Thursday, April 1, 2010

Chapter 6

He wasn’t exactly sure when his shit had fallen apart.

Some of it had been due to seeing his best friend go through a divorce, a relationship that had been publicly ugly, and then the death of his friend’s father. All that had culminated in his friend’s arrest and public condemnation by a media that seemed to be waiting for them to fail.

He shook his head as he thought about this, wondering what he had ever done except be successful at what he wanted to do to make the mainstream media treat him and his friends as a sometimes joke.

This trip was what he needed. He would get away, look at places on beautiful secluded islands and then buy something for his family. He was already planning the vacations they would take.

He refused to think about what else his wife had said.

Hearing his name being called, Jon walked back to the plane to see Greg holding a piece of paper and Mel telling him that this was her flight plan. Greg nodded vigorously as she talked and then nodded again when she informed him she would call every few days, but not to worry if she didn’t check in on a regular basis as she would be in touch as she could.

With another smile and a wave at Greg, Mel and Jon entered the cockpit of the plane and adjusted their seatbelts. The dual engines turned over and a few minutes later the plane took off smoothly, leaving the small island bay behind them. Climbing to 3,500 feet, well below commercial air traffic, Mel leveled the plane and headed for Crooked Island, southeast of Cat.

Jon sat back and watched quietly as Mel expertly took off and leveled the plane out at the correct altitude. The day was clear, with little turbulence, and he allowed his thoughts to drift once again. He had been worried when arranging this charter that he would have to deal with the seemingly ever present attention of people who recognized him. It was the main reason he had used an alias, a name that was a play on his and his friend’s nicknames.

He had been even more worried when he’d realized his pilot was a woman, but she hadn’t shown the slightest interest in him beyond his travel requirements. He was glad he had grown out his beard as that detracted further from his famous face. The sunglasses could be kept on during every flight as the sun shone without clouds and reflected even more brightly off the water than from above.

He had no idea how old his pilot was and truthfully, as of yet he couldn’t really say what she looked like. His overall impression was that of a somewhat dumpy younger woman, albeit one with a rather nice profile.

Mel’s voice as she spoke over the headset to tell him they were landing soon brought Jon’s gaze to back outside the plane window. He could see an island below them and felt the plane beginning its descent. Practiced ease had the plane lightly skipping over the small waves until its weight had it settle deeper into the water. The engines were throttled up and the plane rode the water to a small dock where Mel eased up on the throttle allowing the plane to slow to a gentle stop. A man had stopped his work to aid in tying up the plane.

Standing beside Mel on the dock, Jon gave a small stretch to ease his back after sitting in the tight quarters of the plane. He saw Mel talking to the man who had helped them and walked over.

“Mr. Martin, this is Raoul.”

The men shook hands and Jon asked for directions to the first property on his list. He listened as the man pointed to a building a short distance away where he could call for a cab. Jon quickly moved toward the office as he had been instructed, while Mel arranged with Raoul to watch the plane until her return. He nodded at her and winked; she said the same thing to him every time she came to the island.

Following Jon up to the building, Mel thought about the difference between this client and her last few. This one had been quiet during the flight, never once trying his cell phone, and not even seeming to mind. He had not gotten sick - always a plus - and had not seemed to be a white knuckle flyer during either take off or landing. She thought that this charter just might not be the worst she had ever done.

Quickly arranging for a taxi proved to be the easiest part as Jon started pacing impatiently during the more than an hour wait. He had forgotten that Bahamians seemed to travel on a different time schedule and it was approaching five that afternoon by the time the cab arrived.

Mel had been busy visiting with Pete at the dock office and tinkering with her plane and when Jon walked back down the dock to her for at least the tenth time, she didn’t even look up. Glancing yet again at his watch in impatience, Jon realized that to save time Mel should go with him instead of waiting for another cab.

“Mel? Excuse me, Mel?” He called out louder each time. He saw her look up from a book she was reading and eye him quizzically.

“What do you say to coming with me? That way we could go to dinner afterwards and then head to the hotel.” He hoped she would say yes as it would be much less complicated and save him time in the long run.

He had a thing about time.

Nodding in agreement, Mel grabbed her bag from the back, locked the plane doors and checked the tie off lines one more time. Satisfied her baby would be safe for the night, she walked with Jon back to the office where she told Pete about her plans. Assuring her that the gate would be locked when he left for the night, Mel smiled at him and then followed her charter out to the waiting taxi.

Although their religious convictions had not been discussed, both Mel and Jon were complete and utter believers in Jesus by the time the cab ride ended.

The Bahamian driver who had picked them up had been blasting the radio message of a fire and brimstone preacher during the entire drive, as if the multiple crosses and rosaries inside were not enough.

It was evident that someone was watching out for the driver as he careened down the narrow streets of the town, seeming to miss the low walls on the sides of the road by some divine intervention, barely pausing at stop signs, and taking turns that had the mouths of his passengers moving in silent prayer as they slid from left to right and back again across the slick leather seat.

With knuckles slowly returning to their normal color, the two passengers exited the finally stationary vehicle in an uncharacteristic haste to have solid ground underneath their feet again.

Paying for the ride, Jon made an instant decision to dismiss this driver and buy a car.

It didn’t matter that he would only be here for a few hours, he was never trusting Jesus that much again.

Both survivors stood for a moment on the side of the road, shaking their heads and taking deep breaths. Mel finally spoke.

“Planes. I’m sticking to planes.”

Jon looked at her and then the laughter hit. What started as a burst of laughter, turned into a belly laugh that had him throwing his head back and bracing a hand on one of the walls their cab had just missed.

Mel stood staring at him, her mouth dropping open, until the infectiousness of his laugh hit her. Suddenly she was weak in the knees as her giggles hit until she had to sit on the low wall beside Jon.

They both laughed harder for a moment until the laughter slowed and a not unfriendly silence struck.

Jon motioned with his head toward the driveway of a house.

“This is the first one. You gonna come up with me?”

Mel got off the wall and waved at him to go ahead, mumbling wryly under her breath.

“Sure, I like seeing things I can’t afford.”

Jon turned back to her. “Did you say something?”

Mel smiled. “Nope.”

He squinted at her in question, but she turned an easy smile on him, glad now herself for the dark sunglasses she wore.

They continued down the drive until they came to an extremely large house encircled by a virtual riot of tropical plants and trees. Parts of the house seemed nearly obscured by the thick foliage and what they could see had the air of a beauty now past her prime.

Jon scowled as he gave the exterior a thorough once over, glancing back down the drive to judge the distance from the home to the gate and then turning back to the house. They were both unsurprised to meet a man coming out the front door, his greeting thick with the lyrical quality of Bahamian speech.

“Mr. Martin, how nice that you and your wife could come today.”

Slightly startled, Mel met Jon’s gaze and saw the small negative shake of his head. She held her tongue and allowed the realtor to continue what seemed to a carefully rehearsed greeting.

Following the two men into the house, she suddenly stopped as the vastness of the interior seemed to engulf her. Wide open spaces with splashes of bright colors everywhere. There were so many spots of color in so many places she thought it looked as if terrorists had attacked with paint ball guns. And ferns. Who would of thought so many ferns could be inside one house?

Standing a bit off to the side, her hands clasped behind her back, she watched as Jon talked with the realtor. She could have told the man immediately that Mr. Martin wasn’t interested, but the Bahamian seemed determined he could convince the rich American to buy.

Oh, he acted a good game, but she could see that he was less than interested and only being polite. She wandered off a little towards the back of the house and saw that not as much care had been given here as to the main rooms. The constantly humid environment had done its work here and there were cracks in the plaster, seeping water spots, and dark mold growth in some areas. She was stopped from further exploration at the sound of her name being called.

“Mel, Mr. Newbold is going to drive us to the hotel. Did you see everything you wanted?”

Smiling sweetly and only slightly lethally, Mel answered her “husband”.

“Why, yes dear, I did.”

Jon raised his eyes at her response and a slight smirk crossed his lips. Seems his pilot had a bit of a smart ass inside her. He tried to see the expression in her eyes, but she, like he, continued to wear sunglasses. Oh well, he would see her at dinner.

Mr. Newbold drove more carefully than their cab driver and neither Mel nor Jon felt the need to call upon a higher power. The hotel was a small two story building with pink walls and green trim. The interior was cool after the heat of the day and Jon quickly confirmed his reservation and gave Mel her room key. He had not thought to request rooms on the same floor and they were separated both by floor and by the rooms being at opposite ends of the hotel.

Mel took her key, gave Jon a thank you smile and turned to head in the opposite direction. She entered her room a few minutes later, moving directly towards the shower. Half an hour later, she was clean, cool, and relaxing while looking at the room service menu. Having already decided to eat in her room that night, she was quick and decisive when her client called a few minutes later.

“Really Mr. Martin, I appreciate the offer, but I’d rather stay in.” Mel rolled her eyes slightly at his repeated invitations to meet him for dinner.

In his room at the other end of the hotel, Jon shook his head at the stubbornness of women. It was dinner for god’s sake, not an invitation to meet the president. He heard her again refuse and finally agree to meet him in the lobby in the morning to head back to the plane.

Only after hanging up the phone did he realize that somehow she had also refused to have breakfast with him without it even being mentioned. He was not used to being turned down, especially by women.

The real problem was he was now left alone with his thoughts.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Chapter 5

Jon took a longer look at the small woman standing in front of him. She had a cap on her head that kept the lights off her face, sunglasses, no real hair he could see, and whatever figure she might have had was hidden by a baggy one piece jumpsuit of an unflattering grayish color. Nothing about her triggered the smallest bit of interest.

The anger that radiated, however, had him making an involuntary smirk that he quickly stopped, sure that would not help diffuse the situation.

While he might have felt small standing next to the man named Greg, the woman in front of him appeared the height of a child when Greg moved to her side. He watched as she put a hand on the man’s arm, somehow managing to calm the big man and herself at the same time.

“Greg, this is Mr. Martin. Do you remember him calling?” Mel waited while Greg’s gaze went distant as he thought. There was silence for at least a minute until Greg shook his head.

“No, the man who called before had a short name. Not Martin.” Greg looked back at the man in front of them and side-stepped a half step closer to Mel.

Quickly realizing the large man was being protective of the woman, Jon stepped back himself and turned a smile on Greg.

“When we spoke on the phone, you called me Mr. Frank.”

Greg thought about that for a few moments and then turned to Mel.

“That was it, Mel. Mr. Frank. I remember!” He looked at her until she once again put a hand on his arm and smiled.

“Thanks Greg, that’s what I needed to know.” She turned again to her customer and grinned.

“So, Mr. Frank…should we go into my office and you can give me an idea of what you’d like to do?”

“Sure Mel…” Jon voice seemed to drawl out her name as he reached down to grab his bag, “…anything you say.”

Mel shot him a look, one that started another grin crossing his face.

"Sorry, Ms. Gordon."

She raised an eyebrow at him and somehow within the space of a few seconds he felt he had been weighed, measured ... and dismissed.

Before leading him to her office, Mel asked Greg to take her flight bag down to the plane.

“And Greg, make sure all the tanks are topped off, okay?”

“Sure, Mel, I will. All topped off. Okay.”

They both watched as Greg walked quickly back out the door, again slamming it behind him.

“This way, Mr. Martin.” Mel gestured toward the side office.

Settling himself into a rather worn armchair, Jon watched as Mel pulled some charts out of a side cabinet and picked up a pencil. She slid her sunglasses a bit downward on her now, adjusted her papers, and turned to face him.

“So, Mr. Martin, you want to charter my plane for two weeks, correct?”

Jon nodded at her as she continued, making notes as she spoke.

“What are you looking to do?” She cocked her head as she finished, waiting for his response.

“I’m looking to purchase some property. I want to go to these islands…” He stopped and pulled out a list from his pocket. “These are the ones with homes I want to see.” He handed her the paper and she opened it, seeing several of the smaller, less inhabited islands listed. All were within a 1,000 mile radius of her island and most of them she had been to before.

Opening one of her charts, Mel began identifying the islands on his list.

“Okay, we’re here on Cat, and I’m guessing you’re not looking at Grand Bahama Island or Nassau, right?”

Jon shook his head. “Too touristy.”

Returning to the map, Mel pointed to Crooked Island and Watling Island. “We’ll start with those two and just continue to work south. Alright with you?”

Nodding at her, Jon agreed. “That’s what I thought too. I have rooms arranged so we can just keep traveling.”

Mel’s eyes met his at that information, but he just shrugged. “I only have a month off, but I want to get this done within two weeks if possible. It just makes sense to stay at places along the way.”

She looked at him a bit appraisingly, but filed that information away as one point against her “rich idiot” judgment.

They continued working for the next hour, revising their plans and Mel filled out her final flight plan. She would be leaving a copy with Greg as usual, as well as filing one with Bahamian customs. Gathering her papers, Mel glanced at her watch.

“It’s almost one. Do you want to get some lunch before we take off or do you want to stop on Bent?”

A half smile crossed Jon’s face. “Bent?”

“Crooked Island, Bent?”

“Ahh…okay…” He laughed then. “Let’s eat on Bent.”

A short time later both were ready to leave and they walked down to the bay where the seaplane waited. Mel did her preflight check, Greg watching diligently as she did so. Jon stowed his bag in the back and then stepped back to light a smoke. He knew it would be his last while they were in the air and he savored it as the warm breezes flowed over him.

The conversation between his pilot and her assistant were barely audible as they moved around the plane and he allowed his thoughts to drift as he waited.

What he had told Mel was true, he had managed to clear his ridiculously busy schedule for a month at his wife’s insistence. He knew he had been almost impossible to live with during the last few months and her patience was wearing thin. His continual snapping at the kids had been her last straw and she had all but thrown him out with instructions to “go get your shit together”.

That wasn’t what she said. Asshole. Be honest in your own head.

“I want my husband back.”

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chapter 4

Shuffling papers on her desk, Mel forced her thoughts away from her father, and onto the upcoming charter. She pulled the scrap of paper towards her with the date on it and glanced at the calendar. Yes, today was the day.

The second hand of the clock had just passed the hour and she noted with surprise that it was already 11 in the morning. Where was her damn charter? Pushing back from the desk, she entered the main room of the hanger, finding Greg packing last minute additions to her kit.

From long experience and her father’s ironclad insistence, Mel always carried a full survival kit. All the sea pilots she knew did so. There were, of course, the requisite flares and a raft, as well as waterproof matches, a few lighters, a first aid kit, two space blankets, a knife, and other assorted gear she had added over the years. Everything was compact enough to fit into a waterproof suitcase with the raft attached by a strap on the outside. She had never needed her kit and she didn’t plan to, but weather and water were unpredictable and she believed in not taking chances.

“Mel, I’m gonna take this out to the plane, okay?” Greg’s voice brought her attention to him and he smiled broadly at her nod of thanks.

Taking a few minutes for herself before her client’s arrival, Mel went upstairs to her living area and grabbed her own personal bag. It had in it some overnight supplies, as well as an extra bathing suit, two changes of clothes, and three sarongs that folded up into nothing.

She grinned as she thought about island living. With a bathing suit and a sarong around her hips she could go almost anywhere and fit right in. A tank top or two for a shirt and she was presentable for all but the most fashionable of restaurants. Thankfully on the smaller islands, there was a dearth of the fashionable and she could come and go as she pleased.

From frequent long-term charters over the years, Mel knew that her clients could be capricious at best in their demands. She had found herself sleeping in the back of her plane more than once when one or the other of the rich idiots had decided on a whim to spend the night at a spot not originally planned. They had enough money to get a room with no notice and did so without the slightest thought as to what their “hired hand” would do. They usually just informed her they were spending the night and to “be ready” at a certain time the next day.

Mel would just smile when she told them that her “overnight rate” was $1,000 per night, payable up front, or she would happily return home and they could make other arrangements. A few had, but the majority simply waved her off, peeling the money from bulging wallets, and then taking off for the night. She was as comfortable in a plane on the water as she would have been at the finest hotel, so she would spend the night, freshen up the next morning at a local place where she was usually known and the day would start again.

Most of her clients she found herself rating on the Asshole Behavior Scale. The ABS worked pretty much like the Richter scale for earthquakes, with Mel often wondering which client would be a 10. So far, there had been several threes, a rather large number of fives, and even one eight. The eight had been the one who’d thought an altitude of 5,000 feet was the perfect time to reach over and grab her boobs. A screaming dive and a roll had convinced him there was no good time to do that.

Taking the time to throw her hair into a long French braid, she tucked the ends under a cap, adjusted it on her head to shade her brow, and started down the stairs. At the far end of the hanger, a door opened and a man stepped in, glancing around as he did so. He had a black medium-sized bag in one hand and a cell phone in the other, talking rapidly to someone. Mel lips pursed in a moue of annoyance and rolled her eyes. Another one with a cell phone glued to his ear.

Shaking her head as she stepped onto the hanger floor, Mel thought of her last two charters. Both rich men with cell phone disease who had nearly had fits when flying over the ocean when they realized they couldn’t get a cell signal.

Like there are cell towers in the mid Atlantic!

One man had been stupid enough to open the small side window to stick his phone out for a signal and then had cursed a blue streak when it had been sucked from his hand. He had watched it fall until it was a speck and then had actually demanded that she go back so he could get it.

When she had told him that they were at 4,500 feet and that the phone would not have survived the impact and even if it had it would have sunk, he had threatened to sue her for causing him to lose his phone with all his numbers. She hadn’t even minded cleaning her cockpit after “turbulence” made that idiot lose his probably overly-indulgent lunch. He had not sued.

The man who had entered the hanger had finally noticed her standing at the foot of the stairs and took a few steps in her direction.

“Excuse me, Miss, can you tell me where I could find Mel Gordon?” His voice was rather low, with some type of accent she couldn’t identify.

“What can Mel help you with?” Her own husky voice answered him as they walked toward the other. They stopped a few feet apart.

Putting down his bag, the man shook his head slightly in answer.

“What I need is to speak with Mel Gordon. Can you tell me where he is?” A note of impatience crept into Jon’s voice as he thought about the fact that he was already running late.

Shitty directions. How can someone give such shitty directions on such a small island? Look for the three trees. What the fuck happened to road signs?

Mel crossed her arms as she took in the man standing in front of her. From the top of his head to the well-worn boots on his feet, everything about him screamed money. The leather bag he had so casually tossed on the floor, the open-collared shirt that looked tailored, the snug jeans that didn’t look like any Levi’s she had ever seen, even his dark sunglasses didn’t seem off the rack. Adding his appearance to the tone in his voice, even the well-worn baseball cap on his head and full beard didn’t detract from her impression that he would soon have his own rank on the AB scale.

“Well, Mister…”

The man broke in as she knew he would. “Martin. Frank Martin.”

“Mr. Martin. If you would just tell me what business you have with Mel, I’ll be glad to help you.” She unintentionally cocked a hip as she spoke and Jon was suddenly glad his eyes were hidden as he took in her slightly aggressive stance. He had opened his mouth to answer her, when they both were startled by the bang of the door slamming. A large man entered and immediately smiled.

“Mel! I did it. I put the kit in the plane. It’s all ready for you.”

Face and voice softening, Mel smiled at him. “Thanks Greg. You did a good job.”

Greg nodded at her and seemed to be grinning from his hair to his toes.

“Is he here yet, Mel? Is this him?” Greg motioned to the man standing in front of her.

“I don’t know yet, Greg.”

Jon could hear the smile in her voice even as he turned to look at her.

“You’re Mel Gordon? The pilot?” His voice unfortunately took on a slightly incredulous tone that instantly had her hackles rising.

Her eyes narrowed behind the dark glasses as she felt herself stand straighter, his tone sending her from curious to pissed off in 2.5 seconds.

Had she just met her first 10 on the Asshole scale?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Chapter 3

The next day proved to be a revelation for Mel and the beginning of a great friendship and working relationship.

Greg had shown up at seven the next morning, catching Mel still in her robe after a shower. She had opened the door still rather bleary-eyed, not having yet had coffee. She’d found Greg nearly bobbing with excitement on the doorstep and had grinned at the expression on his face. She’d had him come in and showed him where the planes were after cautioning him not to enter them without her and had returned to her upstairs loft to dress and put coffee on.

Mel had been gone less than fifteen minutes, calling out Greg’s name as she stepped off the stairs. She looked around the organized clutter of the hanger, not seeing him for a few seconds until she heard the clink of a tool being laid on the concrete floor. Walking around the side of the smaller seaplane in the hanger for repairs, she stood in astonishment as she saw Greg working on the engine with a precision that had her mouth falling open.

Deep into what he was doing, Greg didn’t even notice the woman standing next to him. He had always loved engines, whether they were car engines or boat engines or even plane engines. The fact that he had never worked on a plane before had nothing to do with the almost instinctive way he tightened some bolts, loosened others, and started dismantling what she already knew was a sticky carburetor.

Having worked on planes her entire life, Mel knew there was nothing Greg could do that would be irreparable and she let him dismantle the carburetor as she watched, saw him clean the components, adding lubricant as necessary, and then begin putting it all back together with speed and efficiency.

A short time later she and Greg were sitting having a cup of coffee when she offered him a job. That had been five years ago and she had never regretted her decision. Very quickly she had realized what had probably happened on the cruise ship. Greg was definitely mentally impaired in some areas, while remaining high functioning in others. He had a way with mechanics and had learned over time to do simple office work such as answering the phone and taking messages she could use.

At times she had been frustrated with some of his mistakes, but whenever she had felt it bubbling up, she had looked at his face, fallen with the realization that he had done something wrong, but not ever knowing quite what he had done, and she had realized that she could never be mean, never berate him, never be that cruel. Greg was simply the sweetest man she had ever met and she was glad he was her friend.

Greg lived in another section of the hanger she had converted once she realized he was staying in a room in town where there were no laundry facilities and that he had to eat out all the time. They worked together during the day, had dinner at night, and then went their separate ways in the evening. Greg had a large comic book collection and seemed to favor Spiderman, and Superman, and Batman, pretty much any comic that ended in “man”. She could sometimes hear him laughing to himself as he enjoyed one of his favorites.

The years had gone by and she found some solace in having Greg’s company. Since her father’s death when she was 22, she had been alone, running the business he had started. Mel had adored her father, a rough spoken, outspoken bear of a man, who had continued to throw his daughter up over his shoulder and dump her in the ocean when she had sassed him well into her late teens. She usually ended up bobbing to the surface. laughing along with her father who stood on the seawall, hands on his hips, his mane of hair blowing in the breeze. He would then fish her out and let her do what she wanted to do anyway.

What Mel wanted to do was fly. Since she was old enough to point her father had taken her up in the plane with him. Her mother had been gone her entire life and Mel had no memory of her. Alex Gordon simply refused to speak ill of his wife. He was the one who had wanted to move from the United States to the small island they now lived on. He was the one who had taken their savings and bought a seaplane to live the life he loved. Alex had never blamed her mother, although Mel would never forgive her for leaving them behind.

During the years of her childhood, her father had no one to watch her and she had been with him on every flight, to every port, through every kind of weather, and she had lived for those times. It was just her father and her and they were enough. Alex had started teaching his daughter as soon as she was able to talk and by the time she was 17 she had her own pilot’s license. By the time she was 18 she was doing her own charters.

The years from the age of 18 to 22 had been one of the happiest times in Mel’s life. She and her father were partners, the business was good if a bit erratic, and it seemed as if the rough times, when the business was building, were behind them. That all changed two weeks after her 22nd birthday when her father was killed in a plane crash. She knew it was weather related, knew her father couldn’t have done anything different, knew all the facts. It didn’t change a thing. Eleven years later, now 33, she missed her father as much as she had the day she lost him.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chapter 2

Mel sat at the desk in her office two days later going through pre-flight paperwork. She had no idea when to expect her new client as Greg had not thought to get a time. Or even a phone number. She shook her head as she thought about her employee.

On the small island they lived on it seemed that most everyone knew everyone in the town and during a day dedicated to purchasing supplies, she had taken a break in a small tavern, saying hello to several locals. She had been relaxing with a cold beer when she had overheard a few men talking about a new arrival who said he had jumped ship. Curious as to what that meant in these days, Mel had found herself drawn into conversation.

The man these two were talking about had said his name was Greg and that he had been hired to work in the kitchen cleaning on a cruise ship. He had been a good worker, at least according to him, but had found the people he worked with “just too mean”. He had taken shore leave at a nearby port of call and had not returned to the ship. He had been working as a day laborer at different places on a few islands and was currently here in town. Finishing her beer along with a bowel of conch chowder, Mel left the tavern and walked to the main grocery store.

Returning to her jeep with a basket full of groceries, she started to load the supplies when one of the bags broke, spilling canned food in every direction. Cursing under her breath, she began gathering the cans, crawling under her car to track down a few errant stragglers. Getting back to her feet, Mel was surprised to find a large dark-haired man standing next to her with what seemed to be some of her food in his hands. The man stood very still as he waited for her to regain her feet and then held out his hands gently to her with the cans in them.

Mel looked at the stranger in front of her. He simply towered over her and she estimated he had to be at least 6’3”. This made him a full foot taller than her and she had to take a small step back to avoid craning her neck at an awkward angle. His eyes were dark brown and he was clean-shaven, with slightly shaggy brown hair that seemed to have been bleached quite a bit by the sun. He was large framed, but appeared to be mostly muscle, with that muscle coming from hard work, not working out.

“Thank you.” Mel took the cans and put them into the jeep. The man continued to stand by the side of her car and she turned to look at him again. He was watching her with an expression of interest and his eyes brightened when she extended her hand.

“My name’s Mel.”

“Hi Mel, I’m Greg.” He took her small hand in his large one and shook it gently.

“Thanks for helping me, Greg.” Mel withdrew her hand and nodded as she turned to get into the jeep.

“Sure Mel, gosh, it was no trouble.” Greg replied in an enthusiastic voice as his head bobbed in rhythm with his speech.

The sudden child-like demeanor of the man caught Mel’s attention and she took a closer look at him. He continued to stare at her and his smile remained fixed, but she could see no male appraisal in his clear eyes. She was used to a certain reaction from men, which is why she usually ran around in baggy flight suits and, if those wouldn’t work, large t-shirts and baggy shorts. This man’s gaze never left her face and that in itself was something unusual. He seemed as open and friendly as a puppy and that was what made her make a split second decision.

“You like planes, Greg?” She watched as his face brightened even more if that was possible and a look of pure joy flooded his eyes.

“Planes? I love planes!” Greg nearly jumped in place at the mention of the word planes.

Mel smiled at him. “Tell you what, Greg, you come see me at the Bayside Hanger and you can see my planes, okay?”

Bobbing his head again in agreement, she heard him repeat her words to himself. “Bayside Hanger, yes, Bayside Hanger…okay, Mel, Bayside Hanger. Tomorrow?” He ended his words plaintively and she nodded in agreement.

“Okay Mel, tomorrow, Bayside Hanger, see you tomorrow.”

Mel started her car and grinned back at the excited man. “Tomorrow, Greg. Bye.”

Greg waved at her as she pulled from the parking spot. “Bye Mel! Tomorrow. Bayside Hanger.”

Nodding at her new friend, Mel drove off toward home.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chapter 1

“Hey Mel!” The deep voice of her assistant mechanic and general “gopher” Greg Russell called up to her as she worked on the engine of a large twin-engine seaplane.

Mel Gordon’s muffled voice answered even as her head remained deep in the bowels of the plane.


“You’ve got a phone call. Some guy wants to book one of the planes for a couple of weeks.”

“Take a friggin’ message, Greg. I’m a little busy here.” Mel shot back, rolling her eyes as she continued applying a torque wrench to a large nut that needed adjusted.

Greg sighed heavily as he stared at the office and the waiting phone. He hated having to talk to Mel’s clients. He always got tongue-tied and had to write careful messages so he wouldn’t forget. Squinting his eyes in concentration, he walked back into the small office and picked up the phone.

“Mister? Mel can’t come to the phone right now. Can I take a message?” He hoped it wouldn’t be too long as he grabbed a pen and a torn scrap of paper.

The man on the other end of the phone began speaking and Greg scribbled down a date two days from that day and that he wanted the plane and a pilot available for two weeks.

“Mister…” Greg began, only to be interrupted gently by the man on the other end of the line.

“It’s Martin, Frank Martin.”

“Mr. Martin. Let me go see if Mel says this is okay and then I’ll book it.” Greg waited until the man had murmured his agreement and then went back out to the hanger.

“Mel! He wants a pilot and plane for two weeks.”

Straightening up and repositioning herself on the ladder, Mel looked down at Greg.

“Two weeks? Starting when?” She rubbed a kink from the small of her back as she waited for Greg to answer.

Thinking furiously Greg tried to remember when Mr. Frank had said he wanted the plane.

“Uhm…a few days?” He looked at Mel hopefully, waiting for her to nod that he had done alright.

Mel saw the confusion on the large man’s gentle face and smiled reassuringly at him. She knew what her schedule was and knew that the next few weeks had no bookings. If someone wanted a pilot and a plane for two weeks, that meant some nice cash for her business.

“Tell him yes, Greg. Yes, he can book a plane for two weeks.”

Greg’s face relaxed and he beamed at her, his smile crinkling the corners of his dark eyes.

“Sure, Mel, sure, I can tell him that!” His head bobbed with enthusiasm as he turned once again for the office.

“Mr. Frank? Mel’s says you can book the plane for two weeks. Uh huh, yes Sir, I will. Good-bye Mr. Frank.”

“It’s Martin…Frank Martin…” the man corrected to a suddenly empty phone. Shaking his head he put the handset back on the charger.

Jon hoped the pilot he was hiring was better with planes that the man on the phone was with names.