Authors: Hazel Edwards
Tags: #Children's Fiction - Mystery
âKeep calm, ladies and gentlemen,' said the voice of Captain Richards.
William hurried the twins out of their seats. His hand was firmly on Amy's back. Either side, people were unclicking seatbelts and trying to get out of their seats. Cabin crew were helping them. Some were in a panic. The honeymoon group were the only ones still wearing their seatbelts until the tour director said something and they all started to move.
âWhat is it?' Christopher wondered if the plane was going to blow up.
Had someone placed a bomb on board? Was the mist the start of an explosion? Were they going to be hijacked?
The âSunny Tours' director organised his group. âHurry please. This is an emergency.' Mist still swirled around the cabin.
What if it were laughing gas ? thought Amy. But they didn't giggle. They just all tried to get out! Chaos! The cabin crew tried to move people quickly, but some would not. âI need to reach over you to get my backpack,' said Tess whose green hair looked strange in the swirling mist. She seemed cheerful in the middle of the panic.
Christopher ducked, to make room for Tess to reach across.
Unfortunately, as Tess tugged at her sticker-covered backpack in the overhead lockers, the flap of her bag opened. Things fell out. A fold-up toothbrush landed on the floor of the plane. Christopher made a grab for it, but the plane was tilting slightly now. The toothbrush rolled under the next seat.
She must have midget teeth, thought Amy looking up. Something else was falling! She stuck out her hand and just caught the collapsible mug as it fell past her left ear. Camping cutlery rained down. A fork fell, spiking the seat. A silvery case which looked like aluminium, slipped out. Tess grabbed it and stuffed it quickly inside her bag. She looked around quickly to see whohad noticed it. The case looked like a strangely shaped thermos. No one, except Amy had noticed because just then, something more embarrassing happened.
A pair of red knickers landed on the head of Mr Kei who was trying to get up from his seat. The aisle was so crowded, it was hard to get out.
âSorry,' Tess sounded embarrassed. As she grabbed her knickers, somehow his silver chain became entangled with the headphones. As he tried to jerk the briefcase free, his foot slipped under the seat, twisted and he fell sideways into the seat. âOh, my ankle!' He grabbed at his foot with his free hand. âBe careful!'
âWould you like me to take your briefcase ?' offered Tess who was bent double.
âNo. no. no,' he said irritably. âI mustn't let it out of my sight. Just take these.'
He handed back the scarlet knickers.
Tess blushed. âI like colourful clothes, but these got mixed up in the wash and now everything is pink.'
Amy had already noticed the pinky washed T shirt in her backpack which stood out amongst her green clothes. âHurry up please,' said William who was not perfectly calm this time. His smile had been de-programmed. âGo down the steps, through the covered way and into the transit lounge and sit down. Soon you'll be told soon what is happening about the plane.'
âWill we be late getting into Tokyo?' asked the tour director, looking at his watch. As an extra service, he'd had the wedding photos developed and framed at the airport FAST-FOTO shop. This was to impress his tour group clients. Others had digital memories only. Now he'd be blamed for the lost photos which could be with other passengers on other planes leaving Sydney for anywhere in Asia. Now he was worried about his clients blaming him for the flight delay too. âI'm not sure, sir,' said William. âPlease move your people out quickly.'
Cabin attendants helped passengers out through the covered walkways. Some people were fussing, others were quiet and scared- looking. The red cloaked man was re-packing something in the saggy bag which looked longer than cabin luggage should be. His friends hovered around him.
Mist still hung in the cabin. Christopher sniffed. The mist didn't smell of anything special. It wasn't like smoke or being in a freezer mist. It just clung. Time to go!
A sort of yawn escaped Christopher's mouth. He put up his hand and looked back as they walked across the tarmac. What made him do that? The sudden cold air? Yawning was a weird thing to do in the middle of all this excitement. Was it really sleeping gas? Or a boredom bomb? He sort of expected the plane to blow up or hijackers to appear, but apart from the walking passengers carrying their hand luggage, everything was normal. Was that suspicious? That everything did look normal? Had the mist been an accident? Or had someone deliberately made it happen so the plane would put down?
Christopher decided to keep his eyes open. There might be a mystery around. Certainly there was a whole plane load of people who might be involved: the honeymooning tourists and their tour leader, Tess, the courier, perfect William, the red cloaked man and even the security guards. That reminded him.
âHey,' Amy suddenly remembered too. âWhat happened to the guards and the Rembrandt? Are they off yet?' She swung around to look. A couple from the tour group nearly bumped into her.
Christopher turned and look back across the airfield. The guards were standing near the plane as technicians quickly opened the hold.
âD'you think a thief would try to steal the painting now?'
âHow would they know that the plane was coming back here? That wasn't planned.'
âPerhaps someone deliberately caused the mist so we'd have to turn back?'
Christopher shrugged. âI'm not sure. Remember that time there was engine trouble? The bird smugglers released their drugged birds in the airport toilets. They didn't think the birds'd keep quiet for all the journey if the flight was delayed.'
They helped Gloria then. Gloria worked undercover for customs security. Sometimes, they saw her at different airports following tips about smugglers or illegal goods. She often worked with INTERPOL, the international police.
âHey! Stop!' called one of the security guards. âDon't run across here!'
The twins turned. A man was running across the tarmac. He was running towards them, his red cloak streaming behind him. âWait!
He was waving a package. âWedding photos, brides, flowers. âhe called. âYours! Must be!' He raced up to the tour director and pushed a package into his hand. âWhere are the others? I must have them back!'
Overwhelmed, the tour director threw up his hands.' My clients have them.' Fascinated, the passengers gathered around, as the tour director tried to collect the photos back from passengers who were laden with bags.
âJust get them back or else...!' the last comment was made in a softer voice but Amy overheard. Why was there such a fuss? Was Red Cloak a FAST-
FOTO customer? Or was he working for the photo shop? It was bad business to print out the wrong photos in frames, especially to an overseas tourist group. But was that all?
Why hadn't the Red Cloak realised earlier? Hadn't he looked at his own photos earlier? Why was he wearing such daggy clothes? And what was so important amongst those photo prints that he had to have them back? Was it anything to do with the photo of the people dressed-up in costume?
If they were going to be stuck in the transit lounge, the twins would find out the answers. They needed a mystery to fill in the waiting time!
âHave they worked out what caused the mist?' Tess dropped her heavy backpack on the floor. Amy wondered if that holder was some kind of thermos. Lots of backpackers carried their own water in drink bottles. âTechnicians are checking.' said the official. That meant he didn't know.
âWhen will the plane leave?' asked the tour director who was still looking worried. He had given out the re-cycled wedding photos, matching the names and faces. All the couples were re-opening their envelopes.
âHow late will it be getting into Tokyo?' The official didn't know that either. But he smiled pleasantly.
Perhaps the staff had to go to Smile School, thought Amy. William was a professional smiler too. She wondered what thoughts were behind the smile.
Didn't he ever get grumpy or dislike people? What did he think about behind all that politeness? Red Cloak flipped through his envelopes of prints, said, âRight. I can use these in Tokyo. They've turned out okay. But some of these don't belong to me.' Tess pointed to the vase photo. âIs that yours?'
Red Cloak shook his head. âI'll send it back to FAST-FOTOS.' Then he joined the four men hunched over a board on a low corner table behind the pillar.
The tour director went to calm down his group. Still upset by the photo mix-up,the young brides fluttered like butterflies. Then they kept looking at themselves as brides and grooms amongst the gum trees and flowers in the parks. They seemed MUCH happier now. Even the mist didn't worry them.
While Christopher wondered if photos ever wore out from being looked at, Amy wondered about Red Cloak's photos so she peered around the pillar. A man with a straggly black beard was throwing a dice. What were they plotting? Or was it a game? They looked like something out of a medieval movie with their beards and old style clothes.
âListen, if I'm the G.M., you have to... .But what skills does he have?' said
Red Cloak in an impatient voice. He seemed to want to hurry things along. Amy tugged at Christopher's arm and they moved so he could overheard too.
âDo you want him to do it or not? Choose now.' Red Cloak's voice was firm.
âWho are they?' asked Christopher. Overhearing, Tess looked across. âR.P.G.s,' she said.
âR.P.G.s? What are they doing ? â
Amy imagined Really Patient Ghosts and other R.P G words, but they didn't look like ghosts. They were real, even if they did wear daggy clothes.
âRole Playing Games. People pretend to be the characters in a game.' Tess repacked her dusty backpack. Christopher was fascinated by her collapsible cup. It went down to a third of its size. And she had a splade with a fork end and a plastic cutting edge. Her toilet bag was tiny and even her toothbrush folded into half size. âSo who are they?' asked Christopher. âThe R.P.G.s?”
Tess removed fuzz from a lifesaver lolly she'd found in her bag.
âDepends which game they're playing. Might be set in the future or the past. They're not free form because they're using dice.
âSome games have set rules. Others, the G.M. just talks them through.'
âGeneral manager? guessed Amy.
âThe Games Master' corrected Tess. âWhat if she's a girl? Is she the Games Mistress?' asked Amy.
âNot many girls play,' said Tess.
âPerhaps they're not invited.' suggested Amy. âI would.'
âMy brother used to play,' said Tess. âThat's how I know about R.P.G.s'
âAce way to pass the time,' said Amy. It looked like fun pretending to be someone else. And it was legal! But what was the photo mix-up about? How had the Games Master ended up with the Japanese wedding photos? And what was on the other photos that he needed back? Red Cloak didn't seem to be looking at them now, he was too busy playing his game. The photos were stuffed in his oddly shaped bag.
Mr Kei sat quietly in a corner, watching everybody, including the role-playing-gamers. Occasionally he looked at his watch. Nervously he played with the silver chain attached to his wrist. The briefcase was very close to him. The chunky man had gone across to the drink machine,
Then Mr Kei noticed the display just near the airport escalators. Large pictures were hung on movable screens. Underneath were the names of the paintings. Mr Kei moved across to look more closely.
Christopher followed. He liked paintings of people. But these were not originals. They were posters based on some famous paintings from a gallery.
âD'you know anything about these?' Christopher asked as Mr Kei peered at the small print underneath. Mr Kei gave a strange smile. He explained that these were part of the collection belonging to his client. They had been on show in Australia and were now going to a gallery in Tokyo. âBeautiful, aren't they?'
Christopher wondered if they were anything to do with the contract in Mr Kei's silver- linked briefcase.