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Kept in Silence

Kept in Silence

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Format

Main Tropes

  • Conspiracy
  • The Puppet Master
  • Reluctant Hero
  • Psychological Thriller
  • Fish Out of Water
  • Kidnapped

Synopsis

Fear can be a powerful motivator, but she never expected it would lead her to uncover a global conspiracy.

Harper Matthews’ life as a flight attendant was already complicated. Battling a fear of her own, she was doing her best to keep a brave face. Then on a red-eye flight, she encounters a strange passenger that will forever change her life. With a brief background in law enforcement, Harper is determined to find the truth behind one of the largest human trafficking operations in the world and agrees to go undercover.

In the shadows of the criminal underworld, Harper finds herself racing against the clock as her investigation draws her closer to the heart of the conspiracy. But with the stakes so high, she soon learns that the truth may come at a cost greater than she can imagine.

Can Harper unravel a global network of crime and find justice for those in the darkness?

Intro to Ch. 1

Harper Matthews handed the twentyish-looking man his fourth flute of champagne. He mumbled a “thank you” as he set the glass on the tabletop in front of him. The passenger drew in a shaky breath, pushing it out with the same shaky breath. Chewing on his bottom lip, he clutched tight to a small, slim package as he looked out the window, then set it on the table. His hand lingered momentarily above the envelope before he snatched it back up with a startled gasp, looking around the plane. He cursed underneath his breath and closed his eyes. His mouth moved slowly as he counted.

The same actions he had done several times since they departed John F. Kennedy.

Harper paused before stepping away.

“Is there anything else I can get you, sir?”

He looked up and continued to stare into the blackened sky.

“Sir?” She touched his shoulder with a gentle squeeze.

As if woken from a deep sleep, the passenger shook his head and blinked at her.

“Di-did you say something?”

She offered him a warm smile. “I was wondering if there is something else I can bring you? Water, perhaps?”

He blinked again before forcing a tight smile. “I’m fine. Right? I-I’m okay. But thank you j-just the same.”

The passenger tugged at the collar of his shirt as if it were a snake choking him. He set the package on the table, frowned at it, and snatched it up again.

“You say we’re almost in Atlanta?”

Harper nodded as she checked her watch. As she did so, a strand of dark brown hair fell in front of her eyes. She tucked it behind her ear with a smile. “We’ll be landing in thirty minutes.”

She sat in the empty seat next to him. Harper tried not to look out the window. Even the mere thought of being by the window, thousands of miles above the ground with no chance of escaping the small enclosure of the plane, Harper’s heartbeat would quicken.

It quickened now, as she struggled to maintain composure to calm a passenger who was obviously rattled.

“What are your plans in Atlanta?” she asked him. “Business or pleasure?”

The passenger appeared as nervous as she was, if not more. It’d taken her years to keep her own fears in check. She preferred to keep herself busy, force her mind off her thoughts. But, on the red-eye, when the passengers slept soundly, it wasn’t an easy task. She decided this particular passenger needed to take his mind off whatever he seemed worried about. It was obvious from the moment Harper set eyes on him that something was amiss.

His right cheek twitched as he peered at her.

The passenger swallowed hard, glancing again out the window.

For a second, Harper thought he wouldn’t answer, but when he did, it was in a soft, unsure tone.

“Business.”

“What is it you do?”

“Huh, what?”

“Your job,” Harper said, “What is your job?”

“A r-reporter,” he stammered with a swallow.

“Nice. So, what brings you to Atlanta? Anything I’ve heard on the news?” Her eyes flickered to the envelope. It wasn’t something she intended on doing, but somehow, someway, it drew out more of her curiosity.

The passenger slipped the package out of sight without a word but couldn’t mask the slight tremble in his hands.

She chose not to press the issue of the envelope. Instead, Harper replied, “Why don’t I get you that water? I’ll be right back.”

She moved away until he called her.

“Can I ask you a question?”

She stopped, noting the edge in his voice.

Turning, Harper stared at the back of his head.

“Of course.”

He paused and took a sip of his champagne, then another. “Have you ever had to make a choice? One you didn’t want to make?”

“Sure, I have,” Harper replied. “I’m sure we all have at some point in our lives.”

The passenger rose, turning to face her. His green eyes had grown dark, emanating an emotion she wasn’t sure what to make of. She stepped back.

“No,” he said, keeping his voice low, “I don’t think you have. I don’t mean a choice between what movie to watch or what to eat. I mean between what’s right and what’s wrong. A choice where the answer is always wrong.”

“I-I’m sorry, sir,” Harper said, blinking her eyes. She felt her skin crawling. The blood running through her veins suddenly seemed cold. “I don’t understand.”

The passenger opened his mouth as if to speak, then clamped it shut.

He returned to his seat.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Perhaps if you told me more,” Harper prompted, “I can help you figure it out. Are you in trouble, sir?”

Turning to face her, he flashed another tight smile. “Thank you for the drink. That’ll be all.”

Harper remained planted in place after the passenger turned to face the window.

Should she prompt him for more information?

Should she alert the pilots?

Something in the pit of her stomach tightened, a voice telling her to let it go, another voice telling her something was gravely wrong.

The passenger continued to glare out the window, the reflection in the glass staring directly at her.

Another chill crawled up her spine as she decided to walk away.

Whatever was going through the passenger’s mind, she knew she’d better not continue to bring up the subject.

Her mind replayed the conversation as she slipped behind the curtain.

“You okay?”

Harper glanced at her coworker before peering through the curtains at the passenger.

“Hey, Olivia, you see that man? I just had a weird conversation with him. I mean, scary weird.”

“What’s going on?”

Olivia set her magazine down and freed her thick brown hair from its ponytail. After running a comb through, she pulled her hair back into the rubber band. She listened with intent as Harper closed the curtains and relayed the short version of the conversation.

“Wow,” Olivia breathed, her eyes wide. She bit her bottom lip. “It could be nothing, but maybe you should tell the pilots.”

“He has seemed freaked out over something this entire flight. I don’t want to cause him any trouble if it’s nothing. But…he seemed…off.”

“Like he’s going to hijack the plane or something?”

“If he was planning on taking over the plane, don’t you think he would have by now?”

“Maybe,” Olivia muttered.

Harper drew in a deep breath and pushed it out. She closed her eyes, feeling the walls closing in on her.

Olivia chuckled. “You see the irony in this?”

Harper opened her eyes and said nothing as she reorganized the snack cart. She needed to focus her mind.

“He asked if you’d ever had to make a difficult choice,” Olivia continued, “and here you are, making a difficult choice. If we alert the pilots, they must alert airport security, who will take him in for questioning. The process can be long and tedious, especially if he’s just a nervous passenger. If you say nothing and he is a bad guy, you’ll feel guilty, knowing you could’ve prevented whatever crime he intends.”

Olivia brushed her bangs from her eyes.

“So, what should I do?” Harper asked.

Olivia shrugged. “Suppose you can play it safe. Talk to the pilots, let them make the hard decision.”

After glancing once more at the fidgety passenger, Harper nodded her agreement, reaching for the phone. She waited until the co-pilot answered, then once again, explained the conversation.

“It’s probably nothing,” she ended, “but I wanted you to be aware.”

“You did the right thing, Harper,” came the smooth reply. “It sounds questionable. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll go have a talk with him. I’ll see if I can’t feel him out. You say he’s in first class?”

“That’s correct,” Harper acknowledged.

“Very well,” the pilot said. “I’ll keep you in the loop.”

He ended the call and Harper replaced the receiver, unsure of how she felt about the situation. Her mind considered the puzzle, and she shook her head.

Picking up the magazine Olivia was looking through a few minutes ago, Harper thumbed through the contents, not really seeing the pages.

She jumped when a hand gripped her shoulder.

Harper blanched at Olivia.

“You okay?” her friend asked, eyes narrowing with concern. “Not about the passenger, but about…”

Harper gazed at her friend, but before she could answer, the curtains pulled back and the co-pilot appeared. The usual crisp white uniform had a stain from when Harper spilled coffee on him before leaving the airport hotel.

Jonathan Parker removed his pilot cap and scratched the back of his head.

“Well, I talked to the gentleman,” he began. “He claims to have an important business meeting, and that’s why he’s nervous. He asked me to tell you he apologizes if he frightened you.”

“So, you don’t think he’s a terrorist planning to murder us?” Olivia interjected, her hand on her hip.

Jonathan lifted his lips in a crooked smile. “No, I don’t believe he plans to kill us.” He returned his gaze to Harper, then put his hand on her shoulder. “Will you be okay?”

She cleared her throat and offered a weak smile. “Yes. I’m sorry if I troubled you.”

“It was no trouble.” Jonathan hesitated, watching her carefully. He squeezed her shoulder and offered a smile. “I better get back.”

After Jonathan returned to the cockpit, Harper pushed out a breath.

“You must think I’m crazy.”

“Not at all,” Olivia protested. “I’m going to make a quick round, get the passengers prepped for landing. When we sign off, you wanna grab a drink before we go home?”

“No, thanks. I’m tired,” Harper sighed. “I’ve been away for too long. I’d kill for one night in my bed. Raincheck?”

“Definitely.”

Olivia offered a warm hug before she departed.

Harper closed her eyes, focusing her mind on her slow, steady breathing. Though she tried to empty her mind, her thoughts continued to drift to the strange passenger.

Though every thought she had told her to pass him off as just another nervous passenger, something continued to tug at her curiosity.

Have you ever had to make a choice? One you don’t want to make? I mean between what’s right and what’s wrong. A choice where the answer is always wrong.

A choice between right and wrong.

Where the answer is always wrong.

What was he talking about?

Thoughts swirled in her head until Olivia’s voice filled the intercom, instructing the passengers to buckle and prepare for landing.

Before taking her seat, Harper regarded the passenger.

He had his thumb and forefinger pressed against his eyes.

When Olivia made the announcement a second time, Harper hurried to her seat and latched herself.

She decided she’d try once more to talk to the passenger after the plane landed.

Olivia took her seat next to Harper.

It didn’t take long for the plane to come to a halt at their destination, but during the bumpy landing, Harper gripped Olivia’s wrist. Her friend said nothing despite the force of Harper’s nails digging into her skin.

After ensuring all passengers left with their belongings, Harper gathered her things and headed for the ramp. She stepped into the airport and scanned the chaotic terminal, but the passenger was nowhere to be found.

She searched the baggage claims and didn’t find him.

With a frown, she decided the issue would be better put to rest. In the distance, she spotted Jonathan Parker heading her way. She turned to walk in the opposite direction.

She weaved through the crowd in the terminal, making her way quickly to the exit.

Once Harper stopped, she glanced behind her and scanned the crowd then turned again to leave, colliding into a man standing behind her.

“Oh!” Harper exclaimed, her hands resting over her drumming heart. “I’m so sorry, I wasn’t...”

She let her words drown in the crowd.

Again, her stomach churned as her eyes met those of the passenger’s. They somehow seemed to have darkened, his whole demeanor making the hairs on her arms stand. She repositioned the messenger bag draped around her neck.

“I’m sorry if I upset you,” he told her. He forced a smile. His eyes looked past her, and she glanced behind to see what he was looking at. Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary—only a crowd of people mulling about the airport terminal. “Really, I am. I’m just having to meet someone, and I’m worried it may go south. I just keep going back and forth between two different options. I realize now I’ve scared you. I’m sorry.”

With a swallow, she forced a smile. “I see. Well, if that’s really all that it is, then I wish you luck with that meeting. And for the decision you need to make. I hope it’ll work in your favor.”

He shook his head, his face downcast. “Thank you. For everything.”

Harper’s heart quickened as he leaned close to her ear. His breath was hot against her skin, his voice low and grave.

“I made my choice. Now it’s up to you.”

Before she could respond, he turned, scampering away, leaving her staring after him.

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