Falling: A Novel
On an ordinary day around the Hoffman household in southern California, Carrie is finishing breakfast with her children—ten-year-old Scott and ten-month-old Elise. Scott pleads to go out to play when Carrie reminds him to be back soon to say goodbye to his dad Bill who will be leaving for work. Captain Bill Hoffman is a pilot for Coastal Airways and is about to go on a cross-country flight from Los Angeles to New York.
Before Bill leaves the doorbell rings and a technician from CalCom is on the doorstep to fix the internet. He introduces himself as Sam and Bill heads out. Carrie hears his car start up and drive off. Heading into the kitchen, Carrie offers Sam a cup of tea only to turn around to find him pointing a gun at her.
"Carrie's heartbeat pounded in her ears while a cool numbness trickled down from the top of her spine to the back of her knees. Her whole body, her whole existence, felt reduced to nothing but a buzzing sensation. . . .
. . . "'Sam,' Carrie said calmly, slowly. 'I don't know what you want. But it's yours. Anything. I will do anything. Just please'—her voice cracked—'Please don't hurt my children.' . . .
. . . "'Your children may be just fine,' Sam said. 'Or they may not. But that's not up to me.'
"Carrie's nostrils flared again. 'Who is it up to?'
Envision the fear Carrie holds inside as she considers her children's safety while she tries hard to keep a calm demeanor. Before long, Carrie learns the reason for Sam's presence. And soon, Bill does as well.
Bill is pleased to be flying with a young co-pilot named Ben; Jo, a seasoned attendant, and long-time friend; as well as Michael, known as "Big Daddy;" and Kellie, a newbie on the job. Because it is a long journey, he knows the 144 passengers are in good hands. As Bill settles in the cockpit manning flight #149 heading eastward, he receives an email on his laptop from Carrie—no subject or text, only a picture attached of her standing in their living room. Confused, not knowing what is happening, he peers closer and sees Carrie strapped into the type of vest common to suicide bombers. His son is standing next to her.
Another email commands he gets the privacy shield for his computer, which is in his messenger bag. He wonders how this item came to be in his possession. FaceTime pops up and Bill recognizes the man holding his family hostage as Sam, the alleged cable guy at his house to repair the internet. Bill figures Sam placed the shield in his bag while it was at the bottom of the stairs before he left.
Bill stares into the screen. The intruder smiles. "You see, Bill, you probably got the obvious. Here's the rest. You will crash your plane, or I will kill your family." . . .
. . . "'If you tell anyone,' he continued, 'your family dies. If you send anyone to the house, your family dies.' Switching the detonator to his other hand, he reiterated, 'It's simple. Crash your plane, or I kill your family. The choice is yours.'
"A cold and hollow ache pooled at the base of Bill's spine. He had prayed the ransom would be money, but he knew it wouldn't be that easy. The moment he had seen the picture, he knew his cockpit had been breached. He knew on some level that the aircraft itself was in jeopardy. Bill couldn't feel his hands as they moved over the keyboard.
"'I'm not going to crash this plane and you're not going to kill my family.'"
It is hard to comprehend how an "internal hijacking" could occur especially after
9-/11, and this is a scenario the airlines never instructed their employees to be aware of. Bill is determined to discover the identity of the perpetrator(s) and save his family as well as his passengers and crew.
With explicit trust in Jo, Bill excuses himself to go to the restroom and pulls her aside to apprise her of the situation, begging her to keep it between them. They consult the manifest to determine if any of the travelers may be party to this threat as they try to devise a plan to apprehend the culprits.
Bill receives another email instructing him to create a video reciting a statement prepared for him acknowledging why he intends to crash the plane stating it is in retribution for the lives lost of the hijacker's countrymen. With no choice but to give in to the demands, he tells Ben to take a break, not fully trusting him and not wanting him to be aware of the incident. Meanwhile, Jo deliberates on how she can help. Anxiety escalates in her. Though she has total faith in Bill and his ability to avert a disaster, she ponders telling the passengers. Shouldn't they be alerted of their possible demise?
Falling is a debut novel so compelling and suspenseful filled with the premise of an improbable situation that is plausible. A hair-raising thriller, this novel contains intense and concise information about the intricacies and risks pilots take, yet imparts the total professionalism of all the crew members.