A Time to Heal
“MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY! Come in, London. This is flight CJ549. London, do you read me?” Between exchanging worried glances with Brad, his co-pilot, Captain Steve Ewing, his brow covered in sweat, tried repeatedly to raise the alarm.
The plane continued to drop as one of the engines cut out. Why in God’s name isn’t London responding?
Steve repeated the call and ordered his co-pilot to help him with the shuddering controls. Still no response. He tore off his headphones and bashed them against his seat, hoping that would make them spring into life. It didn’t. “Brad, you try.”
His colleague placed the call over and over like a mantra as the pair continued to struggle with the controls.
Come on, guys, where are you when we need you most?
Halfway through his latest Mayday call Brad shook his head.
“Ok, keep trying. I need to speak to the passengers, try and keep them calm.”
Steve sucked in a breath and let it out, then reached for the onboard intercom. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Unfortunately, we’re experiencing some difficulties at present and are doing everything we can to put things right. Although one of the engines has malfunctioned, I want to assure you there’s no need to panic, the engine has been isolated and we have the matter in hand. Heathrow is ten minutes away and you have my assurances we’ll do our utmost to bring this plane down safely.
“For safety reasons you must remain seated at all times. Please listen carefully to the instructions the cabin crew are about to issue. My co-pilot and I have almost twenty years flying experience between us and have dealt with similar situations before. All the outcomes have been positive. I’ll hand you over to Louisa now, please remain calm.”
Thank God. The radio crackled into life. “Roger flight CJ549, this is London Heathrow reading you loud and clear. Can you tell us what your status is?”
“I’ll get it, Brad.” The vibrations had increased and Steve’s stomach churned as the London landmarks became visible in front of him.
“Good to hear you, London. We have major problems, starboard engine has cut out, suspected bird-strike and I’m losing height. Please advise on emergency landing. We’re fully loaded, that’s three hundred passengers and twelve crew.”
They waited as the tower worked out what to do about their predicament. It seemed an eternity before they got a response.
“Flight CJ549, stay on course for your scheduled runway. I repeat, stay on course. Emergency services are on standby. The airspace has been cleared. Any luck trying to re-start the engine?”
“That’s a negative, London. Over to you to guide us in.”
“Roger CJ549. Let’s get this big bird in. I’m Terry, by the way. I need you to lower your altitude to five hundred feet and drop your landing gear.”
When Brad pulled the lever to drop the landing gear their problems multiplied. “The darn thing won’t open.” He pushed and pulled on the lever but there was no response.
“Brad, talk to me?”
“That’s the engine out and no, I repeat no, landing gear …”
He watched the colour drain from his co-pilot’s face and unmistakable fear gripped his brown eyes. Steve’s stomach constricted, he swallowed noisily, cleared his throat and spoke to the control tower in a calm, assertive, voice.
“London, we have another major problem to contend with, our landing gear is refusing to engage, I repeat, landing gear is refusing to engage.”
“London, do you read me?”
“Yeah, sorry CJ549, message understood. There’s little we can do to help this end. We’ll keep in contact. Sorry, guys, be safe.”
As they hit five hundred feet on the gauge the shuddering in the controls became more violent.
Think, Steve, think back to your training. Bring this bird down safely. You’ve got to!
His knuckles turned white and as he fought to keep the controls from being pulled out of his sweaty hands, his daughter’s face flashed through his mind. I have to get out of this alive for her sake. Please, God help us through this…
The control tower interrupted his thoughts. “Flight CJ549, any luck releasing the landing gear?”
The vibrations travelled up his arms and entered his voice. “London, that’s a negative. The controls are getting heavy, sapping our strength. I can see the runway, we’re coming in. Just pray we survive this.”
“Good luck, mate,” came the controller’s sombre reply.
Steve glanced at Brad and nodded. “You ready?” Then he addressed the crew over the intercom.
“Cabin crew, brace for impact,” he shouted above the deafening noise filling the cockpit.
The sound of the passengers’ terrified screams could be heard in the distance.
Both men braced themselves for the impact that would change their lives forever.
Without the aid of landing gear, the undercarriage scraped the runway, two-foot high sparks ran along the belly of the aircraft. Then, the plane tilted, the right wing hit the ground and tore away from the main body, causing it to spin 180 degrees. Steve was thrown to the rear of the cockpit and knocked unconscious, blood coming from his nose and ear.
* * *
Chloe Fullerton sighed when she saw the pile of paperwork crying out for her attention on her desk. One week away and I come back to this. No, she hadn’t been on holiday, she’d been on assignment. An emotional and physically draining case she knew would take her weeks to recover from. And yes, she would recover, she always did. The question was, would Carol Peterson? She doubted it. The poor woman had been widowed at the tender age of thirty after losing her pilot husband. He’d lost control of his light aircraft and crashed into a forest on the outskirts of London. All six people aboard had been killed. The Chairman of the airline for whom Chloe worked for as a Family Liaison Officer, had personally asked her to take care of Mrs Peterson, who was seven months pregnant.
Chloe had been on call 24/7 supporting the distraught woman. She’d shopped and carried out all the mundane tasks Carol had struggled to deal with, and even helped the woman with the daunting job of arranging her husband’s funeral.
She’d just sat in her chair when a pair of hands covered her eyes and someone said, “Guess who?”
She smelt his cologne and instantly recognised who the exaggerated sexy drawl and smooth hands belonged to. Nevertheless, she played along with her colleague’s trivial game. “Hmm … Let me think. I know, it’s the man of my dreams … Johnny Depp,” she gushed.
Her chair swivelled and she came face to face with her handsome tormentor, the office lothario, Kevin, whose eyes sparkled with mischief. His hands rested on his knees and his face was inches from hers. “Damn, you guessed. So, now you’re back, when are you going to take me out, get me smashed out of my mind and have your wicked way with me?”
Chloe threw her long, brown, curly hair over her shoulder, placed her forefinger on the side of her chin, and pretended to mull over his suggestion. A smile tugged at her lips when she saw the frustration building in Kevin’s face. Her hand flew up to her chest as if she’d been mortally wounded. “Why, Kevin, I’m insulted.” Puzzled, he backed away. She continued, “You mean you’d need to be inebriated before you spent the night with me? Making mad passionate love …”
Kevin’s mouth dropped open and Chloe turned her chair back to face the desk, trying hard to suppress a laugh. Kevin was a major flirt and she knew a good-looking man like him wouldn’t normally look twice at a plain Jane like herself. To fend off such advances Chloe deliberately avoided wearing the bright colours that’d once filled her wardrobe, since —
Their boss burst through the door to the open-plan office, interrupting Kevin’s flirting. “Heads up, people, we’re on the move. Be ready in five.”
“Why, boss, what’s up?” asked Kevin.
“Crash at Heathrow. We’ll take two vehicles. Now go, go, go!”
Chairs scraped on the office floor and people ran in all directions to gather the equipment and tools of their trade. The Accident Investigation Department (AID) team consisted of eight members, six men and two women. Chloe grabbed the pile of high-visibility vests sitting on the nearby shelf and headed for the door.
“Hey, Flo, this conversation ain’t finished, yet.”
Chloe, amused that Kevin called her by the nickname only he used, spun around and poked her tongue out at him. At first, she’d been perplexed why he called her Flo, but then one day a light bulb went off in her head: it was an acronym for her job title.
Within an hour the group had arrived at Heathrow, but as the fire brigade were still putting out the flames on the Boeing 777, they couldn’t get near the wreckage. It would be a while before they’d be able to get on board and aid the passengers.
During the journey, their boss, John, had given each team member their instructions, Chloe would be in charge of the crew and assigned to the person needing most assistance. The latest information they’d received indicated most of the passengers had escaped with minor injuries. But no one had managed to reach the cockpit as yet.
When they got there, everyone jumped into action. Emergency responders helped the survivors with minor injuries onto the waiting bus. They would be assessed at the makeshift trauma centre set up in a nearby terminal. Passengers with more serious injuries would be rushed to hospital in the waiting ambulances.
Chloe shook her head, finding it hard to believe how many people had survived the horrendous crash. The pilot and the crew did a fantastic job. Please let them be safe and well.
“Chloe, grab yourself a walkie-talkie and go with Kevin, you’ll be accompanied by a paramedic and fireman, just in case.”
The group set off and climbed the steps leading up to the rear of the plane. Chloe’s anxiety tore through her, and, as they entered the door she felt the residual heat from the fire warm her face. The acrid smell of burning upholstery and carpet hit her and she covered her nose with her hand.
Kevin squeezed her shoulder. “You all right, Flo?”
Keeping her eyes focused ahead, in the narrow aisle, she nodded and continued towards the cockpit, until the horrific sight of a mother, holding her tiny baby in her arms halted her.
Oh my God! Seeing the charred lifeless bodies made Chloe gag. Kevin pushed her on. “Come on, girl, keep it together.”
Memories she thought she’d successfully pushed down, filled her mind. Bad memories of seeing her boyfriend, Ryan lying in a pool of blood …
Chloe pulled her shoulders back and shook the memories away. Think of the injured you’re here to help, come on.
She listened to several of the rescuers’ conversations as they passed by. “It’s a good job the fuel tanks were nearly empty or …”
“Oh that poor mother and child …”
“This could’ve been a darn sight worse, you know, if …”
A scream filled the cabin, Chloe and Kevin ran. They came across two paramedics, performing CPR on a little girl who was no more than five years old. The girl’s mother sat in the chair opposite, rocking back and forth, tears running down her face. Chloe touched the woman’s shoulder, a slight cough made the woman strain forward. Her daughter coughed again and everyone let out a relieved sigh. Thank God.
The group continued up the aisle and stopped again near the cabin crew’s serving area. Lying on the floor in front of them, they saw four figures covered with white sheets, two adults and two children. Chloe uncovered the bodies one by one, tears filling her eyes.
A voice from the back of their group said, “They found them huddled together, they think they were related, mother, father and identical twin girls, maybe two to three years old.”
Chloe blew out a breath and dabbed her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket. Kevin pulled her forearm and gently guided her toward the cockpit.
She tried the door but it refused to open. “It’s locked. I can’t get in.”
The fireman stepped forward and used an angle grinder to cut a hole near the lock, then used his shoulder to ease open the door. “I think someone’s lying on the floor, blocking it,” he said over his shoulder.
He stepped back and let Chloe squeeze through the gap. She hooked her head around the door and saw the twisted body of a man on the floor. Another man sat at the controls, trembling in his seat.
“Quick, hurry, I think he’s in shock,” Chloe said, she heard the man in the seat let out a low moan through his dry lips.
The paramedic rushed to help the co-pilot while Chloe bent down to check the captain on the floor. She spotted the jacket on his chair and went to find his name badge. She bent down beside him, took a fresh tissue from her pocket, and wiped the blood from the cut above his eye. His eyes fluttered open at her touch. Shocked, she stumbled backwards. She hadn’t expected him to wake up and the intense blue of his eyes, locking onto hers, sent her reeling. Her hand shook as she attempted to clean up the blood coming from his nose.
“Hi, Steve. Good to see you’re still with … no, don’t move, stay still.” Her voice shook as much as her hand.
However, Steve ignored her warning and attempted to sit up, only to fall flat on his face again. A whisper left his lips. Chloe placed her ear close to his face and listened.
“Millie,” he said, before slipping back into unconsciousness.
Chloe struggled to understand why her heart pounded and why her stomach tied itself up in knots. She moved out of the way to let the paramedics attend to Steve. He’s alive, thank God.
Some reviews for A Time to Heal.
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable,
26 Jan 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Time To Heal (Kindle Edition)I did enjoy reading this romantic novella. The story is actually quite gripping as we find out more about Steve and Chloe's past traumas. The characters are likeable but with an evil ex-wife thrown in to the mix to add leaven. This is well-written and very enjoyable.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Sweet and Heartfelt Romance,
This review is from: A Time To Heal (Kindle Edition)This starts off with a bang. A tear-jerking beginning that follows the path of Captain Steve Ewing's recovery back to health. Chloe steps in to ensure his recuperation goes according to plan, but doesn't anticipate falling in love with Steve.
Trouble brews when the ex-Mrs Ewing turns up to spoil things however......
There are many twists and turns and is so gripping, once you start reading you can't put it down.
Mel has done a fantastic job writing this novella as always!
A totally superb read well worthy of five stars.
5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty and Real - LOVED IT!,
October 14, 2011
This review is from: A Time To Heal (Kindle Edition)What I really liked about this romance novel, is it feels so real. So often you pick up a romance and it's so far fetched and distorted from reality, that you end up rolling your eyes to yourself quite a lot. (This is NOT one of those romances)
It starts off with action, and the pilot of an airliner is broken enough to end up in Chloe's path. But wow, what a cool ride. I loved the fact that he freaks out the minute his eyes open, and he's yelling as if she's the grim reaper masquerading as the tooth fairy (LOVED IT!)
And then it just gets more and more complicated. People get hurt, friends flounce off, she loses her job, how bad can it get - oh MUCH worse - enter THE EX (plays horror movie music).
You know the EX! She's the bitch from hell, who only wants what you want because you want it. And wow, this cow really sticks it to her again and again.
And yeah, when men get stuck in the middle - they always mess up - without fail.
So of course - it was an excellent and riveting read. I am telling you now - this is no ordinary romance novel. This lady has INDEPENDENCE tattooed in her heart and mind and doesn't go down without at least smacking back. She's so real, so believable, and a main character you can just adore.
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful,
This review is from: A Time To Heal (Kindle Edition)For those of you umm-ing and ahh-ing about buying this book - just do it! Trust me, you won't be disappointed!
I must admit, having read the Lorne Simpkins thriller novels, I was unsure about reading A Time to Heal, (most authors are not able to switch between genres!) but I feel Mel Comley pulled it off nicely! I read this book in 2 hours and was hooked from the first page!
This novella is beautifully written (I didn't come across any spelling mistakes, a huge sucess for any ebook!), and the characters are very believable. Chloe was very lovable; I found myself laughing and crying at different parts of the book. I highly recommend this book.
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read!,
This review is from: A Time To Heal (Kindle Edition)A romance that instantly pulls you in. Chloe has issues with learning to love again after the sudden death of her partner, but when she gets a new assignment looking after a pilot who's been involved in a plane crash, suddenly she can't fight fate any longer. It's a bumpy ride on the road to find happiness, though, but a great read to her HEA.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Time To Heal,
August 20, 2011
This review is from: A Time To Heal (Kindle Edition)A good read from start to finish. A love story that I could believe. The main characters were real and easy to relate to. And the supporting cast of characters were divers yet real. Makes you say, "Yes I know someone like that" This is the kind of book I prefer to read, short, precise and to the point not weighed down with unnecessary filler.
This from someone who doesn't like romances! ;-))
4.0 out of 5 stars Healing comes in many forms,
September 1, 2011
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: A Time To Heal (Kindle Edition)"A Time to Heal" is the perfect title for this novella. Two wounded people--one physically, one emotionally brought together by fate to work out their healing. This is really Chloe's story, a young woman with a big heart trying to help others and overcome her loss. Mel Comley shows a promising start with her romantic debut. It's a quick read--ideal for a trip, plane ride, or Sunday afternoon. Enjoy!
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Read,
6 Sep 2011
This review is from: A Time To Heal (Kindle Edition)Time to Heal, was a lovely written story Mel Comley moves between to two genres with ease, I was not sure how it would be after writing two good thrillers to then write a love story with a good story was a great good surprise:)
Bravo Mel keep them coming.
5.0 out of 5 stars Romantic but not fluffy,
27 Feb 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Time To Heal (Kindle Edition)The writer Mel Comley has a really lovely way of telling a story, it grips you from day one. I've put the heading "romantic but not fluffy" that's because, I was expecting a 'fluffy' romance and it surprised me. I felt good about that as I don't like the lovely dovey over the top sort of romantic reads. I would put this in a more fictional type of read.
Everyone in this book, all the characters stand out, they are real. I think most reviewers have told you what its about so I will say how the writer is.
She tells the story well, no confusing, an excellent narrator and I will be looking for more of her books. I'm always hesitant when it comes to new authors, I don't know why, maybe its because I like to see them succeed, and this author really has succeeded. I feel she is meant to go onto big and better books.
I read this book in just 2 sittings, I was sorry to see it end.
Worth buying, defo!