Sunday, March 4, 2018

Third and last except from The Courier

March 3 Yo, the first part of March. Better weather for this time of year-which means rain-but we shall see how it goes from here on. We still have at least three months where it can rain.

This is the third and last excerpt of The Courier. This time from chapter six. It includes some byplay between characters as well as part of a fight. I still aim to have this out the end of March. So watch for it. But don’t wait I have tree other novels out you can buy. :)

Kara is on an airship piloted and owned by an “indie”, an independent airship owner who flies people and freight around. Many are honest but some will cheat you, while others will carry contraband and be involved with other illegal activities, which includes attacking other Indies-that comes in later in the novel. Kara is on a week long “run” to get various contracts signed but she finds herself attacked more than once and she finds something in her courier pouch that she didn’t place in it.


Before she could answer with an apology he looked around at the disassembled gun on her cot and the stunner lying next to it. He might have smelled the gun oil too.
“What’s up?”
She looked up at him confused.
He pointed at the weapons. “You left suddenly just because you had a case of weapon withdrawal?”
“No, I’m sorry for not saying anything. I should have—too much time by myself, but this is something I do every so often. In my occupation I never know when I will need one of these, so I make sure they are operational.”
He nodded. “I understand that. You never know when some dust, spare oil, or insect or something will get into your weapon but this is sudden. Were you attacked at your last stop?”
“What? No.” She sighed. “This has nothing to do with being attacked. I mean, I could be, I have been while doing a run, but this is about being ready just in case.”
Kara almost rolled her eyes at her own verbal confusion. She could converse better than that. Danny gave her a look that said he didn’t believe her, but let it drop and said he needed to get back to the cockpit, and left.
Once she heard his footsteps go down the hallway, she said, “Damn! I hate lying to him.”
She grabbed one of the sticks of gum she still had left and put one in her mouth—more for something to do with her hands instead of throwing something though. She barely registered the strong flavor.
But what would he do if he knew they were being followed by people willing to kill? She needed this run and she would get past them to finish it. She was good and her rep would be even better if it got out. And she didn’t need protection. If anyone needed protection, he did. In fact she protected him by being quiet. The less he knew the better. She let out a couple of more curses though.
She hurriedly but carefully put the pistol back together. Should she go to him and try to convince him again or just let him think for the night? This had better not have ruined their friendship!
Kara finally went to bed. The next morning she slept late, after taking a long time to go to sleep. He knocked on her door and asked if she needed any breakfast. She said yes. Since she had already taken a fast shower—maybe he had heard the running water—and was dressed, she went to the small lounge. He stood there cooking eggs and bacon, and even had some biscuits in a toaster oven. He said, “Good morning. Sorry I totally forgot butter, but I do have honey. Nothing special just plain, cheap honey.”
“That’s fine, I like cheap, plain honey. I am kind of plain myself.”
He gave her a look that seemed to say, “No, you’re not,” but went back to his cooking without saying anything. A minute later he set a plate with fried eggs and bacon in front of her. Five pieces of perfect bacon. A moment later a hot biscuit joined it.
“There are more biscuits, not home made but good anyway.”
Her mouth watered for that bacon—she tasted one. Thicker than usual and so good. He must have remembered what she had said about bacon during one of their talks. Danny sat down, after giving her some orange juice, with his plate and glass. Some of his bacon was a little burnt one piece looked undercooked some. So had he taken the rejects, or did he like it that way. Damn, she couldn’t recall what he said about what he liked.
They ate in silence except for the noises of chewing.
Once done she said, “Thank you, the bacon tasted wonderful and the eggs were good too.”
He looked up at her and smiled. She stood and started to gather the dishes.
“No, I can do that. You need to get ready for your next run. In case you hadn’t noticed, we landed and are tethered.”
So that was why the airship’s movement had felt funny. “What?” She should have figured that out sooner; the movement of a ship tethered yet pushed by the wind felt different from flying.
“You slept late.”
“Oh, I wondered why you were spending so much time away from the controls.”
“I can make some coffee to help you wake up. Some hot and strong instant stuff will wake you by taste, heat, and caffeine.”
“Um, maybe you should do that, I seem to be half asleep. I’ll get dressed in my outfit.”
On the way out she again said, “Thank you for breakfast. Ir was good.” Unsaid, even though she wasn’t sure if he would get it, was, “After last night.”
Kara rushed back to her cabin and changed. Once dressed she made sure each of her devices were where they were supposed to be. That included two bottles of water and four cereal bars, just in case of some emergency. She went down the ladder, after making sure she told him her destination. She headed for the terminal. There she called her next client. He said he would be in his office this morning. She said she would be there. Nothing happened on the way even though she spotted someone that could have been that woman. This time it was hard to tell for sure, for she looked common: average height, weight and dress. This time her hair looked shorter and a different color but she could have it up or behind her in a bun. The color change could be done easily enough since Kara had last seen her. But at the same time Kara didn’t want to be too paranoid.
The man’s office was a small trailer at a construction site this time, no one was working yet on this warm morning but it looked like someone would be there at anytime. The man, who looked middle age and tough with a sweat-stained shirt, signed his contract, number four, they shook hands and she left. On the way back to the airport, though, something seemed off. She looked back at the site—it didn’t look quite the same as it had when she stood right in front of it. Closed down? She was just there though. A shrug and she continued. Just as she rushed by a very dark alley mouth something stopped her forward motion. She looked down to one side and a hand held her pouch. It pulled again. She startled but managed to plant her feet and pull on the pouch and the hand pulling on it around to her front. The man connected to the hand came with it. He looked too skinny, even though he was only half a head taller than her. He wore old, torn clothes. Obviously he hadn’t figured that she would be too in tune with it to ignore something like that.
Kara chopped at the hand—when it let go, she shoved the man hard. He had been taken by surprise so didn’t react fast enough. Now he stumbled backward and hit an A-frame with enough force to knock him over it. A clunk showed that he hit his head. She grabbed his shirt and lifted him up; he had looked underweight and didn’t wear much. She placed her face near his. He smelled of drugs, and had very bad breath. “Never try to steal a courier’s pouch. Next time you might get a knife in your gut. That is very painful.” She pushed him over the A-frame again.
Of course more than likely no courier would stab him in the gut but maybe it could scare him into leaving couriers alone—maybe. As she walked away, she thought, The first shove over the A-frame was an accident but the second one wasn’t, I went too far. But she had been angry.
A light step behind her made her turn her head. Was he up already?
No, but a man who had to have been his partner came out of the dark alley. This guy appeared to be the same height as the first one but was obviously in better shape. Even in the rags he wore he looked like a fighter with muscles. The way he held the knife in his hand showed that too. Her dad and Twoskunks both said that you could tell the ability of someone with a knife by the way he, or she, held it. This guy knew his business. Which brought up the question of why someone with that training would be here living a homeless person. Of course drug, addiction can get anyone, she thought.
Kara had no more time for thoughts: the guy had moved close enough to lunge at her. She dodged him, though, he moved deceptively fast,and she finished the movement to get her stunner out. It should have been out sooner but the new outfit was slightly different ,which she hadn’t taken into account.
Her attacker's eyes widened a bit but they went back to normal in a heartbeat. She held the stunner like a knife and her stance reflected that. Behind him she saw a woman come out of the dark alley mouth. Just like one of those otherworldly transportation gates a couple of the books she read contained, her mind insisted on saying.
She wanted to roll her eyes—this wasn’t the time for that. Kara wanted to run but knew they would be on her in a few seconds, unless she could stun them for even a couple of seconds.
The woman moved back like she wanted to let the first guy have all the fun. Kara slid sideways to get a wall behind her to make sure neither of them or a new person could come at her from behind. The man moved to her, and she glanced at the woman without moving her face or eyes. As Kara suspected, she wasn’t homeless, no matter how she dressed in ripped, old gray sweats and a loose-fitting stained top.
A second look and she thought, Neither is this man. She had seen all types of homeless, and this guy didn’t fit: his smell didn’t fit, nor his breath, nor his body language, or his hair style. A part of her mind took a second to hope they hadn’t killed the original owners of the clothing they wore.
She made a feint with the stunner, slightly pressed the button to make a noise, and to produce a spark at the end. That sometimes shook her attackers. Not this guy, though. Another feint which didn’t even make even his eyes look at her hand.
Damn, this guy was good.
Three more fakes, each one closer to him, and she struck for real. He leaned back to avoid the arc. She got her hand back in time to block his first swing. Sweat popped out on her forehead. The stunner warmed her hand since she had it running. A hard lunge from him that turned out to be a feint. She danced as he moved his feet. Two more swings each and she tried to get him to back off by swinging the stunner all the way across her front. It was on full but he moved back only a step and moved his hand to block hers. Or so she thought until a shock ran through her fingers around the stunner. A heartbeat later she knew she no longer held it. How had he done that? She knew there were ways to knock knives out of hands, but she hadn’t seen what he used. She couldn’t stop herself—her eyes went to that hand. All fingers were still there, no blood. So he hadn’t hit her with his blade.
He moved in with a sudden motion. The tip of his blade hit her chest below a breast with a faster motion. The impact pushed her back slightly, and made her grunt. But the new metal held up. She would have a bruise, but no cut. 
 Kara decided if he moved that quick she would have to as well. The heel of one hand slammed into his forehead before she could finish the thought. A jab with her fingers into his sternum and a last sock in the belly with her left fist. Then she doubled up her hands and swung up. The impact on his jaw was enough for her to hear his teeth click. A final double-fisted hit on his face. She hoped to bloody his nose but didn’t connect right. He backed off though with tears in his eyes, but didn’t go down. She had to back off, too.
Her arms were tired already and he was still on his feet. They moved around in a dance. She blocked his knife swings, but he got in a couple punches, and she couldn’t get in another solid hit. But the stunner lay on the cement behind him. She maneuvered him around. The woman joined in and tried to grab Kara from behind, but Kara slammed back with her head. When something hard stopped her head’s momentum she knew she had connected. Kara slid sideways again. Maybe she could run out in the street when some cars came by. They danced some more, the woman behind the man again, and as Kara feinted to the right as if to run to the street, the woman came around the man. A sizzle sounded, followed by an electric buzz. Then the sound of a body hitting cement. So she had forgotten the stunner Kara thought.
When the man glanced at his partner Kara drew her longer knife. The man’s eyes came back to the front and widened for a moment. Sirens sounded. So someone had called the police.

end excerpt

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Second excerpt of my novel The Courier

Feb 24 Aaannddd it’s the last weekend of February already.

This is the second excerpt of The Courier even though I split it into three. This whole scene is way too long for SaturdayScenes so I am only showing-off a 2,884 word section from chapter four.

Right now I am aiming for the last week of March for publication. That will depend on different details though. I may be able to say a closer date next week.


She had been in New Orleans twice before but they had been quick in-and-out runs.
A quick glance out one of the main windows showed her older brick-and-stone buildings that were shorter than the ones in New York. There were some skyscrapers but not in this part of the city. She could see few people as they walked on the sidewalks and the streets here. Many steamcars rolled along. A few buses and trucks too. Of course the city had several districts, and not all were restaurants and night clubs. She did have a list, gotten from other couriers, of what were supposed to be great eating establishments and most were not in the French Quarter. Two would be hard to find but they had great Cajun food while another one had a terrific crayfish, but first she had something to deliver and a response to get. Then she would see how much time she had to go searching for good food. A late-night train ran to New York even though it made one stop where she would have to switch trains.
When one vehicle puffed up to the curb she thought, Good they have cabs here. That would make the trip to the water front easier and faster.
She picked up her gym bag—she already wore her backpack—and headed out the door to fresher air.
Once out, through she coughed. So much for cleaner smelling air. This air contained various types of steam.
More accurately it was what they burned that produced the steam that varied.
Cigar odors joined in with that and, she tilted her head, food smells. There had to be someplace cooking up a storm close by.
Kara decided she could walk a bit to find a driver who might charge her less and who wouldn’t try to take her somewhere else—like a club. So she walked five blocks, and found what appeared to be an empty cab. She looked inside and saw a black man who she assumed was the driver lying on the front seat with his eyes closed. He looked only a little older than herself so he might be a college student, or someone just married who had two jobs. Just like some cabbies in other cities who took naps between fares. Or,… She took a closer look. No blood so probably not a victim of crime or a Mob fight.
She tapped on the driver’s window until the driver’s eyes opened. He looked startled but recovered quickly. He rolled down the window and said,
“You need a cab? And please excuse me I must have fallen asleep while waiting.”
“Yes, I do need a cab; and don’t worry about that, it is early still.”
She got in the back seat and told him the port she needed to get to.
“You taking a small boat out for a run?”
She nodded because he had looked at her in his rearview mirror. The thought came to her that he could be a upcoming jazz musician, who had played late last night but now had to do his day work.
He shifted his eyes to the front, put the car into gear and they lurched forward in a belch of steam she could see out of the back window.
“Sorry about that, but this cab sometimes does that at startup.”
She said, “I understand.”
The cab had looked newer and kept up, but even a steamer in good condition could develop bad reactions.
Over half an hour later he rolled through what could be a small courtyard and pulled up to the parking lot of a certain long one-story building. It looked like it had six storefronts. One other building the same size as the one he parked in front of, graced a side of the courtyard. She paid the driver and gave him an eleven-dollar tip. After she got out he asked if she wanted him to stay around. The day had warmed and she didn’t want to lug her stuff around but she would have to.
Kara said, “You can, but I don’t how long this boat trip will take. Could be three hours or more. So if you get another fare you should take it. But if you’re here I will have you take me back.”
He nodded and she headed for one of the offices in the long building up close to the water. A cool wind like the beginning of a weather front picked up during her walk but it wasn’t bad. The area smelled of the sea and fish as well as the boilers from the cars, trucks and the building itself. It became obvious that some of the fish were rotten even though that odor was faint. She got out some gum with one of the new intense mint flavors. Once she started to chew she almost smiled. Much better. She heard a faint sound that she took to be the ocean, or gulf in this case.
Kara found the correct door and went in.


Forty-five minutes later they neared a platform that stuck out of the water on four legs. She made out two cranes, one of which seemed to move. As they neared it she could tell that each leg looked thicker than a steamtaxi. She wondered how they had planted them in the ocean floor. At this point she could now make out structures on the platform. Two tiny fires burned in different parts of the oil derrick. Electric lights lit up other areas.
Mr. Johnson aimed for a metal ladder that looked welded to one leg. A very small platform sat there along with another two up higher. The ladder led to each one and then to the main one. A man on the larger platform saw them and headed down the ladder.
“I wasn’t able to contact them to say we were coming, but they get unexpected visitors almost every day,” Mr. Johnson said.
Kara nodded.
Mr. Johnson tried two ropes to rings set in the leg.
The man coming down the ladder stopped and shouted, “Who are you?”
Kara raised her voice, “A courier with a message for your OIM and a one for a hydraulic mechanic.”
“Good, we were told to expect a courier. Come on up.”
She looked at the ladder, gave herself a little shrug and grabbed a rung. She went up easily even though the rungs were wet from sea water. Mr. Johnson followed. He looked like he had experience climbing these ladders.
Once up on the platform itself she looked around.
She could see for miles. It looked like mostly water with a few ships in the distance. But she wanted to stay and look.
Up here she could still smell the sea but an odor of burnt oil invaded her sinuses also. Flashes of light showed where men welded and she could see other men carrying pieces of metal, or wrestling machinery into place. An occasional cuss word could be heard as well as sounds of metal against metal and the unique hiss of welding. And she heard something about boiling a certain part of a certain man in the main boiler. Three men in scuba gear walked by, headed inside, it looked like. The wind ripped over the structure. She felt it through her outfit. Mr. Johnson looked cold too. Most of the men were dressed in warm clothing.
The man that met them led them to one of the higher structures, and up a stairway that clanged with their footsteps. She wanted to spit because oil in the air got in her mouth when she breathed in. But she wasn’t sure how they would take it.
Once inside the man led them down a hallway. Or is that “passageway”? she thought. No wind in here, so it was warmed. Everything was metal even though an attempt had been made to make it look like an office building on land. He continued to what looked like an office: carpet on the floor, cushioned chairs, a clock on a desk, artwork on walls. A man sat behind a desk. It smelled a little of cleaners, cigars and cologne.
“Mr. Dampfgang? A courier has a delivery for you.”
The man in a black turtleneck looked up from a piece of paper. He took them all in at a glance Kara saw.
He said, “Good, I was expecting something today. Thank you for showing them in.”
The man must have taken that as a dismissal for he left. Mr. Dampfgang motioned them in. He greeted Mr. Johnson, looked at Kara and said, “Good, you arrived early. Ms…?”
“Kara. As you probably know, I have something for you to read, and I was told to wait for a response.”
The manager nodded. “In that case let me have what I am to read.”
Kara stepped to the desk. Even through her boots the carpet felt thicker than she expected and it seemed to be warmer than the metal floor. That last had to be just in her mind. She wore her work boots for one reason.
She took off her pouch and placed it on the desk. She found the correct folder and gave it to Mr. Dampfgang.
Kara said, “I have one more delivery here,”—he looked up with surprise on his face, “for a John Kilgood. One of the junior hydraulic mechanics.”
“I know him.” He paused than shouted, “Greg!” A man in coveralls looked in. “Go get John Kilgood. Tell him he has a message.”
The man said, “Yes sir,” and took off.
“I can read this and maybe have a response before he gets here.”
Kara said, “Sounds good.”
She stood there while Mr. Dampfgang read. Mr. Johnson had whispered that he had something to do and would be back in a couple of minutes. After what may have been ten minutes Greg came back with another man. This one wore greasy coveralls. The new guy looked twenty-three and in good shape with short blond hair.
Kara stood and said, “Are you John Kilgood, married to Aurore Kilgood?”
“I am John Kilgood and I am married to Aurore,” he said with a worried frown. He spoke with a Scottish accent which changed the pronunciation of Kilgood.
Kara reached into her pouch and drew out a thick, large brown envelope and handed it to Kilgood.
He took it from her with worry still in his eyes. He opened it and pulled out what looked like a handwritten letter. He read and his expression changed to a different type of worry, and then they lit up and he broke into a large smile.
John looked up and said in an almost shout, “I’m a father! My wife had a baby boy. It was a month early, but she says everyone is fine and healthy.”
He reached into the envelope again and withdraw a bunch of what looked like photographs. John went through them and said, “Here are pictures of my new baby.”
With a proud look, he showed them to Kara. “Here’s the baby, here’s my beautiful wife, the doctor, and others holding my son.”
She thought the wife might be a little embarrassed that he had showed pictures of her breast feeding, but then again maybe not. Kara brought out a form and asked him to sign it, just to say he received the package and that it was in good shape. He did with a thanks to her.
“I only charged your wife the basic price without expenses, since I had another run out here anyway.”
She had thought about giving them a further discount but John made good money even on the lower end of the pay scale here.
He smiled at her in gratitude, but went back to showing the pictures around.

A blast of light and sound showed that lighting had struck too close. She hoped that Mr. Johnson knew the way to his dock, as she couldn’t tell where they were. But she decided it would be better to not distract him to by asking.
She spat out more water and breathed in more. Ozone had built enough to smell and taste it, even as the rain washed it away. Her clothes were very uncomfortable since they were soaked and now clammy. At least they were not getting wetter. Kara looked out of the front and saw a light. Not large enough to be a lighthouse—at least she assumed there would be some near here on the Gulf. She looked around. There seemed to be a light over to her right—far to her right. Around Mobile? Kara shook her head she didn’t know enough about this coast to even guess.
One would be very good at this point though. It could show the way into the bay. But Mr. Johnson seemed to know where he headed for so maybe the light was coming from a building or something.
Kara wondered if her new goggles would help her to see through this weather, but more than likely they would be wet and hard to see through in no time. Water splashed up into the front of the boat. She tried to move even closer to the windshield. It offered at least a tiny bit of protection. And she hoped the boat had some form of pumps to make sure they didn’t fill up with water.
A sudden cough made her jerk. It had come from an engine. She spun around and looked at it. Not much she could do if it failed but maybe if it was only the boiler. She slipped and slid to the boiler near that engine and found that its fire had gone out. Too much water in it from the storm?
How to cover the boiler to keep the fire going?
Not too many ways out here.
A new thought and she ran to the compartment with the slickers. She grabbed one and slipped and slid back to the boiler. She tied one arm to a pole that stuck up near the boiler and the other to the other boiler. The back of the slicker top hung down over the burner. She might have to hold it away from it, but first…
Kara brought out a cheap lighter and got a flame going. This older contraption did not have the same burner that Danny used but still they were all similar. She looked up at where they were headed. The boat had slowed but the rain had sped up. From the way the boat bounced, so had the waves. She could smell the oil Mr. Johnson burned. It should easier to light than other materials used. The wind and waves made too much noise for Mr. Johnson to yell any advice or encouragement. But he might be trying anyway, she thought.
She licked her lips and discovered that not all of the moisture on her face had come from the clouds. How could she be sweating in this weather? With a frown she bent back down and tried to light the starter. It wouldn’t. She stood again and looked around. A gust of wind pulled the slicker out of her hand and almost knocked her down.
She tried again but the starter refused to catch fire. Kara bit her lip. She wasn’t going to drown in this storm. There had to be an answer.
More wind. This time she had to retie one of the arms. She made sure the other one stayed tight. A sudden bounce. One foot slipped on the wet deck. Kara moved her feet fast in what could have been a dance under other circumstances. A break dance, she thought.
I hope I don’t land on my head.
Her face twisted into a frown then a snarl. Her head went up to stare at the sky, but she aborted that move. All that would happen once her face was out from under the hat, is that she would get water in her eyes and probably mouth.
One corner of the slicker top pulled out of her hand and slapped her face even as she tried to duck.
Aww, it got my eye.
Not bad enough to injury it but she still had to rub it—gently of course. Once her eye would open again she bent over the starter again. She needed to get it going now.
She looked at the where the fire would start.
Kara reached out and touched it.
Damn, wet.
There was only thing to do about that, so she pulled out one of her knives, trimmed the wick and tried again. This time it started. She pulled back when the burner flared. This time when it died down, the fires kept going.
Kara thought of something she should have checked already. She looked in the water tank to make sure of the water situation and found it still at a good level.
Better, something worked out.
I am not drowning. That would allow my dad to say he knew I couldn’t do it. He said I would need every bit of training he could give me but that I would still fail myself.

End excerpt

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Except from my new novel The Courier

Since I am almost finished with the final corrections on my novel The Courier I decided to post some excerpts from it. This is 3,880 words of the first chapter. It ends with a cliffhanger.

I am not sure when I will be publishing the full novel but the way it is going now it will be in April. I have said this before but the corrections are going slow because they are tedious and I keep losing my place and have to spend time finding it. But since I am somewhat past half way I am starting to feel like I want to get it done so am spending more time on it and less on other writing and social media. I may end up doing four excerpts but three for sure. I will be publishing it on E-book and paper formats. And at the usual sites: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords etc. I am still looking into setting up my own site for the paper versions at least.

And I remind people that I have three novels already published. Two are in a Urban Fantasy series and one is a steampunk-special ops fusion. They are under L. E. Doggett and are at the usual sites, in paper and e-versions.

The novel is steampunk but set in our time. It is about a young woman who is a member of the Couriers. An organization of men and woman—even though there are mostly women couriers in this tale, it just worked out that way—who carry and deliver messages and hand held objects. That could be contracts, love letters, blueprints, gold, gems, parts, pictures, books and anything else that will fit in the special pouch they use. They have a reputation of delivering what they carry on time, if not early, no matter how far they have to go, or what obstacles they have to overcome-including gang members, robbers, ocean storms, dogs, and time. Kara Stronggear is one of them. And she will deliver what is entrusted to her no matter what, for she has a rep to build. She will become one of the better known couriers if she lives long enough to grow up.

Kara Stronggear ran around the corner of the high-rise office building. Steam cars and trucks rolled down the city street and the sidewalk up ahead looked half filled with people. A white steam bus with wide blue stripes went by, but she wouldn’t be able to catch it. The few people out and about got out of her way. The brown, denim-and-leather bag she carried gave away her occupation. Her short stature made it easier to whip around the slower ones.
A cool wind blew at her after she made the turn and made the few strands of her red hair outside of her cap flip around. A BMW steam bike roared by.
She had just passed a newspaper stand closed for the day and the smell of its fresh paint—for the first time in ten years—followed her. It mixed disagreeably with the odors from boilers: wood, oil, and coal fires and something else that a huge old steam truck burned that stunk and produced black smoke. She wouldn’t be surprised if the EPA went after that company soon.
Along the way she glanced at the theater and political posters stuck to the side of the building, as usual for New York they looked dark with grime. The many doors she passed invited her in but they might be locked and she didn’t want to take the chance that an office would turn into a trap. She had a rep to uphold, a bonus to earn and a baseball game to see after this delivery. The noise of the street vehicles echoed from the brick and steel buildings, but her hearing had adopted to it. She could pick out individual voices near her and still heard the footsteps of the person who chased her.
Maybe she should head for the new 911 memorial building. So many people there she could lose herself with ease. But no, too far away. That Baptist church nearby, had afternoon meetings for drug addicts and Celebrate Recovery, but she didn’t want to place those people in danger.
A white minivan with clear smoke that smelled of french fries almost jumped the curb when it hurried around another slower car. She glanced at it but it continued on. She spat, a very unladylike action, but the mixture of the paint and smoke produced a bad taste in her mouth. Her brown, with autumn red pockets, dungarees and leather shirt, with light read shoulders and pockets, would show people she wasn’t a lady anyway. Her shorter auburn hair lay mostly under a baseball cap snugged down tight. That made her scalp warm in this weather, but her whole body had to endure that. The cap's front panel showed her logo: a lightning bolt zipping down a city street. The bolt carried the same bag she did.
This time she had no idea what she carried in her reinforced bag. The pouch could carry more than ten red bricks. She knew that for once she had carried that many for a client. That job had taken a lot of her physically. She didn’t know who would want what she carried in it this time. If it contained cash or gems she could understand why, even if those contents were usually kept secret, which meant no one should know about it. But that knowledge could have gotten out. No one usually cared for contracts unless it involved industrial espionage or gangsters. The same went for plans and blueprints, or just plain letters. Unless it was some form of communication someone thought they could use for blackmail, no one cared. In her eighteen months of experience, and from advice from other couriers, she had learned that those who go after couriers hardly ever resorted to violence. The Mob might, but she had never had gangsters after her before. She might also be carrying evidence for a criminal case or secret government or military plans. The Mob could be after the first, but as far as she knew she hadn’t carried any secret papers or devices. That might be almost fun if she ever did.
The person who chased her now might be just interested in her. There were rapists around this city, after all. She thought of herself as attractive yet on the lower end of the pretty scale, with a pixie face to go with her light red hair. All of her walking, running and carrying, not to mention workouts, gave her figure a nice shape but that included muscles that most women didn’t carry. This guy might learn the same as two men, and a few assailants had. And experienced the unpleasant surprise of finding out how strong she was.
That brought up the memories of when she had been attacked on two of her recent jobs. By men who had wanted what she carried not her. That didn’t make any difference to her though, she had a good rep for getting what her clients wanted delivered on time and in one piece. She always made sure she kept that rep. One of the men had woken up in a steam ambulance while the other two had been run off even though they had knives. They had found out the hard way that she was armed in more ways than one.
That included her outfit which hid a steal underlay-a new type made stronger than ever. Chest, stomach and back armor covered her and her hat hid padded segments that would protect her head from most blows. She also carried a small three-shot pistol, two knives—one for throwing, which she hadn’t had to use so far—and two other weapons no one but her knew about. Not that her other weapons were common knowledge. Lastly three ball bearings of various sizes that were good to throw, marbles to drop on the ground in front of someone running, and a pocket full of long tacks for the same purpose but for anything with air tires.
She turned another corner and zipped through a space between buildings. Her steps echoed between the two buildings and the shade cooled her a little. A leap over some empty boxes got her on the far side fast. But the stinks here were so bad her body thought she could taste the mixture of rotten food, poo, decay and old paint.
The man hadn’t even slowed but by his footsteps she knew he still chased her. Kara wondered if she would have to resort to weapons. The father she barely knew had taught her the uses of a knife along with the marble and tack tricks. She picked up moves from two different boxers in training and she had taken courses from a teacher of eastern martial arts. An old Indian friend of her dad’s had showed her how to run long distances and how to hunt. The lessons had started when she reached ten years of age and had been living with relatives. Kara used lessons from the last to detect anyone hunting her. It had safeguarded her life once at least—before she had gotten the idea of this job—and saved the bag she carried twice. The padding and armor were her own ideas as had been her second knife. One long and thick enough to serve as a very short sword. On top of that a professional had shown her how to drive many types of land vehicles which included the multi-gear older trucks, and she knew the controls of some boats. She had picked up the basics for airship control. The large cargo and passenger ships needed more than one operator however but she thought she could pilot one if she ever needed to.
Kara dodged in and out of the walkers on the sidewalk—she hoped to lose her tail in the mix of clothing on this block. Workmen in blue denim, men and women in business suits and casual outfits, some women dressed in skimpy outfits that worked in a certain other type of business. The last were supposedly illegal in this city but the police usually left them alone unless they gathered together in a brothel or near a prominent building, church or school.
She aimed for a group of the last as she hoped their clothes would distract any man who followed her. She began to breath hard but a block later though she knew that last gambit hadn’t worked. He must be a pro or perhaps he was gay. It didn’t matter though. She weaved between a small mass of teens, through a group of nuns, turned right to cross the street, but as she passed around one very tall couple she made a sudden turn to the left into an alley. The darkness in it might throw off her tail if they had seen her flit down there. It smelled of urine, vomit, alcohol, decay and maybe old blood, but she heard no scuffles beyond rats. No breathing or snores either. The air cooled down, probably because the buildings on either side blocked the sun.
The rotten-food odors reminded her of the time she had had to eat some moldy bread and cheese to live, only a couple of years ago before her current career. Even now Kara appreciated she had left the meat alone. She had barely held down what she did eat, even though the old cheese hadn’t been too bad in its flavor. With a shake of her head she pushed those memories back where they belonged.
Kara studied her surroundings—shadows covered almost everything. Some light came from both alley mouths and from some widows two and three floors up. She didn’t know if those were tenants or offices. Offices might be easier to open up and climb into if needed. Some windows would be unlocked. Her dad and uncle taught her that. But she hadn’t wanted to make a living being a second-story man or cat burglar to work her way up to a top level all around crook like her dad.
That came so sudden she almost let it out. A scoff at the mouth of the alley she had come through warned her. She caught a slight movement there when she pivoted so quick she almost received an air burn on her cheeks. This guy knew his stuff. If he came from the Mob he was no ordinary gangster or hit man. From the government maybe—a special forces operative. If so, she would be dead.
Maybe she should give him the bag this time. She would more than likely be alive then even if she had to rebuild her rep. With slow steps Kara moved backward to the wall. The end of the alley proved to be a wall made of large, rough, cement blocks instead of the side of a building. The wall might lead to another alley or a parking lot. Either would be good.
Kara stood still, not only to make herself a harder target to find but also to listen. He would more than likely make a noise in an unfamiliar, dark space full of unseen objects just waiting to be bumped or stepped on. A nice cat’s tail would be good, or a trash can’s lid. They used bins now, but some habits die hard.
Damn, no sounds!
No deeper shadows, no breathing, no tiny movement of air caused by someone moving either. Either he was waiting for her to make a sound of her own or of that movement had been her imagination. That had happened once before, not long ago.
She breathed in as soft as possible through her nose: no extra odors. Not sweat, aftershave, hairspray, or other bodily smells. That last had let her know the position of one attacker a year ago and twice since. She had been out for a day of nature bonding when she had almost mistaken BO for animal droppings.
Now nothing. She hoped her body wouldn’t betray her, her own sweat at least might be tracked to her. And maybe she should start being careful what she ate the day before a run like this one.
How long could she stay in this position?
I am going to have to move one way or another soon.
A touch made further internal debate stopped, for it wasn’t needed anymore.
Minute vibrations through her bag alerted her. Something touched it. Her mind went through a series of possibilities: cat or rat? A huge spider? But she dismissed them almost as quick as they formed. It got to the only real answer in a heartbeat.
Damn, he’s even better than I thought.
He had moved without the slightest noise, or shadow and had found her. How? Kara asked herself as she pivoted, elbowed the guy with her left arm, and as she finished the turn, rammed the heel of her hand into the man’s chest—or that had been her plan. Her elbow hit something soft and hard but the heel of her hand just grazed a part of his torso. She pivoted outward and away but even as she settled two hands gripped her and a second later a knife edge found her throat. It just rested there, but her skin knew how sharp it was. Her sudden breath inward brought a whiff of her own fear-infused sweat. What felt like a hand moved along her bag; she knew the choice he had just given her. Her life for the bag. She breathed in again, and this time she tasted blood in the air. Her own? From her throat? Or maybe she had bit her lip again. It didn’t matter now. The choice did. It wouldn’t be a fair trade, for only one side would be permanent. Her rep would be gone, but as she had thought earlier she could remake it. Her life was another deal. Her eyes narrowed as did her lips. She willed her muscles to relax. She sighed even though she couldn’t say sure how much of it got out between her lips.
He seemed to be giving her time to think on it. She couldn’t stomp on his foot as much as she wanted to, as the motion might force her throat onto the blade and he would know that trick. His hand moved up the strap, stopped at the level of her chest. It moved over slightly. She couldn’t help it— she grunted, jerked, and smothered a snarl, before she realized he wasn’t copping a feel. The buckle for the strap lay against her body there. He probably didn’t mind his hand being there though.
Now her anger was up, even if he wasn’t manhandling her breast, she thought. He couldn’t see her face so wouldn’t know what the expression on her face meant. When her upper cheeks hardened, her nostrils flared and her mouth set in a certain way she knew. A tinkle suggested he had hold of the buckle and would be able to undo it even one handed.
A slow deep breath—she no longer could smell her own fear—and she waited.
The knife slipped very slightly but before she could react a memory of what her dad and Twoskunks each had said. In this situation it boiled down to wait more—it could be a fake. A second move of the knife hand—this could be a fake too but he almost had the buckle undone. Grabbing the hand would not do, as he had more strength than her. Kara could tell that by his hold. Being this close she could feel his strength and a few muscles. His warmth and build wormed its way into her thinking. She wanted to roll her eyes, but it did something for her feminine side. Now wasn’t the time to even feel that much less think about it and it went against her personal morals anyway. But his body felt like a good type of warmth, her face burned as if she were blushing, when she responded to his strength. Part of her feelings might be caused by the way his wrist rubbed her breast—not hard enough to bruise but still it created some friction.
Her mind back on her danger. Bite his wrist? Ready or not that would distract him. Might cause him to back hand her too through. She would have to take the chance. All she needed was a few seconds to get her other weapon into her hand. She tried a move for his eyes, but her fingers encountered something hard, smooth and glass-like.
A steam bike roared by outside the alley, it sounded like the rider rode on the sidewalk, headed in here, she thought perplexed and a tiny bit hopeful. They always made more noise than a steam car even with smaller boilers. The toot toot of a back-up steam horn sounded for seconds. She pulled in a slow breath through her nose. Got some of his scent along with her sweat. She rolled her eyes. No more distractions.
Kara let out a moan of pleasure that wasn’t all faked, and he paused as if thinking about what he just heard. She reacted by sliding away from the knife through the crook of his arm on that side. From the way his arm had rested she knew where that space would be. Her smaller size came in handy here. She brushed against his side and arm as she squeezed through that space. A smile crossed her face when she made it through before he could close his arm to trap her.
Once free she took a step to one side and spun around in a circle. In a second, even faster circle to gather speed, she lifted her right leg as far as possible as she came around the second time. She figured, hoped, that he would be facing her at this point. Her ankle connected with something hard with a flap. It moved. The sound of a body as it impacted the cement floor showed her that she had been correct in her aim—mostly. Her foot not her ankle should have hit his head. That joint now hurt, but she wouldn’t let it slow her. The pain reminded her of practice sessions. None of her teachers allowed her to stop because of pain.
To give her ankle time to recover and to do something unexpected, she drew her newest weapon. Slid a small knob on one side of it with her thumb. A very slight buzz sounded, she backed up, aimed to where the sound of the impact had come from, waited two heartbeats and then press a stud under it. A bright electrical bolt shot out. In the darkness the bright light dazzled her eyes, even through her closed lids. The hiss and very small electrical thump it made when it hit the cement revealed that she had missed. She backed up more, not caring about any noise she made for he knew where her location. Kara drew a breath in, breathed hard even as she moved. The air brought with it a tang of ozone. As she knew there would be.
Another three heartbeats and she moved to avoid whatever motions he made for her. A touch of air movement caused her to slide sideways, a darker man height mass in the darkness caused her to duck instinctively. She duckwalked three steps and stood. She knew he came for her. It hadn’t been quite long enough but Kara aimed the device in front of her and pressed the stud again even as she moved her arm. A less bright bolt shot out. She thought it moved slower—but that had to be her imagination. By the flash, she saw her bolt hit his side. He had to have slid that way when she aimed it. Too slow this time though. Again her vision clouded with stars and bright flashes, yet that didn’t interfere with the sound of a body impacting the cement a second time. The charge hadn’t been powerful enough to knock him out, but this time he should stay down at least long enough for her to climb that back wall.
A look around OH OH.
If I can find it again.
The darkness surrounded her, probably because her eyes had adjusted to the two bright strobes. A quick mental replay of their fight and she headed in one direction. The image of the area created by the electrical shock she supported her choice. There were no sounds except for those outside the alley. That included a siren. No way to know if someone had seen their fight and called the police. She didn’t want to talk to them anyway. Not only would that make her late but the electric stunner was illegal.
With her ears tuned to any sounds of the man getting up she hurried toward the wall. A solid bump on her nose that stopped her progress, revealed she had been closer than she thought. A short rub on the nose and a grunt was all the response she would give to the pain. React to it later; more lessons from her teachers but she had learned that one that hard way, too. The stink here also revealed where she as. An old, odor of urine strong enough for this to be a latrine for an army of homeless bums, she hoped—she hadn’t stepped in anything worse, but it hadn’t felt like it or smelled like it.
From around her waist Kara pulled out a small multi-pronged hook with a rough, very tough rope tied to it. She spun it then threw it upward. A clink followed. A heartbeat later by a second one on the alley floor. Another throw. She knew the height of the wall so she should be able to get this hook over it. The third try worked, she pulled on it to test how strong it stuck. It held so without further thought she started up. The wall was rough against the back of her hands and it tore her skin. The substance scraped her nose and one cheek when her body swayed, but she had known it that could happen. Sweat dripped into her mouth but she ignored the salty flavor it brought, as she couldn’t wipe her eyes or mouth.
Darkness showed above her and below. Some light behind her, but she climbed in shadows. It felt like she had been stuck there forever. Muscle strain began. She had to get up there before he caught her.
Just Darkness. Where am I? How much longer before I get to the top? If he gets me he will no doubt kill me and steal get my bag. I will have failed in this job, too. I can’t let that happen. Pain doesn’t matter, scraped skin isn’t important. My dad will know I failed for the rest of his time here, in the seconds I have to live I will know I failed. I want this life and this job-I need to do it!
She snarled and mouthed, “No! I have to get up there.”

end excerpt