Disclaimers: These two look familiar, yadda, yadda, but they’re not.

Subtext: But of course.

Bad language: Yes, sure is.

WARNING: THERE WILL BE THINGS IN THIS STORY AS IT PROGRESSES THAT WILL BE VERY DISTURBING FOR SOME READERS. THESE THINGS INVOLVE CHILDREN AND ABUSE.

If you’d like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com or auth2b@hotmail.com

Control

by

Kim Pritekel & Alexa Hoffman

Part 1

The hangar was dark when I arrived. I was tired, sore and hungry as hell. Running a hand through short, blonde hair, I unlocked the office I shared with my father, Frank Davies, and plopped down in the old, vinyl and steel chair. The light wasn’t even a consideration at this point. I had been in this hangar since the age of three, and knew it like the back of my hand.

Davies Cargo was the company I owned with my father. He was getting up in years, and so was teaching me all the aspects of the business – not just the flying part. Hell, I’d been doing that since I was ten, and flying alone since the age of thirteen.

Shhhh, don’t tell the authorities.

Opening the top drawer to the desk, I found my stash of power bars.

"Yum," I moaned when I saw I had a strawberry left. Ripping the top off the silver paper, I was about to take a bite when I heard something coming from the darkened hangar where all our babies slept.

Just having returned from New Hampshire, I had just put away my baby, a 2002 Cessna 182T Skylane, and had no desire to return to her until my nine a.m. flight in five hours.

I slowly opened the door that separated the plane port from the offices of the hangar and looked around. I saw nothing. The Cessna, my father’s helicopter, and the C-130 Hercules cargo were all sleeping soundly. I could see just the outline of the numerous tool boxes and benches that lined the walls, as well as the wall rack where spare parts were kept.

A plane taking off from the Warwick Airport rattled the place, but other than that, there was nothing.

Then I heard it again.

Bending down slightly to make myself even smaller than I already was, I focused on listening, as I knew my eyes would be relatively useless in the dark. All I could hear inside the large metal building was my own breathing and the pounding of my own heart.

Maybe I only thought I had heard something? That was entirely possible. I had been flying all day, and was exhausted. I had opted to just get some shut eye in the office before my next run. If I was already hearing things, that was not good.

Dink!

Okay, I definitely heard that. Turning up the proverbial Bell-tone, I listened, closing my eyes to concentrate. The scraping of metal against the cement floor, over by the Cessna.

My baby!

My head popped up, defensive stance. Nobody was going to hurt my baby!

"Who’s there?" I called out, grabbing a wrench off the nearby table, holding it out like a sword. In answer I got running feet, deceptively quiet. The only reason I knew they were there was because I knew to listen for them. The small door that lead out to the tarmac next to the hangar door opened, showing the silhouette of the intruder running out into the night. "Stop!" I yelled like an idiot, and took off after them. By time I reached the door, I saw the person jump the fence surrounding the hangar and disappear into the night.

Cursing violently, I noticed something on the floor just beyond the doorway into the building. Picking it up, I saw that it was a magazine, a Plane and Pilot magazine, to be exact.

"Good taste in reading material," I muttered, flipping through the glossy pages. Seeing the month in the white box with the barcode, I noticed that it said April, and we were in late August. On a hunch, I headed toward the office and the basket of flying magazines on the floor. Searching through the back issues of Flying and Plane and Pilot, I noticed that, indeed, April was missing.

"Son of a bitch," I growled, smacking the magazine against my thigh.

###

"Penny!" Looking around the office with its terribly worn carpet, I did not see our receptionist/bookkeeper. I was tired and in no mood for her to be flirting with the UPS man, or bugging Reggie or my father.

"What!" was yelled in my ear, making me jump, nearly off the edge of her desk where I had myself perched. My head swung around to meet laughing brown eyes.

"Don’t do that." I poked her in her flower-printed chest. "That’s not nice."

"Yeah, and screeching at the top of your lungs at me is." She sat behind the beat up old desk, placing her hands behind her head. "What can I do you for, hot stuff?"

I rolled my eyes. "Not in the mood today," I warned, running a hand through messy hair. My dad says that normal babies, kids and adults rub their eyes when they’re tired. Nope, not me. I run my hands through my hair and make it even messier than usual. What really sucks is when I have greasy hands and do it.

"Not in the mood for what, Monk?" She flicked on her ancient Mac, waiting the regular nine and a half minutes for it to complete the boot up process. "You know, the sooner you and your father get your cheap asses in gear and get me a new computer, the better my services will be." The redhead grinned invitingly, resting her chin on her palm.

"Annnnd, just where would you like us to get that kind of cash?" I leaned forward as well, resting my wrist on top of her monitor, leaving my hand to dangle in front of the screen.

"Well, if your dad would stop buying so many toys . . ."

"Oh, whatever. I was thrilled for him to finally be able to get his very own baby. I’ve got mine, why shouldn’t he have his?"

"Because my baby would only cost a thou or so. The two of yours combined, ridiculous." The receptionist fluffed her red locks and leaned back in her chair. "So, why did you scream for me anyway?"

"Oh–" I hopped off the desk. "Coffee?" I pointed to the empty pot that was placed in the tiny lobby for guests and clients.

"Make it yourself, hot stuff. I’ve got real work to do."

I looked at her, jaw nearly dropping to land on the stained beige carpet. "You’re kidding me, right?"

"Nope." She shook her head. "Sorry, Monk."

If it hadn’t been for the twinkle I saw dancing in those brown eyes, I would have gotten pissed.

"Where’s the shit to make it, and don’t call me Monk. You haven’t earned that privilege just yet."

"The shit is in there, and why not? You’re already greasy, and it’s only eleven in the morning." She raised a challenging brow.

"I am not." I rushed into the bathroom just off the front of the office, and stared at what I saw. "Damn it." Sure enough. There was already a grease smudge across my right cheek, and a nice strip through my hair, making me look like the negative of a skunk. "Nice, Monk."

The guys in the hangar had started to call me Grease Monkey years ago, and it had stuck. Now it was shortened to Monk. And they actually thought I was as pure as one. Silly them.

Back in the office, looking slightly less two-toned, I took the coffee stuff from the small closet that held it and got the brew perking.

I went to the office to work on some paperwork and glanced into the plane port. The boys were working on the Herc.

"Hiya, boys." I headed over to our senior mechanic, and my father’s friend of forty years, Jerome.

"Hey, Monk!" Reggie called from atop the beast of a plane. He grinned from ear to ear, his long, blonde hair pulled back its perpetual ponytail. He was also a mechanic.

"Reg." I saluted him and turned back to Jerome who was looking at the plane’s wiring.

"What’s up, little one?"

"Eh, just bumming until I can go home." I watched over the older man’s shoulder as he tinkered in the different colored wires. Jerome, or Jerry to my father only, had always reminded me of Morgan Freeman. He had the rock steady, fatherly air about him, and was one of the sweetest, most caring people I’d ever known. Well, next to my dad, that is. They had flown together during the Korean War.

"So I hear you had some trouble in here the other night?" he asked, flashing his ever-present pen light into the open flap on the side of the plane. I nodded.

"Yeah. Damn kids. I have no idea who it was, but it gave me a good scare." I handed him a pair of needle-nose pliers he was reaching for.

"Thanks, kid. So, what did you do?" He glanced at me over his shoulder. "Because I know you didn’t call the authorities." The dark skin around his even darker eyes crinkled in amusement. "I’d stay away from your dad. He’s fixin’ to brand you."

"Well, forgive me if we can’t all be as bright and quick minded as he is." I saw Jerome look over my shoulder, and squeezed my eyes shut for a moment, knowing damn well that my father was standing behind me. "He’s there, right?" The darker man that I knew as Uncle Jerome my whole life, nodded, his ultra-white teeth flashing.

I turned around, pasting a grin of my own on my face. "Daddy!" I exclaimed, opening my arms, knowing damn well he wouldn’t give in to that nonsense. Instead, he crossed his arms over that barrel he called a chest. Frank Davies, though sixty-seven years old, looked much older due to the leather that was his face. Outdoors every single day of his life, either flying or fixing planes, or messing on motorcycles in his youth, the lines were etched deeply into the skin of his face, his blue eyes surrounded by a swarm of crows feet.

Oh, but I loved him dearly.

"Knock that shit off, Monk, and come with me." Without another word, he turned and headed toward our office. I heard snickers coming from above us on top of the Herc. I tossed Reggie the finger as I followed my father.

Frank sat behind the desk, the chair squeaking its protest under his weight, and eyed me. I felt like I was a bug under the magnifying glass. I could only wish to get that look down one of these days.

I stared back, never fearing my father, only admiring his wisdom, and heeding his advice whenever possible.

"So why didn’t you call the cops?" he finally said. I shrugged, sighing as I sat back in the uncomfortable metal chair across from him.

"I guess I figured it was a couple of kids being jackasses. Probably nothing to be afraid of." I reasoned, though now it sounded totally lame and irresponsible.

"Couple of kids, huh?" he continued to chew on the toothpick that was always either between weather-beaten lips, or sticking out of the breast pocket of his work shit. He had quit smoking two years ago, when my mother had died of lung cancer. It drove him crazy, and the poor mutilated toothpicks paid for it.

"Well, yeah."

"Could also have been our competition, Monk," he said with a raised brow.

"Oh, come on, dad! I know Jack Riggs is a real asshole, but do you really think he’d send somebody in here to do that?"

"Could be. Could be not. Never know." The chair began to squeak again as he began to cock it back and forth, that toothpick continually dancing between his lips.

"Okay, okay. I got it." I raised my hands in surrender. I’d raise my white handkerchief from my back pocket, but it wasn’t white anymore.

"What do you think about installing cameras? Them ‘kids’ obviously got around the security system. Maybe we need to go upgrade a bit."

"We can’t afford that, dad. Not with just picking up the C-130." I shook my head, blonde bangs dropping into my eyes. Wiping them away, I chewed my bottom lip.

"We got to find a way. If that means running a few more flights, or even some more night runs, so be it. We got hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment in here. Can’t afford not to."

"You’re right." I sighed, knowing that running more night runs actually meant me running more night runs. "Give me the schedule when you’ve got one." I stood with a groan, my overtired body ready to give out. "For now, I’m going home."

"See you later, little one." Dad turned to the computer that hummed next to him. With a backwards wave, I headed toward the front office. Penny was typing away, long nails ticking off her words.

"Hey, Garrison," she called out. I turned, looking at her over my shoulder.

"Hey, you got it right!" She flipped me off. "Sorry. No thanks."

"Aww, too bad. I was just going to invite you over for dinner." Her brown eyes turned evil. "Or better yet, breakfast."

"You’re incorrigible!" I laughed and walked out the door.

###

Warwick, Massachusetts, a small, coastal town of forty thousand, was where I had called home for the last twenty-two of twenty-three years. Before that, I was in Boulder, Colorado, where I was born and then given up for adoption a year later.

I was luckier than most who had their birth parents. I had been adopted by an older couple, who what they may have lacked in contemporary thinking, more than paid for with an abundance of love.

Frank and Greta Davies had been married in 1954, and had tried to have children, to no avail. Modern science would probably find that Frank was sterile from some of the things he had been exposed to during his forty years in the military. So finally, his male pride stuffed down for his wife’s joy, they adopted a child.

Me.

Life had been happy for me with my parents, though there would always be that part of me who wondered where I came from. Who were my parents, and why did they feel it was best to let me go when I was thirteen months old? I don’t remember them at all, and wish I did sometimes. I loved Frank and Greta dearly, and they would always be my parents, but still. I couldn’t help but wonder.

I pulled my truck into the driveway of my childhood home. Once my mother had died, dad didn’t want to live in the house where they had lived for the past thirty years. So, he sold it to me for a steal, and bought himself a little one-bedroom house not far away. He was content, just him and his hounds, Bertie and Hawk.

My own two dogs, the evil King Tut, or Tut for short, and my mammoth St. Bernard-black lab mix, Roy, were sniffing and scratching at the door. Tut began to whine his black, brown and white beagle butt off, and Roy began to bark.

"I’m coming, boys." Key inserted, I heard the lock click, and pushed open the doors, quickly being charged by two very excited boys. Dodging tongues and excitedly wagging tails, I gave my boys their due lovin’, then headed to the kitchen.

I loved this house. It had needed a few repairs when it came into my hands, and I enjoyed doing every single one of them. One of the few rooms I couldn’t bear to make many changes to was the kitchen. It had been my mother’s favorite place in the house, dad renovating it as an anniversary present ten years ago. It was a bright, cheery yellow with black and white tiles making a dizzying pattern of hopscotch on the floor. He had put in all new appliances, black to go with the black accenting throughout. The room was large with an island in the middle where I had put in one of those neat built-in stove top jobbies.

Starving, I began to rummage through the SubZero fridge, tossing the ingredients for a salad out onto the counter. As much as I loved power bars, they only did so much.

The clicking of doggie nails on the tile alerted my attention to a hungry Tut. I glanced at him, seeing big, brown eyes looking up at me, his white and brown splotched tail wagging furiously.

"Hey, buddy. Are you hungry?" He whined and clawed at my leg. "Okay. Come on." The fridge door closing with that soft slap that I loved, I filled the boys’ bowls. Feeding them in different rooms was a must, as Tut would take over, leaving my ninety pound wuss sitting on his haunches, whining at me.

Placing Tut’s bowl just outside the back door, he scurried out after it through the lion-sized pet door, letting the rubber smack him in the ass as he began to munch his Iams.

With one final glance at me, Roy began the loud process of eating as many pieces of food as possible in one bite.

Shaking my head at the antics of my dogs, I continued with my own dinner.

It had been a long time since I’d taken my boys out for a walk around Warwick. The family was well known here, and I was often stopped by various people, mainly those dealing with the business. My father and/or I had probably dealt with just about every single business in the town, doing cargo work for them. We mostly flew things around the area, taking supplies and mail out to Martha’s Vineyard or the other islands around the coast line.

We could often offer much better prices than the traditional carrier guys. Flying was my passion and what kept me sane.

"Hey, Garrison!" Mrs. Arnold called from just outside the drugstore.

"Hey there." I smiled, walking over to meet her. Tut and Roy immediately got excited, knowing this was the lady who usually gave them a Milkbone, that for some very odd reason, Rita Arnold always had with her.

"Hi, boys," she cooed, sure enough, reaching into her bag. The dogs gulped the treats so fast I was afraid Rita wouldn’t be able to get her hand out in time. "How’s your dad?" she asked, shielding her eyes from the sun.

"He’s doing great, though he’s talking about retirement."

"No kidding?" She looked stunned.

"I know. This from the guy who said he’ll fly his way to Heaven." We both chuckled at my father’s notorious phrase.

"And how are you doing, sweetie?" The look of motherly concern on Rita’s face almost made me cry. She had been a close friend of my mother’s.

"I’m doing okay. Finally got that greenhouse together. I plan to start planting here soon." I wrestled with the dog’s leashes for a moment, as inevitably, they wanted to go in opposite directions and couldn’t refrain from crossing their lines in the process.

"Oh, that’s wonderful! You let me know when you’re ready, and I’ll bring over the seeds that the ladies bridge club gathered for you." Rita smiled, patting me on the shoulder. I smiled in return, though inside I was terrified of what she’d bring over. For some reason, she had it in her head that since my mother died, I was completely incapable of taking care of myself or my house. But, I generally just smiled and nodded.

"Thank you so much, Mrs. Arnold." I yanked on the leashes, bringing the boys together to growl at me, then whimper as they were getting bored. Their Milkbones long gone and forgotten, they were ready to move again.

"Take care, honey." Rita gave me a small hug, then hurried down the sidewalk, numerous shopping bags in hand.

I walked the streets of Warwick, only being stopped a few times today, amazingly. It was a gorgeous town, rivaling many in Maine, with its majestic views and rock formations. The only thing missing were the lighthouses that dotted the Maine coastline.

Taking in the trees, I brought out my camera, making sure I had colored 35 millimeter in it before leaving the house. I loved to take pictures, even though I was only mediocre at it. My mother used to love to have them blown up, matted and framed. They used to line the walls of the stairs going to the second and third floors, as well as my father’s den. I had taken most of them down once I took over the house. It was embarrassing for me to have them on display like that, plus seemed completely pretensions. Mothers have certain allowances that defy the common rules.

Snapping away, I took in the hundreds of colorful trees that surrounded us. The boys loved to pee on them, I loved to snap them. They were gorgeous. We followed along the path that led through the forest that was not far from my house. The dirt path was basically empty, as it was in the middle of the day and most people were at work or school.

I closed my eyes, loving the feel and smell of the fresh breeze coming off the ocean. It swept across my face, lightly blowing my hair back, which got it out of my eyes. I was grateful.

Spotting a couple squirrels who were frolicking in the brush, I tried to sneak away from my dogs, who were busy smelling to see who had traipsed into their territory. I didn’t want them to spoil the shot, so I got down on my hands and knees, quietly crawling closer to the little, furry, gray guys. They squeaked to each other, noses constantly twitching. One hiked up on his haunches, smelling the air, and feeling the change in current as I got ever closer.

Bringing my camera up from the strap around my neck, I got them in my viewer, adjusting for light and distance, chewing on my lower lip as I prepared to click the shutter.

"What the–?" I backed off, startled, when a big, wet, snotty nose suddenly poked my lens. "Roy!" I scolded, my dog looking at me with confused black eyes. "Damn it." I cleaned off the lens as best I could, and turned to see that the squirrels were long gone. Sighing in defeat, I gathered up my boys and headed home.

###

I felt myself becoming giddy as I got closer to the hangar. This was not only my livelihood, but also my life. Flying had been in my blood since I can’t remember when. It was what I loved to do, what I lived for, and would die for.

Being in the cockpit of that plane, no matter how big or small, was one of the most peaceful, satisfying feelings in the world for me. Even better than sex. Penny would never believe that, nor understand that kind of a concept.

Chuckling to myself, I headed into the office.

"Hey, hot stuff," said receptionist chirped as I grabbed my plastic travel mug from behind her desk, and headed to pour myself a nice, hot cup of coffee. Hot and black, that’s the only way to drink a cup of java.

"Howdy, Nickel." I grinned over the rim of my cup.

"Oh, you are so funny. Let me see if I can dig a smile out of my ass for that one."

"You do that." I sat on the edge of the desk, looking down at the attractive woman. She was wearing a particularly low-cut shirt today, and I had a fine view of her cleavage from my vantage point. Seeming to sense this, Penny made even more available to my green eyes.

"So, when are you going to allow me to make you breakfast?" She leaned on her crossed forearms, pushing her ample breasts together even more. I caught the gleam in her brown eyes. That is, once I was able to drag my own from the soft-looking skin. Penny was a good friend of mine, and she flirted with me unmercifully. She knew there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d ever take her up on it. I wasn’t a real fan of the type that felt the world should see what was behind curtain numbers one, two and three. I liked a little mystery in my women. However, a little perversion never hurt.

"How’s about . . ." I checked my belt loop watch. "Never?" I raised my brows and she rolled her eyes.

"Bitch."

"Slut."

Penny sighed and turned to the file cabinet behind her. "Your dad left this for you." She turned, handing me a thick manila folder.

"What’s this?" I put my mug down and began to flip through the contents. Tons of order forms and freight shipment orders.

"What you’ll be doing for the rest of the day." Penny grinned, chewing on her usual piece of cinnamon Dentyne.

"Ohhhkay. Well, I’ll be seeing you next week some time." I hopped off her desk, gave her a salute, and headed toward the office.

Reggie decided this was the best time to meet me there. He bounded into the small room, coveralls unzipped, and the top part hanging around his waist. This was to show off his large set of muscles, which looked like steroids in a can to me. His smudged wife beater barely covered his pecks.

"Hey, boss." He grinned, largish teeth shining off the fluorescent lights above.

"Hey, Reg. What’s happening?" I tossed the folder onto the desk and bent down to turn the computer on. "Dad been in today?" I looked at my watch again, seeing that it was nearly nine in the morning. Usually he beat the birds out of the trees.

"Nope. He called in. Not feeling too hot." He pointed to the work load. "That’s what all that’s for."

"Ah," I nodded, slightly troubled. I would definitely have to give dad a call later – he so rarely didn’t come in. I looked at the blue-eyed boy, just standing there in the doorway, looking for all the world like he had something to say.

"So, Garrison . . ." He whipped the backwards Seahawks cap off his head, holding it in front of his body like a shield. Shit, not again.

"Yes, Reggie?" When he used my given name, I knew something was up.

"So, um, I was wonderin’, um, see my boys are playing the Redskins this weekend, and um, well, I was going to have a little get together with some pals. You know, watch the game and all." He unconsciously rubbed a greasy finger of the embroidered Seahawk logo on the front of the cap. "You wanna come?" He looked at me with his farm boy, wholesome good looks.

"Well, uh, Reg." I ran a hand though my hair, knowing full well that my hand was clean. For now. "We’ve talked about this before, right?" I eyed him, a small curl to the corner of my mouth. "You know I’m gay, right?"

"Well, yeah, but I mean, that’s okay." He brightened, an idea coming to mind. "My sister will be there."

"Yeah, that would be great, but she’s married, buddy."

"Damn, you’re right. Okay. Just askin’, you know." He slowly backed out of the office doorway, headed for the plane port again. I shook my head and rolled my eyes.

"Lay off the reefer, bud," I muttered, then turned to my work.

###

The skies weren’t so friendly today as I passed through a major thunderstorm that was lighting up over New York. Chomping on my Wrigley’s like a cow with cud, I kept sending up prayers.

Once again the weather center had their heads up their asses. If just once they’d be able to spot a damn storm, it would make my job a hell of a lot easier. As it was, I was trying to dodge big, bright, really, really hot bolts of lightning.

Finally, to my great relief, the lights of runway A12 came into view at Pinsdale Airport. I set all my controls to ready for landing, glancing over to make sure Tut and Roy were doing okay. This was old hat for them. Hell, Roy usually slept through it all, while Tut kept me company. Both dogs were strapped in for the bumpy ride and landing.

"Here we go, boys." I pulled up on the stick, bringing my speed way down, and slowly bringing the bird closer to the ground, the twin rows of neon lights guiding me home.

I was in the C-130 Hercules, a huge load filling my rear. Tomorrow she’d be unloaded and reloaded for my next stop in Connecticut.

"Pin 351, this is Lady Bird 23, over." I clicked off the button, my attention on keeping this bird straight as I measured the middle of the strip to land her in.

"Lady Bird 23, this is Pin 351, come in, over."

"LB about to land a jigger to strip 12 with loader, over."

"Copy that, LB. Got the loader all ready for ya. Welcome to Pinsdale. Over."

"Thanks a bit. LB over and out." I put the radio back in its harness and readied myself for the first touch of the wheels, which I knew would skid slightly on the wet strip. Sure enough, we were shaken and stirred a bit, but all was well. Roy opened his eyes with a yawn, looking around.

"Welcome back, buddy." I grinned over at him, petting his head as soon as I could free a hand.

Two hours later, I was unloaded, my plane tied down for the night, and I was headed for Celeste’s place. Luckily she loved dogs, or this would never work.

Celeste Shelby and I met a year ago during a routine stop for me in New York, where she worked at the airport. We hit if off talking, and after a few drinks, hit it off even better in the bedroom. Whenever I had a layover in the big apple, she always provided me with a place to hang my hat, and other such articles of clothing.

"Hey you," she said as the door opened.

"Hi." I leaned in for a kiss, and got a nice, long one. It had been about three months since we had seen each other, and I was glad to see her. She was good to talk to, though we didn’t do much of that anymore. We each knew that the other served one purpose and one alone. I found it easier to have outside lovers that weren’t involved in the day-to-day parts of my life. It’s not easy for a woman to accept that her girlfriend is often hundreds to thousands of miles away three to four nights a week.

Been there, done that.

This was best for everyone.

###

The disk slid smoothly into the player in my truck, the low whirring as it was pulled into the depths of the machine. A few clicking noises later, the beautiful voice of Sarah Brightman was filling the cab. I hummed along to the music of Harem, picturing the gorgeous, big, blue/green eyes of the singer as she sang of nights filled with pleasure.

Speaking of, oh what a night I had! My body still shivered at the memory of Celeste’s touch. That woman had the most amazing tongue on her.

The boys were sound asleep in the cab, Tut taking up the seat next to me, while Roy had the entire seat behind us to himself. Celeste’s dogs always give those two a workout, and poop them out for a few days.

They had spent a good part of their day in the air, only stopping in Connecticut for a few hours. I was glad to be coming home, though it was late. The hangar would be empty, everyone long gone.

Getting permission from the tower, I landed on the strip, taxiing toward our hangar, the huge bay doors opening electronically with the push of a button. That was my one concession to dad for me to have to do all these night flights. I hated having to manually open those things.

With finesse, I got the monster of a plane into its spot, my baby right next to it. As I was climbing down from her, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye.

"Hey!" I called out, turning tail and running. The person slipped right past me, and out of the closing bay door. "Damn it!" I yelled, the door shutting in my face. I knew by time I got the little door unlocked and opened, they’d be gone.

Scouring the ground, I didn’t find another magazine, nor anything else. I didn’t find anything out of place or missing in the hangar or office, either. Pulling my cell phone out of my pocket, I called the police.

Two hours, and a lot of questions later, Lt. John Reeves was leaving the hangar, an invite for me and my dad to join him and his wife for dinner.

Knowing there was nothing that could be done, I walked around the hangar one last time, the dogs following my every step, looking up at me with pleading eyes. They were tired and wanted to get home. Me, too.

About to turn out the lights in the hangar, I glanced over at my baby, the Cessna, and noticed something. Taking a closer look, I saw a slightly smudged handprint in the thin layer of dust covering her. She was set to be washed and polished tomorrow.

Inspecting the print, I thought initially that it could be mine. However, when I put my hand up to it, there was no way in hell it was mine. The palm was much larger, and the fingers, though thin, were much longer. Thinking it might be Reggie’s or Jerome’s, I also threw out that possibility. The print was in a very odd place. It was about midway between the front window and the propeller. There were no hatches there for the boys to check, and I knew they didn’t just rub her down.

Feeling anger pulsate through me, I grabbed my dogs and headed home.

###

Ignoring Penny’s morning greeting and offered cup of coffee, I headed toward the tarmac. I was on a mission.

"Dad?" I called out, seeing him talking with Reggie as they looked over dad’s helicopter. He turned, shielding his eyes as he searched for me. Spotting me stomping toward him, he waved, slightly uncertain.

"What’s got your undies in such a twist, Monk?" he asked, sipping his coffee.

"There was someone in the hangar again last night, and this time they went too far." I was fuming, not sleeping that well last night thinking about it.

"Why? Did they steal anything? John called me this morning, said everything seemed okay." He looked confused.

"Oh yeah. It was great. Nothing was taken, nothing broken, yadda, yadda. However," I held up a finger. "They touched the Cessna."

A set of blue and brown eyes widened. They knew that meant death for whomever had the balls to touch my baby.

"Oh," was all he said.

"Oh is right. Cameras. Today. Right now." I pointed to the ground with each word to emphasize my point.

"Okay, okay. Hold on there, tiger. I already got the guy coming today." He readjusted the ever-present ball cap that was tilted just far enough back on his head to show a bit of his graying hair.

"Good. That’s all I ask for." I went to turn around to head back to the office when I spotted someone by the outside Coke machine, sweeping. She looked young, though I couldn’t see much as her back was to me. She had long, dark hair that shone beautifully in the sun. Her body all but disappeared in the light gray coveralls she wore. "Who’s that?" I turned back to my father.

"Who’s who?" He looked to where I pointed. "Oh, that’s Keller." He stuck a new toothpick in his mouth, the end wiggling as he chewed it down to soften it.

"Who’s Keller?"

"The janitor. Where you been?" He grinned, blue eyes twinkling inside all those wrinkles. He always made me think of some work-roughened cowboy.

"How long?" I looked at the girl again.

"Oh, only ’bout six months or so." He was grinning at me now in the way he always did when he was about to start teasing me.

"Six months. Hmm. Never saw her before."

"Nope, guess not. You’re too busy playing in the mud and grease, Monk."

"Funny man. Funny man. Maybe it’s because of all these damn night flights you’ve got me on, huh?" I patted my father on the chest, then headed back inside.

Continued....

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