounging, I made the call. The phone rang, but no answer. “Mel. It’s me. We need to talk ASAP.”
I waited a moment, glanced around the loungers—no one new had arrived—and called Mel a second time. My aunt’s voicemail answered again. My flight would begin boarding soon and my gate was a good walk away.
Instantly, I remembered Stan’s note. Don’t lead them to Mel. Should I cancel my flight to Santa Barbara? Was I doing exactly what the bad guys wanted by fleeing and taking them right to the person they sought? Another thought rattled me. How do I know if Stan really wrote the note? I didn’t. Anyone could have left it. The bad guys could be attempting to trick me into staying in Seattle. I glanced out the large window of the boarding gate. Heavy sheets of rain pelted the tarmac and the parked aircraft. I shivered. No way was I going back into that.
My cell rang, causing me a jolt.
“Sonya. I’ve been calling you.”
“I lost my phone while being chased,” I said, relieved to hear Mel’s voice.
“Where are you? The hotel said you checked out,” Mel said.
“What’s going on, Mel?”
A pause. “You’re at the airport?”
“Well, after a couple of narrow escapes and your vague warnings I figured Seattle wasn’t the safest place for me.” I realized my aunt had once again diverted my attention away from my question.
“Thank God you’re safe now.”
“Who says I’m safe? And also, you’re not so safe either. Are you going to tell me what this is about?”
“Sonya, I have another voodoo feeling.”
“No! No more voodoo feelings! I haven’t recovered from your last one.” I must have shouted because the loungers looked up and eyed me curiously.
“You shouldn’t have checked out of the hotel. It’s not good for you to… ”
“What’s not good is for me to be left in the dark. If you think you’re protecting me, it’s too late for that. I’m deep into this, whatever it is.”
“Don’t go home,” Mel said. “Now listen to what I’m about to say… ”
Just as I straightened, ready to be filled in—I heard my name over the loudspeaker.
“Sonya Johnson please pick up a white courtesy phone. Sonya Johnson… white courtesy phone.” The bland voice repeated the message.
“That’s me. I’m being paged.” I peered up and down the wall of the boarding area. I didn’t immediately spot a courtesy phone so I began walking to the left.
“Wait. Let me tell you my voodoo feeling.”
“I’m waiting. Make it quick,” I said, glancing at my watch. I didn’t have much time.
“Don’t go to Phoenix.”
“I wasn’t planning to. I bought a ticket for…” I stopped. If the bad guys had my cell phone, they would have Mel’s number. And that means they could be listening. “Someplace else.” I swallowed. “Mel, they could be listening. They have my cell.”
“At least Stan is with you,” Mel said.
“What? Stan’s not with me.”
“It didn’t work out. He’s not my type.” My type is a guy who calls a cab instead of making a girl slosh through the streets in freezing rain and snow wearing high heels, and the kind who makes sure the girl has a meal when she’s starving hungry. At the least, he makes sure she’s out of harm's way. No Stan wasn’t that guy at all.
“That’s not good. My feeling has you alone.”
The bland voice paged me again and my impatience resurfaced. “I’m only alone because you sent me here alone, remember. Mel I have to find... ” I didn’t see a white telephone anywhere. I turned back and went in that direction.
“I couldn’t go. I thought you were safe. They don’t want you, they want me.”
My heart dropped as my blood pressure shot up. “Who does? Who wants you… and why?”
“It’s more important that you are okay,” she said. “Sonya, come here, instead of Phoenix.”
“Don’t say where you are, Mel. I think we should meet someplace else. I may have compromised your location.” Up ahead I spotted a white courtesy phone sign. I quickened my pace. How long would the pager hold on?
“They don’t know where I am. Come here.”
I slowed my step; my gaze zipped about the area, looking for anyone who seemed to be eyeing the white courtesy phone. No one looked as if they cared at all.
“Hold on, Mel. I’m at the courtesy phone,” I said. I picked up the white telephone receiver. “Hello? This is Sonya Johnson.”
“Sonya! Thank goodness I found you in time. This is Stan.”
“Stan? Where are you and what do you want?” My head spun. I don’t know who I expected on the other end of the line but I know who I owed a piece of my mind to.
“Is Stan there?” Mel said hopefully into one ear.
“I’m here in the terminal,” Stan said in the other ear.
“You’ve caused me nothing but trouble. Why should I see you?” I said.
“I’m sorry honey,” Mel said with a deep sadness I’d never heard from her before. “I never should have sent you to Seattle. But right now I want you here with me.”
“I don’t blame you for feeling that way. Everything has gone wrong since I met you,” Stan said.
His words stung and I would have hung up if my hand hadn’t turned to stone. So he blamed me for his being a rotten date.
“That is, everything has gone wrong except for meeting you. That part went right,” he said.
“Where are you going?” Mel asked.
My mind swirled from the two conversations. Neither of which I really understood. I knew I wouldn’t get far with either person via the telephone.
“Hold on,” I said to Mel. Then I lowered the cell so she couldn’t hear me talk to Stan.
“Why are you calling me?” I asked him.
“Because I feel responsible for you. Let me get you away from here.”
“I’m already getting away from here. I have a plane ticket,” I said.
“Didn’t you read my note? You can’t go there,” he said.
He had written the note. “Why on Earth should I trust you?” I surprised myself by asking.
“Because I’m all you and your aunt have,” he said.
“Well we were fine before you entered the picture.”
“Not for long. You’re lucky I arrived,” he said defensively.
“I’d hardly call it lucky.”
I heard him suck in his breath. Then a brief pause. “Because I care. That’s why you should trust me.”
It was my turn to pause. I hadn’t expected that reply. Mel’s voodoo vision came into play. She’d said she didn’t want me alone.
“Okay tell me where you are,” I said, realizing I’d be one of the last to board the plane if I were still going to Santa Barbara.
I made a mental note of his location, hung up, and began a hurried walk to meet him. At the same time I brought the cell up to speak.
“Looks like I’m meeting Stan before my flight.”
“Oh I feel better,” Mel said.
“I don’t know why. Nothing good happens when we’re together. Even the weather gets worse.” I glanced out the large windows and saw the rain still hammering the tarmac.
“My vision had you alone at the ticket counter and on a plane. A tiny plane. Don’t get on one of those,” she said.
“Are you kidding? In this weather?” I didn’t need a premonition to keep me out of a tiny aircraft today. “I’ll call you as soon as I can.”
“Be careful, Sonya. I’d never forgive myself if anything happened to you.”
“Same here,” I said. “You be careful, too.”
As I slipped the phone into my purse, I spotted Stan up ahead. I felt that familiar flutter in my chest.
A look of relief washed over his face. He smiled briefly as he reached out and squeezed my arm. His brief touch electrified me.
“We’re flying to Los Angeles,” he said, handing me a boarding pass. A hint of cinnamon wafted up from the boarding pass.
“I need to cancel my other flight.”
“There’s no time.” He gently nudged me along, toward a gate that was boarding passengers.
Why did Mel trust this man? “Explain why Los Angeles is any better,” I asked, trying to stall so I could think. I couldn’t just hop on this airplane with a man I didn’t know and who could possibly have criminal connections. Another thought flew into my overwhelmed brain. “What kind of aircraft is this anyway?”
“It’s a 737 why?”
His voice softened. “There’s dozens of conferences in Los Angeles. They’ll never find Mel. And L.A. is close enough for us to rent a car and drive to Santa Barbara.”
I looked up at Stan, stared into his green eyes and at his sexy mouth. He looked like a normal guy, dressed casually, long hair washed. But someone, several passengers behind Stan, caught my eye. It was Annie! She had a boarding pass, too. “Stan.”
“I know. It’s okay.”
But it wasn’t okay. “I’m not leading all of you to my aunt,” I said, stepping out of the boarding line. “Find her yourself.”
“I already know where she is.” Stan’s eyes gazed into mine. “They don’t. We’re leading them away from her.”
I wanted to believe him. But how could I?
“I could have gone on my flight unnoticed,” I said.
“They’re following you. I told you that in my note,” Stan said in a low voice.
“Forget your stupid note. If you would have explained in person rather than dragging me all over Seattle then maybe… ”
Annie talked into her cell phone, listened, glanced at us, and backed out of the line.
At the same time, the monotonous loudspeaker voice paged Sonya Johnson to the white courtesy phone.
Things kept getting weirder. I wanted nothing more than to leave Seattle. I handed the airline agent my boarding pass. She scanned it and waved me on. If Stan thought he would have a peaceful flight to California he was sorely mistaken.
Chapter 7 will follow on Monday, April 23rd, by Fran McNabb