Thank you to those of you that responded to my post with the first part of this story. It is truly an experiment. I have no idea what is going to happen from chapter to chapter until I am in the process of writing it. For those of you who are writing nerds out there, I’m experimenting with writing in first person. This is something I’m not comfortable with so it’s forcing me to stretch. Also, my writing is usually dialog heavy. This story uses dialog very sparingly. This second installment only has four lines of dialog.
I hope you enjoy this second part of the story. I look forward to your comments and reaction to the story. Please be brutally honest.
Road Kill – Part 2
I sat in the Delta Sky Club in the A concourse of the Atlanta airport. The chairs, though they appear comfortable, are built for durability to defend their fabric from sleepy and drunken passengers passing the time between flights.
I had missed my connecting flight to Phoenix, my destination for this week. I took out my laptop and tried to do some work. This was a futile exercise as I quickly brought up spider solitaire in an effort to waste time during the 2 ½ hour layover.
As I was on the verge of completing the series for one suit in this challenging game, I heard my name brutally slaughtered as I was summoned to the front desk through the overhead speakers. I gathered my things hauling my backpack and roller-board suitcase with me. I was sure my possessions would be perfectly fine if I left them and went to see why I was being summoned, but in a post 9-11 world, I had visions of an airport bomb squad detonating my backpack and blowing my laptop and iPad to smithereens.
As I approached the semi-circular desk near the entrance, I noticed two large men in dark suits, earpieces firmly in place, waiting for me with two TSA agents that were in better physical shape than most of those that work the security checkpoints.
At the desk, the largest of the suited men stepped forward. He glanced at his phone and then addressed me, pronouncing my name perfectly—a cause for concern–, and asked me to follow him and his backup singers to somewhere that we could talk.
I explained that I had a flight to catch. He didn’t seem to be dissuaded by this as he encouraged me, with a bit more firmness in his voice, to follow his entourage.
I re-hoisted my backpack and grabbed for my luggage, which didn’t seem to be an acceptable action. I was told that the nice TSA agents would see to my luggage and would return it to me when we were done with our chat.
Although I had done nothing wrong, I started having that niggling feeling that you get at the back of my neck that you get when guilt creeps in. With no perceptible trace of wrongdoing in my recent actions, the desire of federal authorities to lead me to a secret room in the airport triggered the Rolodex of my recent history to frantically search for anything that might elicit their attention. My mind skipped the obvious most recent event that had disrupted my morning flight. Since my subconscious knew I had nothing to do with Man-Bun’s death, it did not even enter my mind as a possibility for the sudden interest in my company. I thought it was more likely due to the work that I was involved in, but the activities of my current job were required a very high level of security clearance just to be made aware of their existence.
Our final destination was a small room off the beaten path of the airport near the A Concourse security checkpoint. I was directed to a metal chair with a vinyl padded seat that was at a small table. There were two matching chairs on the opposite side facing me. The leader of the gang asked me to sit patiently to wait for yet another team member that would be in to see me shortly. I reminded him of my flight and he assured me that I would be accommodated on another flight if our chat caused me to miss my connection. Before he left me to myself, I was asked to relinquish my cell phone. I asked why, but was not given a clear answer other than it was preferred that I not have outside contact until we were done. I vainly attempted to ask why such precautions were taking place, but was told to just be patient and all would be explained very soon.
My sense of unease continued to grow. I sat idle for about 15 minutes. I again replayed the recent events in my life. I had started this job six months earlier after a 15 year stint in Navy intelligence. It was a high-paying government job that no one outside of my organization was aware of. As I was cycling through recent assignments, none came to mind as a reason for my current pseudo-incarceration.
Just as I was beginning the review cycle again, the door opened and a woman in a government-issue blue suit and white blouse entered. She also pronounced my name correctly. This rarely happened twice in one day. She shook my hand with a grip that indicated her desire to be accepted among her male peers. She introduced herself as Special Agent Kate Winslow of the southeastern division of the Department of Homeland Security. These credentials did not put me at ease. She cut to the chase and I finally knew why I was here.
She asked me about the events on my morning flight. I told her that I had inadvertently sat in the wrong row and that Mr. Man-Bun had graciously swapped seats with me so that I could continue my slumber. She asked if I knew him prior to the flight. I did not. She asked what I did for a living and I was vague not being sure of her level of security clearance. She nodded knowingly as I had apparently given her enough key words that told her of the sensitivity of my employment situation.
She then asked me if I thought anyone might want to harm me due to my work activities. I told her how I had been reviewing that possibility and couldn’t think of anything that would qualify. She seemed about to share a tidbit of information with me when there was a knock at the door.
The leader of the pack from our journey from the Delta club entered the room carrying a folder. He handed it to Agent Winslow and she took a look at the small number of pages inside. The other agent excused himself and Winslow sat down across from me.
“What do you know about Aconite?” she asked.
“I’ve never heard that word,” I responded truthfully. “What is it?”
“It’s a fast acting agent that causes the heart to stop and leads to certain death very quickly.”
“What does that have to do with me?”
“It’s what killed Mr. Channing on your flight today and we believe it was meant for you.”
I knew at that moment that this would not be a typical traveling Monday.