The Falling Woman by Richard Farrell
English | 2020| Mystery/Thriller | ePUB | 3.3 MB
Erin feels that she has reached a breaking point in her cancer treatment. Having gone through two exhausting programs of medication and facing a third, she decides to take a week off from doctors and hospitals and even her family, and to fly from her home in Washington D.C. to a retreat in California that is designed for people like her, cancer victims with no chance of survival. She has reached middle age, is in a mostly loveless, mechanical marriage, has successfully seen her twin daughters enrolled in college and starting their own lives independent of her, has ended an affair she was having with a man in her office, another lawyer, and is facing the reality that for all those people—husband, daughters, ex-lover—she is essentially already dead. So when the plane she is on, headed cross country to San Francisco, encounters extreme turbulence and comes apart in midair, she accepts the reality of the fact that this will be her real death. Only fate has other ideas, for she miraculously survives not only the explosion but also the fall from the sky.
Charlie Radford is a young NTSB investigator who is on the team sent to Kansas to try to determine what caused the crash, and also to find and identify all the bodies. When, several days into his investigation, he hears a rumor that a woman was found alive in a barn, still strapped to her seat, he assumes it is a hoax, but because of word of this “miracle” has reached the media—as well as the men and women in Congress—he is forced to assume responsibility for tracking down the source of the rumor and to find the woman, should she actually exist. So for young Radford, what began as a routine crash investigation becomes a search to find the truth of the story, and then, once he realizes that in fact there is a survivor, he must convince her to come forward. The problem is that once found, Erin refuses to cooperate, having decided that her family has already mourned her death twice; all she wants is to be left alone, to live out what time she has left away from the rest of the world. But then one reporter gets wind of her location, and Radford must decide how to protect this “falling woman” while at the same time answering the commands of his superiors in the government agency.
Three hundred feet off the ground, he dropped the starboard wing and pressed the opposite rudder, initiating a slip, a maneuver that increased the plane’s drag and accelerated it toward the grass runway. Not a complicated maneuver, as these things went, but flying into a short field with a ten-knot crosswind, the slip challenged Radford’s limited skill set. With every botched approach, he felt a growing kinship with the pilot under investigation, a twenty-year-old flier with three hundred hours of flying time under his belt. At home, in a storage bin, was Radford’s own faded logbook, which contained just less than two hundred hours.
As a boy, when he first became captivated by the elegance and beauty of flight—the sweep of a wing, the pristine lines and curves of a fuselage, the distant rumble of a turboprop—young Charlie Radford would draw airplanes in his notebooks until the 747s he sketched at school bore some fine resemblance to the ones zooming through the sky. Squirreled away in his room like a monk, he built plastic models by the dozens and hung them from his ceiling with fishing line until his bedroom looked like a scaled-down version of the National Air and Space Museum. He internalized the mythology, the science, the history of aviation, as if the very notion of powered flight had been invented solely for him. The pilots who flew planes were his heroes.
His own flying career started out like gangbusters. Though his family could hardly afford vacations, his parents didn’t flinch at paying for his flying lessons. He soloed at sixteen, obtained his pilot’s license on his seventeenth birthday. He bagged groceries to pay for fuel and flew almost every weekend. But then disaster struck; almost as quickly as he soared through those early milestones, he came roaring back to earth. On summer break from college, he flew a check ride with an instructor. He’d taken a Cessna up to almost nine thousand feet when the world before him went black. He couldn’t see. The instructor grabbed the control wheel, cursed at him, and flew back home. Two hours later, a doctor said his heart valve wasn’t closing properly. Radford didn’t care about his health; he just wanted to know what could be done to fix it so he could get back to flying.