Authors: Rick Simnitt
Text copyright © 20
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the author.
To my Paramedic sister-in-law, Lindsey Appel, whose outstanding skill and knowledge were indispensable to ensuring the medical details are accurate and believable. Thanks Lynn!
Table of Contents
The silent scream tore through the very fabric of Drake’s reality. It made no difference. His captors would have paid it no attention even if they had heard his horrified shriek.
Despite his terrified struggling Drake couldn’t free himself from the cords that held him bound. Nor could he escape the grip of the smelly apelike minions that firmly held his arms. Uncaring rough hands painfully bruised him, though it went completely unnoticed by both Drake and his captors.
The fetid breath of one guard rushed into Drake Mannion’s face as the
thug gave a guttural laugh. “Go
ahead, I like it when they struggle,” he taunted. Laughing again, he jerked harder on the struggling prisoner.
Distantly the men could feel, rather than hear, the roar of the twin engines pulling the aircraft through the air. The modified Piper Navajo sported no windows that would allow a glimpse of what fate awaited the first step outside the metal bird. Only the hot summer wind rushing through the interior of the fuselage gave testimony of the doom that waited hungrily for its prey.
Too quickly, the doorway of the plane loomed nearer. Drake pushed harder with his legs, trying in vain to stop the onward movement to his certain demise. Cruelly the binds that clamped his legs together allowed little movement to gain traction or leverage. He tried again to jerk his left arm free from the other mammoth keeper. Unfazed, the evil man said nothing, staring coldly into the sweat-riddled face of the bound man.
Only a few more feet remained between him and
the plane’s door. Wildly Drake
searched around again for something to stave off the destiny that appeared so sure. A foothold, a rope, a strap—anything that might help in some small, even if insignificant, way. He was terrified. Despite his normally calm demeanor he felt himself panicking in an unfamiliar and unwelcome way. His mind couldn’t focus on anything except the driving need to escape.
gave way to
as the men approached the opening. All too quickly the squirming hostage reached the open door. The two killers paused there, looking out into the blackness beyond the plane’s exterior, trying to catch a glimpse at what awaited the struggling man. Despite the adrenaline pumping through his system Drake also noted the complete blackness of the outside world. Not even the light from the moon or stars could be seen, veiled in the oddly overcast night; clouds hiding the sky, as if it couldn’t bear to watch the drama unfolding below. There should be land down there, Drake knew, the trees and rocks of the Idaho mountains jutting into the air, standing sentinel over the narrow wash of Lake Cascade.
A sudden gust of wind through the open hatch ripped Drake from his reverie
cruelly reminding him of his plight. With the surge came a renewed determination for freedom. The instinctive force for survival rushed through his veins. In a rare moment of clarity he caught a glimpse of a plan bringing with it a kernel of hope. Having nothing to lose and so much to gain he ran with the idea, a scheme so simple that it must assuredly fail. Yet there was no other way. It had to work—or he was a dead man.
Unexpectedly he relaxed his body completely catching the two inattentive watchmen off-guard. The sudden weight of the six-foot-four frame jerked the arms of the behemoths just enough to al
low for slight movement. Drake
thrust his entire weight into the larger man on the right, using the gentle incline of the plane’s interior to his advantage. The smaller captor on the left, anticipating his charge would back away from the opening, put his might and strength into pulling Drake forward. He was holding Drake’s roped left arm in his strong right hand, the other holding the side of the plane, to not join the captive in his plummet. The abrupt lurch to the right did little to dislodge the grip on the arm, but was enough to pull the sweat-moistened left hand from the doorframe. Twisting, he lost his balance crashing heavily into Drake.
The added weight of the second man’s stumbling body joined with
’s and together they fell into the first burly guard. All three crashed onto the plane’s metal floor. Drake quickly rolled way from the two henchmen as far as he could in the confined quarters, the taste of freedom giving him strength.
Still tied from shoulder to ankle he had few choices and instinctively kicked away. His frantic kicking caught Smelly Breath squarely in the face, bringing a fine spray of blood from his broken nose and a string of epithets from his bruised lips. Kicking repeatedly, hoping to either inflict more wounds or gain further ground, Drake strained at the ropes. Muscles bulging and sweat pouring, he pulled at the restraints holding his arms tightly to his body. Nothing.
Instinct telling him he had no time to spare, he changed tactics. Twisting and contorting his body, he repositioned himself with his feet pointing toward the doorway, then gathered his legs as close to his body as possible. A heartbeat later the blood stained face of Smelly Breath was inches from his own gagged mouth.
“You’re still gonna die, but now you gotta pay for this,” he muttered dangerously. Smoothly
a wicked looking knife came from the assassin’s belt and rested against the bare left cheek just above the filthy rag tied mercilessly across Drake’s mouth. Up, down, up again, and back down the sharp blade pulled against the exposed left cheek, slicing painfully into the tender skin. The cries of pain were lost behind the cloth in Drakes throat, but were still evident in the further tensing of already taut muscles.
the smaller of the two, was now standing and
came over to Drake’s feet to watch the show, a malevolent grin touching the otherwise
cold stare. Drake tore hi
s eyes away from the hate-filled face of his
torturer and looked directly into the icy glare positioned above his feet. He fought against the pain and fear that again tried to overwhelm him, then with all the strength he could muster kicked at the shins of the mocking guard with both legs.
Again the element of surprise outmaneuvered the arrogant ruffians. Cold Eyes let out a yelp of pain and anger, the thrust of the kick knocking his feet out from under him. The inertia of the strike pushed his feet out the plane door, while gravity pulled his face toward the deck of the aircraft, fracturing his nose as it hit cold steel. Again inertia, gravity and wind pulled against the man, jerking his body backward toward the opening into the dismal night, which waited hungrily to swallow any morsel the plane would offer.
Desperately the slipping thug grabbed for the nearest anchor, frantic now to stave off his own demise. Ironically
he latched onto the legs of the bou
nd man hoping to slow his exit. The evil man’s
clamped around Drake’s
exposed ankles, and for the second time in as many minutes, Drake found himself again being pulled toward the open door. This time there was no traction to hold him back and his legs were pulled quickly out into the darkness. Bending at
the waist and rolling, the victim
tried using his body as a stop, crashing into the side of the plane. Searing pain coursed through his body. His legs were still being held by the dangling man whipping mercilessly in the air and he felt as though he was being rip
ped in half. Drake
strained with all his might to stay positioned against the side of the fuselage, so as not to lose what mooring he had and join the creature banging against the plane’s skin.
Suddenly he felt the grip around his legs loosen and knew that karma had claimed another victim—the one pushing his prey out of the plane was instead pulled from it. Yet fate decided to add another twist to mortality. As the culprit flew through the air, he caught the tail wing, his body jamming the elevator, sending the aircraft into a steep dive.
Both remaining passengers were thrown forward into the cabin wall. Drake was wrenched backward, partially back into the plane. He hit headfirst into the divider separating the pilot from the rider. The blow dazed him, sending shrill ringing into his ears and gray clouds into his vision. He heard himself cry out from the added pain, knowing he had reached his limit. Somehow he realized there was something amiss in that cry and as his head started to clear he discovered what it was—the knife Smelly Breath was using to inflict his torture had pulled against the rags keeping him muzzled and had sliced them through. He drew in a gasp of air through his mouth that had been sealed for so many hours and felt the exquisite taste of a lungful of air.
Drake was brought back to reality as the plane hit the first treetop. As the nose skittered across the tall pines the entire craft shuddered and Drake could feel, rather than hear, the limbs scraping against the short underbelly of the airplane. He looked over to see what had become of Smelly Breath and saw that karma had again intervened in his favor—the sharp fishing knife was protruding at an ugly angle from the chest of the now dead man.
The elevators, though now free of Cold Eyes, were irreparably damaged.
could hear the screams coming from the pilot as he fought savagely, though hopelessly, to control the hurtling machine. Death, it seemed, would feast tonight, claiming for itself those who usually fed it. The plane continued its wild ride, bouncing across the treetops, jostling both Drake and Smelly Breath. Surely the craft couldn’t take much more before being ripped apart. That thought added increased haste to the already frantic struggle for escape, as Drake dragged himself toward the other man.
Finally the rope entwined man reached his goal. Quickly he retrieved the weapon protruding from his would-be assassin and turned it against the ropes that held him. Though the sharp knife took only seconds to slice through the ropes, progress was agonizingly slow. Cutting the cords first at his wrists, he moved swiftly on to his arms, knees, and finally his ankles. Drake was freed at last, but still in a damaged aircraft. He went over to the open door that once would have been his destroyer, now turned his unwitting savior.
He looked out into the darkness once more, but could make out only the shadows of the trees still hitting the metal beneath his feet. Suddenly the crashing stopped and the shadows disappeared. Drake strained his eyes trying to understand what was happening. Then he saw it—a small light bobbing in the distance, looking like a firefly hovering around an aromatic flower. Then he recognized the smell of water, the pungent smell of a lake, similar to the one he spent so many lazy afternoons and early mornings fishing on. He had found Lake Cascade.
Although he had no idea how high above the water he was, he knew that his only chance for life was in that water. He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, exhaled, and drew in another. He opened his eyes and scanned the tiny compartment where the battle had so recently raged, looking for anything else he might need. Seeing nothing of interest he turned back to the door, closed his eyes, took another deep breath, and jumped as far as he could.
A fisherman and his young son looked up as they heard the crashing of the trees and made out the shadowy silhouette of a skydiving plane bursting into view a hundred of feet above them. Suddenly they heard the sound of something heavy splashing into the water several yards away. Quickly they traveled the distance, trying to see what had dropped from the sky. A moment later a lifeless body was pulled from the icy water and a bruised and beaten man was hauled aboard. Above them the plane jolted crazily across the sky, then dove into the opposite shore, bursting into flame, a ball of fire lighting up the night.