A few days later, in the early morning Klara was in The VIP room at Alicante airport with a small group of businessmen and their wives, ages varying between forty and sixty. She stood alone, by the window looking out into the gray light of dawn. It was overcast but would probably clear later in the day. A silver-colored small jet plane was taxiing over the tarmac, approaching the airport building. It turned almost invisible, adopting the grayscale of the background in a next to perfect camouflage. It was a Lear jet from the end of the 80s that probably had belonged to some big corporation before it initiated a new life in the charter industry.
The signal from a cell phone cut through the low-key murmur in the hall. The man who answered approached Klara and put his arm around her shoulders. He smelled of after-shave and his sparkling black hair was dyed and sprayed. She mastered a shudder. The physical contact disturbed her, and it was only because she knew it was short-lived that she could make herself bear with it.
"Okay, fine," the man said, handing the phone to Klara.
It was Fernando Sanchez, the lawyer.
"Yes," she answered breathlessly.
"It’s done," said the lawyer. I'll fix the details before I leave Zürich and all the information you need will be available when you arrive at your destination. You can leave now.
Fernando had been surprisingly creative handling her case. He had made arrangements for her at a discreet private clinic specializing in treating wealthy people with mental health issues and substance abuse problems.
The lawyer had suggested that he would visit the bank and withdraw the rest of the money from the safety box. All he needed was the code, and nobody was looking for him. It was a perfect solution and Klara had not needed long to decide. He could course have kept the money, but without his help it was unobtainable anyway. With him as an intermediary, the money would be harder to track. The only guarantee she had, that he wouldn’t keep it, was his greed. She had hinted that there was much more money in other accounts and bank deposits that she would later need him to handle. For now, he would get a huge fee and the rest would be placed in an account in a bank where she could get to it.
She would soon know if he’d believed her. But for the moment, that was a lesser worry. The most important thing was that he was helping her leave Europe without a trace. Right now, the plane was like a mirage out there on the tarmac. A charter jet that would carry a handful of Spanish businessmen and their wives on holiday to Cartagena de Índias, on the Caribbean coast in Colombia. One of the wives had accepted a large amount of money to stay home, stating that she was suddenly indisposed. Klara was travelling on the wife’s passport but had been introduced to travel companions as a cousin on her way back to after a cosmetic nose job in Alicante. The explanation would take care of questions regarding her swollen nose and the bruising around her eyes and hopefully allow her to leave the country.
No one had asked questions or mustered the slightest curiosity, and she had refrained from exploring what the others in the group knew about arrangement.
She wore a new blue suede jacket and skirt, and a cream-colored silk top, identical to those she’d worn for her visit to Fernando Sanchez’s office. It had been the simplest solution. The old one was soiled and the top torn, but she didn't dare to trouble Fernando Sanchez with shopping for her, just sent him to the same boutique stating her size. He had also added a dark wig with long hair. Klara had twisted the hair loosely at the neck and rolled it to a knot. She wore brown contact lenses under new glasses and was heavily made up.
A border guard now stood at the open door, flipping sleepily through the passports handed to him. The man by Klara's side passed him two wine-red EU passports.
The air flowing towards her through the open door was cool, almost fresh despite the aftertaste of kerosene and rubber. She looked at the plane. Did not dare make eye contact with border officer. From the corner of her eye, she saw him close the passports and initiate the gesture to return them. Suddenly he seemed to recall something, and opened the passports again leafing through the pages.
Klara stubbornly continued to look out. It was too good to be true. Something had to go wrong. A struggle between instinct and reason was raging inside her. The man by her side let his arm fall from her shoulder and Klara took a step out through the door. Panic pumped her system, adrenaline ringing in her ears. Her body was ready to react, to escape, run towards the plane, towards freedom. Then she heard the officer’s nasal voice: “Que tengan un buen viaje, Señor y Señora Moreno! Happy journey, Mr. and Mrs. Moreno!”
It seemed to take an eternity to register the meaning of his words. She had succeeded. An intense euphoria spread like champagne through her system. She was free, on her way to a new life, rising from the ashes like the mythical Phoenix.
The chairs in the airplane were in soft light beige leather and gave a sense of luxury. She was sitting alone at the back of the plane. The trip was going to take eight hours and as soon as they were airborne, she was served champagne. She drank too much. For the first the time in a very long time she was completely relaxed and fell asleep before the aircraft had left Spanish airspace.