Excerpt of Headwind by John J. Nance
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Gate 35,Athens International Airport, Greece -Monday -2:00 P.M.
"Captain, I think you 'd better get back here!"
The chief flight attendant said as she burst into the cockpit. Captain Craig Dayton snapped his head around and began reaching for his seat belt as soon as he saw the worried expression on Jillian Walz's face.
"What 's the matter?" Dayton asked, aware that his copilot had shifted around in the right seat to look at her as well.
Jillian shut the door and stood in the tiny space aft of the center console, breathing hard and signaling him to wait. She watched a police car pull up on the ramp of the newly opened airport and stop in front of their Boeing 737,its blue lights flashing. Dayton followed her gaze and spotted the patrol car.
"We 're about to get in the middle of a diplomatic crisis," Jillian said. "The gate agent ..."
A voice on the overhead speakers cut her short. "Flight forty-two, operations."
The copilot lifted his handheld microphone. "Go ahead, ops."
"We will have to hold you at the gate for a while, forty-two."
"Why?" the copilot asked sharply, noting the arrival of a second police car on the ramp.
"Forty-two, there is an of official order ...ah ...wait, please ..."
The microphone in the operations of office remained on while urgent voices conferred in the background. "Ah ...we will have to remove some of your passengers."
Jillian nodded rapidly, her words tumbling out. "Craig, they 're here to arrest President Harris!"
Craig Dayton clasped Jillian 's right elbow as he searched her eyes. "Slow down, Jillian, and tell me precisely what you 're talking about."
The day had started in Istanbul with the exciting news that a former President of the United States would be riding with them in first class through Athens to Rome. Fresh from delivering a speech to an international conference on hunger, President John B. Harris had come aboard with an attractive young female aide and an appropriately dour Secret Service agent, greeting the crew warmly at the door and even sticking his head into the cockpit to say hello. Impeccably groomed, and wearing a well-tailored dark business suit that made him seem taller than his five-foot-ten height, Harris had proven to be as friendly and gracious as the Washington press corps had always described him during his almost legendary single term in office.
"Our agent ...gate agent ...I know her," Jillian was saying. "She came down the jetway all upset and said the Greek government has a warrant for his arrest."
"Why? What for?"
She shook her head, creating a moving blur of chestnut hair. "She didn't know."
First Officer Alastair Chadwick whistled and inclined his head toward the ramp, where a third and fourth police car had parked, all with their top lights flashing frantically. "Something 's definitely up, mate."
"This is a foreign flagged airliner," Dayton said. "No one 's removing any passenger without my permission." He motioned to Jillian to reopen the cockpit door as he moved the captain 's seat back on its tracks and prepared to get up, filling the air with the aroma of peanuts as the contents of an opened snack pouch scattered on the metal floor.
"I'll take care of that," Jillian said..
The copilot caught his arm.
"Craig, you remember I 'm a solicitor in my other life in England, right?"
"Yes, I know," Craig said, his eyes on Jillian as she stepped out.
"A little free legal advice, okay? You 're an American national with a European work visa, you 're the master of a German flagged airliner, and that airliner is currently sitting on Greek concrete. You're not the U.S. ambassador. They could arrest you for getting in the way."
Reprinted from Headwind by John Nance by permission of Putnam, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 John Nance. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.