About the Author
Charles Martin is the author of seven novels. He and his family live in Jacksonville, Florida.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Prelude Hey… I’m not sure what time it is. This thing should record that. I woke a few minutes ago. It’s still dark. I don’t know how long I was out. The snow is spilling in through the windshield. It’s frozen across my face. Hard to blink. Feels like dried paint on my cheeks. It just doesn’t taste like dried paint. I’m shivering…and it feels like somebody is sitting on my chest. Can’t catch my breath. Maybe broke two or three ribs. Might have a collapsed lung. The wind up here is steady, leaning against the tail of the fuselage…or what’s left of it. Something above me, maybe a branch, is slapping the plexi-glass. Sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. And more cold air is coming in behind me. Where the tail used to be. I can smell gas. I guess both wings were still pretty full of fuel. I keep feeling like I want to throw up. A hand is wrapped around mine. The fingers are cold and calloused. There’s a wedding band, worn thin around the edges. That’s Grover. He was dead before we hit the treetops. I’ll never understand how he landed this thing without killing me, too. When we took off, the ground temperature was in the single digits. Not sure what it is now. Feels colder. Our elevation should be around eleven-five. Give or take. We couldn’t have fallen more than five hundred feet when Grover dipped the wing. The control panel sits dark, unlit. Dusted in white. Every few minutes the GPS on the dash will flicker, then go black again. There was a dog here somewhere. All teeth and muscle. Real short hair. About the size of a loaf of bread. Makes snotty, gurgling sounds when he breathes. Looks like he’s jacked up on speed. Wait… ‘Hey, boy…Wait…no. Not there. Okay, lick but don’t jump. What’s your name? You scared? Yeah…me, too.’ I can’t remember his name. I’m back…was I gone long? There’s a dog here. Buried between my coat and armpit. Did I already tell you about him? I can’t remember his name. He’s shivering and the wrinkles around his eyes are quivering. Whenever the wind howls, he jumps up and growls at it. The memory’s foggy. Grover and I were talking, he was flying, maybe banking right, the dash flashed a buffet of blue and green lights, a carpet of black stretched out below us, not a light bulb for sixty miles in any direction, and…there was a woman. Trying to get home to her fiancé and a rehearsal dinner. I’ll look. …I found her. Unconscious. Elevated pulse. Eyes are swollen shut. Pupils are dilated. Probably a concussion. Several lacerations across her face. A few will need stitches. Right shoulder is dislocated and left femur is broken. It didn’t break the skin but, her leg is angling out and suit leg is tight. I need to set it…once I catch my breath. …It’s getting colder. I guess the storm finally caught us. If I don’t get us wrapped in something…we’ll freeze to death before daylight. I’ll have to set that leg in the morning. Rachel…I don’t know how much time we have, don’t know if we’ll make it out, if…but…I take it all back. I was wrong. I was angry. I never should’ve said it. You were thinking about us. Not you. I can see that now. You’re right. Right all along. There’s always a chance. Always.