Dragon Soul(5)

By: Katie MacAlister

“I thought it was a knife—” I stopped myself and made a wry face. “I guess I just saw a bit of metal and assumed that’s what it was. I apologize for accusing you of trying to attack Mrs. P. Although… why were you trying to put a bracelet on her?”

“The lady dropped it, and I was simply returning it to her,” Mr. Hissy said smoothly, then handed me the bracelet before he made a little bow to the flight attendants. “Since you are acting as the lady’s guardian, I will give it to you to return to her. Now, if I may return to my seat…?”

“I do apologize for the confusion and any inconvenience you may have suffered…” Adrienne’s subdued voice drifted off as she and one of the flight attendants escorted the man back to his seat, located several rows forward.

“He looked like he was attacking her,” I explained to the remaining flight attendant and the handsome man. “He was leaning across me to get to her. What would you have thought if that had been you?”

“I would have asked the gentleman,” the flight attendant said gently, then with a little purse of his lips she returned to the coach section of the plane.

I turned to the remaining man, about to thank him for the assistance that it turned out I didn’t need, but simply watched in silent amazement when he plucked the bracelet from my hand, saying with an unreadable look, “I’ll take that. I’m sure there’s some sort of nasty binding spell on it, and we wouldn’t want any accidents, would we?”

He walked away without another word, leaving me staring in disbelief. Binding spell? I opened and closed my mouth a couple of times, tempted to accost him, but decided I’d better not. Perhaps I’d misheard him, or perhaps he was not quite all there… either way, since I didn’t have the slightest belief in the strange narrow-pupiled man’s story that he was returning Mrs. P’s bracelet—one that she hadn’t been wearing—I decided that I’d just let it go and forget about the whole episode.

I didn’t, of course, and when Claudia returned from her visit to the toilet, I told her in a near whisper of the happenings. She agreed that it was most startling to be woken up in such a manner, but didn’t seem to think anything odd was going on.

“You said you were certain the bracelet didn’t belong to Mrs. Papadopolous, so does it matter if the other man took it? Perhaps it was his to begin with, and the other man was mistaken in attributing it to your employer.”

“But then why didn’t he say that? And what was that business with a binding spell?”

“You must have misheard him.” She pulled out her book again. “Perhaps he was trying to save you from any further embarrassment.”

That shut me up on the subject, and pretty much for the rest of the trip. I sat vigilant the remaining hours of the flight, too embarrassed about raising a fuss over nothing to relax, and yet at the same time, oddly suspicious. What was that man doing leaning over me? Why had Mr. Handsome walked off with the bracelet without so much as a “do you mind?” And was it just paranoia to wonder if Claudia had disappeared into the bathroom at the ideal moment for an attempted attack on Mrs. P?

Too far, my mental sage warned. You’ll start seeing conspiracies everywhere if you go down that path.

Fortunately for my peace of mind—what was left of it—Mrs. P slept the rest of the way to Munich.

You just have to get her through a change of planes, and then onto a ship in Cairo, my sage pointed out. How hard could that be? Do that one little thing, and you’ll pocket a cool two grand, which will give you a start to fighting your way out of a dreary future, frustrating talks with the unemployment office, and an all-around loveless existence.

Unbidden, my gaze traveled along the rows of seats until it settled on the head crowned with short auburn curls.

My so-called savior was dressed casually in clothing that wasn’t in the least bit flashy, but still gave that off that subtle whiff of money. A navy blue blazer covered up a shirt in a lighter shade of blue, which was tucked into a pair of black chinos. Sharply creased chinos. This was a man who exuded quiet self-confidence, and absolute comfort in his own skin.

Even the fact that he wore lace-up dark gray, somewhat scarred boots rather than shoes didn’t ruin that impression. I was musing on what sort of man he was that he was so with it and together, yet marched around an airport wearing a pair of boots that would be more comfortable striding across a moor, when he must have felt my unabashed scrutiny, because his head turned and he glanced back at me.