By Mike Bailey
Cliff’s special briefcase he’d had since graduating from college was closed and locked once again.
As the huge Delta 747 jet finally came to a halt next to the moveable passenger loading ramp
attached to the side of the terminal building at the Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, GA.,
Cliff Janson clutched the handle tightly on his briefcase he had just retrieved from under the seat
in front of him, opened it, and verified that the contents were still OK.
He had flown the entire flight from Los Angles to Atlanta with both of his feet firmly resting on top
of the briefcase. It felt good to finally once again relax his legs a bit and let them shake off the
oncoming cramps from having stayed in one position for so long.
Outside the plane, airline service trucks were already fighting their way through the torrential rains
to service the latest arrival at Atlanta. “Welcome to Atlanta,” Cliff thought with a smile on his face
and thinking that it rained every single time he flew to Atlanta. Maybe “Hot Lanta” knows I am from
sunny California and is messing with me, he thought as he stood up in the aisle and started working
his way forward towards the exit door.
The men seated across the aisle from Cliff were also up and anxiously waiting for the stewardess to
unlock the forward cabin door, so the ground crew could finish the preparations for deplaning their
flight from Los Angles.
Inside the main security office, Chief of Security Neil Bradford stood staring at the phone on his
desk. The sweat was pouring from his hands and face as he turned to face Frank Simpson, his captain
of Internal Security.
“God, why hasn’t the tower called?” Neal blurted out.
“Chief, we don’t have much time left,” said Frank quietly. “If they don’t call soon, all hell is going to
Neal stared at his watch, then turned and walked half dazed over to the window overlooking the
innocent people scurrying about below him. In a few minutes they all might be dead.
On the plane, Cliff clutched the handle of his briefcase tightly as he made his way toward the exit
door. He knew now that the two men beside him were more than just awkward passengers. Their
fumbling around during the flight and asking him all sorts of questions were just clear attempts to
field him out. Maybe they were planning on robbing him or something, thought Cliff … maybe they
think I’m carrying something valuable in my briefcase.
“Miss, could you help me please?”
Cliff thought that maybe he ought to leave the plane with the help of the stewardess … having her
close by might make the men think twice about trying to snatch his briefcase and run.
“I just got my leg out of a cast and I’m afraid it is not strong enough.”
This has got to work Cliff thought as he skillfully balanced himself on his new bad leg.
“Damn, you might know he’d pull something like that?” whispered one of the men behind Cliff.
“What are we going to do now?”
“Come on, let’s just stay close.”
The two men rudely crushed their way forward and stopped just behind some people standing behind
Cliff and the stewardess. Stepping from the comfort of the plane and into the drafty loading tunnel,
Cliff started to think all sorts of crazy things like maybe they wanted to kidnap him or something.
The ringing of the phone almost made Neil’s heart stop. He stood frozen as he watched Frank pick up
“It’s the tower Neil, they got the Captain of Flight 603 on the radio. What do you want me to
“Give me the phone, Frank!”
As he sat down, Frank wished he was home with his wife and kids. His mind wandered over the
laughter and fun they had yesterday down at the lake.
“Damn it, cut the procedure crap … put the pilot on now!”
The room shook with Neil’s powerful voice. The shout brought Frank back to his senses. Frank
thought to himself it’s a good thing that idiot up in the tower is not in striking distance of Neil
“Neil, he just entered the tunnel. His right hand is still in his coat pocket.
“How does he look Roy,” Neil asked the pilot. The sweat was now running in beads down Neil’s nose.
“He acts real jumpy and nervous. I think he made your men who were seated next to him.”
“Damn it, why can’t I just for once get a hold of two fairly intelligent cops? What the hell,
Ma Bell will probably think lightening hit Neil’s phone after the way it looked when Neil slammed
the receiver down thought Frank as he quietly watched Neil still boiling over with anger.
“We blew it Frank! Call your men now and tell them we’re going to have to take him out. I want one
man at every door, two on the balcony, and at least five in the Baggage Claim area. That will be our
“I’ve already set the men up.” Frank leaned over and hit the radio switch.
“Team A, Blue Alert! I repeat, Blue Alert!”
“Frank, call down to the baggage area and tell the loaders to try and place his luggage on the belts
last. Maybe there won’t be so many people around by then.”
“OK, Neil, and tell those guys from Anniston to stay the hell out of the way until I call for them.”
The cut on Cliff’s right hand was throbbing badly. He had cut his palm wide open last week on a piece
of glass that was in the trash he was setting out on the curb. As he hobbled along towards the
boarding room and clutching his brief case tightly in his left hand, he thought that if he could just
keep his injured hand warm inside his coat pocket and clutched up tight, he could stand the pain until
he could locate a doctor here in Atlanta to get it checked out.
“That dumb quack in LA couldn’t bandage a scratch without screwing it up.”
“What did you say, sir?”
The stewardess had the funniest look on her face as Cliff realized he had spoken out loud.
“Oh, nothing … nothing … I was thinking about my leg.”
Up in the security center, Frank was looking at a card just handed to him by a man in uniform as he
entered the room. “Captain Arnold Benning, US Army Chemical and Biological Warfare Division,
Anniston, Alabama” was printed on the identification card Frank was looking at.
Frank looked sternly at the man before him and said, “Captain, I don’t know how this guy stole all
those germ container things and I really don’t give a damn. All I know is that 30 minutes ago, we
received a message from Washington that if he doesn’t take his hand out of his pocket long enough
for us to grab the briefcase, we’re to shoot him dead before he can activate that remote detonating
device we’re told he’s carrying in his coat pocket.”
“My God man, do you not realize what you’re saying? If that briefcase explodes, there’s enough
germs in there to wipe out this whole city!”
“Yes, I realize that.”
“Then, you’d better not miss!”
“The guy is nuts, exclaimed Frank. We’ve been told by informants that he has been going around
bragging that he was going to release the germs, no matter what, when he makes his mind up to do it.
He’s suppose to meet someone here and split the stuff up. Hell, they could walk around here for
days and if the word leaked out! God! There’d be wholesale panic!”
“All my men are in position and the minute he is hit, we’ll have a protective cover over him and
“Captain, if you screw up and we all die, I’ll never forgive you.”
The joke made both men laugh took some of the edge off their apprehension. Frank headed for the
hidden booth where his team’s sharpshooter was waiting with his high-powered sniper rifle.
When Cliff entered the boarding room, he thought about the men still behind him. Maybe I’ve been
reading too many spy novels lately he thought and smiled to himself at how paranoid he’d become
over something as innocent as thinking it was sinister that the two men who sat across the aisle from
him had something in mind when they were asking him all sorts of questions about where he was
headed, what plans he had for visiting Atlanta, etc.. Hell, he thought wishfully, they were probably
just as tired and anxious to get back home like he was and were bored to tears and just trying to
kill time on the long flight to Atlanta from LA.
After making their way through the boarding area, Cliff and the stewardess made their way towards
the elevators to take them down to the baggage claim area. As Cliff and the stewardess entered the
baggage room, he wondered why there were so few people around.
“Looks like the place is deserted,” Cliff whispered to the stewardess. “Usually, this place is a
“Oh, it’s just because were the 1st flight in this morning.”
While Cliff was thanking the stewardess for helping him, the baggage started coming out on the
conveyer belt. As he saw the bags starting to go by, he realized that it was going to be awkward
trying to retrieve his bag with an injured hand. This ought to be fun, he thought to himself, lots of
fun. Maybe I can just hook my arm through a strap … yeah, that’s what I’ll do he thought with a grin
on his face … snatch it on the fly!
After waving goodbye to the stewardess as she walked away, he started looking around the room. He
noticed that there were little groups of men standing in different parts of the room. Must be
waiting on somebody important, he thought as he finally saw his old blue travel bag coming out on the
Up in the hidden security booth, Frank was wearing a hole in the floor as he paced around the room.
“Here he comes, sir.” The sharpshooter lowered his eye to the scope and eased his finger onto
“Wait until he reaches for his luggage. He’ll be off balance and that will be your best chance.”
The last thing Cliff thought before the bullet slammed into his brain was that he hoped he could
return to LA in time to see his wife give birth to their first child. The doctors had promised him he
could watch the delivery
Utter chaos broke out in the Baggage Room.
When the shot was fired, people went flying for cover. In seconds, the place was covered with
airport security police and the decontamination team from Anniston.
Captain Benning and his men were immediately on top of Cliff’s body and covering him and the
briefcase with a thick plastic cloth.
As Neil Bradford rushed into the room, one of Captain Benning’s men was unlocking the briefcase to
flood it with a protective foam.
“Stand back Neil,” Frank hollered. “Let them cover up those damn germs first.”
As Specialist 1st Class Jim Anderson very slowly and carefully opened the briefcase, the room
drew very quiet. With the lid now fully open, the cries from Anderson could be heard all over
“My God, my God, look at this!”
Captain Benning looked down and his eyes froze to the now opened briefcase. Staring up at him was a
bunch of legal looking papers and on the top, was a court subpoena from LA County to summon a Mr.
Hendricks of Atlanta, GA to court in Los Angeles in a divorce case. The tag on the inside of the
briefcase said, “Clifton Janson, Attorney at Law, Los Angles, California.”
As another man holding a briefcase over in the corner of the room turned and walked off with a
smile on his face, you could hear Neal Bradford screaming.
“Oh my God … it’s not him … we’ve killed the wrong man!”
Poinsett: Library Rules: All works/images are Copyright © 1972, 2017 by Michael T. Bailey Sr., Marietta, Georgia. All rights reserved. Reproduction,
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