Read First Class Killing Online

Authors: Lynne Heitman

Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Suspense, #Thrillers, #Women Sleuths

First Class Killing (8 page)

BOOK: First Class Killing
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“I always preferred to think of it as making a better choice for myself.”

Okay, here was the further complication. Jamie would think I had lost my mind if I told him the real choice I had made. It might be hard to convince him otherwise, since I spent the first five minutes of every day trying to convince myself that I hadn’t.

“I don’t know if Jamie would accept my choice.”

“Does it matter?”


“He’s your brother, not your husband. It would be a shame if he didn’t support you, but he’s got his life, and you’ve got yours, right? At some point, even families end up going their separate ways.”

“I guess so.” We were in a lineup on the taxiway, so every once in a while, we would inch forward and stop. Mostly we were idling in one spot. “It’s just…he’s my only real family now.”

“Yet you’re not speaking. Isn’t that interesting? What’s it about, anyway?”

There was no point in trying to resist him. He would be relentless until he pried it out of me. “Jamie and his wife invited me to come down for Christmas dinner last year, and I didn’t make it, and he got angry, and I got angry, and we never really made up.”

“That’s it?”

“It seemed big at the time.” I stared down at the worn rubber floor covering, where a thousand flight attendants before me had rested their feet. “It has to do with my father.”

“Doesn’t it always? Go on.”

“We hadn’t had anything close to a family holiday gathering in ages. I’ve worked in airports forever. You know what that’s like. Christmas at the airport.”

“Or at thirty-five thousand feet.”

“Right. But I didn’t have a job last year, so I was excited. I bought gifts for the kids and for Jamie and Gina. I got them this really neat…anyway, I ended up sending the gifts.”

“Why didn’t you go? This doesn’t sound like you at all.”

“Because after I accepted their invitation, he invited my father.”

“You said it was a family dinner. What am I missing?”

“I can’t stand my father.” The sharp pain in my heart was now a stabbing pain in my gut. “I can’t remember the last time I was in the same room with him.”

“My goodness, you have a lot of estrangement in your life. Are you sure you’re not gay? Who in your family
you speaking with? Your mother?”

“My mother is dead.”

“She is? Oh, dear. I’m sorry.” He reached for my hand in my lap, gave it a quick squeeze, and let go. He always seemed to know just the right grace note to hit.

“It was a long time ago.”

“How old were you?”


“And that made Jamie how old?”

I always had to think about it. For some reason, instead of just subtracting five from my own age, I always did it by taking the year she died and subtracting the year he was born. “Nine. He was nine.”

“So you’re his mom-sister. Complicated. Did he beat you?”


“Your father, ninny. Is that why you hate him? Or maybe he molested you.”

“No. Nothing like that. My dad’s a bully. He’s intellectually abusive. He loves to club you in the head with his massive intellect. He convinced Jamie he was stupid.”

“How stupid can he be if he’s a big cheese in a Wall Street firm?”

“He’s not at all stupid. He has a learning disability, and before it was diagnosed, he had a hard time in school. Really hard. My father used to make fun of him, of how hard he tried. Called him lazy, stuff like that.”

“Sounds as if Daddy is the one who was fucked up.”

“Once Jamie was diagnosed, he learned how to compensate. He might even overcompensate.”

“Thus the whiz kid stuff.”

“Yeah. But back then, he was just this little kid with no friends and no mother and a miserable, self-loathing prick for a father who got his kicks by picking on him. My stomach is seething right now just talking about it.” Which was exactly why I hated rehashing the stuff.

“Why would Jamie invite his prick of a father over for Christmas?”

“I have no idea. Honestly, I don’t know why he invited him.”

“You didn’t ask?”

“I got pissed off, and then he got pissed that I was pissed, and we had a big fight and hung up and never called each other back. This is the first time I’ve seen him since.”

I felt the aircraft turn. We were in the pause between taxiing and blasting down the runway. The captain hit the gas, the aircraft surged, and the g-forces pushed us forward against our harnesses. I didn’t much like flying backward. The two of us sat quietly as the aircraft lifted off and settled into a steady climb.

“I have the solution,” he said finally.



“No way. I didn’t do anything. I mean, I did, but…” That all came out much too fast, and I started feeling how I probably sounded—like a ten-year-old. “I know I need to, but I can’t right now. It will turn into a big thing. Everything is a big deal between us these past few years. It takes so much time and energy and—”

“And he’s not worth it.”

“I didn’t say that. What I’m saying is I can’t deal with it right now.”

“Then when?”

“It’s on my list.” I said it quietly. Maybe I really didn’t want him to hear it.

He shook his head. “You’re an idiot. Truthfully, Alexandra, I’m not trying to be mean, but who else do you have in your life? I know I’m wonderful, and Reenie is, too, and we love you, but shouldn’t you have some connection to some member of your family? It’s cold out there without them. Take it from someone who knows.”

The aircraft was banking left, making a grand, sweeping turn west. It would be time to go to work soon.

“What,” he asked, “did you end up doing for Christmas, anyway?”

“I ate a frozen pizza and half a pint of ice cream and went to the movies by myself.”

“I rest my case.”



the seating chart to prepare the drinks. I stared over his shoulder, bounced on the balls of my feet until my calves ached, and did nothing useful. “Do you have any celery? Jamie likes celery in his tomato juice.”

“He didn’t ask for it, but I’ll check.” He found a stalk, dropped it in, and placed the glass in the last empty spot on the tray. I stared at the drinks for half a second, then picked up Jamie’s and left the rest. “I’ll be back for those. Let me do this first.”

I tried a couple of smiles, all of which felt forced and painful. I picked the one that felt the least cheesy. When I pulled up next to Jamie’s seat wearing my forced and frozen smile, he didn’t even raise his head.


He glanced up and didn’t quite register who it was leaning over him to deliver his drink. He reached for it with a polite smile that turned to stunned surprise.

He blinked at me, then looked up toward the galley, as if it would help his understanding to see precisely where I had just come from.

“What are you doing here? What are you wearing?”

Then I watched his eyes as they made the slow and deliberate sweep from my face to my uniform to my name tag and back. The look that crossed his face in the moment of comprehension was pure reaction, a translation, stark and true, of the thoughts running through his brain. He recovered, but not in time. I hadn’t seen my brother in ten months. The first thought he had when he saw me in my uniform was disappointment.

“Hi, Jamie.” I crossed my arms as though I could hide my entire body behind the two bare lengths of skin and bone. Awkward was not even close to what I was feeling. He was strapped to his seat, bound by FAA rules to stay that way, so we couldn’t greet each other as we might have before the great estrangement—with a hug. I didn’t feel comfortable leaning down to kiss him, and shaking hands would have been beyond weird. So we did nothing, and the space between us might as well have been the space between Mercury and Pluto.

My smile was gone, but he offered an uncertain one that grew bigger when an idea came to him. “Wait. Is this one of those management walk-a-mile-in-my-shoes programs?”

“No. I’m your flight attendant, and I’ll be serving you today.”

“Oh.” Now his smile was frozen.

“How are you, Jamie? How have you been?”

“Good. I’ve been good. When did you start—”

“A couple of months ago. How’s Gina?”


“The kids?”


My next question would have been about what he was doing in Boston, but if I asked it, he might feel obligated to offer a lame excuse about why he didn’t call while he was there, something he didn’t want to say and I didn’t want to hear. But with that question in the way, I couldn’t see past it to another. I smiled and nodded. He smiled and nodded and moved his juice a centimeter to the right.

“You changed your hair,” he said, looking and then not looking at me.

“I did. Yeah.” I reached up and pulled at the ends in the back. It hadn’t occurred to me that I might look different to him, too. “Do you like it?”

“It’s really different. I’m not sure I would have recognized you.” He looked at me steadily for the first time, not at my uniform or my waistband or the tray table. I was the one who flinched.

“We should talk, Jamie, but I have to serve the other passengers first. I’ll come back.”

“Wait, are you…will you be in LA tonight?”

“I’ll come back when I have a minute.”

“Okay. I’m not going anywhere.” He managed a real smile for the first time, one that helped me recognize that he was really in there. It was good to see, but I didn’t have one for him, and I wasn’t sure why.

Not being the best flight attendant ever to travel the skies, I’d had difficult trips, most of which were memorialized in my personnel file. But I’d never had one as tense and nerve-racking as this one. I mixed up meal choices twice. I had to be asked three times to bring creamer out to a coffee drinker. I actually dropped a sticky almond pastry onto a man’s sleeve when the tongs slipped. Eventually, Tristan took pity on me and swapped positions, leaving me to hide out in the galley, where I hoped Jamie wouldn’t come and find me, and I hoped that he would.


I turned, and he was standing there with his hands in his pockets, his expression a little hopeful and a little nervous, and now what I thought about when I looked at him was last Christmas Day and my celebration of pizza, butter pecan, and self-pity. It made me feel vulnerable, and I couldn’t have that, so I went with angry, which was why I couldn’t make myself hug him. I knew he was waiting for a sign. That’s the one he got. I felt crummy about it, but it was how I felt.

He tried to find a comfortable place to lean against and couldn’t seem to. “I…uh, so I got promoted.” He pulled his hand out of his pocket and offered his business card. I took it.

“You switched firms.” I ran my thumb across the raised letters and the phone number I had never called. I wasn’t the only one who had made changes.

“They offered me a partnership.”

“A partnership. Wow, Jamie, that’s…great. I know that’s what you’ve been working for. Congratulations.” I reached down to slide the card into my pocket and saw something on the back. A phone number he’d written in. “What’s this?”

“Our new home number. I bought a new house.”

“You did?”

“About six weeks ago. We just moved in.”

Hearing that was like a blow to the chest. He had changed practically his whole life, and I had missed it. I couldn’t tell if I was angry or sad or…I couldn’t be angry. I had done the same thing. We had done it to each other.

Tristan slipped around behind Jamie and joined me in the galley. I introduced them, and they shook hands. “Alexandra told me you were onboard. I’m so delighted to meet you, Jamie.”

“Alexandra.” Jamie grinned at me. “I thought Mom was the only one who ever called you that.”

“It’s a wonderful name,” Tristan said, managing to do a lot of bustling in a very confined area. “I see no reason not to use all of the syllables.”

Jamie kept shifting from one side of the doorway to the other. “Am I in your way? I feel like I’m in the way. I’ll go back to my seat.”

“Not at all. I’m leaving now. Please, you two. As you were.” He vanished and left us alone again, but not without a quick wink that only I could see.

Jamie reached up and scratched the back of his head, which changed his view just enough that he wasn’t looking at me when he asked, “Do you want to get together tonight? I have meetings all day, but I could…I’d like to take you to dinner.”

Instead of raising his head, he stared at his shoes, waiting for me to accept or reject his offer, and I remembered how after Mom died, he wouldn’t let me buy him new shoes. He only wanted to wear the ones she’d bought him, so he walked around for months in sneakers that hurt, but he wouldn’t let them go. It was completely unreasonable to be in such pain, and it made perfect sense, and for a second, as I stood watching him stare at his shoes, I wanted nothing more than to go sit with him and talk and try to put things back together, to make them the way they used to be. But I couldn’t. I might be able to talk, but I didn’t know how to make us the way we used to be, and I was afraid I would make it worse, because any relationship I had with him could not include my father, and I was afraid to ask about that.

I looked down at my own feet. We were both standing there in shoes that hurt because they didn’t fit anymore, but we had no new shoes to put on.

“Jamie, I don’t…I can’t make it tonight. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t you think it would be good for us to talk?” Now he was looking at me. I noticed as I turned away.

“Yes. I do want to talk.” My hands were moving, and things were happening on the galley surface in front of me. I just wasn’t sure what. “I can’t do it tonight.”

“Fine.” He said it with bite, the verbal equivalent of a door slamming.

“I have to work.”

“Doing what?” He may not have meant to put that sneer in his voice, but it was there and I heard it. It was all I heard.

I turned to him, one hand on my hip. “This is a job, Jamie. I do real work. I earn real money. It might not be something you can feel proud of, but I’m proud of the choices I’ve made.”

BOOK: First Class Killing
5.14Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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