Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Came together smoother than I had thought

“Digging yourself out of the pit you’ve dug yourself is twice as hard as making your way out of one fallen into by chance.” -Unknown

Myrna paused on the corner, waiting for the pedestrian signal to change. Her contact was to pick her up on the next block for their second face to face meeting in a week. She was not looking forward to this meet. The recent attack on Ramses could have been authored by her contact or the competition. She had no way of knowing.

‘Need to be careful of him, no matter what. It feels like things are entering the end-phase,’ Myrna thought. She had few illusions regarding mercy on the part of her contact should he come to think her an obstacle. ‘Yes, I have a contract, and whoever they are, they’ll have a legal hurdle or two to prove I was in breach of contract, but I get the feeling they would do it or pay any penalty without blinking if it served their purpose. I do so wish I hadn’t been so eager to get to the core worlds that I agreed to this.’

She felt eyes on her, but feeling the gaze of appreciative onlookers was part of her existence, so Myrna didn’t think it unusual. She looked left and right before entering the crosswalk. As she stepped form the curb she felt a sudden spike of fear. There was something in the look, something off.

Myrna paused a moment and pretended a problem with her heel to cover her search for the threat. Vehicle traffic was stopped, so she didn’t think it was someone ready to run her down. None of her fellow pedestrians appeared to be paying her any undue attention.

The sharp edge of unease passed, receding into the background buzz caused by the stress she was already under. She stopped the act with her heel and hurried to cross the street before the light changed, wondering what had set her off.

The cab stand serving the train station was ahead on her left. Most of the cabs were already gone, having picked up commute-hour customers coming off the trains. To her right was her destination; the pedestrian square fronting the underground exit of the central rail station.

A large group of people bearing signs with various political slogans scrawled on them were walking slowly out of the station. Beyond the crowd, police in riot gear were just visible as the reason for the protesters’ slow retreat from the station.

Despite the protest or rally, the cafés were doing a brisk trade, and she wished for a moment to lose herself among the patrons. She sighed. Losing herself here would be impossible for a number of reasons, not least of which was her own desire to get off planet and someplace with real civilization. Instead she walked into the square and over to a café with a window for ordering on the go.

While she waited for her drink, Myrna turned to look for her the cab marked with the number she had been given. Her contact’s vehicle was still three cabs back in the row of vehicles.

A late commuter edged past the protesters and ran for the cabstand, taking the first cab. A couple paid their bill and started toward the line of yellow vehicles.

Myrna’s drink arrived. As she picked it up the next man in line bumped into her, spilling some of her coffee. She opened her mouth to give the man a piece of her mind, decided against it, and sucked hot coffee and milk from her hand instead. Her contact was waiting, and she didn’t need the attention.

The couple she’d seen earlier were headed to the next cab, laughing. She quickened her pace, taking another drink.

The couple’s cab drove off, her contact’s cab moved to the front of the line.

A man brushed past her, heading for her cab. She tried to speed up, but heels and skirt were not made for sprinting, and he reached the rear passenger door steps ahead of her.

Anger bloomed, turned to surprise as he opened the cab door and turned to face her, “Excusez-moi jeune fille, mais moins que je puisse faire est d'ouvrir la porte pour vous après ma maladresse au café.”

She stood still for a long moment, heart thumping away.

Her contact was in the cab, and didn’t look happy. For his part, the man holding the door didn’t seem to be aware of the man already in the passenger compartment. It occurred to her that the new man was there to ensure she didn’t try and run for it.

‘It can’t end like this, can it?’ the thought didn’t carry her into panic. Instead she felt cushioned, sheltered from reality, almost giddy.

Myrna slowly shook her head, suddenly floating in a cloud of well-being. the feeling carried her forward to stand beside the car, “There is some kind of mistake,” she heard herself say.

“No mistake. Go on, get in.”

She leaned down to get in, received a gentle push to her posterior, ended with her face in her contact’s lap.

“Who the hell are you?” her contact snarled at the man crowding in behind her, lap moving as he tried to do something. Myrna tried to raise her head, had it pressed down again as her legs were shoved off the car seat by something metallic pressing against the outside of her knee.

“Shut up or die,” the man entering the car behind her hissed. The car door thumped closed, “Now. Tell your driver to do his job.”

“Who the-” the question was cut off by a meaty thump that set the car to rocking slighlty.

“Tell him to drive,” the man repeated.

“Drive!” her contact ordered, voice thick, like his mouth was full.

Imagining her contact’s mouth filled with one to many eclaire, Myrna giggled into the man’s lap as the car left the curb.

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