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"Can I get it?"
Could I do It?
For the millionth time Ed Goddard asked himself that question.
Could I do it and get away with it?
Leaning forward, he rested his elbows on the top railing of the observation deck at Philadelphia International Airport. Among the many who were watching the jets land and take off, no one noticed him.
Nobody ever notices.
Not very tall, his dark business suit and the tie suggested a man of business. So too did the carefully cut brown hair. The neatly trimmed mustache and beard added dignity, while a round, boyish face with blue eyes and an easy smile gave away no feeling. One would have had to look hard to see the tension in his eyes.
Nobody notices. Nobody bothers to look.
Every Thursday afternoon for the past fourteen weeks, Ed Goddard, former parachutist in the United States Army, had kept his eyes on one spot upon the airport Tarmac. Even as he looked, he again asked himself the question.
Can I get away with it?
He decided to make up his mind that day.
After checking his watch, he looked once more at the Keystone Airlines location. Keystone planes were all Winthrop, two-engine turbo-props. They could hold ten passengers. If the Boeing 747's were the whales of the sky, the Winthrop 220's were the minnows, darting between cities like Philadelphia and places like Elmira, New York, with short runways and few people waiting in the small terminal.
As Ed Goddard watched, six men and a woman stepped from one of the long passenger buildings. For a second they paused, unsure where to go. A mechanic waved themtoward the little plane. Seeing only then how small a plane they were about to board, they stopped. Unsureness was written on their faces. Then somebody made a joke, the tension broke, and they moved forward.
Carrying their luggage, they went up an aluminum ladder that hung from the plane. At the top of the steps the co-pilot-- no stewardess on an airline the size of Keystonetook boarding passes and welcomed them aboard Flight 74. Stooping, they entered into the small cabin.
Goddard shifted his gaze to the right. He knew what to expect next. A green truck moved heavily toward the Keystone area.
4:05. Three minutes late. Not bad.
Twenty feet from the plane the truck halted. The driver got out, locked his door behind him, then walked carefully to the rear. His hand was on the trigger of his partially withdrawn pistol. At the back door he glanced about suspiciously.
He never looks up here.
The rear door of the truck unlocked, and two men jumped out. One carried a rifle, the other a black leather bag. The bag contained almost a million dollars. All in cash. All in small bills. It was the payroll for the Elmira Box Company, Elmira, New York.
Ed Goddard knew all about the payroll. He knew how much there was, and how it was sent. After leaving the Army he had worked as a security officer at the plant.
Quickly, the man carrying the black bag moved to the plane. Halfway up the ladder, he was met by the co-pilot. The co-pilot took the bag, signed a receipt, laughed at a joke. The guard looked on through the door, the co-pilot locked the bag in a compartment in the rear of the plane.
Just an ordinary lock!
As soon as the guard stepped off the boarding ladder, it was pulled back into the body of the plane. A slight shaking of the door's metal skin told Goddard that it was being closed and secured from inside the plane.
Inside the plane!
Fifty feet in front of the Winthrop, a Keystone mechanic appeared, his ears covered by sound mufflers. He lifted one hand. One engine turned, spun, raced, throttled back. The second motor did the same.
The mechanic flicked both hands back and forth. Slowly, the Winthrop rolled forward onto the runway.
Only then did the guards relax, move back into their van, and drive off, satisfied that all was secure. In Elmira other guards would be waiting to collect the bag.
But in the air, millions of dollars were left unguarded.
At the end of the runway the Winthrop's motors spun faster and faster. Then, getting clearance, the plane leaped down the Tarmac and lifted into the air. Goddard watched until the plane was no more than a speck against the sky.
The only way to get the million was to take it in midair. The only way to get away with it was to jump from the plane in midflight.
Once again Goddard asked himself the question.
Can I get it and get away?
For the first time he allowed himself an answer.
Yes, I can. Yes, I will.
The Winthrop 220 was lost in the sky. Goddard smiled. It would not be long before he, too, would be lost in the sky.
Yes, in the sky.Man From the Sky. Copyright � by John Avi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.