English

Safe travels [flash fiction]

Merritt Thatcher III got off the taxi at Terminal C. He chose curbside baggage check thinking it would be faster. He was right. He was already savoring the large breakfast he was planning to get at the airline VIP lounge. Man, he needed coffee too!

The line at the nearest checkpoint wound around the corner of the terminal. It seemed to go on forever. Those tourists be damned, he thought. Merritt was a sales rep with a pharmaceutical company and had to see clients all over the country. Inexperienced tourists who took prohibited items through security and slowed the line down pissed him off, especially at busy times like spring break. He walked to the next checkpoint, where the line was shorter and it seemed to move faster.

Merritt checked his emails while waiting in line. He already had fifty-six and it wasn’t even nine o’clock. He vaguely noticed when the agents escorted a worried-looking passenger to a room on one side. It didn’t register that the passenger never came out. Another newbie, he thought. And then smirked, as if that person deserved his fate.

As Merritt got closer to the metal detector, he removed his shoes and his belt. He then carefully placed his carry-on bag on the belt. An agent waved him through. Beeeep! Beeeeeeep! The metal detector sounded.

“Any coins or keys in your pockets, sir?”

“No… wait, yes, my house keys. Sorry” Should have known better.

“Please, go back and walk through the detector again.” Beeeeeeeeeep! What!?

“We’re going to have to pat you down, sir.”

Please, please, please, this can’t be happening! “All right,” Merritt sighed, mentally saying goodbye to breakfast. Time was ticking by.

“Please, step aside, sir.” The agent changed his mind at the last minute. “Tell you what. I’m going to use the wand instead.”

“Sure.”

Beeeep beeeep beeeeeeeeeeep. The agent’s eyes narrowed under knotted brows. He slowly and deliberately swept the hand-held metal detector up and down Merritt’s legs.

“I swear I don’t have anything in my pockets! You saw me empty them!” Merritt was beginning to worry about missing his flight and its domino effect on his meetings. “I’m not carrying an explosive device, if that’s what you’re thinking,” said Merritt, throwing his arms in the air with exasperation. He instantly regretted his outburst.

“Please, step aside and follow me, sir.” Airport police does not tolerate smartasses.

“Where?”

“To the screening room, sir.” The agent’s stare was hard and cold. He didn’t like to offer explanations.

“The screening room? You can’t do this to me!”

“Please, follow me, sir,” the agent said, unfazed.

Merritt walked into the windowless room. The officer closed the door behind him. The air reeked of sweat and something else. Was that a hint of a coppery odor? He sat on the only chair. A few minutes went by, but they felt like hours to Merritt. He tried to focus on the muffled sounds coming from the terminal. He checked his watch. They will soon start boarding his flight. Fat beads of perspiration rolled down his face. This cannot be happening! Where is everybody? Why am I here? More importantly, where the hell is my phone? Probably with the rest of his stuff back at the security checkpoint. Goddamit!   

Merritt tried to open the door. It was firmly locked. He rattled the handle in frustration. He banged on the door and yelled “You have no right to do this! I want my lawyer!” Finally, he gave up and sat down.

*

Merritt must have dozed off, because next thing he knew, someone was shaking him by the shoulder and calling his name. He slowly came to. “I need coffee,” he thought, as he opened his eyes. 

The hair at the back of his neck stood on end. A shot of adrenaline coursed through his body. He opened his mouth to scream but no sound came out.

Across the table, a security officer stared at him behind a face mask. In his gloved hand, he held a scalpel.

Pointing at Merritt’s belly, said “Now looky here. Let’s find out what’s really triggering the metal detector.”Pointing at Merritt’s belly, said “Now looky here. Let’s find out what’s really triggering the metal detector.”

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