Shallcross: The Underwater Panthers

Chapter 1


When he got up that morning like most of us the day we die, he couldn’t have known his silver cord would be broken.


“Am I ready?” he said to the mechanic at the airport.
“Yes. You are ready.”


He opened the door of the old crop duster, sat where he should, did what he should—took off, circled, lined it up, and went into a shallow dive back down to the tarmac, the grappling hook trailing behind him. Snap! He felt it and it felt right, so he climbed to two thousand feet over Ft. Lauderdale south towards the town of Dania.


When he could see the land cleared for the new casino owned by the Cow Creek Seminole Indians, he dropped to one thousand feet. Behind him streamed the white aerial banner rented by a powerful evangelical church against gambling. The seven-foot-high letters read, JESUS PAID FOR OUR SINS. Today was Good Friday. The church wanted the banner over the casino site at three in the afternoon, the time it is said Jesus died on the cross.


On the second pass the plane began to cough and the reciprocating engine quit. He could not restart it. If he jettisoned the banner, he might glide the short distance to the ocean and survive. He pulled the lever and let it go.

At first the banner nosedived so the emergency parachute would open, and when it did, it fluttered over the casino like a powerless kite.


As the time approached Jesus’s time of three o’clock, the plane never made it to the ocean and crashed into the ground, the banner caught a breeze and landed on the windshield of Sally Tommie’s car passing on the nearby Florida Turnpike. Sally, a Seminole woman, was killed after her car flipped over five times. It was now one minute after three. Sally and the pilot had seen the white hallway and the famous white light. They slumped forward in their seat belts like Jesus did, dead as He was in his.