The passenger opened his eyes: maybe the lady sleeping in the seat next to him had a tremor in her sleep or maybe the plane passed through a little turbulence.
He leaned towards the central aisle, looking for any possible human contact: everyone was asleep and outside the windows the night was impenetrable.
“We should be flying over the Channel right now…” thought Mr. Faber and looked at the window on his left, which was covered by the curtain; he remembered that, from that window, he could directly see the wing of the aircraft.
Slowly, he put his hand closer to the block push of the curtain and made it click: a quick noise preceded the revelation of a dark sky, covered by clouds that poured storm over the sea.
Suddenly, a flash of lightning illuminated the outside realm: Faber saw the metallic wing hit by countless raindrops… and he met a gaze that chilled his blood.
Halfway up the wing, weathered but still hunched over, a gypsy in a rumpled tracksuit and a raggedy snow berret was apparently tearing wires and components from a breach in the metal plates, his ghoulish face scrutinizing Mr. Faber in response with a sullen, almost angry scowl.
Faber turned around terrified and managed to call a stewardess who was diligently crossing the corridor; this woman, surprised, reached for the passenger.
-Ma’am, come, come!
-I’m coming! What’s wrong, do you feel ill?
-There is a person on the wing of the plane, look out!-
A flash of lightning illuminated the outside again: the wing was now free, the mysterious intruder vanished.
The stewardess put a hand on Faber’s shoulder, who was sweating -Look, you seem to have had a bad dream: can I get you anything? Water, chocolate, coffee?-
Faber took a deep breath, trying to suppress the anguish -No …thank you.
She greeted him, politely but still wary, and he tried to close his eyes to fall back asleep.
After a minute, he heard something rasping against the window: he turned around, the curtain was pulled down again.
He swallowed while hearing clearly the sound of something pressing against the glass.
Trembling, he moved a hand toward the curtain lever and pulled it up again.
Through the glass he caught a glimpse of the gypsy’s bloodshotted eyes staring back at him.
He bit his tongue and instinctively grabbed the shoulder of his snoring neighbor, shaking the old lady.
-Look, look! There’s a guy outside the window!
The lady nearly collapsed, thinking she was being attacked, but terrified she agreed to look out the window.
Where there was no one.
Furious, the neighbor managed to summon the same stewardess as before with an irritated nod.
-Ma’am? May I help you?
-My neighbor is bothering me.
I don’t want to stand next to him for another second!-
Faber looked like a whipped dog for the stewardess’ forgiveness and the two agreed to let him change his place.
-So, is there another seat left?-
-Yes, and it’s not right near the window.
I hope your new neighbor will not object.-
The stewardess accompanied him further back, to his new seat; the gentleman sitting by the window was asleep, with a newspaper lying on his head.
Faber sat down slowly, taking care not to make any noise.
-I’ll get you some tea…- the apprehensive stewardess whispered to him, before walking away again; Faber looked at his watch.
-Oh, it’s still a long way to Paris airport!
His neighbor suddenly pulled the newspaper down from his face, revealing the gypsy’s spectral face.
-You have already reached your final destination.- he hissed.
Faber began to scream like a madman, clinging to the seat.
-Hey, hey…stop it! Calm down!-
The sudden rebuke shook him: his vision blurred and everything went dark, with dim lights here and there dizzying him.
Then he realized, incredulously, that he was sitting in the back of what definitely looked like a police car and one policeman was staring at him, with a bewildered air, as he leaned out of the front right seat.
-Where are we?-
The carabiniere scratched his chin -We found you in a ditch as you were about to lose consciousness and now we’re going to take you away and get you some medical attention, possibly.-.
-But how…-he looked around and saw another policeman out of the car talking on his cell phone; it was late night and they were in the middle of a country road.
-You got very cold…- murmured the carabiniere.
-I… my name is Harold Faber, I am the director of a large canned food company, I was on a flight to Paris to attend a conference… I shouldn’t be here, I didn’t do anything!-
The expression of the policeman in the car, from stolidly annoyed, became saddened -Oh God, you are in a state of deep confusion.
According to our identification, you should respond to the name of Marian Pavic, 45 years old, Croatian origin, resident in Italy for twenty years… you fled from the nomad camp where you were staying after an altercation with your cousin for sentimental reasons resulted in a fight with a fatal outcome for your relative.
Now, you are confusing your memory with something you may have seen on the news because you are in a state of shock.
Trust me: it’s better if you stay with us for a while, for now…-
The arrested man shifted his gaze from the policeman’s eyes to the car’s central rear-view mirror; it was returned to him by a wiry, olive-colored face with spirited eyes.