Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Terminal Velocity

Richard “Ditch” Brodie checked the lock screws on the four karabiners that secured the tandem jumper to his harness as the Twin Otter screamed to 10,000 feet, the altitude where skydivers fell from the plane to laugh at death for as long as they dared. The four lock screws were not properly fastened. The plane leveled off and when the pilot choked it to a stall, Ditch gave the client thumbs up and they rolled from the cargo door into the emptiness of the world that spread beneath them. The FAA would not approve.

“Whoa,” Marty said through the helmet-mounted walkie-talkies. “This is better than sex!”

“That’s not saying much for my wife,” Ditch said.

He unclipped Marty from the harness and with just a touch they separated. What’s that saying, Ditch thought, between a rock and a high place, or like a rock from a high place, where eagles dare angels fear to tread—whatever it was Marty dropped like a hunk of concrete. Way down there, in a couple of minutes, Ditch would have some explaining to do.

“What the fuck—!”

“I’m giving you the biggest screwing you’ve ever had,” said Ditch.

Marty flailed to grab something. He writhed and humped the air; flapped his arms to fly. Ditch grinned like a skeleton and maneuvered to the front of him, keeping from reach. They were on the clock, a minute tops, and Ditch righted Marty with pokes and jabs to get him flying on an even keel.

“Still better than fucking?”

Marty hyperventilated into the microphone, louder than the howl of moving through the air. His crotch got wet; then it got dry. Everything happened faster at 132 miles an hour.

“This’ll be a quick conversation,” Ditch said.

Marty whimpered. Ditch thought he could see tears filling the goggles.

“The blonde you’ve been fucking,” Ditch said. “The one with the yellow ‘vette.”

Marty swatted at the flapping wrist of Ditch’s jump suit but it only set him tumbling like a log in an invisible avalanche.

“The blonde—yeah—so what—“

“She’s my wife.”

“I didn’t know, no, really, I didn’t,” Marty said.

“She is.”

“This is murder,” said Marty.

“Not yet,” said Ditch.

“Let me make it right,” said Marty

“You will.”

Ditch glanced at the altimeter on his wrist.

“Better hurry.”

“I have money.”

Ditch laughed. But he was getting nervous. This guy was taking forever to die.

“Enough to buy your life?”


“In your wallet.”

“Are you crazy?”

“First one down is a rotten egg, Marty.”

Ditch dipped a shoulder and veered down and away. Marty tried to swim towards him. It looked like the doggie paddle.

“Wait wait wait wait wait!”

“Try the backstroke, Marty. That way you can’t see the ground coming.”

Marty sobbed and screamed.

“You’ll never get away with this!”

“I’ll get away with it. You got 2000 feet to come up with a plan. Twenty seconds. Hurry.”

“I promise—I promise—I promise to give you a hundred grand—cash—don’t do this!”
“Not good enough. But I can give you something. See the parking lot down there?”


“She’s pulling in right about now. Aim for the yellow ‘vette and she’ll be yours forever. See ya.”


There was a gurgle in Ditch’s earphones and the breathing stopped. Ditch glided to Marty and reattached the karabiners and set the lock screws for the benefit of the ground crew and the police and the FAA. He pulled the ripcord and they floated to earth, the angel of death and his very special guest