Becker’s newly purchased Vespa motorcycle struggled up the entry road to Aeropuerto de Sevilla. His knuckles had been white the whole way. His watch read just after 2:00 a.m. local time.
As he approached the main terminal, he rode up on the sidewalk and jumped off the bike while it was still moving. It clattered to the pavement and sputtered to a stop. Becker dashed on rubbery legs through the revolving door. Never again, he swore to himself.
The terminal was sterile and starkly lit. Except for a janitor buffing the floor, the place was deserted. Across the concourse, a ticket agent was closing down the Iberia Airlines counter. Becker took it as a bad sign.
He ran over. “El vuelo a los Estados Unidos?”
The attractive Andalusian woman behind the counter looked up and smiled apologetically. “Acaba de salir. You just missed it.” Her words hung in the air for a long moment.
I missed it. Becker’s shoulders slumped. “Was there standby room on the flight?”
“Plenty,” the woman smiled. “Almost empty. But tomorrow’s eight a.m. also has—”
“I need to know if a friend of mine made that flight. She was flying standby.”
The woman frowned. “I’m sorry, sir. There were several standby passengers tonight, but our privacy clause states—”
“It’s very important,” Becker urged. “I just need to know if she made the flight. That’s all.”
The woman gave a sympathetic nod. “Lovers’ quarrel?”
Becker thought a moment. Then he gave her a sheepish grin. “It’s that obvious?”
She gave him a wink. “What’s her name?”
“Megan,” he replied sadly.
The agent smiled. “Does your lady friend have a last name?”
Becker exhaled slowly. Yes, but I don’t know it!” Actually, it’s kind of a complicated situation. You said the plane was almost empty. Maybe you could—”
“Without a last name I really can’t . . .”
“Actually,” Becker interrupted, having another idea. “Have you been on all night?”
The woman nodded. “Seven to seven.”
“Then maybe you saw her. She’s a young girl. Maybe fifteen or sixteen? Her hair was—” Before the words left his mouth, Becker realized his mistake.
The agent’s eyes narrowed. “Your lover is fifteen years old?”
“No!” Becker gasped. “I mean . . .” Shit. “If you could just help me, it’s very important.”
“I’m sorry,” the woman said coldly.
“It’s not the way it sounds. If you could just—”
“Good night, sir.” The woman yanked the metal grate down over the counter and disappeared into a back room.
Becker groaned and stared skyward. Smooth, David. Very smooth. He scanned the open concourse. Nothing. She must have sold the ring and made the flight. He headed for the custodian. “Has visto a una nina?” he called over the sound of the tile buffer. “Have you seen a girl?”
The old man reached down and killed the machine. “Eh?”
“Una nina?” Becker repeated. “Pelo rojo, azul, y blanco. Red white and blue hair.”
The custodian laughed. “Que fea. Sounds ugly.” He shook his head and went back to work.
* * *
David Becker stood in the middle of the deserted airport concourse and wondered what to do next. The evening had been a comedy of errors. Strathmore’s words pounded in his head: Don’t call until you have the ring. A profound exhaustion settled over him. If Megan sold the ring and made the flight, there was no telling who had the ring now.
Becker closed his eyes and tried to focus. What’s my next move? He decided to consider it in a moment. First, he needed to make a long‑overdue trip to a rest room.