Mark peered through the aircraft window. Instead of taxiing to
the terminal, the aircraft had stopped abruptly in a service area
at the edge of Singapore's Changi airport. As fuel tankers drew
up alongside, Mark sensed something was wrong. It had been a thirteen-hour
flight since they'd left London's Heathrow. Mark's full head of
dark hair made him look younger than his late fifties, but even
though he was fit and wiry he was feeling his full age after the
journey. His wife Helen was a little younger than him, but suddenly
looked older as she coughed into her handkerchief; perhaps she would
feel better once she'd had the opportunity to stretch her legs while
the plane refuelled.
public address system crackled. "This is the co-pilot speaking."
They could sense the tension in his voice. "We have been advised
of an incident in the terminal building. We'll be taking off again
as soon as we've refuelled. Those passengers who were due to disembark
in Singapore will be flown back from Auckland once the situation
in the terminal has been resolved."
Pandemonium broke out. The university lecturer sitting next to
Mark and Helen announced loudly that there was no way he would be
flying on to Auckland. As the lecturer continued his tirade, armoured
personnel carriers drove up and disgorged soldiers carrying automatic
weapons. The soldiers quickly surrounded the aircraft. Passengers
peered out of the windows and talked to one another in hushed whispers.
The public address system crackled again. "Passengers are
reminded that the use of mobile phones and electrical equipment
is not allowed while the aircraft is refuelling."
The lecturer immediately fumbled in his pockets and retrieved his
mobile phone. "I can't get a signal," he complained after
a few seconds furtively jabbing the keypad.
"The authorities could be jamming the frequency," Mark
As soon as the fuel lines were disconnected and the tankers driven
clear, the aircraft taxied to the end of the runway and charged
forward. They had been on the ground less than forty minutes. The
lecturer, the person who claimed there was no way he was going to
fly on to Auckland, cheered and clapped the loudest as the jet left
the runway and climbed into the sky.
Twenty-two hours earlier, Mark and Helen had arrived at Heathrow
to find there was a four-hour delay to their flight. An extraordinarily
large number of flight cancellations was being compounded by a shortage
of check-in staff.
Due to the painfully slow progress of the queue, a considerable
amount of time was spent listening to the same university lecturer
they would later find themselves sitting next to in the plane.
"Typical story," he complained. "Bloody airport
staff, they go on strike every holiday time. No thought for the
Mark and Helen were only too pleased when they finally reached
the check-in counter. The usual list of security questions was followed
by a long list of health-related questions: "Where have you
travelled in the last six weeks? Do either of you have any flu-like
Helen was not feeling well. She'd felt off-colour ever since she'd
arrived in England a month earlier. Even though she'd been running
a slight temperature, she hadn't complained. Knowing that the doctor
would have done no more, she'd simply dosed herself with paracetamol
and carried on. A flu bug was sweeping England and doctors were
simply prescribing the usual remedies for mild fever.
And now that Mark was dealing with all the formalities at the check-in
counter as usual, she didn't feel inclined to suddenly complain.
She suppressed her urge to cough; she just wanted to get home to
Auckland and see her own doctor.
By the time their hand luggage had been x-rayed, it was already
six o'clock Sunday evening. Back home in New Zealand it would be
seven o'clock Monday morning. They knew their daughter Jane and
her husband Bruce would be awake, preparing for a new working week.
Mark decided to phone them.
Jane answered the call and Mark quickly acquainted her with the
situation at Heathrow. "We've been delayed, it's chaos
You'd better check flight arrivals before you set off for the airport
tomorrow. Heaven knows what time we'll get in now
you give your brother a call? He said he might come down and meet
How are the children
There were further delays. Eventually, at nine o'clock Sunday evening,
nine hours after they had arrived at Heathrow airport, their aircraft
roared down the runway and climbed into a dark, rain-laden sky.
They were tired, hungry, and fed up. Their mood was not improved
by the fact they had been allocated seats towards the rear of the
aircraft and that the passenger in the aisle seat alongside them
turned out to be the same complaining lecturer they had spent hours
listening to in the check-in queue.
"We apologise for the delay," announced a cheerful pilot,
"the delay was caused by crew sickness
"More people extending their Christmas break," scoffed
After dinner was served and the cabin lights had been dimmed, Mark
and Helen alternately dozed off for fitful periods, or feigned sleep.
Anything was better than listening to their fellow passenger, who
was clearly intent on ensuring that he recouped as much of his fare
as possible in the form of free booze.
It proved even more difficult than usual to sleep. A section of
the aircraft immediately behind them had been curtained off as a
crew resting area - not that there appeared to be much resting going
on. There was a continual stream of crew coming and going, accompanied
by muted, agitated voices.
Two hours before arriving in Singapore, the aircraft cabin lights
were switched on for the pre-landing meal.
The lecturer was quickly into his stride. "I don't know why
they bothered waiting for more crew, half of them must be sleeping
in there," he complained loudly, pointing his finger towards
the curtained-off rest area. "No wonder the service is so bad."
Shortly after the aircraft took off from Singapore, Helen began
to feel very ill. As the journey continued her condition deteriorated;
she coughed continually, her temperature soared and her breathing
became laboured. A flight attendant brought her an oxygen bottle
and mask, but it gave her only temporary relief.
Eleven hours after leaving Singapore, the jet altered course to
commence its approach into Auckland International Airport. The manoeuvre
framed the sparkling waters of Oneroa Bay in the aircraft window.
The scene reminded Mark of the morning nearly thirty years earlier,
when he'd emigrated from Britain to join his brother Christopher
in New Zealand. If only Christopher and he had managed to persuade
their youngest brother, Paul, to join them. Had they done so, the
whole family would now be living in New Zealand, and Helen would
have been spared the nightmare journey she was now enduring.
He looked anxiously at her again; she seemed to have aged a year
for every one of the last few hours. Her condition was deteriorating
"My wife's getting worse," he said anxiously, catching
the attention of the flight attendant as she checked that seatbelts
"I can't do anything more for her," she snapped, curtly.
Then her training kicked in. "I'm sorry, we won't be long now.
I've arranged an ambulance to meet us as soon as we're down."
As the plane flew over Auckland city, Helen caught her breath again.
Mark took her hand and squeezed it. "Just a few more minutes,"
A little before ten o'clock on Tuesday morning, the aircraft skimmed
over the Manukau Harbour and touched down gently on the runway of
Auckland International Airport. The lecturer, who had helped drink
the bar dry, led another round of applause. Mark glanced across
at the terminal. Their daughter Jane would be there with their grandchildren
Zach and Nicole by now. Perhaps his son Steven would be there to
meet them too.
The plane stopped suddenly alongside two large marquees, and a
mobile staircase was being driven to the forward exit door. Mark
was relieved to see an ambulance parked beside the marquees, but
wondered why the plane hadn't taxied to the terminal. "Don't
tell me there's trouble here too," he muttered.
Helen opened her eyes. "How do you feel?" he asked.
She didn't reply. She simply shook her head wearily, before closing
her eyes again.
The aisles were now crammed with passengers, stretching up to retrieve
their hand luggage from the overhead lockers. Mark resigned himself
to waiting until the aisles were clear before attempting to leave.
He was frantic; Helen needed the ambulance, and soon.
The passengers streamed along the aisles, down the steps, and were
directed into the larger of the two marquees. As soon as the passengers
had disembarked, the flight crew also hurried down the steps and
were diverted into the smaller marquee.
Mark waited impatiently for the flight attendant to return. To
his amazement, as soon as the passengers had disembarked, he saw
her and the remainder of the flight attendants hurry into the smaller
marquee. He and Helen had been deserted.
In the silence of the empty plane, Helen's laboured breathing was
even more pronounced. Yet it wasn't the only sound. There was an
echo - the same gasping sound - emanating from the curtained-off
crew-resting area at the rear of the aircraft.
Mark scrambled from his seat, rushed up the aisle, and threw back
the curtains. Four ghostly white faces stared back at him; they
were members of the crew. They were all dead. A fifth crew member
was, like Helen, fighting for her life.
He looked out the aircraft window again. A few passengers had left
the large marquee and were gesticulating wildly, arguing with medical
staff who were dressed in long gowns and facemasks. Suddenly, a
small group of passengers set off towards the terminal. Seconds
later, sirens sounded as military vehicles raced down the runway.
The absconding passengers stopped in their tracks as the convoy
halted. Gun-wielding soldiers wearing protective clothing jumped
from the trucks and lined up before them, barring their route to
the terminal. The lecturer, buoyed up by the free booze, decided
to continue on. Soldiers shouted at him to stop, but he pushed them
roughly aside. A gunshot rang out, and his body crumpled onto the
The truth dawned on Mark; he turned and made his way back towards
Helen, tears streaming down his face. He moved to pick her up, to
carry her to the waiting ambulance. But he was too late; Helen was
NOTE - the hardcopy has SOLD out.
Blood Line is now available as an e-book available from Amazon.
This is a tremendous book - a real page turner. I started reading
it in the evening and read to the early hours of the morning, I
just couldn't put it down. It was intriging to read how the two
branches of the Chatfield family tackled the aftermath of a deadly
pandemic in such different ways. I found it very thought provoking.
It was clear the author had given considerable thought to what would
happen if a deadly pandemic really took hold (and I shall certainly
bear some of the survival techniques in mind, I am told it is only
a quesiton of when we have a major pandemic, not if). The story
was full of unexpected twists and turns. What made it so powerful
for me was the way the author wove the story around a believable
family. I can't wait to read the sequel Blood Roots.