Fittingly, it began with a phone call. Her grandmother had fallen. Her grandmother was in the hospital. Her grandmother needed Eden to come home and take care of business.
Eden knew the deal. "Business" meant Grandma Jessie's phone line. Jessie was a phone psychic--and a darn good one at that. And Eden was the only one who could sound enough like Jessie so that her clientele would never know the difference.
But as Eden fakes her way through tarot card and astrology readings, there is one caller unlike any other. The voice is breathless, female, terrified. The voice warns of explosions in distant places, of fire, of blood, of horror. The caller is in desperate danger because she knows things she shouldn't know, and won't be allowed to know much longer.
And now Eden knows too....
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Sold by:||Random House|
|File size:||2 MB|
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The Miami airport, she'd always thought, looked as if it had been designed by Alfred Hitchcock.
It was full of eerie angles and curves that led the eyes astray and set emotions on knifelike edge.
She had always thought so, and to remember it now, doing what she must, seemed both frivolous and macabre.
The hell with it, she told herself silently. You wanted to do this. You said you could do this.
Taking a deep breath, she hoisted the shoulder strap of her leather duffel into place and walked more quickly.
She was a slim woman, wearing no makeup, and her most striking feature was her brown hair, straight and gleaming, cut to shoulder length. Behind slightly tinted glasses, her eyes were brown and serious. She wore baggy silk slacks of navy blue and a lightweight tan jacket. She glanced at her watch. It was twenty-five minutes until noon.
Her destination, the Nassau-Air baggage check-in counter, was located in one of the airport's more peculiar corners, and she had nearly reached it.
She turned right and was startled, as always, at how abruptly this lobby loomed into view. Instead of offering an air of spaciousness, it seemed choked and awry.
Directly in her path stood a dark metal structure the size and shape of a burial vault. It was a large vending machine, set at a skewed angle, and it blocked her path.
Beyond the vaultlike machine, a strip of restaurants and bars, bright with neon, veered down a corridor to the left. To the right zagged a long row of check-in counters with names like Gulfstream, Paradise Island Airways, AeroJamaica.
She headed for the farthest cubicle, with its blue and orange Nassau-Air logo. Her heart pounded, but her stride was steady and her hands did not shake. She had taken four milligrams of Xanax, which was eight times her normal dose. She felt at once an intense fear and a godlike detachment.
Drace said there was the possibility that the bomb could go off accidentally at any time; she tried not to think of this. It was like looking down from a dangerous height and paralyzing oneself with terror.
What if it goes off? she thought bitterly. My troubles would be over, wouldn't they?
Yes. But the job would not be done. Do the job.
The round-faced Hispanic man at the Nassau-Air counter spoke poor English, seemed bored, and as he checked her passport, his stomach gave a loud growl.
"Anna Granger," her passport said, "Duluth, Minnesota." The photograph showed her unsmiling, her glasses sitting crookedly on her nose.
Her name was not Anna Granger nor had she ever been in Duluth, Minnesota. Drace had arranged for the passport. Drace had arranged everything. She tried not to think of what was in the leather duffel as the clerk tagged it. She tried not to wince as he threw it unceremoniously on the floor behind him.
I could die right now, she thought. So could he. I won't think about it. La, la, la.
"The plane's on time?" she asked, nodding at the flight announcement board.
Nassau-Air Flight 217 was to depart at one-thirty. More than an hour away.
"Won't be boarding till one-twenty," he said, hardly glancing up from his computer screen. He squinted at it with a scholarly air, then, at last, handed her a boarding pass. "All set."
"I've got time to grab a bite of lunch?" she asked brightly.
"What?" He frowned.
"I have time?" she asked. "To go to a restaurant?"
"Oh, yes," he said. To her ears, it sounded as if he said "Oh, jes."
Don't talk any more than you have to, Drace had warned, so she smiled stiffly, adjusted the strap of her oversized handbag, and turned from the counter.
Her knees felt weak and insubstantial, like two bubbles floating beneath her, magically bearing her away. Her head was light, her stomach hollow.
"You're sure you can do this?" Drace had asked. She had seen something like reluctance in his beautiful blue eyes. She'd seen doubt.
"Yes," she'd said. "I'm sure."
Now she made her way to the nearest women's rest room. She was grateful to see no maintenance woman. She locked herself into the toilet stall farthest from the entrance and hung her big handbag on the hook inside the door. She took off her glasses, put them inside the purse, and took out the case for her contact lenses.
She removed one colored lens, then the other. "Don't it make my brown eyes blue," she said under her breath.
She snapped the case shut, put it away. As she pulled off the brown wig, she thought of flushing it down the toilet.
But no, Drace had told her not to get rid of anything in Miami. She thrust the wig into a plastic bag and stowed it, too, in the handbag. From the coin purse in her wallet, she took a ring and put it on the third finger of her left hand. It was silver, set with a small greenish turquoise.
She drew out her makeup kit and did her face. She'd always been skilled at makeup, and the transformation took barely five minutes. Foundation, eyebrow pencil, eyeliner, mascara, powder, blusher, lipstick. She worked using only her compact mirror, but her movements were quick and sure.
She pulled off the shapeless silk slacks and tucked them too into the bag. Beneath them she'd worn sky-blue leggings, skintight. She slipped off her tan jacket, turned it inside out, and put it on again. It was now sky-blue and matched the leggings.
She zipped shut the handbag, slid its strap over her shoulder, and opened the door of the stall. She moved to the bank of sinks and washed her hands, examining her image in the mirror. She was a short-haired blonde now, with a Dutch bob and eyes as blue as her jacket.
She studied her makeup critically, the subtle blue eye shadow, the glossy red of her lips. Not perfect, but it would do. She ran a brush through her hair.
When she left the rest room, she headed for the moving walkways that sped passengers from one concourse to another. She traveled until she reached the concourse farthest from Nassau-Air. She went through the security check and quickly made her way to Gate E16.
She arrived at E16 with time to spare and checked in for Flight 458 to Dallas. "Boarding in about thirty-five minutes," said the dark man at the desk.
She nodded. She walked to the nearest pay phone and dialed the Nassau-Air desk. "Is Flight 217 on time?"
"Is right on schedule," said the Hispanic clerk, still sounding bored.
She hung up, went into a neighboring shop, and bought a copy of Vogue magazine. She'd once loved Vogue and wondered if it would give comfort to her now.
She returned to her gate and sat in one of the plastic chairs. She drew her gold pillbox from her handbag. She took out two more tablets of Xanax and swallowed them dry, not bothering to find a water fountain. She pretended to read the magazine, and she waited.
Five minutes before boarding time, she rose and phoned the Nassau-Air desk again, asking if Flight 217 was still on schedule. The clerk said yes. Again it sounded to her as if he said "Jes."
She returned to her departure gate just as the public-address system announced that the Dallas flight was boarding. She waited until her seat row was announced, then made her way through the boarding corridor with a deceptively light step.
She was traveling coach class and found her seat on the aisle, next to a priest with a clerical collar. The priest gave her a start, and she wondered if his presence was some sort of omen. He looked into her eyes as if it were.
I'm beyond omens, she thought fatalistically. She nodded to him as she sat. La, la, la.
The priest was a heavy man with thin hair and a nose full of broken veins. He held a rosary in one hand. "God has to be my copilot. I don't do well flying on my own."
She smiled and fastened her seat belt. She glanced at her watch with seeming nonchalance. It was one thirty-two. Nassau-Air Flight 217 should be taxiing down the runway now, speeding for takeoff.
Her mouth was bone dry, dry as the mouth of a skeleton. Mentally she counted to sixty while beside her the priest seemed to be silently saying his rosary. She thought, Pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our death. She did not know how she knew these words. She was not Catholic.
She took a deep breath and stared at the inflight phone on the back of the seat before her. She opened her purse and withdrew the credit card Drace had provided. She put the card into the slot next to the phone, which released the receiver.
"You're making a call?" the priest said, as if she were about to perform a miracle.
"I didn't get a chance to say good-bye to my brother," she said. "He'll be surprised when I phone from here."
"Will wonders never cease?" the priest marveled and watched with interest as she punched in the number she had memorized. For a split second, she wondered if she wanted the plan to work.
Yes, she thought. Let it work. Let it work. She listened and waited.
The leather duffel bag should be aboard the Nassau-Air flight now, and the small plane should be airborne, just barely. Within the duffel bag was a brand-new cellular phone, a blasting cap wired to its ringer terminals.
When the cellular phone rang, the voltage to the terminals would set off the cap and detonate an explosive charge powerful enough to blow Flight 217 to bits, turning it into a giant peony of flame.
If everything went as planned, she would hear only silence from the phone. No ring, only silence.
There was no ring at the other end of the phone.
The priest watched her with interest. In her mind, she heard a ghostly echo, as if from a detonation far away. She wondered if she would hear this echo for the rest of her life.
Her hand steady, she put the phone back in place.
"Nobody home?" the priest asked.
"Nobody home," she said and smiled. She leaned back in her seat.
Now I've murdered, she thought numbly.
She imagined calling Drace from a pay phone in Dallas, although such a thing was forbidden to her. How many did I kill? she would ask him if she could.
She imagined him saying, Everybody. All of them. But it was, she told herself, only a small plane. A very small plane, after all.
She felt oddly detached. Her head buzzed. I am damned, she thought. La, la, la.
She opened the copy of Vogue.
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