I’ve taken off the former prologue and started with something I think is more feminine. Here’s an excerpt from what I’ve written so far:
Ramat stood in the rain, fiddling with her car keys and trying to get one into the keyhole. She was completely soaked — her blouse stuck like a second skin, and her hair was drenched.
She finally got the door open and climbed in, angry thatshe was getting her seat wet. She took a cursory glance in the mirror to survey what damage the rain had done to her makeup — it was ruined.
She pulled the door shut and turned on her headlamps. After flicking some water off her face to stop it running into her eyes, she turned the key in the ignition and reversed slowly, as always scared of the big four-wheel-drive she had been assigned at headquarters.
She changed gears and stepped on the accelerator. The car lurched forward. Her headlights picked out a group of men standing in front of the car, all huddled under an umbrella. She stepped on the brakes and pushed open her door.
The men walked as quickly as the umbrella allowed them to, and stopped beside the car. The leader was a fortyish man with a full grey-streaked beard. He motioned to her to remain in the car when she swung one leg out.
A flash of lightning lit up his features, highlighting the long knife-scar running from his cheek to his chin. His appearance was otherwise, peaceful.
‘You take pictures.’ He said it in a dull flat tone, as if she was not expected to argue.
‘Yes,’ Ramat replied quickly, retreiving her identity card from around her neck. ‘I’m a journalist — a reporter. I’m doing some research on the Niger Delta.’
‘Madam put that ID card away,’ one of the men growled.
‘What the…’ she stopped herself just in time. She noticed for the first time that the men were all carrying guns. They were not the dane guns used for hunting — these were guns. She knew they didn’t intend to hurt her, so she tossed the card onto the dashboard.
‘Where the pictures you take?’ the leader asked. As if by some agreed signal, the men drew closer in unison.
‘What pictures?’ she asked. Her feigned incredulity sounded weak — even to her. She avoided his gaze.
‘We no want touch you,’ said their leader. He turned to his men and they conferred rapidly in Ijaw. One of them pointed at the camera on the dashboard. The leader nodded and he grabbed it. He turned it over several times, then thrust it in her hands.
‘Madam, I don’t know how to handle this camera. Please take the film out,’ the ‘please’ was said sarcastically. She wondered what educated men who spoke good English were doing in this tiny village allowing themselves to be ordered around by an illiterate leader.
She took the film out of her Nikon and handed it to him.
‘No come near jetty again,’ the leader said, then tilted his head slightly. They vanished into the forest.
Ramat pulled the door shut and giggled hysterically. She had replaced the film shortly before leaving the jetty. Obviously, they hadn’t seen her do so. She had to leave before they found she had given them a blank.
She glanced at her watch and realised she had to hurry back if she wanted to make it to her room in time for the evening prayers.