WHEN MEL turned, after closing the door of his office as the Tribune reporter left, Cindy was standing, pulling on her gloves. She remarked acidly, "Fifteen things happening, I believe you said. Whatever the other fourteen are, I'm sure they'll all take priority over me."
"That was a figure of speech," Mel protested, "as you know perfectly well. I already said I'm sorry. I didn't know this was going to happen---at least, not all at once."
"But you love it, don't you? All of it. Much more than me, home, the children, a decent social life."
"Ah!" Mel said. "I wondered when you'd get to that." He stopped. "Oh, hell! Why are we fighting again? We settled everything, didn't we? There's no need to fight any more."
"No," Cindy said. She was suddenly subdued. "No, I suppose not."
There was an uncertain silence. Mel broke it first.
"Look, getting a divorce is a pretty big thing for both of us; for Roberta and Libby, too. If you've any doubts..."
"Haven't we been over that already?"
"Yes; but if you want to, we'll go over it fifty times again."
"I don't want to." Cindy shook her head decisively. "I haven't any doubts. Nor have you, not really. Have you?"
"No," Mel said. "I'm afraid I haven't."
Cindy started to say something, then stopped. She had been going to tell Mel about Lionel Urquhart, but decided against it. There was plenty of time for Mel to find that out for himself, later. As to Derek Eden, whom Cindy had been thinking about during most of the time that the Meadowood delegation had been in the office, she had no intention of disclosing his existence to Mel orLionel.
There was a knock---light but definite---on the anteroom door.
"Oh, God!" Cindy muttered, "Isn't there any privacy?"
Mel called out irritably, "Who is it?"
The door opened. "Just me," Tanya Livingston said. "Mel, I need some advice..." As she saw Cindy, she stopped abruptly. "Excuse me. I thought you were alone."
"He will be," Cindy said. "In hardly any time at all."
"Please, no!" Tanya flushed. "I can come back, Mrs. Bakersfeld. I didn't know I was disturbing you."
Cindy's eyes flicked over Tanya, stiff in Trans America uniform.
"It's probably time we were disturbed," Cindy said. "After all, it's been a good three minutes since the last people left, and that's longer than we usually have together." She swung toward Mel. "Isn't it?"
He shook his head, without answering.
"By the way." Cindy turned back to Tanya. "I'm curious about one thing. How you were so sure who I am."
Momentarily, Tanya had lost her usual poise. Recovering it, she gave a small smile. "I suppose I guessed,"
Cindy's eyebrows went up. "Am I supposed to do the same?" She glanced at Mel.
"No," he said. He introduced them.
Mel was aware of Cindy appraising Tanya Livingston. He had not the slightest doubt that his wife was already forming some conclusion about Tanya and himself; Mel had long ago learned that Cindy's instincts about men-women relationships were uncannily accurate. Besides, he was sure that his own introduction of Tanya had betrayed something. Husbands and wives were too familiar with each other's nuances of speech for that not to happen. It would not even surprise him if Cindy guessed about his own and Tanya's rendezvous for later tonight, though perhaps, he reflected, that was carrying imagination too far.
Well, whatever Cindy knew or guessed, he supposed it didn't really matter. After all, she was the one who had asked for a divorce, so why should she object to someone else in Mel's life, however much or little Tanya meant, and he wasn't sure of that himself? But then, Mel reminded himself, that was a logical way of thinking. Women---including Cindy, and probably Tanya---were seldom logical.
The last thought proved right.
"How nice for you," Cindy told him with pseudo sweetness, "that it isn't just dull old delegations who come to you with problems." She eyed Tanya. "You did say you have a problem?"
Tanya returned the inspection levelly. "I said I wanted some advice."
"Oh, really! What kind of advice? Was it business, personal?... Or perhaps you've forgotten."
"Cindy," Mel said sharply, "that's enough! You've no reason..."
"No reason for what? And why is it enough?" His wife's voice was mocking; he had the impression that in a perverse way she was enjoying herself. "Aren't you always telling me I don't take enough interest in your problems? Now I'm all agog about your friend's problem... that is, if there is one."
Tanya said crisply, "It's about Flight Two." She added. "That's Trans America's flight to Rome, Mrs. Bakersfeld. It took off half an hour ago."
Mel asked, "What about Flight Two?"
"To tell the truth"---Tanya hesitated---"I'm not really sure."
"Go ahead," Cindy said. "Think of something."
Mel snapped, "Oh, shut up!" He addressed Tanya, "What is it?"
Tanya glanced at Cindy, then told him of her conversation with Customs Inspector Standish. She described the man with the suspiciously held attache case, whom Standish suspected of smuggling.
"He went aboard Flight Two?"
"Then even if your man was smuggling," Mel pointed out, "it would be into Italy. The U.S. Customs people don't worry about that. They let other countries look out for themselves."
"I know. That's the way our D.T.M. saw it." Tanya described the exchange between herself and the District Transportation Manager, ending with the latter's irritable but firm instruction, "Forget it!"
Mel looked puzzled. "Then I don't see why..."
"I told you I'm not sure, and maybe this is all silly. But I kept thinking about it, so I started checking."
Both of them had forgotten Cindy.
"Inspector Standish," Tanya said, "told me that the man---the one with the attache case---was almost the last to board the flight. He must have been because I was at the gate, and I missed seeing an old woman..." She corrected herself. "That part doesn't matter. Anyway, a few minutes ago I got hold of the gate agent for Flight Two and we went over the manifest and tickets together. He couldn't remember the man with the case, but we narrowed it down to five names."
"Just on a hunch I called our check-in counters to see if anyone remembered anything about any of those five people. At the airport counters, nobody did. But downtown, one of the agents did remember the man---the one with the case. So I know his name; the description fits... everything."
"I still don't see what's so extraordinary. He had to check in somewhere. So he checked in downtown."
"The reason the agent remembered him," Tanya said, "is that he didn't have any baggage, except the little case. Also, the agent said, he was extremely nervous."
"Lots of people are nervous..." Abruptly Mel stopped. He frowned. "No baggage! For a flight to Rome!"
"That's right. Except for the little bag the man was carrying, the one Inspector Standish noticed. The agent downtown called it a briefcase."
"But nobody goes on that kind of journey without baggage. It doesn't make sense."
"That's what I thought." Again Tanya hesitated. "It doesn't make sense unless..."
"Unless you happen to know already that the flight you're on will never get to where it's supposed to be going. If you knew that, you'd also know that you wouldn't need any baggage."
"Tanya," Mel said softly, "what are you trying to say?"
She answered uncomfortably, "I'm not sure; that's why I came to you. When I think about it, it seems silly and melodramatic, only..."
"Well, supposing that man we've been talking about isn't smuggling at all; at least, in the way we've all assumed. Supposing the reason for him not having any luggage, for being nervous, for holding the case the way Inspector Standish noticed... suppose instead of having some sort of contraband in there... he has a bomb."
Their eyes held each other's steadily. Mel's mind was speculating, assessing possibilities. To him, also, the idea which Tanya had just raised seemed ridiculous and remote. Yet... in the past, occasionally, such things had happened. The question was: How could you decide if this was another time? The more he thought about it, the more he realized that the entire episode of the man with the attache case could so easily be innocent; in fact, probably was. If that proved true after a fuss had been created, whoever began the fuss would have made a fool of himself. It was human not to want to do that; yet, with the safety of an airplane and passengers involved, did making a fool of oneself matter? Obviously not. On the other hand, there ought to be a stronger reason for the drastic actions which a bomb scare would involve than merely a possibility, plus a hunch. Was there, Mel wondered, some way conceivably in which a stronger hint, even corroboration, might be found?
Offhand, be couldn't think of one.
But there was something he could check. It was a long shot, but all that was needed was a phone call. He supposed that seeing Vernon Demerest tonight, with the reminder of the clash before the Board of Airport Commissioners, had made him think of it.
For the second time this evening, Mel consulted his pocket panic-list of telephone numbers. Then, using an internal airport telephone on his desk, he dialed the insurance vending booth in the main concourse. The girl clerk who answered was a long-time employee whom Mel knew well.
"Marj," he said, when he had identified himself, "have you written many policies tonight on the Trans America Flight Two?"
"A few more than usual, Mr. Bakersfeld. But then we have on all flights; this kind of weather always does that. On Flight Two, I've had about a dozen, and I know Bunnie---that's the other girl on with me---has written some as well."
"What I'd like you to do," Mel told her, "is read me all the names and policy amounts." As he sensed the girl hesitate, "If I have to, I'll call your district manager and get authority. But you know he'll give it to me, and I'd like you to take my word that this is important. Doing it this way, you can save me time."
"All right, Mr. Bakersfeld; if you say it's okay. But it will take a few minutes to get the policies together."
Mel heard the telephone put down, the girl apologize to someone at the insurance counter for the interruption. There was a rustling of papers, then another girl's voice inquiring, "Is something wrong?"
Covering the telephone mouthpiece, Mel asked Tanya, "What's that name you have---the man with the case?"
She consulted a slip of paper. "Guerrero, or it may be Buerrero; we had it spelled both ways." She saw Mel start. "Initials D.O."
Mel's hand still cupped the telephone. His mind was concentrating. The woman who had been brought to his office half an hour ago was named Guerrero; he remembered Lieutenant Ordway saying so. She was the one whom the airport police had found wandering in the terminal. According to Ned Ordway, the woman was distressed and crying; the police couldn't get any sense from her. Mel was going to try talking to her himself, but hadn't gotten around to it. He had seen the woman on the point of leaving the outer office as the Meadowood delegation came in. Of course, there might be no connection...
Through the telephone, Mel could still hear voices at the insurance booth and, in the background, the noise of the main terminal concourse.
"Tanya," he said quietly, "about twenty minutes ago there was a woman in the outside office---middle-aged, shabbily dressed; she looked wet and draggle-tailed. I believe she left when some other people came in, but she might be stiff around. If she's anywhere outside, bring her in. In any case, if you find her, don't let her get away from you." Tanya looked puzzled. He added, "Her name is Mrs. Guerrero."
As Tanya left the office, the girl clerk at the insurance booth came back on the line. "I have all those policies, Mr. Bakersfeld. Are you ready if I read the names?"
"Yes, Marj. Go ahead."
He listened carefully. As a name near the end occurred, he had a sudden sense of tension. For the first time his voice was urgent. "Tell me about that policy. Did you write it?"
"No. That was one of Bunnie's. I'll let you speak to her."
He listened to what the other girl had to say and asked two or three questions. Their exchange was brief. He broke the connection and was dialing another number as Tanya returned.
Though her eyes asked questions which for the moment he ignored, she reported immediately, "There's no one on the mezzanine. There are still a million people down below, but you'd never pick anyone out. Should we page?"
"We can try, though I don't have a lot of hope." On the basis of what he had learned, Mel thought, not much was getting through to the Guerrero woman, so it was unlikely that a p.a. announcement would do so now. Also, by this time she could have left the airport and be halfway to the city. He reproached himself for not having tried to talk with her, as he had intended, but there had been the other things: the delegation from Meadowood; his anxiety about his brother, Keith---Mel remembered that he had considered going back to the control tower... well, that would have to wait now... then there had been Cindy. With a guilty start because he hadn't noticed before, he realized that Cindy was gone.
He reached for the p.a. microphone on his desk and pushed it toward Tanya.
There was an answer from the number he had dialed, which was airport police headquarters. Mel said crisply, "I want Lieutenant Ordway. Is he still in the terminal?"
"Yes, sir." The police desk sergeant was familiar with Mel's voice.
"Find him as quickly as you can; I'll hold. And by the way, what was the first name of a woman called Guerrero, whom one of your people picked up tonight? I think I know, but I want to make sure."
"Just a minute, sir. I'll look." A moment later he said, "It's Inez; Inez Guerrero. And we've already called the lieutenant on his beeper box."
Mel was aware that Lieutenant Ordway, like many others at the airport, carried a pocket radio receiver which gave a "beep" signal if he was required urgently. Somewhere, at this moment, Ordway was undoubtedly hastening to a phone.
Mel gave brief instructions to Tanya, then pressed the "on" switch of the p.a. microphone, which overrode all others in the terminal. Through the open doors to the anteroom and mezzanine he heard an American Airlines flight departure announcement halt abruptly in mid-sentence. Only twice before, during the eight years of Mel's tenure as airport general manager, had the mike and override switch been used. The first occasion---branded in Mel's memory---had been to announce the death of President Kennedy; the second, a year later, was when a lost and crying child wandered directly into Mel's office. Usually there were regular procedures for handling lost children, but that time Mel had used the mike himself to locate the frantic parents.
Now he nodded to Tanya to begin her announcement, remembering that he was not yet sure why they wanted the woman, Inez Guerrero, or even that---for certainthere was anything wrong at all. Yet instinct told him that there was; that something serious had happened, or was happening; and when you had a puzzle of that kind, the smart and urgent thing to do was gather all the pieces that you could, hoping that somehow, with help from other people, you could fit them together to make sense.
"Attention please," Tanya was saying in her clear, unaffected voice, now audible in every comer of the terminal. "Will Mrs. Inez Guerrero, or Buerrero, please come immediately to the airport general manager's office on the administrative mezzanine of the main terminal building. Ask any airline or airport representative to direct you. I will repeat..."
There was a click in Mel's telephone. Lieutenant Ordway came on the line.
"We want that woman," Mel told him. "The one who was here---Guerrero. We're announcing..."
"I know," Ordway said. "I can hear."
"We need her urgently; I'll explain later. For now, take my word..."
"I already have. When did you last see her?"
"In my outer office. When she was with you."
"Okay. Anything else?"
"Only that this may be big. I suggest you drop everything; use all your men. And whether you find her or not, get up here soon."
"Right." There was another click as Ordway hung up.
Tanya had finished her announcement; she pushed the "off" button of the microphone. Outside, Mel could hear another announcement begin, "Attention Mr. Lester Mainwaring. Will Mr. Mainwaring and all members of his party report immediately to the main terminal entrance?"
"Lester Mainwaring" was an airport code name for policeman." Normally, such an announcement meant that the nearest policeman on duty was to go wherever the message designated. "All members of his party" meant every policeman in the terminal. Most airports had similar systems to alert their police without the public being made aware.
Ordway was wasting no time. Undoubtedly he would brief his men about Inez Guerrero as they reported to the main entrance.
"Call your D.T.M.," Mel instructed Tanya. "Ask him to come to this office as quickly as he can. Tell him it's important." Partly to himself, he added, "We'll start by getting everybody here."
Tanya made the call, then reported, "He's on his way." Her voice betrayed nervousness.
Mel had gone to the office door. He closed it.
"You still haven't told me," Tanya said, "what it was you found out."
Mel chose his words carefully.
"Your man Guerrero, the one with no luggage except the little attache case, and whom you think might have a bomb aboard Flight Two, took out a flight insurance policy just before takeoff for three hundred thousand dollars. The beneficiary is Inez Guerrero. He paid for it with what looked like his last small change."
"My God!" Tanya's face went white. She whispered, "Oh, dear God... no!"