Flash Fiction Friday (also known as “something to read for free”)
This isn’t “Flash Fiction” in the traditional sense (a very short, but complete story). Instead this is a short snippet of one of my many projects. Instead of hoarding them all in my hard drive never to see the light of day, I’ve decided to start posting some of them here. My hope is that some will jump out at you, that you will ask for more, and that it will become clearer to me which projects need to jump to the front of the line, and which ones need to stay on that back burner.
Plus, it’s Friday and it is fun to have something fun and free to read.
Here is a look at the short story I’m working on to introduce you all to my characters in The Unspoken Game series. Let me know what you think in the comments!
“It’s too cold for this,” Antonia Warren hissed as she tapped her boots against the side of the truck, zipped her jacket up to her chin, and shoved her hands in her pockets. “I’m getting a drink.”
“Suit yourself. I’m going to bed. See you in a couple months, Doc.” Trevor Boyd was short, plump, and red in the face as he turned toward the dump of a motel they’d been sleeping in for the last month.
“Sure,” Antonia replied while silently thinking she’d rather shoot herself in the foot than be back in a different horrific motel with Trevor in two months.
Trevor waved as he continued to walk away and Antonia turned her attention to the bar. Inside was dark, grimy, and a permanent cloud of smoke hung in the air. It was seedy, but it would do the job.
“Beer?” The bartender asked. His name was Joe, or something vague like that. He was balding and had eyes that saw everything even though he rarely said more than a word or two. Antonia was sure he had a baseball bat hidden behind the bar, probably more.
His eyebrows shot up as he replaced the beer bottle with a shot glass. “End of the week celebration?”
“End of hell celebration is more like it,” she replied. The bar stool was hard and uncomfortable, but if she was successful, she wouldn’t be feeling it for long. Antonia planned on getting drunk and then passing out until lunch the next day.
“Where you off to next?” He poured the beautiful liquid right to the top and set a wedge of lime on a napkin.
She didn’t think, “As far away from this godforsaken stretch of Texas as possible,” was the answer he was looking for, even if it was the truth. “London, actually. I have some business to attend to.” Business she’d avoided long enough. Antonia licked the side of her hand and sprinkled some salt, then set the shaker down to pick up the shot glass. “Bottoms up.”
It was like fire in her throat, but the pain was welcome. What the hell was she doing with her life? Living like this just to prove a point? She was traipsing from one pipeline segment to the next, one of the only females on the crew, and using all her talent to stare at dirt. Was punishing her own mother really worth… this?
“Another?” Joe asked.
Just as Joe finished filling the glass, the door opened and blanketed the bar in a soft glow from the fading sunlight. Even though Antonia was mostly blinded by the light, the silhouette in the doorway was distinctively male. Tall, broad, and serious based on the deliberate way he moved inside and closed the door. “Fed?” Joe asked as he straightened his shoulders.
Antonia blinked twice to help clear the bright spot in her vision. By the time she could see the man, he was standing beside her. He was very tall. Probably at least six-five, and clearly made of muscle. His black suit fit him perfectly from his wide shoulders to his trim waist. And he was wearing sunglasses despite the dark bar. He was clearly an asshole.
“Is this seat taken?” he asked.
Antonia looked the stranger up and down and chuckled. “Ummmm, yeah. It is.”
The man nodded and frowned, stepped over to the next stool and sat down. “I assume this seat is safe, or would you prefer I move further down?”
Who exactly was this man and why did he think he was so funny? “You’re good,” she replied with a roll of her eyes.
“What can I get for you?” Joe asked warily.
The man looked at Antonia’s shot glass and smiled, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
She tried not to bristle, but Antonia could feel the man’s intense gaze even from behind his black shades and she did not like the vibe she was getting. He knew her, that much was clear, and Antonia never liked being at a disadvantage. So she ignored the stranger, licked the side of her hand and downed shot number two.
“And refill my friend’s glass, would you?” the stranger asked.
Antonia turned in her seat, leaning against the bar, and gave the stranger her very best “don’t mess with me” eyes. “Just who are you, exactly?”
He smiled as he took the tequila straight with no chaser. “The name’s Donovan and I’m guessing yours is Doctor Antonia Warren.”
Her blood ran cold. He did know who she was and he was here to see her, she’d bet money on it. “Alright, Donovan. Why do you know my name?”
Joe refilled both of their shot glasses and stood back, watching but not saying a thing.
“I’m here to hire you.”
“Hire me?” she asked. This had to be a joke. No one was hiring her, not after her mother had her blackballed from every reputable museum, university, and research cooperative in the United States and Europe. Hell, even Australia and South Africa had turned her down.
“Yes. You have certain skills my employer needs.” Donovan still hadn’t removed his sunglasses, though he seemed to have no issues seeing anything.
“And who is this mysterious employer?” she asked. It had to be a horrible job. Probably something criminal.
“Theodore Seleron? Of Seleron Technology? The billionaire?” What the hell would he want with her? Seleron developed cutting edge software and gadgets. The man had his own private satellites for god’s sake. He dealt with the future, not the past.
“That’s the one. The two of you happen to share a close friendship with Doctor Simon Green.”
Simon? He was one of her mentors… basically an unofficial uncle. How was he connected to Seleron? “Ok… what does that have to do with anything?”
“Dr. Green was abducted from his lab at Emory University yesterday along with the mummy he was getting ready to scan for research.”
Her stomach knotted up with nervous energy. “So why are you here talking to me?”
Donovan turned so he was facing her and pulled out a small tablet computer. “Dr. Green was working on a grant funded by my boss. As I’m sure you’re aware, the mummy was nearly impossible to acquire for Dr. Green’s testing and Egypt was very reluctant to grant him or the United States any leeway on this matter.”
Antonia swore under her breath. To say this was a volatile situation was being kind. She wondered how Simon had gotten all of it to go through. A billionaire pulling strings was probably the only thing that had gotten him the mummy—at the expense of international relations. “Let me take a wild guess, your boss would like to keep all of this under wraps.”
Donovan nodded slowly and brought something up on the computer. “We are prepared to offer you a very nice sum of money in exchange for your expertise. We are aware of your other connections and find they may be useful in tracking down exactly what happened to Dr. Green.”
By other, Donovan meant her black-market connections. “I’m assuming you already have a team at work?”
Donovan nodded absent-mindedly. “We have a basic team in place gathering evidence. But time, as I’m sure you are aware, is of the essence. The university will have no choice but to notify the Egyptian authorities of the theft by Monday at the latest.”
Donovan turned the screen toward Antonia. “This is a private message to you from my employer.
Antonia pulled a pair of coiled up ear buds out of her jacket pocket, plugged them into the headphone jack, and pressed play. She recognized Theodore Seleron immediately. He was a distinctive looking man who wasn’t afraid of the cameras. He had short gray hair, a clipped goatee that matched the hair on his head, and always wore a three-piece suit with a matching handkerchief and pocket watch. The man had a style all his own and he never varied his appearance. “Dr. Warren. I’m sure you are skeptical of this situation. I’m more concerned with Simon’s well-being than anything else. However not having to stop a war would be nice as well. I hope you will take us up on our offer. You have the perfect blend of expertise, connections, and friendship with Simon. My associate has the contract and official offer. Thank you.”
And desperate. Seleron forgot “desperate”.
She pulled out her ear buds and coiled them back up as Donovan put the tablet away. He slid a folded up piece of paper across the counter.
Antonia’s eyebrows shot up and her jaw fell open. There were a lot of zeros on the check she was holding. “Seriously?”
Donovan smiled. “Seriously. We understand how dangerous and difficult this situation is and we value your discretion.”
They valued it a lot according to the check in her hands. Simon was a good friend in trouble and Seleron was a well-connected man with the means and motivation to bring Simon home. She’d love to help… but everything smelled of a catch. A great big giant catch. She opened the contract.
It looked pretty straight forward. In fact, it was shockingly short. Basically it said she wouldn’t sue them or hold them responsible for anything and vice-versa.
But could she trust Donovan with his black shades and suit? He had to be former FBI or something. The man was far too comfortable in his blazer and sat so straight it made her own shoulders ache. Then again, his suit was nice, really nice. Definitely not something a man used to government work would choose. Donovan was an enigma.
“You gonna take those sunglasses off?” she asked. It was making her nervous that she’d never seen his eyes.
He smiled and the simple action made her pulse race. The man had a glorious smile—perfect white teeth and a strong, square jaw. “I only take them off for special occasions.”
“This is a special occasion,” she challenged as she thought over the contract. Might as well have fun while she was thinking.
“For you, maybe. But I’ve worked for The Old Man for the last twelve years. A new contract doesn’t exactly constitute ‘special’ for me anymore. Not even for brilliant and beautiful archaeologists.”
She let the compliment slide. “The Old Man?”
“That’s what we call Seleron,” Donovan explained. The he dropped his voice to a whisper, “It’s also his code name. I probably shouldn’t have told you that until you actually signed your contract, though.”
Something about Donovan made Antonia want to trust him. He was stiff but oddly friendly—he was genuine. “Will it become a special occasion if I sign this thing?”
“There’s only one way to find out,” he joked back and held up a black pen.
“I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?” Antonia asked. This is for Simon, not the money. She took a deep breath, scanned the contract one last time, and signed on the dotted line. What the hell? London could wait and with that many zero’s in her bank account she could buy some time to look around for a real job.
When she looked up, Donovan had removed his glasses, turning them around so they sat on the back of his head. His eyes were nearly black but amazingly expressive—possibly the most expressive eyes Antonia had ever seen. It was like the man didn’t need words to convey anything in his mind. Every thought, every emotion was in his eyes, clear as day.
It was beautiful and overwhelming. Antonia shuddered under the intensity of his gaze, distracting herself with folding up the contract and handing both the paperwork and pen back to Donovan.
“I sure hope you don’t regret it,” he quietly replied with a small smile.
Antonia chuckled, “Me too.”
So what do you think of Antonia and Donovan? Let me know in the comments!