Friday, October 14, 2016

Chapter reveal: Climatized, by Sally Fernandez

Genre: Thriller
Author: Sally Fernandez
Publisher: Dunham Books
Purchase on Amazon
About the Book:
She’s been an analyst, a spy, an investigator, and the deputy director of the States Intelligence Agency. After resigning her post at the SIA, Max Ford formally declares her independence when she bursts onto the Washington DC scene as a private investigator. While her new incarnation as PI indulges her penchant for sleuthing, her style remains unchanged. Seems Max is still brash, tenacious, tough—and unwilling to bow down to anyone, including elite and powerful politicians. Right out of the starting gate, Max finds herself embroiled in an unseemly web of mystery, murder andintrigue. When Senator Sherman Spark, a prominent Republican from Florida, is found dead in Lincoln Park, the police quickly rule the death a suicide. But Isabelle Spark, the late Senator’s wife, isn’t buying it and hires Max to prove there is something more sinister at work. Max quickly finds suspicious circumstances surrounding the Senator: two world-renowned scientists died days before they were scheduled to testify before the late Senator’s investigative committee on climate change initiatives. But when she realizes the connection to global warming, big money, deceit, and treachery, Max’s investigation accelerates in a most dangerous way.  No sooner than Max starts to unravel the mystery, a third scientist dies under questionable circumstances. Then a fourth scientist goes missing—and this missing scientist could be the key to unearthing the motives behind the deaths. Against the backdrop of a ticking clock, Max and her partner, Jackson Monroe, launch a pulse-quickening quest to find the missing scientist, and find the truth. This twisty, circuitous path leads them to the powerful organization behind the killings.  But Max Ford might find herself on the wrong side of a lot of powerful people, because what she discovers could have devastating, worldwide implications. And when that evidence is presented to the president, he will be forced to make a crucial decision:  cover up a diabolical plot, or bring down a multi-trillion-dollar worldwide economy…
Suspenseful, spellbinding and sensational, Climatized delivers red-hot action, a sizzling storyline, and a scorcher of a plot.   Briskly paced, steeped in facts, and resplendent with political intrigue,Climatized is an extraordinary—and extraordinarily provocative—thriller.  Sally Fernandez turns upthe heat in Climatized, a tale that will leave readers breathless.
About the Author:
Sally Fernandez is a world traveler and political junkie with a vivid imagination. She and her husband divide their time between their homes in Florida and in Florence, Italy.
Chapter 1
Claus was pleased to see Ernst standing outside the hotel at
eight a.m. sharp. Now they could beat the weekend traffic
and arrive in Saint Léger within the hour. It was an easy drive
from Claus’ home in Avignon, but the weather forecast for the
weekend called for conditions that were unseasonably sunny
with cloudless skies, abnormal conditions for an April day
without rain. He suspected the roads would be cluttered with
families opting to enjoy the various outdoor activities available in
the mountainous region. Most important, the weather was ideal
for rock climbing, one of Claus’ obsessions. He often remarked
that the desire to climb coursed through his veins since receiving
his first Whiz Kid harness and carabiners at the age of five.
What choice did he have? Both his grandfather and father were
avid climbers. Oh yes, with the warm sun and the crisp air, it
promised to be a strenuous but invigorating climb, exactly what
Claus preferred.
Up ahead was the sign for Saint Léger du Ventoux.
They were about to pass through the quaint village in the
Toulourenc Valley at the base of the Mont Ventoux. The
immense mountain, towering six thousand feet into the air,
was well known for casting a permanent shadow on the tiny
hamlet. In another half-mile east and a quarter-mile north
they would reach their destination. Finally, Claus steered
into the sparsely filled parking lot, pleased to see only a few
visitors had arrived.
“How magnificent,” Ernst said, as he viewed the majestic
Saint Léger hovering above.
“She’s got some of the finest crags and some the hardest
routes,” Claus said. Eager to get going, he hopped out of the car
and headed for the trunk. “Help me with the gear?”
As Ernst followed behind he spotted myriad overhangs off in
the distance. “It looks challenging.”
“The route we’re going to take is a single pitch and only
a hundred and thirty feet high up the cliff. But don’t let her fool
you; she’s a tough old crag.”
“So what do we need—just ropes and belay devices?”
“That will do it.” Claus looked at Ernst’s feet and noticed
that they were two shoe sizes larger than his. “Good thing you
brought your own climbing shoes,” he joked.
“I never leave home without them. But thanks for letting me
borrow your other gear.”
“No problem. Let’s get going. It’s a twenty-minute walk from
here to the base.”
As they walked along the narrow path lined with Austrian pines,
Claus explained that the route was one of the most difficult, as well
as one of the least ventured. “There are permanent bolts strategically
placed up the rock face. They’re positioned anywhere from fifteen
to thirty feet apart, so we’ll be able to descend without rappelling.”
They both understood that with or without the bolts that
provided protection, the descent was the most dangerous part of
rock climbing—the part they both enjoyed.
“Hey, Ernst, you never told me what you do for a living or
why you were even at the conference?” Claus was a little curious,
but he was primarily killing time.

“I guess our climbing tales did dominate our discussions. No
big secret. I’m a freelance consultant for biotech companies.”
“So why the interest in a climate-change seminar?”
“I was bored.” Ernst grinned. “You gonna let me start the
“I know the route. You don’t, so I’ll take the first pitch.”
Ernst didn’t push. He knew there would be plenty of
opportunities to switch roles back and forth between the lead
climber and the belayer.
“Here we are!” Claus announced as they came around the last
bend. Standing before them was a massive rock towering up in
the air.
Ernst inspected the crag. He noted that the first bolt was
secured approximately twenty feet up the rock face.
Claus noted his expression. “I assume you approve?”
Claus expertly tied off one end of the rope to his carabiner
with a figure-eight knot and then attached the carabiner to his
harness. “I mentioned that this is one of my preferred routes.
It’s a rugged day’s climb that calls for endurance and physical
strength, but it’s not Dangerville.”
“I’m ready to rock and roll!” Ernst said. His eagerness was
Claus also deemed it time to get the show on the road or,
rather, up the rock. After double-checking his equipment, he
took the lead and began the ascent. Taking special care, he
inched his way up the rock face as Ernst ran the rope through
the belay device and then clipped the device to his harness.
It provided the necessary protection in case the leader was to
slip and fall before attaching himself to a pre-placed bolt with
a carabiner. The belay device created friction, placing bends in
the rope allowing the belayer to tighten and secure the rope
quickly, preventing the leader from falling beyond the last piece
of protection.
Having maneuvered the rock face without incident and
satisfied with the pace, Claus attached himself to the next bolt.
Then, he took over the belay device and functioned as the belayer.
He watched attentively as Ernst climbed to join him. At that
point they had been ascending for well over an hour, covering
half the distance, with Claus always in the lead.
“Now can I take the lead?” Ernst asked, satisfied he had
proven his athletic prowess.
Claus gave the go-ahead.
Ernst moved upward toward the next bolt as Claus adjusted
the belay. Thus far, the ascent had moved along with a rhythmic
cadence. Then after passing a few more bolts, Claus was once
again in the lead.
“I’m ready!” he shouted down to Ernst but there was no
response. “C’mon, let’s move it!”
“Give me a sec! I’m adjusting my gear!” Ernst shouted back.
Moments later, he resumed the climb.
Finally, they had reached the top of the cliff. They each
detached the rope, removing the tether from their harnesses,
and then stood back to admire the three-hundred-and-sixtydegree
“Breathtaking!” Ernst remarked. “Well worth the climb.”
“Ready for lunch? I’m starved.” From Ernst’s expression, Claus
needed no verbal response. Immediately he opened his backpack
and pulled out an assortment of sausages and cheeses, along with
a crusty baguette.
Ernst grabbed two energy drinks and two protein bars from
his backpack.
They noshed leisurely on their snacks and carried on with
simple conversation while enjoying the refreshing cool air. But
as the hour passed by they agreed to pack up and get off the
mountain before losing the benefit of daylight. Within the next
two hours, the sun’s glow would cast itself on the back side of
the mountain, leaving them hanging off a dimly lit crag. After
a few more moments to stretch their legs, they gathered their
belongings and organized for the descent. As agreed, they would
not rappel, but would climb down together, sharing the roles of
leader and belayer as they had before.
Ernst walked over to the permanent bolt fastened to the rock
face at the edge of the cliff and clipped on a carabiner. He ensured
the knotting on the rope was secure. Simultaneously, Claus tied
the other end of the rope to his harness and descended to the
first bolt twenty feet below. Ernst released the rope at a slow,
even pace through the belay, using the device as a descender this
time. As Claus increased his distance, Ernst kept the rope taut.
“Watch your footing down here!” Claus shouted, paying particular
attention to the patch of scree they encountered on the way up. He
continued to edge his way along the rock face using great caution,
until he arrived at the next bolt. “I’m clipped on!” He attached his
carabiner and waited for Ernst to climb down and take the lead.
“Whoa!” Ernst landed his left foot smack in the center of the
scree, but soon regained his balance as the loose gravel scarcely
missed Claus’ head.
Either Ernst did not hear him or he was not paying attention,
but for whatever reason it gave Claus pause. “Let’s take it slow! We
have plenty of time. Remember—you don’t know this crag—I do!”
“Got it!” After a few deep breaths, Ernst continued.
They regained their cadence, taking special care as they
maneuvered past each other and descended the mountain.
All of a sudden, Claus heard a foreboding snap. “ERNST!” he
screamed as he slid down the rock face, scraping his head along
the way.
With no time to spare, Ernst tied off his rope to stop Claus’
acceleration. Had he not, they both would have plunged over
seventy-five feet to the ground.
Dangling helplessly on the rope thirty feet below, Claus took
a lungful and then exhaled. His ears rang with the sound of
his body scraping against the rocks. It reminded him of a train
coming to a screeching halt on unoiled tracks. A horrible sound,
he thought as he shuddered.
“Find a foothold—and don’t move!” Seconds later Ernst had
him tied off, and the rope was secure. “I need to rappel down
and take your weight.”
For Claus, it seemed like hours, but it only took minutes for
Ernst to reach him.
“What the hell happened?”
Claus tried to regain his breath, but all he managed to utter
was, “The bolt let go.”
“How could the bolt simply pull out of the rock?”
“I don’t know!”
“It was fine on the way up. We both clipped on to it!”
“Let’s just get off this mountain.” Claus was clearly ill at ease.
Given the circumstance, Ernst took charge. “Take a deep
breath; we’ve got only about thirty feet more to go.”
Back on solid ground, Ernst inspected Claus’ head. Fortunately,
he had only a few superficial scrapes on his forehead, not worth
a bandage. Then, after a bit of haggling, Claus insisted he was
perfectly capable of driving Ernst back to his hotel. They wasted no
time in gathering their gear and headed for the car. Once underway,
Claus gradually returned to his former self, and their conversation
took on a lighter tone. They chatted about their good fortune until
Ernst proceeded to recount horror stories from his earlier climbs.
All Claus heard was his grandfather’s voice echoing in his
ear. “You’ll never be able to read the mind of Mother Nature,
so you’d better be able to read the minds of those helping you
to challenge her.” They were words he did not heed on that day.
Claus was rarely rattled, but he had never climbed with a stranger
before, only with close friends. But he had to admit that it was
Ernst’s quick action that saved them both.
Ernst was still rattling on about a fall he took until Claus
interrupted. “I’d prefer you to keep those stories to yourself, at
least until after our climb tomorrow.”
“Point taken. So we’re still on?”
Claus nodded, but continued to keep his eyes on the road.
The rest of the drive was relatively silent as they sped along the
winding alpine highway. Finally, Claus spotted a neon sign on top
of a building that flashed the name “Novotel,” and he breathed
a sigh of relief.
Antoinette checked her watch and then checked the wall
clock; they both read 9:38 p.m. “Il a promis.” She soon decided
moaning was useless and thought the Beaujolais wine might
produce a better effect. After pouring herself a glass, she
sauntered into the living room and waited for her husband.
Unfortunately, her favorite Gamay grape from Burgundy was
not doing its magic. She prayed that her worrying would prove
Antoinette recognized that Claus was an excellent climber.
He had tackled the Matterhorn frequently with his hiking
buddies. But the day hikes by himself or with only one other
person concerned her, especially if she was not acquainted
with that person. All she knew was that Claus had befriended
another attendee during a weeklong conference. His name
was Ernst from Lucerne, who was also an avid climber. They
had made plans to climb Saint Léger on Saturday. She had
approved on one condition—they would be off the mountain
by sunset. That was two hours ago. Once again she checked her
watch with growing concern. The time was 10:15. Suddenly,
she heard a car pull into the driveway and she let out a huge
sigh of relief.
Je sais que je suis en retard!” Claus called out from the kitchen,
apologizing for being late. When he walked into the living room,
he found his wife standing in the center of the room with her
arms folded across her chest. Not a good sign, he thought, and he
moved in to embrace her with a hug, whispering “Je t’aime” in an
effort to stifle any anger.
Antoinette surrendered to his ploy, but when she pulled away,
she saw the bruise on his forehead.
Claus assured his lovely wife that it was nothing and then
rotated his cupped hand as though he were holding an empty
wine glass.
Tu veux un verre de vin?” she asked without a trace of anger,
thankful that he had arrived home safely.
Absolument!” he replied, amazed by her easy acquiescence
and more than ready for the glass of wine she was in the midst
of pouring. Then, he prepared for the inevitable question.
As expected, the moment they sat down next to each other
on the sofa, Antoinette asked, “So how was the climb?”
Claus filled her in on the day’s events, careful to leave out
a few details. It all ended well; what’s the point? he mused. Then,
switching the topic slightly, he began to wax on about how Ernst
was such a great climber, hoping to butter her up for his next
request. “Ernst leaves on Monday and asked if I’d climb the Lou
Passo with him tomorrow. I agreed.”
Antoinette knew that Lou Passo was located in the same
region they had just climbed, but it was a rarely visited crag and
considerably easier than Saint Léger. “Clau—”
Arrêtez,” he said as he held up his hand, stopping her
response. “Je l’ai déjà dit oui.”
So, you’ve already said yes. Then what’s left for me to
say?” she asked with mild annoyance, annoyance that was
rooted in her doubts about Ernst. He was not one of Claus’
close friends.

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