This prompt requires a small bit of prep work.
Step 1. Go to a busy locale—a cafe or coffee shop would be easiest. Sit down with a notebook, and make sure you look busy, so people don’t know you’re listening. Now write down random snips of their conversations. Don’t take whole lines or even sentences—just a few words here and there. Try to get 10 bits.
Step 2. Now use all 10 in a cohesive scene of dialogue.
A very belated [Fiction]Friday from me - better late than never huh? Having spent last week collecting up snippets of conversations it seemed criminal to not attempt to weave them together. It was a bad week for me last week, suffering from issues with my ears, which made it really hard to harvest the conversations. So I owed it to myself to create something from it. And yes - I felt paranoid taking down people's conversations .. I was certain that they knew what I was doing. No wonder paranoia ended up as a component of my story.
And yes - Kingsley was the name of the fifth member, of the table of people having a business lunch. It was too good a name to pass up.
My conversation snippets ...
Does your’s taste OK?
The Tipperary job is under new management.
Anything that comes out of Thailand is a lie.
Along the bay from Bangkok.
It’s a case of guilty until proven innocent.
Five years was enough for me. Time to get out.
I don’t know what the situation is.
In August everyone leaves the USA.
I know people look at me.
You don’t want banana and sausage, no egg.
It had been a year since Audrey was last there. Little had changed. Still the same frenzy of tourists, backpacks and policemen with sniffer dogs. She felt the same charge of adrenalin and the same anticipation of the unknown. This was the longest she’d been away and part of her was caught in wanting to stay forever, to leave the worries and the professional jostling behind. The other part, anchored in reality knew that everything came to an end. Audrey could not stay forever. There was no happily ever after in her line of business. The only forever that she understood was death. If she stayed in Thailand with Kingsley then they would just send someone else and they would both be repatriated. Whatever she had felt for Kingsley in the balmy evenings on his verandah, in the passionate nights under the mosquito nets …. they were false. It was part of her job and she’d accomplished what they thought was impossible. Kingsley was coming home.
“The Tipperary job is under new management,” Dawes said bluntly, sidestepping social pleasantries as he always did. He ignored the view over the Champs-Élysées, to the Arc de Triomphe, busying himself with something in his brief case.
It hurt Audrey to know that her pet project had been given to someone else, but she had to be realistic. Her identity had been compromised. Tipperary was an important project, but bigger than just one agent. There was always someone else to take over, the next up and coming.
“I’ve got a good grasp of the obvious Sir. Did you come to see the freak show?”
“In part … you look good Audrey,” but he didn’t look up at her. He’d avoided looking at her since he’d walked through the hotel door.
Audrey knelt down on the opposite side of the coffee table, waiting to hear what he’d really come to tell her.
“I have a new assignment. We need to repatriate Kingsley.”
“Kingsley? You’ll never get him back on US soil.”
“He’s living along the bay from Bangkok and I don’t know what the situation is. Everything that comes out of Bangkok is a lie or second hand intelligence being sold on. I need someone on the ground to find out the truth.”
“Maybe he just retired, like he said he was going to.”
“As far as the agency is concerned you don’t retire.”
“You could give him the benefit of the doubt.”
Dawes lifted an eyebrow.
“Becoming a blonde really has dropped your IQ.”
Audrey chose to ignore the snipe and the official prejudice against blondes.
“We want you in deep cover, here is your new identity and papers,” he passed across and envelope. She checked the passport photo and grimaced to find she was a blonde. “If he’s compromised the Agency, it’s your job to find out to what extent. We’ll monitor the airports for your return. You are to have no contact with anyone.”
Audrey knew that Thailand was the arse end of the world as far as her career was concerned. She was being cut loose, not given a new assignment. The Agency was hoping she’d been swallowed up in the backwaters of Asia, perhaps die of malaria.
“Complete this assignment and we’ll put you back into active service.”
“Does your’s taste OK?”
Audrey looked up from her plate, giving herself a moment to re-orientate herself away from the Paris hotel room that afternoon.
“You don’t want banana and sausage … no egg?”
“I’m feeling off - anxious about flying.” It was a complete lie. She pushed the plate away. “I still don’t get the whole banana, egg and sausage thing.”
“Give it another four years and you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it!”
The restaurant protected them from the hurdy-gurdy of the departures lounge. A couple walked past their table, on the opposite side of the glass. Audrey felt their eyes burning into her.
For the first time in her life Audrey suffered from paranoia of no longer being invisible. She had become obsessed … “I know people look at me.” Understanding that the Thai stared openly at her, envious of her alabaster skin did little to ameliorate her thought patterns. Audrey was certain they stared because of the fraud of her plastic surgery. She knew they stared also because she looked young enough to be Kingsley’s daughter. More than once she’d heard someone mutter ‘Sugar Daddy’ just loud enough so she could hear. Audrey was shocked to find that it bothered her.
It was if the heat and constant damp of the humidity had decomposed her harsh exterior, softened her in a way that life had never been able to. No wonder she was contemplating just staying, fearful that she couldn’t make in the cesspit of the Agency after a years absence.
“Are you sure you want to go home?” she asked, giving Kingsley one final chance to opt out of his fate.
“Five years was enough for me. Time to get out, go home for a little while.”
Audrey lowered her eyes, to stop Kingsley from seeing the indecision in her eyes, even if he’d misread it as her being demure. It was apparently one of the things that he found attractive in her.
Five years in Thailand had changed Kingsley from the Agency’s top man, a legend in his own time to a geriatric beach bum. The Agency had never got over the fact that Kingsley had got out at the top of his game, nor understood that any would want a life beyond the Agency. Dawes had assumed Kingsley left to pursue personal gain from the intelligence, networks and experience his years with the Agency had provided him with.
And yes, Kingsley had used it to his advantage. He had remained active, collecting and selling information to the highest bidder, which was rarely the USA. Kingsley had done it to relieve the boredom of retirement, before Audrey had arrived. He’d never intended to profit from it and he’d give it away when he’d fallen in love with Audrey. But history proved Kingsley was a risk to security.
“It’s a case of guilty until proven innocent” was the Agency’s credo. It left agents no room to manoeuvre or moralise, to make personal judgements or ask questions.
“Mum’s 90 and her health is failing. I want to see her before she dies. And I want her to meet you.” He squeezed her hand and played with the enormous diamond engagement ring on her finger. “She’s going to be thrilled to discover that you’re a writer. She’s been an avid reader all her life.”
“This is the first boarding call for all passengers on United flight 487 to New York.”
Kingsley emptied his wallet of (?) paying not only for the meal, but a very generous tip.
“Let’s go,” he said, his face beaming and making him look much younger than 50. There was no turning back.
Kingsley’s face haunted her whole flight. It was the warning she was too intimately involved, too close to Kingsley. As Audrey dropped in and out of a fitful sleep she realised, that there was no active duty at the end of this. Dawes had decided she was disposal. Even with a new face she was a liability. She would be repatriated alongside Kingsley.
As they approached the doors steeling themselves for the subzero blast of the New York winter Audrey made her resolve, stopped and placed a hand on Kingsley’s arm.
“I just need to go to the Ladies Room.”
“I’ll go find us a cab love,”
“Good luck,” and they kissed good bye.
In the toilets Audrey changed into a worn pair of jeans and a heavy black turtleneck. She pulled the short auburn wig over the recently bleached hair, put her passport into the sanitary disposal unit and retrieved a new passport from a side pocket with a roll of cash. She took off the engagement ring and put it in the hidden pocket where the passport had come from.
The Agency had turned Kingsley’s estate over and it was only with intimate knowledge of Kingsley’s idiosyncrasies that Audrey knew where to look. She found a micro disc and that Dawes had killed the one man who had been protecting him for the past five years. She sold the information to the highest bidder and waited for Dawes’ fall from grace.
In the dead of night, Kingsley would visit her. He’d tell her that he wished he had have done the exact same thing. In August everyone leaves the USA. The Government is in damage control, the Agency dismantled. That was when Audrey knew it was safe to go back to New York. She put the engagement ring back on, lay flowers on Kingsley’s grave and said good-bye forever.
Monday, September 1, 2008