November 5th and I’m still unsure about NaNoWriMo. In part, some of my hesitation is the lure of what I’ve already written. I want to edit stuff, I want to send it out, I want to give myself a chance to achieve one of my semi-goals . . . publication to a paying market.
I got a little help today when Writers of the Future informed me that my 3rd Quarter submission did not make it past the first stages of judging. That’s good on two fronts; first, it gets me closer to my self-set goal of 800 rejections, and second, it frees me up to send the story elsewhere. Since it’s already proven as rejectable, I should rack up rejections at a pretty good clip. There was an added benefit . . . It convinced me I don’t write stuff WotF would likely consider. I’ll probably stop sending them stuff unless I write something outside my norm.
Before I go into my meager NNWM-03 effort, I want to address photography. I’ve been back for over a week and I still have to download the photos I took during my trip to VPXIX. However, good news!
I played with photos that have been sitting on my phone for a bit, including some from my trip. First up . . .
It do crack me up when I see dogs going out for a drive. Mind you, it makes me a little nervous as I don’t know how much driver’s ed they took.
Next, I want to show a few photos from a September day when Melisa and I went for a walk. The sky had very thin wind-driven clouds that looked interesting. Unfortunately, by the time I got back home the clouds had changed, so all I have are these photos.
I should mention, all of these photos have been processed with Snapseed and Pixlr on my Samsung Note II. As usual, you can click on the photos for a larger version. Probably not any better, but you know . . . larger.
Anyway, back to the clouds. These photos do not do justice to what it was like walking under those clouds. Perhaps others see this type of pattern all the time, but it was new to us. So, in an attempt to enhance the experience of my readers, I overlaid a few effects . . .
Next, I’m going to jump to about a week and a half ago and our stay at a Clarion Inn in Massachusetts. Nothing special about the inn (other than it was very nice and way cheaper than most of the other places we overnighted during our trip) but it did offer me the opportunity to photograph some interesting wall decorations.
First off . . . birds.
These are snapped with artificial light, hence the warm tone, but I like the effect. Not that it matters much because I planned on playing with the photo.
Neat, eh? It gives the photo an almost quasi-maybe-religious feel. Think of it as the souls of a few of the children god let die in horrible ways ascending toward the light that robs people of reason. And the people rejoiced in his kindness.
Of course, I preferred thinking of them as representative of humanity’s spirit and determination to conquer the stars . . .
Most people will likely see an abstract representation of birds in their element, flying above the clouds.
The next group of wall decorations also had symbols typically associated with religion . . .
These too could be made to represent the herd (school) mentality of the faithful, happily swimming in their limited environment while turning a blind eye to the vastness of the universe that surrounds them.
Meh. Perhaps they are just fish . . .
By far, these next wall decorations were my favorite.
I plan on doing more with the above version, so I’m going to play with the flash version.
No, wait . . . I’m going to play with this one as well. How about I give just a taste of what can be done with Pixlr?
I mean, not fantastic, but still kind of neat.
This trip I also did something I don’t normally do . . . I snapped a few photos from the plane as we were leaving Boston’s Logan Airport.
I thought this might benefit from a retro treatment . . .
I have more, but I’ve not played with them yet.
But, I do have one more photo . . . I was at Costco a few days ago and marveled at the display, the size, and the cost of these stuffed bears.
For $189.99 you can own a roughly ten feet tall stuffed bear. I stood there looking at them and trying to imagine the house of someone who would buy even one of these. I also tried to imagine an eager buyer trying to stuff one of these into their Prius. I think I’d have a hard time stuffing one of them into my Tahoe.
So, NNWM3 . . . perhaps it looks better as NNWM2015. I know; NNWM-2K15. Yeah! That’ll inspire me to write to my full potential! Meanwhile . . .
I wrote 3,250 words in two days, in a shade under four hours. I gots to tell you . . . it was a tough go. Normally, the words flow like butter on a steaming pile of pancakes. But not the last two days. The last two day I was spreading frozen butter on cold pancakes. And it shows.
Plus, what I wrote, what little did flow out of me, is still an unknown (to me) genre. Probably not SF or Fantasy. Perhaps Action. Probably not Romance. Maybe a Thriller. Whatever the genre, I’m 5,085 words behind the pace for meeting the goal.
Here’s what I wrote (there is a poll on the back end of it). Please be gentle. This is as written with no editing. I will probably add to it later tonight, but this is a snapshot at the time of this writing.
Copyright E. J. D’Alise 2015
Patterns. Humans are attuned to natural patterns. Gin recognized the tactical elements in the pattern of movements she saw. She did not necessarily want to, but once trained it’s impossible not to. The three men were good, moving independently and not at the same time, never looking directly at their target yet keeping her centered as they got closer and closer.
Gin looked at the target from under the brim of the baseball cap she wore. The girl was was young, probably a college freshman. There was nothing about her that set her apart from other students loitering in the small park next to the library. Gin looked back at the team targeting the girl. They were professionals and moved with the confidence of practiced actions. They stopped advancing once the perimeter allowed for no chance of escape. Surveillance. Surveillance or waiting for an opportunity.
The three kept a casual eye on both the target and the surroundings. One of them looked Gin’s way, his glance casually sweeping her position but not stopping. Her eyes hidden behind a pair of dark sunglasses, Gin registered his head rotating back to her position. Still staring at her, his lips moved. Not much, but they moved. Gin’s eyes shifted to the other two, her head still pointed at the book in front of her. The other two were also now looking her way. Gin took a bite of her sandwich. They stared for a few more seconds and then resumed scanning.
The girl got up and headed for the library. Gin saw the car slowly pull away from the curb. The girl would reach the crosswalk to the library at the same time as the car. Meanwhile, the three were also moving. A snatch job.
“None of your business,” Gin told herself.
It would have carried more weight if Gin had not also gotten up and started walking toward the library. As was her habit, she visualized the scene from a higher vantage point. The girl nearly at the crosswalk, the car slowing as it approached the crosswalk, one of the three approaching the girl from behind, the other two flanking about twenty feet to the left and right of her direction of travel, cutting off possible escape routes. Gin paced a young man who was also hurrying toward the crosswalk. This was going to be tricky. It was that, and also quick.
The car stopped with the driver side back door in front of the girl. The man behind her grabbed her elbow as he reached over to open the rear driver-side door. The girl tried to resist, but the man was already shoving her into the car. The other two were facing away, looking for potential interference. Gin moved fast, ignoring the brief struggle between the man and the girl. She yanked the driver door open. In one fluid motion, she hit the driver’s neck with the hilt of her knife and continued the arc, cutting the seatbelt. She pulled the driver out without looking at him, focusing instead on the man holding the girl who was just now noticing her. He was halfway in the car, still holding the girl’s elbow. The girl was already in the car. Jen shoved the door, closing it on the man’s leg. He would have screamed had Gin not quickly opened the door and showed it again, this time catching his head. She grabbed him by the collar and yanked him out, closing the door. By then the car, still in gear, was rolling. Gin jumped in and hit the gas, the acceleration swinging the door closed.
The man toward the front of the car pulled a gun, and Gin gave the steering a quick nudge, catching his knees with the bumper before the fender flung him into the curb. She sped away without looking back. The girl in the back huddled in the opposite corner of the back seat.
“Do you have parents you can call?” Gin asked.
By getting involved, Gin was already risking much. She did not want being associated with a kidnapping; best if she could quickly dump the car and get the girl to someone invested in keeping her safe.
“My father,” the girl replied.
“What’s your name?” Gin asked.
“Selma. Selma Tate,” she replied.
“I’m . . . Susan,” Gin replied. The girl would be questioned by the cops. Best if she did not know Gin’s real name.
“Selma, I’ll park somewhere and then we’ll call your father and the Police in that order, OK?”
The girl nodded.
Ten minutes later they were parked in the lot of a strip mall. Gin had pulled into an open parking space next to two SUVs. She waited a few minutes scanning the traffic on the main road. Satisfied no one was following, she told Selma to call her father. The girl, hands still shaking, worked the phone.
Selma listened a few moments before continuing.
“Do I have the wrong number?” she asked.
Gin motioned for Selma to put the call on speaker.
“. . . number. Your dad is here and wants you to come home,” a female voice said.
Gin motioned and mouthed instructions for Selma to ask who this was.
“Who . . . who are you?”
There was a brief hesitation before the person at the other line answered.
“My name is Detective Janis. Your father called us after receiving a threat regarding your life.”
Gin mouthed for Selma to ask for her dad.
“Can I speak with my dad?”
Noises could be heard, including muffled voices. Gin had a bad feeling about this. The voices sounded harsh, threatening. After a brief quiet, a man’s voice came on.
“Selma?” it asked.
“Dad! What’s going on? Some men tried . . .”
The voice of her father interrupted her.
“Selma, listen to me . . . RUN. Don’t trust anyone . . .”
They heard a scuffle, and then a thud before the female voice came back on.
“Selma, if you want to see your father alive again, you need to come home. You have . . .”
The voice cut off as Gin reached over and pressed the disconnect button. Gin grabbed the phone, opened it up, and removed the SIM card. After closing it, she slipped the phone into her pocket. She started the car, and as she backed out of the parking space she cracked the window and threw the SIM card out.
“What are you doing?” the girl screamed. “My dad is in trouble.”
Before Gin could react, Selma unlocked the rear door and got out of the car. She looked around before running toward the nearest shop, a quilting store.
Gin considered letting her go. She could wipe the car and walk away, letting the girl handle whatever problems were coming her way. She swore at herself as she parked the car and sat there considering her options. Those people, whoever they were, had the girl’s father. If he was the target, the girl was only leverage and he would be kept alive for whatever purpose they had. If she was the target, he was already dead.
Gin had no way of knowing if that had indeed been a cop on the phone. She suspected not, but dirty cops were not like unicorns; they really existed. Thinking back at the attempted abduction, Gin registered other clues and now set about examining the car. Nothing obviously visible in the open. She carefully cracked the glove compartment. Nothing. She opened the arm rest and swore.
A hand radio, a gun and silencer, and a badge flop. She first checked the radio. It was off, but that did not guarantee it was not tracking. She opened it and removed the battery. Next, she checked the gun. A P229 in .40 S&W, the twelve rounds magazine full. Finally, she checked the badge. U.S. Marshals Service. Gin took a closer look. It looked real, but she knew she could buy fakes that were as good as the real thing. A U. S. Marshal would not have his badge and gun stored in the car, and they would be unlikely to carry a silencer.
She checked her watch. The girl had been in the shop for a little over a minute. Assuming typical interaction, she would be calling the cops right now. If any were dispatched, any commercially available monitor would alert the bad guys, assuming they were listening. And assuming they were bad guys. Either way, they would be alerted.
Gin Grabbed the badge, radio, and gun, then ran her handkerchief over all the surfaces she touched. Exiting the car, she wiped the exterior of both the driver and passenger door. Pocketing the keys, she headed for a corner of the parking lot where a small grove of trees offered pretty good concealment from the casual viewer. She sat on the grass and pulled out her book. She had a good view of the quilting shop and of the car. Gin also put the battery back in the hand radio and set it on the grass next to her, the volume set on low.
The cops arrived eight minutes later. Pretty good response time, Gin noted. The girl ran out to meet them as soon as they stopped in front of the store. Gin could tell she was hyper and watched as the cops tried to calm her down. The girl pointed in the direction of the car, and one of the cops headed for it, one hand on his service pistol. By then an unmarked car had pulled up, and a pair of plainclothes officers got out, one young and one with more years under his belt.
The cop knew the new arrivals, so they were probably detectives. They too listened to the girl before one of them went to join the cop examining the car. Meanwhile, the older detective pulled out his phone and made a call. At one point, he leaned over to the girl and she spelled out what was probably her home address. The younger detective and other cop rejoined the group and they looked around. With the sun bright overhead, her position in the shadows of the trees was pretty secure, but just in case, she was ready to run. Perhaps also a bit tense; she jumped when the radio squawked.
“Cops have her. Should we try intercepting her?” the voice said.
“Too risky,” another voice replied.
Gin looked around. At least one of the speakers must have been in sight of the cops and girl. She spotted a car to her left. She could barely see the front of it, but it was the same make and model of the one she drove here. Gathering her things, once more removing the battery from the radio, she got up, taking a wide path to the rear of the car. The engine was off, so the doors were probably unlocked. She decided to risk it. She pulled the front of her cap down a bit and between her sunglasses and the hat she felt fairly confident they would not get a good look at her face.
She attached the silencer, took a deep breath and as quickly as she could she opened the rear passenger door and slid into the back seat, gun in front of her.
“Hands on the dash boys,” she said, “and don’t make me ask again.”
The two men started to turn, but she stopped them by doing a quick side to side motion and hitting their heads with the heavy silencer, and then quickly sliding back out of reach.
“Don’t! I don’t want to shoot you, but I will.”
The guys complied, leaning forward and putting their hands atop the dash. The driver spoke calmly as he did so.
“Lady, you are as good as dead,” he said.
“You should know,” she answered, “I killed the last guy who told me that. Now, I’ll ask a few questions, and if I’m happy with the answers, maybe you two will live.
“Who do you guys work for?”
The two guys remained silent.
“OK. We’ll play a little game. I’m going to shoot one of you and then see if the other will talk. You guys have any preference? If not I’ll pick one of you at random.”
“We work for the U. S. Marshals Service,” the passenger answered.
“You know, that does not jibe with what your buddy said a few seconds ago, about me being practically dead,” Gin replied. “Now, I think I will kill you and see if the other will talk. You,” she said addressing the driver, “put your fingers in your ears. This thing is silenced, but in this enclosed space it will still mess up your hearing.”
Gin brought up her left arm and sent over the head with it, sticking a finger in her right ear, the bicep covering her left ear.
“No, wait!” the passenger yelled, half-turning toward her.
“Shut up,” the driver said, “she’s not going to shoot either of us.”
Gin slid over a bit and shot the driver on the side.
He screamed out a few choice swear words before grasping his side.
“That,” Gin said, “is a gut wound. You can probably survive it as long as you get help fairly quickly.”
She slid back to the middle, pointing the gun at the passenger. The driver took the opportunity to reach for his own gun. Gin shot him again, this time in the arm.
“Look,” Gin said speaking to the passenger, “I’ve been very patient, but I don’t have all day. I can start with your knees, but in short order it’ll be the gut, and then the head. Or, are you in a mood to talk?”
“Jesus! You almost killed him!” the man answered.
“Would you rather it were you? Eyes front and start talking.”
“We’re freelance. We do occasional work for various Agencies. We were called last night and told to be on-call. We were supposed to provide backup for a snatch in case things went south. An hour ago, we were told to head out this way, and fifteen minutes ago we were directed here.”
“Who hired you?”
“I don’t know, I swear.”
“Who was the guy on the hand radio?”
“That’s out contact, but we don’t know where he is. The radio was delivered by courier earlier this morning.”
Gin pressed the silencer against the man’s head as she reached forward for the radio sitting next to the shift lever.
“OK,” Gin said, “I’m getting out of the car and take up position nearby. Count to ten, and then start blowing your horn. When the cops look over, get out of the car and wave them over. When they start over here, put your hands behind your head, kneel, and wait for them. They’ll get help for your buddy here.
“Do anything else, and I’ll attract their attention by shooting you. Got it?”
Gin opened the door and started counting loud enough for the guy in the car to hear, and then let her voice fade as she walked away. She took a few turns around cars as she heard the passenger yell for the police. By then, she was back at the small grove, this time remaining standing and blending in with one of the trunks.
Gin left once the cops headed toward the man. She walked to a nearby restaurant and had a nice meal. She kept her hat on as she ate and made sure she sat at an angle to the counter camera. She figured the cops would be at the scene for a while, so she also opted for dessert. She paid cash. She had not used a credit card going on five years now.
After leaving the restaurant, she took a walk to a small park, found a choice spot, and finished reading her book, getting up twice to hit the public bathroom. That also gave her a chance to scan the surroundings and people in the park. She saw nothing suspicious nor anyone who concerned her.
By late afternoon, she made her way back to the strip mall. Strolling casually, she hit a couple of shops and bought a few things. A new baseball cap and some snacks for later. That gave her a bag to carry around. She made her way to the quilt shop, noting the car had been removed. She tossed the car keys into the garbage bin in front of a small pretzel shop before entering the quilt shop.
“May I help you?” the older woman asked.
“I was just wondering if you got any new Christmas quilts kits in,” Gin asked.
“Not yet. We have a few other holidays, and we did receive some new fat quarters bundles in. Would you like to see them?”
“Sure, although my husband will give me grief if I come home with yet another bundle. I’ve practically filled a closet already.” Gin smiled a conspiratorial smile as she followed the woman.
“Oh, I know what you mean. Anymore, I have to sneak them into the house. My Henry doesn’t really mind, but I still feel guilty about it.”
They looked at a few of the bundles, Gin making the appropriate appreciative comments about the colors and designs.
“Well, I think I better go,” Gin said. “I had meant to stop by earlier, but there were a bunch of cops around, and now I’m running late.”
“Oh, yes,” the lady said, “that was quite the excitement we had.”
“You were involved?” Gin asked reaching to touch the woman’s arm. “You weren’t robbed, where you?” she added with a concerned tone in her voice.
“Oh, no. It was a girl who had been abducted and escaped her abductors. They caught two men and were looking for the others down by the University.”
“Is the girl alright?”
“Oh yes. But she was worried about her dad. Apparently he was attacked as well.”
“Is he alright?”
“Well, I only heard a little,” the woman said, “but I know they sent the police to his home, and there was no one there.”
“What happened to the girl?”
“She left with the cops.”
They chatted a few more minutes before saying goodbye as they bemoaned the state of the world. Outside, Gin literally let go a sigh of relief. Selma was with the cops. Gin could no longer help, even if she wanted to. The dad was probably at some other location, but that just meant Selma would be put in protective custody while they investigated the disappearance of her father. Meanwhile, she would be gone. Even as careful as she was, there was a chance someone might look into this mysterious woman, and that was not good.
She started walking toward a small motel she had noticed earlier. It was a few miles away, but she liked walking. She had not gotten more than a half mile when Selma’s phone pinged. Gin retrieved the phone and saw the notice for a new text. Without the SIM card, she should not have been able to receive a text unless . . . Ah, the phone was programmed to hook up to the free WiFi hotspots provided by the cable company. Gin looked around. While not as easy to track, it could give someone a rough idea of her location. She opened the text.
“Susan RU there? I need help”
It took Gin a moment to remember she was Susan.
TO BE CONTINUED
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.