31 DaysDay 18: WANTS {the prompt follows at the end of this post}


What’s at Stake

“What time do you have?” James asked the guy behind the counter.

“Eleven twenty-three.”

“Thanks,” James said. He dialed Hannah’s number again, but this time it went right to voicemail. “Can I get a little more coffee?” James punched in George’s number and waited. Finally, on the fourth ring, George picked up.

“I’m busy,” George said.

“Yeah, me, too. I need a favor,” James said.

George groaned on the other end of the line. “Aren’t you supposed to be with Hannah?”

“That’s the favor,” James said.

“Man, if you don’t know by know –”

“Cut the crap, George and listen,” James told him. “Hannah was supposed to be here at least twenty minutes ago.”

“She’s late. So?”

“So, I can’t reach her. She didn’t call, no answer at her house and cell goes to voicemail,” James said. “It’s not like her.”


“I want you to trace her calls.”

“You serious?” George said. “It’s only been twenty minutes.”

“Just do this for me,” James said.

“Yeah. Sure. Give me a few minutes, I’ll call you back.”

“Thanks,” James said and hung up. “Can you put this in a To Go cup?” James took the coffee and went outside and paced back and forth in front of the diner, looking up and down the street, but there was no sign of Hannah. It was getting colder and the few people on the street hurried along into the bars or apartments or cars that lined the street. James’ phone rang and he answered it before the first ringtone finished. “You’re fast, dude.”

“Am I speaking to James Pierce?” an unfamiliar voice asked.

“Who is this?”

“Who I am is not as important as who I’m with,” the guy said. “Say hello, Hannah.” There was a pause. “Oh, sorry, she can’t come to the phone right now, but she sends her regards.”

“Who is this?”

“I’m sending a video stream to your phone, James, so you can see that this is not something to ignore.”

James’ phone signaled the arrival of a video and he clicked over to the link. There, on his phone, he saw Hannah, tied to a chair, her hands and ankles bound to the chair. She was blindfolded and there was something that looked like a bomb under her chair. James watched her as she squeezed her fists closed, then opened them and then squeezed them closed again. Opened, closed, opened, closed, opened, closed. And the toe of her left foot tapped sporadically.

“What do you want?” James asked, gritting his teeth.

“Oh, well that’s simple, James. You have access to information I need. It’s an even exchange, information for Hannah’s well-being.”

“What information?”

“Right. That’s an important detail.” The guy laughed a short, maniacal laugh before continuing. “That’s simple. The schematics for ADX Florence and Senator Christof’s itinerary for Thursday, November 16.”

“Neither of those are simple.”

“But they are necessary if you want to see Hannah again,” the guy told him. “Oh, she mentioned that the pregnancy is really making her nauseous, by the way.”

Before James could say anything else, the phone went dead. “Son of a bitch.” He took in a deep breath and sank onto the curb. “Son of a bitch.” His phone rang again and he closed his eyes and answered. “Listen you son of a bitch–”

“James, it’s me, man,” George said.

“Yeah. Sorry.”

“Want to tell me what’s going on?”

“Did you get anything?” James asked.

“There were a couple of jammed numbers.”

“Find them. Get me names, addresses, whatever you’ve got,” James said.

“It’s going to take me some time,” George told him.

“I don’t have time,” James said. “Just get it, George.”

“Yeah. Sure.”

James stared into the night sky that was drowned out by the city lights. Prison schematics and the Senator’s itinerary. What the hell is this guy trying to do? James wondered. And how had he managed to get to Hannah?  His phone rang again and this time he stared at it for several seconds, working out what little plan he could make without knowing what was at stake except for Hannah’s life.


{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: WANTS – write a story in which two characters both want the same thing, and if one gets what she wants, the other can’t have what he wants. Great literature is often built on such conundrums. We watch the great tragedies of Shakespeare or the Greeks unfold and come to this sort of point where resolution is impossible – Hamlet can’t obey his father’s ghost and his mother’s wishes at the same time. The best stories have the simplest problems at their heart. {Exercise 72 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}


3 thoughts on “What’s at Stake

  1. It gets your attention right away. Reminded me of Taken too. I’d like to know more about James and Hannah’s relationship. You have no clue if James is mad at her or madly in love with her or if they are siblings or what. And his first reaction after the video is to wonder about who the abductor is. I would think you could seriously ratchet up the interest and intensity if we knew something about the couple’s relationship and what his reaction was to the danger Hannah was in. It would get me more invested. Unless the story is going to be mostly a face-off between James and the abductor. Could go that way too. Very interesting beginning. Lots of places to go with it.

    1. Heather, your thoughtful reading is greatly appreciated. I love to hear how someone who reads as much as you do responds to the words I write. I’m not sure where this one will go, but it’s definitely one that I will come back to eventually.

      I hope you’ll read some other pieces and let me know your thoughts. Love having you here!

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