A police car approached from the opposite direction and sped past them.
Within five minutes, they could see the lights of Westhampton across the bay. Jill said, "Bud, I think a plane exploded."
"Maybe . . . maybe it was a giant skyrocket . . . fired from a barge." He added, "It exploded . . . you know . . . a fireworks show."
"Skyrockets don't explode like that. Skyrockets don't burn on the water." She glanced at him and said, "Something big exploded in midair and crashed in the ocean. It was a plane."
Bud didn't reply.
Jill said, "Maybe we should go back."
"Maybe . . . people . . . got out. They have life vests, life rafts. Maybe we can help."
Bud shook his head. "That thing just disintegrated. It had to be a couple miles high." He added, "The cops are already there. They don't need us."
Jill didn't reply.
Bud turned onto the bridge that led back to the village of Westhampton Beach. Their hotel was five minutes away.
Jill seemed lost in thought, then said, "That streak of lightthat was a rocket. A missile."
Bud didn't reply.
She said, "It looked like a missile was fired from the water and hit a plane."
"Well . . . I'm sure we'll hear about it on the news."
Jill glanced into the backseat and saw that the video camera was still on, recording their conversation.
She reached back and retrieved the camera. She rewound the tape, flipped the selector switch to Play, then looked into the viewfinder as she fast-forwarded.
Bud glanced at her, but said nothing.
She hit the Pause button and said, "I can see it. We got the whole thing on tape." She ran the tape forward, then backwards, several times. She said, "Bud . . . pull over and watch this."
He kept driving.
She put down the video camera and said, "We have the whole thing on tape. The missile, the explosion, the pieces falling."
"Yeah? What else do you see in there?"
"Right. Erase it."
"Jill, erase the tape."
"Okay . . . but we have to watch it in the hotel room. Then we'll erase it."
"I don't want to see it. Erase it. Now."
"Bud, this may be . . . evidence. Someone needs to see this."
"Are you crazy? No one needs to see us screwing on videotape."
She didn't reply.
Bud patted her hand and said, "Okay, we'll play it on the TV in the room. Then we'll see what's on the news. Then we'll decide what to do. Okay?"
Bud glanced at her clutching the video camera. Jill Winslow, he knew, was the kind of woman who might actually do the right thing and turn that tape over to the authorities, despite what it would do to her personally. Not to mention him. He thought, however, that when she saw the tape in all its explicitness, she'd come to her senses. If not, he might have to get a little forceful with her.
He said, "You know, the . . . what do you call that? The black box. The flight recorder. When they find that, they'll know more about what happened to that airplane than we do, or what the tape shows. The flight recorder. Better than a video recorder."
She didn't reply.
He pulled into the parking lot of the Bayview Hotel. He said, "We don't even know if it was a plane. Let's see what they say on the news."
She got out of the Explorer and walked toward the hotel, carrying the video camera.
He shut off the engine and followed. He thought to himself, "I'm not going to crash and burn like that plane."
Copyright © 2004 by Nelson DeMille
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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