BOUND BY DANGER
Written by Danielle M. Haas
The tight smile on Mickey’s face made her cheeks hurt. They’d only been in the air an hour and already her feet screamed in agony from being in heels and she’d wanted to smack at least one passenger.
Even if the stubble on his face and sculpted jawline had been a lethal combination.
She glanced toward the front of the plane as the pilot slipped out of the flight deck. He stepped into the bathroom and the occupancy light turned red.
Dammit, he didn’t shut the door to the flight deck. Does this guy ever follow protocol?
Mickey shook her head and pressed her teeth together. Leaving the door to the flight deck open while in the air was a major security breach. Even if only for a minute while the pilot used the bathroom.
She glanced over her shoulder and spotted the other two flight attendants twelve rows behind her. She stretched onto her tiptoes and craned her neck toward them, but their focus remained on attending to passengers in the back of the plane.
Shit, she’d have to deal with this herself. She needed to close the door to the flight deck, but the stupid drink cart blocked her path to the front of the plane.
A flutter of movement caught her eye. A middle-aged man in the fifth row stood. A light brown baseball hat sat low on his head, casting a dark shadow over his face. His head swiveled from side to side and his eyes darted around the plane before he stepped into the narrow aisle. With squared shoulders, he strode toward the cockpit.
Icy fingers of fear gripped her heart and her throat filled with panic, making it hard to breathe. She’d never trusted the security check flying out of Cancun, and something about the determined set of the man’s shoulders had alarm bells blasting in her brain.
“Sir?” Her voice shook and she pushed her cart up the aisle at a quick trot. Perspiration clung to her palms and her hands slipped on the handle. Shrieks of protest sounded as the cart ran over passenger’s toes in aisle eight and bumped against a hulking shoulder in aisle seven. She didn’t care. The sinking feeling in her gut told her she had to stop the tall, lanky man in the tan jacket.
A soft ding sounded and the red occupancy light switched to green. Captain Fuller stepped out of the bathroom, blocking the path of the man in beige. Mickey drew in a deep breath, filling her lungs with air and relief seeped into every fiber of her muscles.
The man pulled something from his pocket with his left hand, and the light caught the smooth metallic sheath. A scream tore from her mouth.
Captain Fuller frowned as the man drew his hand back and slashed the weapon through the air. The pilot’s eyes grew wide and he doubled over. A knife stuck out of his side. Crimson seeped around the protruding knife, spreading out onto his crisp, white uniform like an intricate spider’s web.
Terror stole the air from her lungs. Gasps of horror sounded all around her.
The man shoved Captain Fuller back into the bathroom, pushed the door closed, and disappeared into the flight deck. The door slammed shut.
Bile backed up Mickey’s throat. The sour, acidic taste filled her mouth and burned her esophagus. She fisted her hand in her hair and scanned the plane. Wide-eyed passengers sat frozen to their seats, but a few hurried to their feet. None of the heroes-to-be were close enough to the front of the plane to make a difference. The door to the flight deck was already closed and locked from inside. Her breaths came out in sharp gasps. Screams echoed around the confines of the plane. She’d been trained for this, but her feet wouldn’t move from their rooted spot.
Oh God, I don’t want to die.
Someone pulled on her arm, and she stared down into the terrified eyes of a young woman. “What’s happening? Is he okay? Do something!”
Hurried footsteps fell behind her, and she whirled around to see the other two flight attendants barreling toward her.
“What happened? Is Harper dead? What about Bill? He’s locked in there with that maniac. What do we do?” Panic drew deep lines in Allison’s tense face and she spoke in a quiet, shaky voice.
Vanessa stood behind her, ringing her hands, her face pale. Mickey focused on evening her breaths and her mind raced. None of them had ever dealt with this before. They had to stay calm. Or at least pretend to stay calm while they did something. She was in charge and she needed to act. Now.
Mickey straightened herself and forced down the panic clawing at her throat. They had to get in the flight deck. She locked the cart in place, hitched her tight blue pencil skirt high on her thighs, and climbed over it. Her knees knocked a stack of plastic cups to the floor and something wet seeped into her skirt. “Get this damn thing out of the way, and one of you contact Air Traffic Control,” she yelled over her shoulder to the other flight attendants and raced toward the front of the plane. She needed to get to the keypad on the cockpit door.
The nose of the plane dipped low and Mickey stumbled forward. Her palms slammed against the door to the flight deck and gravity pressed her weight against cold steel. Pain shot through her body like sparks from a fire. She sank to her knees and turned, pressing her back to the wall.
She closed her eyes, blocking out the screams, and tried to regain her equilibrium. The plane shuddered as it plummeted down at a sharp angle toward the ground. Chaos unfolded around her. She opened her eyes and air masks dangled above the passengers and they struggled to get them on. Luggage fell from overhead bins as the plane continued on its path to hell.
A strong hand gripped hers and hauled her to her feet. She tipped her head back to bring in the full length of the man in front of her. The intense grey eyes of the passenger she’d wanted to smack stared down at her. His mouth was set in a firm line and his broad shoulders blocked out her view of the hysteria taking place in the cabin behind him. The plane shook, testing her balance, and she squeezed his hand. His wide shoulders and unwavering stare brought a sense of calm over her.
“You need to get me in there.” He nodded past her toward the cockpit.
She let go of his hand and her stomach pitched like the waves of a tsunami. Mickey didn’t have time to deal with a demanding passenger who wanted to play hero, she needed to get into the flight deck and figure out how to get everyone off this plane alive. But how could she do that if a psychopath was in control of the aircraft?
She needed to make sure he was alive, and maybe he could still land the plane.
“Get me the hell in there. Now.” His voice was hard, his words clipped, but they snapped her back to the moment. They staggered as the plane dipped to the side. He fell forward, pinning her back to the wall. Her chest heaved in and out while her pulse spiked as the hard muscles of his body pressed against her. He reached behind his back and pulled a gun out from underneath his jacket. “I’m FBI.”
A sharp gasp escaped her lips and her eyes searched his. The intensity never left them, but this time the grey steel gazing down on her gave her strength. Gave her courage to do whatever the hell she needed to get out of the plane alive. She choked down a sob, turned toward the keypad, and typed in the code. An FBI agent with a gun could do a hell of a lot more than she could.
The FBI agent pushed past her and swung open the door. He stormed into the flight deck while Mickey stared in horror at the man in beige sitting in the Captain’s seat, the co-pilot slumped over the controls in front of him.
The hijacker whipped around to face them, but before he could react, the FBI agent smashed his fist into the terrorist’s jaw. The man’s head lolled to the side. The agent grabbed a set of handcuffs from his back pocket and slapped them on the criminal.
“Do you know how to fly this thing?” the agent asked with a steady voice.
Shit, Captain Fuller.
Mickey turned toward the cabin while the man sat down in the Captain’s chair. A few passengers stood in the tiny spaces in front of their seats while others sat still as statues. Chaos reigned, but she didn’t have time to deal with them. Attention zeroed in on her and she held her hand up to stop approaching do-gooders.
She ran into the bathroom and found Captain Fuller hunched over on the floor. The bloodstained knife lay on the ground and the Captain had both hands pressed against his wound. Thick blood oozed between his fingers. Mickey pressed her hand to her mouth to block out the overpowering metallic scent of blood.
Captain Fuller slowly lifted his head to look at her. A grimace contorted the already deep lines of his face into small ravines. Sweat trickled down his brow. “Help.”
“Do we have a doctor on board?” She yelled behind her and grabbed paper towels from overhead. She fell to her knees to press them against his side. She lifted his hands and placed them on the towels. A tendril of hair fell across her face and she used the back of her hand to sweep it behind her ear. “I’ll be right back.”
Scrambling to her feet, she stepped out of the bathroom and back into the narrow aisle of the cabin. The plane evened out. At least the mystery FBI agent could keep the aircraft steady. They still needed someone to land the damn thing. She scanned the terrified passengers and her gaze landed on the other two flight attendants rushing around like mother birds trying to reassure everyone.
Mickey picked up the mouthpiece for the intercom and cleared her throat. “If there is a doctor on board, will you please come to the front of the plane?”
A hundred worried voices assaulted her with a hundred different questions. Mickey took a deep breath and held up a hand, trying to quiet them. “I know everyone is scared, and I don’t have any answers for you right now. But I have a badly injured man in need of assistance. Please, is there anyone who can help him?”
A young blonde woman with a top knot and leggings stood up and slowly walked toward her. She kept her gaze fixed on the floor and grabbed onto each seat as she passed by to keep her balance. She stopped in front of Mickey and lifted her gaze to meet her eyes. The steel behind her green eyes stood in stark contrast with her timid body language.
“I’m in my second year of med school. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to help, but I’ll try.”
“You’ll be great.”
Mickey turned toward the bathroom with the girl at her heels. With no hesitation, the girl dropped to her knees and unbuttoned Captain Fuller’s shirt to get a better look at the wound.
“Do you need anything?” Mickey asked.
“Do you have a medical kit?”
Mickey closed her fingers around the hard metal of the keys in her skirt. Yanking them out, she strode to the locked cabinets that lined the wall.
“What can I do?” Allison asked as she stepped beside Mickey. The slight tremor in her voice gave away the fear she hid behind her locked jaw and hard eyes.
Mickey handed her the keys. “Help with Captain Fuller while I check the flight deck. We need to land fast. I don’t think we can do that without Fuller.”
Yellow flashes of panic lightened the irises of Allison’s eyes. “What about Bill?”
The image of the co-pilot slumped over the control panel flittered in her mind and she winced. “I don’t know, but it didn’t look good. Now get the med kit to the bathroom.”
Turning the small corner, Mickey stepped into the flight deck. The man who’d hijacked the plane sat huddled on the floor behind the Captain’s chair with his hands handcuffed behind his back and his ankles tied together with a zip tie. His chin rested on his chest. The man who held everyone’s fate in his hands turned and acknowledged her, before facing the wide window that looked out to the sky.
“Have you checked the co-pilot? Is he dead?” She should see for herself, but lead weighed down her feet and she couldn’t move.
“He’s breathing. We need to land. How’s the Captain?”
“A med student is looking at him now.” She twisted her hands in front of her. “He’s lost a lot of blood.”
“Is he conscious?”
“Then he can help me get this damn thing on the ground. I’ve radioed for help, and we can touch down in Atlanta. I need him in here fast.”
Mickey’s mouth fell open and she stared at the clean-shaven neck and the tousled dark blonde hair in front of her. A shiver raced up her spine. They weren’t out of the woods yet.
Hard grey eyes turned to her. “Go get him. Now.”
His deep voice shook some sense into her. She stepped out of the flight deck and turned to look in the bathroom. She glanced past Allison, who stood in the doorway, and heaved a sigh of relief. The Captain sat a little straighter on the cramped floor. White, wiry hairs curled in a matted mess on his bare chest and a flush brought some color to his cheeks. His shirt lay in a heap by his side.
The young woman sat on the floor, pressing white gauze to his wound. She glanced up. “He’s lost a lot of blood.”
Fuller shifted on the floor, using his hands to brace himself. “Did Bill call Air Traffic Control about making an emergency landing?”
Mickey’s tongue swiped across her dry lips. “Bill’s unconscious, but Air Traffic Control has been notified. An FBI agent is flying the plane right now, and he needs you to tell him how to land it.”
The color on Fuller’s cheeks instantly faded. He pushed up on his hands and collapsed on the floor as air wheezed from his clenched mouth.
“He really should stay down,” the med student said.
“Then we’ll all die in a damn plane crash. Not on my watch.” His eyes met Mickey’s. “Help me up.”
Mickey pushed past the two women and bent down low. She grabbed the Captain’s arm, hooked it around her neck, and a howl of pain split the air. “Allison, keep your hand on his side while we walk him in.”
They stepped out of the bathroom and into the flight deck. “Get the hell out of my seat, son.”
The agent looked back, humor and appreciation softening the hard lines around his eyes. “Are you up for this?”
“I’ve been through worse. Now move.”
The man nodded and stood from the chair. Mickey helped Fuller hobble to the seat, and then slowly lowered him down. She grabbed Allison’s hand and placed it over Fuller’s wound. “I’m going to let everyone know we’re preparing to land. Keep pressure on the wound and don’t move your hand.”
The heat of those grey eyes followed her out of the cockpit. She shook it off and stepped up to the intercom once more. “Ladies and gentlemen, we will be making an emergency landing in Atlanta. Please buckle your seatbelts and prepare for landing.”
Walking up the aisle, she tried to right the cabin as much as possible while the plane descended. Her muscles throbbed with tension, but she pressed on. Outside the window, white, fluffy clouds appeared, and then disappeared. Terrified passengers hurled questions at her with every step, but she fixed a tight smile on her face and continued replacing luggage in overhead bins. The last thing she needed was for a piece of luggage to fall from the storage compartment and knock someone unconscious. The nightmare was almost over and then she could fall apart. But not until dirt sat beneath her feet.
When the outline of the city replaced the clouds in the windows, she walked to the back of the plane and took a seat next to Vanessa. Vanessa reached over, took her hand, and squeezed it when the wheels touched down on the pavement and they taxied to a complete stop. Flashing red lights and screaming sirens announced the arrival of emergency vehicles. Applause filled the cabin as the door opened, and the FBI agent stepped out of the cockpit with the man in beige cuffed in front of him.
This man had saved them all, and she didn’t even know his name. He led the hijacker to the door, but stopped suddenly and stared down the long aisle of the plane until their eyes locked. Mickey sucked in a breath and her heart jumped into her throat. He gave her a curt nod and then stepped out of the plane. Pride battled against the terror that had taken up residence in her bones. She’d been scared out of her mind, but she’d helped save the lives of everyone on board. The FBI agent, whoever he was, had acknowledged that with that one tiny gesture.
Her muscles went lax and she melted against the seat. She might have helped to save the day, but this evening she was going to need a very large drink.