SACO – This school vacation couldn’t have come at a better time. Candidly, I have been struggling a bit with my second novel, not with the story, the characters, or the general idea that I’d like to write about, but simply with being able to find the time to put it all together.
But with a few days off from the classroom, I have been able to organize my thoughts and I have a plan to make it to the finish line. And me being me, I thought I’d share the first draft of the beginning of the book. Please let me know what you think.
1 – Somewhere near the Texas coastline – (2012)
He’d never be caught. At least that’s what he kept telling himself. As the last echoes of daylight faded, the sea and sky surrounding his single-engine Cessna melded together into one long continuous streak of gray and black until the horizon was indistinguishable from the churning ocean swells that passed no more than 50 feet beneath Michael Rogers’ worn and weary sneakers. He felt the all too familiar hum and throb of the plane’s engine as his feet rested on the metal surfaces of the rudder pedals and he fidgeted in vain attempt to a get a better view of the horizon ahead.
For the past 20 years, Mickey Rogers made a late winter run like this from Florida to Texas, and he knew his plane normally carried enough fuel to make it across the Gulf of Mexico, even with a headwind. But as the amount of light outside his window steadily diminished and his mood darkened, he forced himself to focus more than ever on finding his destination.
“All right,” he muttered to himself and almost smiled when he realized the words had actually left his mouth. His calculations and his instruments told him that he was no more than 30 minutes from his destination and once the plane was in the hangar and the door was shut again to the rest of the world, he’d be safe to unload his cargo and head north.
In the beginning, the packages he carried didn’t weigh more than 110 pounds, about half his own weight. He only thought of them as bricks and blocks of white powder wrapped in sheets of plastic and covered with waterproof canvas, never drugs, never something illegal. It was only a cargo that would help support him and his family. Many of his fisherman friends back home had carried small quantities just like this and he didn’t think any worse of them when a new F150 appeared in the driveway or suddenly, the roof on their home was covered in a fresh layer of asphalt shingles. If he could just get to Texas and empty the plane, the first part the trip, and often the easiest, would be finished.
But the weather and the flying this time had proven to be anything but ordinary, and for the past 10 years, the size of the load he carried had increased to nearly 250 pounds, more than he had ever weighed.
“Just a few minutes more,” he thought and tried to chase away any feelings of panic or fear.
Almost as if by instinct, he turned his head to check the half-filled cargo bay. The neatly wrapped bundles hadn’t moved for more than 500 miles; he didn’t know why he thought this valuable commodity would move now, but as his head pivoted back toward the instrument panel and the front of the plane, he saw a small, muted red light flashing through the plastic. It wasn’t red like a fire truck or an ambulance siren, but it was steady and strong. He’d managed to cross this remote stretch of water 19 times before and each time, he successfully delivered the valuable and illicit cargo back to New England and anxious and ruthless customers. Never once had the cargo lit up like a string of snow-covered Christmas lights in the back of the plane.
“What the fuck,” he thought and tried to imagine what was causing the light to appear. With the sheet of thick, blue-tinted plastic covering the load of dope, the strange light created a purplish-orange glow.
The load he was carrying wasn’t supposed to flash or light up in any way. He didn’t have any emergency beacons or electronic devices stashed behind his seat and he had no idea what caused the light to come on in the first place. Almost as if someone were reading his mind, the red glow stopped and for a few seconds, and he thought the problem might have resolved itself. He swallowed twice and told himself to focus on finding the coast and the airport beyond. Just about the time his breathing started again, he noticed that the packages closest to the cargo door had taken on a green tinge.
Without warning, he heard a high-pitched beeping sound and he flinched. A painful alarm from the control panel was coming through his headphones, and there was a small flashing red symbol in the corner of his primary GPS unit. The light was meant to get the attention of the pilot and let him or her know that the plane was now within five miles of landfall, the coast of Texas. He turned his head to shut the switch off and stop the incessant noise, Simultaneously, he wanted to slow the plane down and focus on finding the approach to the airport. He often remembered the simple instruction he learned when he first started flying as a teenager.
“When it turns to shit, just fly the plane,” his instructor had growled in his direction and he often shut off the electronics to emphasize the point. Mickey double-checked the airspeed indicator and sat a little straighter in his seat, hoping to see the lights ahead. It was about as close as the aircraft would ever get to dry land again.