Checking in suspect pa.., p.1
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       Checking In - Suspect Package, p.1

           Leigh Barker
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Checking In - Suspect Package
Men at Work

  (Episode 1)

  Checking In

  Copyright 2014 Leigh Barker

  ISBN: 9781311891129

  Checking In


  Suspect Package


  The Global Airlines Lite check-in desks were located strategically in the furthest corner of the airport — the cheapest bit. Three of the four desks were occupied by GAL’s very best Customer Experience Assurance staff. Well, okay, GAL’s only Customer… check-in jockeys.

  Rob Thorn. Not his real name, that being Warwick Cornelius Thorne. He’d changed it, but who wouldn’t? Rob was in his early thirties, skinny, except for early signs of a beer-gut, and had short, honey-blond hair. Not ginger. It was not ginger. No way was it ginger. It was honey blond, so we’ll just let it drop there, no point going on about it. And it was a bit lank, but Friday’s wash would sort that out.

  Sitting at the next desk to his right was Maurice. He was also in his thirties, but he was everything Rob was not. His orange GAL uniform was immaculate, his dark hair was immaculate, his shoes were immaculate, and he sat immaculately on the uncomfortable swivel stool, his legs crossed just enough to crack his knees on the desk whenever he swung around. He wore just a hint of eyeshadow, not too much, just enough to accentuate his dark eyes. Oh, and that was something else Rob was not.

  On Rob’s left sat Shirley. She was still in her forties and had been for over a decade. Her lips were too thin and applying copious amounts of bright red lipstick did nothing but make her scary. And she didn’t need lipstick to achieve that. She wore the same orange GAL uniform as the others, but hers had little lapel badges to let anyone who couldn’t guess know that she was The Boss.

  The three GAL Customer Experience Assurance executives looked out across the empty concourse and listened to the clock ticking slowly behind them. If there’d been a wind blowing, a tumbleweed would have rolled by.

  “It’s Major Tom’s birthday,” Rob said without taking his chin off his hands. “We should get him something.”

  “I, for one, have got better things to do with my money than spend it on any of you lot,” Shirley said without taking her eyes off the customer approach route.

  “That’s not nice, Shirley,” Maurice said. “Grant you, he can be a bit… err… pompous, but his heart is in the right place, I’m sure. You know what I always say—”

  “Yes, Maurice,” Shirley said after the customary scowl, “we all know what you always say.”

  Maurice gave her a long, hurt look and turned pointedly away, cracking his knee on the open drawer. “I was just saying, that’s all,” he muttered, rubbing his knee.

  “There you go, Shirley, hurting his feelings again,” Rob said. “You know how sensitive he is.” He slid off his stool and put his foot on the baggage conveyor belt separating the desks. “Do you need a hug, Maurice?”

  Maurice jumped visibly. “No, thank you, I’m particular who I hug.”

  “I’m particular whom I hug,” Rob said with a shrug.

  “I doubt that,” Shirley said.

  “And I don’t believe that either,” Maurice said. “I think you’d hug a sheep if it stood still long enough. And having seen some of the women you’ve had, I think you already did.”

  A narrow door leading to the secret place behind the check-in desks swung open, and Major Tom stepped out into the bright, artificial light. He looked both ways as if expecting to see snipers, marched over, and leaned on the unoccupied desk. He looked around the empty concourse for something interesting. Anyone could see he was ex-military, and if they didn’t, he’d soon tell them. And just in case, on the lapel of his blue, ill-fitting uniform he wore the insignia of the Parachute Regiment. A mini, cut-down version. Understated, he would say; against company rules, Management would reply.

  “There’s nothing wrong with sheep,” Rob continued, after a quick nod to Major Tom.

  “Oh no!” Maurice groaned. “Wash my mouth out.”

  “Well,” Rob continued, “they never talk about relationships or ask you to settle down or meet their mothers.”

  “Don’t start,” Maurice pleaded.

  “Two sheep fall off a cliff. Were they pushed or were they jumpers?” Rob said.

  Maurice climbed over the baggage belt and started to back off across the concourse. “You know, I worry about you,” he said, waving immaculately manicured hands at Rob, as if to shoo him away.

  It didn’t work. Rob climbed over the baggage belt and followed him as he backed off. “Sheep protesting about karate. They object to the chops,” he said, demonstrating karate chops. Badly.

  Maurice turned and ran away, his legs flicking out almost sideways from his knees. It was like watching Bambi in full flight.

  Rob watched him for a moment, sighed, and returned to his desk to await ‘the rush’.

  “You need therapy,” Shirley said, shaking her head slowly. “You know that, don’t you?”

  “I’m having therapy. How do you think I manage to work here?”

  Maurice returned to his desk slowly, without taking his eyes off Rob. Major Tom shook his head in despair and strolled off across the concourse, his back ramrod straight, and his arms swinging in counter-time to his stride. A wonderful thing to behold.

  “Where’s he going, all marching and stuff?” Maurice asked, as much to get the subject off sheep as any real interest in Major Tom’s objective.

  “He’s the security man, right?”

  Maurice shrugged.

  “So he’s off to find something to secure,” Rob said.

  Maurice watched him go. “We should get him a present.”

  “I said that,” Rob said.

  “Yes, I know. I’m trying to divert your attention from bloody sheep,” Maurice said with a long sigh.

  Rob smiled. “A goat and a sheep going through a gate. The goat says… after ewe.”

  “Oh, for God’s sake,” Shirley snapped, “will you pack it in?”

  “Err…” Maurice said in an elegant segue, “are you going to that sleazy nightclub again tonight?”

  “I like it there,” Rob said. “They serve apple crumble.”

  Maurice managed to close his mouth, with a visible effort.

  “Don’t ask,” Shirley said, looking like she was chewing a wasp.

  Maurice didn’t ask. It didn’t save them.

  “Mara joo-warna gives you the munchies,” Rob informed them helpfully. “They sprinkle it on apple crumble. Two birds, one stoned.”

  “I thought you had to smoke marijuana?” Maurice said.

  “Not me, it’s bad for your health, smoking.” He frowned. “Didn’t you know that, Maurice?”

  Shirley stared at him for several seconds, her thickly caked eyelashes blinking slowly. She pressed a button on the desk, just to visit the real dimension for a moment, and the baggage belt juddered and screeched into half-life.

  “That’s the motor sprocket drive missing the little drive teeth,” Rob informed them, pointing helpfully at the motor that no one could see. “You should report it… if only for the sake of my nerves.”

  “You have no idea what you’re talking about, do you?” Shirley said.

  “It’s one of those men things…” Maurice said. “You know, where they think they know everything about everything.”

  “We do know everything,” Rob said.

  “Oh, yes,” Shirley said, “everything about drinking and football.”

  “And your point?” Rob said, raising his eyebrows.

  “Anyway,” Shirley continued, ignoring him. “I have reported the faulty belt… missing motor thing… three times, but nobody cares. Not here… not like when I was at Virgin Atlantic. They had standards there.
This would have been repaired at once.” She pointed at the motor, which was no more visible than before.

  “Yes,” Rob said, raising a finger for emphasis, “but that’s Virgin, and this is GAL.” He didn’t even bother to make his usual crack about virgins. What was the point? That line had been done to death.

  “Not that there’s many virgins working for them.”

  Oh well, one more outing wouldn’t hurt.

  The others stared at him. And sometimes, staring says a thousand words. Mostly abusive, with a dash of blasphemy.

  He raised his hands to fend off the tidal wave of silence and changed the subject. “And comparing Virgin with GAL is like comparing… oh, I don’t know… a 747 with a Tiger Moth.”

  “Did you know that Tiger Moths served this country well before and during the Second World War as training aircraft for the RAF?” Major Tom said, returning from his scouting mission in time to catch the drift. “I, for one, think we would not have won the war without them.”

  “And did you, Major Tom, know there’s no proper name for the back of the knees?” Rob asked, his head tilted questioningly.

  “Ah… many people
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