As soon as the metal detector pinged, I could hear the frustration in the crowd behind me. They thought, shuffled and moaned as one in their desperation to get past. No one was in a mood to wait.
I glanced calmly over to the woman on the x-ray scanner. My bag had already slipped out on the other side and she was barely looking at the screen. What was there to see anyway? A plastic carrier bag of toys from the world’s most famous department store. A box with model parts of a racing car with a label marked ‘Happy birthday Louis’. Underneath, a bucket of plastic bricks, also wrapped, with the same handwritten label.
Not allowing the throng to goad me, I calmly emptied my pockets of metal: keys, wallet, watch. Finally, I took the lump of chewing gum from under my tongue and stuck it on the back of my wallet.
The security guard wrinkled his nose as he looked at it glistening under the strip lighting.
I went through the metal detector again, and once again, it pinged. The security guard padded me down. The crowd surged a little forward. All those eyes upon me – it was like a living peacock’s tail. The guard caught a glimpse of metal. My necklace. Grinning like a fool, I took it off and placed it in the tray.
A third time, I passed beneath the metal detector, and this time it made no sound. Nothing to bleep here.
Before collecting my shopping bag, I peeled the gum off my wallet and rolled it in a piece of tissue paper.
I made my way straight to the restrooms. No time like the present, and anyway, everyone was pressing forward to the stage, desperate to see the main attraction.
Both cubicles were occupied. I could see the feet below the doors. I went out to wait on a bench outside. They took some time but eventually I recognised a pair of trainers passing before my eyes. Cradling my bag carefully in my arms, I slipped inside, sat down in the cubicle and started to unwrap my parcels.
The larger parts were in the model kit. The handle, the muzzle and the magazine. All nicely trimmed and cleaned, the blue pieces clicked together as though they had come from some professional factory, and not the turntable of my 3D printer.
Prising off the lid of my bucket, I swirled my hand around in search of the other parts. It took some time before I had all eight plastic screws, and the trigger. Nobody came in while I sat with the bag on my knees, pressing the parts in place.
The bullet had been the hardest part. You can make a gun with lots of different materials, but your bullet has to be metal. How to slip it past those all-seeing eyes?
I allowed myself a smile as I unfolded the twist of tissue paper, and peeled the gum away. In fact, it was two pieces of chewing gum, enough to cover the whole bullet and hold it under my tongue. The gag reflex had worried me but my mouth had been dry from fear and kept the disgust at bay.
Swiftly cleaning the bullet in pure alcohol that I had hidden in a bottle of eyedrops, I snapped it into place. One shot was all that I would have.
I took the bag with me, even though the presents were unwrapped and their contents were loose and rattling together. Leaving the bag behind would have raised eyebrows, drawn suspicion, increased delays, kept my target out of sight, away from the stage. Away from my sights.
The crowd was even busier once I emerged. I was pushed and crushed in the multitude, almost carried down the corridor to the main hall. Oh the irony, to be borne forwards to the target by a mass of true believers. In my coat pocket, my fingers clenched around the pistol handle.