[The Canadian writer, blogger and journalist Cory Doctorow (not to be confused with E.L.Doctorow) suggests that his “favorite, foolproof way to start a story is with a person in a place with a problem, preferably in the first sentence” and apart from the bad spelling of ‘favourite’ I found this useful advice. I’m busy rewriting the beginning of “Vague Traces” and culling words, and I thought I’d try out a stab here and see if I get some useful feedback – honesty of course is valued more highly than politeness and the big question is “Does this grab you ?”. The two characters you meet are both minor but are pivotal to the plot, as is “the big man”. My gut instinct is that it does not flow simply enough for an opening and needs to be bashed around and simplified a bit more]

“Toween… toweeen” came the cries of the urchins who acted as conductors for the minibus taxis, as they tried to drum up customers for the trip into town. The overweight man sitting next to the window of the coffee shop briefly  considered whether a white guy catching a mini-bus taxi would be remarkable and therefore remembered. He did need to get to town, but he needed to do it in a way that would not be memorable, should anybody come asking questions later.

He had just ordered a second coffee and he pretended to concentrate on his Sudoku, as he planned his next move and silently cursed his lack of planning. He was reasonably sure his car would be tracked and so he had parked it on the outskirts of town, at the university who were having an open day. Now he needed to get to his appointment.

A Metro-Cabs metered-taxi pulled up and deposited two ladies; judging from their clothes and make-up they were possibly escorts on their way home. He watched to see if the cab was going to wait for the ladies and when he saw one of them paying the driver he rushed out of the coffee shop and jumped into the cab.

Bernard Latje was good waiter, very good in fact, and he knew when customers wanted to talk and when they wanted to be left alone. The overweight man had so obviously wanted to be left alone that Bernard was not surprised he left without a word, but  it did surprise him that the customer had hardly touched his second coffee and that he then climbed into a Metro-cab when his own car keys had earlier been lying on the table. It was probably nothing, thought Bernard,  but it was worth remembering to tell the Big Man if he came past later. It was always better to have something to tell the Big Man, even if it turned out to be nothing important.


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