It’s the winter of 1971 and FBI Agent Zack Pomeroy is hoping to make a name for himself when he’s assigned the case of the century—the hijacking of an airplane by D.B. Cooper. Zack’s used to hiding his sexuality but working with Duke Magruder is even more of a challenge. Not only do they do have vastly different personalities but also contrasting opinions on how to work the case. Nonetheless, Zack is able to earn Duke’s begrudging respect.
Until Duke learns Zack’s secret.
When Zack finds a lead on the case Duke not only refuses to listen, he also refuses to work with Zack any longer. Zack’s career and his assignment are at jeopardy but that doesn’t mean he’s about to give up on finding Cooper, no matter how many years it takes.
Hijacked Love is a blend of mystery and historical fiction with a bit of romance thrown in.
Talk about being at the right place at the right time. It was 1971, the day before Thanksgiving and my first day at the Portland FBI office. I was finally meeting my boss, Agent Milton Donaldson. We were shooting the breeze when Donaldson’s secretary dashed into his office.
“Sir, there’s been a hijacking!”
Donaldson glanced at me and shrugged. “Looks like you’ll be hitting the ground running.”
My plans for Turkey day were going to hell. Phil was not going to be happy.
I followed Donaldson down a hallway and into a large conference room where half a dozen men in matching dark suits and ties milled around a table and talked over one another. Donaldson’s presence hushed everyone as he strode to the end of the table. I stood off to the side.
“What do we know, gentlemen?”
Everyone began talking at once. Donaldson straightened, crossed his arms, and scowled. This was not a man I ever wanted to anger. The room quieted, and Donaldson pointed at a barrel-chested man with a receding hairline. “Duke.”
“Flight”—Duke paused to review some notes—”305. Northwest Orient Airlines flying from Portland to Seattle. Just after takeoff, a male passenger gave a note to a stewardess informing her he had a bomb.”
“What does he want?” Donaldson asked.
A couple of men started to speak, but Duke drowned them all out. “Two hundred thousand dollars, four parachutes, and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the aircraft on arrival.”
Donaldson pointed at another agent. “Felder, get on the phone with the Seattle office. Let’s make sure we’re working together on this one. I don’t want any pissing matches about who’s in charge. This is a joint operation.”
“The airline’s president, Donald Nyrop, has been informed of the situation,” Duke continued. “He’ll call me back once he’s made a decision.”
“Good,” Donaldson said. “We’ll wait for his call. Whether or not he agrees to pay the money determines our next action. I don’t want anyone harmed if we can avoid it. Do the passengers know what’s going on?”
An agent sporting thick sideburns spoke up. “The pilot has already announced that landing in Seattle is delayed due to minor mechanical difficulty.”
“Good. What do we know about our hijacker?”
“Nothing yet,” Duke said. While others had taken seats, he had remained standing, and alternated between pacing alongside the table and leaning over it. “I’d like to be on the ground when it lands so I can interview the witnesses.”
“I’m fine with that. I’d like you to wait until we get a call from the airline president. You’ve already talked to him and it’d be better if he spoke to you again.”
Duke nodded and leaned against the wall, crossed his arms, and tapped his foot impatiently. It was easy to tell he was Donaldson’s right-hand man. I’d researched most of the agents I’d be working with but the name Duke didn’t ring a bell. Then it struck me. Wayne Magruder. Twenty-five year veteran of the Bureau. He’d worked in offices all across the country and in several different departments. He had a reputation for closing cases as well as for being a hard ass. Magruder didn’t work well with others.
Donaldson issued assignments to almost every agent in the room before a phone on the wall rang. Duke grabbed it. “Magruder.” He nodded. “Send it through.” He put a hand on the speaker and said to Donaldson, “It’s the airline president.” A moment later, “Hello, Mr. Nyrop. This is Agent Magruder. Have you made a decision?” Pause. “I think you’ve made the right choice, sir. We’ll be in contact soon.” He hung up and turned. “He’s paying the money and has instructed his employees to cooperate fully.”
“Okay, Duke, get your ass to Seattle. Work with agents there to get the money. Interview anyone released when the plane lands. Let’s figure out who this guy is.”
Duke dashed past me and was almost out the door when Donaldson glanced at me and blinked as if he’d forgotten I was even there.
He stopped. “Yeah?”
“This is Special Agent Zachary Pomeroy.”
Duke looked at me and I extended my hand. He shook it briefly, obviously uninterested.
“Call me Zack,” I said.
He didn’t reply, instead facing his boss again.
“I want you to take Pomeroy with you.”
“Sir, I don’t need—”
“It’s not a request, Duke,” Donaldson snapped. “He came with good recommendations after years of dealing with organized crime. I was going to assign you to train him anyway.”
Duke inhaled then slowly let out his breath. Without looking at me, he said, “Fine. You better not hold me back.”
“No, sir, I…”
He took off down the hallway with long strides.
“He’s not joking,” Donaldson said. “He will leave without you.” He patted my back and pushed me out of the room.
I jogged until I caught up with Magruder. “Do I have time to make a phone call?”
“You got a wife you need to check in with?”
“Uh, no.” I did have a partner, but I couldn’t exactly tell Duke that.
“Nobody else matters.”
Arguing would be pointless so I followed Magruder outside to his car, a cherry red 1966 Mustang. I whistled as I slid into the vehicle. “She’s beautiful.”
He grinned for a moment. “Thanks.”
Moments later, we were on our way to Seattle, driving well above the speed limit. After my attempts at conversation were met with monosyllabic responses, I stopped trying. We made it to Seattle in just under two hours. The Seattle office was expecting us, and we were ushered into a conference room and given quick introductions.
“What happened while I was on the road?” Duke demanded, apparently not catching the looks of irritation on the other agents’ faces.
“We’ve gathered the money the hijacker requested,” Special Agent in Charge Gary Floyd responded. “Agent Walker has handled all that.” He gestured to a smallish man with slicked brown hair and wire rim glasses. He sat at a table and had a knapsack full of cash in front of him.
I shook Walker’s hand and introduced myself. “Call me Zack.”
He smiled and held the grip a second longer than normal. “Ernest, but my friends call me Ernie.” I got the feeling that Ernie was gay like me. I couldn’t be positive, of course. It’s not like FBI agents wore colored hankies in their pockets while on the job.
“Enough with the goddamn small talk,” Duke snapped. “What’s going on with the case?”
“Please excuse Duke,” I said. “His mama never taught him manners.”
Everyone chuckled except Duke, who scowled at me instead.
“I got the money from different banks in the area,” Ernie said. “Ten thousand unmarked twenty dollar bills. Most have serial numbers beginning with the letter L. That makes it easier to trace.”
“I assume you’ve got a list of those serial numbers?” Duke asked.
Ernie nodded then stood and closed the knapsack. “We’re good to go, sir.”
Floyd lifted the receiver in front of him. “Let him know his demands have been met.”
I glanced at my watch. It was 5:24 p.m. No doubt Phil would be expecting me home any minute. At that point, I had no idea when I’d make it back. So much for the transfer giving me a more reliable schedule.
Duke tapped a foot. “Let’s get to the airport, Pomeroy. I want to be there when the plane lands.” He left the room without a word to anyone else.
“We’re on our way, too,” Floyd said as he grabbed the bag of money.
I tugged on Ernie’s shirt sleeve. “It was nice meeting you. Maybe we’ll run into each other again.”
He smiled. “I’d like that.”
In the car, I said, “How have you survived this long in the Bureau without learning you attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar?”
Duke snorted. “I don’t need or want your opinion about how I do my job, Pomeroy.”