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He had been flying for nearly 10 years, anything from small cargo DC 3's to monsters like this one. He had flown through flak and felt the shudder of the plane as the machine gunners tried to protect their aircraft from the German fighters. He had even suffered the embarrassment of being shot down. But this was different. Back then there were hundreds of people looking after you. The radar and ground vectoring stations had a very good idea of the various flights and the number of squadrons that were in their vicinity. Here he was alone. One plane in the darkness that was carrying a bomb that could destroy more than a million people. The night was black; the storm was a real pig with ice and snow, rain and slush. It robbed both him and the rest of his crew of any way to accurately predict where they were. But he had never really been frightened before. Maybe five years after the war, little things had greater effects on the psyche and made the mind more vulnerable to fear. Back in the cauldron of war, death and disaster were courted in the nightly bombing runs. It was the shortness of a flier's life that took one's breath away. Hell, it was better than the 65 minutes a tail gunner had. But to survive you put it out of your mind and each night you returned and had a whoop-up, thankful to be alive and fearful for the next flight whether it was the next night or a few nights later. But flying in peacetime was different --you had the added luxury of thinking, lots of time to think. That's what made it all worse.
• • •
Jake Dorchet looked at the woman who sat across from him. She was certainly easyon the eyes. But there was something else. Something not physical, yet just as stimulating. Maybe it was an inner strength. Anyone who could discover an amazing piece of history that might influence the understanding of the spread of civilization from Europe to the Americas hundreds of years before either the Vikings in the 11thcentury or Christopher Columbus in 1492, had to have guts. Anyone who would support such an outlandish proposition had to have strength to handle the critics and the parasites who got ahead by feeding off their colleagues. But he hadn't anticipated her statement.
"What do you mean?" he asked.
He saw that she drew herself together in an action almost like a rattlesnake coiling before striking.
"Just a few days ago my mother wrote me a letter. In it was a press clipping. You were named in the article. It says you discovered the remains of an aircraft that has been missing for nearly 23 years. My mother has been trying to trace what happened to that plane since her husband, my father, disappeared in 1950. She has been pestering the authorities for years, but was always stonewalled. First they said the plane had crashed over water and all signs of it were lost. Next they said it crashed on Vancouver Island. Twelve crew were rescued. But my father was not one of them. He had a special task and when my mother wanted more information the authorities invoked the Official Secret's Act."
Jake saw the pain in the woman's eyes, as he began to tell his story. "Last fall when I was on a hunting expedition I headed into the isolated interior in an area where the forest companies have not begun to cut. So it was virgin territory. The group who I was with, were well versed in back packing and we wanted to head up to a higher elevation before going into the valley where a trapper once had a cabin. We were planning to use it as a base camp.
The weather was warm and the trail of some Dall sheep allowed us to make good time going up. It was from the peak that I noticed something. It was an army water bottle. How it got up there was a mystery and it got me interested in what else might be up there. That's when I found part of a plane's fuselage and right wing with two engine pods still attached. The rest of the plane may have broken up and skipped down the slope or continued on its downward path into the next valley. We never found anything more to it."
She listened and he noted that her hands were clenched into fists as if his words were striking her.
"Did you recognize the type of plane?" she asked in a quiet voice.
"No, not then, but it was big and the engines were pointing backward. So I did some homework. It was the special version of the B-36 Peacemaker!"
The blood vessel along her temple seemed to throb. "I want you to take me back up there!"
There was no doubt at all that she was serious, deadly serious.
"Sarah, I don't really understand what's happening here. The military have already been notified and from what I heard from my trapper friends that mountaintop had a whole squad of people combing the area. What can you possibly hope to find?"
He saw a little bit of doubt come into her eyes. "You see I never knew my father. My life has always been without a father figure. I didn't have brothers or sisters. Life for me was lonely. The military have been hiding the facts about that flight for years. Now we know at least one of its secrets. Have you ever heard of 'Fat Boy'?"
Jake knew what Fat Boy was, as did most of the world when it came to the name of one of two first atomic bombs dropped over Japan.
"Are you saying that your father's plane was carrying atomic weapons?"
"Yes, that's exactly what I am saying. My father was a radiation technician. There was no other reason for him to be on that flight. The military have a code word when it loses one of its bombs it's called a Broken Arrow. That flight was one of the first Broken Arrow flights. Everything, even the interviews of the surviving 12 crew members is classified. It seems that five people were lost --either drowned in the ocean or lost in the wilderness or smashed to pulp when the plane hit that mountainside. The plane, the B-36, was specially designed to carry nuclear weapons and was supposed to be carrying a crew of 15. There were 2 more than normal. No one is giving out any information even 23 years later."
Jake felt uncomfortable. This woman was almost pleading with him to take her back up there. What could she possibly find? Yet he knew the request was not impossible. With the fast approaching freeze up he'd soon have to shut down his Underwater Rafting business. Then for a narrow time frame he might be able to return to where that plane had gone down.
"What sort of time frame are you thinking about?"
"I'm ready to go right now. I've even booked a room at your only motel for as long as it takes. So are you saying yes?"
"Well, I'm not saying no! I have a few things to put to bed first and right now you aren't one of them. Now that's unfortunate. But maybe I can get you to help us do another run on the barge tomorrow. One of the crew has some family problems and when we are under-crewed things can get difficult. It might speed things up and we'll at least get to know each other a little better. This trek is no little thing. Up there it's a hard land and man is never a welcomed visitor."
By the time Jake returned to his small trailer his head was pounding. His dinner with Sarah Redbourne and her strange request only added to his troubles. The demands from his suppliers for payment and the early frost, things were too hectic and his mind rebelled. He knew in fact that it was more from lack of sleep than anything else. Now he had at least something pleasant to think or dream about. Sarah Redbourne was a damned fine looking woman, but with those brains and those looks she'd have at least a dozen men chasing after her. Hell, it would be worse that a pack of male dogs on the trail of a bitch in heat. He stopped himself from his lustful thoughts. She hadn't given any indication she was that sort or if she was available. Yet he noticed that she wore no ring on the ring finger of her left hand. Did that mean anything? All he knew was she had a strength that might be needed if they went up that mountain. The weather could turn on a dime and it would be easy to be marooned and left to die. It wouldn't be the first late in the season hunting trip that turned sour. Even men with more survival skills than he possessed had met their match when old Mother Nature got cantankerous. As he fell asleep Sarah's face was still in his mind. With her pert nose, brass coloured hair and eyes that sparkled emerald green it made a man appreciate the finer things in life.
Copyright © 2007 George Laidlaw.