This month, I’m involved in an interesting new challenge: the Baker’s Dozen collaborative story. Twelve writers, each writing a chapter of the story, then a final closing chapter from our leader – Joe – making up 13 in total. There has been no discussion between the writers, so it’s a bit like that game “Consequences” rather than a traditional collaboration, and none of us knows what the other is intending or planning except what we can glean from previous chapters.
My chapter is number 7, and can be found here, along with the previous chapters. That means it’s exactly the mid-point of the story, so I wanted to make it a turning point: the beginning of the resolution of the story, but still an escalation on what had gone before. In his “Story Structure” series , Larry Brooks defines the midpoint as follows: “new information that enters the story squarely in the middle of it, that changes the contextual experience and understanding of either the reader, the hero, or both.”
It’s been an interesting exercise – to try to keep as faithful as I could to what had gone before (including those elements that might have appeared inconsistent at first glance), not to close off too much for those who come after, and to write the best chapter I could in a genre which is not my usual. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the story and I’d love to see your feedback on my contribution.
Click on the logo below to be taken to the story – and I hope you’ll come back over the next few weeks to see how it turns out in the end!
“Let’s get some air,” Angie whispered, her hand hot on Forrest’s arm as they were led back to the suite.
“Could we go outside?” he asked one of their escorts. “My friend needs some air.”
The two men consulted briefly, then one nodded. “This way.”
He led them out into a high-walled garden. From here, they could see the grand house, which was even bigger than Forrest had surmised from under his hood. Four storeys high and forming the shape of an L, it was as big as some of the ancient palaces he’d seen in Europe. The grounds were equally expansive. Ornate and tended lawns gave way to an orchard and this was the way Angie walked, leaning gently on him for support. Forrest was pleased to see that the two men waited on the veranda – he was looking forward to a bit of time alone with Angie, and when they reached a pond in the middle of the orchard, it was clear she had been too.
Her hands began to pull at the buttons on his shirt. Forrest reciprocated, his mind wandering back to the offer a shower that he had somehow turned down earlier. Stripped down to khaki t-shirts on top, Angie grabbed both shirts and threw them over her shoulder. They landed with a splash on the pond and began to sink.
“Oops,” he laughed.
“I had to,” she said, her hands wrestling with his belt, but her face strangely serious. “They could be bugged.” Forrest’s hands dropped from her waist as she spoke. “Listen, we probably don’t have much time.”
“We’re in danger now, Forrest. You’ve given them what they want, so what’s to stop them killing us?”
“These are the good guys!” he replied. “They have been sending me messages. They told me to save you. They told me not to trust anyone except you.”
She sighed and stopped kissing him, then, looking around, she eased down onto the grass and pulled him on top of her. “We have to make this look real,” she said, kissing him passionately on the mouth, “But I need to tell you something. Those messages, they came from my people. These guys are not my people.”
“What?” Her body was warm and he wanted to stop talking and concentrate on feeling, but he couldn’t. He rolled onto the grass beside her, forcing himself to keep his distance.
“Please, Forrest. You have to trust me. It’s my job to protect you, but I really do like you. Maybe after all this is over…” Her voice trailed off, but he didn’t resist when she pulled him back in close and placed her lips over his. He’d thought about this moment too often over the time he’d known Angie. Sure, Chrissie had been his girlfriend, but he couldn’t help finding Angie attractive. Was this what they called a honey trap, he wondered, because if so he’d fallen right in.
As they kissed and held each other, Forrest felt himself relaxing again. Maybe he shouldn’t, but he trusted her. He wanted to believe her, and as he thought about everything that had happened to them today, it fitted together. Her martial arts training, the messages, the Isreali helicopter pilot who didn’t speak Hebrew … He had been so relieved to finally feel safe, he’d handed over the pendant without thinking.
“I’ve let my father down,” he said, leaning out of Angie’s embrace again. “I gave them the pendant.”
“I know,” she sounded frustrated, almost angry.
“Why didn’t you stop me?”
“I couldn’t risk blowing my cover. If we’d resisted they would just have killed us both in that room. At least now we are alive.”
“But they have the talisman, the key, whatever it is.”
“I know,” she said again. “And we have to get it back. But first, we need to find a way out of this pretty prison, ready for when we need to escape.”
Forrest noticed the two escorts approaching through the trees. They were accompanied by another man, his dark tailored suit contrasted with the fatigues of the others. He looked angry.
“Can’t we just stay here,” he said, stroking her face and trying to convey with his eyes that they were no longer safe to talk, “I’ve been waiting a long time to get you alone and now that we’re safe, what’s to stop us relaxing?”
Angie looked like she was about to say something, then she seemed to understand his message. She sank down on top of him and wrapped her legs tightly around his thighs, her tongue dancing around his mouth. Forrest wanted so much to really live this experience, but when he closed his eyes, he could still see the three men approaching, and something told him that they were in more danger now than they had been at any time during this whole affair.
He opened his eyes, saw that the men were close, and tried his best to look surprised as he pushed Angie off and got to his feet.
“Err… sorry. I guess we…”
“We got carried away,” said Angie. She looked around, caught sight of the sunken shirts and giggled playfully. “Does any of you guys have a fishing pole?”
None of the men laughed. “The Commander says you will be safer inside the house,” said the businessman. He seemed not to register the embrace he had caught them in, and Forrest wondered whether that was because he knew it was false.
False, he thought sadly. He’d thought Angie actually liked him. Thought they might have a chance to get to know each other better after all this was over, perhaps even to have something like a normal relationship. But she was being paid to keep him close. She would probably not even have looked at him twice if he weren’t part of her mission. He knew in his heart that he trusted her, even with everything that had happened and all that she’d said, but he had trusted Yurdissen a few minutes ago, and now he felt like the Commander was holding him captive.
He had so many questions again – about Angie, about who ‘her people’ were, but mostly about the talisman and what this whole thing was all about. Right now, though, he had to concentrate on the charade she had placed him in. He was playing the part of a man in lust, that was easy enough, but he was also playing the part of a naïve innocent, the naïve innocent he had been until a few minutes before. And acting had never been Forrest’s strong point.