Throw the Key – Check out chapter 2!

Paperback Cover

It’s almost that time again! Release day for this second baby of mine is this Saturday, October 6 2018. Chapter one has already made the rounds, so here is a peek at chapter two. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter Two

7:30 p.m.

Tension jabbed Eric Bradley’s shoulders and neck like flaming swords as he gripped the yoke of his Piper Lance. Even at top speed, it couldn’t fly fast enough.

They know.

That phone call from a stranger hadn’t lasted five seconds, but had the power to change the rest of his life. Maybe it already had. He had no way of knowing.

Eric tipped his head from side to side, stretching his neck. He should’ve stayed in bed. It was the second life-changing call that day.

Eric glanced at the gold wrist watch Jenna had given him for his thirtieth birthday. Pink gold, she called it. It didn’t look pink to him. Golden hands ticked across the chocolate face. Seven-thirty. If he maintained this speed, he’d be home around nine o’clock.

It wasn’t soon enough. He needed to get his family, make a run to Chicago – something else he’d have to explain to Jenna – and be out of town before dark. Did darkness really matter, though? In the movies, the bad guys seemed to strike beneath pitch-blacks skies. But this was no movie.

Eric scooted forward in his seat as if the extra inch would get him home faster. His khaki shorts slid over the white leather, but his sweat-dampened thighs pinched with the movement. The hum of the aircraft reverberated in his ears. Maybe the bad guys wouldn’t wait. Maybe they’d already struck.

Eric pressed his lips together and glanced at the photo taped to the instrument panel, a snapshot from Halloween, almost a year ago. Emma wore a frilly pink princess gown, her blonde hair styled in fluffy curls. Jack dressed as a cowboy, half of his face hidden beneath the over-sized hat. Behind them, Jenna smiled widely, gathering the kids in her arms, her hazel eyes sparkling back at him.

After the photo had been taken, Jack jumped up and down, tugging on Eric’s pants. “We go! We go!” Despite the biting wind and occasional slap of a wet snowflake, he and Jenna had paraded the kids door to door though the neighborhood, Jenna nestling against Eric each time they stopped for the kids to collect their treats.

Eric could smell the scent of her perfume and feel the warmth of her skin just thinking about it. Her smile glowed as she tipped her head up and joked, “Tell me again why we had kids?” But he knew she loved those kids as much as he loved her. Things had been good then. Better than good.

Eric looked away from his smiling family in the photo. If anything happened to them, it would be his fault. He never should’ve gotten involved, should’ve minded his own business. But, how could he have known it would be this dangerous? Besides, he couldn’t ignore it. Those people needed him.

That last encounter ran through his mind, a single phrase repeating like a scratched album. “He got to them. They’ve been threatened. Stay away.”

He could picture the dim lighting, see that desperate face.

Eric glanced out the window beside him. Anything to distract himself. The setting sun cast splashes of amber, gold, and brilliant orange over Lake Michigan, the scene a mockery of the funnel cloud his life had spun into.

He bit back the thought, didn’t want to further jinx himself. Storms were in the forecast for that night. He had to hope they’d hold out long enough for him to get his family to safety.

He shifted his gaze to the passenger seat, eyes landing on his flight log book. He scanned the thin carpeting on the floor, looked back out the window. The images hadn’t changed outside of the plane and they hadn’t changed in his mind either. That face, those silent pleas.

Eric had left just a few hours before the call came. He’d been so close, the situation almost under control. Had the phone call he made been answered, he would’ve already taken care of it. Instead, they were trying to take care of him.

Eric looked over the instrument panel and out the windshield. As far as he could see, nothing but water, grayish blue highlighted in orange hues. He squinted at the horizon like it was a window capable of revealing everything important to him, show him everything was okay. He slid a little closer to the yoke.

He muttered a curse under his breath. He’d forgotten to tell Jenna to pack their passports. He’d have to remember that when he got home. Something told him that this time, she would appreciate his rustic, Canadian cabin. It would be the perfect hideout.

Eric gazed out the window again, but didn’t see the vast lake as his plane glided over it, slicing through the humidity. Instead, his mind flashed home. He could picture Jenna scrambling through the house, a panicked mess. If only he could’ve given her more information, but he couldn’t take the chance. Their home phone, his cell, even Jenna’s cell could’ve been manipulated.

At least he knew that she’d taken his warning seriously. Her frantic tone and insistence for answers made that clear. He just hoped she’d stayed afraid enough to follow everything he’d told her to do. She needed to listen to him, just this once, regardless of the terms they’d been on.

The all too familiar ache gnawed at his insides. Jenna didn’t understand. She’d be even less willing to try to understand after this. When he left the house that morning, he knew his return would push Jenna further away. He would have no choice but to tell her. She’d see soon enough. But this on top of it…

She definitely wouldn’t understand.

A shake of the aircraft jerked Eric from his thoughts.

The engine sputtered.

He glanced at the gages. His RPM was dropping.

Another sputter.

His seat rattled before the engine silenced.

Eric reached for the overhead panel, flipped the ignition knob to its original position and then back to start. Nothing happened.

He flipped on his auxiliary power, watched the gauges, and tried to start the engine again. His fuel level had dropped dangerously low. It didn’t make sense. Despite his rush, he had topped off both fuel tanks before leaving Traverse City.

He pulled up on the yoke to maintain altitude, switched fuel tanks and tried to start the plane again. The engine stammered and slowly came to life.

But only for a moment, not long enough to feel the relief.

Eric drifted through the air in eerie silence, thousands of feet above the water. Now what? His threw his hand to the overhead panel and desperately cranked on the knob, but no matter how many times he tried, he couldn’t restart the engine.

He hit the yoke with his fist.

They know.

Sweat beaded on his forehead. He couldn’t think about that, had to focus on the plane. He knew what to do. He’d logged thousands of flight hours. A lifeless engine didn’t have to be a death sentence. He could travel a long distance just by gliding.

Eric searched the instrument panel for his altitude. Eight thousand feet. Rule of thumb, multiply altitude by five to determine minimum gliding distance.

He’d make it at least 40,000 feet before the plane came down. About eight miles.

Eric gawked at the horizon, the moisture sucked from his mouth as if a dental vacuum lay inside. A flash of lightening streaked in the distance.

Eight miles.

He was at least twelve miles from shore.

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