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Rated: 13+ · Fiction · Contest Entry · #2287894
A traveler has a jolting encounter at the airport. Contest entry for The Writer's Cramp.
I had already consumed double my customary quantity of Jack and Cokes at my favorite airport bar when I received an updated notification from American Airlines.
         “Ugh, another two hours,” I muttered and took a swig from the lowball, tasting mostly melted ice and a whisper of my whiskey of choice.
         Martini was gingerly pouring orange juice to top off a champagne flute that she had filled nearly to the brim with sparkling wine. “That’s over four hours now?”
         “Par for the course this time of year.”
         “Another one, then?” she said with wink.
         “It’s happy hour somewhere,” I said and powered down my laptop as any additional work emails from this point may not contain my most lucid thoughts.
         The wizened bartender chuckled as she handed the mimosa to a woman seated several stools from me and I wondered how long she’d been there. I was putting out proverbial fires for the past several hours that I didn’t notice her arrival, which was a shame because she was stunning: brunette locks, trim figure, flawless skin, and age appropriate. Dark sunglasses obscured what I hoped were beautiful eyes.
         “Thank you,” the woman said with a slight accent that sounded Eastern European.
         “Smart choice for a drink there,” I said to her, smiling. “Refreshing and healthy.”
         She turned in my direction, said nothing, then returned to staring at the back bar as if taking inventory of the offerings that lined the shelves. Her phone buzzed and she picked it up. She read what was on the screen, placed the phone back face down onto the bartop, then took a dainty sip of her mimosa.
         Martini smirked as she handed me my beverage. I nodded in silent response and took my own phone out to busy myself with anything that will quickly take my mind off of beautiful (potentially) Russian women.
         “Excuse me,” the woman spoke to Martini. “How much is this drink? My flight is about to board.”
         Definitely Russian.
         “You barely drank any,” Martini said as she headed to the kitchen. “Don’t worry about it, sweetie. Have a safe trip.”
         “That’s very kind,” said the woman, who placed a twenty on the bartop before grabbing her red roller bag and walking in the direction that I knew to be the C Concourse.
         Nice ass, too, I mused then quickly shook off the prurient thought. I did allow my gaze to linger as she disappeared into to crowd. It took me a minute to notice that she had left her phone on the bartop.
         “Martini,” I called out as I got up from my barstool to grab the phone. “Martini!”
         “What?” she yelled as she reappeared from the kitchen.
         “That lady left her phone,” I said.
         “Oh, I see. Give it here and I’ll take it to Security.”
         “No, I think I can catch her,” I said. “Can you watch my stuff?”
         She smiled knowingly. “Go get her, lover boy.”
         I flashed her a goofy grin and then high-tailed it.

As I passed the Starbucks coffee shop and the Hudson travel store that flanked either side of the entrance to the C Concourse, I swiftly realized how incredibly tricky finding her might be in an airport that currently had twice or maybe three times the number of travelers clogging the waiting areas due to all the delayed flights. Plus, there were thirty-six gates at this concourse. What the hell was I thinking? However, it would be hard for me to forget such beautiful features and I don’t give up easily.
         By the time I got to Gate C14, I was beginning to lose hope. There were plenty of other female travelers that shared her features but none of them was her. She may have also ducked into one of the women’s restrooms that I had a long passed.
         Two airport security officers were walking toward me, and I briefly considered turning the phone over to them when I spotted a red roller bag about thirty feet away. There she is!
         I nearly sprinted— not too unusual a sight at an airport— and would soon catch up to her. Suddenly, a door opened to her right where a custodian had exited with his utility cart. Just before the door closed shut, she disappeared behind it.
         When I arrived at the door, I immediately saw the words RESTRICTED AREA in big bold letters emblazoned on it. I pressed the crossbar anyway and was not surprised when it didn’t budge.
         Was she part of a flight crew? I didn’t think so. She did not dress the part and would certainly not have been drinking before servicing a flight. And, who these days would not notice right away that they didn’t have their phone on them?
         I looked back to where I last saw the security officers but they were nowhere in sight. A quick scan behind me yielded no others either. I decided, then, to cut my losses, return to the bar, and surrender the phone after all to Martini.

Upon returning to the bar, the phone vibrated in my hand. After briefly hesitating, I decided to look at the screen and was speechless. On it was an undeniable copy of my passport photo amidst a sea of Russian text. A diagonal line bifurcated my unremarkable visage.
         What the hell?!
         I fumbled in my jacket pocket for my own phone, quickly launched the Google Translate app, and turned on the camera feature. The app immediately translated the text into broken English in parts but the most important words hit me. DISREGARD CURRENT TARGET. AWAIT NEW INSTRUCTIONS.
         I sat down on my barstool and downed my beverage.
         “No luck?” Martini asked.
         I shook my head.
         “She looked high maintenance, anyway,” she said. “You would’ve been miserable.”
          “Yeah, I dodged a bullet there,” I said with a nervous chuckle. A ding on my phone informed me that my flight would be delayed by yet another two hours. “Give me another one, please. And, make it a double.”

Contest Entry for 2023-01-02 Prompt for #333655.
Prompt: There were lots of travel delays this past week - write a story or poem about being stuck in an airport. Use mystery as one of your genres.
Word Count: 1,000
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