Friday, 2 October 2015

Fierce Thunder - SOMMERS

Genre: Thriller / Suspense, Adventure
Author: Courtney Silberberg and Jacquelyn Kinkade Silberberg

Mountain biking at the Big Bear Ski Resort, high above the Los Angeles basin in the middle of summer, was like being on a different planet. The once crowded, manicured ski runs where virgin powder once lay were now unpatrolled, barren, mountain bike trails. An accountant, who was also an extreme sports enthusiast at the corporate offices, had realized a ski resort could run basically year round, hence, greater revenues and stronger balance sheets.
Chairlifts carried both bikes and bikers up to the top, where lodges that fed hundreds during the winter months, now worked with a skeleton staff, parading in bikinis and shorts.  It was in sharp contrast to the congested, smoggy metropolitan area below, as it was pure up there, the air and water clean. The crisp blue sky canopied any danger for the rough and tumble adrenaline junkies the trails attracted, making for an exhilarating place to go, as it was supposed to be fun.
It probably wasn’t fair. At least that’s how Dr. Brad Sommers saw it in that glimpse of time and space that passed before he was forced to react. Of course “fair” wasn’t one of his favorite words at the moment.
An athlete, the twenty-nine year old Sommers was riding hard, too hard, stressing the mountain bike to its limits, pointing down a narrow, winding chute. The gravel and sand rooster-tailed up from the trail as his rear, knobby tire found grooves and then hopped between them, inches from peril.
Sommers tightened the muscles in his strong arms, gingerly maintaining and sensing his precious balance… shifting, leaning. He was a good biker, instinctive, but it was almost futile, as this downhill ride was equivalent to gliding over shiny black ice, and going down or catching an edge here meant falling off the mountain. But Sommers didn’t care about that. He was on a mission, trying to forget, cope maybe; with the odd hand fate had dealt him.
The phones kept ringing in his head and cryptic messages about appeal decisions, court dates and where his case was headed if he didn’t respond bounced around in his brain like his tires skirting between the ruts for precious traction.
His case.
Those two words pierced him. He was being sued, embroiled in what he thought was a frivolous legal battle for just doing his job. Frivolous or not, a career, his career and professional life, was on the line for, of all things… helping.
He was a third year resident on the internal medicine fast track. Being a professional, a physician, now made him a target. Over analyzing, he thought it perverse to stay buried in books in dank libraries or labs, work double shifts in a thankless environment in order to find some light at the end of the tunnel, to ultimately become vulnerable and twist in the wind in this unique profession that ultimately saved lives.
But that was the system. His hand.
Sommers had paid his dues and kept paying them, spending a fortune garnered from different crap jobs, a small trust fund and many, many high interest student loans.  So where was the light?
“Sommers,” bellowed the beleaguered voice of his attorney, friend and novice mountain biker, David Wethers. He had heard the voice earlier, but kept riding, plunging down the trail… cerebral wheels racing. Seeing Wethers, overweight and whale-like, awkwardly wrestle the high-tech two-wheeler would have been comical on any other day, but Sommers had brought him to the ski resort to get away, to escape the turmoil that was crippling him, and perhaps find a solution.
Sommers twisted his bike into a perfect power slide and skidded to a halt.  Moments later, the pudgy Wethers wobbled down the narrow trail. Upon spotting Sommers, he panicked and turned the bike into the hill, riding up a few feet before promptly falling over in a heap. Coughing up a lung full of dirt, he ripped off his helmet and wheezed for air.
“Why are you trying to kill me, Sommers?”
“The hill will do that without my help. Here, have some water.”
Staggering up, Wethers almost lunged for the water. “Why did you bring me up here?  How much farther to the bottom?”
“Three, maybe four--”
“MILES?”
“Yes, miles. You’re on top of the world here. Look around. Enjoy it.”
“Right,” Wethers whined sarcastically, gulping more of the quenching fluid, a trickle dripping on his chin and shirt.  “We need to talk.”
“I didn’t bring you here to--”
“Yes, you did.” Wethers took on a serious tone. “The Medical Board isn’t backing you.”
“Bunch of hypocrites--”
“Be that as it may, your appeal, and how and when it’s filed, is all you have. That is, if you still want to be a doctor in this country.”
“Forget ’em. I didn’t do anything wrong. Nothing!”
“Ethically and morally, no. Believe me; any attorney can put a defense together.  But these guys have momentum. It’s high profile. My suggestion is we cop to a lesser charge. Go the probation route and in, say, six months--”
“I’m not copping to anything. I did my job.”
“And someone died.” Wethers didn’t like ramming the point home, but he knew his friend was in trouble, career trouble. A cautionary fine line needed to be delicately walked. “Look, it’s not your fault it was a Senator’s daughter.  Wrong place, wrong time.”
Sommers adjusted his chin strap. “I suppose her alcoholic, ex step-mom, whose blood alcohol was three times the legal limit, driving a hundred and five down Pacific Coast Highway into oncoming traffic was my fault too.”