Thirty years after Amelia Earhart vanishes in the Pacific, Vincent Carlson, designer of her spy plane, now ex-CIA, still searches for the answer to her disappearance. His obsession with A.E. changes when Amelia Adams, a young, mysterious Amerasian, linked to A.E. by more than name, walks into his life. She spurs his passion, but accuses him of killing her father, Vincent's chief mechanic at Lockheed. Forced into an explosive liaison, their plight turns deadly when Ito, master spy and Vincent's enemy, spins a web of terror and treachery. Their search for the real killer takes them from Brisbane, Australia, to the Coral Sea, and Saipan. Each time the tighten the net, the killer cuts through it, thrusts Vincent and Amelia into deeper peril.
; May 2002
333 pages; ISBN 9780744303452Read online
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Author: Harvey Mendez; Christie Shary
PROLOGUE Lae, New Guinea July 2, 1937 Ten o’clock Friday morning, Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, lifted off in her Lockheed Electra fifty yards short of the runway’s end. Weighted with 1150 gallons of gasoline, the aircraft plunged below the cliffs. A few feet above the waves, AE pulled out. They headed east toward the International Dateline into yesterday, searching for Howland Island, a microscopic touch of land on the equator, 2556 miles from Lae. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter, Itasca, awaited her arrival at approximately 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Nothing had been heard from Amelia Earhart for seventeen hours. The Itasca tried to contact her throughout Friday night. Muffled by heavy static, Amelia’s voice came over their radio transmitter. 2:45 a.m. – "KHAQQ…Cloudy and overcast." 6:15 a.m. – "About two hundred miles out." The Itasca could not respond to her transmissions. Both used different radio frequencies. 7:42 a.m. – "We must be on you, but cannot see you – gas is running low—unable to reach you by radio—flying at a thousand feet—only half hour’s gas left." 8:45 a.m. – "We are in the line of position 157-337—will repeat this message on 6210—we are running north and south." The Itasca radioman heard anxiety in Amelia’s voice, waited for more details. Nothing came. Amelia Earhart’s transmitter had crackled for the last time. Somewhere in the North Pacific July 2, 1937 The altimeter read 750 feet. Amelia gripped the controls hard, spoke into the long tube connecting her with the cabin. "Fred! We’re losing altitude. Gas about gone. Better get the raft. I’ll have to dead stick it." The panel read six-fifty . . . Whitecaps rose fast toward the plane. "Four-fifty, three-fifty . . ." She lowered the flaps, pulled back on the controls until her arms cramped, fought to keep the nose up. The engines stalled. "One hundred…Fred, get ready, brace!" Spray from the waves splashed against the windshield, blinded her. She closed her eyes, jerked back on the controls again. The tail hit first, thrust the plane’s nose in the air before settling into the water. Amelia pitched forward and covered her face before she struck the instrument panel. Her hands bled but she shook it off, stood on the seat, forced open the top escape hatch. "Fred, Fred! Are you all right?" The small cabin door opened. Fred, his head bleeding, slipped through. "Let me help you." She pulled him onto the co-pilot’s seat. "Did you get the raft?" He shook his head. "We need it. I know there’s an island around here someplace. Stay put, I’ll be right back." She edged into the cabin. Water half filled the fuselage but the empty fuel tanks buoyed the Electra on the dark swells. The small yellow uninflated raft floated toward her. She stuffed it into the cockpit. They climbed out the hatch, inflated the rubber boat with a carbon dioxide canister. Amelia helped Fred onto the wing. Thick clouds hovered overhead. Choppy waves rocked the aircraft. They stepped into the raft. She grabbed an oar. He rested against the bow. Amelia pushed off, rowed into the waves. On the horizon, a ship flying the Rising Sun closed fast. Amelia slowed her stroke. No need to hurry, destiny was now. Nauru Island Halfway between Lae and Howland Island Young Vincent Carlson stretched from his chair after many hours at the radio-tracking station when the message burst over the wire. Amelia Earhart had vanished. He grabbed the microphone, radioed the Itasca, but was unable to reach them. Moments later, word flashed around the globe. Amelia Earhart had gone down at sea. Vincent slumped in the chair, buried his face in his hands. Damn! Why did he let her go? He should’ve stayed with her after he gave AE the bad news in March . . . Burbank, California March 1937 Amelia Earhart charged into the Lockheed hangar, her short brown tresses wisping over the silk paisley scarf wrapped around her neck. She brushed hair off her forehead and glanced at the twin engine Electra, still damaged from the crash at Luke Field in Honolulu. "Vincent! Vincent! You in here?" She pulled at her scarf. "Up here, in the cockpit." Vincent Carlson’s blue eyes widened. She was dressed in tan slacks and brown leather flying jacket. He grinned. "AE, hi." "Thought I’d find you here." Vincent popped his upper body through the top escape hatch. "Yeah, this plane’s a mess. You’re lucky you weren’t killed." "I am lucky. Always have been. You know, right place, right time, all that. Until now…" She touched the plane’s identification numbers, NR16020. "What do you mean ‘until now’? Don’t worry, they’ll get the Electra fixed up in no time." "They’ll? Then the rumors are true." "What rumors?" "You’re leaving. First I lose my navigator, then you." "It’s tough Manning gave it up, but you will have Noonan. He’s one helluva navigator." Amelia climbed into the cockpit. Vincent sat beside her. She placed a hand on his shoulder. "Lockheed’s the boss." He ran a hand through his dark hair. "When they say go, I go." "Go where?" "They’re loaning me to Boeing. Gonna do some design work on the B-17 bomber. If war comes, air power will win it." "War?" she said. "You mean Europe? America’s neutral about Hitler." "No, I mean the Far East—Japan." "But I need you, too. I’ll never get this plane ready by May." She looked at the right wing lying on the hangar’s floor. "Sure you will." "But you designed this Electra." "Stan Adams can finish up. He’s Lockheed’s top mechanic." Amelia shook her head. "I depended on you so much." Her blue-gray eyes moistened. "Come on, AE, don’t you go and cry on me. I wouldn’t leave you with nothing. I’ve got a better plane." "What kind of plane?" "You’ll love it." "Does Stan know?" "Yeah, we couldn’t tell you till all the specs were done. Word just came down." Vincent crossed his long legs. "Your crash in Honolulu was no accident." "I jockeyed the throttles too much, made the Electra arc." "That’s not the only reason. Army Intelligence is onto something . . ." "I wondered about that. We had everything penciled to a fine point." "The new plane has higher altitude capabilities, more sophisticated equipment." "But there’s no need for that kind of stuff." Amelia forced a smile. "Remember," he said, "climate conditions have changed. Now you have to fly west to east." "Doesn’t matter. I’ve a mission to accomplish and I’ll do it." Vincent shook his head. "AE, you’re too stubborn." "Seems I’ve heard that before." She studied the instrument panel. "It’s a precarious time in the Pacific. The Japanese are fortifying their Mandated Islands. They won’t let anyone close, much less fly over them." "How do you know all that?" He ignored her question. "Hell, the Marshalls—the Marianas, loaded to the hilt." "I’m not passing that close." Why didn’t he answer her? He avoided her gaze. "I’m not, am I?" Again he ignored her. "The new plane’s faster, equipped with cameras." "I don’t need cameras." She set her jaw. Vincent eased up, formed a slow grin. "Never can tell." Perplexed, she toyed with the controls. "All the equipment in the world won’t take your place." "Believe me, Stan can handle it." He touched her shoulder. Amelia’s eyes softened. "I thought you’d track this flight." "Sorry, Lockheed committed me." He looked away. "I can stop it." She tugged his sleeve. "I’m best friends with Eleanor and the President. He’s the highest authority." Vincent hoisted his lanky body out the hatch, slid off the wing. He helped Amelia to the ground. "I can’t stay, not this time." "I see." She straightened her clothes. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other, stared at her silhouette in the fading afternoon sun. How could he do this to her? He felt rotten. Somehow, he’d make it up to her. "So, that’s final, eh?" She patted the silver Electra’s nose. "I just have a feeling there’s more to it." Vincent watched her walk away. Must be the sun. He wiped his eyes, sighed. Someday, Amelia, someday . . .