It's time for another Story Time...
Luke has written this one based on my illustration, titled Get Lost - intended, not in a negative way, but designed to inspire adventure outdoors.
This is a long 'short story', but gives the image such a rich background. It is a two parter, and will be continued next week, with another image to accompany it.
Aaron found a briefcase in the toilet stall. He popped his head outside the door. There was no one else there. The only person it could have belonged to was the gentleman he bumped into on the way in. He opened the outer bathroom door to a hubbub of Chinese businessmen excitedly chatting away on their way to a tour bus. The owner of the briefcase was lost to the organised chaos that is airport traffic.
Aaron picked up the brown briefcase and headed out to see if he could find the owner. He couldn't. Maybe he should take it to the lost and found, he thought. Although, his friend Troy had told him lost and found areas at airports just incinerate isolated bags, just in case they contain explosives, or worse, aerosols!
This started to worry him and questions formed in his mind. You never pick up an abandoned bag at an airport, do you? What if it contained a bomb?
This was the exit area of the airport so the gentleman, terrorist?, was on the way out, not in. Surely, if the owner legitimately lost the bag, he would not have left already? He noticed the weight of the case. It was heavy. Really heavy. Explosives are heavy. He had read that somewhere. There was only one thing for it. Leave it somewhere and get out of there, fast.
He wandered calmly over to the baggage claim area, placed the bag on the floor, waited a few minutes and started walking out.
"Hey," someone yelled after him.
Oh no, he thought, they got him. He was going to jail for a very long time, and all because he found a bag.
"Hey, you left this behind," a smiling blond woman approached him. "I almost did it myself when I collected my luggage. Pretty heavy bag, must be some fairly expensive equipment in there.”
Aaron, mumble a reply, said his thanks and left.
"Yeah, sure no worries," the lady said almost to herself as she turned away. He could have been a little bit more grateful. She thought.
Back home, Aaron made himself a coffee and placed the case on the dining room table in front of him. The bedroom door was wide open, and an avalanche of travel magazines and detective books flowed out. He had planned on building a little reading room area in the bedroom but, well, as his mother used to say: "Plans are easy; action is hard. Cleaning the ink off your nose is impossible". Aaron read a lot. He didn’t find much time for anything else between reading and work. He looked at the mess and sighed. He’d meant to clean it, but he had left in a hurry. Aaron remembered his father diagnosing him with, "nervous-lazy-over-read syndrome", from which he was always trying to cure Aaron with regular clips around the ears and hard labor. "Good for building character," his dad had told him. His Dad wasn’t one for books.
The case had not exploded, so leaving the memory of his parents by the wayside, Aaron started looking for clues as to who the owner might be. He had noticed the initials on the handle when he picked it up. I. L. Jenson. Icarus Lando Jenson? Ivan Leviathan Jenson?
He turned the case around carefully examining it. It was light brown leather with strong double stitching, re-enforced corners. There were tumbler locks on each side of the handle with three numbers each, keeping the contents locked in tight. The handle had some wear in it where the fingers of the unknown owner had gripped it for long periods of time. It really was a beautiful briefcase. This was someone’s precious luggage, lost to them, and waiting for a hero, Aaron, to return it.
After a full inspection, Aaron's hopes of finding the owner began to dwindle. There was only one other clue underneath the case. A sticker. Well, half a sticker. The first half of it was torn off. In green writing on the top it said "OTOGRAPHY CLUB" and underneath, the image of the right hand side of a SLR camera, a grappling hook popping out from behind it top right and a pair of tweezers on the bottom right. He could only guess the left hand side of the camera had a few other objects behind it as well. He quickly sat down and Googled the text “Photography Club” but there must have been hundreds in his area. This was going to take longer than one night.
Aaron had one more week off work. After his trip away he had organised for some "proper holiday time". He had not considered going home for his father’s funeral a holiday. It had been nice catching up with the family again but they did not understand him. He was not a 'country' person. He did not like fishing or farming.
As Aaron got older it was obvious farm life was not doing him any favours, the same way even though he tried to help his Dad with the jobs it always ended up hindering farm progress. Eventually, his Mum had told him it was time to leave and try and find a job, farming was not for him. "Get lost in the world, Aaron," she said, not unkindly.
With his one extra week off work he had planned on trying, for the 7th time, to read a bit more of Ulysses by James Joyce. Though now he had this lost briefcase that he would have to find the owner of. Aaron decided that if the half-sticker and initials were not enough to go on then he should set about trying the crack the locks. Maybe there was something that might give up the owner’s details inside. He tried the standard '000-000' and the '123-456' and even the '654-321' but to no success. He could just forced the lock with a knife, but the case was too beautiful to damage.
The next day he took the case to his friend Troy. Troy was everything Aaron was not, and yet they were great friends. He was never afraid, oozed confidence, and had the strong muscly physique of a personal trainer. This was probably because Troy was a personal trainer. Aaron had met Troy in the lobby of his apartment block while trying to get his mail out of a jammed mailbox. Troy had thumped it a couple of times and the lid flipped open to reveal a phone bill and a cleaning service flyer. The door never shut properly again, but now Aaron doesn't have any problems with the lock. He leaves it open. Nobody has any interest in stealing Aaron’s mail.
Since then Aaron had helped Troy with his business taxes and Troy had told Aaron on multiple occasions that he needed to get in shape, but never forces the issue. It was a perfect friendship.
Troy had a go at the locks as well but '666-666' didn't work either.
"I got his client I can show it to who is a bit of a whiz kid." Troy said. "I can have it back to you tomorrow."
The next afternoon Troy brought the case back, with an address.
"Where did he find this address from?" Aaron asked excitedly.
"Not really sure man, but he said something about a reverse image search," said Troy.
"Does he want anything for this?" asked Aaron. "Like a reward or something?"
"Nah, he just said to bring him back an interesting pic or something like that?"
"Oh," said Aaron confused but glad for the easy request. "Doesn't sound too difficult"
Aaron thanked Troy, told him to thank his client and he would get the photo of something interesting as soon as he could.
Aaron went the address the very next day. It was two hours away from his apartment and he expected to arrive at the owner’s house but instead pulled up in a car park of a small industrial block with several large five and six bay sheds for different businesses. After fifteen minutes of wandering round, he saw the shed he was after. Above the entranceway was a logo of a camera identical to the one on the half sticker. On the right protruding from behind the SLR camera was the grappling hook and a pair of what Aaron now recognised as wire cutters, not nail clippers. Protruding from the left side of the camera was a knife and a pair of spiked boots, similar to the ones climbers use. Above the logo was the words 'Over Exposure Photography Club'.
The first thing Aaron noticed on entering the building was the enormous three meter tall posters hanging on the walls. Each one was a real unaltered photo printed on canvas with no frame. Some were action shots of extreme sporting triumphs, others fallen ruins of buildings. One was a swarm of wasps flying straight at the lens. He blinked up at the poster looming over his right shoulder and saw that the most of the photo was black except for a large elliptical slit along the center. The photo must have been taken from behind a piece of card or material. Inside the oval a man was holding a sword and on a final down stroke of a public beheading.
Once Aaron processed what he was looking as he cringed and jumped back.
"Yeah, that one gets a lot of people jumpy," A tall beefy looking man stepped out from a partition near the back of the shed." Abel did that one from behind a stone wall and a washing line. Would you believe that is a pair of kid’s undies framing the shot? He won an amnesty photo award for that one. They denied they were still performing them till he brought that back."
Aaron turned to face the man. He looked like the caricature of a lumberjack without the plaid shirt. He had a dark bushy beard, thick shoulders tapering down to a narrow waist and stood a foot taller than Aaron. And he held his hand out. Aaron took it, and immediately regretted it.
"So friend, I'm Jason, how can I help you?" He smiled.
Aaron, massaging his hand, introduced himself and explained his quest to find the owner of the briefcase.
"Oh that'd be Ian's case. Yep he was pretty upset he'd lost it."
"Can I leave it here for him?" asked Aaron hopefully. He was a little bit freaked out by this photography club house and its larger-than-life photos and was keen to get going.
"What? No, he probably needs it where he is. You should take it to him."
"Um, ok. Is it near here, because I need to get back to work and..." Aaron tapered off as Jason’s laughed boomed.
“Sit down Aaron, you are here not because the case is lost.”
Aaron sat down while Jason made him a coffee and explained that this was the path Aaron was meant to travel. His destiny.
"Sir Aaron, you are a man that seems lost to me. You need to go and deliver this case to Ian. It is the journey that you have chosen for yourself. You could have left the case in the toilet or given it to the lost and found. Or, if you were a down right scoundrel, broken it open to steal the contents. But no, you chose to deliver it."
Aaron sipped the coffee quietly.
"What this photography club stands for Aaron, is the journey. Here we take only the most extreme and dangerous photos. Our members risk life and limb to recover images of the things and place that no one else knows about or cares to get. The photos are a symbol of our struggle to find them and the achievement of coaxing them back. You are to take this case to Ian who is out there getting one of these images right now.”
“I’m not really the right person-” Aaron spluttered.
“I’ve called another member,” continued Jason, “and they are willing to take you to the area where you must start to find Ian.” Jason stood up and ushered Aaron, who was just a minute ago itching to leave, now resisting the hand on his back leading him to the door.
“Oh yeah, this is for you.” Jason shoved a chunky digital camera into Aaron’s hand. “On loan, mind you, but you need to go, get lost, and find an image to bring back.”