Helicopter rotor blades' "chunk. chunk. chunk" sound split the silence over Lake Ontario's mid-spring fog bank below at the Niagara River's end.
"This is an impossible assignment! I'll get fired today!" the young acrophobic executive passenger murmured.
His black hair whipped and stung his forehead as he cautiously leaned out of the craft, searching the waters and mist under the rotor's rushing air wash. He squinted, rubbing his eyes from time to time. "Oh man," he thought, "I'll never find Jim Travis down there."
The helicopter lurched as a wind gust sped down the River canyon from Niagara Falls upstream. In terror from his fear of heights, the young man gripped the craft's bulkhead. Jolted against his seatbelt, he feared he would tumble out and drown.
Bob Moore is a thirty-year-old fast-tracker on the executive team of National Public Energy, a mid-west electric utility. His assignment was by the Chief Executive Officer, no less.
"Get me Jim Travis before the end of the day," Arnold Cloud told him at midnight on the telephone. "Take our company jet. Get a chopper in Buffalo and bring him back here from his fishing trip. I don't care how you do it -- just do it!"
He had never heard the otherwise calm Arnold Cloud bark such a direct order.
Now, over the gentle roll of swells on the deep lake, the chopper ride, Moore's first, seemed to smooth. However, fright still caused his arms to stiffen, his shoulder muscles to tighten.
"I'll never do this," he thought.
It was more peaceful down on the lake. The smell of the water appeared almost stagnate following the raging nor'easter that blew for three days before. The calmer surface brought a cool crisp and acrid tang to the nostrils from floating shad that succumbed to the quickly-changing temperatures. Debris on the water, left from the storm, heaved gently up and down on the rocky shore line. The waters were still mud and silt-laden near shore. Minnows darted in an out of the diluent areas, feeding. Then bigger fish were attracted by the smaller creatures as they too gorged themselves.
One hundred yards off shore, the fog curtain was tattered by the rising sun and an awakening gentle morning breeze. Salmon fishermen below trolled with down-riggers trying to catch the twenty-five- to forty-seven-pound King or Chinook species. Many anglers believe these to be the world's most formidable fighting foe among fresh water game fish. Boats zig-zagged at one or two miles per hour in and out of the breaking fog and along the lake's mud line parallel to the shore. The anglers expected the fish to be close to land this early.
"How will we find Travis among those boats?" the pilot asked his companion, normally a neat, well-dressed young executive type. But today, Moore was rumpled and shouting.
"This will be a tough assignment, picking a guy out of Lake Ontario. The boss said bring him back or I don't come back! I know Travis wears a new white plastic wind breaker and his son likes to wear camouflage jackets. I don't know about their fishing buddy."
"Will it be a charter boat?" the pilot asked.
"No way. They're hunters -- Probably away from the group!"
The executive explained the boat would be about twenty-one feet, gray with a canvas top.
Toward Point Breeze, New York, well named, the curtain of fog parted momentarily showing such a boat. The man in white was fighting a fish while the man in a camo jacket grabbed the giant landing net. The third man steering held the boat steady that disappeared again behind the fog curtain.
The angler's light fishing rod bent toward the water as the King salmon, at least twenty-five pounds, saw the boat for the first time and sped away causing the reel drag to whirr.
"It's another run," the fisherman shouted. "I think he's to make a swing around the stern toward starboard. Bring the net over to the other side!"
He raised the rod against the stout fish and then reeled in line as he lowered the straining graphite fishing rod. The fisherman was not a tall man, but his wide shoulders and thick arms were pumped with blood, showing strong muscles taught against the pressure. His son had stripped away the white wind breaker and threw it forward in the boat out of the way.
The curtain of mist parted for a moment.
"Hold it! I think I saw them again!" the young executive shouted to the pilot.
"I'll hover here and see if we can blow a hole through that fog bank," the pilot replied. Images of men in a gray boat re-appeared.
"There's no white wind breaker," the pilot exclaimed! "Wait. I see it on the deck!"
"Give me your public address microphone," the executive said. "Are you Travis?" he spoke into the mic as the helicopter hovered.
"Hey, Dad! Those guys in that chopper called us!"
Jim Travis looked up from his battle. He recognized the young executive who extended himself from the helicopter cabin in order to be well seen.
"Wave at 'em, John. I see Bob Moore in that chopper," he told his son. "What's going on with them?"
John waved the large fishing net at the chopper.
"What do you want here?" he shouted. "We're both Travis!"
"You are needed now by the boss, Jim Travis!" The sound boomed over the rotor blades' "thwack! thwack! thwack!" across the otherwise quiet lake.
West, toward Olcott, New York, two other fishermen trolled. Their down-rigger lines created a musical tone that signals a proper speed for the boat. This gives the lures below their most enticing action for the ravenous King salmon and various trout in this part of Lake Ontario. The two men were drowsy but sprang to full alert when they saw a body clothed in white, glistening in the sun, rising upward through the spotty fog toward the heavens. The booming sound had echoed through the mist, "You are needed now by the boss, Jim Travis!"
"It's the rapture!" one of the fishermen cried! "Like the book says, 'one will go and another beside him will stay'," he paraphrased. "Either we're next or our sins have caught up with us."
The human figure in white disappeared into the mist. "I can't explain what we just saw, but there's an earthly reason for it. In the last days, greater tribulation than we have known happens before all believers are accepted, not necessarily to leave bodily," the other angler said.
"I don't know," his friend's voice quivered, "I'm scared!"
"If you are frightened about the last days, read Matthew twenty-four."
As soon as Travis was aboard the helicopter, still hidden above the fog, the aircraft swung into a deep arc and set its course for the greater Buffalo International Airport. Nearby, the Niagara River boiled into Lake Ontario and then Niagara Falls' mist rose in rainbows to meet a warming sun as the helicopter soon approached the airport.
In the headquarters building of National Public Energy a large-framed white haired executive at his desk examined several papers, signing some of them and handing others to his secretary, Mrs. Consuela Esparza. Simultaneously, Arnold Cloud spoke through his speaker phone on a large oak desk which was orderly except for a few mementos. Several photographs of his wife and family, along with a souvenir or two from favorite fishing and hunting trips were placed in an orderly manner. It was a large office, walled with heavy dark oak paneling still smelling