Neither Tintin nor the Captain was pleased with the prospect of a twelve o'clock flight. Snowy would have also liked to have added his objections to the general discontent, but of course no one could hear him. Of course they didn't have to accompany the professor to his conference in New York but the two men had come to the conclusion that the universe seemed to be so ordered that if anything bizarre or dangerous could happen it invariably would, so better to come with him.
"You know Captain" Tintin mused as the approached their departure lounge " I think it'll be nice to see America just as a tourist. The last time I was there was hectic to say the least. Say I just had a thought. How's about, while we're on that side of the Atlantic we go up to Canada? For some reason I've never been."
Haddock merely shrugged in response. He had little desire to see either place and would have preferred to be at home with his pipe. He felt that he had done more than enough travel for one life time, thank you very much. He also loathed air ports. They struck him as a good way of looking at modern society. Everyone passing by each other to go different places for different reasons, some of them good some of them not. All things were taken out of their context and rendered simply global flotsam and jetsam for the great tides to dump onto the sterile shores of the terminal. He thought about sharing his thought with Tintin (who was busy explaining to Cuthbert that he had asked if he wanted to go to Canada and not suggested redoing Marlinspike's veranda). He was about to open his mouth when he heard a familiar voice that filled him with dread.
"Oh I do so loathe airports, so horribly impersonal. You don't know the person sitting next to you. Well I've fixed that we definitely have seats together, caro mio." It was the Milanese Nightengale, the diva Bianca Castafiore. The Captain hoped that the others hadn't heard her.
"Tintin, Cuthbert, lets hurry up shall we?" he said as he tried to shoo the others forward. He started walking as quickly as possible towards the check in desk only to find himself confronted by another female voice that he sincerely regretted being able to recognize. This second one was harsh and shrill with a very thick New York accent.
"Ten hours? How the hell do you managed to fuck something up so badly it takes ten hours to fix? Oh there's a mechanical error is there, well that just instills me with confidence in your airline. And there isn't another plane that could be used, this is after all a packed flight to kind of a major metropolis, you know. And what the hell are we supposed to do for ten hours, you can't screw or play chess at an airport. Does this happen often?" The speaker was a large woman with bright red hair who Tintin noticed just after Haddock.
"I say Captain, that seems to be Senora Alcazar, maybe the Generals around. We ought to go over and say hello to her." This prospect scared him a bit but he was always for saying hello to people if he knew them and wanted to see General Alcazar.
"Talk to that hair curler wearing harridan, are you crazy?" Exclaimed the Captain. "Listen to the way she's berating that stewardess, awful temper that woman's got"
"Well she's not wearing her curlers now and your too late Professor Calculus has spotted her."
Indeed, whereas Tintin and Haddock had been aware of her presence from her voice the Professor had just now gotten to noticing her as she had finished her complaints and turned around. Calculus rushed up to Peggy and grabbed her hand intent on kissing it.
"Oh it's you is it" she said raising her eyebrows. She looked over the Professor's head to Tintin and Haddock "If you're on this here flight to New York there's a ten hour delay." She jerked her thumb at the desk.
"What?" exploded the Captain. He marched up to the lady who was just congratulating herself on having finished with Peggy "Ten hours? How in blistering barnacles did you manage to mess something up so badly that it takes ten hours to fix? Oh there's a mechanical error is there, well that just instills me with confidence in your airline. And there isn't another plane that could be used, this is after all a packed flight to kind of a major metropolis, you bashibazook. And what on earth are we supposed to do for ten hours. Thundering typhoons, does this happen often?"
'What were you saying about her temper Captain?' thought Snowy.
"My dear lady, I am overjoyed to see you. You are radiant as ever
" Peggy snorted at this. She was neither a "lady" nor "radiant" and she knew it better than anyone. She was a deeply unprepossessing woman, though she looked more feminine and put together than she had the first time they'd met her. In addition to her thick glasses she had on a purple neckerchief and red sweater with a neckline that was lower than was tasteful. The Captain noticed uncomfortably that now she was wearing high heels she was slightly taller than him. The Professor of course didn't register.
"I heard that there was a revolution in San Theodoros and your husband was deposed. That a weak woman such as yourself
"Weak? Listen, Mr. you've used that work to describe me before and I don't appreciate it! You think I'm weak? I'll kick your ass just to prove to you
" It was clear that the professor hadn't heard any of this and he continued on.
"Should have to endure so much all for the love you clearly have for your husband
"Are you blind as well as deaf? Or just on acid every time I see you? Look, if you want to bang me you'll have to take it up with El General, and as for love, don't make me laugh. I don't love my husband the only reason
what's the point you can't hear me anyway?" Peggy looked up at Tintin and Haddock.
"Why he shows and interest in you is a mystery to us as well Senora" prompted Archibald only to get a reproachful look from Tintin.
Calculus finally finished "But it is good to see you, I was so terribly worried, even after I read that you and your husband were in exile, one never knows" Peggy scrutinized the Professors face. She was naturally disposed to see the negative in whatever life offered her and so had been wondering if this man were making fun of her. However all she couldn't find anything but genuine warmth in his gaze and so decided that maybe he really was just eccentric.
" Peggy couldn't remember the last time she had had to deal with a sincere compliment and was unsure of how to proceed. "Um
well, thank you. I
I'm sorry you were worried
that's really very kind of you
but though you seem to think otherwise I'm a pretty tough lady"
"Oh we don't doubt that, Senora" said the Captain.
"Senora Alcazar, are you travelling with your husband?" asked Tintin, hoping not to have to explain that the Professor wasn't on drugs
he said you were his friend?" Peggy sounded doubtful
"Yes, and I'd very much like to say hello if he's around" pressed Tintin
"Sure, I'm just kind of surprised he has friends, but I suppose there are people out there who don't mind getting knives thrown at them or threats of execution for no particular reason. Come on, let's go find my better looking half. We do after all have plenty of time." Peggy strode off purposefully in a likely direction
"As a matter of fact Senora, your husband has threatened me with execution. He's never thrown a knife at me, I assume he only did that onstage" She laughed and rolled up her sleeve to reveal a thin scar
"Oh no, he thought it would be hilarious to throw a knife at me, as you can tell. I honestly don't think he meant me any harm, if he did he could have done more damage. The only reason I wound up with this was that I kind of jumped and moved my arm. I'll say this for the General, boring he is not"
"That's a way of looking at it. I personally think that there's nothing worse than boredom. I mean in one's life. I suppose that's a bit of an exaggeration, I mean of course there are worse things than to be bored but not for me"
Tintin had finished his musing when he finally caught sight of Alcazar. He had once remarked that the General was the spitting image of a movie star he had seen in a Western. He was a handsome man with a prominent chin and perpetual five o'clock shadow. He had a moustache and longish dark hair and at the moment was casually attired in grey jeans and a black suit jacket. He was fielding an appreciative look with a young brunette woman who was just coming over to talk to him.
This fact did not escape Peggy who strode over loudly observing "Well there you are, I ran into some friends of yours darling" and making a show of kissing him on the cheek and wrapping her arm around his waist. The General seemed caught between fear and affection. The woman looked at Peggy who was returning the glance with a particularly nasty smile. "Oh dear" she said and wrote something down on a slip of paper "here's my number for whenever you come to your senses"
"No, gracias" rebuffed Alcazar while in tern putting his arm over his wife's shoulder. The woman walked away shaking her head. Her mission accomplished, Peggy pulled away from her spouse.
"Sorry to cock block you sweetie, but honestly she wasn't up to your usual standard" Alcazar wanted to say he was sorry (he would have taken her number if his wife hadn't showed up). He was a bad flirt and knew it but recently he had realized that Peggy actually disliked apologies more than the actual offense. So he let it pass and greeted his friends.
"Tintin, Captain, amigo mios! You too my dear professor, how glad I am to see you here. Where are you headed?" He refrained from shaking their hands as Peggy had mentioned to him that everyone he shook hands with seemed to be in physical pain.
"New York, like yourself General." Answered Tintin "The professor has been asked to lecture at a conference on ultrasonics. We're coming with him. What will you be doing there?"
"Well it's where the International Banana Company has their headquarters. If I want my country back I'm going to have to beg for money again, which is probably my least favorite part of this job
"They should damn well give it to you" interrupted Peggy "Tapioca's regime is terrible for their business."
"Yes probably, but there are lots of other more stable countries out there and I think that they're just ready to give up on San Theodoros. Dios mio, what's a revolutionary to do?" Alcazar shrugged but his wife didn't seem to share his attitude.
"You can go to the fucking CIA like I've been telling you to do for ages. But don't listen to me I'm just your wife of twenty odd years..."
"Twenty nine. Today is actually our anniversary, but I suppose since its almost twelve I can safely assume you've forgotten"
"Oh, well congratulations!" exclaimed Tintin.
"Really? Well damn, no wonder we can't stand the sight of each other anymore. Anyway I've been telling him for years that he should talk to the CIA
"Congratulations indeed" whispered Haddock "I find spending twenty nine minutes with her impossible, the General ought to get a medal."
"I never said I couldn't stand the sight of you, palomita mia."
"You don't have to, I can tell by that look of horror and disgust that you get whenever you see me approaching. I tell him 'of course the US government wants you in power; you're an American citizen for crying out loud.' Tapioca only lasts because he's being propped up by Bordouria, hello? Our sworn enemies
"Peggy it wouldn't kill you to remember our anniversary just once. I'm not asking you to get me something just
"Oh for Christ sakes you're a man! You're not supposed to remember our anniversary and you're supposed to be happy that I don't give a rat's ass. Why is this so damn important to you anyway? Or do you just want to display to your friends your powers of endurance?" Before Alcazar could answer the event Haddock had been dreading occurred.