Passenger 19

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Passenger 19 (A Jammer Davis Thriller)

Passenger 19 is Silver Winner 2016 Florida Book Award

USA Today best-seller

Amazon best-seller

Jammer Davis has spent most of his life investigating aircraft accidents. When a small regional jet disappears over the jungles of Colombia, it is a tragedy like dozens of others he has seen but for one terrible detail: his young daughter, who was en route to a semester abroad in South America, is listed on the passenger manifest.

A distraught Davis rushes to Bogota and bulls his way into the inquiry. When the wreckage is located, it becomes clear the crash was unsurvivable. As the investigation gains momentum, the facts go astray. Two pilots had been shot before the crash, along with one passenger. The possibility of a hijacking looms large as the search begins to focus on two passengers who boarded the plane, yet their remains cannot be found.

Davis uncovers an even more sinister plot behind the entire disaster one that goes to the highest levels of the United States government. But how could it possibly involve his daughter?


Bad news is rarely foreseeable. It can come in the middle of the night, as a knock on the door, or by a jagged ringtone. Sometimes it descends as a shocking television image, a thing that stamps forever in your mind where you were and what you were doing at that moment. The worst news always comes when you least expect it. For Jammer Davis it came at noon on a clear Sunday. The morning had been tranquil, and he was right where he wanted to be. With the ink barely dry on his seaplane rating, a good friend had loaned him a J-3 Cub floatplane for an early morning solo. The weather was ideal, blue skies and a soft breeze, and for two hours he’d worked the finger lakes of Lunga Reservoir, which flanked Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, like a kid with a new bicycle. He’d been hooked since the previous summer,when the same friend had taken him fishing in Alaska. Two weeks of flawless isolation, camping under the stars and casting for trout from the floats of a stout de Havilland Beaver. It was a new kind of flying for Davis. Seaplanes were not high performance aircraft—not compared to the fighters he’d flown in the Air Force—yet there was a fundamental freedom in being able to use two thirds of the earth’s surface as a runway. So he skimmed across lakes and landed on still tributaries, a man without a care in the world, until the fuel gauge brought him back to earth.

Reluctantly Davis pulled the Cub up to a thousand feet, the highest he’d had her all day, and set a course for home port, a seaplane base near Chester nestled on the green shores of the Appomattox River. When the dock came in sight, Davis skimmed lower, gliding smooth and true over the mirrorlike water. He was a mile away when he noticed a vaguely familiar silhouette standing at the end of the pier.

Davis tapped the throttle and nudged the Cub down until he was no more than a wingspan above the water. He flew right at the slim man whose hands were in his pockets, and whose tight haircut and rigid bearing sealed the ID. Larry Green had tracked him down. Davis flew straight over Green’s head before banking the Cub sharply. He transitioned into a lazy turn and set up for a final approach into the wind. That was one of the beauties of seaplanes—without the limitation of a concrete runway, you could land in any direction you wanted. The pontoons kissed the lake, twin trails of whitewater frothing the cobalt surface behind. When the aircraft settled, Davis steered to the dock with care. Legally speaking he was now driving a boat—and one without a reverse gear, meaning maneuverability was limited. He cut the engine before arriving at the mooring station, and Green grabbed a wing to help guide the Cub into the dock. Once fore and aft lines were secure, Davis was the first to speak. “Larry, you gotta come up with me! I just finished my checkout the other day and I’ve been thinking about buying one of these, maybe something with a little more payload to—” Davis stopped in midsentence. Green was staring at him, a retired two-star general who hadn’t lost his regulation two-star expression. He wasn’t here to discuss airplanes. And Larry Green not talking about airplanes was like a bishop not talking about God.

“What is it?” Davis asked. “You need me for a job? Let me guess—an airplane crashed in Mongolia, and nobody in your office wants to spend six months camping with marmots.” Davis had worked for Green in the Air Force, and both were experienced aircraft accident investigators. Since retiring, the general had risen to head the NTSB’s Office of Aviation Safety, and in recent years he’d called upon Davis to help with several problematic overseas crashes. Yet what Davis saw now was not the look of a commander preparing to issue a temporary duty assignment. His gaze was intense, his mouth slightly parted, a man who knew what he had so say, but wasn’t sure how to say it. In all the years he had known Green, Davis imagined he’d witnessed every mood and reaction in the general’s catalogue. Never before had he seen indecision. Green finally broke the silence. “We got a four-hour preliminary strip this morning. An ARJ-35 went down last night in southern Colombia.” The first blade of cold seized Davis’ spine. He drew a slow, deliberate breath, and four heartbeats later said, “Colombia.” “The jet disappeared from radar near some high mountains and never reached its destination. There’s an ongoing search, but no wreckage has been found. A passenger manifest was attached to the report.”

When Green again seemed to struggle for words, Davis’ senses went on full alert. His world became smaller, absolutely focused,like when a red warning light flashed on in the sky. “Larry, you’re scaring me.” “Jammer …” Green finally said, “Jen was on board.” Davis took it like a punch, his gut lurching in a way his morning joyride could never have touched. On a dead calm lake the floating dock seemed to sway. “No! There’s no way. You have to consider that Jen Davis—” “I know, I know … that was my first thought too. Jennifer Davis is a common name. But you told me a few weeks ago she got an internship this semester, somewhere in South America. So I double checked the passport number, and—” “My daughter called me yesterday from the airport in Bogotá!”

“What time?” A simple enough question, but his mind seemed to seize. When Davis finally spoke his voice was tight, as if caught at the end of an exhale. “I don’t know … late afternoon, I guess.”

“What did she say?” “I didn’t talk to her. I was playing in a rugby match and … and Jen left a message. By this afternoon she was supposed to be taking soil samples from some damned hillside coffee farm. How could …” Davis turned away and put a hand on the wingtip of the seaplane, and when its floats dipped under his shifting weight, his agony translated to the physical as concentric waves swept out over the still water. “This can’t be happening, Larry,” he said in a whisper. “Tell me this is not happening.”………

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Ward Larsen