THE climactic scene starts here. The pilot, Capt. Pedro Perlas, protested that the plane could not fly to Amoy. “We do not have enough fuel. Amoy is some 500 miles away.” Something was brewing in the mind of Perlas.

Suddenly, he threw the wheel over to the left, hoping that the 45-degree lurch would knock Ang Tiu Chok off his feet. It did not happen. Ang was able to maintain his sense of balance and equilibrium. He got rattled and fired two bullets into Capt. Perlas.

Meanwhile, the passengers in the cabin noticed the plane’s sudden unusual movement and they heard the muffled sound emanating from the cockpit. They looked at each other as if they sensed danger. Flight attendant Eduardo Diago commented (as heard by the passengers), “What a terrible downdraft!” His curiosity made him knock (even pounded) at the door of the cockpit.

Ang was already crazy inside the cockpit. He was doubly mad when he heard the pounding at the door. He turned around and fired through the door (two shots). The two bullets entered below the left eye of Diago. He fell on the floor; face first, with blood oozing from his face. The passengers then understood what nightmare was there at the cockpit.

Capt. Perlas (though seriously wounded) made a feeble effort to unfasten his seat belt. Ang, who was out of his mind, shot Perlas again at the back and that was the end of his life. Gaston was shocked to witness the death of his friend. He thought he would be next. He imagined what would happen if he dies there. He would never get to see his unborn child. He found himself acting to divert the attention of the killer.

He was holding his head as if experiencing dizziness. “Oh, I don’t feel good. I am hungry. I have not taken breakfast. Can you give me food and water?” Probably, the acting was effective. The Chinese calmed down a bit as if analyzing what would be his next move. Ang did not open the door.

That gave Gaston the opportunity to present his offer. “We can survive this ordeal. No one will be hurt further. I can talk to Defense Secretary Ramon Magsaysay to help you. He will understand your case.” Ang seemed to listen to Gaston who was trying to appear friendly.

Gaston shifted the conversation. “The left engine is stalling and we have to ditch the plane. Here take a life jacket. This is for your own safety.” While doing that Gaston pretended to panic. At last, Ang came back to his senses and talked to Gaston, “Okay look for land.”

Ang was still pointing the cocked gun to Gaston (near the face). Gaston was trying to study Ang’s attitude and was finding out how much the Chinese know about airplanes. Ang was wearing a wrist compass. While planning his next move also, Gaston understood that the plane is flying at an altitude of 5,000 to 6,000 feet. He reduced the power setting so that they were flying at 120 miles per hour.

The Chinese noticed this. “Why are we flying slowly?” He was nervous already. Gaston smiled and gave a quick answer, “We have to be more economical on gas.” Gaston was buying time while waiting for the best opportunity.

Meanwhile at the cabin, the passengers were in near panic after seeing the handsome flight attendant slumped on the floor lifeless. They took notice that the plane is not following the original course. There was anxiety because they all know that their flight is only half-hour and now, they have been flying for over two hours.

Horrible questions seeped in. Could this be their end? Are they going to die without touching the ground? Is there a possible help coming in? All of them do not know that inside the cockpit, there is Capt. Felix Gaston who is trying to outwit the villain. This is not the end of the story yet. This is just the beginning of exhaustion. (To be continued)