Anegada Control, November 4-6 Charlie Sierra. Come in.
November 4-6 Charlie Sierra, Anegada Control. Go ahead.
We’re having navigational issues. There’s something wrong with the comp—
Voice in background: Did you see that?
Down there, in the clouds!
It’s just clouds.
There was something glowing. Orange or gold.
I don’t see anything.
The recording ended.
“Is that it?” Dumont asked.
“That’s the final transmission from the pilot of November 4-6 Charlie Sierra.”
“One of them saw something,” she said. “An orange light.”
“So he said.”
“Any idea what that was?”
It might not be terribly significant. Pilots and passengers saw all kinds of strange things at night. “It’s not much to go on.”
“There’s more.” Segarra plucked out the thumb drive and replaced it with a larger one that had a biometric fingerprint reader. It glowed green at his touch. “What you’re about to hear was redacted from the official record of the incident.”
November 4-6 Charlie Sierra, Bermuda Control, do you read me?
Hello? Is someone there?
It was a girl’s voice, and she sounded young. Dumont sat up straighter.
Last aircraft transmitting, identify yourself.
My name is Olivia. What’s your name?
Olivia, this frequency is reserved for air traffic control.
I’m on an airplane. And I think we’re in trouble.
Dumont jabbed the pause button. “I don’t understand. What is this? Who’s Olivia?”
“We believe she’s the five-year-old daughter who was on the plane. And ATC is about to make that leap, too.” He resumed the playback.
Olivia, what plane are you on? Do you know its name?
Um, I don’t know. Something Sierra?
Is it November 4-6 Charlie Sierra?
I think so. The pilot said that a lot.
Can we speak to the pilot?
I can’t wake him up. I’m— I’m scared.
Is there a grown-up aboard? Someone we can talk to?
Sorry, I have to go. Mr. Babbitt says that it’s time to land.
Who is Mr. Babbitt?
The recording ended.
“ATC lost contact with the plane shortly after,” Segarra said. “They never found any wreckage.”
“Jeez.” Dumont had listened to plenty of ATC recordings, but this one was chilling. She couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for that little girl, up in that plane and knowing it was going to crash. Or how the ATC people had felt when they realized they couldn’t do anything to help. “When did this happen?”
“Five years ago.”
“Five years?” That was before she’d even joined the NTSB. No wonder I didn’t recognize it. “Why are you bringing it up now?”
“Because multiple ships and airplanes have disappeared in the same approximate area in the two weeks since the hurricanes came through.”
“A stretch of ocean between Miami, Puerto Rico, and the island of Bermuda. Some people call it—”
“The Bermuda Triangle, I know.” She cut him off, irritated. “It’s one of the most heavily traveled regions in the northern hemisphere. If you consider the numbers, the Triangle isn’t any more dangerous than other places.”
“It’s different this time. Something has changed.”
“Planes crash all the time. That doesn’t make it significant.” She put her hand on the door handle. “Your five minutes are up.”
“Just over two days ago, the USS Wasp went missing en route from San Juan to Turks and Caicos Islands.” He paused. “There were more than a thousand sailors and marines aboard.”
“You lost an entire ship?”
“Not just any ship. A state-of-the-art amphibious assault vessel.”
All right, maybe it was significant. “What does this have to do with me?”
“We’re assembling a task force to figure out what happened. I want you on it.”
“What were you before?” she asked.
He blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“Before you retired, what did you do?”
He cleared his throat, like a man caught cheating at cards. “I was Deputy Commander of Fleet Forces and Vice Admiral for the United States Navy.”
Top brass. “Then you can probably have any investigator you want.”
“I want the investigator who figured out that unlatched cowl fasteners brought down Air France 206. And who proved that a near-miss over Chicago was due to the pilot’s latex allergy.”
Those were her cases. He knew her cases. “Why?”
“Because we need the best.”
“I’m not so good with people. A task force sounds like a lot of people.”
“It’s a small team, I promise.”