Waiting on the tarmac at the airport in Houston, Hart tried both Lapsley and Zenone, but was unable to raise either on his cell. He checked his watch. Even OSCs deserve Sunday night off .
After take-off, a stewardess gave him a choice between The Houston Chronicle and The Philadelphia Inquirer . He chose The Inquirer, a nod to a new life, and dropped it onto the empty seat beside him. Hart stared out the window into the upper reaches of the troposphere, a stunning black freckled with starlight older than any one of his lineal ancestors. He wouldn’t say he was at peace, but there was a calming feeling that came with his decision to take a leave of absence from Akanabi. He lowered his seat into the recline position, shut the overhead light and closed his eyes, but after an hour of chasing an elusive sleep, he flipped on the light and pulled out the Employment and Business sections of the paper.
He scanned the front page of Business first; nothing caught his attention. He flipped through until he got to B-5 where his eyes met those of a smiling Gilliam William Tirabi, inventor extraordinaire. The headline read Inventor Turns Trash Into Gold , a somewhat inflated view of the process as admitted in the first line of the article since alchemy was only involved figuratively. However, it wasn’t the headline that caught his attention, but the face itself, and the feeling that he’d met this child before. The article, written by staff writer Chris Kane, recounted the tragic death of Gil’s parents and the MIA status of his older brother. It discussed Gil’s reluctance to complete the trash project until recently when he came to terms with his father’s death and decided it was “okay”.
Hart closed his eyes and thought about this kid’s life. When he opened them again, the face of Gil Tirabi was staring right at him. Hart studied the picture until he thought he saw Gil’s lips move. He shook his head, tossed the paper aside and shut the light.
At dawn, the plane touched down in Philadelphia. Hart grabbed his carry-on and moved into the aisle.
“Sir, would you like your paper?” the stewardess asked.
“No, thanks,” Hart said. But a moment later he turned, picked up the business section and stuck it under his arm.
Hart stopped for a latte, paid the woman, and dropped the newspaper in the process. A customer behind him handed it back.
“Thanks,” Hart said.
Hart took his change, shoved the paper back under his arm and stepped out of line. He stood, lost in thought for a moment, then walked to a nearby trash can and tossed the paper in, but the face of Gil Tirabi stared back at him. Hart chuckled at his own ridiculousness and left the terminal.
Outside he flagged a cab, turned over his carry-on to the Indian driver, threw his briefcase into the back seat and climbed in after it.
“Where to, sir?”
“The Sheraton on 2nd Street.” The cabby nodded and started the meter. Hart closed his eyes and slept until the cab pulled up to the hotel. He paid the driver, retrieved his briefcase and got out of the cab and stumbled toward the lobby of the Sheraton.
“Sir. Your paper.” Hart accepted the cabbie’s offering, shoving the paper in his briefcase before heading inside to check in.
to be continued. . .