Sunday, January 27, 2013
At the first meeting of our new local writing group, we talked about creating characters briefly and will probably make that a topic at our first official meeting. I talked about a character I created for my story, The Dream Stealer.
I, like everyone else, have trouble at times creating a believable character but in my opinion, Striker is the best one I've ever created. I struggle to keep the quality without over doing it.
What I learned in creating Striker is that sometimes who they are is be described by things other than the color of their hair and eyes. What they do, how they react, what the feel and even what the see can define a character. Of course, that's just what I think. I'll let you tell me.
Here's the first scenes involving Striker ever written. And yes, this is the way it went onto the paper. The scene had never under gone more than a cursory edit. Don't tell anyone but Striker actually wrote this himself. I was too scared to write it.
The breeze floating in through the open window shifted the wind chime and sent tinkling notes onto the air to mingle with the smell of motor oil and the arroz seasoned with peppers and onions. A horn sounded very far away.
He watched the golden rods on the chimes sway in the air, the morning sun glinting off the surface. Through the window he could see the crystal blue of the Caribbean. It would be a beautiful day out there on the cruiser.
“I don't want to hurt you, senorita. Truly.” The voice was gruff, heavily accented and solicitous.
Striker turned back to the room to watch. The woman's body tensed visibly but she didn't make a sound. A fine sheen of sweat covered her arms and chest above the scooped neck of her blouse and sweat ran down her neck, into the valley between her breast. There was an ugly bruise on her left cheek bone. The blindfold was tied so tightly around her head that it creased the skin at her temple and he marveled again at her resolve and her strength throughout the ordeal.
She was no weakling, this one. He hated to be the one to tell Julio but she wasn't going to be broken so easily. He turned back toward the window. It was a lovely day out there. He'd like to be sitting under an umbrella somewhere watching the water, drinking something cold and soothing. He sighed.
Julio jabbed her in the shoulder with the long wooden dowel he held. “You could be home tonight, querida. Wouldn't you like that? Making love to your man, or taking a nice bubble bath.”
A resounding smack echoed through the rafters of the warehouse as Julio slammed the dowel on the top of the desk near where the woman sat. Striker jerked and she jumped and for the first time a small whimper escaped her. Julio smiled. “Tell me where it is!”
Striker knew what he was thinking. To men like Julio if you applied enough fear, pain, and aggression you could get anyone to talk. For the most part, Striker agreed but he didn't believe it in this case. He'd seen this kind of woman before. They were rare but they were not to be taken for granted. This one was smarter than Julio. Maybe smarter than him. She might be terrified but she wouldn't be cowed. At the end of the day, Julio would have to kill her. He'd toy with her first but he would kill her. She knew it and would act accordingly. At the first opportunity, she'd rip Julio's heart out.
He studied the object on the desk. The burnished finish glowed softly in the morning light that fell across the desktop. It was a cube approximately six inches on each side, the corners rounded off and each surface intricately carved with flowers, butterflies, birds, and a maiden. It appeared to be solid but his information was that there was a key to open it and this woman knew the location of the key.
Julio stretched out a grubby hand and grabbed the long strawberry blond ponytail and yanked her head back. Had it not been for the blindfold she would have been forced to look into his face. Lowering his mouth to her ear he whispered something Striker could not hear but knew must have been horrible by her reaction. She tried to curl her body in on itself but because she was bound to the chair, hands behind her back and feet tied to the legs, she could do no more than cringe. Julio laughed. Striker made a face. Primitive.
The Latino turned and looked at Striker, his face angry. This wasn't working fast enough for him. He didn't understand patience. He didn't understand that for torture to be truly effective, one had to take one's time. Haste was a waste. It was inefficient, over quickly before the subject had time to realize what had happened. Typically, the subject died before revealing all that was needed.
It was why he had been called in. El jefe was not pleased with Julio's results thus far. He'd already killed two potential leads with his heavy handed manner. Striker was here today to prevent another such disaster. Julio probably suspected it but couldn't be sure. He would get his chance but he would not be allowed to go too far before Striker intervened. For the moment, Striker would stand quietly on the sidelines and the woman would remain unaware of his presence.
“Listen, puta,” he said, voice soft and caressing. “I'm not going to keep asking nicely. You tell me what I want and I let you go.”
He sat on the edge of the desk and reached out to stroke her cheek, her lips. He leaned forward and Striker saw her recoil from the breath in her face. He'd had a whiff of it himself. If Julio stayed there much longer she'd vomit in his face.
“You and me, when this is over, we get us a drink in a nice little cantina I know. You know, no hard feelings. But you got to help me here.”
Striker shook his head. The man was a fool. He'd slapped her, pinched, punched, threatened, and antagonized her. Now, he was trying to entice her with a date. No wonder they hadn't got what they wanted. This woman was no one's fool. None of this would work on her.
Still. He looked again at the cube. What was inside that was worth dying for?
A cry of pain pulled his attention from the desk. Julio was getting heavy handed. He had jabbed the dowel into her stomach, hard. Striker sighed. Time's up. He strode over to the man and yanked the dowel from his hand, jabbing it into Julio's stomach and then, twisting it up and hitting him beneath the chin so hard it slammed his head back. He landed on his back, stunned. The Latino recovered quickly and fury boiled out of him. He regained his footing and charged Striker, roaring curses as spittle sprayed from his mouth.
Like an matador, Striker stepped back, allowing the bull to stumble past him. He spun on his heel, preparing to face him. Julio turned to charge again. Striker was ready. He reached inside his jacket and pulled the Sig Sauer p220 from the shoulder holster and fired into Julio's face. Almost before Julio hit the floor, Striker had put the gun away and grabbed the cube, stuffing it into his pocket. He pulled a knife and slashed the rope that bound her hands and feet.
“Easy now. No, leave it on. You don't want to see just yet.” He caught her hand as it reached for the blindfold. “Let me get you out of here first. We have to hurry.”
She stood and he could feel her trembling so violently she could hardly stand. He lifted her into his arms and hurried to the door at the end of the room where he put her down. “Stand here and let me get the door opened.”
“Who. . .who are you?” She turned her head, looking blindly toward him, reaching out with one hand. It was the first words he'd heard her say and he was shocked to realize she was an American. “Please, who are you?”
“Doesn't matter. Someone who wants to help you.” Metal screamed as he pushed the large metal door up. There wasn't a chance that it wasn't heard if anyone was around to listen. He had tried to get rid of all the guards but it was possible he'd missed some. He had no idea how many there had been in Julio's band. He shielded her and looked around the frame. Sunlight glared off the cement drive that ran between the warehouses, sending waves of heat shimmering up into the air. He squinted before finally slipping on his sunglasses. Better. No guards in sight and his Lexus sat where he had left it.
“Come on.” He took her arm and lead her out. “Just walk with me. There is nothing in the way to trip you up. But try and walk fast.”
“Can't I take this off?”
“Best not yet. I don't know if there are any guards still around. It won't look suspicious if I have you in a blindfold.”
They reached the car and helped her inside and quickly got in the driver's side. Reaching across her, he buckled her seat belt. Then, he slipped the blindfold off. She had green eyes.
“Thank you. Whoever you are. Thank you.” She started to cry.
He handed her a box of tissue from the back seat. Then, he drove off while she composed herself. After a few miles he glanced at her. “Better?”
She nodded. “Will you take me home now?”
He smiled. “Soon. Don't you want to go to the police first?”
“The locals? I don't think so. I'd probably end up in jail myself. No, just home.”
A few more miles and he pulled into the drive of a small house set back from the road and surrounded by trees. He got out and went around to help her out of the car.
“I don't know how to thank you.”
“Let's get you inside and get those injuries taken care of. You have a nasty bruise on your face.”
One hand went to the bruised cheek and she turned toward the house. She unlocked the door and stepped back to let him in. He saw the fear bloom in her eyes as she realized what had just happened. Pushing against the door, she tried to force him out but it was too late. He shoved against it, sending her crashing into the wall where she slid down onto the floor. She began to whimper.
He reached down and pulled her gently to her feet, kicking the door shut behind him. “Now, darling. You're going to tell me everything. What did you do with it?”
It was just getting dark by the time he left the house. He closed the door and strolled down the walk, buttoning his coat as he went. As he drove away he saw in the rear view mirror that the porch light came on. Obviously on a timer.
She'd put up a valiant fight. He had expected no less from her. It was unfortunate that the information he sought was never in her possession. She had simply been an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire. A pity. She was very pretty. He'd particularly liked the strawberry blond hair. It was smooth as silk and smelled of coconut.
He glanced toward the west where the sky still showed a slender streak of peach just above the horizon. Too late to take the cruiser out and he had a plane to catch in the morning. Something about her had distracted him. He couldn't put his finger on it. Although she'd had no valuable information, she had revealed the names of three people who would need to be questioned.
Striker sat back in the overstuffed chair with his head resting against the cushion, drawing deeply on the small cigar. He blew three perfect smoke rings and sipped the Old Fashioned. Through nearly closed eyes, he studied the bronze cube on the coffee table before him. The gilt surface glowed warmly in the light from the lamps around the room, causing a halo to surround.
It was heavily carved on all sides and it was some of the finest work he'd ever seen. If you turned the box on an axis, the four consecutive sides showed a garden of trees, flowers and vines. On one panel a maiden stood near a fountain, her hand stretched toward the spray. The top side of the box was carved with foliage, like the canopy of a forest and was the only indication that it was the top. If the box was flipped over, the base showed a pit of writhing creatures with bulging eyes and sharp teeth. No doubt the underworld. There was no indication of a lock, hinges or even a line defining where the lid was or if there was a lid. It appeared to be old but whether it was made a month ago or a thousand years ago was impossible to tell, even with his expertise. No doubt the craftsman who'd created it had been exceptional. He wondered if he were still above ground. It would help if he were.
He blew another smoke ring. There were people he could take it to who could tell him but that would also create questions that required answers he couldn't give. He lifted his head and opened his eyes to study the room.
The deep burgandy walls and walnut furnishing and woodwork gave the room warmth and reflected the light. Thick carpet on the floor muffled every step. Two walls were covered with floor to ceiling shelves, fronted with glass doors to prevent dust from settling on the art work. Behind the glass stood sculptures of ivory, bronze, brass, silver, and wood from all over the world. They represented years of searching in flea markets, bazaars, auctions, and estate sales. On the third wall around the doorway, were a dozen paintings, the majority more than a hundred years old.
This was his sanctuary, the place where he came to refresh his mind and work on the more difficult problems of a case. Here he was surrounded by real beauty and a sense of continuity. Nothing was required of him but admiration. There were no emotions to define and suppress. He sighed and drew deeply of the Havana. He had them imported.
But nothing in this place compared to the small bronze cube before him. He sighed, sat his glass down and lifted the cube. It was heavy. Heavier than it should have been. The information he'd been given indicated it was a sealed box with something inside that needed to be retrieved. They didn't want to do an analysis that might damage the box or its contents. His job was to find a way in. That was what he usually did. However, the targets were usually living breathing beings whose emotions could be easily picked apart, examined and manipulated. Art was not so encumbered.
Placing the box against his forehead he closed his eyes. It was cool. A small smile slid across his face. But it was silent, blessedly silent. He loved it.