The look on David’s face was one of stunned disbelief. He sat contemplating the email for ten minutes or more before speaking.
“There’s only and IP address shown here. Was there a name on the email before you opened it?”
“I don’t think so, I said, but I was too upset to notice.”
“Who is this Curtis,” he asked.
I explained about last Thanksgiving and showed him a picture of Sam and his remaining friends toasting Curtis.
“Were Sam and Curtis working on a story that might have upset someone,” he asked.
“No, I don’t think so. As far as I knew, they were just friends.”
“Margaret, please have a seat, he said pointing to one of two brown leather chairs in front of Sam’s desk. I need your full attention.”
I was standing by the desk eagerly searching David’s face for any sign that he agreed with me about the sinister tone of the email.
“Did you know that Sam called me the night of the crash? He said he had some new information about this very crash,” he said, pointing an amazingly long index finger at the computer. He also said some of that new information he had pertained to Kate. When I pressed him about it, he asked me to wait for him at the office and that we’d go over it before making anything public. That’s where I was when I got the news about his plan crashing.”
“What I don’t get, is why was he in New York when this crash happened in Iowa? And what has all of this got to do with Kate?
“I don’t know. I do know Curtis Brooks lived in New York as a child and so did Sam.”
“They grew up together?”
“David, if I show you something, you must promise to keep it a secret if you can.” I got up from where I was sitting and retrieved the older picture of Sam Larstein and his friends from the album in the family room. I placed the picture in David’s hand.
“New York, that’s where this picture was taken?”
“Look on the back.”
It was a little more than a twitch, but David’s entire continence changed.
“Sam Larson was Sam Larstein from New York.”
“And he was friends with Curtis Brooks, Frank Roberts, Saul Abramovitz, and Rebecca Schuster?”
“Margaret, the other day when I went out to Thompson’s Airfield to get a look at the plane, I met a Frank Roberts. He works for the NTSB as one of the investigators. He’s working the crash of Flight 404. When I mentioned to him that my friend Sam Larson had died in the crash, he genuinely didn’t seem to know Sam.
“Maybe he didn’t recognize the name.”
“I don’t know. I think it’s damn peculiar that he’s working this case.”
He said it more to himself than to me. He seemed to be off somewhere in his mind – working it all out. Trying to see how the pieces fit. I could tell from watching him, now, why Sam had handpicked him as his replacement if anything had happened to him.
“The morning Sam left, did he say anything that might lead you to think he feared for his life?”
“No nothing. In fact, I didn’t see him that morning. We‘d discussed the trip the night before. I was more than a little suspicious of the trip, because he used the excuse of a business trip to get together with me in New York. So, we had it out. But Sam insisted that it was a routine business trip and he’d be home in a couple of days.”
“Margaret, there was one more thing about that last conversation with Sam that I didn’t tell you about. He was scared.”
“No, I said emphasizing the point by shaking my head no. I don’t think so. Not Sam. Sam was never scared of anyone or anything. He was a quiet, gentle man on the outside, but inside, he was as aggressive as anyone, maybe even more so. He didn’t back down from a fight.”
“Yea, I know, he said. I saw him in action plenty of times. Someone had him scared — scared enough to go to New York — scared enough to confront his past.”
David leaned back in Sam’s desk chair, looking as though a heavy weight had settled on him. Looking up at me from across the desk, he said in a rather soft voice for him, “I have to go to New York and find out where Sam went and who he spoke with while there.”
“Do you still have a copy of that report on Curtis Brooks?
“Yes, it’s in the top drawer on your left.”
“I’ll take it and a copy of this email. I have a meeting with Frank Roberts on Tuesday. I’m gonna to find out what he knows.”