This is my shot at the airport flash fiction challenge from Dan O'Shea for Dec. 15. In this story, I provide more proof of my inability to follow directions. "Flash" fiction? What's that? About 1,500 words? Thanks to Dan for organizing this one.
“Do you think it’ll ever stop coming down?”
I didn’t bother to look out the wall of windows. The planes would still be stacked with snow, sprayed by cloudy men in jumpsuits.
“No. Still no.”
“How long’s it been?”
“The snow or since last time you asked?”
“Since they delayed the plane, silly.”
“Don’t know. Feels like a couple years.”
Some people had gone to the bar. Some had pretzelled around chairs to sleep. I was sober and awake, watching people in Santa hats wander around the airport.
“Because if the delay is going to be long, they’re supposed to give us hotel vouchers.”
“OK.” I tried to only kill people when I had a reason, so I was hoping she would just shut up. I needed to rest. The meeting had not gone well. And I’d missed my usual Sturgeon Burger at Petrossian. Picked up two suits at William Fioravanti’s and some books at Rizzoli’s, so Manhattan wasn’t a total loss. But it was clear I’d outstayed my time in the business. The things they were asking me to do, well, they weren’t asking because they wanted it done. They were asking because they wanted me gone. And there was a little piece of insurance I needed to get my hands on soon if I was going to see the new year.
“My sister-in-law’s brother got a hotel voucher last year when they bumped her in Kansas City. Well, whatever he is. She died last month. Female cancer, ya know?”
No. I didn’t. Something else I didn’t know. I wasn’t even sure what was in the package they’d given me at the meeting. The screeners hadn’t caught it and no alarms had gone off so far. If they wanted to get rid of me, it would have to be something clever. Which might be why they’d sent someone to watch me. The guy near the gate. In the Columbia hoodie. He kept a hand in his pocket, which could have meant anything. Nervous. Pervert. Killer. You can get a blade under four inches through security. And I’d seen a lot of damage done with one of those serrated blades with the plastic handle.
“Well, I want to talk to a manager,” she said. “I wonder where his office is. I don’t care if it is the holidays. There’s no excuse for this.” She leaned around quickly, sending her jangly gold necklace around like bumper cars. “You know my first husband’s brother was a manager. At a Piggly Wiggly near Vicksburg.”
“That’s in Mississippi.”
The guy was watching me over his newspaper. He’d get on the plane behind me. Or make sure I got on. There’d be someone to get me when I arrived. Unless I wanted to pull a D.B. Cooper, I was stuck.
Everyone was quiet for a few minutes. I watched Columbia re-read another page.
“Looks like the weather’s better,” she said.
The work crews were pulling away from the planes as carts of bags rolled up.
They announced the flight. New time. Check with flight attendants for new connections. Boarding first class in ten minutes.
I walked up to the counter, asked loudly for the restroom, so Columbia would know I’d be back soon, then walked back to the yappy woman.
“Need anything from the snack bar?” I asked, leaning over her purse and dropping my trench coat to block the view. “Oh, sorry.”
“No, no,” she said. “They’ll have snacks on the plane. I saw a special on the TV that the airlines are trying to be nice again. About time, too. My friend Charlene said her uncle was on the tarmac for six hours without even a bottle of water to tinkle into. Though why anyone would want to tinkle into a bottle of water is beyond me.”
I nodded and walked towards the restroom. Found a service alcove and got a trac-fone from my duffle bag.
“911. What is the emergency?”
“Yes, ma’am,” I said as southern as I could. “This here is Roy D. Mercer and I just seen some foreign lookin feller give some bomb or package or something to a woman. JFK airport. Terminal 3. Gate 28. I don’t know what they’re planning to do.”
Could I describe the people?
“She’s all purdy for an older lady. Bright flowers on her shirt. Real nice expensive lookin gold necklace. I didn’t get a look at the feller, but I seen he has on a Columbia sweatshirt. One of them with a hood like them Unabomber terrorists wear.”
She told me to stay on the line while she contacted airport security.
I popped the battery out of the phone, wiped the pieces before I dropped them into trash cans. One in the alcove. A few steps and one into the bathroom trash. No one would be digging through that. I took a second to throw some sink water on my face, clear my thoughts. Prepare for a fresh start. Again.
Another phone buzzed in the outside pocket of the bag. The area code was Pennsylvania. Probably the kid in the antique store near Clearfield with the desk I needed. The kid shoulda been working at Blockbuster, surrounded by movies. He wanted me to be a movie villain that day. Fine. The boss wanted me to be a messenger. His boss wanted me to be a killer. Whatever it takes. But now they wanted me to be dead. And I needed that desk. Life insurance policy, of sorts.
“All you had to do was get on that plane. Everything would have been done.”
I turned to see Columbia walking into the restroom. He reached behind the wall, pulled out a “Closed for Cleaning” sign and put it behind him.
“Cops are looking for you,” I said. “Why don’t you be a good boy and go say ‘Hi’?”
“You’re bigger than they said.”
“Yeah. And meaner. Just walk away, kid.”
“Naw, it’s OK,” he said, turning his back hips to strike, some corkscrew momentum he was trying. “Just more of you to hit.” He took a swing across me, silver steel in his hand.
I stepped back and his momentum carried him towards the first stall. I helped him into the door, his feet slipping on the wet tiles. He spun around and hit the door with his back and was coming at me again. I let him get close, then took his blade hand in mine and used my chest to carry him into the sink. He got another knife into his other hand somehow and caught me on the sleeve. Thousands on this suit, a fantastic piece of fabric, and it’s over just like that.
He had a knife in each hand. Bad idea. I had my fingers, my palms, my elbows, my fists. You use knives, you think of that point as your only weapon. You don’t leave yourself any choice. Options. And that’s when you’re done.
I had his wrists in my hands and came across with my right elbow to his jaw, careful to put the blades into the counter. He spun and was bent back across the sink when he kneed me in the groin like some twerp on the playground. Fine. He didn’t have any leverage to make it hurt. I did. I put my head into his nose. You want playground, we can do that.
He started sliding down and I met what was left of his jaw with my knee, sending his head into the underside of the counter. He fell back, waving his arms into the pipes and coughing up some blood. He didn’t look very good.
I found the knives he’d dropped. Nice, serrated blades. Made quick work of his neck. Wiped up what I could. I dragged him over to the front wall, worked to open the supply closet and slid him in. Used the knife to cut open jugs of cleaners. Covered him, the floor.
Walked back into the concourse to see them walking the loudmouth woman away.
The cops had stopped to talk to other cops when I walked by.
“What happened to your lovely jacket?” she asked.
“Oh, nail in the doorway back there. Snagged it.”
“Oh, no,” she said. “Do you want me to talk to the manager about it? We’re going to the security offices.”
“No, that’s OK.”
Then she leaned over and whispered to me. “Just wait. These people think I’m a terrorist. They found some package and think it’s mine. Ha! I’m gonna make a big stink, too. Wait’ll they find out my cousin is a lawyer in Knoxville. I’ll have free vouchers for flights and hotels forever.”
I checked the flights board. All delayed. Weather. Terrorists. Didn’t matter.
The air came in walls of cold as I stepped out. I waved for a cab, blew on my hands to keep them loose. Stepped aside for the cops coming in. Thought of my next move.
Another day of sleet and snow in Manhattan. Joints swell. Knives are hard to hold. Guns argue with you. Bodies leave trails.
I hate killing people in the winter. But I do enjoy a good Sturgeon Burger at Petrossian. And I needed to get that desk in Pennsylvania. The holiday season is always so busy.