Los Angeles International airport, also known as LAX, is often called the “Gateway to the Pacific Rim”, with over sixty million passenger coming and going every year through its terminals. It also makes it one of the most secure airports, especially after the Black Wave Event. A note that Pen Delaney didn’t think about.
In a small room with re-enforced glass, Pen slouches in the chair, contemplating his next step. Outside, a female officer walks past the window for a second time for seemingly no good reason. From behind a cubical across the office, a female office worker takes another peek around the end of her make-shift wall.
Pen sees them and smiles, wondering if charm and looks alone will get him out of this. It used to, but not as often these days. Not like he’s let himself go or anything. For a guy pushing 50, his has the body of a soldier half his age. Although his short, blonde hair has a few grey hairs in there, and is getting a little long, at least it isn’t fading away. He rubs his face, feeling the day’s stubble, as well as the wrinkles. He nods slightly, acknowledging that his face shows his age. It also reminds him of the life he’s lead, good and bad. His light brown eyes darken at that thought. He catches a ghostly reflection of himself in the glass and closes his eyes. He finds it more and more difficult to look himself in the eyes.
When he opens his eyes, that female security officer stops outside the door, talking to the other security officer watching him. She talks to him, but she checks him out a few times. His eyes and face lighten a little. He pushes the chair back and puts his cowboy boot-clad feet on the table. His boots are newish, but well used. His faded denim blue jeans are old and fit him like an expensive pair of gloves, snug in the right places and very comfortable. His once black leather jacket, now faded to a dark grey, would take a Hollywood costumer days and hundreds of dollars to make it look like this. It only took him a few decades. The shirt underneath is heavy and hides his solid physique, among other things.
The female officer glances in.
The back of the chair slips out from under him.
He crashes to the floor, with only is cowboy boots sticking up above the top of the table.
The female officer covers her mouth, trying not to laugh.
Pen casually crosses his boots. His hand appears over the top of the table and gives a little wave.
Even from this position, he can see her smile and giggle. If there’s one thing he’s learned, even when you fall, do it with class and always, always, keep your cool.
The door opens. “What happened in here?” a male voice asks.
Pen notes the ill-fitting pants and scuffed shoes. “Gravity, Officer Drongo. Gravity.” he replies in a Australian accent.
Pen casually gets himself to his feet, picks up the chair, sets it down and plops back down in it. On the other side of the table is a security officer, probably the same age as him, but has been in the same position too long. His seniority has made him a slob, although most probably wouldn’t notice. The scuff tops of his shoes, the pants that should have been retired for a new pair with a wider waist, the too-tight shirt, the jowls that pour over his barely buttoned collar, and the sweat on his fore head, even though he barely walked twelve feet.
“That’s Officer Droogan, Mr. Delaney.” Droogan replies. He places a four-by-two foot, black custom plastic case with a long strap attached to each end on the table in front of Pen. “Recognize this?”
“Yup. That’s mine.” Pen replies casually, but like a duck, whose calm and cool on top of the water, he’s treading like crazy under the surface.
“Would you care to open it for me please Mr. Delaney.” Droogan asks, straightening up, looking superior.
“Why? You a’ready looked in it.”
Droogan slams his hands down on the table. “Because I want you to open it!” he huffs.
Pen shrugs his shoulders. “Right.” He sits forward, opens the latches and lifts the lid. Careful placed amid heavy-gauge foam is a three-foot long piece of what looks like iron. It has a custom-molded grip in the center, with hand-guard on each end. Above and below the grip, the piece is thick and solid for about six inches before it tapers down to a baseball-sized knob at each end. It looks like a bow made of iron, with the ends chopped off. “Ta-da.” he adds with little fanfare.
“Pick it up.” Droogan orders.
Pen’s patience begins to wear thin. “If ya have ah point ta make Drongo, make it.”
Droogan slams his fist down on the table and points at Pen, his cubby finger waggling a foot away from Pen’s face like an ugly sausage. “You are a threat! And now, you’re unco-operative and combative!” he straightens up, bursting with bloated, self-important pride. “According to the Patriot Act, I can hold you indefinitely until it is determined if you are threat to the United States–”
An insistant knock at the door cuts Droogan off. His inflated pride disappears. His face turns red, enraged. He whips around to see the female officer at the door. She waves to him to come out. The look on her face indicates it’s something important.
Droogan turns back to Pen. “We aren’t finished.”
“Ah think we are, mate.” Pen replies, looking out the window at a larger, intimidating, important-looking man.
Droogan follows Pen’s gaze, but when he turns back, he tries to put on a big show of confidence. “You’re not going anywhere!” he slams his fist down on the table again, “I promise!” He turns, whips open the door and storms out, nearly knocking over the female officer.
“Those are the promises that can’t be kept.” Pen murmurs absently. Once uttered, the memory attached to it rushes back. His claim exterior falters until he pushes those memories back down where they belong.
The female officer opens the door. “You can go now sir.
Pen smiles. “Beauty.” He closes his case, gets up, snatches it up with ease and heads out the door. “Hooroo.” he says as he nods when passing the female officer.
“Ok” she says, watching him and his tight jeans walk away.
When he walks past Droogan, who glances up from a thick booklet of paperwork, he gives his a little salute.
Droogan pushes the paperwork off the table and rises to go after Pen.
“Officer Droogan!” a voice booms through the office.
The area falls silent. Droogan recoils, as if physically stuck. Pen stumbles to a stop, looking towards the source of the voice.
Winston Stark is an intimidating presence wherever he is. Despite looking like he could tear the head of Droogan with one hand, he has a cool demeanor. He doesn’t even have to move. He just stands there, a big, slick, bruiser in his custom charcoal black suit that is several hundred steps up from the average Feds’ standard issue two-piece. All he does is tilt his head.
Droogan sits back down, burying his face in his hands.
Pen approaches Stark, offers his hand. “G’day, mate!”
“Shut up and move.” Stark whispers as he shakes Pen’s hand.
They walk out of the office, leaving the women to swoon and Droogan to plot ways to spread his misery.
Stark leads Pen out of LAX, towards a private hanger. His plastic case slung over his shoulder.
Stark smiles, patting Pen on the shoulder. “I’m glad you changed your mind about joining my team, Pen.”
“Sorry mate. I didn’t change my mind.”
“Oh. When I got word you left, I thought you were–”
“Nope. Here on personal business.”
“I’m truly sorry to hear that. I was hoping you’d be my fifth.”
“C’mon mate, you know ah don’t play well with others. Even when I did, I didn’t.”
Stark nods. “Is there anything I can do to help?”
Pen stops short of Stark’s private hanger. Inside, people prepare the jet for a return trip. “I just need my things.” he says, his tone losing its easiness.
A serious look rises on Stark’s face. “This involves that girl, doesn’t it?”
Pen nods. “She called recently, outta tha blue. Ah figured I’d heard the last of her when I got her outta Oz. Some o’ me mates traced tha call to Las Vegas. Figured I’d crawl under tha wire instead ah flyin’ in.”
“You ok?” Stark asks, putting a hand on Pen’s shoulder.
A wistful smile touches Pen’s lips. “Nah, mate. This kinda personal stuff is never ok.”
Stark nods. He takes his hand from Pen’s shoulders and offers it to shake. “If you change your mind, call.”
Pen nods and shakes Stark’s hand. “No worries.”
Stark waves over to one of his crew members. They rush over with two plastic briefcases that match the long one, and a faded, beat-up black backpack.
Pen slings the backpack on his back, picks up the two cases. Stark starts back with his crew when Pen calls out. “Oy.”
Stark stops and looks back.
“Ah could use a set o’wheels.”
Pry: The Ghosts of Promises Past: Iron Bow Copyrighted © 2013 Mark James MacKinnon. Any use of these characters, without permission, is strictly prohibited. Any similarities to individuals, living or dead, is purely coincidental.