“WHERE THE HELL this snow storm come from?”
Chuck Donovan heard the fear in Rocky Pacheco’s voice. The white swirl coming over Hershey Ridge and obscuring the Tillman Valley below hadn’t been forecast when he checked the NOAA National Weather Service in Missoula two hours earlier. But, the weather in early March was still winter in the mountains. Donovan banked the single-engine Cessna-182, turned 180 degrees, and dropped to 500 feet above the valley floor.
“Keep your eyes peeled for the damn ranch,” said Chuck.
“Yeah, I’m lookin’”
Chuck dismissed the idea of calling Missoula for an update on the weather. He’d just as soon no one knew about them or their cocaine payload.
;What’re we gonna do?” said Rocky staring fixedly out the side window. “Can’t see the ground. We can’t make a drop in this shit.”
I’m making a pass down the valley at 500 feet. Look for the damn buildings.”
Give Eduardo a call,” said Donovan. “Tell ’im we’re getting outa here if we can’t see the ground.”
Rocky fumbled for the microphone without taking his eyes from staring toward the ground.
“Groundhog, this is Birdman. You copy?”
Yeah. Been waitin’ for ya,” said Eduardo. “Where are ya?”
Just turned down the valley. Making a pass at 500, but we can’t see anything.”
I need that load,” insisted Eduardo. “You gotta drop it here.”
If we can’t see your buildings at 500 feet, we’re outa here.”
Goddamn it! I need that load. Get down lower,” yelled Eduardo.
Chuck grabbed the microphone from Rocky’s hand. “Listen asshole, we can’t see a damn thing and we’re not going any lower. This shit is getting worse and we’re outa here.” He tossed the microphone to Rocky, pulled back on the wheel and gave the engine full throttle.
They heard Eduardo cursing them, but was drowned out by the roar of the engine as Chuck tried to gain altitude.
“We’re starting to ice up.”
How’re we gonna know where the end of the ridge is?” Rocky kept staring toward the ground.
If I can get above 6,000 feet we’ll be okay,” said Chuck. “Most of the ridge is at 5,000, even less at the far end.”
With this snow we won’t be able to see the road at the end of the ridge, won’t be able to get a bearing,” said Rocky glancing at the altimeter. Christ we ain’t climbing very fast.”
We’re picking up ice. Its gonna be a tough ride.”
We gonna make it past the ridge?”
I’m gonna turn toward Missoula in another minute,” said Chuck. “We should be past the ridge then.”
Shit, we’re only at 5000. Where’s the end of the ridge?”
No way to tell for sure.” Donovan glanced at the altimeter, then the compass. “Okay we’re turning.”
God save us.”