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Come and Get Us
With Shan Serafin
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- ebook $3.99 $4.99 CAD
- Audiobook Download (Unabridged)
- Trade Paperback $4.99 $5.99 CAD
This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around December 6, 2016. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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- Novels you can devour in a few hours
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- All original content from James Patterson
I had no way of knowing it at the time, but when Aaron told his joke, I was thirty-nine seconds away from driving our minivan through a guardrail over a cliff and into a river. I would be steering us down a canyon, bringing the two people in this world I care about most to the brink of death.
And somehow, that wasn't the worst thing that happened that afternoon.
This is what happened.
We were driving down a desolate stretch of highway. Three of us. Me, my husband, Aaron, and my daughter, Sierra. We were in the gorgeous no-man's land between Utah and Arizona, a few canyons north of the "grand" one. Normally, I'm chatty behind the wheel, trading terrible jokes and bad puns with Aaron, but roads like these leave no margin for error.
"What do you say if you meet a talking duck and an honest lawyer?" he asked.
When a car is speeding along a curvy highway and starts to lose traction near the edge of a cliff, the solution, believe it or not, is to turn toward the direction of the skid. This means toward the cliff, toward the unthinkable. It sounds logical from a physics perspective. Turning into a skid. It sounds like the sort of level-headed action that everyone at a cocktail party would nod in agreement about. Yes, do that. Steer toward the tragedy. We'd all do that obvious, logical thing.
But what if the reason you're skidding in the first place isn't simply because you lost focus but because a three-ton black SUV has intentionally sent you into it?
There was an SUV behind us.
Inches behind us. Its menacing grill was flooding my rearview mirror, looking like Darth Vader's helmet on wheels. The driver—fat, bearded, and ugly—was coming as close as possible to touching my minivan's rear.
"Let him think he's winning," said Aaron, calmly backseat-driving me.
He was next to our four-year-old, helping her command the galactic kangaroos in her video game.
"Let him think he's winning?" I replied. "Why?"
Sierra had recently reached what many parents herald as the new milestone in child development: how to complain about the wifi signal she needed to upgrade the game. But Aaron was her voice of reason. And mine.
I knew what he was getting at—I should calmly drift over and give the tailgater enough room to split our lane, so that he could pass us and be on his angry little way.
"I don't want to pull over for him," I said. "I don't want to reward that kind of behavior."
"He's a grown man, not a Labrador."
I took a breath, a yogic breath. "Fine. What do you say if you meet a talking duck and an honest lawyer?"
"Holy crap, an honest lawyer!" said Aaron, which made him laugh.
I slowed down and drifted. He was right. I was letting a trivial situation get the best of me. Time to be the adult and let it go.
I took my foot off the gas a smidgen and sure enough, my new friend came up alongside my left fender, trading his monopoly of my rearview mirror for a monopoly of the side one. I'd already prepared the perfect facial expression for him, a mix of disdain and tranquility.
But he kept that satisfaction from me.
He hovered in my blind spot, then decisively faded back into his original position.
Seventeen seconds. I immediately glanced ahead on the highway, thinking he'd seen something in front of us. Construction cones? A bridge? Trucks? But we were the only two cars out here, traveling together through the desolate desert cliffs. Before he pulled up behind us moments ago, we hadn't seen another car for an hour.
"He's not passing us," I informed Aaron.
"Good. See? Zen," he replied. "Let him think he has the power and, presto, the guy retreats."
Mr. SUV had indeed faded back to my rear but he was still following close behind. Close, until three seconds later he was trying to pass me again but on the opposite side now, on the shoulder side of the road. This put him on the inner path of a very blind turn. Let him fly by, I mused to myself. Good riddance.
The healthy thought didn't dispel the rising tension I was feeling.
"Sierra, hold my paw," said Aaron to our daughter. That was their little code for assurance—whenever there was a goblin in the house or a clap of thunder in the distance, the two koalas in the family held tight.
"Daddy, hold my paw," she immediately echoed back. Five seconds.
Sensing the tension in the car, they were now entwined. Just in time. The SUV was so close to us—when it happened.
He clipped the far corner of my rear bumper, a solid enough strike but not nearly hard enough to seem like anything other than an accident. I lost control of our car. Four seconds.
We began to skid clockwise, toward the guardrail.
And instead of flashing on the cocktail party in Manhattan when we'd joked about how to react in a high-speed car chase—three years ago, when Aaron got hired for his first big job as a lawyer, for a nice corporation called Drake Oil—I instead flashed on the general concept of my husband and Sierra in my backseat, innocently playing together in the kangaroo galaxy.
And I hesitated at the wheel.
There was no time anyway.
Seventy-three miles per hour.
We were going to go over the edge.
I hit the guardrail at over seventy miles an hour, exploding the metal post from its anchor in the rock and shattering the metal outward as if it were the fringes of a ribbon, at the end of a marathon.
My heart froze, not just for what was happening in the moment, but for what was looming ahead on my disturbingly clear horizon.
There was no ground in sight.
We were going over a cliff.
It was just air meeting dashboard. There was no ground in this picture.
"Miranda!" my husband screamed, the involuntary expulsion of your wife's name when terror takes hold of your vocal cords.
The front of the minivan flew forward as my stomach sank about ten miles below my seat. All four tires went airborne as 99 percent of the ambient noise abruptly vanished, like someone clicked off the master volume on life, which, in turn, ushered in the horrific sound of my four-year-old daughter screaming at the top of her lungs. The most bloodcurdling, most agonized shriek imaginable.
My entire body went rigid as my inner organs twisted in a knot. I stomped my foot down on the brake pedal, crushing it into the floor, as if brakes mattered while our minivan did what minivans were not supposed to do.
We were airborne and then, we were not. We rejoined the planet without slowing down at all. The front of the van hit the dirt, a massive grade leading toward the abyss. We flipped over, for a second on all four wheels, and I felt the traction of the tires bite for just a second as I had a chance to correct the careening vehicle ever-so-slightly forward again.
It was a brief moment of hope, but there was no control. Our minivan kept flipping, vertically and horizontally.
As the world spun in front of me, I caught a glimpse in the rearview mirror of my treasures—screaming and crying just as I must have been. We bounced horrendously along the spine of the hillside with its rocky dirt hammering our tires and our chassis, until we finally smashed into the bottom of the canyon.
Where everything then became eerily still. Everyone's cries had stopped.
Only the river murmured. It was getting in somehow, trickling across our ceiling. We were partially on the rapids, partially on the shallow end of the bank.
Only later would I appreciate that while bad luck had delivered me an SUV to contend with, good luck had delivered me the one spot by the river that would hold us. A dozen feet farther and we'd be submerged.
I turned to look behind me. I saw my husband, seemingly drifting in and out of consciousness.
"You good?" I asked him.
He didn't look good. It took him a long moment to answer. "Mmmmm…"
"Sierra?" I said to my daughter, a one-word query.
She was wide-eyed but alert, apparently intact.
I instantly activated myself. Sleeves rolled up. Time to move. All of us. My husband, though sluggish, started fiddling with the straps on Sierra's car seat. I took off my seat belt, trying to land as gracefully as possible onto the wet ceiling. It wasn't very graceful. I looked back to Aaron to make sure he and Sierra could both wiggle free. His forehead had a nasty gash across it. Long, thick, deep. But he was present enough to help Sierra down.
"I'm gonna climb back up to the main road," I announced to him.
"'Kay," he replied.
I'd fully expected him to debate me, to tell me he should be the one to go, to tell me I should stay here with Sierra, but he didn't protest. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
I didn't dwell on it. I got moving. The shock neutralized any hesitation I might have had, maybe should have. I was numbly executing a series of actions I wasn't even sure would work. We needed help, serious help. An ambulance. A medical helicopter. We hadn't had reception for a long time, and I couldn't see either of our phones, which must have bounced around the van.
Water was really starting to get in, now—I realized that most of the windows were shattered. Of course they were.
One thing went right, though: I had no idea what inconvenient place we decided to cram our emergency kit when we packed the car, but there it was, in the middle of all our other belongings, on the ceiling, getting wet. I grabbed it and slung it on my shoulder like a purse.
I kicked out the shattered glass of the passenger window—luckily the van was in at an angle, and the passenger's side was slightly above the water.
Even though the SUV driver had just shoved me off the road, I somehow expected him to be yelling down to us right now, to have realized what he'd done, pulled over, and formulated a plan for getting help down here to us.
But I'd seen enough cop shows that I realized what had happened up on the road wasn't accidental. It was called the PIT maneuver.
And he'd run us off intentionally.
When I got out I looked up and saw that the rock face was much steeper than I anticipated. A vintage Grand Canyon-y type of cliff face. The whole region looked like a slice of Mars with an extra sprinkling of jagged cliffs. I wasn't really sure how Sierra was going to get up there, let alone my injured husband. Frankly, I wasn't even sure how I was going to get up.
It would be a grueling climb—maybe better described as a scramble, though the more I considered the angle, it looked like a downright free climb. This wasn't totally daunting: I was once a strong climber, even competitive; but that was years ago. My exercise regimen these days was mainly chasing a toddler around the house.
Nowhere to go but up, though, if I were going to flag down help on the road. I hoped for muscle memory when the time came. Is climbing a rock face like riding a bike?
I was snapped out of my assessment of the rock face when I heard a groan. The minivan was moving. The river was moving the minivan!
It should have been safe in the shallows. It wasn't.
"Aaron, the van's moving!" I shouted.
I ducked back into the passenger window I had kicked out to find Aaron stuck in the backseat, pinned by the vehicle's journey into the silt. The passenger seat had broken and had buckled onto his thigh.
He tried to hand me Sierra, but she refused to leave him. She was huddled behind the driver's seat, now halfway deep in river water.
Despite her panic and his head wound, he remained calm and managed to pick her up and tried to hand her to me.
- On Sale
- Dec 6, 2016
- Page Count
- 160 pages