Slippery Slope

All Rights Reserved ©

Whiteout

Whiteout - Snow conditions that reduce visibility to almost zero

Asher kept his office door open as he worked to try to catch Kristy. When she finally walked by he called out her name, but she didn’t stop or re-appear. He hopped up from his desk and went into the hallway. She was near the locker room door when he shouted her name again. She more saw than heard him as she went to open the door and pulled the ear buds from her ears.

“Yeah?” she called out.

“Got a minute?” Asher asked, waving her in.

“Sure,” Kristy replied as she took a quick glance at her phone and strode back toward him. It was obvious to Asher she hadn’t yet heard. Kristy put her hand up to Asher’s cheek and playfully patted it as she moved past him and plopped herself down into the chair opposite his at the desk. The scanner crackled in the background and its lights blinked in a stream of dots back and forth.

Asher headed back around his desk and sat, too.

“Long time, no talk,” she casually slouched in the chair and smiled brightly at him.

It was true. Everyone had been so busy, especially with the accident and the communications failure coming at the height of the busy season. Things were strictly business lately – checking in quickly, getting straight away to work, and checking out just as quickly at the end of the day, exhausted. He must have looked very serious because Kristy’s face changed as she watched him sit down. She sat up straight.

“What’s wrong?”

Asher waved his hand nonchalantly, a little too nonchalantly, considering the situation. He wanted to first gauge, however, how she was feeling, how she was doing. She had been through a lot as of late, with work, with the rescue and with Derrick. Kristy was as tough as they come but there was only so much a person could take. And Asher had known her since she was practically a girl – she was more sensitive than she let on.

“Kristy,” he began, “I wanted to check in with you about everything that’s been happening.”

“Sure, Asher. Okay.”

“We really haven’t talked since the rescue.”

“I know! It’s been so crazy. I can’t believe it’s been five days. But between work and going back and forth to the hospital my days have been jam packed.”

“I wanted to thank you also for picking up Derrick’s slack while he’s been with his family.”

Asher wasn’t sure, but he thought he detected an ever so slight wince when he said the word family. If it had affected her she immediately brushed it off.

“You’re welcome.”

They sat looking at each other until the silence became somewhat awkward.

“And you’ve been quite the man of mystery, Asher. I actually tried to track you down the other day. Denise said you were out at the tower again so I drove over there but apparently I missed you. There was a state trooper parked there. I thought you’d want to know that.”

Everyone by now had heard about the vandalism and the Staties had promised to keep a watchful eye.

“Sorry I missed you, Kristy. Thanks for letting me know they were there.”

“Do they know who did it yet? I heard the ladder was locked. You’d have to scale twenty feet just to reach it. I can’t imagine who would be bold enough to climb that tower in that icy rain. It was bad enough driving.”

“You used to climb, right?”

“Oh, definitely. I loved it but I don’t have much time for it now between work and rescue training.”

“It’s a great way to stay in shape.”

“Absolutely. I had six pack abs when I used to do it regularly. Brent and a few of us were thinking about going to the new rock gym in Colburn some time if you’d like to come with.”

There was another pause.

“Asher, what is it?” Kristy moved her chair closer to the desk and leaned in. “You didn’t call me in here to talk about climbing, did you?”

“No. Not at all.” Asher took a deep breath.

“Kristy, I’ve hade some serious talks with Derrick since he’s been back and since the accident.”

Kristy nodded. “That’s good, Asher.” She waited.

“I want you to know that things haven’t been easy for him, Kristy.”

Kristy sat back in her chair, “Asher, we’ve known each other a long time and I can understand why you’d want to defend Derrick but if you’re trying to make excuses for him you can save it. I don’t mean to be rude but I’m not ready to hear that and I’m not ready to forgive him.”

“No, Kristy and I wouldn’t ask you to do that. Not yet, anyway. I’ve made it clear to Derrick that I don’t agree with decisions he’s made recently and I don’t like how he’s treated you.”

“So what is it, then?”

“Kristy, he told me what Jessica said, about the woman in the road.”

Kristy blinked. “Oh, that? It’s weird, right? Yeah, I was in the room when she said it. What about it?”

“Kristy, Derrick thinks you may have had something to do with the accident. You and Brent.”

Kristy seemed to pale and then turned red.

“What?” she said quietly.

“He told me he spoke with the doctors and administrators at the hospital and that they’ve reported Jessica’s statements to the police. They’re opening an investigation.”

Asher watched her carefully. She seemed on the verge of tears.

“I don’t believe it. When she said it I was kind of shocked but we all discussed it right then and there. She must have seen me when I was in the ravine or when they brought her up in the basket. She was confused.”

“Kristy, she fell back to sleep after you left but when she woke up again she was agitated and insistent. She said she was sure you were the woman in the road and she lost control of the car because she swerved to miss you.”

Kristy shook her head. “Asher, she’s wrong! I’m the one who saw the guardrail. That’s how we knew there was a car down there. I didn’t know who it was until Brent lowered me to the crash site. This is nuts! Derrick can’t really believe that!”

Asher couldn’t think of what to say. “I’m sorry, Kristy.”

“Oh my god. This is incredible.” She leaned forward her fingertips grasping the edge of the desk. “You don’t believe it, do you?”

Asher reached across the desk and covered her hand with his, “Absolutely not.”

Kristy nodded. She still seemed stunned but looked relieved by his support.

“Okay,” she said, “What now?”

“Kristy, the police contacted me. They wanted me to let them know when you came in. They said they haven’t been able to reach you. They wanted to know if you left town.”

“You have got to be kidding me, Asher.”

“No. Did you go somewhere?”

“No! I’ve been at home since I left the hospital last night. Nobody contacted me. I’ve had my phone on the whole time.” As if providing evidence, Kristy held up her phone. She looked at it.

“Oh, crap,” she said.

“What is it?”

“I put it on silent in the hospital. I didn’t hear the calls come in and I didn’t check.” She swiped frantically at her phone.

“Brent called me, too!”

She looked searchingly at Asher, “Have you told him about this?”

“He’s being interviewed by the police now. They asked him to come in, too.”

Kristy’s face was contorted in disbelief.

"“I don’t get this. How could anyone believe we would do anything like that? I mean, what it implies.” She trailed off, letting the thought dangle.

“And Kristy, there’s something else.”

“What?”

“Command center rescue called. You and Brent are being sanctioned for your actions at the rescue. They are temporarily suspending your memberships.”

Kristy stood up.

“I don’t understand. The rescue was a complete success.”

“They reviewed the reports from you and Brent and the other responders. They said you shouldn’t have gone down to the crash site. It showed a lack of judgment.”

“Asher, help was miles away. We didn’t know how long they had been down there or if anyone was hurt.”

Asher stood and walked around his desk. He leaned on it and crossed his arms.

“Kristy, sit down.”

She hesitated and then sat. She seemed drained.

“They’re right.”

Kristy looked up at him, silently.

“You had no way of knowing if that car was stable or the condition of the victims.”

“Which is exactly why I went down there.”

“Kristy, what if you had dislodged rock on the way down? What if that little boy had panicked and tried to get out?”

“But Asher, those things didn’t happen!” Kristy pleaded.

“I know. You were lucky. But you know you shouldn’t have gone down there alone.”

Kristy lifted her chin.

“I did what I thought was best.”

“I know you did. I want you to know that I told Command that, too. But their assessment is correct. Any number of things could have gone very wrong going over that ridge in those weather conditions, in that environment. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll see it.”

Kristy nodded.

“Are they going to send me a copy of their evaluation?” she asked.

“Yes, the official report is being sent to me and I’ll give it to you as soon as I get it.”

“Okay, thanks.”

Kristy stared at the floor for a moment and then stood up again.

“I’m assuming you got someone to cover for me so I can go talk to the police?”

“I did.”

Kristy pursed her lips and ran her hand through her hair. “Thanks, Asher.”

Asher put his hand on her shoulder as she passed, “You and Brent are damn good rescue members, Kristy. Everything is going to be fine. You just need some additional training, that’s all. Then you’ll both be reinstated.”

Kristy looked at him and shook her head.

“I don’t think so, Asher. Once Command hears Jessica’s accusations, that will probably be it for us.”

“They won’t hear about it from me, Kristy. I’m sure Jessica is mistaken and nothing will come of it.”

“It’s a small community, Ash, and we work closely with the police. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve already heard about it.”

“It will be okay, Kristy. I promise you.”

Kristy put her hand to his cheek as she had when she came in and then left the room, closing the door behind her. Asher stood for a while staring at the door. As much as he wanted to believe otherwise, he knew she was probably right.

THANK YOU FOR READING - next chapter Sun., October 23

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.