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CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

It was one of those yawns that brought tears to my eyes, the kind so wide and deep, it threatens to turn your face inside out. The black-and-white pictures on the closed-circuit TV monitors blended into one big, blurry gray image. Sort of how my day had gone.

"I hear I missed all the excitement this morning," said Kevin, coming through the door and sounding uncommonly bright. Either that or I was uncommonly dull.

It was the beginning of his day while mine was thankfully coming to an end. "That's what you get for bidding nights."

"Indeed, but had I known, seeing Himself in person would have been worth bounding out of bed early."

"No one knew. He just materialized in the ready room like a bolt of lightning. It was vintage Scanlon."

"So I heard. The whole place is a-twitter." He chuckled as he hung up his coat, walked over, and stood next to me. "Did he really say he was going to shut us down?"

"Unequivocally.''

"I hope the message got through. I don't want to be unemployed." He surveyed the wall of electronic windows to the ramp, then reached up and wiped a smudge off one of the screens. "What are we looking at here?"

"Are these cameras set up to record?"

"No."

"Were they ever?"

"They were never intended for that." His rolling chair squealed as he settled in and immediately started cracking his knuckles, one by one. "You're not thinking of shriveling the ramp, are you?"

"No, but why not? Other stations do it."

"Obviously, you haven't heard about Dickie Flynn's fiasco."

I walked over and leaned against his work counter as he began his ritual, the kind we all go through to get ourselves prepared for another day of work. "Dickie Flynn shriveled the ramp?"

Kevin's motions were efficient and practiced, and he talked to me without once ever interrupting his flow. "Dickie used to go through his phases, his different kind of management phases. He tried management by intimidation, but no one was ever scared of him. He tried management by consensus, but no one ever agreed with him, much less each other. At one time he got frustrated and tried management by spying."

"Spying?" I tried to sound only casually interested. "With video cameras?" It wasn't easy.

"Cameras everywhere. The bag room, the ready room, the lunchroom. What he never quite accepted was the fact that you can't have secret surveillance in a twenty-four-hour-a-day operation, which was the fatal flaw in his scheme."

"People knew about the cameras."

"Of course they did. He even tried moving them every few days, but within hours the union would have the locations posted on bulletin boards all over the field. He finally gave up the ghost after one night when someone swapped all of the tapes with several-how shall I put this delicately-adult entertainment features."

"Porno tapes?" I straightened up so abruptly, I drew a quizzical look from him.

"From what I understand, the full range. Something for everyone-heterosexual, homosexual, bestiality"

As he talked, I stared down at the toes of my boots, glassy-eyed, and let the outside world drift away as the pieces began to coalesce in my head. The monitors drew me back, and I studied each one closely as figures moved across the black-and-white screens setting up gates and working the flights. The pictures were clear and the cameras high-quality, but far enough away that I couldn't distinguish faces.

"yes, indeed, shocking stuff," he was saying, "but not so shocking they didn't all gather in the ready room for a matinee, mind you-"

"Kevin, are you saying someone brought a bunch of porno videos to the airport one night and swapped them out for surveillance videos?"

"It would appear so."

"Which means it's likely that Dickie's surveillance videos came right out of the machines and straight into the porno boxes." I was talking more for my own benefit now and feeling less and less fatigued.

"I can't say, but I would imagine so."

The sound of my beeper was usually an intrusion, but particularly so when it erupted at that moment. I didn't recognize the number.

"Kevin, did they ever find out who stole the tapes?"

"Surely you jest?"

"Were these good-quality cameras he used? Like these?"

"Dickie never spared any expense when it came to spending the company's money."

I checked my watch. Four o'clock. "Can I borrow your ramp coat?"

"I would be honored."

"Thanks." The phone rang, and when he picked up I grabbed the coat and a set of truck keys from a hook on the wall and made for the door. Dickie Flynn had sent Ellen a surveillance video. A surveillance video. I couldn't wait to tell Dan. If I was lucky, I could still catch him at his meeting across the ramp at the post office. As I rushed down the corridor, my beeper went off again. Whoever it was didn't want to wait.


CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT | Hard Landing | CHAPTER THIRTY