From the book
Cody Dillard was accustomed to being on the receiving end of admiring glances from women of all ages. He was tall and lean with an easy smile and eyes so deep blue that he'd been asked more than once if the color was his or tinted contacts. He'd been a high school junior and a wannabe athlete when his body had suddenly taken on the hard planes of manhood and his head had finally caught up with his ears--appendages that had caused him no end of teasing as a kid.
Basically shy and introverted by nature, as a kid Cody had not been sure popularity and admiration were much better than the old teasing and snickers. But as a grown man, he actually enjoyed the attention. He had learned that he could make some grandmother's day by returning her glance with a smile that bypassed the younger women around her. Cody was all about finding ways to lighten people's load. That was how he had decided to honor the lives of his mother and brother--two souls who had filled the world with laughter, joy and generosity of spirit during their far-too-brief stay on earth.
Too often he saw people rushing around, their faces set into hard frowns or exhausted blank stares as if they knew they needed to get somewhere but were not sure what they would do once they arrived at their destination. Cody understood that, better than most who enjoyed the many blessings of life might guess. Even now, five years later, Cody fought every day not to surrender to his grief--and his guilt.
He ambled through O'Hare Airport where no one ambled--ever--and focused on individuals hurrying past him. A businessman, cell phone to ear, brushed past. He was juggling a carry-on bag, laptop and shopping bag with presents for the kiddies back home judging by the teddy bear that had just fallen unnoticed to the floor. Cody picked up the bear and hurried to catch up with the man. He watched the man's expression go from annoyance at the interruption to appreciation. The man mouthed "thank you" as he turned so Cody could stuff the bear back in the bag.
Cody saw a security officer eyeing him suspiciously. Understanding that his leisurely stroll might be perfectly normal to him but stood out in a madhouse like O'Hare, Cody realized he'd better relieve the man's suspicions.
"Excuse me, Officer," he said. "I'm meeting someone coming in on the flight from D.C. Since I don't have a ticket and can't meet her at the gate, what do you suggest?"
The officer continued to check him out as he gathered information. Cody explained that he'd never actually met the woman he was meeting and was operating from a description provided by her aunt. Of course, Cody knew exactly what he needed to do, but asking the bored security guard for help gave the man purpose and an identity in the mad rush of the airport.
"If I were in your shoes," the officer said, "I'd find out where the luggage is coming downstairs, make a sign with her name on it and wait by the carousel. You could also have her paged...."
Just then the public address system activated and the security guard paused as he and Cody both listened to the garbled message. The words were effectively drowned out by the multiple conversations and competing announcements of flights boarding around them.
"Or not," the security guard added when the announcement ended. He grinned. "I'd go for the sign and baggage claim."
Cody thanked him and ambled off. "Hey, buddy," the guard called, and a number of people--assuming trouble--stopped to gawk, wondering what Cody had done. Cody turned and the guard took an empty cardboard box from the candy kiosk vendor and waved it at him. "For your sign. She's got a marker, too," he added,...