Blood, Sweat, & Fear Ch. 01bywildsweetone©
I had really made it finally. All those years of hard work and bum kissing finally paid off. I was about to climb the tall ramp leading to the company airplane. I didn't then, nor do I now, know what kind of plane it was. I knew it was some kind of large four engine jet for sure. The ramp was tall and there were no propellers.
Inside the plane I found a small passenger compartment. I was surprised to find only a dozen or so seats in the compartment. The rear of the plane was walled off. I supposed there was a rank thing even in our company. I really was surprised since I had always been told everyone was equal in the company.
I remember thinking, as I looked at the wall separating me from what I presumed were the higher ups, that it must be like communism. All are equal, some are just more equal. I sat in the seat assigned to me by a window while I fumed. I had worked damned hard for the company. I won my trip to the Tiny island of Bimbo through some damn fine work. I resented being singled out to sit in the front of the plane while others travelled in what I considered a more luxurious manner. I had absolutely no facts on which to base the thought.
I was not only the only woman in the regular class compartment, I was the only person. The steward, who spent almost all his time in the rear, explained that mine was the first stop on the pickup route.
It seemed that we barely made it into the air before the plane began to descend again. The second stop was in a town slightly larger than my own. We were on the ground only a few minutes when the tall grey-haired man entered. He was shown to the window seat directly across the aisle from me. I smiled as the steward introduced us.
"Mr. Miles this is Mrs Stanley." After those words the steward disappeared again into the closed compartment.
"How nice to meet you Mrs, Stanley." He said it from his seat by the window. "I suppose you are one of the contest winners?"
"Why yes are you?" I asked it because he had a way about him. Something that gave him an air of authority. If he were a simple salesman like me, he had to be the best one ever. The suit he wore looked as though it cost more than everything in my closet at home.
"Not this year," he replied with a warm smile. He did not go on to explain his rather cryptic remark.
I smiled at the rather imposing man, then returned to my own thoughts. Those thoughts were not very exciting for a woman on her way to a south sea island vacation. A whole month away from the family, hell it would have been a vacation if it had been in the bowels of Calcutta. At thirty-eight I was tired of raising kids and a husband. Yes I meant raising a husband. Bobby, you can tell by the name, never grew up at all. Counting Bobby, I had three kids without him only two. Both the real children were late into their teen years. The three of them assured me they could do just fine without me for the month. Sure they could, the house would be filled with Mcdonalds wrappers and mould when I returned.
I shook my head. I did not intend to allow thoughts of them living in a sty to ruin the first real vacation I had ever had. I looked over to Mr. Miles across the way. He was looking out the window deep in thought. His seat companion was a briefcase, even it screamed class. The case was real leather she was sure. It couldn't have contained any plastic or fiberglass. That case just screamed, I am custom made and cost more than you make a week.
The plane began a descent into the wispy summer clouds over God only knew what town. Again, we were on the ground, only a moment or two when another company employee entered the cabin. The man looked less polished than the first one who sat by the window. The new arrival was seated by the window behind me.
"Mr. Edwards, this is Mrs. Stanley and Mr. Miles." With those words the steward again disappeared into the rear compartment.
"Hi everybody, my name is Martin," the newest arrival said.
"They call me Bess." I said even though no one had called me that in almost twenty years.
"I am Thomas Miles." The older man said then went on. "I am the executive vice president of the sales Division. He didn't need to say that no one called him Tom or Thomas.
"It is certainly nice to meet you Mr. Miles. I didn't recognize you from the picture in the monthly news letter."
"That Mrs. Stanley is because I refuse to have a new picture made. That one is ten years old. I like to think of myself as still forty." His laugh was very honest and appealing. "I am afraid I suffer from the same vanity as everyone else.
"Yes we are all vain to some degree," Martin Edwards agreed. In his case it was the very obvious toupee. "What is your vanity Mrs. Stanley?"
"Oh Lord, I have so many. Let me see, I dye away the grey in my hair." I stopped right there. I had no intention of explaining the fancy spandex undergarments I wore.
"I think it is time to change the subject," Mr. Miles said. Pretty soon we will be listing all our operations. So how about telling me how many children you each have."
"I have two lovely girls," I replied.
"Any how many beastly boys?" Martin asked.
"None, I am afraid."
"I have two boys and a girl and believe me you didn't miss a thing. My wife says the girl is a joy and the boys are a nightmare," Martin replied.
"Your kids must be small," I replied. "Girls are hell in their teen years."
"True mine are all under twelve, but they are hellions. If they get any worse, I may have to consider military school."
"I am sorry to admit my wife and I do not have children." Mr. Miles seemed sad to be reporting it.
He looked as though he took it as a personal affront. That somehow his lack of children equated to a less manly man. At least that was how it looked to me. I almost said something about adoption but I knew it would be the wrong thing to say. Instead I gave him a sympathetic smile.
"Well Mr. Miles if you miss it too much I think I could part with one of my brats," Martin said with a grin.
"So how many more winners do we have to pick up?" I asked it because I knew the subject needed changing.
"Just one more," Mr. Miles replied with a smile.
"Oh, I thought there would be more than just three of us?" It was a question and he recognized it.
"No. This time there are just three of you. We set the goal high because we wanted to find the most elite of the elite. Three of you made it over the bar, the rest didn't."
"Did you expect so few?" I asked.
"Frankly, I had no idea, how many, if any of you would make it."
"So you made it almost impossible to make the grade?" Martin asked.
"That is true enough, but the reward was exceptional. The company matches your average months pay so that your families will not suffer while you are on this long vacation. All you have to do for the next month is to enjoy yourself. Not a worry in the world for you."
"So are you going to be with us?" I asked it hoping he would be. Even in so short a time, I had formed a positive opinion of him. I knew that I would enjoy getting to know more about him.
"Alas no, while you are frolicking in the sun, I will be slaving away at the home office." He did not look at all sad to me. I had a feeling he enjoyed his work.
"Do you and your family live on the island?" Martin asked it so that I didn't have to. Coming from me it might have seemed forward.
"No, my family lives in New York City. I live there most of the time. Once in a while I am forced to the island for conferences. I even get into the field now and again."
"If you are forced to the island, maybe we should rethink this vacation," I suggested with a smile. I would have gone on with my reasoning except that the seat belt sign began to blink. The landing was long, slow and smooth. From the beginning I had been impressed with how experienced the pilot seemed.
Our final passenger turned out to be a brassy young woman in her twenties. Brassy was actually giving her some credit. The bitchy side of me came out when I judged her before she opened her mouth. The tight sun dress that she wore screamed slut at me. It obviously did to Martin as well. He groaned as she came through the door. I touched up my hair for grey, this one had it all dyed champagne blonde.
Martin leaned over the seat and whispered in my ear, "I can guess how she made the grade."
I turned to glare at him, but inside it was my thought exactly. I just couldn't give up my womens equality stance that easily. She was definitely not part of the movement. She was playing the sex card for all it was worth.
The steward again did the introductions. Her name, he informed us all, was Lorris Smyth.
"Is that Miss or Mrs. Smith?" Martin asked.
"Neither, it is Ms. Smyth. It is the British pronounciation." She said it without much warmth in her voice. She did turn to smile at Mr. Miles.
He smiled back but it wasn't with any more warmth than the one he used on all of us.
For some reason Ms. Smyth's arrival put a damper on the conversation. We all drifted into our own minds for a while. I slipped blissfully into a nap, something I could never do in the afternoon at home. When I awoke, a couple of hours later, I knew I had missed something.
"Is something happening?" I asked.
"Not too awfully much," Martin said. "We have a tropical storm that moved the wrong way. We are going to be forced to fly around it. It don't seem like much though."
The idea of a storm kept me awake. It didn't seem like nothing, if we were changing our direction. Suddenly the plane jerked hard, I looked out the window to see the engine on fire. The lights in the cabin went out immediately after. The blonde screamed. I considered joining in but for some reason I didn't. After what seemed like a lifetime of crises, being in a plane on fire didn't petrify me. It did scare the hell out of me though.
We must have been hit by lightning, I thought. It didn't seem too bad since we were almost at the island. We were over land I could see, so it could have been worse even if we went down. What was I thinking? Nobody walked away from plane crashes anymore. I wanted to scream at that point. I had reasoned it out and the situation definitely called for panic.
"Son of a bitch, they are shooting at us!" Martin was pointing at the red streaks flying past our windows. "Why the fuck are they shooting at us?"
Mr. Miles was frozen in his seat. He was calm looking, but he did not offer to share anything with us. The cabin shook violently again as the engine fell from the plane. It had burned itself loose I supposed.
The plane began to vibrate as it descended. I could imagine the pilot fighting for control. That is how every movie of an airplane crash portrayed it. The steward came into the cabin from the rear. "Take off your glasses, remove any false teeth, empty your shirt pockets, brace yourselves as best you can."
The blonde screamed again, unlike in the movies I could not understand her. She was just screaming at random. Nobody had enough air to tell her to shut up, so she screamed all the way to the ground. I closed my eyes and tried to pray. I found to my great disappointment that I had forgotten how. I was about to die and could not even prepare my way.
An airplane crash is usually an inferno, I had always thought so anyway. The plane went down with a jolt and the screaming of metal tearing, but no fire. The impact was enough to tear me from the seat. The momentum hurled me through the air to land against the cockpit wall. For some reason, known only to the God I could not beg for mercy, the impact did not kill me. There was not even a smell of jet fuel fumes when I awoke a few minutes after the impact.
I looked around in a daze. Mr. Miles was hanging from his seatbelt. He had a small amount of blood trickling from a scalp wound, otherwise he looked fine, just maybe sleeping.
"Son of a bitch," Martin said as he stood on shaky legs. His giggle afterward seemed out of place until I realized I was giggling along with him. It was a release, since we had beaten the odds, I guess. "This one is alive," he said after touching Smyth as I came to think of her.
"Check on the VP," he suggested as he tried to wake Smyth.
"I don't know how," I replied too frightened to even try. I didn't want to find that he was dead.
"Well then come hold this broad's hand while I check." He moved on still wobbly legs to Mr Miles. He felt his neck then began to slap him gently.
"Out like a light. Let's just let them sleep while we check on the others." He moved to open the cockpit door. There was nothing beyond it. The impact must have sheered off the cockpit, I thought. Martin looked at me, then went to check the rear. When he opened the door, I stood to look inside from safely behind him. The rear was filled with boxes. It hadn't been a luxury compartment at all. We were flying in the equivalent of a tramp steamer. The thought made me smile. It had to be a reaction to the reduction of stress.
Martin stepped inside but turned immediately. "Don't go in there, the steward is not a pretty sight. The shifting cargo got him."
"What happened?" I asked of Martin who suddenly seemed to be in charge, at least for the moment.
"Some son of a bitch shot us down. Who or why I have no idea."
"What are we going to do?" I asked.
"Honey, I don't have a clue."
Now ordinarily I would have objected to the honey, but at that moment women's lib took a very distant back seat to pleasing the man who had control of my life, at least temporarily.
"So what are we going to do?" I asked.
"We're supposed to stay with the plane. This time I am not so sure. That was no accident we were in, and the power went with the first hit. The pilot might not have gotten out an S.O.S. I just don't know."
"Well how bad are the others hurt?" I knew he didn't know any more than I did but I wanted someone to explain it all to my foggy mind.
"Well the fake Brit is coming to now. We can ask her. The boss, hell I don't know. Why don't you try to do what you can for them while I have a look around?"
"Please don't leave me," I begged.
"Hang on honey, I need to know where we are so we can decide what to do next. We might not have the luxury of hanging around waiting."
Martin left the wreckage of what had been an airplane while I checked in on the blonde. Smyth had suddenly become a blonde to me. I hoped she wouldn't be a liability. Oh hell, it's probably jealousy, I thought. She wasn't as well built as me but she knew how to flaunt what she had. I on the other hand was just a wife and mother. Not plain by any means, but not really sexual looking either.
When she was fully awake, I was able to determine that her injuries were minor. Nothing more than sprains, I felt. At least I didn't see any bones showing through her skin bag. I answered her questions with the information Martin had given me. Even though she had seen the streaks outside the window she doubted Martin's shot down theory.
"What is going on?" a groggy Mr. Miles asked.
"It appears we have crashed. Martin thinks we were shot down." It was the blonde who answered even though she had slept through it all.
Miles didn't answer her. He simply began to move around. He seemed to be testing his body. Finally he seemed to be satisfied with his condition.
"So where is Martin?" he asked
"He's outside trying to determine our next move.
"Our next move is to stay right here. The company will send out help for us." Mr. Miles seemed to be sure of himself. That was impressive and I decided to follow his suggestion. I refused to think of it as an order. This was definitely a think for yourself situation.
Martin stuck his head into the opening created by the wing ripping away from the cabin. "Well we got bad news everywhere. There is jungle all around us, this clearing is highly visible from the air. My guess is that we are in Pander."
"What is Pander?" I asked since no one else did.
"It's a small country on the east coast of South America. It is the only country with a revolution in progress at the moment. At least the only one near our flight path."
"How do you know that?" Miles asked. I noted he did not dispute the information.
"Because, I found the flight charts. The pilots are dead by the way. It is just the four of us left, folks."
"Well we are not so far from our flight path that the search party won't find us." Miles said it trying to take charge.
"No and we're not so far from where the pilots of those planes saw us go down so that we can't be found by the army or the rebels. It is kind of a good thing, bad thing, we got going on here." Martin was not really doing more than explaining it. He didn't seem to be pushing anything at that moment.
"The air search will find us before either of those happen," Miles said.
"Well I think we need to at least move away from the plane. If we just go to the jungle that's okay, but lets put a little distance between us."
"Why?" Smyth asked.
"Whoever shot us down, may come back to finish the job."
"I think you are paranoid, not a good trait in an executive," Miles said. There was no smile in his voice.
"Is there anything in the cargo these people might want?" I asked. I supposed, even as the words came from me, that I had been watching too much TV with my kids.
"How the hell would I know," Miles replied. "The island is far from self sufficient, I guess that there is food in the boxes."
"If there is, we might need it. I'll go check." Martin started for the doorway between the two areas.
"You can't do that," Miles said. "That is company property. He began to sound like a petty bureaucrat. I watched as Martin smiled without stopping. I realized that his job was gone no matter what happened with the rescue.
Through all the conversation the blonde didn't say a word. She seemed to be holding back for some reason known only to her. I guessed that she recognized it as a power play. She wanted to be on the winning side. I didn't blame her. I was fence straddling myself, only not quite as openly.
I would have been seen as siding with Martin if I joined him in the cargo area. Instead I stood in the doorway so I could see without actually being a part of the raid. Martin was thorough. He opened all the boxes even after he found them. Them being several boxes of rifles.
"What the fuck?" was his only comment. Only after he finished did he return to the cabin.
"Well folks this is the situation. We have a enough guns back there to equip a small fighting force. Why the company plane is carrying them is a mystery. Could you help me out here Miles?" The Mr. was noticeably missing.
"I would think they were for our security guards on the island." Even he didn't look as though he believed that one.
"Well, it looks like one side or other in the civil war here didn't think that was the case. What were you going to do, have the steward kick them out somewhere over the jungle? If you were supplying the rebels, we have to get the fuck away from this plane." Miles, as I began to think of him, only nodded his agreement.
I did not delve into why a successful international insurance company would be supplying a rebel army. My only concern was staying alive. I was not even thinking of my wonderful family, I was concentrating on staying alive for me. It might sound selfish but at that moment I was willing to do anything to stay alive. I just had no idea, what to do.
Martin took his toupee off and tossed it through the gaping hole in the side of the plane. "I would suggest any of you with things you don't need, do the same." Nobody moved.
"It is up to you," he shrugged as he once again returned to the rear section of the plane. Miles took the hint and joined him on that trip. The two of them began to load the food items into bags made from pillow cases. The bags were tied with electrical wires cut from the plane. It was all in all, an amazing display of ingenuity. I had no idea whose ideas they were but I had a feeling Martin was at the base of it. The crude Martin had risen in my eyes a great deal. I had the feeling he was my best hope for salvation.