Chapter 26

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Danielle doesn't recognize the airport, but knows from the brief duration of their limousine journey that it must be London City, near the docklands; Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Luton are all much further away. The limousine door opens into a hangar, an enormous building home to three small jet aircraft. One of them is active, lit up. Stairs ascend to its yawning entryway. Laurent escorts her up into the cabin. She expects bus seating like a regular airplane, but instead there are two tables with six plush chairs around each. A burly black man stands before the cockpit door and watches as Laurent sits her down at one of the tables. Laurent descends from the airplane. Danielle looks at him through the window as he hustles Keiran up the stairs. Keiran leans on him the whole way, his jaw slack, drooling a little. Once Laurent has eased Keiran into his seat, the black man pulls a lever on the side of the aircraft, the stairs fold into the side of the plane. As the engine begins to hum and throb beneath them, Laurent closes all the window panels. They latch shut, unlike on commercial aircraft.

"Where are we going?" Danielle asks. Her mouth is desert-dry.

"The less you say, and the less I say, for the duration of this journey, the better it will be for all of us. Understand?"

After a moment Danielle nods. She thinks of tales of Argentinian political prisoners, thrown out of airplanes from ten thousand feet above the Atlantic Ocean, a hundred miles offshore, to disappear forever into the maw of the wild sea.

"Buckle up," Laurent says.

Danielle attaches Keiran's seat belt and then her own. Keiran is breathing quickly and his shirt is damp with sweat. She can tell, somehow, maybe by the smell of him, that he is too drugged to be afraid like her.

The takeoff is short and bumpy. Laurent reads the same Céline novel he has been working his way through for two weeks. Danielle is somehow insulted that he had the presence of mind to bring it with him. It somehow diminishes what they are doing; her life is being changed, and is at real risk, she can feel it, but to him it is only another errand.

Danielle doesn't wear a watch, and Laurent took her cell phone before they left the flat. She cannot guess how long the flight lasts, her heightened emotional state distorts her sense of duration. Anywhere from one to three hours. She is relieved when the timbre of the engine changes, and the pressure gap in her ears tells her that they are descending. She had not really believed he meant to drop them into the Atlantic. Surely there are easier ways to murder them and dispose of their bodies. And surely even the real, revealed Laurent is not such a monster as that.

The relief, and the end of the anxious waiting, outweigh her fear of what might await them, dungeon or gallows or boardroom, at their destination. She is almost impatient to land and disembark, onto an airfield that seems utterly deserted but for a helicopter that looks like some kind of gigantic insect. Green fields surround the hangar and single administrative building next to the runway.

The black man remains on the airplane. Keiran leads them onto the helicopter, occupied by a single pilot, blond hair spilling from the back of his headset. The passenger compartment consists of two fold-up padded benches facing one another, front and back. Keiran still seems dazed, as if he just woke up. Laurent straps Danielle and then Keiran into safety harnesses. Keiran remains silent, but he is paying some attention to his surroundings now, like there is a three-dimensional movie going on around him, and he dares not interrupt for fear of inciting the rest of the audience's anger.

"Listen," Laurent says, his voice low and intense. "I've pushed the decision of what to do with you up to a higher level. That's all I can do for you. I would prefer that you live, but when we get there, your fates are out of my hands. Do you understand?"

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