Monday, September 5, 2011

The Door Swung Open

The first challenge is underway in the Platform Building Campaign, and it's a doozy! I loved this particular challenge. It's to write a short story in 200 words. It needs to begin with 'The door swung open". There is the option of making it even more challenging by ending with "The door swung shut." Here's my entry. It's exactly 200 words (and that really was a challenge):  

The door swung open. He was barely visible through the smoke, but I recognized a Corelli when I saw one. Gino? Yeah. Gino. He was the worst. He was looking for someone.

I could guess who.

My partner, John, was in the hospital, not expected to survive the round from Vince Corelli’s D’Eagle. Vince lay in the morgue, and I’d put him there. Now Gino wanted justice, but a cop bar was a stupid place to extract it.

His gaze found me and he smiled; it wasn’t a ‘glad to see you’ sort of smile. He weaved around off-duty cops. They were too drunk to know a storm brewed. I pushed away from the bar.

I wasn’t that drunk.

His hand came up and I stared down the barrel of a .45.

Damn. I was drunker than I thought.

I grasped the barrel, deflected it, and struck him over his jugular—not hard enough to kill, but it buckled his knees. The other officers swarmed. Gino was handcuffed before I picked up my barstool. I sat and Mickey brought another beer.

“You okay, Maggie?” 

“Yeah. Fine. But John wasn't. Vince wasn't. 

I turned and watched as the door swung shut.

Here's the link to the challenge:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cat's Eyes

I thought I'd drag out a post I did a while back when I was a guest at another blog. It has never been posted on my site before, but some of my original followers may recognize it from that guest appearance. I hope you enjoy the information.


You're running late, and in your panic you take the wrong exit off the highway. Now you're lost. The road is narrow, and there are no easy places to turn around. You're trapped on a strange road and going the wrong direction -- traveling at night into unfamiliar territory. The minutes are stacking up, and there is still no exit in sight. You glance repeatedly at your wristwatch and fumble for your phone, but it's not where you normally keep it. You check your pockets. It's not there either! Now you're really frantic. Did you leave it on the kitchen counter in your mad rush to be out the door?

The road narrows even more and drops abruptly. Now you're driving over loose gravel, surrounded by abandoned cornfields, and storm clouds are moving in. This is not someplace you want to break down, and it's definitely not someplace you want to get stuck either. The first fat splashes of rain hit your windshield and lightning streaks the sky. A sudden thunderous crash nearly sends your head through the roof as you jump, and the storm lets loose with a torrential downpour. You round a sharp bend and two green eyes peer at you from the side of the road. You brake abruptly, fearing the worst, but there is no cat in sight.

There never was a cat. You just stumbled upon a pickup location.

A reflection of cat's eyes is commonplace at night. I'm sure your headlights have illuminated them at some point in your life. Two glowing eyes in the dark. But sometimes, they're not quite what they appear to be. Cat's Eyes are a device used in spycraft. They make for a great 'pick up' or 'drop off' signal.

Let's say an operative wants to be picked up at an undisclosed location for security purposes, but she is deep in the country, and there are no local pubs or restaurants available. She has told her desk operator that she will be somewhere between spot code orange 7 and blue 13, but that stretch of road is long and lonely. This is where the Cat's Eyes come in. The operator takes a simple sheet of plywood, paints it black, and uses glass beads backed with silver foil for the Cat's Eyes. She plants it next to the road, hides out of sight, and waits for her pickup. Her pickup will know what those two glowing eyes mean, but anyone else will merely pass them by without a second glance.

Next time you're traveling along a deserted highway at night, and you see two glowing eyes on the side of the road, don't assume it's a cat.

... especially if you see a shadowy figure waiting in the dark.

And don't try to dig up that sheet of plywood. It's extremely dangerous.

If you'd like to spend more time in the company of spies, I hope you will read my book Sleeping with Skeletons. You can find out more information on that at my website.