Freefall by Jessica Barry is an addictive new thriller perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, A J Finn and Shari Lapena.
Surviving the plane crash is only the beginning for Allison. The life that she’s built for herself – her perfect fiancé, their world of luxury – has disappeared in the blink of an eye. Now she must run, not only to escape the dark secrets in her past, but to outwit the man who is stalking her every move.
On the other side of the country, Allison’s mother is desperate for news of her daughter, who is missing, presumed dead. Maggie refuses to accept that she could have lost her only child and sets out to discover the truth.
Mother and daughter must fight – for survival and to find their way through a dark web of lies and back to one another, before it’s too late…
Read on for the first two chapters of Freefall by Jessica Barry!
My eyes open. A canopy of trees above. A flock of birds stare down before taking flight.
He might have, too.
I have to see. I pick my way through the wreckage on bare feet. Where are my shoes? It doesn’t matter. Bits of twisted metal everywhere. One of the wings lodged in the V of a nearby tree. A roll of toilet paper draped across the branches. The cabin is a tin can sliced open, exposing two rows of cream leather seats. I take a step closer and peer inside.
He is there, chest slumped over the controls.
“Hello?” My voice is startling in my ears. “Can you hear me?”
Silence. The engine hisses. The gasoline ticks into the grass.
Into the cabin. Avoid the jagged rim. He is still holding the radio transmitter in his hand, the cable severed. I nudge him, gently. His body falls against the side of the cabin.
His face is missing.
I retch, then sit. Focus.
Here are the facts: I am alone. I am on a mountain. The plane I was on has crashed. My body is covered in bruises and cuts and my left leg has a wound that will soon become infected if I don’t clean it. My finger is strained or broken and quickly swelling. I have very little food and water. The sun is still high but it will be dark in a few hours and my only shelter is a twisted hulk of metal that could, at any minute, explode.
I feel sick with fear. I want, very badly, to lie back on the bank of grass and let my heavy eyelids close. I wonder what it will be like to die. Will it be like the tilt and drop of sleep? Will there be a light to follow, or just the dark?
I don’t want to die. What I need is a plan.
You have to go.
The voice in my head is urgent, insistent.
My overnight bag. In a tree. Tug it down. Ignore the searing pain in my shoulder. I plunge through the clothes I’d packed for a weekend in Chicago. Out go the cocktail dresses, the spindly heels, the flimsy bra, and two pairs of lacy underwear. Gym gear. Thank god. Something useful. Off goes the cotton dress, the ridiculous bra and underwear. Do not think about the bruises blooming on your thighs. Do not think about the lacerations on your hips. Do not think about that crooked pinky finger and the worrying blue cast it is taking on. Do not think about the blood all over your white dress, your stomach, your thighs. Do not think. Move. Tug on the running leggings, the sports bra, the socks, the freebie T-shirt from some 10K.
My phone. I have to find my phone. Where is it? I scan the debris field. Nothing.
Move. Move. The expensive bottle of perfume, the shampoo and conditioner, the precleanse oil, the cream cleanser and exfoliator, the separate lotions for body, face, hands, under eyes: gone. The hair dryer and the curling iron: gone. Wait. The cords. Jerk free and save. The empty toner bottle, the mirrored compact, and the travel-size bottle of hair spray. All useful. Maybe. Put them to one side. Out go the deodorant and the makeup and the hairbrush. The lip balm goes into one of the bag’s zippered pockets.
The bag’s weight is manageable. On to his suitcase. A Turnbull & Asser sleeve peeking through a tear in the lining. A spare T-shirt. His Harvard sweatshirt goes on. Do not think about how much it smells like him. God, it smells like him.
You have to go.
Out comes the high-tech windbreaker. A pair of socks. That’s it.
What else. Think. These things will keep you alive.
The plane’s canopy cover flaps in a low tree branch. Roll it up. Tie it to the bag. The first aid kid is lodged behind a rotten tree stump. The plastic case has cracked, but the contents are still intact: iodine, rubbing alcohol, bandages, scissors, painkillers, antihistamines, tweezers, sewing kit, tape.
My eye snags on the cabin. My phone. You have to go back in. There is food there. Water. I won’t last two days without those things. There is smoke coming from the engine, black and thick. In. In. In.
The plastic bag. Right where I left it, tucked behind the front passenger seat. Four Luna bars, a bag of mixed nuts, an unopened bottle of water. The can of Diet Coke. I feel momentarily giddy. My hand searches the floor and finds the sharp cut of glass. I pull it out and look at the smashed face of my phone. I try to switch it on but the spidered screen stays black. Broken. Fuckfuckfuck. I take it with me anyway. My eyes water from the smoke. Focus. Focus. I reach behind the back seat. A fleece blanket, a roll of duct tape, a coil of rope. I reach again. The thin metal body of a lighter. Everything in the bag. The light is dimming. I have to go.
Out. Out. Out. My animal brain is screaming at me, but wait. What is the plan? Stay alive. I climb on top of the wreckage, avoiding the razor edges, the pain in my shoulder, and the blown-off face of the man I had so recently touched. Look. Snow-capped mountains thrusting their way into an epic stretch of blue sky. Below, green hills roll out in gentle waves, each fringed with trees and specked with wildflowers. On and on the vast lands stretch, out to the farthest point on the horizon. There is no sign of another human, except for a path. A steep slope but relatively even, and free of the sudden sheer cliff edges peppering the other routes. There, nestled into the crook of the valley below, I see a thin strip of mirrored glass. There is water below. The plan. The path is the plan.
Out. Out. Out. I jump free of the wreckage.
I heft the bag back onto my shoulders, screaming at the pain, and slip my arms through the handles and use the long strap to buckle it securely around my waist. The engine’s hiss has finally fallen silent but the smoke still comes. I cast one last look around the clearing and see the shattered glass and bits of broken plastic and the pile of belongings that I have cast aside.
There is nothing left here now, nothing to salvage.
The sun is setting. You have to go.
It was still early in the morning, the sky outside a dark pink not yet paled to blue. I had NPR on low in the background, a mug of coffee was slowly going cold on the counter, and Barney was threading himself around my ankles, hoping for a second breakfast. The floorboards creaked underfoot as they always did. I glanced at the recipe card, not that I needed to check it. I’d been making the same loaf for years and knew it by heart, but the recipe was written in Charles’s strong, sure hand, and I liked to keep it near me when I was making it. It was part of the ritual.
The dough was warm and soft as I pulled it away from me and folded it back, feeling it stretch and tighten beneath my hands. I shouldn’t be kneading dough – it exacerbates the arthritis that had settled in my knuckles after years of typing – but I made a loaf of bread at the start of every week, even though most weeks now it ended up stale and moldy by Friday.
The doorbell rang. I ignored it. If I stopped, it wouldn’t turn out, and besides, my hair was a bird’s nest and I was still wearing my dressing gown and the L. L. Bean slippers Charles had given me six years earlier. It was probably the mailman. He’d stick a note under the door about a package and be on his way.
The doorbell rang again. I sighed and wiped my floury hands on a square of kitchen towel. Whoever this is, I thought, it better be good.
When I opened the door and saw Jim standing there in his full chief of police uniform, I thought maybe he’d come for Linda’s casserole dish. She’d left it at the house after bringing over a lasagna, and she was always eagle-eyed about her bakeware. But I took one look at his face, and at the nervous little slip of a thing standing behind him all buttoned up in her starched blues, and I knew he wasn’t here about the dish.
“Do you mind if I come in?” he asked, taking off his hat and holding it over his heart. Jim Quinn and I had known each other since high school, when he used to flick me in the back of the head with the nub of his pencil and ask me for answers in American history. He had never once asked for permission to enter my house. Suddenly, all I could see was his uniform and his bright, shiny badge.
“Jim, what’s going on?” My voice was too loud.
“Why don’t we sit down.” It wasn’t a question, and he ushered me back into my own house. The lady cop followed behind. “This is Officer Draper,” he said, gesturing toward her.
“Call me Shannon,” she said, so quietly I almost missed it.
“Nice to meet you.” I turned back to Jim. “Now tell me what’s going on.”
Jim took me by the elbow and led me to the kitchen table. “Sit down,” he said, gently, though he pressed me down into the chair before taking a seat across from me. “Maggie, there’s been an accident.”
My heart sank. “Is it Linda? Is she all right?” Even as I asked, I knew it wasn’t about his wife.
He shook his head. “Linda is fine.”
I knew then. I just knew. It’s what all parents know deep down is coming for them. That one day, they’ll get a phone call or a knock on their door and in that very instant, their world will cease to exist.
“Ally.” I said.
He looked at me with his watery blue eyes. “There was a plane crash.”
The world went white.
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