Please welcome Michael Murphy with
Stranger In A Foreign Land
a Dreamspun Desires title
After an accident stole his memory, the only home American businessman Patrick knows is Bangkok. He recovers under the tender ministrations of Jack, an Australian ex-pat who works nights at a pineapple cannery. Together they search for clues to Patrick’s identity, but without success. Soon that forgotten past seems less and less important as Jack and Patrick—now known as Buddy—build a new life together.
But the past comes crashing in when Patrick’s brother travels to Thailand looking for him… and demands Patrick return to Los Angeles, away from Jack and the only world familiar to him. The attention also causes trouble for Jack, and to make their way back to each other, Patrick will need to find not only himself, but Jack as well, before everything is lost….
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What would you do if one day you “woke up” to find yourself in a catastrophic car crash? With no memory of how or why you got there, you’re crashing around unrestrained inside an old car as it is hit by several others and then careens off the road and down an embankment, rolling over and over along the way.
As flames lick at the broken body of the cab, your only concern would be to get out! Get out now! To hell with anything else, just get out before it explodes. American business traveler Patrick finds himself in this situation, but with one major problem: he doesn’t know who he is, how he got there, or even where “there” is!
Tearing his clothes, his jacket with his wallet, leaving behind his briefcase with his passport and his cash, Patrick frantically wriggles out through what used to be the back end of the cab. He might not know who he is, but he knows he has to get away before the fire spreads and it gets worse.
Barely a few hundred yards away from the burning vehicle, Patrick is knocked to the ground when the gas tank of the cab explodes, sending pieces of the vehicle into the air to rain down over the entire area. Too close, Patrick does all he can think of doing – tucking and making as small a target as possible. Scalding hot debris, some of it burning, rains down all around him.
When it’s safe, he’s back on his feet and running again, desperate to get away, to get far, far away. Exhausted, terrified, system overwhelmed with adrenaline, his primitive flight response takes over and he runs, regardless of his injuries or condition. He runs, and runs, and runs until he can’t run anymore – and until he’s even more hopelessly lost than he was before.
Used up, he collapses and tries to pull himself together. Taking a quick inventory of himself and his surroundings, he realizes he doesn’t know who he is, where he is, or why he’s even there. The road signs are illegible, it is beastly hot, and he could kill for a drink of cold water, or for something to take the pain away from the burns on his hands.
Feeling more fear than he could imagine ever feeling before, Patrick is a very lost man in a Stranger in a Foreign Land.
THE WHEELS of the fully loaded 747 jumbo jet slammed down onto the runway in Bangkok, as rough a landing as the flight had been. Despite the jarring touchdown, Patrick had a sense of overwhelming joy for the fact that this leg of his trip was nearly over. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say he felt the anticipation of impending great joy, because otherwise he felt like day-old dog crap.
Every time Patrick made this flight, he told himself he would never again subject himself to the ordeal. Surely he would remember before agreeing to another such trip that flights that lasted more than twelve hours were killers. But every time, he forgot and agreed once again to make the long haul halfway around the world.
This time—with God as his witness—this time would be different, he told himself, as the plane that had moments before so gracefully glided through the air, now lumbered across the taxiway, swaying as it made its way slowly to the terminal.
This trip had included the added misery because he’d waited too late to book his ticket. His work in London had taken longer than originally budgeted, so he’d had to postpone his departure for Bangkok. When he’d finally been able to leave London, all the first-class and business-class seats for the flight from London to Bangkok were gone. Although he wanted to pay to sit up front with more room so he could work—maybe lie back and sleep for a while—he was relegated to the back of the bus with the rest of the passengers in coach. If he hadn’t been so pressed for time, he would have waited and taken another flight, one where he could have gotten a seat in first class. But he was due in a meeting first thing the next morning, so flexibility and time were two luxuries he did not have on this leg of the trip. He’d had to suck it up and deal with the situation, but that didn’t stop him from grumbling to himself.
When they had finally parked at the gate, he knew no matter how much he wanted to be off that airplane—and he really, really, really wanted to get off—it would only further the torture to even think about getting out of his seat just yet. Nothing was going to happen right away; no one was going to move anytime soon where he was seated near the back of the plane, so why bother even trying. Standing would only take him from his uncomfortable seat to stand uncomfortably in the overcrowded aisle, assuming he could even squeeze into it.
He had read the reports by the so-called experts on how a fully loaded 747 could be evacuated in something like ninety seconds. He wondered why those same experts didn’t make a report on how long it took to deplane a fully loaded 747 after a twelve-hour flight, when everyone had to get out of their seat, stretch their sore and aching muscles, find their carry-ons, hit someone by accident with luggage that was too large, then have to stop and hold up everyone else while they apologized, and finally make their way off the plane. Deplaning was not a speedy process, especially when one was seated way, way in the back as Patrick was on this flight.
As he waited, he was neither patient nor impatient. He was just sort of numb. When the hordes of humanity closest to him finally started to move, Patrick tried to remember how his legs worked. After collecting his briefcase from under the seat in front of him, he crawled out of his godforsaken middle seat at the back of the coach cabin, grabbed his one small carry-on bag, and then started to move with the herd off the plane.
When the air on the jet bridge touched his face, it felt like someone had thrown a hot, wet, smelly blanket over his head. Ah, yes, a cool day in Bangkok.
He knew that after drinking about a gallon of water, spending about an hour in the shower, followed by ten hours of sleep, then and only then would he start to feel like a real human being again. But he couldn’t let his mind go there just yet. No. There were too many hurdles to get through between where he was and those good feelings.
The walkway from the airplane into the terminal always reminded him of the chutes cattle were forced into on their way to the slaughterhouse. He didn’t know what had originally placed that image into his head, but once there, it would not leave. Now, every time he found himself walking through one of the things, that vision came rushing back to him uninvited.
Patrick had made his first trip to Thailand many years earlier, when flights came into an older airport in a different part of town. For the last several years, all flights arrived at the still relatively new airport. The only problem was the new airport had a lot more capacity, and more capacity brought more planes, which brought more people, which made for a bit of chaos at times getting out of the airport.
In addition to being a ridiculously long flight, this flight had been especially torturous because of bad weather. Huge storms somewhere over Belarus or Kazakhstan had woken up most of the people who had settled in to try to get some sleep. There was something about getting tossed around on a darkened plane in the middle of the night that was especially frightening, even for a road warrior like Patrick.
The flight had left London’s Heathrow Airport pretty much on time a few minutes after ten o’clock on Saturday night. Patrick had hoped to get some sleep, but the experience of filling the plane to capacity and then shaking it vigorously for roughly one-quarter of the distance did not lend itself to rest.
Their pilot had dutifully tried to find better conditions by detouring around the worst of the weather, but in the end, there was only so much he could do.
Patrick had not been able to get much sleep, so with nothing else to do, he had sat in his middle seat and watched the little airplane symbol on the map on the seatback in front of him as it slowly—ever so slowly—inched its way across Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, a sliver of Nepal, and finally, finally over Myanmar before they started their descent into Bangkok, Thailand, where they landed at about three thirty Sunday afternoon. With the time change of six hours and the flight time of twelve, it was only eighteen hours, but to Patrick and everyone else who crawled off the plane that hot, muggy afternoon, it felt like a lifetime had passed since they boarded.
For once, the lines at the various checkpoints were not too ridiculous. Still, Patrick unfailingly picked one of the slower lines, then inched his way through, showing his passport when required, turning in documents he’d completed aboard the plane, and answering questions asked of him.
When he finally had his suitcase in hand and had cleared every checkpoint, he strode through the terminal. The last hurdle was another line, this one for a cab to take him into the city to his hotel. At least inside the airport when he’d stood in line, it had been air-conditioned. But the cab line was outside in the lingering heat and overwhelming humidity of an afternoon in Thailand.
The line moved slowly, with there being more passengers than cabs, for some reason. He didn’t know if it was the convergence of multiple jumbo jets arriving at the same time, but the cab line was interminable. Patrick was exhausted, and the longer he waited, the more he sweat and the more uncomfortable he became. Finally the line moved, and it was his turn.
After the driver had stashed his suitcase in the trunk of the cab, Patrick crawled into the back seat of the small Thai car and closed his eyes for a few minutes. He tried picturing the welcoming grand lobby of his hotel, a place he’d stayed many times and knew rather well. Without intending to do so, he drifted to sleep for a few minutes.
He opened his eyes blearily and looked around. Was he at his hotel already? No. But something had woken him. What the hell was it? Ah. He saw now that his cabdriver was trying to hand him something. Hadn’t he seen Patrick sleeping? Tipping didn’t mean the same thing in Thailand, so Patrick wouldn’t be able to undertip to express his dissatisfaction.
When he had roused himself enough to figure out who he was and where he was, Patrick instinctively reached out and took what the driver was trying to shove his way. One glance, though, told him all he needed to know. The driver was attempting to persuade him to rent a prostitute from him. Patrick didn’t know if the woman was supposed to be the driver’s wife or sister or mother or some random stranger. He didn’t care. He didn’t go for women and certainly wouldn’t willingly sleep with some stranger a cabdriver in a foreign land was pushing on him.
The driver was half turned around, smiling at Patrick. He seemed extraordinarily eager for Patrick to look at the photos, as if looking at them would change his mind. His English was horrible, but Patrick knew what the guy was doing and didn’t want to play that game. He shook his head and shoved the plastic-covered photos back to the man. The driver smiled more and gestured for Patrick to look some more. Patrick caught something about “good deal.” When the guy wouldn’t take the pictures back, Patrick simply dropped them onto the front seat beside the driver.
Thai people can be very gentle, quiet people, but this driver was neither. He wanted to make a sale and was not pleased Patrick wasn’t interested. He was turning back toward Patrick to say something. Patrick was looking at him, dreading the idea of a dispute with a non-English-speaking cabdriver in a foreign country.
But neither of them needed to worry, at least about that. While the driver had been distracted trying to convince Patrick of the great deal he had for him, their car had veered slightly across the lines separating the two lanes of traffic. Before a single word of argument could be uttered, a truck slammed into the front of the driver’s side of the cab with a vicious force, not only stopping their forward momentum but also snapping the car hard as they spun out of control. It all happened so fast the collision pushed the car into the path of another vehicle, which smashed into the front end of the other side of the cab, whipping them around.
Another truck smashed into the second car, which crushed some more of the cab. The third collision somehow loosened the cab from the other vehicles, and it slid sideways over the edge of the road and down a concrete embankment. The angle of descent was enough that the cab started to roll and did three complete rotations before coming to rest upside down in a crumpled heap of twisted metal and plastic.
About the author:
Originally from rural upstate New York, Michael Murphy grew up walking through fields of corn taller than most people, riding horses, and driving on dirt roads. For more than thirty years he has lived in Washington, DC where there aren’t many dirt roads or horses.
His biggest influences when growing up were his two grandmothers. Both were ferociously strong women who were widowed young while they still had children at home. Neither remarried, but they picked up the shattered pieces of their lives and built new lives for themselves. They taught him that the underdog could come out on top if he or she just tried.
Those women loved to read and to tell stories, so it just always seemed a natural thing for him to want to do the same. When he hit a major milestone birthday he realized that there were fewer years left in which to do things than there had already been. He made a bucket list, which had writing a book at the top of the list. With his twentieth-third book now in the editorial production process, that dream has been realized and has been one of the high points of his life.
Visit his website to learn more about him and his writing.
Promotional post. Materials provided by the author.