Authors: Ruthe Ogilvie
Hildy breathed a sigh of relief. “How soon can we leave?”
“The sooner, the better,” Jay vowed. He looked at his watch. “Let’s see. It’s eight o’clock now. It’s a two-hour flight to Paris. As soon as we have breakfast I’ll have Zack warm up the engines, ready to take off. We’ll get packed and be on our way. If we leave by ten we can make the two o’clock plane to New York.” He walked over to the door. “You take your shower and get dressed. I’ll tell the others. I’m sure they’ll be delighted.”
Zack was just coming out of his room as Jay entered the hallway.
“Good morning, Zack,” Jay greeted him. “I’m glad I ran into you before we join the others. I’ve just suggested to Hildy that we all go to New York to attend Courtney’s musical. We should get as far away from here as we can. What do you think?”
Zack nodded. “I was going to suggest the same thing at breakfast,” he agreed. “Let’s see—there’s you and Hildy, Cammie and Jeremy, Fran, Courtney, myself—” he paused—“and I wouldn’t dream of leaving Andre here in all this danger. We should take him with us.”
“I wouldn’t leave without him!” Jay agreed.
“That’s eight people,” Zack figured. “I’ll call and make the reservations. We should leave as soon as possible.”
“I’ll break the news to the others,” Jay called back as he walked down the hall. “Come down to breakfast as soon as you can. The sooner we’re on that plane, the easier we’ll all feel.”
The reservations were made for an afternoon flight in First Class. They ate a hearty breakfast, then scurried around packing, ready to leave for their trip.
Now that they had a definite plan, and knew they would be out of the country away from Greg and Diane, the tension eased somewhat, although the urgency remained. They finished packing and left to go down to the landing strip outside the Chateau and board the Dubonnet jet to fly to Orly Airport in Paris.
Jeremy had learned to fly the private plane, and Zack went into the cockpit with him to act as copilot. So different, he mused, from the time I acted as copilot for Gregory, Jr. and he let me fly the plane. He shook off the memory. Let’s hope we’re rid of them for good.
The graceful bird rose from the landing pad, headed for Paris and the jet that would take them to Kennedy Airport in New York. This would put them in New York City in plenty of time for dinner and the show. They planned to get some sleep on the plane to combat jet lag.
It was noon by now, Paris time, and the plane was due to take off at two o’clock and arrive at Kennedy by eleven thirty AM New York time with the five hour difference between Paris and New York.
The Dubonnet private jet landed at Orly Airport just two hours after takeoff. Jeremy taxied in to the hangar especially reserved for the Dubonnets, and the eight of them made their way through the International Terminal to the First Class Lounge.
As they sat in the comfortable sofas, Cammie noticed a man sitting nearby—a handsome young man with brown hair and eyes. It was obvious that he was staring at Courtney. For some unexplainable reason, this made Cammie uneasy.
She looked at Zack, and could see that he, too, had noticed, and was busily studying the young man, sizing him up. She had known Zack for so long that she could easily read what he was thinking by the expression on his face. Distrust was written all over it, and Zack was never wrong in his evaluation of people.
Cammie turned toward them. “I’m going to the ladies room,” she announced. “How about it, Mom? You, too, Courtney.”
Hildy took the hint—Cammie wanted to speak to her.
“Come on, Courtney,” Hildy said. “This is a good idea before we board the plane.” She took Courtney’s hand and literally dragged her along.
Courtney seemed unaware that anything unusual was going on, although it was obvious that she had noticed the handsome young man who had been staring at her. Reluctantly she followed her mother and grandmother.
When they reached the ladies room, Cammie turned to Courtney. “Honey,” she said, “the young man who was staring at you—” She hesitated. “This is precisely what we’ve been warning you about. I know you’re flattered—he is very handsome—but he’s a stranger. You know nothing about him. Maybe he’s okay. But maybe he’s not.”
“Or maybe he knows who I am, and that we’re on our way back to New York to attend my musical,” Courtney interrupted. “My picture was in all the newspapers,” she reminded her mother.
“Maybe—maybe—there are too many maybes here,” Cammie told her. “Just when things look the most innocent is the time to be careful. If everything seems too pat, watch out!”
Courtney shrugged it off. “We can’t see a boogie man around every corner, for Pete’s sake!” she exclaimed.
Cammie and Hildy looked at each other with a helpless expression. Hildy checked her watch. “We’d better get back to the others,” she said.
Just as they appeared, the announcement came over the loud speaker that it was time for First and Business Class passengers to board.
The young man grabbed his belongings and headed toward the boarding ramp. As he walked alongside the group he paused, still staring at Courtney. When he spoke to her it was with a slight accent.
Zack listened intently, trying to figure out what kind of accent it was. In his training he had been schooled to discern the various dialects. It didn’t take him long to figure out that this tall, good-looking young man was definitely of Spanish origin.
The young man had a charming smile as he spoke to Courtney. “You look familiar,” he told her. “Do I know you from somewhere?”
Cammie stiffened at his remark. Where have I heard that line before? This was exactly how Gregory, Jr., alias the phony Francois II, had introduced himself to her at the casino in Monte Carlo many years ago.
Courtney didn’t notice her mother’s consternation. It was obvious that she was thoroughly enjoying this. “If you do, I don’t know where,” she replied to his remark.
“Well, if I haven’t met you before, I would sure like to now,” the stranger continued.
By this time they were walking down the ramp that led into the plane, and Cammie felt that this stranger was taking entirely too many liberties with her daughter.
So did Jeremy. Something about this man set him on edge.
Courtney, however, was quite taken with him. Although she was used to lots of attention from men, having been to many countries and having met men from all over the world, even royalty, this one seemed different. He had the manners of royalty, and the charm of a rascal.
At least, that’s the way it seemed to Cammie. What is he after? she wondered.
She looked at Zack. Total distrust showed in his body language. His posture was stiff and uncompromising as he walked beside them—a complete giveaway.
They entered the plane, and the young stranger turned to go into the Business Class section as Courtney and the rest of the party of eight turned left in the direction of First Class.
He smiled at Courtney. “Well, I guess this is goodbye for now,” he said. “I had to settle for Business Class. First Class was all filled up. Now I see why.”
Courtney hesitated. “Goodbye—uh—I don’t know your name.”
“Oh,” he said, “where are my manners? I’m Manfred Kasnov.
My friends call me Manny.” He paused. “And you? What is your name?”
Courtney grinned as she put out her hand. “I’m Courtney Dubonnet,” she told him.
There was a flicker of recognition in his eyes. Or was it a shrewd pretense? “Of course!” he exclaimed. “That’s where I’ve seen you before! Your picture is in all the newspapers! You wrote that wonderful musical, ‘Déjà Vu,’ that everyone is raving about! I knew you looked familiar!”
He extended his hand to the others. “And, of course, you’re Hilary Stuart, the composer, and Cameron Dubonnet who sang in your mother’s beautiful musicals! What a talent! Your voice is incredible. I was sorry when I heard that you left the stage. What a loss!”
Maybe we’re being unfair, thought Cammie. Perhaps he wasn’t pulling a line on Courtney. Our experience with Gregory, Jr. may be coloring our opinion. We really shouldn’t make snap judgments.
Cautiously, she returned his handshake.
They proceeded to their seats and fastened their seat belts. Soon the doors to the plane closed and prepared for takeoff. Courtney sat in the seat next to Zack.
Zack, still skeptical about the young man, breathed a sigh of relief, hoping that was the end of it.
But once they were airborne, Courtney rose from her seat and headed back to the Business Class section.
An hour went by, and the flight attendant was already serving afternoon tea with sandwiches and petit fours. Zack turned around and looked toward the curtain that separated First Class from Business.
He sipped his tea, deep in thought.
ourtney walked down the aisle toward the Business Class section of the plane. She pushed back the curtains that separated Business from First Class, and stood there, looking around.
Manny was sitting in the back row, almost hidden from her sight, but she finally spied him and headed in his direction, a wide smile on her face.
The seat next to him was empty. As she approached him she saw that he was talking to someone on the phone. He spoke in a low tone, and she was surprised to hear him speak in French. That’s strange! she mused. I thought he was Spanish. Then she shrugged. Lots of Europeans speak several languages. But who does he know in France?
When Manny saw her coming he said a hasty goodbye and replaced the phone to its cradle in the back of the seat in front of him. But not before Courtney heard the last few words.
“Don’t worry. Everything is going to plan.” He hung up and motioned to Courtney to join him.
“Hi,” she greeted him. “Is this seat taken?” she joked.
He grinned. “It is now. Won’t your folks object to your being here?”
“I don’t care if they do. I’m old enough to make my own choices.” She sat down and fastened her seat belt. As soon as she was settled she turned to him. “Uh—do you know someone in France? I heard you talking in French.” She tried not to sound too probing, but she was curious.
Manny averted his eyes. For just a moment he seemed at a loss for words. Then he turned to her and smiled. “Wouldn’t you like to know!” he teased. Then he relented. “It’s no secret. Just a business call. I’ve done a lot of work in France, and I was talking to a client. Just boring business stuff.”
The flight attendant was beginning to serve afternoon tea and Courtney unfastened her seat belt and started to rise to her feet.
“Stay,” Manny invited her. “Business Class is almost empty. I’m sure they won’t mind.”
Courtney sat down again.
“You’re not supposed to be here in this section,” the flight attendant admonished her. “Didn’t you come back here from First Class?”
“It’s okay,” Manny told her. “I want her here. She’s a friend of mine.”
The attendant hesitated. “Well—I guess it’s okay. Would you like some tea and scones?”
“Yes, please,” Courtney answered with a smile.
As soon as she and Manny had been served he turned to her. His eyes were warm and welcoming. “I’m glad you came back here. I was getting a little lonely. It’s nice to have someone to talk to.” He took a sip of tea and bit into one of the scones. Then he turned his attention to her. “I guess you’re going to New York to attend your musical. Why weren’t you there for opening night?”
Courtney seemed surprised. “How did you know I wasn’t?” she asked him.
Manny was silent for a moment. “Well—” he floundered—“uh—the opening was two nights ago, and you must have been in France. I just figured—”
“You’re right. I was afraid it might be a flop. I just couldn’t face people if it wasn’t a success. They’d compare me to my grandmother and mother, and I—I—guess I was a coward. I was wrong. I realize that now.”
Manny put his hand over hers in an intimate gesture. “I understand. But it’s a smash hit! Isn’t that great?”
Courtney held on to his hand. She appeared to be almost in a trance. “It sure is!” she agreed, moon-eyed. “I can’t wait to see it!”
Manny looked a little wistful. “I’d sure like to see it,” he told her. “Maybe while I’m there I’ll get a chance—”
“I’ve got a great idea!” she interrupted. “We’re going to attend the theatre tonight! Why don’t you come? You’ll be my guest!”
“Oh!” Manny exclaimed. “I’d love to! I’m free tonight. What time does it start?”
“Curtain goes up at eight sharp! Oh, please say you’ll come!” she begged. “We have a private box on the second level. I’ll see you there! Tonight! I’ll tell them at the Box Office!”
“I’ll look forward to it,” he promised.
Time seemed to fly as Courtney and Manny visited. Soon the attendant came with their dinners, but Courtney was so entranced with Manny that she just picked at her food. Time seemed all too short when the Captain announced that they were approaching Kennedy Airport, and it was time to fasten the seat belts.
Courtney rose from her seat, then turned back to Manny. “Don’t forget,” she reminded him. “I’ll look for you. I want you to join us in our private box.”
She said goodbye and rushed back to the First Class section. She no sooner fastened her seat belt when she felt the plane begin its slow descent to its designated runway at JFK airport on Long Island, New York.
he plane approached Kennedy Airport on schedule. The group managed to get a little sleep. All except Courtney, who was visiting with Manny. And Zack, who was extremely disturbed about Courtney going into the Business Class section of the plane shortly after takeoff. He knew, of course, why she did. Obviously, she was smitten with the handsome young man who had introduced himself as they boarded the plane in Paris.
Zack’s intuition was hard at work, and he felt a terrible sense of foreboding. Courtney returned to her seat only twenty minutes before they landed in New York.
Zack looked up as she sat down beside him. “How was your visit with Manny?” he asked.
Courtney turned to Zack, her eyes sparkling with excitement. “Oh, Uncle Zack—” The words spilled over into each other. “He’s—he’s just—wonderful! I think I’m in love!”