It started out as an entry for the Best Opening Contest over atCompuserve's SF Literature Forum. This is a monthly contest for fun only, although the winner of each quarter year gets to host the next quarter, and it's a great way to learn how to best catch attention with your opening. Entries are posted anonymously, votes taken, and writers revealed at the end of the month. I had so much fun with the entry I wrote for the November 2003 contest that I just kept writing long after 150 word maximum. The names have changed, the characters have changed, heck, everything about the opening has changed, but if it hadn't been for that opening, I wouldn't be looking at finishing the first draft this month. I'd probably still be banging my head on the desk over the monstrosity I'd spent five years on. So for fun, here it is:

Escape from Hell

Heaven Bram sat at the table furthest from the window in Cindy's Boutique when Gary Rodgers walked in dripping wet from the April rain.

"We have a problem," he said, dispensing with all formalities and small-talk.

"We do?"

"Three of Hell's finest have escaped." He pulled a wad of damp papers out of his coat. Sketches of the escapees.

Heaven glanced at them, turned to the manicurist and asked for the flesh-tone polish.

"I thought blood red was your colour," Rodgers said. He let his eyes wander over her long, lean body. Not much had changed about her. She still wore all black, but not as much leather. He would rather have seen her signature catsuit than the cashmere sweater, and he preferred her chestnut hair falling to her ass in loose waves, than tied in a braid.

She kept her eyes on the quick, even brushstrokes. "How's your wife and kids, Gary?"

"Fine." _Did she have to mention them?_ It was as if she knew what he was thinking. He rubbed at the back of his neck. "So, are you coming to work for me?"