Dominic Roo and the Missing Shipwreck (chapter one)

The pilot’s breakfast club had convened at the appointed time and the small airport lounge rang with shouts and laughter when — suddenly — there was a hush…

Chapter One

Saturday

The pilots’ breakfast club had convened at the appointed time and the small airport lounge rang with shouts and laughter when — suddenly — there was a hush,  a turning of heads, a shuffling of feet.  Dominic Roo cast an appreciative glance through the wide office window but possessed the decorum to remain seated, unlike others who stood and stared.

“That is one fine-looking dame”, Norm volunteered, to numerous grunts of reverent agreement.

The creature thus admired was stepping into an airplane, her silky legs executing a graceful arc that earned every possible style point from the judges, who groaned when the airplane’s closing door brought an abrupt end to the exhibition.  “Fred has all the luck”, someone muttered as the group turned away and resumed their noisy storytelling.

Whether sharing this view or for some other reason, Dom continued to monitor the scene as the pilot walked to the other side of the airplane and got in.  A moment later, Dom’s dark eyebrows flickered and it was soon apparent that Fred’s luck, though abundant, was not all good.

The right door of the airplane burst open and its passenger reversed her noteworthy ingress, though with greater haste and less elegance, nearly spraining an ankle as the heel of her remarkable shoe twisted on contact with the pavement.  Gaining her balance, she strode rapidly across the ramp toward the lobby, her hand on her face, Fred clamoring pathetically behind.

This second act of the drama was missed by most of the pilots, but at the swelling click of approaching heels, faces turned quickly toward the glass door and then — with the sure instinct of compassion for their fellow man — turned quickly away in a sincere, if unconvincing, effort to appear unaware of Fred’s plight.

The door whooshed open, admitting the urgent sounds of feminine sniffles, the machine-gun tat of stiletto heels, and a plaintive masculine voice entreating Judy to please wait.  This request was forcefully denied by the slamming of the Ladies’ Room door, a fascinating development privately noted (though publicly ignored) by every man in the suddenly silent room.

Bill, chosen by fate to be standing in just the wrong spot, could not, by any stretch of polite fiction, pretend not to notice the troubled fellow panting at his elbow.  In Bill, however, fate had chosen poorly.  “Uh, hey, Fred!  Going flying today?” was Bill’s inelegant breaking of the ice.

Fred ignored Bill’s gregarious presence and rapped loudly on the bathroom door, signaling a new phase in the crisis.  Pilots began to flee the lobby, ducking into the suddenly cooler environment of a muggy summer morning.

Dom glanced at his friend, John, raised inquiring eyebrows, and John gave a subtle nod toward the door.

“What have we here?” Dom said quietly as they moved outside.

“Lovers’ quarrel, I guess,” John replied.  “Fred’s a good guy.  They’ll work it out.”

“Do you know her?”

“You don’t?  That’s Judy Cain, widow of the guy who crashed into Lake Michigan a couple of years ago.”

“Ah.  I’ve heard the story.  Did they recover the airplane?”

“Nope.  Deep part of the lake, I guess.  Maybe she’s not ready to fly again.  Can’t say as I’d blame her.”

“Hmmm.”  John followed Dom’s glance into the lobby, saw Judy through the window, gesturing emphatically and turning toward the door.  Dom pointed toward a picnic table.  “Let’s sit down for a minute.”

John gave Dom a questioning look but complied.  A moment later, Judy burst from the lobby and, pursued by Fred, clicked briskly toward the parking lot.  Fred raced forward and reached the car first, opened the door for her, then trotted back to the airplane, extracting a suitcase from the back seat.  This he carried to the car and threw into the trunk.  The trunk lid rebounded against his first attempt to close it, and he slammed it down again with some violence.

“Fred’s not happy,” John volunteered.

“Indeed, not.”

“Why so interested?  Something about the way she looks?” John asked, disapproving.

“No.  Something about the way she sees.”

John tilted his head, perplexed.  “What do you mean?”

“I’ll tell you later.”

As Fred started the car and pulled away, Dom rose from the bench and walked toward Fred’s airplane.  “Nice paint job,” he said.  “Looks recent.”

“Yeah, Fred rebuilt the thing over a few years.  Finished it about a year ago, I guess.”

Dom walked around the airplane, admiring the finish, put his hand against the window, stared inside.

“Well, I have a lawn to mow,” John said, sounding impatient.  “Thanks for the airplane ride.”

“Sure thing, John,” Dom said, turning to shake his hand.  “It’s time for me to get to work, too.”

John smirked and said, “Now, that I’d love to see.”

“You underestimate me!” Dom said and started across the ramp to his own airplane, a gleaming Cessna 310.  In a minute, he had the left engine running, and then the right, and soon the airplane raced down the runway, rocketed into a steep climb and banked away.  Looking up to watch before he ducked into his car, John mumbled to himself, “What’s on your mind, Dom?  I’ve seen that look before.”

(Chapter Two)

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