High above south central New Hampshire the executive Lear jet sped northward into the storm. Brian Verrill sat in the pilot's seat hunched slightly forward looking alternately from the expansive instrument panel upward to the blackness outside. Jeff Miles, somewhat less attentive, but appearing markedly more concerned, occupied the co-pilot's chair.
"He's cutting this a little close, isn't he?" Jeff offered.
"Keep your shirt on," Brian said, not looking up from his instruments. "He knows exactly how far out we are."
The intercom crackled to life with the sound of Carl Endicott's voice. How far out are we, Brian?
Brian glanced across to see Jeff slowly shaking his head, "Coming up on forty miles," he answered.
I guess we've kept them in suspense long enough, came the response. Jeff, your seat please.
"I guess I'll just go back and have a drink or two or five, " remarked Jeff, unbuckling his seatbelt.
"Have one for me," said Brian.
Jeff and Endicott passed each other a few feet behind the cockpit. Now wearing an identical white jumpsuit to the one Brian had on, Carl Endicott looked like a different man than the one that originally entered the plane. Without the two side by side it was difficult to tell exactly why, but clearly, one would not have been mistaken for the other. Carl settled into the co-pilot's seat.
"Melonia is closed, I presume," he said.
"They haven't said so, " Brian replied. "But they don't profess any emergency standby readiness and I'm sure they're not expecting the scenario we're going to give them.
"How many times have they tried to contact us?" Endicott asked.