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For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

 

Part 6


Caitlin glanced at her watch and frowned. She had expected Jo to be with her by now. She sat on the platform and tapped her fingers restlessly against the console. The growl of an engine had her on her feet, gun in hand. The Santini Air jeep had her replacing her gun in its holster. Jo stepped out and hurried over to the platform.

‘I’m sorry I’m late,’ Jo began excitedly, ‘but Locke came over…’

‘What did he want?’ Caitlin interrupted her.

‘Oh he was just asking more questions but more importantly, I got another envelope.’ She said waving it at Caitlin.

‘Another envelope?’ Caitlin took it from Jo and opened it. She frowned thinking it was empty for a moment before her fingers closed on a ring. She drew it out.

‘It’s Saint John’s.’ Jo said. ‘I recognise it and String confirmed it. Look.’ She pointed at the markings inside the gold circle.

‘Coordinates.’ Caitlin raised an eyebrow. ‘Buchard must be getting desperate.’

‘Saint John could have…’ Jo started.

Caitlin shook her head. ‘It’s Buchard.’ She handed the ring to Jo. ‘My informant tells me that he thinks Rivers is close to finding Airwolf. Tomorrow morning we’ll finish up the training. Hopefully we won’t have to wait much longer.’

‘Hawke will start improving as soon as he sees Saint John, I know it.’ Jo said trying to comfort her.

‘How is he?’

‘He seemed a little better.’ Jo lied. She was afraid Hawke was slipping away from them. It seemed to her that Hawke was only staying alive to see his brother returned to him. She noticed how tired Caitlin was looking. ‘Are you sure you’re up to a training session now?’

Caitlin sighed and shook her head. ‘To tell you the truth, I’m not.’ She admitted. The intelligence was a little unpredictable in terms of transferring and flying Airwolf without that presence and only the same basic assist any onboard computer would give was tiring.

‘Why don’t we call it a night?’ Jo suggested.

Caitlin nodded. ‘Jo…’ she sighed, ‘I want you know that once you leave to get Saint John, I’m going to go away.’

Jo frowned. ‘Are you sure?’

Caitlin nodded. ‘It’s risky my even being here and I have to do what’s best for the baby. If you’re successful with rescuing Saint John, he’ll be able to do what’s right for Hawke.’

Jo debated whether to tell Caitlin about her husband’s condition. She sighed. ‘I guess you’re right.’

‘I just want to say thank you.’ Caitlin gestured at her. ‘You’re bringing Saint John home to Hawke, you’ve stayed with him in the hospital, helped us both through this, kept a business running. You’ve done more than anyone should have to do when they’ve lost someone too.’

Jo shrugged. ‘I love them.’

Caitlin nodded. ‘I know.’

Jo closed the distance between the two women and hugged Caitlin.

Cait patted her on the back and pulled away. ‘You’d better get going. I’ll see you back here in the morning.’

It was early the next day when Caitlin sent Airwolf into a steep dive, straightening mere feet from the ground and hit the turbos. They zoomed over the Valley of the Gods.

‘Can we come up a bit?’ Jo asked nervously.

Caitlin eased up and climbed gaining altitude. She looped back and instructed Jo to run surveillance scans. She frowned at the sky ahead and thought back to her breakfast conference with Michael and Marella. They had all agreed that they would move Hawke that night regardless of what happened with Saint John. Michael was making the final arrangements with the clinic.

Marella had been full of news about the artificial intelligence; Airwolf was apparently overwriting the new ship’s programming, she was remoulding it into her own image and she had somehow managed to find a way to transfer her intelligence between the new aircraft and the central computer at Red Star as well as between it and the original helicopter Caitlin was flying. Karen was excited apparently; they were making huge strides with the programming and they were anticipating the testing of the new Airwolf was going to be much sooner than they had originally planned. Caitlin sighed. Airwolf seemed to pick and choose her moments to transfer and her aching arms were wishing it was one of those moments; she could do with the assist.

‘Caitlin, I’m picking up a vehicle headed into the Valley of the Gods.’ Jo’s voice broke through Caitlin’s musings.

‘Audio scan.’ Caitlin said.

‘…the key was high resolution photographs and a bit of keen logic.’

I’m sorry I asked.’

‘That’s Locke!’ Jo said identifying the second voice immediately.

‘Let’s go take a look.’ Caitlin said. ‘Switch off the audio scan.’ She moved to hover over the car.

‘They’ve stopped.’ Jo said as the vehicle below came to a halt.

‘Visual scan. Confirm identification.’ Caitlin ordered.

‘Identification confirmed.’ Jo saw the computer match the pictures on the monitor to their service records. ‘Jason Locke and Major Mike Rivers.’

Caitlin sighed. ‘Drop me off outside the Lair. You take her home. This is going to be your only opportunity to convince them to go after Saint John.’

‘If they refuse?’ Jo asked nervously.

‘I’ll cover you at the entrance. If they refuse, I’ll come in holding a gun. We’ll take back Airwolf and come up with a plan B.’ Caitlin was already landing Airwolf. She pulled off her helmet and turned to look at Jo. ‘Ready?’

‘No.’ Jo sighed and moved into the front as Caitlin stepped out, closed the door and cleared the area.

Caitlin watched Jo take off and winced. It was a little rocky; she hoped Jo did better with the landing down the funnel. She sighed and un-holstered her gun. She ran around to the Lair entrance and took up a position behind an outcropping of rocks.

The car pulled up with a squeal of brakes and Locke and Rivers jumped out. They made for the entrance; Locke had his gun drawn. Caitlin crept along behind them, keeping a safe distance.

‘Who are you and what are you doing here?’ Locke’s voice. Caitlin dived behind a rock and strained to hear the conversation.

The irreverent tone they’d heard in Airwolf piped up. ‘Well you sure know how to make an entrance. It was you flying that thing?’ Must be Rivers, thought Caitlin.

‘Yeah, it was me.’ Jo’s voice. ‘Who are you?’

‘Ms Santini, what the hell are you doing here? This machine is top secret.’ Caitlin sneaked a peek. Locke was putting his gun away. The slight blond man stood with him seemed relaxed and was looking at Jo with interest. That was good.

‘Was top secret, Mr Locke.’ Jo replied.

‘Santini…Dom Santini’s…?’ Dom would have been in the file, Caitlin realised. Obviously the young airforce major had done his homework.

‘Niece. I’m Jo.’

‘I’m Mike. Mike Rivers. It’s nice to meet you. You’re a great flyer you know?’

Caitlin had to bite her lip to stop herself laughing at Rivers’ enraptured expression. Jo, you have him hooked, Caitlin thought, he’s going to help you.

‘Thanks. She’s a great machine. You want to check her out?’ Jo offered.

‘Yeah.’

‘All right, you two hold it right there.’ Locke was marching back round to glare at the two pilots. ‘Ms Santini, I don’t know what the hell you’re up to but I’m going to have to order you to leave this area right now.’

Caitlin’s eyebrows shot up. No wonder Hawke thought he couldn’t work with the guy. He was more of a stuffed shirt than Michael.

‘That’s not how it works.’ Caitlin smiled at Jo’s determined tone. ‘I found her first and I’m not finished with her.’ Jo was looking at Rivers now. ‘Are you any good in the air?’

Locke tried to interrupt her. ‘Ms Santini, let’s get one thing straight. This machine belongs to…’

‘Look, Jason, I know your people want her back. I just think we can help each other.’ Jo was looking at the spy beseechingly. ‘I want to find Saint John. I know he’s alive.’

Locke surprised Jo. ‘I think so too. Trouble is, I don’t know where he is.’

I’ll be damned, thought Caitlin, maybe he was as honourable as Michael after all.

‘Well, don’t look at me.’ Rivers was saying.

Jo jumped in. ‘I do.’ She showed them the ring. ‘Look inside.’

‘Coordinates?’ Locke asked.

Rivers was eager. ‘Well, what are we waiting for?’

Caitlin ducked back down and heard the cockpit doors shutting closed. A moment later she heard the roar of engines and the whine of the rotors. She waited until Airwolf was clear of the Lair before she came out of her hiding place. She holstered her weapon and looked up at the patch of sky above the Lair’s entrance. ‘Good luck, Jo.’ She murmured. She headed over to the communications terminal in the work area in the Lair.

‘Lair to Red Star.’

‘Red Star, here.’ Michael’s image appeared on the video screen.

‘Locke and Rivers went with Jo to get Saint John five minutes ago. We’re on. I’m going to stay to take Airwolf as soon as they leave the Lair on their return. I’ll contact you when I have her.’

‘Understood. Marella’s at the hospital as planned. Good luck.’

The image winked out. Caitlin patted her tummy. ‘It’ll be time to get Daddy soon.’ She sighed. It was going to be a long, anxious wait.

Part 7


Saint John staggered back into the clearing. He was a tall man; light brown hair bleached almost blond by the sun; hard hazel eyes that had seen too much. There was no-one left alive on the ground; he had killed Buchard personally. He stared at the strange black and white helicopter hovering above him and back at the destruction she had wrought on the ground. God, what a ship! No wonder Buchard had wanted it. And his little brother was flying her. Strange, he hadn’t recognised String’s flying style. He shrugged the thought away as he waved up at the machine. It had been a long time. A long time. Maybe it was time he went home in more ways than one, he thought tiredly. He waited for the chopper to land and wandered over as the rotors whirred to a stop.

The doors opened. The first man out was definitely not his brother; an African-American male, short black hair, black moustache, pale brown complexion and dark eyes. Company, Saint John thought. His hazel eyes moved over to the other door. Light blonde hair, dark eyes, a little young…not his brother either. He frowned. Buchard had been certain it would be his brother flying the ship. So Buchard had been wrong…his eyes caught sight of a third pilot exiting the aircraft and his eyes widened. He came to a surprised stop as she ran towards him.

‘Jo?’ He was laughing as she launched herself into his arms. His went around her hugging her tightly. ‘Jo.’ He pulled back. ‘You’re not the family I was expecting but am I glad to see you!’

Jo’s blue eyes were filled with tears. ‘Saint John.’ She hugged him again.

Saint John patted her back as she started to cry. ‘Hey. You rescued me. This is supposed to be a happy moment.’ He pulled back and looked in her blue eyes. Something was wrong…his missing brother…Jo’s presence, the thoughts ran through his tired mind like a locomotive. ‘What’s happened? Where’s String? Where’s my brother?’

At the V.A hospital, Hawke was trying hard not to hope too much. He winced at the sharp pain in his right arm and bit down hard to stop from crying out. Marella had been by earlier and he’d refused the painkillers she’d wanted to give him. He wanted to be alert for his brother. All his searching, all he’d been through…and now Marella had told him that there was a rescue mission happening right that moment; Jo had convinced Locke and some other pilot to help her take Airwolf and find his brother. Saint John was going to come home.

His eyes fluttered shut again. He was so tired. It was an effort to hold on. There was so much pain and it was so hard sometimes to breathe…a sound…the door opening. His eyes snapped open and he tried hard to make out the figure in the doorway, his vision was so blurred. He focused hard on a tall man with light brown, almost blonde, cropped hair and hazel eyes.

‘Saint John?’ Hawke started smiling. ‘Is that you?’

His brother was striding towards him and in the next breath, his arms were around him.

‘You bet little brother.’ Saint John’s voice was choked as he held his brother’s broken body against him. God, he’d waited too long to come back; he’d waited too long.

‘There’s so much I’ve got to tell you.’ Hawke said, crying and hugging the other man to him as tight as he could, ignoring the pain rolling through him in waves.

‘I know. I know.’ Saint John tried to calm his younger brother.

‘Dom…’ Hawke sobbed the name, his grief threatening to overwhelm him, take him back under.

Saint John pulled away from him enough to look directly into Hawke’s drugged gaze. ‘I know.’ Jo had told him the awful news. He’d grieve for the old man later; he had a little brother to take care of now.

Hawke gathered himself. He had Saint John back; it was time to go home to Caitlin and keep his promise to her.

‘Don’t let me die here.’ Hawke clutched at him, sobbing.

‘You’re not going to die.’ Saint John stroked the back of String’s neck trying to comfort the younger man. ‘I’m not going to let you.’

‘I don’t want to die in this place.’ Hawke said furiously.

‘You won’t, String.’ Saint John looked at him firmly. ‘I promise you.’

Hawke pulled his brother back into a hug.

‘I promise you.’ Saint John repeated and wondered how the hell he was going to keep his promise.

Hawke held onto his brother and for a moment just revelled in the comfort of having him back, alive and well.

Marella opened the door and stepped quietly in the room. She closed the door and held her hands up as Saint John whirled to face her.

‘Friend.’ Hawke gasped and then couldn’t help the groan of pain.

Marella moved fast. She filled a syringe with painkiller. ‘Are you alone?’

‘Yes.’ Saint John replied. She was a handsome woman, competent, professional and in a nurse’s uniform. Another Company employee? But one who was friends with his brother. He shook himself and caught hold of her hand as she went to inject his brother. ‘What is that?’

‘Morphine for his pain.’ Her dark eyes flickered to the hand on her wrist and he let her go.

She injected the drug. ‘There’s a chopper on the roof and I’ve dealt with the guard. We have to leave now for the cabin.’

‘What cabin?’ Saint John questioned. It was startling to realise that he had no idea where his brother lived.

‘Grandpa’s.’ Hawke said. ‘She means Grandpa’s….I live there.’ His blue eyes went to Marella. ‘Thank you.’

Marella nodded. She handed Saint John a blanket and went to get the wheelchair she had stowed in the room’s cupboard.

‘OK.’ Saint John wrapped his brother in the blanket and picked him up. He put him in the wheelchair.

Marella placed a hand on his arm stalling him for a moment. ‘When we get to the cabin there’ll be someone waiting for him.’ She said hurriedly. ‘You’ll need to follow her instructions.’ Her dark eyes slid to Hawke and then back to him. ‘Don’t waste time arguing or double-guessing her intentions.’ She poked her head round the door. ‘Come on. I’ll cover you.’

Saint John nodded and headed out after her. She helped him get an unconscious Hawke comfortable in the back of the chopper before climbing in. She slapped Saint John’s hands away from the controls.

‘I’m flying.’ She said and he subsided.

Saint John looked down at the bright lights of LA as they headed out of the city. He remembered the location of his grandfather’s cabin and he couldn’t believe Hawke lived out there; it was so remote. Fine to visit once in a while and do some fishing but to live? He glanced back at the younger man stretched out on the back seat. Hawke’s brow was creased and he murmured gibberish. Saint John prayed that whoever was waiting for them at the cabin had a plan.

His heart sank as he approached the cabin. The place was deserted. No lights, no smoke. Their lights caught the glint of something parked on ground in front of the house. He frowned. It couldn’t be…Marella brought the helicopter down with a small thud on the landing pier. Saint John found himself staring out at Airwolf.

The cockpit door opened and someone got out. A woman. For a moment, he thought she was Jo as she ran towards the chopper but as she got closer he could see the differences in stature and size. He got out and went to meet her.

‘I’m Saint John.’ He yelled. He couldn’t make out much of her features in the dark, all he could make out was reddish brown hair over a pale but pretty face; that she was wearing some kind of uniform.

‘I know.’ Caitlin recognised him from the arrival of the team back at the Lair. She’d been hidden again when they’d landed back from rescuing him. They’d had a sombre air and she figured Jo had clued them in on Hawke’s condition. She’d watched them leave and then she’d stolen Airwolf back. ‘I’m Caitlin. Help me get him into Airwolf.’

He hesitated briefly and Marella shot him a look reminding him of her advice at the hospital. ‘You have a plan?’ He asked as the redhead opened the back passenger door. She ignored him, climbed inside and reached out to his brother.

Hawke felt the touch of a hand against his cheek and his eyes opened in recognition. ‘Cait?’

‘Yeah.’ Caitlin stroked a hand down his cheek and leaned gently into the bandaged hand he placed on hers.

Saint John froze at their casual intimacy.

‘Kept my promise.’ Hawke said.

‘You listen to me, Stringfellow Hawke.’ Caitlin brushed his hair back from his face. ‘I’m going to take you to get you the best medical treatment. No arguments. You are not going to die, you hear me?’

‘Cait…’ Hawke was so tired.

‘Don’t let go.’ Caitlin’s pained and pleading eyes caught his. ‘I need you.’ Her voice was a whisper. ‘I can’t do this without you.’

He remembered the bleak days when he’d thought she was dead. How he’d found it difficult to live without her. He couldn’t put her through that not with the baby…as much as he wanted to give up. He gave a short sharp nod and closed his eyes.

Caitlin breathed in deeply in relief. She moved to give Saint John space to pick up his brother. She hugged Marella goodbye as he carried him over to Airwolf.

‘Thank you for everything.’ She said.

‘Just take of each other. We’ll be in touch.’ Marella pushed her towards Airwolf.

Caitlin hurried over and directed Saint John to put Hawke in the back of the cockpit. She eased in when he was done and made sure Hawke was comfortable, wrapping him another blanket to give more warmth before climbing out.

Saint John’s attention was on the departing helicopter. He turned back to the woman who remained with him; Caitlin, he reminded himself.

She indicated the commander position and pointed at him. ‘Get in.’

‘I can’t fly her.’ Saint John admitted.

‘I’m going to teach you.’ Caitlin said. ‘I need to be in the counter-specialist chair so I can move between Hawke and the controls.’

Saint John nodded and complied.

Caitlin handed him a helmet as soon as he was settled and pulled one over her head. She switched on the engines and checked the systems. Caitlin gave a silent prayer under her breath as the systems came up. They were being automatically adjusted and she thanked God that Airwolf had decided to transfer her intelligence back into the original machine to help with the flight to Switzerland.

Saint John grabbed the console and glanced over at the woman beside him. The take off had been fast and smooth. As they headed into the night sky, he realised that she clearly knew how to fly the helicopter; knew how to fly it better than the hotshot pilot Rivers who’d been part of his rescue. He listened carefully as she began to instruct him.

When Caitlin was convinced Saint John wasn’t going to fly them into a hillside, she handed the controls over to him fully and went into the back to check on her husband. It seemed strange to see him in the back seat. He was out cold but his breathing and pulse were steady. She glanced at the monitor and almost cried out in surprise. His vitals were displayed; Airwolf was keeping watch over her favourite pilot. Stay with me, Hawke, she thought and kissed his cheek. She moved back to her seat and rubbed the back of her neck trying to ease the tensed muscles.

‘You and my little brother are involved, huh?’ Saint John glanced over at her.

Caitlin waggled her left hand at him and he blinked in shock at the wedding ring. ‘You didn’t notice his ring I take it?’ She said amused.

‘No.’ Saint John admitted embarrassed. ‘I guess that makes us family.’

‘Yeah.’ Caitlin watched the instruments. He was a quick study and he was doing a good job. She wondered how much of an assist Airwolf was giving him.

Saint John adjusted his position. ‘How long have you been married?’

‘Since February.’ Caitlin said. ‘But we met two years ago. I take it you and Jo didn’t talk much on your way back?’

‘No. I was…in shock.’ Saint John said. ‘Dom dead…String injured…me rescued. It just seemed unreal.’

‘You’ll have a lot to catch up on when he’s recovered.’ Caitlin commented.

‘This clinic any good where we’re headed?’

‘It’s the best.’ Caitlin twisted her fingers together. ‘They specialise in his type of injuries and it has good security.’

‘Security?’ Saint John frowned. It seemed a strange requirement.

‘The explosion that injured him and killed Dom was caused by a bomb.’ Caitlin explained. ‘If someone was after him, they failed and they might try to finish it. And if they’re after him, they’re probably after me.’

‘Why would anybody be after you and my brother?’

‘For the same reason Buchard used you.’ Caitlin waved at the console. ‘Because of this Lady.’

‘How did String end up flying this ship anyway?’

‘Hawke was her test pilot.’ Caitlin relaxed into the seat. ‘The FIRM hired him to recover her two and a half years ago when her creator a guy called Moffett stole her.’

‘The FIRM?’ Saint John scowled. ‘String got involved with those guys?’

‘He’ll probably have the same tone when he asks you how you got involved with the Company. They haven’t impressed him since they took over the FIRM.’ Caitlin noted. ‘But, yeah, he got involved, recovered Airwolf, kept her himself and made a bargain with them; you for Airwolf.’

Saint John started. ‘Me?’

‘He thought you were still MIA.’ Caitlin explained.

‘But I left him a note in my footlocker explaining about the unit I joined.’ Saint John said confused.

‘He didn’t get it until last year.’ Caitlin sighed. ‘And even then you have to admit it was pretty much a goodbye note.’

Saint John shifted uncomfortably.

‘He’s had no idea for the last sixteen years if you were alive or dead.’ She finished brutally; she was in no mood to be kind.

Saint John flinched. What kind of hell had he put his little brother through? He was incredibly lucky that String was still pleased to see him. He wondered how long that would last as the younger man recovered from his injuries.

‘I didn’t know.’ Saint John said eventually. ‘If I’d known I would have come back sooner.’

‘Well you’re here now.’ Caitlin said. ‘He knew you’d come through for him and get him out of the hospital. Just like you knew he’d come through for you with Buchard.’

‘Having faith in each other was never our problem, more like the opposite.’ Saint John commented. He saw the open curiosity on her face. ‘Sorry.’

‘No problem.’ She shrugged. ‘It’s between you and him.’

‘I’m probably making it sound worse than it is.’ Saint John sighed. ‘It’s just we were too close. It wasn’t good for either of us.’

‘Is that why you didn’t contact him?’ Caitlin asked without thinking. ‘I’m sorry. Like I said, it’s between the two of you.’

‘I didn’t contact him because the unit that rescued me from the POW camp offered me a place and they were incredibly strict about that kinda thing. I barely managed to get them to agree to the letter.’ Saint John said. There was something about her which made it easy to confide in her. ‘I liked them, liked what I saw of their operation and wanted to help them do for others what they’d done for me.’ He sighed. ‘And I’d realised in the camp that it would be good for String and I to be in separate units.’

‘You blamed him for leaving you?’

‘No.’ Saint John denied it automatically. He corrected himself. ‘At least not at first but those camps…they did something to your mind. By the time I got rescued, I admit I was a little mad at him for not picking us up even though logically I knew he had no choice but to leave, the ropes were full. I guess I figured some space would help even everything out.’ He peered into the darkness. ‘And then I was rarely out of deep cover assignments. I thought about calling around birthdays, holidays the odd times I was between assignments but it never seemed like the right time.’ The feeling that he’d left it all too late rose up again and grabbed his throat, closing it on a wave of emotion.

Caitlin noticed the tremor in Airwolf’s frame as Saint John’s whirling emotions transmitted themselves to the aircraft. ‘You want me to take the controls back?’

‘I’ve got them.’ Saint John insisted.

Caitlin didn’t argue. She was exhausted. All she really wanted to do was curl up beside her husband and sleep. Soon, she thought, smoothing a hand over her abdomen.

Saint John caught the movement and his eyes widened. ‘You’re pregnant?’

Caitlin smiled at the shock in his voice. ‘Yeah. You’re going to be an uncle.’

‘Wow.’ Saint John shook his head. ‘You know I never tagged my brother as the settling down type.’

‘I think it took him by surprise too.’ Caitlin said smiling.

‘You love him a great deal.’ He could hear it in her voice.

‘Yes.’ Caitlin agreed. ‘I do.’

‘How did you two meet?’

‘We were both caught by a corrupt sheriff.’ Caitlin’s eyes turned inward as she remembered back. ‘Hawke got away, came back and rescued me in Airwolf. I was curious, looked him up and before I knew it, I was working at Santini Air and involved with Airwolf myself.’

‘So you guys have been together since then?’

‘No.’ Caitlin laughed. ‘We were just friends for a long time. I had to get shot before your brother admitted he was interested,’ she tilted her head, ‘and before I would admit it back. I think we drove Dom nuts.’ Tears threatened at the thought of the old man.

‘You fly Airwolf very well.’ Saint John’s tone was admiring.

‘Hawke and Dom taught me.’ Caitlin bit her lip. ‘I would have come on the rescue mission for you if it wasn’t for…’ She gestured at her tummy.

‘Hey.’ Saint John smiled. ‘My little nephew or niece is a hell of a lot more important than you being part of rescuing me.’

‘Still,’ Caitlin sighed, ‘I would have liked to have been there.’ She smiled sadly. ‘All three of us; me, Dom and especially your brother would have liked to have been there. Finding you…that’s the whole reason why we’ve been flying the Lady.’ She checked the monitor.

‘Well at the least the Company came into rescue me when you couldn’t…’ His voice trailed away when she shook her head.

‘Jo convinced Locke and Rivers to help her find you when we let them discover Airwolf.’

‘You let them? You mean that Lair isn’t Company property?’

‘No. I told you; Hawke kept Airwolf from them. When he got injured, Locke hired Rivers to find her.’ Caitlin checked his altitude. ‘You’re a little high. Drop down ten feet.’

Saint John followed her instructions. ‘So you let them find Airwolf?’

‘Well with me out of commission and Jo nowhere near trained enough to fly Airwolf at mach speed, we needed Rivers to help us get you.’ Caitlin punched in another scan on the front monitor. ‘Locke surprised me when he agreed to it too. He seems like such a by-the-book kind of guy.’

‘Yeah. Most of the Company guys are that way.’ Saint John acknowledged. ‘Guess I lucked out and got someone with some honour.’ He frowned. The Company hadn’t come to rescue him. He’d just assumed with Locke and Rivers…what did that mean? Had the Company written him off? Maybe it was time to rethink his employment. It would be just like them. They weren’t as ruthless as the FIRM but the Company had its moments.

‘So you let them find Airwolf,’ he said putting it together, ‘had them rescue me and now you’ve taken her back.’ He shook his head. ‘You must have been hiding in the Lair when we got there.’

‘Just outside.’ Caitlin divulged. ‘As soon as you guys were out of range, I took her.’

‘Jo never let on.’ Saint John said bemused.

She hesitated. ‘Jo doesn’t know I’ve taken Airwolf or arranged the clinic for Hawke.’

‘Why?’

Caitlin folded her arms a little defensively at his hard tone. ‘Look, I know you guys were close when y’all were growing up but Hawke had pretty much lost touch with her. When Jo reappeared she kept it secret that she’d been working with the Company the past few years. It rang alarm bells with Hawke and he debated about whether to include her in the Airwolf team at all. Jo had only been learning how to fly Airwolf for a week or so when the explosion happened. She’s been great but when I was planning how to make us disappear I just decided the less people who knew the better. I have the baby to think about.’

Saint John assimilated the information. He guessed he couldn’t blame Caitlin for her caution. She didn’t have the history with Jo and he had to admit finding out that his surrogate little sister had been working for the Company didn’t sit well with him either.

‘You trusted her to come after me.’ He said finally.

‘I didn’t have a choice.’ Caitlin said. ‘Jo was the only person in our team who was in any condition to come after you and the only person who could liaise with Locke and Rivers to get them to help. They don’t know about me and I’d prefer to keep it that way.’

‘They don’t know about you?’ Saint John frowned. ‘But you’re married to String…’

‘Well, everyone seems to be ignoring his wedding ring and our marriage record is sealed.’ Caitlin informed him, ‘The agreement Hawke had with the FIRM was that I was kept out of the official file so I’m not in that. If I’d still been working at Santini Air, Locke might have put it together but I’d stopped.’ She shrugged. ‘And it’s possible that Locke thinks I’m dead. My death was faked during a kidnapping attempt recently, I’m not sure I’ve officially been declared alive again.’

‘It sounds like you’ve been through a lot.’ Saint John murmured.

‘We both have.’ She shifted her position a little, glanced back at her husband.

‘He’ll be OK.’ He reassured her.

Caitlin nodded.

‘What’s the plan when we get there?’ Saint John asked. ‘Do we stow this lady somewhere or what?’

‘I’ll drop you and Hawke off.’ Caitlin said. ‘I’ll find somewhere safe for her and make my way to the clinic.

Saint John glanced at her. She looked exhausted. He felt a surge of protectiveness. She was carrying his brother’s child and the events of the last few weeks sounded like they would have floored anyone let alone a pregnant woman. She was something, he thought, vulnerability around a steel core of strength. He understood why his brother had chosen to marry her; she was a good match for him. She needed rest, he concluded, and to be free of the worry that someone would come after them. His quick mind worked out the likely scenario that would result from her taking Airwolf back in the way she had; Locke and the Company would come after her.

He cleared his throat. ‘I think I have a better plan.’

‘Oh?’

‘Let me take Airwolf back and run interference for you.’ Saint John suggested.

‘You don’t want to stay with String?’

‘Of course I want to stay with him but,’ he looked across at her, ‘he’d agree that protecting you would take priority.’

‘You don’t need…’

‘I do.’ Saint John insisted. ‘Look, Locke is going to quickly find out that Airwolf is missing. He’s going to find out that I’m missing. If I return in Airwolf within a reasonable amount of time, his assumption will be that I took her. He won’t go looking for someone else who can fly her.’

‘I guess.’ Caitlin said doubtfully.

‘I know.’ Saint John said. ‘He’s likely to question Jo and whilst I don’t think she’d tell Locke about you because she used to work for the Company and can’t be trusted, I’m not sure she’ll hold out forever. She probably thinks we owe Locke for the rescue. I can help make sure she keeps you secret.’ He saw his points hitting home and pressed his advantage. ‘What’s more I can help muddy the waters about String’s fate. Maybe give the impression that he hasn’t survived. It’ll help give you some protection from whoever came after you guys with that bomb and keep Locke off your tail.’

Caitlin turned his plan over in her head. It made sense. But, she thought, it would be handing Airwolf over, something she knew Hawke would never do. She had to do the best thing for them; Saint John’s plan would provide them with some protection from the Company and…and she was too tired to argue with him. She caved, knowing Airwolf had some way of transferring herself out of the original machine again. ‘Fine. You can take her back. The Company can have Airwolf.’

Saint John gave a small nod. Hawke, his wife and their unborn baby would be safe. He might not have been around for his brother the last few years, but by God, he’d be there for him now.

Part 8


‘Where the hell is he?’ Locke barged past Jo and into the small apartment.

‘What the hell are you doing?’ Jo fastened the short robe she wore tighter. Her furious gaze landed on Rivers in the doorway who gave an apologetic shrug. She whirled and went after Locke who was marching into her bedroom. ‘Where’s who?’ She asked as Locke pushed past her again and made for the second bedroom down the hall.

She ran after him. ‘You can’t go in there. You can’t go…’

Locke opened the door thinking from her words that he’d find Saint John Hawke. He stared at the empty room and then flushed realising he was looking at the bedroom of the late Dominic Santini.

‘Get out!’ Jo insinuated herself between him and the room, pushing him forcefully away and closing the door. ‘Get out!’ Her blue eyes were filled with angry tears. She hadn’t even entered the room since her uncle had died; she hadn’t had the courage.

Rivers pulled Locke back. ‘Hey, take it easy, Jason.’

Locke took a deep breath and straightened. ‘I apologise for the intrusion.’ He said stiffly before he went back into the living room.

Rivers sighed. ‘I’m sorry. It’s just with Saint John missing…’

‘What do you mean Saint John’s missing?’ She followed him back into the living room where Locke was stood looking out of the window, arms folded and his body vibrating with unconcealed tension.

‘He’s not the only person or thing missing.’ Locke growled and spun to face her. ‘Stringfellow Hawke is also missing from his hospital bed and Airwolf is gone too. I want to know where they are.’

Jo sank onto a small threadbare sofa. ‘Oh God.’ She covered her face with her hands.

Rivers shot Locke a warning look and crouched down beside her. ‘Jo, if you know anything…’

‘I don’t.’ Jo raised her head to look first at him and then at Locke. The disbelief was written all over their faces. ‘I don’t.’ She insisted. ‘Look, Saint John, String and I might have been close when we were kids but even back then if the two of them decided to bond together over something, that was it; nobody got through, not even my Uncle Dom.’

Rivers sighed. ‘Saint John didn’t give you any hint at all?’

‘No.’ Jo pushed a hand through her tangled hair. ‘When I took him to the hospital he asked me if he could have some time alone with String. I couldn’t really refuse especially since…’

‘Since what?’ Locke pressed when her voice trailed away.

‘Since it was obvious String’s been holding on just to see his brother one last time.’ She slid her arms around her tummy, unconsciously hugging herself. ‘When you knocked, I half-expected it was Saint John coming to tell me that we’d lost String too.’

Rivers laid a hand on her bare knee comfortingly. Jo gave him a grateful smile. Locke came over and sat beside her. He’d seen Hawke’s condition for himself.

‘You know Saint John’s probably just borrowed Airwolf to take String somewhere private for a last goodbye.’ Jo thought out loud. It was the only thing that made sense.

‘But he can’t fly Airwolf.’ Rivers said moving back to perch on the coffee table.

‘Well, you flew her without any training…’ She stopped; he was shaking his head at her.

‘There’s an old simulator built by the FIRM.’ Rivers shrugged. ‘Airwolf’s obviously been updated since but the controls were good enough to give me some practice that I could fly her when we found her.’

‘And as you’ve said,’ Locke pointed out gently, ‘Hawke isn’t in any condition to fly her so who is?’

Jo dropped her gaze. Caitlin, she thought. It had to be. Maybe Caitlin had said she was going to disappear she’d left out the small detail that she was going to take Airwolf. But if she told Locke about Caitlin, Jo mused, she might be putting the other woman and the child she was carrying at risk. There again, Locke had proved that he was a decent guy when he’d helped rescue Saint John.

‘Do you know of anyone else who might be able to fly her?’ Locke asked.

Jo shook her head. She’d wait, she decided; if the brothers and Airwolf were still missing in a couple of days she’d tell Locke the truth but until then…she still felt she owed Caitlin after everything that had happened because of her indiscretion with Marin. ‘There is no one else.’ Jo said firmly. ‘Saint John’s a great pilot. He might have picked up enough on the journey home for him to fly her.’

Locke sent a questioningly glance towards Rivers who shrugged. ‘It’s possible.’ He folded his arms. ‘The Hawke brothers by all accounts are legendary for their flying skills.’

‘They’re geniuses up in the air.’ Jo confirmed. ‘Hawke by name, hawk by nature.’

‘I don’t know…’

‘He’ll turn up with her. You’ll see.’ Jo insisted.

‘Ms Santini…’ Locke began.

‘Jo.’

‘Jo.’ Locke sighed. ‘There’s no guarantee he’ll come back with her. If I were him, I’d be fairly annoyed at the Company right now.’ Hell, he thought, he’d be furious. Saint John must have worked out that the Company had effectively written him off.

‘You’re wrong, Jason.’ Jo gestured. ‘Saint John has no reason to keep her. I’m sure he’s probably just giving String one last flight, that’s all.’ She stood up. ‘Let’s go and wait at the Lair. You’ll see.’

Locke sighed and nodded. It would keep her where he could see her. If Saint John got in touch with her, he would know immediately.

‘I’ll get dressed.’ Jo moved away into the bedroom.

Locke heard her bedroom door close shut and slumped back on the sofa dejected. He couldn’t believe he’d found and lost Airwolf all within twenty-four hours.

‘You think she’s right?’ Rivers asked.

Locke folded his arms. ‘I think she’s covering for something or someone.’

Rivers nodded. He picked up a photo frame on the coffee table and handed it to Locke. ‘Do you know who she is?’

Locke stared at the pretty redhead smiling back at him from the centre of the photo. She was stood arm in arm with Dominic Santini and Stringfellow Hawke. ‘I have no idea.’

‘She looks cosy in that photo.’ Rivers pointed out.

‘Yeah, pretty cosy with the two men who knew how to fly Airwolf.’ Locke frowned.

‘You know some of the missions in the file,’ Rivers commented, ‘couldn’t have been done without a third crewman.’

‘You think this woman?’ Locke gestured with the frame.

‘I think we should find out.’

Locke’s eyes went to the closed bedroom door. ‘If this is who she’s protecting, she’s obviously not going to tell us a thing.’

‘Why don’t I head to Van Nuys?’ Rivers suggested. ‘Airfields are a hive of gossip and information. I’ll see what I can pick up.’

Locke nodded and handed him the photo back to put back into its original position; there was no need to tip Jo Santini off to their inquiries. ‘We’ll meet back at the Lair.’

Rivers parked the car in the Van Nuys car park and checked his watch. It was early and there were signs of the airfield around them just coming to life. A catering van opening up down the runway; hangar doors opening up, planes taxiing into position. He headed to the catering van.

‘Can I help you?’ The old guy wiped his hands on a clean white apron.

‘Sure. I’ll take an egg sandwich, over easy on the egg, please.’ Mike leaned on the van as the caterer began to fill his order.

‘You know when Santini Air opens?’ Mike asked casually.

‘Generally opens around eight although the owner’s just died so they haven’t been keeping real regular hours recently.’

‘Oh? What happened?’

‘Huge explosion.’ The old fella mimed it with his hands. ‘Just incredible. You could smell the smoke all the way down here.’

‘Sounds terrible.’ Mike commented.

‘Yeah. Don’t know what happened. Old Santini ran a tight ship, really good mechanic.’

‘Who’s running the service now?’

‘His niece, I think. Hawke, the other pilot there, got caught in the blast. I hear he ain’t doing so good.’ He flipped the egg into a waiting bun and handed it to Mike who passed him the money for the purchase.

‘His niece is the redhead, right?’ Mike said squirting ketchup on his sandwich.

‘Nah. You’re thinking of Caitlin O’Shaunessy.’ The old guy’s eyes saddened. ‘I tell you it’s been one tragedy after another for them recently.’

‘Tragedy?’ Mike paused.

‘Yeah.’ The guy leaned out of his window. ‘You don’t know?’

Mike shook his head.

‘Well she died in a crash, oh must be over a month ago now.’ He sighed. ‘Damn shame. Fair crushed Santini and Hawke I can tell you.’

‘I bet.’ Mike raised his paper-wrapped sandwich and took a bite. ‘Thanks.’ He mumbled around the mouthful of food.

‘Pleasure.’

Mike saluted a farewell with the sandwich and walked back to his car. He finished his make-shift meal – no point wasting good food – and headed for the Company headquarters. There were a few things he needed to check out, he thought, before he met Locke at the Lair.

In the Lair, Locke finished looking around and admitted to himself that he was impressed. The equipment in the Lair was first rate; top of the line security system, communications system, computer already set up. He was going to be hard pressed to find a better equipped hiding place for Airwolf. If he got the ship back, he thought.

Jo nudged him and handed him a coffee. He took it with a polite word of thanks.

‘He’ll bring her back.’ Jo said.

‘How do you know he won’t do what his brother did and just take off with her?’

‘Well, firstly,’ Jo said leaning back on the yellow rail, ‘String only took Airwolf to find Saint John and that’s hardly a consideration now. And secondly, Saint John was never as wild as String.’ She shrugged. ‘Maybe with Saint John being the older he felt he had to be more responsible than String.’

‘Both of them have a reputation for not following orders.’ Locke muttered under his breath.

‘They’re the most intelligent people I know.’ Jo noted. ‘They won’t follow orders blindly.’

Locke stiffened. ‘Is that what you think I do?’

Jo shuffled. ‘Not entirely, Jason. You did help me get Saint John.’

Locke looked away from her for a moment. ‘But I didn’t help Stringfellow Hawke when he asked me too.’ He shook his head sadly. ‘I followed orders then.’

Jo didn’t know what to say so she kept silent and took a sip of her coffee.

Locke frowned. If he’d acted differently that day with Hawke in his office would it have prevented the death of Santini and now, possibly Hawke himself? The Company’s actions over the Hawke brothers disturbed him. They hadn’t acted honourably towards the Hawkes at all. He wondered at how honourably they would act when they had full control of Airwolf. The Airwolf file had been clear that whatever character flaws Hawke had, his sense of moral justice had meant that the helicopter had been used as a force of good. Locke speculated if the Company would be able to make the right choices. A sound by the Lair entrance had him whirling around, drawing his gun.

Rivers threw his hands up. ‘It’s me.’

Locke eased back into the chair and Rivers walked over to join the wait, slumping into a chair. The gaping space on the ground under the funnel drew their attention.

‘I’m going for a walk.’ Jo said unable to take the silence any longer.

Locke waited until he was sure she was outside the Lair. ‘Well?’

Rivers shook his blond head. ‘Dead end. Literally.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘The woman in the photo was a pilot called Caitlin O’Shaunessy. Records show she was a cop until two years ago when an incident in Pope County prompted her into a leave of absence. She officially resigned later.’ Rivers nodded his head at the empty space. ‘There’s nothing anywhere to connect her to Santini Air except good old Uncle Sam’s tax records show she started working for Santini about a month after Pope County. There’s no doubt in my mind that she was more than likely involved with Airwolf.’

‘But?’

‘But she died over a month ago.’

‘How?’ Locke frowned. The whole original Airwolf crew dead? Something stank.

‘A helicopter crash in Texas following a kidnapping attempt. She was the grand-daughter of Chester Mitchell, the oil tycoon.’

‘Damn.’ Locke sighed. ‘Guess Jo’s been straight with us.’

Rivers nodded. ‘Looks like.’ He gestured at the entrance. ‘She’s pretty great.’

‘Do you ever think of anything but…’

‘I meant,’ Rivers cut in, ‘that she’s good at what she does. I read her Company file. She comes with some pretty impressive recommendations.’

‘I know.’ Locke said. ‘I read the same file.’

‘Have you considered what you’re going to do with Airwolf?’ Rivers asked.

‘If I get her back,’ Locke sighed, ‘I’m going to give her a facelift and an upgrade but then…I’m thinking of running a small unit similar to the set up Hawke had with her. I’m beginning to think he knew what he was doing.’

Rivers hid a grin. ‘A small unit, huh?’

‘Yeah. Keep Airwolf contained to a few people.’ Locke waved at the Lair. ‘Keep her here and continue to keep the location secret.’

‘And out of the Company’s direct control?’ Rivers asked perceptively. ‘Hey.’ He held his hands up at Locke’s glower. ‘You’ll have no arguments from me. What that ship is capable of…I think it’s a sensible decision. The Company can still set the missions but an independent unit gives you better control of how you execute them.’

Locke nodded. ‘I was thinking the same.’

‘Thinking what?’ Jo’s voice drifted back to them as she walked back in.

Rivers caught Locke’s eye. ‘She can fly Airwolf.’ He reminded the agent.

Locke turned to look at Jo who was reviewing both men with a suspicious glance.

‘What?’ She asked.

Locke walked out of the console area to explain.

Jo raised her eyebrows in surprise. ‘And you want me to be part of the team?’

Locke said. ‘You know how to fly her and you have intelligence experience.’

‘So does Saint John.’ She pointed out.

‘And if he brings her back, I might offer him the same deal.’ Locke admitted. It seemed like giving the man gainful employment was the least he could do after the way he’d been treated – if he came back.

‘If Saint John’s in, I’m in.’ Jo said.

Locke turned to Mike expectantly.

‘I haven’t officially been asked.’ Mike teased.

‘Rivers…’

‘I’m in.’ Rivers said laughing; he propped his feet up on the yellow rail, the very picture of relaxed geniality.

Locke subsided, leaned back on the railing. Jo smiled and paced. If Saint John did have Airwolf…maybe this could work.

Mike suddenly leaned forward as a sound teased at his hearing. ‘Can you hear it this time Jason?’

The steady hum of engines and rhythmic beat of rotors filled the air.

‘Music to my ears.’ Locke murmured.

They all looked up as Airwolf descended into her home. Saint John climbed out to meet them. He was deadly tired; the journey back had seemed harder somehow and the events of the past year and days were catching up with him. It was easy to stuff his hands in his pockets and keep his expression sombre, sad. ‘There was something I had to do.’ He explained obliquely.

He saw the implication that his brother was dead register with them all. His eyes landed on Jo; they would have to talk later, he thought, but he deep down knew he’d made the right decision as he took in the relieved if saddened expressions as they gathered around him. Be safe little brother, he wished across the vast space between them, be safe and live.

fin.
 

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