Tourist Trap

By David Tate

Crime & mystery, Thriller, New adult fiction


Embed Sample

  • Tall widget
  • Wide widget
  • Mini widget


Copy & paste the code below into your site or blog!
Copy & paste the code below into your site or blog!
Copy & paste the code below into your site or blog!

Reading Options

Font size

Aa Aa X
Back to book

7 mins

First Day

The runway is in sight when the plane appears to stall. They all feel it, the descent interrupted, and the engines if they’re still working can’t be heard over the whirr of the air circulation and the whine and hiss of pressure in their ears.

Jody Lamb, sitting between her young children in the middle of three seats, gasps as the plane tilts sharply to the right. She can see past her son to the dipped wing, pointing like an accusing finger at the scrubland and glinting blue sea of the bay. A speedboat cuts a white trail across the water. Jody wonders if it will be called back to search for survivors among the wreckage.

She smiles down at Dylan but he is absorbed in the view from the window: the solid earth so close, but probably not survivably so. The wing judders and flexes like a plastic ruler about to snap. Jody feels warmth against her skin; her daughter has clutched her hand and she knows she must play the grown up. Unlike her brother, Grace is waiting for the smile.

Unlike her brother, Grace is scared.

The plane tips again, righting itself. They are level once more, but no less uncomfortable. A ripple of anxiety spreads through the plane, stirring the watery insides of novice and seasoned fliers alike.

“What’s happening, Mummy?” A shouted question, because their ears are blocked. Jody makes sure to exaggerate her lip movements when she says, “Nothing, hun. We’re just coming in to land.”

A glance across the aisle at poor Sam, a first time flyer, and she can read it in his face, the same prayer: Don’t let my children die.

She feels so guilty, recalling the deal she made with God/fate/whoever during the rush and rattle of take-off: If we have to crash, let it be on the way home.

It’s their first foreign holiday as a family – the first time ever that Sam or their children have been on a plane. Only Jody has flown before, in her own childhood, and it was Jody who calmed their fears, it was Jody who made light of the dangers, promising them all that it was safer than crossing a road.


Until now Sam has been making a pretty fine job of keeping the plane in the air by will power alone. He doesn’t think he’s relaxed for a second, but he’s starting to doubt whether that will be enough.

Perhaps it’s normal for it to feel like this as the plane comes down. His gut instinct tells him not, although by leaning slightly he can see one of the cabin crew, strapped into a seat that faces the passengers, and she looks... well, not calm so much as blank faced, like she’s put on a mask for their benefit. If she was about to die, wouldn’t she tear off the mask and jump up, screaming the name of the person she loved most?

Maybe not, he thinks, given that we’re English. But when he looks over his shoulder he sees that in several rows there are people holding hands across the aisle. Families, like his, that have had to be seated in separate groups.

It’s tempting, but he’s worried it will scare his daughter if he suggests it. Dads aren’t supposed to be afraid of anything, are they?

But we’re going to die. Two years of scrimping and saving to give our kids a really special holiday, and it’s all about to go up in smoke and take us with it.

He presses his palms together between his legs and bows his head, staring at the folding table and the safety card. Before take-off he studied it for so long that the couple next to him began to snigger – he sensed the woman nudging her husband, heard a Sshh and a giggle – and if Sam was his brother or in any way like his brother he might have gone off on one.

But he isn’t like Kevin, thank God. So he stays calm and doesn’t react when the bloke snorts again, and mutters to his wife. They must think Sam’s praying – though maybe that isn’t so far from the truth.

The man taps on his window and says something that causes his wife to lean over and look. Sam can’t help turning, half expecting to find the ground rising up to smash them to pieces. With barely any of the window in his eyeline Sam glimpses something white, moving past and down, and at the same time the plane gives a shudder and a clunk, and despite all the noise and the muffled painful blockage in his ears he knows that a few people have cried out. That’s quickly followed by nervous laughter, because in this part of the plane there are plenty of kids and no one wants panic, no one wants their children to know what’s coming...

“Another plane,” the man says loudly, so perhaps it’s for Sam’s benefit as well. “Gulfstream G650. Sublime!”

“Is it meant to be that close to us?” his wife shouts.

Confident nodding. “Been given priority to land. I suspect the VIP on board doesn’t want to wait behind a cheap package tour!” Then a sniff, as if the man – in his own head – has far more in common with whoever’s on the other plane.

Maybe he does. The couple are a lot older than Sam – about the same age as his aunt and uncle – and they’re more smartly dressed than practically everyone else on board. To Sam they look sort of well-fed and pleased with themselves, as though they’ve found a secret supply of cake in a world where everyone else lives on porridge.

“See, it’s landing now.”

“Wish we were.”

The man grunts, as if it hardly matters whether they get down safely or not. “That’s one hell of a jet. If our premium bonds come up...”

“Chance’d be a fine thing.” The woman turns slightly to Sam, giving him the sort of smile Jody uses on the kids when they graze their knees.

The plane tips over to the left, revealing the runway off in the distance, the private jet making for a long low building with a tower at one end. Meanwhile their own plane is still parallel to the runway, and it doesn’t look as though they’re very high up. Sam wonders if the pilot has enough room to turn before he runs out of air, or space – or whatever it is you call the bit between them and the ground.

Someone taps him on the arm. It’s Grace, with a question. Even though he dosn’t hear it properly, Sam makes an effort to nod and smile: lots of confidence. Then he gestures at her to straighten up, to make sure her belt is tight across her lap. He turns away, and now he is praying. Praying she didn’t pick up on his fear. Praying that, if it does happens, it’s quick and painless, and none of them suffer too much.


A sharp pain in Jody’s ears is followed by a pop, and her hearing is restored. She focuses on the sound of the engines – thank God they’re still functioning – but as she does the pitch changes and she knows this is it. A plane can’t just float in mid-air: it has to keep moving. And it can’t do that unless it’s propelled by something.

Other passengers are thinking the same, she can tell by the murmur of worried voices. She and Sam aren’t the only ones struggling to put on a brave face for their children.
The aircraft tilts sharply to the left and there are a couple of screams from the rows behind. Both Grace and Dylan turn to her for reassurance. Jody does her best to smile, but it’s with her teeth clenched.

She looks out of her window, expecting to see that the wing has sheared off. But, no, it remains intact, shuddering against a backdrop of pure blue sky. On Sam’s side there is land in sight. A slow crawl of trees is proof they’re still moving, although it feels like little more than walking pace. Dylan goes quicker than this on the way to school.

The runway is nowhere in sight but the middle-aged man in Sam’s row is talking in a confident voice. He becomes aware of Jody’s scrutiny and for a second his gaze switches to her, his eyes widening a fraction the way that often happens when men of his age look at women a generation younger.

Sam leans across and gratefully relays the news: “Says we’re coming around, landing from the other end of the runway.”

And so it proves. The plane banks and descends, and from the windows on each side they see rows of trees, a villa or two with bright orange tiles on the roof, a scattering of goats grazing in a field; all of it as close as if they were observing it from the upper floor of a building.

Grace’s hand tightens on Jody’s in the final seconds. The plane is rattling and shaking but it doesn’t seem particularly untoward. She hopes it’s not a false sense of security, knowing they’re this close to the ground.

Dylan is joyfully oblivious to their feelings. How wonderful, Jody thinks, to be five and fearless, savouring every moment of what she has come to regard as his second life.

“We’re landing?” Grace asks.

“Yes, hun. Any second now.”


Sam’s ears are still blocked. He’s opening and closing his mouth the way he was told to do; lots of swallowing hard, but it doesn’t seem to be helping. He stops abruptly when he realises the smug couple have noticed: he must look a right idiot.

For most of the flight they’ve been acting as if he didn’t exist, though he caught a few disapproving glances when he ate the food Jody passed to him – it was his idea to bring sandwiches from home rather than pay the rip-off prices on the plane. The Smugs, on the other hand, ordered the full in-flight breakfasts, a couple of brandies and even a small bottle of champagne. They’d given him a bit of a look at that point, too, and he wonders now if they took offence when he didn’t ask what they were celebrating.
One of the reasons he hadn’t was the fear they’d laugh and say, “What on earth do you mean? We always have champagne when we fly!” For all Sam knows, it might be normal. Certainly his mates like to boast about knocking back the pints at six in the morning before their flights to Kavos or Magaluf. It makes him almost glad his kids give him the excuse not to go on holidays like that.

Now he can feel the plane coming down, moving faster than before. He tenses up but the landing when it happens isn’t much more than the jolt you get from driving over a pothole. An anti-climax, in a way – a bloody good one!

But just as he lets out a breath there’s a ferocious roar from the engines and the plane seems to lurch as if caught on something – Sam pictures a tripwire stretched across the runway, snagging on the wheels. He grabs the arms of his seat and for a second goes rigid with terror. Talk about bad luck, to crash now—

“Don’t panic!” says Mr Smug with a loud mocking laugh. “It’s only the reverse thrust.”

“To slow us down,” his wife explains. “But I’m sure it would give you a fright, if you’re not used to it.”

“It’s certainly done that. He looks petrified.” Gripping his seat, he mimics a terror-stricken face, his mouth gaping open like that Scream mask. Sam offers a weak smile, pretending to find it funny, but he doubts if they’re fooled.

He turns to Jody: she’s holding hands with the kids, all three of them pressed back in their seats like they’re on a fairground ride. The deceleration is pushing against Sam’s chest, too, but he can feel it easing now.

They’re down. They’re safe. Oh thank Christ for that...

“Textbook landing, that,” says Smug. “Couldn’t have done it better myself.”

“Oh, please, Trevor. You had one lesson, for your fiftieth, and that was in a light aircraft a fraction of the size.”

Sam tunes them out and tries to relax. From now on, he tells himself, the holiday can only get better.

The plane has slowed to what feels like regular driving speed. It turns in a large circle, treating them to a distant flash of sea, just visible beyond a few acres of scrubland and low trees. The seatbelt sign is still lit but all through the cabin there’s the rustle of movement, people gathering up their bags and phones and books. The buzz of conversation seems to rise – though maybe it’s just his hearing returning to normal – and the atmosphere seems a lot more cheerful than it was a few minutes ago. Sam guesses they’ll never know how close they came to disaster.

Once they’re at a stop it’s suddenly manic. Overhead lockers pop open and people are jumping up, leaning and stretching and jostling for their luggage, out of their seats and queuing for the exit before the doors have even opened. The cabin crew look on in amusement, like they’re overseeing a bunch of chimps at feeding time.

Sam meets Jody’s eye and smiles with gratitude and relief. He’s been trying so hard to feel good about this holiday, because he knows all too well how much it cost and what it means to her. And he is excited about it, of course he is. But the scare they’ve just had is another reminder of how the love he feels for his kids, which he always assumed would be a light and giddy sensation, so often takes second place to anxiety about them, which has the exact opposite effect – it makes him feel heavy, weighed down and almost crushed by the knowledge that he can’t protect them from all the dangers in the world. Sometimes he finds it impossible to crawl out from under that weight and appreciate the good things while they’re happening, even though he knows he’ll almost certainly look back one day and regret what he missed.

He has to move out of his seat because Trevor is impatient to reach the locker. Standing in the row behind Jody and the kids, Sam watches one of the stewards finally wrestle open the door, and with the first dazzling flash of sunlight comes a sudden premonition, a strange and terrible instinct that this holiday could turn out to be the worst mistake they’ve ever made.



Just now

Make your presence felt. Be the first to post!

    1463861044 social-instagram-new-square1 Io6eZONw-01 Add to footer
Sitemap | Terms & Conditions
Privacy & Data

© 2020 iAuthor Ltd
Design: Splash | Web: MWW
 BAI logo smaller