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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Cyber Communication (email, IM’s, etc) (11/04/10)

TITLE: The Invitation
By Rachel Phelps


“Any change?”

His partner’s whisper hissed through his earpiece. Ian jerked his eyes to the monitor on his right. The red dot was stationary.

“He’s still in there, Jack.”

Jack’s sigh was heavy enough to crackle on the frequency. “Alright, then I’m off to circulate the salmon puffs.”

“Bring back enough tips to get us a decent dinner, okay?”


The connection closed with a click. Ian kept his gaze on the screen for a few seconds more. This could be the break they had been waiting for – if the target would make a move. Jack had a bit more than napkins under his official embassy waiter’s garb. Ian just had to monitor the tracking device and be sure the target didn’t slip out during the ball.

His gut was tight. He tried to convince himself that it was all about this case, but he couldn’t.

He turned back to his laptop. The email from his parents was still open. He ground his teeth. They were asking about the holidays, like they did every year.

We know you can’t commit for sure, but we’d love to have you at Christmas. Your brother is bringing his girlfriend and hinted there might be a proposal in the works. It would mean a lot to him if you were there for it.

It had been six years since he’d been home for the holidays. He’d not regretted the first five. One of the fringe benefits of this job – other than the fact his father deeply disapproved of anything that involved secrecy, technology and the government – was that he had a built-in excuse to avoid being home longer than 24 hours at a given time. It also meant that he was spared long arguments with his father since communication in the field was strictly limited to emails.

But Tom was getting engaged.

Ian had to chuckle at that. His baby brother was finally going to pop the question. It didn’t seem possible that he was old enough for such things.

“Any movement?”

Ian nearly jolted out of his chair at the sound. “Not yet.”

Jack closed the connection without even a comeback. Ian could empathize. Embassy cases were always drawn-out and boring until the last. He’d done his time with the waiter’s trays on this one.

His eyes went back to the email. Even if this case wasn’t completely wrapped up by December, he’d accumulated enough holiday favors to have half the agency working it in his absence.

His right fingers drummed the beat to O Come, All Ye Faithful on the desk. He could probably get his request on the server while he waited. It could be just for a couple of days – not the traditional two-week festival of family he’d endured for years.

And faith, he reminded himself. Yes, that saccharine belief that if you’re good enough, God will make the world all better. He’d given up on that in 10th grade – and the fighting began.

The carol was interrupted as Ian’s fingers curled into a fist. That last Christmas, as his father attempted to shout him into Christianity, he’d reminded the family that he’d been brought up to believe that faith couldn’t be forced. He’d thought his father was having a stroke from the reaction that comeback received.

Still, he’d almost begun to miss it. His mother commented that his emails were actually exceeding four sentences these days and coming more than three times a year. He’d checked his sent mail – eight emails since summer. It was a record for him.

“I’m about to just ‘stumble’ and drop a trayload of champagne flutes on his lap,” Jack complained in his ear.

A chime from the tracking monitor interrupted his planned comeback. “You may not have to. He’s moving toward the left exit.”

“On it.”

The knot in his gut loosened. The case would be wrapped up within the week if all went as planned. Perhaps he could…

Before he could talk himself out of it, he hit the reply button.

I’ll be there.

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This article has been read 664 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Philippa Geaney 11/13/10
I love this style of writing. Crisp, uncluttered and you had me too well focused on the target. I was there on the spot.
I say too well because I felt a little flat at the end-- being more focused on the surveillance than the invitation.
Perhaps that's the idea to keep 'um guessing.
DK Landers11/15/10
I like the story. It puts the reader in the moment of every day life. The MC is in a struggle between past experience influencing present expectations. Good job! I didn't see any nitpicks.
Lillian Rhoades 11/15/10
More,more,more. Yes, "into a story," I'll read it! Cyber topic was very cleverly woven, and did not dominate the story line. MASTERful!
Caitlyn Meissner11/16/10
I wish there'd been more about who Ian and Jack were watching, but that's the problem with 750 words. I liked the invitation part of it, and how we got a glimpse of Ian's inner feelings. This would be great expanded into a book. Good job!
Verna Cole Mitchell 11/16/10
Yes...this is a "book" I'd love to read. Enough of a hint of the MC's character--his family--and his job to make me want to know more.
Beth LaBuff 11/16/10
Oohhh, you plunged me into this mystery and I didn't want to leave!! Great job of showing w/o telling! You have so much potential for expansion and I'd love to read more. Excellent!!
Loren T. Lowery11/16/10
Loved this line and it seemed to sum up the matter: "It also meant that he was spared long arguments with his father since communication in the field was strictly limited to emails."
Your timing throughout was taught and exceptional and the way you wove his thoughts (Multi-tasking) into what he was doing was masterful. Yes, I too, would like to know the outcome of the get together!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/17/10
This is a nice story with emotion and suspense intertwined throughout. Nice job.
Patricia Turner11/17/10
I like how we get to know Ian a little more with each paragraph; his conflicts and some of the reasons for them; his obvious softening finally toward his family, and his final decision at the end. Very nice.
Catrina Bradley 11/17/10
Nice!! The drama, the suspense, the conflict...and then there was that spy stuff in the background. :) Awesome setting - like a scene from NCIS - but better: we got to hear what the MC was thinking. Love it!
Henry Clemmons11/17/10
I believe I read a winner. When you decide to throw down a story you get serious. Excellent skills. Great energy. You are a writer, no doubt. This is your day job. Enjoyed it!
Edmond Ng 11/18/10
A pleasant read for the season with an interesting plot, leaving readers asking for more. Like the part about having accumulated enough holiday favors to have half the agency working it in his absence. Excellent work!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 11/18/10
Congratulations for placing 11th in level 4 and 15th overall!
Sarah Elisabeth 11/19/10
Very nice! So complex it kept me wrapped up tight from beginning to end. You haven't missed a beat, girl :-)