Vanity Air | Zsak Long


Vanity Air

Murder, Mystery, Models and Millionaire

Zsak Long

The Murder Internationale Award


Ted Hockett was well known to the security at LAX airport. You could always smell him before you saw him. One of the homeless crew up on West 85th Street. They called him the Baggage Man. Ingenious really – his craft that is, not the nickname, that was uninspired at best.

The other hobos up on 85th would satisfy their hunger by raiding the airports outer trashcans and skips in search of food or (jackpot) a bundle of weed some wary smuggler had ditched unable to pick up the nerve to chance the customs officers.

But Ted Hockett was different. Old Ted would sneak his way into the terminal proper, shuffling across the buffered floor in his tattered Nikes and traipse his dirty paws across the conveyer belts. Unclaimed baggage was his target. Clever.

And today, as he crawls his way through the empty luggage area, sure the coast is clear, Ted Hockett has no idea that he will be walking out of this airport a millionaire.


His name was simply ‘Salvador.’ A mononym; in the same vain as Madonna or Pele. Though Jean Pierre-Sosa suspected his true name to be of a much more benign persuasion: Keith or Malcolm perhaps. Or maybe that was wishful thinking.

Whatever his name was one thing was for sure: Salvador, the man sat in seat 4B, was Jean Pierre-Sosa’s sworn enemy. Even now, staring at the dark-skinned beauty sat beyond the curtain separating the first-class travellers from the chaff, Jean Pierre-Sosa could feel his skin crawling in his cramped economy seating.

Salvador was one of these eccentric types who Jean loathed; always making specific requirements on his journeys, always ordering the same food, same drink; some reports even alleging that he carried around with him a million-dollars wherever he went in some pretentious act of egotism.

But eccentricities weren’t Jean’s problem, it was vanity . . .

The man’s perfect beauty was evident; chiselled jaw-line, high cheek-bones, delicious mocha skin. Jean Pierre-Sosa didn’t know whether he wanted to hate the man or fuck him. How could a humble French model like himself compete with such dark elegance?

In only the past six-months he had already lost the Armani contract to him; the Gucci contract, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss. Well, he had had enough of playing second fiddle, and today, at 30,000 feet, all that would change.

Right on cue, the squeaky wheels of the food trolley made their way down the aisle despite the intermittent turbulence. The air hostesses artificial smile – fitting for a flight to Hollywood – fixed upon the tousle-haired Frenchman in economy seat 12F. ‘Drink sir?’

‘Bourbon. On the rocks,’ Jean replied, hoping his crystal-blue eyes didn’t betray his intentions as he teased the chicken and avocado sandwich out from beside his seat.

The waitress obeyed amicably, pouring his chosen liquor into the plastic cup, drowning the cubes within. Jean leaned forward, too fast, too hard, in what he hoped looked like an innocent act of clumsiness. The drink flew from the hostess’s hand, the artificial mask falling and revealing the monster behind it as she scowled down at the stain upon her ruined uniform.

‘I’m so sorry!’ Jean screeched in mock embarrassment, eagerly patting at the hostess’s breasts with a napkin in his right hand, while in his left the magical sleight-of-hand trick had already been performed; switching out the packaged sandwich with an exact replica of his own. Chicken and avocado – Salvador’s favourite, though this one had a little more cyanide in it than he was probably used to.

It was as simple as that. The hostesses mask returned, quickly forgiving the maladroit sin and finishing off the rest of her route into first class. And Salvador’s fate was sealed.


Jean Pierre-Sosa had made it halfway through customs before air personnel realised the passenger in 4B was beyond wakefulness. The representatives at Ralph Lauren meeting him beside the two limousines in the usual collections area. They waited a further half-an-hour for their second candidate to show up. It appeared Mr. Pierre-Sosa had won the contract by default. Shame. Salvador was a shoe in.

Inside the empty terminal, nobody saw the lonely gold-plated Versace suitcase making its fiftieth lap around the baggage carousel. Nobody saw Old Ted Hockett sneak in and snatch it up with his dirty, fingerless gloves. The Baggage Man taking his unclaimed prize back to his squalor on West 85th Street, and with it the one-million-dollars inside.