The Junior Deputy U.S. Marshals. 7 in STOPWATCH
Chapter 1

The Lysander took the five centuries like a champ. One thing Bill noticed right away ... the tank gauges went up to full. They flew over the Big Thicket ... it was much bigger now. All the roads were gone but Bill and E'veen flew the route.

"Just making sure, E'veen."

There were a couple of burnouts but nothing Bill was willing to land on.

"I knew we should have put on the floats." E'veen said.

"Hindsight is 20/20," argued Bill.

"That's for sure." E'veen confessed.

"Wanna try Florida? There might be a little Spanish action?"

"How sure are you that this is 1520?"

"I'm not ... and the only way to find out is to capture a Spaniard ... or an English pirate." Bill didn't speak Spanish. An English pirate would be better. E'even did speak Mexican ... which is NOT the same as Spanish ... no matter what THEY say.

"Did you bring guns? We turned ours in ... remember?"


E'veen gave him that over the glasses and down the nose look that mothers give recalcitrant children just before the soap comes out of the bathroom ... or the child is captured in that famous wrestling hold, the ear lock, and dragged to the sink.

"Bill," she said, "we've been here before."

Bill looked out of the canopy. "How could you possibly tell? It all looks like trees to me."

"Not here here ... language here. You've done marvelously well, treating me with the respect due a lady of my stature and tender years ... and ears. I'd appreciate it if you acted the Christian you claim to be and refrain from profanity." She smiled a superior smile and said, "I've had enough of that shit from my grandfather ... thank you."

"Yes, Ma'am." He shuddered a little.

There is a look that '50's girls had when they've decided to let their chosen beau have just a little liberty with their bodies. Nothing so crass as under the clothes. After all, "I don't touch myself there. YOU certainly can't expect to touch ME there," is a statement boys have heard from the beginning of the Puritan age. (Only recently have the ten year olds been having sex.) But certainly more than a kiss on the cheek after the third date.

Don't kid yourself ... lipstick is as much a mark of ownership and possession as the red-hot smoking sear of the branding iron on the flank of a cow.

E'veen popped one button on her white blouse and gave Bill a look at the evidence that ... indeed ... she was a woman, and the hint of further looks.

"Well ... Florida it is. The sun is up ... the compass says we're heading southeastish. If we get lost we can always fly a ways inland, push the stemwinder and file a flight plan ... if that's the way the watch works. (it's not ... but Bill was experimenting.)

"You know ... since we never run out of fuel or oil, I wonder if the machine-guns work. Lift that red cap on the stick. Wait ... see that wire loop with the chunk of wood broom handle like thingy? Pull it until it stops ... easy.

"No sudden jerks ... you'll pull it off the charging handle. Like that ... do the other one on the other side. Now just a tiny press of the thumb and take it off ... Thought so ... they work." She grinned, "let's go find a pirate or a Spaniard."

There's more than one Port Royal. Jamaica had one that was a den of pirates, Cuba had one on the Atlantic side of the island. In the sixteenth century, there were Port Royals' all over the New World.

Beginning about 1520, Bill's target date, Dutch pirates and privateers harried the Spaniard as they transported the wealth of the Americas to feed the coffers of the King and the Pope. Any pirates would surely be Dutch if their target date was even slightly close.

If only there were as many ships hauling treasure as there were airplanes hauling people.

Adventure. Money at risk ... Venture capital. An adventurer is a person who ventures his capital and life by adding himself to the crew of a trading vessel. A man, usually without wife or children, as the possession of a wife and children gives a man somewhere else to spend his capital, would seek to invest his money in trade. The conversation down at the docks ... in the movies the conversation always took place in a low but boisterous harbor tavern ... supposedly goes like this:

"ARRR ... venture?" (Got any money, kid?)

"AYE" (Yes, you scruffy disreputable sea dog.)

"Fifty Quid?" (I won't take less than Fifty Pounds (two hundred fifty dollars) in trade goods) (Fifty pounds was an enormous sum. A well trained maid could be hired for 7 pounds a year. Paid at the end of her year of service.)

"Aye." (Highway robbery, but I have scrimped and saved my pennies since I was a wee lad.)

"ARRR..." (??)

"Aye, Captain. I'll be sailing with ye." (Add me to your crew ... I need to protect my money, besides, I have experience fleecing the natives ... I've been a London pickpocket since I was a wee lad.)

They spit on the palm and shake goobers ... Hey! it's almost as good as blood.

(The young Added Venturer has promised to be good and obey the captain's orders. The captain has promised to treat the man honestly. Liars both.)

The ship sails for the new world ... the young man trades 23 bucks worth of glass beads for Manhattan. He makes trades for fine furs and is sure he has made a killing. The Indian is sure he had the better deal and they're both happy. On the way back to homeport, the ship is stumbled upon by pirates who capture the ship and title to Manhattan. They fool everyone by building Wall Street and the Stock Exchange ... and they're still in the piracy business.

The pirates make money by taking what others have. It's better pay than being the other.

Ships ... wooden ships ... regularly fall to pieces if they're not looked after. (a boat is a hole in the water you pour money in.) There's a worm in the ocean that thinks wood is a tasty treat ... they have been known to eat the entire bottom out of a ship and swim away.

No matter which side you're on ... the sea is dangerous. Pirates make more money.

When yours is the only aircraft in the sky ... and the FAA is centuries in the future, it's unnecessary to file a flight plan..."Let's go thataway."

From an altitude of a few thousand feet you can see Cuba from Florida. But a good mathematician can plot a course and fly direct. They flew direct but only after E'veen checked Bill's math. Two things they had were proper 2005 charts and a good compass.

No Port Royal. Bill was a Ph.D. in history. Port Royal was founded in 1518 ... they were at least three years too early. Bill flew back to mid Florida and depressed the stem winder. They were back in Texas ... three seconds after the time Bill had wound the watch. Tyler Tower was in the middle of frantically calling the Lysander's number when the plane reappeared on the screen.

"What?" asked Bill into his microphone.

"My thoughts exactly," said the Air Traffic Controller.

"What?" asked Bill again.

"Never mind." ATC replied. "We must have a glitch. Radar lost you for all of three seconds."

Then Towers from as far as Beaumont and Dallas responded with, "Not a glitch ... unless it was a system wide fail. We lost him too."

Shreveport chimed in too, but with an impossible solution, "He's a rag-wing, guys. They disappear from time to time."

They didn't...

In 1940, the British, under heavy air attack from German planes flying out of France, needed something that would differentiate the invaders from their own planes returning from their own missions over Germany. The transponder, Identification Friend or Foe, was developed and installed in every friendly aircraft. That was the beginning. By 1950, every aircraft had an 'identifier' installed somewhere if the plane.

Now that all aircraft have transponders to assist in identifying them on radar and on other aircraft collision avoidance systems, it was easy to identify who and what was in the air. A transponder is an electronic device that produces a response when it receives a radio-frequency interrogation. The interrogation response is constant and appears on screens in towers and cooperates with collision avoidance systems in other aircraft. The only way to stop it is to manually shut it off.

Did Bill violate protocol and shut off his transponder? Enquiring minds want to know. Bill was directed to Dallas where he was interrogated by the National Transportation Safety Board. The Lysander had WWII British electricals. The transponder was buried in the tail and DID have an on off switch. Covert missions required the ability to shut off the responder.

Pilots routinely turned off the IFF BEFORE starting the engine. Shutting down in mid air is broadcasting to the enemy, "I solemnly swear I am up to no good," and that's not the best idea. They turned on the IFF when they crossed the coast of England coming back.

The access hatch was removed and the Lysander had a new transponder ... whether it was wanted or not. While they were about it, the NTSB forced the purchase ... and installation ... an entire new instrument panel that was completely up to date ... at Bill's expense, of course.

Upon further investigation, odd things were up with the Lysander's logbooks. Every rebuild and thousand hour check since the war were ALL performed (or at least, signed for, ) by A&P mechanics and FAA inspectors now deceased. If dates meant anything, the Lysander was the LAST aircraft approved by every inspector before kicking the proverbial bucket.

The FAA was INCENSED, the Lysander was inspected with a fine toothed comb. They kept the plane for a year. It was as perfect as a sixty three year old aircraft can possibly be. The National Society for the Preservation of Historic Artifacts succeeded in preventing the FAA from stripping the fabric. Bill was finally convinced that this Lysander belonged in the Smith...

"But only if you pay for the FAA modifications," said Bill. They paid. All that modern equipment was removed and the original instrument panel reinstalled.

Bill bought a Scottish Aviation Pioneer, an all metal STOL aircraft that needed a field 99 feet by 902 feet to clear a fifty foot obstruction at the end of the run. It could carry, soaking wet, a hiccup shy of a ton. It came with slats, huge flaps and an enormously wide wing. Just what the doctor ordered. It came up to date ... the FAA still looked.

Bill was up to something and the FAA was determined to catch him.

Chapter 2 ยป