This is entirely my fault.  I know Mary sent me a vignette post, but thunderbird is even more frustrating than wordpress, and I can’t find it.

So, I’m taking over.  In a hundred words or less, give me a story opening that gives character, setting and problem.

Make it live.  Go.

121 thoughts on “Vignettes

  1. Blip! Back in the nursery. The smell of baby powder barely masks the smell of old diapers. The crib is full of toys, but no Henry.

    Blip! In the playroom. Henry was fascinated by the space under the couch. Christina bent down and looked under there. No Henry.

    Blip! Henry hated the tub, but maybe that wouldn’t stop him from hiding there? But no, no sign.

    Blip! Grandma’s house. Henry liked to play with her old toys. Why? Christina wondered. Why did he have to inherit her teleportation?

    No, not at Grandma’s. What other places did Henry know?


          1. Not THIS novel! I’m actually on my last pass of my outline before I start dictating. Full speed ahead!

            1. Prudent of you. I endlessly flip between working on stories because I have to. Bad habit. Try to avoid it if you can.

              1. It could be a short, played primarily for laughs. But it could also be a novelette or novella, exploring the panic of a mother who has lost her baby. That’s deep psychological terror there. But unless I added in kidnappers or something — or maybe the teleporting baby is just a lead-in, not the main conflict — then I think the idea’s too thin to sustain a novel.

    1. You know, Martin, if you turned this into a book, or even a novella, I’d probably buy it.

  2. I woke up on the living room floor, my body aching, my arms shades of green and brown. My hands were stained red, my hair a spiky, sticky mess when I tried to run them through it.
    Looking up, I saw the tree in my apartment. It was closer to finished this time, the wet lines glistening in the morning sun.
    Closing my eyes, I rubbed my temples, smearing the paint in little circles. I had to pick up more primer today. I’d been going through more of it since I’d started painting the tree nightly.

  3. The guard came into my office, breathless, and gasped out, “Sir, there’s a problem with the headcount in G-5.”
    I went cold and reached for my phone, punched up the main gate and said, “Lockdown.” A moment later I heard the horns going off all over the prison.
    I turned back to the guard. “Who’s missing?”
    He shook his head. “No one, Sir. That’s the problem. There’s one extra, and we can’t figure out who it is.”

  4. The lecture droned on. Jonnet looked out the windows and watched the clouds charging by — clouds shaped like knights on horseback.
    “I’m sure Mistress Jonnet can favor us with a reason to vary your beasts.”
    Answered Jonnet, without looking from the window, “Because you can therefore exploit their different symbolic attributes, to use the Law of Similarity for very different spells.”
    Then she looked. Master Roderick glared at her.
    She glared back. If he had kept his word about letting her take the test, she wouldn’t be in the lecture.
    “Insolence. Your punishment will be spellwork for the school.”

  5. I heard the knock on my door and looked up from the empty bottle of Scotch. Blearily, I looked at the clock. Eight o’clock. Early for a client, but not for drinking. I shambled to the door and opened it and didn’t see anybody.

    “Down here, mister,” I heard a voice say, and I looked down and I thought the booze was playing tricks on me. It was a midget holding a Colt and he was aiming it where a bullet would hurt the most.

    “Big gun for such a little man,” I said, still not convinced this was real.

    “Cut the wisecracks,” the midget snarled. “I got a message for you.”

  6. It was rough being back in school again. The stark differences between the mostly humorless military discipline and the totally humorless rebellion against authority at the university made him wish he had been a better soldier. Especially when he ran up against the leader of the rebellion, an acidic Billy Idol wannabee, yelling at a group of thoroughly-intimidated freshmen…

  7. Harry hung up the phone and walked back to where Mikey was sighting in the improvised plasma rifle.

    “What’s keeping the Parental Unit too busy to come home for dinner _this time_?”

    “He said something about stray dogs circling the embassy pod and howling. One of them got in and humped some ambassador from Whoknoooswere.”

    “We should catch some of the strays. They’d come in handy as a distraction, if we attack any Whoknooosweren liners.”

    “Yeah, but first we need to hijack the HAFAS when it comes into dock. _Then_ we can start planning our careers as space pirates.”

  8. It had never occurred to her that she should have packed anything. Snow was predicted. Jane had left the house to run to the store, fifteen minutes away, to pick up some bread and milk. It was what you did. She didn’t quiet understand; snow never lasted long.

    Now she was sitting in a spacecraft orbiting what was left of the earth wearing the same underwear she had put on that morning three days ago. It was easier to think about the fact that she hadn’t changed than to replay the haunting image of the destruction of all she knew.

    1. Oh heavens, I woke up this morning knowing the following:

      Jane was either from Jackson, WY or Bozeman, MT, probably the latter. She had moved to southeast to pursue a graduate degree in the sciences, I am not sure which, but geology and then physics came to mind. The destruction was caused by the blowing of the Yellowstone Caldera. She was on the spaceship with a group of STEM students and professors. That the story should be modeled after classic boy’s juvenile adventure SF.

      This is what I know, and so far nothing more. Well, I know something more. I am a reader. I come from a family of a story tellers, but I am NOT a writer.

  9. Pain, red pain. Beating like a drum, spiking like awls as I convulse and cough myself to awareness. Spitting dried blood, dirt, I turn my stinging eyes away from the sun.
    I’m not alone. There is someone lying just a few feet nearby, facing away. The croaking sound that used to be my voice gets no response. Crawling, reaching, I try to get their attention. Bunching scraped, bloody fingers into their clothing I pull myself closer.
    The body shifts and I find myself lurching back, my startled cry echoing as I stare down into my own, dead eyes.

  10. The fog had turned to a cold drizzle. The paving stones were wet and slick. Micon had wandered for hours, after his father had driven him from home, with angry words and a raised belt, He no longer knew exactly where in the city he was. It seemed that the afternoon light was turning to dusk. He had heard of people spending the night on the streets, often either arrested by the guards, or beaten and robbed by gangs of thieves. The thought horrified him, but he was out of choices. No one he knew was likely to take him in.

  11. Like a swift knee to the crotch, rosy-dactyled Dawn broke Morpheus’s headlock. I fell off the office couch onto the floor, slamming my eyes shut against the brilliant morning light.

    I open them slowly. A pair of million dollar ankles in near-death-experience heels came into blurry focus a few inches in front of my floor-planted face. They were attached to a set of billion dollar gams. After that, things got expensive.

    Her hand still gripped the gadget that opens the blinds. She glared down at me, “Do you work for me or just drink your advance money?”

    I looked up. My head hurt. Her baby blues could launch a few hundred ships by themselves. A thousand for the whole package was selling it short.

    “I don’t see why I can’t do both. “

          1. I’m seeing a short story anthology here:

            I got a call from the morgue. Seems another Achaean had bit the cold bronze out in the Flats. Dark death had veiled his eyes before they got to him. That makes it 16 poor saps taking the big sleep since that Helen dame blew into town. There must be a connection.


            For ten years I’ve been hanging out on the wrong side of the Scamander, with the Helene low-lifes and their black boats and singing rage. It’s enough to make a man long to drown his sorrows in the wine-dark sea. All because the mayor’s son crossed Menelaus the Neck and stole his good looking dame. Bad idea crossing a man with the kind of friends The Neck has.

            Ya know?

      1. May I recommend the cartoon strip Pibgorn? There’s a shamus there that talks pure, well, semi-pure, Noir. Shows up from time to time. Currently, there seems to be a second one, from another planet.

  12. “So, last night, it just zoomed away?”

    Will nodded, still looking up. “Yeah, straight away.”

    James sounded annoyed. “It’s the air that gets me. I mean, if it left at, what, a thousand miles an hour, it would blow us to the ground with the wind from the air rushing into where it was, and the air it displaced as it moved forward. If it just, I don’t know, shrank to give that illusion, we’d still hear air rushing in to occupy the space it’s no longer in.”

    Will turned to him, grinning. ” So that bothers you more than the lack of noise, lack of means of propulsion, no visible means of support?”

    He shrugged. “Just leave me with one thing to drive me crazy at a time, OK?”

    1. So it ‘teleported’ away but teleported atmosphere in its place simultaneously? Still rather involved, unless there a strange mechanism still. Or there is always illusion, I suppose.

  13. The voice rose to the front of her mind, hot and angry as she watched the woman crumple to the dirty concrete in the alleyway below her.

    “Do it Alyssa, punish those responsible. You cannot deny your purpose forever!”

    She shook her head to clear it from her mind and started to turn from the small window in her equally small apartment. She wasn’t going to get herself killed for some stranger and a stupid ancient prophecy. She had lost too much already since Dad died.


    As she pulled the curtain back behind her, her hand hesitated.

  14. Bill opened the back of the SUV as Trisha waited. “Come on.”

    Clark extended his snout, sniffing as he stared at the honky-tonk. “We’ll get into trouble.”

    “We came here last year,” Trisha said.

    “Gail and Danka said it’s off limits, and I don’t have tenure.”

    Bill sighed. “Clark?”


    “Get out.”

    Clark stepped onto the gravel. He leaned forward, smoothing his clothes, straightening his tail to steady himself. There was a cold six-pack in his camper. But obligation to one’s hosts was almost as great as obligation to one’s clan. Not that he had to worry about that anymore.

    1. I cab see this as a manga comic – with Clark as a spectacle wearing, underwear on the outside – caped mongrel.

        1. Dinosaur? Wow! Now that definitely beats the image that had popped up first in my head. Then, obviously Bill and Trisha were taking a far greater risk. It’s probably much less dangerous to mess with an imaginary superhero nerdy dog than it is to mess with an intelligent dino – especially one that likes its beer!

          1. Kevin has posted snippets before about him.

            He’s a very civilized person and his people haven’t caused any major problem for humans. 😀

          2. That may have been why it didn’t sell. Or maybe because it was an answer to If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love. The story fleshes out that Dr. Clark Fisher is either from our Cretaceous or another time line – they don’t know – one of many who’ve come through the gates, and teaches paleontology at an unnamed university. Except for him it’s marine biology, not paleontology.

            Why Clark didn’t want to come, and why they wanted to get him away from the summer dig, is the subject of the yarn. The events that night would eventually put him on a path to a C&W career (this is played straight, BTW, and is literally another story)

            I really need to polish this tale and the other one. I like Fisher Clrrrk, as he’s named on his home time/world, and it’s fun looking at our society through non-human eyes.

  15. “Prime. We’ve reached orbit.”
    Rhexenor knew the voice wouldn’t go away so he opened his eyes. The crash couches reclined and he’d have been looking at the ceiling except that Cyrene was bent over him so he looked at her instead. His assistant was far too composed for having made a gate transition only hours earlier.
    “Are you human?” he grumbled. The human crew would have hardly noticed the passage.
    “No need to be rude, Rhex. They want a team for security. The honorable Onfig Truth has decided to descend to the planet.”
    “Why wake me?” He rolled his neck and shoulders and heard a series of pops. The stiffness in his muscles wasn’t all due to the gate transition. He feared he was getting old.
    “You’ve met our guest.”
    “And Captain Heartwood doesn’t like you.”
    “And they want you and one other. They specifically asked for muscle. My impression is that they’re aiming for maximum intimidation. I’ve notified Simo.”
    “Moeris is bigger.”
    “But less serene and more likely to offend our guest who can pick the filth, or the disrespect, from his mind. Simo will do, and his beauty will make you seem scarier.” She stepped away to give him room to leave the couch. “It will be full dress.”
    “Dress as well, Cyrene. I want you along for a third.” Rhexenor Prime wasn’t sure why he felt that Cyrene should go, but he knew he needed her in the party.
    “Captain Heartwood may object.”
    Ah, that’s why he needed her along.
    “The Captain, and the Truth Teller, may require a reminder that they do not rule the Foot.”
    Cyrene smiled. It wasn’t an entirely nice smile.
    “We are the foundation of Empire,” she said, saluted, and left him to dress.

  16. It had been a rough day at work. Thinking about the chili in the crock pot and the beer in the fridge got me through most of the afternoon. Finally, I made it to my driveway. Hit the remote and ran up the garage door, and there it sat. Honest to God flying saucer, with a little green dude hanging out of an access panel, digging in his toolbox.

  17. The stowaway was very sneaky. For over three weeks, the crew of the Bluebonnet had searched for him with no luck. As Menas lowered himself into the sewage crawlspace, he couldn’t blame him, either. New Montana’s civil war had reduced itself to using chem rockets!

    The tube widened slightly at a junction, and there was a sleeping form wrapped in stolen blankets. He pounced on it, then nearly shouted in surprise. The girl could not have been more than ten and deathly thin. She cowered before him.

    “Captain,” he spoke into his wristcomm, “We have a situation here.”

  18. ‘I really must be working’ I repeated. The big man looked up from his smartphone and pointed at a sign now all too easily legible. ‘No blades, dogs or Irish.’

    I pulled my map and today’s Ming Pao classifieds from my sleeve, opened them, and set off.

    I found myself on a deserted street. I started deciding where to search for my bearings.

    Then I heard the girl scream for help.

    Down the alley to the side.

    The girl was being held by one man, and collared by the other. She became a dog. I reached for my sword.

  19. Kenzie stepped into the nave and strode forward. The view in front of her rippled and ran like watercolors bleeding off the bottom of the canvas. A lightness touched her skin, sent quivers of excitement along her nerve-endings as she entered the transition. Three more steps and the colors ran back up the canvas, the hues lifting up until they touched the glittering stars above her and spread to the far reaches of the woodland.

    The heaviness of her clothes, down to her beat-up sneakers, disappeared, replaced by the delicate touch of silken fabric as her garments transformed into a flowing robe. Glistening white, it signaled her status as a Enchantress.

    Spread before her, lit with the light of a perpetual moon, lay the Glade of Silver Night, home to the Family–and the source of her destruction.
    A smidge long. The story of my life.

  20. I can finally play, too! (For some reason, “word prompts” don’t get the neurons firing.) Slightly changed opening to Fugitive (a Tale By The Road).

    The stocky, heavily-built man shaded his eyes with a hand and peered down the road. Yes, those were Roman soldiers, most certainly – he’d caught the glint from a helmet that one of them had actually kept polished even in these days of sloppy discipline as the Empire declined. Four of them, he could see now that they had passed into a stretch of sunlight from the shadow of the patchy clouds. Maybe deserting the Legion hadn’t been such a good idea…

    He grunted, and faded back into the woods from which he had emerged just a short time ago.

  21. “Hero of the Captaincy”, from my anthology “Adamant and other stories” has an 82-word setup:
    The battle had not gone well.

    Fleet Commander Pitjara held the three-dimensional display in his mind as the command ship’s computer updated it with a continuous feed of sensor data. Few enough ships now, he noted, after their horrendous losses. Barely two hundred ships accelerated madly away from the pursuing enemy, leaving the drifting wreckage of hundreds of ships behind. The remaining operational enemy ships, over three hundred of them, raced in pursuit. And they were gaining.

    [i]I hate this damned war.[/i]

  22. Nobody knew who White was, not even White. White didn’t even know where he was, just that the long passageway down which he ran seemed without exit. Branches aplenty, leading back to the main passage or, more often, a cul-de-sac. So White ran, long, even strides, maintaining pace, alert for exit.

    Anytime he explored a branch he marked the main passage intersection; eventually he found himself passing the mark once more. He feared he was getting nowhere but took comfort that it was difficult to get lost when you know not where nor who you are, nor where you’re going.

  23. “I see I am too late,” she said sadly.
    “Verily, if you sought to save these putrid humans!” shouted the demon. “But not too late to join them!”
    “Enjoy this meal, for it is your last,” said the woman, and sat down in the grass.
    “Is it now?” cackled the demon, taking another bite of his obscene feast. “I suppose you will kill me?” Then it yanked the spear from its eye and threw it at the woman.
    She moved her head an inch, and the spear buried itself in the soil behind her. She calmly opened her satchel and took out a bit of unleavened bread and venison. “Verily,” she said in mockery, and began her meal.

  24. John Chatwsorth yawned, wishing silently that the trip was over and he was away to the hotel. Alas, that wasn’t happening until the train started moving again. As far as he could tell from the schedule, their train wasn’t even supposed to stop at the station. Glancing about the compartment, he saw his travelling companions were still engrossed in their magazines, but he was too tired to concentrate well, so he turned away to stare out the window again. The valley traversed by the train looked just as bucolic and quiet as the last time he’d looked. Except for–

    He nudged one of his friends. “Say, Paul, do you think those rather unsoldierly-looking men with rifles could be responsible for the delay?”

  25. Sam slipped slowly thru the slough and into the swamp, sharpening his shiv, subduing it’s shiny blade. Spotting the snake, he subvocalized, “Supper.”

  26. The King’s Cathedral loomed over the street, snarling dragons rampart guarding its doors. Denarion spared them a glance of fond reminiscence. By the calender, it was springtime, but the winds which whipped around the corners of Dragonhome’s streets put the lie to that convention. He pulled his cloak tighter against their lash, blinked wind-caused tears from his eyes, stumbled on the uneven cobbles, and ducked his head.

    He was cold, short on coin, hungry, and the rent was due in two days. He could sell his sword, but it was the only thing he had left of his doomed family. He would die before he sold it. The only other posessions of any worth he had were the tools of his trade: inkpot, dry ink, three quills, quill knife and errasor, and several sheets of palimpsest. Without those, he would starve. Master Tigren had surely had some other source of income, for new boots and clothing had appeared regularly until his death, but Denarion did not know what it had been.

  27. Morris desperately riffled through the papers. Question after question made absolutely no sense. Leaning back in the desk chair he idly scratched his bare butt and reflected on his dashed academic hopes. HOW had he come to this so unprepared? Why was this seat so cold?

    Looking around the classroom he saw other students with heads bowed over the test papers, scribbling industriously, all wearing in formal dress. Morris only had one chance; knowing classes these days are graded on a curve, his one hope was to disrupt the other students. Slowly rising from his desk, Morris began his dance.

  28. The young Indian looked at the old man, sitting cross-legged by the fire in the clearing, and shook his head. He slapped his blue jeans.

    “Dad, how often do I need to tell you, I respect our traditions, but I believe in science. I mean, sitting out here waiting for the spirits to talk to you?”

    His father lifted his head, thick braids rustling, and smiled at the young man.

    “Wait. Mother Earth is about to speak.”

    That was when the wind stopped. The insects, the small noises in the background all stopped.

    Then Gaia awoke from her long sleep.

  29. “Remember, Mom” I said as we drove down the long dirt road to the house, “Bonnie has an strong grasp on reality. We keep the stories to a minimum here.”

    “It’s all your husband’s fault. Marrying a Marine – no sense of humor or whimsy. What’s wrong with telling Bonnie that this little bridge might be a Troll bridge? Honestly…”

    Mom’s lecture trailed off as the live oak at the side of the road slowly changed into a ramshackle hut, and a large, lumpy figure came out, hefting a club over it’s misshapen shoulder. Bonnie giggled in her booster seat as the troll – for that’s what it was – bent over and waggled it’s fingers at her and smiled a smile with way too many teeth.

    When your child has a strong grasp on reality, that just makes it easier for her to manipulate it.

  30. What Andric loved most about the Aempyriarchal archives was the effect they had on any visitors: even the most hearty-voiced touring pastor, waspishly nasal Healing sister or arrogantly snarling bishop lost some volume walking through the bronze-clad doors of oak, and by the time they had crossed the vast echoing main floor of the rotunda, passing through slanted pillars of sunlight and dust, to reach Andric’s little desk most seemed incapable of speech above a murmur. Andric, who could go days at a time without a single word even to his fellow archivists, found this state of affairs entirely to his liking. He had long since lost all dreams of ever being thought worth anything for himself, but by God and the Aempyrean, they would at least respect the books.

    In hindsight, he supposed, that might have been why the Aempyriarch’s summons caught him so badly off guard: the page who had handed him the parchment had said nothing, obviously too bored and annoyed to have any care for the missive’s content, and Andric had shrugged and simply read it there. Only the sheer paralysis of the numbing shock had kept him still long enough for the page to leave, and nobody was left to hear the horrifically undignified sound of retching echoing in the chamber. When he was done, he saw that bile had streaked the parchment and made the letters run, but nothing could blot that gutstabbing first line from memory:

    Deacon Pelastro: Your Talent has been wasted long enough.

  31. Elroy needed food. He hunched down in the thorn bushes, and waited near the game trail. A flock of near-geese crashed his flitter 100 kilometers from the ship landing site. A mono-edged blade, from the survival kit he’d remembered to grab, was his only weapon. He’d need a little good luck if he was going to make it back to the colony.
    Did the sounds from the trail mean his luck was changing? He dashed from cover, only to discover he was facing a flint-hided near-boar. Nope, his luck hadn’t changed one bit. Screaming defiance, he attacked.

        1. Depends on the size of the manuscript and the turnaround time needed, though as I don’t actually do it professionally (perhaps you are thinking of someone else?), something relatively small (<5K words) would probably be done gratis just as a first step.

  32. Paxson looked over the roof edge, wary of the shambling figures below. He knew he was probably to small and too high up for them to see, but you couldn’t depend on that. Too many friends had already been eaten, dragged from seemingly perfect hiding spots.
    What senses the zombies used to find their prey, he didn’t know. But even keeping your distance didn’t always help.
    Unfurling his wings, he waited for this group to pass before slowly flying across the open square. The small bag of potato chips had been a pain to get out of the vending machine, and even more difficult to fly with. Every errant breeze threatened to throw him off-course, and into the waiting arms of the undead.
    Landing on the roof of the burnt out bank, he carried the crinkly bag to an open vent, wary of rats and other vermin. While the zombies would eat anything warm, rodents were still wary enough to survive and thrive.
    The deposit boxes had proven excellent homes for his diminutive people. Not to mention secure.
    Glancing one more time around the horizon, Paxson took in the pillars of smoke and occasional pop of gunfire. He missed the way things were.
    Still, it was better than living under those idiots Oberon and Titania.

  33. I picked up the first tail. I was sure there were others, but I hadn’t spotted them yet. Stopping for a moment at a store window, I put a glamour on a few things to make them absolutely fabulous. With luck, the tail would look into the window and get caught long enough for me to lose him.

    I hoped there weren’t any inspectors nearby. I wouldn’t want the store owner getting into trouble for illegal advertising, and I sure as hell didn’t want to come to the attention of anyone official, since I’m not a registered psychic.

  34. Another one — a few words over 100, but what the heck.

    He glared at the stairs. His new office was up there, but this morning, with his joints stiff in the morning cold, and his calves still quivering just from walking from the barracks to the headquarters, he really didn’t want to stump his way up them.

    So he lifted his arms. He shifted his backpack a little, then imagined his arms draped in feathers, his weight dwindling. He flapped his arms. No, no, he flapped his wings!

    And he lifted up, wobbling. Three stairs, four, a whole flight. The turn was ragged, but he made it. Two more flaps, then a gentle glide.

    His feet touched down on the first floor landing. He grinned, and lowered his arms.

  35. [Over a hundred, but I already had this written]
    The evening was going perfectly she thought. The air had cooled to the perfect balmy temperature as the sun set, making the after dinner promenade in the gardens a delight instead of a torment. The ladies in their diaphanous colorful gowns appeared as fluttering butterflies on the arms of the men, dressed more somberly in well tailored suits. She really should get back to her guests, but after the hectic affair that was the dinner service, she had needed this quiet moment to re-group and reflect. Slipping on her shoes again, she ran through her mental list of the quiet introductions she needed to make this evening, the gentle hints to drop, and the subtle suggestions that needed to be placed in the right ears, which of course would never be traced back to her. She was perfectly happy to remain behind the scenes, most of the time. Her husband’s career was the main focus, not her quiet efforts of social reform. But she had the long game in mind, forty years is what she thought it would take to see her dreams fulfilled, plenty of time to be patient.

    1. Chilled me to the bone, that one did. Not entirely sure why — it might normally have been just intriguing — but something about the absolutely serene, “Plenty of time to be patient” at the end just made the hairs on my neck stand up.

      1. I’m not really sure where the story is going, but it came to me one day on a plane and demanded top be written down. She’s not malignant, but a quiet force for good behind the scenes, which I’m not sure makes for an exciting novel, but she’s an interesting character.

        1. I agree that it might not be “exciting” but I like the idea of a “Society Matron” changing her society “behind the scenes”. 😀

          1. I don’t think she’s a society matron, but a certain rare kind of corporate wife — INFP or INFJ if you are into Myers-Briggs categories, which means her husband is an ENTJ. Unless I’m totally off.

        2. Interesting; that’s definitely one of those moments where I realize my reaction says more about me than what I’m reacting to.

          Maybe the problem was that I still had Hillary C. in mind and I’ve come to have a profound distrust of the phrase “social reform”. Imagine if Hillary was both more likeable and more competent. Brrrrr.

  36. Ideally, I preferred not to shoot my best friend and first real customer. Even at 750m, I doubted Daniel would be very forgiving of a stray high-caliber rifle round turning his head into one of Gallagher’s watermelons. Besides, who would pay me for protection services after letting my first client be killed in a truck-jacking?

    Seventeen low-resolution images milled around the dark desert clearing. Slow, deep breaths to steady the tactical image. One image sitting on the ground, arms secured behind him. Daniel!

    Once the hijackers find the package within Daniel’s truck, he’s dead, along with my fledgling company.

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