Always jot down your story ideas. Flesh them out later when you can, but write them down. Here’s one of mine.
Coffee With Spies
“Do you always bring a gun to breakfast?” I nodded at the bulge on the side of her jacket.
“No, I don’t.” The colonel straightened up, adjusting her charcoal coat. “I also don’t much appreciate jokes.”
Pulling a cigarette from a long, thin pack, she tapped the end on the white linen tablecloth. “When I was new, my trainer took me to a meeting similar to this one. He was old school, my T-2. Used to help spooks after the Cold War. Relocation, new identities, stuff like that.”
She put the cigarette between her lips and waited. I reached over and picked up her lighter, flipping it open and snapping the flame to life. The colonel leaned forward and took a draw, the tip of her cigarette glowing orange. Leaning back in her chair, she blew a stream of white at the sky.
“He said back then everybody was constantly changing sides. A new American Congress would get elected, and they’d go in and change the rules. Chaps we were fighting on Monday were our allies with on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the yanks would change their minds again and the field agents went right back into the fray. You saw that rubbish in the 80’s with the Contras.”
I toyed with the lighter. It was heavy. Expensive. Apparently, the colonel liked nice things.
She looked good after so many years of what had to be nonstop stress. Trim figure, perfect posture, stylish hair . . . and sharp eyes. She had the impeccable British manners, but I could see how that body had been an asset to her in this job. The only thing that really hinted at her age was the wrinkles around her eyes, and when she wore her sunglasses even those weren’t visible.
“So I’m sitting there listening to him tell me this when I realize he’s referring to our companion. The three of us are having dinner at this fancy restaurant in Prague, but it’s a Tuesday, so they were allies, right? These two men were trying to kill each other a few months earlier, but now we had to sit down and hammer out this deal. I was new. It made me quite nervous, but the trainer smiled, and so did the other fellow, so we had our meeting. Afterward, our companion invited us to his flat for coffee. We meet his wife and daughter, the works. Nice guy. They got along well, like old friends. It was the darndest thing.”
“Huh.” I nodded. “That must’ve been something else, being—”
“You didn’t let me finish.” She folded her arms and sat back in her chair, pointing the cigarette at me. “My trainer said if he got a text in the middle of coffee saying the rules had switched back, he would pull out his .45 and shoot our new friend right between the eyes in front of his wife and child and then sit back down and finish his coffee.”
Her face was the same as it been at the start of the story. Calm. Cool. Expressionless. Like she’d just told me the train schedule.
I laid her lighter down on the tablecloth.
“That.” The colonel took another drag on her cigarette. “Is the kind of people we’re dealing with, Mr. Lamonte.”
That was about 552 words, but I only have one question:
If this were the opening of a novel, the first page,
would you be interested in reading more?
Below is the original idea I scratched out in Notepad on my cell phone.
“Do you always carry a gun to coffee?” I nodded at the bulge in his jacket.
“No, I don’t.” The colonel straightened his jacket. “I also don’t much appreciate jokes.”
“I was having coffee with a guy he was a trainer of mine and he told me about the old days when he used to help guys after the war. Cold War stuff. Spy protection.
“He said everybody was always changing sides. Each Congress would come in and change the rules and then the guys we were fighting against on Monday we were allies with on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Congress might change their mind again and we were right back into the fray.
“So I’m sitting here having coffee with him and he explained that he was having coffee with somebody over from the other side one time. But it was a during a time when they were allies. And I actually had to sit down—these two guys who were trying to kill each other a few months earlier, I had to sit down and hammer out this deal. Work together. He said it was the darndest thing.”
“I must’ve been something else.”
“You didn’t let me finish. He said if you got a text saying the rules it switched back, he would pull that it’s 45 a shoot the guy right between the eyes in front of his wife and kid, then sit down and finish this coffee. That’s the kind of guys we’re dealing with.