In case you missed it: Part 1
“Yes.” Robert had a bad feeling about this — the caller ID said “US STATE DEPT” and his imagination immediately furnished a long list of terrible things that could have happened to Monica.
“Your wife, Monica. Is she available?”
“Um, no. She’s in Amsterdam at the moment.”
“Very good. Could you briefly tell me where the two of you met, and when you were married?”
“Sure. We were students at Michigan Tech — I was in mechanical engineering, she was in electrical engineering. We got married in 1996.”
“Where does she work and what does she do there?”
“She’s a product manager at Framintek. Since she was born in the Netherlands, they send her to Europe to deal with technical issues from time to time.”
“All right. Now could you describe her?”
“Sure! She’s five foot-six, short brown hair, brown eyes, weighs about 150 pounds…”
“Excellent. Thank you for your time, Mr. Germain. Your wife ran into some trouble in Amsterdam — her purse was stolen, with all her ID — and amazingly enough, she’s a dead ringer for a wanted criminal in the Netherlands. We’re going to issue her a temporary passport and help her get home as soon as possible.”
Monique had never flown before, and the experience was rather unsettling: the deep hum of the engines, the way the aircraft vibrated even after leaving the ground, the noise of the landing gear retracting — but the politie and the Netherlands were now behind her. A new life, a new name, and nothing to do for the next eight hours. “I must be the luckiest woman in the world,” she whispered to herself, then willed herself to sleep.
The pilot’s voice awoke her. “Ladies and gentlemen, we will be landing at JFK airport shortly. For those of you on the right side of the craft, you can see the Statue of Liberty. Please put up your tray tables and return your seats to their full upright position; and as always, thank you for flying Northwest Airlines.” He continued to chatter about connecting flights and the local weather, but Monique tuned him out and looked out the window.
Rob sat and fretted. No word from Monica — no surprise there, if her purse was stolen then her cellphone was gone too — and the guy at the State Department hadn’t told him if she was going to make her flight. He missed her when she was gone, and he’d really wanted to surprise her at the airport with a bouquet. He decided to sit tight, wait for her to call when she arrived Stateside, and order take-out from her favorite Thai place. He turned on the news station and settled into his lounge chair with a book.
More disconcerting rumbles as the flaps deployed and the landing gear came down. Just a few more minutes, Monique thought, watching the runway rush by her window. A jolt as the plane touched down, then a sickening lurch and the plane dipped to the right. Monica barely heard the shrieks from other passengers as she saw a piece of the wing hurtle past, trailing sparks and debris. I think my luck just ran out, as a spindly tower leaped toward her.
“Breaking news about a plane crash at New York’s JFK airport,” the newscaster broke in. Rob jumped, his book tumbling to the floor. “The landing gear on Northwest flight 86 from Amsterdam apparently collapsed as it landed just minutes ago, sending the aircraft skidding across the runway and into a communications tower. There are reports of serious injuries, but no confirmed deaths at this time—”
That was all Rob heard. He rushed into the kitchen and snatched Monica’s itinerary from the refrigerator. “Oh God oh God oh God,” he said, reading Northwest 86 3:50 pm. He bolted out the door, and was on the way to New York in seconds.
It was past eight by the time Rob arrived at the airport. He bolted to the Northwest counter, where a hand-lettered sign promised FLIGHT 86 PASSENGER INFO. “My wife— I think she was on that flight— where would she be now?”
The sympathetic black woman patted his hand. “We’ll try to help you. What’s her name?”
“Monica. Monica Germain.”
“Sir… I don’t see her name on the passenger list. There’s a Monica Pappas listed here, would she have been traveling under another name?”
“No— I don’t know. Her passport was stolen this morning; the State Department called me to verify her ID and said they’d get her home as soon as possible. Could I maybe describe her? She’s about your height—”
The desk clerk shook her head. “Sir, I didn’t see any of the passengers. Jamaica Hospital is where they took everyone; it’s north on the Van Wyck Expressway to Exit 6. They may be able to help you there.”
About the same time, Monica stepped off the jetway and headed to Customs. That was not something she really looked forward to, with a temporary passport in hand, but perhaps the Consulate had sent word ahead. Right now, all she wanted to do was get her bags, find the nearest hotel, and get some sleep. Rob was probably worried about her, so she’d call him collect as soon as she could find an increasingly-rare payphone. Thank God it was Saturday, New York rush hours were horrendous.
After reaching the answering machine, the collect call wouldn’t go through. Rob might be treating himself to a little supper at McVann’s. Surely he knew she would have missed her first flight.