E11EVEN | #10
Jenny and I walked into Billings International Airport. It was a nice looking airport, but tiny. Barely an entire terminal. In my wallet, I had one last fake ID, and the single most important SD card.
Jenny and I disagreed about what was on that SD card. I thought it was COVID research data, Jenny thought it was data about Global Warming? She’d been in contact with BossMan95, and we were both confused.
We also both wanted to just get it to a dead drop for BossMan95 ASAP, before we got caught with it.
The night before, we had stashed my backpack at a truckstop in Denver. Jenny placed an anonymous call to the FBI, letting them know about the four SD cards, and who the owner was. The owner was doxxed by work from the members of Dark World forums.
We got into line at security. I didn’t have any bags at all, and Jenny had ditched everything but her purse. We didn’t need much. A two hour direct flight to Seattle and it was all over.
We had the QR codes open on our phones. My stomach felt like it was hosting a butterfly cage match. I was nervous. Come, Sean, you can do this!
There wasn’t much of a line at security. There wasn’t much of a security at all. Think of a big airport’s security. You know, Denver, Chicago, JFK. If that was Big Foot, the security footprint in Billings, Montana was the size of a Newborn.
We queued up with only a few people in front of us. If only I could get through security here, there would be nothing stopping me from delivering the SD card to BossMan95’s secure drop in Seattle. The card, along with the address to the secure drop, was in my wallet. Also in my wallet, my last fake ID.
Did I look like a ‘Horatio Donovan’? Well, my picture was on the ID, and we’d used Horatio’s name to buy the ticket. I crossed my fingers. I’d bought the ID off of a Dark World marketplace vendor.
Would it work? I’d know in about two minutes.
One of the TSA staff bellowed, “Next!” We shuffled forward. I was third in line. There were two people checking tickets and IDs at the TSA gate. One was a woman whose eyes were wide-open, taking in everything, master of her domain.
“Next!” I was second in line. Wide Open Eyes Agent seemed wide awake, caffeinated, and strict.
The other TSA agent looked massively hung-over. Probably he’d been out the night before, drinking and wondering how he ended up working at TSA when he’d dreamed of what?… Becoming a fire-fighter? Rodeo bull rider? Hang glider? Safari guider?
I had a fifty-fifty chance. It was Miss Strict or Hungover Man.
If I wanted to breeze through security, I definitely hoped to draw Captain Hangover.
Miss Strict bellowed “Next!” and the Captain flinched. Yup, hungover for sure. Miss Strict was probably doing it on purpose. I was now next in line.
If Hungover Man would work a little fucking faster, the guy standing in front of his podium would move on to the conveyor belts, H-man could whisper “Next!” and I’d be his.
On my right, Miss Strict was processing people like a TSA version of Usain Bolt.
Come on, H-man. Faster!
As I waited, I turned to nod to Jenny, to silently wish her good luck, and who did I see?
Kevin. Standing right behind Jenny. Dude pops up more often than a killer in a horror movie! My heart rate tripled.
Then I heard, “Next!”
I was up.
But, I didn’t move. I was looking for Barry. Where there was Kevin, there was Barry. But where was he? I heard, “Next!”
I glanced over to see which agent I got. You want to guess?
The strict one, of course. That’s right. Was there any doubt?
Strict One barked, “Ticket and ID!”
The plan had been, if this didn’t work, if I got detained, Jenny wouldn’t try to go through security. She would pivot, walk to the right, I’d drop my wallet and kick it along the floor like a hockey puck. Theoretically, Jenny would take the wallet and run for it. If I was caught, I was trusting Jenny to get that SD card to BossMan95 and help Teresa. At all costs.
But now Kevin stood right behind her in line. If I didn’t make it past security, that plan was shot.
I handed my ticket and ID to Mrs Strict TSA Agent. She looked at the ID, then at me. It was me in the picture. That part was real. The name was real, too. Horatio Donovan. It just wasn’t my name. Mrs Strict TSA shined a light at the ID, holding it at several angles. Then she looked up at me and started to speak. I glanced back to see Jenny, her back turned to me, talking to Kevin, who was facing me. Kevin was talking to Jenny, but he was staring at me.
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I remembered Jenny having a long talk with Cop Dracula, too. And, I woke up in the truck to hear her whispering to Dan. What was she scheming with Kevin? And, how did she know my real name was Sean? There was no way. And, there was no way Kevin would know where I was, except, of course, they had to be working together.
That was it. I was out. I couldn’t trust Jenny. No way.
You know what? There wasn’t much more I could do. If this whole thing was going to fail, it was going to fail and I was going to jail. If it didn’t fail, and I did prevail, and stayed out of jail, I could go to Teresa tell the tale in full detail.
I could tell her in person. Right there with her. Holding her hand. Kissing her big, stupid forehead.
I missed my sister. I could do this. I would see her again before dark. I had to do this.
Mrs Strict said, “Take off your mask and hat.” I complied. She looked from me to the ID and back. Then again. Me, to the ID and back.
I said, “I, uh, shaved since –”
Suddenly, Ms Strict circled something in red pen, she jotted something in blue pen, and handed me back the ID and ticket.
She bellowed, “Next!” Mr Hungover Man flinched. Had I done it? I think I’d – Haha! I did it. I made it!
I looked around and saw Jenny. She gave a scooting motion with her hands. Kevin did, too. They both encouraged me to go.
What. The. Fuck. ?
I didn’t have bags so I put my shoes and wallet into a bin and quickly walked through that scanner thing where they can see through your clothes.
I glanced back. Jenny and Kevin were at the TSA podiums.
The body scanner invaded my privacy.
Kevin and Jenny were unloading their pockets, taking off watches and belts.
I stood at those two yellow footprints, waiting to be cleared of the body scanner.
Once cleared, I snatched my shoes and wallet from the conveyor belt.
I put on my shoes as Kevin, then Jenny, cleared the body scanner.
I jogged to the escalator as they grabbed their belongings.
I ran up the escalator, to the top and …
And I saw Barry. He was blocking my way. Waiting for me. I turned around, but Jenny and Kevin were sprinting up the escalator, carrying their shoes.
Kevin was running right at me. I couldn’t avoid him without running into 300 pound Barry. Jenny was right behind Kevin. Kevin wasn’t huge, but he had a head of steam. He was headed right at me. I closed my eyes and flinched.
Then, I heard… “Oof!”
I opened my eyes. Kevin had missed me and ran right into Barry. Little Kevin had taken down Big Barry.
Jenny grabbed my hand. She said, “Kevin’s got this, let’s go!”
She led me to gate 3. Our flight was already boarding. I looked back, airport security was pulling Kevin off of Barry. Barry was pointing at us and yelling. Kevin was yelling. It was chaos.
Our seats were not together. I sat in the middle. Jenny was at the back. I wanted to ask her what was going on with Kevin, but she was too far away.
I had an aisle seat. I felt vulnerable. Normally I like the aisle, so I can get up to go pee without bothering anyone. But, what I would have given for a window seat where I could slump down, pull my mask up and my hat down and pray for the plane to take off. Or, to taxi. At least to fucking move.
Five minutes. Ten.
Come on, people, let’s go!
We sat there. Fifteen. The other passengers became restless. Twenty minutes. Were these delays normal for small airports?
Then, the door closed and locked. The cabin began to pressurize as the pressure rose from my shoulders. Finally. All that was left was taxiing and then taking off.
But still, we didn’t move. Twenty five, thirty.
Then, the door re-opened and I saw two TSA cops board. Behind them, Big Barry.
I went peacefully. I couldn’t make a scene here, or the plane would never take off. I needed that plane to take off, asap.
They cuffed me right there on the plane. I glanced back at Jenny. With my eyes, I looked at her, then the seat I had been sitting in. I tried to send her telepathic messages. Look at my seat.
Then, they hauled me off. The other passengers didn’t know what was going on, but as I was stepping off the plane, I heard them break out in applause.
But that’s not how I was going down. As soon as we exited the gangway, I ducked my shoulder into the cop in front, and jerked away from the cop behind, and I ran.
It’s hard to run wearing handcuffs. You can’t swing your arms. It’s all shoulders.
I ran through the terminal, down the exit escalator, out into the sunshine and wide open blue sky, where I was tackled.
Barry said, “Gotcha, Numbnuts!”. I lay on the sidewalk, knee in my back, and I heard Jenny’s plane to Seattle take off.
Ten minutes later, I was in a small office-slash-breakroom. It had a couple of vending machines and a kitchenette.
Kevin was already there, handcuffed. Barry was ordering people around. The room I was sitting in desperately needed new vinyl blinds and a paint job. And by the looks of them, the two rent-a-cops there desperately needed ironed shirts and a hand job.
Kevin leaned in and said, “Barry has a fake FBI ID. The local schmocals don’t have a clue.”
Barry looked over and said, “Hey, no talking!”
Barry went back to scheming with the two airport security cops, I whispered, “Hey, man, thanks for trying to help. Sorry I stunned you. You know, back in Atlanta.”
Kevin shifted uncomfortably. He said, “Yeah, that hurt. But, it’s part of the job when you work security.”
I said, “Why did you follow me?”
Kevin said, “I had to keep an eye on Barry. BossMan95’s orders.”
From across the room, Barry bellowed, “I said, no talking!!”
Barry strided over and pulled Kevin up roughly. He pushed him over to a chair in the corner and shoved him into it. He growled, “Shut. Up!”
So BossMan95 was ordering Kevin around, too?
An hour later, Barry and the two airport rent-a-cops led us out to the curb and stood us in front of a cheap rental car. The two cops pushed Kevin and I into the back seat, and Barry squeezed into the driver’s seat. He got out his phone and tapped it a couple of times. He said, “Did you get it?” I heard two dings and both cops looked at their phone screens, smiled like they’d won the lottery and said, “Yes, sir!” They high-fived.
We drove off. It was dusk. Jenny’s plane would soon land in Seattle. Hopefully, she’d check my seat for where I stashed my phone and wallet. Hopefully she’d see the address and instructions for how to dead drop the SD card to BossMan95. Or else, all of this was for nothing.
Less than a mile later, Barry pulled over. He opened Kevin’s door and yanked him out. It was dusk, and I couldn’t quite see what was happening. I could see the lights from the city below. The airport was at the top of a cliff. A couple of minutes later, Barry came back, alone.
He got in. I said, “What did you do to Kevin?”
Barry said, “Fuck off.”
An hour later, we stopped at the end of a tiny, windy dirt road in the middle of nowhere. There was a sign for a wildlife preserve. Barry got out, got me out, got out a stun gun just like the one I hit Kevin with and said, “Now, we’re gonna talk about where you stashed that SD card with the cyber weapon.”
Written, Produced and Narrated by Hans Anderson