Fractured Fragment Friday: “Truth in Advertising”

Today is the release day for “Truth in Advertising”! The original concept was of a paranoid individual who is easily discounted by his friends, and fits all the outward signs of a wacked-out conspiracy theorist. He is recruited by aliens to be their agent, because if he were to spill the beans, no one would believe him. At the start of writing “Truth in Advertising” I didn’t know what they needed from him – that came later.

Here’s the blurb:

A paranoid marketer finds himself down a dark alley, just as he expected. But is it always a bad thing when they’re after you?

Here’s the excerpt:TruthInAdvertisingCover

That was the day that they finally got him.

Both wore standard black business suits and ties like the Secret Service, although the woman with the long, black hair was a bit too top-heavy for the outfit, so that Paul wondered how long it would be before the buttons of her shirt popped. She was eye-catching, especially in profile. Paul could tell she was looking at him sideways, like she was trying not to turn her head and be blatant about it. The man wore dark sunglasses and was seated so that he faced Paul directly; he hadn’t turned his head once since Paul first noticed the pair.

“They’re looking at me,” Paul whispered.

He hunched down in their corner booth at Fridays, while Mitch and Holly looked over their shoulders. He wished they wouldn’t be so obvious, but then he had deliberately chosen to sit with his back in the corner, because he didn’t like the idea of people sneaking up on him. He could see everyone in the restaurant, but Mitch and Holly had their backs to most of the place.

“Okay, I give; who is?” asked Mitch.

“By the door,” Paul said. “The couple in the suits.”

Mitch and Holly looked where the odd pair sat. Holly pointed at them.

“You mean those two?” Holly asked.

There were no other couples in suits by the door, so it should have been apparent who Paul meant. Why didn’t people ever take him seriously? Ten years in marketing, selling people on ideas they’d never believe on their own; you’d think he’d be able to convince people that someone was after him.

“Don’t point! You’ll draw their attention,” Paul said.

“I thought they were already looking at you. Maybe we should look back,” Mitch said.

He directed his gaze at the woman.

“Don’t stare at her, or you’ll go blind,” Holly teased.

Mitch put his arm around Holly’s shoulders and gave her a squeeze.

“You don’t need to worry about that with me – I’m already blinded by love,” Mitch said.

Holly rolled her eyes, but she snuggled in closer to Mitch all the same. The two of them were so sickeningly sweet; sometimes it made Paul glad he didn’t have their problem, but he still hadn’t completely sold himself on single being an advantage.

“Speaking of blind, I think Agent Smith might be. Why else the sunglasses?” Holly asked.

“So he can watch me without being obvious,” Paul said.

“I’m not seeing where this is a problem. If the babe’s interested in you, you ought to give her a chance,” Mitch said.

Holly pinched his arm.

“Ouch! I’m just looking out for our buddy here. He needs a girlfriend and she’s…” Mitch stumbled for a less hazardous adjective, “…adequate.”

“Don’t be stupid – that’s not what’s going on here. They’re together,” Paul said.

“They’re sitting at the same table, but they’re not a couple; they’re more like co-workers,” Holly said.

“That doesn’t make me feel better about them watching me. They’re on a mission and I’m their target,” Paul said. “Probably the NSA or the CIA trying to shut me up about the aliens.”

“That again? Paul, no one’s out to get you,” Holly said.

“But if she is, I would just go with it,” Mitch said.

Holly pinched his arm again.

“Ouch! I meant he should go with it,” Mitch said.

“I know exactly what you meant,” Holly said, then checked her phone. “It’s quarter of ten. The sitter’s going to be pissed if we’re late again.”

Mitch pulled out his wallet and set a pair of twenties on the table.

“That should cover us,” he said.

“Don’t leave yet,” Paul said, and reached for Holly’s hand.

“Have to – we’re expected,” Holly said.

“Besides, we’re cramping your style. She might even think that you and Holly are more than co-workers,” Mitch said.

“Later,” Holly said, and gave his hand a squeeze before she let go.

Paul watched Holly and Mitch head out the door. The suited couple didn’t look their way as they passed, just kept watching Paul. The guy in the sunglasses still hadn’t reacted to anyone – he just kept staring straight ahead. Maybe he really was blind, and that “babe” was just waiting around for a chance to have Paul all to herself. Sure she was; no one who looked as hot as she did was going to be interested in him for recreational purposes. No, they were a team, and he didn’t want to give them anymore opportunity to watch him than they’d already had.

The waitress finally brought the check, but she walked off before Paul could get his card out of his wallet. He only had five minutes to make his bus. He didn’t have any cash on him, and he considered just leaving what Mitch and Holly had dropped on the table, but it wasn’t quite enough, and they’d think he was skipping out. He saw the waitress on the computer at the server station, so he took the check and his card to her and stood there, stealing quick glances at the couple watching him while she ran his card, and then he made a beeline for the door.

He got outside just in time to see his bus disappear around the corner. Great – there wouldn’t be another one for twenty minutes. Then he noticed that the suits had come outside, too, and were standing by the door – Glasses and the Babe were staring directly at him. He didn’t think they’d leave him alone for twenty minutes, so he started walking as fast as he could without running.

They followed. Well, that’d teach Holly and Mitch to treat him like he was paranoid; if he lived to tell about it. They did the same thing when he told them about the silent lights in the sky that followed him when he drove home a couple of days ago. And the whispered voices on his balcony last night. Tonight he’d taken the bus to make sure no one was following him, but now he wished he had his car.

He looked over his shoulder; they didn’t seem like they were walking as fast has he was, but each time Paul looked back they seemed to be a little closer. He gave up trying to seem calm – because he wasn’t, and they probably knew it by now. He ran.

He turned the corner and ducked into the next alley before they made it around the block.

Would it be too cliché for Paul to find himself in a dead-end? Apparently not, because there he was, staring at a solid brick wall, without even the dignity of a rickety chain-link fence to scramble over.  He tried a couple of doors, but they were locked, and then two silhouettes cast shadows from the street. Paul remembered how you should never go anywhere that an abductor wants to take you. Well, he had put himself so out of sight of any help, he might as well have climbed into their trunk and pulled it closed for them.

He backed up to the wall and waited as the two sauntered toward him. Well, not sauntered really – they held themselves stiffly, and as they got closer Paul realized he hadn’t heard any footsteps the whole time; they just sort of hung there an inch or two in the air. They stopped ten feet away from him before anyone broke the silence.

“Mr. Phelps, my associate and I – or is it me? The rules about that have never been completely clear to me,” the woman said.

“Me thinks it is I, Ms. Babe,” the man said.

“Thank you, Mr. Agent Smith – we will go with that,” Ms. Babe said.

“Us will,” Mr. Agent Smith corrected her.

Who – or WHAT – has come after Paul? “Truth in Advertising” is a speculative fiction short story with a bit of alien marketing (oops – I gave it away); it’s available now at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/941678

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07SFLXWQQ


DateNightCoverWilliam Mangieri’s writing – including his previous release “Date Night” – can be found at several online retailers, including, but not limited to:
• Smashwords:  https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/NoTimeToThink
• His Amazon Author page:  http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B008O8CBDY
• Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/william-mangieri?store=book&keyword=william+mangieri

• His site on WordPress:  https://williammangieri.wordpress.com
• “William Mangieri’s Writing Page” on Facebook at:  http://www.facebook.com/NoTimeToThink
• His Goodreads author page:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6893616.William_Mangieri
• Or on twitter: @WilliaMangieri

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