Heidi drummed her hands on her desk. Fifteen minutes had already slid by since she had been told they would leave. While not one so devoted to being on time, she knew airplanes didn’t wait around for the passengers. Yet their visiting guests from across the pond didn’t seem to realize that or care.
Mentally tallying up the distance to the airport and how fast she’d have to drive, she stalked out of the office and made her way to the conference room. She found the five executives and the two visitors leaning over a computer in deep discussion.
Putting on a professional smile, she walked in at a steady pace. “Gentlemen, have you finalized everything?”
“Yes, we have.” The salt and pepper haired man in front smiled at her. He ran his hands down his dark suit. “It turned out to be very satisfactory. Very satisfactory indeed.”
Heidi signed internally. It was over and they could get on their way. “Are we ready then?” Her smile faltered as he answered.
“After I speak with the Director.”
She forced a reassuring smile to her face. “Yes, of course. Keep in mind that your flight leaves in three hours.”
“We’ll be fine.”
She had to force herself not to recoil from the condescending pat on her arm. The man had been told multiple times that airport security could take at least an hour to get through. He couldn’t just wait until a half hour before the flight left to get in the car.
Mentally, she began accessing the best route to the airport. There was the traffic to take into account. They would be facing the beginning of rush hour. That didn’t account for the construction that was in progress throughout the season. Then there were the idiot drivers.
Heidi shuddered. Nothing was as bad as the idiot drivers who caused wrecks but never were involved in one. Add the construction to it and rush hour, they were doomed.
Her stomach churned, and she pulled the small container of antacid chewables from her pocket. Would this day ever end? She could hope. She could pray. Something told her nothing would help.
Heidi watched as the men made their way down the hall and disappear into the Director’s office. A few minutes? Not likely. They’d be lucky to be two hours late arriving at the airport.
“Heidi, do you have any info from Dallas yet?”
The question surprised Heidi and elicited a small squeak. She had been too deep in thought to hear anyone approach. Now she was inches from the office busybody.
Larry’s hair hung in face as usual. Greasy as usual, it was a very poor attempt to look like the latest teen popstar. The thirty-year-old thought he was still eighteen. He didn’t look it. He looked like a perv.
Heidi shivered. Now she really wanted to get to the airport, and that feeling had nothing to do with take off time. Could the day get any worse? Maybe she shouldn’t have said anything and tempted fate. With her luck, an asteroid would hit the building.
“No. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go…get ready…for… Just got to go.”
Heidi swallowed and rushed away. She knew she was a coward, but she couldn’t deal with anymore stress. She needed something to go right.
What bad luck to stumble across Larry. The man could concoct a story from nothing. There was no telling what he’d spread across the office about their exchange. More than likely, it would be far from the truth but would keep him popular for a spell.
She really didn’t care at the moment. It was out of her hands anyway. In fact, it seemed she had no control over anything nor any influence on the world around her.
Heidi went back to her desk. Work could fill her time. What else could she really do aside from quickly finding a way to become a superhero with lightning fast speed.
One spreadsheet updated.
The clock read that twenty minutes had passed.
Lengthy emails responded to.
Another twenty minutes.
Heidi walked by the Director’s office. It was empty!
Panic squeezed her until she felt she couldn’t breathe. Where were they?
She rushed down the hallways and peeked into meeting rooms. They were all empty. Her breath caught in her chest. They’d never make it time now.
There they were! Three men stood on the balcony off the executive dining area.
She paused. The director was not one to be trifled with. He did not enjoy jokes or anything light hearted going on around him. He was strictly business. Interrupting his meeting with their important guests might not result in anything pleasant for her. She had to be very careful how she approached them.
Taking a deep breath, she stepped closer. When she was a few feet from them, she said, “Excuse me.”
All three men turned at once. The director’s look was of annoyance. Great! She’ll have to pay for that look. The other two were of delight.
“Ah, there is our wonderful guide,” Claude gestured at Heidi. “Copeland, she has done an excellent job of taking care of us. We have wanted for nothing.”
The director’s face softened toward Heidi. He smiled and patted Claude on the back. “I’m glad it all worked out and that we were able to come to several agreements.”
Heidi felt a moment of satisfaction that the visit had proven productive, but she still had to get them to the airport on time. She smiled in return and said, “Your plane leaves in about two hours. It’s tight getting you there on time. So we should leave now.”
The men shook hands and continued to talk! She nearly screamed. They had to get going.
She took her cell phone out of her blazer pocket and quickly called the car service that had been on standby for the last hour and a half. They could bring the car to the front now and hopefully not wait another hour. She’d have to drive them, but she knew a few shortcuts.
Sweat dribbled down the back of her neck. This was going to be so close.
The men finally broke off, and Copeland wished them a safe flight. Heidi rushed them out the door as smoothly as she could. The elevator took twice as long to close and ten times as long to make it the fifteen flights down to the main floor. It stopped on every floor to pick up others. Heidi was near the breaking point and ready to scream when the doors opened to the first floor.
The men practically ran to keep up with Heidi who managed to sprint in high heels. The car waited for them. Heidi managed to be polite as she ushered the men in and took her place behind the wheel.
Once she was in the driver’s seat, she breathed a little easier. Then she thought of the time and the traffic. She couldn’t relax!
She nearly burnt rubber as she left the commercial complex behind and pulled out onto city streets. Relief flooded her as the traffic was relatively light. There was a chance. Lady Luck hadn’t quite deserted them yet.
The ramp onto the freeway was empty. The freeway was not. Traffic was bumper to bumper though it moved at a steady snail’s pace.
She let the car coast as she scanned the road in front of her. Rush hour was already underway. There was the option of getting off on Kilborn, but this time of day was bad there too. Sycamore would be clear, but construction had torn every intersection up. Then traffic stopped completely.
Heidi drummed her fingers on the steering wheel. Her passengers had not stopped talking to each other about various projects. She was glad they could not see her distress which had her facing an anxiety attack.
Construction! Again! The next two exits were closed. That took away her next options to get to the airport on time.
She inched up a few feet. The lanes were being merged from four heading south to two. Orange barrels lined the lane next to her. Heidi continued to scan the area around her.
The orange barrels segregated the lanes that were supposed to be under construction. That meant the two closed lanes were completely vacant. Beyond them was a chain link fence that had quickly been thrown up.
The idea of crossing over into the construction lanes and take the next exit, but another few yards showed her that there was actually construction in the lanes which made them impassable. She chewed her bottom lip and continued shifting in her seat.
Then she froze. Her eyes zoomed in on a section of the fencing that separated the construction on the highway and the small side road that had no traffic on it due to its remoteness. The section was leaning precariously.
Her eyes moved around the car and all the other vehicles surrounding her. She was in the lane next to the barrels. She was only a few yards from the weak fence. A thought poked at her. She flirted with it. Then she let it caress her a little bit more. Then she didn’t even try to hide the pleasure at the idea.
With a quick jerk of her hands, the car swerved through a wide opening in the barrels. Her passengers grunted in surprise. Without wavering, she pressed the gas pedal and rushed toward the weak fence. It was only a few seconds before the grill of the car plunged through the fence. Her passengers let out a few undignified shrieks.
Heidi didn’t hesitate. She pushed the car over the rough ground and through the fence. Screeching metal sounds filled the air. A very small part of her thought of how she was going to explain the marks on the outside of the car. Then she pushed the thought aside. Sometimes, it was better to think like Scarlet O’Hara. At least it was in that moment.
The car bounded down the small incline to the street below and bounced as it landed with tires still turning. The back of the car fishtailed slightly as it careened forward. Sounds of distress filled the backseat of the car. Heidi continued to ignore them. The airport was her only goal.
The street remained empty until she came to a large intersection. Getting her bearings, she took a sharp right and cut off a pizza delivery truck. If she was going to be late, their pizza could also be a minute or two late.
The speed limit was thirty-five. Heidi drove fifty. Red lights were just avoided. Technically, she was still in the intersection when the light changed, but she didn’t slow down. Forward she charged.
A quick glance into the mirror showed her a comic scene that she didn’t have to enjoy. Both foreign guests gripped the leather of the back seat. One had his hand wrapped around the shoulder strap of his seatbelt. The other clutched his briefcase to his chest.
She looked at the dashboard’s digital clock face. One hour before the plane was to leave. They’d start loading in about forty-five minutes. It was security she worried about it. An international flight might take longer though she thought the visitors had the special pass to bypass it all. If she could get to the airport in fifteen minutes and dump them out, they might have a chance.
A turn onto another major road brought them to within two miles of the road that led directly to the airport terminals. She pressed the gas pedal down and sped through multiple intersections.
There it was! The international terminals. She skirted around three parked cars and one that thought it was going to pull out in front of her. Noting the sign of the name of the airline the men were on, she slid the car to an abrupt stop. Her door was open before the car was completely in the right gear.
The trunk was open and the suitcases out before the two men exited the car. They breathed in quickly and deeply. In fact, they had a slight green tint to their faces. She closed the trunk and sat the suitcases on the concrete next to the men.
“Well, you might be able to make it in time. So glad to see you and glad it turned out good businesswise.” She was breathless when she finally stopped talking.
The men just nodded. She waved them toward the sliding doors that would take them to the security line. They picked up their bags and moved mechanically toward them.
Heidi ran her hands against her skirt and sighed. She had done her job. If they missed their flight now, it was completely on their heads.
“Excuse me, ma’am.”
Slowly, Heidi turned. A police officer stood behind her with his motorcycle parked a few feet behind her own car. He looked at her with one eyebrow raised.
“Hi,” she said weakly. Somehow that fence was not going to let her get off so easily.