Flight 404 Chapter 42

Part Two starts with Chapter 42

Chapter 42

In spite of the snow and the minus five-degree wind chill he was in a very good mood.  The sparkling snow and the twinkling lights of the runway had all contributed to his mood.  In fact, he felt so good that he broke into a little jingle, “Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas to me,” he sang as he worked.

He wanted to get this just right for all those holiday travelers.  He carefully placed the corrosive substance in thin strips along the plane’s delicate hydraulic wiring.  Not enough and the plane would continue on to its destination without incident, but too much, and some enterprising NTSB agent, a.k.a. that SOB Frank Roberts, might detect its presence after the crash.  He was determined not to give Frank any further reason to continue his investigation.

As he worked on the plane, he glanced up from time to time.   He could see them inside, waiting in the passenger pre-boarding area.  They looked like little black dots moving around.  Once in a while one of the little black dots came close enough to the window so that he could make out whether the dot was a man or woman.  He would stare at the dot’s face and try to imagine what it would be like being the dot about thirty minutes from now.  Would the dot scream, or be frozen in terror.  Would the dot pray or curse God for being unfortunate enough to have been on this plane.  How he wished he could see the dot’s last moments.  He forced himself to stop thinking about the dots and to get back to the work at hand.

Ah, Christmas time, he thought, with its high absenteeism and forgettable replacement employees.  He was dressed in the identical garb as the rest of the airline’s maintenance crew, right down to the correct color armband for tonight.  So no one looked twice at him or even questioned him as he climbed the ladder.  He was just one of the guys.  He worked quickly and carefully.

He’d watched the maintenance crews for weeks and knew exactly what to do, and more importantly when to do it.  He knew that after the chief mechanic had finished his visual inspection and walk around with the pilot, there would be only minutes when he could safely climb the maintenance ladder and have access to the plane’s wiring.  After that the grounds crew would come out and take the maintenance ladder away.  The baggage handlers would then bring out the luggage and start loading the plane.  So he worked quickly, quietly, and carefully.

After finishing his ‘work’, he used the hydraulics on the maintenance ladder and lowered himself to the ground.  He worked the controls like a pro, he thought.

As the bucket of the ladder touched the snowy tarmac, another mechanic stepped from beneath the plane’s wing.  For a moment, he thought he’d been caught.  However, the man only confirmed the cleverness of his disguise by asking to use the ladder. 

“Cold out here tonight, said the other mechanic.

He kept his reply short and to the point.  No need drawing undue attention to himself.   “Yeah, freezing.”

As he handed over the controls, the other mechanic tried to get a better look at his face.  “Hey man, you new?

“Yea, I’m replacing Williams.  He wanted the night off.  Something about a family get together.”

“Well, in that case, if you’re finished here, I could sure use some help with the eight forty-five to Chicago.  She’s scheduled for departure right after this baby and she needs de-icing, too.”

He decided quickly that it was to his advantage to be a team player and help the guy with de-icing the Chicago bound flight.  Plus it gave him a twinge of pleasure knowing that he was helping to de-ice the plane that took the place of Adventure Airlines Flight 404.  It was like re-visiting his last ‘work’ all over again. 

As he worked with the de-icing, Trans Air 625 bound for Florida backed away from the terminal and slowly taxied toward the runway and took its place in line for takeoff.

A few minutes later, he was finished with the de-icing of the other plane.  The guy thanked him for his help and even asked to buy him a coffee, but he had other plans in mind. 

Walking slowly and with his head down and hood up, so no one caught a close look at him, he made his way over to where he had previously set up his cameras. This was going to be even better than Flight 404.  That time, he’d been foolish and parked his truck where that SOB Frank had spotted it and had written down his license plate number, which necessitated his stealing Frank’s notes.  Because of that bastard, he’d left the crash site before he’d actually finished filming everything.  If he’d stayed any longer, the authorities would have questioned his reasons for being there, and would have searched his truck and found his video.  This time he could stay and enjoy everything that happened.  He was growing more and more excited as the minutes ticked off to Flight 625’s departure.

If the Captain followed his customary routine, the huge jet would take runway 1L West.  1L West would take the jet directly over Flushing Bay.  He began shivering thinking about how cold the water must be in the Bay tonight.  A snowflake landed on the tip of his nose and he turned his face upward hoping to catch a few more flakes with his mouth. 

He was relaxed, now that the ‘work’ was done.  And the tension, he felt, from these last weeks of waiting and hiding was ebbing slowly from his body.  So dark the night, he thought.  It encased him, enveloped him like a womb.  The darkness was a part of him; he drew energy from it.  He opened his eyes and all around him in the darkness were the white lights that belonged to the dots.  The world would be a better place, he thought, without the dots.

He checked his watch.  Only a few more minutes to go.