Flight 404 Chapter 17

Chapter 17

Frank Roberts could only stare at the man he’d seen earlier that afternoon, with his hand firmly affixed to the side of what remained of Adventure Airlines number 404.  He’d watched as Agent Schlade had escorted the man down the ladder at gunpoint and into one of the temporary offices for questioning.

He figured the guy for a nut case.  One of those special people who get ‘messages’ from the other side.  The other side of what, was what he wanted to know.  They were omnipresent at every crash.  But what both puzzled and annoyed him was why the hell, didn’t these special people ever solve the mystery of a crash before the plane went down, and not afterwards.  All the special people he’d ever dwelt with were full of crap.

Now this big special person, he must have been at least six foot seven, had him down on the ground and his side arm, which he almost never carried on him, was loaded and out of reach, under the front seat of his car.  The special person was standing between him and it. 

Damn notes, he thought, as his eyes darted back and forth between the open car door and the big special person.  If only he hadn’t misplaced his notes, he wouldn’t have gotten himself in such a bad situation. 

Karen, his ex-wife had always told him his drinking would be the death of him.  Won’t she be surprised to see his tarp covered body on the News tonight and find out he’d been killed by some psychic idiot out to steal his car.     

He vaguely remembered putting the notes in his briefcase and the briefcase in the car.  He’d driven straight to the motel, no stops along the way even though the route took him past several promising bars and strip clubs.  Better be careful, he told himself.  “You never know who’s an informant and who’s not.”  After getting to the motel, he went directly to his room. 

“Shit,” what a time to remember, he had the briefcase with him when he entered the motel room.  He could actually see himself placing it and his black NTSB jacket on the table that sat by the room’s window, with its off-white tweed curtains that concealed a view of the parking lot. 

He was hungry, that’s what he remembered, and that had been foremost in his mind.  So before attending to the work he’d brought with him, he’d called room service and ordered up some dinner — a burger, medium rare with everything, home fries, and two beers.  The motel clerk said fifteen minutes for his order. 

He figured he had time to grab a quick shower.  He poured himself a drink from the bottle of whiskey he had stashed under the bed.  He never used those motel mini-bars, too expensive, and his expense account didn’t cover alcoholic drinks.  He usually bought his own from whatever liquor store was nearby.

Funny, he thought to himself, how foggy everything was a little while ago, but lying here on the ground with this big hostile special person towering over him, everything was in crystal clear Panavision.  He swore he could even feel how, last night, his shoulder muscles had relaxed as the liquor spread through his bloodstream.  He had kicked off his shoes and loosened the navy, gray, and black print tie he wore as a courtesy to the NTSB dress code.  He took another sip from the glass and went into the bathroom and started the shower, letting the water run till it warmed up.  He left the glass with its warming brown liquor on the bathroom sink and took a twenty dollar bill out of his wallet, went back into the bedroom and left the twenty on the table next to his briefcase.  He’d unlocked the door but left it closed and returned to the bathroom and his shower. 

By the time he’d emerged from the shower, his meal was waiting for him.  Everything in the room was just as he’d left it, except the twenty was gone. 

He checked the lock on the door.  It was locked.  He picked up the TV remote, tuned in the local news and started in on his meal.  Just as he thought, the burger was well done, not medium rare.  He’d learned the trick of ordering medium rare to get a perfectly well done burger after eating many a scorched well done burger. The local news was all about the crash. 

Soon enough his head began bobbing and he thought it best to call it a night.  He had never even touched the briefcase let alone looked over his notes.

That morning, he woke late.  The alarm on the watch he’d left on the nightstand next to the bed had not gone off.  Hurriedly, he showered, shaved, and got dressed.  He grabbed his jacket off the table and left for the airfield. He’d have just enough time to read through his notes and get prepared for the reporter who was going to interview him about the crash.

It was a minute before he realized that the big special person was screaming something at him.


“Hey man, I’m sorry if I hurt you.  I thought you were stealing my car.”

“Your car?!”  That’s an original line if I’ve ever heard one. What is, you still so wacked out you can’t get the car started?   You want me to start it for you?  Is that it?”

“I’m not wacked out.”

“Yeah sure!   Didn’t I see you earlier in the hanger with your hand stuck to the side of 404, and Agent Schlade holding a gun on you?”   “I call that wacked out!”

David withdrew the hand he’d been holding out all this time, straighten himself up and took a step back from the man lying on the ground.

“I don’t know what happened to me in there.  One minute I was fine and then everything went black.   Next thing I know, I’m staring down the barrel of a semi-automatic.”

Frank Roberts pushed himself to his feet and made sure he got himself between the big special person and the car.  He wanted quick access to the gun if he needed it. 

He made note of David’s well-groomed hair and nails.  The suit the young Black man was wearing probably cost more than he made in a month.  This was no wacked out psychic idiot.  

“What were you doing here today, Frank asked.

“I’m General Manager of WKXR TV in Peoria, and I came out here to interview and NTSB agent, Frank Roberts, about the crash.”

“As General Manager you do your own reporting?”

“I had a close friend who died in the crash.  This interview was going to answer some questions I had about the crash.”

“What kind of questions?”

“My friend said he knew something about another crash that happened a few months back.  I think it’s more than a coincidence that he died in a crash.”

Intrigued my David’s mention of another crash, Frank saw an opportunity to get more information to support his theories.

“Before we go any further, why were you trying to steal my car?”

“I wasn’t trying to steal your car, answered David.  Like I said, I thought you were trying to steal my car.  I have one just like it.  Same make, same model, same color.”

“That I find hard to believe.  And here’s something you’re going to find even hard to believe.   My name’s Frank Roberts and I believe you were coming here to interview me.”

David winced.  He fought back the panic he was quickly beginning to feel and went straight into GM mode. 

“Let me buy you lunch as an apology.”

“Make it drinks with lunch and you’ve got a deal, said Frank.

“Now if I could only find my car!”

Frank dusted off the back of his pants and pointed to his car.

“Hop in.  I’ll drive you around till we spot this look alike car of yours.  I want to see it for myself.”

David spotted the car with ease and Frank pulled alongside.  And sure enough it was the same make, model, and year.  And the exact same color as well.

“Son of a bitch,” yelled Frank.  You weren’t lying.”