Bill Hammons: Writing and Running in Boulder, Colorado

BILL HAMMONS: WRITING AND RUNNING IN BOULDER, COLORADO
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54


A pair of minutes passed before a score of armed hijackers poured into the tunnel single-file. Bettmann could hear the faint echoes of gunshots from the far side of the passage, and then terrified would-be Colonists were streaming out of the steel tube, some of them bleeding, most of them coughing from tear gas, and all of them holding their hands behind their heads as their captors barked orders for them to sit on the floor.

It was after nearly fifty hostages had been transferred from the John Glenn to the Air Russia plane that the passengers of Flight Seven-seven-seven struck back in an attack that had been crudely planned by means of messages written in lipstick on the backs of passenger seats. Bettmann, crouching in a rear corner of the plane, watched passively as several of his fellow passengers charged down both aisles of the cabin. Many were cut down by shots from the teak guns, but the survivors were joined by the captives from the John Glenn in a melee with the hijackers that filled the cabin's mid-section.

Bettmann waited until tear gas filled that section, giving the masked hijackers a decisive advantage over their opponents, to make his own move. He ripped off his false beard, doused a discarded handkerchief with a bottle of Evian water someone had left in a seatback net, and slithered down the left-hand aisle after fastening the handkerchief over his mouth and nose.

The former agent found what he wanted when he came across the body of a slain hijacker lying on the carpet of the aisle. He removed the corpse's gas mask, replaced his handkerchief with it, and took up the dead man's teak gun to shoot one of the last attacking passengers in the back. The burly man, who recognized Bettmann from the rear of the aircraft by his clothes, stared back and down at him in confused agony before coughing up a spurt of blood and falling to the floor with a thud.

Bettmann looked up from the body to see a gun pointed at the spot between his brows, and briefly removed his gas mask with a smile before pulling it back down over his face and asking in a muffled voice, "You folks miss me?"

"So security let you through after all," another muffled voice observed as its owner lowered his gun. "Hurry up: our window's closing."





































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