by Larion Wills
Drew Dray had one purpose in life, destroy his father and the inheritance his wheedling, gutless brother thought would be his. Only one thing interfered with his goal, nearly crippling pain from a bad hip. To ease the pain, he agreed to an injection, had a drastic reaction to the drug, and his plans changed. He awoke in a hospital, manacled to the bed. The last thing he remembered was knowing he needed help.
He was told while hallucinating from the drug, he’d walked into a stranger’s house, attacked the woman there, and raped her, and unbelievably, the woman, Letitia Winters, wasn’t going to press charges. To his mind, any woman who could dismiss such an attack, regardless of the circumstances, had to be simple-minded. What did he care? Pay her off and be rid of her, but the woman and circumstances kept driving him back.
When he discovered his actions resulted in her pregnancy, and her husband divorcing her for refusing to abort his baby, Drew proposed and bullied her into a marriage of convenience, to give the child his name his only reason. After being branded a bastard by the man he meant to destroy, he swore no child of his would suffer the label. Even after her raving ex-husband warns that she isn’t normal, that she’s a witch who makes bad things happen to get even with people, he goes back. He didn’t believe it or credit it to the house burning down or his plane crashing.
Was she the naïve, submissive mouse she seemed? A witch casting spells to keep him going back? Was her aim revenge or was she just a greedy, dangerous woman who found out he had millions? Would he survive to destroy his father or discover how deadly sweet, bland Letitia could be?
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Genre: Romantic Suspense
A PINK SATIN ROMANCE
Even after two days, Drew Dray didn’t feel normal and suspected he looked as bad as he felt. A drug reaction had nearly killed him. He woke up in a hospital, not knowing how he got there, and with an ankle manacled to the bed.
Though the restraint had been removed, Drew lay immobile, staring at the ceiling with an arm folded under his head, yet to be free of confusion. They said he had raped and mutilated a woman. He didn’t believe it.
When the door opened, he sat up, swinging his legs off the bed.
“You shouldn’t be up,” Doctor Ames told him as Drew slid off the bed to his feet.
“Where are my clothes?”
“In the closet,” he said calmly. “Near to hand, when you’re ready for them.” He put a hand on Drew’s arm to help him back in bed.
A flip of Drew’s arm threw it back. “I’m ready for them now.”
“I can’t keep you against your will.”
“But you shouldn’t leave yet,” he finished.
“I’m tired of your hospitality.” He crossed the short space to the closet and jerked the door open. Reaching in for his clothes, he hesitated, stared at the shirt, and willed his head to cease its spinning. For a man who made his way trading on his physical abilities to find them impaired, for any reason, was infuriating.
“There isn’t any hurry. I seriously doubt Mrs. Winters will change her mind about pressing charges.”
The shirt came off the hanger with enough force to bounce the hanger off the back of the narrow closet.
“She won’t allow that husband of hers to file any civil suit, either, if that’s what worries you,” the doctor added.
“It doesn’t worry me. What’s her address?”
“I don’t think—”
“I take care of my own affairs.”
“You do realize that shirt has blood on it, her blood.”
Drew dropped in a chair and fumbled for a shoe to hide another wave of dizziness. “If you don’t give it to me, I’ll get it somewhere else.”
“For God’s sake, leave her alone. You’ve done enough.”
“Either this is the biggest con going or someone’s made a mistake. I don’t rape women, and I damned sure don’t cut them up with chunks of glass.”
Dr. Ames dragged another chair up and sat down opposite him. “You thought she was someone else, and you didn’t cut her. You were too far gone to know there was glass on the floor. It was unfortunate, but it happened. A drug made you crazy, and you hallucinated. It wasn’t your fault. Letitia Winters was the first to say so.”
“I don’t believe it,” he said flatly.
“If you go out there, it’ll only cause more trouble. Her husband is nearly crazy over it as it is.”
“I don’t believe I did it.”
“For God’s sake, it was your semen. That’s her blood on your shirt. The ambulance picked you up at her house.”
“I never raped!”
“Then, don’t believe it. Just go away, believe whatever you want, and leave her alone.”
“I will, just as soon as I find out the truth.”
* * *
When Letitia Winters opened the door, she jerked and clutched the door edge tight enough her fingers hurt.
“I’d like to talk to you,” he told her.
She shook her head, looking behind her. She jerked again when Eddie stormed out of the kitchen. She looked back at him, said, “No,” and shut the door.
Eddie elbowed her aside and jerked the door open again. “Can’t you read the damned sign? No solicitors or salesmen. Now get the hell out of here before I throw you off my property.”
“Would you like to...” Drew Dray’s words trailed off as she stood behind Eddie, shaking her head, pleading with her eyes. “Forget it.” He turned on his heel and stalked off.
Eddie yelled after him, “Stay the hell away, or next time you won’t get off so easy.”
The door slammed behind him. “I guess I showed that son of a bitch.”
“I’m sure you did,” she said with a sigh and turned to walk away.
“What do you mean by that?” he demanded, catching her by the arm.
“You’re hurting me,” she said quietly, the jerk pulling at the stitches in her back.
“What are you going to do about it? Sic that hillbilly kin of yours on me?”
“Don’t push anymore.”
He pushed, making her stumble to keep her feet. “You’re going to press charges.”
“It wouldn’t accomplish anything. He’d never be convicted.”
“Not with the garbage you’ve been saying.” His voice changed to a singsong while he mocked. “He thought I was someone else. He didn’t know what he was doing.”
She walked away from him. He followed, still shouting. “You ought to want to see him punished unless you liked it. Maybe I ought to work you over a few times, so you’ll respect me.”
“You know better.” The sound she’d been waiting for finally came. A car started and pulled away. She went to the refrigerator and poured herself a glass of juice, not listening to what Eddie shouted any more than necessary to be able to give some kind of answer when he stopped.
She wondered whyDrew Dray had come there and was grateful he’d backed off when Eddie threatened him. She knew, as well as Eddie—despite his bluster—that the man wasn’t afraid of him. She also knew the man had backed off for her sake. She was the one he’d looked at before he walked off.
“Did you hear what I said?” Eddie demanded.
“I won’t do it.”
“He scarred you!”
“Doctor Ames said the scars won’t be bad.”
Eddie grabbed her by the right arm, jerked her around, and the juice in the glass splashed over the sling on her left. She froze, drawing in a long, deep breath, and Eddie backed off. He stared at her a moment, his hands clenched in fists, before storming out of the house.
In relief that he’d recognized the warning sign, Letitia expelled the air from her lungs slowly. For a moment, she leaned limply against the cabinet, holding her shoulder. The doctor did tell her the scars wouldn’t be bad, but the cuts on her back ached. She was tired, and she still wondered what he had wanted.
She shrugged, mentally and physically, dismissing it, cleaned the spilled juice, and then went to bed. She’d need rest to face Eddie when he returned. At least, he would have a reason now, and it wouldn’t be much longer before their sham of a marriage would be over.
* * *
Collins, Oregon was a blink of the eye sized town, one you could miss if you closed your eyes that short a time as you drove through. Main Street boasted a service station, general store, post office, and café. Drew stopped at the café. He needed food and answered the need with little concern of what. Whatever the small place offered, it couldn’t be any worse than some of the stuff he’d survived on in the past.
The place was clean but crowded with what appeared to be at least a third of the population town sign claimed. He didn’t see an empty spot and half-turned to leave when an overweight woman rushed in the door. He stepped aside to let her pass and save himself from being run over.
“Milly,” the woman wheezed without a glance in his direction. “She isn’t going to press charges.”
If she was supposed to be whispering, she wasn’t successful. She spoke loud enough for everyone to hear, and everyone was listening. With several exclamations of astonishment, a huddle formed.
“She’s going to let that rapist go free.”
“My God, why?”
“It isn’t because Eddie wants her to. She won’t listen, refuses to swear out a warrant for the man’s arrest. It certainly makes you wonder, doesn’t it?”
“It sure does.”
“Maybe she’s just too ashamed, but it’s her own fault, parading herself around, showing off how skinny she is.”
“She wouldn’t be if she didn’t starve herself to stay that way.”
“I certainly remember the time she showed up at the park in those shorts. Any woman who shows herself off like that is just asking for trouble.”
“The way she talks to strangers, too. I warned her myself about that. I swear she talks to anyone, people she’s never seen before in her life.”
“If he was a stranger,” one woman said with malice.
Drew left the café, slamming the door with enough force to rattle the windows. The car door closed as hard. Squealing the tires, he made a U-turn in the middle of the town. The tires squealed again when he stopped in front of her house, and again when he left, without getting out of the car. She didn’t want to see him, and what the hell would he say to her anyway?
He drove ten miles to the next town and stopped at a payphone, damning the dead cell phone in his pocket. She didn’t want to see him. He could understand that, but he wanted to talk to her. If not in person, he’d do it on the phone and get it done. To further infuriate him, the phone rang until he thought no one would answer. When she did, he ignored the sleep in her voice. “I want to talk to you.”
“Yes, okay, I guess. Who is this?”
“Tell me what happened.”
“Didn’t they tell you?”
“I’d like,” he said through clenched teeth, “to hear it from you. I don’t believe I’d deliberately cut up a woman.”
“No, that was an accident. The lamp broke when the table fell over. You didn’t do it deliberately. You didn’t know there was glass on the floor.”
“They said I raped you.” Silence answered. “You still there?”
“It wasn’t like an actual rape. You thought I was someone else, and because I hit my head when we fell, I couldn’t talk. You didn’t hit me or anything like that. You really mustn’t feel bad about it. It wasn’t your fault.”
“You’re telling me not to feel bad about it? Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds?”
“I’m just sorry it happened. It must have been terrible for you when you found out.”
“I don’t believe it.”
“That’s probably for the best. Now, if you’ll excuse me, my husband is back.”
* * *
Drew couldn’t leave it alone. He went back to the doctor. As much as he didn’t want to believe it, it was pretty damned obvious it was true. The local law wanted his neck, so did her husband, and more unbelievable, she didn’t. That was what prompted his first question.
“Is she simple?”
“When someone has something like that happens to them, they don’t just tell the person who did it not to feel bad.”
“Is that what she told you?” Ames asked in amazement.
“That, and she felt sorry for me.”
“That led you to the conclusion she’s simple? You should count your blessings. If she hadn’t realized there was something wrong with you, you’d be too dead to worry about it.”
“Meaning she called an ambulance for you, not herself. She was the one who gave you CPR until the ambulance got there. God knows what the police thought of her for saving the life of the man who had just raped her.”
“What kind of moron would?”
“She is not a moron or simple. She told me how you behaved and your symptoms. Because of that, I was able to pinpoint the cause. Just be glad she wasn’t one of those hysterical women who didn’t see what was actually happening.”
“She told you what happened?”
“She heard a noise and went out, thinking it was her husband coming home early from a hunting trip. You were in her living room, embraced her, and said something about thinking she wasn’t coming. She tried to get away from you, and in the struggle, you both fell, landing on glass from a lamp knocked off a table. She was stunned and unable to move, but you were very gentle.”
“Christ!” he exclaimed in disgust.
“She also said you must be very much in love with the woman you thought she was.”
Drew shot to his feet. “Did I happen to name her?” he demanded furiously.
“You only called her honey.”
“There is only one woman I was ever stupid enough to think I loved. Letitia Winters is lucky I didn’t strangle her.” He took a pen and card from his pocket. “I’ll pay the bills. Send them to that address.”
* * *
The curtains were drawn over the street-side windows, shutting away the inside from anyone curious who might stroll by. One man tapped a pencil on the wooden arm of the cheap chair he sat in, scowling when a knock sounded at the door. He growled, “Come in.”
Drew stepped in, closing the door softly behind him.
“Any reason the job’s off schedule?” Thomas asked curtly.
“None that I wish to discuss,” Drew answered with blatant insolence. Taking a chair opposite Thomas, his indifference was apparent. He didn’t give a damn if Thomas was mad.
“Do you have a reason?” Thomas asked, flicking the butt of his cigarette on the floor.
Drew glanced at the bullet head and eyes lost in folds of flesh. He lit a cigarette and blew the smoke above his head before he answered. “Yes.”
Thomas lifted an eyebrow, exposing one hazel eye. It was curious the way the flesh folded around his eyes because he wasn’t fat. Huge would best describe him, not fat, though not particularly tall, either. He gave a sigh that lifted his barrel chest. “I’d like to hear it.”
“It doesn’t have anything to do with business.”
“Huh! I wondered when you’d break down and do something about it. Why did you have to pick the middle of a job?”
“What do you think it is?”
“I’ve worked enough years with you to know there’s something wrong with that hip of yours. It’s gotten bad enough it’s hard for you not to show how much you favor it. What did the doctor say?”
“I’m going lame.”
“They can’t do anything for it?”
“This is my last job.”
He dipped his head in acknowledgment. “Answer my question.”
“It doesn’t pertain to business.”
“Answer my question.”
No one made friends with Drew. The closest he’d let anyone get was a grudging respect, but then only in their abilities, not as a person. That was fine for business. Thomas kept pushing to make it personal, irritating Drew, but he answered. “When it gets bad enough, I can’t walk, I’ll let the butchers give it a go. Until then, I live with it.”
“Give another doctor a try. They’re using drugs now that might help.”
“I tried one of their drugs. Hallucinations, unconsciousness, and respiratory arrest. The drugs don’t like me,” he said, telling him more than he wanted to shut him up.
Nodding, Thomas said, “I hate to see you quit.”
“I would have anyway.”
“Not for a year or two. You haven’t got all you want from our association. Losing us too soon is going to put a crimp in your plans.”
“I’m sure you will.” A heavy sigh heaved his chest out. “Is that hip going to cause any problems on this, your last job?”
“No. Any new developments I should know about?”
“Markham expects his new accountant tomorrow.” He handed Drew a thick envelope. “Here’s your identity, Max Peters. The bug is in the pencil eraser. Make sure you leave it somewhere the cleaning lady won’t sweep it out.”
Leaving immediately and wanting to make quick work of the assignment, Drew soon knew Markham had a weakness, one obviously not the ladies. That he was a bachelor, with no history of any past girlfriends, also confirmed it. In less than a week, Drew, by subtle actions, gave Markham reasons to believe his new accountant had the same weakness. Before Markham realized he wasn’t courting a future lover, he found himself under arrest for corporate espionage and Drew among the missing. Drew reported back to Thomas
“Good finish for your cover. What will you do now? Go home?” He chuckled over the hate-filled look he received. “Hate like hell to have your secrets known, don’t you?”
“Stay the hell out of my personal business.”
“How long do you think it will take you to bankrupt them?”
“I don’t usually give a warning more than once. Don’t get it in your head that knowing me makes any difference.”
“I wouldn’t interfere for the world, but I’m going to sit back and laugh when they realize what’s happening and who’s doing it.”
“I should have known you’d dig around until you found something.”
“That’s part ofthis business. I needed to know where you came from, why you got into this. The thing I can’t understand is how the man can disown you when...”
The rest choked off. Thomas, for all his bulk, was no match for Drew in a rage. Flat on his back with one knee pressed against his chest and Drew’s hands at his throat effectively shut off Thomas’s ability to draw a breath until Drew relaxed his hold.
Thomas calmly told him, “If you ever need me, you know how to get in touch.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Get your knee off my chest, and I’ll tell you.”
Drew put all his weight on it first, forcing Thomas to clamp his jaw tight before the weight left his breastplate.
After coughing and catching his breath, Thomas sat up. “After a hateful stunt like that, it’s hard to say this.”
“Then, don’t bother.”
“I am, anyway. You’re going to learn two things. The first is that you are not an entity onto yourself. Someday, you’re going to get into the kind trouble you can’t get out of without help. The other is that there is something in this world for you besides hate and revenge. When you come to realize what a friend is, I’m available. When you need help, I’ll give it.”
“You’re getting senile.”
“Maybe.” He heaved his weight to his feet. “Remember what I said, and don’t let that arrogant pride of yours stop you when you need help.”
* * *
The next few weeks were busy. When the statement came from Doctor Ames, Drew spent half a minute writing a check and dropping it in the mail slot, the entire time or consideration he allowed himself to devote to the incident.
Fifteen years of his life had gone to one objective. A full year before had gone to deciding how he’d do it. Four years of the fifteen were spent getting the money to buy the first small company. His shrewd business mind and strong intent of purpose had turned a company making marginal profits into a flourishing enterprise. All the profits were invested as they increased and used to purchase another company. The second company was developed the same way. With two profiting companies, it took less time before the third, fourth, and fifth companies were purchased.
He had a total of eleven profitable electronics companies on the West Coast. With resources to gain information through his association with Thomas and good luck that drew Thomas’s attention to Markham Industries, Drew knew ahead of time the company would soon be in financial trouble. Markham Industries would be his twelfth and largest. Only one individually owned company of any significance on the western region remained, the one he was going to break.
As soon as his last company showed improved profits, he would combine the twelve plants under Son’s Incorporated and dominate the electronic component industry on the west coast. The company he would destroy would find it difficult to obtain the needed subsidiary components to finish their products, along with being undercut on government contracts by a company that could provide the end products at a much lower price. In two years, they would be bankrupt or damn near close enough to feel the pressure. Then, he would let them find out who Son’s Incorporated really was.
At thirty-seven, Drew Dray was a multi-millionaire, but all it meant to him was a means to end. The small plane that came with the takeover of Markham’s was a perk, cutting down the expense and time of traveling from one company to another, overseeing that they all functioned correctly. He didn’t drive fancy cars or live in extravagant residences as other men of his financial level. They served no purpose. He also lived a meager existence to not draw attention.
He considered the termination of his association with Thomas a wise decision. Anymore, the little he gained from it wasn’t worth the time he had to devote. Time was a commodity he guarded jealously, the one thing he didn’t have an abundance of, and wasting it angered him.
Flying on autopilot to the Portland location of one of his companies, he flipped through the mail he’d shoved in his briefcase during a quick in and out visit to his apartment in Spokane. Despite what Thomas believed, Drew didn’t need anyone other than easily replaced hirelings. As he had told Doctor Ames, he handled his own affairs but damned if that woman didn’t make herself a nuisance. He read the short letter, looked at the check in his hand, and wanted to wring her neck. ‘It wasn’t necessary’ she’d written as if he thought he had to pay her bills. He’d paid them because he wanted to, and she damn well would let him, whether or not her insurance did.
Landing, he went from the airport to a motel, dialing his cell on the way. That he remembered the number didn’t give him a moment’s pause to question. Seven rings took long enough for him to swear under his breath, before she answered, panting as though she’d been running.
“Is your husband there?” he demanded.
“When will he be back?”
“If you’d like to leave a message, I’ll—”
“I don’t want to leave a message. Just tell me when he’ll return.” His anger rose with each passing minute.
“Who is this?” Her voice carried a note of frustration as well.
“Dray,” he spat out.
“Oh, I thought it sounded like you. Eddie isn’t here.”
“You already said he wasn’t there. When is he going to be home?”
“I suppose he is at home.”
“You just said he wasn’t home.”
“I really don’t know if he’s home or not. I’ve got his phone number somewhere if you want it.”
“He doesn’t live there anymore?”
“No, he left,” she answered quietly.
Drew slammed the phone down, exploding in a string of expletive words left from his soldiering days. Like a tornado ready to touch down, he stormed out of the motel.
After a forty-five-minute drive to Collins, he was still ready to explode, especially when he saw the ‘For Sale’ sign on the lawn of her house. He stepped up on the porch and raised his hand to knock. The door opened first, and a black and white bundle flew out at him, or rather was being thrown, but stopped short.
When she realized he was standing there, she didn’t let go of the cat. The sudden shift of direction and the tightening of her grip on the scruff of its neck turned the docile animal into a twisting, clawing mass. Letitia flinched, bit her lip, and let go. Backing up, she asked, “Did she scratch you?”
“No,” he answered tightly. “Can you say the same?”
“I scared her I think. She’s—oh no!” She jumped and ran, leaving him standing at the door when the cat darted back inside. “Midnight, no!”
She disappeared down a hallway on the right side of the living room. Before he stepped through the doorway, the cat shot back out of the hall, streaked across the living room, and disappeared behind the couch.
Running behind, looking like she’d been through a wind tunnel, Letitia panted. “Which way did she go?”
Silently, Drew pointed to the couch, wondering if his first opinion of her—despite what Dr. Ames claimed—was right. The oversized bandana covering her hair was half off her head, brown curls spilling out. Bandana, shirt, and her jeans were covered with paint spatter as were her hands, arms, and face. Dropping to her knees at the end of the couch, her head and arms disappeared behind it.
“You may as well come out of there. You’re going outside.” Her body slid further behind the couch. The cat streaked out the other side. She backed out and jumped up to block the hall again, and the cat turned, claws digging into the carpet to shoot past Drew and out the door.
“Shut it,” she shouted.
Drew slammed the door and then felt like an idiot. “Why don’t you just kill it?” he asked shortly.
With hands on hips, she tipped her head and stated, “Then I wouldn’t have the fun of chasing her.”
Dumbfounded, he realized she had enjoyed it. Her cheeks were flushed, and her big grey eyes sparkled. “What were you chasing it for anyway?”
The sparkle faded into uncertainty. “I’m painting the kitchen. She keeps attacking the plastic drop cloths over the cabinets.”
“You don’t have to be afraid of me,” Drew stated dryly.
Rubbing her hands on her pants, she told him, “I’m not. Are you looking for Eddie?”
“If I was, I wouldn’t come here after you told me he didn’t live here anymore.”
She glanced at him nervously, contradicting her claim of not being afraid. “Then why are you here?”
He held out the check she had sent him, holding back a smile as she tipped her head to see what it was from ten feet away. “I was responsible for what happened to you. I paid for it.”
“It was an accident, and it wasn’t necessary for you to pay for it. The insurance did.”
“You need it,” he argued.
“The insurance paid it.”
“Damn the insurance. If it paid the bills, fine. Keep this for something else.”
She looked perplexed at the angry tone of his voice and sighed. “Mr. Dray, there is no reason for you to feel responsible. What happened was unfortunate for both of us, but−”
“You’re scared, you have scars on your back, your husband left you, you’re losing your house, and I’m unfortunate? You’re crazy, lady.” He also felt like she didn’t quite connect to the present.
“You nearly died, and you were sick for several days. Use it to pay your hospital bills.”
He shouted, “I’m perfectly able to pay my own bills!”
She stated in a monotone, “So am I.”
“Then why are you losing your house?”
“I’m not. I don’t want it.”
“You’re selling it because you can’t afford to keep it after your husband left you, because of what I did.”
“That isn’t why he left, Mr. Dray, and the reason I’m selling the house is I don’t like living here.”
“Also because of what I did. It has bad memories, or you can’t stand the gossip?”
Remembering what he had heard in the café during his last visit caused his voice to raise again. “Don’t tell me you don’t know what the hags here are saying.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, but if you don’t care for gossip, please refrain from shouting. Hazel’s eyes are probably already popping out of her head just because I let you in here.”
“Is that the fat bitch with the big mouth?”
“She’s my neighbor,” she said, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. “She is overweight, and she does talk a lot.”
“She’s fat, mean-mouthed, and a bitch who likes to gossip.”
“That’s assuming, of course, we’re talking about the same person.”
“What the hell do you see funny in this situation?”
She gave up controlling the smile and admitted, though still in a distracted manner, “There have certainly been a few times I felt like calling her something like that. I can just imagine how she’s going to tell this at the diner.”
“I don’t think it’s funny.”
“No, you wouldn’t.”
“What did you mean by that?”
“I think you carry too much anger to appreciate humor.”
Too close to the truth, it was a catalyst to touch off the smoldering anger he always carried close to the surface. He ripped her check in half and stormed out of the house as the pieces fluttered to the floor.
Two days later Drew received a replacement check. He tore it to pieces, stuffed it in an envelope, and sent it back to her. A week later, she sent another one with a letter. In it, she said the same insipid dribble about it not being his responsibility, and she would continue to send checks until he accepted her decision. His decision was if she wouldn’t take the money, there were other ways to settle what he considered his debt to her.
On his next trip to Oregon, he went to the realtor handling the sale of her house. With carefully placed questions, he left with the information he needed, the mortgage company name. He took the money she insisted on returning to him, added to it, and made two of her payments.
Two weeks later, she sent him a check for the full amount. He ripped it up in frustration and sent it back in a certified envelope.
For as long as it took for the mail to go back and forth, he received a cashier’s check. If he ripped it up, it’d be throwing away her money. Frustrated beyond endurance at her stubbornness, but never once attributing the same to his actions, he stormed out. He deposited the check into his personal account, bought another cashier’s check, adding the sum of another house payment for good measure, and sent it to the bank holding her mortgage. Smugly, he went back to work.
Three weeks later, he returned from a tour of his plants, and there was a certified letter from her. He tore it open enough to see the cashier’s check, ignored the letter, and prepared to make another flight to Portland, the nearest airport to Collins.