Front cover of book

Moving Target


Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam


Tom stood by the window of his ground-floor apartment, watching the huge downpour pound into the ground, soaking everything. He didn’t notice her at first, the rain was that dense. A little girl sat huddled under the archway of the driveway’s entrance. The security gate was open as usual. He wondered why there even was a gate since he couldn’t ever recall seeing it used.

The girl sat curled up against one of the pillars, obviously to gain a small token of relief from the wind-driven rain, coveting the non-existent shelter the archway provided. She looked like she was shivering. He guessed the girl was waiting for her parents so he turned back to his room. Several minutes later he looked out again, expecting her to be gone, and frowned. She was still sitting and shivering in the downpour. The combination of water and wind could easily cause a ten-degree drop in temperature from the normally 90-100 degrees. It would be cold to some, although to Tom it was only a lesser degree of hot.

Typically, locals thought the rain was more than welcome in this country of ungodly high temperatures and 100 percent humidity. Any relief from the unrelenting heat was hugely appreciated. The sudden appearance of a cool breeze brought smiles to everyone’s face, especially a tourist’s, but the relief was short-lived. In minutes after a rain, the big, puffy, clouds would turn from milky white to angry gray, then to black. There wouldn’t be much thunder, but the rain would soon begin again with a downpour most Westerners only see in the movies, and then worsen—like being in a waterfall. The wind was so severe it often drove the rain horizontally.

I should have known, he thought. Damn monsoon season. The monsoon wind signaled the onslaught of rain, the horrendous downpours causing constant flooding. The natives lived with it, but it was new to him. He’d read about it, but experiencing it was something else. Water covering the ground would easily be six inches deep. Gravel or blacktopped roadways shed the water into ditches running along each side of the road. Sewage drainage systems tried to carry the excess water away, but it was often in vain.

Where there was no paved road, the ground turned to mud when the water disappeared and the mud’s surface quickly dried and in thirty minutes looked as if it had formed into hard cakes of packed earth. An unsuspecting Westerner would step onto one, break though the thin crust and sink six inches into the mud. He might be able to retrieve his shoe—if he were lucky. The Viets would snicker at the hapless foreigners.

When he looked again five minutes later, she was still sitting there, her knees clenched to her chest. Maybe she wasn’t waiting for someone and something was wrong. He sighed, pulled on his poncho, and stepped outside. She looked so forlorn trying to shelter herself from the storm. Tom walked over and crouched down next to her. "Are you all right?"

The rain beat a constant tattoo of noise on his poncho blocking out any street sounds. The girl didn’t answer but looked at him with wide eyes. Fear? Was she crying? For a second he thought her face was wet from tears, but with so much rain it was impossible to tell. He didn’t know why but figured she wasn’t waiting for anyone. He motioned for her to come inside where it’s dry, but she didn’t respond.

Well, hell, I can’t leave her outside in this storm. He scooped her up and carried her to his apartment. She struggled just a little, trying to pull away, but once in his arms, she stopped. Her eyes were wide. He didn’t know why, but he had the thought they were wide with fear. She folded her arms tight against her chest.

Tom set her down in his apartment’s entrance. It wasn’t really an apartment, he just called it that. To him it was just a large room. They both stood, creating puddles of water from their dripping clothes, unsure of what to do next.

She was soaking wet. Tom reached over to his dresser for a towel and held it out for her, but she refused to take it, keeping her hands folded to her chest, but at least she wasn’t crying. Probably too scared to cry. She couldn’t be more than eight-years-old. He closed the front door and removed his poncho, carried it to the bathroom and hung it on the shower curtain rod. When he came back into the room, she hadn’t moved, was still shivering and standing in the slowly increasing puddle, her arms hugged to her chest.

What happens in the next several minutes will bring the girl’s fear crashing into Tom’s life and begins a downward spiral of international treachery, deception, and murder.

Continue the excitement!  Buy the book or ebook now!

Other Novels and Short Stories by M.M.Rumberg: