FBI - prologue

Marilyn Blanchard, the girl from flight forty, is shaking. She's five foot seven, dirty blonde hair, a mole just over the left edge of her lip. There are bruises on her face and both of her eyes are lined with purple. She displays an autonomic twitch when the overheads switch on, so we've dimmed the lights. She appears to be a soft creature, not bred for what she has experienced, so we pose low level questions to start. Her blue TWA uniform is ripped, and most of the buttons along the front are missing. I repeat my name and rank, but she is still catatonic.

"Here, sweetheart, you want a blanket?" I ask. She says nothing.

I whisper to my assistant and within minutes she returns with a wool blanket. I move around the table and drape it over her shoulders.

"Do you know what year it is? What day?" I ask. The girl huddles deep into the blanket. The warmth takes hold.

"It's nineteen... nineteen fifty nine." she says haltingly.

"Very good." I reply. "And do you know how you got here?"

For the first time since the officials brought her into the interrogation room, she looks at me. It's a long, hard stare.

"It was in row seven." she says blankly. "He asked for a drink."

"Ok, go on, sweetheart, go on." I urge. She begins her story.

Marilyn Blanchard

Did we fly tonight? Was it last night? I don't remember. Anyway, it was just me and her. Missus Chamberlain, I mean. The head stewardess. She had me running back and forth and fetching napkins and hot towels and drinks even before the passengers boarded. There was no room for error. I like to serve, but Chamberlain takes it over the edge and then some.

Mama always told me to be nice to strangers. I always have been. I love serving people. It's in my nature. But running back and forth for the old lady really tried my patience. The transcontinental New York to Los Angeles service started this year and I was on most of the flights. When my girlfriends and me went up together, we always made the best of it. We got to know passengers like old friends and made every flight a party. It was a hoot.

What did Missus Chamberlain say to me on my first day on the job? She said, in her haughty way: "I expect you to work no harder than I do, and I work hard!" I always had to match her efforts, and if I didn't measure up, she'd remind me just how hard she had to work and how easy I had it. I was never good enough. Well, this flight was no different. She told me that same thing, "I work hard, Miss Blanchard, and I expect you to match my efforts."

So there I was, fetching hot towels and loading the drink cart when the passengers came in. It was the usual crowd. Madison Avenue types out to court their Hollywood contacts, mostly. Some travelling salesmen who had the dough to do it in style. A few fifth avenue ladies. They lit up their cigarettes and it got real smoky, and this real fream steps in through the smoke with the rest of 'em and sits down in row seven. He looked like a bum, with his baggy suit and scuffed shoes but his hair was done up real nice, parted straight down the front like one of those silent performers from the circus. I think he was tryin' to be like them, but it was like his suit didn't fit, or he was wearing somebody else's.

He asked me for a tom collins before I'd gotten the drink cart ready. I told him to wait, but he grabbed my arm real hard and told me I was good for bringing drinks just as good as his wife was, and to hurry up. Now I don't mind being spoken to that way so long as I can walk away, but Chamberlain gave me a look that told me I had to go make the drink. So I did, and when I got back he was smoking his cigarette and just gazing out the window like he was hypnotized. I dropped the drink off and went back just in time to buckle in and take off. We straightened up after twenty thousand feet and I unbuckled and got to work. I drew back the cloth shades and switched on the reading lamps like usual, adjusted the stacks of bags in the upper shelves, handed out more drinks.

Most passengers carried the daily papers and the ladies went through fashion mags and the Saturday Evening Post, but the guy from row seven had a book on his lap. I tried to see the cover, to be friendly, and he held it up for me to see. It was hard to forget, something like a perfume, Fleurs du Mal. I remember the name because it made me think of some fancy new Guerlain L'heure ad I just saw in a store window window. I joked with him about it, but it made him real angry. I tried to ignore it but it made my skin crawl. He took to me. He asked me to make him another collins. "And next time you go back there to mix it," he said, "walk slow so I can see your caboose!" I told Miss Chamberlain about it and all she said was, "well then, Miss Blanchard, I can't imagine you walking any slower than you do already." Can you believe the nerve?!

You ever study someone and then wish you didn't? I looked harder at his face and saw that it was real dirty and oily. He looked at me like something, oh I-don't-know-what. While I got fresh towels and did dish service for the others on the flight, he said something awful like "I make you swoon." He even starting touching me! He put his finger down a slit in my skirt as I went down the rows. I slapped his hand away and a big mess of coins scattered all over the floor. They weren't even American dimes. He was slipping them into my skirt and expecting me to, I don't know, walk a certain way. Look at him a certain way. "Those are your coins," he said. "Just walk slow, so I can have you." He said the same stuff over and over again and listen, I was raised to be nice to awful men, but not this way, not when I can't walk away.

That's when it came over me. The other passengers saw how angry I was. I picked up the coins and he smiled and said "good, now dance for me" but instead, I tossed them at him, at his face, and his tray.

"I don't know who you think you are," I said real loud. "I work for a living, mister! Just you keep your claws away from me!" Chamberlain came over to stop me but that's when the guy stood up and that's when he hit me. He was saying things like, "you owe me," and "you are good for one thing." That's when the Missus came to her senses and told him to sit down. He just lay on top of me so I could not breathe. He tried to kiss me with that awful mustache of his. I kicked and that's when my skirt ripped. I just kicked and kicked again and I felt hands lifting me up and before I knew it, I was sitting in the back, catching my breath while some men took him to the other end of the plane.

They held the man down near the front hatch. Three or four business guys had their knees in his stomach. He kept making raunchy noises. It made me sick. This awful passenger with his fancy french books was nothing but a disgusting pig. I never said a thing to make him like that, I swear. I have always been a polite girl.

I thought it was over. Oh god. I don't want to think about it. I remember the sounds of him breaking free and the yells of the men. I remember his suit flapping at he rushed between the seats all the way to the back room where I sat. He back-handed old Missus Chamberlain. I actually felt sorry for her in those moments before he grabbed me. That was some heavy duty medicine he was taking, or something. He was strong. Stronger than any of the men. He grabbed my shoulders and backed me up against the hatch, and threw down the red lever.

God, the noise was so loud and awful and the cold. Oh god, the cold. My hair went loose and got in my eyes. Things from inside the plane flew and hit me in the face and side. There he was, just leaning in on me, holding me to where the cold took all the feeling out of my arms and legs. He had me. He leered at me. He leaned in. Oh god. It was awful, like he could see into me, and those crooked teeth and the one lopsided eye. I don't want to think about it too much.

The wind made it hard to see but I saw 'em, all the other passengers standing around inside the cabin, watching like bystanders at a ballgame. Some tried to stop him. He was so strong and just scattered them with one hand. I have never seen someone so strong. The wind was on his loose suit, making him look like a scarecrow.

Did he say anything? Yes. He said it over and over. I could never forget it. He said, "you will fall. You will fall. You will fall." He screamed it real loud in my face. He yelled like I did something wrong to him, like I had rejected him. He did something weird, he just opened his mouth and showed me his teeth. I tried to push back in, then, but he kept my shoes just at the edge of the door, just before the empty black cold behind me.  We pushed and pulled on that step for a long time. God, it felt like a dance. It was me against him, but he was stronger. I felt my feet slipping back off the edge.

You wanna know what the weirdest thing was? Right in those last seconds he looked real hurt. Like I'd crushed his feelings or somethin.' I don't know why I saw it this way, but he looked sorry, and that's when he pushed.

Yes, he pushed me out, just straight out and back. It was black and cold. I'm a girl from Connecticut. I was raised proper. I was taught not to fall head over feet over any man, but there I was, doin' it. I thought I was damn dead. I kept falling and it was like only my head came off because my body lost feeling everywhere. I could not move my arms or legs. I could just fall, and shut my eyes, and get ready for something bad.

I fell forever. I know that I started seeing shapes after some time,  just a bunch of black and purple shapes like the whole earth and then the sky. I fell all that way? How did I live? I should not have lived. Something scooped me up and put me in the tree. It felt like I fell up instead of down. How did that happen? Wind gusts? Is that why I'm here? There's blood and scratches all over me, my goodness. Can I get some coffee? I need to rest. I need a bed. When I tumbled from the door I never thought I'd get a bed again.

Are you keeping me here because of the plane? Did it land? I hope they put him down. I really do. I hope they killed him. Do you know what happened to flight forty? 

FBI - epilogue

I watch her carefully. She's fully awake now, no signs of the catatonia from earlier. In fact -- she is frantic.  She is not aware that it has been a full week. A fall like that will make you sleep for a lifetime. Strike my earlier observation about Ms. Blanchard from the record. She should not have survived that fall, and yet she did. The passenger she reports, the one from row seven, was not found at the crash site. We found trauma consistent with the crash, but a few of the corpses had tooth impressions on their skin, as if someone had tried to bite them as the plane went down.

What I have learned from Ms. Blanchard's testimony is that she probably could not have fought her way back into the fuselage. As she is the sole survivor of flight forty, we may never piece together how or why she was spared. We continue to parse the wreckage for signs of this mystery man, this man with the loose suit, but so far, he eludes us, if he exists at all.


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