Mark Dusek had had a lousy night. A late-season heat wave was sweeping through Arizona, and he had been feeling it thoroughly. He had been living in Arizona all his life, and the heat could still rob him of his sleep during high-summer. Having to meet for work in uniform in a stifling hot airport was doing little to take the edge off of his grumpiness.
At least his morning donut wasn’t bad and the coffee was passable. The morning flights were preparing to depart and the passengers that had actually managed to check in both themselves and their baggage were lining up for one of the many check-ins along the route, which Mark was staffing with a group of colleagues. The mornings collection of passengers was of a higher class than he was used to; Plenty of suits and not a child among them. Good, no one screaming at the detector then. A few stood out to his eye. An asian man wearing all-black with black sunglasses, even black gloves. Black leather shoes clacked on the floor as he followed the meandering queue. An old man had a beard like a storm-cloud and a cane in his left hand. A blond-haired lady with a white shirt and fine dark-blue jacket slung over her arm, sturdy hiking boots on her feet.
An elderly lady forgot to remove the tablet from her bag, a kid had to take 3 trips through the metal detector to finally have all metallic objects remembered and removed, standard stuff. Looks like it’s going to be another long, hot day at the security check.
One odd thing, occasionally he would get whiffs of some odd smell, well, odd considering he was in an airport. Years and years ago, almost before he had even started in school, Mark had visited his uncle Leonard in Idaho. Uncle Leonard was in honey production, taking care of and occasionally transplanting his companies beehives. One lazy afternoon his uncle had shown him the beehives, all dressed up in those curious beekeeping outfits, and given him a small piece of honeycomb to try. This smell brought him right back to those days, the smell of honey and bees, a slight but constant buzzing sound in the air.
It was all proceeding as well as could be expected in the AMs. More than half of the initial queue had passed the checkpoint when the storm-beard man stepped through the detector.
BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP. Angry red LEDs flashed all along the detectors casing, accompanying the klaxon. It did not take Mark long to spot what had triggered the machine; the man still had his cane with him.
“Sir, if you would place your cane on the conveyor and step through the detector again.”
“Is that really necessary, young man?” Even his voice reminded Mark of storms and terrible weather.
“Standard protocol, sir, please put your cane on the conveyor.”
For a moment it looked like the man was calmly reaching into his tweed jacket, then sighed and seemed to change his mind, placing the silver-topped cane on the conveyor belt. He stepped towards the machine again. For an old man using a walking stick, his steps seemed sure enough on their own.
BLEEP BLEEP BLEEP. Again the metal-detector tripped, LEDs flashing. This time the old man seemed genuinely puzzled.
“Anything in your pockets or jacket, sir?”
The old man patted his jacket where he reached for just a moment ago. “That’s just a business card, son, nothing there,” He dug an object out of his pocket, placing it on the conveyor. Mark didn’t get a good look at what it was, but when the old man stepped through the detector again he didn’t trip the machine.
“After all that trouble, least you can do is hand me my belongings, young man.” The voice held a commanding tone that stopped Mark’s objection dead in its tracks. As he reached down and carefully grabbed hold of the cane, he heard a buzzing so loud and clear that it was like having a wasp inside his ear. What in the-? Frantically swatting at his ear and ducking, he hit nothing but air, then opened his eyes to see his colleagues, as well as the old man, giving him weird looks. No wasps were to be seen. It was an airport after all.
“Ehm, here’s your cane, sir.”
“You all right, young man? You look a little pale.” His tone did not seem as concerned as his words.
The second object that had tripped the detector rolled along the conveyor, and Mark scooped it up. A small cloth doll, a puppet really, an eerie grin stitched on its round face. A voodoo doll?
“They really could have told me there was metal in this thing. Thank you, young man.” The elderly man stuffed the puppet back into his pocket and continued into the airport, cane in hand.
Another string of more-ordinary customers stepped through the checkpoint, forgotten keys and rings occasionally tripping the detector. Once in a while Mark would get another waft of the honeycomb-smell but he couldn’t find the source.
The lady with the blue jacket that he had noticed earlier arrived at the detector, the curious honey-smell stronger than ever in Mark’s nose. A set of keys and a ring was swiftly produced and placed on the plate. She stepped through with no alarm. As she picked up her belongings, Mark heard the buzzing again, but this time it was not as close as before.
“Miss, would you hold a moment?” One of his colleagues manning the scanner asked.
“What seems to be the problem, officer?” The woman asked as a handful of flying insects had appeared from her hair, slowly buzzing around the checkpoint. Bees or wasps, one of the two. The other people in the queue stepped back almost as one, shying away from the insects.
“Are those… bees?”
“Is she nuts?”
“She had those in her hair!?”
Mark stepped forward, blocking the door further into the airport. “If you would come with me, miss?”
She seemed mildly confused for a but a moment, then simply smiled at him. “Oh these?,” She indicated one of the insects with an index finger, and the bee actually landed on her fingertip, “They’re quite harmless, no trouble really.”
“Regardless miss, you must come with me. I am not going to ask again.”
With a colleague to help, Mark had taken the woman, named Helena Razani according to her boarding pass, to a small office behind the checkpoint. As she followed his colleague toward the office, Mark could see the bees all slowly return to wherever they had been hiding inside Miss Razani’s hair. After calling management, he had read the woman her rights, to which she had simply replied;
“Thank you, officer, but I am well aware of my rights. I will not be needing any lawyer, simply pass this on to your management, tell them to call the hotline, as well as remind them that it is vital I do not miss this flight.”
After which Miss Razani had handed him a business card. It belonged to Hexagon Consulting, and carried both the carriers number as well as a ‘Consultation Hotline’. He put the card in a convenient pocket and asked her if she wanted a drink during the wait.
“I will take some tea.”
It did not take long before ‘management’ arrived; A large man called Wilhelm, or ‘Boris’ to his friends. Tall and intimidating, he was their go-to guy when a customer was troublesome, though Mark had to admit that Miss Razani seemed did not fit the usual profile. He gave the larger man the business card before he entered the office.
“What’s this now, you branching out?”
“If only. The customer declined a lawyer, told us to just call the hotline number.”
“I’ll pass it along, you just wait out here, I’ll call if I need either if you.”
So they did. Mark was too far away to follow the conversation, but judging from the few peeps he took into the office, Boris wasn’t getting anywhere. Eventually, after some 10 minutes, Boris excused himself and joined them in the hallway.
“Phone-call, just make sure she doesn’t leave.”
Again Mark was too far away to really make out the words, but it was a short one. The tall man returned with puzzlement and confusion written on his faces.
“Orders from Upper. We’re to let her through, and pass on a message from her company.”
“Let her through? That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Orders are orders. Listen, I’ve got other things to do, I’ll forward the message to you. Cya around.”
Boris sent Mark a text then left without another word. It simply read ‘Keep the little ones in check. No need for trouble.’ Well, orders are orders. At least it means someone else takes the shit. The message was passed on.
Miss Razani gracefully got up from the chair they had given her, leaving the half-empty cup of tea. “Of course. Thank you for the tea,” She turned to Mark, “If I might ask, how long till boarding for my flight?” She simply handed him her boarding pass.
Before really considering it, he was outside the door squinting at the nearest info-board. 10 minutes till boarding.
“Ah well, was hoping to do some shopping before the flight, but thank you nonetheless. Have a pleasant day.”
And with that, she left, honeycomb-smell fading behind her. As Mark grabbed the cup to empty the remainder, it smelled like honey had been stirred into the drink. As far as he could recall, they had no honey anywhere in the offices. Slowly shaking his head at the strangeness of it all, he returned to his post at the checkpoint and tried to forget all about it. Above him, one of the first boarding messages of the day droned out of the speakers.
“Boarding begun at Gate B4 for flight to Tokyo.”
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.