by Dan Swanson
Late at night on a Tuesday in Wayne, Maine, Fall, 1963:
The security guard at the I.E. DePaul plant in Wayne waved the armored car through the rear gate. It was a regularly scheduled arrival — payday was every Wednesday, and the car always arrived at around the same time. As the car rolled through the gate, heading for the payroll office, the guard aimed his flashlight out the window and flicked it on, then off again. In the nearby woods, a sentry spoke a code word into his walkie-talkie, and a mile away, a motor that had been barely turning over now revved up to full power. With a whup whup whup, the big Sikorsky helicopter took to the air, heading toward the plant at top speed.
Each week, the armored car took a different route and came through a different gate, but it always parked in the same place, where DePaul security guards surrounded it. Before the week’s payroll could be carried into the payroll office, the chopper was overhead, and something heavy dropped from underneath it, smashing down on the back of the truck. The driver and guard managed to open their doors and dive to the ground.
In the chopper, the pilot slapped the switch that sent electricity into the giant magnet, and fed full power to the big blade. The armored car was easily lifted by the big cargo helicopter, which was designed to transport army tanks. The guards on the ground fired upward, but the chopper’s armor protected it, and within seconds it was out of range. It had been a perfect operation.
Or was it? One of the guards heard a grunting, and they turned and saw near the fence what appeared to be a person, pulling on a band or rope stretched between two poles. The guards yelled and ran in that direction, but suddenly the figure stopped struggling backward, and leaped straight into the air. The elastic band snapped taut, and the figure was catapulted into the air toward the fleeing helicopter. The band detached from the poles, and seemed to be reeled in. The figure seemed to scrunch in upon itself into a more aerodynamic shape, and then, when it had reached the peak of its trajectory, it appeared to sprout wings — and it flew away after the now-distant chopper.
Suddenly, a few minutes later, there was a thump that jarred the helicopter, and something unearthly flowed over the windows. Though he couldn’t see, the pilot was used to flying in the dark, and he knew that if he continued to fly a compass course, he would receive a radio signal when he approached near his destination. As long as whatever that was stayed outside, he wasn’t too worried. He had other things on his mind.
But the other two men in the chopper weren’t pilots, but gangsters, and they panicked. One terrified thug fired two shots through the window, and whatever had covered it vanished instantly. He didn’t have long to enjoy his triumph, though, as the shattering glass, followed by the powerful downdraft blowing through the pulverized windshield, immediately caused the pilot to lose control.
The pilot was well-trained; he flipped a switch, and an explosive charge severed the cables, dropping the armored car to smash to the ground, then slapped the big blade into neutral, and clambered back to the hatch, where he jumped, popping his parachute almost instantly.
The gunmen weren’t chopper-trained, and they weren’t wearing parachutes, so they were forced to fall with the big chopper as it auto-rotated into a pond. They were both knocked unconscious, and neither expected to awaken, but when they did they were strapped to stretchers in the back of an ambulance, with police guards. Something had pulled them from the wreckage and left them on the shore for the police to find.
The pilot turned himself in the next day. He was ex-military, and shortly after his discharge he’d run up a huge gambling debt in a crooked poker game. He’d been offered two choices — a sudden, unfavorable change in his health, or fly this one “mission.” He received a suspended sentence when his testimony helped convict the various crooks involved in the operation, including the phony security guard. The pilot went back into the military, and later served with distinction in Vietnam.
The honest security guards from the DePaul plant told about the person who somehow catapulted into the sky and flown after the fleeing helicopter, and the two crooks who had been in the chopper told their story as well, about something flowing over the windows of the chopper from the outside. But it had been dark, and nobody had seen anything clearly, and eventually the story was dismissed. And life in Wayne, Maine, went back to normal.