Friday, October 26, 2012

Hot Chips and Sand 21-25 Second Draft Comparison

Hot Chips and Sand
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. Again she tugged at the black T-shirt’s hem. Sitting, it almost covered her knees. She shivered, reminded of how big the man Cliff was. [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 the 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 your selfyourself 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 milkwater? And a napkin? And maybe some pants…”

Chapter 3
But eventually there was an earthquake to cover, and a local election, and a zoo opening, and things settled back to situation normal.
So the small white envelope with neat calligraphy and Canadian postmark came as a surprise.
Vickie fingered it. Finding life a little dull after her grand adventure, she tried playing detective. “Hmm. Good, thick, quality paper. I can see fibers. Probably someone with money. And this is not ordinary writing.” She held it up to the light. “Dark India ink, indelible. Italic oblique nib, from the looks of it. No return address. Interesting.”
She turned the envelope over and over, but finding no more information, she tired of the game and opened it. It was from Prince Kulinahr.
She smiled. “He wants to do lunch after all.” But skimming the words, she realized it wasn’t a mere “let’s catch up” invitation. She sat down and read it thoroughly.
Kulinahr’s instructions were quite explicit. This Friday, at the Embassy Hotel in Canada, two of his bodyguards would escort her to see him.
She immediately got online and booked plane and hotel. Stared at the screen. How much? She shook her head and clicked buy.
So, she would see Kulinahr again. A knot of anticipation settled in her stomach. She tried to convince herself it was merely the natural reaction to visiting with a head of a whole country. A prince, no less.
Yeah, sure. You’re not at all excited to think you might find out more about Cliff.
But oh, to meet again the man who had kissed her into oblivion in two seconds flat. Not since her ex-fiancé, Ron, had she reacted so strongly to any man’s kiss.
Vickie shook her head. That was a rat hole she didn’t particularly want to go down again. And if she had to compare Ron and Cliff…well, there was no comparison. She remembered Cliff carrying her through the streets of Middle Yemen, big and masculine, his scent on the night breeze…her stomach tightened intensely.
If only Kulinahr would tell her where to find him.
Vickie finished work early on Friday and went directly to the airport. She hopped on a DC‑9 which flew her, with only one stop, to Montreal. From there she went to the Embassy Hotel and sat down in the bar Kulinahr had named to wait.
She hadn’t even ordered a drink when two men arrived. According to their name tags, they were with the Music Educators convention but their twin MIB suits shouted secret service. They walked with that alert power too, and when they greeted her it was with the pass phrase Kulinahr had written: “The ship is in the harbor, but the dogs only smell pepper.”
“They sneeze and run away.” She stifled a smile.
One nodded. “Ms. Johnston? Please come with us.”
She followed the twins outside to a black Mercedes saloon with smoked windows. It was almost a parody but she couldn’t quite suppress a shiver as she slid into the plush air-conditioned backseat. She half‑expected a blindfold and was grateful when the two men got in front and ignored her through the entire drive. She did not recognize any of the streets they traveled anyway, having been to Montreal only in her childhood.
The car pulled to a stop in front of a nondescript house in a quiet residential neighborhood. One man, possibly 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.”
Great, she thought as she got out. They’re not Middle Yemeni secret service. They’re from my bank. But as she knocked she couldn’t dampen a thrill of anticipation. A housekeeper admitted her and led her upstairs to a small room on the second floor.
The deposed ruler was alone, seated at a writing table. When he saw Vickie, he rose with a smile. “Vickie Johnston. How good of you to come.” He met her with a warm handshake.
“Prince Kulinahr. It was kind of you to see me.” She followed him to a small grouping with settee, coffee table set with silver service, and chairs.
In 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.
He gestured at the settee, took a chair across from her and poured them some coffee.
Vickie sat and took her tasse gratefully; it had been a long day and difficult flight. She sipped.
Her eyes snapped opened like abruptly retracting window shades. The liquid was thick and grainy, just short of chewed coffee beans in water hot enough to scald her tongue.
“The coffee does not agree with you? Would you care for something else?”
Blinking fast, Vickie carefully swallowed. “No,” she began hoarsely. She cleared her throat. “No, 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 to finish.”
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 Oxford University in England. Each of us was assigned their course of study. My brothers were set to work at engineering, finance and education. My cousin studied medicine, and is now director of the main hospital in Misr.” His pride shone in his smile.
“And you ran a country. Impressive family.”
Kulinahr’s smile faded and put his cup down. “Yes. Ran. I no longer govern my people.” His jaw clenched. “They are in the hands of that madman, Fahrrad. And I trusted him. I believed him. I made him my guest!”
Vickie set her own cup aside. “What happened?”
“It began less than a year ago. As a small country trapped between many larger ones, we always have our share of external problems. But suddenly we began to have internal issues as well—bombings, kidnappings, and acts of horrible violence right on the streets of Misr.”
“That’s terrible. Did you find out who they were?”
“They said they were freedom fighters, trying to liberate the oppressed in my country. I was furious. Who had I oppressed? They were an affront to my pride.” Kulinahr sighed, and looked into the small cup in his hand. “I now think their purpose was to distract me from my true enemy.”
“Who was…?”
“Fahrrad.” Kulinahr’s jaw worked. “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 him, to ask for his assistance. I should have known…I should have seen…the man was a dinosaur in his own country. Decades past the age of perestroika, Fahrrad is a staunch Stalinist.”
Vickie grunted. “Did you know that then?”
“Yes. I did not worry, however. I thought our country was far too progressive to give him a handhold. But I did not take his desperation into account.” Kulinahr fell silent, his eyes fixed on some point deep within.
Odd, she thought. He’s a modern day ruler, yet he looks like some of the ancient patriarchs must have looked. The more things change
When the job had first come up, Vickie had researched Middle Yemen. Driven by Kulinahr’s ambition to eradicate poverty and ignorance among his people, the nation had risen from a poor, squabbling country to one of peace and prosperity in just a few decades. She considered it from Fahrrad’s point of view. The rising prosperity of his neighboring country probably looked like a cash cow just over the fence. “How did it happen, then?”
Kulinahr sighed. “I’m not saying he completely took me in, but he painted a very pretty scene of a repentant Communist. And though my citizen’s militia is very good, they cannot be on watch all the time.” Kulinahr shook his head, as though he still could not understand it. “All he had to do was help us keep guard while we waited for the security system to be designed and built.”[MH2] 
“Security system?” Vickie’s ears pricked. That sounded like the project that had started all this. Fahrrad had also been looking for a security system.

Vickie had known the new account would be trouble from the moment she was assigned to it. Never in her wildest dreams, however, did she imaginecouldn’t imagined how much trouble the new account would be.
She was a senior software analyst, a.k.a. programmer and project manager, at Fitzwater Software and Consulting in New Jersey. She loved her job, the perfect combination of human contact and abstract problem solving. Her boss Phil had assigned her the Fahrrad account.
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.
Phil then reassured her by saying the entire job could be done in-house, and she’d never need to travel to the war-torn Middle Yemen. Never need to take one step of United States soil, or even drive a mile from New Jersey. So she agreed.
In person heCol. Fahrrad 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. She made a mental note to get hazard pay for this job even if she didn’t have to go to Middle Yemen.[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.

 [MH3]Eliza asked why Vickie would take on such a dangerous account if she knew it was trouble?

 [MH4]Generally, you only need either an identifying tag or an identifying action.

 [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.

No comments:

Post a Comment