My name was Michael Tate.
Now my name is nobody. Or everybody.
CNN Breaking News.
United Airlines Flight 2620 has apparently crashed at sea approximately 800 miles east/northeast of the Hawaiian Islands. The flight departed Maui, Hawaii at 9:30 p.m. local time and was headed to Los Angeles.
The freighter SS Anatolia reported seeing a fireball about the time that communication and radar contact was lost with 2620.
If the plane exploded in the air, the likelihood of any survivors is remote, and U.S. Navy ships operating from Hawaii are speeding toward the area where the flight is likely to have gone down.
CNN will break into its regularly scheduled programming as details become available.
As I prepared to board flight 2620 something was nagging at the back of my mind. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it was there — like a single gnat that buzzes constantly around one’s head but is never quite visible.
When I had told L.T. (Lionel Trane) about my intentions to give up the assassination business, he had seemed not disturbed but somehow detached, somehow unwilling to accept the decision even though his comments were non-condemnatory.
And as I was walking through the boarding tunnel to the plane it was like one of those light bulbs that shows up above a cartoon character’s head and indicates a sudden epiphany.
It suddenly dawned on me that I was not likely to be allowed to simply walk away from my past associations as easily as I was walking through this boarding tunnel.
Something unpleasant was awaiting me.
So, as I neared the entrance to the plane and the flight attendant’s back was turned, I quickly exited the tunnel by the “authorized personnel only” doorway which led, by a stairway, down to the tarmac and quickly back into the terminal.
Flight 2620 was full and one vacant seat was unlikely to draw undue attention.
Of course, had I known that the flight was going to blow up with over two hundred people aboard, I would not have simply walked away but would have tried to do something to halt the flight. It just never occurred to me at that moment that whoever was behind L.T. would be callous enough to murder over two hundred civilians.
So now I have become anonymous. I shall have to remain “dead,” at least for the time being and very possibly, for the remainder of my life.
But Mr. Lionel Trane has some accounting to do.
I was fortunate to have two bogus driver’s licenses in my wallet. They are a couple of items that I carry with me pretty regularly and I never worry about being caught with them because no one’s wallet is ever inspected unless one is actually arrested. And that has never happened to me.
If one wishes to become someone else, it is imperative to have access to some sort of identification that establishes the alternate identity.
So, for the time being, I am to become John J. Singleton of 314 Appleton Way, Dubuque, Iowa. I’ve always felt that the chance of meeting someone from Dubuque or someone who even knows or has ever visited Dubuque is extremely remote.
Of course, the only items I now had with me was my carry-on and it had very little in it that would be of much use to me. My luggage had been on the plane when it went down so now I must set about acquiring a new wardrobe– and I felt that I would have to do so at several different establishments. It wouldn’t do to try to create a whole new persona from one store. It might make a sales clerk really happy to ring up a large sale, but someone buying everything from shorts to shoes in one place might arouse some unwanted interest.
However meager the contents of my carry-on, it did contain the necessary charge cards to match the identities of the bogus driver’s licenses. The charge cards were sewn into the sides of the bag and I would have to extract the correct one before renting a car, which is an absolute necessity on Maui.
This time the car would come from Avis rather than Hertz. No sense in trying to pass myself off as Singleton to someone who may just have seen me as Michael Tate.
However, it was still the middle of the night and I could do nothing until things started humming again in the morning, so I searched for the most remote spot I could find in the airport — the waiting area at the farthest gate, where I settled myself into an uncomfortable chair and slept fitfully for the next six hours until activity began to pick up in the building.
By this time news of the 2620 crash was out and I was reasonably sure that L.T. was not hanging around here. I moved confidently to find an airport restaurant where I could get a quick breakfast and a large dose of coffee. Today was going to be busy.