'I am finally gonna get to come out your way.'
Paul smiled as the words appeared on his computer screen, still, even though he liked what he read, he didn't quite believe the words and it would take a moment or two for him to adapt to the statement as being something of fact and not an empty promise or a promise that may not come to be, but this was something which was actually going to happen whether Paul is ready for it or not.
'What? Sure, when?' he would soon type having paused for a moment, hitting the enter key once he had typed the words.
'Six weeks from today. Flights booked and all, I get in about half two in the afternoon your time, Tuesday the twenty-second.'
'Yeah, are you alright with this? I can stay with you, right?'
‘Of course, as if you need to ask.’
For a little over nine years at this stage, Paul and Susanna have had an online friendship. With the distance between them geographically they have never physically met each other though putting that right seemed to be very much on the cards.
Paul, eagerly anticipating the arrival of Susanna, would himself arrive at the airport a little over an hour before her plane was due to land. He collided with a young man upon entering the arrivals area. No harm was done with both men apologizing, claiming fault, and Paul would soon take a seat and begin to think of ways with which he could occupy himself so that his wait might seem to pass a bit quicker though this free time would soon be taken away from him.
An older man, scraggily looking with a long two-tone grey beard and thinning grey hair with clothing that looked heavy and worn, came to sit two seats away from Paul.
'Family member?' asked this man.
'Excuse me?' Paul looked around unsure as to if this man was speaking to him or not as the man had just looked straight ahead instead of turning towards Paul as he spoke.
'Oh, just making conversation, asking as to if you are waiting on the arrival of a family member,' spoke this man briefly throwing a look Paul’s way.
'Ah OK, actually waiting on a friend, from the States but is flying in from Belgium.'
The man opens a sandwich and takes a bite. It had tin foil wrapped rather than having been in any kind of store bought packaging.
'Belgium, it has been many a year since I last visited Belgium, have you ever been there?'
'No, I can't say that I have.'
The old man soon finished his sandwich and stood.
'Well, time to get on with my day, will be seeing you.'
Paul thought this to be somewhat of an odd thing for a stranger to say to him though he thought it best not to take it literally; instead, he just looked up and politely said, 'Have a nice day.'
'You too young man.'
As the man walked away Paul noticed a package on the seat in between where they both had sat ... the seat right next to where Paul still sits.
'Hey, wait,' called Paul after the old man as he now stood himself, presuming this package belongs to that man.
Paul reached into his jeans pocket before he could do anything else and noticed that his mobile phone was not where he usually keeps it.
'Shit', he spoke to himself.
Having checked his jacket pockets and his surrounding area there was still no sign of his phone. Noticing that there were two pay phones only about twenty feet or so away from him Paul gathered all what he had with him and placed such on the seat he had been sitting on before making his way to the payphones. He would proceed to ring his own number and would be more than surprised to hear it being answered.
'Hello, who is this please?' asked Paul, 'I believe that you have just answered my mobile phone. I would greatly appreciate it if we could come to some arrangement for me to get it back.'
At first, there was no response so Paul would repeat a 'hello'. A few seconds pass and Paul once again offers a 'hello'. A distorted voice would speak.
'You are putting a lot of distance in between yourself and the package next to your seat. If I were you, I would not let that distance increase any further.'
'Excuse me, what was that?' spoke Paul looking round for signs that someone may be near and on his phone.
'There is no point in trying to find, you won't be able to see me,' continued the voice on the phone.
Paul, ignoring what he has been told, caught a glimpse of the old man who had sat next to him, this man was heading outside.
'No, that is not me so don't worry yourself there, he did not take your phone either, your phone parted company with you long before that man sat next to you.'
'Look friend, we do not need any trouble here, I would just like to have my phone back, please.'
'We would all like something or another but unfortunately for you, we do not always get what we want.'
Despite the distortion in the voice, it would only be at this point that Paul would begin to feel a little uneasy.
'Look, please, all I want is my phone back, what have I got to do to get it?'
'I cannot guarantee the return of your phone but what you do have to do is take good care of that package over by your seat.'
Paul looked back over at the seat; the package still sat next to his belongings.
'What has that package got to do with me?'
'It has a lot to do with you. If the distance between you and the package increases any further than what it is right now, it will go BOOM...'
'What? It is a bomb?'
At this moment, a little boy playing ball came to a sudden halt and looked right at Paul for a few seconds before continuing on playing ball. His mother is a little ways away. She has experience of the likes of what Paul is about to go through, within an American style Diner rather than an airport waiting area, though he has no way of knowing such a thing.
'I would keep my voice down if I were you. Allow me to finish before you speak again. As I said if the distance between you and the package increases any further than what it is now, it will go boom, if you try to tell anyone about it, it will go boom and if you try to leave the building with it, the same thing will happen, it will go boom.'
As Paul listened to the distorted voice, the little boy began to get closer and closer to Paul's things and the Package. It looked as if the boy were about to reach for the item enclosed in brown paper wrapping.
'Don't touch that,' called out Paul to the boy while also dropping the phone handle.
A male adult came and got the boy, pausing a moment to throw an un-approving glance at Paul.
'Hello, are you still there?' asked Paul picking up the phone handle but it was clear from the tone on the line that the call had been disconnected.
Paul attempted to call his phone again, though unfortunate as it may be, the phone did not even ring out on this occasion.
'What the hell am I supposed to do now?' he asked out loud.
There was nothing he could do but sit two seats away from what, as far as he knew, was a bomb. He was being watched, that much seemed to be quite clear, though by who? From where? And why him? All questions that he could only ask himself. There was no way he would be willing to tempt fate and try to run. Paul was not about to take any chances; he could not even think of calling anyone's bluff.
Each second passed so slowly. What purpose could a bomb scare serve if Paul would be the only one to know about it? Maybe it is something intended to be directed at him, though Paul is generally an easy-going guy. He has nothing to hide, and he doesn't have much that would be worth protecting. Why would he be targeted and in an airport of all places?
If this package was to be some sort of incentive to Paul, then why is he being made to wait? All he could do now was and is to wait, to sit in a daze, oblivious to anything and everything else going on around him.
A young lady comes to sit only a few feet away. She looks nervous, she looks as if she has something to say. Whomever she is, she does not stay long, she does not reveal anything, and she most definitely is not the lady with whom Paul has been waiting for. Sure, the lady he is waiting for or had been waiting for form has yet to arrive, that is if she is to arrive at all.
At that too, time would be something which would be difficult to judge especially if one was not following its progress and being as distracted as Paul is. Paul would almost and temporarily forget what had brought him to where he currently finds himself until the sight of that lady brought it back to him.
With the row of seats that Paul sits along being back-to-back with another row of seating, a stranger would arrive and sit directly behind Paul, not a lady but a guy. This guy does have something to say.
'Don't be alarmed sir and please do not move suddenly. From what I can gather, I believe that you may be in a spot of bother and I am here to help you. My name is Arnold Mylar, and I am the chief of airport security.'
Not knowing how to react Paul sat up straighter than he had been, turned his head slightly, and listened as the man who approached him continued to speak.
'Face forwards please. If anyone is watching I would rather them not know we are talking to one another. We, as in airport security, believe that we may have a situation. I am here to listen to you so I would ask you to be rational and not overreact. That package next to you, can you tell me of its contents?'
'It is nothing at all, just a… Just a, a gift for a friend… From a friend...' Paul almost stuttered as he spoke.
The voice from the phone call told him that he could not tell anyone of the package, or it would explode.
'Which is it? For a friend or from a friend?'
'For a friend from another friend,' Paul may be blurting out words not knowing what he should do or say but maybe there is something in what he is saying.
'I presume that this friend is arriving here today. Can you tell me where this friend is arriving from?'
Before Paul could attempt to answer that question, the payphone he had used a little while earlier began to ring.
'I think I need to answer that call,' speaks Paul.
Arnold in the position that he holds did not find Paul’s words all too strange. He understands that the man he has come to may not be in the position he is of his own free will.
'Please don't touch anything,' continued Paul.
'Alright,' responded Arnold who turned to watch Paul stand and move towards the payphone.
'Hello,' Paul answered the phone expecting to hear the same distorted voice from before.
'I see you have made a friend. I do hope you have not purposely attracted his attention.'
'I have said nothing to nobody.'
'By all means, keep it that way.'
The phone call ended. Arnold of course could only observe Paul's side of the conversation which was very little but enough for Arnold to make a deduction or two.
Paul sat back down, and Arnold would speak.
'So, you are being coerced, give me a couple of minutes.'
Arnold got up from where he had been sitting and quickly moved away. Fairly soon the whole arrivals area had been evacuated and Arnold returned to Paul with a team to deal with the possible contents of the package. And it was dealt with, without a hitch. It may have taken a while, but it got done. With what had just happened Paul, to say the least, was glad that no BOOM had occurred.
'So, tell me about this friend you are here to meet?' spoke Arnold slowly getting closer to the package.
'I have known her online about nine years now. She had a desire to come visit here and her time is now, so she told me.'
'Where is she from?'
'Atlanta in the States but is flying in from Belgium.'
Looking at the nearby information screens Arnold could see that the flight from Belgium had landed and it had done so just over ten minutes prior to his glance at the screen. The package was slowly opened to reveal a cardboard box with wiring and a battery but no bomb.
'Stay right here,' Arnold told Paul, 'we may need to chat some more.'
When next the two men spoke, it would be over a table at a police station.
'So,' began Arnold, 'let's start at why it is you came to the airport today.'
'As I have said before, I have been friends with a lady online for a fair few years now, a lady who expressed a desire to come and visit this country one day and that day just so happened to be today, this is why I was at the airport. I was awaiting her arrival.'
'Alright, from the beginning can you tell me what happened today?'
'I got there with plenty of time to spare, I sat down in the arrivals area and an older man approached and sat next to me. Conversation began I told him I was waiting on a friend coming in on a flight from Belgium, and he told me he had once been in Belgium. I noticed two things when he left, one was the package which we all got worked up about today and the other was that my mobile phone was missing.'
'Is this the man who sat next to you?' asked Arnold showing a large photograph to Paul.'
'Yeah,' Paul quickly answered almost asking a 'what the hell?'
A second photo is shown. ‘Do you recognize this fellow?’
‘Are you sure? Look again…’
‘Wait a minute. This guy collided with me when I first entered the building, he may have been the one who took my phone…’
Arnold showed Paul yet another photo. 'And is this the lady friend you speak of?'
'As far as I am aware, yes.'
'Well, I do believe you have been used as a distraction so a known terrorist can gain entry into the country. After we first talked, I gave to order to evacuate the building and delay incoming flights. Passengers from already landed flights were pushed through a little quicker than normal to ensure evacuation…'
'Aw crap. Susanna is a terrorist? Nine years I was chatting with her, nine friggen years...'
‘Yeah, and we rushed her entry into the country to deal with that package of yours…’