Thursday, 18 January 2007

Chapter 2: A Stranger Approaches

Present day

The fifth day of the heat wave was coming to an end and the sun was overstaying its welcome, casting long shadows of the city skyline across the freeway towards the suburbs. The commuters lucky enough to own air-conditioned vehicles sat in relative comfort while others peeled the sweat-drenched shirts from their backs as they inched their way home.

The late September sun finally dropped out of the sky just before
nine o’clock, taking with it the blinding light but leaving behind the stifling, sticky heat. Every store that stocked electrical fans had sold out of them much earlier in the week and local air conditioning businesses were doing their best end-of-season trade in years.

One man who didn’t have the heat wave on his mind was driving a lone black car along the freeway into the city. He had specific orders: the first was get to his destination as quickly as possible but stick to the speed limits. Do not attract any attention. The whole cause would be in jeopardy if the authorities were alerted to his mission or, worse than that, if they found out what was going on.

A gloved hand changed gear and the other steered the car towards a large industrial complex. The driver stopped the car next to the security booth and hit the button to roll down the blacked-out window. The security guard got off his chair for the first time since the sun went down and shook himself free of his damp uniform. It immediately stuck to him again, feeling uncomfortably cold and wet.

“Putting in some overtime, Doc?” the security guard asked, hoping for some friendly banter to bring some respite to the tedium of the long night ahead. “Can you believe this heat? Should be at home with a cold one but here I am, working for the man.”

He hoped for a clever reply but didn’t even get a boring one.

Oh well, some people are just like that, especially people like Doctor Owen here who works all the hours God sends
, he thought to himself.

In the low light, he couldn’t see the driver’s face but he’d lost count of the number of times he’d waved that badge through after hours so he didn’t think there was any point in making a fuss.

“You’re clear to go, Doc. Have a good night.”

The driver nodded and continued his drive up to the front door of the research labs of Mantek Pharmaceuticals. He picked a black briefcase off the back seat and stepped out of the car.

The bright white light that illuminated the reception of the Mantek building spilled out into the darkness of the car park. The man carrying the briefcase walked up the steps and through the front door with a purpose. His long dark shadow slithered into the building behind him.

Time to carry out the second order.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I've read the first two chapters so far and I have the following comments. First, you have a nice writing style. It's easy, unobtrusive and generally helps to move the story along. I felt the prologue, however, was disconnected and confusing. We have no way of identifying with this frightened character other than that he's scared. The opening chapter is crucial to any book and will often make or break your novel. I know because I've written 3 of them and have dropped several books in my lifetime that didn't grab me right away. If you were to look at the real life story of the young man who escaped from Geoffrey Dahlmer's apartment, running through the streets with no cloths on, screaming for anyone who would help him, then at least you'll have a striking image that sticks in a readers mind.
Finally, this second chapter takes too long to get to the action. You can't let your desire to 'describe' and 'set the scene' come at the expense of forward motion. It would have been stronger to begin this chapter as the guy is pulling through the gates of the pharmaceutical compound. There you might write a line or two about what he looks like, how damn hot it is. Or conversely tackle this through the use of dialogue between him and the guard. Remember your job is to show character while moving the story forward at every moment. Those are my two cents, hope they help.