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Murder MidairTAKING OFF IS JUST THE BEGINNIN—LANDING COULD BE THE END ... OF YOUR LIFE!
By James Austin
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2013 James Austin
All right reserved.
"Oh no, no no, my dear, you don't belong on Broadway. I see you flying high, honey. Spread your wings and take flight. The sky is the limit."
"Are you saying I should go to Hollywood? You think I should do movies instead? Television? Do you see me making it as a huge star, Miss Bertrand?"
"Oh, sweetheart, no, silly girl, I see you as an air hostess. Now fuck off!"
Wynonna Bertrand: actress of stage and screen and lover to anyone who breathed in her vicinity. A self-made woman who took control of everything she did and everyone she knew. A bitch to all who had graced the stage with her. She was well-known around the entertainment elite as someone to not cross in business and in bed. It was her way or get out, end of story.
She was born on the worn side of town and to the wrong people—her own words. She never saw her parents as such; they were merely people to give her shelter until she was able to drift on her own terms. Wynonna decided fourteen was the right age and she never looked back. Wynonna knew how to get things done her way and would do anything to do just that. She had also been hiding a very, very dark secret.
Wynonna had a knack for getting the right parts and knocking anyone who got in her way right off the page. Now she was fifty-three and hating it. Her auburn hair needed coloring more often and she needed contacts to make her green eyes see the scripts more clearly, but her temper had not faded one bit. Wynonna did not like the fact that she was once the darling of Hollywood and she couldn't stand all these new-star sluts pushing their way onto her turf. Publicity tramps, the lot of them, getting not only their faces in the tabloids, but now they seemed to like showing the rest of themselves as well.
"They don't have one ounce of decency! Who gets out of a car not wearing underwear, knowing the paparazzi are all around, spreading their legs for the entire world to see they ain't no virgins?"
Truth be told, Wynonna once asked her publicity agent if she should do a similar thing, but that idea was locked away and the key destroyed.
"Playing a mother to one of these child whores will never happen," she had said on numerous occasions.
It was well-known in Hollywood that by absolutely no means did one ever offer Wynonna Bertrand an old-woman role—and that was one reason why the offers were becoming less and less. She was now on her way to audition for a movie being directed by her one-time lover, Bruce McFeeney, in LA. Wynonna was pissed she had to not only audition for the part—she thought she should be automatically cast in the role—but also because she had to travel on a commercial flight to do so. Wynonna was aware she was fast being pushed aside by new and more attractive options in the eyes of the studio executives, in the form of younger actresses who, just like the famous Wynonna Bertrand, would stop at nothing to land a role.
The part she was going to audition for was for a female CEO with a terminal illness who had to make a decision on who would be taking over when she passed. The character was also in her early forties, something the studio heads had a hard time being convinced of when they heard Wynonna was being considered for the part. She knew exactly what to do to get the part—or more to the point, who to do. It was a part that most fifty-three-year-old actors would not dare try. She had already made up her mind and nobody stood a chance.
Wynonna's flight was leaving JFK at 10:30 a.m. and the limousine was arranged to pick her up at the Plaza Hotel at 8:00 a.m. It was now 9:00 p.m. the night before and Wynonna had just sat down to dinner with a man whom she referred to as one of her East Coast lovers: Michael Dunn, a New York theater actor who liked to play around and not just on stage. Michael was a fan of bedding as many cast members as possible, male and female and at times all at once. Orgies were his thing. At twenty-five, he didn't have much trouble convincing anyone to join him in the sack. His shoulder-length blond hair, blue eyes and killer body were his draw cards. He had known Wynonna for about four years, ever since she saw him on stage during his Broadway debut. He didn't make it to the cast party that night but instead partied with Wynonna. Since then he had become the private property of Ms. Wynonna Bertrand—at least, that was what she thought. What the old crow doesn't know can't hurt me, he thought.
"Michael, darling, how are you, sweetness? How was rehearsal? I need you now!"
"Hi, Wynonna. I'm great, rehearsal was fine and can we eat first?
I'm starved. Oh and I have a new move I want to try on you. One of the guys was telling me about it today. If all goes well, I think you'll scream the walls down. But first let me see a menu."
He was referring to a conversation he'd had in the dressing room during the day's rehearsals. One of the cast, Todd Perkins, told him about his escapades the previous night with a fan who would allow anything, just to be with an actor. He told Michael about his new technique, which involved using an adjustable clamp and an ice cube. "They will be on the ceiling," he added.
"What the fuck do you do with that?" Michael demanded, thinking more and more that this guy was filth on toast.
Todd told him, "Use some imagination." Then he added, "The ice cube, if used properly, will send them into orbit." He then left with a huge smile on his face.
That boy is sick, Michael thought as he wrote down "adjustable clamp at hardware store" on some paper and placed it in his pocket.
"You cad. You can eat all you want here, but you must eat my dessert upstairs," Wynonna informed him after hearing his story.
"Ooo, why, Miss Bertrand, I never. What type of a boy do you think I am?"
"My dear, you know and everyone else in this god-forsaken town knows what type of boy you are. Blind fucking Freddie knows what type of boy you are. You're not fooling anyone with that second-rate acting."
"Two Tony Awards beg to differ," Michael shot back.
"You're not the only one who has had two Tonys ... except I had mine in my bed, together."
"Ah, Wynny, always with the quick quips. Never a dull moment in those pants."
"I told you never to call me that—I must punish you later for that."
"Ah, dear boy. I do love the time we spend together."
"And, pray tell, what do you love the most?"
As quick as a flash, she grabbed him by the balls and said with a smile, "The little things."
"What time is your flight tomorrow?" he asked her with a sour look.
"I have a car picking me up at eight; the flight is at ten something, Trans County Airways I think. To think that cheap bastard wouldn't send out the studio jet. I still cannot believe they want me, Wynonna Bertrand, to audition. I mean, who the fuck do they think they are? I have a mind to forget it all and tell them to go fuck themselves." she bitched, but privately she thought she'd better not.
"And when will you be back?" he asked, not really listening to her ranting.
"When I decide I've had enough of LA! Oh, dear heart, don't pull that face. I'll call you when I know. Now, let's order, I'll need a large serving of you until I get back. I expect to be filled up, so maybe start with some oysters."
"Followed by a Viagra chaser?"
"If you think you'll need it, then go ahead, my sweet boy, go right ahead."
Chapter TwoTHE PRODUCER'S ASSISTANT
Craig Lewis was arriving at JFK after a hectic ride from Manhattan. It never ceased to amaze him no matter what time of the day or night it was, there was always traffic from Manhattan to the airport. He thought of all the limo drivers who had to battle getting their clients to their flights on time. No way would he do it.
He was staying in New York after visiting his parents in Connecticut. His boss, famed producer Jacob Denulle, asked Craig if he would stay on a few days in New York and scope out some places for him. Jacob was interested in making a film with a New York state of mind. Craig would report any places of interest when he got back to LA. Craig was also returning to his boyfriend of four years, celebrity interior designer Patrick Harrington. Around Hollywood, they were known as "the hot couple," a play on words from "the odd couple." They recently purchased a six-bedroom home in Malibu and he couldn't wait to see what Patrick had done with the place.
JFK was mobbed even though it was only 9:10 a.m. When isn't it mobbed? he thought. Craig made it through all the check-in and security procedures and was sitting in the Trans County Airways first-class lounge, sipping an orange juice and reading the New York Times. He heard a slight commotion at the entrance and looked up to see Hollywood's number-one bitch actress, Wynonna Bertrand, entering with a posse of hangers-on, all making sure every step she took was as comfortable as possible. She was moaning about the trip to the airport and the traffic.
"Why can't this place get a goddamn express route from Midtown to JFK, for fuck's sake?" she screeched so all could here.
God, that woman is crass, thought Craig. I hope she's not on my flight, but if she is, please don't seat her near me. He remembered Jacob saying he'd never work with her again after their last encounter. Jacob's favorite saying concerning Ms. Bertrand was, "If that woman was any further up her own cunt, she'd be able to give birth to herself." Jacob could be equally crass.
Craig enjoyed his work and didn't have the usual Hollywood ideas of making it big on his own. He liked Jacob, they worked well together and Jacob was extremely generous when it came to his staff, which was why Craig had just spent four nights at the Four Seasons and was traveling first class. He was only twenty-four, but so far everything had worked out for him. He had a great job, he was in love with a wonderful man and he was moving up in the world—not to mention into a new home. He had a kind of Brad Pitt look about him with his dirty-blond hair. His personality came shining through and he thought his best feature was his eyes, which were hazel and changed color depending on the light. Patrick had told him the first time they met that he was mesmerized by them.
Patrick was twenty-six with fair skin and dark hair, which was so attractive with guys from an Irish background. Patrick was born and raised in the United States after his parents immigrated in the late sixties. He had just finished putting the final touches on their new house, a three-story, six-bedroom, four-bathroom bungalow complete with its own private beach.
Craig made a quick call to Patrick, knowing he would be up even though it was only 6:25 a.m. in LA. Patrick was an early riser and worked out each morning. They spoke for only five minutes, in which Craig said he was due to land in LA just after 1:30 p.m. LA time. He told Patrick he had a car service arranged that would bring him home, so there was no need to pick him up. He also noted that Wynonna Bertrand was at the airport and may be on his flight, which could mean a very long trip home. Patrick told him to ignore her and he added that the house looked fantastic; he was sure Craig would approve. Craig hung up with Patrick, settled back and waited for his flight to be called.
Chapter ThreeJENNIFER AND ORLA
"Did you see that guy at breakfast? He had the body of David," said Jen.
"I did. I couldn't concentrate except to ogle him. I think he caught me staring at one stage. And who is this David, by the way? Does Miss Jennifer have a special someone that I don't know about?" Orla replied.
"If I had someone special, I'd hardly be checking other guys out, now, would I? David! You know, the Greek statue? Only this guy was bigger, if you know what I mean. At least, it looked like it from the way his jeans bulged out."
Jennifer Stone and Orla Finnegan were taking a hotel shuttle to JFK. Both were flight attendants for Trans County Airways and they were due to fly on the New York-Dallas route before finding out they had been changed to the LA nonstop instead. Jen was head flight attendant and would be responsible for a crew of eight, plus her, which was about two short for a normal cross-country flight. Because of the weather down south, they had to make do with whoever was available.
Known as a fair boss, Jen could come down hard if she needed to. At twenty-nine, she came up through the ranks and made head flight attendant about two years ago. Strawberry-blonde hair and green eyes were an unusual combination, but it worked well on her. Jen loved to fly and always had the attention of the male passengers—and on the odd occasion, she was known to have taken one or two home with her. Originally from Maine, Jen was always a popular girl through school and at work. She had no time to settle, she enjoyed the time she spent alone and she only allowed someone else in her life when she desired it. For the last couple of months, however, she had been thinking maybe the time was coming to think about finding the right man, not that she had anyone in mind, but the fellow at breakfast today sure had her attention ...
Orla Finnegan left her native Ireland four years ago and had been a flight attendant for the past three years. Now twenty-seven, Orla dazzled everyone with her bubbly personality and emerald-green eyes. She was a people person and could make even the most annoyed passenger happy. She had had to deal with some doozies in her time, but schmoozing was her middle name.
Orla was on her last flight before venturing off on yet another exploration. She was never one to sit still and she loved to travel, so working for an airline was a great choice of career for her. Orla was off to Thailand tomorrow for a two-week journey of the country. She had never been there and couldn't wait to arrive. As of this morning, she thought she was doing the New York-Dallas route, which meant she could then transfer to an LA flight, but her boss had just told her they were on the 10:20 a.m. nonstop flight out of JFK to LAX. With her bags already packed for her trip, Orla was quite happy about the last-minute change. She would stay in a hotel close to LAX before flying out at 11:15 a.m. tomorrow. She had done all her research on Thailand and had plans for almost every day, but she had figured in some relaxation time as well.
Upon arriving for the initial preflight checks at the departure gate, Orla nudged Jen in the arm and nodded her head toward the waiting passengers. There, reading a newspaper, was the hunk from breakfast.
"Can you believe our luck? I think I'll imagine him flying on to Thailand and if that's the case, then all my plans are out the window. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?" Orla said.
Jenny noted he was not waiting in the first-class lounge, so he may be traveling in economy, although not everyone used the first-class lounge. Jen saw some of the other crew arriving but had to wait until the remaining members arrived on a flight from Chicago before she gave her usual preflight briefing. She knew Peter and James were upstairs, so when they turned up, she would get them to make sure the departure desk was set up.
Chapter FourTWO-GETHER FOREVER
Peter Bailey and James Atkins had arrived early and were just finishing breakfast in the crew lounge. Both were flight attendants, were inseparable and didn't care who knew it. They even took part in a new Trans County Airways advertisement designed to bring in more gay clientele. They had been together since meeting in elementary school and were best friends to start with, but that developed into a strong relationship.
They didn't normally crew the same flights, but they did for the odd occasions when it worked out. Today they would be on the New York-Dallas, Dallas-Miami routes. James was watching the television, which was covering the weather and he noticed that there was some bad weather in the Gulf of Mexico that the announcer was saying could develop into a possible hurricane. He wondered whether this would affect any of their flights today. He wasn't worried; if it did, then the flight would be delayed, cancelled or they could be placed on other routes. He asked Peter to watch while he went to use the bathroom.
Peter Bailey was twenty-four with shaggy blond hair and bright blue eyes; he kind of looked like David Bowie. He had the wow factor big time and everyone commented on him, male and female, gay and straight. Peter grew up in Connecticut and was an A student throughout school. He attended Princeton University and even though he was accepted into Yale, he decided to spend some time out of Connecticut. He adored James, whom he said he fell in love with from the first time they met, even though they were both five at the time. One time while playing, they built forts in the long grass of a vacant lot. It was in one of these forts that Peter and James had their first kiss, at age six. They both knew then that something was right between them; they just did not know what.
Excerpted from Murder Midair by James Austin Copyright © 2013 by James Austin. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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