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Chapter Thirteen

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The phone on my desk jolted me to rummy consciousness. I checked the clock and saw I had slept several hours. Morning light shone through the cracks between the drawn curtains. I tripped to my desk and grabbed the phone receiver, forgetting it was a quaint model connected to the cradle by a cord. The cradle hurled and crashed off the desk after me as I slumped on the couch, receiver in hand.

“Jeez, Rosten, are you okay? What’s happening there?”

“I’m okay. I’m okay. What’s up?” I was rubbing my forehead, trying to wake up.

“You have to speed things up. It’s gotten bad here in Colorado. Real bad.” I detected a twinge of panic in Fitch’s usually controlled voice.

“How? Did the denizens of eastern Colorado come after you with rakes and pitchforks?”

“Not me. They did something far worse. Someone bombed a women’s clinic about seventy miles east of Denver. It was in the middle of nowhere. There were first responders rushing around me during my entire drive eastward. I just followed them.”

“What does that have to do with Stratton or Greenfield? Wait, you said a women’s clinic? Oh shit.”

“Yeah, oh shit. An exclusive abortion clinic posing as a fat farm for the wealthy. Where the rising Hollywood starlets and preachers’ mistresses can get rid of their mistakes with none the wiser. Someone found out about it and took it out. Six people killed. Only two survived, a doctor and a nurse.”

“And you suspect Jerry Greenfield? C’mon, Fitch. He’s too public and not that stupid, is he?”

“I’ve set up my laptop and other equipment in a little motel along Highway 36. I’m picking up chatter that isn’t all that cryptic. Greenfield might not be stupid, but his lackeys are. They’re blabbing all over the airwaves. His people were involved, all right. And it’s more than an anti-abortion operation. They were looking not only to destroy an abortion clinic, but to destroy all the clinic’s records.” Here Fitch went quiet while I spent a few moments connecting dots.

“I see,” I said. “Looks like my hunch was right. Can you get to that doctor and nurse?” Fitch made a derisive sound as if I’d asked her if she could tie her own shoes. “Find out what they know. Feel free to tell them everything about your trip to Colorado, why you’re there, Laura’s situation, everything. I’m thinking they have a story to tell you and are willing to go public when it’s safe. Do what you can to ensure their safety, and I’m not talking about the police.”

“I’m on it. I’ve got security connections here. The doctor and nurse have been rushed to a hospital in Denver. My guess is I’ll find them there and will need to get them out before someone lays waste to them. As soon as I get their story and have their safety secure, I’m flying back to Seattle. I’ll charter a plane if I have to.”

“You’re amazing, old girl.”

“I’m not old and I’m not a girl. I’ll call you when I get to town. Touché, by the way.” She hung up.

I sat on the couch for several minutes weighing my choices. How many times in my life had I asked myself the perennial question: If I could go back in time, when Hitler was a baby, would I kill him? Would the heinous act of killing an infant save six million Jews and countless others? I’ve never been able to answer that question. But I could answer this one: Would stopping the Stratton  reenfield machine save anyone? Yes, it could save Laura, at least, and possibly others who dared get in the way of Stratton’s campaign.

It became obvious to me that Elizabeth Stratton, Jerry Greenfield, and Tom Dwight were agents, puppets, of the Malignity. They all could go to hell, and I would be happy to have a hand in it. To me, they had become less than cockroaches. They’d been refined, groomed, and buffed to bring power to forces that loved to torment human beings. And I supposed, grudgingly, that I too had been seasoned to be the Fool, the wild card, the coyote, the trickster who spoiled the meticulous plans of humans and gods. I was the agent of chaos, either by naïveté or by cunning. But it was my choice whose plans I spoiled.

In those moments, I made my choice. I was going to take down Elizabeth Stratton and her machine. If my career, such as it was, ended, my clients disappeared, so be it. I opted for love and, in some larger sense, I chose my fellow human beings.

Determined, I left my office to find Laura. As soon as I walked out the door, I went straight to the living room and grabbed Elizabeth Stratton’s check from the table drawer. I ripped it into the smallest pieces possible and tossed them into the fireplace. Time to hold Laura again, I thought, and started for the stairs leading up to my bedroom.

I was distracted by something glinting on the floor of the front foyer. My keys. My keys with the security fob. They had been on the dresser in my bedroom. My bedroom where I’d last seen Laura. Panicked with foreboding, I took the stairs two at a time and raced to the bedroom. It was abandoned.

Laura’s clothes were gone. Her purse was gone. She was gone. My cell phone had disappeared too. They had gotten to her. While I slept, dreaming on my cozy couch, Stratton’s animals had taken Laura. And I didn’t do anything to stop them.

“No!” I screamed. I dropped to my knees and pressed my hand over my mouth. What could I do? My mind was wild with fear and guilt. I couldn’t land on a thought, much less a plan. All I could think was I had to find Laura. Or they would kill her. If they hadn’t already.

The jangle of my landline beside the bed pulled me out of my morass of indecision. I scrambled to answer it.

“Hey, Ms. Rosten? This is Pete down here at Island Security.”

“Pete? Oh, Pete.”

“Yeah, uh, the guys have been patrolling your property all night, real close like. All’s A-okay. Do you want us to keep it up today?”

“They saw nobody? Nothing? All night?”

“Nothing at all. Your place is tight as a drum, but you need to turn your alarm back on. We noticed here in the office that your system got deactivated. But we figured you were there, so it was no big deal.”

Could I trust my own security company? I wasn’t sure, so I asked them to continue patrolling until further notice, regardless of the expense. He didn’t complain. I didn’t mention Laura.

Where would they take Laura? If the security team didn’t see anyone in the vicinity of the house, how did they get to her? Would the security company lie to me? I strode to the curtains and yanked the cord. Before me spread Hunter Bay lit by morning light. The rain had run itself out. I scanned the bay looking for any kind of a watercraft, but much of the water was hidden by mist.

I pushed my forehead against the glass to peer down at my dock. My dinghy was gone. I rushed to my closet and grabbed the binoculars. When I focused them on the dock, I discerned that the door of the shed was hanging open. Someone had taken Laura and my boat. Maybe my boat had already been gone when we had arrived yesterday, a victim of a random crime. Maybe not.

I pulled the binoculars away from my face to keep a sudden vertigo at bay. When the dizziness passed, I used the binocs again and saw it. Just the tip of the bow was peeking from behind the rock several hundred feet out and to the right of the dock. I was sure that was my boat.

“What the hell? Oh God.” I strung the binoculars around my neck, ran to the closet again, and found my boat shoes. I worked them on trying to hurry but not lose my head. If Dwight or one of his boys was in the boat with Laura, I had to handle it somehow. But to tell the truth, I had no plan. I just needed to get Laura back. She was all that mattered. Not Stratton. Not the High Priestess. Not Pento. Just Laura, only Laura.

I tore to the basement and out the back door to the little patio underneath the back of the house. The small area was strewn with spilled garden tools. I usually kept them on a shelf attached to the house, but someone had rifled through them and tossed them to the ground. Why garden tools?

I took the ladder down to the dock with my back to the water, all the time worried I’d be spotted by whoever was in the dinghy. I thought of Laura being forced down the ladder at gunpoint and my heart twisted for her. She was injured, in a cast, and probably witlessly scared.

When I touched the rock at the bottom, my foot slid out from under me, causing me to hang up briefly on the railings. I looked down and found a bandage stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Laura’s bandage, the one from her face.

The sight of that woeful bandage, sodden and smudged, awoke every cowardly cell that dwelled in my body. Who was I to think I could save anyone? I had bad knees. I should save myself and not worry about anyone else.

“But it’s Laura,” I said aloud. I recalled Laura, in my bed, vulnerable yet strong, crying out in her release. Her eyes said more to me than a thousand love poems. “Yeah, it’s Laura.”

My resolve galvanized, I ran to the end of the dock, almost tripping on an abandoned flashlight. Someone had taken her when it was still dark. I used the binocs to observe the dinghy. It looked empty, but I could tell the cover tarp had been thrown back. Then I detected an odd shape. Someone wearing Laura’s hoodie was lying on the seat.

“Laura! Laura, over here!” I shouted and waved my arms, jumping around like a fool at a rock concert. “Laura, are you all right? Hey, honey, sit up. Can you sit up?”

I didn’t ask myself why Laura was out there. I just knew she was in trouble. After all, who would one-handedly take a dinghy out into the bay and then nap on the uncomfortable seat in the rain? This had to be trouble.

I cupped my hands around my mouth and upped my volume. “Laura! Laaaura!”

No movement. The little dinghy was slipping into the mist and would be lost to sight soon. Something was horribly wrong. How could I get to her? I dashed to the shed, barely registering that the hasp had been pried off. Standing nobly in the corner was the red standup paddleboard I had bought in the spring and used twice: once to try it out and once to learn how much I hated it.

I dragged it outside and leaned it against the shed. Then I retrieved the paddle and rested it alongside the board. Taking two trips, I schlepped the board and its long paddle to the miniscule beach near the dock. I dreaded the next part. I had no time to put on a wet suit or the special water slippers I’d bought along with the board. That water was torturous, around fifty-five degrees. My boat shoes, yoga pants, and sweatshirt would have to do.

The odious paddleboard was unwieldy for me, so I stumbled a few times while getting it positioned to drag into the water, the freezing water. I was sweating and planning to walk into icy Puget Sound waters. For a few seconds, a neon caution sign flashed in my head, “Hypothermia, hypothermia!” but I flipped a mental off switch and remembered I was saving Laura.

“Don’t think,” I said to myself as I started into the water. The iciness surrounding my feet made me suppress a scream, then my ankles, knees, and thighs all were submerged into the sharp cold ocean water. I was now in deep enough to use the board, but I had to will my frozen limbs to lift me onto my knees on the board.

I wasn’t about to attempt standing up on that thing. It was a maneuver I had yet to master and probably never would. Kneeling with my butt on my heels, I wielded the long paddle and made my way out to the dinghy where Laura lay motionless. The paddleboard rocked beneath me. Every few strokes I was nearly tossed off.

“Laura, can you hear me?” I called, still a hundred feet away. Her stillness scared me more than anything I’d ever suffered before. That fear awoke every particle of my heritage, and I began to pray through chattering teeth, “Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha-Olam…”

The big Adonai in the sky must have heard me because I saw Laura twitch. “Laura, sweetheart, get up. Look at me.”

I was almost upon her when she sat up, made one narrow glare at me, and hurled a pair of garden clippers smack into my forehead. The force knocked me off the board and into the frigidity of Puget Sound waters.

Cutting cold froze my scream. I gasped and sputtered as I struggled to get a stiffened arm over the paddleboard. I worked my second arm over the board, but I was too frozen to lift myself back onto the board. I hadn’t mastered that maneuver wearing a wet suit. It was impossible to do it this time.

Laura had a terror-stricken appearance mixed with wrath. My jaw shuddered so violently, I could barely speak. “W-w-why? L-Laura?”

“I believed in you. You…you unspeakable liar. And I trusted you.” Laura’s tears glittered silver in the dull light.

“W-what are you t-t-talking about? N-never mind. Help me. P-please.” My hands couldn’t grip that board much longer.

“Why should I? You’re planning to set me up, give me over to Tom Dwight, to Elizabeth Stratton. I heard what you said on the phone, Dev. I heard you. So I escaped. Get away.”

What had I said on the phone? I’d only talked to Fitch when I was in my office. My brain was addled. I could hardly remember the gist of the conversation. Something about a bombed abortion clinic, dead people, and my having more feelings for Laura than a tawdry fling.

“You heard it wr-wrong. G-get me out of this w-water. D-do you want m-me to die?” Laura’s eyes widened with the thought that my death would be on her hands. “P-please, Laura. Remember, I s-said we are b-bashert. Destiny. M-meant for each other.”

She reached into the bottom of the boat and reluctantly lifted the oar over the side and held it out to me. “Okay, you can get in the boat, but that doesn’t mean I trust you. I just don’t want to kill anybody even though, right now, it would feel really good.”

I grabbed the oar with one hand, forcing my numb and stiffened fingers to hold on. I brought the other hand to the flare of the boat. Laura had only one hand, so I knew the onus of the effort would be on me. It took several bruising attempts, but I finally pulled my frozen self into the boat and slumped in the hull. My head rested on the gunwale, and I silently vowed never to get on a paddleboard again.

“Y-you could’ve helped a little more,” I said. I looked up at her to discover she was ready to defend herself with a garden tool. “Hey, that’s my b-brand-new Japanese cuttlefish hoe.” Its spindly fingers pointed at my face. I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or get mad. I emitted a shuddering, jittery laugh. She sat on the rear seat with a determined grimace. “That explains the garden tool mess on the patio.”

“This is not funny, Devorah Rosten. You’re in cahoots with Elizabeth and Tom Dwight. I heard you on the phone talking about the ‘mission.’”

“The mission?” I thought for a few moments and remembered what I had said to Fitch. “Oh, that. I admit, at first I—”

Something hit the boat next to my cheek. I rolled my head to the left and saw a splatted dent in the gunwale about five inches from my face. Laura looked at the dent and then up to the cliffs. I looked too and, through the mist, could make out Tom Dwight taking aim at us with a rifle.

“Paddle!” I shouted at Laura. She dropped the garden tool and clumsily put her oar into the water and started paddling. But I realized I had to be the paddler since I actually had two working hands. Another bullet ripped across the top of my forearm, spurting some blood but not debilitating me. Fright muted the pain. I grabbed the oar, scooted onto the center seat, and started working the oar first left, then right. “We have to get into the mist where he can’t see us.”

I glanced back to find she had a wooden paddle and was mimicking my moves as well as she could one-handedly. I heard three more splat-thunks in the water. Dwight’s bullets. But we were buried in the mist. He couldn’t see us.

Laura quit paddling. “Why should I go anywhere with you?”

Thunk. Another bullet hit the boat.

“Quiet,” I whispered. “He can hear us.” The mist may have hidden us from Dwight’s view, but it also carried sound to the top of the cliffs. My arm was bleeding but not in huge volumes. It was beginning to hurt, though, a lot.

Laura discarded her unwieldy paddle and again threatened me with the hand hoe. In a seething whisper, she ordered, “Get us out of here. Now!”

I wasn’t too worried about the garden implement, but I agreed we needed to move. The mist was so thick that it would be easy to become lost. So I registered where the cliffs were, turned the boat in the opposite direction, and silently began to paddle. My forearm stung, sending shots of pain up to my bicep. The back of my neck tingled as I sensed the garden tool nearby and the hideous possibility of a bullet severing my spinal cord.

I paddled in silence for several minutes, hoping I wasn’t going in a circle and heading back into Tom Dwight’s shooting range. At one point, I felt sweat running down my nose and took a swipe at it with my soggy sleeve. I brought away blood. I had a cut from the clippers Laura had pitched at me. The blood must have been temporarily stanched by the icy water, but now it flowed freely.

“You wouldn’t happen to have something for my wounds, would you?” I turned around to show her my dramatic cut. She flinched, then pulled her fashionably roomy bag from behind her seat. She rummaged around in it and came up with a wadded bandana that had probably been in there for months.

“Here, I’ve barely used it,” she said as she handed it to me.

“Barely was not what I was hoping for, but I’ll take it.” I rested the oar and stretched out the crusty bandana so it would be long enough to tie around my head. I would have to ignore my arm injury for now. It wasn’t bleeding much. I knotted the disreputable bandana to my head to soak up the blood. “Will you let me explain, Laura?”

“Keep your mouth shut, Dev. You said he could hear us, remember?” she said through clenched teeth and scraped the claws of the gleaming garden tool in my direction.

“We’re far enough away for me to speak softly. I’m sure of it.”

“Where are you taking us? To Jerry Greenfield’s church so we can enter into their kingdom of heaven?” For me, her anger magnified her beauty.

“Look, we are on the same side. Completely. I’m not sure where I’m taking us, except away from Dwight’s gun. I think if I can get us across the bay, we can get some help. We need to get to town, to the press.” I was speaking in a squeaky whisper.

“That’s what I’ve wanted to do all along. Why the change of heart? Did Elizabeth give you different marching orders?” She was really hurt at the thought of my being in the Stratton camp.

“Listen to me. I’m going to tell you the whole story, the absolute truth. When I’m done, you decide whether to trust me or not.”

“Okay, tell me. But remember, this thing can remove an eyeball.” She waved the tool at me. “And keep paddling.”

I paddled, ignoring the pain in my arm, and told her the whole story, about my trips to the Theater and the High Priestess, the Magician, and Pento. I explained to her about my role as a meddler against the Malignity. I told her how Elizabeth Stratton handed me $125,000 with the promise of more if I derailed Laura.

“And now you, Laura. You have to tell me all of it. I’m not the only one who was holding back information. Hushing up your relationship with Stratton isn’t worth a quarter of a million dollars.”

Laura finally lowered the garden tool. She stared into the water. “I went with her. She said she needed me. We weren’t even together anymore. We’d been apart for a year. She was a senator.” She was speaking more to the water than to me.

“Stratton?” Laura nodded. “Where did you go with her?”

“To Colorado. To the clinic. She was pregnant. She aborted Jerry Greenfield’s child.”

The puzzle was complete. Senator Elizabeth Stratton, supposedly God’s own candidate, had a secret so explosive, it would end her presidential hopes and political apparatus. If her followers knew she’d had a clandestine abortion, they would reject her without looking back, without forgiveness. The fact that it was Jerry Greenfield’s child, an heir to the throne of the righteous, would make the firestorm even worse. Greenfield would be implicated. No matter what the Malignity had planned for Stratton, her choices were out of its control.

“No wonder they want you dead,” I said. “Laura, do you have proof that this abortion happened?”

She nodded. “It’s in the last few pages of the scrapbook, the pages I didn’t show you.” She looked world-weary and defeated.

“Describe what’s there. What evidence do you have?”

“There’s a clinic confidentiality agreement, signed by me. I also pasted in a plastic hospital bracelet from the clinic. It has ‘E. Wilford’ on it. That’s Elizabeth’s mother’s maiden name.”

“That’s hardly enough to make a case. What else is there, Laura?”

She sighed. “Before we left the clinic, Elizabeth was pretty out of it, shaken and in pain, I guess. Since I was there as her escort, the nurse gave me two bottles of pills for Elizabeth to take for pain or excessive bleeding. If you remember, eight years ago, Elizabeth was already famous as the senator for the religious right.”

“Oh, I remember. I even saw her one day when I did a reading for a client. She came to the hotel where the client and I met. Even then, she and Greenfield were repulsive.”

“Please understand. Elizabeth wasn’t always like that. She was good to me, until she wasn’t.” Laura was now hugging herself, shivering as if she’d just emerged from the icy water.

“Tell me about the rest of the evidence, Laura. You said you were given some pills?”

“Yes, two bottles of pills, unlabeled except for the drug name. But they also gave me two prescriptions to fill, in case Elizabeth needed more while she recuperated in a Denver hotel. I put the prescriptions in my purse and, frankly, forgot about them. Being around Elizabeth in such a strained situation, well, I wasn’t thinking too clearly.”

“Did you have the prescriptions filled?”

She shook her head. “Elizabeth bounced back quickly. She took a few pills from the bottles but didn’t even need all of them. She never mentioned the prescriptions. They stayed in my purse. When I finally got back to Seattle, it was a few days before I found them.”

“And they were written for Elizabeth Wilford? Using her mother’s maiden name again?”

“No. For whatever reason, maybe for the use we have for them now, the doctor made the prescriptions out on his prescription pad. The prescriptions had the clinic heading plus the doctor’s name. More importantly, they were made out to Elizabeth Stratton. The doctor had written Elizabeth’s real name.” Laura drew her knees up to her face and rested her forehead on them.

“The bombed abortion clinic,” I said.

Laura looked at me in alarm. “What do you mean?”

“Yesterday, in Colorado, an exclusive abortion clinic was bombed. Four people died. However, the doctor and one nurse survived.”

“We have to get to them. They’re in danger.” Laura started scrabbling for a paddle.

I grabbed the paddle. “Wait. It’s okay. I have one of my associates lining up security for them. She’s more than competent. I’m sure the doctor and nurse are safe. Actually, they’re probably safer than we are right now.” I looked around, but the mist still hid our whereabouts.

“I should have exposed her earlier. It’s my fault people are dead. My fault.” Laura’s despair was excruciating to watch, but I could understand her feelings. I also knew she was wrong.

“Laura, honey, listen to me. These are the type of people who will stop at nothing. They’ve already saturated our country with enough righteous lies and propaganda to polarize people who used to be friendly toward each other. They want power at any cost. Do you really think wasting a few innocent lives is beyond them? If it weren’t the security guards at Smith Tower or the abortion clinic, it would be something or someone else. We have to stop them, or there’ll be more killing while they accumulate and consolidate power. I think our only chance is to go public with your evidence.”

“Why Elizabeth? Why couldn’t I see what she was?”

“Oh, you knew her well, better than anybody. I have a theory. I think Stratton went wrong on them somehow. They groomed her, but they didn’t factor in her attraction to women. The night Stratton hired me, she made me promise that you wouldn’t be hurt. I believe, in her warped way, she still loves you. I also think Tom Dwight is operating beyond her and Greenfield’s control. He’s their wild card unleashed, just like I’m a wild card unleashed.”

I stopped paddling and turned around to face her. “The one thing the Malignity can’t battle or understand is love, the most indestructible power of all. Elizabeth was groomed for authority, but they forgot to immunize her against her love for women. It is her so-called weakness that will, in the end, bring her down. Had she not hired me to gently meddle with you, Tom Dwight would have destroyed your scrapbook and your life days ago.” I waited for Laura to grasp what I was trying to say to her.

She looked steadily at me, measuring the validity of my words. “How did your meddling, or whatever you call it, save me?”

“They thought I was on their side. I was a meddler, conscripted by Stratton, to distract you. They had no idea I’d already been in contact with the High Priestess and Pento. A result of my wild card status, I guess. If anything, the Malignity thought I would march you right into Dwight’s gnarly arms, even if Stratton wouldn’t fully agree to that.”

“I’m still not getting it, Dev.”

“Every time the High Priestess tossed me from her throne room into the Theater, I would have an experience that included you. That’s where I became enamored with you. That’s why I got you out of that hospital room before Dwight got to you. I can’t resist you. They didn’t factor it in. The Malignity and its puppets do not understand love. They didn’t think I’d try to save you or that I’d fall in love with you.”

Before she could respond to my risky declaration, her attention was caught by something behind me. I turned just before the boat rammed into a pontoon. The pontoon was attached to a seaplane.


All we had were the dubious contents of Laura’s bag, which contained, besides essential womanly things, my cell phone that she stole from my bedroom, her forbidden credit card and checkbook, and the garden tool. However, the owner of the airplane managed a labyrinthine telephone exchange to assure himself that Laura’s check would cover the outrageous sum of $2,000 for the thirty-five minute flight to Seattle. He also managed to produce a bandage for my arm.

“You ladies need to understand something here. It’s foggy out there. It’s Thursday, my day off, and I promised my better half I’d fly her to Anacortes to have lunch. So my flyin’ you to Seattle takes a big bite out of my day. See? Besides, looks to me like you’re in a hurry.” His belly jiggled loosely over his cowboy belt, and his stained Seahawks ball cap was slightly askew. I hoped we wouldn’t have to meet his “better half.”

“We need to leave immediately. Can we do that, Mr., uh, Mr.?” Laura was handling the negotiations because she looked less disheveled after our adventure in the bay.

“Haney. Bill Haney. My plane’s called Jenny, after my daughter. She lives in Bellingham, teaches at the high school there, has two kids, both bright as—”

“Do you have to make any preparations, Mr. Haney? We really do need to leave.” Laura wasn’t going to let him ramble on. She was an attorney even in dire emergencies.

“Ah, call me Bill, honey. All the lovely ladies call me Bill. Hell, we’re almost all prepped to fly anyway since I was supposed to fly to Anacortes. You pretty things just wait by the plane while I get my gear and give the wife a quick one.” He snickered and walked into his house, from which billowed odors of fried bacon and burnt toast.

When he was out of hearing, Laura and I made our plan for when we landed on Lake Union in Seattle. It was simple. We would head to my bank via cab, retrieve the scrapbook and recorder, and then call press acquaintances Laura had at the Seattle Herald and Channel 10.

We should have viewed the flight in Bill Haney’s seaplane as foreshadowing the folly of our plans. Haney decided we were on a joyride instead of a business trip, so he made it as nauseating as possible in a flying apparatus with huge pontoons swinging off the bottom. He looped, cut the engine, and plunged altitude enough times that Laura and I were grateful our stomachs were empty. Laura sported a green tinge in her cheeks. Haney was gleeful and unrepentant.

By the time we passed over the Ballard and Fremont neighborhoods and spied the rusted tangle of Gasworks Park, we would have paid Bill Haney another $2,000 just to let us out of his flying carnival ride. The spraying touchdown on Lake Union reminded me of a debauched Disney waterslide. Passengers on surrounding leisure boats glared at our inappropriate arrival. I never thought I’d be so thrilled to see the Space Needle rising above Seattle’s uptown in all its 1960s splendor.

I probably swore in Yiddish during the flight because when we bid our relieved adieus to Haney, he said, “La Hi Em to you, pretty ladies. Happy Chanukah, or whatever it is you people say to each other.” He was a putz, but he got us there alive.

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