Thursday, October 14, 2004



The first one came down the chute and landed on the belt: a black roll-along adorned with a blue ribbon. It was followed by a blue plastic hard case and a cardboard box covered in kanjii beseiged by duct tape and jute. Although these three items went unclaimed the passengers jostled for the best position. Three meters downstream of the chute seemed to the most higly sought real-estate.

Mike looked down to check his watch: 09:43. It felt more like mid-night; he wasn't used to the timezone. The travelers wandering into the rank humidity of unadorned Soviet-era luggage claim didn't look any better than he felt. They rubbed their eyes after the rough over-night and managed to stumble around the ominous humidity puddles on the cracked concrete floor. Like automatons they marched down the hall to take their positions beside the carousel, the thumping sound of landing luggage the orchestra that guided their feet.

He didn't see his mark.

An ominous silence seemed to emerge from the antique luggage machinery as the metronomic flow of containers and bags stopped. The regular thumping was replaced by a moaning and shrieking leading Mike to suspect that the terminal was actually powered by a bank of galley slaves chained to some unspeakable contraption away from the eyes of the travelling soldiers, diplomats, entrepreneurs, and returning patriot.

At the top of the chute there appeared a smallish black attache case of a dull matt-black colour. It slid down the ramp with unexpected accleration and crashed directly through the protective balustrades on the belt, scattering those surprised travellers who hadn't been able to secure one of the choice downstream positions. The case fell to the ground with a thump; it didn't bounce or roll. It merely stopped moving with a suddeness that belied the velocity with which it had dropped from the chute. The density of this particular piece of luggage was entirely beyond the design requirements of the machinery or the expectations of the traveller.

The quizical looks of some of the travellers were met by the stony stares of the security personnel scattered throughout the hall. Nobody moved to claim the object. In this part of the world people didn't get involved with things that they knew nothing about. Not Mike though. He knew what the case contained and it was about time that he got involved.


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