Sore throat. Sinus headache. Nagging cough. I’m just glad they stayed away until after I’d passed 50,000 words because today was basically unproductive. I did manage 1,271 words to bring me to 51,377 words total. That’s a better cushion; sometimes when you upload your MS to the NaNoWriMo site to verify the word count, words get “lost.” Of course, I want to win.
This rough draft of my first romance (well, that remains to be seen) should be done with another half-dozen or so scenes, which will end with a set-up in case I get it in my head to do a sequel.
So, yesterday’s excerpt revealed I killed off half of the sweet couple (or did I?). Since then, Mai has made a discovery (a diamond ring Alexei had bought for her) and decided on a career change (from an analyst to a spy). This excerpt takes place about a year after Alexei’s death (now 1980) and after she has been “fully operational” for a while.
She had tracked this specific tattoo artist down to a tattoo parlour in a seedy area of Amsterdam’s De Waalen. The neighborhood was nothing but filth, but the inside of the parlour was bright and sterile, the floors scrubbed, and the whole place smelling of disinfectant. The heavily tattooed woman behind the desk was in her fifties and, but for the tattoos, looked like a babushka in a butcher’s shop. She explained the process, showed the sealed needles, indicated the needle gun in an autoclave, and explained the tattoo’s cost would depend on what she wanted. When the tattooed woman placed notebooks with samples on the counter, the other woman waived them away.“I know what I want,” she said.The woman behind the counter brought out her pencils and sketching paper. “Tell me,” she said.The customer shook her head. “I want Arkady to do this,” she said.A short, thick man emerged through some black curtains and looked her over. “I don’t tattoo women,” he said. “Yevgenia does.”The woman held up an incredible amount of money and described what she wanted. The Russian barked something to Yevgenia, and she came from behind the counter and exited the tattoo parlour.Arkady gave the slight woman before him a skeptical sneer. “Go away, little girl,” he said, shaking his head. “That is assassin’s tattoo. I only put it on those who deserve it.”From the large tote bag on her shoulder, she took two file folders with black slashes across them. She opened each to pictures clipped to a page. The burly Russian studied them for a long time, closed them, and handed them back to her. He took the money and counted it. The bills went into his jeans pocket. He held the curtains open and nodded for her to go to the back of the shop.In his small studio, which was as clean and pristine as the outer area, he asked her, “Where did you see this tattoo?”“On someone who meant a great deal to me,” she replied.“Only one other person I have put this art on,” he said.“I know. That’s why I found you,” she said.Arkady spent a good half-hour on the drawing, not letting her make any suggestions; then, he showed it to her: a black hammer and sickle with a white skull impaled on the sickle blade, through the eyeholes; blood dripped from the blade to form a word beneath the skull. CMEPT, smyert, the Russian word for death.“Yes,” she said, “that’s it exactly. On my back, over my left scapula.”“You will be first non-Russian I have put this on,” Arkady said, “but for you, for him, I will make exception. Take off your blouse and brassiere.”She did so, folding her arms over her breasts. He shrugged and said, “I am homosexual. Your breasts do nothing for me.”She kept her arms where they were. On a silver chain around her neck was a diamond ring, at least a carat in an intricate platinum setting. The light from his lamp glinted off it. An easy thing to slip from her neck, but she saw where he looked.“Touch that, and you won’t be able to fuck for a month,” she said.He shrugged again and pulled on surgical gloves. “Lie down on your stomach,” he told her, and arranged his needles and inks. “I will not go easy because you are woman, even his woman.”“Please don’t,” she said.