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Chapter Five

But when I opened my eyes it was to find the flight attendant telling me there were no officers that had been brought on board before take-off.

I stared out the window, at the patchwork quilt of land below, feeling sick and helpless.

Aiden scootched over. She studied me a second. "I'm sorry she didn't get on board," she said to me. She paused. "Maybe she really did get on the wrong plane."

My mouth was dry. I stayed looking out the window because I didn't know what else to do. I refused to think what could've happened to keep Emma from getting on board that plane with me. In all the years I'd known her, she'd never once let me down.

I know it's backwards, I know the man's supposed to protect the woman and chivalry and all that crap, but Em and I were always different than that. From the very beginning we were different than that. In high school, I was the fat kid that wasn't athletic enough to play football. I was the only kid in the journalism club, the only one working on the school newspaper. I took it seriously, though, and I'd skulk around with my notepad and pencil taking notes for the paper's columns. I was frequently the target of bullies.

The day I met Emma was her first day of being in the new school. Her thick, curly blonde hair and electric green eyes had all the guys going crazy trying to show off for her and I ended up being the punching bag when one of them wanted to show off his fighting skills after a rumor went around that Emma had signed up to join a kickboxing club held on Wednesdays after school. Like I said, I was an easy target and the most obvious one, since I was big it looked like an even fight if I'd had some kind of fighting ability. "It's like fighting a little girl," he laughed as I held up my palms to block him when he came at me in the middle of the crowded hallway.

Emma came over and in one fell swoop, much like she'd done in the airport to the guy that approached us, knocked my assailant flat on his back. She got right in his face, "Touch him again and I'll show you what it's really like to fight a girl," she snapped.

That was the last time I ever got beat up in high school.

I guess that's why I ran in the airport, when she told me to run. I knew Em and I knew she was capable of holding her own, and that even if I'd stayed and tried to protect her, the truth was I'm more of a liability than anything else. Emma was the one who fought our battles. I was the one that stood behind her and held her afterwards and tucked her into bed after a long day of being kickass.

Suddenly I became aware of Aiden leaning close, sniffing my shoulder. I looked over at her, shifted in my seat, pulling my shoulder away from her. "What in hell are you doing?" I demanded.

Aiden stared up at me. She had brown eyes that were kind of intense I guess but it looked like she had contacts on that made them that way. She sat upright again. "Sorry," she said, "You just smell so good. What are you wearing?"

"Dove soap," I answered. Because that's all I had on. I didn't expect to be leaving the house. I thought I was making dinner and that Emma would come home happily telling tales of having found the Gregor boy and we'd eat meatloaf and maybe have sex or something before going to bed. I didn't think I'd be flying all over the country alone with a weird girl that would sniff me in the next seat.

Aiden sat back up and looked away.

"You're really outspoken or something," I said in an accusing tone.

She turned to look at me and shrugged. "Why be quiet about something when you can just say it? I mean, you might think I'm weird but at least I know now."

I stayed shifted as far away as I could, considering the tiny seats it really wasn't that far. I really wished Emma was sitting there instead of Aiden and that maybe Emma would be explaining what had happened that had landed us on the plane. It was driving me crazy, I kept running it over and over in my head, trying to figure out what connected Daniel Gregor to the guys in the airport. Other than them being the guys that kidnapped the kid, I couldn't think of anything.

But Em had said it was obvious.

Obviously, she had more information that made a connection obvious.

Although as obvious as she'd thought it was, she obviously had stumbled into something that had thrown her and Seth both off guard. Maybe like kicking a bee's nest or overturning a rock and discovering an ant coloney. I rubbed my hands across my knees.

"You're a really nervous guy," Aiden commented.

"My wife is back in New York and I'm on a plane that I didn't know where it was even going until after it was already taking off," I said, "I think I'm entitled to being nervous."

Aiden shrugged, "I'd look at it like an adventure."

"I don't have adventures, I'm like a hobbit that way," I said.

Aiden smirked, "Hobbits had some of the most amazing adventures of anyone in literary history," she commented. "Hobbits just didn't know they were cut out for adventure because they were too stubborn and rooted in their ways." She looked at my stomach. "You look like you might share dietary patterns, though."

I wasn't sure how to respond to that.

When the plane landed and the pilot had welcomed us all to Nashville, Tennessee, I shot out of my seat and grabbed the four duffle bags that I'm not entirely sure how I'd managed to get onto the plane with - the flight attendants seemed unsure, too, as I hauled them out of the overhead bins and almost knocked Aiden in the head with one - and rushed down the gangway into the terminal.

The moment my feet were on the carpet inside, I whipped my cell phone out of my pocket and turned it on. The screen took forever to load, it seemed, but the moment it was up I hit Emma's name and waited for it to ring.

Her ringback tone is this old song from the 80s called Little Suzi by this band Tesla that I'm pretty sure she's the only person left on earth that still gives a crap about them.

The song only played for a couple seconds, then the call went to voicemail.

"You've reached the voicemail of Officer Emma Fife. Please leave a message and I will get back to you as soon as I can. If this is an emergency concerning an open case, please call the precinct number at 917-555-2325. Thank you."


"I just landed in Nashville. Now what? Where are you? Call me." I hung up.

Aiden was suddenly in front of me. "No answer, huh?"

"She'll call."

Aiden studied me. "What are you gonna do until she does?"

"I dunno," I answered. I didn't. I looked around. "I guess I'm gonna find a Starbucks and get some coffee and maybe a sandwich."

Aiden raised an eyebrow. "Like I said, dietary patterns of a hobbit. Why don't you come with me," she suggested.

I stared at her. "Why would I go with you?"

"My dad owns a hotel and diner here in the city. I'm guessing you don't have any where to sleep and the terminal chairs are really uncomfortable. Trust me, I slept in them in New York last night." She laughed.

I didn't like the idea of going home with this weird girl that sniffed my shoulder, but a quick glance at the hard plastic chairs that lined the terminal and I was feeling a little better about the concept. "He has a hotel, you said?"

"And a diner," she answered, "With - literally - award winning food. Guy Fieri visited last year. He has a picture of me with Guy over the booth Guy sat at. I'll show you."

I was a pretty big fan of Guy Fieri. I've seen almost every episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives and Emma got me Guy's pan collection for Christmas. I'd fanboyed over it. I mean, it has flames painted on it. Coolest. Pans. Ever.