From the Publisher
To his left in one idyllic setting, a stag deer was bounding through a pasture followed by two younger does, drawing his attention to their freedom. They approached a fence and cleared it easily in a smooth gliding leap. They were out of sight in seconds, but the scene added to his feeling of contentment.
Suddenly, in a shock of reality, Charlie saw a huge white truck come barreling down on him from behind at twice his speed. As his BMW and the truck approached a long sweeping curve, the truck moved over to pass. He’s crazy, Charlie thought as he hit his brakes and moved to the edge of the road, giving the truck driver the needed room to pass and slow down in time to handle the curve.
I guess I’m not the only one who needs to relax, Charlie thought, forgiving the trucker for trying to ruin his good day. Up ahead he could see the driver of the white truck taking chances, apparently in a rush to make a tight schedule, but Charlie knew he was pushing it too hard for the road they were on, a twisting two-lane state road with short straight passages followed by deceptively dangerous curves. Charlie’s gaze followed the speeding truck, as it became a smaller and smaller form on a long straight stretch of the road ahead.
In a fateful moment the truck flashed its undercarriage at a curve in the road and careened out of sight. Several seconds later Charlie was viewing the wrecked truck on its side, about twenty feet below the roadway, tangled in the dense mountain foliage. If Charlie had not seen the truck leave the road, stopped and walked to the edge of the precipice, he would have driven past and never seen the wreckage, but there it was, lying helplessly on its side, having apparently flipped over before crashing into a huge old oak tree. It was a plain two-ton enclosed bed truck without markings of any kind. Lying on its left side its right front wheel was still turning, like a giant beast feeling the impulse to move as it lay dying. Smoke drifted up from the engine. But there was a strange silence. There were no calls for help, no signs of movement, and no other cars in sight.
Charlie stumbled and scrambled down the steep bank, calling for someone to answer him. But he heard nothing. Through the broken windshield he could see the driver, who appeared dazed with blood on the left side of his head from an unseen cut, but he was moving. Since the driver’s door was pressed into the dirt, Charlie knew the man could only escape through the passenger door, which was now on top. So Charlie climbed up to open it. Gravity made the task much harder than he’d expected, but he did get it open. Keeping it open would be a full time job, so Charlie lowered the window and let the door fall back into place.
By then the driver was alert, struggling to free himself, and crying out in pain at each movement. “Just lay still,” Charlie said, “I’ll go get some help.”
“There’s no time for that,” cried the tortured man, “the engine is burning already, and I don’t have an extinguisher.”
Lying on the truck’s passenger door, with his head in the side window, Charlie almost pleaded, “How can I help?” He could see the man’s bleeding leg trapped in the wreckage. Could it be freed in time?
“Pull me loose,” the man shouted in pain and panic, offering Charlie his hand. Charlie pulled