Old Mack’s Tales

August 24, 2009

The Missing Man

Filed under: Opinion and Memoir,Short Stories — Ron McKinney aka "OldMack" @ 2:23 am

Everything reminds me of something.

I was delivering a newly minted Beechcraft Debonair, a lovely 4-seat, single-engine retractable like its sister the Bonanza, but with a vertical rudder instead of a V tail. The Deb is a sturdy bird with the same landing gear they hang on their twin-engine, much heavier Baron; so it can be flown into and out of the roughest damned fields in Texas.

I was coming from the Beech factory in Wichita, Kansas, heading back to Oregon. But one of those northwestern hurricanes or Williwaws covered everything west of Wyoming with ice, hail and freezing rain. So I opted for the southern route.

After landing in Waco to top off the tanks and visit a pal, I sat in the rough pilot’s lounge drinking coffee and shooting the breeze with him.

Lying there on the coffee table among the flying magazines was a “Wanted” flyer. It had a photo on it of a man in his mid-fifties wearing golfing togs, maybe a businessman on his day off. He had been on a flight from St. Louis to L.A. in a powder blue, two-year-old Beechcraft; he’d been missing for almost a year.

It was pure coincidence that both the Missing Man and I were flying the same type of aircraft (except that mine was new). I scratched my head and recalled how often I’d wanted to ditch my responsibilities and simply disappear; god knows I was in debt up to here and in spite of working my ass off, I’d been tapping my nest egg every damned month that year (I”d had a drawer filled with E-Series savings bonds when I left the service, but they wouldn’t last long at the rate my wife was spending money). I longed to get off of that treadmill. So I was thinking about the missing man when I landed at Gila Bend, Arizona and parked my plane beside a powder blue Debonair.

I had to wait my turn to use the phone to call the FSS to check the weather. The guy using the phone was the Missing Man.

The Missing Man looked younger than the guy in the flyer, so I assumed he’d been enjoying his life on the run. The reward offered for information by his wife, who probably was more concerned about collecting his life insurance than getting him back wasn’t enough to blow his cover.


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