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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Passport (07/25/05)

TITLE: A Less Than Perfect Landing
By Lois Jennison Tribble


Until the approach to Rio de Janeiro, the eleven-hour flight from Miami was uneventful. With Sunny beside me, I actually enjoyed myself. I didn't expect to with her six-month-old baby accompanying us, but little Hallie handled the flight better than I ever dreamed. An ideal cover -- the finest I've ever had. That landing, though: Whew! I thought we were goners!

"Did you expect it would be so crowded, Tom?" Sunny looked up with those adoring eyes in absolute trust. A single mother, it was easy to hook her with a few compliments and a little interest shown to her kid. In the eight weeks I'd known her, she never once questioned my motives -- or my background.

"Don't worry, it'll be okay," I reassured her. Better than okay, crowds make it easier. "We'd better go left -- it looks like a separate immigration line for foreigners. Keep your travel papers handy; you'll need them."

"Are you sure everything's in order, Tom? My friends couldn't believe how quickly you arranged this trip. I just told them money talks, when you've got great connections like yours."

"Everything's fine, Sunny: it's all in who you know." I eased the baby carrier from my shoulders. "Why don't you take Hallie for awhile?"

"She's just restless. We'll come right back!"

If she only knew. But that was the point: I outsmarted all of them, using fake documents for years to handle business wherever needed with no one the wiser. Great connections? Yeah, I had them. No one could match Eddie's work: he was a master. I could switch identities faster than most women switch clothes. Slowly, I inched my way forward.

"Right on time, huh?" Sunny returned with Hallie just as the immigration officer finished with the couple in front of us and directed them to the right.

"Papers, please," he asked solemnly as he scrutinized our party. "What's your purpose here?"

"Just visitors," I answered quickly. "Relax," I whispered to Sunny, in response to her anxious frown.

"Visitors? No wonder you're nervous," the official responded bluntly.

Odd thing to say, I thought to myself, but I smiled and winked at Sunny.

"Are you traveling together?" he questioned next.

"Certainly! Wherever he goes, we go," Sunny answered brightly for herself and Hallie.

"As you wish, Ma'am, but you can only speak for yourself. Anything to declare?"

"I thought we'd do that at Customs, after we collect our baggage," I replied.

"I'm sorry, Sir. No baggage comes in here. Have you anything to declare?"

"What do you mean, no baggage? What are you talking about?"

"No baggage allowed here, Sir. Do you have anything to declare?" He stared at us expectantly, as if prompting a particular response.

"Why do you keep asking that?" I asked. "How can we have anything to declare if we don't even have our baggage?" Something isn't right: mustn't panic. I breathed deeply, flashing a disarming smile in hopes the official was only fishing for a bribe.

"Let me put it another way, Sir: why should we let you in?" he asked.

Sunny looked up at me with those expectant, trusting eyes. I thought I knew all the answers, but this had me stymied.

"Just a moment, Sir," the officer said as he turned aside to leaf through an enormous book. He shook his head, then checked our passports with a magnifying glass.

"Excellent workmanship," he said, glancing up at us: "My compliments. Nevertheless, you must leave with these gentlemen."

Sunny looked at me in panic. "What does he mean?" she asked. "Is something wrong with our papers?"

"Calm down! I'm sure it will be okay," I said, but I knew in my heart something was very, very wrong. "They just want to ask a few questions."

"Ma'am?" the official called as three men conducted us away. "Leave your baby here."

"What do you mean?" Sunny asked, bewildered.

"We always welcome babies, Ma'am: they're too young to be responsible. But you and this man? These officers must escort you to the exit. No one enters here on forged papers, you know."

"What makes you think they're forged?" I challenged.

"It's obvious to us," he replied. "No watermark, and no names in the registry. Surprising how many like you think they'll get in anyway." He dismissed us with a shrug, then smiled: "Next?"

"Tom! What does it mean?" Sunny gasped.

As the officers moved us toward the exit, suddenly it was all too clear: Maybe my connections weren't the greatest, after all.

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This article has been read 927 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sandra Petersen 08/01/05
I began to suspect a little more than halfway through. Great ending line "Maybe my connections were not as great..."
Beth Muehlhausen08/02/05
A well crafted story. I had
no clue until this: "'Visitors? No wonder you're nervous,' the official responded bluntly." It played out nicely from there! Nice work. :-)

Nina Phillips08/03/05
This was well rounded, descriptive. I liked the forgery scenerario which was different. Good entry. God bless ya, littlelgith
Shirley Thomas08/03/05
Very creative and entertaining. Well done!
Crista Darr08/04/05
Great story!
Crista Darr08/04/05
Great story!
Maxx .08/05/05
This is well written, obvious talent. Use of words is strong. Enough things left unanswered to pull the reader forward. One little problem, only a vague analogy to a heavenly passage... otherwise no faith or Christ aspect involved (unless I missed something!). Otherwise a powerful entry!
Amy Michelle Wiley 08/05/05
Nice twist. Good job!
Shari Armstrong 08/06/05
Very well written.
Dixie Phillips08/08/05
I've got to know what happens next!!!! MORE, PLEASE!!!!
Suzanne R08/08/05
Wow. After I read this one, it kept playing over and over in my head.

I thought it was very clever. Once I caught on, I went back and reinterpreted what had happened earlier with my new frame of reference, and it all made sense.

It was the separation of the mother and baby that I found most disturbing, even though it should have been the destination of the mother and bad guy that
made me shudder. That in itself (realizing that I'm not as 'spiritually minded' as I'd like to be) challenged me.

All up, your piece made me think long after finishing it. That for me is a mark of an excellent piece! Well done.
Debbie OConnor08/08/05
Lois, this is so great! I'm in awe. Your story was so subtle and clever. I agree with Suzanne completely. This one is a winner all the way.

I particularly love this passage:

"No baggage allowed here, Sir. Do you have anything to declare?" He stared at us expectantly, as if prompting a particular response.

Excellent! :)
Deborah Porter 08/08/05
Great work, as always Lois. And guess what? Once again you were in the semi-finals. It's a rare week when one of your entries doesn't make it onto the semi-final list, so keep the great writing coming. Love, Deb (Challenge Coordinator)