Today they seem to be boring old men, telling wild stories to anyone who will listen, but once they were the hottest pilots in the Pacific--men who could fly anything, anywhere, any time. And they've just been handed the chance to end their lives as millionaires.
A dying comrade has a secret he doesn't want to take to the grave....He knows where to find a cache of old Japanese air force planes--not wrecks lying all over the floor of some jungle, but planes in pristine condition, properly moth-balled and stored before the end of the war.
But how do a group of retirees raise the money to finance a salvage mission of this size, without altering every other treasure hunter on the face of the earth?
Wade Lovett, a handful of his old comrades, and his surprisingly practical grandson are determined to succeed.
It will be the adventure of a lifetime.
"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.
Dean Ing has worked as a USAF interceptor crew chief, a senior research engineer in the aerospace industry, a builder and driver of sports-racing cars, and a university professor. He has a doctorate in communications theory. Ing is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Ransom of Black Stealth One, The Nemesis Mission, and The Skins of Dead Men. He lives in Ashland, Oregon.
Even though the city reached out westward toward Rolling Hills, Kansas, the air traffic from Wichita's Mid-Continent Airport kept Wade Lovett's condo affordable because some folks don't like to live under an aerial on-ramp. Still, for each housewife who wakes up fearful whenever a Boeing's low pass shakes dust motes into her moonlit bedroom, some solitary wing nut like Lovett smiles without waking.
No mystery about that. For many year Wichita has been home to half the aircraft constructors in the country, and the area boasts more aircraft freaks than farmers. When a bug decorates his windshield like a Jackson Pollock, the driver twangs, "Wow, must've been a twin Piper." That's how many airplanes infest Wichita, and their thunder roars a duet of future money and past adventures to old guys like Lovett. No wonder they smile in their sleep.
But Lovett hadn't done much smiling when awake lately, though the business of trading used aircraft was going well at his hangar. When he padlocked the big multifold hangar doors that cloudy afternoon in late April and climbed into his sporty silver Mazda couple, Lovett tried to avoid replaying the litany of downers that, he felt, would've had the prophet Job dancing with fury.
He knew he should've kept his Ford pickup with the winch and liftgate, because you can't shoehorn a goddamn crate full of Lycoming engine into the trunk of a goddamn racy foreign coupe. But he'd traded up to surprise his seventeen-year-old grandson, give the beloved elitist twirp more reason to enjoy his summer visit, and three days ago Chip had provided his own surprise, writing to say he wouldn't be coming after all. Downers Number One and Two.
Number Three was the defection of Mayday, who had checked out, "gone west" in pilot's parlance, augured in, all right then goddamn it, died, with what the vet said was a full cargo of kidney stones. He had raised that fool from a kitten the size of a flea's hood ornament, a fiftieth birthday present from a woman whose name he'd now forgotten. That made Mayday, what was, it, nearly thirteen when he bought the farm. It had taken Wade Lovett longer to get over Mayday, his only housemate, than seemed possible. You wouldn't think a satisfied loner in his sixties would go all misty-eyed over something with a brain the general size and usefulness of a mildewed walnut, Lovett told himself, squirting the Mazda north on Tyler road, ignoring the towers of cloud to his left that were backlit by God's own rosy runway light. And suddenly he felt guilty.
It was one thing two verbally abuse the talkative black tom to his whiskers, so to speak; tell him that any cat who would stand meowing before a closed door for an hour when an open one was in plain sight ten feet away, well, such a cat was dumb as a radish and deserved his imprisonment. Mayday's gaze had always said he understood those jibes were just male-bonding bullshit by a man who had nobody else--barring visits by Chip and an occasional pretty lady, needed no one else--to talk to, evenings in the condo.
It was something else, though, to debase Mayday's currency when he was no longer current. It wasn't fair, it was mean-spirited.
"I'm sorry, Mayday," Lovett said aloud, easing from the flow of traffic, then toward parking slot #16.
What was worse, Wade Lovett was chiefly sorry for himself, and knew it. He turned off the ignition and sat blinking at his windshield for a long moment and someone pulled into slot #15, doubtless the new neighbor he hadn't met. He didn't care to meet him now, either. Was this how you felt when old age crept up on you? Maybe he should get another kitten, and as soon as possible.
He got out of the car, shaking his head, and muttered, "One Mayday was enough."
"Isn't that a cry for help?"
Lovett turned and saw, over the top of the adjacent classic porthole Thunderbird, big brown eyes regarding him with honest interest. They belonged to a woman who could hardly see over her little T-Bird, perky side of fifty, and he realized he had spoken aloud. "Sometimes it is." He smiled by reflex. "Looks like you could use some help yourself."
She let him take one of her bulging grocery sacks and sure enough, she was the new tenant next door, and by the time Lovett sat alone in his kitchen to sort his mail he had agreed to a martini later in the evening. He still got invitations like that because his thick graying hair was still unruly and his dimpled killer smile apparently ageless. He still accepted the invitations if the lady seemed mature enough to take little disappointments in stride. All his life, one way or another, Wade Lovett had eventually disappointed women.
He tossed the junk mail to one side and used the blade of his Swiss Army knife, the one that would fillet a bass, to slit the single personal letter. The return address was Irvine, California, so he figured in advance it would be from old Elmo Benteen.
It was a single photocopied page declaring a National Emergency at the offices of Bentwing Associates--Elmo went through associates like a dose of salts through a fasting guru--on a Friday evening two weeks hence. Lovett knew there would be maybe forty copies of the B.O.F. letter, because more than half of the hundred-odd Boring Old Farts had already cashed in their short snorters; and of that forty perhaps half of them would be able to make it to the boozy reunion known to them all as a National Emergency.
The B.O.F.s had no officials and only two requirements: you had flown military missions around the Pacific or China-Burma-India--Korea and Southeast Asia counted, too--and in the process you'd got your tailfeathers caught in a crack by some desk dildo, maybe a general. A court-martial helped you in, but one "no" vote by any member kept you out, so the really bad bastards never qualified. Garden-variety bastards were common, though; and if you didn't consume alcohol, why the hell would you attend a National Emergency anyhow?
The B.O.F. title had emerged from a Carews booze-scented blowout in Darwin, Australia, back in '42 when the Japanese Navy was practically in the harbor. Some transport pilot, scheduled for the duration to fly many tons of explosive cargo very slowly and unarmed through a sky full of Mitsubishi Zeroes, said his only remaining ambition was to live long enough that his war stories would qualify him as a boring old fart. That became a toast, and the toast became a rallying cry, and when some smartass dreamed up an unofficial patch the Boring Old Farts got a slogan, too; stolen, naturally, from the First Troop Carrier Command. The patch showed two winged purple shafts crossed over a pipe and slippers, with a legend beneath: vincit qui primum gerit; He Conquers Who First Grows Old, or, The Old Fart Wins.
It was understood that the member who called an emergency footed its bills except for breakage and, now and then, bail; those blowouts were not exactly formal affairs and you didn't bring your wife because she might get into a dustup with one of the strippers. It had been nearly a year since the last bash and Lovett smiled to reflect that old Elmo, now in his eighties, was still kicking. Lovett was pleased to see that the emergency was to be held in the Bentwing offices, which meant Elton's hangar at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, with the planes booted outside and a bunch of tables for the girls to strut on. He's done that once before.
"Wise move, Elmo," Lovett muttered. When the bottles started flying in formation, they wouldn't hit anything beyond the hangar. The B.O.F.s had tried hiring American Legion halls, private clubs, and in one case, a country club. The tabs for wear and tear had proven greater than those for food, booze, and entertainment combined. Actually, they had it down to a science by now. You put your keys, along with everybody else's, in the same box with a combination lock when you came in. If you couldn't work the combination a few hours later and then find your way out of a hangar, you had no business operating a vehicle. Some people said those weren't just awfully exacting standards. The hell with them.
Lovett toyed with the idea of passing on this one. It would be a long cross-country alone to Southern California in his VariEze, a swept-wing little two-holer he had built from Rutan plans when plastic airplanes were still exotic. He would hear the same stories again, tell some of them himself, like the time over Korea when one of the Mighty Mouse rockets fired from his own F-84 started doing slow rolls until he passed it, and his slipstream sucked it toward him like a big explosive bullet with his name on it. The Mighty Mouse wasn't a smart munition, but neither were you if you trusted it. This one was so dumb it sideswiped his wing without taking half of it off.
Yeah, stories like that, some of them embellished with each retelling. The problem, he realized, was that the B.O.F.s really were boring old farts now to most outsiders. And it would be a long flight back, nursing a hangover. On the other hand, he could spend a night or two with his daughter, Roxanne, and more to the point, Chip would be there. Lovett's hesitation was more bullshit, and it didn't take him in. He scrawled, "Hold a tiedown space for my VariEze," on the Xerox and, sought an envelope for it. With all the oddball aircraft Elmo rented out to the more adventurous of the Hollywood crowd, surely there would room.
And this time, with most of his fellow Farts pushing seventy or more, maybe it would end without major trouble for somebody.
Copyright © 1997 by Dean Ing
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Book Description Tor Books, 1998. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110812548418
Book Description Tor Books, 1998. Mass Market Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0812548418
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