“The story begins with your friend, Mr. Benjamin Cain. Not a very pleasant fellow, I understand, and he took something precious that once belonged to you.”
Dom and Walt met in the parking lot and walked into the airport office.
“Walt, this is Julie”, Dom said, gesturing toward the receptionist.
“Hello!”, Walt said, holding up his badge for her inspection. “My name is Walt Peters, I’m with the NTSB. May I please have the key for hangar D5?”
Julie stared at him for a moment, then walked stiffly to the key box, picked a key off the hook and handed it to him.
“And, if you would, please don’t mention this to anyone. In fact, if Fred should happen to appear before we leave, would you please dial this number?”
“Uh…, sure”, she said, puzzled, and took his card.
“It’s OK, Julie”, Dom said. “We’ll just be a few minutes, and, by the way, were any airplanes from Fred’s hangar row in for maintenance in March, two years ago?”
Julie held up a finger and turned toward her desk. Walt said, “Why would we care about that?”
Instead of answering, Dom watched as Julie flipped through a calendar. She looked up and nodded. “Bill was in for an annual inspection. He’s right across from Fred.”
“Curiouser and curiouser”, Walt observed. “I guess you’ll tell me soon enough.”
They took Walt’s car to the hangar and opened the door, turned on the lights.
“OK, Dom, what are we after?”
“Let’s get a picture of this.” Dom pointed to the coil of hose hanging on the wall and, looking behind it, exclaimed, “Ah! Here you are.”
“It’s a rope?”, Walt said.
“A rope with a knot at one end and a loop at the other and, inside the knot…” He brought the rope into the light, pointed to a shred of green material trapped inside the knot.
“It looks like plastic”, Walt said.
“Rather like the plastic used in garbage bags,” Dom said. “And I suspect this stain around the knot will be found to contain aviation oil and fuel.”
“I don’t follow…”
“So”, Dom began, “let’s pretend…” but was interrupted by the ringing of Walt’s telephone.
“Hello… What? He’s where?”
The sound of squealing tires echoed through the hangar, then a car door slammed, and Fred rushed into the hangar. “What’s going on here?” he roared. “Who are—?” He looked from Walt to Dom, and his eyes widened in recognition. He raised his arm, pointed at Dom and stepped forward. “You! What are you doing, snooping around in here?”
“Why, hello, Fred”, Dom said. “I’m glad you’re here. This is my friend Walt from the NTSB and in a moment we will be joined by a few other officials. I wonder if we might have a friendly conversation before they arrive?”
Fred stopped, drew back a step. “About what?”
“About a dark morning a couple of years ago, a very dark morning, indeed.”
“I… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Very well. I was not expecting a confession. How about this? I’ll tell you a story, and you let me know if, at any point, it contradicts your own memories. All right?” Fred stared at Dom and shifted his feet but said nothing. “The story begins with your friend, Mr. Benjamin Cain. Not a very pleasant fellow, I understand, and he took something precious that once belonged to you.”
Continue to Chapter Six
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