Today's Reading

Within moments, a lean man arrived from the right side of business class carrying a leather case. "I'm a doctor." Heather stepped back while he examined Roy and spoke to Nathan.

While the doctor stood over Roy with his back to Heather, Nathan turned to her. "We've got this handled. Please return—"

"No, please. Let her stay," Catherine said. "If she doesn't mind."

Nathan frowned. "Okay, for the moment. Our manual states we have to keep the aisle clear around the patient."

"I understand," Heather said. "I'd be happy to sit with her, and I'm Heather."

"Miss, if the pilots call our med service on the ground, I'll need you out of way so we can relay instructions."

The doctor and Nathan lowered Roy to the aisle and treated him. They blocked Heather's view of the procedure, but the doctor rummaged for something inside the leather case. For the next ten minutes, she waited for the doctor to reassure passengers of the man's recovery.

Catherine's hysteria spun in a cloud of uncertainty that left unchecked often spread panic. She unfastened her seat belt and rose on unstable legs. "Please, tell me my husband is all right." The female attendant gently urged her back onto the seat.

The doctor eased up from Roy and spoke reassuring words to Catherine. He peeled off his blood-covered gloves and tossed them into the bag. Had Roy succumbed to the lung cancer or a complication?

Nathan walked to a galley area. "Ladies and gentlemen, I am Nathan Howard, your lead flight attendant on board your flight today. We appreciate your concern for the man receiving medical attention. We will transport him to the rear of the cabin, where he'll be comfortable. A doctor is tending to him, and the medical concern is under control. Thank you."

Heather supported the airline's protocol designed to keep everyone from alarm and terror while the crew addressed issues. Yet a few people craned their necks to watch the scene as though it was a morbid form of entertainment more interesting than the recycled movies on the screens in front of them.

Nathan returned to Catherine. "I know you'd like for the young woman to sit with you, but it would be easier for the flight crew and safer for her if we placed an attendant here. Can we do that?"

"I guess." Catherine's lips quivered.

Heather bent to speak. "I'm not far." She understood how Catherine had latched on to her, a stranger, for moral support.

Nathan and the doctor picked Roy up and carried him to the rear. Roy was either unconscious or dead.

The female flight attendant sat in Roy's seat and held Catherine's hand. "I'll stay with you for as long as you like."

"Can I join my husband?"

"When the doctor is finished, I'll escort you back."

Heather returned to her seat—her mind weighed with concern.

"Gott hab Erbarmen," Mia said.

"Yes, God have mercy."

"You speak German?"

"A little. Spent a year in Frankfurt when I was in college."

"The sound of it makes me long for home." She hesitated. "What's wrong with the man?"

"His wife said he'd recently completed chemo treatments for lung cancer. I'm sure the doctor is doing all he can. The airline has doctors on the ground, and they'll consult with the doctor on board. Between them, they'll figure out what's best."

"Do you work for the airlines?"

"No." Heather smiled. "I'm with the Department of Justice."
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