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Turbulence, p.8

Turbulence, page 8

 

Turbulence
 


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  Micky released the brake and soon they were moving down the gravel road at a good clip. With one eye on the gauges and the other focused at the end of his makeshift runway, he urged on his baby. “Come on, Maggie May,” he crooned. “You have it in you. Don’t let me down now.”

  “Um, Micky,” Dana interrupted, her voice trembling. “Isn’t the end of the road straight ahead?”

  “Yeah.”

  “Oh, God.”

  He could see out of the corner of his eye that she’d braced herself for impact. She probably hadn’t realized she’d spoken aloud, but she wasn’t the only one in the cockpit asking for a miracle. Success lay in the timing and the wind’s cooperation, and if The Man Upstairs would lend a helping hand, Micky wouldn’t refuse it.

  The stone fence posts loomed in front of them and he pulled as hard as he could on the wheel, but Maggie May seemed reluctant.

  Sweat beaded his upper lip as he willed his plane to take the leap. Seconds ticked by. At the last possible instant, after he’d braced himself for impact, Micky felt a familiar jolt as the nose, then the body, lifted off the ground.

  “Whooee!” he shouted as they gained altitude, thrilled by his plane’s response. Maggie May deserved some pampering when she rolled back in his hangar and he would happily oblige. “Did you see that?”

  She shook her head. “I couldn’t look.”

  There was nothing like success to boost a man’s confidence and make him feel on top of the world. “Wimp,” he teased mildly.

  “Daredevil.”

  “Hey,” he protested. “We had plenty of room to spare.”

  “Inches, most likely.”

  If the truth were known, they probably hadn’t had that much. It wouldn’t surprise him if they’d left some aluminum paint on the posts, but they’d cleared the obstacle and he was ready to celebrate. He’d gambled on having enough road and won.

  “The main thing is we’re off the ground,” he told her, riding high on his success, although he knew they only had a fifty-fifty chance of reaching their final destination before the weather worsened.

  The words had barely left his mouth when the plane dipped and swayed in the air.

  “Let’s hope we stay that way,” she said fervently.

  The plane immediately hit turbulence, and Micky concentrated on working their way through these air pockets without his engine stalling. He was confident in both his plane and his abilities, but weather was never known to be predictable, in spite of all the technology available.

  The next ten minutes were intense, even by his standards. Fortunately he had a strong stomach, but a quick glance at his partner showed that their roller-coaster ride had greened her gills.

  “If you have to throw up, there’s a bag under your seat.”

  “I’m fine—” her voice sounded a bit wobbly “—but I’m not so sure about Clay.”

  He’d noticed Dana had been turning around to keep an eye on the group in the back. “How’s he doing?”

  “I can’t tell much from here, but the constant up-and-down motion can’t be doing his headache any good.”

  Micky was afraid of that, but the only way to get the man to a hospital was to press on. He began to revise his opinion after a particularly sharp jolt made his own head pound.

  “How much longer?” she asked. “We need to land. For his sake.”

  “It shouldn’t be much farther.” At least, he hoped it wouldn’t be. They should have flown out of the worst of the turbulence by now, but they hadn’t.

  “How much farther?” she insisted.

  “Look, my job is to get those people to a hospital,” he began.

  “And my job is to make sure they arrive safe and sound, not in worse condition than before we left.”

  Before he could respond to her tart remark, she unsnapped her safety harness and slipped out of her seat.

  “Where are you going?” he barked as they took another short dip.

  “To check on my patients.”

  “It’s too dangerous—” he said before he realized that she’d left the cockpit. “Damn fool woman. If you break your neck, it won’t be my fault,” he yelled at her.

  Instead of waiting to hear her response, he hailed the tower on his radio, certain that the controller would tell him they would soon be out of the worst of the turbulence. Although he made contact, the gist of the static-filled transmission was that the storm cell was growing and changing directions, which didn’t sound promising for them.

  He shifted his gaze between the view through the window and his instrument panel as he rode out the next wave. Normally he thrived on pitting his skill against the elements, but as his poker-playing grandfather had often told him, “Son, you have to know when to play and when to fold.”

  If he was alone, he’d keep going, but he wasn’t. Even if every one of his passengers were healthy, he couldn’t risk their safety. Nor could he risk causing Ewing more harm than good.

  Hating to admit defeat, he rechecked his position. At least they’d made it this far north. He knew the area like the back of his hand, but that was small consolation when he’d wanted to reach the hospital in Beeville.

  At that moment, Dana returned to her seat and his own frustration demanded release. “Don’t you know you could have been thrown from one end of the plane to the other?” he barked. “That was a stupid stunt.”

  “Then we’re even,” she told him calmly. “I had to check on Clay.”

  “How is he?”

  “Miserable, but hanging on.”

  “Well, he won’t need to for much longer,” Micky said grimly. “Get ready to land.”

  CHAPTER FIVE

  DANA HAD NEVER BEEN so relieved. “We’re already at Beeville?”

  He shook his head. “No.”

  She glanced out of the window, but failed to see anything that remotely resembled shelter. Instinctively though, she trusted Micky to have a plan. This was, after all, his part of their operation. “Then where are we?”

  “Southwest of there.”

  It would have been nice if he’d been a little more specific, but from his set jaw and the way he intently studied his gauges, she didn’t want to break his concentration with pesky questions.

  Somehow, it seemed surprising that they were stopping short of their destination. Not that the weather wasn’t a factor—her stomach would never be the same again and her muscles were permanently locked in tension mode—but she’d honestly believed that if anyone could fly them through this to Beeville, Micky Flynn would have managed.

  An unwelcome thought about crashing came to her, but she refused to voice it. Micky knew what he was doing, and if he didn’t, he’d tell her, wouldn’t he?

  “So what’s the plan?” She stared out of the window and saw nothing but a void of grayness when she’d hoped there would be clear signs of life.

  “We’ll hole up until the storm passes.”

  Disgust and irritation were rolled together in his tone. She couldn’t tell if he was frustrated at not being able to press on because of the weather, or the fact that he hated to quit. Micky seemed like a man who, once he’d made his decision, saw things through to the bitter end. It had to be a blow to his ego to come this far and then give up.

  No, that wasn’t right. It wasn’t his ego. The men she’d known with overinflated egos would have pressed on, regardless. Micky had more sense than that. He might take more risks than the average person, but deep down, he was a lot like her. The risks he took were calculated. He might put himself in jeopardy, but not his passengers or his plane.

  Somewhat relieved, she stared through the window, only to feel her heart sink at the obvious desolation. She pictured a sod hut or, worse yet, a cave, where they’d spend the next twelve hours in the dark, being cold and hungry. After her incident with the snake, she wasn’t eager to encounter any more Texas wildlife. It wasn’t that she minded the notion of roughing it, but she’d prefer having a full ensemble of camping gear at her disposal.

&n
bsp; “Where’s our hidey hole, or haven’t you found one yet?”

  “You should see a cabin soon. It’s not the Hilton, but you’ll have all the comforts of home.”

  A cabin. Four sturdy walls, a roof and a floor. “By ‘comforts,’ I hope you’re referring to indoor plumbing.”

  “Complete with hot and cold running water. At least, until the electricity goes out.”

  She would have leaned over and kissed him if her seat belt wasn’t in the way and if the plane hadn’t suddenly sent her stomach into her throat. Instead she sent up a silent “thank-you” and let out a small sigh of relief.

  “Won’t the owners mind if unexpected guests literally drop in on them?”

  He shook his head. “Nope. It’s my place.”

  “Your place?”

  “Lock, stock and barrel.”

  Considering the way he got along so well with the Turning Point residents and how they all seemed to know him so well, she was surprised that he’d tucked his home in such an unpopulated area.

  “No offense, but you seem more the type to be surrounded by people. I can’t see you living so far off the beaten path, with no one but wild animals for company.”

  “I lived in Dallas at one point,” he admitted, “but it wasn’t for me. Too big and too crowded.”

  “No crowds here,” she commented. “But you have a rather long commute to the airport, don’t you?”

  “My house is in Turning Point. This property belonged to my grandfather. Now it’s mine, and the family’s getaway.”

  Immediately she wondered how many women he’d brought to his little home-away-from-home and some of her excitement dimmed. It shouldn’t matter, she told herself, but somehow, it did.

  “Then it’s empty now?”

  “Except for a mouse or two.”

  Before she could ask more questions, Dana saw a stand of trees on the north side of a small building that appeared as weatherbeaten as an old fence. “Is that it?”

  “If you see a hangar nearby, then yes, it is.”

  Dana bit back her own whoop of joy. She had never thought she’d be so glad to plant both feet on the ground as she was now. As Micky had said, it might not be a Hilton hotel, but to her, it looked absolutely perfect.

  He banked the plane to make his landing approach, and although Dana couldn’t see much of anything through the rain, it was obvious that Micky was familiar with this particular field. He set the plane down with hardly a jolt and soon they were taxiing toward the steel building.

  “Can you open the doors?” he asked.

  “We have barns in California,” she returned. “It can’t be much different.”

  “Okay. Once we’re inside, we’ll take everyone to the house.”

  She scrambled into her slicker, then squeezed her way to the exit at the back of the plane. From the expressions on the other passengers’ faces, she wasn’t the only one who intended to kiss the ground as soon as she stepped outside.

  Leaving Micky to explain their plans, she braced herself against the pelting rain, then hurried down the steps. Her first unprotected blast from the wind took her breath away, but she forged ahead until she reached the hangar. Although she had wanted to end their journey at Beeville just as much as Micky had, she wasn’t going to complain about this refuge, no matter how objectionable it might be.

  With a mighty heave-ho, she slid open one huge door, then the other, before she stepped inside.

  The hanger was dark and smelled like the garage where she took her car for service, but it was clean and dry, and for that, she was grateful.

  She was even more grateful when she walked into the house after fighting her way across the yard with Clay. To Dana, it was like a hotel, and she said so.

  Micky grinned at her praise as he set her medical kit in the living room next to the sofa that Clay and Will had claimed.

  “We have hot water and lights, but for how long, I can’t say.” He pointed. “The kitchen is on the left, the bathroom is off that. As for the rest of the place, wander around and make yourself at home. As soon as I bring in the rest of the group, we’ll get things organized.”

  A sudden thump on the porch, accompanied by a howling wind rattling the windows, reminded her of the dangers outside. “I’ll go with you,” she said.

  “No,” he objected. “You belong here. With them.” He tipped his head in the Ewings’ direction. “If I’m not back by the time you’re through checking them over, you can start boiling water.”

  Visions of a contaminated water supply flitted through her head. “Isn’t the water safe?”

  “Well, darlin’,” he drawled. “The water’s just fine. You won’t find any sweeter.”

  “Then why did you suggest it?”

  He grinned. “So you’d have something to do?”

  “What?” Of all the chauvinistic comments…

  “Yeah, you know how in those old movies, they’re always asking someone to boil water in a crisis?”

  “Yeah,” she retorted, irritated by his suggestion. “If someone’s having a baby. Which, by the way, doesn’t quite fit our particular situation.”

  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Will and Clay standing in front of the unlit fireplace, watching her fume with un-disguised interest and wide smiles.

  Somehow, she sensed that she’d been had. Her eyes narrowed. “Okay. I’m on to you. I don’t really have to boil water, do I?”

  Micky’s eyes flashed with merriment. “Just for the hot dogs. We’d better eat while we can.”

  Dana shook her head sheepishly. At the Courage Bay fire station, she was known as the practical joker, but it seemed that she could learn a few lessons from Micky.

  “Now, I’d better get the rest of the boys before they think I’ve abandoned them.” He tugged on the door and disappeared outside.

  “Mr. Flynn likes to tease, doesn’t he?” Will commented.

  “Yes, he does,” she admitted, still feeling embarrassed for jumping to conclusions. For some reason, she always went on the defensive around Micky—probably because she’d been trying so hard to prove herself after he’d questioned her abilities. And yet, she was certain that she’d convinced him she wasn’t the greenhorn he’d pegged her as being, which meant that subconsciously she had another reason for bristling like a porcupine over such little provocation.

  She didn’t have to give the matter much thought to guess what it was. Becoming angry with him kept her mind off their kiss and how it had made her feel so warm and fuzzy inside.

  “Okay,” she said, forcing the image of that kiss from her mind as she hung her slicker on the coat tree near the front door. “Let’s take care of you two, shall we?”

  Both father and son were damp from their trip across the yard, although their blankets had protected them from getting completely soaked. The lower legs on their pants, however, were still dripping from their trek through the ditch, and she was glad that Micky had somehow managed to haul in their overnight bags.

  After helping them remove their shoes and socks to avoid tracking mud through the entire place, she escorted her two patients to the first bedroom—obviously Micky’s, from the masculine décor—to check them over. Neither seemed worse for wear, although Clay still complained of a severe headache and his face was pale. “You can rest on the bed after you’ve shed your wet clothes,” she said.

  “You don’t have to tell me twice,” he replied gratefully.

  “Then I’ll leave you two to change. Yell if you need me.” Just as she was closing the door behind her, Will stopped her.

  “Do you think there’s anything to snack on while we’re waiting for those hot dogs?” His voice and expression were hopeful. “It’s been a long time since breakfast.”

  “I’ll look,” she said with a smile.

  She put a pot of water on the stove and turned it on, then found a bag of pretzels in the pantry and set those out. But before she could check the cupboards for other munchies, the wind rattled the shutters and somet
hing heavy struck the side of the house.

  Curious, Dana rushed to the picture window near the front door and held the lace curtain aside to stare into the growing gloom. The yard was empty, which suggested that Micky had made it to the hangar.

  Torn between going back to the kitchen and watching the scene outside, she realized that she couldn’t tear herself away from the window. Micky might not want her out there, but if she saw them struggling to reach the porch, she wouldn’t hesitate.

  A few minutes later, one of the hangar doors opened. Eddie and Pete came out first, clinging to each other for support. Josh’s arm circled Micky’s neck, and as soon as Micky closed the door, the foursome moved ahead.

  Dana watched them fight the wind and the slippery gravel driveway and didn’t know which was worse—helplessly looking on while the elements raged around the small group, or suffering through the wind and rain herself.

  You can always go back to the kitchen, a little voice said.

  Fat chance, she groused to herself, but when Eddie stumbled, she gritted her teeth and forced herself to remain where she was. Micky stopped, presumably to offer encouragement and directions. With what seemed like painstaking slowness to her, they drew closer to the house.

  As soon as they reached the bottom of the porch, she couldn’t hold back any longer. She rushed out to help Micky carry Josh up the steps, not caring that she’d left her slicker behind.

  When they entered the house a few short minutes later, Dana was completely soaked, her shirt plastered to her skin and her braid hanging limply on her back.

  “You should have stayed indoors,” Micky told her.

  “I couldn’t. When I saw you struggling, I had to help. And don’t tell me I should have been cooking, instead.” She felt more secure now that everyone was under her watchful eye.

  “Too bad. I could use a cup of coffee.”

  At least she’d gotten that far. “The water’s already heating, so you shouldn’t have to wait much longer.”

  “Good.” Micky addressed Josh. “Let’s move you to a chair.”

  “Everyone else leaves their wet things in the entryway,” Dana instructed. “It’ll only take a minute to park your ponchos and shoes and save us from mopping the floor later.”

 
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