Copyright © 2012 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
Luckily, Kulinahr had been listening to the captain. “A tall man, broad of shoulder and athletic. Dark hair. But his most distinctive feature is his eyes. They are quite—penetrating.”
Vickie didn’t think Cliff’s most distinctive feature was his eyes. Well, when blazing that pure blue, yes. But what about his size, his impressive chest, his heady masculine scent?
But the captain had grown pale. “That’s him. All right. I was only expecting one extra passenger, so why don’t each of you tell me your stories from the beginning.”
“Why don’t you go first?” Vickie said to Kulinahr. She’d sighted a tray of petite sandwiches on a small table next to the giant globe.
As Kulinahr related the steps that had lead him to the walnut paneled room, she rose and wandered with deliberate nonchalance over to the globe. A glance over her shoulder showed the captain deeply engrossed by the sheikh’s narration. With one hand, she casually turned the globe. With the other she reached out and…
“And how did you get here, Ms. Johnston?” the captain boomed.
She nearly shrieked. Breathing a couple times to get her skyrocketed heart rate under control, she turned and smiled, and returned to her seat. [MH1]
As she told her story, she kept an eye on the tray of sandwiches. They were winking at her. She swallowed, and finished as swiftly as possible.
When the captain thanked her she gave him a quick smile, then stretched her back as if needing a break. Nonchalantly, she rose and meandered toward the sandwiches.
“It seems to me, Kulinahr,” said the captain, “that you already know a fair bit about Cliff.”
At the tray, Vickie put her body between it and the captain. Casually, she reached for one of the petite sandwiches. It would hide nicely in the voluminous folds of the T‑shirt. For once she was glad of that man Cliff’s size. One sandwich would fit easily. Or two. They were small. Gradually, her fingers wrapped around bread.
The captain’s voice sounded right behind her. “But you, Ms. Johnston.”
She dropped sandwich and spun. He was standing next to the globe, bushy eyebrows lowered in a frown. She hid her hand behind her and attempted to grin innocently while feeling for the dropped sandwich. “Yes?”
“You’d be better off forgetting you ever encountered Cliff.”
Vickie abruptly halted her attempt to grab a sandwich by feel alone. “Why?”
“He is a very…influential man. But he is, by choice, unknown. He is a private man. If you attempt to identify him, he will deny helping you, even deny being here in Middle Yemen.” The captain shook his head. “No, I would not mention his part in your escape to the press, or anybody if I were you. Ever. Especially not the government.”
“What? Why?” A private man who worked behind the scenes, whom she should forget she had ever met, and never ever mention to the government? “You make him sound like a criminal!”
Kulinahr chuckled, soon joined by the captain’s hearty guffaw. Vickie took it to mean Cliff was not a criminal, and relaxed. Not that she would ever see him again, but it was nice to know she could fantasize in good conscience.
“Okay, I won’t talk about Cliff.” But I doubt if I’ll forget we ever met, she thought.
“And now, my guests,” boomed the captain, “please help
to these delicious hors d’oeuvres!”
Vickie hurriedly stuffed a couple of the small sandwiches in her mouth. “Mmm, these are good.” She licked her fingers. “Do you have any egg salad? Maybe some relish? Could I have a glass of
And a napkin? And maybe some pants…”
some ways he looked
better than the last time they had met. He was neatly barbered and his clothes
were impeccable. But there was more gray at the temple and when she got closer she
saw the lines in his face, deep grooves that only come from fatigue and worry.
Col. Hafez Fahrrad was the name on the cover letter. She had done her usual thorough research and had discovered he was presently the dictator of a
Middle East dot on the map, Middle Yemen by name,
recently coming to power in a particularly bloody coup.
was a slight man in an overdesigned uniform and a too-big hat, with small dark
eyes and a tidy mustache.
At their first meeting, in her company’s conference room, Fahrrad had stood as if transfixed, eyes flat and glassy. “What an unusual color for hair. It is like a sunset.” He reached out to touch a curl.
She automatically slapped his hand away. She still could see his expression, his eyes sparking with anger.
But he controlled himself, and actually smiled, with a toothy, gold capped grin. He gave a slight bow in apology.
Vickie knew weaseling when she saw it. Trying to get back in her good graces to get a better price for his system. “So what is it you’re looking for, Colonel?”
“I wish to implement a security system. Shall we sit?” He took a chair, then patted the one next to him coaxingly.
She stayed on her feet. “I’m not sure we can help you. Here at Fitzwater Software and Consulting, we generally work in database design and implementation.”
“Yes, so my advisor said. He also said that what I want is not so different, is it, my dear?”
Terms of endearment in the business environment grated on her. If Fahrrad hadn’t been a client, she’d have made an issue out of it. As it was, she asked politely, “And what do you wish to make secure?”
His slow, sensual grin had not endeared him to her at all. It really looked more like a leer, ruler of a country or not.
“Your government’s headquarters?”
she prompted[MH4] . She remembered from her reading that
Fahrrad had infiltrated the palace and slaughtered all the people loyal to the
Prince Kulinahr in the coup. The world thought he’d killed the Prince himself
and she supposed at the time that he’d want security to make sure no one pulled
the same trick on him.[MH5]
“Not my headquarters, my dear. For the entire country.”
[MH1]Eliza made an excellent point that Vickie is wearing not much more than a T-shirt and how does she feel? It's important to desscribe not the action and setting, but the action and setting as it applies to the character.
[MH2]This is misleading. I simply pulled a few paragraphs from later to head up the chapter. These "Deleted" paragraphs now come a bit later.
[MH5]One thing Eliza pointed out was she didn't have a sense of place or where Vickie came from and that she was a foreigner. This addresses that but in a future revision I'll be making the whole thing smoother and more compact.