When all was said and done, the matter of human trafficking involving an American flight crew would be classified as an illegal conspiracy in Russia.
The morning (as in just after midnight kind of morning) of the Vladivostok flight, Gabe had posed a question about what I recollected from the Russian Underground. There was only one right answer to that: Nothing.
But that’s not what I said.
“You. I remember You.”
He gazed at me, perhaps waiting, perhaps thinking, instinctively knowing there was more but that would remain unspoken between us.
Meanwhile, beyond my hotel room door, communication was heating up between major world powers concerning an illegal conspiracy of which we knew very little about.
An Illegal Conspiracy in Russia
You might wonder as I did why a British spy was undercover in Russia working a human trafficking ring that involved an American flight crew.
So did the U.S. State Department.
The British are long-time allies of the United States but when it comes down to jeopardizing American citizens in Russia, they have very little pull.
Actually, none at all. The U.S. State Department was, for lack of a better word, pissed.
The mistake Gabe made was thinking we were more than glorified pawns in polyester flight attire; that we were at liberty to decide whether we’d take the flight to Vladivostok following our descent into the Underground and the gestation of powerful drugs that were likely still in our systems.
Captain Dave was not about to jeopardize a 20 year career in commercial aviation, nor was he going to jeopardize ours. Thus, he followed Company protocol located in the flight manual categorized under Security, sub-heading: Terrorism.
Within a few hours, the chain of command stretched all the way from a commercial airline hub in Seattle, Washington to Washington D.C. where they went ballistic over an American flight crew being drugged and coerced into an illegal conspiracy in Russia.
All of this was transpiring on the other side of my hotel room door while inside, something much different was being revealed.
Gabe stood up and rubbed his face like a man will do when the burden of responsibility has peaked at exhaustion.
“I could use a shower… If I may?”
There was only one response to that. “Please…”
(C’mon. I’m a flight attendant, not a saint.)
This is when it became clear to me Gabe actually was a British spy, long before it was verified by the State department.
Despite the fact he had planted himself in my room while I was in a vulnerable state, Gabe was far more proper than to be expected (or hoped for) in my languid repose on the bed.
He removed himself to the bathroom, still dressed, definitely atypical of the unabashed American male or his brash Russian counterpart.
Without visual stimulation, I must have dozed off.
I awoke when the weight on the bed redistributed. Gabe was sitting on the bed wearing only a towel wrapped about his waist.
My first thought was not a thought but a primal reaction to the visual of a male body in its prime; a body defined not only within a controlled environment but in the peaks and valleys of life as evidenced by taut muscles criss-crossed with scars.
It’s true– Chicks dig scars.
I must’ve been staring in a rather zoned-out-do-not-disturb way, prompting Gabe to say,
“You should sleep. You’ll feel even better if you do.”
He said no more. I’m not sure what he was thinking, only that he was.
Perhaps he already knew his cover had been jeopardized, that we were not in the position of power he wanted to believe.
Ask me what I thought and I would say he did. Which is why I asked the question I posed earlier–
Why are you here at all? Does this have something to do with your father or are British citizens involved?
The answer he gave me, is the answer that changed me:
What’s the difference? We are all people divided only by the land we were born into and most by chance, not choice. It’s just another boundary we impose like religion to separate ourselves when in truth, we are all equal. No human life outweighs another. My hope was yes, I’d find more information that led to the disappearance of my father but once in, I couldn’t abandon the hope others held.
I reached over and touched his hand, allowing it to linger, to trace the patterns of scars over his knuckles. It takes a lot of pain to arrive at the place of wisdom he had expressed and I didn’t know it then but I would.
Gabe shifted on the bed and then his lips were on mine and this time when the world disappeared around me, I let it.