Home > Surprise Delivery

Surprise Delivery
Author: R.R. Banks

One

Duncan

“Okay, that should do it,” I say and step back from the operating table.

“Excellent work, Doctor Clyburne,” she says, her eyes glittering behind her mask.

“Thank you, Danielle,” I respond.

I strip off my gloves and drop them into the appropriate receptacle as the rest of my team finishes up with the patient. It really wasn't excellent work – that's just Danielle's way of flirting with me. She's been trying to get me to ask her out for months now, but I'm just not interested in her. She's as boring as most everything else these days.

No, there was nothing excellent about that surgery. It was standard. Routine. About as complicated and unexciting as watching paint dry. Just like most of the surgeries, I perform nowadays. Most of them are elective, and many of them unnecessary, but I have to do them all, regardless.

It's become so monotonous, I almost want to go back to the chaos and drama of the trauma unit, just for some damn excitement.

Not that Janet Hoyberg, the hospital administrator, would ever let me go back to trauma. She prefers me right where I am – making all of the fat cats happy, so they keep donating large sums of money to the hospital after their surgeries. It's my job to make them feel like they're getting the best care on the planet and are somehow superior to everybody else who walks through the doors of this hospital.

Being a doctor today seems to be as much about politics, as it does the actual medicine.

And because I'm the best at what I do, Janet insists on parading me around in front of the fat cat donors like some kind of fucking show pony. She trots me out for all the fundraisers, and always makes sure I'm the one who personally works on the hospital's A-list donors. I've somehow become the face of the One-Percent Unit, as some of us have derisively taken to calling it. She even named me Surgical Chief – a move that ruffled the feathers of some, simply because I'm still relatively young at thirty-six years old, and don't have the experience some others do.

Not that Janet cares much about age and experience – she respects skills and results. As much as I'd like to think Janet put me in this position simply because of my skills as a surgeon, I know there's more to it than that. There's a heavy amount of politics at play.

My skills really are incomparable to the rest of the surgical unit – perhaps it's immodest to admit that, but it doesn't make it any less true.

Still, it's not the defining reason for my elevation to Surgical Chief of the One-Percent Unit. It's also because I come from a family that's wealthy beyond imagination. My father founded a financial management firm long before I was ever born and over the years, it's proven to be a source of tremendous wealth. My family is one of the wealthiest in the state of New York.

And that's a big reason Janet has put me in charge of this unit – because I speak their language. Because I can relate to and understand the thinking of the moneyed elite.

At least, she thinks I can. Personally, I don't feel like I've got much in common with them at all. Yeah, I grew up wealthy. I never wanted for anything. But I also never let myself fall into that trust-fund kid trap either. Despite what some people think, I'm a lot more down to earth than most people who grew up with the privileges I did. And that's mostly because I recognize that I grew up privileged. My family's money afforded me opportunities that ninety-nine percent of the people on this planet couldn't even dream of.

It was my parents who instilled that in me. I remember all the stories about them growing up and the hard times they had before the family business took off. There were plenty of times they didn't have much. When they had to rob Peter to pay Paul and decide between keeping the lights on for another month or paying the phone bill.

It took time and hard work – a lot of blood, sweat, and tears – but my father's dedication, intelligence, and business acumen finally made them a success. Once they got a foothold, the dam burst, and the money came rolling in like a tsunami. By the time I was born, they were already well positioned on New York's socioeconomic ladder.

But the lessons they taught me growing up – lessons about staying humble, remembering that money can go just as easily as it can come, and that being wealthy doesn't automatically make you better than anybody else – all stuck with me. They were lessons I took to heart and have used to guide me throughout my life.

When my father died, my older brother Henry assumed control of the firm. And suffice it to say, Henry – never Hank or any other bastardization of his name, of course – didn't take those lessons to heart quite as much as I did. That's just one of the many reasons I decided to not follow him into the family business. Working for my brother has about as much appeal as giving myself ten thousand paper cuts, then jumping into a pool filled with salt water and lemon juice.

Despite the fact that our father stressed that we were to be equal in all things, even dividing the firm between us equally, if I'd taken a position at Clyburne Financial Management, I would be considered the junior partner. The title of CEO went to him, while I would have inherited the title of president or something like that.

In our father's view, the company needed one face, one voice, and one person in charge to make the tough decisions. And since he was the eldest, that duty fell to him – although, our father was careful to stress that my input was required.

In all other things, I was on his level. However, I would always be looked at – at least in Henry's eyes – as the underling, rather than as an equal, as our father had intended.

No, it was better for all concerned that I strike out on my own and pursue my own passions – and medicine was it.

“You did a really good job in there,” Danielle tells me again as she steps into the room.

I shrug. “Not much to it, really,” I reply. “Removing a gall bladder is about as simple as it gets.”

“Not a lot of people can do it,” she says. “Especially with such ease.”

The look of longing in her eyes is as obvious as the nose on her face, and I suddenly want nothing more than to be out of there – and away from her. Danielle is a sweet woman. She's intelligent, beautiful, and like me, comes from a very privileged background. She moves in the right social circles, as my brother would no doubt say.

I know a lot of men who would be lucky to have somebody like her on their arm. Just not me. When I look at her, I feel nothing but a professional camaraderie. I enjoy her as a colleague, think she's amazing at what she does, and I appreciate that she's such a professional about it. But that's where my interest in her ends.

“Thanks, Danielle. Sweet of you to say.”

Having stripped down to just my surgical scrubs, I throw on a lab coat and walk out of the surgical suite, leaving her there looking after me. I keep hoping that at some point, she’ll catch the hint and move on. So far, I've had no luck, but I keep hoping.

I make my rounds and check in on a couple of patients – I have to put in the required face time with the big money folks, after all – then head to my office for some quiet time. I don't have another surgery scheduled today so I can catch up on some paperwork. Hell, maybe I'll even get crazy and bug out a bit early.

But when I open the door to my office, my plans suddenly change.

A blonde woman is sitting in the plush, padded chair that sits before my desk, wearing a sharp designer suit. Her demeanor is professional, but her smile wide and generous.

She stands as I enter. I close the door behind me, take the hand she's offering and give it shake. The woman's hand is delicate and smooth, but she's got a surprisingly firm grip. Her eyes linger on mine for a long moment, looking at me appraisingly, as if she's taking my measure.

“Sorry,” she says, a hint of a British accent coloring her words. “They told me it would be okay to wait for you in your office.”

I wave her off. “That's fine,” I say. “It just surprised me to find anybody in here.”

“I understand. I'm Andrea Dolan,” she says.

“Duncan Cl –”

“Clyburne,” she finishes for me. “Yes, I know who you are. I read your profile. That's why I'm here, actually.”

“Huh,” is all I can really think to say to that.

I walk over to the Keurig machine on the sideboard and make myself a cup of coffee, trying to figure out who this woman is and what profile of me she read. It's not like I'm signed up on a dating site or anything.

“Would you like a cup?” I offer.

She shakes her head. “No, but thank you.”

I take my mug back to my desk and drop down into my chair. We stare at each other in awkward silence for a moment, apparently, neither of us knowing quite what to say.

“Are you here for a consult?” I ask. “Because I –”

“Oh no,” she says and laughs. “I apologize. I thought my assistant had scheduled this meeting with you.”

I shake my head. “Nope. No meetings scheduled for me today,” I say. “Just a surgery and a few follow-ups.”

I literally have no idea who this woman is, why she's in my office, or what she wants – and I'm growing more confused, not to mention irritated, by the second. All I wanted was a little quiet time alone.

“Apologies, Dr. Clyburne,” she says. “Or, may I call you Duncan?”

“By all means,” I tell her. “Now, perhaps you can tell me who you are?”

“Of course,” she answers, her accent rich and cultured. “I'm with Physicians Worldwide and we received your application.”

At the mention of Physicians Worldwide, everything falls into place in my head. They're an organization – a lot like Doctors Without Borders – who go into impoverished or war-torn areas to provide medical assistance to those who need it. On a whim, or perhaps just needing something in my life, I'd put in an application to join them about six months ago and hadn't heard a peep from them since.

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