CODE MUSTARD • by Chris Allinotte

“Excuse me, sir; would you please come with me?”

I turned, and airport security was standing right there. One looked like a flame-haired linebacker, and the other was a short stocky woman who had apparently, from her expression, been wearing tight shoes all day. Faced with such obvious authority, I felt the need to cooperate.

“What seems to be the trouble, officers?”

“Just come with us.”

The woman drew up behind me and the linebacker led the way. Apparently the conversation was over.

They walked me along the concourse until we reached the shopping area. I glanced at my watch — 2:35. I still had plenty of time to catch my flight.

My nose slammed to a halt in between the linebacker’s shoulders. The rest of my body caught up shortly after. Tight Shoes moved toward the bench we’d stopped at. Linebacker was keeping me in grabbing range.

“Would you care to explain this, sir?”

“Explain what?” I was totally confused, and to be truthful, starting to get a bit annoyed.

This,” T.S. (Tight Shoes… or Tough Shit by that point) said, and she gestured with her baton. Since when did airline security carry nightsticks? “This.” She pointed again at the half of a roast beef sandwich, with a single mustardy bite taken out of it. “Is this your property or not?”

I was flabbergasted. I was dumbfounded. I was befuddled. But I was also full, having eaten the other half of that very sandwich.

“I guess. What is this about?”

Linebacker turned. He wasn’t smiling. I, on the other hand, was trying to no avail to wipe a nervous smirk off my face. (God help me, the more scared I get, the bigger I smile. If I ever end up on death row, I’ll piss my pants laughing.)

“Sir, is it correct then, that you have confirmed this unattended article of property was abandoned by yourself in a public, high traffic area of this airport?”

Unattended… article… property… abandoned. I saw where this was leading, and felt a half a roast beef sandwich, plus one bite, start churning in my stomach.

“Hey now. That’s my lunch. I was eating it here, and my cellphone rang, my wife was calling to tell me about the plan to pick me up when I arrive in Cincinnati. I guess I forgot to come back and throw it out. I didn’t abandon… I bought that sandwich right here in the airport!”

With more force than seemed possible in her tiny frame, T.S. spun me around. “But what did you do to it? Huh? What did you do to it in the bathroom?”

“What? How did you know I…”

“We know, sir.” Linebacker was scowling. “When the abandoned property was reported, the first thing we did was run the tape back. 1:59, you come into view holding the sandwich. 2:00, you enter the men’s room. 2:30, you return from the men’s room.”

The stocky woman in the impressive footwear continued, “Why so long in the crapper, huh?” What took so long? Planting a little plastique under the lettuce maybe? You make me sick.” Here she spit on the ground. I didn’t think it would help to mention that once we walked away, her spit would have been “abandoned”.

“Okay, if you must know, I took a dump. I put the sandwich in this bag here, and sat down to enjoy a full-sized restroom before getting on the plane. Oh, man. My plane.” I darted my eyes toward the departures board, willing it to click over to ‘Delayed’ on the 183 to Cinncinati. “I also bought a magazine, and started to read it in there, guess I got drawn in.” I’d been reading about how to make low-fat Beef Wellington. Ironic?

“What about the people waiting in line, huh? Ever think about them?” Linebacker was getting angrier.

“Yeah, what about them?” The woman had apparently gone up another shoe size while her patent leather workshoes stayed exactly the same.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” I stammered, but still grinning like a moron, which wasn’t endearing me to these two.

“Show us the receipt.” Linebacker had had enough, he was making his move.

I fumbled in the change in my pocket, glancing surreptitously at my watch. I pulled the crumpled paper out.”

T.S. snatched it away. “You’re not going anywhere until we say so, buddy, so quit checking your watch. In fact, forget it; Mike, I’ve had enough of this guy’s crap. There’s only one thing to do.”

Linebacker grimaced, “Cavity search, Carlene?” I noticed the size of his hands, and died a little inside.

“No,” Carlene had a slight grin now, which made me even more nervous. “You eat the sandwich. If it’s fine, you can go. If not, less boom for everyone, right, Sparky?”

Eating that wilted, flavourless lump of doughy bread was the last thing I wanted to do. But I was out of options, and out of time.

The two of them backed off forty feet while I choked down the remnants of my twelve-dollar sandwich.

After ten minutes, Carlene, aka Our Lady of the Fallen Arches, shouted, “Okay, you can go. But don’t you ever leave something behind in my airport again.”

Through sheer force of will I held down the food, and mumbled my assent.

I checked my watch. Five minutes to boarding, and I still had to hit security.

I ran to the checkpoint, gathered up all my coins and my keys to make things as quick as possible.

A massive hand came down on my shoulder. “Excuse me, sir. Would you please come this way? Don’t make a scene; we were told all about you.” I turned, and an even bigger, more constipated-looking security officer was standing there, holding an open, half-eaten bag of salt and vinegar chips.

Next time I’m taking the bus.

Chris Allinotte lives in Toronto, and has been writing for publication since March of 2009. He finds that writing now fits neatly into where his TV addiction used to be. Some of his stories appear on MicroHorror (one was a recent winner of the MicroHorror Halloween contest). Other stories are available online at Static Movement, Six Sentences, Flashes in the Dark and the Oddville Press.

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