My rating on a 100-point scale: 94
This is a great read. I highly recommend to everyone old enough for the adult circumstances and horror elements. There are a few things I could complain about (mentioned in my comments, made during my reading of the book), but the complexity of the story and characters overcomes all the minor technical errors. This book is just so good, you have to read it for yourself to understand.
My comments made while reading this book:
"Other than small technical errors (OK instead of okay, till instead of 'til, a slight overuse of ellipses and exclamation points, etc), this is very-well-written and an easy, action-packed, fulfilling read. I'm very much enjoying the adventure and the plane hasn't even crashed yet."
"With memorable and fun characters, this book is really a great read, a fun trip."
"Intense. And, oh, the horror!"
"Some of this story seems strangely familiar... But what a ride!"
Also, with the author's permission, I am sharing an excerpt with you today (from chapter one)! Please enjoy:
Jack Andrews stared out the window at the receding landscape, his six-foot frame feeling a bit cramped in one of the small seats of the passenger compartment. He had been with Prather Enterprises for 10 years now, and he took enjoyment in his work, dividing his time between his sedentary job and the more vigorous activities of hiking, swimming, and learning the art of Judo.
His thoughts were not centered on the view, however. Andrews could concentrate to the extent that he completely blocked out sights and sounds around him. Strangers sometimes took this quality as stand-offishness, while those who knew him understood that short of calling his name several times or nudging his shoulder, one could forget about drawing his attention. He was thinking about the meeting that would take place later in the day in Phoenix. As one of Prather Enterprises most skilled negotiators, he and the four other “special forces team members,” as Walt Prather liked to call them, would most likely conclude another lucrative deal for the company. This trip had been on short notice, so Andrews planned to work out much of his strategy in flight.
“Why did Mr. Prather want us to travel in this, this…I mean it’s ancient,” Jan Lemley said quietly. “And leaving so early…why so early?” Jan was a slim brown-haired woman approaching 40. This being her first plane flight, she was nervous and excited, in spite of the Tranxene she had taken earlier. She rarely smiled, and seldom spoke of matters unrelated to business. No one knew much about her personal life - she preferred not to discuss it. She was not a regular member of the team, but a last minute replacement for the usual secretary who was ill.
“I don’t know, Jan. Seems that, whenever the team gets together, Walt likes to put on his little show.” Sonnie Morgan smiled and said reassuringly, “Hey, look, a free trip to fun-in-the-sun land, getting out of the office for a week. Think of it as an adventure. You’ll be fine.” Sonnie stuck out her lower lip and sighed heavily, the little gust lifting a wisp of blonde hair from her forehead. The air conditioning hadn’t quite cooled the cabin yet, and even though it was four in the morning, the air outside was unusually hot and humid. Moreover, although she was normally calm and deliberate in her business dealings, flying always made her feel uneasy.
Sonnie had started at Prather five years ago, her first job out of college. She had thought the job would be short term, but management had found her to be naturally talented and very intelligent. She had quickly risen to an executive position with a salary she had thought she would earn only after 10 or 15 years. Eccentric or not, Walt Prather recognized and rewarded talent.
Tom Delancey and Denny Watters, the remaining members of the team, shared the seat in the rear of the cabin. Delancey was of medium build, balding, and beginning to show a middle-age paunch. His most notable features were his prominent nostrils that gave him a piggish appearance, and his seemingly casual expression that belied intensity and ambition. Delancey, like Jack Andrews, had been with the company a long time. Unlike Andrews, however, Delancey’s goal was not a job well done. Rather, he sought power. Although he projected a country-boy image, he was calculating and ruthless. His single-minded goal involved reaching as far up the ladder as possible; hell, he figured, maybe even to the top one day. It bothered him not at all to take credit for the work of others, when he felt he could get away with it. And not too curiously, more than one of his supervisors had resigned either voluntarily or otherwise, to “seek other opportunities.” Many felt Delancey had helped facilitate their departure, but nothing could ever be traced back to him. His value lay in his skill at digging up vital information about competing companies, or businesses with which Prather Enterprises wished to deal. Unknown to Delancey, his staff liked to call him "Mr. Hoover," after the late FBI head.
Denny Watters was the kid of the group, and it was his first trip in the big plane. His eyes darted outside the window, around the plane’s interior, and through the glass dome above them, which had once housed two 50 caliber machine guns, but now served as a skylight.
“Man, I can’t believe it! This plane is great – nothing at all like the modern ones. They’re like tubes with wings. This plane’s got character and I bet a lot of history behind it. Maybe it was even in a battle or two. And the sound of those engines is awesome!”
“Give it a rest now son. We hit an air pocket or two and the fun goes away real quick-like." Delancey crossed his arms and shifted away from Denny, closing his eyes and yawning. “You best get a little sleep. You’re gonna need it later.”
Denny was the gopher for the team. He was here mainly because his father happened to be a high-level Prather employee, who had grown tired of seeing his son shifting from job to job, going nowhere. Denny had managed to finish high school, but college and a solid career were things that were of no interest to him. He did seem to enjoy the work at Prather, however, and had stuck with it now for eight months – the longest period he’d ever held a job. At least it was a start. He had turned 20, four days ago.
The pilot was Robert James Acamo, a 52 year-old Vietnam veteran, who had flown helicopter rescue missions during the war. He wasn’t sure when or how he had acquired the nickname, but people just called him "Cozy." He was a good-natured man who laughed easily and often, flashing his big teeth, nodding approval at a good joke or story. He was devoted to his family of four children and his wife, Jean.
He felt lucky to have this job, rather than jockeying big jets into and out of crowded airports. And although flying the B25 did not hold the challenge of helicopters, at least it was flying. An excellent pilot who flew by the book, one day he wanted to open a small airport of his own - maybe even a commuter helicopter service.
Cozy looked over at the man in the co-pilot’s seat. “Landing gear up, Vince.”
Vince Bazis placed a huge hand on the control, and a moment later, they felt the slight thump as the landing gear seated. Vince was not really a co-pilot, rather his main job was light mechanical work and maintaining the airport grounds. He’d had enough flying experience to "sort of" land and take off, but he was shaky at best, lacking the feel for flight. Even so, he loved to fly, and jumped at the chance when Cozy asked if he wanted to come along. Jumped may be too strong a word. When Cozy made the offer, Vince had simply said, “Yeah.”
Vince was a patient, caring person, but possessed a hot temper when drunk, which had cost him two wives in quick succession. When not drinking, though, one wouldn’t even know he was around - except at 6’6” and 270 pounds, most of it muscle - he was hard not to notice. He spoke very seldom, because as he figured, most people didn’t have much to say when it came right down to it. His three year-old son and his work were the most important things in his life, which he felt was looking up. He hadn’t had a drink since his 27th birthday, three years ago.
Cozy leveled off at 13,000 feet. The stars, which would soon give way to the morning light, still ruled the sky.
“Should be an easy trip till we cross into Arizona,” Cozy mentioned. “There’s a front moving in, and visibility is supposed to be limited. Should be no problem. This tub may be a little on the ancient side, but the navigation equipment is state of the art.”
Cozy had learned a fundamental lesson a long time ago. In bad weather, always trust your instruments. Many an experienced pilot had gotten into trouble by flying out of instinct and the feel of the plane, rather than relying on the instruments. For some, it had proven fatal. Even so, there were times when he had been sorely tested. Once, while flying through heavy clouds, he had experienced g-forces that his senses interpreted as an increase in speed. When checking the instruments, though, he determined that the cause of the g-forces was not acceleration but the climbing of the plane pressing him back into the seat. Were it not for the instruments, the natural inclination would have been to pull back on the stick to bring the plane out of the “dive” which was causing the “acceleration.” Pulling back on the stick would have caused the nose to rise even farther, eventually leading to the dreaded stall. In a stall, the wings simply lost lift and the plane would wing over into a spin from which it was almost impossible to recover. No matter what, in poor conditions, the instruments were your eyes and all other senses…period.
Cozy turned to Vince again. "You want to take her for a while?”
The younger man smiled, nodded, and answered, “Yeah.” He placed his hands on the wheel as Cozy released his grip. “She’s all yours.”
As usual, Vince looked as though he had just grabbed a live wire. Cozy almost laughed as Vince grimly held onto the wheel, reminding him of a big kid riding in a pedal car. The wheel looked so small engulfed in those huge hands.
“Vince, it ain’t a snake you know. Relax, man. Treat the lady right and she’s yours.” Vince glanced quickly toward Cozy, back at the instruments, then straight ahead and began to concentrate. The plane rose, dipped a little, rose again slightly, before leveling out.
At times, Vince reminded Cozy of his oldest son. Dave was the kind of kid who could not express emotion easily and seldom spoke more than a few words at a time. He loved to fish, and Cozy remembered the day that the crappie had really been biting. He and Dave, then 12 years old, were pulling them into the boat as fast as they could re-bait their hooks and throw the line back into the water. Dave would pull in a fish and in a quiet monotone voice, say, “Got another one, Dad.” He’d catch another crappie and without looking at his father he’d say again, “Got another one, Dad.” Cozy couldn’t keep from smiling broadly and shaking his head. What a kid. In spite of Dave’s lack of outward emotion, Cozy knew that day had been special for both of them. It was one of those memories that did not fade with time – the special ones – placed in the mental file that made you feel happy each time you opened the cover. The kind of memory that kept you going even when fate’s hand smashed you in the face, leaving you dazed, confused, and devastated. Dave had been killed in Desert Storm. It was something from which a parent never recovers, but you still have the memories, you still keep going.
“You'd better watch it, or Vince will be taking over your job.” Jack Andrews had entered the cabin. “Just stretching my legs. How are things looking?”
“Well, should be smooth flying for another hour or so, before we start getting into some scuddy weather. But, we’ll be alright.”
Jack yawned. “Sounds good. Either of you want coffee? I just put some on in the galley.”
Cozy produced a thermos from under the seat. “No thanks. Jean made me some hot chocolate.”
“Vince, how about you? “
Vince quietly answered, “No…thanks.”
Cozy liked Jack Andrews, who didn’t seem to tie social rank to his or anyone else’s position. And he had the quality of instantly putting people at ease. He wasn’t sure what Jack’s work involved, but he knew it must be an integral part of the business. Easy manner or no, he sensed an inner strength in the man as well as a keen intellect. Also, Jack Andrews was a natural leader - rare in these times.
Jack asked, “What time do you think we’ll make Phoenix?”
“Barring any rough stuff, about three hours from now.”
“Vince going to make the landing?” Jack smiled, looking over at the big man.
“Only if he keeps his eyes open on final approach this time,” said Cozy.
Jack tilted his head back, laughing, and even Vince managed a stiff smile, though he continued to stare nervously out the window.
Jack exited the cockpit and returned to the cabin, where everyone but Sonnie was asleep.
As he walked past her, he said quietly, “I’m going back for coffee. Want some?”
“Sure. Smells good. Just black is fine.”
Jack returned with the coffee, handed Sonnie her cup, and sat down across the aisle from her.
“Thanks.” She sipped the steaming brew and said, “Pretty good. I guess a dyed-in-the-wool bachelor like you has to be skilled in the art of coffee making. Do you also cook?”
“Only when I’m dieting. My cooking is a sure way to cut down on anyone’s food intake,” he said smiling, tapping his fist against his stomach. Sonnie laughed quietly. He enjoyed talking with her – looking into the large sky-blue eyes. In fact, he found more and more that he enjoyed being with her. The feeling bothered him, somewhat. Made him feel a little like a teenager again – that feeling of awkwardness, even embarrassment. In the working world Jack had always been confident in his abilities, and taking risks was second nature to him. But this closeness he felt for her was something he had never before experienced, at least not so deeply as he now felt. He’d dated women. Had even felt serious about some of them. But the feelings had always faded with time. He had grown to believe that love was something people wanted to believe happened. A concept kept alive in romance novels, movie scripts, love songs, and the like. And look at the number of divorces he knew of, just in his office alone. Nearly everyone was on their second husband or wife, some working on their third. No, although Jack had become convinced that the myth of love was alive and well, he’d refused to buy into it. It was only a matter of time that the feelings would fade – just as always. In the meantime, he intended to keep the relationship on a business level.
“You’re usually so focused before a meeting, that you barely say two words. So far you’re about seven words over your average, I’ll have you know.” She smiled, but in a more serious tone, asked, “Is anything wrong?”
“Not really. This trip just seems different, that’s all. Can’t put my finger on it. It’s probably nothing…then again maybe it’s just my cooking.
She laughed loudly, then caught herself and covered her mouth, still laughing quietly.
“It can’t be that bad, Jack. You know, you’re not exactly skin and bones.”
As I recall, you were supposed to be keeping this relationship on a business level, he thought to himself. Some commitment, pal. Remember, business.
Looking concerned, she asked, “Do you think there’s something wrong with the arrangements? We’ve gone over and over them, and we haven't hit any snags. At least none that can’t be ironed out.”
Jack yawned and gazed out the window, “It’s not the meeting. I think it’s just me. Lack of sleep probably. Think I’ll try to get some rest. Excuse me.” He stood up, returned his cup to the tiny galley, sat back down in his original seat and closed his eyes.
Sonnie was surprised by Jack’s abrupt departure. Had she said something wrong? Then again, maybe their biological clocks were all just a little thrown off. Only yesterday evening the group had been told that the meeting was to be held the following afternoon in Phoenix. She’d packed, gotten a couple of hours sleep, and arrived at the airport at four this morning. Maybe Jack was right. Best to get some rest while you could.
She reclined her seat, closed her eyes, and eventually drifted off to the drone of the engines.
Cozy finished his second cup of hot chocolate and checked the clock on the control panel. They had been in the air about two hours.
The stars were gradually blending into a faintly gray sky. It was going to be one of those mornings where the sun made no appearance – rather the sky and the land below just seemed to slowly, almost reluctantly appear. At least that’s how it would look at their altitude. Higher up, the sky would be clear and the sun would just be starting to cast its rays over the tops of the gray clouds. But their flight plan called for 13,000 feet. Besides, although renovated, the B25 was not pressurized. She was capable of climbing to 30,000 feet or more, but the air would be so thin that oxygen would be required, not to mention the brutal 30 degrees below zero temperature up there.
“Vince, I’m going aft to use the head. OK?” Cozy looked over at the big man not wanting to ask if he felt comfortable enough to be alone at the controls, but giving him a chance to respond if he were not.
“OK,” Vince answered unemotionally. Cozy had grown accustomed to the one or two word responses. If he'd truly been uncomfortable, Vince would have used at least three words.
He smiled to himself. “Be back in a minute.”
He made his way aft quietly, assuming everyone was asleep.
As he used the facilities, he felt the plane dip slightly, then dip again. Was Vince getting nervous, or had they just hit a couple of small air pockets?
He finished and started making his way to the cockpit, when he felt the plane lurch, followed by Vince’s voice, unsteady, calling to him. “Cozy, better hurry. Cozy…Jesus! Come here, quick!”
He hurried to the cockpit to find Vince sitting stiffly upright, staring out the window to his left, his expression one of sheer terror.
“Jesus…look!” A trembling finger pointed out the window.
Cozy quickly followed his gaze. Coming at them was what he could only describe as a tidal wave of dark gray clouds. Their mass was astounding, seeming to stretch for miles east and west. He had seen approaching storms before, but nothing like this. The speed of its onslaught was incredible, the angry gray and black clouds boiling with intensity as they grew ever closer.
He knew immediately that they were in trouble. Serious trouble. There was little time to act. “Vince, hold her, I’ve got to warn the others.”
Cozy bounded out of the cockpit, into the passenger area. Some of the group were stirring, but no one was awake. “Everybody listen! Listen up! You’ve got to wake up! He saw bleary eyes popping open, staring at him. “Get up, dammit! Everybody fasten your seatbelts quickly! Fasten your seat belts!” Cozy noted that Jack had come instantly awake. “Jack, help to get them belted up, quick! I’ve got to get back to the cockpit!”
Jack had always known Cozy to be calm, even laid back. He knew this must be a real emergency. “Everybody up. Get your seat belts on!”
“What the hell’s all the fuss. Are we landing?” Tom Delancey looked irritated at being awakened.
“Just get your seatbelt on, Tom. You too, Denny, quickly.”
Denny locked his seatbelt, while looking up at Jack standing over him. “Are we there or what? What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. Sonnie are you and Jan…” Jack catapulted over Delancey and Denny. He sensed someone screaming and that the floor of the plane was now the side. Then blackness.
From Relentless by Joseph DiMari.
Copyright 1998 Joseph DiMari.
Excerpt shared here with the permission of the author.
This book does have restricting content. Due to gore and adult scenes and situations, I would not recommend this novel for anyone less than seventeen.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt and will check out this book for yourself. It is available on Smashwords and Amazon for a pretty decent price. I highly recommend it, so check it out if you enjoy reading a good adventurous story.
Also, please leave comments below for me and let me know what you think. Thank you for reading!