Mr. Z entered room six. It smelled like a saloon. The table was fully covered with beer bottles. Mostly empty.
“Hey, you the guy responsible for all of these accommodations?” the man with longish gray hair happily said, as he sat back in his chair, sipping from a bottle in hand.
“You from the FAA, FBI, NSA, CIA, IRA, M…O…U…S…E?!” the man laughed.
Z nodded once again, “Captain Frank J. Lapidus, I assume!”
“At your service!” Frank replied.
Z glanced at the file in hand.
“I won’t take up too much more of your time, Captain,” Z said.
“You keep the beer flowing,” Frank replied, “you can take all the time in the world. By the way, call me Frank!”
“Okay, Frank,” Z replied, “I just have a few questions for you.”
“Ask away!” Frank said.
“What has happened to you during the last few weeks!” Z asked.
Frank stopped smiling, took another sip of beer, then sat the bottle down on the table.
“Friend, if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me,” Frank answered.
“You know you’re required to file a report with the FAA, don’t you Frank?” Z asked.
“Better you tell me first, so you can get it straight in your head!” Z said.
“I don’t think I believe myself what all has happened,” Frank said, “I keep thinking I’ll wake up and its all just been a dream!”
“An alcoholic dream, Frank?” Z stated.
Frank gave Z a scornful look.
“I don’t think I like your attitude, sir!” Frank replied.
“Come on, Frank,” Z began, “whose kidding who, here? Its all in these files I’m holding in my hand!” Z opened the file folder and glanced through the pages.
“You were scheduled to pilot Oceanic Airlines Flight 815, weren’t you?” Z asked.
“Yeah,” Frank softly answered, “but my alarm didn’t go off, so I overslept.”
“You overslept all right, Frank,” Z said, “but not due to a malfunctioning alarm clock. You were too drunk to fly that day, weren’t you?!”
“That’s bull!” Frank angrily replied, “I missed check in because I overslept, period!”
“You missed check in because you were hung over in your hotel room!” Z said, “representatives from Oceanic were sent to find out what had happened to you. They found you totally “out of it” didn’t they? So you were terminated! Not given another hearing or chance to explain because this wasn’t the first time you had missed a flight for being “under the influence” was it, Frank?!”
“Aw, hell,” Frank wearily replied, “why am I answering questions you already seem to know the answers to?!”
“Why, indeed,” Z responded, “so after Oceanic, you ended up flying for a low rent charter service out of the Caribbean, right?”
Frank said nothing.
“Then you ended up shipping out on a freighter called the Kahana,” Z noted, “what’s a pilot doing on a ship?”
“Flying rescue if any of the crew falls overboard, I guess,” Frank replied.
“Ever hear of Charles Widmore?” Z asked.
Frank nodded no.
“You effectively disappear after shipping out,” Z continued, “until you turn up working for Ajira airways. Then the fun doesn’t stop, does it? You’re assigned Ajira flight 316, which disappears right off the radar screen. Poof!” Z snaps his fingers, “Gone! Just like that! Another mystery! Like some tale out of the Bermuda Triangle! But tonight, your voice suddenly permeates the air waves declaring an emergency! Calling out “Mayday! Mayday!” and here you come gliding in on Ajira flight 316! So tell me Frank. What the hell happened?!”
“I just completed my flight assignment, that’s all,” Frank replied, “my final destination was Guam. So I arrived in Guam! A little late, I grant you, but I did successfully bring my plane in!”
“Minus a few crew members and a few passengers,” Z said, “and with some additional passengers not originally on the manifest! I wouldn’t call that a “successful” flight assignment, Frank! Would you?!”
Frank raised his eyebrows, as he glanced up at Mr. Z.
“I think I want to talk to a pilot’s union representative before I say anything on the record!” Frank replied.
“Then let’s make it “off the record”!” Z said.
Frank thought for a moment, “Uh, no offense, but I would feel more comfortable talking to my representative and someone from Ajira!”
“No offense taken,” Z smiled, “I’ll contact Ajira and your union right now, if you want me too. When they get here, I’ll bring them to this room and I’ll also show them the results of your blood tests, which will show you are way over the legal limit to operate an airliner!”
“That’s because you’ve been feeding me alcohol as soon as you put me in this damn room!” Frank angrily said.
“I’ll place the time of your blood tests right after you landed, Frank,” Z replied, “my word against yours! And since you don’t have a very good reputation of keeping sober for any appreciable length of time, I’d say my word carries greater weight than yours, don’t you? You play games with me, Frank and I’ll see to it that you never fly anything ever again! Not even a remote-controlled model!”
Frank held his head down in frustration, “Okay, what do you want me to tell you?”
“Just the truth,” Z answered, as he pulled out another micro-recorder, “just use this to record your report. You need more tape just let me know, okay?”
Z exited the room and quietly shut the door.
“He gonna cooperate?” Smaller asked.
“Yeah,” Z answered.
“You gonna make the call, now?” Smaller asked.
Z nodded, as he pulled out a cell phone, “I know what the answers will be, but I still have to make the call!”
Next: Chap. Ten “The Final Judgment”