© Copyright 2018 by Kathryn Lynch
Every afternoon she stretched out in a lawn chair with a book, earphones piping Mozart or Beethoven into her core. Sometimes she slept, the sun gently warming the area, breezes streaming through the redwoods keeping her cool.
She was not alone. A large Bull Mastiff lay faithfully at her feet, snoring loudly when he slept. At times the dog wandered back into the woods to see what he could find, but he always returned to his favorite spot. Although he now weighed more than 100 pounds, the Old Lady never regretted rescuing him as a puppy from a box in front of the grocery store. They were buddies.
One afternoon, when the Old Lady awoke from a short nap, she realized that the dog was out of sight. He did not respond to her calls as he usually did. It was their routine to end the sunbathing by going into the house where she would feed him his dinner. He loved to eat and it worried her that he had not returned.
As the sun began to fade, she spotted him at the edge of the clearing, coming out of the woods. He was struggling to drag a very large bone which he finally deposited at her feet.
The temperature inside the old lady suddenly dropped. At the same time she began to sweat, beads of salty water dripping down the sides of her face. She could hear the sound of her own breathing, gasping, gulping noises.
The dog was chewing contentedly on the forearm and hand of a human being. The bones looked dried and yellowed, old. Whatever happened had taken place a long time ago. There was certainly no need for an ambulance. She decided not to call the police until she had thought this through. Placing the bones in a garbage bag, she hid them under her car in the driveway.
The next day she and the dog set out into the woods at the spot where the Old Lady had seen the animal emerge with the bones. She wore heavy boots and carried a small hatchet to ease her progress forward.
The forested area on her property was tangled by decades of uninterrupted growth. She had never explored it, content to enjoy its raw beauty instead of attempting to control it in any way. Redwoods grew everywhere, most more than 100 feet tall. The undergrowth was interspersed with fallen tree trunks, heavy growths of ferns, blackberries, and puddles of standing water. It was slow going.
The Old Lady kept her eyes open for more bones, but she saw none. Had she not stumbled onto the building, she would have missed it. It was approximately 10 feet by 10 feet, constructed from old wood, complete with a door. It lay camouflaged between two redwoods, access complicated by blackberries which had encircled the structure several times over.
After chopping through the growth at the entrance, the door opened with a chilling squeak. Spiders ran in every direction, Two or three small lizards scrambled for quick cover. Tree frogs on the walls croaked in unison. A black rat ran past the Old Lady's legs, chased by the dog.
It was rudimentary but livable. And someone had indeed lived there, but not recently, judging from the cobwebs which hung down and crossed the area in every direction. A small woodstove stood by the back wall, its pipes angling upwards and out of the building near the roof. Next to the stove was a supply of wood ready to burn. In the corner, was a mat covered by several blankets. The Old Lady pictured a bearded hermit preparing for the night, listening for unfriendly sounds before he closed his eyes. A hand hewn table held a couple of dishes, a cup, and a spoon. Next to the dishes was a large black carrying bag.
Carefully banging on the bag so that the spiders would leave first, she opened the cover to look inside. To her shock and delight, the bag was full of money. Now she shoved packages of cash into her pants pockets and went home with the dog.
She had grabbed two bundles of 50--$20.00 bills held together with rubber bands. The money was in good shape, though the bills had been issued in 1969.
The Old Lady went to "Google" on the internet, searching for "missing 1969 money. The answer came quickly.
In 1971, Northwest Orient Airlines had paid a $200,000.00 ransom (all in $20.00 bills) to a hijacker who had parachuted from the rear stairs of their 747 jet plane into the night with the money. It was widely believed that the hijacker had died on impact, probably in Washington or Oregon. Extensive searches failed to find him or the cash. In 1980 an eight year old boy had found $5,880.00 of the cash badly deteriorated by the side of the Columbia River. The hijacker and the rest of the money were not to be found.
The serial numbers of the missing money had been listed on the site. After much checking, the Old Lady knew that she had found the rest of the cash The Bull Mastiff had found D.B. Cooper, at least parts of him, which were wrapped in a garbage bag in her carport. He had not died on impact, but much later from causes which would probably never be determined.
Now she went daily to the cabin, dragging back as much of the money as she could. On the fifth day she completed the job, removing the black bag as well, closing the door and leaving the structure to the encroachment of the blackberries and the spiders. It was her intention not to revisit the area.
After replacing all of the old rubber bands around the money with new ones, the Old Lady burned the airline bag and the old bands in her woodstove. The cash, all $194,120.00 of it, lay nestled in four environmentally friendly "green bags" which she had purchased for a dollar apiece at the grocery store.
She knew that dealing with banks was out of the question. Scanning just one serial number would inform a teller that it was a hijacked money bill. She decided to visit large cities about four times a year, paying her hotel bill with the cash, shopping in large busy discount stores, eating in fine restaurants, gambling in the casinos, and then leaving town. It helped that the money was in $20.00 bills which drew little attention. It would take a day or two for the businesses to deposit their accounts receivable into corporate bank accounts. By then, some of the cash would have been distributed to customers as change and circulated once again. Either way, she would be long gone.
The Old Lady carefully placed the bag with the bones in the outgoing garbage pickup. Whenever the dog returned with a bone or two over the next few weeks, she repeated the process, except for the skull. When the dog deposited it at her feet, the Old Lady gave in to the temptation to keep a souvenir. "D.B" sat on a shelf of lush green house plants in her living room. When she passed by in the morning, she always greeted the man who had brought some excitement into her life and into the business of being retired.
Epilogue: The FBI had revised their evaluation of D.B. Cooper. He had survived the jump and he was passing the money in large cities in Washington, Oregon, and California. They had placed age-enhanced photos of Cooper at the cash registers of large businesses in these cities, but he did not return to the same locations. Agents estimated that Cooper was at least 75 years old but he was still outsmarting them at every turn. About one quarter of the money had been circulated to date.
Old Lady enjoyed her trips out of town, but after two or three days
she was always ready to return home. She missed D.B.. She thought
that D.B. must be lonely, waiting on the shelf for her to come back.
"What do you think?", she asked her companion. The aging
dog, lying on the passenger seat next to her, snored loudly, but at
the sound of her voice, he wagged his tail.
is a fiction story which incorporates some actual news facts about
hijacker, D.B. (Dan) Cooper.