FEAR OF FLYING
I wiped an itching bead of sweat from my brow and ran my fingers through my hair. The air smelled of jet fuel. I had a black Pelican attaché case cuffed to my left wrist, and I was keeping an eye on a forty-ish man, tall, thinning hair, wide studious forehead, wearing a gray business suit and no tie. He was following me. His eyes were so closely set he looked like a Cyclops. His mistake was staring. You don’t stare at strangers in crowded airports. And, no, I wasn’t being paranoid, not this time, even though The Detonation had turned me into a monster; or a disaster, depending on the day.
This Cyclops guy was after me because I carrying the evidence in my Pelican that answered the question: Why had the super secret nuclear weapons labs at Los Alamos, New Mexico spun lies about the source of the nuclear materials that destroyed Washington? Which led to a darker and more disturbing question, two in fact. Who were the labs protecting, and why?
The information on my wrist was so sensitive, it had to be whispered, shuttled, transmitted by hand, person-to-trusted-person. All the electronic encryption in the world could be broken and would not have protected it. That’s why I’m sweating it here in Philly, waiting for my flight in this reeking, overcrowded, jumpy airport.
I considered it luck that I spotted the Cyclops as he eyed me. Right now he was looking around and speaking with a woman by his side. She looked like a Czech porn queen. I had no idea if my backups saw what I saw. For all I knew my own people could have been turned. Much was at stake, and money trumped loyalty in dangerous times.
Maybe this was my paranoia. There were supposed to be three bodyguards in the crowd, but they blended right in to the chaos of the stressed out, hard traveling humanity in the terminal.
My emotional pitch rose steadily grinding at my patience. I was on my third Xanax, and the fear still punched through. The sweat rolled down between my shoulder blades.
I was beginning to doubt myself. I had to make a move. How would I do it, how would I neutralize a Cyclops, handcuffed as I was to a clunky case? I could move on him and call him out. He’d been following me around long enough.
Police were everywhere, all over Philly International. The country was still on high alert. But, no, I couldn’t go to the cops, even if I claimed I saw the Cyclops wore a weapon. They would simply pat him down and discover that he was a good citizen badly used. That would earn me a sneer from the men in blue, possibly a few hours of questioning about my handcuffs, and a smile from the Cyclops.
I’d have to take on the Cyclops some other way, but all the odds fell in his favor. It would be an easy trick for him to brush me off and yell for help. Police! In the confusion, he could take me down with an injectable. An auto injector like an Epipen. That would do. A pinprick followed by sleep or a pinprick followed by death. There was so much litter on the airport floor he could just toss the injector away. It was probably no bigger than an eye dropper.
But the dead caused complications. It brought on cops and coroners, which meant good-bye Pelican case. But if a man like me fell ill in a busy airport there would be every advantage. No cops required. I could be anybody’s ambulance ride. The paramedics might already be waiting outside the terminal for me, part of the plot. That’s how they would do it. How he would do it—knock me out with an injectable, and cart me off in his ambulance.
I needed a drink.
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