“You shot me down, you bastard!” Annie cursed into her radio as her tri-wing flier spiraled toward the dark mountains of the Rockies, trailing steam into the cold night air.
“Well, I warned you. And you are running illegal alcohol to California,” Michael responded.
“But you’ve never shot at me. We had a good thing going. An understanding. Now I’m going to crash!”
The rocks and trees came into view suddenly as she struggled to keep the flier level and prevent the engine from stalling before impact.
The crash bounced her against her harness and slapped her head against the headrest.
“Annie? Annie talk to me. Are you all right?” Michael’s voice was worried. She heard his flier circling over her crash site. The steam whistling from her engine told her the core was cracked. She could also smell an oil fire. She wouldn’t get the flier in the air again.
“Shut up and let me check my plane!” she snapped into the radio.
It wasn’t until she tried to scramble out of the cockpit that she discovered her leg was trapped. The fire was spreading toward her fuselage storage area. Toward the seventy five gallons of pure alcohol she was running.
“Michael! Michael I’m trapped! There is a fire. Near the cargo bay!”
“Get out of there, Annie! It’ll blow!”
“I know. My leg is pinned. I can’t pull loose.”
“I’m trying to land near you somewhere.”
“You won’t make it.”
“I know.” His voice was forlorn.
“We had such a good thing, playing in the air together. I really loved it.”
“So did I. And we will again.”
She kept trying to pull the heavy cloth of her flight suit free of the wreckage as the fire cackled nearer.
Michael’s bi-wing flier bounced to a stop on a small fireroad a half mile from Annie’s crash site. He leapt from the cockpit, grabbed his first aid kit and switched on his battery light. He took off toward the glowing steam cloud on the mountainside. Ten minutes later he crested a small rise, just in time to see Annie’s flier explode. The white steam was transformed into a cloud of black smoke with heavy flames engulfing the fuselage.
He stopped, all hope pulled from him by the flames. She was gone. No one could survive that inferno.
They’d started talking and flirting in the night air while she eluded him on her smuggling runs. When he couldn’t find her in the dark mountain air, they’d chatted about their lives and their jobs. It took an hour for her flier to get out of radio range. He tried to follow her and told himself it was because that was his job, but really he’d just wanted to talk. He lived a lonely life and she put some joy into the dark nights when he patrolled the Front Range.
He knew she made a fortune on her flights to the California speakeasies. Prohibition had made a lot of people wealthy. Career Bureau pilots like him weren’t included in that success, of course. She was one of the best and he’d get an medal for shooting her down. Another for killing her.
Somehow the recognition didn’t seem important anymore.
Ironic that they’d never even met in person.
When she stepped out of the trees to his right, her pistol was leveled at him.
“Annie? How -?” he gestured toward the fiery remains of her flier.
“I pulled free.” Blood and torn fabric ran the length of her lower right leg.
“Um… Is that gun really necessary?”
“I don’t know. Is it? You’re a federal agent. Isn’t it your job to bring me in?”
“Well, yes.” He’d thought she was dead, but he had to consider what to do with her now that she was alive. “You are my prisoner,” he declared.
“Really? I’m the one with the gun.”
“I will not go to prison, Michael,” she said quietly, her eyes and her hand steady.
He looked at her closely. Her dirty blond hair was cut to her shoulders, but flattened by her leather flight helmet. She stood tall and slender. Her leather jacket was open and her flight suit was dirty, but she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. She had a natural wildness about her. An animal that wouldn’t be tamed. He knew the explosion from her crash would be seen and someone would be arriving soon. She’d be captured and imprisoned. Or worse. The government wanted to make an example of smugglers.
“No, I suppose you won’t,” he sighed. “Come with me, quickly!”
Believing she wouldn’t shoot him in the back, he turned around and began to hike back toward his flier.
After a moment he heard her following, her footsteps shuffling with her injury.
When they stepped onto the road near his Bureau bi-wing, he finally looked back. She’d holstered the gun and her face screwed up in a grimace of pain.
“What are we doing, Michael? That’s a single seater.”
“Yes, but you don’t have to leave right now. I have land in these mountains.” He pulled his survival pack from the fuselage storage. “Take this. And this water.”
Michael spread a map across the wing. He marked waypoints and quickly explained the route.
“Not many people know about my cabin. The Bureau will believe you were killed in the crash. I will report that I found no body and that the plane was so badly burned that there was no real evidence. They may not even search.” He handed her the map and his spare compass. “I’ll come back in a week or so. I’ll get permission to combine some of my leave and return.”
“Why are you doing this, Michael?”
“You were pointing a gun at me.”
“I’m not pointing it now,” Annie noted.
“I will just get another plane. I’ll be back in the air a week after returning to Chicago. So why are you helping me escape?”
“We had a good thing going.”
Damon Garn lives in Colorado Springs, CO with his wife and two children. He enjoys hiking, writing and annoying his neighbors with mediocre guitar playing. He writes in the fantasy/sci-fi realm experimenting in flash fiction, short stories and a novel. Follow him on twitter.