FICTION: Beads: Suitcase

February 4, 2005

She waited, leaned back against the ticket counter of a particular airline she chose at length, watched the long lines moving slowly, all in silence. From her vantage point she could see almost the entire main entrance of the airport. Every so often, her eyes would scan over all the doors coming in from the outside, as well as up the escalators going further to the terminals. After a few minutes, she felt she had made a mistake. She pulled her left mitten off, and glanced at her watch.

The mitten slipped down to the floor. She bent down to retrieve it. He was hovering next to her by the time she had straightened.

Ready?

Her heart skipped. She was frightened, suddenly, of the whole plan that she had agreed to. Careful to hide any overt emotion, she looked at him, studying his otherwise calm and collected features.
Yeah.

Lets walk, then, he motioned, taking the lead toward one of the escalators on their right. She placed the mitten back on her hand before following with the suitcase, and scolded herself for allowing panic to set in. It only served to unleash a variety of anxious body signals, like forming knots in her throat and causing nausea in her stomach.
The man slowed his pace to match hers, and grabbed onto her free arm when she lagged behind. Were almost there.

She nodded.

What if

No ifs. There he is.

He stopped, removing his grip on her.

She saw the man coming down the escalator, recognized him from pictures. Time slowed down, reminiscent of the blurring effect she had seen used in movies. She couldnt screw this up. The timing, as it were, had to be perfect.

She forced her feet forward, the suitcase trailing heavily behind her. It was then that the man saw her. Everything followed quickly. She paused beside the base of the escalator, placed the suitcase in its upright position, and moved slightly to the right of it. There was considerable space between her and suitcase now enough space into which the mans identical suitcase fit right in. Without any hesitation, the man exchanged suitcase handles in one fluid motion. Just as quickly, she spun around, and vanished outside the airport with the other suitcase.

Crawford stepped out of the mens restroom refreshed. The flight overseas had been a welcome adventure, but as all trans-Atlantic flights, it had been quite long. He put his coat back on as an older man with a big black suitcase sauntered past him. The two men exchanged knowing glances before entering the food court area. Crawford checked the time displayed by a large white clock on one of the walls, and continued on toward the exit. The other man sat at a table, and took out a palm pilot.

When he was younger, Crawford would have avoided eye contact with security personnel. But he had learned that great criminals were great because they didnt act like criminals. If he gave them no reason to suspect him, they wouldnt. So as he crossed out of the terminal, he even gave the young woman in uniform a smile.
Once downstairs, he spotted her easily. The suitcase, itself, was hard to miss. He buttoned his coat as he approached her.

Ready?

She jumped at his quiet presence, Yeah.

Lets walk, then.

He led the way, frowning internally at her unease. Crawford didnt understand why she was so worried. As far as he was concerned, she had had the simplest, easiest task of all of them. Noticing she was not beside him, he grabbed her roughly, hoping to somehow transfer some of his resolve to her.

Were almost there, he reassured her, reflexively. She was so tense, he thought even the security cameras could sense it.
What if

No ifs, he said sternly, and he saw the old man on the top level. There he is. They both stopped. He let go of her, and continued walking, past the escalator, and got in line for an automated ticket booth.

Crawford kept watching her, and as soon as the switch happened, he followed her out.

To Be Continued…

Editor's Notes: If you are interested in submitting cultural works e-mail editor@thehoot.net.

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