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Emily lies cocooned in her blankets. Only her face is touched by the cool night air. Steven, her husband of 12 years, sleeps soundly beside her. Over the sound of his breathing, which is dancing on the brink of a loud snore, she listens to the strong wind that causes acorns and rotted branches to crash periodically into the roof above her head.

She is certain that it was these, and only these noises that had roused her from sleep. Unnervingly, the acorns bounce when they hit, and to the fairly unconscious mind, they sometimes mimic the sound of someone walking on the hardwood floor that leads to their bedroom.

“Silly,” she tells herself, “ignore it and go to sleep.” Then, she snuggles up closely to Steven’s warm back and stops trying to fight the weight of her eyelids.

Minutes or hours may have passed, of which Emily can not be sure, but she is awakened once more by the strange crashing sound. Nervous apprehension causes her to sit up and with the clarity of a conscious mind, she listens and reasons.

It took only seconds for Emily to realize that the room is too quiet. The absence of her husband’s sonorous snoring seems unbearably loud in the eerie stillness of the house.

“Stephen, honey did you hear that?” she asks over her shoulder, assuming that he too was awakened by the noise. Seconds tick by and she receives no answer. She turns to find the other side of the bed empty, a mess of tangled sheets where her husband should be.

A muffled thud from somewhere downstairs breaks the unusual stillness startling Emily as she rises to her feet and begins to walk slowly toward the door. She assumes it came from the living room, and begins to slowly make her way there, stepping carefully to avoid the squeaky floorboards by the bedroom door.

Pausing at the doorway, she takes a deep breath but before she could take a step into the hallway the black metal length of a silenced pistol barrel slid into view from behind the doorframe.

“Amateurs.” She comments to herself, exploding into motion. Grabbing both the pistol and the surprised assailant’s hand, she springs into the hall pulling the gunman off balance as she wrenches the pistol towards his face, rewarded with the sound of small bones breaking. Any cry of pain or alarm he might have made died in his throat as Emily used his finger to send two bullets into his unprotected face.

Lowering the body to the ground, Emily takes in the black fatigues and body armor. She searches the body quickly for identification.

“No badge, no dog tags, nothing.” She whispers to herself, instantly chastising herself for making even that much noise. She’s been out of the game for too long.

Relieving the corpse of both the pistol and a fresh clip of ammunition takes only a few seconds, and then she pads down the hall to the bathroom. Setting the gun down on the sink, amid bottles of hairspray and perfume she opens the medicine cabinet behind the mirror. The cabinet door lets out a metallic groan, as it swings open, causing Emily to curse inaudibly. If there is anyone else upstairs they will surely have heard the noise.

“There’s nothing that be done about it now. Keep moving!” she commands herself, rummaging through the contents of the cabinet. After locating what she needs, Emily quickly removes her nightgown, the air in the house suddenly colder.

“Don’t move Abigail.” A voice commands from the open doorway. “Put your hands on the countertop, palms flat, fingers spread. You know the drill.” She complies as a booted foot spreads her feet apart from behind. She lets her head fall to her chest, her hair hanging over her eyes. She doesn’t need to see him. She knows the voice. It’s one she had hoped to never hear again.

“I always knew you had a killer body, Abby. But I must say this is a pleasant surprise. The straight life hasn’t softened you up that much.” His hand ran over her naked back as he spoke, tracing the line of her spine and she shuddered revolted by the feel of his hands on her flesh. She could hear the cruel smile turning up the corners of his mouth as he spoke. Nicholas Archer was a serpent on two legs.

“You should have never turned me down. You might have enjoyed it then, but now I doubt you would. Templeton never said I couldn’t have some fun with you, only that I had to bring you back alive. Put your left hand behind your back slowly. Don’t try anything and I might be gentle.” Archer continued his voice dripping with satisfaction and barely contained lust.

She shuddered involuntarily. Her hand moved behind her back slowly only to be trapped by the hard circle of his hand. He pulled her wrist higher up and she felt the cold steel of a handcuff as he snapped it into place. She didn’t wait any longer, and spun into him suddenly, armed with the knowledge that he had to have holstered his gun to handcuff her.

Her sudden movement caught him by surprise causing him to release his grip on her wrist, instinctively reaching for the pistol. Batting his hand away from the butt of the pistol, Emily drove a knee into his groin, hard; she had to keep his attention away from the pistol. Archer favored a forty four caliber pistol, rather than the standard issue nine millimeter, if she let him get off a shot from that hand cannon he would bring every agent in the house down on top her.

She reaches back to the countertop searching blindly for the silenced pistol on the countertop, but before her questing fingers can seize the weapon, Archer is on her. His breath was hot on her throat, his weight pinning her to the countertop. Pinning one of her hands, he fumbled with the front of his pants.

“You’ll pay for that, bitch! Oh you’ll pay dearly, you can take that to the bank.” Archer spat out the words, his green eyes wild with fury. He forced her knees apart with his free hand, and smiled wickedly. “Go ahead Abby, scream. Scream for your husband, who doesn’t even know your real name.”

As she struggled underneath his weight, Emily’s free hand roamed the countertop for anything she could use for a weapon. There, a nail file. Curling her fingers around it, she pressed her pelvis up into Archer’s groin.

“I knew it! You want it. Deep down, you hate the straight life. You miss the danger, the adrenaline don’t you?” Archer gasped. Pushing against him again, a revolted moan on her lips Emily rammed the file into the corner of his left eye. Archer’s body stiffened and then slid to the tile floor a thin river of blood snaking down his cheek.

Dropping the bloody file into the sink, Emily finishes her preparations never bothering to wipe away the sears of Archer’s blood across her face and breasts. Satisfied that she was as ready as she could be she picked up the silenced pistol from the sink and walks slowly down the stairs into the living room.

The scene that awaited her was not surprising. Her husband, Stephen tied to a chair from their kitchen, black electrical tape over his mouth his face a swollen mass of bruises. Standing behind the chair, an automatic pistol draped casually over her bound husband’s shoulder stood Alexander Templeton.

“Your little vacation is over Abigail. The Company isn’t prepared to let its investment rot in a backwater Wisconsin cow town. You can come with me, and I’ll let lover boy here live to see another day, or you can be difficult and I’ll simply eliminate you both.” Templeton explained almost casually.

“My name is Emily now, Alexander. This is my life now. I’m through with the business. Don’t make your life be the last life I take. Your boys upstairs made the mistake of thinking I lost my edge.” She replied, not even glancing at her husband, who’s eyes bulged in shock at his wife, standing naked in their living room, holding a pistol and casually threatening to kill his captor.

Templeton smiled a wolf’s smile. “I know you won’t let me kill your husband. You always believed in true love. It’s your only weakness. That’s why you left the Company in the first place. When Chandler died, you couldn’t bear to love anyone else in the business, so you ran away. So just put the gun on the floor and we’ll talk about this at the compound.”

Emily nodded and set the pistol on the ground slowly, her eyes finally meeting her husband’s pleading eyes.

“Now slide it over to me.” Templeton commanded, motioning with the gun.

Emily shoved the pistol with her bare foot, where it stopped at Templeton’s feet.

Templeton shook his head, “You didn’t think I could let him live did you?” He said as he raised the pistol to Stephen’s head.

Reaching behind her back, Emily tore the pistol she had taped to her back with medical tape before coming downstairs free, and pointed it at Templeton’s head. “Put it down, Alex. You won’t live three seconds after you pull the trigger.”

“You won’t do it.” Templeton assured. “He still dies. You can’t live with that.”

“I’ll get over it.” Emily said as she shifted her aim and fired. The chair toppled over as the bullet slammed into her helpless husband. Templeton’s eyes widened in shock, and as he trained his weapon on the naked assassin, the second bullet took his life.

Abigail moved over and tore the tape from Stephen’s mouth. As she moved to untie him he sputtered, voice thick with pain.

“You shot me!”

“Love hurts, baby. Love hurts.” she replied.

Smile if you're stupid,
laugh if you understand.

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The following comments are for "Write Off: Love Hurts"
by Bartleby

Alrighty, I'll be the first to comment. :)

Very fast paced, Bart and I must admit I liked the nudity. heh, heh. Also, I liked how you blended the story starter into your tale. Very well done indeed.

Good characters, action and plot.


( Posted by: Richard Dani [Member] On: February 3, 2003 )

Ok. Not pulling any punches, I thought the narrative was a little choppy. Since it was for a write-off I'm assuming it may have been written in a hurry. That would account for some of the problems. I think my biggest problem with the piece is the backstory. I felt like the entire story was based on the gimmick hinted at in the title, and it seemed like there was much more to be told. I never felt as though I was given chance to connect with any of the characters, and I thought the entire, "You always did believe in true love," bit was a little too Cheesy B-Villain Movie for me, even if the story was intended to have some sort of "Alias" spin on it.
That said, I mean no offense.

( Posted by: MKMINION [Member] On: February 4, 2003 )

empowering women
On the technical note, there were a couple of sentences that I had to reread once or twice before they made sense, but that might just be me. As for the the story, it was a nice, action packed, thump fest. It had the prerequisite amount of death, witty comebacks, nudity, and a villianous soliloquy. Keep up the good work.

( Posted by: kross [Member] On: February 4, 2003 )

I don't have a degree, and I tend to criticize things from the standpoint of a casual reader. Maybe that's the wrong approach for this site. My favorite action stories and characters are usually a little more well-developed. There's a difference between a fast pace and choppiness. I stand by my choppy comment. :)

( Posted by: MKMINION [Member] On: February 5, 2003 )

chop suey
I wouldn't say that your having or not having a degree has anything to do with your ability to rate or appreciate any given piece of work, and I dare say that was not in any way Jess' intentention. If the story feels choppy and hurried to you, that's okay. I was working under a time limit as well as a word count, and admittedly could have fleshed things out a bit more given more words to work with. I appreciate your honesty and take no offense at anything you have said. Hopefully my next endeavor will be more to your liking. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond, it is appreciated.

( Posted by: Bartleby [Member] On: February 5, 2003 )

i like the cheese!
i don't care how cheesy it might seem to othet people, i loved it! you could see what was coming slightly but it was still a good read. from one who reads a lot of Richard Laymon, a bit of nudity goes down well and you can see what is going to happen in some of his books, so keep this coming!

( Posted by: man eating maniac [Member] On: February 6, 2003 )

I loved it great job. I have always loved fast paced stories. Check out my poems sometime. I give u a 10.

( Posted by: lovesessence [Member] On: July 15, 2003 )

I appreciate the kind words. I'll be checking out somne of your work soon. Thanks for taking the time to read some of my older work.


( Posted by: Bartleby [Member] On: July 16, 2003 )

How'd I miss this one?
Another great one from Bartleby. Just had to stop by and comment. Action sequences are commendable, and I like the fun/cheese aspect.
For some reason I feel this is one of your best writes, just the way everything was described and the grammar.
In a re-write I'd check your tenses as you sometimes switched to past, although the piece could be re-writen easily in past tense should you wish to.

Also had a problem with-
He forced her knees apart with his free hand- because I can't see anyone's free hand pulling any person's knees apart, especially a woman's under threat of rape. Suggest, "He forced her legs apart with his knee."

Keep up the flash fiction, there's so much good stuff waiting to come out.


( Posted by: malthis [Member] On: July 16, 2003 )

Nice story
hey bart this story reminds me of some old movie that stared Bridget Fhonda. And i do beleive this movie spawned a TV version that lasted for some time. It was a very great read.

( Posted by: nightraze [Member] On: July 19, 2003 )

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