Cruel Paradise

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Chapter 42

Larkin held her breath and anxiously watched as the headlights drew closer and the noisy engine got louder. She was ready for it to pull up next to the stairs so she that could get a few shots off before the Lieutenant had a chance to act. But the car passed her by, continuing down the length of the runway as planned.

She exhaled, slumping against the plush interior wall. It was Blane after all. Still, the Lieutenant could run up to the plane if he wanted to. It would seem that her mind was now in a constant fight or flight state, and she’d be spending the foreseeable future identifying every potential threat and coming up with escape plans. But she couldn’t ignore the possibility of yet another thing going horribly wrong for her in the present, and wearily forced herself back in to her crouch behind the partition, scrutinizing the hazy darkness near the entrance of the hanger.

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Blane thought of the sad sight of Howell’s figure back there in the dark rusted out warehouse, still sitting obligingly immobile. He’d been ready for Howell to jump up and try to fight, even though he was on the opposite side of the back wall, bound, and injured. But he didn’t. The engine turned over easily, and Aberland turned on the headlights, illuminating Howell slouching there, his head hanging and his expression unreadable. As he drove away, he wondered what thoughts must have been plaguing Howell in that moment. Was he going to cut his losses and leave Tholen and Tortola? Was he going to give up and resign himself to whatever fate would be dealt at Tholen’s cruel hands? Who knew? All he’d wanted was to finish his working days in a cushy job on an island, which for all intents and purposes has been abandoned by the free world, and retire somewhere in the Caribbean. What would become of him now?

Blane shook the thoughts away. Howell’s fate was his own. There was no need to empathize with him. The man was capable of saving his own hide. He drove quietly down the bumpy runway and parked at the end so that the lights beamed across it, creating a line of light that would show him how much distance he had left to get the plane off the ground.

Blane would be lying if he said that he didn’t have a few misgivings about trying his hand at flying the plane untrained and unsupervised. Once they were in the air it would be easy. Even landing it wouldn’t be too tough. But taking off was another story. He’d heard somewhere that these days planes were pretty idiot-proof. Idiot-proof for someone who’d taken a few aviation courses, that is.

He jogged back and took the stairs two at a time, and was once again startled by Larkin ambushing him. This time though she’d been hiding out with a gun, apparently expecting the worst. He looked her up and down, her face telling the tale of their exhausting adventures, her entire body tense and ready to run if she had to, but her obvious fatigue indicating that she wouldn’t get very far. It was his turn to wrap her in a warm, comforting hug, and she all but fell in to his arms, shaking with silent sobs.

“Sshhh, it’s alright now. We’re almost done. You don’t have to worry anymore, we’re practically gone already.”

He gently pulled her away and wiped a few of her tears, then leaned forward and kissed her forehead.

“Come on, let’s get this over with.”

She followed him in to the cockpit and sat down weakly beside him as he slid in to the pilot’s chair and fastened the seatbelt. He exhaled slowly, releasing the parking brake and eyeing the runway. The odometer had indicated 0.88 miles from start to finish, and that didn’t give him a lot of space. Of course the tiny island had a tiny runway. ‘What else should I have expected?’ he thought grimly.

With one last look at the direction and speed of the wind on the control screen, he pushed the throttle in smoothly, advancing the plane down the runway. After a moment they felt the front wheels lift off the ground, and he pulled it into a steeper climb, lifting the back wheels too, just like he remembered. He just hoped that he could get enough lift in time, because there was only the ocean to land in beyond the runway. Larkin was quivering next to him and he had to hold his hands steady to calm his nerves. But after a few seconds more he managed to pull the plane in to the air, just 30 feet above the car’s lights gleaming below.

Blane sat back a little more comfortably, easing off the pressure that he’d put on the plane as he continued to climb and lowered the nose a little to level the aircraft out. He couldn’t deny it – even though he was normally cool under pressure, his heart was in his throat during takeoff. There wasn’t much that he could do to control the situation if it got precarious, just buckle up and hope that it would work out okay. Larkin had clearly been sweating bullets the entire time; her fingers were still white from gripping the armrests on the co-pilots chair so hard.

They flew in relieved silence for a while, rising to a cruising altitude of 30000 ft., with nothing but wispy clouds and the dark night in front of them. Larkin slumped down in the chair next to him, her nerves wracked from the entire experience. Proud though he was of his skillful first try at flying a plane, Blane was ready for a mental break as well, and had just begun to relax when Larkin shot up in her chair with a cry.

“What’s wrong?” Blane demanded, as she suddenly looked panicked.

“What are we doing??”

“Well we’re flying a plane,” Blane quipped, wondering what else she needed to know.

Larkin looked like she was ready to smack him across the face with her gun. “I mean, where are we flying to? What’s the plan? We survived the take off, and now we’re wandering around in the sky without a destination! How could we not have figured this out earlier??”

Blane gave her his usual, often infuriating grin. “I was going to have that conversation with you before we got in the plane to leave, until our friend Lieutenant Howell showed up. We had a good 10 minutes to discuss it before we needed to be airborne. Now I’m sure that you feel like that’s nowhere near enough time to sort out the last details of our dream vacation getaway, but I already had a plan in mind. And I know that you dislike not being able to give your input, but unfortunately the way everything went down didn’t give you a chance. So I can fill you in on my idea now, and if you feel differently, we can change our course. Though I don’t think we have any other options than the course we’re already on,” he added.

“Great,” she said, predictably frustrated. Then her face softened as she added, “I’m glad you had a plan at least.”

“I always do,” Blane smiled back with a wink.

“Okay then, let’s hear it.”

“Let’s see if you approve. This little plane doesn’t have enough fuel to get us out of this hemisphere, which means that our choices are North, Central, and South America, like I was saying earlier. To me, it seems like the US is automatically out. I may not have paid the mother country a visit in a few years, but the way I understand it, it’s only getting worse. Two fugitives with forged identities wouldn’t last very long.”

He paused for her thoughts. She wasn’t very happy about it, but he was right. She gave a begrudging nod.

“And then of course I’m pretty sure that Central and South America are also not desirable, considering the political climate.”

This was easy to agree with. She gave another nod.

“That leaves Canada and some other Caribbean islands. The islands are currently under conquest by the Socialistas, and it’s only a matter of time before even our beloved Tortola falls too. Canada looks like the only safe haven for us, which is why we’re headed north by the way.”

Larkin pursed her lips, thinking it all through. “I think you’re right,” she decided, but it prompted a slew of other questions.

“Will we have to stay in Canada once we get there? Or will we be able to fly to Europe? What city should we land in? And won’t this stolen plane be a problem? Aren’t our passports marked with all kinds of red flags in their Customs system?”

Blane couldn’t help but chuckle a little. She was smart alright, and justifiably paranoid at this point.

“One thing at a time, Larkin. I haven’t been to Canada in a while, but I’m pretty sure that it’ll be far easier to create new identities for ourselves there than in the United States. We should try to feel out how thorough they are at investigating the US black lists before we jump on an international flight. If we choose to do so, those new identities, complete with new passports, shouldn’t be an issue. Though we will both probably need to alter our appearances pretty dramatically.”

Larkin frowned at this, and began nervously playing with her very dirty blonde hair.

“Now, about landing – that will be a different story.” In his head Blane was saying, ‘We don’t even know if I can actually land this thing, but I’m damn sure gonna try.’

“It’s probably best that we come in under the radar, due to some of the issues that you brought up. But to answer another one of your questions more specifically, I’m headed for New Brunswick. That’s one of the most eastern points of the continent, so it means that we won’t have to fly over the United States at all, and will avoid being detected by Air Control.”

“Yeah, I know where that is. It also means that we only have the ocean to land in if something goes wrong.”

“True. But the risk of flying over the mainland is greater, I think.”

Larkin forged on. “So what happens when we get there? Do we just check in to some cheap motel with our mobster luggage of guns, a lot of cash, and valuable lists of drug lord contacts? Then go to a drugstore for hair color and scissors like they do in the movies?”

“Well basically…yes. Add in clean clothes and a shower, and you’ve got the idea. After that we’ll work on getting new passports. Like you pointed out, we’ve got the cash to finance it.”

She sighed, defeated. “I guess that is our only option. It’s a good plan.”

“But?”

“Goodbye medical school and any sense of normalcy, hello life of crime – hiding out from cops, changing addresses all the time, finding ways to make more cash…”

“Are you kidding?” Blane laughed. “Quit being so dramatic. Listen, you will be able to go to medical school and even have a normal life eventually¸ whether it’s in Canada or Europe. And by eventually I mean probably in 1-2 years. I can buy and/or forge your way into anything that you want to do. Then once I have set you up wherever you want to be, say the word and I’m out of your life forever. Just like you told me a few days ago,” he added, watching her reaction carefully.

Larkin looked down, startled by that suggestion. When they had first teamed up, that had been her plan – to use him to get to safety and then split. She had feared being exploited by him back then, as if he really needed to exploit her at all.

Now… now was different. She couldn’t imagine very much about the future life ahead of her, but one constant could be Blane Aberland. She had come to rely on him completely, without a doubt. She had been a major liability for him but he made sure that she made it out too. But the thing was, the agent Blane Aberland that she had known on Tortola wasn’t guaranteed to be the one that she would know in Canada, or wherever else they went. Given the opportunity to be a gun for hire again without anything holding him back, what would he get mixed up in, and could he endanger her instead? He knew exactly who she would be, and it was someone that continued to rely on him for almost everything, someone intensely vulnerable behind her prickly exterior. Someone that she hadn’t wanted to be with him.

It was another gamble. She sighed. Nothing in life is ever easy. It had only taken a few days of terror to burn that difficult lesson into her mind. Meanwhile Blane had been watching her battle with herself with a little pang of sadness. Of course she still couldn’t trust him, why would she?

Larkin sat up and looked him in the eye. “Let’s see where this road takes us. For now, I’m going to wash up and go to sleep in the cabin. Is that okay?”

“Sure, I’ll be up here if you need me,” he said neutrally.

She got up to leave, collecting her bag with the pistol stashed in it, then seemed to think better of it. She turned and leaned down to give Blane a hug, taking him by surprise again. Then just as quickly she left, fatigue etched in her face and in her every movement. Blane already knew that she’d be passed out within the next 5 minutes, probably sprawled out in a really uncomfortable position somewhere in the cabin, but it wouldn’t matter. She’d sleep for a week straight if she could.

As for him, he was beyond exhausted himself, but he could push through it. Besides, he needed to read the manual as thoroughly as he could and study up. He was glad Larkin that hadn’t pressed for details about where they were landing, because it would most likely be in a field.

A week ago, he never would have predicted that Larkin Bellamy from Fall River, Massachusetts would be dropping in to his life and changing it forever. In some ways she had become his saving grace, and in others his kryptonite. Now once again he would be disappearing only to re-surface as a different man. Maybe that man would have a companion, and maybe he wouldn’t. Aberland knew one thing for certain – he’d be getting another fresh start, another new chance to do what he loved most without a past to haunt him.

With that thought he settled in to the captain’s chair, ready to wait out the night with a watchful eye, and enjoy the new dawn ahead.

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