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Tom M. Wiseman - Author
A pilot gone astray, terrorist activity across the U.S., and a devilish plot to kill thousands of innocent lives at one of America's busiest airports.
Tony Foster is about to lose everything. Desperate and on the hunt for a new career, he's lured into becoming a pilot for a small team of terrorists, his questions kept at bay with bonuses and perks. Once he begins to put the puzzle together, he questions what side of the law he wants to be.
My hand gripped the black, leather wrapping at the butt of the shaft, inlays of ornate silver decorated the lower half. Bending at the waist, peering across the red field of play, poised and ready, to strike the circle of white into the black void that would be its final destination.
Ring… Ring… Ring…
Leaning the cue stick against the pool table, I picked up the phone.
It was my boss, Sam, telling me I had to get to the airport immediately to fly an important package to Phoenix Sky Harbor International. It was 1p.m. During the call, he sounded very anxious and tense, while explaining I would need to arrive in Phoenix no later than 7p.m. Some speedy calculations told me it would be tight, but hopefully, doable.
I had been expecting the call, but couldn’t fathom the urgency. I told him I’d be there right away and hung up. Placing the cue stick back in the mount, I snatched a sheet of paper from the desk drawer and scribbled a note to Amanda; I’m off on a flight to Phoenix. Will most likely be gone a couple of days. Love Always, Tony.
I grabbed my hooded sweatshirt draped over the barstool and my flight bag from under the red-cloth pool table and made my way down the stairs. Attempting to pull the sweatshirt over my head while speeding through the living room, I stumbled into the Italian leather couch and nearly crashed into the big screen TV before managing to get to the garage.
Stepping in through the self-closing door, I tapped the switch on the wall, signaling the automatic garage door to open. Rays of sunlight came bursting in, sparkling off the clear lacquered floor and onto the two vehicles parked within; my black, 2002, BMW 325CI and the 1992 Ford Explorer. Assuming my car would be stuck in the parking lot for a few days, subject to dust and thieves, I decided to take the Explorer. I jumped in, tossing my gear over onto the passenger seat, and put the vehicle in reverse.
Driving along the back, country roads, I spotted a few farmers in their orchards, working the land, as man had done for thousands of years, preparing for the next planting season of walnuts, almonds or peaches that were so prevalent in the area.
Watching them as I drove by had a certain calming effect. Something about the purity and simplicity of it all, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something peculiar was waiting for me.
I pulled into the Redding Municipal parking lot a mere eighteen minutes after one and was immediately bombarded by Sam at my car door. It was highly irregular for him to be at my departure point.
In the time I had worked for Express Flight as a courier, Sam had only been at my pick-up point once or twice. Those had been simple, casual encounters with Sam being his usual, calm and collected self. Not today though. Sam was antsy, eagerly waiting for me to turn off and exit the car.
Before I could fully open the door, Sam started repeating what he had already told me on the phone; asking me if I understood the importance of arriving in Phoenix no later than 7p.m. I said yes, that I understood and tried to reassure him, since it seemed such an important point.
After pulling my gear from the passenger seat, I shut the door and pressed the red button hanging from the key chain.
Chirp, Chirp. The car alarm sounded, confirming it was armed, ready to warn off any would-be thieves.
Walking through the secured gate, to the ramp area where I had parked my plane, with Sam keeping in close tow, I spotted two guys I didn’t recognize loading a crate into the rear passenger area. The seats that would normally be found there had been removed.
As I stepped under the wing, I no sooner had placed my flight bag on the ground when Sam pulled me by the arm and led me way off to the side, outside of earshot from anyone else around. He looked frightened. His fear and anxiety oozed from his body and rippled into mine.
The fuel truck arrived just as Sam was leaning in closer. He lowered his voice. With his thick, Pakistani accent said, “Tonay, today’s flight is extremely important, more so than any other you have made previously. You must reach Phoenix on time.”
“Sam, you’re scaring the hell out of me. Do you mind telling me what this is all about?”
Sam paused while his eyes scanned the area around us, ensuring there were no eavesdroppers. “I cannot tell you anything more than I already have…” his voice trailed off as if wanting to say something more.
Over the last couple of years I had grown accustomed to flying packages to and fro, without any knowledge of what I was transporting. It was all part of the job and quite frankly, for the amount of money I was making, I didn’t care to know. This delivery however, already had a different feel to it. Something was not adding up. The fact that the rear passenger seats had been removed made me all the more anxious and inquisitive. Just what was in that crate?
“What if I refuse, Sam? What if I choose not to make this flight?” I asked, timidly.
Sam’s charcoal colored eyes pierced my very being as he stared right through me. He looked at me with determination and frustration. Without pause or prejudice, he said, “Do I need to call to your attention how well you are paid? Of the life we brought you out of and the life you have been enjoying?”
“No, but that’s not what I ask—“
“That is good my friend, because it would be a shame if something tragic should happen to you or your girlfriend, would it not?”
In horror and disbelief, I stared at Sam, trying desperately to understand the significance of a delivery that would motivate him to threaten me and especially Amanda.
I watched as the fuel truck pulled away.