Traci had been a stewardess for almost six years. And in that time, thanks to the vagaries of random seat assignments, she had seen a lot of mismatched characters sitting next to one another.
But this particular match was more amusing than most.
The woman was at least in her nineties. Her name was Arlene Winters and she had been carefully shepherded aboard the plane before the rest of the passengers by an airline representative. Mrs. Winters was being shuttled to New York City. One of Traci's jobs when they got to New York would be to help the elderly woman off the plane and into the arms of her family.
The man was perhaps in his middle thirties, with dark, swept-back hair. He was very short, but broadly built and with a vigorous and somewhat ferocious look about him. Some paperwork on Traci's clipboard indicated a minor security concern - there had been some trouble getting him through the metal detectors. He had only been allowed to pass after showing identification that indicated he was medically discharged from the Canadian Army. Thanks to some unstated accident, there was metal in his skeleton.
Everything about the man's story checked out, but Traci had orders to keep an eye on him anyway. In a world now seemingly filled with violent lunatics, you had to be careful.
Traci allowed her gaze to drift over the man's muscular body. Although not classically handsome, the man had an animal magnetism that tended to draw feminine attention.
Logan casually threw his travelling bag into the overhead bin. Plopping down into his seat, he glanced doubtfully at the gently smiling old woman sitting next to him.
"Hello," said Mrs. Winters.
"Ma'am," replied Logan, politely nodding to the woman. He seemed to be examining Mrs. Winters face closely.
"Flying scares the hell out of me," announced Mrs. Winters.
Traci glanced down at her clipboard to hide her grin.
A ghost of a smile came across Logan's face, "Yeah. I know how you feel."
Traci got on the PA and began the 'here's what you should do if the plane crashes' speech. The plane lurched slightly as it began taxiing towards the runway. Mrs. Winters closed her eyes and firmly grabbed for any kind of support. Her left hand curled around Logan's right hand and squeezed hard. After only a split-second's hesitation - after all, Logan had spent a long lifetime making very quick decisions - he gently squeezed back.
The airport was less crowded than usual, thought Kitty to herself. She was there to give Logan a lift back to the mansion.
Ah, there he was.
Logan and an attractive stewardess were helping an elderly woman disembark from the plane. The woman was supporting herself by holding onto the arms of her escorts. Bright-eyed and chattering to her companions animatedly, she was obviously enjoying the experience.
From about ten yards away, the old woman suddenly locked eyes with Kitty. Then she turned her head to speak to Logan.
"Look, it's Katherine," she said.
Kitty blinked in surprise. Logan nodded his head in Kitty's direction as Kitty started walking towards the unlikely trio.
The old woman let go of Logan's arm and leaned slightly against the stewardess.
"Thank you for your company," she said.
"No problem, ma'am," Logan replied quietly.
Kitty walked into the scene, a bit unsure of what to say. The old lady was watching her approach.
"She's just as pretty as her picture," the woman half-whispered to Logan. "Please say hello to all of your daughters for me."
"I'll do that," Logan said. "And you have a good time here in New York."
"Gran!" someone shouted. A young couple with a pair of excited youngsters in tow were cutting their way through the crowd, both adults waving frantically.
The stewardess exchanged a long look with Logan that led Kitty to suspect that Logan had her phone number. Then the stewardess took the elderly woman the last few steps to her family. Logan and Kitty took the opportunity to vanish into the crowd.
Kitty examined Logan as they walked away, "So who was that?"
"Mrs. Arlene Winters," answered Logan. "She's in town visiting family. She used to do some nightclub singing back in the thirties. She never made the big time, but she was good. Really good."
It took Kitty a second to catch the implication, "You mean... You actually heard her sing?"
Logan nodded matter-of-factly, "Quite a few times. It was in Boston, back in '37 and '38. She usually sang every month or so in a nightclub called the 'Merry-Go-Round'. She also worked as a stripper at some of the burlesque joints and after-hours clubs when she was between singing jobs. She was a pretty good dancer, too. Fantastic body."
Logan paused thoughtfully before continuing, "You know, after all this time, she still wears the same perfume."
Through the press of the crowd, Kitty caught a glimpse of Mrs. Winters. She was crouching and hugging her two great-grandsons. The kids were hugging back with great enthusiasm. Kitty shook her head. Conversations with Logan sometimes had a habit of getting strangely... historical. After all these years, you'd think she would be used to it.
Then something Mrs. Winters had said suddenly clicked with Kitty. She cocked her head at Logan and said, "I didn't know you had a picture of me."
"I do," Logan said with a noncommittal shrug. A slightly tense note had entered his voice. It was so subtle that only one of the few people who knew him well would notice it.
Kitty was one of those people.
"And you carry it with you?" Kitty smiled.
"In my wallet." Logan was now entering into what Kitty privately called his 'face-of-stone mode'.
"When was the picture taken?"
Kitty thought that over, "Oh. Is that the photo that Ororo took? The one where I'm hugging you and I accidentally smeared lipstick all over your forehead when I kissed you?"
"You have pictures of Jubes and Laura, too?"
Still smiling, Kitty pushed a stray strand of hair from her eyes, "So you showed those pictures to Mrs. Winters?"
"She's scared of flying."
"Needed a distraction."
"And when you showed her the pictures, she assumed that we were your daughters?"
"Did she ask a lot of questions about us?"
"Women always ask questions."
Kitty calmly ignored the hint, "What did you tell her about us?"
Logan hesitated before answering, "That you're good girls."
"That's about it."
"Your flight was three hours long. And all you told her during that time was that we were good girls?"
Kitty's smile had turned into an impish grin, "Have you ever noticed that you talk in really short sentences when you're embarrassed?"
"Not embarrassed," growled Logan.
"Yes, you are."
"Speak a sentence with five words or more. I dare you."
Logan gave Kitty a level look. "Where is the damn car?"
"Cheater! You normally would have contracted 'where is'!"
Logan took a deep breath, and then let it out before responding. "Okay. How about this: you're not too old to be spanked."
Kitty laughed and put her arm around Logan.
"Actually, I think Mrs. Winters is a very perceptive woman," Kitty said gently.
Logan didn't say anything, but his expression unbent a bit. A tiny bit.
Kitty leaned over and kissed Logan on the forehead - making sure that she left a trace of lipstick.
Mrs. Winters walked between her granddaughter and her granddaughter's husband. Meanwhile, her great-grandsons orbited them in a wildly irregular fashion - constantly darting off to investigate something new and then returning to announce their opinion of it.
"Who was that man who helped you off the plane?" asked her grand-daughter.
Mrs. Winters smiled indulgently at the younger woman, "A gentleman I knew from long ago. He didn't realize that I recognized him. We were very friendly at one time. Uhm, that was before I met your grandfather."
The granddaughter frowned and exchanged a worried glance with her husband. While Gran was occasionally forgetful or confused, she had never before wandered into fantasy.
"Are you sure it's the same guy, Gran?"
A definite twinkle appeared in Mrs. Winters' eyes, "Believe me, dear, he stands out of the crowd. You know, back when we were together, I simply adored all of that hair."
Then Mrs. Winters' expression softened, "I'm glad to see that he has a family now. He's the kind of man who needs somebody to take care of."