James Woods

Closed Doors

Frank Dolan dashed through the ticket barrier and onto the platform.
He was late and he could see his train, stationary, almost at the other end of the platform; even as he raced towards it, it began to draw away. A voice called out of the ticket office, “Excuse me sir!” Then almost a shout, “Excuse me, you will need a ticket…”
Frank ignored the call and dashed along the platform, with a railway security man in hot pursuit. He had to catch this train… he could always purchase a ticket at the other end. He charged along the platform and caught up with the last two coaches, his intention being to try to board the moving train. He succeeded in grasping the door handle of the last coach but strong arms grabbed him from behind, pulling him away from the moving train. “What the hell are you trying to do,” yelled the burly platform attendant, “there are other ways of suicide, but not on my station.” He released his hold on the hapless character, and the frustration of his failed attempt to catch the train exploded in exasperation.
Frank slammed his holdall to the ground, vigorously shaking his fist in the direction of the departed train. At this moment the security man caught up with him. “Calm down,” he shouted, “Calm down, that was the most stupid thing I have ever seen. I’ve a good mind to charge you for being a danger to the public, and for trying to board without a ticket.” He glanced at his colleague, who was now returning to the main building. “Good job you were there Joe,” he called after him. “My God… There’s one born every minute.”
He looked at Frank and with a little more sympathy in his voice, asked, “What’s the problem anyway? What’s so important that is worth getting yourself killed for?”
Frank picked up his holdall and both walked back towards the ticket office.
He was physically shaking, his exasperation had now reached its peak and he was very close to tears.
“I needed to catch that bloody train,” he said, “It is absolutely imperative that I get to Manchester Airport, that guy saw me running and I’m sure he could have delayed it for a few seconds.”
A torrent of words tumbled out of him; “Nothing has worked right for me today… Nothing! It started with an utterly useless alarm clock, and if that wasn’t enough, my car breaks down in one of the most desolate spots I can think of… I had my mobile phone nicked last night, so I couldn’t contact anyone, and then walked for almost an hour before someone came along. And now this,” he said, gesturing with his thumb in the direction of the departed train.
They had now reached the ticket office and made their way, back through the turnstiles.
“Everything’s alright,” said the security guy, as they strode past the office pay window, then turned to Frank “Have you thought about a taxi?” he queried. “If you’re prepared to pay over the odds, you could still get a cabbie, who with a bit of luck, could get you there on time. It’s a bit of a race but if it’s that important, it should be worth a try.”
Frank raised his head. A solitary taxi waited on the ramp; the driver was reading a newspaper and looked up as they walked towards him.
The security man looked at Frank, “That’s John,” he said, “Have a word with him,” and then walked away.
Frank’s anger was now less conspicuous as he talked to the taxi driver; “Mmm,” mused John, “That’s quite a task you know. It will take some doing.” Frank pulled out his wallet and John’s eyes lit up at the sight of so much cash in one wallet. “Name your price, how about treble.” There was a slight delay and Frank removed a hundred pounds from the wallet and offered this to John. “ That will do me, mate,” he murmured, as he took the proffered wad and stuffed it into his pocket. “Let’s get moving.” Frank quickly climbed into the rear seat of the taxi. The returning security guard, his face now creased into a smile, called out as he passed; “If anyone can do it, he can… Good Luck!”
The taxi sped away and Frank experienced one of his most hair-raising rides, as the driver sped for some distance through twisting lanes of the lush countryside and finally onto the fast motorway. Neither of them spoke throughout the journey and Frank’s confidence increased with each passing mile, constantly muttering words of encouragement. The cabby passed him a small whisky flask, “Take it easy” he said, “and I think we are going to make it… Have a swig of that and calm down.”
More so to please the chap, Frank took a good drink from the flask and passed it back to the cabby. Finally the taxi skidded to a halt and John deposited his, much-relieved, passenger at the entrance of the departure lounge, his face beamed as he opened the door. “You have four minutes,” he said as Frank climbed out of the taxi. “Thanks John,” he called, without waiting, dashed into the building and raced towards the reception desk.
He gasped breathlessly, as he passed across the necessary reservation and flight tickets to the smiling receptionist, “ Thank God! I really thought I was going to miss it.” The girl glanced down at the details on the ticket and the smile disappeared. “I am very sorry sir, but… I am afraid you are too late… this flight is full.”
A look of horror registered on Frank’s face; he swallowed hard and could hardly form the words
“What do you mean, too late. The plane is right there …I can see it from here, passengers are still boarding…It’s important that I get on that plane.” His voice had reached a higher pitch, almost hysterical. “Don’t you understand, I have got to get on it,” he shouted.
The receptionist glanced anxiously towards an open door behind her. “I am sorry sir,” she replied, “but you are supposed to arrive here, at least, half an hour before take off… we did wait until the last possible minute and then we had to re-allocate your seat to another passenger.” A rather larger person in the form of a supervisor now emerged from the open door behind her. Her voice was crisp. “I am very sorry sir, but we have to have rules to follow,” she said apologetically. “ I am afraid you have missed the flight. I can assure you that we did wait until the very last moment and now, the plane is positively full to capacity.” She looked at a list in her hand, “The next possible flight will be tomorrow morning at nine forty five; I am truly sorry, but there is nothing I can do about it.”
Frank’s face was ashen and a nervous twitch had developed on his cheek. His eyes took on a glazed appearance and his holdall fell to the ground as he turned on his heel and raced towards the boarding gate.
He had now lost control. “We’ll see about that!” he screamed as he charged down the passageway in the direction of the plane… “I’ve got to get on that plane… Got to get…”
He was quickly intercepted by two burly security men and, in the struggle, hit his head on the ground. He felt sick in his stomach… every door seemed to have been slammed in his face … he had got so near but now it was impossible. He could feel the handcuffs as they were attached to his wrists. “Have you been drinking sir,” one of them asked. Frank didn’t answer. His head was spinning, and by now his voice had become slurred and a spot of saliva dripped from his chin. He raised his head and for a few seconds caught a glance of the jet, now taxiing down to take-off position. If it hadn’t have been for that wretched clock and the breakdown, he’d have been on it now.
Dazed, he was half carried out of the departure lounge and deposited in the rear of a police van, then quickly whisked off to the local police station.
What made it worse was that little smell of whisky, that highlighted him as a potential air-rage passenger. He didn’t have a chance.

The desk sergeant accepted that he was possibly under the influence of drink. He went through the normal procedure of removing his personal items, delaying the interview until he had had a little nap. A doctor also saw him and suggested that he was possibly suffering from stress, but also, that he appeared to have consumed alcohol. Unsteadily, he found himself led to a cell; the door thudded loudly, as it closed behind him. This was yet another door that had been closed, except that this one was holding him prisoner.

The following morning, he was brought from the cell and ushered into the sergeant’s office, where he was given the usual mug of hot tea.

After a few minutes the sergeant entered the room and sat at his desk, opposite his prisoner and asked with a smile, “Would you like to tell me all about your behaviour at the airport, yesterday. What was so important about missing your plane?” He leaned further over the desk, his eyes peering into Frank’s.
“Don’t you realise, with all the terrorist activity that is happening these days, you could have gotten yourself shot. I couldn’t think of anything that would be worth that. Can You? I think you are a very lucky man; I am not charging you with anything and have decided to let you off with a caution, but… The policeman settled himself back into his chair. “You look like an intelligent person and I think that I deserve a few answers from you.”

Frank leaned forward across the desk, insolently staring into the policeman’s eyes.
“Lucky, you say… Lucky! That is the best joke yet.” His face was stern.
“I am a sales director and own a small business in the domestic appliance industry.
My need to have made the trip was to have finalised a deal, which would have netted me in excess of five million pounds. Not a bad deal for a small company, but the contract would have led to further contracts and the advancement of my business. Somehow, other companies acquired the information and they were also fighting for this contract. Yesterday was the final deadline to compete. For some suspiciously unknown reason, the information of this deadline was delayed, reaching me at a time far too late for me to take action. Try as I did, I couldn’t make any contact with the company so I didn’t make the flight. No flight…no contract.”
With an air of reservation, Frank relaxed, back in his seat.
“I have just lost a five million pound contract, that would have brought my business off the ground and guaranteed a staff of nine future employment… and you say I am lucky…?”
The policeman rose from his seat and stared down at Frank. “Smells very much like sabotage, doesn’t it… like as if somebody didn’t want you to get there.”
He turned, picked up a newspaper from a nearby table and tossed it onto the desk.
“I still think you’re lucky. Drink you tea and get yourself home.”

Frank rose to leave and gazed down at the newspaper on the desk.

Broad black headlines spread across the front page.

Airliner from Manchester, bound for New York, dives into………

© Copyright BJWoods


All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of James Woods.
Published on e-Stories.org on 22.08.2004.


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