Chapters Get Cut

Lost Chapter 21 (unpublished) from The Path to Freedom (task Force 125 Book 1) clears the clutter of a story and sometimes that means words, paragraphs and even chapters need to get cut.  But there are some readers who want to know more about the characters they’ve come to love.  I dare say, there may be readers out there who want to know what Sarah Stevens and Vince Hennessee talk about behind closed doors.  When the mission isn’t underway, do these characters have a personal dynamic?  Of course they do!

Here’s one of the chapters that was cut from The Path to Freedom.

Chapter 21: Replay

Vince led Sarah back into the building through a side door and they went up to the suite.  It was early and the usually bustling suite was silent.  The guys were probably still busy with damage control and Tony thought that Sarah was still in the ladies room.  Sarah was still exhilarated by her own performance with Lori and riding the adrenaline high like a wave.

Vince was still laughing about the scrap when they entered the suite.  He walked over to the bar and pulled out a bottle of ready mixed margarita.  There were three things that were always plentiful in this suite: tequila, cigarettes and coffee.  Tonight, they’d go through a whole lot of the first two.  Tomorrow, room service would deliver the coffee at 8 am like they did every morning.

Sarah lit a cigarette and took a gulp of the margarita Vince had poured for her.  She was still wound up and paced the room on what was left of her adrenaline high.

“What is that woman’s problem?”

“Too many to list.”  Vince said resignedly as he lit his own cigarette.

“Can I ask you a personal question?”


“You know, you seem like a guy who’s got it together.  Why do guys like you fall in love with women like that?”

Vince shrugged.  He walked over to one of the overstuffed chairs and sat down to drink his margarita.  “I can’t honestly say I was ever really in love with her.  I was in love with the idea of her, but not her.  If I had been, I’d have gotten out of the business the first time she asked me to.”

“Well, what is it about women like that?  You know, I’ve known a lot of great guys, but they always get tangled up with these high-maintenance bitches that end up leading them around by the nose.  Why do you men do that?”  She demanded as she gulped down the rest of her margarita and poured another.  “What?  Are all men gluttons for punishment?  Why are the bitches and hos of the world always getting the great guys?”

“Because pearl girls like you are too rare and when we find you, there’s always a disqualifying factor!”  He blurted.

That’s it, huh? Pearls are low maintenance while diamonds are high maintenance.  That’s how he knew I’d want pearls.  He pegged me for a low maintenance type of woman. 

Sarah’s old insecurities rose up in her like bile.

“Disqualifying factor?  What the hell does that mean?  Once fat, always fat?  Is that it?  You gotta be beautiful all your life or else forget it?  Well, aren’t you the shallow asshole!”  Sarah was still ready for a fight and she’d take one over that comment even if it meant certain defeat by Vince.

“Hold on just a minute!  I’ll admit that I’ve been particularly shallow in the past but that isn’t me now.  What you used to weigh has got nothing to do with anything!  How many times do we have to tell you that you’re gorgeous before you finally believe it?  You’re stunning, smart, fight like a cat and have legs like a Rockette!  You’re the kind of girl we’re all looking for, Sarah.  You want to know your disqualifying factor?  Your ONLY disqualifying factor?  You’re on the team.  Simple as that.”

Vince lit another cigarette off the dying butt he’d dragged the life out of while Sarah was reading him the riot act.

He took a long drag off the new cigarette.  Satisfied, he stubbed out the dying butt in the ashtray.  He leaned forward to look Sarah in the eyes.  “You want to know what it is about those women?  Do you really want to know?”

Sarah was still fuming that women like Lori always got the kind of guy she wanted.  “You have no idea how much I want to know.”  Sarah sat back on the sofa across from Vince, kicked off her shoes and curled her legs up under her.  “Tell me.”

“OK, here it is.  They sell a great product.  Before they get married, they’re gorgeous; pretend to like everything you do, convince you that they have the same interests and they look damned good on your arm or in your car.  Once they get you, they stop the act and what you’ve got is a crazy bitch that costs a bundle to support, throws out your Playstation III and ends up sleeping with every guy she meets.  Oh, and they assume they deserve everything in the divorce settlement, even your dog that they don’t even like!”

Vince tossed down the rest of his margarita, got up and poured two shots of tequila.

“The fact of the matter is that in this line of work you can’t afford to get attached to anyone.  Your team is all you’ve got from now until the bullet you don’t hear hits you.”  He handed Sarah a shot and they each drank without salt or lime.  They were both angry for their own reasons.  Sarah because she’d never had a chance at a guy like Vince and Vince because he’d never have a chance with Sarah.

“Oh sure, one-nighters and short flings with civilians are fine, but don’t ever fool yourself into believing that a long-term relationship can last.  When you get into a real relationship, you start holding on too tight and get distracted by the separations.  Civilians can’t handle separations and they definitely can’t handle knowing what kind of work we do.  The average American can’t wrap their brain around the fact that we have to kill people or get killed to get this job done.  It takes a very strong person to deal with the nature of our work and the operations tempo.  In fact, I don’t know anyone who’s found one yet.  The only people who will understand are your teammates.  Face it now, Sarah.  The longest, strongest and most understanding relationship you’re ever going to have doing this work is with the five of us.”

The next moment, Chris exploded into the suite, followed by Jason, Will and Brian.  “Well, if you two are done bonding, we’d like to tell you about our night!”

Brian pulled a bottle of Cabo Wabo Reposado out of a paper bag, got behind the bar and started filling shot glasses while Jason became a human cartoon and acted out the scene downstairs.

“So Lori’s screaming bloody murder and waving her arm all over the place so it’s looking way worse than it actually is.”  He pointed to Sarah and added “By the way, nice slice!  Good call on the horizontal cut.  I’d have used the vertical but that’s just because I hate her guts.  Here’s your knife.”  He pulled the knife out of his waistband and handed it to Sarah.

“Yeah, nice work.  You do OK with knives.  Most chicks haven’t got the stomach for it.” Brian said as he handed Sarah a shot of Mexico’s finest and lit her cigarette.  “By the way, I made a good chunk of change on you tonight.”

“Yeah, no shit!  Two-hundred-fifty bucks!”  Will pouted.  “Why you gotta be such a hothead, girl?  Seven to nine minutes was all I was looking for.  I can’t even piss in seven minutes and you’re out the door, briefed her, sliced her, and fled the fricking scene!”

Sarah raised her glass to Brian.  “This explains you springing for the good stuff.  Great vintage.”

“I love a woman who knows her Tequila.”  Brian smiled back knowingly.

Sarah looked over at Will.  “Take a note.  I don’t like to waste time.”

Jason continued “So then Will breezes out there and I’ll be damned if he hasn’t already got the gauze unwrapped and the needle threaded before the fight even starts.”  Jason turned to Will and said “You know, Chief, I love that about you.  You’re always prepared for shit.”

Will took a puff of a cigar that smelled too rich to be anything but Cuban, put his feet up on the coffee table and said cool as you please “S4, man.  It’s what I do.”  He looked at Sarah.  “Nice clean cut, kid.  Real easy to stitch up.”

Sarah raised an eyebrow.  “How many stitches?”

Will answered nonchalantly.  “Just four.  Hardly worth the silk.”

Jason stood in the middle of the room acting out the scene “So it was like music, sweet music!  Sarah drops the knife, I pick it up, Vince picks up Sarah, Will treats the wound and then Brian and Chris make eyes at Lori’s friends and the dumb broads forget all about the fight.  It was frigging awesome!”

Jason took a shot of tequila and shouted, “I love it when ops go smooth like that!”

Will grabbed another shot, raised it slightly and said “Teamwork.”

In the back of Sarah’s mind, she held on to Vince’s comment about “pearl girls” and wondered if it all meant what she’d hoped.