He appeared totally harmless. Slightly pudgy, wearing round, thick-lensed glasses — a shock of white hair and a short white beard. He was carrying one of those portable oxygen tanks that old people use, the long white plastic tube going under his nose and pumping air through the little holes so he could breathe it in. He walked with a slight limp, gazing about in a curious manner as he made his way toward the TSA team in their neat grey-and-black uniforms, and the boarding ramp beyond. 

They had him take the loose change out of his pocket and put it on a little tray. They asked if he had any keys on him, and he said no. Someone patted him down, lifting the oxygen tank away from his side for a brief moment to check behind it before letting it bump back into place. He walked between a pair of upright posts. 

Something beeped, and he jumped a little. “Oh,” he said with a rueful smile. “It’s the tank. I’m sorry gentlemen. I can do without it for a moment.” He carefully unstrung the white plastic tube from under his nose and moved the padded shoulder strap over his head, setting the apparatus on the ground gently, bending a little at the waist, stiffly. He straightened with dignity, and stood between the posts again. No beep was forthcoming. 

“You’re good to go, sir,” one of the uniformed young men said with a kind, somewhat paternal smile. “Have a nice flight.” 

The man nodded briefly, returning. He bent at the waist, a little stiffly as before, and picked up his oxygen tank, methodically placing the shoulder strap over his shoulder and the tube under his nose. He took a deep breath of air, as if he’d been experiencing a mild case of suffocation. He offered the TSA team an all-encompassing smile, just as kind and paternal as the one offered to him had been, and said, “Thank you, gentlemen. I greatly appreciate your efforts to keep our community safe. I wish you a wonderful day.” 

He turned, walking sedately toward the boarding ramp. His heart was pounding with adrenaline, but his mind remained as steady and calculating as ever. Not even the slightest hint of the grim satisfaction he felt was evident in his face. 


Copyright by Carter Pierce 2022 All Rights Reserved


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