Which One?-Part 6 (Image: “Mickey”)

Note: This isn’t Jessica–I’ll be posting more pictures of her in the very near future but thought I’d post something a bit different this day. The lady you see here is a dance instructor at the McGuffey Arts Center in Charlottesville. I met her and took this picture probably a year ago. In any event–here’s the next installment of the story.

In the desert west of Bagdad, Rogers Junior had locked onto a mobile SCUD missile launcher and launched a Hellfire missile that hit wide. One of the Iraqi soldiers then fired a shoulder-launched stinger-type missile making a one-in-a-thousand direct hit on one of the plane’s fuel tanks. The plane exploded in a fireball—the pilot had no opportunity to eject. The wreckage and body were recovered by the American military within a few hours. The report on the missile error concluded: “The missile’s “Single Shot Kill Probability” (SSKP) was compromised due to computer data interpretation errors randomly deriving from the software materials design rendering the missile’s target tracking sub-system unable to make accurate use of return signals necessary to derive reflector steering signals (which in turn maintained the reflector being tracked.)” In this case, the SCUD launch vehicle.

The report went on to conclude data interpretation errors were not a matter of input but hard drive materials degradation as a result of environmental conditions—specifically the desert heat. In hurried and minimal field testing in the much cooler United States, the system had performed well. No one could have anticipated this kind of problem deriving from utilization in high temperature conditions, but Brown was not a man to eschew responsibility for his work and took full responsibility for the systems failure.

Nothing was said to Brown—there was no individual inquiry or censure—but he was taken off further system design projects. Less than six months after his son’s death Rogers Brown took early retirement from his government job.

Brown held a commercial civilian pilots license which allowed him to carry paying passengers over commercial routes. He and two other pilot friends started a shuttle service between Utica and New York City. Typically Brown was gone 2 or three days a week depending on bookings and weather conditions. Most of the company’s business was conducted using a 6 passenger Beechcraft Musketeer but Brown also maintained a Piper Cherokee for personal use which was hangered at Bellamy County Airport.

Joanie noted her husband was drinking more since their son died but assumed it would pass in time as his grief subsided. She also noticed on several occasions, the fragrance of perfume on his shirts—a fragrance that was familiar but she could not place. She shrugged it off as simply a passenger brushing up against him in the small confines of the aircraft. After noticing the perfume a third time it occurred to her the shuttle business had been in operation almost a year and this hadn’t happened previously.

There were other little things going on. Rogers had lost weight and was working out which he hadn’t done in years. He had bought new clothes and had been to the family dentist to get his teeth whitened. And there was that credit card in his wallet that was unfamiliar and for which no statements came to the house, though scratches indicated it was well-used. Joanie began to suspect Rogers was cheating on her—he certainly had plenty of opportunity—often being gone half the week and flying across most of southern New York State. Her suspicions were more or less confirmed when she found in Roger’s duffle, a take-out menu from a Chinese restaurant in Cleveland. Rogers had never mentioned going to Cleveland, the FAA had not granted the shuttle business access to use commercial routes to that part of the United States and he had no personal reasons to go there—that she knew of.

She discussed the situation at length with her long time friend Christine—the same Christine that had introduced Joanie and me decades before. She decided when he returned from his current trip she would confront her husband—but that would never happen.

Less than twenty-four hours after her decision, Rogers Brown would be dead on a desolate mountain top in the Adirondacks and dead next to him in the shattered Piper Cherokee—was their dental hygienist.

End part 6

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