Someone pounded on the door and TJ tucked the phone between his ear and shoulder and impatiently pulled the door open.
"Come on, we're burning air!" Luca complained, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
"Give me a minute, will ya?" TJ grinned at the younger man's exuberance. "I'm on the phone."
"Truck's all packed," Luca said breathlessly, "I stowed the gear in the back and the wings are strapped in the carriers."
"Water, oxygen, cereal bars?"
"Got it." He paced restlessly on the porch, "Can we go now?"
"Yeah, Susan, we should be back around six." TJ said, turning, to keep the phone out of Luca's reach. "No. No, I promise we won't be catching thermals to Carmel again. We're launching from Harper's Hill and then we're going to Tipton Ford." He mock glared at Luca, who was making slashing motions at his throat.
"Bye, Susan, we gotta go!" Luca shouted and TJ shook his head.
"We'll be careful. I love you. See you tonight." He rolled his eyes as Luca snatched the phone away from him and hung it up.
"Let's go!" Luca grabbed TJ, dragging him outside and pausing just long enough to let TJ lock the door.
When they were pulling out of the driveway and Luca was tapping his hands on the dash he asked, "Just how many cups of coffee have you had this morning?" TJ teased.
"Not a one." Luca looked offended, "I plan on staying up for at least three hours today - I'm not downing for anything!"
"So what's got you so hyper, then?"
"You're high on air?" TJ laughed "And we aren't even out in it yet."
"If you'll put a little more pressure on the skinny pedal, we'll have our knees in the breeze before Hondo finishes lunch."
Laughing, TJ shifted into fifth and sped up the on ramp and out onto the freeway. Ten minutes later, he took the exit south of town to a dirt road that wound around the top of a high hill.
"Yahoo!" Luca crowed as they pulled to a stop at the top. He was out of the truck before TJ could even slip the transmission into park.
By the time he'd made it to the back of the truck, Luca had their gear bags on the ground and one of the hang gliders detached from its perch on the roof.
In minutes, they had the battens in the gliders, tensioned the sails and were almost ready to take off.
"It's a perfect day." Luca said, kicking up some of the dust at the launch site.
"Yeah, great weather and even better - we're not on duty."
"And how many times do those two things coincide?" Luca grinned, buckling his helmet.
TJ pulled down his goggles and glanced at his friend, "Hooked in?"
Luca's answer was a delighted laugh as he lifted the glider and ran for the edge.
TJ clipped his harness to the glider and followed. Their launch was smooth, the wind currents were warm, drafts lifting them almost immediately high over the sandy, flat landscape far below.
Luca circled ever higher, daring TJ to follow him.
TJ tilted his head, toggling his radio, "Take it easy hotshot, we've got all afternoon."
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Luca's voice sounded wistful, "but the hawks are calling."
TJ nodded, understanding the thrill that Luca felt soaring high with the predatory birds. He pushed the bar forward, raising his wings to catch up with Luca. The variometer beeped rapidly, seemingly in sync with his heartbeat.
A wedge tail hawk spiraled not far from them, its piecing cry echoing across the sky.
"I love it up here, it's so quiet - no crowds, no obnoxious noise." Luca sighed happily.
"No pretty girls, no music, no candlelight dinner."
"I just need to find a girl who likes to glide, buy a double harness and I'd be set."
"I bet you will, too."
They skimmed some uncooperative thermals west, skipping from cloud line to cloud line for over an hour before they reached the deserted town of Tipton Ford. A lone hawk circled in the sky over the dilapidated buildings, probably searching for a mouse or a rabbit, but as far as they could see, nothing moved on the ground far below.
Cumulus clouds hung in the sky, marking the thermals that marched southward.
"Oh no, you don't." He warned Luca, who had turned his wing toward the line. "Not a chance buddy. I told Susan I'd be home in time for dinner."
"Ah," Luca moaned, "you're not going to be this stuffy after you're married, are you?"
"That depends on whether or not I can convince Susan to come gliding with us."
"You know, suddenly I'm hoping that she will." Luca laughed. "We need a driver but if she's gonna map out the flights it's not going to be much fun if we only get a couple of hours of air time."
"It doesn't look like we're going to get much more hang time today, either. Look." He pointed to the north where dark clouds were gathering around the ridges.
Lightning began arcing miles away, lightning up the clouds and the air temperature started to drop, as did their altitude as the thermals dissipated.
The hawk screamed, apparently mirroring their own disappointment in the change in the weather.
"Do you see that?" Luca pointed to a cloud of dust rising from behind one of the old buildings. "What is that?"
"I think it's a car."
"What would someone be doing way out here?" Luca wondered.
"I don't know. Should we take a look?"
"Why not, we gotta land anyway. Maybe it'll be something interesting." Luca took the lead, spiraling down. "Interesting, definitely interesting."
"What? I don't see anything."
"A girl." Luca laughed.
"Trust you," TJ snorted, "to spot what is probably the only girl in a twenty mile radius. What do you suppose she's doing all the way out here?"
Luca's glider suddenly nosedived, "Hey! Luca!" TJ pulled back and dove after him. "Answer me, Luca! What's going on?"
Luca's radio crackled and he could barely hear the reply for the wind whipping across the mic.
"There are a couple of guys with guns and they're heading toward the girl!"
Luca curled up in his harness pulling the bar back as far as possible and dove, his speed increasing as he came up behind the two men who were now threatening the girl. The leading edge of his wing caught the men across the shoulders, spilling them face down into the dirt.
TJ dropped free of his harness a few feet off the ground and joined Luca who was handcuffing the stunned men using the zip ties he kept in one of his pockets for emergencies.
TJ snatched up the guns, watching the men for any threatening movements while Luca finished tying them up.
"CUT! CUT! CUT!" someone yelled. "What are you doing!" A rotund, balding man barreled out of one of the buildings. You've ruined my shot! Security! How did these morons get in here?"
"Hey!" TJ turned the weapons toward the man rampaging toward them. "We're police officers, making a legal arrest of two men carrying ..." TJ hefted the weapons, noticing for the first time the light weight of both guns, "toy guns?"
"I'm filming here, and you two idiots have just made a disaster of the most pivotal scene in the whole episode!"
"Hey, we're really sorry," TJ apologized, "we saw the young lady being menaced and we didn't know you were filming a show and..."
"Get out!" the directed threw up his arms, "Get off my set! Do you have any idea how much money you've cost me?"
A timid looking man approached, "Mr. Reynolds, Sir? Brandon is running it back on the dailies and he thinks you should come and take a look at it."
Reynolds glared at the smaller man, who cringed and backed away.
"He told me to tell you, sir."
"Pipkins, don't let them leave until I get some names." Reynolds said, "And get my lawyers on the phone!" He stomped across the street to where a group of people was gathered under a rickety carport. "What now?" he thundered.
TJ turned to Dom, shrugging, "Well, you were right."
"It is interesting."
"Um, gentlemen?" Pipkins asked, "If you would give me your names, please."
"I'm TJ McCabe and this is Dominic Luca."
"Is your boss always this cranky?" Luca asked.
Pipkins looked insulted, "Mr. Reynolds is an artistic genius."
"Ah." Dominic looked unimpressed, "That explains it."
"Pipkins!" Reynolds shouted, "Stop dawdling, get over here!"
The next morning, Dom was waiting for the coffee to finish brewing when Deke came down the stairs into the office.
"So, how was your day off?" Deke asked.
"Eventful." TJ admitted.
"Yeah, TJ and I are movie stars now." Luca proclaimed.
TJ laughed, "Television personalities is more like it."
"I smell a long and involved story here," said Jim Street, sitting down on the edge of Luca's desk.
"Well, there was this girl..."
"I knew it; any good Luca story always starts out with 'there was this girl.'" Street teased.
"As I was saying, there was this girl, she had gotten out of her car, I think it had a flat because it was kicking up a ton of dust and she started walking down the street..."
"Kicking up dust?" Deke interrupted, "Where were you?"
"We flew out to Tipton Ford." said TJ.
"Oh, yeah. I know the place - it's an old ghost town out in the middle of nowhere. What was she doing out there?" Street sipped at his coffee.
"Do you want me to tell the story or not?" Luca grumbled.
Street hid a grin behind his coffee cup, "Sorry, please, go on."
Luc folded his arms and leaned back in his chair. "Anyway, she was walking down the street and these two guys come out of one of the building and start following her..."
"They had guns." TJ interjected.
"Guns?" asked Harrellson, coming out of his office, "Who had guns?"
Looking aggravated, Luca cleared his throat, "Two guys with guns started to follow her so TJ and I dropped down on them and rescued her."
"Only she didn't need rescuing, since she wasn't really in any danger." TJ added.
"Yeah, the director guy ..."
"Mr. Reynolds." TJ interrupted.
"The guy who directed the last Clint Eastwood movie?" Street asked.
"Was really obnoxious," Luca continued, loudly, "he yelled at us and everyone else on the set. He said he was going to sue or something for ruining his shot and costing him thousands of dollars in lost time and having to re-shoot the scene."
"Then he decided that it looked better with us swooping in to save the day and he said he wanted to use it in the show." TJ grinned.
"And that," Luca said proudly, "is how we became bonafied celebrities."
"So when do we get to see you two make your small screen debut?" asked Street.
"Thursday at seven." TJ poured himself a cup of coffee, "Everyone is invited to my house to watch it."
Harrellson grinned at Deke, "We'll be there."
"And me." Street said.
Thursday finally arrived and the team gathered at TJ's house. Everyone had settled into chairs, balancing drinks and plates to watch the show.
TJ turned on the TV and took a seat at the end of the couch.
"How much did you two get paid for your first television appearance?" asked Street.
"Paid, huh uh, the director said we were lucky he didn't sue us." TJ admitted, "He did agree to give us credit for being in that one scene."
"Quiet, here it comes." Luca shushed them.
The hang gliders dove into the shot, the camera pushed in to a tight shot of the woman looking relieved and when it pulled back, the two men who were pulling off their helmets looked nothing like Dominic or TJ.
Luca threw popcorn at the TV and booed loudly, "Can you believe that? They cut us out and put in two actors!"
"Well at least we have our names in the credits." TJ consoled.
They watched the credits roll, at the very end there was a notation that the hang gliding stunts were performed by two stunt men.
"I finally break into show business and I end up getting bottom billing as a stunt guy named Daniel Lucas!" Luca complained.