Secrets of the Lighthouse
Frank felt Callie tighten her hold on his hand hoping to add to his strength as fear threatened to disrupt his thinking. His eyes looked upward, to the sky, in the direction he prayed they would see Joe and Iola returning in the single engine Beechcraft plane they’d traveled to Canada in. His gaze, as well as his soul, sought beyond the sky. Sending prayers that are always heard.
“Go in my cruiser,” shouted Con as he got behind the wheel.
Frank, Callie, and Fenton responded by running silently to the vehicle, whose lights were already flashing, and getting in. Con had it rolling as soon as doors were closed and seat belts were on. Heading through the streets as fast as he could without endangering other people and themselves, Con had already made use of the sirens to help with that.
Fenton was on the phone with the airport, seeking assistance. His dark eyes watched the clouds moving in the night sky as the rain began to increase. Fog had also arrived as the wind picked up. He waited as contact with the plane was attempted. The negative response didn’t destroy his hope, but it also didn’t alleviate his fear.
“Air traffic control unable to make contact with the plane,” Fenton told the other three.
“Do they see them on radar?” asked Frank. He was on his phone, having just asked Officer Ben O’Sullivan to let them know as soon as they found out anything about whom Colbert had been speaking with on the phone. Officer O’Sullivan had promised to do that.
“No. But they might be out of range still.”
“And maybe the weather’s effecting it,” Callie suggested. They were all trying to put together the data they knew and guess about the details they weren’t sure of to figure out where Joe and Iola were presently. Plus, when they might likely get there.
“Airport in two,” Con said tersely.
That was exactly how long it took to complete the trip there, two minutes. Past the gates, he rolled beyond the terminal, straight to the attached control tower. The four were immediately out of the car and soon past the guard with Con leading the way up to the top of the tower.
The Air Traffic Controller of the airport, Sam Goldberg, a friend of the Hardys and Mortons, who’d also helped on a couple of cases before, greeted the group. He quickly introduced any in the room who might not know each other.
“After you called and told me what was going on, I began backtracking, seeing where Joe and Iola were last known to be and coordinating that info with Chief Collig on the ground. I had thought I was going to have good news for you when you got here. At least there’s no definite bad news.” He showed them on the map where they were most recently spotted.
“We appreciate every effort,” Fenton told him.
They watched out the large windows and listened to the attempts made repeatedly to contact the plane. There wasn’t anything they could do but hope and pray. That can be enough.
Joe and Iola could tell not only by the sections of the flight instrumentation interface that were still working, but also by how the plane was reacting and sounding, that they were in serious trouble. Iola tried the radio again. Joe attempted to check the panel to determine what all needed to be done, or could be, to improve the situation. Communications, navigation, system alerts, important charts, engine procedure based on the data all were either failing to work at all or were possibly not accurate.
“Nothing, zilch, zero, nada, a big ol’ bupkis, huh?” Joe asked, glancing over at his girlfriend, who was trying to stay calm.
“That sums it up pretty good. I’m going to let you take over as pilot.” Iola started to turn and look behind the seat. Autopilot was still working, so that freed her up. With both a pilot and co-pilot’s set of controls, including yokes, in the Beechcraft this made switching truly effortless.
“What’re you doing?”
Iola stopped a second and looked at her boyfriend. “Well, we can always bail if it looks too bad. I’m making sure the parachutes are within easy access. You know, just in case.”
Joe leaned over next to Iola. He took her hands in his. “While you were trying to contact the tower, I reached over to get those parachutes you just mentioned for the same reason.”
She tried to guess the problem. Were they missing? “They were there when we took off!”
“Oh, they’re still there. And we even packed them and checked them before we took off, I know. But, apparently the plane has been sabotaged, which is causing the malfunctioning. And whoever did that must have also sabotaged the parachutes. We packed and sealed them. When we checked right before we took off we made sure they were still sealed.”
Reaching over, he caught hold of one behind the seat, brought it closer then showed her as he talked. “It was still sealed when I checked them a few minutes ago. But something was bothering me about it. At a glance it looked okay, but then, I looked a little closer and found…..” Joe opened the parachute and dumped the destroyed and useless pieces on the floor of the plane. It was cut to ribbons and the cords were cut.
Iola looked at it for only a second before looking up to meet Joe’s blue eyes with her own. “Let’s land this plane then.”
Joe gave her a quick kiss on the lips. “That’s my girl.”
Fenton, his eyes focused on the sky, prayed. There was nothing else to do, but, in his heart, he didn’t feel helpless or hopeless. He couldn’t really help but feel scared, though. What was going on? Would they be able to establish radio contact? Would Joe and Iola survive whatever that jerk had planned? So many questions… He glanced over at Frank and Callie. He saw the same things on their countenances.
His eldest son’s dark lashes were lowered. Then he opened them and looked over at his father. Fenton put his arm around his son and they turned back together to look again to the sky.
Callie focused on the distant sky above, waiting to see that plane come into view. It was a good size airport so there was other activity, but everyone was aware of the plane in peril. They didn’t know what the exact trouble might be.
Con clenched his fists momentarily, wishing he could have gotten the information from that crook who was now on his way to jail, way too good for him. He sighed and relaxed his fists. He couldn’t do everything, he reminded himself. Thinking about the good points, he also mentally pointed out that the Creator could take care of Joe and Iola. There had been no reports of any crashes along the route they would be taking. It was difficult being incommunicado. Joe and Iola were very smart and resourceful. And good people. Con’s policeman’s mind knew there could never be too many good people in the world, which desperately needed every one of them.
Frank wanted to get in the car and start driving as closely to the course he knew they would be making. He was aware of the intense cloud cover. Where Joe and Iola were presently depended much on a number of variables. Their speed would be decreased due to the inclement weather, and at what point it got worse also needed to be inputted as a factor.
Unknown to those in the plane and the concerned family and friends in Bayport, a lone individual stood also staring at the sky. A security guard for the airport, who just the other day had met the two nice people flying in the plane that took off a little while ago. Fear had made him look the other way when he’d been approached by the representative of a powerfully influential group and “requested” to do just that. He didn’t know what they were going to do to the plane. They’d said just scare some nosy people off, but he had a feeling that was a lie. He could have stopped it. He could have also gotten hurt if he hadn’t cooperated. All he had to do was be at another part of the airport for a short time before it took off. That was it. How he wished he hadn’t.
In Bayport, the rain increased slightly in the evening sky that was made darker by the cloud cover. Just because it didn’t look promising, didn’t mean that it was hopeless.