Category Archives: Flight 404

Book excerpt from new fiction novel

Flight 404 Chapter 79

Chapter 79

Frank and I had followed Elise Rivera all morning.  We were watching her, when we spotted David in the airport terminal.  We watched as he went into the gift shop, bought a magazine, and came out.  We watched as he found a seat some rows from Saul and his family. 

We were watching as Saul, his wife Rose, his daughter, and Sylvia all boarded Trans Air Flight 200 to Israel, while the rest of the family waived farewell.  David’s attention was riveted on the little family.

Ours was on Elise Rivera as she went about her job of emptying trash cans.  Frank’s body stance the whole time was tense as if he were waiting to spring into action.  When the gate attendant closed and locked the boarding gate, he literally let out a sigh of relief.  “She didn’t try anything,” I said. Too many people around, perhaps.”

Unfortunately, we’d both taken our eyes off David.  That’s why we weren’t prepared for what happened next.

The boarding door was closed, the camera crews were packing up to leave, and Saul’s family was standing by the gate windows waiting for the plane to pull away from the boarding dock.  Elise started loading her little cleaning cart, and suddenly David was on his feet screaming, REBECCA!  REBECCA SCHUSTER!

“I guess he identified her from watching those tapes over and over.”  “For whatever reason, he’d seen through her new disguise as Elise Rivera.

Next thing we knew, David was charging across the room brandishing a thirty-eight and demanding that Rebecca stop and put her hands in the air. 

Everyone else around him had turned to stone transformed by the presence of a gun. Everyone except Elise Rivera.  No. Elise ran for a door marked, ‘Employees Only.’  David went through after her.  And Frank went after David, but not before telling me to get that plane stopped.

I was literally banging my fists on the gate attendant’s desk.  “Call Security!” Get someone down here, now.”  Little did I know, Security was already on the way. 

I turned around and was facing Frank’s boss.  “What are you doing here?, I asked.”

“I saw the two of you leave the office together.  I figured you were up to something and I didn’t want to be the last to know.  So, I followed you.  Now which way?”

“Through the door marked, ‘Employees Only.’

Trans Air Flight 200 started rolling away from the gate unaware of the circumstances unfolding on the tarmac.  Rebecca was running after the plane as if she were going to catch it.  My heart stopped as I saw David aim the gun.

Part of me wanted him to shoot, for Sam’s sake, but a part of me knew that if he did, he would most likely be convicted of murder.  I held my breath and prayed.

Frank lunged forward and caught David off-guard knocking him to the ground.  The gun fired and Rebecca Schuster disappeared between the wheels of Trans Air Flight 200.



Flight 404 Chapter 78

Chapter 78

That fucking Saul Abramovitz was so scared, he looked as though he was about to piss in his pants.  Man, he wanted to laugh.  It was all he could do to contain himself.  

“Saul, Saul, he thought, if you only you knew what awaited you, you’d have real reason to be scared.”  I’m gonna get you this time. 

I almost started to do you right here in front of everybody.  I was so close to you, I could have reached out and touched you.  I even heard what that ‘know it all’ wife of yours said, “Saul, will you just relax.  The FBI told us there’s nothing to worry about.  They said Rebecca is gone.  She’s disappeared from this area.  She’s probably gotten as far away from New York as she possibly can.  Come on honey relax, please.” 

I’m going kill her ass too — right along with yours.  Then I’m going home, kick off my shoes, get myself a cold beer, and watch as they hunt for your dead asses in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. 

But Saul, I have to give you this.  I love the way you beg!  I heard that too!  “Rose, I just don’t feel right about this, please let’s go home!”    Beg her again for me p l e a s e – Saul – p l e a s e !  Beg! Yes, beg for your pathetic little nothing of a life.  There won’t be any pretty little tug boats to pull your ass out of the water this time, old pal.

You’re going to know what Rebecca felt like when her father was raping her and she told you and you threatened to tell everyone if she didn’t do ‘sex things’ with you and your little friends.  Everyone thought you bastards were being kind to the little German girl whose parents were stupid enough to settle in the midst of a bunch of Jews.  But you bastards were anything but kind.  You never listened as she begged you to leave her alone.  I’d bet anything that before the day is over, you’ll beg you’re your life again.”

The gate attendant interrupted his thoughts.  She was standing in front of him, black high heel company shoes shined and her uniform freshly cleaned for the reporters, telling him that ‘she’ was lingering too long in the area.  He counted how many times her red rouged lips formed a perfect circle as she talked.  She told him, that ‘she’ needed to finish her work in the area and move on. 

“Damn shame about Maria, he thought, because this puta would have perfect!”


Flight 404 Chapter 77

Chapter 77

No way that creep was getting away with killing Kate.  David parked his navy blue Ford Taurus in the parking lot of JFK airport.  He was dressed in a gray sweatshirt, faded jeans, and a lightweight navy windbreaker.  None of which was his usual style.  He’d made a deliberate effort not to be noticed and this was as low profile as he got.  A New York Mets cap completed his disguise.  His thirty-eight was tucked neatly into a shoulder holster concealed beneath the windbreaker.    

Carefully and stealthfully, he made his way to the International terminal.  For a Sunday evening it was unusually crowded.  About mid-way his journey, he had the uncanny feeling that he was being followed, but did his best to ignore the feeling.    But with each step, the feeling nagged at him a little more.  He told himself, that he was being paranoid and that Lester Schuster was after Saul and Frank not him.

But just in case, he thought it wise to do a little surveillance.  The gift shop was up ahead.  He’d use it as a way of determining whether or not someone was following him.  He quickly ducked into the shop and went directly to a magazine rack.   

He picked up a copy of the New Yorker and pretended he was reading, all the time keeping his eye on the front door.   It was an old spy trick he’d picked up from watching movie noir films on TV. 

As each person walked passed, he surveyed their faces for familiarity.  After a few minutes, he reassured, himself that no one was following him.  He bought the magazine and left.

He knew he’d reached the correct terminal when he saw all the television cameras.  Saul and, his wife Rose, were in the middle of an interview.  There must have been at least a half dozen or so reporters all jostling for a sound bite. 

He forgot about the reporters and even Saul and surveyed the crowd for Rebecca Schuster or any of her alters. 

He took a seat out of Saul and Sylvia’s view and continued surveying the room for either Rebecca, Mary Ellen, or Lester.

It occurred to him that she might have already done whatever damage she was going to do and that he might not get an opportunity to stop her. 

As he was waiting, one of the gate attendants went over and said something to a cleaning lady who was emptying trash not too far from the Abramovitzs, while the other one started ushering Saul, Rose, their daughter, and Sylvia down the boarding ramp.

He watched some of the interaction between the gate attendant and the cleaning lady but reserved most of his attention for Saul. 

Recognition.  It started slowly like a Kodak Insta picture coming into focus.  The hair was long, wavy and dark brown and she’d lost some weight, but it was definitely her.

Flight 404 Chapter 76

Chapter 76

Before leaving the Omni Star Hotel, I had the concierge pack up a goody basket filled with coffee, roast beef sandwiches, fried chicken, and some of the most devilishly delicious petit fours this side of the Atlantic.

I poured us both a cup of the coffee from the hotel’s thermos.  The coffee had a rich nutty cinnamon flavor that eased us into conversation. 

“This isn’t exactly what I had in mind when I asked you to join me in New York,” I said.

“No! Exactly what did you have in mind?”

“Well, I thought that we ……  I hesitated before finishing the statement.  I took a sip of my coffee and turned to look out the car’s window.  A bag lady was walking past pushing her shopping cart, loaded down no doubt with everything she had in the world.  It was about six degrees out and mostly likely, she was wearing the only that she possessed in the world.  A gray fuzzy matted thing and she had topped it with a gray shawl someone had knitted a long long time ago and because of prosperity, had thrown away.  She walked bent over, not from the ravages of age, but from a lack of love and support.

“I thought perhaps we could pick up from where we left off, last Christmas.”

“You mean me in a towel – he chuckled — and you saying no. I’d hoped we wouldn’t start there.”

“Things are different now.”

“How are things different now, he said turning his head to look at me.

“My husband’s ghost isn’t standing between us anymore.”

There was a momentary silence in the car while I held my breath.  Was I wrong about his feelings?  Had I waited too long?”  I heard the leather of the car seat crunch as he shifted his body around in order to kiss me.


Flight 404 Chapter 75

Chapter 75

Two agents from the Discreet Detective Agency staked out the Salem Hotel.  Frank and I took the Eighty-eight Street Hotel. 

The Eighty-eight Street Hotel was a scene right out of a detective novel.  Calling this place seedy would have been a compliment.  The walls were two different shades of green.  Neither one especially appealing.  The upper half a nauseating yellow green and the bottom half was a dark pea soup green.  And both top and bottom walls were covered over with a greasy dirty film. 

The scuffed brown floor tile with white speckling only enhanced its run down look.  The blinds that covered the lobby’s windows had long ago turned a parchment tan and most of them were torn at the bottom with curled up edges.  Others had collected a mélange of various stains.  Pushed in the corners of the lobby were piles of dust and dirt, discarded coffee cups, used condoms and waded up tissues.   A shriveled up old man with stringy gray hair sat behind a caged in counter.

When Frank and I approached the window his first words were, “we don’t rent by the hour.”   I looked him straight in the eyes and replied, “Neither do I.”  He looked me over from head to foot, and replied, “Oh, you’re the high priced spread.”  Looking a Frank he added with a smirk on his face, “You’re into the kinky stuff.”  I was about to set him straight when Frank stepped in between us.

“Listen mister, we didn’t come here to rent a room.  We came for some information.”  He scowled even more and scratched his scraggly old head as if trying to work up a credible answer in advance.  A twenty-dollar bill relaxed the scowl on his face.  Frank showed him a picture of Rebecca Schuster dressed as Lester Schuster. 

He was here.  Gone now I suppose”

“Do you know where he went?”

“Don’t know.  What he do anyway?”

“He owes us some money.” 

“How much money?”

“That’s between us and him.”

“You don’t look like the type to lend money”, he said looking directly at me.

“We just want our money back,” I said.

“Is there a reward?”

Frank slipped him another twenty.

“I haven’t seen him for awhile.  But he has a girlfriend staying up there.”


“Some girl named, ah let’s see here, he said looking through his registry.  Yes, Elise Rivera.  I caught her trying to sneak in and out a couple of weeks ago.  I put her straight.  I said if two people gonna stay in a room I’m gonna charge for two people.  I told her they were gonna pay for two people or get the hell out.  I ain’t seen Lester since.”  

“Any idea where she goes when she goes out?”

“The last time I was up there, I took a little peek.  I saw a JFK employee ID tag.”

“When was that, asked Frank.”

“A couple of days ago.”

“Is she upstairs in the apartment, now?”

The old man shook his head, no, and his neck creaked from the effort.

“When do you expect her back?”

“Tonight sometime.”

Before leaving, Frank slipped the old man another twenty not to mention our visit.


Flight 404 Chapter 74

Chapter 74

Our plane landed pretty much on time and without incident.  I must confess I was a little apprehensive about flying with Frank.  After all Rebecca Schuster was still out there.

As I recall, we were at Baggage Claim when my mobile phone rang. 


“Margaret it’s David. LaTanya gave me the message that you’re in Virginia meeting with Frank.”

“I was, but now we’re in New York at JFK. Our plane arrived about ten minutes ago. We decided to try and convince Saul not to take this trip and if we can’t do that, we’re going to keep a look out for any signs that Rebecca might be up to her old tricks.”

“I’ve got a better idea and a probable reason why the FBI hasn’t been able to locate her.  I believe Rebecca is living as a man, as Lester Schuster.”

“I guess that makes sense. She is very convincing as a man.”   

“Yes, she is because she thinks she’s a man.  And that’s what I’ve been working on – what and where would she go as a man.  And I think I’ve got it solved.”

“Great, I’ll call you back when we get to the hotel.”

“Sounds like you and Frank are becoming quite an item.”

I watched as Frank pulled first my suitcase and then his from the luggage carousel.

“I think it has possibilities.”

“Just be careful.”

“I will. You can fax that information over to the Omni Star Hotel in Manhattan.”  We both hung up. 

“What was that about?

“David says he has a lead on Rebecca.”

“Good, I’d rather look for Rebecca any day than have another conversation with Saul.  I’m sure he still blames our last talk for his behavior during the crash.”

“You were only trying to warn him.”

“I’m afraid he doesn’t see it that way.”

By now we had made our way through the terminal and were standing on the curve with our luggage. 

“I’ll get us a taxi.  By the way, where are we staying?”

“I made reservations for us at the Omni Star Hotel.”

The package of information was waiting for us when we arrived.  According to David, Rebecca had emptied her checking account on the first day she went missing. So, he had started his search for Lester Schuster based on hotels within walking distance from a branch of the same bank that Rebecca used.  The hotel or motel, we were looking for would also have storage units nearby where Lester could store a vehicle and one which tolerated prostitution.  There were only two hotels close to the bank which Rebecca used that fit that within our search range.


Flight 404 Chapter 73

Chapter 73

Maria Conchita Alonso Alverez took one subway train, two buses, and one and half hours to reach her third floor walk-up on Flatbush Avenue.

As she turned the key in the lock, she said a silent prayer to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, that her four-year-old son, Juan, and her six-year-old daughter Christina were OK inside the apartment.

A five year veteran with Trans Air’s cleaning crew, Maria made eight dollars an hour with no benefits.  She received one hundred and fifty dollars a month in food stamps to feed herself and her two children.  The city of New York also granted her, as a single mother, a one hundred and twenty dollar housing allowance to assist in covering her seven hundred and fifty dollars a month rent.  All of her other bills, electricity, gas, phone, toiletries, shoes and clothing for two growing children, transportation costs to and from work, and the remaining six hundred and thirty dollars of her rent, came out of her Trans Air salary.

And like so many others, who had made the journey from Mexico’s poverty to New York’s promise, she was expected to send money home.  In order to cover all her expenses, she was often forced to leave her children home alone.

Today, her prayers were answered.  Christina bounded across the room and greeted her mother with a broad smile and a big, “Hola MaMe.”  Her little brother Juan waddled in from the bedroom dragging his teddy bear behind him after hearing that his mother was home.

Maria gathered her children in her arms and hugged and kissed each one, telling them how pleased she was to have such good little ninas. 

Christina was the first to notice the bags Maria had hidden in the hallway.  “What is in the bags, MaMe?” 

“You will find out.  Now help me carry everything into the kitchen.”

As she unpacked the heavily laden bags, the children oohed and aahed as each item sprung up from their depths.  Maria, herself, wondered about the strange young woman who had given her such a wonderful gift.

Last week she had taken her usual seat in Trans Air’s employee cafeteria to eat her modest brown bag lunch when the young woman had sat down next to her.  At first they exchanged the usual pleasantries and both ate their lunch in mutual silence.  The next day, the young woman was back.  This time, she introduced herself as Elise Rivera, a member of the airport’s terminal cleaning crew, cleaning bathrooms and pulling trash. 

By Wednesday, the two were fast friends.  On Thursday, Elise had confided to Maria a dream she’d held for a long time.  “I have a dream of being like you, Maria, cleaning the big jets.”  She went on to propose an almost unbelievable plan to Maria and she was willing to pay Maria for her part in it.    “I’ll give you ten thousand dollars for a chance at getting a spot on your cleaning crew.  “Where did you get so much money?”   “I have saved it. I know what I want to do and cleaning bathrooms all my life is not it.  If I get on your crew, I might meet a pilot and marry him and not have to worry anymore about anything.  I have a plan.”  “Si,” Maria, said.

“All you have to do Maria is tell your supervisor that you need to return home to Mexico on urgent family business and that you have a friend who will fill in for you while you’re gone.  And give my name, That’s all you have to do, Maria!”

“If anyone finds out, I’ll lose my job.”

“I understand, Maria.” Sadden by Maria’s refusal, Elise had hung her head and remained silent for the rest of their lunch hour.

 All Maria could think about was how badly she needed the money and of her two young children who were at home alone.

Maria finished cooking and sat the plates heaped with hamburgers and store bought French fries drowned in catsup in front of each child.  In the middle of the table she sat a bowl of fresh fruit.  She went back to the kitchen and poured tall glasses of ice cold milk for each child.  Finally she set a plate and glass for herself and sat down at the table with her children.

The children sat motionlessness in front of the steeped plates afraid to touch them.  Only on special occasions did they have meat.  Christina asked if they were having company.  Maria explained it was all for them.  “Eat up ninas.”  Maria smiled at her good little ninas and started eating. 

She had a plan, too.  And it didn’t include returning to Trans Air. Elise Rivera, she suspected was up to something illegal – perhaps drug smuggling.  But that didn’t matter to her.  What mattered was her ninas. 

Tomorrow she would pack for the trip back home to Mexico – with all that money she could return home and buy a house for herself, her children, and her mother.  Never again would she have to worry about her ninas being alone.