Whisky and Reminiscences

If you haven’t read the beginning of this story, go here.

          “How about that drink?” Mina turned to face him. “Call it a day. You’ve enough influence in there for that.” She jerked her head in the direction of the Firm.
          Del knew it was a waste of time to argue with her. He dialed the number for the secretary he shared with two other associates and told her he’d be out of the office in meetings for the rest of the day and to hold all calls unless one of the Partners wanted him. She wished him a happy Friday and he halfheartedly returned it. His weekend had been shot to hell since the first email from Mina.
          “Let’s go.” Del strode across Copley Square, ducking his head against the wind.
          Mina kept up easily and seemed at ease as with her short hair whipping across her face. They walked in silence to the prudential center and for once Del didn’t pause to admire the tall glass and chrome edifice. He shoved through the revolving door and was greeted by the stifling heat. They rode the escalator up and wound their way through kiosks and past boutiques, dodging smartly dressed professionals, the inevitable tourists, and sulky salespeople, passing through another revolving door before they boarded the elevator for the Top of the Hub. The elevator shot them to the 52nd floor and Del felt his ears pop at the change in pressure. They were greeted by the hostess as they exited and she led them to a table. Del couldn’t help scanning the bar for familiar faces–people from the Firm were regulars and he dreaded trying to introduce Mina to some guy he knew from daily run-ins at the espresso machine. Luckily, they were still too early for most of the lunch crowd. Del slid the leather-clad cocktail list to Mina and tried not to fidget as she looked over it with obviously false concentration. He looked out the window at the view for which Top of the Hub was known. Boston spread out around him, frosted with haze. The waitress sidled up to them and Del ordered a Johnnie Walker Black, neat. Mina closed the cocktail list, looked at Del, and said, “I’ll have the same.”

          He wondered if she did it on purpose–repeated things from the past like they were lines in a script. The glossy menus and plush carpets seemed to blur for a moment into the stained wooden counter and smoky, low-ceilinged Kocsma Kedv. The Mina that sat across from him in the vision bore little resemblance to the one he saw now. He wasn’t hungry, but he ordered the spicy lobster soup when the waitress appeared with their drinks. Mina ordered a salad. Del took a bracing sip of his drink and felt it burn along his gums and warm his belly. Mina rolled her glass between her palms, staring at the amber liquid as though it held the future.
          “Well?” Del finally asked, leaning back in his chair and taking a good look at her. Her coat hung on the back of her chair and the black sweater she wore hugged her body. It looked expensive–as had the coat. He readjusted his view of her. Again.
          “This was a mistake,” she said, so quietly he almost didn’t hear. “I knew you worked for Them and I still came.” She swore in Russian and took a gulp of her drink. She coughed and her eyes watered. That wasn’t like her; she could usually handle her alcohol.
          Del addressed the skyline, “What does my job have to do with it?”
          Mina’s dark eyebrows rose into the fringe of bangs across her forehead. “You’re joking.”
          “What’s the problem? You were the one who taught me there were things in the dark. Besides, things are different–more people know and there are records and protocol and–”
          “Things are not different, Del.” She shoved her glass aside and leaned across the table. “Not for me. Just because the monsters are out in the open doesn’t make them any less evil.”
          “I don’t–”
          Mina cut him off, “You know the people you work for represent some of the worst…people in existence? You’ve probably represented some yourself. How could you? After Budapest? After–” She fell silent as the waitress brought their food.
          Mina fumbled for her drink and downed it, wincing as she set the empty glass on the table. Her hands were shaking. He blinked several times. There was no mistaking the look in her eyes. He’d seen it the first time they met. Stark, undiluted fear.
          “What happened in Budapest had nothing to do with the Firm–I would know.” It sounded defensive even to him.
          “Would you?” she asked. “You helped me then, when I had no one and I knew it was just a matter of time before I gave up. Before I stopped running and…” Mina shoved some lettuce around on her plate. She looked up at him, spearing him with her blue eyes. “I didn’t think I’d have to run again.”
          Del’s stomach clenched. There was no way in hell this was starting up again, it was his turn to gulp his Johnnie Walker. “Tell me,” he said finally. “Tell me everything.”
          He knew he was repeating the same words he’d spoken ten years ago in the grime and chaos of Kocsma Kedv–a bar like any other in Hungary–leaning over a foaming mug of Warsteiner Dunkel and trying to comfort a complete stranger. She’d grabbed his arm in the street outside and begged for help. Del could almost smell the Szamosi cigarettes and hoppy aroma of the pub again.

          He was twenty-two, fresh out of LSU, and enjoying his whirlwind tour of Europe on the money his grandfather left him. Hungary wasn’t originally on the itinerary, but when he and his roommate Lucas met two girls in Germany, there was no choice but to accompany them. In Hungary, Chrysta made it clear she only cared about the view inside Lucas’ hotel room and Chrysta’s friend melted away before Del could decide if he was interested or not. He was walking by himself to a bar recommended by some locals when a petite blonde grabbed his jacket and demanded in heavily-accented English that he help her. At first, Del thought it was a scam–he envisioned scenarios in which he was led into a dark alleyway and mugged or woke up the next morning with no kidneys in a bathtub. The look in her eyes finally convinced him and she let him lead her to the bar. He reasoned that a room full of witnesses and a drink would be the best thing for both of them.
          “They’re after me,” she said, lowering her husky voice as they wedged themselves into a table against the wall.
          “Who’s after you?” Del looked around for Lucas–he wouldn’t put it past his roommate to pull an elaborate prank in a foreign country.
          The strange girl wrapped her fingers tightly around her glass and looked at him helplessly. “I can’t say.”
          “Where are you from? Here?” When she shook her head, he repeated, “Where are you from?”
          “Russia.”
          “And your name?”
          Her long lashes flickered once and he could tell she was thinking quickly. “Mina.”
          “Well, Mina, I’m Delancey. But my friends call me Del. If someone is…after you, I can go with you to the police–or your consulate?”
          She shook her head her head, wide-eyed, her lips moving as she muttered in furious Russian. “No, no. Not the politsiya,” she said.
          Del took a deep breath. “Are you running from the police, Mina?”
          Her blue eyes were huge as she met his gaze. “I’m running from everyone.”

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1,000 Word Story in V Parts, Part V

Chuck Wendig‘s crazed version of “Telephone” in story form is finally at an end. The concept is that each person writes 200 words of a story and that same story is picked up by another writer and so on and so forth until we reached 1,000 words. I’ve been part of five stories over these past five weeks and it’s been great fun seeing how the stories have developed and morphed from the originals. I concluded a story by Adrienne, j, Smoph, and Joyce. You can read it below. It was previously untitled, but I’m going to call it “The Hunted.”

The Hunted

Part 1 of 5 (Adrienne)

The trio looked at the fence in front of them. It was a simple chain link, but it had to be about ten feet high, and the razor wire on top added another two feet. He was expecting this, but he was not expecting to have two girls on his coat tails. He could take care of himself, now he was pretty sure they would all die.

Except for his heavy breathing and the muffled sobs from the girls, it was silent. The setting sun was hidden by an ominous sky, promising rain at any moment. He knew what happened when the rain came, so he needed to move fast. He surveyed the barrier one more time, but froze as the wind brought an all too familiar smell. He turned to face the direction they were running from. The trees edging the clearing began to sway as the wind picked up. He could hear the soft pattering of rain on the leaves. The air rushed out of his lungs as the storm descended upon them, bringing with it more than just wind and rain. The three had to move now or accept certain death.

They were coming.

Part 2 of 5 (j)

He picked up one of the girls and hung her on the fence as high as he could reach. Then he did the same with the other. Knowing what was coming, he had to take a steadying breath before he started up. A lost moment was better than panic.

At the top, he threw his coat over the razor wire. It would help, a little.

He flipped himself over the fence. He’d taken some damage but it wouldn’t kill him. For a moment, he thought about leaving the girls. The things coming out of the woods would find the girls first, give him a bigger head start.

Shit. When had he gone soft?

He hung himself back over the fence. The wind tore into him but it was that or what was left of his soul.

He stayed as still as possible while the girls climbed over him. They were slow. The sun was probably already down but it was hard to tell with the storm moving in.

Where were they? Shouldn’t the damn things be on top of them already?

Finally, the girls were over the top.

He pulled himself off, ignoring what he left behind. Then he dropped down and pulled the girls off the fence.

Part 3 of 5 (Smoph)

What they had to do was find shelter, and fast. He didn’t fancy being out in inclement weather with these young girls and they were better off hidden from their pursuers. He could see a barn, edges blurred in the falling dark. Shelter and a hayloft to hide in were too appealing to pass up.

He set off at a slow jog, the girls struggling to keep pace, their tired feet dragging in the dirt. He made them go around the barn, through a stand of trees behind, and in through a smaller back entrance with a door that squeaked traitorously.

They waited until it was dark before slowly edging the huge barn doors closed. With a penlight that grew ever weaker, he showed them the way up to the hayloft, tucked them into some canvas and took watch. He would wake one to take his place so he could catch a few hours later. As a precaution, he pulled up the ladder.

An urgent tug on his arm and he was sitting bolt upright, straight from sleep. Wide blue eyes looked to him out of a terrified face. Beyond her, there was the squeal of a door on its hinges. Their hiding place had been discovered.

Part 4 of 5 (Joyce)

“Show yourself.” The rancher’s voice was deep and menacing. “I know you’re in here. I can smell you.”

“Please,” the man said quietly, as he slid the ladder down. “I have children with me. We only seek shelter.”

He sent the girls down the ladder; both were crying. Once he climbed down, he pushed the girls behind him. He hoped he would be killed first. He could not bear to witness the murder of innocents.

“I know who you are,” the rancher said. “You are the ones being hunted. Do you know what would be done to me if it became known I harbored such as you?”

The man knew all too well.

“I know they’re close,” the man began. “But, if we move quickly, we can distance ourselves from you. Or, let the young ones go and I will remain. When they come, they will decorate you as a hero.”

Both girls wrapped their arms around the man’s legs tightly, tears streaming down their faces.

The rancher stepped back out of the doorway, motioning for them all to go. The death of these humans would not be on his conscience.

Part 5 of 5 (me)

The man hoisted the smaller girl onto his back. The extra weight wouldn’t make their flight any easier, but he couldn’t leave them now. He didn’t look back. The wet ground sucked at his feet and he knew his grip hurt the older girl’s arm as he wrenched her along.

Too slow. Much too slow. Even if the rancher distracted them. If he was alone he’d swarm up a tree. If he had to go down, he’d take some of them with him.

He heard them. When prey was close, the Outworlders began to thrum. An eerie sound somewhere between the purr of an engine and the reverberations of bass. Two things he barely remembered.

“Please,” the girl holding his hand begged. “Please.”

He scanned the terrain. A bolt of blue light lit the sky illuminated their path. Their pursuers grew louder. He saw a rocky outcropping to his left.

“There,” he said. “Hide there.”

He thrust the smaller girl at her and watched long enough to see them duck into a crevasse. He lifted his leaden feet and broke into a shambling sprint. A bit farther and the girls wouldn’t hear his screams.

It was enough.