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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Risk (05/17/12)

TITLE: The First Assignment
By Leah Nichols
05/24/12


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“You sure you're ready for this?” Jason handed Anne the large, gaudy earrings.

Anne carefully pinned each earring and smiled. “I'm sure. I have been out of the field long enough.”

Jason sat, frowning, as he positioned his headset, adjusting the keyboard in front of him. “This is a dangerous mission for your first assignment after maternity leave. You have to stay focused every moment, Anne.”

She tossed her black velvet wrap around her shoulders. “I'm focused. Audrey is safe and sound. Trust me, I'm thinking about my assignment. I won't be distracted. Besides, you'll remind me if I miss something.”

“And you're sure Roland will buy your story?”

“The records of my supposed mental breakdown have been accessed at the hospital and double checked against my personal physician's records. He's confirmed what I told him. It should be an easy in.”

Jason frowned again. “Okay. But the minute you sense you're in trouble, give me the signal.”

“I'm not blowing this mission, Jason. I'll see it through.” Anne slipped on her tall black boots and waited for Jason to check her wireless devices. She flipped her knife open and tested the slender blade against the hairs on her arm, before tucking it inside her boot.

“The audio/visual feed in your necklace is operational. Can you hear the tapping sound through your earrings?” He tapped a device next to the keyboard which sent a faint signal to her earrings.

Grateful for her recent review of Morse code, she nodded. “Yes, I will be careful. Jason, relax. We'll be fine.”

Her reassurances rang in her ears as Anne stepped out of the limo at Roland's mansion twenty minutes later. She smiled as the host turned from greeting his other guests to face her. She restrained any emotional reaction and willed her body to remain calm. She could do this.

“Anne, my sweet. How I have missed you. You are as beautiful as ever.” Roland lifted her hand to his lips. “I'm terribly sorry to hear of your illness. Has it really been eight months?”

“I'm afraid so.” Anne clung to his hand to emphasize her cover. “I've hardly come out of the house until just two weeks ago. It took everything in me just to have the courage to attend tonight.”

Roland paused, eyeing her from her pinned-up hair to the black evening gown and boots. “Did they ever determine a cause?”

She slowly turned down her head. “Stress. Stress is all it was, I'm ashamed to say.”

“Why ashamed?”

“Well, I eat well and exercise and have plenty of money. How could I possibly have so much stress?”

“Money isn't everything, my dear.” Roland held her hand and led her inside.

Her head swimming with the few sips of wine she'd had to take, Anne slipped into the darkened room upstairs. Two hours of buzzing conversation among wealthy guests had worn her more than she had expected. Roland had questioned her on several occasions, and she stuck with the story, claiming a loss of knowledge of the time which had passed. Finally she saw her opportunity while he conversed with another couple and she could leave the ballroom without notice.

She paused to listen for Jason's signal. No one in room. Safe in left rear corner. She made her way to the safe and removed the painting covering it. Waited. Jason would analyze the markings and give her the combination.

Finally the tapping began again. She punched each number slowly, deliberately. No room for mistakes. The handle turned easily after the final number and she opened the safe.

Empty.

Her heart rate quickened. “Did we double check the intel on this mission?” she whispered.

Jason's tapped out reply: It should be there.

“Well, it's not.” Distant footsteps in the hall caught her attention, and she replaced the safe door and covered it again with the painting. She quickly stretched out on a nearby loveseat as the door opened.

“Anne?”

Her eyes felt heavy. She willed herself to open them. Jason stood over her, smiling. “Darling, you fell asleep feeding the baby again. I guess you're so tired you didn't even notice.”

Anne shook her head, disoriented. “What – where?”

His hands gently lifted Audrey from her arms. Their three-week old infant curled into her daddy's shoulder. “Come back to bed, dear.”

She leaned back and blinked. It seemed so real! “In a minute, love. I've got a great story idea, and I need to write it down before I forget...”


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This article has been read 430 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Francy Judge 05/24/12
You kept my interest in your story through suspense. I felt like I was watching a scene from Mission Impossible. Great writing.
Camille (C D) Swanson 05/25/12
Wow, fast paced, and fully riveting from the start, to the very end. It felt like I was there watching this story live! Great entry. Thanks. God bless~
Helen Curtis05/25/12
I love this! I was caught up in the momentum and excitement right from the start. I was speed-reading to find out what was going to happen to Anne, and just as she was about to open the safe . . . my kettle started screeching! It was like an ad break right at the crucial moment! Anyway, Milo in hand I finally finished, and it was a wonderful twist I wasn't expecting . . . but oh how I can relate to Anne, falling asleep with a newborn baby on my lap! A great story, well done.
Becky Depp 05/26/12
I loved this. It kept me going and captured my attention all through out.

I smiled at the end when I realized it was just a dream. I Had no clue!
Allison Egley 05/26/12
Okay. So they say dream scenes can be a cop-out, and I'll admit I wanted to know what was going to happen, but I still love this. :D
Deborah Engle 05/26/12
Very suspenseful! It was a good story, but I'm happy to let her do the subterfuge. I'll stay home and take care of the baby, thank you.
Deborah Engle 05/26/12
Very suspenseful! It was a good story, but I'm happy to let her do the subterfuge. I'll stay home and take care of the baby, thank you.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 05/26/12
This was a fun read. You had me going the whole time! Usually I think dreams are an easy way out for a writer but you did it in a fresh and fun way. I do get some of my ideas from dreams too! I'm glad you're back! This was fun.
Graham Insley 05/26/12
This was fun.

I was wondering how this story could tell me the ending in 750 words. But I liked the twist in the end.

I do understand that a dream would normally be a cop out and a disappointment and I didn't like the question it left. But you handled it very well and made it acceptable.

Thank you.
Dannie Hawley 05/27/12
Well, this is certainly an original way to promote your new book... we all want to know just why the safe was empty. I loved this article, even if you fooled me with the dream thing.
Allen Povenmire 05/28/12
I enjoyed this story, and was caught up in the dream sequence, wanting to know more about the empty safe! It reminded me of times I've had dreams that were interupted by awakening, and I tried to go back to sleep and find out how they ended! Good job.
lynn gipson 05/29/12
I was really into this, wishing it was a book I could read...excellent...have you written a book like this? I would love to read more.

God Bless, lynn
Verna Cole Mitchell 05/30/12
Your story rocked my socks off! You MUST continue the story!
Beth LaBuff 06/05/12
I REALLY enjoyed this story, Leah. Great intrigue, and it left me smiling. :)