The constant noise of the plane’s engines kept Nelson awake. It had been roughly nine hours now since he’d heard the news and fled. He was exhausted, and the teenager in front of him had reclined the seat immediately after takeoff. There would be no sleep on this flight. Nelson checked his watch. Only six hours left until they landed. He looked out the window, but could only see clouds, far below, and beneath those, a great expanse of unbroken ocean.
With his eyes half-closed, he recalled the events of the past three days.
“I want it,” said Elizabeth Bell.
Wyatt Nelson smiled. He was a good salesman, and the car they were standing beside demanded all of his considerable skills to move off the lot. “I’ll get the paperwork together right away. Perhaps I can interest you in a coffee while you wait?”
Bell shook her head. “That sounds good, thank you.”
Nelson poured her a cup from the new machine in the lobby, and departed for his office to print the forms. He watched Bell through the window while he waited for the computer to do its work. She seemed happy with her new purchase. Nelson noted that she kept glancing out at the lot. He was glad somebody had finally taken the damned thing. Finally getting rid of it was going to be the high-point of his month. He was already imagining the celebratory scotch his was going to treat himself to, that night.
The fasten-seatbelt sign flashed, and the accompanying chime snapped Nelson back to the present. He coughed, and examined the cabin-attendant call-button above his head.
He hadn’t had a chance to enjoy the scotch three days ago, but it was high-time for a drink, now.
Oscar Handley always stopped reading his books two pages before the end.
It never bothered him that he didn’t finish. He’d usually figured out the plot by then, anyway. He liked knowing that, no matter what really happened, there was always going to be some wiggle room in the story if he ducked out early.
It was a welcome bit of uncertainty in a life that had gone pretty much exactly as everyone had suspected since day one.
Oscar had gone to the right schools, got the good job, and married the perfect girl. Now he was home every day by 5:30 on the dot, greeted by his dog, a beer, and his two kids.
He desperately wished that he could shake up his routine and show up late, just once.
That opportunity came from the most unexpected place.
The village council voted 3-2 to remove the tree in front of Annie Lawrence’s house.
She responded how any modern protester might. She set up a webcam in front of the doomed tree and took a picture of it and her cat every hour, on the hour.
By the end of the first day, the petition to save the tree had more signatures than the village had residents, and council had convened an emergency meeting.
According to the janitor who had been cleaning the floor outside of the conference room, the tone of the meeting was “heated”.
“We will not be blackmailed,” began the press release distributed the next morning. “The tree is a hazard, and must go.”
Annie stepped up her campaign. The cat was pressed into service every thirty minutes.
The number of signatures grew at an exponential pace.
The janitor parlayed his brief encounter with the media into a position as an “expert consultant” regarding the crisis. He was featured on several national talk shows.
The council stood their ground, and refused to bow to the pressure.
The issue came to a head when a B-list celebrity wrote a song decrying the order.
Council sent a man with a chainsaw toward the tent city that had risen up around the tree.
Annie went to the SPCA to adopt a kitten.
The tree leaned slightly to the right.
She swept into the bank wearing a red dress and heels. The tellers would later describe her as a “twelve out of five”.
Her partners, in black, were less conspicuous. They made off with 34 thousand dollars while all eyes were diverted.
The Runway Bandits had struck again.