Dan’s marriage is in jeopardy because of his aluminum mistress, a 30-year-old single-engine airplane, he can’t afford.
On a teaching assignment in Washington, DC, he meets Maria, a sexy Latina. At first his flirtation seems harmless enough as does the request by a Jamaican taxi driver for a short flight to New Jersey. The trip turns into a drug run gone sour. Dan is left holding the bag.
The Cartel wants its drugs and money. Dan and Maria barely escape with their lives and fly to a rural hideout. It is there, at a stoplight in a borrowed vehicle, Dan must make a decision. Return to his old life or create a new one with Maria.
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Have you ever wanted something or someone so badly that you would do anything to have it or him or her? Have you ever been so broke that you were living credit cards, borrowing from one to pay another? Have you ever stolen something from a store or lied about an insurance claim?
We all try to do the right thing. But sometimes, in order to do the right thing we have to do things that are wrong.
Stealing from a store is wrong, but stealing from Walmart, a store that underpays its employees, might be justified if your child really needs the pajamas you stuffed in your purse.
Lying is wrong, but lying on your income tax form might be okay because all the rich people get away with murder.
Married people really shouldn’t have sex with others but maybe, on a business trip, one time, how could it hurt?
We try to do the right thing. Sometimes it’s hard to know which thing is right, which is wrong.
Welcome to the world of Flying Blind. We follow Dan Goldberg as he tries to take care of his family, keep his beloved airplane and do the right thing.
Chapter 1 – Richard
Monday, June 16, Gaithersburg Maryland
“Hey, mon, dat you airplane?”
“Yes, it is.” I continued to secure my single-engine airplane to the tarmac. The taxi driver was parked nearby and was waiting for me. I chose to ignore him. I was not in the mood to make a new friend.
“Me name’s Richard,” the driver persisted “What you call yo’self?”
“Dan Goldberg. Just call me Dan.” There was a time when I would introduce myself as Dr. Dan Goldberg. But I was no longer a college professor. My position had been eliminated during a round of state budget cuts. Rather than uproot my family to take another teaching job, I decided to become a self-employed consultant – one of the thousands plying their trades in and around our nation’s capital.
“Okay, Daniel, we be friends, right?” He spoke in a musical way. Every third syllable was emphasized. It reminded me of rum-filled nights the one time my wife, Beth, and I visited Jamaica. He transformed my name into something different, something more exotic with at least three syllables.
I shook his hand, and we both smiled. His smile stretched from ear to ear, and it was impossible not to smile back even though my smile was a faint reflection of his broad grin. It seemed that we were at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum. Yet, it felt good to smile. It was my first smile in many days and, in this our first encounter, I was grateful to Richard for changing my mood.
We loaded my baggage into the taxi’s trunk and headed for the Marriot. “Look at dat giant, white building mon. Dat a gold statue on top. Do you know what dat is?”
“Yes, it’s the Mormon temple. Richard, I’ve lived and worked in the Washington area for more than a decade.”
“Oh, okay, just so you know. I’ll get you to the hotel real quick.”
“That’ll be great. I have a lot of work to do.” To emphasize my point, I extracted a notepad from my computer case and pretended to work. But Richard didn’t take the hint.
“Daniel, you married?”
“How long you been married?”
It was really none of his business, but I answered anyway, “fourteen years.” The year we were married I was a graduate student and Beth was a newly minted third-grade teacher. We were happy then. No airplane, no children, no debts, no house, no lawn. We never fought about money because we had none.
“Ah, dat’s good, mon. You got children?”
“Yes, I have two daughters. Amy is ten and Sarah is twelve.”
“Dat’s good too. A mon needs a family.”
I wasn’t sure I still had a family. At the end of our fight the night before, Beth said, ‘Can’t you see that we can’t afford your stupid aviation hobby? We’re living on our credit cards and not putting anything away for the girls’ college. You need to sell the airplane and get a job. Get rid of the plane, or I’m leaving! Or better yet, you’re leaving! You can sleep in the hangar with your aluminum mistress.’
In many ways, the airplane was my mistress. Most pilots learn their craft in the military. Even though I came of age during the Vietnam war, I avoided the draft and the military. Yet I always wanted to be a pilot. Once I started my own consulting business, I took the lessons and earned my wings. Then I needed an airplane.
It was truly love at first sight. We met at a rural airport in Virginia. Vines covered her landing gear. Her paint was chipped and faded. A bird had built its nest in her right wing. It was love at first sight. I had to have her. “When did you last fly her?” I asked the broker.
“I’ve never flown the plane. I’m just showing it for the owner. I think he flew it about a year ago. That was before his heart attack. He died soon afterward, and his widow needs the cash. That’s why it’s for sale.”
She was just the plane I wanted. She wasn’t fast, but her large doors and high wings would make it easy for my wife to get in and fly with me. I gave the broker a deposit and prepared a sales pitch to my wife. ‘Think of all the money we’ll save by flying ourselves rather than using the airlines. We can visit your parents more often. And when the girls go to college, we’ll be able to fly to visit all the time.’
Beth said ‘yes’ and I bought the plane.
I housed the plane in her own hangar, cleaned her and bought her new electronics. We spent many a Saturday together just hanging out at the airport. I would polish her wings and side and show her off to the other pilots. She returned my love by flying straight and landing safely.
I tried to share my love with my family. Beth flew with me a few times but never felt comfortable in the air. Besides, threesomes never work.
Once I started paying off one credit card bill by taking a loan through another, Beth’s attitude moved from indifference to hate. I guess only rich men can afford to have mistresses. The previous night’s fight made it clear to me – the plane will have to go.
Richard shouted a question over the divider as I started to draft a for sale ad in my mind. “Hey, Daniel how fast can it go?”
“How fast can what go?”
“You airplane, how fast can it go?”
“Oh, it can fly about 110 miles per hour. Why?”
“If you had to go to Miami, Florida, how long would it take you?”
“A lot depends on the weather, but normally about two days.”
Richard returned to his driving, and I returned to the depressing realization that my girlfriend and I would have to part ways. After a while, he asked, “How many kilos can you carry in dat airplane?”
I had heard about pilots getting asked to transport drugs. I decided to play along.
“I don’t know about kilos, but I can carry about three hundred pounds,” I said this with a smile. This will be a good story to tell my wife.
Richard punched numbers into a small calculator as he drove. Then he called someone using his cell phone. I lost interest and started to draft a “for sale” advertisement for my plane on a scrap of paper.
Richard ended his conversation at the same time that we pulled up to the front door of the hotel. I was ready to leave, but he stopped me. “Okay, mon, here’s the deal. You fly to a small airport near Miami. Me friend, he gives you two suitcases. You bring them back, and I give you $100,000.”
My mouth dropped open. Was this the answer to my problems? I could tell my wife that I had a client in Florida. Two days down, two days back, and all our money problems would be solved. We would pay off our credit cards and get rid of the monthly payments on the plane. I could buy my wife the new car that she wanted and maybe even put some money away for my daughters’ college funds.
But, of course, he wanted me to carry drugs. If I were caught, I’d go to jail.
“No, I can’t do that,” I said and started to open the back door.
The driver was ready for me. “Okay, mon,” he countered without taking a breath, “I can see that you’re a smart businessman. You deliver the suitcases, and I give you $200,000.”
That got my attention. I could buy a new, faster plane. I wouldn’t have to look for a job. I wouldn’t have to sleep in the hangar. Maybe with a new plane, Beth would become more interested in flying. The money would solve so many problems. I got my family into this financial mess, I had to get us out.
But what kind of a drug dealer solicits a mule minutes after he meets him? Richard could be an undercover cop assigned to entrap naive pilots. The image of Beth visiting me in jail had a sobering effect.
“How do I know that you’ll pay me?”
“Look, we be businessmen. We pay you half before you leave and half when you get back. Just dis one time, mon.”
“Can I think about it?”
“Sure ting, mon, you tink about it,” Richard said releasing my arm. “How long you be here?”
“Four days. I’m teaching at the Parklawn Building in Rockville.”
“Da Parklawn building! I know that building real good, mon. Don’t worry! I be your driver all dis week. No charge for dis trip. How I reach you?”
His hand was out, and I gave him my business card, pausing only to write my cell phone number on the back. It was a reflex action, the result of years of soliciting business around the Washington Beltway.
Richard waved as he drove away. Only then did I realize that he had my home address and cell phone number while I had only his first name. As I pushed a cart loaded with my suitcase, computer, and a box of books, into the air-conditioned lobby, I started shivering, but not from the change in temperature. I had a plan.
Chapter 2: A Change of Heart
I called my wife as soon as I got into my room. She picked up on the first ring. Her voice conveyed anger and concern. “Are you OK?”
“Yes, I’m fine. No problems with the flight. I’m at the hotel.”
“Then you landed some time ago. Why didn’t you call?”
“I’m sorry. I got to talking with the taxi driver and forgot. Is everything all right?”
“Dan, you promised to call when you landed.”
There was a silence while I tried to find the words to apologize harder.
Beth continued. “I took Sara to the orthodontist to be fitted for braces. They needed a thousand-dollar deposit, and when I tried to put it on my MasterCard, it was declined. Didn’t you pay that bill?”
“I paid the minimum, but we’re carrying a large balance. I guess we’re too close to the limit. Can we pay them next week?”
Beth sighed. “Yes, with all the business we give them, they trust us. When will you get your next check?”
“Friday. I’ll get online and move some money around tonight.” In the back of my mind, I visualized walking into the orthodontist’s sleek office. I would dump a plastic bag full of hundred-dollar bills on the smug receptionist’s desk and say, ‘Is that enough?’ I smiled thinking about the look on her face.
“Dan, the car stalled when I was at a red light.”
“Did it stall every time?”
“No, just almost every time. Should I take it to the shop?”
“No, we can’t handle another bill right now. When you need to stop, just put the car in neutral and keep your foot on the gas. Keep the RPMs over 2500. That should keep it from stalling.”
“Yes, and I’ll use more gas. We really need a new car, Dan. You know that my Dad has offered to buy us one. Think of it as a safety issue for the girls.”
Beth’s father was rich. He was a partner is a prestigious law firm in White Plains, New York. He showed his disdain for his son-in-law by writing checks. I hated him.
“Let’s hold off for now. You know I don’t like to be obligated to your father. Besides, I just got a great lead on a new project.”
“I thought you just got to the hotel.” Beth was quick, but I was quicker.
“I checked my email before I called you. I’ll have more details tomorrow.”
Beth didn’t press for details. If she did, I would have told her about Richard’s offer. She would have told me that I was crazy, and we would have laughed about it. But she didn’t ask. We were both tired of fighting. Instead, we said that we loved each other in the mechanical way that married couples do and said good night.
It’s important to maintain a routine while traveling on business. That afternoon I unpacked my suitcase and stored my clothes in the dresser and then arranged the desk the way I liked it with my laptop in the center. I checked for email messages and contacted previous clients to see if I could find new consulting assignments. That is the hardest part of being self-employed – When you’re working, you don’t have time to market your talents, and when you’re marketing, you don’t have time to work. That afternoon there were no new leads.
But I wasn’t really interested in my consulting business. I was distracted. My mind was flying to Florida. Just for fun, I opened the navigation program on my computer and starting planning the trip. A thousand miles at 110 miles per hour would require a bit more than nine hours of flying. That’s too much for one day. I could stop overnight in South Carolina and visit my brother there. I would do the same thing on the way back. My brother owned a successful restaurant and catering business, and we were often competitive. I would take his family out to dinner and pay in cash. My calculations filled two pages of scratch paper. In my mind, I was already spending the money. But was Richard’s offer real? How could I trust him?
An hour later, I was sitting at the bar in the hotel’s restaurant eating dinner when I heard someone ask, “Excuse me, can you please pass the ketchup?” Turning, I saw an attractive woman two stools away. I smiled and handed her the condiment. Our eyes locked and she smiled at me. “Is your book interesting?” she asked.
“Not very, I just hate to eat alone, so I always bring a book.” The first thing I noticed was her long black hair and the silver clasp that held it back from her face. She was about 35, moderately fit. She had a slight bulge over the waistband of her gray skirt rather similar to the way extra pounds displayed themselves on my wife’s torso. A jacket matching her skirt hung over the back of her chair and contrasted nicely with her short-sleeved white blouse.
Her jewelry consisted of an expensive looking watch on her left wrist and a set of silver bracelets on her right. She wore a small gold cross attached to a gold chain around her neck. I noted all this and concluded that she was traveling on business.
But most of all, during those first moments of our first meeting, I was captivated by the color of her skin. It had the color of cappuccino when the barista uses too much milk.
“I know what you mean. I also hate to eat alone,” she said. “Can I join you?”
“That’ll be great. Let’s take a table.”
Did those words come out of my mouth? Normally, I’m shy when meeting new people, especially women. But the conversation with Richard must have changed me. In my mind, I was a highly paid drug transporter. I felt a boldness I hadn’t felt in a long time.
As luck would have it, there was an empty table nearby. I brought my hamburger, fries and beer. She brought her salad, purse, and jacket. We sat across from each and I sank into the depth of her eyes.
“My name’s Maria Sanchez, what’s yours?”
“Dan Goldberg.” We exchanged business cards. Her’s proclaimed that she was an account manager for Juarez Properties, Inc. based in New York City.
She asked me about my work, and I gave a slightly exaggerated version of the truth. In contrast to most people, Maria seemed interested in the statistics classes that I taught for the Federal government.
There was an awkward moment when we finished eating. I signed my check and got out of my chair. “It’s been really nice meeting you. Maybe we’ll meet again this week.” I held out my hand for a business-like handshake.
She ignored it. “Let’s have some wine in the lobby. My boss is buying. It’s too early to go back to our rooms and watch TV.” She had a cute mix of accents. Sometimes I could hear the streets of New York. Sometimes there was a hint of the Caribbean. Two glasses of Chardonnay appeared, and we found an unused couch.
I told her that I was a pilot and owned my own airplane. It’s possible that I exaggerated the size and speed of my plane.
“That’s so exciting,” she said, “Tell me about flying.”
I described my more interesting flying adventures but stopped when her gaze began to wander. I searched for a way to redirect the conversation and said, “You sound like you’re from New York.”
She giggled. “Actually, I’m from Puerto Rico. My family moved to New York City when I was thirteen.”
“What does Juarez Properties do?”
“We’re a national and international real estate firm. When I started, I was an agent. I worked with Latino families in New York who wanted to buy real estate in Florida. Now I mostly work with wealthy buyers from Latin America. I show high-end properties and translate between the buyers and sellers. That’s why I’m in Washington this week. I was supposed to work with a client from Honduras, but he had visa problems and was delayed.”
At the time, that sounded reasonable. I pictured Maria walking into a condo and explaining the features, in Spanish, to an older, overweight couple while the selling agent looked on and smiled.
In fact, I didn’t care how she earned a living. My gaze dropped from her face to her chest. I saw just a bit of white lace peeking through her partly unbuttoned blouse. The cross rested directly above the lace reminding me that everything below was forbidden territory.
We finished the wind and walked to the elevator together. We said, ‘good night’ when she got off on the second floor, I continued on to the third. After she had left, I could still hear the lilt of her accent and see the way her teeth showed when she smiled.
Then Richard called.
“Hello, Daniel Did you enjoy your supper?”
“Oh hi, Richard, I’m glad you called. I’m still thinking about your offer.”
“Relax, Mon, no problem. Look, Daniel, what time you need to be at you work tomorrow? I come pick you up.”
“I need to be there at 8:30. You need to pick me up at 7:30.”
“No problem. I be dere in plenty of time. And, mon, when you done work, I need a favor. There’s a man in New Jersey dat owe me money. I want you to fly me there and bring me back. And I pay you mon, how about dat? The taxi driver, he pay for a ride!”
Richard was delighted with his joke and laughed. I didn’t. “Where in New Jersey do you need to go?”
“It be near Atlantic City. Me friend, he owes me money, and I give you half.”
I wanted more details, but Richard was done. “We talk together in the morning, mon.”
Later that night, when I got into bed, I was still thinking about Maria. I went through the whole evening in my mind and remembered she was eating a salad. Why would a person eating a salad ask for ketchup? My God, was she flirting with me? That had never happened before.
In my dream, I began to see Maria again — not all of her, just parts of her. I remembered her light brown skin. I remembered the hem of her skirt where it lay just above her knee. My mind followed the curve of her thigh from the hem of her skirt to her waist. In my half-sleep, my hand traveled that path and imagined pulling up her skirt. She responded by closing her eyes and catching her breath. Then her skirt evaporated, and I found she was wearing my wife’s white cotton panties. I was hoping for something black and silky.
In that weird space between waking and sleeping, I created a second draft featuring black satin lingerie. Happy with my edit, my dream hand continued to explore Maria’s body while my real hand traveled to my crotch. The rest of her clothes melted away and my imagination manufactured a composite woman made of Maria’s hair, face, and legs and Beth’s familiar crotch, breasts, and neck.
Like a demented child playing with plastic toys, I combined and re-combined the body parts. In my fantasy, the Maria-Beth creature was on top of me. Her breasts and her hair dangled in my face. As we moved, her hair whipped my face. I surrendered to the fantasy and could almost feel her breasts on my chest. The crescendo grew and grew and finally climaxed dropping me into a deep and dreamless sleep.
Sex, Money, Drugs—It’s all there in this gripping, fast-paced read filled with indelible characters. You won’t be able to put it down until you turn the final page! Underlying all that is the thought-provoking depiction of a man in mid-life grappling with the morality and the legality of his choices, weighing the consequences of succumbing to various temptations thrown in his path, again and again. Fasten your seatbelts—you’re in for a wild ride!
Sharyn Gale—Author of Imagining Molly
If you like page turners, airplanes, some drug and sex related excitement, and the human predicament (can a good guy be bad and a bad guy good?) this is the book for you! As I read
Flying Blind I got the strong feeling that the author was telling a story that he had to tell – besides obviously being well acquainted with airplanes, maybe he, like his protagonist, has faced moral dilemmas himself, like most of us, and that helped us really get into the body/mind of Dan, his major character, as he navigated not just the plane through one predicament after another, but his own destiny. When you’re through reading it, pass it on to a friend; the adrenalin rush is noteworthy.
Katya Taylor—Author of My Haiku Life and Prison Wisdom
I just finished “Flying Blind.” A real page turner!
I loved all the flying details. They are key to the arc of the story.
It felt like the slippery slope of a Flannery O’Connor story. A normal day begins to slide away without the protagonist even knowing it. Evil — true, bare-fanged evil — comes slithering across the floor. Then rises up and bites Dan (the main character) where it hurts most.
But the poison isn’t deadly, it’s transformative. The college professor craves a life away from the dullness and boredom of his work, his family, his life.
The story has a cinematic quality. I could envision each chapter as a scene in a movie.
Dan’s attraction to Maria (his romantic interest and bête noir) is obvious, even as it grows from pure lust to something more, something deeper. I’m not as convinced about her attraction to him. I picture Dan as slightly nebbish-y, a suburban academic who can really fly.
Maria lives on the edge with dangerous men. What does she see in Dan that lifts him above the milieu too familiar to her?
The author should have developed this more. In a movie these are details that would be easily filled in.
I was very interested in Richard (Dan’s most obvious antagonist). Hammerman gets his Jamaican dialect down perfectly. It sounds real (as opposed to someone mimicking what they’ve picked up on TV). I also liked his diversions into Spanish. One suspects that Hammerman has spent some time in Jamaica and in Spanish-speaking countries.
I also enjoyed Hammerman’s exploration of the criminal world’s Code of Honor and how criminals deal with those who violate it.
All in all, I recommend this book to any adult who has experienced the joys and disapointments of middle age. I combines the yearnings for youth with the growing realities of our limitations and our determined fight against the coming of the night.
I especially recommend this book to film publishers or screen writers. This could be the start of a franchise.
Kurt Landefeld author of Jack’s Memoirs: Off the Road.
If you like good characterization, suspense, a few twists, and an ending you truly did not see coming then you will enjoy Flying Blind. Hammerman threw in occasional humor which literally brings a smile to the reader’s face. And his sparse use of good metaphors was not overdone, merely sprinkled in. I not only give Fling Blind 5 stars, but look forward to his next book.
Flying Blind by Howard Hammerman is the story of a man who is down on his luck, only to find out that his luck is going to get worse. The novel follows the story of Dan Goldberg. He hasn’t had the best of luck recently; he lost his job and now his wife is asking him to sell his one true love: his Cessna. His little airplane is his life and there is nothing that he would not do to keep it. His whole life changes when he is approached by a man to fly his beloved Cessna all the way to New Jersey. He is approached by a Jamaican man who gives him a whole wad of cash … just to deliver a package to New Jersey. Dan’s instinct was telling him that something seemed fishy, but his need for cash made him agree to this quick dash. He meets with a sexy woman named Maria, who turns out to be a call girl, and his trip is a drug drop off. Soon his trip to New Jersey is turning out to be the worst decision he ever made. He deeply regrets it, but he has no way out now. What can he do? Can he save himself in time?
Entertaining and surprisingly complex, Flying Blind is an action-packed novel that I did not want to put down. I loved Dan’s development and how he simply grew from a man who was desperate and naïve to a man who was desperate but ready to fight and conquer. Maria was such a complex character and I liked how she changed the flow of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed this simply amazing and entertaining novel.
Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers’ Favorite
I enjoyed the book. I am an instrument rated private pilot with about 500 hours. I have flown a C-177RG which is a Cessna Cardinal with retractable gear.
I have flown to every airport mentioned in the book and have flown over the Chesapeake Bay numerous times. Everything technical in the book is correct. Some of the clearances would not be issued exactly as written but I will grant poetic license.
A few things were a little incredible. Far too much credit was given to the FAA. They are not that sharp. When terrorists turned off transponders on 9/11 the FAA and even NORAD were stumped. I doubt they could track a Cessna. I was a volunteer aviation safety associate for the Baltimore FSDO and did photography for the FAA safety program. Some nice people but I was not impressed by the administration.
Flying close to the water in instrument weather with a non-pilot would probably result in a big splash.
Other than that it was pretty believable from the flying perspective. The Cardinal was probably my favorite airplane to fly. It is very stable and a great instrument platform. It has no external struts to get in the way of the view and has large doors.
The book was a quick read and enjoyable. Before I met my current wife I dated a Cuban woman who flew with me. My comments will end there.
Brian Dziuba, Coral Gables, FL