Friday, March 26, 2010

Chapter 4

Shuffling papers on her desk, Mel forced her thoughts away from her father, and onto the upcoming charter. She pulled the scrap of paper towards her with the date on it and glanced at the calendar. Yes, today was the day.

The second hand of the clock had just passed the hour and she noted with surprise that it was already 11 in the morning. Where was her damn charter? Pushing back from the desk, she entered the main room of the hanger, finding Greg packing last minute additions to her kit.

From long experience and her father’s ironclad insistence, Mel always carried a full survival kit. All the sea pilots she knew did so. There were, of course, the requisite flares and a raft, as well as waterproof matches, a few lighters, a first aid kit, two space blankets, a knife, and other assorted gear she had added over the years. Everything was compact enough to fit into a waterproof suitcase with the raft attached by a strap on the outside. She had never needed her kit and she didn’t plan to, but weather and water were unpredictable and she believed in not taking chances.

“Mel, I’m gonna take this out to the plane, okay?” Greg’s voice brought her attention to him and he smiled broadly at her nod of thanks.

Taking a few minutes for herself before her client’s arrival, Mel went upstairs to her living area and grabbed her own personal bag. It had in it some overnight supplies, as well as an extra bathing suit, two changes of clothes, and three sarongs that folded up into nothing.

She grinned as she thought about island living. With a bathing suit and a sarong around her hips she could go almost anywhere and fit right in. A tank top or two for a shirt and she was presentable for all but the most fashionable of restaurants. Thankfully on the smaller islands, there was a dearth of the fashionable and she could come and go as she pleased.

From frequent long-term charters over the years, Mel knew that her clients could be capricious at best in their demands. She had found herself sleeping in the back of her plane more than once when one or the other of the rich idiots had decided on a whim to spend the night at a spot not originally planned. They had enough money to get a room with no notice and did so without the slightest thought as to what their “hired hand” would do. They usually just informed her they were spending the night and to “be ready” at a certain time the next day.

Mel would just smile when she told them that her “overnight rate” was $1,000 per night, payable up front, or she would happily return home and they could make other arrangements. A few had, but the majority simply waved her off, peeling the money from bulging wallets, and then taking off for the night. She was as comfortable in a plane on the water as she would have been at the finest hotel, so she would spend the night, freshen up the next morning at a local place where she was usually known and the day would start again.

Most of her clients she found herself rating on the Asshole Behavior Scale. The ABS worked pretty much like the Richter scale for earthquakes, with Mel often wondering which client would be a 10. So far, there had been several threes, a rather large number of fives, and even one eight. The eight had been the one who’d thought an altitude of 5,000 feet was the perfect time to reach over and grab her boobs. A screaming dive and a roll had convinced him there was no good time to do that.

Taking the time to throw her hair into a long French braid, she tucked the ends under a cap, adjusted it on her head to shade her brow, and started down the stairs. At the far end of the hanger, a door opened and a man stepped in, glancing around as he did so. He had a black medium-sized bag in one hand and a cell phone in the other, talking rapidly to someone. Mel lips pursed in a moue of annoyance and rolled her eyes. Another one with a cell phone glued to his ear.

Shaking her head as she stepped onto the hanger floor, Mel thought of her last two charters. Both rich men with cell phone disease who had nearly had fits when flying over the ocean when they realized they couldn’t get a cell signal.

Like there are cell towers in the mid Atlantic!

One man had been stupid enough to open the small side window to stick his phone out for a signal and then had cursed a blue streak when it had been sucked from his hand. He had watched it fall until it was a speck and then had actually demanded that she go back so he could get it.

When she had told him that they were at 4,500 feet and that the phone would not have survived the impact and even if it had it would have sunk, he had threatened to sue her for causing him to lose his phone with all his numbers. She hadn’t even minded cleaning her cockpit after “turbulence” made that idiot lose his probably overly-indulgent lunch. He had not sued.

The man who had entered the hanger had finally noticed her standing at the foot of the stairs and took a few steps in her direction.

“Excuse me, Miss, can you tell me where I could find Mel Gordon?” His voice was rather low, with some type of accent she couldn’t identify.

“What can Mel help you with?” Her own husky voice answered him as they walked toward the other. They stopped a few feet apart.

Putting down his bag, the man shook his head slightly in answer.

“What I need is to speak with Mel Gordon. Can you tell me where he is?” A note of impatience crept into Jon’s voice as he thought about the fact that he was already running late.

Shitty directions. How can someone give such shitty directions on such a small island? Look for the three trees. What the fuck happened to road signs?

Mel crossed her arms as she took in the man standing in front of her. From the top of his head to the well-worn boots on his feet, everything about him screamed money. The leather bag he had so casually tossed on the floor, the open-collared shirt that looked tailored, the snug jeans that didn’t look like any Levi’s she had ever seen, even his dark sunglasses didn’t seem off the rack. Adding his appearance to the tone in his voice, even the well-worn baseball cap on his head and full beard didn’t detract from her impression that he would soon have his own rank on the AB scale.

“Well, Mister…”

The man broke in as she knew he would. “Martin. Frank Martin.”

“Mr. Martin. If you would just tell me what business you have with Mel, I’ll be glad to help you.” She unintentionally cocked a hip as she spoke and Jon was suddenly glad his eyes were hidden as he took in her slightly aggressive stance. He had opened his mouth to answer her, when they both were startled by the bang of the door slamming. A large man entered and immediately smiled.

“Mel! I did it. I put the kit in the plane. It’s all ready for you.”

Face and voice softening, Mel smiled at him. “Thanks Greg. You did a good job.”

Greg nodded at her and seemed to be grinning from his hair to his toes.

“Is he here yet, Mel? Is this him?” Greg motioned to the man standing in front of her.

“I don’t know yet, Greg.”

Jon could hear the smile in her voice even as he turned to look at her.

“You’re Mel Gordon? The pilot?” His voice unfortunately took on a slightly incredulous tone that instantly had her hackles rising.

Her eyes narrowed behind the dark glasses as she felt herself stand straighter, his tone sending her from curious to pissed off in 2.5 seconds.

Had she just met her first 10 on the Asshole scale?


Bayaderra said...

A big Jersey "Ohhhhhhh!"

Rike said...

a 10 on the asshole scala? I guess, she should the scale open end like a Richter scala

ANN said...

Good story so far - kinda reminds me of the one with Harrison Ford and that woman (forget the name) who end up on an island together. Can't wait to see what happens!

mue03 said...

Just found this story. Now I was looking for the " new post" button. It isn't there :-(((
hmmm.... more please ;-))
I like it so far!