Mark Terry

Friday, October 21, 2011

7 Years

October 21, 2011
Today marks the 7th anniversary of me writing full time. On October 21, 2004 I was completely done working at Henry Ford Hospital and was a full-time writer. In June of the same year I had gone part-time, working at the hospital 2 10-hour days a week. Ian was 11. Sean was 7.

I haven't looked back (except for an occasional stress dream where I'm working at the hospital).

What have I learned, if anything?

- I like being self-employed.

-Things change, sometimes for the better, but not always. Very few of the clients I started with are still with me. Only one, I think. Maybe two.

-The Internet giveth & the Internet taketh away. It would be extremely difficult to do the work I do without email and the Internet. I also do a fair amount of work on website copy, e-newsletters, and online publications. That said, there's been a growth of so-called "content farms," like Demand Studio that churn out crap to jack up their search engine optimization so they can charge higher ad rates, and they pay their writers pennies. So although it might be a place for beginning writers to get paying clips, I personally feel it's driving down the overall market for paying work for writers. (It's also cluttering up the Internet with a wealth of really shitty journalism with bad writing, few if any references, reliable quotes, or reliable information. My brother joked recently that the Internet was 65% cat pictures, 34% porn, and 1% outdated user manuals. Increasingly I'm seeing so-called news stories that don't quote anybody, don't name sources, don't have reliable information cited - like the name of the organization they're writing about - and include typographical errors and bad grammar).

-There's still paying work, a lot of it, and some of it pays really well. You just have to find it. Usually it's business related.

-I'm making good money writing things I never even knew existed 10 years ago, like white papers. I'm guessing in another 5 or 10 years I'll be making money doing things I hadn't thought of yet (or hadn't been invented yet), too.

-A couple years ago I had a client I'd had for a few years - that year that client earned me $57,000. One client. Then they restructured, the editor/publisher I worked for left, they pretty much stopped working with freelancers, and as of today, I've done $200 of work for them, and the replacement editor left as well. Along with "things change" I would have to say "shit happens." I've picked up several clients to replace that one, and I'm happier having, say, 3 or 4 clients that pay $15,000 or so a year instead of one big client.

-Priorities change. Maybe this is just life in general, but things you thought were important 5 or 6 or 7 years ago as a writer don't seem as important to me today (say, fiction, for example).

-There's more to life than writing. That's been a big surprise to me. I knew it intellectually, but I'm not sure I really knew it emotionally until the last year or two. Really.

-Book publishing is going through a huge upheaval right now. In a lot of ways, it really sucks for writers. In a lot of ways it's really good for writers. For all of those writers who are praising e-book self-publishing as the solution to all their problems, let me personally refer you to my point above about content farms. Nuff said.

-I'm happy to be where I am and look forward to the next 7 years.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011


October 18, 2011

            Two-and-a-half, actually. And by the time they pulled into Galveston, Sally had found a buyer for her boat – Derek. Sally was thirty-five, had married a man twenty-five years older than her when she was thirty. The man, who she said was a nice enough guy, had several million dollars rattling around in the bank and several million more in the stock market. Then, while eating at Joe’s Stone Crab, he’d fallen right off his chair, dead before he hit the floor from a heart attack. Sally inherited the millions, a big modern house overlooking the ocean, and the boat. She decided she wanted a bigger boat and she wanted some time alone to “grieve,” so she decided to sail it to Texas where she had some family, see if she could sell the boat while she was there. Then she thought she might want to spend a few months in Europe. Did he want to come?
            It was a double entendre, and not a very subtle one. Sally was like that. Derek figured her husband must have thought he’d died and gone to heaven when they hooked up. Maybe he even knew she was screwing him for his money. Maybe he didn’t even care. But Derek politely declined, saying he had a job to get back to.
            Standing on the dock, he said, “I’ve got to fly back east.”
            She smiled and kissed him, a lingering kiss. “You never really did tell me what you were doing in Cuba.”
            “Stealing kayaks,” he said. “I told you. Big black market in Cuban kayaks. Didn’t you know?”
            “I’ll get the paperwork going on the boat. Call me.”
            He caught a flight from Galveston to Houston to Washington DC. He was met at the airport by a muscular man with a gray crew-cut in a dark suit that didn’t hide the fact that he pumped a lot of iron and probably used a lot of steroids. He didn’t say anything as he drove Derek to a bland office building in Maryland where Derek was ushered into a small room with two plastic chairs and a Formica table.
            A thin blond man in a gray suit and black and silver tie entered and sat opposite him. “Hello, Derek. Have a nice vacation with Mrs. Kendall?”
            “Bought her boat. I’m going to have to fly back down to Galveston to sail it back here.”
            “Yes, we’re aware of that.” The man, whose name was Richard McGee, was the man who had sent Derek to Cuba. “Just one more fuckup in a long line of them, apparently. Why don’t you start at the beginning.”
            So Derek did. The first time through, McGee didn’t ask any questions. The only time he said anything was when the subject of the Russian woman came up. McGee looked to a spot near the wall and said, “Get that.”
            Derek said, “Hidden camera?”
            McGee nodded. “Continue.”
            Derek did. Finally, once the story made it to Sally Kendall, Derek stopped. McGee said, “Oh, let’s keep going.”
            Derek shook his head. “Sorry. Nothing to tell.”
            “Plenty to tell. You’re being … debriefed. But maybe you already were.”
            “You were forty miles from shore. You didn’t have to stay on the boat. What did you tell her?”
            “Black market in Cuban kayaks.”
            McGee stared at him. “You failed at your mission.”
            Derek leaned forward. “Your Cuban network was totally compromised. And it was compromised before I showed up in Havana. I’m lucky I’m not in a Cuban prison with a car battery wired to my nuts.”
            McGee nodded.
            Derek stared at McGee. “I’ve got a question for you, McGee. Did you know your network was compromised when you sent me in there? Was I bait? Was the real mission to find out if and how much your Cuba network was compromised?”
            McGee stared back at him, giving away nothing.
            Derek knew the answer, though. He shook his head. “The odds of me getting into that facility and finding something useful sucked. And you know it. But the odds of me getting hung up if your network was compromised – they were pretty damned good, weren’t they?”
            McGee blinked a moment. “You will be given a polygraph.”
            “Of course. Let’s continue with this little game, shall we? I hope you’re happy with my mission. Hope you found out what you wanted.”
            McGee didn’t respond, but led him back through the story, asking questions, asking more questions, picking at thing, asking the same questions in different ways. Finally McGee leaned back in his chair and said, “Why did you leave the Army, Derek?”
            “You guys asked me that when I signed up. I was done with the chain of command. I thought I had skills the Agency could use.”
            “You’re more resourceful than I would have guessed under stress, but you’re not much of a spy.”
            “Thanks.” Although it was something Derek had been wondering about. He supposed it depended on the nature of the mission. Plots within plots. If the Agency sent him in to blunder around and they viewed him as largely expendable, then he’d been a fantastic spy. Particularly if they got the extra bonus of him actually getting out of the country when everything fell to pieces. If they really wanted proof of biological weapons manufacturing, then it had been a miserable failure.
            If it had been entirely up to him, he would have skipped trying to talk his way into the facility and done a black-bag job in the middle of the night, snuck out of the country and picked up a boat five miles off-shore. It wasn’t terribly subtle, but then again, neither was he.
            The door opened and a woman handed McGee a notebook. McGee handed it to Derek. “Take a look.”
            Derek opened it. It contained about a hundred photographs of women. Mostly headshots, mostly taken while the person wasn’t looking. Beneath each photograph was a number. He went through the photographs, finally stopping at 14E. “Her,” he said, tapping the photograph. It was the woman he thought was Russian who had saved his ass in Havana.
            McGee said, “Her name is Irina Khournikova. Spent a little bit of time in Spetznaz. Now she is newly assigned to the FSK.”
            Derek had to think about that for a moment. “FSK?”
            Federalnaya Sluzhba Kontrrazvedki. Less than a year ago, better known as the KGB. She joined the FSK and, as far as we know, was assigned to Cuba. Which, given the deteriorating relationship between Cuba and Russia, probably means they didn’t expect much out of her.”
            Irina Khournikova, he thought. Well, he supposed that was good to know. He didn’t expect to ever run into her again. “Can I go home now?”
            “Yes. Get some sleep. Come into the office to write up your report tomorrow. We’ll schedule the polygraph. Then fly down to Galveston and get your boat. I assume you want some time off to deal with all that.”
            “I do.”
            “Make it a good report, Derek. We’re trying to figure out what to do with you.”
            Derek got to his feet. “Any ideas?”
            “Maybe Pakistan. Only we’ll send you semi-official.”
            Derek winced. “Pakistan?”
            “Yeah. Enjoy. The Asian folks want a bioterror expert on the ground. I’m glad to get you out of my hair. By the way, the U.N.’s been asking about you, too. You might want to take them up on their offer. Running around Iraq doing weapons inspections.”
            Back to Iraq? But Derek understood what McGee was saying. You fucked up, buddy. We’re trying to unload you.
            “We’ll see,” Derek said.
            Three days later he was back in Galveston standing on the deck of his new home, a fifty-two-foot Criss-Craft Constellation. Sally was going to ride back with him to Miami before she headed to France and Italy for a few months. Derek thought it was going to be an enjoyable couple days.
            As they pulled out of Galveston, Derek in a pair of cut-off denim shorts, Sally in an orange string bikini, Sally said, “Are you going to keep the name?”
            “What will you name it?”
            He grinned. “The Salacious Sally.”
            “I like that,” she said, leaning against him.
            “I thought you might.”
            “And when you get back to wherever you’re going? Back to Cuba, stealing kayaks?”
            “No, I’m out of the kayak black market for now.”
            “Then what?”
            He thought of his next assignment: looking for evidence of biological warfare agents among civilian casualties in Pakistan. Digging up bodies in mass graves.
            “Gravedigger, maybe,” he said.

The End

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Dire Straits, Chapter 12

October 18, 2011

            Her name was Sally Kendall and she was out of Miami, heading to Galveston to see if she could sell her boat, The Taste of Honey. “You’d think Miami would be a good market,” he said when she told him that.
            It was a long time before he’d been able to have that conversation, though. He’d barely been able to climb up the ladder. On board, he staggered, dropped to his knees. The world swirled around him.
            Then all was black.
            He woke up an unknown number of hours later on a soft bed. Next to the bed was a glass of water. He vaguely remembered drinking some water. But he was still thirsty. He gripped the glass and forced himself to drink slowly.
            When the water was gone he slowly sat up. His arms were red with sunburn. His hands were blistered.
            He felt pretty lousy. And hungry.
            Derek found the head, relieved himself and looked in the mirror. A couple day’s growth of beard, a tangle of wavy hair matted with salt, deep-sunk eyes. The boat rocked a little. He decided to use the shower without asking.
            A half hour later, feeling significantly better, he realized he couldn’t find his clothes. Next to the glass of water was his utility tool and a warped and water-soaked wallet. He wrapped a large red towel around his waist and went looking for the mistress of The Taste of Honey. She was sprawled out in the sun on the boat’s bow, sipping what Derek thought might be a screwdriver, although maybe it was just orange juice. She wore a filmy top over a black bikini bottom, but had not added anything else. She was, he thought, drop-dead gorgeous.
            “So, the merman wakes.”
            “Thanks for rescuing me. Um, I don’t really remember how I got to the cabin.”
            She patted the lounge chair next to him. He sat next to her.
            She held out her hand. “I’m Sally Kendall.”
            He shook. “Derek Stillwater. Um, where are my clothes?”
            She eyed him. “Washer. They were a mess. So were you. She pointed to one shoulder. “Not really a scratch. Looks like you got shot.”
            “Just a graze.”
            “You know, Derek. When we find people like you floating around in the Gulf, we tend to think drugs might be involved. But I don’t know what moron of a drug dealer would try to smuggle drugs in a kayak.”
            “No, no drugs.”
            “But there’s a story, I guess.”
            “I’m really hungry,” he said.
            “And thirsty, I would guess.”
            “Help yourself to anything you find in the galley. It’ll give you time to come up with a good story.”
            He found orange juice and coffee and bread that he made toast out of. He took an uninvited mini-tour of the boat. He liked the boat a lot. Joining Sally at the bow, he said, “I’m not sure how this would work, actually, but I’d like to use your radio to connect somehow to a telephone.”
            “We should be able to do that, find somebody to patch you in. Come up with your story yet?”
            He smiled. “I’m working on it.”
            “I bet you are.”
            “So if I told you I escaped from Cuba?”
            “Why would I escape from Cuba? They didn’t like me much over there.”
            “They arrest you for stealing kayaks?”
            “Something like that.”
            “Are you in the military?”
            He raised an eyebrow. “Why would you say that?”
            She pointed. “Your tattoo.”
            “Ah.” The CIA had been very concerned about the tattoo on his right shoulder. It was a sword pointing upward and crossed by two arrows. It was one of several insignias of Special Forces. “Yes. I was in the Army for a while.”
            She looked him up and down. “Got some scar tissue, but you look fit.”
            He grinned. “So do you.”
 “I didn’t think you’d notice.”
            “I noticed.”
            “Well good. Maybe we should make that phone call?”
* * *
            It took some time, but he eventually got through to a special phone number. It was answered simply with, “Hello.”
            He recited a number. The voice on the phone, a neutral male voice, paused for a moment, then said, “I need to confirm. Give me a callback.”
            Derek explained that would be difficult and why. The man paused, said, “Do you have the alternate number?”
            “Call it.”
            He did. A different voice answered, a woman this time, with an odd accent, maybe east coast, New Jersey maybe. “Where exactly are you?”
            He looked at Sally. “Where are we?”
            “Middle of the Gulf of Mexico.”
            He relayed that information. The voice wanted more specifics. He told the voice he was heading toward Galveston. The voice wanted to know how long it would take for him to get there.
            He looked at Sally, who waggled her eyebrows at him. “Depends on if you want to go fast or go slow. I vote slow.”
            Derek studied her for a moment. Into the phone he said, “At least two days.”     
        Sally smiled. It was a smile filled with a fair amount of promise. Derek reflected that there probably wasn’t much point of being a spy if you couldn’t occasionally act like James Bond. Into the phone he said, “Maybe three.”

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DIRE STRAITS, Chapter 11

October 18, 2011

            Hours later, the storm ended. Derek slumped in the kayak. His shoulders, arms, and back all ached. He was very thirsty. Off to his right the ocean glowed scarlet, the sun beginning its reliable leap into the sky.
            At least I’m still heading in the right direction, he thought.
            Looking behind him, he could no longer see Cuba. All he saw was blue-black water in every direction. That was probably a good thing. It meant he was several miles away from Cuba. Far enough away from the Navy or the Coast Guard?
            He hoped so.
            Rotating his arms, he stretched his shoulders. For a time he just rode the swells and watched the sunrise, happy he had the opportunity to.
            A failed mission, though. He didn’t accomplish his main objective.
            Pushing that thought aside, he started to paddle, keeping the sun to his right, wondering exactly how far he was from land. Knowing that if he was off by a degree or so, he would be a lot further than a hundred miles from the U.S.
* * *
            The sun rose. The remaining clouds evaporated. The ocean calmed.
            The temperature rose.
            The sun glared down hard. He paddled, rested, paddled. Eventually he took the cockpit skirt, cut tiny slits in it for his eyes, and arrayed it over his head to block the sun, which scorched down. It kept the direct sun off him, but created its own kind of greenhouse.
            First the sweat poured from his body. Then it stopped.
            He looked longingly at the seawater and the water in the cockpit and shook his head. If he was still out here in another ten or twelve hours, then he might find himself drinking saltwater. Drinking saltwater was controversial in survival situations. Drink enough, it would dehydrate you more and damage your kidneys and liver.
            Drink a little, it might keep you alive.
            Not healthy. It could kill you. But you were dying anyway.
            Derek hoped he wasn’t out here that long.
            He kept paddling, feeling his strength seep away and the sun rising high in the sky, then falling behind him.
* * *
            Derek dozed. When was the last time he had slept? Thirty-six hours? Forty-eight?
            He jerked awake, scanning the sky. Thought he saw lights. A plane. But so far away he wouldn’t be seen.
            He paddled. Saw the sun slide toward the horizon on his left.
            He had been on the water almost twenty-four hours.
            Thirst was a problem now. He could tell it was affecting his strength. It was all he thought about now. Water, water, everywhere…
            Derek wished for the tin can, but it was lost. He scooped up water from the cockpit and sipped.
            Salty. But maybe not as salty as the ocean, diluted by rainwater.
            He didn’t drink much. He wanted to. One handful. Two.
            It made him want to vomit, but that would be even worse.
            He sent out a little message to God: This would be a good time for a little help.
            He dozed.
* * *
            The sun was setting.            The ocean glowed pink all around him. He didn’t notice. He was exhausted. Sunburned and dehydrated.
            He heard a voice. Hallucinating, he thought. Not surprising.
            “Hey there! Is there someone there?” A female voice.
            Sitting up and tearing the skirt off his head, he blinked in the harsh light of the setting sun.
            A boat. Pretty good sized, maybe sixty feet. A cabin cruiser. Looming over him. Squinting, shielding his eyes with a swollen, blistered hand, he saw a woman leaning over the rail of the boat’s bow. He closed his eyes, certain he was hallucinating for certain. The woman, who was very attractive – somewhere in her thirties, perhaps, with blonde hair and a heart-shaped face – wore only a white bikini bottom. She displayed a lot of deliciously tanned skin.
            He looked up again. “I’m…” His voice sounded like a wood rasp.
            “You okay?”
            He shook his head.
            “Come on board,” she said, pointing to the ladder at the bow. “You look like you’re in trouble.”
            “Yeah,” he croaked. “Better now.”

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October 18, 2011

Spinning on his heel, Derek raced toward the rear of the house, slamming the glass door open and leaping over the deck rail to the sandy beach below. Which way to go?
            And then he spied the neighbor’s kayaks.
            Lunging in that direction, he was just reaching the kayak when the troops appeared around the sides of the house. Gunfire cracked the air.
            Snatching a paddle, he shoved the kayak into the water, leapt in the cockpit and pushed off. Bending low, he dug in, paddling as hard as he could.
            The ocean waves nearly slammed him back into shore. He reached deep and began paddling up the shoreline, angling into the waves. More gunfire breached the air. Something tugged at his shoulder. Glancing over, he saw a streak of blood.
            Leaning down, he continued to paddle, heaving into the waves, timing the surf, trying to use the tides to his advantage, even if that meant staying close to shore – just as long as he moved away from the Cuban soldiers.
            Glancing over his shoulder, he saw he was having some success. He was several hundred yards away from the shoreline now, the soldiers jogging up the beach, but the distance growing wider and wider.
            He kept at it. And within an hour, the sun had sunk behind the thick clouds, the waves had kicked up, and the coast of Cuba was to his back and Key West was one hundred and six miles ahead of him.
            Then it started to rain.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011


October 12, 2011

            Derek found a corner of the apartment building’s roof with his back to the rising sun and gave the city some time to quiet down. Too keyed up and paranoid to sleep, his senses became hyper-attuned to the sounds and vibrations of the building beneath him – doors slamming, water running through pipes, people walking around, the smell of coffee and food wafting out windows. Below, the city woke up, traffic picked up, people called out to each other, chattered in rapid-fire Spanish. Sirens wailed, music played.
            Finally he felt that the building had quieted down. He rolled to his feet and slipped into the building. Listening at the nearest door, he thought he heard voices inside.
            He moved on to the next door. Hearing nothing, he knocked at the door. Nobody answered.
            Checking the doorknob, Derek noted it was locked. Pulling out his utility tool, he went to work on the lock. It was a cheap lock and he had the door open in seconds.
            It was a small apartment, a tiny kitchen and living area, a bathroom and two small bedrooms. Based on the number of beds, probably three kids used the bedroom. He used the bathroom then went into the refrigerator. Derek opened the refrigerator, found several bottles of TuCola, a Coke-like product, opened it and drank. Caffeine flooded his body. Several mangos and bananas rested in a glass bowl. He had one of each.
            He sat for a while and considered his options. This, he realized, was getting him nowhere. For the last several hours he had been sitting around considering his options. They were few and far between. “Somewhere,” he muttered, “between shit out of luck and hell-and-gone.”
            Derek also felt his luck was getting used up.
            Looking around the apartment, he threw some money on the counter in an anonymous thank-you, and slipped out the door.
            He walked down the stairs. The apartment was mostly quiet. He could hear the occasional TV behind a closed door, or a baby crying, but otherwise all was silent. Out on the street he took a meandering course around the city. He had no intention of returning to where he had left the Vespa. For the time being, he wanted to stay clear of the safe house.
            He blended in moderately well. Havana had plenty of tourists from Europe and South and Central America. He visited a clothing store and bought a pair of jeans that he put on in the restroom of a bar, tossing his torn black jeans in a trash can. Derek bought up a T-shirt from a street vendor, then bought a baseball hat for the Marianao’s with a golden tiger on the front. From another vendor he bought a pair of dark sunglasses.
            With the shirt untucked and acquiring the kind of rolling gate so many Cuban males seemed to use, he hoped he would blend in for the rest of the day. He wandered. Sat on benches. Stopped in a bar where he could linger over a beer for several hours.
            Leaving there, he drifted, listened to some street musicians playing guitar and trumpet. He threw a few coins in their open cases and thought that under other circumstances he might like Cuba. He liked the weather, although today it was cloudy and cooler. He liked the food. He liked the girls with their dark hair, olive skin, big black eyes and their flirtatious ways. He liked the music.
            Finally, he walked toward the safe house. It had been a long day. Dusk was coming on quickly. He waited a block away, leaning against the trunk of a eucalyptus, watching the house. Finally, fairly confident that nothing was going on, he walked to the house and let himself into the garage. The first thing he did was turn on the computer.
            No new message had been left for him.
            He roamed the house, restless. Peeking out the front window through the closed drapes, his heart thrashed in his chest. From the building across the street Juan Osorio stepped out of the front door. He raised a finger and spun it in the air.
            From around the corners of the building and the door behind him burst a dozen uniformed men with AK-47s. They sprinted toward the safe house.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011


October 5, 2011
[My apologies. I've been swamped with work and family responsibilities lately. Hope you enjoy today's installment]

He didn’t make it far. He peeled out of the alley, turned onto a narrow street, and skidded to a halt. The street was blocked by two cars. Standing in front of the vehicles was none other than Juan Osorio. On his left stood the auburn-haired woman he had noticed while barhopping with Coro, the one that gave off the Russian vibe. On his right were two uniformed men carrying assault rifles.
            Osorio called out, “Senor Hamill, you are under arrest.”
            “The hell I am,” Derek muttered, spinning the bike on its rear wheel and hammering the throttle. The bike roared. He heard gunshots over the bike’s racket.
            He skidded around a corner only to see another vehicle blocking the street. This one didn’t block the entire street and the soldiers or agents or cops, whoever they were, stayed in their vehicle.
            Pull his handgun, Derek held it in his left fist, gripped the throttle with his right, and raced toward the car, firing as he went.
            He was squeezing past on the right when the car slammed into reverse. The car’s trunk struck his rear wheel. The bike skidded, wobbled, then Derek laid it down on the pavement, rolling away from the bike.
            Lying there for a moment, he wondered if he’d broken anything. Bruised for sure. Looking down at his jeans, he saw he’d shredded his right leg and hips. He was sure as hell bleeding. And sure as hell lucky.
            Rolling to his feet, pain shot up through his leg and his side. Behind him, a uniformed cop staggered out of the car, the shoulder of his uniform dark with blood. He raised a handgun.
            Derek shot him.
            Turning, he levered up the motorcycle, whose engine had cut out. He straddled it with some difficulty and tried to kick it into life. Nothing.
            He tried again. Still nothing.
            He turned to see the red-haired woman standing two dozen feet away from him. Their eyes met.
            She had a gun pointed at him. In English with a Russian accent she said, “Derek Stillwater.”
            A jolt of adrenaline blasted through Derek. She knew who he really was!
            “I think it would be better for my country and yours if you just got out of here. Go.” She waved the gun at a doorway. “Through there.”
            He didn’t ask questions. He sprinted for the door. Who was the woman? He had no idea, but she’d done him a hell of a favor. And if she was Russian – and it seemed she was – perhaps she was right. The analysis Derek had read after the breakup of the Soviet Union and their relationship with Cuba was that it was spiraling downward in a big way.
            He didn’t give it much thought. Gift horses, and all that. Darting through the door, he found himself in an apartment building. Racing through the hallway, he headed upward. The buildings in this part of Havana were old and sandwiched together, sometimes only a half dozen feet separating them, sometimes less, sharing walls.
            It was six stories tall. It smelled of herbs, mildew, some sort of cooking meat or beans. This early in the morning it was quiet.
            He climbed the narrow stairs to the top floor. A ladder went up one wall to a hatch. Derek climbed up, pushed it open, and rolled onto the roof of the apartment building, closing the hatch behind him.
            Heart hammering in his chest, lungs burning, he took stock of his situation. Scraped up, but functional. Pretty much out of options.
            As far as he was concerned, he’d just been about as lucky as he was likely to get, running into a Russian agent who would rather get him out of the country than turn him over to the Cubans.
            Glancing around, he saw that the next closest building was about six feet away and maybe four or five feet lower. Pocketing the gun, he took a deep breath, set himself, and leapt the distance between the two buildings. He hit the next building, rolled, and was happy to discover that the next half dozen buildings were built adjacent to each other.
            Within minutes he was several blocks from where Osorio was looking for him. Hopefully the Russian woman had pointed Osorio in a different direction.
            In the east, the sun was starting to rise, the sky ribbed with scarlet as the sun burned through distant clouds. A beautiful sunrise, he supposed, if he weren’t such a pessimist: red sky in morning, sailors taking warning.
            Derek thought a storm was coming. 

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