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A Mystery Long Dead
“This just in. We have confirmed reports that the remains of aviation pioneer, Amelia Earhart’s plane, the Electra, have been found on the remote Pacific island of Nikumaroro. A recently departed TIGHAR (or The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) expedition returned yesterday with news of their recovery. The experts however, have found no trace of what may have happened to Earhart herself or Fred Noonan, her navigator for the fateful voayage. In other news…”
The television clicked off. Madeline Redfern dashed out the door of her New York townhouse only to be greeted by an icy blast of late November wind. She sighed and took her key, painstakingly, out of her insensible high fashion handbag. After frantically grabbing her chocolate brown trench coat, Madeline dashed across a busy street, down four blocks and into the subway. After quiet ride on the subway, she emerged at the building that housed the snooping reporters who kept alive the pinnacle of all literary wonder…The New York Times! “You’re late Redfern,” declared Percy Harper, editor-in-chief, and Madeline’s employer. “Now I’ve got a special assignment for you. Did you happen to catch that news bulletin about Amelia Earhart on Fox this morning?”
“As a matter of fact, I did. That was the reason I was late.” retorted Madeline.
“Well there have been some nasty rumors that TIGHAR wasted a ton of government funds and found nothing but a bunch of beach sand. Now what you’re going to do is…”
“Use my profuse knowledge of Amelia Earhart and investigate what was ‘found’ on the island?” Madeline cut in.
“Well, for once you are not completely correct Redfern,” smiled Harper, “You are going to investigate the findings…then you are going to Nikumaroro.”
“What? Now? Alone? You really have lost it if you think I’m just gonna hop on a plane and…”
“Relax. I got you a private flight with a woman who has flown to Nikumaroro before. She has a little house there too. You’ll stay there and poke about the island with a native guide to your heart’s content. You leave in two days. Go home, get some sleep. It’ll be great. And besides, you can take Hailie with you.”
We rejoin Madeline the next day as she approaches the large crowded building where the artifacts recovered by TIGHAR are being held for private viewing. She walked in and approached a security guard standing vigilant by the door to the exhibited items. “I’m with the Times.” she said, flashing her press pass and preparing to enter the showroom.
“Sorry Miss, but I’m not supposed to let anyone in without the boss’s okay.” stated the guard, blocking the entrance. Madeline’s pure brown eyes flashed with indignation and she flipped back her lustrous dark brown hair.
“Well who does your boss think he is, keeping the public from the news they desire and need? I am a very persistent journalist sir, very persistent. I will not give up until my readers are handed the truth on a silver platter!”
“It’s okay Newman, you can let her in. She’s with me,” said a voice as if from nowhere.
“Jack!” cried Madeline, as she flung her arms around a tall handsome man with jet black hair and striking blue eyes. “What are you doing here?”
He broke out of the embrace and said, “It’s been a while Madeline. But to answer your question, I inherited my father’s company three months ago and TIGHAR is renting this building from me. There’s no need to explain why you are here though. I know you too well to ask that.”
“Of course. You’re wonderful Jack, but I really am anxious to see remains of the Electra. I need to comb over them thoroughly. To see if they’re fake. You know that I know practically everything about Amelia Earhart.” They walked into the room and caught each other up on what had happened since they said goodbye almost a year ago. When they reached the display room Madeline half-walked half-ran over to what looked like a pile of scrap metal.
“I don’t see how you could argue with this evidence Maddy,” proclaimed Jack.
“But I do,” she responded, “They really have done a sloppy job with these replicas. The number on the plane differs by one digit from Earhart’s Electra. And look! These wires on the squawk box are new! I’ve got to call Harper!”
After a brief phone conversation with Percy Harper, in which he claimed that, “Even though those ‘experts’ didn’t find anything on the island, I know you will. Besides, what do they know,” Madeline and Jack headed to their favorite café for a light lunch. As they sat in the quaint little establishment, she explained that she was to leave for Nikumaroro tomorrow. Although he did not outwardly show his thoughts on this, Jack hoped that this would not mean that his relationship with Madeline was over.
Our heroine walked home feeling as light as a butterfly. She didn’t even mind the packing! When she finally sank exhausted into bed, she pondered what would become of her and Jack, and the adventure that lay ahead of her.
The next morning Madeline’s heart thumped as he and her best friend and photographer, Hailie, stepped on to the private plane headed for Nikumaroro. The first few minutes were spent enjoying the aerial view, but then she just drifted off into a deep sleep.
Before she knew it, Madeline was disembarking the plane on a beautiful little island. The pilot instructed her on where to meet the guide and where her lodgings were. “Madeline is this not so exciting?” Hailie proclaimed, “ I mean we are actually…” the rest of her endless chatter was lost to Madeline as she began to unpack her things in the tiny house by the shore.
Weeks passed. Okay, maybe only two days, but they seemed like an eternity for Madeline since their searching had been futile. Weary and discouraged the two girls set out once again. They walked along the edge of the jungle until they found an entrance in the thick vegetation. Hailie looked up in wonder at the amazingly impervious canopy. “Look! Look! Madeline up there!” she exclaimed suddenly, “Look! There’s a shoe!” She hastily snapped a few shots with her camera.
“Let me see if I can get it down,” Madeline said. And she could. When the shoe was closely examined it was proclaimed to be a size 9, vintage women’s slip on. “This is just like what Amelia Earhart would wear!”
The girls decided to follow this trail deeper into the jungle. Along the way many other interjections were made, photos were shot, and other evidence was found. These included: a tattered world map, an old raggedy newspaper clipping about Earhart, and an ID card that was completely illegible except for one word, Noonan. The suspense was threatening to drive Madeline to the edge when they walked into a strange clearing.
Both gasped as Hailie and Madeline saw what lay before them. “Hailie, get your camera.”
“I knew you would do it. Didn’t I tell ya, didn’t I?”, Percy Harper could barely contain his elation. It had been two weeks since Madeline and Hailie returned from Nikumaroro. “I am still in awe. Who would have thought you would have found the whole plane. And in one piece too! You are a genius Redfern!”
“I know. It’s kind of sad, though, that Amelia lived to be 68 on that deserted island. And the expedition missed her because they were looking on the wrong island. But according to her diaries she left on Nikumaroro she live her life in happiness with Fred to keep her company. Why couldn’t they have just checked another island?” Madeline sighed.
“Cheer up Maddy,” said Jack comfortingly “You’ve solved one of the biggest mysteries of all time. A mystery long dead.”
“Yeah Mads, that’s more than most people can say about their lives,” piped Hailie. The four sat around a table at Jack’s chateau in Paris, glad to be on a much needed vacation. One week after she returned Madeline and Jack announced their engagement to the world.
“I’ve been thinking,” said Harper spontaneously, “when we get back to New York it will be about time for me to retire…Redfern, how would you like to be the new editor-in-chief of The New York Times?”