The engine sounds increased. The airliner started moving. The usual sensation came, like being pressed back into the seat of a sports car jumping off a red light, but with more authority. Sandy, who hardly traveled at all, didn't look up from the book. It must have been pretty good, though John never bothered reading mysteries. He never could figure them out, and they made him feel stupid, despite the fact that in his professional life he'd picked his way through real mysteries more than once. A little voice in his head said rotate, and the floor came up under his feet. The body of the aircraft followed the nose into the sky, and the flight began properly, the wheels rising up into the wells. Instantly, those around him lowered their seats to get some sleep on the way to London Heathrow. John lowered his, too, but not as far. He wanted dinner first.
"On our way, honey," Sandy said, taking a second away from the book.
"I hope you like it over there."
"I have three cookbooks for after I figure this one out."
John smiled. "Who done it?"
"Not sure yet, but probably the wife."
"Yeah, divorce lawyers are so expensive."
Sandy chuckled and went back to the story as the stews got up from their seats to resume drink service. Clark finished The Economist and started Sports Illustrated. Damn, he'd be missing the end of the football season. That was one thing he'd always tried to keep track of, even off on a mission. The Bears were coming back, and he'd grown up with Papa Bear George Halas and the Monsters of the Midway-had often wondered if he might have made it as a pro himself. He'd been a pretty good linebacker in high school, and Indiana University had shown some interest in him (also for his swimming). Then he'd decided to forego college and join the Navy, as his father had before him, though Clark had become a SEAL, rather than a skimmer-sailor on a tin- can . . .
"Mr. Clark?" The stew delivered the dinner menu. "Mrs. Clark?"
One nice thing about first class. The flight crew pretended you had a name. John had gotten an automatic upgrade-he had frequent-flyer miles up the yingyang, and from now on he'd mainly fly British Airways, which had a very comfortable understanding with the British government.
The menu, he saw, was pretty good, as it usually was on international flights, and so was the wine list . . . but he decided to ask for bottled water instead of wine, thank you. Hmph. He grumbled to himself, settled back, and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. These damned flights always seemed overheated to him.
The captain got on next, interrupting all the personal movies on their mini-screens. They were taking a southerly routing to take advantage of the jet stream. That, Captain Will Garnet explained, would cut their time to Heathrow by forty minutes. He didn't say that it would also make for a few bumps. Airlines tried to conserve fuel, and forty-five minutes' worth would put a gold star in his copybook . . . well, maybe just a silver one . . . The usual sensations. The aircraft tilted, more to the right than the left, as it crossed over the ocean at Seal Isle City in New Jersey for the three-thousand-mile flight to the next landfall, somewhere on the Irish coast, which they'd reach in about five and a half hours, John thought. He had to sleep for some of that time. At least the captain didn't bother them with the usual tour-director crap-we are now at forty thousand feet, that's almost eight miles to fall if the wings come off and . . . They started serving dinner. They'd be doing the same aft in tourist class, with the drink and dinner carts blocking the aisles.
It started on the left side of the aircraft. The man was dressed properly, wearing a jacket-that was what got John's attention. Most people took them off as soon as they sat down but--it was a Browning automatic, with a flat-black finish that said "military" to Clark, and, less than a second later, to Alistair Stanley. A moment later, two more men appeared on the right side, walking right next to Clark's seat.
© Tom Clancy 1998. Published by permission of Penguin Putnam
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