⑨th Street Crossing – Part I

Inspired by the Otakon theme that wasn’t, a chapter in the life…

Chapter 1: Fumes

A whiff of burned jet fuel faintly wafted down the arrivals lane as the early afternoon sun blasted through the clouds and off of every blinding glass and concrete surface at Dulles. Finding a cab to cut across the huge gap into the city involved entirely too much ducking back and forth into one dead end after another, half in the chilly building and half out among the deafening vehicles and uncomfortable summer heat. Finally the correct cutaway appeared ahead; the taxi dispatcher winced at the phrasebook and cut-up words, simply pointing out the door to the line of waiting cars.

Seong-mi went over the plan again and again. The mission had a certain utility, but it would never have been condoned, even a few years ago. A young married couple on honeymoon was certainly a believable story. It also had the advantage of being technically true. Still, any plan that piled on complications nearer to the deadline was likely to cause unwanted questions when it inevitably failed.

The other trouble with a plan essentially made on-the-fly was how every single thing just had to be left to the last moment. Packing had been rushed, and worse (perilously, actually!) not subject to personal attention. As the cab crawled down I-66, a tense and careful check of each pocket and compartment of the luggage ended with relief, as the gold-leaf pill case was found safely in the checked bag. A green pill with a swig of bottled water took the edge off. One look at the traffic, and another at the darkened screen of a cell phone, inspired a voyage back to the over-happy world of schoolgirls with preposterous hair and clothes. Reality slipped away in part and came closer in others – part of the dread of this deal, was that this was the dossier.

Eons and a superdollar later, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center was in sight, and the small pile of luggage that had felt manageable in Incheon was now almost entirely too much to hoist into the LED-and-alabaster lobby of the Marriott Marquis. The whole lot couldn’t be dumped unceremoniously into the suite fast enough. It would have been straight down the elevator after, had it not been for the need to do a sweep here and there, hide some emergency cash in a tampon, set up a couple intrusion monitors, and leave a light on.

By the time the disaster in the mirror had been spotted, it was five minutes past the rendezvous. The hair would have to wait.

To be continued…

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