Shadow Unit

Case Files

Teasers & Deleted Scenes

Kentucky, April 2009

Q: What do you call a man who looks like an offensive lineman and has a big black beard and a mop of curly black hair? A: Bear. Q: What do you call a bear flying a Gulfstream? A: A pilot, you sapionormative jerk. Q: What do you call him as you're disembarking from the Gulfstream that he thinks of as his personal property?

"Well done, Special Agent," said Esther as her foot hit tarmac. Bear nodded and tried to conceal the shakes that were just now starting up. "What I want," she added, "is to find a way to call you unflappable without you turning it into a horrible pun."

"Not gonna happen," said Bear, pleased at how even his voice sounded. "So don't even try."

She was lying, of course. He knew that. What she really wanted was to get down on her knees and kiss the ground; but she wouldn't, so she kept it light, the way they all did after the fact. He knew about this, usually being the first one to see them after the fact. He referred to them as his payload, but only to himself.

"Where are we?" said Esther.

"Kentucky. Middlesboro Bell County Airport."

She looked around. "Are we trapped here forever?"

She still wasn't asking what she wanted to know; he answered what she asked. "There is almost certainly a way to reach civilization. Worst case, they airdrop supplies."

Two minutes before, Bear realized, she'd been thinking, At least this happened while I was the only one on board. Now that they were on the ground, she was thinking other things, but not saying them.

"Was it as hard as I think to land like that?"

"Not really," he said. "She makes a pretty good glider. The hard part was stopping in less than 4000 feet." In fact, they had pulled up so close to the end of the runway that the nose was extended over it. A few hundred pounds less fuel, and--don't think about it.

"What now?" she said.

"I make some calls and get us home. Then Julie turns into an obsessive-compulsive little shit who no one can stand to be around, and in two days she tells us if it was sabotage, and if so, how it was done. And two days after that she grudgingly permits us to fly it again."

"And the FAA?"

"If she passes it, they will. They're all afraid of her."

Esther nodded, and finally asked the question. "What if it wasn't sabotage?"

"That's your department," said Bear.