The Pilot, the Witch, and the Hitman – Part 03


The Hitman


Caesar never could understand why people jumped up immediately when the captain turned off the seatbelt sign at the gate. He watched an elderly couple frantically pull at their bags in the overhead bin, crowding the aisle with other passengers. No one’s going anywhere fast, he thought. They should take their time and file out nicely: front to back. Above him a child drooled on his mother’s shoulder and then lunged at him, laughing. Caesar attempted an understanding smile but only got a nervous glance from the young mother.

After deplaning and finding his car in a parking lot alongside Hartsfield airport, he checked all the gear provided by his employer: I.D., Walther P22 with silencer, room key and beret. He stared at the beret. Though it matched his dark blue suit, he decided not to wear it, feeling safe in his disguise—thick salt-and-pepper mustache and an uninspiring gray wig that made him look like the old man he was. Of average height, barrel-chested with thick arms, Caesar’s large chin gave his meaty face a menacing look.

In his suit and golf shirt Caesar climbed the steps to a side entrance of the Concourse Hotel. He waded through a swarm of teenage girls going to their rooms and allowed them to board the first two elevators before taking the next one with a handful of businessmen, flushed with drinks and dinner, not paying any attention to the old Italian guy in a dark suit. On the twelfth floor he got out and found the room and shoved the plastic key into the slot. No cleaning ladies were nearby and he saw only one hotel guest, across the atrium, leaving his room at the same time Caesar opened the door.

The hotel kept an electronic record of entry and exit for each room and would know someone had entered the room before the guest did. But with cameras only at the front lobby, there would be no other record of Caesar’s visit.


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The Pilot, the Witch, and the Hitman – Part 02


The Holloways


Sam stood for a few minutes at the end of the sidewalk surveying Crestwood’s orderly layout of homes and condos on half acre lots. Once a dairy farm, the medium to large homes sat on land that dipped and climbed toward the winter sky.

Many residents had appreciated Sam’s attention to detail and his sermons on better living through recycling. Though in retrospect the men usually wanted to hear war stories and a few of the elderly ladies wanted to seduce Sam. He wasn’t always comfortable with the female attention, wishing for a gal a bit spryer. Ruth Peyton fit the bill, but she lived in Florida and Sam traveled there only twice a year.

Weak sunlight poked through a passing snow shower. The cold didn’t touch him, an angry heart pounded beneath his coat and flannel shirt. He tried to remember the song about being young at heart, a much more preferable mood, but it was anger that warmed him and muddled his thoughts.

He started down the sidewalk and all of Crestwood looked like a Christmas card to him, yet it didn’t make him smile. Before he slumped further, he decided on a pot of coffee when he got back to his place. Gloveless, hands at his sides, he passed homes outfitted with wreaths and lights and big red bows on the mailboxes. Crossing the intersection he noticed a large blue bin at the curb of Marge and Ray Holloway’s yard. He shook his head and aimed for their house.

He used the bell and Marge answered the door looking old and frail.


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The Pilot, the Witch, and the Hitman – Part 01



In the summer months before 9/11, my co-pilot told me of a World War Two veteran who had disappeared the past winter in a small Cessna over the Atlantic. The man, Sam Messina, had taken off from a Florida airport and, most likely, had stolen the plane. My copilot knew Sam and was receiving firsthand accounts from the veteran’s son, who still maintained his dad’s business in aircraft sales along with his brother.

The co-pilot and I were paired for several long tours that summer and spent much of our time reviewing the stories, contacting other pilots—aviation being a small community—and learning about the lives of several very passionate people.

Sam Messina dreamt of living forever, believing that scientists were close in achieving that medical victory. But when Sam was fired from his neighborhood post as recycling czar, he took the next best route to immortality—a road trip to Florida with a beautiful young woman. However, in West Palm Beach, his lover of many years, Ruth Peyton, was praying for another kind of “eternity,” while an aging hitman, caring only for the ‘here and now,’ was plotting to finally snare Ruth, the woman of his dreams.

By autumn my notes had turned into a narrative, and my co-pilot had hunted down a recording of Sam giving a talk on his aviation years at a Christmas party. After listening to Sam’s voice, and reflecting on the collision of lives, I shaped the dramatic sequence of events with dialogue. We both agreed to call it The Pilot, the Witch and the Hitman.



The Pilot


On Friday morning Sam Messina faced off with Crestwood Estates four-member board. He knew Gabe, the others were acquaintances Sam ignored or traded a hard look for their smug ones. At six feet tall, Sam was bald except for a ring of thin white hair around the temples. His granddaughter had begged him to shave the remaining hairs and get an earring, but he preferred the adult look that had accompanied him for decades of successful aircraft sales.


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