Avid young balloonist, Eric Rafferty, and twenty-four others lift their hot air machines at the annual Montague Balloon Festival. Eric’s pregnant wife, Dacey, waves and expects to receive a ‘pick up’ call an hour later.
Eric never calls.
A family taking a break in an Interstate 5 rest area northwest of Montague, spots a hot air balloon high overhead. The next day, when the father learns Eric had not called his ground crew, he reports the sighting to the Siskiyou County Sheriff.
Several searches into the rugged and unoccupied mountains between California State Route 96 and Mount Ashland in southern Oregon fail to find Eric or his balloon.
Two years after Eric went aloft, a deer hunter finds Eric’s baseball cap caught in a bush at the edge of a mountain meadow. A subsequent search of the deep grass uncovers Eric’s wallet. A Fish and Wildlife warden declares a bear made the teeth marks on the leather.
Dacey hires an eager young Yreka attorney to file a lawsuit seeking a declaration that Eric is officially dead.
Because Eric doubled his life insurance coverage to two million dollars one month before he disappeared, the insurance company asks private investigator Dan Ballantine to attend the court hearing.
The judge declares a two week continuance and orders Ballantine to find Eric Rafferty if the insurance company believes he is alive and attempting life insurance fraud.