Where Eagles Fly
Copyright © Saggio Amante 2003, 2004.
All rights reserved.
Disclaimer: See Part 1
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Parallax - Part 9
Lark walked hurriedly to the rental car. She couldn't wait to get to the airport and back to her lover's arms. 'I'm on my way, baby,' she thought as she dialed the cell phone. The number she dialed answered on the first ring.
"Max," Lark yelled, "I'm on my way to the airport. I should be home in a few hours. How's Lonnie?"
"She's just fine, Lark, do you want to ...."
Before he could finish his sentence, his phone was yanked from his hand. "Lark? Where are you?" Lonnie's voice throbbed with concern.
"I'm on my way back, baby. Things didn't take as long as I expected. Everything is going to be just fine. See you about 8:30. Tell Max to bring you to the airport. I love you."
"I love you, too," Lonnie whispered.
"Who else is with you besides Max?" Lark asked.
"Well, then, I don't think you have to whisper. I think he already knows."
Lonnie laughed out loud as her mind flashed on her earlier outburst at the airport. "I love you, too!" she repeated loudly.
Max let out a loud guffaw in the background, and Lark heard him yell, "Damn, will you two ever be off your honeymoon?"
"Well, baby, will we?" Lark asked Lonnie with a playful tone.
"Jesus, I hope not," Lonnie answered seriously. "Though I don't know if I can live through it."
"Don't say that!" Lark barked.
"Oh, honey," Lonnie said. "I wasn't thinking. I just meant that I want you so much that I don't know if I can survive much more separation."
"Shut up, Max!" Lonnie yelled as Max doubled over with laughter.
"You better stop while you're ahead," Lark chuckled. "Gotta get going, I'm almost to the airport. See you in a little while, and we can continue this conversation privately."
"Im looking forward to it," Lonnie replied huskily as she hung up the phone.
Lark called Max again as she was nearing the Ft. Lauderdale International Airport. "Thank God for caller i.d." Max intoned his favorite mantra as he answered his cell. "Hey, girl, where are you?"
"About five minutes out," Lark replied. "Where are you?"
"We are standing outside the hangar as we speak," Max responded, emphasizing the 'we' to let her know that Lonnie was with him.
"See you in a few," Lark said as she readied for her final descent. Traffic was heavy, and she was forced to circle the airport several times before being given permission to land. She reached to run her fingers over a golden locket nestled between her breasts. Lonnie must have dropped it in her blouse pocket as they sat in the back of the Lincoln just before Lark left for Washington. She was midway to her destination before she discovered it was there.
"We'll both be back where we belong before we know it," Lark said as if the locket could hear her speak.
She ran her finger over the raised lettering on the locket, a cursive "L." 'Lark and Lonnie,' Lark thought. 'Well, at least we won't have to worry about buying monogrammed towels.'
Lark raised the locket to her lips and kissed it. "I'm almost home, baby," she said out loud. "Almost home."
Lonnie stood outside the car watching the night sky. She saw the lights of a small plane descending. 'Welcome home, my love,' she thought as she watched the small plane fly along its glide path. Suddenly she heard the sputter of an engine and saw the nose of the plane dip steeply toward the ground.
"Max, look," she yelled pointing skyward. Max looked up and saw the small plane diving toward the ground. They looked at each other in horror as the plane hit the ground in an explosion so strong that its vibration shook them both.
"Lark! Oh my god, no! No!" Lonnie screamed, her piercing wail filling the night air.
Max felt the small blonde slam into his chest before he felt her dead weight and realized that she had fainted in his arms. He stood there holding Lonnie, in his arms, his heart beating out of his chest. Tears streamed down Max's face as he sunk to his knees with Lonnie in his arms. He sat there cradling her head in his lap, his large body racked with uncontrollable sobs.
Joe heard the explosion and came running out of the office toward the figures huddled on the ground. He stared at the night sky made bright by the fire of the explosion but darkening from the large plume of smoke that rose from the ground. He stopped by Max and put his hand on his shoulder.
Lonnie opened her eyes and looked up in confusion at the two men. The smell of burning gasoline filled the air. Memories of the small plane taking a nosedive into the ground flashed through her mind as she sat up and threw her arms around Max's neck.
"Tell me it wasn't her, Max," she sobbed.
Max looked up helplessly at Joe. 'Can you find out if she landed, Joe?" he asked. "When she called me, she said she was about five minutes out."
Joe nodded his head. "I'll see what's on the airport scanner and call one of my buddies in air traffic control." He turned and ran back toward the office.
Max stood slowly and helped Lonnie to her feet. "It may not have been her plane," he said softly. "We may both have jumped to the wrong conclusion, you know."
"Oh god, I hope so, Max."
"Come on; let's get you into the office. We can wait in there until we get more news."
"No, damn it! Take me to the crash site!"
"Lonnie, you know I cant do that. They wont let us near the place." Max responded sadly. He put his arms around Lonnie's shoulders and led her to Joe's office.
Joe looked up as they entered. "Nothing yet. All lines are busy." The look on Joe's face signaled Max that there was more than what he was saying.
"Why don't you go splash some water on your face? Joe and I will try to see what we can find out." Lonnie nodded and headed toward the bathroom.
Joe waited until Lonnie passed by him then shook his head at Max. "She never landed," he mouthed silently.
More than twenty minutes had passed since Lark phoned Max and said she was five minutes away. Joe's words were like a knife in Max's heart. Thoughts raced through Max's mind. Lark was invincible, the agent with more lives than a cat. It couldn't be true. She couldn't be dead.
Lonnie's eyes were red and her skin ashen when she returned from the restroom. She walked over to a small, worn chair in the corner of the office and sat, her shoulders straight and her head held high. There was coldness to her demeanor, and Max could almost see her sitting at her bench in the courtroom ready to pronounce a stringent sentence. Gone was the warm, vulnerable blonde he saw when she was with Lark. In her place was Hanging Hattie Lonigan.
Lonnie reached in her bag and pulled out her cell phone. "What's the number, Max," she said stiffly. It wasn't a question; it was a command.
Max walked over and kneeled before the seated woman. He reached out and placed his hands over hers. "Lonnie, don't." Max looked into Lonnie's eyes and spoke gently.
"The number, Max. Now!"
Max rose and walked to the office window, staring out at the confusion on the tarmac. He had no strength left to argue with the determined little blonde. "555-1867."
Lonnie punched the numbers on the keypad and held the phone in front of her face, staring at it as she listened to unanswered ring after ring. Her look was so intense that it was almost as if she was commanding Lark to materialize out of the phone.
All three people held their collective breaths as the phone continued its insistent ringing. The airport scanner crackled in the background and sounds of emergency vehicles screamed through the air outside the hangar, but the silence of the three figures in the office dwarfed the sounds around them.
Without warning, Lonnie hurled the phone across the room. The sound of it smashing against the cement block wall startled Joe and Max.
"She is not going to do this to me," Lonnie said with a determined edge to her voice. "She is not!"
Lonnie rose and walked out slamming the door behind her. She got into the driver's side of the Lincoln and would have sped away had Max not reached in the open window and turned off the ignition.
"Let me go, Max," Lonnie growled.
"You're not going anywhere without me." Max pulled open the front door. "Now either move over or get the hell in the back seat -- Judge."
"You don't own me, and you are no longer responsible for me, Agent!" Lonnie's eyes shot daggers at Max, then her shoulders slumped in defeat and she slid over onto the passenger's side of the front seat.
Max pulled the keys from the ignition, put them in his pocket, and slid in next to Lonnie. They sat there staring out the windshield at the horizon, each lost in thoughts of their strong but different love for the missing woman.
Lonnie broke the silence first. "She is not dead, Max. I would know it if she were. She is not dead."
Max draped his arm around Lonnie's shoulders and sighed as she rested her head on his shoulder. They stayed in the car watching as the flames that lit the night sky began to diminish until the only reminder that was left to tease their dulled senses was the acrid smell that remained in the air.
Joe looked out the window at the large man and the small woman huddled together in the front seat of the Lincoln. Like them, he too felt a deep affection for the missing agent. 'Missing,' Joe thought, 'not dead. Until there is absolute proof, I will not believe she's dead.'
Joe picked up a chair and walked outside. He sat down in it and leaned back against the cinderblock wall. He lit a cigarette and took a deep puff, then exhaled watching the white smoke of the cigarette swirl up into the sky much as the black smoke of the post crash fire had done. 'The NSTB team will be there soon, and then we'll know more.' The thought did not console him. He was afraid of what they would find. He fingered the paper in his pocket, the paper containing the N number of the plane Lark had been flying.
Sometime in the night Lonnie finally dozed. Max could feel the weight of her head in the crook of his shoulder, and he shifted his body, hoping that a change in position would alleviate the numbness that had moved down his arm into his fingers. Although the movement was slight, it awakened Lonnie instantly.
"We need to go home," Max said. "There's nothing we can do here."
"Home? I have no home." Lonnie responded dully.
Max started the car and drove slowly away from the hangar toward Lark's apartment. 'God, I can't take her there,' he thought. He turned back toward the hangar. "I've got to use the facilities before we go," he said to Lonnie. She nodded and laid her head against the back of the seat as Max turned the car back toward the hangar.
Joe was surprised to see the black Lincoln returning so soon. The car rolled to a stop and Joe watched as Max stepped out and headed toward the office.
Joe was still seated in the chair, leaning back against the side of the building. Max raised an eyebrow at Joe and nodded slightly to indicate Joe should follow him inside the office. As soon as they were inside, he turned to Joe. "I need you to call Lark's father," Max said. "He needs to hear this from you, not from the media."
"Jesus," Joe responded. "I can't tell him something like this. I just take care of his plane. It's not like I'm his best buddy. You should do this, Max."
Max nodded. "You're probably right. Listen, I need to make a phone call and get the judge settled somewhere. Can I use your phone?"
Joe nodded and made himself scarce while Max placed two calls.
"Speak." The deep male voice at the other end of the line was gruff and laced with sleep.
"It's me -- Max."
"Max, what a surprise! How come you're calling me?"
"Uh, listen, I thought it best you heard this from me and not the media or someone else. There's been an accident."
The voice at the other end sounded suddenly alert. "I see. And is Lark all right?"
"We don't know, sir," he answered. "A small plane went down at the airport tonight. Lark was due in from DC, but there's no record of her landing. I talked to her on her cell a few minutes before the crash, and she told me she was five minutes out. That was the last we heard."
"Well, thank you for calling, Agent," the voice said without emotion.
Max heard a click as the phone at the other end was hung up. 'You cold son of a bitch! What kind of fucking father are you?' Max thought as he dialed the second number.
On the fourth ring, a woman answered sleepily. "Meriam Williams."
Max heaved a sigh of relief. "Meriam? Max here," he said. "Thank God! I really didn't expect to reach you. I thought you'd still be out of town."
"Max, why are you calling me?" Meriam looked at her bedside clock, "Jesus, Max, it's 5 a.m. What is it?"
Max was silent for a moment. "Uh, Meriam," he choked.
At the sound of the anguish in Max's voice, an adrenaline rush pushed the lethargy of sleep from Meriam's body. "Is it Lark?" she whispered.
"There's been a plane crash. We think it was Lark, but we don't know for sure." Max paused. "Meriam, I need to get Lonnie somewhere other than Lark's apartment. Can you help?"
"Of course, Max, for as long as she needs."
"She doesn't know I'm asking."
"She'll be pretty pissed off."
"I know, but she's come to like and trust you, Meriam. She'll get over it."
"I'll do what I can, Max. I've still got some time off. Bring her over."
"Thanks, Meriam, I owe you one."
"Damned right you do, Max." Meriam's voice was tight, and Max knew instinctively that she was just a breath away from tears.
"We'll be there shortly, Meriam."
Max walked out to the car and was relieved to see Lonnie asleep in the front seat. He got into the driver's seat, pulled the door shut as quietly as he could, and started the car.
Lonnie moved slightly when Max started the car but she didn't awaken until they pulled into the garage at Meriam's condo.
Just as Max turned off the engine, Lonnie stretched and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. She looked around in confusion. "Where are we Max?"
"Look, we're at Meriam's. I need you to stay here for a few days until we get this straightened out."
Max expected a big fight but there was no fight left in Lonnie. "All right," she whispered with resignation. "I give up. Just tell me what you want me to do."
Max got out, walked around the car, and opened Lonnie's door. She looked at him dully; without resistance she let him take her hand and lead her to the entrance of the condo building.
Max had hardly touched the button which would let Meriam know they had arrived and was startled when the shrill entry buzzer rang out.
Max and Lonnie took the elevator to the penthouse floor. When they reached Meriam's apartment, the door was opened by the tall, ebony woman before they had a chance to knock.
Meriam stood a moment looking down at the small blonde standing outside her condo door. Gone was the feisty woman Meriam had sheltered once before; in her place was a sad, defeated, shell of a woman.
Lonnie looked up and focused for a moment on Meriam's eyes. She could see the pain written there. "We may have lost her," Lonnie sobbed. "Oh god, we may have lost her."
Meriam opened her arms, and Lonnie stepped into them. "It will be all right, Lonnie," she crooned, stroking the blonde head nestled against her breasts. "We both loved her. We'll get through this together."
Meriam looked over Lonnie's shoulder at Max.
"I'll call you later," he mouthed as Meriam gently closed the condo door.
Continued in Part 10
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