Thursday, May 31, 2012


When Brian and Black Andy arrived at Nemo's at nightfall, the original Andy was still there, shifting the situation from awkward to highly unusual for the four younger thrill seekers. Andy was married with children, and it was well past dinner time for the likes of him. Emily decided it was up to her to solve the problem of the lost VP. The fact that he'd had two Manhattans in their presence made it less awkward.

"Andy, how are you doin'? Do we need to get you a cab or something?"

"I'm great! What's next?"

This was the response they had all feared.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


The winter sun was low on El Salvador as Brady began snapping photos to complement Aggie's new manuscript already in progress. "I think the alley we hid in is right up there," she said as they walked.

The pain medicine Brady received at the hospital worked well, but it caused a slight disruption in his focus. He lacked the creative vision he normally enjoyed, and his sling made him clumsy as he attempted to photograph the alley that had been their temporary haven earlier that day. Aggie sympathized with him, but her own vision for the new article was clear, and they had been through too much to give up on such a story.

But perhaps it could wait another day. "Ya know, Brady, we have time. You wanna go back to the hotel and rest for tonight? I can work on the story, and we can get pictures tomorrow. These streets aren't going anywhere."

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


A mere four hours after the first shots were fired, Brady and Aggie walked out of the downtown hospital looking for dinner and drink.

"So now what?" he asked, recognizing that his wish to return home would have little bearing on Aggie's decision as Senior Writer.

Smiling at her injured teammate, she said, "Well, are you feeling up to taking some pictures? That gang battle will make a great story."

Sunday, May 27, 2012


It was five forty-five when Brian poked his head into Dave's office. Dave was still hard at work.

"So, Boss." He paused, wishing he had planned his question better. "Do you think we'll get our Santa Tecla story for March, or do we plan on somethin' else?" This was the first time in the magazine's eight years that a member of the Bold Traveler team had been shot. As trained as he was, Dave was not sure how to lead them through this. He felt that downplaying the situation was probably wise, for his team and for his own peace of mind.

"I think it'll depend on Aggie. I wouldn't be surprised if she still comes through with somethin'. It might be Santa Tecla, it might be somethin' else, but she'll come through."

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Shocked, Emily invited him to sit. "Can they come home?" she asked.

"Yeah, in fact, Dave is trying to get them home earlier than Tuesday. The local authorities have been cooperative but a little slow. But they got Brady to a hospital and patched him up. The cops are actually kind of helpful down there."

"Thank God they're ok. Poor Brady."

"We should throw a party when they get back," Paul suggested.


Emily was mulling this over when Senior Editor Andy Haines practically stumbled into the restaurant. Emily had never seen him in Little Nemo's, and Paul had never seen him at all. Andy was forty-two, out of shape and slightly awkward, but he was known for his caring spirit. It was because of him that Andy Williams had become known around the office as "Black" Andy.

Emily called to him as he came near. "Oh, hi, Emily. Dave told me you'd be here." He introduced himself to Paul and then, "Listen, Aggie and Brady ran into some trouble in El Salvador. They're fine, but there was some gang activity and a bullet hit Brady's arm, but it's totally ok. He's just fine. It barely got him."

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


Emily and her boyfriend Paul, chief financial officer of a small software company, sat in their usual booth at Little Nemo's, waiting for the others to arrive. Most evenings they were accompanied by Brian and Andy, but they were always very busy in the middle of the month. They always showed up eventually. A Friday evening at this time of the month was a good opportunity for Paul and Emily to have some time to themselves, just to talk. On this evening, he was pitching the idea of a weekend getaway.

"Tomorrow? I don't know; the team might need me this weekend."

"You always say that and nothing ever happens. Face it, Emily, the magazine doesn't need you for every aspect of its existence. They can publish it without their logistics coordinator, just this once."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Aggie didn't respond. She felt angry that Brady didn't feel the way she did about it. She gestured to the cop in the room with them. "El teléfono?" The man looked at her for a second and then slowly left the room. Aggie and Brady looked at each other.

"I normally would've called Dave by now. He likes to know we're ok."

"Don't you have a cell phone card or somethin'?"

"Yeah, but my battery died."

For a moment they had nothing to say. Then Brady said, "Aggie, it's gonna be ok."

She hadn't realized how much she needed to hear that.

Monday, May 21, 2012


"If not for us, he wouldn't've been shot." They were sitting in a small room in the police precinct, waiting for an English speaker to translate their conversation with the sergeant on duty. Aggie was unsuccessfully fighting tears. She had seen violence before, but no one had suffered violence on her behalf until now. The images replayed continuously in her mind. She wanted to be held badly. She wanted to find the man who'd helped them, to thank him.

Brady had never seen her like this. He wasn't sure what to do. "I feel the same way, Aggs, but he was in a gun battle. Chances are he would've been shot regardless."

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Immediately two officers from the squad car nearest them advanced on the gang members and seized the one already suffering from the bullet wound in his leg. Other policemen pointed their weapons at his friends, whose guns were already on the ground. Aggie watched in horror as the man who had saved their lives was kicked and handcuffed. "Stop!" she called out, not really expecting them to listen. The man was part of a violent drug gang; as far as the police and most other people were concerned, he deserved no mercy. They lifted him up, and he caught Aggie's eye as they carried him to the car. He and his eight friends were taken into custody while Aggie and Brady found cover in case shooting should start again.


Aggie turned back when she heard their new friend cry out. Brady had forgotten the pain in his arm and had only her safety in mind. "Aggie, come on!" The other gang member dropped his weapon, scooped her small body into his dark arms as though she were a child and carried her toward safety. Brady, cradling his bleeding arm, wished he had done that. The semi-automatic gunfire in the distance stopped, as though the rival gang had finally been informed they were putting innocent Americans in danger.

Before they reached the intersection, a military-style armored vehicle with a heavy machine gun and police markings swerved into view at high speed. It was followed by several police cars, sirens howling. The vehicles passed them and stopped near the alley they had just left. Doors swung open and a squad of police pointed guns in all directions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


He heard Aggie speaking in Spanish to the gang member who had saved them. Was there anything she couldn't do? Suddenly she was by Brady's side.

"Brady, you still with me? We're gonna get you to a hospital, ok? Hang on."

The gangster crouched beside him and shouted at Aggie over the gunfire and voices in the street. She translated: "Do you think you can walk, Brady?" He felt arms hoisting him up, and his weight shifted to his feet.

"Um...uh....yeah, I think so." Strength returned to his legs as if in response to his voice. They walked into the street with two courageous gang leaders shielding them, holding up their hands as a signal that noncombatants were passing through. Within seconds, the one who had saved them was shot in the leg. The other returned fire as Aggie and Brady ran for their lives to the next intersection.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


From an alley in Santa Tecla's historic downtown, they watched their protector as he gazed down the street, weapon in hand. A gang battle had erupted moments ago as Brady was photographing the town and Aggie was taking notes. Brady had been shot near his right elbow and was bleeding profusely. A concerned gang member had quickly escorted them into the alley.

Brady shifted his focus to Aggie's face, strong in spite of their situation. Her brown curls framed her rubicund cheekbones perfectly, and she looked like a petite action heroine. "Incredible." His lip quivered from the pain in his arm. She moved closer to the street for a better view of the action. "Aggie," he said, but dizziness forced him to sit on the dusty pavement. He wished they'd had a more substantial lunch. The gunshots continued; the noise made him sicker. He was sure he'd lose consciousness soon.

Monday, May 14, 2012


Aggie Simms was a writer who had been with the magazine three years. She had won a feature writers award from the American Magazine Society for her story on the Egyptian riots in 2011. She was well liked among her coworkers. "Um, let's see." Emily checked the travel plan. "Aggie and Brady are due back on Tuesday."

"Ok." Dave seemed agitated, maybe worried. "She's usually good about checking in before the weekend."

"Should I try to reach her?"

"N-no, let's wait 'til five. I'm sure they're fine."

But Aggie and her photographer, Brady Murr, were not fine.

Friday, May 11, 2012


"Right. So, wanna find somethin' to do, or are you stuck here?"

"Stuck good. Better get back to it, in fact." Brian hoisted his rotund torso off the landing with a grunt. "Oh...too many Cheetos."

"Good luck in there." Jason took off down the six flights of stairs, headed for 6th Avenue and freedom from thoughts about Syria.

As Brian snuck back to his desk with his bottle in a backpack, Dave suddenly showed up at Emily's cubicle. His yellow business shirt was a size too large, and she thought it made him look less masculine than usual. "Emily, when is our award winner due back from El Salvador?"

Thursday, May 10, 2012


On a whim, he decided to take the stairs. Brian Grouper, Planning and Content Manager of Bold Traveler, was drinking whiskey on the landing. Jason hid his surprise.



"Break time?"

"Yep, takin' a little breather. Gonna be a long weekend gettin' this issue out on time. Hey, loved your story on Minsk. Good stuff."

"Thanks." Jason leaned against the railing of the aged stairwell and exhaled loudly. "Skiing in Minsk was cool, but not what I'd call great adventure travel. The nightlife was where things got interesting. Every night's a party in that town, even when it's frigid out. Saw some crazy stuff."

"So I read."

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Andy's embrace was Michelle's new favorite thing, and to feel it at the office was a rare treat. She remembered that Tuesday was their first Valentine's Day together, and he should have no distractions once the new issue went to press. She pressed her face into his neck and kissed it. "Then I'll see you at Nemo's?"

"I'll be there. Then we can talk about where to go next."

"Like every Friday." She smiled and strapped on her camera bag and tiny purse. "See you there."

She passed Jason on her way out. "Jason, see you at Nemo's?"

"Yep." Like her, he was was heading for an exit to seek out an activity that didn't involve work.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


She had no idea how this conversation derailed so quickly. She switched tracks. "Hey, ya know, I haven't seen Central Park in, like, weeks. Can you leave early?"

He removed his thick-rimmed glasses and smiled at her. "Would if I could." He stood, looked around for spies, put his arms around her slender waist. "Gotta finish makin' the doughnuts here. New ish goes to print Tuesday, ya know."

"Thought you were a fast worker," she teased.

"Don't know where you got that idea. Took my time with you, didn't I?"

Monday, May 7, 2012


Michelle glared at Andy but paused to collect her thoughts. He looked tired but handsome in his black polo and scruffy beard. She half smiled, but he didn't see.

"I don't know if you're jealous or just being a pain."

He finally looked up from his computer. "I just don't see what the big deal is. It's the same thing that's been goin' down since the dawn of man. Not like there's anything really significant happening."

Now she was annoyed. "And what would be significant to you, Andy?" He retreated back to his work.

Friday, May 4, 2012


As Jason made his way to his desk, feeling worse than before, Michelle was having her own conversation about the trip with "Black" Andy, the magazine's layout director who was her boyfriend of two months. They had worked together since joining the company two years prior and had finally decided to try for a romance, but their disparate backgrounds had been the cause of some tense feelings already.

"Syria, huh? That should be fun."

"I actually think it will be. Finally I'll get to see something I've only been able to hear about before."

"Angry, violent people? Well, if that's your thing."

Thursday, May 3, 2012


"Is that what's eatin' you?" Dave tried to make light of the situation, and he wondered if Jason's deeper concern might be for his own safety. Jason may not have even detected his own fear just yet. "Look. You're not going there as a reporter. It's the same job as always. The idea is to help readers understand what they would experience if they decided to go to Damascus right now. We don't want hard-hitting news. Just the atmosphere. Just get us four pages on the atmosphere in downtown Damascus, with a few quotes from people in the middle of the action. Make sense?"

Jason looked as though he wasn't breathing.

"Jason, you're all I've got for this. I trust you with it. You'll be great. Just keep out of trouble; they're not gonna bother you if you're not bothering them. It's not like you'll have a TV camera in their faces." Dave nudged him and smiled. "And you'll have Michelle to protect you."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Jason was making his way toward Senior VP of Content Dave Pike's office when Dave stepped out and called his name. By the time Jason arrived, Dave was already seated at his desk again. Jason had just returned from lunch at a restaurant with slow service, so he was more irritable than usual. He made no effort to hide his theory of a shifting mission for the magazine.


"Jason, have a seat. Hey, nice suit. Got plans?"

"Yeah, an early Valentine's party."

"Ah, cool. I see you got the new assignment. How ya feelin'?"

Jason leaned forward in his seat. "You wanna know if I have any concerns."

"Yeah, I know Damascus is kinda scary right now. It's actually not as..."

"What's the deal with sending us out as reporters, Dave? Interviewing protesters, really? We're not Newsweek."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Michelle looked over the task form Jason had printed. "Ok, cool. So, we go to hot spots all the time. That's why we're Bold Traveler. What's the matter?"

"We don't go talking to people in the middle of an international incident. We're a travel rag. We're not reporters. Looks like Dave's trying to turn us into a news magazine to boost sales. You know what happens to American reporters in these places?"

"It's a little scary, but I'm excited. It'll be fun. How many people do we know that get to do this?"

"Where are you going?" Emily was standing in her cubicle, overcome with curiosity.

Jason looked at her, then back at Michelle with a smirk. "I guess we're goin' to Syria."