Approx. 65,000 Words
Sharon E Duncan
10925 Peach Orchard Rd
Bentonville AR 72712
(479) 586-2152 Cell
AIRWOLF: RETURN OF THE HAWKE
A Novel by
S E Duncan
* Prologue is from AIRWOLF episode “BLACKJACK” 1987 by Michael Mercer and Jana Veverka.
He was sure that St. John was still alive. He, of all people, should know his own brother’s voice. What Simon Locke - or anyone else for that matter - thought was of no consequence to him. Garbled or not, he knew the tape had been made by St. John Hawke.
He was positive.
He had to talk to Dominic. Dom would understand and help him find his brother.
Walking through the spacious hangar of Santini Air, Stringfellow Hawke spotted Jo Santini standing in the wide doorway. The young woman was watching a yellow and white Jet Ranger power up to take off.
“Where’s Dom going?” he asked, a frown on his thoughtful face.
Jo turned toward Hawke at the sound of his voice. “He’s got a short cargo run up the coast,” Jo told him. She tugged the bulky blue sweater closer together over her slim body, shivering slightly against the chill in the air. The tarmac glistened, still shiny-wet from the recent rainfall. The misty air held a promise for more precipitation soon.
“I’ve gotta talk to him,” Hawke said, more to himself than to Jo. He ran toward the helicopter, his sneakers making sloshy sounds on the wet asphalt. He hoped to catch Dom before he lifted off.
Without any warning, he was blinded by a brilliant flash of light, only a millisecond before a fiery inferno hit him. Pain tore at his entire being as the helicopter exploded, its force catching him in mid-stride and tossing him backward onto the hard tarmac. Somewhere in the blackness of his mind he heard Jo scream. His last conscious thought was that his best friend was in that chopper.
Jo ran to Hawke, knowing in her terror that her uncle could not have survived the blast. His helicopter was engulfed in flames. Several men had grabbed fire extinguishers and were running to the aircraft. But Jo knew it was too late--Dominic was dead. As she knelt beside Hawke, her feared that he was dead too. Blood ran from his nose and from a wound in his abdomen. The arms of his jacket and the legs of his jeans were burning.
Peeling off her sweater, she hurriedly used it to put out the flames, but his skin was already seared by the intense heat.
“Please, call an ambulance!” Jo screamed at gathering crowd, hoping someone could hear her over the noisy confusion. “Hurry!”
Jo stared in horror at the blood covering Hawke’s body, just below his brown flight jacket. She quickly unzipped the coat, and put an ear to his chest. There was no sound.
“Don’t do this to me, String,” she sobbed. Placing her hands in the correct CPR position, she started the rhythmic motions that might jolt his heart into action again. A young man, Jo never learned his name, quickly performed mouth to mouth.
I seemed hours before she heard the wail of the sirens.
With arms that felt like lead, Jo paused for a moment, just to listen for a heartbeat. There was a faint, but definite thump. Then she moved out of the way as the paramedics took over.
That was the last she saw of him for three days. He was rushed away to a hospital and kept under high security.
The Firm had taken over. No one would even let Jo in to see him. His condition was listed as critical.
* * *
Hawke lay in a coma for the next three days while his body fought the trauma inflicted upon in. The first two of those days he was kept on a respirator, his lungs unable to function by themselves. By the third, he was able to breathe on his own but incapable of completely pulling himself out of the deep unconsciousness which held him in its clutches. Voices, whispers vaguely slipped through occasionally.
He knew someone had come into the room. He tried to force his eyes open, to see who it was, but he couldn’t move or even speak.
“String? It’s me, Jo. I know you can hear me. I’m going to stay here till you come out of this. You and Uncle Dom are the only family I have left. I’m not going to let you go, too.”
Hawke tried to talk, to tell her something, but he couldn’t remember what it was he wanted to say. Then the dark void claimed him once more.
Hours later, Hawke fought his way out of the blackness again, clinging to the words Jo was saying as a drowning man would to a piece of driftwood.
“You remember the first time Dom took us up in that junky old chopper? He shoved the stick into your hand, and I screamed. And St. John and you told me to shut up or bail out.” Her voice paused. Hawke move a hand, trying to reach out to Jo.
“String, I can’t do this alone. You gotta help me.” Jo caught his hand, gently holding the bandaged fingers, as Hawke struggled to speak.
“What, String. What is it?”
Weakly, he finally managed to get the words out. “St. John. S-St. John is alive. Please, please take Airwolf and find him. Please.”
Exhausted, he passed out again.
* * *
Hawke had no concept of the time he lay there, immobile. He drifted in and out of consciousness, vaguely aware of people entering and leaving his room. Doctors, nurses, and someone else - from The Firm, he thought - came and went. The Pain in his body seemed to have let up, just a little, but he felt so alone. Dom was dead now, like his parents, like Gabrielle. Maybe soon he would be joining them. Earlier, he had overheard two nurses discussing his condition, saying he probably wouldn’t survive. Guess they thought he couldn’t’ hear them.
He could move his arms now, although they were bandaged. There was no feeling in his legs at all. He knew he was paralyzed. A doctor had explained to him that a piece of the helicopter had been propelled into his abdomen by the force of the explosion. That sliver of metal had imbedded itself in his spine. At least there was no pain in his legs. With severe burns like he had suffered, the pain would have been intense. His jacket had prevented his arms from heavy burns.
Lying there, he had nothing to do but think. Dom’s death had left him with such an emptiness inside. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to live under these conditions. He had friends though that were paraplegics, and he thought of that line from the song, “Moonshadow.”
“If I should ever lose my legs,
Then I won’t have to walk no more.”
Those friends had managed to make a life for themselves and their families.
He felt so old, so tired.
What if he was wrong? What if St. John was dead all along, just like Dom had said? Seventeen years wasa long time to hope. Maybe Dom had been right when he said to let him go. The chances of a MIA surviving that long would be very minute.
Hawke’s life was a series of tragedies. His parents died in a boating accident when he was twelve. He alone, had survived. Dominic Santini had been like a father ever since, looking after him and his brother, St. John.
Hawke, although for the most part a loner, had fallen in love for the first time at the age of nineteen. The day before he was scheduled to ship out for Vietnam he and his girlfriend had been involved in a car crash. She died.
In Vietnam, he and St. John had served in the same unit, both advancing to the rank of captain. His brother disappeared on one of the missions. Hawke never heard from him again, but always had this gut feeling that somehow St. John was still alive.
Working for The Firm (a secret government intelligence agency) for several years after Nam, he hoped to find a clue to St. John’s whereabouts. Although several leads had surfaced, they dead ended without locating his brother. No real trace was ever uncovered. Until now.
On the morning of the explosion Jo had found a plain manila envelope containing an audio cassette in one of Santini’s helicopters, with only "Stringfellow Hawke" scrawled across it. No one knew who left it there, but the voice on the tape really sounded like St. John to the anxious Hawke. Before the explosion Hawke had been making plans to use Airwolf to find his brother.
In 1984 his former boss from The Firm, Michael Coldsmith Briggs III (code-name Archangel) had called on him. He wanted Hawke to go to Libya after a high tech helicopter stolen from them. Hawke had taken advantage of the mission. After retrieving the aircraft, he had kept it. Then he hid the secret chopper in a volcanic cave in badlands known as The Valley of the Gods. He promised to return Airwolf when The Firm located his brother.
During the Airwolf mission, Hawke fell in love with Gabrielle, and agent with The Firm. She stayed at Hawke’s cabin for several days to brief him on what he was going up against in Libya. Then she had gone ahead to the North African country. The Firm’s spies in Libya had uncovered information that Airwolf was being kept at Kadaffi’s palace in Kafir.
Suspecting Gabrielle of being a spy, Dr. Charles Henry Moffet (Airwolf’s abductor and creator) had kidnapped her. Unable to force any useful information from the young woman, he left her in the Libyan desert to perish. Hawke hadn’t found her in time to save her. She died in his arms.
"Where’s Jo?” Hawke muttered to himself. She hadn’t been back for hours, or days. At least not when he was conscious. He really hated the idea of leaving her alone in the world. "Not that I have much to say in the matter," he thought.
Oh, how he missed Kate. He never told her how he really felt. He was afraid she would think he was too old for her. Sure, he knew she cared for him, probably more like a big brother, though. She was barely more than a kid. But Caitlin O’Shannessy had gone to visit her family in Texas for a few weeks.
He smiled slightly. That little ex-Texas highway patrolperson was so full of life. Two days before the accident, as she was boarding the plane, she kissed him on the cheek, laughing and telling him not to get into any trouble while she was gone, because she would be "hoppin’ mad" if she missed anything. Then she told him to look after Dom for her.
He hadn’t done a very good job, had he?
Someone had planted a bomb in the Jet Ranger. That much was certain. Hawke had given the aircraft a routine inspection just the day before. It was in perfect condition, Dom always saw to that. There was no reason for it to blow up. It had been sabotaged. But why? And by whom?
Was it just a coincidence, this tape of St. John’s voice showing up like it did and the chopper exploding? Both events happened within a few hours of each other. It didn’t make sense. Was the bomb meant for Dom, or for him?
All this thinking was making his head hurt.
If he hadn’t been away, checking with The Firm about the tape, he probably would have been in that helicopter. Dom usually let him handle most of the flights. He knew Hawke became restless just working around the hangar all day. If only he had stayed there, instead of running off, chasing ghosts, Dom would still be alive. At least he would have been killed outright, not lying here, waiting for the end.
He opened his eyes at the soft sound of the door being pushed in. Someone entered the room. Probably a doctor, checking to see if I’ve kicked the bucket yet, he thought bitterly. This person wasn’t dress in white like all the others, though. Hawke squinted his eyes, trying to focus on the visitor. He head hurt worse with the effort.
Was this someone’s cruel idea of a joke? Maybe he was hallucinating.
"St. John? Is that you?" Hawke could barely see through the mist in his eyes. Maybe this was all a dream.
"You bet, pard!" St. John said, as he gently put his arms around Hawke.
"There’s just so much I’ve got to tell you."
"I know, I know," said St. John.
"Dom an’ . . . " Hawke broke down, crying with pain and joy onto St. John’s shoulder. It had been way too long.
"I know," St. John said again softly, holding his brother to him.
Tired beyond words, and in intense pain, String laid his head back onto the pillow. "I don’t want to die," he said through clenched teeth.
"You’re not gonna die. I’m not gonna let ya."
Suddenly he wanted to live, to make up for all the years he and St. John had been apart. He needed to tell Kate something too, what he had wanted to say for some time now.
"I don’t want to die in this place," Hawke said, the pain almost more than he could bear. With bandaged arms, he clung to his brother, afraid to let go. Afraid now to die.
"You won’t, String. I promise you. I promise." St. John held String until the sobs ceased and his brother’s body went limp in his arms.
Kate was having a wonderful time. She and her sister, Patti, had been shopping in the marketplace since early morning. They had tried on every hat in the plaza at least twice. Running around, laughing and talking with the Mexican vendors, they were enjoying their little spree together.
Kate hadn’t see Patti for over a year. She had missed her sister’s wedding several months ago, thanks to the hijacking of a plane, the one Kate was on. She hadn’t had the opportunity to visit her since.
Last week, when her sister called, suggesting a trip to Mexico for some "serious" shopping, Kate started to say no, that she couldn’t possibly get away.
Dominic Santini, overhearing the conversation, said, "Oh, go on. It’ll do you good to get away from us old guys for awhile. Get out of her, have a little fun with your sis."
"I don’t think we ought to let her go, Dom." Hawke argued, as he poked his head out from under the helicopter he was tinkering around on. "She’s liable to meet some handsome Spanish prince, and run off to live with him in his villa. And then where would we be? Short a pilot, I’m telling ya."
Kate stuck her tongue out at Hawke, who just winked at her. Kate blushed. Did this guy have any idea what he did to her? Her heart did a little flip flop. That grin could melt an iceberg. For a moment she could think of no retort, nothing to come back with after that remark.
Then she had it!
"You know mah heart is reserved for only you, sugah," she said in her sweetest Texas drawl. He would never guess it was the truth, not in a million years.
Now, whose turn was it to turn red? Hawke just ducked his head back under the chopper. "I wish," he said, too low for her to hear.
Kate paused for an instant, puzzled, and unable to understand his reaction. She had never seen him blush before. Finally finding her wits, she removed her hand from the phone, and told Patti she would go.
Now Kate was glad she had come. Her sister was so much fun to be with. This was the first time Patti had gone anywhere without her new husband, Paul. He had left on a business trip, and Patti called Kate. She told Kate that she really didn’t relish the idea of sitting around the house until Paul came back.
The two girls looked very much alike; one could definitely tell they were sisters. Both were slender redheads. But where Patti had short, curly hair, Kate had been letting her straight hair grow until it was past her shoulders.
Kate, at twenty seven, was two years older than her sister, with freckles that really stood out if she stayed in the bright light very long. In the past few day she has seen a lot of the sun. Patti didn’t have her sister’s freckles. Her skin was a couple of shades lighter than Kate’s , and had burned easily during yesterday’s outing at the beach. Today they were deciding which hat would best protect them from the sun’s rays. It was after noon when they finally stopped long enough to eat. They sat in a booth at a small cafe, lunching on taco salads. "There’s something important I’ve just been dying to tell you, Katie," said Patti, breaking off a piece of the pastry shell. "Now I’m not one hundred percent. But I think I might be pregnant. I haven’t told Paul yet. I’m hoping to surprise him when he gets back next week. "You’re kidding!" said Kate. “Why, that’s wonderful." She leaned across the table and gave her sister a big bear hug, almost spilling her drink. "When will you know for sure. "I have an appointment to see a doctor tomorrow. Will you go with me to the clinic? I’m a little bit nervous. "Oh yes, Sis! I’m so happy for you. And Paul too, of course. This means I’m going to be an aunt, doesn’t it?" Kate was almost as excited as Patti. "If you are, then we can go hunting baby things. The two sat there, sipping their water and discussing names for babies, for over an hour. "You know, we’d better get out of here before they start charging us rent," Kate said as she stood up and grabbed the check. "This is on me, sister dear. All at once Kate turned deathly pale and collapsed back into her seat. "Katie, what’s the matter?" Worried by the stunned look on her sister’s face, Patti clutched Kate’s arm. "You look awful."
"I don’t know," Kate said, and pushed to her feet again. "Something’s wrong. I can feel it. I’ve got to get to a phone."
"Come on. There’s one over by the restrooms," Patti said. Still holding her arm, she led Kate over it. Kate shoved money into the payphone, hands shaking. She misdialed twice before she got it right. The phone just rang though, no answer. "There’s no one at the hangar," she said. "I’ll try Dom’s house." But there was no answer there, nor at Hawk’s cabin. "Maybe they’re out to lunch, or flying around somewhere," Patti suggested, gently squeezing Kate’s arm, trying her best to reassure her. "Sure, you’re probably right," Kate replied in a shaky voice. "I’ll try later," she added, wiping sweaty palms on her blue jeans. She never did get an answer. Her instinct was to fly back immediately, but she couldn’t leave Patti alone now. She stayed until Paul came home then caught the next flight to California. She hadn’t been able to shake that terrifying feeling that something, somewhere was way wrong. She told herself that Dom and Hawke were on a flight to Canada or somewhere. Maybe on a mission in Airwolf. She had to be sure. She had to know. The flight to Van Nuys was uneventful. The sun was out, shining brightly, when her plane landed. Little puddles of water standing in low spots in the tarmac indicated it had been raining recently. Kate walked over to the Santini Air hangar. It looked deserted, the door locked. She used her key to let herself into the office, setting the suitcase just inside the door. Everything looked the same. No, wait. Things had been rearranged, as if someone had been going through the file cabinets looking for something. She was shaking again, wanting to know why, and at the same time, dreading the answer. She walked out into the hangar, snapping on the lights. She froze, petrified by the sight of a helicopter burned almost beyond recognition. Its ugly, charred remains sat in the middle of the spacious area. The cold feeling of dread nearly suffocated her. Had someone been in that when it burned? Dom, Jo, Hawke? She knew the answer could only be bad. She ran out the door, tears stinging her eyes, to the hangar next to Santini’s. Jack Wilson, working on a plane just inside his large, open doorway, looked up as Kate ran inside. "Jack, what’s happened?" Kate was close to hysteria now. With tears running down her cheeks, she looked into his face . . . and knew her world was crumbling around her. "Miss Kate. We tried to get a hold of you. Miss Jo said you’d gone to see your sis." Jack gently took both her arms in his hands. "Oh, honey, I’m so sorry. Guess there’s no easy way to tell you. Dominic’s dead. Killed when his chopper blew up. An’ String, they say he isn’t going to make it. They got him over at the army hospital."
"Oh, no!" Kate broke down completely, crying onto Jack’s kindly shoulder as he gathered her to him. Jack dug into his pocket and handed her his kerchief. Kate wiped away the tears and blew her nose. "Jack, will you fly me to the hospital? I’ve got to get there fast."
"Sure, Missy. It’s only a couple miles by air. I’ll get a chopper ready. It’ll just take a minute.” "I’ve got to go lock up." Kate ran back to Santini’s, quickly grabbed her case, and locked the door. By the time she returned, Jack had a helicopter powered up, ready to take off. Stuffing her case in the back, Kate climbed aboard, and in only a few short minutes they arrived at the hospital’s heliport.
“I’ll be in in a second, Miss Kate, soon as I take care of this chopper,” Jack said, as Kate jumped out of the helicopter, and ran inside. A nurse looked up as she entered the lobby.
“May I help you, Ma’am?” she asked.
“Yes, please. Could you tell me what room Stringfellow Hawke is in?” Kate inquired, traces of tears still evident on her face.
The nurse checked her files. She smiled at Kate. “His room number is 604.”
Kate hurried to the elevator and punched the up button with a trembling finger. She waited impatiently for the doors to open. It seemed an eternity and she nearly decided to take the stairs, before the lift arrived. She stepped inside, quickly pushing six. The elevator stopped at the sixth floor, and Kate slipped through the doors before they were completely open. She asked an RN at the nurses’ station which way room 604 was.
The nurse pointed down the correct wing. “But I don’t think . . . “
Kate didn’t hear the rest of the nurse’s sentence as she raced down the hall. She opened the door to 604 , and stared in horror. A woman had just finished removing the sheets from the bed. IV bags still hung suspended above it.
“The man who was in this room, where is he?” Kate asked the cleaning woman, afraid of the answer.
“I’m sorry ma’am. I don’t have any idea. I was just told to clean up in here.
Someone touched her arm. The nurse had followed her, to try and stop her from entering the room.
“He’s gone, Miss,” she said. “We don’t know where. He just disappeared from his room a couple of hours ago. We don’t know how he got out. He couldn’t even walk.”
“How bad was he hurt?” Kate asked her.
“The doctors said his condition was grave. They said it looked like he wasn’t going to survive. I’m sorry,” she said. “I really wish I could help you.”
Kate thanked her and made her way back outside, meeting Jack coming up the outside steps.
“Miss Kate, how is he?”
“I don’t know. He’s not there. A nurse told me he left but no one knows where he went. Oh, Jack, where could he be?” Hell, they said he couldn’t even walk, that he’s dying.”
Then an idea came to her. “Could you take me to String’s house?” Please? Maybe, just maybe, that’s where he would want to go.” She was acting on a hunch. But then, that’s all she really had to go on.
Come on, let’s go. You’ll have to tell me how to get there.” Jack took her arm guiding her gently to the helicopter.
To the worried Kate, the trip to Hawke’s place seemed to take forever, but finally the cabin came into view.
A helicopter already sat on the landing dock--a big beautiful, black thing that glistened in the sunlight.
Jack sat his chopper down in a clearing behind the house. Kate jumped out, almost before the runners touched the ground, and ran inside, not bothering to knock. There was no one in the living room, but she could hear voices coming from upstairs. She bolted up the steps.
Hawke lay in his bed, pale and still. New IVs had been attached to him, and a nurse in a white uniform stood there talking softly to some man. That man, he looked familiar. Of course! He was the man in the picture on the mantle, and the one in the snapshot String carried in his billfold.
St. John Hawke.
Hate hesitated for only a moment before going to Hawke. Dropping to her knees, she took his hand in hers; tears forced their way out from behind tightly closed lids.
“Oh, God! Please don’t let him die! Please,” Kate pleaded. She opened her eyes, not paying any attention to the others people in the room, at their wondering looks. The only thing that mattered was the man lying before her.
“String, I’m here now. I didn’t know!” she whispered, tears falling on his covers. “I never should have left. I should have been here!”
St. John stood quietly watching the emotional display. It was evident this woman knew his brother quite well. He crossed to the bed, and gently removed Kate’s hand from String’s. “Come on, let’s go downstairs,” he said softly. “We can talk there. The nurse will stay here with String.”
St. John held on to her arm as they descended the staircase. Kate was glad for the support, since her legs threatened to let her down any time now. Once downstairs, Kate pulled away to look up at him. He was taller than she thought he would be, taller than String. “You’re St. John, aren’t you?” she asked, taking a deep breath in an effort to pull herself together.
“Yes, I am,” St. John said. “Now, sit down here,” he gestured to the sofa, “and tell me who you are. You’re obviously well acquainted with my brother.”
“I’m Caitlin O’Shannessy. Kate. I work for Dominic Santini and String. They’re also my friends.” She paused. Looking up into his eyes. “Is it true? I mean, is Dom really dead?”
Jack quietly came in and sat down on the hearth. He listened to the conversation, not wanting to interrupt.
“Yes, I’m afraid Dominic was killed in the explosion that injured String.” St. John sat on the arm of the sofa.
“I wish I could have seen him again,” he added wistfully. “He was one terrific guy.”
“That he was. I’m going to miss him so much.” Kate’s eyes filled with tears again and flooded over, running down her cheeks.
She quickly wiped them away with the back of her hand. “What about String? How bad is it?”
“His doctors felt that his condition was hopeless. There was internal damage when a piece of the chopper hit him in the abdomen, went through and buried itself in his spine. He’s paralyzed from the lower back on down. His legs were badly burned, and he lost a great deal of blood. On top of that, he received a severe blow to the back of his head. They said it’s a miracle he’s survived this long.”
“You mean, nothing can be done for him?” Kate shook her head. “I can’t accept that.”
“Neither can I,” St. john said. “That’s why I’m taking Airwolf to Chicago as soon as Jo gets back with supplies. I don’t want to leave String and the nurse alone out here. The Firm has located a doctor in Chicago who is a specialist in this type of injury.”