Jay Corrigan flew lazy circles over the Parrot’s Caw subdivision. The sky was azure blue; the golf course below a winding strip of brilliant green. This was the time the retired airline pilot had been waiting for—no schedules, no responsibilities, just the pure joy of making lazy circles in the sky.
The tiny two-seat Cessna 152 responded instantly to Corrigan’s touch. He was hands-on flying in this little high-winged bird. He and the plane were one body linked by touch. Corrigan no longer was managing a computer-driven commercial plane, responsible for hundreds of passengers. He was just having fun.
Oops, he thought, remembering he did have one responsibility today. He had promised the Parrot’s Caw Property Owners Association that he would take photographs of the fifteen-hundred-acre development, with its thirty miles of roads and drains, its seventy-five drainage ponds, its twenty-plus miles of walking and biking trails, and many acres of carefully trimmed flowers, bushes and trees. The association board had requested the photos as part of its preparation for negotiations with the property’s developer.
Yet he hesitated.
Instead of shooting photos, he climbed to thirty-five hundred feet to get a more panoramic view of the area. There was Parrot’s Caw, a complex of more than two thousand homes, town homes and condominiums. Its residents were upper middle class, mostly a mixture of successful businessmen and professionals—doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers. Of course, he had met some offbeat souls, retired college professors, an ex-CIA operative, even a former journalist. Good folks to drink with.
The neighborhood’s manicured lawns, landscaped gardens and rolling golf course painted a sharp contrast to what Corrigan saw when he looked to the southeast. There, he spotted a distinctly different neighborhood. It was made up mostly of rundown shanties and mobile homes sitting on concrete blocks. Poor blacks lived there. He could make out several of them riding bikes on the slender, two-lane roads—not for the exercise, he thought, but because they can’t afford cars.
To the south lay the city of Stuarton, known to many as The Miracle City because the colonial seaport town had survived a British siege and blockade during the Revolutionary War by trickery as much as grim determination. Its militiamen intermixed real and artificial cannons on their ramparts to give a more formidable appearance and poked numerous unmanned rifles out of windows and over parapets to further the impression of a greater number of defenders. Some of their dead were propped up behind these weapons to add authenticity. After weeks of bombardment, the British fleet withdrew rather than test Stuarton’s defenses further by landing troops.
Today, Stuarton residents were largely middle class, earning their living from small businesses that cateredeither to the tourist trade or the sale of farm products. A small section was filled with venerable mansions, some still occupied by the heirs of their original builders.Most of these architectural jewels, however, were now in the hands of successful entrepreneurs and celebrities who enjoyed a certain anonymity among Stuarton’s polite, look-the-other-way citizenry.
Flying in a slow turn to the north, Corrigan was able to peer out his window far to the west. There he saw miles of farms and small ranches. Damn, he thought, I think I see some cattle and real cowboys down there. Now it’s time to play. With that, he pushed the throttle in to full power and pulled the control wheel into his gut. The Cessna’s engine roared as its nose pointed straight up to the sky. For a tantalizing moment, the plane remained motionless, stalled, as if hung on an invisible string. Then, its left wing dropped precipitously, and the plane began to spin—slowly at first, then more rapidly. It looked to Corrigan as if the earth, not the plane, was spinning more and more rapidly as it rose up toward him. He laughed, shoved the control wheel forward, leveled the wings, pressed hard on the right rudder and reduced power. As the spin stopped, he eased off the right rudder and gently pulled back on the control wheel, putting the plane back in level flight. Fun’s over. The altimeter indicated he had lost 150 feet.
He turned back to the southeast toward Parrot’s Caw and began a slow descent. He reached for his camera, an old German Leica, banked the plane over to a forty-five-degree angle, and began shooting. By the time he tied down the little rental plane, he was ready for a drink. Where the hell are Brady, Smyth and Ginsberg when you need them?
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