March found me speeding down the freeway on my way to a small airport just outside of LA. It was a beautiful day. Sunshine, cool breeze and not a cloud in the deep blue sky. From the passenger seat I glanced over at my driver...
Very handsome indeed in his white suit with the pale pink shirt underneath, blond hair blowing in the wind...Templeton flashed me a brilliant smile as he noticed me watching him. HM, who was crammed in the small space labeled as a backseat, leaned forward for what must have been the fifth time in as many minutes, "Are we there yet?"
Templeton rolled his eyes, "Not yet Murdock!"
Fifteen minutes later we parked in the small lot outside of Piper Air. HM bounded out of the car followed by a scolding Templeton. I followed more slowly and I can honestly say that it wasn't because of my age.
"Are you sure about this, Mrs. Eta?"
I threw Templeton an apprehensive glance and then gathering my courage, quickly nodded.
"Ok, well here goes," Templeton held his arm out for me to take. My hands must have been shaking because I remember him patting my hand comfortingly.
As we made our way into the large hanger, I could tell the change that came over my Templeton. It's not something to be described really. It's just something that one has to see for themselves. He stood up straighter and held himself with a level of assurance that I certainly didn't feel. It was as though he was stepping into a different person, and in a way I guess he was...
HM stepped up to offer his arm to me as we approached a tall man in overalls. I watched as Templeton went ahead of us and greeted the man with a enthusiastic handshake, winning smile, and even an accent that he hadn't had a moment before. I cast HM a worried glance and he just smiled back, whispering, "Don't worry, Mrs. Eta. Faceman's the best."
I watched Templeton guide the man in my direction and I remembered to...'look arrogant'.
"So of course you understand, Mr. Ferrah, why the Dutchess would like to have a test flight before investing in Piper Air..."
"Yes! Yes, of course!" The man was practically shaking with excitement over whatever prospects Templeton had mentioned, "Let me just go get our best pilot..."
"That's not necessary, Mr. Ferrah," gesturing toward HM, "This is Capt. HM Mallory, best pilot in the Royal Forces."
HM drew himself up and gave a salute, "At your service, sir!"
"And now, if you could just point the way..."
Mr. Ferrah stretched his arm out pointing to the helicopter sitting on the tarmac. I thought my heart would leap out of my chest as we neared it. This was to be my very first time to fly. How I ever let myself get convinced into doing something so foolish, I'll never know. Even when I had moved out to the west coast, I had made my son arrange for me to come by train.
Templeton helped me into the passanger seat of the helicopter. It seemed so large from a distance but sitting in the seat, I thought it very small indeed.
First came the seat buckle, then came the helmet...'then came hmmhmm with a baby carraige'...
I took a deep breath as Templeton tighted the straps on my helmet and asked me one more time if I was sure. I wasn't of course, thinking 'if God wanted people to fly...', but I nodded my head anyway. Afterall, I'm not getting any younger and a little adventure never killed anyone. Right?
Templeton slipped his hand out of mine, I hadn't even realized that I had grabbed it, and closed the door. He gave me a smile, meant for reassurance I'm sure, before walking around to HM's side of the helicopter. Any 'reassurance' I had gotten quickly abandoned me as I overheard him tell HM 'no tricks!'.
I spared the lanky pilot a nervous grin and nodded.
"A-Ok. Hold onto you hats boys and girls...and away we go!"
I squeezed my eyes shut as I felt my seat shift to the side...
I think it must have been at least five minutes before I opened my eyes to find HM grinning at me. At that moment he truly did look the 'crazy fool' that BA always claimed him to be and I couldn't help but laugh at the thought.
It was then that the awe hit me...I was flying! Truly flying! I leaned over in my seat to catch a glimpse of the ground below. It felt unreal, like a dream...
The sound of HM's voice brought me back to my senses, "Now you know."
"Hmmm?" I cocked a questioning eyebrow, "Know what?"
"Why the only place I truly feel 'sane' is in the sky. Up here, it's just me and the diety of choice." His forehead creased with a frown, "And the birds...lucky bast...Ah...foul."
I fell back into giggles at the blush tinging his face.
"See I told you not to worry! No so bad huh? And Faceyman got a good one this time too."
"So that's what he did for the team? Scam people?"
"Yeah. But it's not like that, they give it willingly...It's not like stealing or nothin' if they do it willingly!"
"I didn't mean anything by it, HM. Templeton's a good boy. So are you."
"He's the best!"
Feeling a little guilty, I decided to press HM for details, "Just how long have you known each other?"
HM's smile vanished and he moved his head to stare straight ahead. At first I thought he wasn't going to answer but then he gave a great big sigh and started to talk...
"A long time. We met back in 'nam. The first time was actually before he was a member of the team," he glanced at me and then looked forward again. "There was a fight...in a bar...and...and this guy...well he started it and I know I should have backed down but...but I didn't."
I was regretting my prying as I listened to HM. He was almost mumbling but I could still understand what he was saying. My heart hurt at the pain I heard in his voice. The words came out before I could stop them, "What happened?"
"Hmmm?...Oh, he broke a bottle and started to come after me...That's when Face..." He coughed to clear the roughness in his voice, "That's when Face jumped in front of me. He was trying to reason with the guy!"
"Did Templeton get hurt?"
"By time I realized what was happening the man grabbed him and Face...I don't know what Face did but the man went flying into the bar. He musta hit his head because he didn't get back up."
"And then?" HM seemed to be coming back to himself as the memories ran their course, "What happened then?"
"Ah...I went to thank Faceman for helping me out but when I touched his shoulder he just collapsed! The man had managed to stab him with the bottle after all...I panicked and when the MPs showed up, I fugured they'd get everything straightened out and so I went to the hospital with Faceman."
"Did they?...Get everything straightened out?"
"No!" He let out an exasperated breath, "They got it all mixed up and it seemed that the guy that took a dive into the bar hit his head a little too hard and wasn't gonna wake up. Ever! He was dead and they charged Face with manslaughter!"
"But everything worked out alright didn't it?"
I let out the breath I didn't realize I had been holding as HM broke into a broad smile, "Yeah! I told Hannibal and he stalked into the base commanders office and demanded that they drop the charges and turn Face over to him. You should have seen the look on the commander's face when Hannibal was done with him!"
Not wanting to upset HM again after he seemed to be back to his normal boisterous self, I turned the conversation to lighter things. We quickly fell into silence as HM winked at me and then did a few 'tricks'.
And it was then that I remembered something I had read so long ago and now, so many years later, finally understood...
"It's on the wings of folly that a fool flies, but at least he had the courage to dream of wings."