The sensational Wall Street Journal #1 Bestseller that Publishers Weekly called “A Terrifically Entertaining Thriller” is finally FREE!
When a freak accident endows a terminally ill man with extraordinary mental abilities, he’ll spend his last days fighting to rescue a woman and her autistic child, unwittingly becoming the only hope against a global terrorist—or the fanatic’s ultimate weapon.
Targeted Age Group:: 12 – 65+
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 2 – PG
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
BRAINRUSH is a story about second chances and embracing each day of your life as though it's your last. It was a natural first step in my writing since the protagonist’s emotional journey—as an ex-Air Force pilot who faced a terminal diagnosis—parallels my own.
As part of a military family I traveled all over the world. I experienced more than my share of tearful good-byes as my family hopped from country to country, state to state. It seemed like every time I got settled in to a new home—sometimes even a new language—Dad got transferred. I learned to make new friends easily enough, but it was movies and books that ultimately became my constant companions. I can still remember ditching second session of Saturday catechism on base in Wiesbaden, Germany, so that my brother and I could sneak into the matinee. (Popcorn was only twenty-five cents!) I read my first 'chapter' book when I was six-years-old. It was Fulton Oursler's 1949 novel The Greatest Story Ever Told. I can still remember my wonder and excitement as the story took me away. It’s still on my shelf. I've consumed books ever since, always fiction, always action/adventures and/or thrillers. And to this day I still go to the movies at least twice a week. Fifty years of films and books have fueled an active imagination filled with stories crying to escape. When I exited the business world a few years back, I decided it was time to open the floodgates. With the help of a bunch of classes and terrific instructors at UCLA-extension Writer’s Program, I started writing. And writing. And writing. I couldn’t get enough of it. (Still can’t!) There’ve only been two ‘jobs’ that I’ve had in my career that I really loved. The first was flying; the second is writing. I couldn’t be happier.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I like to weave every-day characters into my stories, the kind of people we might see at the grocery store, or the library, or work or school. These are people we can all identify with. But it's what's hidden beneath the layers of "normal" that I strive to bring out from each of these ordinary characters–by placing them in extraordinary, life threatening situations. That's when a person's true character is revealed, and then that the story comes to life.
JAKE BRONSON SPENT THE PAST two weeks preparing to die. He just didn’t want to do it today, trapped in this MRI scanner.
The table jiggled beneath him. He was on his way into the narrow tube like a nineteenth-century artillery round being shoved into a cannon. The glassy-eyed gaze of the bored VA medical technician hovered over him, a yellow mustard stain on the sleeve of his lab coat.
“Keep your head perfectly still,” the tech said.
Yeah, right, like he had any choice with the two-inch-wide strap they had cinched over his forehead. Another wiggle and the lip of the tunnel passed into view above him. Jake squeezed his eyes closed, anxious to ignore the curved walls sliding by just an inch from his nose. Three deep breaths and the table jerked to a stop. He was in, cocooned from head to toe. He heard the soft whir of the ventilation fan turn on at his feet. The breeze chilled the beads of sweat gathering on his forehead.
The tech’s scratchy-sounding voice came over the speakers in the chamber. “Mr. Bronson, if you can hear me, press the button.”
A panic switch. Hadn’t he been in a constant state of panic ever since the doctors told him his disease was terminal? He’d agreed to this final test so he’d know how many months he had left to live, to make at least one positive difference in the world. After today, no more doctors. After today, he’d focus on living. Jake pressed the thumb switch gripped in his hand.
“Got it,” the tech said. “If it gets too confining for you in there, just press it again and I’ll pull you out. But remember, we’ll have to start all over again if that happens, so let’s try to get it right the first time, okay? We only need thirty minutes. Here we go.”
Jake’s thumb twitched over the panic button. Crap. He already wanted to push it. He should have accepted the sedative they had offered him in the waiting room. But his friend Marshall had been standing right there, chuckling under his breath when the tech suggested it.
Too late now.
Why the hell was this happening to him again? Cancer once in a lifetime was more than enough for anyone. But twice? It wasn’t right. He wanted to lash out, but at what? Or whom? This morning he’d smashed the small TV in his bedroom over a movie trailer for Top Gun 2. “Coming next fall.” He hated that he was going to miss that one.
The chamber felt like it was closing in on him. A claustrophobic panic sparked in his gut, a churning that grew with each pound of his heart, a hollow reminder of the crushing confines of the collapsible torture box he’d spent so many hours in during the air force’s simulated POW training camp.
Come on, Jake, man up!
Thirty minutes. That was only eighteen hundred seconds. He clenched his teeth and started counting. One, one thousand; two, one thousand; three—
The machine started up with a loud clanking noise. The sound startled him, and his body twitched.
“Please don’t move, Mr. Bronson.” The tech was irritated.
The tapping noise sounded different than he remembered from the MRI he had ten years ago. “Lymphoma,” the flight surgeon had said. “Sorry, but you’re grounded.” And just like that, Jake’s childhood dreams of flying the F-16 were cut short on the day before his first combat mission. The chemo and radiation treatments had sucked. But they worked. The cancer was forced into remission—until two weeks ago, when it reappeared in the form of a tumor in his brain.
The annoying rattle settled into a pattern. Jake let out a deep breath, trying to relax.
Eight, one thousand; nine, one thousand—
Suddenly, the entire chamber jolted violently to the right, as if the machine had been T-boned by a dump truck. Jake’s body twisted hard to one side, but his strapped head couldn’t follow. He felt a sharp pain in his neck, and the fingers on his left hand went numb. The fan stopped blowing, the lights went out, and the chamber started shaking like a gallon can in a paint-store agitator.
A keening whistle from deep within the machine sent shooting pains into Jake’s rattling skull. A warm wetness pooled in his ears and muffled his hearing.
He squeezed down hard on the panic button, shouting into the darkness, each word trembling with the quake’s vibration. “Get—me—out—of—here!”
No one answered.
He wedged his palms against the sidewalls to brace himself. The surface was warm and getting hotter.
The air felt charged with electricity. His skin tingled. Sparks skittered along the wall in front of his face, the first sign in the complete darkness that his eyes were still functioning. The acrid scent of electrical smoke filled his nostrils.
Jake’s fists pounded the thick walls of the chamber. He howled, “Somebody—”
His body went rigid. His arms and legs jerked spasmodically in seizure, his head thrown back. He bit deep into his tongue, and his mouth filled with the coppery taste of blood. Sharp, burning needles of blinding pain blossomed in the hollow at the back of his skull, wriggling through his brain. His head felt like it was ready to burst.
The earthquake ended as abruptly as it started.
So did the seizure.
Jake sagged into the table, his thumping heart threatening to break through his chest.
Faint voices. His mind lunged for them. He peered down toward his toes. A light flickered on in the outer room. Shadows shifted.
The table jerked beneath him, rolling out into the room. When Jake’s head cleared the outer rim of the machine, two pairs of anxious eyes stared down at him. It was the tech and Jake’s buddy Marshall.
“You okay?” Marshall asked, concern pinching his features.
Jake didn’t know whether he was okay or not. The tech helped him sit up, and Jake spun his legs to the side. He turned his head and spat a bloody glob of saliva on the floor. Holding the panic switch up to the tech, he said, “You may want to get this thing fixed.”
“I’m s-so sorry, Mr. Bronson,” the tech said. “The power went out, and I could barely keep my balance. I—”
“Forget it,” Jake said, wincing as he reached over his shoulder to massage the back of his aching neck. He gestured to the smoking chamber. “Just be glad you weren’t strapped down inside that coffin instead of me.” He slid his feet to the floor and stood up.
The room spun around him.
He felt Marshall’s firm grip on his shoulders. “Whoa, slow down, pal,” Marshall said. “You’re a mess.”
Jake shook his head. His vision steadied. “I’m all right. Just give me a second.” He took a quick inventory. The feeling had returned to his fingers. Other than a bad neck ache, a sore tongue, and a tingling sensation at the back of his head, there was no major damage. Clutching the corner of the sheet on the table, he wiped at the wetness around his ears. The cotton fabric came away with a pink tinge to it, but no more than that. He stretched his jaw to pop his ears. His hearing was fine.
Using the small sink and wall mirror by the door, Jake used a damp paper towel to make sure he got all the blood from his bitten tongue off his lips and chin. His face didn’t look so bad. The tan helped. His hair was disheveled, but what the hell, sloppy was in, right? And if he could get at least one good night of sleep, his eyes would get back to looking more green than red. It was a younger version of his dad that stared back at him. He sucked in a deep breath, expanding his chest. Six foot two, thirty-five years old—the prime of his life.
He tried to sort out just what had happened in that chamber, but the specifics were already hazy, like the fading details of a waking dream. He threw on his T-shirt and jeans and then grabbed his blue chambray shirt from a spike by the door and put that over the tee. As he slipped on his black loafers, he glanced back at the donut-shaped ring of the machine that had almost become his tomb. The seam that traveled around it was charred, with faint wisps of smoke still snaking into the air.
“Never again,” Jake muttered.
On the way out, a pretty nurse grabbed Marshall’s hand and slipped him a folded piece of paper. Jake stifled a smile. Ten to one it was her phone number, though the concerned look Marshall exchanged with her suggested otherwise.
Marshall stuffed the paper in his pocket, turned his back on her with a friendly wave, and followed Jake out the door. “Dude, you sure you’re okay?” he asked.
But an odd, sporadic buzzing in Jake’s head told him something was very different.
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