Friday, November 9, 2012

Hot Chips and Sand 31-35 First Draft Comparison

Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2012 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved

She hadn’t even ordered a drink when the two men arrived. According to their name tags, they were supposedly with the Music Educators convention. but their twin MIB suits shouted secret service[MH1] . They walked casually overwith 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 replied, stifling.” She stifled [MH2] a smile.
One nodded. “Ms. Johnston? Please come with us.”
She followed them outthe twins outside to a black Mercedes saloon with smoked windows. How camp, she thought, althoughIt was almost a parody but she couldn’t quite suppress a shiver as she slid into the plush air-conditioned interiorbackseat. She half‑expected a blindfold, but 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, she thoughtpossibly the one who had spoken before but she couldn’t be sure, turned to her.
Just knockKnock on the door three times. Tell the person answering the door your name and your mother’s maiden name. Good‑bye, Ms. Johnston.”
‘Oh, wonderful,’ Great, she thought Vickie. ‘as she got out. They’re not Middle Yemeni secret service. They’re from my bank.  But as she got out of the car,knocked she couldn’t dampen a thrill of anticipation. This was, after all, more exciting than anything that had happened to A housekeeper admitted her for a week. ‘Getting spoiled, Vickie?’
She followedand led her instructions to the letter. A computer programmer had to be detail oriented, and she took pride in her ability to break down and memorize complex tasks. This was a piece of cake. Even that man Cliff would be proud of her, if he ever saw her againupstairs to a small room on the second floor.
Vickie even found herself comparing him on a point‑by‑point basis with her ex‑fiancee, Ron. Only the fact that she didn’t have enough information about Cliff kept her from trying to call him, despite her experience with Ron[MH3] . She had her excuse all ready. She had never thanked him for rescuing her, after all. He didn’t need to know how much, at the time, she had resented it.
But she didn’t know how to get in touch with him. Heck, she didn’t even know his last name. But Kulinahr knew Cliff.  She had to get that information from Kulinahr.
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 handshake.
“Prince Kulinahr. HowIt was kind of you to see me.” He looked well, better than the last time they had met. He was neatly barberedShe followed him to a small grouping with settee, coffee table set with silver service[MH4] , and his clothes were impeccable. Perhaps there was more gray at the temple. chairs.
When she got closer, however,In some ways he looked older,better than the last time they had met. He was neatly barbered and his clothes were impeccable. But there was more careworn. Thengray at the temple and when she got closer she saw the lines remained, the deeper folds and in his face, deep grooves that only come from fatigue and worry. He indicated that she should sit
He gestured at the settee, took a chair across from her and poured them some coffee.
Vickie openedsat and took her tasse gratefully; it had been a long day and difficult flight. She sipped.
Her eyes in surprise.snapped opened like abruptly retracting window shades. The coffeeliquid was thick and grainy, andjust short of chewed coffee beans in water hot enough to scald her tongue[MH5] .
“The coffee does not agree with you? Would you care for something else?”
Blinking fast, Vickie carefully swallowed. “No,” she began hoarsely, blinking fast.. She cleared her throat. “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 itto 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. I 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 KulinahrEach 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.
“Each member of my family was assigned their course of study. My brothers were set to work at engineering, finance, education. My cousin studied medicine, and is now director of the main hospital in Misr,” he said proudly.
“And you run… ran a country. Impressive family.”
Kulinahr sadlyKulinahr’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 put downset her own cup aside. “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 internal issues as well—bombings, and kidnappings, and acts of horrible violence right on the streets of Misr. Terrorists.”
Vickie’s eyes widened. “What did they want?”
“To distract me from my true enemy.” “That’s terrible. Did you find out who they were?”
“TheyKulinahr sighed, and looked into the small cup in his hand. “Oh, they said they were freedom fighters, trying to liberate a particular sect of peoplethe 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. “.”
“But you don’tI now think that’s what they really were after.”their purpose was to distract me from my true enemy.”
No.”Who was…?”
So how did Fahrrad enter the picture?”
.” 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 Fahrradhim, 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.”
“And he came?”
Vickie grunted. “Mixes like oil and water.”“Did you know that then?”
“Yes. So I knew he would come. I did not worry, however. I thought our country was far too progressive to give him a handhold.”
“Well, that makes sense. If he was already having trouble just from new‑style Communism, I can imagine he’d sink like a stone in a market economy.”
“I did not . But I did not take his desperation into account.” Kulinahr fell silent. Vickie watched as his face grew more careworn. , his eyes fixed on some point deep within.
Odd, she thought Vickie. A ruler in. He’s a modern day ruler, yet he looks like some of the ancient patriarchs must have looked. Plus caThe more things change
Vickie thought back briefly to what she When the job had read in her research.first come up, Vickie had researched Middle Yemen, until the coup, had been driven by Prince. Driven by Kulinahr’s ambition to eradicate poverty and ignorance among his people. He had taken his , the nation had risen from a poor, squabbling country to one of peace and prosperity.
Now the coup seemed to make more sense to Vickie. Obviously Fahrrad felt the rising level of  in just a few decades. She considered it from Fahrrad’s point of view. The rising prosperity in Middle Yemen could mean of his neighboring country probably looked like a cash, to fund Fahrrad’s private war. “Why cow just over the fence. “How did you believe himit happen, then?”
“First, becauseKulinahr sighed. “I’m not saying he completely took me in, but he painted a very pretty scene of a repentant Communist. Second, becauseAnd though my citizen’s militia is very good, but they cannot be on watch all the time.” Kulinahr shook his head, as though he still could not understand it. “I thought perhaps Fahrrad couldAll he had to do was help us keep guard while we were waitingwaited for the security system to be designed and built.”
“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.
“Yes. Since
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.
In person he 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. 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.
“Not my headquarters, my dear. For the entire country.”
Her legs wobbled under her and she found herself sitting next to him. The tech for building security was  commonplace. But a whole country…? “Wouldn’t you be better asking your military about this sort of thing?”
He brushed at his mustaches. “Ah, no. We are a small country, surrounded with little in terms of development resources. But you and your company have just the combination of initiative and experience that I am looking for.” He took her hands and held them tightly. “I’m sure we will work well together.”
She managed to squirm her fingers out of his hands and had to steel herself against shaking the ick off them. “I’ll have to check with the vice president of development on this, Col. Fahrrad. Unless you’d like to speak with her yourself?”
“No, sweetheart, I’d rather with you.” Again that oily grin. “Such beautiful, unusual hair.”
She shuddered even now, remembering it.
Two days later, as she left work, men had kidnapped her. They hadn’t said a word, but they didn’t have to. Their guns spoke for them quite clearly. She knew better than to get into their car but with four of them grabbing her and carting her off she didn’t have much choice. She tried to not be a complete victim; as they dragged her past the clipped hedges she struggled briefly, chucking her briefcase surreptitiously into the nearest bush. She hoped it would alert someone, anyone that something serious had happened to her.
She only started suspecting the Middle Yemen connection when her kidnappers broke their silence. Only one spoke English. She didn’t recognize their native language but she overheard a conversation punctuated quite frequently by Col. Fahrrad’s name.
And then they had arrived in that place of sand and sweltering heat and dank buildings, and produced that skimpy teddy, which they had requested, quite nicely if you didn’t consider the rude manner in which they had pointed at her and  the guns they had used to point with, that she put on. Then they had burned her own clothes.
“Hey, I might need those,” she protested.
“Not with the Colonel, Madam,” the bilingual one answered.
They went into the city to celebrate, leaving one guard behind. Maybe they thought she wouldn’t attempt escape since she was nearly nude. Well, she was modest, but she valued her life more highly than modesty.
The remaining kidnapper was relieving himself in the next room, and she simply let herself out. She snuck down the stairs.
And saw the other three men, just entering the lobby, carrying food and drink. Apparently they’d only gone out to get it.
She dove behind a large sculpture that looked like a curled up triangle. For a moment it seemed as if the men hadn’t seen her, but an old woman coming down the stairs stopped and pointed at her, eyes bugging from under her veil. Desperately Vickie put finger to lips, hoping the sign for shh translated. It must not have because the woman started yelling at her.
The three kidnappers came running. Vickie had then begun the flight which had brought her to that truck of a man. To Cliff.

“We are a small country,” Kulinahr  was saying. “Surrounded by three much larger countries,. I think the best way to protect our interests is through technology rather than manpower. Perhaps aA defense net suchmay not have worked for a nation so large as your United States is investigating. If I had the protection of such a device, I could , but for us, it is more feasible.” He sighed, and sat in the chair opposite her. “Ah, to explore our land for oil without fear of invasion,. To release more of my people tofor peaceful pursuits, and, well… Well, you can of course see the advantages.”
Vickie nodded and picked up her coffee again. It was a little easier to drink now that it had cooled. Kulinahr rose and started pacing. Vickie watched him, understanding the need for him to unburden. Talking for Kulinahr seemed a cleansing, a catharsis. He turned.
Kulinahr rose and started pacing. “That is how I met Cliff.”
Vickie said a mental prayer. At last!
“Cliff She frowned. “In connection with Fahrrad?”
“No, in connection with our defense. He came to me and proposed a defense system unlike any I’veI’d seen. And it had one added advantage. He said, a marvel of advanced technology. Moreover, he would be ablewanted to build the component manufacturing plant in Middle Yemen. In one stroke, we would have doubledwe’d double our protection and our revenue.”
“Cliff is a businessman, then?” Vickie sat forward, startled. “?” Vickie’s mouth fell open. “But…but I thought he was an agent, or an international spy or something.”
Kulinahr’s cheeks folded in a smile. “He ishas some rather, ah, eclectic. It’s true that Cliff was the one whounexpected skill sets. He knows things no mere businessman would. He warned me that Fahrrad intended to overthrow me. Alas, I did not believe him.”
CliffIf he knew Fahrrad was plotting against you? Why, why didn’t he do something?”
Kulinahr smiled. “He did. He saved my life.”
“Yeah, but couldn’t he have done something about Fahrrad?” Vickie shifted uncomfortably on the couch. “Couldn’t he have done something about Fahrrad?” The dictator’s chilling smile, his constant reaching for her hair, still plagued her dreams.
“I don’t believe you understand how much he did just saving my life. Fahrrad brought his own guard with him. They are, like the Colonel himself, ruthless. The entire palace staff…friends and allies…was murdered.”
“I’m so sorry.” Impulsively Vickie watched intently as Kulinahr paused, hisput down her cup and took Kulinahr’s hands.
“Thank you.” His eyes brighteningwere bright with unshed tears. “If not for the bravery of my personal servant and, of course, Cliff, I would not have made it out of the palace alive. As it was, I had to remain constantly on the move in the desert highland to avoid capture. It was only later that I could return to the city, long enough to stow away on board that ship into.” He slid his hands out of hers and patted hers briefly before rubbing his eyes. “Now I am in exile.”

 [MH1]The original "supposedly" is almost an omniscient narrator telling us these weren't music educators. The new "their twin MIB suits shouted secret service" is much more from Vickie's point of view.

 [MH2]Tag or action to identify speaker. Rarely need both.


 [MH4]I'm getting better at setting a scene. Lots of my earlier work seems to take place in some cloud somewhere :) Unless it's totally alien, just a few details will clue the reader how to fill in.

 [MH5]The great thing about close POV (in the character's head) is that you can make things really colorful.

 [MH6]The really interesting thing is how much has changed in the real world since I wrote this, and how much hasn't. I don't imagine a lot of people remember peristroika but there's still conflict in the Middle East.

 [MH7]Aaaand moving around scenes again to get the most impact.

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