From ten thousand feet above the coastal waters of Ketchikan’s Inside Passage, he scanned the surface. He had been tracking movement along the western edge of the island he currently flew over. An island that would be referred to as Pennock Island in the future. He neither knew about its current name, nor did he care about its future one.
He had been airborne since dawn broke over two hours ago. He was following his usual search pattern when the wind shifted slightly, forcing him to track 15 degrees to the right. As he turned on to a northeasterly heading, he saw his target move under the canopy of Douglas Firs that blanketed the island. He initiated a rapid descent on an intercept trajectory that would bring him just above tree top level, but parallel to the target’s projected path. As he levelled off at 20 feet above the trees, he slowed his speed to 80 mph.
That’s when he heard them. Sounds he recalled hearing several times in the past. He only ever heard them when travelling low to the surface. They were pounding, deep and incessant beats; and having discovered from past experience that they interrupted his internal navigational sensors, he automatically switched to visual tracking. Strangely enough, the beats were getting louder, and even more perplexing, the ground was rushing up to meet him. He tried flapping his wings harder to gain altitude and let out a screech as he noticed his vision fading to black.
The pounding beats continued. And then voices were heard. Voices? I opened my eyes and bolted upright, breathing hard! Looking around frantically on the edge of panic, experiencing an uncomfortable mixture of vertigo and disorientation. I slowly recognized the hotel room I had checked into after my flight in from Stewart yesterday. I shook my head and knew immediately that was a mistake. It was an ill-conceived, if not inane attempt to clear the last vestiges of what had to be the weirdest dream I have ever had the displeasure of bouncing around in my sub-conscious. (I was a bird??).
I realized I was now paying for last night’s grand adventure. My original plan for two beers and one shot of Baileys with dinner, had somehow transmuted into one pitcher of beer, three (4-finger) Baileys and one Sex on The Beach…the beverage….and not necessarily in that order. For the life of me, I cannot recall if I ever did get to that lobster and crab dinner.
My foggy thoughts were interrupted by the continued pounding that initially woke me up. It sounded as if someone was trying to break down my room door. I glanced at the clock on the bedside table and saw that it was almost 12 noon.
“Alright, alright! Hang on a sec…I am coming!”
I shuffled out of bed and walked towards the door. I looked through the peep hole and came instantly awake. All thoughts of being a high-altitude avian hunter of food vanished, as I recognized the spectre on the other side of the door. It was one of the “pilots” that had flown back with me yesterday on the flight from another dimension.
Great. Now what? I unlocked the door and slowly opened the door. There was no expression on his face as he held out a brown manila envelope. I looked at it, then at him; then back down at the envelope, then up at him again. To anyone passing by, it must have looked as if I were nodding like a chicken.
“What’s this?” I asked, nervously remembering what happened the last time I asked (what I erroneously thought was) an innocuous question; which was less than 24 hours ago in fact. He spoke just three words:
“Don’t be late!”
Against my better judgement, I reached out and took the envelope. Immediately he turned and walked down the corridor without so much as a by your leave. I closed the door and walked back into the room wishing I was anywhere else but here. I berated myself for not catching a flight to Vancouver yesterday, but remembered there were none available to Canada from Ketchikan until today. That thought made me pause and wonder if these people, whoever they were, had the capacity to manipulate the scheduled commercial flight system. I looked at the envelope in my hand as if it had grown two heads with sharp teeth. With curiosity warring with trepidation, and by a sheer act of will, I placed it on the kitchenette table unopened. I needed to grab a shower and really clear my head.
I was about to step into the shower when the phone beside the bed rang. I walked back into the room and picked up the phone.
“Hello?” I answered, unconsciously holding my breath.
“Wayne, did you get it?” The voice on the other end said without preamble. Wait a sec…I knew that voice!
“Jeff? Is that you? What on earth is going on?” I demanded, literally shouting into the phone.
Jeff was technically my boss. Well, more of a manager; like singers or actors have managers. Only I had the distinct impression my compensation package did not have as many zeroes attached to it; at least compared to people like Rihanna or Johnny Depp. I had contracted him to get me ferrying gigs. Some international, most domestic. He had somehow wrangled himself an office inside of the UPS hangar located in the northeast corner of the Sea Island property of CYVR. The fact that the UPS hangar was right by the threshold of RWY 26R also allowed for some distinct advantages. To this day I am yet to discover how he managed to not only score an office inside the UPS sorting facility, but hangar space as well for the different types of aircraft he seemed to find for delivery.
“Will you calm down for a…?”
I cut him off.
“Calm Down? ARE YOU KIDDING ME??!! Are you trying to tell me you knew all about this spooky hocus-pocus crap with the Men in Black and Atilla’s Mistress all along? Nurse my Ass!” I shot back.
“Will you shut up and give me a chance to explain?” he shouted back. “I only knew a part of what was happening until just this morning. Meet me downstairs in the hotel coffee shop in one hour.”
Wait a minute. Something didn’t feel right here.
“Where exactly are you Jeff?” I asked, that familiar sense of forboding rising again. “Aren’t you in Vancouver?”
“Actually, I am 20 minutes out from Ketchikan. I am bringing in a Juneyao Airlines Airbus we need to ferry to Shanghai. I will explain everything in person when I get to the hotel. Gotta go; ATC is yapping at me. See you soon.”
He hung up. Wrapped only in a towel, I stared stupidly at the phone for a good minute, all the time wondering if I was being filmed by hidden cameras for some Pranked Reality TV show.