Saturday, November 26, 2016

Cutting Lines

Sorry about the missed week. Things are little busy at the moment. This story, Cutting Lines, was inspired by a pin I saw about World War 2. It made me think about all the times we believe someone else will do something, and no one ever does. 

The Eiffel Tower, 2015
C’est très facile,” Jean-Marie insisted as he poured another glass of wine for everyone. “Make the little monster use his own legs.”

Antoinette, Jean-Marie’s younger sister, leaned against the door of the wine cellar. The war had ceased three days before for her beloved France when the government signed their souls to the devil. Now, news had arrived that Hitler himself was to come to Paris.

“If we do something like this, it would be a problem,” Victor, named after the end of the previous war, ground his cigarette into the stone floor. “But, it might be worth the trouble.”

“Worth the trouble; I’d say it be jolly good,” Francis, the only Englishman in their group spoke in English. He used English when exceptionally excited. “Put the little man in his place, and all that.”

 C’est vrai!” Jean-Marie confirmed. “I have a friend who can help.”

“A friend who can help us do what?” Antoinette inquired, finally breaking her silence. The four men had known about the topic, but as they danced around the subject, no one had bothered to inform Antoinette.

"Cut the cables to the elevator at the Eiffel Tower."

The other four in the room blew out their breath or smoke.  Francis responded first. "I still think it’s jolly brilliant. Wish I'd thought of it."

"You're not French," Victor observed. "You would have not of thought of something so ...."

"Mundane?" Antoinette suggested.

"Poetic," Jean-Marie snorted. "It is very poetic, and appropriate for le petit homme to have to walk up the stairs. He will cause so many of us tears, he must shed some."

"He will, most likely, throw a fit and resist going up," Antoinette responded, pushing away from the wall. "And just how do you plan to accomplish this feat of yours, oh brother of mine?"

"A friend who knows the place, who knows just what to do."

"Someone else might have the same idea, for it is, as you say, poetic." The snap scratch of a match punctuated Victor's words. He puffed on his cigarette. "We may have a rather large crowd which would lead certain authorities to our location."

"Right-o, chaps. He's right," Francis agreed, leaning back. "What will we do about that?"

Jean-Marie shook his head and stood. His hands moved quickly around as he began pacing. "No, no, no. If we all believe this then none of us will do something. We must believe that we act alone, in a group or else nothing will be done. We cannot simply allow that to happen - it is how this madman has managed to be where he is now."

The wine cellar fell silent. Only dripping from a leaky faucet, as though the wine cried, could be heard.

"What are you saying, exactly, Jean-Marie?" The final person to speak was also French, but his hair was blonde, his eyes blue. His name, Florian, was French and German depending upon how he pronounced it. Even his surname, Herbert, was also mixed, like the man himself.

"If someone had thought they were the only one who could make a difference, and did something, we would not be in this situation, but everyone thought someone else would do it." Jean-Marie stopped. 

"I for one am tired of believing someone else will change things." He stopped in front of the door beside his sister. "Are you going to remain, or are you finally going to put action to those words of yours?"

Antoinette placed a hand on her brother's arm. "I can speak a lot better with written words, Jean-Marie, but there are times to think first."

"And there are more times to act before one thinks." Jean-Marie removed his sister's hand. "Time to think has long passed. It's now time to act."

"Those are soldiers out there," Antoinette argued. "They shoot first."

"Then I will die young."

"You are a fool, Jean-Marie."

"Now, now, Antoinette," Victor placated. "You know how Jean-Marie gets."

"I do," Antoinette answered. "That is what concerns me."

Jean-Marie sighed. "You all may remain if you wish, but I am going to venture forth and see what I can do. If I die defending my country, in my own way, then so be it."

Jean-Marie's footsteps echoed up the stairs, leaving the others to decide their own fates.




Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Keep Stepping

Sorry for the delay this week. It was another one of those weeks - not bad, just creatively draining. Today, I have a photo to go with the story - from the very place where Gretchen and Sung Hyuk would have climbed too. It's a long hike, but well worth it.

From the top of Mudeungsan, Gwangju, South Korea
This wasn't her world, and they weren't her people. They chatted easily despite the climb. For them it was a Saturday's lark up the mountainside. Twice a month they did this because it made them feel young and energetic. Good for the body.
"Are you all right, honey?" Sung Hyuk asked, stepping a couple rocks back to Gretchen.
"Fine," Gretchen huffed. "Just fine. Just need a breather."
She reached for her water bottle, but she wasn't thirsty.
Sung Hyuk handed her a tangerine. They were everywhere in the stores at the moment, and Sung Hyuk seemed to have an endless supply in his backpack. Ahead of them, his parents continued their steady climb, unfazed by their second son's dilapidated girlfriend.
More likely it was a good indication of how much they would care for her.
She was damaged - white, American and from a broken family. She was in her thirties already, and while beggars couldn't be choosers, even Sung Hyuk, who was scarcely two years her senior, had wondered about dating her.
That was before he had fallen head-over-heels in love with her, though.
His parents were an entirely different matter.
"They'll be fine," Sung Hyuk assured Gretchen.
"It's not them that concerns me," Gretchen answered. She had a PhD in theater, but for the life of her, she had never been able to act. What she could do was teach others how to act and the history of theater. She was good, and having a good understanding of Korean, English and French helped.
Sung Hyuk smirked as he looked at his parents. "Just keep stepping up, Gretchen."
"In this world where everything I've ever been told to be doesn't apply?"
"Is it that important to you?"
"It's important to me that I understand your world."
Sung Hyuk turned back to her. "I know," he whispered, the smirk gone. "It means a lot that you try to work at something you're so terrible at."
Gretchen narrowed her gaze. "You're supposed to be encouraging."
"But, you are terrible at it all. The thing that I love about you is the fact despite it all, you proceed. You don't know what to do, but you keep trying. Many others stopped." He thumbed at his parents' backs. "They're not easy to get along with. They're old school. We're new school. They lost friends and family back in the Eighties. Here in Gwangju, before, after. They continue to step forward as well." He held out his hand.
Gretchen handed him the tangerine peel. "I don't think they like me."
"Most likely not. You're white, confident, tall, beautiful, easily annoyed, and above all, I'm madly in love with you. You'd never be good enough for them. So why try?"
"Because I want them to like me."
Sung Hyuk sank into the empty spot on the rock beside her. The sun had gone behind a cloud, bringing a temporary coolness to the mountain. It was autumn, and the leaves, the brilliant leaves, danced on the earth. They had long left the colored hues. Here on this part of the mountain, the winds blew stronger, the leaves changed earlier. It wasn't barren, but it wasn't a canopy of color either. Below them, the city of Gwangju spread out among the rolling hills populating its urban landscape.
They were a city madly in love with nature, history and freedom. Even the man beside her, a political scientist professor embodied all those things.
Who was she fooling? "I should probably just go back down," she admitted.
"We're nearly there. Twenty more minutes."
"For you."
"For us. I'm not leaving you behind." He reached for her hand. His was always warm, comfortable. Her hand, as always, was cold. "You're not wearing your mittens."
"Too hot earlier."
Reaching around her, he opened her book bag and took out the mittens. "Put them on, Gretchen."
The bright fuchsia made her smile, as they always did.
Sung Hyuk touched Gretchen's chin. "Ah, good, you're smiling. It's worth the climb, love. Let's go." He rose, extending his arm as he did, to pull her to her feet.
The climb wasn't easy, but at the top the wind whipped everything away, pulled hair straight out and cut down to the bone. The sight, however, was beyond belief. The sky was brilliant. The world lay below their feet, high enough to even see some of the earth curving away. It was higher than she had ever climbed. Better than she could describe. Even better than the previous height they had climbed once together. She could see that place from here, seemingly far below.
"Wow."
"Glad you came?"
"Yes."
"Good. Come take a photo with me." Turning his phone to selfie, Sung Hyuk pulled Gretchen in close. "Kimchi."
His parents watched them.
"They'll always be there, good and bad," Sung Hyuk said. "It's beautiful, isn't it? A simple step with purpose, and we made it."
"Are you trying to tell me something?"
Sung Hyuk grinned, and opened a box in his hand. "Yes; I want you to be mine forever, Gretchen. I wasn't going to do this today, but I want them to know despite everything, you're the one I want." He held out the small engagement ring. "Well?"
"I'm going to want to stop."
"So long as we talk it through before you actually give up."
Gretchen rolled her eyes. "You're going to talk me out of it."
"When I know you can do it, I will convince you to push through. I trust you, but there are times when I know your fears are too great." He held the ring. "Promise to do the same for me?"
"Always."


Saturday, November 5, 2016

How to be Happy

"You need to smile more."
Right. Smile more. It might be pasted, but I could smile. Wasn't I smiling enough, though? People always told me I smiled a lot. Like too much.
"Oh, and talk slower. They can't understand you."
Check. Slower. Lifelong bane. Too many thoughts and not enough words, syllables or letters to express them. Just pretend I had marbles in my mouth. It would slow down.
"Oh, and try to be happy. We want the students to remember their time here as a good time, and I'm afraid they'll think of you and not be happy."
It took the remainder of the day to formulate the response to that. Thankfully, the remainder of the day was only an hour away because the bus ride home and picking up a few items at the store was all I could do to keep the tears inside.
Trudging up the last flight of stairs, I paused, took a deep breath and started forward.
Micheline, American, lived on the same floor I did. She worked at another school, but she never seemed to have any problems making friends or having things to do.
I always had, but I always chalked it up to being me. My brain worked differently than others. Not a problem. Just me. They say heartache comes in threes, but I didn't want yet another boot to drop on my head. The first two had been painful enough - first the rejection of my book (tenth publisher) and now this. I began to wonder how I was supposed to make it in this world.
My worlds were infinitely more interesting, and if I could create myself into their world, I would have fun. Not be their god, or even the coolest person on the planet, just have a good job, doing what I like with the powers I wanted. I'd have problems, but they would be ones easily handled.
How did one become bloody happy?!
I was happy.
Wasn't I?
I had a good job which I did well at ... Or I thought I did well with it. Apparently they were hiding things from me about what the parents would say - I learned that one in the mid-term interview.
I made friends here - impressive enough, considering I had only ever had a handful of people I really felt I could trust over my lifetime.
I was happy.
Then why didn't others see that?
"There's that resting bitch face, again," Micheline greeted.
I looked up. "What?"
Micheline, as always, glowed. She wore skinny jeans, brown boots, a bright turquoise sweater and a big floppy black hat atop her curly hair. Despite her size, she pulled off the ensemble in a way I never could imagine. She had a Mona Lisa smile, always half-there, like a sun peeking around a cloud. Any moment there would be a brilliant ray of light to blind the wary traveler.
"Are you happy?" I blurted out.
Micheline stepped back a moment and cocked her head. "No. Why do you ask?"
"You seem happy."
Her smile broke forth. "That's good. I'm rarely happy, but people tell me they think I am, so I become happy." She cocked her head the other direction. "What's the reason behind the question? You think too much, Izara. Something's twisting in that brain of yours." Leaning closer her smile faded and her brown eyes welled with tears. "Oh, dear. Unlock the door, kiddo. You're going to break in a moment."
Micheline had been one of my few good expat friends while I was here. We arrived around the same time and instantly bonded. Though I rarely had a chance to talk with her, it was these moments when her plans changed that astounded me.
"You unpack your things while I make the tea. This calls for strong tea and sweet cookies. What happened?"
I unloaded my groceries as I unloaded my heart. First with the easy news of the rejection letter than the harder news of the school assessment.
"Smile more? Be happy? What sort of inane, incompetent, idiotic and downright insulting suggestions are that?!" Micheline exploded. "This whole damn culture doesn't care one wit about whether or not you teach well only that everyone is happy and joyful. It doesn't matter if the students can't learn anything only that they're happy and joyful. And what the hell is this whole smile thing?!"
I rolled my shoulders. "Apparently, I look angry with the students."
"Of course you do. You have a resting bitch face."
"I can't discipline them well, though. They walk all over me."
"Kids do that."
"I don't think I'm cut out for teaching."
"Probably not."
I glared at her. "Aren't you supposed to be helping me feel better?"
Micheline grinned. "I thought I was. Listen, I've seen the way you interact with people. You do well with adults and teens, but you're lousy with little ones. Really, I want you to marry so you can have children. I would love to see how they turn out."
My gaze narrowed.
Micheline's grin grew wider. "Oh, scary. Now. Let it all out. The anger, hatred. Curse the whole superficial world."
So I did.
I felt a little better.
Micheline stared at me. "You know, for a church girl, you know some words. Dang."
I rolled my eyes. "I can slow down."
"No you can't."
"Encouragement."
"Realist. You can't slow down. It's a given fact. Even when you try to, you can't. You're in a rush to do everything right, Izara. Everything has to be done last week, and it isn't. The world can't keep up with you, so you tend to push it farther."
"Is there something wrong with that?"
Micheline sighed. "Can't really say yes or no, girl. All I know is that it's you. It works for you. You have this drive to do things bigger, better and greater than anyone else. Your passion burns within you, and sometimes, I think it'll burn everyone around you. You run so hot somedays."
"But people don't think I'm happy."
"To hell with happiness. There are plenty of people who are bloody happy and do nothing to be happy for. You," she leveled her finger at me, "have plenty to be proud of. I think that's a hell of a lot more to be happy for. Just because you don't smile all the time, doesn't make you unhappy any more than smiling all the time makes someone happy. Who makes up this stuff, Pollyanna?" She rose. "Do you still have that bottle of wine here?"
"On the wine rack."
"Good. Now, for the bad part. You need to cover their egos, and they only assume it will be from everyone being happy, so smile more is the easiest way to do this." She poured two glasses of wine. "Unfortunately, you can't imagine everyone naked like they tell you to do that in speeches. It doesn't work. Someone still has to be the adult. What about your older students?"
I shrugged. "I think I do well with them, but I thought I did well with the others as well."
"You do better with older students anyway. You can't treat them like older students, because, they aren't ..." She tapped her finger on the table. "Bloody mess."
I sank back into my chair. "Great."
"Oh, not you. It's just the whole foul mess. People don't want to tell you anything because they're scared you'll get angry, and you angry is a sight to behold. Yet, when they unload on you, then you don't know what to do, and you always defend. You argue - it's you."
"I do not."
She lifted an eyebrow. "Of course you don't."
"Oh."
"It's who you are, and on a guy, it's to be encouraged, but you aren't male. You are female. A highly logical, very rational female, but female nonetheless, and therein lies the problem. They expect you to behave a certain way because when they see you, you're female. They don't know your brain, Izara."
"So you don't have an answer, do you?"
"I don't know if anyone does," she admitted. "In the stories, the girl always becomes what they want her to be, and she lives happily ever after. The shy girl becomes the life of the party; the ugly duckling is a swan; the klutz finds she's good at sports. What if the truly beautiful is the woman who accepts herself and is happy the way she is? If she doesn't change herself to fit the stereotype, but adjusts the stereotype to fit her?"
"Fine for a book, but what about real life?"
Micheline shrugged. "Regardless, your face isn't so red. You've calmed down a bit, and you seem less gloomy. You look happy, but you aren't smiling."
I felt happy, as though a great load had been lifted off my shoulders. "I feel content," I answered.
"Happiness if fleeting, but contentment is great gain, isn't that what your Bible teaches you?"
"I can be content, but how am I supposed to be happy enough for people when I don't know how to do that?"
"I think that parts come out from you, Izara. You are a happy person, but it takes people who know you to see that. Your supervisor said you didn't look happy. It was an observation because you normally do. You smile easily, but when you teach, you put on your game face. I've seen that. You focus on the task."
I finished my wine. "Then what am I to do?"
"Have fun. Find what makes it fun to teach, for you, and enjoy it. The secret to being happy, is to find what you love in life, and enjoy it."


Friday, October 28, 2016

The Dragon's Lair Part 2


Sorry about the late posting. This week at work was a bit busier than I expected. Here's the second half of the Dragon's Lair.


"The place is entirely too quiet," Eun-An observed, looking around the empty camp. "And in the middle of a storm?"
"The eye provides opportunity, doesn't it? They may have been out beforehand, though." Thomas motioned to a building. "Take advantage while we can. See if you can find those precious paintings of yours, and I'll look into the piracy."
"Not my precious paintings," Eun-An grumbled. "You make them sound like they are mine. I'm hunting them down because we need the artwork, and stealing something is wrong."
Thomas smirked and entered a building.
The plan had been simple enough - come to the island to find the information about the paintings which had been traced to that point. Thomas, who worked with a governmental agency dealing with piracy, had informed Eun-An of news concerning the paintings when she landed in Korea to visit for a family wedding. "There was a rumor one of my colleagues heard about several large paintings in a couple small pirate ships," Thomas had said while they were catching up over dinner.
When Min Ho suggested his new film, the pieces fell into place.
Some might call it the hand of God, but it seemed a little too perfect, a little too coincidental for everything to fall into their laps.
The building was small with only two rooms. The first room had papers, radios and a few maps. It had three computers, and a large TV as well. "Command center, probably," Eun-An muttered.
The back room had a bed and a bookshelf with a small library. Mostly navigational and history with a couple Korean manga, and a ... "Well, that's unexpected." Eun-An took a photo of the shelf before pulling off a large book of Art History, specifically paintings. Beside it was another book on pricing art.
"Find anything?" Thomas inquired.
"You've checked the others already?"
"Mainly. I have yet to go into one of the larger buildings. It's clear their doing something." He stepped into the room. "What did you find?"
"Two books on paintings and art pricing. Suggests something," Eun-An admitted.
Thomas crossed the room and squatted in front of the bookshelf. "You know, I've been trying to figure something out about this place while I looked around. While there are a lot of storage, I feel it’s a stage setting."
"Like one of Min Ho's films." Eun-An looked around the room. "It's lived in, but where are they keeping the loot they take?"
Thomas snorted. "Do you expect them to have a pirate's cove?"
"Don't they keep their things somewhere? Paintings, jewels? What sort of things are they stealing?"
"Modern day pirates come in many forms. Some just want ready cash; others deal with business items." Thomas rose. "It comes in all forms, kiddo."
Eun-An rolled her eyes. "I'm thirty-three. I wish you'd stop that."
"You'll always be my little sister's best friend - even when we're ninety."
"When I'm ninety, you'll be ninety-three, and my family ages better." Eun-An blew out her breath. "Did you check the lighthouse tower?"
"Just heading that way."
Back outside, the sun shone, but the rain continued in spatters. In the far distance, clouds could be seen. Scrambling up the rocky path to the door, they paused to look around the camp. The smattering of buildings hugged most of the mountain enclosure, but a few were in the center. At one time, it was probably a village.
Inside the watchtower, the area was a little more polished. It had a kitchen, large eating area, and a primary command center with even more equipment. "We'll work from the top down," Thomas suggested.
"If they come back?"
"Make it quick. Two of us can't hold off a lot of pirates who know the territory, anyway."
At the top of the staircase, they found a door leading out onto a balcony overlooking the ocean. Picking up a set of binoculars, Eun-An looked out. "I can see the ships," she said. "Looks like there's three or four of them."
Thomas took another set. "Each probably with a compliment of say ten to fifteen people." He lowered the glasses. "Explains something, though."
"Why there are no young men on the island?"
"The whole island's probably involved to some extent."
"Which means someone is either really good at hiding things or ..."
"Someone in the government is getting something."
"And we stumbled into it." Eun-An set the binoculars back down. "Or were led here." She looked at Thomas. "You don't think ..."
"We've known that there was some piracy going on over here for a little while," Thomas admitted. "We also knew that there were some connections to the mainland, primarily ways for them to clean the money and send off the goods. We're trying to take the lot down."
"How high do you think it goes?"
"To the Blue House, maybe even the presidential office."
On the second floor, they found a suite of rooms with an office space. "Jackpot," Eun-An muttered. "Now, to find their records." She sat in front of a bookshelf, and started to look through the notebooks while Thomas looked through the desk.
"We don't have much time," he reminded her. "Just find what you need, and we'll go."
Looking down at the book she had, Eun-An gasped. "Thomas."
"Yeah?"
"I think I found your connection."
Thomas knelt beside her. "That can't be. He shouldn't have any connections whatsoever."
"Makes sense." She looked at him. "It also makes us in grave danger, I think. Just why were we brought here? Who knows about what we're doing?"
"Only my superior knows the full story. You?"
"Same. He's in France, though."
"Then what are we going to do about it? Catherine's in danger if she stays."
"We're all in danger if we stay," Eun-An reminded him. "What does Jiwoon have to do with any of this?"
"He's a rising star in the music industry and film," Thomas began. "He also managed to circumnavigate the military requirement."
"How did he do that?"
"Certain high schools require some training, and as such, they allow you to disregard the military conscription because the students have agreed to join for two years afterward. He went through one of those programs."
Eun-An looked at the door. "Does he know why we're here? Beyond what we said?"
Thomas shook his head. "For now, we simply pretend we've just gone up for the film shoot, which we have. Did you find what you needed?"
Eun-An held up a book. "Only another lead. It takes me to Central Asia, but I've got to return to France first." She returned the book after taking another photo and rose. "Let's go before Catherine gets some strange ideas about why we're up here so long."
"Good heavens no! Not her endless matchmaking. The worst part about living here again is all the women she keeps shoving at me."
"Then find yourself a girlfriend, idiot."
"Easier said than done."
Back at the path, Eun-An tapped Thomas' shoulder. "What are we going to tell them?"
"That the island isn't exactly what we're looking for in the film, but it might be a nice place if we can't find anything else."






Friday, October 21, 2016

Books Update



It is with a sad heart that I announce that Azure Maris, Azure Lights and Shamrocks of Stone have been discontinued.

The publisher, Ambassador International, is undergoing some changes, and in order to cut their inventory, my books, which have under-performed, have been axed.

Now,  I can add discontinued author to the list of things I've accomplished. While authors want their books to be the next bestseller, few of us make it that far. I haven't found the right book yet or the right field. This doesn't mean I will stop writing. Oh no. Those of you who have purchased and read both series have encouraged me beyond measure. The Lord has shown me, through all of you, that writing is a gift He's given me.

In the closing of this chapter, I'm encouraged to leave behind the world of Christian fiction. While there are many out there who love and support Christian fiction, I have found that this is not the genre for me or my novels. The next path will prove interesting, filled with its own nightmares and dreams. I look forward to traveling this new road as, I feel, it will provide me with opportunity to explore elements which I am unable to pursue within the Christian market.

As I progress with finishing new novels, submitting short stories, and whatever else comes along the way, I will let you all know either through the Bridgette ni Brian website or Bridgette ni Brian Facebook page. Please like the Facebook page to stay-up-to-date with the daily activities.

Until then - the best of luck to all of us.

***As a side note, tomorrow's scheduled short story, The Dragon Pirates, Part 2 will be released on Monday.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Dragon Pirates, Part 1

First, an apology for this being so late. I ended up having a cold this weekend and was down for the count. This particular story is the first of a two-parts. It has no connections to any of the other stories, just sounded like an interesting idea. 

"Watch out for the trip," the craggy old man ordered. "There be pirates out there."
"Dragons too," Thomas muttered tossing the mooring line onto the little boat destined to carry four people from off the South Korean mainland to one of the many islands scattered around its southwestern corner.
"Dragons would be cool," Catherine sighed, stretching her arms over her head. "Always wanted a dragon."
"No dragons, Cate," Jiwoon assured her. "Some reptiles, but no dragons."
"He's looked," Min Ho, the remaining male in their group of five explained.
The other woman, Eun-An was at the helm looking over the variety of instruments. She sat in the captain's seat scanning the list of items the owner had left. Three different notebooks described everything in detail, but nothing made sense. Tossing the notebook onto the table at the back of the room, she blew out her breath and peered out the window. Three islands hugged the horizon - close enough to see them, but too far for a bridge. Boat was the only way out there.
"It would have been simpler had I had a sailboat," Eun-An muttered.
"Still going on about that?" The owner of the boat, a man near the same age as the other five, stood in the doorway. "I thought you said you'd never take a sailboat out there again."
"I won't, but everything's easier with a place I know. This is confusing, and they," she motioned out the window to the other four collected below on the stern. "Well, if it wasn't for the fact that Cate's my best friend and Thomas is her brother and Min Ho her betrothed, I wouldn't be here with the likes of any of them."
"Including me?"
"You," Eun-An said, leveling her gaze back at him, "are the top of the list." She leaned back against the captain's seat. "Anyway. This word about the pirates. Is it true?"
Soowin shrugged. "There have been some rumors of pirate activity, but I haven't seen anything. Personally, I think it's some of them trying to drum up some business."
"Well, whatever the case, make the trip nice and smooth. I don't want to meet pirates, and I don't want to wind up on a deserted isle for thirty years." Outside, the boat rocked gently as the winds picked up. The trip was to scout out a location for the film that Min Ho was going to make with his brother. It would be the first action adventure the two had made together since they were kids, and Min Ho was adamant they find the perfect locations.
Jiwoon was one of the lead actors. He was already a rising star among Korean dramas, but had yet to land a big leading role anywhere. He was, however, friends with Min Ho's brother, and wanted to work with the brothers as well.
Thomas had come along to help scout since he was an accomplished outdoorsman. Catherine was along for the fun of it because, as an artist, she found more fun in finding new places. Eun-An had come because Catherine hadn't want to be alone with the others, complaining it would be dull and boring once their inner director kicked-in.
Besides, it was a fun small island with nothing to do other than wander around. What could go wrong?
"Famous words, kiddo," Thomas muttered an hour later as the typhoon swept across the land. They had rushed to their place, a block back from the sea, and cowered in the living room as the winds howled and rain rattled the windowpanes.
"Hey, the boat's fine, and we still have cell service," Catherine argued, her voice trailing as she wandered into the area where the bedrooms were.
In the kitchen, Thomas looked through the cupboards. "Not much in here."
"Nope, but I brought tea and coffee," Eun-An said as she started a kettle of water on the stove. "Any idea how long the storm is supposed to last?"
Thomas shook his head. "Nope; it wasn't supposed to hit until tomorrow, at any rate."
"Hopefully it means it'll blow over soon," Min Ho muttered entering the room. "We only have forty-eight hours here."
"We'll have plenty of time," Thomas assured him. "If anything, the town itself is a good location for the community in the film. Maybe you could manage to use the entire island. You think your friend could let us take the boat around the island?" Thomas directed the question to Eun-An. "What is your relationship with him anyway?"
"We went to elementary school together before my family moved back to the US. He's a good guy, but I think he's a little lost here."
"He's never been here before?"
"Off and on, but not to the extent that say Jiwoon's family would be."
Jiwoon had been the one to suggest the island in the first place. He had assured everyone that it was perfect for the shoot.
Eun-An closed the door. "Not a lot here. We might have to go find a store."
"There was one on the way in," Thomas said. "I'll come help."
Min Ho looked through the window. "In that mess?"
"We can't survive off tea and coffee. You of all people should know how Catherine gets when she's hungry."
Min Ho grimaced. "They told me skinny girls eat like birds. Did not realize when hungry hit they became raptors."
Outside, the rain had subsided a little. "Looks like it's going to be a little less rainy in a bit," Thomas observed. "Maybe another hour or two."
"We can only hope."
At the solitary grocer, they picked up the necessary items and carried it back to the house with the help of a few local boys. "Where are you from?" The boys asked in English. "Seoul?"
"Gwangju in my case," Eun An answered in the same language, slightly amused that they chose that language to speak. Most everyone assumed she spoke Korean, but here these two boys had picked up on the mother tongue.
"Buffalo, in mine," Thomas said. He thumbed at Eun-An "She's originally from Western New York, though."
"Meguk?"
"Half. I'm half Hanguk half Meguk."
"Do you know any famous people? Movie stars, singers?"
"He's from Buffalo, do you even know where that is?" Eun-An asked.
The boys shook their heads.
Thomas laughed. "It's near Canada, so I'm far away from famous people."
The boys shoulders fell. "Nobody interesting ever comes here," the one on the right finally said. "They said some filmmakers had come."
"Oh, we have, but were scouting right now." Thomas put his finger to his mouth. "We're hunting dragons and wizards. Do you happen to know where we can find them?"
The boys looked at each other. "What are wizards," Left asked.
Right rolled his eyes. "Like in that book the teacher reads to us in English. The one over there in England."
"Oh."
"There aren't any wizards, but there's the dragon's lair over by ..." Right's last words popped hollowly as Left's elbow landed in Right's side.
"We're not supposed to talk about the lair. You know that."
"We won't tell anyone," Eun-An promised. "Besides, if it's someplace we're not supposed to know about, shouldn't we know about it so we don't find out about it accidentally?"
Left and Right stopped and stared at her near the entrance of the rental. "You know our language."
"Of course she does," Left muttered. "She just used it." He looked at her. "She might be right."
"Of course she is," Right agreed. "It's up the mountain just there." He pointed behind them. "There's two paths. At the first rest stop, the right one is wide and beautiful - that's the hiker's path. The left one isn't seen very well, but has a large blue bead around a tree. Don't take it."
"Good to know. Thanks," Thomas said. As the boys scampered back home, he paused under the door awning. "It went faster than I expected."
"Do you really think one of them is involved?"
Thomas sighed. "I hope it isn't, but I haven't been in Korea for five years. People change."
Inside, Catherine greeted them. "Finally! I'm so hungry." She carried two bags to the kitchen and started lunch while the others started to put everything away.
"So, tomorrow, if you are up to it, we'll go up in the mountain. I'm going to go up after lunch to see what I can find."
"I'll come with you," Min Ho offered.
"Nope, I don't want either of you injuring yourselves on the first day here."
"I'm not going," Catherine said. "I can't keep up with you. Eun-An, that leaves you. You'll have to take one for the team."
"If I must," Eun-An sighed.
On the trail, Eun-An fell into step behind Thomas. "Here's the rest stop."
"Don't see any beads," Thomas muttered looking at the trees.
"They said left," Eun-An said. She looked at the bench then left, her gaze looking along the ground. "There it is. Hidden behind the bush here."
The path started behind the bush, hidden from all sight to the average hiker.
It was narrow, rocky and steep, heading straight up into the mountain's heart. "Most likely it's the faster way up," Thomas observed as he started to walk. He spoke in French, the language only the two of them understood. Twenty-five years of friendship had cemented their own code.
"Pirates, dragons, what else is here?" Eun-An pulled her hair back into a low ponytail.
"Hopefully those fine piece of artwork you're so intent on recovering," Thomas said.
"We'll find them, but it might not be as simple as I hope." She paused. "You realize the average waiting time is something like twenty years."
They hiked in silence until they reached a small clearing. Inside the clearing were a scattering of buildings. Maybe seven in total. None looked better than ramshackle mountain shacks, but the satellite tower belied the relative poverty of the place.
Eun-An rolled her shoulders and shifted her pack. "How many dragons do you think are here?"
Thomas finished surveying the area. "None." He pointed to the far side. "What do you think about that place?"
"Looks like a watchtower."
"Facing the sea."
"We're on an island," Eun-An reminded him.
"That would be the side closest to the sea, and it's also has the dip there. It would be the best place to have someone watching the sea. Which way did we come in anyway?"
"Leeward. Soowin swears when he comes to an island he uses leeward. Why?"
"Which way are we facing?"
"Leeward, but we wouldn't have seen anything due to the typhoon." Eun-An cocked her head. "Though, with the way that thing is positioned on our side, I doubt few know it exists."
"All the better to watch people."
They skidded down into the camp, and started through the buildings. The first three were simple storage locations. The last one before the tower held the radio equipment and maps. "Does it make sense to you?" Thomas inquired, handing over a map.
"Old school, but yes, I understand it. We're here, and this marks the main sea trails." She traced her finger along the map. "If that old man was right, this would be the best place to find those pirates."
"I imagine they're the dragons," Thomas observed. "We're probably in the pirate's cove of the dragon's lair. The question is .... do they have your paintings?"