Page 45 of Airport

The young ticket agent appeared doubtful. He didn’t want the old girl dying on him, though she looked ready for it. He asked uneasily, “Are you sure?”

“Yes, quite sure.” Mrs. Quonsett decided she didn’t want to attract attention here, not in the main part of the terminal. There were too many people nearby who would be watching. “Please help me up… thank you… now, if you’ll just give me your arm… I believe the ladies’ room is over there.” On the way, she threw in a couple of low moans, producing anxious glances from Peter Coakley. She reassured him, “I’ve had an attack like this before. I’m sure I’ll feet better soon.”

At the door to the women’s room she released young Coakley’s arm. “You’re very kind to an old lady. So many young people nowadays… Oh, dear!…” She cautioned herself: that was enough; she must be careful not to overdo it. “You’ll wait here for me? You won’t go away?”

“Oh, no. I won’t go.”

“Thank you.” She opened the door and went in.

There were twenty or thirty women inside; everything at the airport was busy tonight, Mrs. Quonsett thought, including washrooms. Now she needed an ally. She looked the field over carefully before selecting a youngish secretary-type woman in a beige suit, who didn’t seem in a hurry. Mrs. Quonsett crossed to her.

“Excuse me, I’m not feeling very well. I wonder if you’d help me.” The little old lady from San Diego fluttered her hands and closed and opened her eyes, as she had for Peter Coakley.

The younger woman was concerned at once. “Of course I’ll help. Would you like me to take you…”

“No… Please.” Mrs. Quonsett leaned against a washbasin, apparently for support. “All I want is to send a message. There’s a young man outside the door in airline uniform–Trans America. His name is Mr. Coakley. Please tell him… yes, I would like him to get a doctor after all.”

“I’ll tell him. Will you be all right until I get back?”

Mrs. Quonsett nodded. “Yes, thank you. But you will come back… and tell me.”

“Of course.”

Within less than a minute the younger woman had returned. “He’s sending for a doctor right away. Now, I think you should rest. Why don’t…”

Mrs. Quonsett stopped leaning on the basin. “You mean he’s already gone?”

“He went immediately.”

Now all she had to do, Mrs. Quonsett thought, was get rid of this woman. She closed and opened her eyes again. “I know it’s asking a great deal… you’ve already been so good… but my daughter is waiting for me by the main door, near United Air Lines.”

“You’d like me to get her for you? Bring her here?”

Mrs. Quonsett touched the lace handkerchief to her lips. “I’d be so grateful, though really it’s an imposition.”

“I’m sure you’d do as much for me. How will I know your daughter?”

“She’s wearing a long mauve coat and a small white hat with yellow flowers. She has a little dog–a French poodle.”

The secretary-type woman smiled. “That should be easy. I won’t be long.”

“It is so good of you.”

Ada Quonsett waited only a moment or two after the woman had gone. Mrs. Quonsett hoped, for her temporary helper’s sake, she did not spend too much time searching for an imaginary figure in a mauve coat, accompanied by a non-existent French poodle.

Smiling to herself, the little old lady from San Diego left the washroom, walking spryly. No one accosted her as she moved away and was absorbed in the surging terminal crowds.

Now, she thought, which was the way to the Blue Concourse “D,” and gate forty-seven?

TO TANYA Livingston, the Flight Two announcement was like a scoreboard change at a quadruple-header ball game. Four Trans America flights were, at the moment, in various stages of departure; in her capacity as passenger relations agent, Tanya was liaising with them all. As well, she had just had an irritating session with a passenger from an incoming flight from Kansas City.

The aggressive, fast-talking passenger complained that his wife’s leather traveling case, which appeared on the arrivals carousel with a rip in its side, had been damaged as a result of careless handling. Tanya did not believe him–the rip looked like an old one–but, as Trans America and other airlines invariably did, she offered to settle the claim on the spot, for cash. The difficulty had been in arriving at an agreeable sum. Tanya offered thirty-five dollars, which she considered to be more than the bag’s value; the passenger held out for forty-five. Finally they settled at forty dollars, though what the complainant didn’t know was that a passenger relations agent had authority to go to sixty dollars to get rid of a nuisance claim. Even when suspecting fraud, airlines found it cheaper to pay up quickly than enter into a prolonged dispute. In theory, ticket agents were supposed to note damaged bags at check-in, but seldom did; as a result, passengers who knew the ropes sometimes replaced worn-out luggage in that way.

Though the money was not her own, Tanya always hated parting with it when, in her opinion, the airline was being cheated.

Now, she turned her attention to helping round up stragglers for Flight Two, some of whom were still coming in. Fortunately, the bus with downtown check-ins had arrived several minutes earlier, and most of its passengers had by now been directed to Concourse “D,” gate forty-seven. In a minute or two, Tanya decided, in case there were any last-minute passenger problems during boarding, she would go to gate forty-seven herself.

D. O. GUERRERO heard the announcement of Flight Two while in line at the insurance counter in the terminal central concourse.

It was Guerrero, appearing hurried and nervous, whom Captain Vernon Demerest had seen arrive there, carrying his small attaché case which contained the dynamite bomb.

Guerrero had come directly from the bus to the insurance counter, where he was now fifth in line. Two people at the head of the line were being dealt with by a pair of girl clerks who were working with maddening slowness. One of the clerks–a heavy-chested blonde in a low-cut blouse–was having a prolonged conversation with her present customer, a middle-aged woman. The clerk was apparently suggesting that the woman take out a larger policy than had been asked for; the woman was being indecisive. Obviously, it would take at least twenty minutes for Guerrero to reach the head of the line, but by then Flight Two would probably be gone. Yet he had to buy insurance; he had to be aboard.

The p.a. announcement had said that the flight was being boarded at gate forty-seven. Guerrero should be at the gate now. He felt himself trembling. His hands were clammy on the attaché case handle. He checked his watch again, for the twentieth time, comparing it with the terminal clock. Six minutes had gone by since the announcement of Flight Two. The final call… the airplane doors closing… could come at any moment. He would have to do something.

D. O. Guerrero pushed his way roughly to the head of the line. He was past caring about being noticed, or offending. A man protested, “Hey, buddy, we’re waiting too.” Guerrero ignored him. He addressed the bigbreasted blonde. “Please… my flight has been called–the one to Rome. I need insurance. I can’t wait.”

The man who had spoken before interjected, “Then go without. Another time, get here sooner.”

Guerreio was tempted to retort: There won’t be another time. Instead, he addressed himself to the blonde again. “Please!”

To his surprise, she smiled warmly; he had been expecting a rebuff. “You did say Rome?”

“Yes, yes. The flight’s been called.”

“I know. She smiled again. “Trans America Flight Two. It is called The Golden Argosy.”

Despite his anxiety, he was aware that the girl had a sexy European accent, probably Hungarian.

D. O. Guerrero made an effort to speak normally. “That’s right.”

The girl turned her smile on the others who were waiting. “This gentleman really does not have much time. I’m sure you will not mind if I oblige him first.”

So much had gone wrong tonight that he could scarcely believe his good luck. There was some muttered grumbling in the line of people waiting, but the man who had done the talking until now was silent.

The girl produced an insurance application form. She beamed at the woman she had been dealing with. “This will only take a moment.” Then she turned her smile again on D. O. Guerrero.

For the first time he realized how effective the smile was, and why there had been no real protest from the others. When the girl looked at him directly, Guerrero–who was seldom affected by women–had the feeling he was going to melt. She also had the biggest tits he had ever seen.

“My name is Bunnie,” the girl said in her European accent. “What is yours?” Her ballpoint pen was poised.

AS A VENDOR of airport flight insurance, Bunnie Vorobioff was a remarkable success.

She had come to the United States, not from Hungary as D. O. Guerrero had supposed, but from Glauchau in the southern portion of East Germany, via the Berlin Wall. Bunnie (who was then Gretchen Vorobioff, the homely, flat-chested daughter of a minor Communist official and a Young Communist herself) crossed the wall at night with two male companions. The young men were caught by searchlights, shot and killed; their bodies hung for twenty-four hours on barbed wire, in public view. Bunnie avoided the searchlights and small arms fire and survived, survival being a quality which seemed to come to her naturally.

Later, on arrival as a U.S. immigrant at age twenty-one, she had embraced American free enterprise and its goodies with the enthusiasm of a religious convert. She worked hard as a hospital aide, in which she had some training, and moonlighted as a waitress. Into the remaining time she somehow crammed a Berlitz course in English, and also managed to get to bed–occasionally to sleep, more often with interns from the hospital. The interns repaid Gretchen’s sexual favors by introducing her to silicone breast injections, which started casually and ended by being a joyous group experiment to see just how big her breasts would get. Fortunately, before they could become more than gargantuan, she exercised another new-found freedom by quitting her hospital job for one with more money. Somewhere along the way she was taken to Washington, D.C., and toured the White House, the Capitol, and the Playboy Club. After the last, Gretchen further Americanized herself by adopting the name Bunnie.

Now, a year and a half later, Bunnie Vorobioff was totally assimilated. She was in an Arthur Murray dancing class, the Blue Cross and Columbia Record Club, had a charge account at Carson Pirie Scott, subscribed to Reader’s Digest and TV Guide, was buying the World Book Encyclopedia on time, owned a wig and a Volkswagen, collected trading stamps, and was on pills.

Bunnie also loved contests of all kinds, especially those which held a hope of tangible reward. Along these lines, a reason she enjoyed her present job more than any other she had had so far, was that periodically her insurance company employers held sales contests for its staff, with merchandise prizes. One such contest was in progress now. It would end tonight.