Copyright © 2012 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
Luckily, Kulinahr had been listening
. “Cliff is a tall man .
Broad of shoulder and deep
of chest. 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
the captain had grown pale. “That’s him. It would be best if each of you tell
me your stories… from the beginning.”
had 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
room, Vickie stood and
wandered , with deliberate nonchalance ,
over to the globe. She glanced back over
her shoulder , noting the
captain was 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.
Momentarily defeated, she returned to her seat. As
she told her story, she kept an eye on the tray of sandwiches, hope returning. As
soon as she finished, she rose again and meandered about the room.
“It seems to me, Kulinahr,” said the captain, “that you already know a fair bit about Cliff.”
Vickie had made it to
and placed herself
between it and the captain. Now, casually, she would hide one
in the voluminous folds of the T‑shirt. For once she was glad of that man’s size. Yes, one sandwich . Or two. They were small. Gradually, she
moved her hand forward.
The captain’s voice sounded right behind her. “But you, Ms. Johnston
spun and attempted to grin innocently
be better off forgetting you ever encountered
Vickie abruptly halted her attempt to grab a sandwich by feel alone. “Why?”
is a veryinfluential man , but
he is, by choice, unknown. He is a private man. He would deny helping you, even deny
being here in this country, if you attempted to identify him. I would not mention his
part in your escape to the press, the government , or anybody.”
government?” A private man who worked
behind the scenes, whom she should forget she had ever met, about whom the government might question her…
was Cliff a gangster? This was awful! “You
make him sound like a criminal!”
chuckling, and was soon joined by the captain’s
hearty guffaw. Vickie relaxed.
Not that she would ever see him again, but it was nice to know she could dream
about him in good conscience.
“Okay, I won’t
Cliff at all.” But I doubt if I’ll forget we ever met, she thought ,
sobering. I doubt if I’ll ever forget him.
“And now, my guests,” boomed the captain, “please help your self to these delicious hors d’oeuvres!”
Vickie hurriedly stuffed a couple of the small sandwiches in her mouth. “Mmm, these are good
,” she mumbled, licking her fingers. “Do you have any egg salad? Maybe some relish?
Could I have a glass of milk? And a napkin? And maybe some pants…”
Upon her arrival home, Vickie
had been the
obligatory three‑day wonder. “What was it like to be kidnapped by overseas
terrorists? (‘They spoke English.’) “Tell
us about your feelings when you realized you were to be sold like an animal.”
(Dumb question. She had never been up for sale. Do your research next
time.) She had nearly
belted the over‑enthusiastic
newshound who asked “What would you have felt like if you actually had been
killed by these terrorists?” These dimwits were in wild contrast to the polite yet insistent gentlemen with dark suits and
official badges who questioned her in great detail. After about twenty minutes
of these ‘interviews’
she felt more exhausted than in the whole two days of her abduction.
But eventually there was an earthquake to cover, and a local election, and a zoo opening, and things settled back to situation normal.
starting to find life a little
dull after her grand adventure, tried
playing detective. “Hmm. Good, thick, quality paper. I can see fibers. Probably
someone with money. And this is not ordinary writing.” She ran her finger over
it. “Dark India ink,
indelible. Italic oblique nib, from the looks of it. No return address.
She turned the envelope over and over, but finding no more information, tired of the game and opened it. It was from Prince Kulinahr.
Kulinahr’s instructions were quite explicit.
She was to meet two of his body
guards, who would escort her to see the
prince, at the Embassy Hotel that Friday. In Canada.
She immediately got
on the phone to her travel agent. “Lonnie,” she
said, “I need a rush set of accommodations. Montreal. This weekend, arriving
Friday, leaving Sunday morning. Yes, how much? How much? No, no. I’ll
take it. Send the stuff to my office. Thanks.”
So, she would see Kulinahr again.
Vickie felt a knot of
anticipation in her stomach. She tried to
convince herself it was merely the natural reaction to visiting with a head of
a whole country. And a prince,
But oh, to meet
him again , the man
who had kissed her into oblivion in two seconds flat. She had thought it
impossible. But then again, after Ron, she had thought reacting
so strongly to any man’s kiss was impossible.
Vickie shook her head. That was a rat hole she didn’t particularly want to go down again.
She settled her mind on Cliff , big and masculine, carrying her through
the streets of Middle Yemen . His
scent came to her as if she were there again, her stomach tightening
If only Kulinahr would tell her where to find him.
her work early on Friday and went
directly to the airport. She hopped on a DC‑9 which flew her, with only one
stop, to .
From there she went to the Embassy Hotel and sat down in the bar Kulinahr had
named to wait. Montreal
She hadn’t even ordered a drink when
men arrived. According to their name tags, they were supposedly with
the Music Educators convention . They walked casually over and greeted
her with the phrase
Kulinahr had written .
“They sneeze and run away
,” she replied, stifling a smile.
“Ms. Johnston? Please come with us.”
to a black Mercedes saloon with smoked windows. How camp, she thought,
although she couldn’t
quite suppress a shiver as she slid into the plush air ‑conditioned
She half‑expected a blindfold , but
the two men ignored her through
the entire drive. She did not recognize any of the streets they traveled
anyway, having been to
only in her childhood. Montreal
The car pulled to a stop in front of a nondescript house in a quiet residential neighborhood. One man,
she thought the
one who had spoken before but she couldn’t be sure, turned to her.
knock on the door three times. Tell
the person answering the door your name and your mother’s maiden name . Good‑bye,
The deposed ruler was alone, seated at a writing table
in a small room on the
second floor. When he saw Vickie, he rose with a
smile. “Vickie Johnston. How good of you to come.” He met her with a warm
of you to see me.” He looked well, better than the last time they had
met. He was neatly barbered
and his clothes were impeccable. Perhaps there was more
gray at the temple.
, took a chair across from her and poured them some coffee.
surprise. The coffee was
thick and grainy, and hot enough to scald her tongue.
“The coffee does not agree with you? Would you care for something else?”
Vickie carefully swallowed. “No,” she began hoarsely
blinking fast. “No ,”
she tried again, “this is fine. It just takes some
getting used to.”
Kulinahr smiled slightly. “My English university friends also found the taste somewhat unusual. I would understand if you did not want
Vickie grimaced and tried another sip. It was not much better, but now she was determined. “No, it’s good.” She sipped again. “You went to a Western university?”
“Yes. Education is prized in my country, and all members of the royal family attended
went during the turbulent sixties, which probably accounts for my progressive
bent. Even in those ancient halls the new ideas were felt.” Vickie nodded,
starting to see a new side of Kulinahr.
run… ran a country. Impressive.”
down her own cup. “What
happened?” she encouraged him.
“It began less than a year ago. As a small country trapped between many larger ones,
you understand, we always have our
share of external problems. But suddenly we began to have bombings, and kidnappings, and acts of horrible
violence right on the streets of Misr . Terrorists.”
how did Fahrrad enter the picture?”
“Hafez Fahrrad was well known for eliminating terrorist threats in his own country of Kalifad. As that is just across my border, I was particularly aware of his reputation. I sent an emissary to
ask for his assistance.”
“Mixes like oil and water.”
knew he would come. I did not worry, however. I thought our
country was far too progressive to give him a handhold .”
Vickie. A ruler in a modern day,
yet he looks like some of the ancient patriarchs must have looked. Plus ca change…
“Security system?” Fahrrad had also been looking for a security system.
[MH1]Backstory interrupts current action, the now, and so may yank the reader from the story. I pulled anything that happened after the first sentence and put it in two later scenes. I managed to also pull some of the things the reader needed to ground them in the now.