Thank you for your interest in Missing in MEXICO. Below are the first two chapters in the book:
Flight # 1476 from Los Cabos to Seattle
Saturday, January 5th
The voice over the intercom system announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, we trust you had a good time in Los Cabos, but it’s now time for us to take you back to the States. The cabin doors have been closed, and Alaska Airlines flight 1476 with nonstop service to Seattle-Tacoma is ready for departure.”
“Hey, wait. Sarah’s not here; we can’t leave without her,” the girl in seat 14A yelled in a frightened voice. Mary reached up and pushed the flight attendant call button even as the flight attendant was already headed toward her seat. “We can’t leave yet; Sarah’s still down there,” Mary continued, now reaching the point of hysteria.
“Please calm down, miss. Everyone’s already onboard. You can look for yourself,” the flight attendant said in a calm voice as she pointed to the window.
“What do you mean everyone’s onboard? Sarah’s not here; she should be sitting right here!” Mary pulled her tearing eyes away from the empty seat and looked out and saw that the boarding ramps had been pulled away from the airplane, but what she didn’t see scared her. How come Sarah’s not out there, running in a panic toward the plane? “Where’s Sarah? She was just there with me. Where is she? Don’t leave; Sarah’s missing!” Mary cried out as tears began flowing down her cheeks.
The annoyed passengers felt a jolt as the plane was being pushed back. They were ready for their flight home from Los Cabos. But Sarah wasn’t on board; she’s missing—Missing in Mexico.
Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
Monday, January 14th
“Alaska Airlines flight 1745 with non-stop service to Los Cabos, Mexico, is now available for boarding at gate 46. As a reminder to all passengers, you must have a red stamp on your boarding coupon and you must show your passport as you board the plane. Come to the desk here at gate 46 if you don’t have that red stamp on your boarding coupon. Once again, Alaska Airlines flight 1745 with non-stop service to Los Cabos, Mexico, is now available for boarding at gate 46.”
Stan Walkorski was glad he was able to book a non-stop flight; he wanted to get to Los Cabos and start talking to people down there as soon as possible. He’d been in the nearby airport shop looking for a book to read when he heard the first pre-boarding announcement. He had his passport ready, but he didn’t know that he had to have his boarding coupon stamped at the counter. Stan picked up his briefcase and walked over to the gate 46 counter and stood in line behind a man and woman in their matching Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts. There are just some sizes of clothes that should be outlawed, Stan thought to himself.
His mind flashed back to his meeting with the Johnsons, and then to his conversations with Mary and some of the other students on the University of Washington campus. Nothing seemed to fit yet; nothing was falling into place. He knew it was still early, but he also knew that the chances of a happier outcome diminish with each passing day. He unconsciously moved forward in line, keeping pace with the “twins” in front of him. When he was finally at the front of the line, his mind had been so preoccupied that he forgot why he was in line. Shaking his head to snap out of it, he said, “Oh, yeah, I need a red stamp on my boarding coupon, please,” as he handed it to the counter agent.
“I’ll need to see your passport, sir,” the agent replied. As he handed his blue-cover U.S. Passport to the agent, his mind once again tried to sort through all the pieces he had so far. The agent took Stan’s passport, compared its photo to Stan as she squinted through her glasses to look at him, and then inserted it into the scanner. The scanner beeped and the agent removed the passport. She then took a large rubber stamp and stamped Stan’s boarding coupon with a bold red SEA, the code for the departing airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. She said a routine “Enjoy your flight, sir,” as she put the now-stamped boarding coupon into the passport and handed them across the counter to Stan.
“Thank you. I’m sure I will,” Stan replied as he accepted his passport and boarding coupon from the agent. “Have a good day,” he said to her as he was stepping away, but she didn’t hear him. She was already engaged with the next passenger. As he walked over to get in line at the boarding gate, he realized that they weren’t boarding by zones, even though ZONE 2 was printed in the middle of his boarding coupon. “Why don’t we have to board by zones today?” he asked the gate agent as he handed her his boarding coupon and passport.
“Our load,” she replied. “We’re only about 30% full on the flight today, so it’s just as easy to have everyone board at once than to have to turn people back because they aren’t boarding when it’s their zone number. Have a good flight.” The gate agent handed Stan’s passport back to him along with the stub from his boarding coupon, and he looked down at it to see that he was seated in 8A.
Walking down the jet-way to the plane, Stan noticed how cold it was. After all, it is still winter, he thought to himself. He’d been so busy the past week that the local weather was of no real concern to him. He’d checked online to see what the weather in Los Cabos would be in January, and he was pleased to see the highs in the mid-70s and evening lows around 60. I can take that over this weather any time. It was cold in the jet-way, but he saw that it didn’t seem to bother the couple in the khaki shorts and Hawaiian shirts up ahead of him. They were just laughing and having a good time. Oh well, at least they are having fun.
“Good morning, sir,” the flight attendant greeted Stan as he stepped on board the plane—a Boeing 737. A lot of the airlines had been phasing out the 737’s for more fuel-efficient aircraft, but it was still nice to fly out of Seattle in a plane that had been built less than thirty miles away.
“Good morning to you, too,” Stan replied. “Do you ever get to stay down in Los Cabos or is it just fly down and back in the same day?”
The smirk on her face told him before she could respond—“Down and back, every time. But I’ve taken a vacation down there—it was a lot of fun. From the looks of your carry-on, I’m guessing this is more of a business trip for you?”
“Yes, that is the bane of the working class, isn’t it? Travel to great spots and then just work, work, work.” Stan knew that wasn’t always the case, but it sounded good. “I’ll see you later,” he said as he turned right to head down the center aisle. He noticed that First Class was only half full as he continued down the aisle to his row—row 8. The agent was right; there is hardly anyone on this plane. There was no one else in row 8.
He had just sat down and buckled his seat belt when he heard the crackle of the PA system come on. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Alaska Airlines flight 1745 with non-stop service to Los Cabos, Mexico. As you can see we have a fairly empty flight today, and we’re ready to close the front cabin door. If you would like to move to another seat in your ticketed cabin, please do so now before we close that door. Once we do close the front cabin door, you will need to be seated with your seat belt securely fastened, and all of your portable electronic items must be powered off. This includes your cell phones, your iPods, and even your noise-canceling headphones. Thank you for your attention.”
Stan had just unlatched his briefcase and was reviewing his notes about Sarah Johnson when he heard a familiar voice. “Mr. Walkorski—is that close? I hope I didn’t butcher your name too much.”
Stan looked up and toward the aisle to see the flight attendant who had greeted him as he boarded. “Oh, hi.”
“Sir, we have a new seat for you,” she whispered as she leaned in from the aisle. “Here is your new boarding stub.” The engaging flight attendant handed Stan a boarding stub that had “2A” hand-written on it. As Stan saw it and looked up at her, there was slight smile on her lips.
“Thank you,” he said as he unlatched his seat belt, grabbed his briefcase and stepped out into the aisle, following her up into the First Class cabin.
“I think you’ll be more comfortable in this seat, sir,” she said as she stopped in front of his new row.
“I’m sure I will. Thank you very much,” Stan said graciously as he stepped over the legs of the well-dressed woman already seated in seat 2B. “Excuse me.” Stan sat down in his “new” window seat, and he slid his briefcase under seat 1A. As he buckled his seatbelt, he looked to his right to see the new travel companion was not reading anything, so he took the opportunity to say “Good morning.”
“Buenos días. I mean, good morning,” she replied. “It looks like a pretty day to be flying, doesn’t it?” Her distinguished features had a slight Hispanic look, and Stan did pick up just a hint of an accent in her voice. His profession taught him to notice these things, no matter how small they were. Of course, that also made it hard for him to establish close relationships because he was always aware of all the little details. Curses!
“Yes, I guess it is. I hadn’t noticed the weather,” he said as he paused to look out his window—but his view was partially blocked by the boarding bridge. “I’ve just been too busy with work I didn’t even see if it was clear or not outside.” Stan seemed apologetic as this striking woman next to him was doing everything she could in their first minute seated beside each other to be welcoming and conversational.
“Yes, it’s supposed to be a nice day today here and, of course, it will be a beautiful day when we land in Los Cabos.” Stan’s new friend smiled as if she were giving him an invitation to continue the conversation.
Stan was just ready to say something when the PA system came back on. “Ladies and gentlemen, the main cabin door has been closed and secured, and it’s now time to make sure that your cell phones and all other electronic equipment have been powered off and put away for our takeoff. At this time, please cease all conversations and give your undivided attention to the flight attendants who are standing in the aisle to give you a brief, but extremely important, safety demonstration of this Boeing 737 aircraft.”
Stan looked to his right, smiled at the lady in 2B, and leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. He’d heard all this many times before.
The announcement continued, but Stan didn’t hear it. He was thinking about Sarah Johnson and why she didn’t board her flight from Los Cabos on January 5th. Had she been abducted? Did she run away—but why would she? Did she miss the flight and was frightened? But that had been over a week ago, and no one had heard from her.
Stan tried to think about Sarah, but the hum of the two engines along with the late hours he’d been working combined to put him to sleep. He didn’t move as the airplane was pushed back from its gate, taxied out to the runway, and then took off on its flight to Los Cabos. Stan was exhausted, and his body responded by allowing him to sleep. The señora in 2B pulled a magazine from her purse and began to flip through the pages. She would have enjoyed continuing the conversation with this man in 2A, but she noticed that there was a sense of relief on his eyes as they closed. Maybe later, she thought.