Derek squirmed uncomfortably in his seat.

"Would you stop moving around?" Chloe said, whapping him with her magazine. She flipped back to the page she was at and continued to read.

The usual hustle and bustle of the airport was slightly new to Derek, who for some odd reason didn't enjoy flying. He had only flown once or twice before, and both when he was young. He hadn't flown for a while and it made him nervous. Which surprised Chloe since Derek, the surfer adrenaline junkie, could stand up to anything with a goofy grin and a camera.

"I'm sorry!" He said, throwing his hands in the air. "I don't like flying."

"And yet you'll drive around in that piece of rusted metal?" Lan asked, sitting down. She held a egg carton cup holder that held four cups of coffee. She handed them out as she spoke.

"Café Latte, madam." She said, handing Chloe her coffee.

"Merci." Chloe responded, and sipped her coffee.

"Mocha latte." She said, giving Derek his cup.

He nodded and chewed his gum loudly. "Where's my sir?"

"You don't get one." She said, grinning. She sat down with her cup and sipped it, smelling the aroma.

"Why not?" He asked.

"Well sirs usually don't drink coffee and chew gum at the same time." Chloe said.

"That's disgusting." Lan said, wrinkling her nose. "When's Jason getting here?"

"He said he'd be here-" Derek checked his watch. "Ten minutes ago."

"He's lucky our flight got delayed." Chloe said.

"We wouldn't need a delay if we were driving." Derek said. "And I'll give you the rusted metal part, but it's a valid form of transportation."

"Not in that thing it isn't." Lan said, shaking her head. She sat back with her book and started to read.

Derek looked to his left and watched Lan read. He looked to his right and saw Chloe flip a page.

Derek drummed his fingers on his laptop and soon he was breaking out into a beat.

"Oh come on!" He said.

"What?" Chloe asked.

"Where the hell is Jason? And why is the plane delayed?" He asked.

"One, I don't know. Two, the plane is delayed because there's a flock of geese that refuse to leave the runway." Lan said.

Derek frowned. "Really?"

"Really." Lan said. "I asked the flight attendant. Chill out, Derek."

"Hey, guys!" A voice shouted.

Derek, Chloe, and Lan looked up to see Jason Tatum running through the airport towards them. He had a large duffel bag slung over one shoulder and his tickets stuck out the side pocket, precariously perching, ready to fall.

"J, where have you been?" Derek asked, standing up.

"Sorry, man. My parents called and they wouldn't let me leave." He said, laughing.

"Everything all right?" Chloe asked.

"Yeah, fine." He said. "What's going on? I got a message last night that told me I needed to get down to the airport by 10:30."

"Yeah, about that…." Lan said.

Flight 190 will be boarding in ten minutes.

"Well, I guess we'll save it for the flight." Derek said, trying to sound enthusiastic.

"You don't like flying?" He asked.

"Staying in the air at thousands of feet, suspended only by the mechanics and ingenuity of pilots who not long ago were on strike for lack of sleep? Not particularly."

He picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder. Lan and Chloe both picked theirs up and they lined up with the rest of the passengers waiting to board.

"When you put it like that, dude, you're asking for trouble." Jason said, laughing.

When they had arrived on the Boeing 747, a smiling flight attendant greeted them cheerfully on their way in. Derek squeezed between parents and their screaming kids, businessmen, and elderly folk leaving their retirement homes for some fun in the sun.

"Why are we flying anyway?" He asked. "We could get a rental car."

"Right, and do you remember the oh I don't know, broken windows? Dented doors?" Chloe said, throwing her magazine on the seat and sliding her bag into the overhead compartment.

"Okay, well this shouldn't be like that." Derek said. "It's not too late to get off and get a rental car. I saw the sign right outside, they've got a deal on convertibles."

"Derek, it's okay." Lan said, reassuring him. She turned around and rolled her eyes. Jason laughed and patted him on the shoulder.

"Brother, if you don't stop talking about the flight, we're going to lock you in the bathroom and let your organs get sucked out through the toilet."

"See, that's an urban legend." Derek said. He frowned. "It's an urban legend, right?"

Chloe laughed. "Yes, Virginia, there is no organ sucking toilet." She grinned.

"Laugh all you want." Derek grumbled, and sat down next to Jason. They were seated comfortably in the middle portion of seats, covering exactly one row.

He breathed in deeply and exhaled.

"Try to relax." Chloe said. "It's going to be fine."

There was a chime and the pilot's voice came through the intercom.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to flight 190. Our destination today is New York City. Attendants will come by and take your drink orders soon. We ask that all luggage be stored in the overhead compartments or under your seats….

"I'm relaxing…" Derek said, sighing. He picked up the plastic wrapped headphones stuffed into the seat in front of him and tore open the plastic. He plugged it into the little hole on his armrest and put them on. He pressed the buttons until he found something that could pass for the music he usually listened to. He drummed on his laptop again as he listened.

The airplane lurched slightly and he stopped drumming. His eyes widened and he looked at Chloe sitting next to him. She was quietly skimming some Psychology journal. He stuck his head out and looked at Lan sitting next to Chloe. She was asleep, her head rested comfortably on a pillow, though he knew that when she woke up, she'd have neck pain.

He looked to his left at Jason. He too was sleeping.

The plane experienced more turbulence, and while other passengers around him were mildly shaken, and some didn't notice at all, Derek's eyes were wide with unpredictable thoughts. It raced at the speed of light, conjuring mental images of flames and splashing water. He stuck a hand under his seat to make sure his flotation device was there. If not, he figured he could sue the airline. If they didn't crash, that is.

Derek pulled the headphones off and decided to check his email. Slowly prying the laptop from Jason's hands, he opened it and turned it on. Logging in, he grinned as the familiar springheel jack zipped across the screen, carrying with it the picket sign that now said "36 messages".

36? Geez, I just checked it this morning. He checked his watch. It was exactly 12:13. He scanned the subject lines of his email and saw nothing that caught his attention. Granted, a few of the "I saw an asplundh truck!" ones looked appealing, but he decided to save the busywork for another time. He looked at the email on the bottom of the list, the one already read. He opened it and read it again.

Dear Mr. Barnes,

I am writing a letter to you and your team regarding some things I have experienced over the last few months. My name is John Hineman, I work at a local newspaper in New York. Mr. Mori, the priest of a local church, has fallen ill in a few days. I suspect that it has more to do with someone who does not like him, rather than any physical ailment brought on by old age. I suspect this because a friend of mine who was a member of the congregation has died from this same unusual illness. I know that you receive much mail and I hope that you will read this one and that it would persuade you to research it. My phone number is 555 - 1932


John Hineman

At that, Derek knew not what to say. It was vague enough that he didn't have a clue whether it was true or not, but then again….a professor of literature calling for their help? The Ghostbusters they were not, but he had called the number left and sure enough, he had talked to this professor. And the plea was a genuine one. So then they ended up on a plane, due to an unfortunate accident involving a family of possums and their only mode of transportation. And after their last New York escapade, Chloe refused to go to the Annual Psychiatric Conference just to get a hotel room for the rest of them to bunk in. She had rolled her eyes and told him that it would be unethical to use her credentials to garner a hotel room. But then she was thinking about that bed of rice thing that she had eaten the last time she was there…..but then, to Derek's dismay, she became the logical and sound-minded Chloe once more.

"Go nuts." He had told her.

"Can I go nuts without sitting through another of Dr. Bishop's speeches on the importance of pharmaceutical research?" Chloe asked.

"Hey, you're the psychologist, not me."

"You're my assistant. I order you to sit through Dr. Bishop's speeches."

"Do they kick you out for snoring?" Derek asked, squinting.

"Yep." She said, grinning.

"Okay, but they don't kick you out of the hotel, right?" Derek asked.

And now, three days later, they were on a plane. A plane that Derek might add wasn't necessarily the smoothest at that moment.

He tapped Chloe on the shoulder.

Without looking up she mumbled, "It's fine, Derek. It's normal."

"Right. Normal." Derek said, unconvinced. "How long are we here for?"

"Just another half hour." Chloe said, still not looking up. in the seat next to her, Lan stirred. She sat up and made a face at the pillow.

"Another hour in this tin can. Sure." Derek nodded. He decided to give his readers an update. Tapping on the laptop, the springheel jack appeared once more, signaling that he had a new message. He clicked on it and his mailbox appeared, the same 36 messages still unread. A new one appeared at the top and it was marked "Asplundh". He shook his head and closed the mailbox, 37 still unread. Going back to his update, he thought for a moment before continuing.

Hey Freaks, Derek here. As we speak, Jason, Lan, Chloe, and I are in transit aboard a 747, on our way to New York. Whatever persuaded me to fly, I have no idea. Superman, we are not. Some say that man was destined to fly. If that was the case, we'd have wings by now. Instead, we create machinery that allows us to go thousands of feet into the air, above the clouds, and to travel in pressurized tin cans over thousands of miles. Godspeed, Derek Barnes. Well anyway, here's the story: a few days ago, I got this email. I get tons of it every day but this one caught my attention. Dr. Hineman of the Northbrook Chronicle has written me, asking for my assistance. Well, frankly, I had no idea what was going on, but I called the good man up and it turns out that he suspects that this Priest, a Mr. Mori, has been under the influence of a curse, brought on by a disgruntled member of the congregation. Freaky, it is, but what's the chance of a curse happening on the congregation? Could it be an unlucky bout of food poisoning? Previously, there has only been one other mysterious death, and now, we have Mr. Mori's untimely demise. What's the cause of this strange mishap? Well we're about to find out in a few minutes. Hope the landing is better than the takeoff.

Hurdy Gur,

Derek "Non-Frequent Flyer" Barnes

Jason yawned as the overheard seatbelt sign flickered on. Flight attendants dropped by to collect cups, cans, and bottles. Chloe handed her empty coffee cup to a flight attendant and tucked her magazine into her backpack. Folding the food tray up and locking it into place, Derek mimicked her motions, then quickly put his seatbelt back on.

"I'm surprised you lasted this long, D." Jason said, grinning.

"Ha. Well we're here now, I wont have to do this much longer." He said.

"Well don't worry, as soon as we get on dry land, we're going to have to-"

"Dry land?" Jason asked. He pointed to her right. Lan, Chloe, and Derek looked where he was pointing towards and looked at the tiny porthole of the airplane, still opened. The sky was gloomy and raindrops scattered across it's plastic pane.

"It's raining." Chloe said. "What happened to good weather?"

"Jason, when did you read the weather report?" Derek asked, chewing on a cracker he had found stuffed into his backpack.

"Yesterday." Jason replied.

"So what did it say?" Lan asked.

"Partly sunny with a chance of rain." He said, shrugging.

"Well, I guess our chance became reality." Chloe said, sitting back in her seat. "We're from Florida, does anyone have rain gear?"

"If you mean sneakers and something with long sleeves, yes." Derek said. "If you mean day-glow yellow rain slickers with those funky clear umbrellas, no."

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to New York City. Our current weather is rainy, with showers expected to slow in the next hour. The temperature is 69 degrees. Thank you for traveling with us. We hope you have a safe stay here in New York.

"Well…time to get to dry land." Derek said, standing up. He looked around him at the swarms of people clogging up the aisles. He sat back down. "Maybe dry land will come in a few minutes."


"This is still good." Lan said, walking outside. The air was humid and warm, and the breeze was hot, but at least the rain had died to a trickle. Behind her, Chloe and Jason had gone in search of food. Derek had wandered off, muttering something about coffee, and that left Lan in the bookstore. She browsed for a few minutes before seeing a peek of sun through the large windows that lined the airport. She left the bookstore and walked out through the swooshing doors.


She turned around to see Chloe waving her over. Lan adjusted her luggage and walked back inside.

"The rain's almost stopped now." She said as Chloe handed her a coffee. She smelled the warm aroma of freshly brewed coffee and looked around. "Where's Jason and Derek?"

"Have no idea." Chloe said. "I think we need tracking signals on those two."

"Agreed. Let's pawn one of the surfboards and get some." She said, grinning.

"Good idea. Hey, there they are." Chloe said, watching the two stroll through the airport. Derek had the classic mischievous look on his face, and Jason…well Jason was talking on the phone.

"What did you do, and are we going to have to post bail of any kind?" Lan asked.

"Nope." Derek said. "But we did find something of very good interest."

"Like what?" Chloe asked. Jason shut his cell phone.

"Like food." He said. "Anyone up for lunch?"

Lan shrugged and Chloe checked her watch. "Sure, why not. What time did you say we'd be at--" She paused and shrugged. "Wherever you said we were going to meet him?"

Derek pondered for a moment before answering. Their bags were in a puddle around their feet, the four of them standing in a little circle. Around them, busy commuters walked through, swerving away before they hit the small crowd standing in the middle of the floor.

A businessman in a long trench coat passed by and gave them a glare.

"Uh, I think we should move to the side or something." Lan said.

Derek shook his head. "Not until we find out what we're going to do. I'm starving."

"Okay, so we go to lunch." Jason said. "And we're supposed to meet this guy at-" He looked at his watch. "5:30. It's 2:30 right now, cause we've been standing here getting looks from security."

"All right, let's go." Chloe said. "Where to?"

"The rental car, ladies, is this way." Jason made a sweeping bow towards a door. They walked out into the breeze and a van pulled up.

"You got us a van?" Lan asked.

"I figured that it had less of a chance of being squished under some weird occurrence." Derek said, shrugging.

"We got the best insurance coverage too." Jason said. "Just in case some dude wants to put some ugly curse on us."

"Yeah, you remember that little incident with the rapper, right?" Derek asked. Everyone collectively nodded. "Right. Don't want that happening again."


"I don't know how you eat that." Derek asked, scrunching his face. He unscrunched it to make way for his hamburger. He took a big bite out of it.

Chloe watched him put his hamburger down and then stared at her own chicken salad. "It's called taking care of one's own body." She muttered. "How do you eat that?"

"Like this." Derek said, and took another big bite. Lan shook her head and speared a pasta noodle.

"You don't know the half of it. Soda and cereal?" She said.

"Apple juice and cereal." Jason said. "Don't forget the anchovies."

"Aww, guys, just cause you can't appreciate the anchovies, doesn't mean you have to discriminate against the fish population." He said, his face in a wide grin.

"So what's up with this case?" Lan asked, swallowing her pasta.

"Okay, well this guy thinks there's a curse on the church. He says that some guy who had a bone to pick cursed them. And someone else had already died before the priest started getting sick too."

"How old is the priest?" Chloe asked.

"I don't know. I figure fifty or sixty, right? Cause then it wouldn't have to be a curse, what if he was just sick or just elderly?"

"But then this guy, this Mr. Hineman, he works at a local newspaper and he tells me that there was nothing wrong with Mr. Mori. He was a perfectly healthy guy. Nothing to worry about, life is peachy. All of a sudden, one of their congregation starts to get sick and he dies. After that, he starts to get sick."

Chloe shook her head. "That could be due to a number of things. Disease, for example. Contagious diseases can be spread through close contact or even through air."

"Yeah, but this is a congregation of like 500 people every Sunday, right?" Lan looked to the others for confirmation. "If it was airborne or passed through close contact, wouldn't have there been other people sick too?"

"Hey, guys, check this out." Derek said. He got out of his chair and grabbed a newspaper. "The Northbrook Chronicle."

"Anything on Mori?" Lan asked, putting another piece of pasta into her mouth.

"Yeah, something small. Says here that there's a memorial going on down at the church where he used to preach." He said. He shrugged. "Worth a look?"