D. O. Guerrero was very much upset. In his shabby walk – up apartment he was thinking about his failure in life. A series of business failures had reduced Guerrero and his family to poverty, and forced them at last to move to this cockroach-infested apartment.
His wife Inez Guerrero was now at her job. She had sent their teen-age children to stay with her sister in Cleveland and had taken a job as a waitress. This at least provided money for food.
Guerrero was alone now. He would shortly leave for the airport. He had a ticket for The Golden Argosy in the pocket of his coat. The ticket was for a round-trip excursion to Rome which cost $ 474. Guerrero had managed to pay forty-seven dollars cash by secretly pawning his wife’s last possession of any value – her mother’s ring. He had promised to remit the balance, plus interest, in installments over the net two years but it was highly unlikely that the promise would ever be fulfilled.
No finance company or bank would have loaned Guerrero the price of a bus ticket to Peoria, for investigation would have shown a long history of insolvency. Guerrero was bankrupt. Using Inez’s name, he had tried to raise capital for a land deal and only made more debts.
Because of his false statements, he all but got into prison. But airlines extended credits easily, since air travelers, over the years, had proven unusually honest. People like Guerrero troubled them seldom. Guerrero had changed the initial of his surname from G to B “Buerrero” on a credit check. And his signature on the time-payment contract was not clear. When checking in tonight, he would have the spelling corrected on the flight manifest as well as on his ticket.
It was important, later on, to be sure there was no comusion about his identity, for Guerrero planned to blow up The Golden Argosy, and himself along with it. He would take out flight insurance, naming his wife and children as beneficiaries. He had done little for them of late, but his final act would be a gesture of love and sacrifice. His mind was clouded by desperation, and he gave no thought to the others who would be aboard Flight Two.
Now, within the locked bedroom, he finished putting together an explosive device. The bomb was placed inside a small, flat attaché case and could be instantly blown up by pulling a string attached to that device. Nothing could stop the blow up of the bomb once he pulled at the string.
He checked the alarm clock by the bed. It was just after 8 p.m. A little less than two hours to flight departure time. Time to go. He had just enough money for the airport bus fare, and for flight insurance at the airport. He put on his coat, unlocked the door and went into the shabby living room, holding the attaché case carefully. He found paper and a pencil and wrote: I won’t be home for a few days, I expect to have some good news soon which will surprise you D.O.
D.O. Guerrero’s hands trembled as he lit another cigarette. Time was running out, and the expressway was so jammed with traffic that the bus was moving very slowly. The bus driver remarked, “We might just make it”. But for Guerrero “just making it” would not do. He needed ten or fifteen minutes to buy flight insurance. He wanted to buy it at the last moment to avoid any chance of inquiry.
But he couldn’t say anything not to draw attention to himself, because he had drawn attention already.
At the check-in counter downtown the ticket agent had pointed to some suitcases and asked, “Is that your baggage, sir?”
“No.” Guerrero held up the attaché case. ”I only have this.”
“No baggage for a trip to Rome, sir?” The agent’s eyebrows went up. “You really are traveling light.”…
Now Guerrero thought to himself, “Would the bus never get to the airport?”
Inez Guerrero came home tired from her job, took off her coat, and then saw the note on the table, saying that D.O. Guerrero was going away and expected some good news soon. Where was he going? She wondered. And what would he use for money?
Two nights before, they had drawn their last thirty-six dollars and some cents. She had spent eighteen dollars for food, and kept ten dollars for emergencies, and had seen the desperation in D.O.’s face as he pocketed the remaining eight dollars and change.
She was too tired to worry about it but suddenly a sheet of yellow paper caught her eye. It was a copy of the time-payment contract D.O. Had filled in for a round-trip ticket to Rome. The down payment, she saw, was forty-seven dollars. Inez stared at the form. Why had D.O. Bought an air ticket to Rome? And where had the forty-seven dollars come from?
Suddenly she remembered her mother’s diamond ring, found the box empty and understood everything. D.O. Must be in serious trouble. She put on her shoes and coat and ran out into the street. She saw a taxi driver, went over and touched him on the arm. “Excuse me. How much is a taxi to the airport?”
“I’ll take you for seven,” the driver said.
As the taxi was moving along the expressway, thirty-five minutes later, D.O. Guerrero’s bus reached Lincoln International.
Guerrero heard the announcement of Flight Two while fifth in line at the insurance counter. It would take at least twenty minutes for Guerrero to reach the head of the line, and by then Flight Two would probably be gone.
He felt himself trembling as he pushed his way roughly to the counter. Guerrero addressed a blonde girl. “Please… my flight to Rome has been called – I need insurance. I can’t wait.”
To his surprise, the blonde smiled warmly. “You said Rome? That’s Trans America Flight Two.” She turned her smile on those waiting. “This gentleman really does not have much time. I’m sure you will not mind if I oblige him first.”
He could hardly believe his luck. The girl produced an insurance application form. “This will take only a moment.”
“What kind of policy were you considering, sir?” she asked. Guerrero swallowed. “Straight life – three hundred thousand dollars.” He lit a cigarette, but his hand shook so that he had trouble bringing match and cigarette together.
“It is just ten dollars,” the girl said. Guerrero had produced four dollars and seventy cents. “If you don’t have cash,” the girl said, “you can give me a check. Or how about your Italian money, Mr. Guerrero?”
“I left my checkbook home, and I don’t have Italian money.” He stopped and cursed himself. Who would board an overseas flight penniless, unless he knew the flight would never reach its destination? Then accidentally, in an inside pocket he found a five-dollar bill and some change.
He exclaimed, “That’s it! I have enough!”
Even the girl was doubtful now. While he searched his pockets, she had been watching his face. It was strange that this man was going overseas without money. But what worried her more was his eyes; they held a hint of desperation.
Her insurance company had a standing instruction: If a purchaser of flight insurance seemed unusually excited or drink, the fact was to be reported to the airline. Then the girl thought of all additional trouble for her and she wrote a flight insurance policy for three hundred thousand dollars on D.O. Guerrero’s life. He mailed the policy to his wife, Inez, on his way to gate forty-seven.
Confidence returned to Guerrero. He drew attention at the gate to the discrepancy between the name “Buerrero” on his ticket and “Guerrero” on his passport. The agent corrected the ticket and his manifest list. Now Guerrero’s name was recorded properly; there would be no doubt about his identification.
As Guerrero went aboard, a stewardess directed him to his seat by a window in a three-seat section. Guerrero put his case cautiously on his knees as he fastened the belt. Other passengers were settling down, arranging hand baggage and clothing. A stewardess, her lips moving silently, was counting heads. There was one more passenger in the tourist section than there ought to be. That passenger, Ada Quonsett - a stowaway, took seat next to a thin, pale man. On his knees, she noticed was an attache case which he was holding firmly.
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