The ghost of st elmo, p.1
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       The Ghost of St. Elmo, p.1

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The Ghost of St. Elmo

  The Ghost of St. Elmo

  The Adventures of Ian and Zack


  L. Parks Sanford

  Copyright 2013 L. Parks Sanford

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever including Internet usage, without written permission of the author.


  To my wife, whose never-ending faith and love carried me for years. To my son, Ian, you bring me strength; you give much, and take nothing in return. Finally, to Duke…you believed, and I will always be grateful and love you for it. Someday we’ll walk the beach, again.























  I jumped out of bed full of excitement about my days ahead. I had been awarded an exchange student Merit Award and was on my way to Lost Gorge, Colorado…wherever that was, for a month. I couldn’t wait to go hiking, explore old mines, ride horses and ski. Though my enthusiasm was intense, I knew I would miss my best friend, Zack. I had lived here at the orphanage for as long as I could remember, and Zack and I had grown up together and had shared many an adventure. But, this was one time we wouldn’t be together.

  “Well, good buddy,” Zack said, “Try to stay in the saddle and keep out of trouble.”

  “I’ll sure try,” I said as I grabbed my bags, gave him a high five and headed downstairs. Charles was waiting out front with the car and gave me a big smile as I opened the door.

  “Good morning, Ian, are you ready to load up?” he asked.

  “You bet!” I said, just as the breakfast bell rang. As I loaded my bags, all the guys and girls were running to the dining hall for breakfast and yelling to me to have a great time. I smiled and waved back as I got into the car.

  I sat quietly staring out the window of the car as we drove down the long, winding drive. We pulled out onto the highway and headed toward the airport. Pressing my head against the window, I could feel the coolness of the October morning. I counted telephone poles as we sped down the highway, but I soon found out how boring that was. The only exception was sighting a lone hawk perched like a sentinel high atop a telephone pole here and there. My mind told me to be excited about my coming adventure, but my heart was telling me I would miss my friends. Charles, my driver and chaperone, must have read my mind.

  “What’s the problem, Ian? You’re very quiet,” Charles asked.

  “Oh, nothing,” I answered. “I’m just going to miss my friends.” I could see a smile on his face in the rear view mirror.

  “Look at your trip as a great adventure,” he said, “and let your friends live your adventure with you through your pictures and the stories you tell when you return.”

  “You’re right, Charles,” I said. Of course he was right…. He always was. Charles was a super nice guy who came by the orphanage often. He was a retired F.B.I. agent who had been wounded in a shoot-out with a notorious gang of bank robbers in Raleigh, North Carolina. After his leaving the service of the F.B.I., he signed on as Chief of Security for Fred Bryant, an old friend of his and owner of a local bank in town. Upon completion of his time as Chief of Security for ten years, Charles now served as a chauffeur, butler and jack-of-all-trades to Mr. Bryant. As I thought about Charles and knowing he would be my chaperone during this trip, my sadness toward leaving my friends was soon replaced with the excitement of things to come.

  I never realized Middleton Airport was so far away, but my rear end told me differently. “How much longer Charles?” I asked.

  “I’d say about two more hours,” he answered. “Are you ready for a break?” he asked.

  “If you don’t mind, sir,” I answered. We pulled over to a little silver diner with a moose head mounted on its roof and proceeded inside for some breakfast. The strong smell of hot grease and coffee, the sound of dishes rattling and waitresses barking out orders seemed like a scene out of the movies. Charles found us a table, and I headed to the restroom to wash up. When I had returned, the waitress had begun filling the entire table with food. “Grab a chair, Ian and dig in while I go freshen up.” I started shoveling in eggs, bacon and pancakes.

  “Would you like some more orange juice, sweetie?” a voice asked. I looked up to see a heavy lady, her hair wrapped in a bun high on her head and chomping on some gum.

  “No, thank you, ma’am,” I answered, “but I would like a Coke.”

  “One Coke coming up,” she said with a smile and then rushed off to another table. Charles returned to the table and smiled as he sat down staring at my plate.

  “The food must be good, huh, Ian?” he asked.

  “Yes, sir, it sure is.”

  “Here you are, sweetie,” the waitress said setting the Coke on the table. “Anything else, gentlemen?” she asked.

  “No, that’s fine,” Charles answered. “Just the bill, please.” We finished our meals and headed down the highway once more. All of a sudden things seemed a little bit brighter now. Whether it was the good food or Charles’ great company, I wasn’t sure.

  It seemed as though we drove forever until suddenly I looked up, and the sky was filled with planes. As we continued to approach the airport, the roar of the planes’ engines was thunderous, and the sun reflecting off the different colored planes made it appear like a rainbow. As we turned into the airport entrance and up to the terminal, I looked up just in time to see a huge plane flying straight at us. I ducked down in my seat just as the plane pulled up and headed skyward. I could hear Charles laughing as we drove on. “Close call, huh, Ian?” he quipped. I sat back in my seat and gave a little laugh at myself.

  “I guess maybe I should get out more, huh, Charles?” Charles looked at me in the rearview mirror and just smiled. We continued to wind our way through different gates and then suddenly veered to the right. I could see a sign that read:

  “Airport Security Only – No Admittance”.

  We approached a guard post with two uniformed officers and were stopped. “May I help you sir?” the officer inquired as he peered into our car.

  “Could you tell me where I could find Bob Kaiser?” Charles answered as he showed his wallet to the guard.

  “Yes, sir,” he sharply responded as he snapped to attention. “I’ll call Chief Kaiser immediately.” I didn’t know what Charles had shown the guard, but he seemed impressed, and so was I. Within minutes a black sedan pulled up sporting dark windows and a sign on the side reading:

  “Chief of Security”

  The guard waved us through, and we parked next to the sedan. Almost at the same time, Charles and the driver of the sedan opened their doors and exited. “Well, I’ll be. It is you, you old flat foot,” he roared.

  “Bob, you’re as good-lookin’ as ever,” Charles responded.

  “And you lie like a dog,” Mr. Kaiser shot back. “Follow me,” he continued. We walked toward the black sedan as Mr. Kaiser opened the trunk. “Throw your bags in here, and I’ll store your car later or you can follow me.” We unloaded everything, careful not to overlook a single item, as we had packed strategically with everything being pretty important. We closed the trunk, and Charles walked over to Mr. Kaiser, as I stood there watching the planes and listening to the roar of engines. This was a totally new world to me. We seldom traveled very far from the orphanage, and I could see what we were missing. I looked out over the parking area below and could see nothing but a sea of cars and traffic coming in and going out. There was an excitement in the air that I had never experienced before, and I only wished my best friend could be here with me.

  “Are you ready, Ian?” Charles yelled.

  “Yes, sir!” We got into our car and followed Mr. Kaiser in his. As we drove, we passed by huge jets that were so close it seemed as though I could reach out and touch them. “Wow! What kind of plane is that?” I asked.

  “That’s a sea plane, Ian. Those pontoons on the bottom allow it to land on the water or on land,” Charles answered. We continued to follow Mr. Kaiser as he turned into a huge hanger. When we pulled in and stopped, my mouth dropped open. In front of us was an old plane with guns sticking out all over, and men were scurrying about working on its exterior. I looked up, and the hangar ceiling was so high and the windows in it were shining so brightly with the sun coming through that they looked like bright stars in the night sky. We stopped the car, got out and walked toward the plane where Mr. Kaiser was talking to a worker. He turned around, walked toward me, put his hand on my shoulder and gave it a squeeze.

  “What do you say, young fella, would you like to go aboard?” he asked.

  “You bet!” I answered.

  “Then follow me,” he continued, as we climbed the steps and entered the old plane. My eyes lit up as I looked up and saw a large silver colored gun pointing skyward, enclosed in a glass dome. “Those guns you see around you are 50 caliber machine guns used to fire at enemy planes that would attack them as they flew bombing missions during World War II,” he explained. “Go ahead and sit in the gunner’s seat.” I anxiously sat down and grabbed hold of the gun, pivoted around in the seat firing at phantom enemy planes. I sat there day dreaming, wondering if our housemother, Mrs. Brewer’s husband had flown this plane during the war. He was a highly decorated pilot, who unfortunately had been killed. We all could see her sadness and knew how much she missed him. There was a special smell all around me. It was a musty, leathery smell that made me believe I was living in the days these planes flew. I had heard of and read about re-incarnation so maybe I was re-living my days as a famous pilot.

  “What do you think, Ian?” Charles asked as he brought me back to reality.

  “It’s great!” I said, never wanting to leave.

  “Okay, fellas, how about a little snack before you take off?” Mr. Kaiser asked.

  “What do you say, Ian?” Charles followed. “Are you ready for a fill-up?” I really didn’t know how much food I could put down as I was pondering my first flight, but I agreed. We marched off on the heels of Chief Kaiser as he led us through winding corridors, up and down stairs, and finally to a large set of black doors. Chief Kaiser took out a pocketful of keys, inserted one into the door, pushed a button, and it seemed to magically open. As we entered, it was obvious we were in a huge cafeteria, not unlike the one at our orphanage but much larger. There were rows and rows of tables and chairs, the sound of dishes clattering and the strong aroma of cooking food.

  “Gentlemen, you are now in the food services center of the airport,” said Chief Kaiser. “All employees are eligible to eat here at their own risk, but many don’t,” he joked with a twinkle in his eye. We found a table and sat down. “Hi ya, Cassie. How’s my favorite waitress?”

  I looked up to see whom he was talking to, and I knew then…I was in love. She had dark eyes and long, shiny brown hair with a big smile. I was sure that she kept staring in my direction and that her smile was sending me a secret message that said she loved me. She reminded me of Julie Vander, a college student down the road from the orphanage that came with her classmates to play us in baseball games every summer. My best friend and I would push and shove each other to see who could sit closest to her. I always won. “Cassie, these are some friends of mine. They’re headed for Colorado. How about getting them a little snack before they shove off?” Chief Kaiser said.

  “It would be my pleasure, Chief,” she answered, smiling broadly. We gave her our orders, she returned shortly with a Coke and hot cinnamon bun for me and a steaming cup of coffee and a couple glazed donuts for Charles.

  “Cassie, you’re a real doll,” the Chief said. “Put it on my tab.”

  “You got it,” she said. “Have a great flight, gentlemen. It was a pleasure to meet you.”

  “Thank you. We hope so,” we both responded. She turned and walked away. I could feel my heart sinking. I knew I was in love. But, it was tough being a kid. She was much older but very beautiful.

  “Well, Ian, we better gear up and then head for the terminal,” Charles said. “We only have 25 minutes to check our luggage and get to our seats.”

  “I’ll take care of that,” the Chief offered.

  After eating, we headed off again, wandering the halls, climbing up and down stairs, popping in and out of doors and finally arriving at our destination. “Flight #408 now loading at gate 4B on the north concourse,” came over the loudspeaker. We exited an “EMPLOYEES ONLY” door into the crowded and loud terminal. My head began to whirl, and I could feel my excitement building. Soon I would be boarding my first plane. Colorado, here I come!

  After saying our good byes and giving our thanks to Chief Kaiser, we boarded our plane. As we entered through the airplane’s door a stewardess directed us to our seats…numbers 22A and 22B. Charles asked me if I wanted the window seat, and I replied, “Yes.” I slid in first and was surprised at how small and cramped the seats were. We were some of the last to board so our waiting time to take off would be short. I heard a few dings from a bell and looked up and saw a “Please fasten seat belt” sign light up. Charles looked over to make sure I was fastened in, and he smiled.

  “Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This is your Captain speaking. Welcome to flight 408 bound for Colorado Springs. We’ll be flying at an altitude of 45,000 feet with an arrival time of 8:35 p.m. mountain time. The weather now is clear and should remain so. So please sit back and have a good flight. Thank you,” came a voice over the speaker. I sat back and closed my eyes. I could hear conversations all around me, and wondered if anyone else’s stomach was feeling like mine…sick.

  “Just take nice deep breaths, chew some gum and try to relax,” Charles leaned over and whispered to me. “The first flight’s always the toughest.” The reassuring squeeze of his hand on my neck seemed to relieve some of my fears, but there were plenty still remaining.

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