Excerpt from romantic suspense “Fear of Flying”
Connor settled the helicopter so gently there wasn’t even a bump. Two men ran to greet them and presumably help offload the two heavy duffels and three cases of Canadian beer that comprised the bulk of his passenger’s luggage.
“I appreciate the extra time,” said the man, loosening his safety harness. The black, soft-sided case, like a photographer’s bag, which he’d hugged into his body since Vancouver, was now tucked firmly under an arm.
Connor hadn’t planned to fly this man past Prince George. However, on arrival, a message was waiting for his passenger. The bush plane Montoya’s hunting camp buddies had chartered for ferrying services was down for repairs. Montoya showed the most emotion then, mentioning he was quite anxious to get to the camp. And rather than going through a delay while a willing pilot and plane was found to fly him into the wilderness, Montoya made Connor a hefty offer to continue flying him in the rest of the way. A hefty cash offer, including all expenses for the return trip.
Connor nodded. “Just need to get your signature right here.” He leaned over and handed Montoya a clipboard and pen. “Shows I got you where you wanted safe and sound and we’re all paid up.”
Montoya scrawled his name at the appropriate spot, and Connor took the clipboard and handed a yellow copy back to his passenger. “Thank you. I appreciate the business. Well, get one for the record books and have a nice time, Mr. Montoya.”
Montoya dismounted the chopper, and turned to get his bags and cases, handing them off to the other men. Connor mentally shook his head at the expensive outfits. Rich guys out to play in the wilderness.
Montoya hesitated before closing his door. “Hurry home to the wife and children, Mr. Branson.”
Connor laughed, wishing those words were true. “Thanks for the sentiment. I’m still on my own hunt in that department.” He patted the instrument panel of his aircraft. “This is the only steady lady in my life right now.”
Montoya smiled. “Then have a safe flight, Mr. Branson.” He pushed the passenger side door closed. Without looking back, he strode toward the cluster of tents.
Connor gave Montoya’s receding back a thumbs-up and a grin, one that felt somewhat strained. He leaned over enough to check the door was securely closed and latched. He could have done with a stretch, a piss, and a cup of coffee, but he couldn’t wait to leave. A cold lump settled somewhere between his belt-buckle and backbone and a chill raced up his spine.
“I’m outta here. Let’s go, Honey,” he said to his helicopter.
He swung his craft toward the river. A pinging sound caught his attention. He frowned, looking around the cockpit, checking his instruments, tilting his head back and over to try and catch a glimpse of the transmission assembly for the main rotor overhead.
“What the blazes—!”
He banked hard and away after one glance at the window to his left and the exit hole spiderwebbing the front canopy with cracks. His head had been in that path a second ago! They were shooting at him? “Why? Damn!” As his foot pressed the left pedal he twisted his head around, catching a glimpse of the men on the ground still falling away behind him. “If those rifles are legal for hunting, then I’m the tooth fairy! What’d I do? What’d I say? Jeez!”
He swung the craft again and fixed his attention forward.
“‘Have a safe flight, Mr. Branson!’ he tells me,” he muttered, cursing again as more shots rattled against the metal skin below his feet. The passenger side window collapsed and he ducked.
“Hey! You jerks! This machine is new! I’m leaving, okay? Damn!”
He didn’t bother admiring the rugged alpine beauty of the landscape below. Eyes, hands, and feet busy, he concentrated on getting out of range. His craft buzzed dangerously close to treetops and granite outcrops. The controls felt sluggish. His curses thickened the already racketing din from the rotors.
Hunters with a big satellite dish and automatic weapons and a camp that looked like an Army supply depot. Why?
“I doubt they mistook me for a duck or a goose. Besides, isn’t it the wrong time of year for goose and duck hunting, anyway?”
Only then did it hit him. Montoya’s accent.
It hadn’t been Spanish...