The Perfect Indiscretion by Blake Pierce

CHAPTER ONE

DeDe Albright thought that she had seen it all. But she was wrong. This time was different.

After spending fourteen years as a flight attendant, the last six of them working on private jets, she’d dealt with all kinds of behavior. On commercial flights, she’d broken up multiple mile-high lavatory hookups and even a few trysts in seats with just a blanket to hide what was going on underneath.

On several occasions, she had to zip-tie unruly passengers for everything from assaulting a flight attendant when she ran out of vegetarian meals to trying to break into the cockpit to have a “heart to heart” with the captain. She even got an air marshal to arrest a guy who was stealing all the mini-bottles of liquor directly from her service cart.

On private jets, the challenges were different. They included pampered, demanding passengers who felt they were entitled to scream at her when things weren’t perfect. She dealt with spoiled kids who thought it might be fun to use seats as trampolines or attempt to smash cabin windows. And then there was the constant drinking and drugs.

The jet was stocked with enough alcohol to satisfy a fraternity party, but people often felt the need to supplement the refreshments. And everyone seemed to bring their preferred chemical enhancement. She remembered one time when a full baggie of cocaine dropped out of a guy’s carry-on as he moved down the aisle and she had to chase him down to return it.

But none of that compared to the group on her current flight. The jet technically had the capacity for nineteen guests but this trip only had seven. Still, they more than made up for their limited numbers with their wildness. The journey from San Francisco to Los Angeles normally took only an hour; but they were taking an alternate route, curving out west over the Pacific Ocean in order to double the flight time and, therefore, the party time.

Everyone was taking full advantage of the extra hour and seemed unconcerned that it was barely after 10 a.m. on a Monday morning. She knew this outing was part of a fiftieth birthday bash, but even taking that into consideration, it seemed excessive.

Two men were sitting across from each other in plush, leather seats, doing lines of coke off the card table in front of them. Two women were engaged in some kind of tequila shot competition, complete with wrists, salt, and limes. Another guy, who had just finished dancing naked for his friends, was rifling through a baggie filled with multiple, brightly colored pills.

The sound system was blasting bass-heavy, house music and the lighting had been switched into “dance club” mode, which meant a darkened cabin, with a kaleidoscopic spray of rainbow lights and the occasional strobe thrown in for good measure. DeDe had developed a headache about twenty minutes into the flight and it had only gotten worse since.

The only positive was that no one seemed to need her for much so she moved to the front of the cabin, passing through the galley to the small, crew lavatory where she hoped to get two minutes of comparative quiet. She closed the door and took a few deep breaths.

Staring at herself in the mirror, she wondered how much longer she could keep doing this. She was thirty-six and starting to feel the impact of so many years at altitude. She was constantly sleep-deprived, her skin was suffering from the dry cabin air, and she knew at least six friends who’d gotten some kind of cancer in the last five years. All of them were younger than she was.

She had moved to private jets because she was sick of dealing with the cattle calls of commercial flights. But on days like this, she wondered if she’d made a mistake. She’d never dealt with an overdose or alcohol poisoning on a commercial flight but it seemed like a real possibility with this gang.

DeDe regrouped to go back out, reminding herself that there was only a half hour left in the flight. She opened the door to find a man standing right in front of her. It was the naked dancer guy who’d been fishing through the colorful pill baggie earlier. He was mostly dressed now. His eyes were red and as wild as his flyaway blond hair. He reeked of whiskey and weed.

“I’m sorry, sir,” she said diplomatically. “You’re welcome to use this lavatory but the passenger one in the back is much more spacious.”

“I was actually hoping we could share this one,” he slurred, stepping forward to block her path. “You know, christen it or something.”

“That’s all right, sir,” she said, trying to be diplomatic. “We’ll be landing soon and I need to help prepare the cabin.”

“I promise it won’t take that long,” he mumbled, leaning in, wrapping his arms around her waist and squeezing her backside with both hands. She wanted to swat them away but the space was too tight for her to move. He was now in the bathroom with her, pressing her backward toward the mirror. She felt the panic rise in her chest. With all the noise and madness around them, if he closed and locked the door, it was possible that no one would hear her screams for help.

She was just about to resort to a knee to the groin when she heard a voice behind the man.

“Mr. Thacker,” someone said loudly and firmly. “It’s time to return to your seat.”

The guy twisted around in the tight space. DeDe saw that the speaker was Anna De Luca, the other flight attendant. Young, pretty, and perpetually perky, Anna almost never raised her voice; but she was doing it now.

“You want to join us, baby?” he offered.

“Maybe another time,” she said, less forcefully than before. “Come on, Mr. Thacker…Gareth, you don’t want to be that guy, do you?”

Gareth seemed to consider the question, before turning back to DeDe and whispering in her ear.

“Let’s consider this foreplay. I’ll be back for more later.”

Then he stepped back, maneuvered around to face the other way and stumbled past Anna, blowing her a kiss as he went by.

“You okay?” she asked, once he was out of earshot.

“He said that he’s not finished,” DeDe told her. “I’m really worried that he’s going to try to corner me again. He was so aggressive. I’m thinking of alerting the captain. Maybe he can come back for a minute and scare the guy.”

“You could do that,” Anna said. “But it might make things worse. Thacker could try to get you fired. He’s a major music producer. I’ve heard he can be really vindictive. I have another suggestion.”

“What?”

“Talk to Edward Morse, the birthday boy; let him know how uncomfortable you are,” Anna said. “This is his party and his flight. He’s the one with liability. Plus, he’s a big deal too. He doesn’t want bad press. If he’s afraid that you might sue him, he’ll shut his buddy down fast. If he’s not responsive, then you can still talk to Captain Graynamore.”

The idea made sense. She didn’t want to go to the nuclear option if she could avoid it. Her goal was to get off this flight without being assaulted or fired and if talking to the man paying for all of it could prevent either, it was worth a shot.

“Thanks, Anna,” she said and made her way over to Morse, who was settled in the prime seat on the plane, on the right side, facing forward. It looked like all the partying had caught up to him and he’d drifted off. How he’d managed that with the craziness around him was beyond her.

As she got closer, she had second thoughts. Would waking him up to complain piss him off? She didn’t want to alienate the very person whose help she needed. She stood over him, debating how to proceed. That’s when she noticed the drool streaming down his chin from his open mouth. He looked more like he’d passed out than fallen asleep. Her mind flashed to her earlier concern about an overdose. Was it possible that one had finally happened?

Despite her apprehension, she gently tapped him on the shoulder.

“Mr. Morse,” she said quietly, “I’m sorry to bother you but I need to speak with you.”

He didn’t respond so she shook his shoulder with a bit more force. His neck flopped lazily to the side, bending at what looked like an uncomfortable angle. He didn’t seem bothered by it. In fact, as she looked more closely, he didn’t seem to be responsive at all. He wasn’t breathing.

“Wake up, Mr. Morse,” she said loudly right into his ear as she shook his shoulder vigorously.

His whole body slumped to the side and his head hit the large window next to him hard, before lolling forward and slamming on the armrest. DeDe screamed.

Even with the pulsating music and the cacophony of voices, her voice rang out. Everyone looked over. Several of them saw the man and started screaming too. DeDe looked back to Anna, who quickly shut off the music and returned the lights to normal.

“Move aside,” one of the men said, “I’m a doctor.”

DeDe looked at him. Even in this horrifying moment, her brain took note of the irony that a man dedicated to keeping people healthy had a solid dusting of white powder in and around both nostrils. The doctor felt Morse’s pulse as he rested his head against the man’s chest. After a few seconds, he looked up and said in a surprisingly calm voice said, “Eddie’s dead.”