Amanda Miller did not expect to make discoveries in lost luggage. The task of looking through suitcases was to her like looking obsessively through a stranger’s laundry basket. Her job was to catalog everything. She handled every smelly article of clothing in the suitcase. If she found something valuable, she was not allowed to keep it. The administration had to hold it for ninety days to give the owner a chance to claim it. After that, it went to auction. The most she could hope for was to find something suspicious to investigate or something ridiculous to tell her colleagues about.
Inspecting lost luggage was not all Amanda did at that job, but she felt she did it more often than her coworkers. She did not like to be alone, wearing an immaculate blue uniform no one could admire, and exhibiting professionalism no one could judge. She wanted to be with her colleagues among the flying public. She chose to be an agent so she could catch criminals and terrorists before they could do harm; not to spend time alone with suitcases meticulously cataloging skid marked briefs, toiletry items, and smelly shoes.
Amanda selected a silver suitcase from a group by the entrance to the room. The suitcase’s shell was gray and made with an unusual metal with no branding labels or factory markings. It was small enough to carry on, so its former owner must have been forced to check it in just before boarding the aircraft. He or she must have been livid when the airline told him they lost it.
The suitcase was locked. It was a common lock, but one that was exceptionally well made. It gave her so much trouble, she almost gave up trying to open it. The suitcase was unusual and that added to her usual tenacity. After a long while and after breaking the lock, she succeeded in opening it.
The contents of the suitcase were not unexpected. There were two days of worth of men’s clothing in it. They were of fine quality, but she had seen rich people’s clothing before. The toiletries were exceptional. The deodorant, lotion, aftershave, and hair product appeared handmade.
Amanda knew better than to stop examining the suitcase after it was empty. She slowly and carefully felt around all of the edges for hidden compartments. When she felt an unusual bump with her finger tip, she pressed it. It did not move, so she pushed it sideways in every direction. When she pushed it horizontally from right to left, it moved and clicked. The fabric inside of the suitcase separated from the shell and fell forward to reveal a box.
The box attached to the inner shell was made from the same gray material as the shell. Amanda felt around it for a button that would open it, but it did not have one. She pressed the top down to see if it would spring back and pop off, but it did not. She thought it might unscrew and open, so she grasped the top and twisted so hard that she tore some of her glove’s fingertips. She grasped the bottom of the box and squeezed it. When she did, a side popped out revealing a small lever. When she pulled on the lever, the top came off.
Inside of the gray box, there was a purple jewel held in place by a customized frame. The jewel appeared to be in a raw form. It had smooth surfaces that looked like crystal, and rough surfaces that looked like stone. Amanda thought it looked like alexandrite. The jewel was opaque where it was smoothest; but she could see through a lighter surface layer and a slightly darker inner layer to a very dark purple core.
Amanda reached out to remove the jewel. Because her glove was torn at the fingertip, her skin made contact with the jewel’s surface. The color of the jewel exploded in her eyes. She gasped from being startled. As she drew in breath, she tasted the room: the dust in the air, musty suitcase shells, and chemicals used to clean the room. She closed her mouth, but her sense of smell was even stronger. She stopped breathing to keep the tastes out of her mouth and the smells out of her nose. When she did that, she noticed she could hear everything outside of the room as if there were no walls. She heard people walking and talking, public announcements, and even aircraft engines as they approached their gates. She removed her hand from the jewel so she could cover her ears. It all stopped.
After the bombardment of Amanda’s senses ended, she opened her eyes. Nothing like that had ever happened to her before. She looked closely at the jewel for any sign that it could be special: a light, a haze, vibration – anything. It just sat quietly in its mold looking harmless. But just as it is easy to identify the object that burned you, she knew it was the jewel that made her senses go berserk.
Amanda felt that she should take the jewel to her supervisor. She took her torn glove off, discarded it, and put on a new one. She carefully reached out and touched the jewel gently. It had no effect. She grasped it firmly, pulled it out of its mold, and walked out the door toward the nearest security checkpoint.
Amanda had to work her way through crowds of people to get to the checkpoint. It was crowded, noisy, and bustling before and after the scanners. She approached a colleague and asked where she could find her supervisor. The agent answered that he was at another gate’s security checkpoint.
Amanda worked her way out of the crowd and briskly walked toward the next gate. She thought about what she would say to her supervisor. She wondered if she should tell him or show him what had happened. When she rehearsed what she would say in her mind, it sounded ridiculous. She thought about how embarrassed she would be if he touched it and it did not have the same effect on him that it did on her. She did not want him to think she had cracked under the pressure of the job.
Amanda looked at the jewel in her hand and stopped walking halfway to the other checkpoint. She wanted to make sure she had not imagined what she had felt. She put the stone in her pocket so her hands would be free to remove a gloves. Then, she reluctantly took off one glove. Next, she carefully reached into her pocket. When her fingertip made contact with the jewel; her senses were bombarded by the airport lights, sounds, and smells. She even felt the clothes on her body. She was overwhelmed until something caught her attention. An unusual, but recognizable, smell gave her focus. It was a scent she remembered from her training. She could tell it was coming from the direction of the security checkpoint where she was headed. She should not have been able to smell it, but she did. She smelled a bomb.
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