Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Sellout (05/26/11)
TITLE: Summer Smugglers
By Joe Moreland
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It had taken some doing to find the smugglers though. Apparently people engaged in illegal trafficking did not like to be easily found. Something about the authorities, Avery guessed. But, eventually, they had found someone who could lead them to someone who could lead them to someone who might know someone that was actually involved in the operation.
“The first thing we are going to have to do,” said their new friend, Dmitri, as he lead them down an alley in Vienna, “is get you three shaves and haircuts.” He looked at their faded blue jeans, t-shirts and fake leather jackets and clucked his tongue. “And some decent clothes” He added.
“Hey!” Avery protested. “This is 1977, not the ‘50s!”
“Look, you won’t make it further than the first uniform you come across without being searched for drugs the way you look now. So, it’s either haircuts, shaves and new clothes, or no deal. Got it?”
The trio mumbled their agreement and the parade down the alley picked up once again. Avery got another surprise, just moments later when he found that the three of them would be going on separate missions, rather than together.
“Too suspicious, three men traveling together.” Dmitri explained.
Instead, Avery was introduced to a young woman, named Lila. It seemed couples made the best tourists. Like him, Lila was a college student, looking for some adventure during her summer off. They were given a car, shown all the secret compartments where everything was stashed and told to keep their hands off the merchandise. Soon, they were on the road, headed to Romania.
Avery had asked what they should do when they came to the border guards.
“Don’t worry about it,” Dmitri had assured them, “there’s not one on this route. It’s why you get it.”
Those words rang hollow in Avery’s ears as their car rounded a bend and a checkpoint loomed. He exchanged a quick nervous glance with Lila, and kept his foot on the gas. A sudden stop would have surely meant an arrest.
“I must check your car,” said one of the guards after examining their papers meticulously.
“Certainly.” Avery’s voice cracked just a little. He turned to look at Lila and that’s when he saw it. As he glanced into the back seat, he saw that one of the hidden floor compartments wasn’t closed all the way.
Panic began to rise immediately. Avery’s entire body tensed as he realized that there was no way the cracked opening would escape even a casual glance, let alone a search. But there was nothing they could do about it now, except to wait for the inevitable discovery. Then, he imagined that they would be dragged from the car, bound and taken in for some serious questioning. Good thing they didn’t really know anything. He was pretty sure that their handler’s real name was not even “Dmitri”.
Avery kept his eyes forward as he waited for the alarm to be sounded. Suddenly the guard reappeared at his window and thrust his hand through the window, slapping him in the chest with his papers. Quickly, the man stepped back from the car and motioned for them to move on through the crossing.
As he put the car in gear and rolled forward, Avery tried very hard to conceal his surprise and relief. After they had gone about a mile, he couldn’t take it anymore and pulled the car off to the side of the road and just sat there, shaking.
“What’s wrong?” Lila asked.
“I thought we were being arrested for sure,” Avery croaked out. Quickly he explained about the open compartment. “I don’t know how he could have missed it,” Avery said as they both turned to look at the back floorboard.
Simultaneous gasps escaped from both their lips as their eyes fell on the now fully open compartment and one of their illegal items lying face up on the floor. Avery stared hard at the gold letters embossed across the front of the little red pocket sized book and wondered how he had ever doubted they were safe.
“He was one of us,” whispered Lila.
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