The Healer

Chapter One

Brian Thomas unlocked the door and walked into the apartment he shared with his mother.

The barrel of a pistol poked him in the back of his head. “Easy now,” the holder of the pistol said.

Another man pointed a pistol at his mother. She was in the living room, duct-taped to a chair and gagged, her eyes wide. She attempted to yell from beneath her gag.

Brian was shoved into another chair beside her with a pistol pointed at them.

The pistol fired.

Brian sat up in bed crying out while waving his hands in front of him to defend himself from the attackers. The alarm on his phone was going off.

It had been a couple of months since he had that reoccurring nightmare. A shake of his head did not fling the images into nothingness. They were still so vivid they could have happened yesterday, not twenty years earlier.

After silencing the alarm, he sat on the edge of the bed holding his head in his hands, wondering if that nightmare would always haunt him. As much as he wished to never dream it again, he didn’t deserve to forget.

He got ready to go to work as a farmhand on the thoroughbred farm, Whispering Oaks, outside of Louisville, Kentucky where he had been employed for two weeks. As jobs went it was no worse than the many other laborer positions he held over the last twenty years. The owner, Sam Braun, was a renowned trainer, and he and the managers under him treated Brian respectfully.

Just after lunch, it had become hot and he paused from unloading bales of hay from a trailer into the hay barn. Wiping sweat from his forehead and he glanced around. Since arriving at Whispering Oaks he hadn’t done anything to attract attention, but it never hurt to be aware of who might be paying attention to him.

A woman who he guessed was close to his age of thirty-seven, pulled a cart towards him from one of the twenty identical barns that housed some of the two hundred horses that lived on the farm. He had noticed her numerous times before. It was hard not to. She had a body that mannequins were molded from, brunette hair that was usually in a ponytail, and almost always had an expression of being content with her life. She was Sam’s daughter.

Brian went back to work. When she got the cart beside the trailer, she held out her hand. “Hi, we haven’t met. I’m Lisa Braun.”

He pulled off his leather glove and shook her hand. “Marcus.”

“I could use a couple of those. Actually, I could use about four of them but will have to come back to get the others.” She gestured to the small cart.

Brian set four bales on the edge of the trailer then jumped down and loaded two on her cart. She hadn’t taken her eyes off him. “I’ll save you a trip.” He grabbed a bale in each hand and walked beside her back to the barn she had come from.

Her T-shirt read, 2017 Derby Half-Marathon. “Did you run a half marathon?” As soon as he asked, he regretted it. It was always a challenge to strike a balance between being approachable to coworkers or standoffish and considered rude. To remain as aloof as possible he shouldn’t have said anything.

She glanced at her tee and smiled, which made him swallow. He forced himself to look away. “Yeah, but I did awful. I crawled across the finish line on my hands and knees.”

He smiled at her embellishment. “I doubt that happened.”

“Even though I trained for it, it was really hot and humid that day. About like today. It sucked the energy out of me.”

Numerous comments came to mind, but he dropped his smile and said nothing.

“Do you run?”

“Yeah, but I’ve never run a half-marathon.”

“I won’t anymore. I’m getting too old.”

“Excuses, excuses.” Mentally, he kicked himself.

“This from the guy who has never run a half-marathon.”

“Excuses, excuses.”

She laughed, something he suspected she did often and easily.

Lisa led the way into the barn where there were snickering horses. A few whinnied. Halfway down a thoroughbred was tied outside a stall. He reared up on his hind legs as far as his lead allowed, kicked his front legs and whinnied. “You can set those down there. Rapid Onset doesn’t like strangers.”

A white-faced golden retriever struggled to stand, then walked up to Brian wagging his tail. “This is Spencer.” Lisa gave him a pet. “He’s an old boy but he loves coming to the farm. Don’t you boy?”

Spencer stared up at Brian. He crouched beside the dog, took off his gloves, and pet him. Brian felt the familiar flow of his healing leave him. A feeling similar to sweat running down his skin. Lisa continued down the barn pulling her cart and wasn’t watching them. When she stepped into an open stall, Brian held both hands over Spencer’s hips and healed the arthritis. The energy leaving him was not so significant it would exhaust him and make him unable to finish work. He worried about taking this risk, but he loved animals.

Spencer stood still with his head lifted, his mouth open, and slowly panted.

When the healing flow began to diminish, Brian moved his hands to Spencer’s shoulders.

“You and Spencer bonding?” Lisa stepped out of the stall with a pitchfork that she stuck into one of the bales.

Brian’s faced warmed as he gave Spencer a pat, then stood. “Yeah. He’s a good boy.”

The horse—Rapid Onset, he thought Lisa called him—had calmed down and stood watching Brian. Animals were always a mystery and he liked to experiment with what his presence did to them. They always seemed to welcome him. In a slow even pace he started towards the horse.

Lisa came back out of the stall and noticed Brian was almost to Rapid Onset. Alarm filled her face. “I wouldn’t get any close—” She frowned when Brian reached out and pet the horse’s head. She dropped the pitchfork and stood beside Brian, petting the horse. “You’re the first stranger he let walk up to him without raising a ruckus.”

“Animals seem to like me.”

“They must sense you aren’t going to hurt them.”

Brian shrugged. He had no idea if animals sensed his ability and found it enchanting, or if it was something else. He gave the horse one final pet. “I better get back to work.”

“Thank you for your help.”

“Anytime, Ma’am.”

Just before he left the barn, he glanced back at Lisa. She continued to stand next to Rapid Onset petting him, but she was watching Brian.

Later, Brian returned to the hay barn with another load. A BMW was parked at the entrance to the barn Lisa had been in.

While Brian unloaded the trailer he heard raised voices coming from the barn, but he could barely make out what was being said. He was pretty sure one them was Lisa. He listened a moment and determined no one was in distress, then continued with his work. But the arguing continued. He considered making sure Lisa was okay. Or was that an excuse to see her again? Whatever was going on was none of his business.

“She’s old enough… own decisions,” Lisa said. “If she doesn’t… with you, you can’t expect… make her. If we do, you… make the trip miserable. Maybe you should consider that she…”

“Or what?”

“Or… maybe because she won’t…” Lisa said.

“I wanted the time alone with her. She’ll be going off to… get this time with her again. Out of respect for… do as I wish.”

“What about Chris’ wishes? I’ll admit… difficult and headstrong, but… she goes on vacation? Shouldn’t it be someplace… enjoy going?”

Who was she arguing with? Her husband?

“That’s beside the point. I made… ago. Expecting me to change… is absurd. She’s acting like a spoiled brat. Something I warned you… get her way.”

“Me? You gave in to her whim… greatest phone. Then, when she treats… willing to… replacement.” Lisa said.

“I knew you’d throw that in my face.”

Spencer began barking.

“Spencer, shut the fuck up,” the man yelled.

“Before you go… take a look… manipulate you.” Lisa had to yell over Spencer’s barking.

Horses shuffled in their stalls, whinnying, and flapping their lips. One kicked its stall.

“Quit changing… going with me.”

“What’s she going to do there? You’ll play… and she’s to do… what?”

Spencer continued to bark.

“Spencer, goddamn you.”

“Don’t you kick him!” Then a moment later, “Take your hands off me!”

Brian jumped off the trailer and ran in to the barn. A guy his age, dressed in dress slacks and a button up shirt, had Lisa by the arms. Spencer pranced around barking. The horses were whinnying.

“Everything okay here?” Brian stopped beside them.

The guy turned narrowed brown eyes to Brian.

From his expression, Brian guessed Dress Slacks was used to getting his way. “Go back to work. My wife and I are having a private conversation.”

“Ex-wife!”

“It seems like Ms. Braun feels the conversation is over,” Brian said.

“It’s not, and it’s a private conversation.”

Brian returned Dress Slack’s glower. “Can you have it without shaking her?”

Dress Slacks’ expression softened as he took in his hold of Lisa. He released her slowly, lifting his hands after he ran them down her arms. “There. You happy?” he asked Brian.

The horses around them sensed the de-escalation and became calmer. Spencer stopped barking.

“As I said, we were having a private discussion. In case you’re too thick-headed to understand, that means you’re to go back to work and leave us alone.” Dress Slacks pointed to the barn entrance.

“If I heard it in the next barn, it wasn’t very private. I think I’ll stick around so that Ms. Braun doesn’t feel threatened again.”

Dress Slacks took a step toward him. He was tall as Brian and years ago might have been imposing, but he was going soft. Had this pretty boy ever been in a fight?

Brian didn’t move and locked his eyes on Dress Slacks.

“You have no idea who you’re dealing with.”

“From how you’re dressed and the way you’re trying not to get any manure on your shiny shoes, I’m guessing someone who doesn’t work for a living.” The survivalist in Brian regretted being so bold and calling attention to himself, but he hated bullies.

Dress Slacks’ face turned crimson. “I could get you fired. Now leave us alone.”

Brian shrugged. “I’m not leaving.”

“Derek, it’s time for you to leave,” Lisa said.

For several seconds Dress Slacks glared at Brian before turning to Lisa. “I’ll call you later.” He turned his narrowed eyes at Brian before storming off.

After the BMW sped off, Brian asked, “You all right?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Brian stepped over to Rapid Onset’s stall and the horse approached the gate to the stall and bobbed his head before letting Brian rest his hand on his head. “It’s okay, he’s gone now,” he said to the horse, then he bent and petted Spencer.

“I’m sorry you had to witness that. Thank you for stepping in. That’s the first…” She took another cleansing breath. “He wants our daughter to go on vacation with him and doesn’t understand how bored Chris will be. I was trying to explain that. But… as always I let him push my buttons.”

“That’s gotta be hard.” He couldn’t understand how someone as personable as she was married such an asshole.

She sighed. “I’m truly sorry you had to see that.”

“He seems like a nice guy.” He tried not to smile.

She snorted out a laugh.

He basked in the smile she gave him. “Do you need me to stick around in case he comes back?” He had no authority to do that. Would the boss’s daughter stick up for him if he got in trouble for not finishing what he was supposed to be doing?

She patted his arm, then yanked her hand back as if embarrassed she had gotten so intimate. “No, thank you. He won’t come back.”

“Well, then… I’d better get back to work.” Again, just before leaving the barn, he glanced back and found her watching him.

The Healer, My Supernatural Thriller.

My latest novel, which should be published as I write this, is something a little different from my normal airline thriller. Before I began writing about airline mayhem, something I’m familiar with, I wrote The Healer. I tried to get it traditionally published a decade ago, but numerous agents did not want to represent me. Looking back on my earlier writing I can understand why. The story I just published, and that earlier version resemble each other only in title and that three main characters were in it.

The idea for this novel came years ago while watching a 60 Minutes type story about an evangelical preacher who portrayed himself as being blessed with God’s healing touch. The authorities investigated him and sent him to prison for tax crimes. His actions, as well as the other evangelical preachers who convince millions to donate to them so that they may help the unfortunate and spread God’s word, but live lavish lifestyles styles instead, formed my creation of the villain in the story.

Whenever family or friends suffered severe injuries or illnesses, the novelist in me who enjoys playing “let’s pretend” always thought it would be nice if I had some magical touch that could rid them of their infliction. Then I wondered what my life would be like if I could. Thus, the inspiration for the protagonist was born.

Although I enjoyed writing my airline thrillers, The Healer has lurked in the back of my head. While struggling to make the plot my next airline thriller engaging and exciting, The Healer, like a noisy kid in the back of the class kept sticking up its hand and yelling out, “Me. Me.” Part of that resurgence might have come from the outbreak of Covid-19 over a year ago and my thoughts it would be nice if there was someone like the protagonist in The Healer who could have prevented some of the millions that died from the pandemic.

If you read the book, I hope you enjoy. Please leave a review if you do.

I’m working on another airline thriller that I’ve titled Misled. When it is done, and depending on how well The Healer is received, I’d like to write a sequel to see what kind of trouble I can get the main characters into.

Below is the first chapter.

Chapter One

Brian Thomas unlocked the door and walked into the apartment he shared with his mother.

The barrel of a pistol poked him in the back of his head. “Easy now,” the holder of the pistol said.

Another man pointed a pistol at his mother. She was in the living room, duct-taped to a chair and gagged, her eyes wide. She attempted to yell from beneath her gag.

Brian was shoved into another chair beside her with a pistol pointed at them.

The pistol fired.

Brian sat up in bed crying out while waving his hands in front of him to defend himself from the attackers. The alarm on his phone was going off.

It had been a couple of months since he had that reoccurring nightmare. A shake of his head did not fling the images into nothingness. They were still so vivid they could have happened yesterday, not twenty years earlier.

After silencing the alarm, he sat on the edge of the bed holding his head in his hands, wondering if that nightmare would always haunt him. As much as he wished to never dream it again, he didn’t deserve to forget.

He got ready to go to work as a farmhand on the thoroughbred farm, Whispering Oaks, outside of Louisville, Kentucky where he had been employed for two weeks. As jobs went it was no worse than the many other laborer positions he held over the last twenty years. The owner, Sam Braun, was a renowned trainer, and he and the managers under him treated Brian respectfully.

Just after lunch, it had become hot and he paused from unloading bales of hay from a trailer into the hay barn. Wiping sweat from his forehead and he glanced around. Since arriving at Whispering Oaks he hadn’t done anything to attract attention, but it never hurt to be aware of who might be paying attention to him.

A woman who he guessed was close to his age of thirty-seven, pulled a cart towards him from one of the twenty identical barns that housed some of the two hundred horses that lived on the farm. He had noticed her numerous times before. It was hard not to. She had a body that mannequins were molded from, brunette hair that was usually in a ponytail, and almost always had an expression of being content with her life. She was Sam’s daughter.

Brian went back to work. When she got the cart beside the trailer, she held out her hand. “Hi, we haven’t met. I’m Lisa Braun.”

He pulled off his leather glove and shook her hand. “Marcus.”

“I could use a couple of those. Actually, I could use about four of them but will have to come back to get the others.” She gestured to the small cart.

Brian set four bales on the edge of the trailer then jumped down and loaded two on her cart. She hadn’t taken her eyes off him. “I’ll save you a trip.” He grabbed a bale in each hand and walked beside her back to the barn she had come from.

Her T-shirt read, 2017 Derby Half-Marathon. “Did you run a half marathon?” As soon as he asked, he regretted it. It was always a challenge to strike a balance between being approachable to coworkers or standoffish and considered rude. To remain as aloof as possible he shouldn’t have said anything.

She glanced at her tee and smiled, which made him swallow. He forced himself to look away. “Yeah, but I did awful. I crawled across the finish line on my hands and knees.”

He smiled at her embellishment. “I doubt that happened.”

“Even though I trained for it, it was really hot and humid that day. About like today. It sucked the energy out of me.”

Numerous comments came to mind, but he dropped his smile and said nothing.

“Do you run?”

“Yeah, but I’ve never run a half-marathon.”

“I won’t anymore. I’m getting too old.”

“Excuses, excuses.” Mentally, he kicked himself.

“This from the guy who has never run a half-marathon.”

“Excuses, excuses.”

She laughed, something he suspected she did often and easily.

Lisa led the way into the barn where there were snickering horses. A few whinnied. Halfway down a thoroughbred was tied outside a stall. He reared up on his hind legs as far as his lead allowed, kicked his front legs and whinnied. “You can set those down there. Rapid Onset doesn’t like strangers.”

A white-faced golden retriever struggled to stand, then walked up to Brian wagging his tail. “This is Spencer.” Lisa gave him a pet. “He’s an old boy but he loves coming to the farm. Don’t you boy?”

Spencer stared up at Brian. He crouched beside the dog, took off his gloves, and pet him. Brian felt the familiar flow of his healing leave him. A feeling similar to sweat running down his skin. Lisa continued down the barn pulling her cart and wasn’t watching them. When she stepped into an open stall, Brian held both hands over Spencer’s hips and healed the arthritis. The energy leaving him was not so significant it would exhaust him and make him unable to finish work. He worried about taking this risk, but he loved animals.

Spencer stood still with his head lifted, his mouth open, and slowly panted.

When the healing flow began to diminish, Brian moved his hands to Spencer’s shoulders.

“You and Spencer bonding?” Lisa stepped out of the stall with a pitchfork that she stuck into one of the bales.

Brian’s faced warmed as he gave Spencer a pat, then stood. “Yeah. He’s a good boy.”

The horse—Rapid Onset, he thought Lisa called him—had calmed down and stood watching Brian. Animals were always a mystery and he liked to experiment with what his presence did to them. They always seemed to welcome him. In a slow even pace he started towards the horse.

Lisa came back out of the stall and noticed Brian was almost to Rapid Onset. Alarm filled her face. “I wouldn’t get any close—” She frowned when Brian reached out and pet the horse’s head. She dropped the pitchfork and stood beside Brian, petting the horse. “You’re the first stranger he let walk up to him without raising a ruckus.”

“Animals seem to like me.”

“They must sense you aren’t going to hurt them.”

Brian shrugged. He had no idea if animals sensed his ability and found it enchanting, or if it was something else. He gave the horse one final pet. “I better get back to work.”

“Thank you for your help.”

“Anytime, Ma’am.”

Just before he left the barn, he glanced back at Lisa. She continued to stand next to Rapid Onset petting him, but she was watching Brian.

Later, Brian returned to the hay barn with another load. A BMW was parked at the entrance to the barn Lisa had been in.

While Brian unloaded the trailer he heard raised voices coming from the barn, but he could barely make out what was being said. He was pretty sure one them was Lisa. He listened a moment and determined no one was in distress, then continued with his work. But the arguing continued. He considered making sure Lisa was okay. Or was that an excuse to see her again? Whatever was going on was none of his business.

“She’s old enough… own decisions,” Lisa said. “If she doesn’t… with you, you can’t expect… make her. If we do, you… make the trip miserable. Maybe you should consider that she…”

“Or what?”

“Or… maybe because she won’t…” Lisa said.

“I wanted the time alone with her. She’ll be going off to… get this time with her again. Out of respect for… do as I wish.”

“What about Chris’ wishes? I’ll admit… difficult and headstrong, but… she goes on vacation? Shouldn’t it be someplace… enjoy going?”

Who was she arguing with? Her husband?

“That’s beside the point. I made… ago. Expecting me to change… is absurd. She’s acting like a spoiled brat. Something I warned you… get her way.”

“Me? You gave in to her whim… greatest phone. Then, when she treats… willing to… replacement.” Lisa said.

“I knew you’d throw that in my face.”

Spencer began barking.

“Spencer, shut the fuck up,” the man yelled.

“Before you go… take a look… manipulate you.” Lisa had to yell over Spencer’s barking.

Horses shuffled in their stalls, whinnying, and flapping their lips. One kicked its stall.

“Quit changing… going with me.”

“What’s she going to do there? You’ll play… and she’s to do… what?”

Spencer continued to bark.

“Spencer, goddamn you.”

“Don’t you kick him!” Then a moment later, “Take your hands off me!”

Brian jumped off the trailer and ran in to the barn. A guy his age, dressed in dress slacks and a button up shirt, had Lisa by the arms. Spencer pranced around barking. The horses were whinnying.

“Everything okay here?” Brian stopped beside them.

The guy turned narrowed brown eyes to Brian.

From his expression, Brian guessed Dress Slacks was used to getting his way. “Go back to work. My wife and I are having a private conversation.”

“Ex-wife!”

“It seems like Ms. Braun feels the conversation is over,” Brian said.

“It’s not, and it’s a private conversation.”

Brian returned Dress Slack’s glower. “Can you have it without shaking her?”

Dress Slacks’ expression softened as he took in his hold of Lisa. He released her slowly, lifting his hands after he ran them down her arms. “There. You happy?” he asked Brian.

The horses around them sensed the de-escalation and became calmer. Spencer stopped barking.

“As I said, we were having a private discussion. In case you’re too thick-headed to understand, that means you’re to go back to work and leave us alone.” Dress Slacks pointed to the barn entrance.

“If I heard it in the next barn, it wasn’t very private. I think I’ll stick around so that Ms. Braun doesn’t feel threatened again.”

Dress Slacks took a step toward him. He was tall as Brian and years ago might have been imposing, but he was going soft. Had this pretty boy ever been in a fight?

Brian didn’t move and locked his eyes on Dress Slacks.

“You have no idea who you’re dealing with.”

“From how you’re dressed and the way you’re trying not to get any manure on your shiny shoes, I’m guessing someone who doesn’t work for a living.” The survivalist in Brian regretted being so bold and calling attention to himself, but he hated bullies.

Dress Slacks’ face turned crimson. “I could get you fired. Now leave us alone.”

Brian shrugged. “I’m not leaving.”

“Derek, it’s time for you to leave,” Lisa said.

For several seconds Dress Slacks glared at Brian before turning to Lisa. “I’ll call you later.” He turned his narrowed eyes at Brian before storming off.

After the BMW sped off, Brian asked, “You all right?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Brian stepped over to Rapid Onset’s stall and the horse approached the gate to the stall and bobbed his head before letting Brian rest his hand on his head. “It’s okay, he’s gone now,” he said to the horse, then he bent and petted Spencer.

“I’m sorry you had to witness that. Thank you for stepping in. That’s the first…” She took another cleansing breath. “He wants our daughter to go on vacation with him and doesn’t understand how bored Chris will be. I was trying to explain that. But… as always I let him push my buttons.”

“That’s gotta be hard.” He couldn’t understand how someone as personable as she was married such an asshole.

She sighed. “I’m truly sorry you had to see that.”

“He seems like a nice guy.” He tried not to smile.

She snorted out a laugh.

He basked in the smile she gave him. “Do you need me to stick around in case he comes back?” He had no authority to do that. Would the boss’s daughter stick up for him if he got in trouble for not finishing what he was supposed to be doing?

She patted his arm, then yanked her hand back as if embarrassed she had gotten so intimate. “No, thank you. He won’t come back.”

“Well, then… I’d better get back to work.” Again, just before leaving the barn, he glanced back and found her watching him.

If you’ve read my airline novels you may question why I would write a supernatural thriller. Before I began writing about airline mayhem, something I’m familiar with, I wrote this story. I tried to get it traditionally published a decade ago, but numerous agents did not want to represent me. Looking back on my earlier writing I can understand why. The story you just read, and that earlier version resemble each other only in title and that Brian, Lisa, and Perez were characters in them.

The idea for this novel came years ago while watching a 60 Minutes type story about an evangelical preacher who portrayed himself as being blessed with God’s healing touch. Like, Joshua Perez, he was a fake. The authorities investigated him and sent him to prison for tax crimes. His actions, as well as the other evangelical preachers who convince millions to donate to them so that they may help the unfortunate and spread God’s word, but live lavish lifestyles styles instead, formed my creation of Perez.

Whenever family or friends suffered severe injuries or illnesses, the novelist in me who likes to play “let’s pretend” always thought it would be nice if I had some magical touch that could rid them of their infliction. Then I wondered what my life would be like if I could. Thus, the inspiration for Brian was born.

Although I enjoyed writing my airline thrillers, The Healer lurked in the back of my head. While struggling to make the plot my next airline thriller engaging and exciting, The Healer, like a noisy kid in the back of the class who kept sticking up its hand and yelling out, “Me. Me.” Part of that resurgence might have came from the outbreak of Covid-19 and my thoughts it would be nice if there was someone like Brian who could have prevented some of the millions that have died from the pandemic.

I’m working on another airline thriller that I’ve titled Misled. When it is done, and depending on how well The Healer is received, I’d like to write a sequel to see what kind of trouble I can get Brian and Lisa into.

Medically Disqualified

DVTA month ago, after a three-day drive to northern Maine, I developed a pain in my right calf similar in feeling to a Charlie-horse. Stretching didn’t alleviate this discomfort. For the next several days it was less noticeable until gone altogether. Then a week later it returned and didn’t go away.

A doppler scan discovered I had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or to us non-medical professionals, a blood clot. Blood thinners for four months and I should be good to go.

Since I wasn’t given bed rest, or some other restrictive lifestyle, this diagnosis didn’t concern me. But my wife, a nurse practitioner, and the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) were. Should the clot dislodge and move to my brain, heart, or lung I would be in deep doo-do. If I didn’t die, I might be severely impaired the rest of my life. Because of this threat, the FAA will not let me pilot an aircraft until another doppler scan reveals the clot has dissolved or stabilized, and my blood work shows I don’t have a clotting problem.

This is the first time in thirty-six years of flying that I have been prevented from piloting an aircraft. It was a freedom I had taken for granted as an airline pilot. Even though I don’t fly recreationally or for personal travel—it’s hard to justify the expense when you fly for a living—the thought I could was always in the back of my mind. Often, I have thought about going to the local airport and getting checked out in a Cessna and doing some local sight-seeing. Or fulfill a dream I have had for years of getting qualified to fly helicopters or gliders. The glider rating might still be a possibility since you don’t need a medical certificate to fly one. Glider pilots certify before each flight that they are medically safe to fly. But I’d have to check on the legality of that. Since the FAA has medically grounded me they might consider me unfit to fly anything until I can prove otherwise.

If I were still experiencing the discomfort in my calf, I might be more understanding of the grounding. A doppler scan two weeks after the first one revealed the blood thinners did their job. The clot is gone. But until the FAA reviews my medical records, which can take four to eight weeks, I cannot act as a pilot.

Luckily, I had ten months of sick leave that’ll pay the bills until I go back to piloting a Boeing 737. I will have a two plus month vacation. I can accomplish the tasks around home I’ve put off and work on the novel I was writing.

But lurking in the back of my mind, as other pilots who were medically grounded have worried, is the fear: what if the FAA does not let me return to flying. That shouldn’t be a concern in my case as the cause of the clot was the three-day drive and my leg remaining stationary. But, just as when a caution light flickers in the cockpit indicating a system might be failing, I can devil advocate this medical condition. It has been discovered I have a mutated latent factor V gene that is prone to clotting. My primary care physician is not concerned by this as there is little risk of clotting unless I have two or more latent V genes.

But, what if the FAA disagrees? Even though the risk of a clot is low for non-pilots, what if the FAA feels the risk is too great for a pilot? Or, what if they want to wait until I have finished with the blood thinners to see if I develop another clot? Or do weekly blood tests to prove my blood clotting factor has not increased?

Having just over three years until I am forced to retire, these concerns are not as frightening then they would be if I had this diagnosis a decade ago. But I do plan to continue flying after retiring from the airlines. I hope to get a part time job flying for a corporation, charter operation, or an air ambulance as well as recreationally. If my novels sell well, get that helicopter or glider rating.

Stay tuned.

A Pilot’s Perspective of Southwest Flight 1380

Blown engine of Southwest 1380The engine failure and cabin depressurization of Southwest’s flight 1380 on Tuesday morning, April 17, hit close to home. I’m a Boeing 737 pilot for another airline who has flown from New York’s LaGuardia airport to Texas.

This blog’s intention is to give people not in the airline industry some perspective of what the pilots and flight attendants of this flight might’ve dealt with.

First off, my condolences to the family of the woman killed on the flight. I cannot imagine the anguish they must be experiencing.

I also want to congratulate both the pilots and flight attendants for successfully handling this emergency. All airline crews train for emergencies, but only when one happens is do we learn who can push aside their fear, concern, and confusion and deal with the situation presented to us.

The details presented here come from what I’ve gathered from news reports and my own experience with this aircraft. I don’t have an insider track on the investigation. All thoughts and opinions are this writer’s.

The flight was climbing through thirty-two thousand feet on its way up to thirty-eight thousand when one of the blades on the N1 rotor—the large fan on the front of the engine that generates the majority of a jet engines thrust—departed the engine. Why is unknown at this time. That’ll be something the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will determine.

The departing blade tore away the engine inlet lip and part of the cowling, flinging parts against the fuselage and shattering a cabin window.

The pressure in the cabin at this stage of the climb would have been approximately seven pounds per square inch. When the window disintegrated, roughly one thousand pounds of force attempted to shove  the unfortunate woman sitting at that seat out the window.

Either the woman’s shoulders or hips, or heroic efforts of the passengers nearby who grabbed her, prevented her from being completely forced out the small hole.

In the cockpit, the pilots—two of them, not a lone one as the news media portrayed—were probably first alerted to this problem by a vibration more severe than they had ever experienced. When the rotor blade departed, the engine might have ingested some of the debris and damaged the internal turbine sections signaling an engine fire. Within a few seconds the window would have shattered, and the cabin altitude would have climbed above fourteen thousand feet signaling another warning to the crew.

The crew would have been confronted with two severe emergencies at the same time: an engine fire, and a cabin rapid decompression. Either one alone would have made this pilot’s heart pound.

Most likely, the crew donned their oxygen masks and established communications with each other. Time of useful consciousness at this altitude would have been approximately one minute. With the fighter-pilot like masks on they would not have been able to yell to each other. Once they configured their audio panel so that they could communicate through the aircraft’s intercom and overhead speaker, they would’ve consulted the Rapid Depressurization/Emergency Descent checklist and begun a dive for a lower altitude.

Getting to a breathable altitude, ten thousand feet or lower, would have been more important than dealing with the engine fire. The oxygen masks in the cabin would have deployed automatically, but that supply of needed air would only last for approximately twelve minutes.

The emergency descent procedure is to deploy the speed brakes by yanking on a lever beside the throttles—which would lift four desk size panels atop each wing that destroy lift and cause drag—and descend at the maximum airspeed of 335 knots. That would have given them a descent of five to six thousand feet a minute.

Some of the passenger reports of the vibration during this time might have been from the rumble the speed brakes make when deployed at this speed.

 Once they were in the descent and that checklist complete—which there are several more steps than mentioned here—they probably began dealing with the engine fire.

The initial steps in that checklist has the crew shutting down the engine that was on fire, a step they should have been diligent in identifying to each other. There have been instances in the past of crews getting in a rush and shutting down the operating engine. Then, they would have pulled the fire handle for that engine to deprive it of fuel and hydraulic fluid so there would be no fuel for a fire. Then they would have activated at least one fire extinguisher.

Meanwhile, while this was going on, the crew would need to communicate with air traffic control. The air traffic controller who was watching their blip on their radar screen would need to know why they were no longer climbing but descending rapidly.

On the recordings I’ve listened to, it was obvious the controllers who worked this flight went out of their way to assist this crew. Still, the controllers need to be told what the crew intends to do so they can clear the airspace in front and below them so that they don’t collide with another flight. Not only does the controller have this emergency flight to deal with, they still have to handle the other aircraft in their sector.

If the emergency flight is diverting to another airport, which this crew rightly did, the controller needs to coordinate with the controllers at that airport they have an emergency flight coming their way.

Dealing with the numerous steps on both of these emergency checklists—something they don’t want to skip or not follow thoroughly, or they could cause other problems— and dealing with air traffic control can add additional stress. Without knowing it, a controller asking questions of their intentions which the crew may not have had time to consider, or while providing them information can interrupt their completing the checklist or dealing with the emergency in the cabin. The airline I fly for suggests one pilot fly the aircraft and deal with air traffic control while the other handles the emergency checklist.

Compounded with this, would have been the three flight attendants had their own emergency to deal with. Not only did they have a rapid decompression, they also had a medical emergency.

If the flight had been smooth prior to the emergencies, the flight attendants would have been out of their seats. Two of them might have had the beverage cart out in the aisle. When the cabin depressurized, they would have had to decide to use a free mask that dropped out of the ceiling, or rush to their jump seats and retrieve a portable oxygen bottle. In this model of the 737 each passenger service unit deploys four masks.

If they were breathing from a mask dropped from the ceiling when they noticed they had a medical emergency, they wouldn’t have been able to attend to them without possibly passing out. Only after being notified by the pilots that they had descended to an altitude where oxygen was not needed would they have been able to attend to the injuries; unless they had retrieved their portable oxygen bottles.

 It will be interesting to know if the flight attendants and passenger that gave the gravely injured passenger CPR continued to do so through the approach and landing, or did they take their seats and buckle in. Knowing they were landing in a stricken aircraft their self-preservation might have urged them to take their seat. It’s possible their compassion for this dependent passenger overruled their own survival.

At some point the pilots and flight attendants would need to talk to each other, yet another distraction for the pilots, but one that is critical. The flight attendants would need to inform them of the numerous injuries and ask what the plan was. In other words, how long before we’ll be on the ground, would they be evacuating or bracing for impact.

This would have happened while the pilots were preparing to land at an airport they had not planned for. They would need to learn what the weather and landing runways were, program the flight management computer and tune the navigation radios for the approach as well as discuss the landing.

It appears there was some miscommunication in the conversations with the flight attendants. Considering the stress both were experiencing that is understandable. From the recordings I’ve heard the captain reported to air traffic control a passenger might have been blown out, which wasn’t the case. It also would have been the flight attendants who informed them about the missing cowling. Though the flight attendants probably reported it as the captain did to air traffic control by stating, “a part of the aircraft was missing.” The pilots can not see the engines from their seats and neither one would leave the cockpit to go take a look.

 The 737 flies well on one engine, but it is more difficult than flying with two engines. Every power change will require an adjustment of the flight controls as the aircraft will attempt to roll towards or away from the operating engine. It has also lost more than fifty percent of its thrust considering the weight of the dead engine and operating engine is not on the aircraft’s centerline. Flying the aircraft on one engine is something crews practice every nine months at most airlines. Still, the pilots were not in the simulator and would know they could not screw up. Also, having injured passengers onboard might have urged them to hurry the approach so they could get medical treatment.

 Most crews will never experience either one of these emergencies, let alone compound emergencies. I haven’t in my career and hope I never will. Even without the death of a passenger, I imagine the stress now with the media attention and the numerous questionings they will go through from the NTSB, FAA, and their own company will be considerable. Knowing that a passenger died on one of their flights will probably be something they will carry with them for a long time.

I applaud this crew for their handling of these emergencies.

Interview with Liz Carson, From the novel, The Seventh Seed, by Allison Maruska

 

Allison Maruska The Seventh SeedI arrived at the designated spot in the middle of nowhere in Virginia. Why would Liz Carson, from the novel The Seventh Seed, by Allison Maruska want to meet here. I realize secrecy is a big issue for Liz, but seriously, there isn’t a coffee shop for miles.

The rumble of a motorcycle comes through the forest. A moment later I catch sight of it driven by a guy with dreadlocks and a bald guy with broad shoulders riding on back.

They stop in front of me and get off it. “You, Dana?”

“Yeah, that’s me.”

In a blur of movement, Baldy has me face down on the ground with his foot on my neck. Dreadlocks frisks me and digs out my wallet, then holds my driver’s license up to my face.

My attacker steps back and offers me a hand. “Sorry, we have to be careful. I’m Charlie.”

Dreadlocks introduces himself as Jonah.

Charlie stays behind while Jonah drives me through the woods to a cabin along a creek. Sitting on the porch is a slender woman in her fifties, who after introductions, I discover is Liz, the woman who helped Javier all through The Seventh Seed.

After we exchange greetings, Jonah stands to her side.

“We’ll be okay,” Liz says to him. “Allison vouched for him.”

After he leaves, she gestures for the railing for me to sit on. “Go ahead with your questions.” She’s reflects an unease, like she is not used to being the center of attention.

Where to begin with a book that had so many twists and turns? “Initially, you had no reservations of leaving your life behind and helping Javier escape the authorities who were chasing him. Even when people around you were killed, and you were almost murdered, you continued on without reservation. Halfway through the story, you had a change of heart, and wanted to stop running and leave Javier with the friends you had found. Can you explain why you changed your mind?”

“I’ve been on my own for several years. Part of the reason I worked at the shelter was I could just leave if I wanted to. There’s always another shelter somewhere. Anyway, I think I was getting more attached to the group, and to Javier specifically, than I expected. Once we found others for him to work with I didn’t worry so much about taking off.

Hmm… it seems the keyword in her answer is so much. Well, that’s two words. This begs for me to ask: “When you informed the others you were leaving them, Javier talked you out of it. To me, it seemed he ulterior motives than simply needing another body to fight LifeFarm. It seemed he had come to look up to you as a son would his mother. Did you feel this way?”

“To some degree. I told Javier he reminded me of Travis, my son, who was taken by LifeFarm, and he did. Javier’s mother ditched him so I can’t blame the kid for wanting to connect.”

I knew it. There was more to their relationship than her simply helping a young man who needed her assistance. “Do you feel you would have thrown caution aside and gone on the run with him if your husband hadn’t been killed in the wars and LifeFarm hadn’t taken your son?”

“Nah. I wanted to strike the beast that stole my family.”

I study my notepad while scratching my head. “From your answer I’m guessing you weren’t as rebellious as you became when Javier stepped into your life. Is that true?”

“I was a perfectly responsible adult before Travis was recruited by LifeFarm. I was one of those moms who arranged play dates and volunteered in his classroom. I even ran for the damn PTA. Once Kyle and Travis were gone, I didn’t care so much. Sold the house and bounced from place to place for a while.”

“Do you think you can find your son and undo the brainwashing LifeFarm has done on him?”

“I hope so. My husband got wise to LifeFarm when he was on his third deployment, but he was military, not necessarily brainwashed. Travis has a good heart. He joined them because he thought he could help people. Maybe one day he’ll see LifeFarm does the opposite.”

“Do you have any thoughts of where things might go if there is another story about your existence?”

“Nah. But if I gotta run off somewhere new, I’ll do it.”

What every crusade needs. A carefree woman ready and willing to go when needed. “Thank you for your time. Can I get a ride back to my car, or has Charlie stolen it?”

HauGHnt, by David C. Cassidy

david-c-cassidy-haughntFrom the opening scene where an estranged father on his deathbed reveals a devastating secret to his son, to the last scene where that son contemplates committing the same hideous crime, David C. Cassidy pulls you into the dark edges of humanity.

 In HauGHnt, the slide for protagonist Paul Steele from responsible, carefree writer, to potential killer is subtle in each chapter, but it was a slippery one. Cassidy’s writing puts you into Steele’s head so that the logic behind his decisions is understandable, yet you hate them at the same time.

 My only regret with this story is how short it was. Cassidy’s other stories are long and involved so that the reader really knows the characters and either loves and feels for them, or despises them. Cassidy did an excellent job in this short story creating Paul Steele’s world and the situation confronting him before concluding the story in a logical way. But this lover of Cassidy’s words would have loved a longer story.

 Don’t let that deter you from reading this. If you enjoy short stories with depth of character and a chilling situation, this is one you shouldn’t turn down.

Reader Comments on Blamed

 

BLAMED Small-promoMy airline thriller, Blamed, has been available as an eBook on Amazon for a month. The paperback version should be available the third week of September.

So far, thankfully, it is selling better than my other books. Although I’m not complaining, I have to ask why since I haven’t promoted it more than the release of my other books. Is it readers of my other books have been silently waiting a new release from me? Have those who have read it enjoyed it so much they are raving about it to fellow readers? Or, the fact it was posted on Caleb and Linda Pirtle’s Book of the Moment webpage generated more interest for it than I could have on my own? Thank you again, Caleb and Linda.

Whatever the reason, I’m not complaining. There are no reviews for it yet (hint hint) so I’m not sure what readers reaction to it are, other than this unsolicited post on Facebook from my sister in-law, Nancy:

So I have “listened” to your book on my Kindle…. in the car, with Bluetooth headphones on everywhere else, and hardly stopped for sleep! This was a work of art that showed your passion for your profession as a pilot as well as your knowledge and dedication to making words share that passion with your readers! It was riveting! Thank you!

And this one on Twitter from @GayRainbowAnarchist:

75 percent through Blamed. Thoroughly entertaining.

These comments made my day.

If interested in reading Blamed, you can find it here.

First Chapter of novel, Blamed.

BLAMED Small-promoChapter One

I awoke to crushing pain radiating from my legs. My arms were dangling above my head and my hands were resting on the overhead panel of the aircraft. Fighting to remain conscious, it took me a moment to figure out I was upside down.

I yelled and squirmed in an attempt to stop the slide into nothingness and to relieve the agony in my legs. Neither relaxed the all-consuming pain. If anything, my thrashing sharpened it, making me aware of a stabbing throb in my chest.

We were on approach to Dallas-Fort Worth when … what? I could not remember why I would be upside down and in such misery. A black hole filled my mind, erasing what happened between everything being normal as we approached the runway and the torture of the present.

Wind whistled through the shattered cockpit windows, ruffling my hair. Shards of glass littered the overhead panel. Smoke that stank of burned jet fuel and something vaguely ominous drifted in.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire! Fire! I had to get the flight attendants and passengers to safety! The evacuation training we practiced every nine months kicked in before I remembered we had been ferrying the empty aircraft from a maintenance facility in San Salvador.

Damn! The agony made rational thoughts impossible. I mentally worked to block the misery so I could think.

Ned! Why hadn’t the first officer, who had been the pilot flying, made a sound?

When I looked across the cockpit, I screamed.

The overhead panel had bowed in and crushed the forty-something husband and father’s head backward at an extreme angle against his headrest. A lifeless eye bulged from his distorted, bloody face. It stared straight ahead.

The laid-back pilot with a dry sense of humor looked like a ghoul from a Hollywood movie.

How could he be dead? He had been joking with me just moments ago.

To distance myself from the sight, I squeezed my eyes shut while fumbling for the seatbelt buckle of my five-strap harness, then hesitated. If I released it, I would plant my head into the overhead panel, which was filled with numerous toggle switches. Even if I didn’t impale on a switch or break my neck, the agony in my legs made me question if I could work them enough to crawl from the aircraft.

I risked a glance. Whatever had happened to us had bent the instrument panel down, trapping my lower extremities under it. The femur in my right leg poked out through a tear in my pants. A constant stream of blood ran from the tip of the broken bone.

I recoiled, and the bone moved.

An intense spike of nausea erupted, emptying my stomach. Vomit burned my throat, ran into my eyes, and up my nose.

I swiped my face with my arm to clear my vision, sending a wave of blackness rolling through me. A part of me welcomed an end to my misery, while another part of me worried I would never regain consciousness. I couldn’t leave my wife, son, and daughter.

The sounds of large diesel engines approached. Air brakes hissed. Were they from the crash and rescue trucks?

“Help.” My cry was a gurgle from the vomit in my mouth. I spit.

The smoke outside was so thick now I couldn’t see the ground. Would they find me before I was consumed by fire? “Help!”

I didn’t see any movement or hear any voices. I would not die helplessly. I had to get out of the airplane.

The intensity of the torment in my side grew, making it harder to breathe. When the yoke rammed into me had it broken a rib, or my sternum? Punctured a lung?

A shove on the yoke to move it forward proved futile.

If I slid the seat back, I might breathe easier and free my legs. It would also aid in getting the hell out of the cockpit.

Twisting to yank the lever at the base of my seat stabbed my chest. With my free hand, I shoved on the glareshield, normally at shoulder height but now waist level, hoping to ease the pressure against my chest. The seat did not move nor slacken the crushing force in my chest.

It also intensified the torture in my legs. I doubted a chainsaw cutting into them would hurt worse. The bellow I unleashed didn’t summon the strength needed to distance me from the yoke. The intensity of the torment was so great, I almost blacked out.

If I slipped back under, I might either bleed or burn to death.

I sat as still as I could, panting.

The gulps of air I took didn’t relieve my shortness of breath.

Through gritted teeth, I pushed on the glareshield, yanking on the seat adjustment lever at the same time. When I didn’t move, I attempted to shove my feet against the floor under the instrument panel. Unimaginable agony consumed me, plunging me into inky darkness.

Book Review, Absence Makes The Heart Go Ponder, by Nels Gartus

Absence Makes the Heart Go Ponder by Nels GarthusI enjoyed this book.

 That being said, it took me several chapters to get into it. Those early chapters are full of backstory explaining why the three main characters are the way they are, something in any other genre I loathe. But in this case, some of it may have been needed, but I feel it could’ve been layered in throughout the story.

 The other reason I was less enthused initially is I usually read thrillers that start off with a bang and carry that pace throughout the story. This is a slower read about the issues affecting these three male characters as they go through life. There also was some repetition in the writing I feel could have been edited out.

 But once I settled into the story’s rhythm, I began to steal time to read a chapter or two. Often, I found myself nodding at what one of the characters was going through as I’ve experienced that same feeling, situation, or emotion too.

I loved the ending and was glad it worked out the way it did for the three. The last sentence makes me hope there is a follow up novel.

Blamed Is In Editing

BLAMED Small-promoAfter almost three years of on again, off again work, I’ve sent my fourth airline thriller off to Susan Gottfried for editing.

I’m ashamed it has taken me that long to write this story. It would be easy to blame life’s demands for getting in the way of my writing, which there is some truth to, but if I had managed my time better this book would’ve been written sooner. Or, I’m not a writer who can pump out a huge volume of books in a short time. I need to let my ideas germinate in my head before fully realizing the story.

Now that the book is in Susan’s capable hands, and depending on her schedule, and David C. Cassidy’s who will format it for both eBook and paperback, I plan its release around Mid-September. I am anxious to get it out there as I’m proud of this story.

This is a departure for me. All of my books open with the reader witnessing an airline incident or accident through a throwaway character, an air traffic controller. The remainder of the story the protagonists try to figure out what happened. But this time, instead of being told in third person through the eyes of NTSB investigator Lori Masters and her airline instructor husband Kyle, I wrote Blamed from the point of view of Bill Kurz, the captain of the accident flight. Written in first person, I found it easy to put myself in his position and imagine what he’d go through.

Lori, from my previous novels, has a minor role in the story helping Bill uncover what really happened that left him crippled and killed his first officer. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Dana Griffin novel without numerous organizations involved in the accident trying to absolve themselves of any blame.

I’m anxious to hear what readers think of the story.

Until I get the first chapter back from Susan, here is the blurb as a teaser. Look for more updates as I get closer to publishing.

Sphere Airlines captain, Bill Kurz, awakens trapped in the wreckage of the aircraft he’d been piloting that came to rest upside down. His last memory is putting the landing gear down on what would be a normal landing before an approaching thunderstorm closes the airport.

The NTSB and news media blame him and the deceased first officer, Ned Partin, for the accident that killed thirty-eight, and burned or severely injured ten.

Bill knows by experience from flying with Ned that they would have prevented the accident. While recovering from his debilitating injuries, Bill investigates why data that would exonerate him has disappeared. And why the NTSB cannot figure out there was something wrong with the rudder. And why his airline’s management thwarts his attempts to prove he shouldn’t be blamed.

Those who caused the accident will go to extreme lengths to assure Bill does not uncover their secret agenda.