Flight 404 Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Thompson Airfield was some fifty miles south of Peoria and catered to small and lightweight aircraft owned by rich businessmen who preferred to do their commuting by air.

The NTSB had taken the remains, both human and otherwise, there for identification, and in the case of the plane – reassembly.  The bodies were long gone, but the plane – what was left of her, was still there.  David desired to see for himself the plane that had changed his life.

Like Sam he could have assigned any number of seasoned reporters, on staff at WKXR, to do the wrap-up story on the crash, but he couldn’t bring himself to do that.  No, this story he had to do himself.  This story was personal.

His mother must have suspected such, because she had been on his case from the time he’d come downstairs for breakfast.

“Why are you still bothering with this David?  And why are you leaving the station unattended to traipse off to Thompson Airfield, when you know you’re needed at the office?”

She’d kept on with the questions until he had left his breakfast of scrambled ‘Egg Beaters’, turkey sausage, and tomatoes sitting on the kitchen table, grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair, gave her and Kaila a quick kiss on the cheek, and decided he’d grab something on the way to Thompson’s.

Intuitively, she seemed to know his motives regarding this particular story weren’t the purest and that he had no intention what-so-ever of remaining objective.  He had, and they both knew it, every intention of crucifying Adventure Airlines.  This was going to be a cold hearted no holds barred personal vendetta.

He was in the lead car, alone, sipping on a cup of Mickey D’s finest.  Following close behind him in the gray van bearing the WKXR TV News logo, was Andy Smith, his cameraman for this assignment.

No matter how often people saw that van, they always stopped whatever they were doing and watched as it rolled by.  People, he knew, were curious about what was going on in their neighborhood that required the presence of a News van. They wanted to be a part of something exciting – something that added a spark to the ho-humness of their everyday life.  And moreover, they wanted to see their faces on the evening news, or have someone they knew see them on TV.  It’s a big deal for some.

Ironically, David thought, how once you’re in the News business, the last thing you want is to be a part of a News story.

Approaching the ten-foot tall gray steel structure that was the airport hanger where the Boeing 737, known as Adventure Airlines Flight 404, was being reconstructed, thoughts of his friend and colleague played in his head like an old movie.  He felt the tears as they rolled down his face.

He was conscious of the fact that people on the street could see him through the Taurus’ untinted windshield.  He rolled down the driver’s window hoping the fresh air would clear his head, thereby stopping the tears pooling in his dark brown eyes.

The guard at the gate had told him to park about twenty feet away from the hanger, in the spots reserved for visitors, but he had other ideas.  He wanted to park as close as possible in case the guys inside realized his intentions.

Disobeying the guard’s directions, he parked is navy blue Ford Taurus in a spot close to the front of the hanger, in a spot reserved for NTSB workers.

While Andy parked the News van, he took the time to doctor on his red eyes by putting a couple of eye drops in each eye which he hoped would clear away any evidence of the tears he’d shed.

In his seven years of employment with Sam Larson, he had learned quite a bit about the News business.

He’d anchored a News show at the ungodly hour of three a.m., produced the local news, written copy for someone else to read, sold advertising spots, and learned trafficking and then Sam had promoted him to management. 

Before Sam’s death, his days were spent settling employee disputes, negotiating contracts, and handling employee schedules.  These days, he rarely, if ever, appeared in front of  the camera.

After a few silent rehearsals, Andy rigged him up for sound.  He did one last rehearsal to sync-up picture and sound, and he was ready to go.  He was spurred on by this recent lost.

As soon as his feet crossed the threshold of the hanger, an overwhelming feeling of sadness and remorse grabbed at his heart.  His legs wobbled under the tremendous burden of the feeling.  He’d never felt anything like it before not even when Kate had been murdered.  This was way beyond intense.  He grabbed the sides of the hanger door in an effort to steady himself.

Andy was following on his heels as he went through the doorway, and was the first to notice his odd behavior.  He thought, perhaps, David might’ve stripped over something, so in spite of the bulky camera he carried on his left shoulder; he reached out his right hand in an attempt to stop David from falling.

“You alright man,” he asked.  You look a little green around the gills.”

David shook off Andy’s concern, managing to stammer out a halting excuse.  “I – I’m fine, he said, I didn’t have time for breakfast, that’s all.”

With each step closer to the plane the feeling of sadness and remorse grew ever stronger until David could no longer…….

“Sir!”  “Sir!” “If you don’t remove your hand from the plane, I’ll forcibly remove it and you from the building.  Sir! Do you understand what I’m saying?  Again sir, back away from the plane,  NOW!”

David blinked like a man waking from a coma.  He had no idea how he had gotten from the hanger door to the plane.  Not only had he crossed the football field sized hanger, but had also managed to climb a ladder to a steep platform where he now stood face to face with a rather red-faced and very angry NTSB agent holding a gun on him.  And it seemed his right hand had somehow attached itself to the fragile side of the reconstructed plane.

Embarrassment more than fear was his main concern.  He could feel the shame of his situation all the way down to his imported tasseled leather loafers. 

Everywhere around him people were poised, motionless, waiting for him to comply.  The welder with his face mask up and his torch poised in mid-air, a man on a ramp above had stopped hammering rivets, and even the red-faced NTSB agent waited for his response.

Andy, however, was filming away.  News at eleven.

David quickly removed his hand from the plane and allowed himself to be escorted down the ladder and away from the stares. As he walked away, he could hear work resume on the plane.

Back on the main floor, he was body searched, and recited his rights.  The NTSB agent, who had held him at gun point, gave his name as Agent Ronald Schlade.  The very cordial yet direct Agent Schlade then began pummeling him with question after question. 

“You’re little over eager for a story, don’t you think, Mr. Walker.”

“I don’t know what came over me.  I’m sorry! I’ve never done anything like that before.”

“Well, Mr. Walker, he said while going through David’s wallet, you’re going to have to stay here until I verify that.”

Not yet satisfied with David’s answers Agent Schlade made him sit, handcuffed to a wooded bench while he checked out his credentials. 

Finding nothing out of the ordinary that would explain David’s strange behavior, Agent Schlade released him.

Andy was still filming David as he sat on the bench and later as Agent Schlade unlocked the handcuffs. 

David had a flashback to freshman year at St. Lucas, when a young white girl, who had never been around Blacks, asked him if it were possible for him to blush.  She should see him now, he thought. 

Airfield security wasted no time in booting both him and Andy out the back door.

Once outside, David grabbed a very puzzled Andy by the collar and started yelling, “What the hell happened in there?”

“You’re asking me?  “One minute you were stumbling through the hanger door and the very next second, you were sprinting across the hanger and climbing ladders and shit — like you were Tarzan or something!”

“And you didn’t stop me!”

“Man I ain’t your keeper!  I’m here to shoot pictures. Nobody told me I had to baby sit you!  What happened back there is on you.  And let go of my f … collar.  If there’s nothing else, Sir, I’m going back to the station.”

David stood for a second sulking before running after Andy.

“Andy.  Wait!  Give me the tape!”  His voice was low and guttural.

Andy knew enough about his people to tell when a nigger was gonna hurt you.   He didn’t hesitate before removing the tape from the camera and reluctantly tossing it over.  It went against his code as a cameraman to give up the tape, but David was not acting like David and the tape was not worth his job, or worse yet a beat down.

Looking around Andy quickly realized that they’d been thrown out of a different door than the one in which they’d entered hours earlier.  Angrily, he stomped off in search of the van.