This godforsaken outlet.

The outlet didn't work. How could the outlet not work? It was an outlet. It had a singular purpose. If it wouldn't charge his laptop, then what was it? Just an ugly hole in the wall, that's what it was. Cade glowered at it as the little computer flashed through startup screens, the long cord still plugged into the useless outlet. He loathed running on battery power. It set his teeth on edge to know that his time was finite, data loss looming in the distance.

There might be another outlet somewhere else. He considered getting up to look for it, but couldn't bear the thought of leaving his perfect row of chairs to sit among smelly, ignorant strangers. The battery, upsetting as it was, was the lesser evil. At least he had his empty row.

Out of the corner of his eye, a woman approached. He clicked his fingernails against the metal armrest as she turned and slid herself down his row. Toward him. His heart pounded with frustration. Would it be rude of him to get up and move now? Ah, but the cord! Damn, he thought. No time.

"Waiting for a plane, are you?" She stopped quite close to him, bags in hand. Cade turned his head slightly in reluctant acknowledgment and got a better look. She was short and rotund but rather pretty, with delicate features and a tall, heavy-looking swirl of hair overwhelming her petite head. She seemed to be wearing quite a lot of makeup. Cade wondered if they had Mary Kay ladies in England. He stole a surreptitious glance at her pink suitcase. Surely they must.

"It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance. My name is Ms. Maria Thompson." She flashed him a pageant-winning smile as she squeezed into the seat next to him.Her elbow on the armrest pressed into his upper arm and he squirmed, looking for a new position. Why is she doing this to me? Cade thought with a slight grimace. The operating system flashed on with a loud fanfare. A rush of heat filled Cade's face.

Ms. Maria Thompson cleared her throat.

Cade composed himself. Oh, crap. Okay. No reason to be rude. "Oh, I'm sorry. Nice to meet you, Miss Thompson, I'm—"

"Mizzzzz," she corrected him. "But call me Maria." Her tone became a conspiratorial one as she leaned closer to him. Her powdery perfume began to clog his senses. "My, there are some unsavory characters around here, aren't there?"

Cade was reminded of the snarky Russians and their horrible laughter. He realized he had ceased to notice them once Maria had appeared. "I suppose," he said. The sight of her, and her seemingly inescapable attention, still had him a bit dazed.

"That's why I thought I'd better come sit over here. We've got to stick together." A tinkle of friendly—or flirty?—laughter followed.

He said nothing. She didn't seem to notice.

"That's a nice computer. Is it a Mac?" It certainly was not, but Cade only smiled a weak smile as she continued. "Are you getting a signal? Here, I'll show you my Web site. My nephew put it up."

Cade nodded, wide-eyed. Who was this woman? Why would he want to see her Web site? Why, oh why had he tethered himself to this seat with a cord that wasn't even providing power?

His anxiety rose as Maria leaned across him to type the address. In a fit of panic, he swatted the computer from his lap. It tumbled to the floor with a loud crash, followed by a tinny rattle as something tiny and silver and cylindrical fell out of a newly formed inch-wide crack near his power supply. It rolled toward the floor-to-ceiling window and hit the glass with a ting. Strange, thought Cade. What is that?

The End

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