Picture this. Sitting in the rear left seat of a cab with the approximate space of an old VW Bug, shuddering with the noise and sensation of lousy suspension and no muffler, rumbling down the pavement at an increasing rate of speed, until...launching up, airborne, to approximately 7000 feet. That is what I did today. It was a splendid opportunity to fly to a tourist destination Husband and I would never have thought to visit--normally about a 5-hour drive--and stay the night in a motel with neat features like an in-room double-sized whirlpool tub. Coupled with my girls'-day-out excursion to Chicago with my sister in law last weekend, I'm feeling pretty cosmopolitan right now. Okay, not really. I'm feeling completely exhausted. I'm strung out on the after-effects of Dramamine, which is imperative for me to handle small aircraft with any dignity. We had a nice overnight trip with a couple from church--he's a retired Army captain who has flown many kinds of aircraft for many years. They wanted us to accompany them on a trip in their single engine Cesna, and there you have it. When will an opportunity like that ever come knocking again?
In other news, I got back in the saddle and revamped my SMK story. I spent a particularly long time reworking chapter 2, which makes me much more eager to complete the story now. In particular, I developed the antagonist(s) further. I'm going to post some of this chapter tonight. Unfortunately, I'm working the weekend, so I probably won't be writing anything new until at least Sunday night. Oh well, you take it where you can. So, without further ado, Chapter 2 segment:
Lee turned to peer over his shoulder in time to hear the bells jangling as a sandy-haired businessman not much older than Carolyn stepped into the room. He was tall and lean, with boyish facial features, well dressed in a suit and tie, and carried a briefcase in one hand, and a pistol in the other. To Carolyn, he said sharply, “It’s time to go.”
Lee lifted his chin knowingly. The other shoe had dropped. Without so much as a blink, he plastered on his best lazy grin and casually leaned against the reception counter. Gesturing toward the gun, he drawled, “Does this method get you much business, Mr. Alexander?”
“I’m not Alexander, and you know it. Now shut up and give me the letter,” the man spat back. His pistol was trained on Lee, and he remained at a comfortable distance, directly in front of the door.
The gun shook in his hand. “I’m not playing the game anymore. I know who you are. Just hand it over and get out of here.”
Lee abandoned leaning on the counter and stood erect, but made no other move toward extracting the message. He set his jaw and smiled tightly. “You know me? Well, then let’s make the introduction complete. You are…?”
“Someone who should have shot you by now.” His eyes darted toward Carolyn and returned to watch Lee again as Lee begin to make a move toward his jacket. “Slowly,” the gunman barked. “And drop your gun right here.” He indicated a spot on the floor between them with the toe of his shoe.
Lee held open both sides of his jacket. “Hey, man, I’m unarmed. I’m just here for an 8:00 meeting with Mr. Alexander.” He casually strode forward one step, then another. “It’s about a job,” he continued, removing his tri-folded résumé from the same inside pocket as the drop letter. “See?” He extended the paper toward the man with a smug smile.
The man hesitated, confused. He exchanged glances with Carolyn, who still stood wide-eyed and mute behind the counter, hands tightly gripping the back of the desk chair. He took the document from Lee’s outstretched hand. “It is a résumé,” he said wonderingly as he inspected it.
That distraction was all Lee needed. In one fluid motion, his left leg swiped upward and cleanly kicked the gun from his assailant’s grip. Then Lee descended on him, fists flying. In the back of his mind, he was aware the woman was with the gunman, and he kept a mental tab on the location of the errant gun so it wouldn’t wind up in her hands. Although he couldn’t deny she didn’t seem the type to know what to do with a gun even if it were placed in her hands for her.
Lee’s adversary turned out to be more evenly matched to Lee’s hand-to-hand combat skills than he would have wished. The man recovered almost instantly from his surprise at being disarmed, and deflected Lee’s first left hook, countering with a straight to his jaw that send Lee reeling. He leapt onto Lee in a tackle, knocking him to the floor, and the two grappled there, alternately swinging punches and reaching for the gun, which had skittered across the floor under a chair. Lee’s opponent stood up again, taking the time to bellow at the woman, “Get out, Carolyn!” She froze in shocked horror for an instant before she burst through the reception office door, bypassing the gun entirely, and ran out the lobby door, bells ringing tumultuously in her wake.
Lee and his opponent held each other off, staggering toward the reception window, where Lee ended up on the countertop with the unknown man on top of him, pinning him. An elbow came shooting down toward his gut. Lee twisted, narrowly missing the elbow, and braced his foot against the man’s groin, effectively launching him away. It didn’t quite achieve the desired effect. The man fell backwards, crab-walked to the chair and gained control of the gun again.
As the barrel came sweeping up in his direction, Lee pulled to an immediate halt, palms open, facing outward, bracing himself for the inescapable impact of bullet to flesh. “Oh come on, man!” he cried in a last ditch attempt to diffuse his assailant. “Stop while you’re ahead. You haven’t killed anyone yet.” He mentally cursed himself for allowing the man to regain his weapon. It had been known to happen before, and Lee profoundly disliked the situation every time.
Against every reasonable expectation, the man held his fire. With gun and eyes fixed on Lee, he instead reached backward blindly and picked up the briefcase he had dropped at the beginning of their fight, clutching it tightly against his chest. He stumbled to his feet, eyes wild. “You want to end it? Fine. The letter for your life,” he demanded in a shaking voice, breathing hard.
Lee had faced off against many a gunman in his work. This one would be sealed in his memory for one reason only. Humanity glistened in his eyes, the haunted look of a man horrified by his own actions. They lacked the coldness of most men long hardened by this covert game to the death called espionage that Lee knew and played so well. Perhaps the young man had never killed someone before. Perhaps he had and didn’t want to repeat the experience. But at that moment, Lee knew this man did not want to shoot him.
Slowly, Lee reached back into his jacket for the letter, contemplating how to buy himself more time. “Then come and get it, if it’s worth that much to you…”
A muffled cry from Carolyn, outside in the adjoining corridor, interrupted them. “Lenny, the ambulance is here!” she screamed, fear evident in the rising inflection of her voice.
To Lee’s surprise, the man’s interest in the letter, still held in Lee’s outstretched hand, vanished. He swore an oath and his face went pale as he reeled away from Lee toward the corridor, ripping the door open as he reached it.
“What’s going on?” Lee demanded with a scowl.
At the threshold, the gunman turned around once more and paused, eyes locked with Lee. “It’s too late now. Just get out of here,” he said wearily. Then, as an afterthought, he added, “I’ll give you a five-count.” And he dashed out the door and was gone.