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The plane lifted with a roar of jets, soaring into star-sprinkled blackness. The girl in seat 37-C sucked on the end of her ball-point pen and tried to think of a way to describe the aircrafts motion without using the words "silver" or "bird."
She wrote, "Seducer." Then she thought, "Oh, well, why not?" and added "silver" with a defiant carat.
The woman in the next seat, staring unashamedly, started in surprise. The girl didn't look like that kind of a girl. She was small and slender, with silvery fair hair that cupped her head in petal-like tendrils. Her horn-rimmed glasses were not fitted properly. They kept sliding down to the tip of her nose, and when she returned the pen to her mouth and gazed pensively over the rims of the glasses she looked no more than eighteen.
She was, in fact, twenty-six. The glasses were part of her business costume. She didn't really need them sometimes they were an actual nuisance. But she hoped they made her look older and more efficient. Her name was Elizabeth Jones. She had been born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and was currently employed by Frenchton and Monk, Publishers, in their publicity department. This was her first trip abroad. She had been saving up for it for three years. In her desk drawer at home were the manuscripts of seventy-six poems. Six had been published in various obscure journals. Elizabeth had designs on Frenchton and Monk, but was waiting for the right moment. (This hope was, of course, naive and doomed to failure, but it shows what anice, innocent girl Elizabeth was, even after three years in Manhattan.)
She stared at the three words she had written. It was so hard to find new figures of speech. They had all been used. After a moment she went on.
Rape the virgin sky...
No. The sky could not be virgin. Hundreds of flights per week went out of LaGuardia, and it was only one of hundreds of airports. Quivering sky? Palpitant sky? Big blue sky...
A gush of unadulterated rapture filled her, starting in her toes and flowing upward to erupt in a broad smile. It was a big blue sky, and the plane was a silver bird a phoenix, an eagle, a roc, carrying her to adventure and excitement. She had dreamed of this trip so long; why cultivate a false sophistication when there was nobody around to admire it?
Big silver bird,
Listen to the word,
Carry me away
To a brighter day
Where I'll sing and play
Hurray, hurray, hurray!
"Now that's real pretty," said her seatmate, in a flat Midwest twang. "Much nicer than all that stuff about er "
Elizabeth turned her head, her smile lingering. Her seatmate, mistaking the expression for one of affability, returned it with a flash of gold crowns. "Your first trip, honey?" she inquired.
"Oh, no," Elizabeth said promptly.
"Oh." Deprived of the pleasure of advising a novice, the older woman looked disappointed. "Well, it's a long ride, we may's well get acquainted. I'm Mrs. Hector Rawlings."
"Where you from?"
"It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't wanna live there. All that crime. Now Jenkinsville, Indiana that's my hometown we don't do things like they do in N'Yawk."
She went on to tell Elizabeth how they did things in Jenkinsville, Indiana. Elizabeth's smile felt as if it had been glued into position. The seat-belt sign had gone out by the time Mrs. Rawlings paused for breath, and Elizabeth took ruthless advantage.
"Excuse me. The seat-belt sign is off I've got to I want to "
"It takes some people that way," said Mrs. Hector Rawlings.
Apparently it did. There was a wait.
Elizabeth didn't mind. Her chief aim was to escape Mrs. Rawlings, and once she was out of the sound of that nasal voice her excitement returned. Here she was, on her way at last. If only she could have gotten a window seat. For most of the trip there would be nothing visible outside except darkness, but she could have turned her back on her fellow passengers and reveled in the glorious daydreams that had been three years in the making.
The line moved forward. The man ahead of Elizabeth shot back his sleeve and consulted his watch one of those elaborate affairs that measures every aspect of life that can be reduced to mathematical terms. Elizabeth smiled to herself. Some people couldn't stop rushing, even when there was nothing to rush toward.
Her eyes wandered on to the person who was now first in line, and her smile turned to a critical frown. Being only seven years away from her own teens, she had for that age group the intolerance characteristic of reformed alcoholics and former smokers toward those still suffering from the vice in question. Why, she wondered, did American teenagers have to look so messy? This girl's face was turned away, but the youthful roundness of her body betrayed her age. The said body was covered, but not entirely concealed, by a garment of Indian gauze printed in hideous shades of lilac, blue, and magenta, with touches of gold. It billowed madly down and out from her shoulders and was gathered in around her plump waist by a raveling piece of rope. The girl's most outstanding characteristic was her hair, an inchoate mass of tangled curls, whose color was...No. Some peculiarity of the cabin lights must be responsible. Green hair?
One of the lavatory doors opened, emitting a weary-looking woman carrying a fat, redfaced baby whose pursed lips made it look like W.C. Fields preparing to make a scathing comment about babies. The "teenager" made a smart left turn and disappeared into the lavatory.
Elizabeth's knees sagged. She caught the back...<!CX001>
The Copenhagen Connection. Copyright © by Elizabeth Peters. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.