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The Exchange - Claudia Nicholl
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Genre/Category: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
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The Exchange by Claudia Nicholl
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Synopsis

Freelance Journalist Bradley Tanner returns from an assignment in Angola to South Africa when chaos enters his life.

Excerpt

Bradley turned his attention to the other five passengers in the plane. An elderly man sitting to his right, wearing a grey tailored suit, was unperturbed by the mayhem around him. His slack jowls hung loosely, only quivering occasionally, reminding Bradley of a worn-out Basset hound. The man had opened the top button of his white shirt and loosened his canary and red striped tie. A bald patch on top of his head was flecked with liver spots and his half-moon spectacles perched on the tip of his bulbous nose. Like all the other passengers, he was strapped in his seat, but he was holding and reading a newspaper as if he were sitting in his lounge at home. The passenger one seat further to the front had his head tilted back. His silvery hair clung to the headrest, and he seemed to be asleep. He had crossed his arms in front of his bulky chest and his feet were planted firmly on the carpeted cabin floor. Sitting perfectly upright, his body moved smoothly with the turbulence, like a surfer riding a three metre wave. His tanned, wrinkled face was peaceful and it seemed to Bradley that not even an exploding bomb could wake him from his slumber. The passenger’s baggy khaki clothes were well worn and crumpled, and Bradley noticed that several pockets were bulging.

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Excerpt:

The small aircraft jumped as it hit another air pocket. Bradley’s stomach lurched, suddenly sitting in his throat. For an instant, the cabin lights dimmed and loose items jumbled in all directions.

He swallowed with some effort.

The plane shuddered a couple of times and settled again, at least for the moment.

Grinding his teeth, he swore quietly.

Bradley hated flying. He loathed being confined to a small space, far away from the safety of terra firma. He detested the notion that someone else was in control and that he was at the mercy of these so-called professionals. In  his opinion, there was nothing fascinating about flying in an aeroplane. Modern air travel took a person from point A to point B in a short time, but nothing more. Bradley wished he had taken his car, but unfortunately  distance and time constraint did not allow it.

The plane went through another air pocket and shook violently.

He hoped to God that the seams on the aircraft’s metal panels would hold. Although it was relatively cool in the interior, Bradley’s hands were sweaty, leaving wet print marks on his black leather armrests.

He was not scared. Well, maybe just a little bit.

After a few minutes, the rattling ceased considerably and Bradley dared to look through a small window on his left. Ragged lightning strikes illuminated the dark sky and rain whipped relentlessly against the Plexiglas pane.

There was absolutely nothing to see outside. Frustrated, he shook his head. They might as well have been in the middle of hell.

Bradley turned his attention to the other five passengers in the plane. An elderly man sitting to his right, wearing a grey tailored suit, was unperturbed by the mayhem around him. His slack jowls hung loosely, only quivering occasionally, reminding Bradley of a worn-out Basset hound.

The man had opened the top button of his white shirt and loosened his canary and red striped tie. A bald patch on top of his head was flecked with liver spots and his half-moon spectacles perched on the tip of his bulbous nose. Like all the other passengers, he was strapped in his seat, but he was holding and reading a newspaper as if he were sitting in his lounge at home. The passenger one seat further to the front had his head tilted back. His silvery hair clung to the headrest, and he seemed to be asleep. He had crossed his arms in front of his bulky chest and his feet were planted firmly  on the carpeted cabin floor. Sitting perfectly upright, his body  moved smoothly with the turbulence, like a surfer riding a three metre wave. His tanned, wrinkled face was peaceful and it seemed to Bradley that not even  an exploding bomb could wake him from his slumber. The  passenger’s baggy khaki clothes were well worn and crumpled, and Bradley noticed that several pockets were bulging.

Another vicious lightning strike dazzled past his window, followed by an instant clap of thunder. Bradley jumped in his seat, but his safety belt held him back, cutting painfully across his stomach.

Why did they have to fly through a storm? Why had the pilot not taken a route around the bad weather? That’s what normal pilots did, didn’t they?

Taking deep breaths, Bradley tried to relax, but the plane continued to shake violently. Again, he wondered how much longer he would have to endure the torture. Groaning silently, he prayed that the aircraft’s rivets would  not pop out and shoot through the sky like bullets from a gun.

He regretted deeply that he had not taken a commercial flight from OR Thambo airport. Maybe he would have been safer in a bigger plane. The decision to fly via charter from Lanseria airport had been a spontaneous one. Time had been of essence and there had been no other transport available on such short notice.

For the hundredth time Bradley wished that he had stayed at home.

What did he have to prove? He did not need the money. He did not need to work; therefore, he did not have to take on this assignment. What on earth had gotten into him?