Have you ever seen the rain?

London, July 31 2013

First, you need to choose your spot. And be sure to choose carefully. Dress appropriately. Always carry sunglasses, a hat or a headscarf, your gun. Be that girl nobody saw. Why look so surprised? Meetings don’t all end well. Some never start. Your job is to manage that, or the job will…well, manage you. Trust your gut. Nobody else. Oh, and never ever look back. Someone will always be following you.

Freetown, Sierra Leone, August 16 2014

Pressing the cool wet bottle against her temple had little effect, sweat still pooling between her shoulder blades until it overflowed, trickling down her back, soaking into her vest. She sipped the beer slowly, savouring the buzz.

Recalling his raspy instructions, her focus was brought back to the job in hand as she scanned the stifling surroundings. The water boys were lurched over the bar with their cigars as usual. All toothpicks and swagger. A pervading stench of testosterone lingered in her nostrils. Just about ready to boil over.

She glanced down at her watch. Five minutes to go. This was always the hardest part. Counting those final seconds. Staying alert. Avoiding wandering eyes. A minute late and she’d be gone. No deal.

The ceiling fan croaked endlessly above, an adornment to the tin roof rather than a help. Round and round. Round and round.

Outside, the sights and sounds of a run-of-the-mill Saturday morning market were in full swing. Barrels were being unloaded. Crashing from the truck to the bar hand, and rolling into the cellar. The call of street hawkers, the fish guy loudest.

She knew from experience that appearances were often deceptive.

She reminded herself of the words she needed to hear, clutching the bag tighter on her lap, the leather suckling on her skin.

There were more customers in the bar than she had expected given the early hour. Was he already here? Was he alone?

She smiled to herself. They never really came alone.

The clock struck twelve. She started to count down. Peeling the bag from her lap, she balanced on her rump bones.

Ten, nine, eight….

Something didn’t feel right. It never did until she heard the words.

Three, two, one….

Gone. She was up, in the street, walking. Faster. Head down. As she stepped round the corner into the alley she heard a raspy voice behind her.

Have you ever seen the rain here?

Those words.

She stopped dead. Him?

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50 thoughts on “Have you ever seen the rain?

  1. This was so realistic, so in the moment, that I have to assume you’ve been there and sat on that stool (wait, did you mention a stool? I imagined one I think!). There were so many great lines, but I especially loved “leather suckling on her skin.” Great story.

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    • Hi Silverleaf. I’m am bowled over by your awesome comment, thank you! I haven’t been to SL and so really had to close my eyes to put myself there in the bar. I’m delighted you like that line. I wanted to create as uncomfortable a wait for her as possible. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  2. Loved how you balanced the mundane – be the girl nobody saw, circling croaking ceiling fans – and the thrill of the exchange. Seems like it would be just like that, being a spy. Hours of boredom for the rush of seconds. Nice work!

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  3. I think what put me in the bar with her was the “… pervading stench of testosterone…” line. I know exactly what that placed smelled like. You covered all the senses but I think smell is usually the most difficult, You nailed it!

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    • Thank you! I’m pleased it worked for you, I played with quite a few other descriptions. Words not making the cut were “musky” “soup-like” & just plain old “smelly” 😉 your feedback means a lot, much appreciated!

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  4. Great build up of tension. “All toothpicks and swagger. A pervading stench of testosterone lingered in her nostrils. Just about ready to boil over.” This put me there and showed how uncomfortable she must feel, especially as a new spy. ‘The leather suckling on her skin’ showcases the heat and her reservations.
    So many phrases to be celebrated and a wonderful story. I loved the end. Look forward to more.

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  5. LOVE. My favorite line: “The ceiling fan croaked endlessly above, an adornment to the tin roof rather than a help. ” The whole piece is so writerly as well as tense and exciting.

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    • You’ve made my morning! Thank you so much for your feedback – really helpful to know which bits are working for readers. Sadly, I haven’t had the time I had hoped I might to hang out with everyone in bronze as I have been working away with Natalie in gold all summer, but hope to get back involved soon!

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  6. Great contrast in the pacing and mood between the training and action sequences. I love the idea of ‘the leather suckling on her skin.’ as if the heat and sweat is rejuvenating her bag back into a pig. And your ending left me wanting more – who is him? Great piece.

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  7. OMG. The writing here is so deft. You do a brilliant job at showing vs. telling. Example: “All toothpicks and swagger.” I know those guys. I can picture them in my head. GREAT job.

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    • Meg, thank you so much for your great comment. I’m pleased the show v tell worked as this is an area that I find particularly tricky to craft when in full flow. Must say that the YW series of posts has been a great refresher on what’s important. Have a great Friday!

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  8. Really like how you managed to create so much tension from a scene in which… nothing actually happens! That’s very impressive and I think it was the intense scrutiny you subjected everything to that made us realise how on-edge the character felt – “the leather suckling on her skin” and “The call of street hawkers, the fish guy loudest” are so vivid it makes us share in her cat-like alertness.

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    • Hi Blake, thanks so much for your great analysis and comment. Whenever I’m killing time in a cafe waiting to meet someone, I instantly get my I-phone out and start flicking. Although my contacts are not nearly as exciting as this character’s it made me realise how much “life” passes by without proper regard on my part because of this modern habit. It was fun having a character who had to keep her wits about her whilst only having a bag to clutch in the face of a long and anxious wait. So happy you enjoyed it.

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  9. Now what?! NOOOOW WHAT?! You can’t just leave us here. Holy hell. He killed her, didn’t he? No, he abducted her and slowly turned her into a double-triple-agent through advanced mind manipulation techniques! No, he’s a figment of her imagination, he was never even there. Which one is it?!

    Now that my fit is over…nice piece, I liked it!

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