The twin‑engine Learjet 60 touched down on the scorching runway. Outside the window, the barren landscape of Spain’s lower extremadura blurred and then slowed to a crawl.
“Mr. Becker?” a voice crackled. “We’re here.”
Becker stood and stretched. After unlatching the overhead compartment, he remembered he had no luggage. There had been no time to pack. It didn’t matter‑he’d been promised the trip would be brief, in and out.
As the engines wound down, the plane eased out of the sun and into a deserted hangar opposite the main terminal. A moment later the pilot appeared and popped the hatch. Becker tossed back the last of his cranberry juice, put the glass on the wet bar, and scooped up his suit coat.
The pilot pulled a thick manila envelope from his flight suit. “I was instructed to give you this.” He handed it to Becker. On the front, scrawled in blue pen, were the words:
KEEP THE CHANGE.
Becker thumbed through the thick stack of reddish bills. “What the . . . ?”
“Local currency,” the pilot offered flatly.
“I know what it is,” Becker stammered. “But it’s . . . it’s too much. All I need is taxi fare.” Becker did the conversion in his head. “What’s in here is worth thousands of dollars!”
“I have my orders, sir.” The pilot turned and hoisted himself back into the cabin. The door slid shut behind him.
Becker stared up at the plane and then down at the money in his hand. After standing a moment in the empty hangar, he put the envelope in his breast pocket, shouldered his suit coat, and headed out across the runway. It was a strange beginning. Becker pushed it from his mind. With a little luck he’d be back in time to salvage some of his Stone Manor trip with Susan.
In and out, he told himself. In and out.
There was no way he could have known.