A Fish Tale
Daniel Cooper knocked on the door of the house of B. D. Cage. He had been surprised to get a call from the elderly man . He kept to himself mostly from what Ruby had said when he first arrived and inquired about the man. He always nodded when Daniel waved but never made any effort to strike up a conversation and as far as Daniel knew he'd never set foot in either church.
To say the minister's curiosity was piqued would be a gross understatement. He heard the door unlock, a strange thing unto itself in this island community and it opened slowly.
"Good to see you could make it, Reverend." The man greeted with a raspy voice as he shuffled back to let Daniel inside.
The house was dark and it reaked of cigarette smoke causing Daniel to breath shallowly through his nose as he followed him into the living room.
"Have a seat." He pointed to the couch then lowered himself into a well-worn chair with a grunt. "Suppose you're wonderin' why I called you?"
"Reverend, I have a mighty confession to make... and you'll see why I chose you as I tell my story."
It was November 24,1971...the night before Thanksgiving, I boarded a plane in Portland, North-West Orient Airlines to be exact...
A far away look came to Cage's eyes and Daniel sat quietly and waited for him to continue.
I bought a ticket in coach and boarded the plane. The stewardess asked me if I wanted a drink and I ordered bourbon and water then handed her a note. She didn't even look at it, just stuck it in her pocket and tended to the other passengers.
Cage chuckled at the memory and Daniel wondered exactly where he was going with this story.
"She finally read it... I had a bomb Reverend and I was hijacking the plane."
Daniel's mouth fell open, he was not expecting that.
"Guess I was desperate, I'd lost my job at an investment firm and was 45 years old with no prospects---"
"That's... that's just an excuse for committing a criminal act!"
"Thought you weren't s'posed to judge!" Cage threw back.
Daniel shook his head at a loss.
"You want to hear the rest or not?" Cage groused.
"There's more?" Daniel blinked, the cigarette smoke from the one smoldering in the near-by ashtray was making his eyes water.
"Continue." So I can know if I can absolve you of your sins Mr. Cage.
I demanded $200,000 in used $20s and four parachutes. We stopped at Sea/Tac Airport where I got the money and parachutes, I released the 36 passengers and two flight attendants. I demanded they take me to Mexico but agreed to a refueling in Reno. I had had one of the flight attendants show me how lower the rear stairs on the 727. I put the parachute on and transfered the money to my briefcase, the one with the bomb.
He took a puff on the cigarette and Daniel closed his eyes not believing what he was hearing.
I put the bomb in the case from the money and attached a parachute. About 40 minutes into the flight from Sea/Tac I lowered the stairs and made my escape.
Another laugh escaped him followed by a hacking cough which he managed to overcome before Daniel could do more than lean forward.
"That turned out to be my contribution to the airlines... they put a latching device on the Boeing 727 that keeps the tail stairway from being lowered in flight... even named it after me. The F.B.I. thinks I was a bumbler and a fool. I jumped during a freezing rainstorm at 10,000 feet. The temperature was 7* below zero... the windchill was estimated at minus 70 because of the plane's speed... 200 miles per hour... and all I wore was a business suit and loafers." He shook his head and smiled. "I had a wetsuit under my clothing and a mask and goggles I pulled on before jumping. The clothes joined the bomb. Half way down, over the Columbia I blew the bomb leaving few scraps of evidence then I landed in the Cascade Mountains close to a cabin where I'd stashed a suitcase full of clothes. I cut up the chute and buried the pieces all around the cabin then came here to begin my new life... a retired salesman. I've read the Feds think I drowned in the Columbia or died in the mountains." He sighed and grew silent.
"Why tell me?" Daniel asked after a long moment.
"Because Reverend Daniel Cooper.... my name is Dan Cooper... better known by a mistake the Feds made that stuck... D.B. Cooper." The old man picked up his cigarette.
Daniel searched his memory and shook his head.
"Too young to know me. A couple of restaurants are even named after me, one in Salt Lake City the other in San Jose... even heard of a bar here in Ariel."
"You're proud of what you claim to have done?" Daniel frowned.
"Not proud Reverend. I've lived with guilt of a desparate act for thirty years."
"You could have turned yourself in."
"Thirty years either way." He sighed.
"Where's the money?" Daniel asked not sure whether to buy this story or not.
"Long gone." Cage shook his head.
"If you want absolution I can only give it if you're truly sorry and ready to repent"
"Maybe I just wanted to clear my conscience."
Daniel stood and rubbed his aching eyes.
"I...I need to go."
"Thanks for comin'." Cage shuffled to the door and opened it.
Daniel watched him a moment then left.
Once outside he took a deep breath of fresh air and headed home. He wanted to think... and he needed a shower.
He headed into town for lunch, still not sure if he believed the story but puzzled as to why Cage would have made it up.
He wouldn't be the first to claim notoriety for someone else's actions, Daniel thought as he entered the inn.
"Hey." Alex smiled and came over then wrinkled her nose. "Is that cigarette smoke?"
"Still can smell it after a the shower huh? Long story."
"Yeah." He nodded looking around.
Alex started for the bar and turned when she realized he wasn't following.
Instead he headed across the room to Father Mac's table.
"Well okay." She said grabbing a menu and the coffe pot.
"Hi Father Mac, may I join you?"
"Oh, uh, certainly."
"Coffee?" Alex asked as he sat down with the older cleric.
"Thanks." Daniel nodded and turned over his cup. "I'll take the club sandwich."
"I'll tell Boris." She nodded and let them men alone.
Daniel stared at his coffee, watching the steam rise.
"Is there something you'd like to talk to me about Daniel?"
"Am I that obvious?"
"You do seem to have a weight on your shoulders."
Daniel sighed, he wasn't sure how to ask the question he need to and still keep the sanctity of the confessional.
"What do you do... when someone confesses something that seems really far-fetched?"
Fr. Mac looked at him thoughtfully before answering.
"The first thing you need to do is find out if it's true."
"What if I can't?"
"Then you have to take the confession at face value and offer what you can to them."
Daniel nodded and picked up his cup.
"I need to be getting back, I'm going over the wedding with Mike and Carol."
"Give them my best."
"I certainly will."
"Thanks for your help."
"Anytime." The older man nodded and left him.
"Looks like your lunch companion deserted you."
"Yeah... guess I'll have to find myself another one." He smiled up at the redhead.
"If you'd be willing to relocate to the bar I could probably find you one." She smirked.
"Well... I'm kind of picky... I like red hair, blue eyes... a gorgeous smile."
"Today really is your lucky day Reverend." She smiled.
Daniel looked down the street after leaving Alex... who was a great lunch companion.
'Find out if it's true' Fr. Mac had said.
"There's only one way to do that." Daniel said to himself and purposely headed down the street until he reached the office of Callie Pender where he climbed the stairs and raised his hand to knock... just as the door opened.
"Oh! Daniel!" The short brunette breathed then chuckled. "You startled me. Did you need something?"
"Actually I needed some information but I see you're leaving."
"Information from me?"
"Oh. Well I have a few minutes if you want to come in, I'll show you how to use the computer."
"You sure?" He asked hopefully.
"Yeah, it's just an interview with Brian, he's kept me waiting enough times."
"Okay, thanks." He nodded.
He read everything he could on D.B. Cooper while Callie was out but what he found led him no closer to descerning is D.B. Cooper and B.D. Cage were the same man. Everything he was told could have been gleaned from news clippings at the time of the crime, he could have made up the whole thing about the cabin but that still begged the question of why he would do that?
He turned the computer off the way Callie showed him and leaned back in the chair with his thoughts.
"You find what you needed?" Callie asked returning a few minutes later.
"No." He sighed standing. "You?"
"Yeah, just have to write it out. Sorry you didn't find the information you needed."
"Me too. I'll see you later."
He walked down the street slowly, lost in thought.
I didn't find the answer so... Fr. Mac said take the confession at face value... and offer what I can.
He looked up at Cage's house but thought he needed more help so he went up the hill and to the church where it was waiting.
He looked up from where he had been sitting, praying then listening for the last few hours, when he heard the door open.
"What is it?"
"Cage called me, said you might have something to tell me." The cop answered puzzled.
"He knows I can't--" Daniel sighed and stood. "Come on."
"To his house."
They climbed into the police truck and headed down the hill.
"So what do you have to tell me?" Kevin asked driving.
"Something he told me... but it was a confession and I'm obligated to keep my silence."
"Then why did he send me to you?"
"I don't know... but we're going to find out."
They pulled up in front of the house and Daniel walked to the door where he knocked. There was no answer so he tried the knob surprised when it came open. They exchanged a look and went inside.
Cage was slumped in his chair and Kevin checked his pulse then shook his head.
"I'll call Dr. Watson."
Daniel said a prayer over the still form while Kevin made the call.
"She's on her way. Do you think he knew and that's why he sent me to you?"
"I don't know. Maybe that's why he confessed to me at all."
"Can you tell me now?"
"Let's wait til..."
Dr.Watson arrived a few minutes later and they helped her get him into a body bag and to the clinic, she would call the mainland coroner to do the autopsy.
"Let's go to the house." Daniel said and the men left.
Daniel poured their coffee and joined Kevin at the table with their cups.
Kevin sipped the hot liquid in silence and waited for him to speak.
"He told me he was D.B. Cooper."
Kevin put his mug down and stared at him.
"He claimed to be the infamous hijacker who jumped out of a plane over the state?"
"The F.B.I. still has an open case on him! I'll have to notify them, they'll want to go through his house... and interview you. Do you really think he is... was... Cooper?"
Daniel shrugged tiredly.
"He's been here thirty years and that happened thirty years ago Thanksgiving." Kevin recalled.
"Father Mac told me to try and find out the truth and if I couldn't then I should take the confession at face value and do what I could for the man... not much now I guess. I went on the internet but nothing there helped me determine if he was being truthful or not. I keep asking myself why he would make something like this up?"
"Maybe he just wanted his fifteen minutes of fame."
Couldn't he have found another way? Daniel sighed.
"I'm gonna call the Feds, I'll let you know what they say."
Kevin patted him on the shoulder and left.
"You and Cage are the only ones who know the truth." Daniel looked heavenward then washed the cups out.
Daniel was tidying up the house when the phone rang.
"The Feds will be here in the morning... Dr.Watson sent the body to the mainland. She suspects lung cancer but that's just her opinion. He was probably dying. Makes we wonder if he knew and wanted to die having unburdened himself."
"I don't know Kevin. Maybe we'll never know."
"Maybe. I gotta go, see you later."
"Yeah. Thanks, bye." Daniel hung up then went to the front porch and looked at the valley below with a sigh.
Maybe we never really will know...and maybe it doesn't really matter anymore. I hope you found the peace you sought after all these years Mr. Cage... and Mr. Cooper.