The opening of a 9,400 word unpublished short story
The exact date of this story is not known, however, the style and the reference to the League of Nations places it in the 1930s
“Danger!  What nonsense!”  Corinna Reane threw back her golden head.  Her tight curls shimmered for a second in the brilliant lights of the Hotel Lounge, and a tendril of smoke, from her Egyptian cigarette, drifted towards the high ceiling, as she regarded Colin Ward with amused incredulity.  “Anyhow, I must have copy for my new novel.”

“Perhaps,” his tight mouth curved into an answering smile.  “But why not confine your sightseeing to the day-time?”

“Nonsense” she repeated.  “This is Athens, my dear, the highly respectable capital of a civilised state.  What possible harm could come to a young Englishwoman if she chooses to walk round the city on her own, at night.”

“Not much, if she stuck to the main streets and kept on walking; but you talk of taking a car down to the Harbour at Piracus – that’s quite another matter.”

“What do you really think might happen to me?”  Corinna leaned quickly across the small round table that separated them, her large eyes questioning him with humorous challenge.

“Well” he hesitated a second, passing a hand over his neatly cropped brown hair.  “I needn’t emphasize the fact that you’re devilish good-looking Corinna – you know it, and if some of these toughs at the docks saw you were on your own, it’s quite a chance that they might haul you into one of the dives down there, and give you a pretty sticky time.  You might even be knocked on the head, slung on a ship, and white-slaved.”

“Colin – how thrilling.” She beat a little tattoo on the table with her pink fingernails.  “After that, I’d be able to write a real best seller.”

He shrugged a little impatiently “I wish you’d stop fooling because I’m serious about the white-slaving.  It’s been rampant here for months.”

“You’re very well informed,” she mocked.  “How do you know?”

“Just part of my job as a League of Nations representative.  People talk a lot of hot air about the League being defunct and useless, but we’ve done a power of good since the suppression of white slaving and the drug traffic was handed over to us.  We’ll get it under here before long too.”

Corinna shrugged her delicious shoulders. “Perhaps you’re right, but even so, these blackguards only go for poor servant girls who’re in trouble and that sort of thing.  They’d never dare to touch an Englishwoman, like myself, for fear of the hue and cry.”

“Yes, there’s a lot in that,” he admitted reluctantly, “but all the same the docks are no safe place for any woman alone at night.”

“Colin!”  She leant a little further across the table. “Are you in love with me?”

“You know it – a fortnight of your company has been quite enough to settle me.”

“Then you’re jealous, I believe.  You think I’ve got a date with that handsome Greek boy, Zukolos, that we met at the Th Dansant on Saturday – and that I’m not going out to get copy at all.”

“Perhaps you have,” he agreed, half teasingly.

“Of course I haven’t.  He dances divinely, but I simply can’t bear the scent in which he smothers himself – but listen.  I’d far rather go alone because it really is part of my job, but if you’re really nervous for me I’ll meet you half way and take you as my escort.”

Colin made a wry little face, and then bent towards her, “I only wish I could – I would have suggested it myself but – well, I’ve got a most important meeting at ten o’clock that I can’t possibly put off.”

“That settles it then.” She shrugged lightly as she stood up. “I’ll have to be a nosey parker on my own.”

“Couldn’t you put it off till another night?”

“Not a hope, my dear.  Uncle Max is dining with the Italian Consul tonight, so he needn’t know anything about my expedition till it’s all over.  This is my one chance to get the real atmosphere for chapter seven of my book.”

For a moment he stood there, a bronzed, blue-eyed man of middle height regarding her steadily, then he nodded.  “All right – if you’re so set on it, my dear, but hide the golden locks, and keep to the main thoroughfares, please.  My business is urgent, or I’d never let you go alone, and I shall be worried out of my wits until I know that you’re safe back.”

“Don’t worry, Colin,” she begged with sudden seriousness.  “I mean to change into my quietest clothes, wear a black shawl over my hair and that sort of thing, you know – and I’ll be back by half-past eleven, I promise you.”

With a shade less anxiety in his face he watched her retreating back, as she hurried across the Lounge.  Then he quickly finished his drink and also went up to change.

An hour later, Colin was seated with a sallow, voluble Frenchman in a quiet, but respectable Café, frequented by Greek merchants of moderate means.


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