Flight of Death - Richard Hoyt

Flight of Death

Richard Hoyt

© Richard Hoyt 1991

Richard Hoyt has asserted his rights under the , Design and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.

First published as ‘Whoo?’ in 1991 by Tor Books.

This edition published in 2015 by Endeavour Press Ltd.

Table of Contents

Chapter One — At Dusk, in the Wind

Chapter Two — Recount

Chapter Three — The Case of the Murdered Owl

Chapter Four — Antidote for Existential Angst

Chapter Five — All About Adonis

Chapter Six — The Pleasures of Calamity

Chapter Seven — He Meets the Wonderful One

Chapter Eight — They Fly in Ghostly Haunts

Chapter Nine — The Cat of Purring Dreams

Chapter Ten — A Penguin Stands Sentinel

Chapter Eleven — Heartbreak of Swiftly Flowing Waters

Chapter Twelve — The Blues and Boogie Dewlapp

Chapter Thirteen — Secrets of Unexamined Outhouses

Chapter Fourteen — In the Realm of Darth Vader

Chapter Fifteen — Condolences to Mr. Northlake

Chapter Sixteen — Bubbles from the Gun Turret

Chapter Seventeen — A Quarrel on the North Fork

Chapter Eighteen — The Pain of Mischievous Little Brothers

Chapter Nineteen — Passions of the Hog Wild

Chapter Twenty — In Fields of Plenty

Chapter Twenty-One — In the Hall of Tubs

Chapter Twenty-Two — Employment for Robots in Kobe

Chapter Twenty-Three — A Laugher on the North Fork

Chapter Twenty-Four — When the Bean Dip Runs Out

Chapter Twenty-Five — As His Oats Grow Cold

Chapter Twenty-Six — How the Skimmers Got Switched

Chapter Twenty-Seven — An Owl Is What It Eats

Chapter Twenty-Eight — Rewards of Watching the Credits

Chapter Twenty-Nine — The Sins of Bert Starkey

Chapter Thirty — The Making of Flaming Arrows

Chapter Thirty-One — War Party

Chapter Thirty-Two — On the Bridge of the Gods

For Doug and Wendy Gregg

The owl is below at night

when it is daylight

in the grave.


Chapter One — At Dusk, in the Wind

On Wednesday I was on my way to a case in Sixkiller, Washington, trying to imagine what the comely Donna Cowapoo must be like. Willie Prettybird had described Donna’s many charms in direct and specific detail, Donna being an artist who lived in Portland. Since Sixkiller was only fifty or sixty miles north of Portland, Willie said, why you never knew.

Of such matters does a gumshoe think on a dark and windy afternoon.

In front of me the sun was setting, its searing reds as hot as a hooker’s lipstick. Below the freeway to my right, a flock of Canadian geese, heads down, breasts puffed out against the buffeting east wind, sat huddled on a mud bar facing the last warmth of the sun.

I bought a plastic cup of coffee in Arlington to keep me awake, but the awful stuff began inflicting pain in my bladder by the time I got to the ancient Indian fishing grounds covered by the dam at The Dalles, and then I was quickly upon the town itself.

Fifteen miles later I pulled in to a rest stop in front of an overlook above Memaloose Island, where for hundreds of years Indians had left their dead above ground to meet the Great Spirit. I had seen photographs of thousands of bleached human bones piled high on Memaloose Island; the bones — once there in the sun and rain and wind and ice and snow — were now gone, all but the tip of the island covered by the reservoir of yet another dam, Bonneville.

There was hardly any traffic on the interstate and the rest-stop parking lot at Memaloose was empty; I parked beside a metal light pole, zipped up my coat, and pulled my Irish wool hat over the tops of my ears. I threw open the door and sprinted for the toilet, watching I didn’t slip on a patch of ice.

I got back to the refuge of my VW bus and fumbled with the seat belt in the cold; a shadow floated soundlessly out of the forest and held momentarily in the yellow of the light directly in front of me. With one lazy flap of wings that was forever, it rose six inches and held once more.

An owl.

Then — as quickly and silently as it had appeared — it was gone.

Slightly unnerved and with the memory of the hovering bird vivid in my mind, I fired up the bus and shot on down the Columbia River gorge — the cold east wind hard on my ass. This was the heart of the magnificent gorge. Fir and spruce and pine rose to the high cascades on either side of the river.

As I came to the overpass that led to the Bridge of the Gods just below Bonneville, I saw