Martin’s eyes snapped awake. Shooting up, he automatically regretted it. His head swam as he flopped back into a pillow. He registered that it wasn’t his bed. He certainly didn’t own fur blankets. His eyes gazed around the ceiling. The rafters above him were like the attic he lived in. But it smelt like real pine and not cheap two-by-fours. Somewhere below him, the faint crackle of music could be heard. It had a slight metallic drawl like old record players. A fire threw light on the walls breaking up the darkness around Martin, but it too was somewhere below him. So, he had to be in a loft or on some second story.
Suddenly, thoughts tumbled back into his mind: the fire, the crash, the sky so far above him, a person taking his hand.
“Doug-!” His parch throat clenched up as he desperately hacked to loosen it. “Douglas! Ar-Arthur! Carolyn?” Martin’s head throbbed suddenly. Pressing his hand against his forehead, his fingers ran over bandages. Who wrapped up his injuries? “Douglas if you’re down there and not answering me, this isn’t funny! Are the others alright?”
Someone quickly climbed the stairs, and Martin pursed his lips. It certainly wasn’t his first officer.
At some point in this bloke’s life, he must have suffered a horrible accident. Deep scars raced down the center of the man’s face and trickled off at his shoulder. At the neckline of his shirt, the edges of more scars poked out. Patches of his hair were missing. But Martin could see that at one point, he was possibly a handsome man. The stranger dressed in a wool sweater to ward off the chill. Martin suddenly realized how cold he was. Glancing down, he was stark naked under the covers. He blushed and pulled the fur to his chest. Martin eased himself up to a sitting position and tried not to stare.
The man held up a hand, “Do not be afraid.”
“Is that how you start all of your conversations?” Martin bit his tongue. “Sorry. Sorry. I shouldn’t… Sorry.”
“I do most of the time,” he smiled but it didn’t reach his eyes. A deep sadness lay there.
“Where am I? Where are my friends? The rest of my crew?”
“You were the only person I could find,” the man lumbered to the bedside table where a bowl full of water lay with a white cloth in it. Martin could tell the man’s speech was impaired. It sounded as if his tongue wasn’t his own and slightly too big for his mouth. “You’re in my home. I saw your plane crash and brought you back here. Luckily, your injuries weren’t grave. I can take you to the hospital in town once the storm passes.” Something told Martin that this man was highly educated probably more than Douglas. “When you crashed, the plane broke in two.”
Martin’s heart stopped, “In… in two?”
He pursed his lips and nodded gravely, “In the morning when there’s more light, I intend to search for it. But that terrain is far too dangerous at night with or without the snow.”
The blanket slipped from Martin’s fingers to his lap. Somewhere out there were his friends. Were they freezing? Or worse, were they even alive?
Martin glanced to him, “Come again?”
“I am Adam. What is your name?”
“Martin- Captain Martin Crieff.”
“I washed you clothes. They’re drying near the fire downstairs. They are torn in places. You can borrow my things if you wish,” Adam sat on the edge of the bed with the wet cloth. He reached out and dabbed the bandage. The end appeared, and he slowly unraveled it from around Martin’s head. Adam’s hands though calloused were surprisingly gentle. Martin winced at the cold cloth swiping his apparent head wound.
Glancing up reluctantly, Martin gazed into Adam’s eyes as he worked. They were a shade of clear blue like the sky Martin loved so much but with flecks of green in them. He cleared his throat, “You’re being so kind to me. You don’t even know me. Why?”
“Because I am a terrible person. I have much to make up for.”
How honest, Martin leaned back against the headboard. That deep sadness in Adam’s eyes spread more across his face. Though Martin had met plenty of hardships in his own life, nothing should ever make a person look like that. It was soul shattering sadness like a constant wound that never healed and occasionally had salt rubbed in it.
But why was he a terrible person? People don’t just admit their flaws like that. Normal people don’t live in cabins in the woods listening to old music in where Martin assumed was still Canada. He hadn’t seen many movies recently, but he knew the easiest way to die in the horror genre was to be alone. Then how come he wasn’t dead yet? Maybe this Adam guy was really a psychopath who was waiting for Martin to wake up to play some terrible knife cutting game! Oh God! Adam did look like that one bloke from that one movie. Was it called Kansas Chainsaw Massacre or something?
Martin realized the man was talking to him, “I’m sorry. What?”
“I’m not going to wrap your head wound yet. I think it needs to breathe some,” Adam gathered the bandage and rose from the bed. “It’s not a deep gash. Head injuries tend to bleed more.”
“Am I hurt anywhere else?” Martin couldn’t tell since he was sore everywhere.
Adam pointed to his chest, “You have some bruising from your seatbelts in the crash. But I couldn’t feel any cracked ribs. Your ankle is what you need to be gentle with.”
Martin furrowed his brow and lifted the blanket. White bandages wrapped tightly around his right ankle. He gazed up to Adam questioning what happened.
“Some debris had fallen on your legs. It swelled up like a sprain. Once again, you were very lucky to have no broken bones from what I can tell. But after the storm passes, I’ll take you to town and have a doctor examine you. Any hairline fractures are impossible for me to detect.” Adam flashed a kind smile wiping away all traces of the earlier gloom. “Are you hungry? I can bring you food and drink.”
Martin glanced passed him, “I wouldn’t mind getting out of this bed.”
Adam crossed to an impeccably carved beautiful oak dresser with brass handles. He pulled out a pair of pants made from some kind of animal. They were similar to the ones he was wearing. Marin assumed they were made by him. Adam grabbed a sweater and a coat from a wardrobe and laid them on the bed.
Martin nodded in approval, “Thank you for letting me borrow-“
Adam yanked off the blanket, and Martin squealed as the cold air hit his naked body. Taking the wounded pilot’s arms, Adam dressed him with care and buttoned him all the way up. He reached for the pants.
“What are you doing!?” Martin shrieked when Adam kneeled down by Martin’s knees.
His brow furrowed, and Adam quick pulled back like a scolded child, “I thought you would like assistance with your injuries. I’m sorry. I did not mean to invade your privacy! With you ankle…” He hung his head. “I will leave you alone.”
Automatically, Martin felt terrible. Adam only wanted to help out while Martin snapped at him. It’s not like it was some pretty girl sensually undressing him. They both were men. Why would it be such a big deal? “Hey, I really could use the help. I’m sorry. It’s just that I can be a bit… shy I guess is the best word in this situation.”
“Naked… situations… But not like that! Oh God, I didn’t mean it in that way! No sexual ways at all!”
Adam laughed. For such a gruff looking guy, his laugh was quite charming, “I did not take your words in that way. You are funny, Captain Martin Crieff.”
A flush of heat spread up Martin’s neck, through his cheeks, and settled into his ears. No one ever thought he was funny. Douglas constantly put him down for his lack of wit. But here was a stranger so openly laughing at his words. And it didn’t even feel like Adam was laughing at him. Martin needed to play this right to not hurt his savior’s feelings once again. Trying to keep all his nerves out of his voice, he said, “I could use the help.” Martin held out his hand to welcome him back.
But Adam didn’t come closer. He eyed Martin’s hand as if he expected the fingers to lash out at him. This man was willing to touch people but apparently only if it was on his own terms. Trust issues were something that aren’t easily fixed. Martin realized that whatever terrible thing that happened to him must have devastated this man.
“I’m not going to hurt you.” Martin was surprised by the steadiness in his own voice.
After another few moments of hesitation, Adam reached out and slid his fingers over Martin’s palm. Both men bashfully grinned at the contact not wanting to meet the other’s eyes. For Christ sakes, he was a captain! He shouldn’t be acting like some willy-nilly maid. Though, Martin realized, Adam’s calloused fingers were somehow comforting to him like in the plane wreckage. Fighting the urge to roll his eyes at his own thoughts, he mentally chastised himself not seeing earlier that hand was Adam. Maybe he was as stupid as Douglas played him out to be…
Adam gently guided him to the edge of the bed, and together they wrangled pants and socks on Martin. The scarred man stepped back holding out his arms, “Try and stand.”
Martin’s entire body ached as he rose to his good leg. He never thought he would survive a plane crash and be able to stand hours later. Douglas always did say it’s better to be lucky than good any day. With the greatest care, he eased weight on the bad foot. A sharp pain shot up his calf, but it quickly dulled into a deep aching sensation. “I don’t believe I can walk on my own,” he admitted.
“If it would not embarrass you, I can carry you down. The stairs to the loft are a little steep. It is a flaw in my original design plan,” Adam held the wounded pilot steady.
Martin realized he was waiting for permission. He didn’t like the idea of being carried around like some maiden, but he did not want to be confined to some stranger’s bed. “Alright, fine. If we must. We don’t speak of his to anyone.”
“Who would we tell this to?”
“I don’t know. I’m glad Douglas isn’t here…”
Adam gently but with great ease lifted Martin bridal style, “You cried out for this Douglas. Is he your friend?”
“No,” he grumbled as they descended to the first floor.
“Boyfriend or life partner?”
“No! No! No! Never! Ew! Never!” Martin’s stomach churned at thought. “He’s my first officer, and a cruel, evil incarnate man whose greatest pleasure in life is to swindle people out of happiness!”
Adam chuckled again and sat him on a beautiful upholstered couch near a roaring fire, “My apologies.” He went into a kitchen area leaving Martin time to take in his surroundings. This cabin was clearly old, but parts had been renovated throughout time. It was big enough to be very cozy for one or two people. The entire bottom floor was an open living room and kitchen area with a bathroom door in the corner. Shelves lined the wall packed full of books. Some of them were older works with peeling bindings. Others were more recent like Harry Potter. Martin was never up to date with cultural events. If it didn’t have any relevance with aviation, it had never interested him. His original assumption about Adam being very educated seemed correct. Though a fire was being used as heat and light, old electric lamps hung from the ceiling and the walls. Some of the designs were antiques while a few had been replaced with newer L.E.D. bulbs. All the furniture looked hand made from the couch to the kitchen table. Whoever had crafted these pieces was highly skilled. While waiting for stew to reheat, Adam checked his email on a laptop.
In the corner near two double doors on the backside of the cabin was a crate. It was large enough to hold a foot rest or an ottoman in it. But in bright colors painted on the side was the logo for Devil Moon Designs, the company that the news had featured earlier that day. Martin whirled back around to Adam. The man was tweaking the logo on his computer.
“You’re…” Martin narrowed his eyes. “No. No, it can’t be true.”
“Hmm?” Adam snapped his head up from his work and smiled to him. “Did you say something?”
“Do you work for the company Devil Moon Designs?”
Adam beamed proudly like a child showing a parent what he drew that day in school, “I own it!”
“You… own it?”
“Yes, I make all the furniture out in my workshop and I ship them from the town,” he ladled out the stew and brought it to Martin. “I know that I look a certain way that can be… off-putting. I discovered that money makes it much easier to be accepted in this world.”
Martin scoffed, “God I know how true that is. About money I mean. And you’re not that, um, bad looking.”
“I am not handsome like you are.”
The beef stew caught in Martin’s throat. He could feel his ears burning at the compliment. No one ever called him handsome except his mother, and mothers are supposed to do that.
Adam didn’t seem to notice his distress, “I appreciate that people like my work. It gives me some purpose in my life.” He settled in a well-worn chair across from Martin. Picking up a knife and small block of wood, he carefully peeled off long curly strips. “What is your purpose in your life?”
“My purpose? That’s sort of an archaic way of phrasing what I do for a living.”
“I do not mean your daily job. I asked what your purpose in life is,” Adam shifted his gaze from his work to the flustered pilot.
“I don’t know,” he said, surprised by the sadness in his voice. “You would think that surviving a plane crash would give me some grand vision about the world and a straight path. I have always wanted to be a pilot and now I am.”
“Does it make you happy?”
“Most of the time when I’m not having to deal with Arthur’s shenanigans, Carolyn’s nagging, and Douglas’ schemes,” Martin frowned. “Though, they were the ones that gave me my only chance.” He pursed his lips and furrowed his eyebrows. He really wouldn’t be where he was today without the MJN Air crew. Suddenly, a deep sadness set in, “Oh my God… I crashed GERTI. She’s broken.”
Adam looked very alarmed at Martin’s sudden change in attitude, “We will find your crew. I will search for them.”
“No, no, no, it’s not that. Even if they are alive—crossing my fingers and praying to the high heavens that they are and knock on wood—GERTI is the plane! It’s broken. No one else but Carolyn would ever take me. I will never be a pilot again. Without GERTI, there is no company! No MJN Air!”
Adam quickly laid his work on the table and panic set in, “It will be worked out. You cannot lose faith.” He rose from his seat and rounded the table to sit next to Martin. “You appear like you might cry. Please, do not cry. I have little knowledge about how to console people.”
“All that I’ve worked so hard for and I rammed it into a bloody cliff!” Martin slammed down the stew sloshing it onto the table. His entire body ached from the accident, and now his chest clenched at his realizations. “That’s my purpose, right there. To throw away my dream and kill my friends in the process!”
“No!” Adam boomed and seized his shoulders.
Martin, stunned, gawked at him.
“You have more purpose than that. I have learned that we are born for a reason. One must make themselves into the person they want to be. It will not fall onto them. If you wish to be a pilot, the opportunity will come again when you make it happen on your own merit.”
“What if I’m not good enough?” Martin whimpered as his vulnerability seeped from his body.
“Then make yourself better. If not, then accept the fate you have laid before you,” Adam released him. Rising up, he went to the kitchen to fetch a dish towel. But Adam paused briefly and glanced back, “You are not a killer, Captain Crieff.”
Several moments of silence settled between them.
“You’re the nicest millionaire I know,” Martin blurted out. “You’re the only millionaire I know, but you’re not like the ones you read about and see on T.V.”
Adam mopped up the stew from the table and handed the bowl back to Martin, “How do other millionaires act?”
“Not like you,” a faint smile spread across Martin’s face. Though his heart was still very heavy, Adam was right. “Sorry I made a mess.”
“I make messes all the time,” Adam took his place once again across from Martin. “You need rest. You’re still wounded.”
“Yes mother,” Martin grinned wider. “Thank you. For everything. I’m glad you’re not some evil, murdering psychopath.”
“I can pay for people to hide your body.”
“It was a joke!” Adam sat up right. “I promise it was just a joke! I am sorry!”
A nervous laugh slipped out of Martin. Maybe Adam was a crazy guy who lived in the woods after all. Martin knew that until he found the others, this was going to be an interesting experience.