Flash Fiction Story 016: "With Love, Dan"

Over 45 years after the daring hijacking of Northwest Orient Flight 305, the identity of the mysterious D.B. Cooper, his whereabouts, and the fate of the $200,000 with which he absconded all remain a mystery. Most maintain that without a safe haven in short distance of where he parachuted, “Cooper” would have surely perished. 

Intermittent physical evidence of Cooper’s escape from the authorities surfaced, most tending to support the theory that he did not survive the heist. The FBI officially suspended the investigation in 2016, owing to a need to commit resources to other, more pertinent investigative matters.

In 2017, the following correspondence was purchased at a flea market in the town of Zigzag, Oregon. An otherwise unsuspecting collector of antiques found the letters in the shelf of a Kas-style armoire. Both the purchaser and dealer claimed to have no other knowledge of the Cooper case, and indeed were only children when it occurred. While some—including retired members of the FBI task force charged with investigating the case—express mild skepticism at the authenticity of the letters, the possibility of the first peeks into Cooper’s fate and thoughts after the hijacking have ignited the imagination of students of the case. It paints the stories of a thrill-seeking trickster eventually confronted with the immutability of his greatest scam. Cooper becomes less a mystery, and more of a sad figure with these words

It also adds new layers of mysteries to the story. Who was “Mitchell”? Where did he live, and did he own the armoire? Why couldn’t Cooper have gone home? And, furthermore, how could someone walk around with a tattoo like that and not attract attention to himself?

Here, published for the first time are the “Dan letters”:

 

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November 26th, 1971

 

Genera Delivery

Portland, OR

 

Dear Mitchell*,

 

Well! It looks like I owe you fifty bucks. Someone could ask for two-hundred thousand dollars and jump out of a plane with no problems. You said, “All you need is a couple of clay rods, some wiring, a battery, and put them all in a suitcase.” And I laughed in your face.

Boy is my face red! But I’ve always believed a big man admits when he is wrong. I was sure somebody would have stopped me, and then you would owe me the fifty… and bail money, probably. I mean, shouldn’t somebody have tried to stop me?

I’d say that I’ll have no trouble paying you back, but then if I squared accounts with you out of the money I’ve just “found,” then I might win the bet after all! Ha. Ha. Ha. Seriously, though. I don’t think we can spend any of this money. Every bill has a serial number on it. How could we not have thought of that?

This is all to say I am alive and well, and yes, I’m the man you’re seeing on the news. I’ll reach out again when I can to try and bring this little adventure of ours to an end.

 

With Love,

“Dan”

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December 4th, 1971

 

General Delivery

Portland , OR

 

Dear Mitchell,

 

I’m worried. I think they’re taking this a little more seriously than you are I might have bargained. Pictures of the way I appeared over Thanksgiving are everywhere. Growing a beard didn’t help. Putting my glasses back on—don’t call them “coke bottles” again, I swear, Mitchell—didn’t help. Getting that tattoo** of “Ask me about Amway” across my forehead didn’t help.

They are still looking for me, and every time someone looks me in the eye, I’m almost certain they are thinking, There he is! There’s the man who jumped from the plane!

Please send word back via the delivery method above. Use my real name. Tell me there’s a way I can come home. I think we may have gone too far with this one. Reminds me of the time we thought it would be funny if we demagnetized Earhart’s compass*** and…

I’ve probably said too much. I’ll write when I can.

 

With Love,

“Dan”

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(This letter appeared encrypted with a cryptogram-style cypher, unless Cooper meant to refer to  “slippery rhino brassieres.” If the letters were not encoded, then it’s entirely possible that these are not Cooper letters, and instead very niche erotic literature. For clarity’s sake, the decryption appears here.)

 

January 2nd, 1972

 

General Delivery

Portland, OR

 

Dear Mitchell,

 

This won’t work anymore. I sense they are paying more attention to the Post Office here. I can’t even be sure that you’ve received all of my previous letters****. This will have to be my last letter. While this has all gotten too big, the thought of the big house is just a bit too much to bear. If you can get to me, do. It would be the great miracle of my life if we could find a way to move past this, although I’ve started to give up that hope a little bit with each passing day.

I’ll never fly again. That much is certain.

Maybe we should have just stuck with playing canasta? Sometimes I feel like I’m just writing into the void.

 

Please write back,

“Dan”

 

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These were the only letters recovered, only increasing speculation about additional correspondence. Anyone who possess additional examples of writings from “Dan” are encouraged to contact the FBI at (855) 835-5324.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Assuming that the letters are authentic, most investigators believe that “Mitchell” is a pseudonym for Cooper’s family contact. No crosschecks of available records in either Oregon or California have found families with both a Mitchell and a Daniel of the appropriate age.

** Research into the corresponding tattoo failed to yield any conclusive results. It may be the beginnings of a code (see the third letter).

*** It is also speculated that this reference to “Earhart’s Compass” is a code, but it has opened up interesting avenues of speculation into the disappearance of certain other figures.

**** This reference leads some to believe there either were or are more letters.

 Art by Eris O'Reilly

Art by Eris O'Reilly