On the fifth year anniversary of his wife Hannah's disappearance, small-town cop Noah Sheridan takes his son Milo to a local ski resort for some much needed father-son time.
In a blink, the power grid goes out. Phones and cars stop working. What starts as a day of holiday fun soon turns into a deadly fight for survival. And when an impending blizzard cuts off the town from the rest of civilization, it'll take everything Noah has to keep his family and friends alive.
When the country goes dark, ordinary people find themselves facing the end of the world as they know it. With society collapsing before their eyes, they'll have to risk everything to protect their home and the people they love.
Edge of Madness is the second book in the gripping EMP survival series featuring flawed, complex characters and edge-of-your-seat action. The Edge of Collapse post-apocalyptic series is perfect for fans of Ryan Schow, Grace Hamilton, Harley Tate, Jack Hunt, and Boyd Craven.
Note: This book is rated PG-13 for mild language and moderate violence.
Release date: February 17, 2020
Publisher: Paper Moon Press
Print pages: 320
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Edge of Madness: Edge of Collapse, Book 2
“We’ve got a body.”
Thirty-year-old Noah Sheridan gripped his phone
tighter. The caller’s words sent a chill up his spine. “What?”
His friend and fellow Fall Creek police offi cer, Julian Sinclair, cleared his throat. “A snowmobiler called it in this morning. The vic was found near the river past the trailer park. Caucasian male, early twenties, a known junkie with a beat sheet a mile long. Mostly drug arrests and petty crimes.”
“Cause of death?”
“Beaten to within an inch of his life and then some. Dozens of broken bones.”
Noah shifted, forgetting he still wore his skis, and nearly fell over. “You think it’s connected to the other cases?”
“Too early to tell.”
Like any small town, the rural township of Fall Creek in Southwest Michigan had its share of domestic disputes, occasional assaults, and drug busts, but few murders. The last murder was a bar fight gone wrong four years ago.
However, nearby counties had reported a handful disturbing murders over the last several years. All junkies or known criminals. All found with dozens of broken bones.
None of them had touched Fall Creek—until now.
“Chief Briggs is calling everyone in,” Julian said. “On Christmas Eve, no less.”
A beat of silence. Noah had taken the day off to be with his son. He always took December 24th off, no matter what.
No one in the department gave him crap for it either. They all knew why.
Today was the fifth anniversary of Hannah’s disappearance. Five years since Noah’s world imploded, since he watched his life splinter to pieces right before his eyes.
It had taken all these years to piece himself and Milo back together again.
“You don’t have to,” Julian said quickly, too quickly. Julian Sinclair was Noah’s best friend and as close as a brother, the closest thing to family he had left.
They’d been friends through elementary school, played high school football together, and it was Julian who had encouraged Noah to become a law enforcement officer and join the Fall Creek Police Department.
Julian understood what Noah had gone through, had supported him every step of the way.
Noah glanced down at his son, Milo. The eight-year-old stood beside him in his skis, waiting patiently for another go at the Apple Blossom beginner’s ski run.
“I’ll come in,” Noah said.
Milo stared up at him, his eyes big and round with disappointment. Guilt skewered Noah’s heart, but there was nothing he could do about it.
“It’s the right thing, brother,” Julian said, his voice brightening. “I’ll work your shift on
Christmas so you can get some time with the little man. This is growth, Noah. This is good for you. Time to stop languishing in the past and start living again.”
Noah swallowed the lump in his throat. Julian might be right, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to agree out loud. He glanced down at his son’s pleading eyes. “We’re heading back. I’ll line up a sitter.”
He ended the call and checked the time before slipping the phone into his coat pocket and tugging his leather glove back on. It was 12:10 p.m. At least they’d gotten a few good hours in. They’d spent the morning on the Sweetpea and Apple Blossom runs and practicing at the terrain park.
Early that morning, they’d driven an hour north from their home in Fall Creek to Bittersweet Ski Resort in Otsego, Michigan for their annual father-son ski day. Noah couldn’t bear sitting around at home, letting the anniversary eat him up inside.
The day was cloudy and heavily overcast, the cold air stinging Noah’s exposed cheeks and nose. He exhaled crystalized clouds with every breath.
Nearly every day in December, they’d suffered record-breaking low temperatures. And another snowstorm was forecast for later tonight.
“We had lots of fun already,” Noah said, trying to placate his son. “You did the Birch run like a champ.”
“We haven’t even had lunch at the cafe yet,” Milo argued.
Noah’s gaze strayed to the nearest slope, searching in vain for something to make it up to him. More than twenty different runs of various difficulties all circled one large hill, with the lodge at the base near the parking lot.
Several ski lifts carried eager skiers to their next big run. Skiers zipped down the various runs rated from beginner to expert.
The crisp air rang with laughter and happy shouts. “All I Want for Christmas” played from a tinny speaker.
Behind them, the lodge was decked out in Christmas lights. It featured a ski shop, restrooms, bar, and comfort-food style café with specialty hot drinks and giant, fresh-from-the-oven peanut butter chip cookies as large as Milo’s head. They were Milo’s favorite.
Milo rubbed his reddened, runny nose with the back of his arm and sniffl ed. “Can we at least ride the Rocket Launcher?”
Noah’s gaze snagged on the tallest section of the hill rising in the distance, thickets of pine, maple, and spruce trees fringing either side of the slope. Last year, the resort had brought in earth-movers and created their longest, steepest run, the intermediate rated Rocket Launcher.
Milo loved riding the lifts as much as the skiing itself. The high-speed quad, triple chair, or double chair—he loved them all.
Noah didn’t care for any of them. The rope tow or even the wonder carpet was just fine, thank you very much.
But for his son? He might just have to suck it up. “Okay. Let’s do it.”
Milo’s eyes grew huge. “For real?”
Noah hated heights. That was no secret. Milo, on the other hand, was just like his mother.
Small, quiet, and serious, he looked like the kind of kid who’d be afraid of everything, but he wasn’t. He loved roller coasters and the scariest rides at the Berrien County Youth Fair every summer. The taller and faster, the better. It was Noah who did all the worrying.
“Are you sure, Dad?” Milo asked. “You won’t be scared?” Noah’s chest squeezed at the thought of his son’s tender heart, his childish concern. “Don’t you worry about me. I’ll be brave, just this once. But we’re not skiing down. It’s just for the big chairlift ride to the summit. That’s it. Then we’re riding back down.”
“I know, I know,” Milo promised, nodding his little head emphatically. “No whining, I pinkie-swear.”
“And on the way out, we’ll get our hot chocolate and a whole bag of peanut butter chip cookies for the ride home. How does that sound?”
There was that brilliant smile. The eager glee in his eyes. The kid was okay. He’d be fine.
Five minutes later, they were in the chairlift, safety bar lowered, the metal seat freezing Noah’s butt and thighs even through his snow pants. The liftie—a guy in his twenties with long blond dreads—waved them on.
They hadn’t gone more than forty feet when the chair lurched. A grinding sound came from the loading terminal.
“Oops, hold on,” the guy called from behind them.
Noah twisted around, his gut tightening. Two people were riding in the chair behind them, but the lift operator had stopped the line, preventing anyone else from getting on the lift.
“Everything okay?” Noah shouted back.
The liftie gave him a thumbs-up and waved. The chairlift continued moving, but the chairs swinging behind them remained empty.
“Great,” Noah muttered as he turned back around, his stomach doing nervous flip-flops. “Just great.”
“What’s wrong, Dad?”
“Nothing, I’m sure. Just a little glitch they’re checking out before they let anyone else on. Once we get to the top, they might close the lift while they fix the problem.”
They swayed upward, twenty-plus feet above the ground as they headed toward the summit, skis swinging. He tried not to look over the edge. Tried not to imagine the grip releasing from the cable and their chair plummeting to the hard, unforgiving ground beneath the snow.
The lift operators were trained. They knew what they were doing. The electric engines, bull wheels, terminals, towers—everything was inspected and maintained.
“Look, Dad!” Milo twisted around in his seat, pointing to the base of the slope, where dozens of skiers milling about in their colorful coats and scarves appeared smaller and smaller.
“Can’t say I really want to look right now, buddy.” Noah gripped the slick safety bar with his gloved fingers, his anxiety building. He was doing this for his kid. Surely, that made it worth it.
Noah tried to keep his mind focused on his kid, but he was already thinking of the hour-long drive home, of how to find a last minute sitter on Christmas Eve.
He removed his leather gloves, pulled his phone out of his zippered pocket, and searched his contacts database. Maybe his neighbor, Mrs. Gomez, would be home.
The phone rang.
The chairlift jerked to a stop.
Noah gritted his teeth in frustration. Now what?
“We stopped.” Milo leaned over the metal bar and swung his skis. The chair swayed.
Noah grabbed the back of Milo’s coat with his free hand. A vision struck him—Milo toppling over the side and plunging to the frozen ground below. “Okay, buddy, sit back.”
“Why’d it stop? Is it broken?”
A wave of dizziness hit him. He closed his eyes for a second before forcing them open again. “I’m sure they’ll get it going in a minute.”
He glanced down at his phone. It wasn’t ringing anymore.
The screen was black.
Frowning, he tapped it with the tip of his right finger. Nothing happened. He shook it, swiped it again. Still nothing.
Maybe he’d lost signal up here, but the phone shouldn’t be dead.
He shook his phone again. Pressed the power button a few times. Weird. He’d had over 50 percent battery a few minutes ago.
He twisted his wedding ring uneasily. The cold nipped at his bare fingers.
He pulled his gloves back on, tucked his phone in his pocket, and rubbed his hands together. He settled back to wait. Kept his gaze straight ahead. They were almost to the top.
“Just be patient,” he said, more to himself than to Milo. “It’ll be over soon.”
Boom! A loud crash sounded behind them. Someone screamed.
Noah and Milo twisted around in the lift, their legs still hanging off the front, ski tips pointing toward the sky. Noah kept one hand on Milo to hold him steady as they looked back.
In the distance, at the base of the hill, a resort employee driving a snowcat groomer had apparently lost control of the vehicle and barreled front-first into a cluster of pine trees.
The front-end was a crumpled mess. Black smoke billowed from the huge crashed snowcat and spiraled up into the iron-gray sky.
Guests, Ski Patrol in their red vests, and resort employees were running toward the scene of the accident. From up here, they were the size of toothpicks.
“Someone needs to call 911!” a guy yelled from the chair in front of them.
“I’m sure they already did,” the girl beside him said, though the guy already had his phone out. They were a young Caucasian couple—both college-aged, decked out in fancy snow gear, with snowboards dangling from their feet.
“Hey!” The guy shook his phone. “My phone doesn’t work.” “Mine either!” said the old man in the chair behind them. A teenage girl with Windex-blue hair and a bored, sullen expression on her face slumped next to him.
She was young, maybe fifteen or sixteen. The old man next to her probably in his seventies. She was a snowboarder—he wore skis.
The girl stared back at Noah. One of her eyebrows was pierced, her eyes ringed in black makeup. Her shiny, stick-straight hair was a brilliant blue and spilled around her shoulders. A swoop of aqua bangs completed her look. Emo—or whatever they called it these days.
She looked familiar. They both did.
“My screen is black,” said the college-aged guy. Tufts of bleached blond hair stuck out beneath the beanie covering his head. He had a narrow face still sprinkled with acne and a wispy goatee. “I had a full charge.”
“So did I.” A small shiver of apprehension streaked up Noah’s spine. Usually he had his department-issued radio on him too. But not today. His day off.
“Why aren’t we moving?” The girl was as bottle-blonde as her boyfriend and wore a hot pink parka, the fur around her hood dyed pink to match. “What’s going on?”
“Maybe something happened with the power,” said the older gentleman. His voice was deep and gravelly, and he spoke with an accent Noah couldn’t quite place. He looked Filipino, or maybe Vietnamese. “But they’ve got diesel generators.”
“I’m sure they’ll get things figured out quickly.” Noah projected his voice, kept it calm and steady. He was used to diffusing tense situations, to calming frazzled nerves at car accidents and talking down drunks itching for a fight at the bar. “The generator will kick on, and we’ll get moving again. I’m sure the staff are just distracted by the accident.”
The co-eds in front of him nodded and settled back in their chair.
The smoke from the crashed snowcat reached them, stinging his nostrils. He shivered. The temperature was dropping. Or maybe it just seemed colder up here, above the trees, exposed to the elements.
A strange low fog drifted between the pine trees along the ridge below them. In the distance, a bank of dark clouds roiled over the horizon from the west.
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