A deafening sound broke the silence of another peaceful evening in the cosy home of Miriam. Miriam woke from her slumber on a big plush armchair. She tightened her grip on the novel that she was still holding.
What was that?
She got up and peered out the window. It was pitch black outside. Her farmhouse stood a lonely structure on a large acreage with only distant stars for company. A scrawny tree here and there punctuated this wide and flat parched land. The nearest neighbor sat a good few kilometers away.
Miriam stared out into the dark and was unable to make anything out. Then a strong odour wafted in through the gap in the window.
Eek! Smells like fuel. Is that kerosene?
Then more noises came. It was the sound of metal clanging followed by a loud BANG! A ball of fire lit up the area revealing a plane and a dark figure.
WHAT THE? Is that a plane? No way.
She ran outside to investigate the bizarre scene. The air was cold and she was now totally awake. She stared dumbfounded at a small aircraft with a burning engine.
“Do you have a fire extinguisher?” yelled the dark figure walking towards her.
“Oh yes, yes.” The voice shook Miriam out of her stupor and she ran to the side of the house to retrieve the red canister.
Running back towards the plane, she sprayed white foam all over the fire, the engine, the cockpit. Adrenalin rushed through her body. She felt alive.
“Well, thanks very much for that. My name is Helen and I’m sorry about crashing into your front yard.” The dark figure said.
“Oh…hmm… no problem. My name is Miriam.” Miriam was lost for words for the unusual turn of event.
“Oh, do you want to come in for a cup of tea to calm down?” Miriam offered.
“Yeah, that would be very nice, thank you.” Helen gladly accepted the offer.
The pair walked inside the house.
“I’ve got something stronger if you need it.” Miriam grinned at Helen.
“Sounds good.” Helen sat down at the dining table.
“So, you’re a pilot?” Miriam felt immediately stupid asking such an obvious question when there were so many real questions that she wanted to ask. She put down the tea and biscuits on the dining table and then turned her back to get a bottle of whisky and a couple of glasses. When she returned, Helen had already poured out the tea.
“I’m an instructor. I teach people how to fly for recreation. In between teaching, I play courier and make deliveries for people.” Helen explained.
“So what happened tonight?” Miriam asked.
“I hit a squall whilst making a turn. The sudden jolt broke something and cut out the engine. I had to land the plane. It was lucky that there was flat ground right beneath me. Sorry about landing so close to your house though.” Helen offered an apology to Miriam.
“It’s alright. It was an accident. You’re not injured, right?” Miriam asked.
“I’m totally fine.” Helen reassured Miriam as she down her whisky.
Miriam got up to refill Helen’s glass when a wave of fatigue suddenly overcame her. She felt drowsy.
Maybe the little whisky has gotten into my head.
Helen stood up and walked towards the door. “Thanks so much again for your help and hospitality. I’ve got to get back to my plane. I can let myself out.”
“Alright, take care.” Helen felt too weak to get up to see her out. She staggered to her armchair and fell into a deep sleep.
When Miriam woke up the next day, it was already near noon.
Gees, I’ve slept in big time.
She rushed to her window to check on the plane. To her surprise, it was no longer there. She placed her hand over her mouth in disbelief.
What on earth? Hold on. Did I imagine the whole thing last night?
She ran outside to the patch of land where a small plane had been burning last night. There was nothing. Not a panel, not a screw and not even a tyre mark. She called out for Helen and nobody replied.
How can that be? Have I gone crazy? Do I have a brain tumour?
Miriam rubbed her face trying to think what to do next. Then she heard her dog bark. She turned to follow the sound of her dog and came to a tree further up her driveway. Her dog Rosie was barking and digging at a canvas bag. Miriam pulled out the bag and opened it.
Bundles and bundles of green crisp $100 notes were in the bag. There must be tenths of thousands of dollars in it.
Instinctively, Miriam looked up and around to see if anyone was watching. When she saw the familiar miles of nothing, she carried the bag of cash back inside her farmhouse with a great sense of relief.
Thank God. This proves that I’m not crazy. Something had definitely happened last night.
Just as Miriam was pondering what to do, she heard a car approach. Rosie barked at the approaching car. Miriam jumped to hide the canvas bag inside her laundry and then ran to retrieve a baseball bat hidden behind a couch.
The car stopped at the driveway and two men stepped out. They both wore jeans, t-shirt and a jacket and one of them knocked on the door. Knowing that it would not take much for these men to kick down her door, she opened it. Rosie growled at the rough and tanned men.
“We’re here to pick up a package.” One of the men said in a deep and scratchy voice.
Miriam stared at the tattoo on their necks.
“Package? I’m sorry but I’m afraid that you’ve got the wrong address.” Miriam replied.
“Are you sure that you don’t have our package?”
“Does this house look like a post office to you?” Miriam retorted.
“It’s not nice to keep things that don’t belong to you.”
“How dare you accuse me of taking your things? You had better leave or I’ll call the police.” Miriam decided to look more aggressive by holding the baseball bat with both hands.
The men looked at her bat and then looked at the dog. The older man motioned to the other that they should leave. As he turned, he said coldly “we’ll be back if we’re right.”
Miriam was shaken to the core.
I can’t stay here.
“Come on, Rosie. Let’s go.”
She threw the canvas bag into the boot of her car, let the dog into the back seat, started the engine and took off.
Where am I going?
Miriam had no idea where to go. The two men could return anytime with menace having found out that they had been lied to. Nobody would leave a big bag of money behind.
I have to find Helen. She holds the key to all my questions. How do I find her? Where would she be?
An idea struck her. She took out her phone and searched for the nearest hangar in the area. No one would want to drag a wrecked plane any further than they needed to.
She drove up to the airfield indicated by the map and went into the reception area.
“Hi, I’ve just placed an order for a single engine beauty. It’s due to arrive in a few weeks’ time. It’s terribly exciting. Do you have any hangar space here and do you offer any maintenance services””
“Congratulations on your purchase. We certainly have hangar space and we also have the best aircraft mechanics in town.” Tom, the operator beamed.
“Great, would you mind taking me around to have a look?” Miriam asked.
“Sure thing. Come with me.”
When their golf cart came to the hangar, Miriam spotted a wrecked plane sitting in the middle with a few guys working on it.
“Oh my goodness, this is exactly the type of plane that I have ordered. What happened to this one?” Miriam asked.
“What a great choice. The Cesna Skyhawk has a great feel to it, doesn’t it? The fuel line on this one had snapped. The engine has to be replaced because of the subsequent fire but the rest is very repairable. It’ll be back in the air in no time.” Tom explained.
“That’s remarkable. I would love to hear the full story. Is there a chance that I could meet the pilot?” Miriam smiled charmingly at Tom.
“Oh, I’m not sure. This plane’s pilot is a very private person. I don’t think that she would be too keen for a meeting.” Tom let out a little laugh.
Bingo! He said “she”. How many female pilot would have crashed a light aircraft recently in the area? It has to be Helen.
“Please pretty please? I need to learn as much as I can about flying this plane.” Miriam pleaded with Tom.
“Alright, I’ll try. But don’t hold your breath. I’ll let you know when I have a reply.”
“I’m meeting my banker first thing in the morning. I need to feel confident. Please Tom. Is there any chance that we can try for today?”
“You are a tough negotiator.” Tom wiped his brow and decided that he would go along with it as new customers were far and few in between in these times.
The pair went back to the office. Miriam was asked to wait in the reception whilst Tom went to the office in the back.
“You’re lucky. The pilot will meet you. She’ll be here in an hour if you are happy to wait.” Tom reported gladly.
“Oh Tom, thank you, you are an angle. “
* * * * *
The reception door opened.
“So you’re looking for me?” Helen asked.
“Oh hi. Yes. I was.” Miriam looked up.
“Well you’ve found me. I assume you’re here to return something to me?” Helen folded her arms.
“Yes, but I also want some answers.” Miriam said.
“No you don’t. You will give me back my bag and get out of here. I don’t mean to be rude as I’m really trying to protect you. You’re not supposed to know or do anything. You shouldn’t be here.” Helen reprimanded Miriam.
“Protect me from what? “ Miriam could feel the seam that had been holding up her pent up frustration had just come loose.
“Your crash landing in front of my house was the single most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. Finally, something special happened to Miriam. But guess what? Poof! Everything disappeared the very next day. The plane was gone. You were gone. Who would believe me if I tell them the story? Even I didn’t believe myself. They’ll say that boring Miriam has finally cracked it. She is so isolated that she is now hallucinating.” Miriam started to sob.
“So what do you want me to do? Meet your friends and do a show and tell?” Helen rolled her eyes at Miriam.
“I want the truth. Who are you? What do you do? What is the bag of money about? And I also want safety, safety from strange men showing up at my house.” Miriam said.
Helen started to laugh.
“You want the truth, and you want safety? You can’t have both.” Helen looked sternly into Miriam’s eyes.
Miriam paused and stared right back at Helen.
“I want the truth.”
“And be willing to put yourself in danger?” Helen asked.
Miriam nodded. “I don’t think I can sleep again without this knowledge. It is mucking with my head.”
“Alright.” Helen sighed.
“I am an ‘invisible courier’. The organization that I work for deliver parcels, any kind of parcels, for our clients. Untraceable and no questions asked. The goods can be as mundane as a sensitive document or as nasty as a body. We arrange for the pick up and drop off. We are invisible. This is why my team is so good at cleanup. We don’t like to leave any tracks behind.”
Miriam’s hair stood on end. She felt a stirring in her chest and she found her eyes welling up. With a shaking voice, she asked,
“Do you have any openings? I have a car.”