Read An Excerpt
Hammer nudged the F-16 forward and starboard until his wingtip was in front of the 737’s. Anybody on board would surely see him. Those still conscious would be pressing their faces against the windows, but none did.
“Any signs of life, CALIF 32?”
“Negative.” The bright sunlight streaming through the starboard windows was visible through the port windows, allowing Hammer a clear view of the seatbacks. According to the briefing, the plane had the movie star Rex Hayden and his entourage on board. He expected to see heads lolling backward in some of the seats, but he couldn’t see a single person. Strange.
“Fuzzy, you see anything from your side?”
“Negative, Hammer. It’s as quiet as a…” The next intended word must have been “cemetery” because Fuzzy stopped himself abruptly. “Nobody on the starboard side as far as I can see.”
“LA Control,” Hammer said, “You got your info wrong. This is an empty flight. Must be a ferry.”
After a pause, the controller came back. “Uh, that’s a negative, CALIF 32. Manifest shows 21 passengers and six crew.”
“Then where the hell are they?”
“What about the pilots?”
Hammer pulled farther ahead until he had a view straight into the cockpit. The windows were clear. Large-jet pilots wear a four-point belt. Even if the pilots were unconscious, the seat belts would keep them upright.
Instead, Hammer saw a disturbing sight. The belts were connected, but slack. The cockpit was empty. If what they were telling him was correct, 27 people had simply vanished over the Pacific.
“LA Control,” he said, hardly believing his own words, “there is no one on board the target.”
“CALIF 32, can you repeat that?”
“I repeat, N-348 Zulu is completely deserted. We’ve intercepted a ghost plane.”