"Sir, your flight has been delayed."
He sighed, exasperated, closed his eyes and lowered his head. He rose a hand to rub his forehead before looking up at the woman again. "How long?"
"An hour. Maybe more. It's the weather, sir."
He glanced out the expansive windows. Hadn't there been dividers between the panes, the windows would have been the unbroken walls of the terminals. Outside of these windows, framed by the dividers, was a pristine blue sky. "The weather," he repeated.
"Would you like to take another flight, sir?"
He shook his head. "No. I'll wait for this one, thanks."
Stepping away from the desk, bogged down by his laptop case, he dug inside his pants pockets and pulled out his cell phone. He frowned. Bad reception. Typical. Reception was always crap in airports these days. Besides wanting you to pay for the tickets, fast food and coffee, airports made money off of pay phones. $.75 a call. Unfortunately for him, he did not have three quarters in his pocket. Fortunately for the airport and the dealers and the publishers, there was a newsstand nearby.
He resigned to buying a copy of Wired and walked to the pay phones with enough money to call his wife with. "Baby?" he called into the phone. "My flight's been delayed. I don't know how long. Maybe an hour. They weren't specific. Listen, I'll call you once I'm at LAX. No, I'll take a taxi. No, no, it's all right. You don't have to pick me up. All right, fine. Yeah, that's fine. I love you. Bye."
It took two hours for the flight to arrive, another hour before it got off the ground. He hoped his wife wasn't waiting for him at LAX already. He knew she had things to do and was probably going to be late, not early. The woman loved to work, but she also found ways to work outside the office if she could. He would not be surprised to see her waiting there, typing on her laptop at a bench by the baggage claim, so engrossed in her work that she wouldn't know he was there until he tapped her on the shoulder. They were workaholics, the both of them. She even more so.
The plane had been airborne for an hour. The flight attendants were pushing through the aisles with beverages and snacks. He ordered a soda and a bag of pretzels, looked out to the clear sky. In-flight entertainment was a must these days, even if the flight lasted no longer than forty-five minutes. He had seen every in-flight movie, every syndicated television show, every condensed infotainment program the skies had to offer and had concluded that the sky itself, with its pristine blue color and its shape-shifting clouds, was more fascinating than anything man had to offer.
Which didn't mean that he watched it in silence, or completely ignored what man had to offer, particularly when it came to sports. And there was the occasional in-flight movie that pulled him away from the God-made skies. These films almost always had something to do with baseball. But there was something about the vastness of the skies that cleared his mind for thought. He'd think of his career, of where he was going, of what he did and what he would do next. He would think of his wife and what she might have been doing then.
Sometimes he thought of Jack Bauer. He always felt guilty when he thought about him. He wasn't so quick to get that thought out of his mind. He couldn't do it without feeling more guilt. He let the thought run its course, tuning out the radio feed, until nature's call grew loud enough to drown out the thoughts and the music. He stood up and walked down the aisle to the restroom to relieve himself. It was then that the pilot warned the passengers about "light turbulence."
Naturally the pilot would announce that while he was in the restroom. He grumbled and attempted to finish his business as quickly as possible, all the while feeling the jumps and shudders of the "light" turbulence.
He wasn't too concerned about the turbulence until one jump caused him to fall against the doorway. He held up his hand in time to prevent his arm from colliding with the wall, but not in time to stop the door from crashing into his shoulder. He cursed and pushed the door out of the way, glancing at a doe-eyed flight attendant with a jug of coffee in her hands. He straightened his blazer before attempting to move forward in the aisle.
Another jump. He pressed his hands against the walls to his left and his right as the plane shuddered violently.
"Light" turbulence his ass.
"Sir," said the flight attendant behind him, "you're going to have to return to your se--"
"That's what I'm trying to do, miss," he growled. He wasn't having a good day at all. He could hear the flight attendant make a displeased noise behind him as he walked forward, holding on to the tops of the seats as he headed towards his own chair.
What made his day even worse was the one thing he didn't see: his own unsecured laptop case dangling from the overhead compartment.
A pity, because he thought he would be safe once he reached his seat. But the one thought that occurred in Tony Almeida's mind as the laptop case came down on his head was that the pilot was talking out of his ass.
But, at the very least, he had given them the heads-up.