Copyright © 2012 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
The horde of men in quasi‑military
modern conveniences.” The man stopped, pulling her
to the side of the narrow street. He planted big fists on his narrow hips and
grinned at the oncoming truck.
“This is our chance,” the man said.
“You can’t possibly mean
stared at the oncoming truck. “If we
get even close to that thing we’ll almost surely be killed!”
“If we stick around here, the probabilities are even greater.”
The truck careened down the street. Cursing and wailing rose from behind.
Vickie knew they’d
surprised to see the
two foreigners gone.
“This is insane!” She clutched the small handholds with a death‑grip.
The man hung next to her, his hair blown artfully by the wild speed, his eyes sparkling and his grin almost rakish. Programmers on a pogo stick. Here she was, barely hanging on as a madman truck driver tore up the streets of Middle Yemen, and this guy looked like an ad out of GQ.
Vickie reached out a foot to kick him in his complacency, but the wind caught it and threw her off balance. Her grip was torn and she
felt [MH4] herself falling.
She rolled off the truck and into something hard. Ooof. Dazed, she sat up and looked around.
She was not as injured as she expected because hard thing she’d hit was the man, who was a lot less hard than the pavement would have been. He’d apparently jumped as she fell, and pulled her into the concussion‑absorbing roll that
But she’d have bruises. She stared in disgust at her arm, where even now purple flowers were starting to blossom. Stupid translucent skin.
“Oh, give me a second!” She scooted around on her butt to face him.
He stood, nonchalant, against the night sky. His hands were open on his hips, and his legs spread and stable, like the trunks of some great tree. Vickie’s heart started hammering, and
how she didn’t think it was from
running. Slowly, so he wouldn’t see how she was trembling,
He moved aside then, and pointed. Behind him, stars twinkled in the sweltering heat, glittering off the gentle swell of black sea.
“It’s a port?” Vickie said.
The man nodded.
“Is that where we’re going?”
“That’s where you are going.” The man shouldered her.
“Wait!” She tried to kick him in the rear but missed by several inches of now wished‑for height. “Put me down. I can walk. Just put me down!”
He did finally put her down, in the hold of a large ocean freighter. “This ship is bound for
. You should be able
to get home from there Boston .
Stay here with Kul until the ship is under way, then go to the captain. Use my name. He’ll see you to safety.”
“Wait a minute,” she called as he swung out through the hatch. “What is your name?”
He barely glanced back over his broad shoulder. “Cliff.”
“Cliff. Simply lucking fuvely. ‘Hello, captain, yes, I know I haven’t booked a passage and you don’t know me from Adam, but, hey, it’s okay. Cliff said so.’” Vickie leaned against a nearby crate
. “[MH6] That’s sure to get me the red carpet
But if he could be trusted—and instinctively she knew he could—two days of terror were almost over. She rolled her shoulders. What had her life come to, that her freedom depended on a man she’d met an hour ago? If she’d known the new account would be this much trouble when she’d been assigned to it she would have shoved it back in her boss’s face. But she’d never imagined it would lead to her being kidnapped. If it hadn’t been for a chance escape, and then meeting that man, Cliff…
He loomed up in her memory as big as he had loomed in her sight. She rarely gave in to fantasy, but, after all, she would never see the man again. So she let her mind play over her first astonished sight of him, the dim lighting cutting deep grooves in his sleek torso
, of the feel
of the weight of his body on hers, his hand, tangled in her hair, his mouth,
sweet on hers, his tongue…
“Hello, young lady.” The pleasant baritone voice came from her right. She whirled, ready to fight or flee.
A slim, middleaged man faced her. “Please, miss. Come with me. Cliff has arranged for—”
“You know Cliff?” Excitement overrode her fear. Now maybe she would learn something about her rescuer.
“Of course. It was Cliff who brought me here. I am Kulinahr. But please, we must—”
Kulinahr led Vickie between crates, bales and bags to a largish crate marked with stencils “SAND SAMPLES ‑ DO NOT DROP”. One side was open. “Quickly. Come in and help me close the crate.”
She ducked inside with him and together, they swung the side of the crate closed. She heard Kulinahr fumble in the close darkness. Suddenly a small, battery powered lantern, sitting in one corner of the crate, illuminated the cramped confines.
Grim, tired lines etched the former ruler’s unshaven face, lines that weren’t in his official photographs. His suit was dusty and torn on one side.
Kulinahr picked up the lantern, and ran it along the bottom edge where they had closed the crate. He gave a small sigh of satisfaction, set the lantern down, and pulled hard on a thin white cord snaking from the same corner as the lantern had occupied. A pungent smell crept through the crate. “Pepper.” He straightened. “Fahrrad uses dogs in his clearance searches, ostensibly to search for drugs. Pepper will block their sense of smell for days, yet it’s harmless.”
“And Cliff managed to arrange for all this? How? When?”
“I will explain as soon as we leave the harbor. But right now we must be silent.”
Vickie sat carefully on the rough wood of the crate’s floor. Kulinahr sat opposite her and turned out the light.
[MH1]This was misleading, making it look like a friend of Cliff's is driving the truck. It's just how people drive here where the streets are narrow and the center of the road is safer because there's more of a margin if a bomber rushes you from the side
[MH2]I moved most of the backstory past page 30 because of a "rule" I learned. Backstory isn't the same as setting, though.
[MH3]I had to work to overcome missing steps. Instead of spelling out ABC I often simply described A and C, ignoring B.
[MH4]Felt, saw, heard etc are filter words that distance the reader from the POV character. Cleaner just to say fell.
[MH5]Like most people I have blind spots for my own writing. Vickie hadn't explicitly thanked her rescuer.
[MH6]Again, backstory isn't setting. We need at least an establishing shot in a new setting before rushing into the scene, or to experience the setting through the POV characters action