One Life Changing Moment Online - Lucy Clark

CHAPTER ONE

JOHN WATSON SMILED at something one of his adventure buddies had just said as the three men trudged their way through the scrub of Australia’s Blue Mountains. They’d been up since six o’clock that morning, hiking out to a set of caves before exploring them. Dried mud and dirt was caked on his clothes, and his arm and leg muscles were pulsing with that satisfying pain that came after a good workout. They’d abseiled within the caves as well as doing a bit of climbing and he couldn’t remember a more enjoyable day.

‘Don’t you think, John?’ Stephen Brooks asked, and John lifted his head to look at his work colleague. John had only been working at Katoomba Hospital for the past six months and these weekend hikes had become something of a regular occurrence. He frowned for a moment, wondering if he wasn’t becoming too attached, not only to the area but to the people he was working with. Keep your distance. That had been his mantra for the past three years.

‘Sorry. I missed what you said.’ John stopped walking and hitched up the large coil of rope presently slung over his shoulder. ‘Would you look at that view?’

The other two men stopped and nodded. The sun was starting to dip lower in the sky, the reds, pinks and oranges of the approaching sunset starting to seep through the blue. The gum-leaf green of the treetops spread before them, mixed with several shades of brown and yellow rock from the mountains added to the rich palette of colours. If any sight could be completely different from the views he’d grown up with as a boy in England, this was it.

‘That’s why you should accept the permanent job offer at the hospital,’ Stephen added, shifting the equipment he carried to his opposite hand, the medical kit still firmly strapped to his back in a secure pack. ‘You can rock-climb and cave and abseil to your heart’s content.’

‘It’s a good perk,’ Oliver, Stephen’s brother-in-law, added. ‘Good hospital, awesome people...’ Oliver preened with a wide grin. ‘Terrific adventures to be had and you’re only two hours from Sydney for when you need a night on the town.’

‘We’ll even upgrade the tea-making facilities at the hospital. Get you your own pot and bone-china cup and saucer to appeal to your strong British sensibilities.’

‘Now you’re really sweetening the deal.’ John laughed. It wasn’t the first time Oliver and Stephen had tried to get him to accept the position of permanent orthopaedic surgeon at Katoomba Hospital but this time, after such a great day and now admiring the beauty surrounding him, he had to admit to being more tempted than before.

Their present serenity didn’t last long, all three men snapping to attention when the sound of screeching tyres filled the air as a car, somewhere on the winding roads nearby, was clearly having difficulty staying on the road. The world seemed to stop spinning as the three of them held their breath, waiting, hoping against hope that the sickening crunch of crumpled automotive metal wouldn’t be the next sound they heard. Their hope was unfounded and the horrific sound echoed off the mountains, magnifying its horror.

‘Over there.’ Oliver pointed in the direction of the road.

‘Are you sure?’ Stephen asked, but Oliver was already making a hasty new track through the scrub. John followed close behind, wondering just how long it would take the three of them to reach the accident site. As they hurried along, heading quickly down the small mountain they’d hiked up, conscious of their footing, a thousand different scenarios passed through his mind, effectively transferring his thoughts from the enjoyable day of adventure to the scenarios he knew went hand in hand with a motor vehicle accident.

All too soon they emerged from the scrub onto the road, not too far from where the sickening smell of burnt rubber, oil and the faint hint of petrol flooded the freshness of the surrounding forest. They sprinted down the bitumen towards a sedan that had careened off the road, bursting through the metal road barrier and meeting its end at the trunk of a thick and sturdy eucalyptus tree. They left their equipment off to the side but Stephen brought the medical bag with him.

Stephen already had his cellphone out, pleased there was reception in this section of the mountains, and was calling for an ambulance and emergency crews. Oliver and Stephen headed for the driver’s side so John rounded the car to check the passenger