Martin’s Baggage

Martin was a meticulous man. He had always been that way, as far as he could remember. Pen in front suit pocket, an inch from the left- handkerchief in the right pocket, folded twice. Phone in the left, and wallet hidden inside his jacket.

“Crew, prepare the cabin for landing.” The intercom buzzed.

Martin checked his briefcase once more- the third time in the last twenty minutes. Notebook in the front compartment, laptop in the rear. Chargers and peripherals in the extra zipper in front. Martin closed the briefcase shut with a click. He breathed, happy that things were in order.

Martin found that he could never think clearly unless things were in order. He glanced at the teenage boy sitting beside him crunching away at a picnic bar. The boy draped a grey hoodie, and had both his shoes off. One of them had inched its way to his side during the trip. Martin had to gently push it back. The tray table was still up, and the shutter was still closed. At least the boy had straightened his chair. Martin took another deep breath.

“Excuse me sir, but your table and window has to be up for landing.” An air stewardess pointed politely as she walked hurriedly down the aisles.

Martin closed his eyes, blocking out the noise and disorder. As he closed his eyes, an image flashed into his mind. A woman lay dying beside him. He could see blood everywhere and feel an intense heat. He snapped his eyes open again. It was a recurring flashback- but he felt very little emotion. He could not remember anything from before the incident. He was told that was his wife, and they had been attacked: signs of forced entry and missing valuables. The fire must have come from the kitchen during the break in. All he knew was that he woke up at the hospital a week later.

When Martin found out what had happened he did not bother going back. Nobody visited him at the hospital, so he assumed he had no close relatives. Martin just left. He offloaded what was left of the house and any possessions to an investor and moved to LA, where he found a job and a nice apartment in the middle of the city.

“The time is now 6:45 pm in Los Angeles.” The intercom buzzed again. “We have arrived a little early from Amsterdam, but do watch out for the rainy weather. A reminder that you must remain seated until the plane has reached a complete stop and seat belt signs have been turned off. On behalf of the crew we thank you for flying with us today.”

Martin waited patiently as the other passengers fiddled around. Some had unbuckled slightly before the signs were turned off. Almost all were in a hurry to take down their bags. Martin only had the one he kept in the seat before him. He unbuckled his belt and reached for it now that the seat belt sign had been turned off.

Martin had been through the same drill many times. He had even become efficient at it: disembark, walk at a steady yet leisurely pace to customs, pass through, and hail for a cab. He never had to stand in line for checked in baggage because he never brought any. This time, however, was a little different.

“Martin Jousley, please report to baggage claim.” The airport intercom buzzed.

Martin paused a few feet from the exit. “Baggage claim?” He wondered. “It must be some mistake.”

Martin made his way to the counter, where he was met by one of the officers. “Martin Jousley, is this your bag?”

Martin made to shake his head, but something prevented him from doing so. He recognized the bag. “Yes it is- but I… I don’t remember checking in that bag.”

The officer gave him a look, then rolled her eyes. “Look sir, we found an empty gasoline container in your bag. You do know you are not allowed to check in gasoline? Since it is empty, that’s alright, but please don’t do so again. Use a different container, if you must.”

“Of course.” Martin said. The officer then passed him the bag, and he accepted it. Martin carried the bag and walked at a steady but leisurely pace. He made his way to a corner of the airport and found a row of empty seats. “Gasoline?” He thought, worried but curious.

There, he unzipped the duffel bag and found a gasoline bottle, a knife, and some jewelry. He picked up the knife, and it felt familiar- but different. It felt oddly cold in his hand. It should be warmer. There should be blood.

Martin dropped the knife, aghast at his own thoughts. Instead, he fondled the diamond and gold necklace in the bag. She wore it. She was shouting. Shame. Anxiety. Then, somehow she had a knife. She lunged at him. She got him on the arm. She fumbled, and he pushed her back. She was dead.

Martin sat back in disbelief. It was so messy- so chaotic. Everything had gone out of order, and he felt heavy. He had to fix it. Martin knew then what he must do. It was logical. He had to get rid of the extra baggage.

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