Washington, DC – Wednesday, Feb. 19, 11:00 a.m. EST
When Anna heard the airport announcement that her flight to Miami would soon board, she rose to wait in line at the gate. In doing so, she noticed a familiar woman making a beeline toward her. Then Anna watched the crowd watching the woman.
She wore a white coat with a waterfall collar, wide white belt, spike-heeled shiny black boots and sleek black pants. A black designer bag hung from her left shoulder, and on her right, she cradled a black teacup Chihuahua. Her lips were coral, eyeliner winged. Gold hoop earrings bounced against her ivory chin, offset by her shoulder-length black hair and dark brown eyes. The outfit was over the top, but Anna had to admit, she pulled it off.
The way Anna saw it, most people fit into categories, especially at airports—personnel, vacationers, IT types, lawyers, military, students, retirees. Even artists tended to display a formulaic “artsy” look. Anna made a game of identifying people outside the box, the folks of mixed semiotics, and this woman was one of those.
Anna caught her eye. “Raven Garcia. Hey.”
“Oh, Anna,” Raven said, inspecting Anna’s simple skinny jeans, ballet flats and blazer. “I heard you were around.”
“Bound to land in the same bureau eventually, right?” Anna said.
“Where you headed?”
Raven stared at her for a moment before pointing to the monitor at the gate. “What does it look like?”
“Miami,” Anna said, trying again. “That’s where you’re from, right?”
“I grew up there.”
“Looks like we’re on the same flight.”
Anna reached out to the creature, who lifted his chin to accept a neck-scratch. “Cute guy. What’s his name?”
“Apollo,” Raven said, finally breaking a smile as she turned to him. “He loves to fly.”
“I see,” Anna said, withdrawing her hand. “Have a nice flight.”
“Take care.” Raven sauntered away.
Anna kept a straight face but did a mental eye roll. The loop of stories on the airport TV repeated itself—pets, natural parks, art exhibit, pets, natural parks, art exhibit. A few minutes later, an announcer called “Group A,” and Raven boarded the plane. Anna put her earbuds in and waited for “Group E.”
Filing down the aisle, Anna looked at Raven buckled into her first-class seat. Apollo was already sleeping on her lap, and Raven was immersed in a pile of documents. Anna slogged to her window seat in the last row by the bathrooms, where the seats don’t recline—the only one left by the time she booked her ticket.
Two-and-a-half hours later, after the pretzels and the ginger ale, Anna was craning her neck, trying to distinguish landmarks. A cumulus cloud occasionally dimmed the light, but for the most part, the bright Florida sun did not disappoint. Tan and brown rectangles of agricultural land, which filled the state’s interior, gave way to green lawns and blue pools. The sand traps of a golf course flashed by, and the plane bounced down the tarmac.
As they taxied, the din of the passengers speaking on their phones rose. When the aircraft parked with a jerk, the unclipping of seat belts pinged around the cabin. Too many people stood to remove their bags from the overhead bins at once, even though no one had left the plane. Anna shook her head. Why did most people attempt to leave before it was physically possible?
When she walked up the jet bridge and into the terminal, Anna was surprised to find Raven waiting for her.
“Anna. I have a favor to ask. Could you hold Apollo while I go to the women’s room?” she asked, pointing to the doorway. “He hates this bag, and he barks incessantly in public restrooms.”
Raven handed Apollo to Anna. “Be right back.”
Anna sat down with the dog, who licked her neck as she pet him. “Don’t worry, I’m a dog person,” she told him.
After a few minutes, Raven rushed back toward them. “Much appreciated,” she said, scooping up the creature. “What are you doing in Miami?”
“Come on, Anna. I’m making an effort here.”
“Researching that World Bank thing.”
“That’s the one.”
“What’s the Miami connection?”
“I don’t know yet,” Anna said, weighing how much to tell her. “I’ve got to meet this shipping guy Torenmaas”
“Hmm,” she harrumphed. “He’s a big wheel in Miami. Notoriously hard to catch.”
“Thanks for the tip.”
“I used to work for the paper down here. I should know.”
“Yes. First job. Local news. Before grad school. So, tell me, what does Torenmaas have to do with it?”
Anna hesitated. “That’s what I’m investigating. I’ve got some leads.”
“Ah,” she said, deliberating how much to elaborate. “Like a video of him having dinner with Channarong.”
“How did you get that?”
“Twisted mess. Long story. Anyway, what will you be doing this weekend? Beach, art show, club scene?”
“Funeral,” Raven said, grimacing.
“Oh,” Anna said. “I’m sorry.”
“My Cuban side is down here. There’s always something.”
“Right,” Anna said, giving Apollo a pat-pat-pat on the head.
“Well, then, good luck,” Raven said with a forced smile. She walked off. After a moment, she called over her shoulder. “If you can’t figure it out, call me. I might have a connection.”
“Sure,” Anna said, trying not to sound facetious. “Thanks,” she whispered. Wouldn’t you just love that?
Copyright © by Wolf Bahren. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the publisher with “permission requests” in the subject line at email@example.com. This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.