Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2012 Mary Hughes
All rights reserved
She hadn’t even ordered a drink when
men arrived. According to their name tags, they were supposedly with
the Music Educators convention .[MH1] They walked casually over and greeted
her with the
phrase Kulinahr had written .
“The ship is in the harbor, but the dogs only smell pepper.”
“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[MH4] 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[MH5] .
“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.
are a small country
by three much larger countries
I think the best way to protect our interests is through technology rather than
manpower. Perhaps a defense
net such as your United States is investigating. If I
had the protection of such a device, I could explore
our land for oil without fear of invasion ,
release more of my people to
peaceful pursuits , and, 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.
“That is how I met Cliff.”
came to me and proposed a
system unlike any I’ve seen . And
it had one added advantage. He said he would be able
to build the manufacturing plant in
Middle Yemen. In one stroke, we would have doubled our protection and our revenue.”
“Cliff is a businessman
, then?” Vickie sat forward, startled. “I thought he was an agent,
or an international spy or something.”
is rather, ah, eclectic. It’s true that Cliff was the one who warned
me that Fahrrad intended to overthrow me. Alas, I did not believe him.”
knew Fahrrad was plotting against you ? Why
didn’t he do something?”
Vickie shifted uncomfortably on the couch.
“Couldn’t he have done something about Fahrrad?”
The dictator’s chilling smile still plagued her dreams.
watched intently as
Kulinahr paused, his
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 , to stow away on board that ship into 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.
[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.