By R.A. Jetter
“Mr. Shewbreak. Mr. Martin Shewbreak, please go to a white courtesy phone. Mr. Martin Shewbreak.”
“What the devil?” Martin wondered aloud, impervious to the airport crowd, his ears attuned to the page. “No one knows I’m here.”
He pushed thick-lensed glasses up the bridge of his nose and backed against a wall. Thoughts of hastily checking the inside jacket pocket of his polyester suit flooded his brain as he unwittingly stumbled into a trash receptacle. It tipped over, rattling loudly, spilling its contents. The lid clanged on the floor. Not to worry, my wallet is still there. “That’s not why they’re paging me,” he chuckled, adding, “and my briefcase is in my hand.” Instinctively, he glanced down to make sure it was attached. The heavy chrome-plated bracelet and chain snaked from the handle to his wrist, the sleeve of his large tan overcoat covered most of the shiny metal. If someone wanted this, my hand would have to be cut off to get this case. “Perish the thought,” he said aloud, one of his little idiosyncrasies. Martin knew well the contents of the case and having his hand cut off was not a remote possibility. “Who is it that wants me on the phone?”
Was anyone following? How would I know? Trembling, Martin glanced around the concourse. He moved away from the overturned trashcan. Discarded coffee and soda ran onto the floor, he slipped. Scuffed brown shoes danced wildly, arms flailed and the chain rattled as he attempted to regain balance. Travelers pointed and laughed.
That was the problem, there were hundreds of people here he didn’t know. There was no way to know if anyone was following him. He needn’t remind himself; the contents of the case were quite valuable. Could it be someone from work? He could recognize a few associates, but dark glasses or a wig can change appearances. Someone wants me to go to the phone and answer it. Why? Even if they stood next to me, I’d never know if it were one of my fellow employees. He couldn’t know the hundreds of people working in his office. Peering through coke-bottle glasses at anyone that came near, he nervously recoiled.
“Mr. Shewbreak. Mr. Martin Shewbreak, please go to a white courtesy phone nearest you. Mr. Martin Shewbreak.”
“There it is again, dammit all anyway!” Martin shouted. “Who wants me? Who? What do they want? Why?”
Strangers on the moving walkway stared, youngsters were frightened. Mothers ushered their children away from the ‘madman’, wanting nothing to do with this bald, peculiar little man.
Martin’s fingers tapped the edge of the briefcase and the chain jangled. “This can’t be happening,” he scolded himself. “No one should know I’m gone until at least next month.” Reaching for his glasses, he removed them and immediately put them back on, adjusting the fit several times, nervousness apparent to all. “No, that can’t be it,” he said to no one. Thoughts went ten different directions inside his head. Left hand gestured wildly in the air. His high-pitched voice became higher; “It just can’t be. I was a good employee. No one on the twenty-fifth floor ever noticed me. I was a good accountant.” He knew he was correct. For over twenty years, no one ever questioned his practices. And never a question of loyalty… years of faithful service to the Legerdemain Milk Company and not once any recognition for doing a good job. Not even a watch or a pen set. I was ‘lost’ in their world.
“I’d bet no one knows my retirement date,” Martin chided himself. His expressions and strange voice spooked men standing on the moving walkway, they hurried away. A woman attempted to step past him, Martin prattled on. She stopped and backed away. He grinned at her awkward attempt. “No matter, I’ve decided not to stay, not for the next five years,” he said her direction.
Besides, Martin assured himself, the company isn’t looking for me. Vacation time will keep them from looking for at least six weeks. The formula will be sold by then and I’ll be long gone. “I’ll have freedom. Money. I’ll start a new life!” he shouted, his unshackled hand waved wildly. Given a wide berth by several people stepping off the walkway, he entered the bathroom doorway. Fumbling in his pocket, looking for the key to the bracelet, he scooted along.
The woman behind him stepped off the walkway and motioned to a policeman standing near the door. She pointed in Martin’s direction.
“May I help you with that?” the voice boomed from behind.