He knew I'd call him. He wasn't wrong. Not one bit. I didn't talk to my wife about this, obviously. She'd kill me if she had the faintest doubt about me wanting to smuggle cocaine. I chose not to tell here, therefore, and I'd made the right choice. It was a Friday, the day that man walked into the shop. I'm off on Saturdays and Sundays-there's another mechanic who repairs on weekends. So, these two days, I knew, would be dedicated to thinking about the pros and cons about it.
The pros were- Hey, I'll get fifty grand- and- that's pretty much it.
The cons were-Hey, you might get caught- and- EVERY GOD DAMNED BAD THING YOU CAN THINK OF!
Well, that was indeed what was going through my mind every second of every minute I was awake. In the end, though, I decided I'd do it. I'd decided to smuggle cocaine. I'd decided to smuggle cocaine from e United States, into Peru. I wasn't scared. Just forget it's cocaine. Think of it as talcum powder, a slightly heavier one. I knew it wasn't going to be that easy. Nothing was going to be easy. I still wasn't scared. (Yes I'm just convincing myself that.)
Monday morning. I was walking to the shop, thinking that I should call him. It was only 8 am. The shop was so close, that I could see it. It wouldn't even be open now, and I hadn't any key. Jordan, your phone is in your pocket, call him right now. No, I thought. Call him. Maybe. Call him. Alright.
I turned into a small alley, and took out my phone. It was too cold for anyone to be out. The only eavesdroppers were the joggers. I made sure nobody was looking, or listening. I called. It rang. He picked the call. He didn't say anything. Silence. A feeble 'hello?' left my mouth. Still no reply. Then I remembered.
'Outside your shop. Eight thirty.'
He disconnected. I was close to my shop, I waited here in this alley. I glanced at my watch- twenty minutes to go. He came early, only by five minutes though. These fifteen minutes were the most anxious minutes of my life. That is, of course, if you don't count the fifteen minutes the police were talking with me after Simon's murder. I walked up to him. He looked at me, he whistled. That whistle was not for me, of course. Someone behind me. He was outside a car. He waved, after the whistle, got into the car, and drove away. It all fell into place now. Somebody followed me till here. They knew where I live. They were taking my wife as surety, in case I went to the police. I ran towards the car. Tutka caught me by the collar. He said it was going to be fine. I didn't believe him. I didn't trust him. He pushed me in front of him, and took out his gun. He hid it with his coat, the very coat he wore yesterday. I walked and he limped. He kept his gun back in just before he told me to turn right at an alley. It was a smaller, dirtier alley than the one I'd been in a few minutes back. My thoughts were only with my wife. Was she safe? What are these assholes going to do with her? I tried to control myself. He had a goddamn gun with him.
He wasn't the only one. I turned into that alley. I was welcomed by tall, fat men holding machine guns in their hands. They all pushed me towards this small shack. Right about now, Tutka pushed himself in front of me. He sat on the table in the shack.
'Remove your shoes.'
I didn't care to ask why, though the thought did cross my mind. I removed my shoes. One of those ‘Guards’ took them inside the shack and threw them into a hole.
‘Ouch! You asshole-’
There was someone inside that hole. What was he going to do with my shoe? He kept throwing insults at that man. His response was to pop the finger and point the machine gun. Silence again. Tutka seemed to be reading my expression.
‘You'll see. You'll get your shoe back.’
Nobody talked in these few minutes. I knew it would be unwise of me to start talking, myself. I was thinking about my wife.
‘What are you people going to do with-’
‘Don't worry. She'll be fine. We ain't doing shit to her. Unless, obviously, you go to the police. That'll leave you dead, and her moaning.’
I understood what he meant. Everyone here did. They all laughed. Then, my shoe reappeared from the hole. Didn't seem any different to me. Tutka picked it up, and there's it to me. It didn't feel the same anymore. How could I not figure it out? They were stuffing the cocaine into my shoe! Brilliant. I wore them. Definitely much heavier. They'd increased the sole thickness too. They'd switched it with another shoe’s sole. I felt taller. That thicker sole accounted for the extra weight. Seems legit.
Presently, the same man who dropped my shoe brought a scanner. I'd seen those in airports. They were making sure I won't get caught. It didn't detect anything.
The whole place became a happy place. What were they getting out of this? I wasn't sure. Maybe the person I'd give it to would pay these people. Right now, it was only about me. A few weeks, and I'd have fifty grand with me. Fifty thousand dollars. I'd be rich. That'd be enough. Enough to start over. Enough to move to a different city and look for a new job. I could start all over. I was nervous-very, very nervous-but happy. Extremely happy, and excited. I knew I'd become blind. I knew money had blinded me, but I was going to be rich. I was going to be happy. I wanted that. I needed money for that, and I needed to smuggle cocaine to get money. I, Jordan Hill, was going to smuggle cocaine to become a happy man.
‘Now,’ Tutka said, ‘you know what to do till you board that plane. Behave normally. That's it. Customs won't care even lookin’ at your feet, let alone checkin’ you.’
I hope, I said to myself.
‘So, when you get outta the Lima airport, you gotta take a cab to the Larco Museum. Where?’
‘The Larco Museum.’
‘From there, you find a public toilet, rip open your shoe and take that packet out.’
‘Right. Okay.’ It was as though he was pausing only to see if I was paying attention.
‘Then, right outside the museum, you'll have Anto standing there. He's a tall black man, a necklace with a cross on it around his neck, and six fingers on his left arm and a heavily tattooed right arm- it's a dragon in black, the flame in green. Alright?’
‘You walk to him, and say ‘Tutka’. That's all you do. If he replies by saying ‘Italia’, he's your man.’
Why ‘Italia’? I thought. Pretty sophisticated codes. (Yes, sarcasm.)
‘Got it. And I give him the packet, right?’
‘Yes. He gives you one more. That has your fifty grand. Everything yours.’
He smiled while saying that, as if he was saying, ‘That money ain't goin’ into your pocket, asshole.’
I was escorted away by these gunmen. They'd taken my shoes away, and kept it with them. I didn't go to the shop today. I went back home. I lied to her. About everything. I said I was being sent to Detroit. The family which owns the shop is hosting a party. They'd completed twenty years in the business, and so all current and most ex-employees were invited too. (Yes, that excuse was pretty acceptable.) She believed it rather easily. That was easy. I told her I'd be gone a week, tops. I knew it'd take longer. I knew I'd stay there longer. I lied to my wife. She didn't notice my shoe. I didn't need to lie about that.
There was always somebody outside our house. I knew who they were. I tried acting as though I didn't. My wife was irritated by such people. She once had almost walked out of the house with a knife. I controlled her, and I, just to convince her, went out and talked to them. I would often get messages from Tutka. I'd convey my replies. The guy would be gone an hour or two. There was always a backup. I was literally jailed in my own house.
It was D-Day. Today was when I was going to board that flight. Tutka had told me to meet him the same place we did the day he gave me the packet. The flight left at 8. I left home at 5. I told my wife I was leaving. I kissed her goodbye. I felt guilty. She thought I was going to Detroit. I was going to Peru. She hadn't ask me why family members weren't invited to the party. I wondered why. Did she know what I was up to? No definitely not. That thought scared me, but it left my head as quick as it entered it.
I reached my shop. I still hadn't the tickets or the shoes. Tutka was waiting for me, by a car. We got in, and then, inside the car, he handed me the shoe. I took off mine, and wore the cocaine laden shoe. He put my original shoes in a cover, and handed them to me. He handed me the tickets, too. I was sandwiched between him and another fat man. He was the shoe-dropper.
We reached the airport at 6. Ideal time, I thought. The way I had mentally prepared myself was like I was about to leave on a vacation. Of course, I'd have a vacation after getting hands on the money. Till I boarded the flight, I was only thinking about how I'd spend the money. Hmm.. Fifty grand… I'd spend seven maybe? I'll take a trip to Argentina out Brazil and then go back. As long as I have over thirty five grand left after going back, I was good.
I slept a bit. I had slept well at night, but the airport was comfortable cool. I woke up. There were many people here. One caught my attention. He was staring at me. Nothing else, just starting. His face was blank-expressionless. Then came the call for the check-in. Right then, my baggage would be scanned. I would be scanned. My baggage was fine. It was my shoe. I tried not to get to nervous. I stepped on under that scanner. The man ran the detector over my body. No beeps. No beeps, please. Don't make any sound, you little shit. Shhh…. It was as though I was talking to it, and it was obedient. No sound. Done. I'd get to Lima without any problem. Customs would check my bags. If I didn't show signs of nervousness, and walked without getting attention to my shoe, I would be clear. I was happy, already. Don't count your eggs before they hatch, Jordan. Wait till you reach Lima.
In the next hour in the airport, I spent my money to buy coffee and snacks. I was hungry. I filled my stomach, and had barely any cash left on me. (Hey, I was going to get recharged, big time in Peru. Why not?)
7-45. The call for all passengers for the flight to Peru. I walked to the gate. That walk was an emphatic walk. I could hear the blaring of trumpets in the background. I could hear an emphatic tune playing, the beat matching my footsteps.
They gave me my boarding pass. I received it with utter joy. I was the first man to smuggle cocaine successfully out of the States. (Maybe in this year… And I hadn't quite succeeded yet… Well, almost.)
I got a window seat, right next to the left wing. As a child, I'd always loved to sit on such a seat. My thoughts, obviously, didn't leave my wife. How so ever happy I may ever be, the thought of my wife, being surrounded by drug addicts, gangsters and absolute assholes, scared me. How was she? She was only surety, I tried to tell myself. Was she safe?
I was still hungry. The flight was of seven hours. Three hours to Mexico City, and four hours to Lima. I was still hungry. The sandwich and coffee didn't fill my stomach well enough. At about 10, when the hostess was walking around asking if any passenger wanted any meal. The lady sitting next to me was asleep. I didn't want to disturb her. I took a vegetarian meal (Yes, I'm vegan). I ate with complete leisure. It was 10-40. Mexico was only twenty minutes or so from now. What if the someone spilled beans? What if someone got caught? What if there were policemen at the Mexican City Airport, waiting to get onto the plane, and arrest me? Right then, the pilot announced- ‘Dear passengers, this is your pilot speaking…’ he went on with the regular announcement. Mexico was only fifteen minutes from now, the temperature outside was…., blah, blah, blah. All I was interested in was that if he would say anything related to a certain Jordan Hill.
The flight landed, the part of the flight I loved the most, as a child. The thrill- Would we land safely? We did.
The lady next to me woke up. I say lady because she doesn't look too young to be called a girl, and neither too old to be called a woman. Lady-perfect. We exchanged a smile. She wasn't getting off. We talked, about where we came from, where we were going, so on and so on. It was an hour's transit. She was from Boston. She was going to Lima as well. She said she was traveling the world. The wonders of the world. The Machu Picchu. She said she'd take a taxi to there. I'd love to go there, myself. I could, considering I'd have enough money. That's to think about for later, Jordan. Alright.
It was my turn to sleep. She was watching something on the TV. I slept. Dream upon dream upon dream. Thoughts upon thoughts upon thoughts. I was thinking about so many things. My wife, the cocaine in my shoe sole (except for the weight, I had no clue if there was actually cocaine in it. Hmm..), what I'd do with the money, would I even get the money, in the first place? Too many thoughts. I put them, and myself, to rest. Sleep….
I woke up. 3-40pm. Peru was twenty minutes away. (I'd made it a habit to look at my watch only twenty minutes before landing, huh?) I tried not to think of the risk of policemen standing at the airport, waiting for me to walk straight into their hands. Surely they had no evidence. (Right?) The further away I went from my wife, the lesser the number of times I'd thought of her. The closer I came to Peru, the greater the number of times I'd think about the fifty grand. That was a big amount. Living on one grand for only weeks had saddened me. Getting fifty grand was big. I’d try and save as much as I could. I was going to spend a lot. As I said, I needed north of thirty five grand. That's it. How would I explain it to my wife though? The owner gifted me thirty five grand. No big deal. Would she buy it? Possibly.
Landing again. We got up, took our bags out and started walking towards the door (after the plane had stopped, obviously). I looked all around the shuttle bus for any man in a uniform a policeman would be wearing. I also looked at anyone who was staring at me. I found the latter. The very same man who was staring at me back in America. He suddenly disappeared. He reappeared right next to me. This man began to scare me. ‘Sphere…….’
That's all he said. He had a snake like voice. The hiss in his voice ached my ears. ‘Sphere…’
He was gone again. He didn't reappear anywhere where I could see. He probably didn't reappear at all. Whoever he was, I was the only one who'd seen him. I was hallucinating, I knew. Nobody moved a muscle. Nobody even turned. He'd spoken quite loudly, but still nobody moved. The stress I'd been in, probably, was the cause. Hallucinations, wow. That was something I didn't need. Not when I was doing something illegal. No.
I got out of the airport quite easily. The guards were unsuspecting. My shoe still had the cocaine, I guessed. My bag was with me now too. I took the taxi and told him in English to take me to the Larco Museum. He understood. I kept looking at my shoe right now. This little shit was going to be ripped open in a few minutes, and my lucky self was going to get rich. Fifty grand. Fifty. Fuckin’. Grand.
The sign board showed one kilometer left for the museum and there I saw a public toilet. I told him to stop, paid the fare, and walked in. I locked myself into the room. My heart sank right there. I hadn't any knife, or anything that'd help me cut through. I examined my shoe. I saw a small hole. I put my finger into it and pulled. The sole came off as easily as I'd wanted it to. Effortless. It surely wasn't leather, some other material. There it was. That little packet. Cocaine. I took out that packet, kept it into my pocket, and I took out my old shoes. I wore them and put this pair, which had one show torn, back to my bag. I got out. I looked at the signboard again. I turned left. One kilometre.
During this one small walk, I kept looking around. I had to keep an eye out for any police. I had to keep an eye out for anyone who may have been following me, or who are following me right now. It was a crowded day, today. People walking, vegetable bags in their hands, some people in the traditional attire I'd seen and heard of. It was way warmer than the States. I'd expected it, it was afternoon, and Peru was right at the equator.
The closer I went to the Museum, the more nervous I became. The walk seemed shorter than I'd wanted. The museum was in front of my eyes. There were at least a few hundred people outside the gate. How can I find this man? I walked.
It was rather easy. The man was standing, just a few meters away from the gate. I'm the background was the Museum. I walked to him. It was surely him. He was tall, he was black and he had some necklace. I walked closer, but not too close to bring his attention to me. I didn't want to be caught by a Peruvian man who I'd mistaken for the man I was going to give cocaine to. If I ever went back to the States, Tutka (or whatever his name is) would surely kill me (or make me like the guy in the hole-to replace shoe soles). No, I maintained my distance. I was close enough however, to see the cross in his necklace. He was tattooed too. None of these clues are distinguishing. Alright. I saw the dragon, I saw the green flame. That's my man, I thought. I walked up to him. Jordan, run, if he shows even slight irritation when you say Tutka. Run.
There he was six feet from me. He was looking some other direction, possibly looking for a person who looked like me (Tutka had told him how I look, right?). Then I walked toward him. He turned toward me. ‘T-Tutka….’ I said that in the most nervous and feeble manner. Weak. He laughed. His laugh reminded me of Simon's. The same ape like laugh. With that laugh, came back memories of all that happened in these one and a half years. My arrest, my life in jail, my life after jail, the struggle, the offer Tutka(I really don't care what his name is) made…. Now this man talked. ‘Italia.’ The man had a deep voice. He was American, for sure. His accent didn't imply South American, or any other place, I thought. His accent seemed quite American. That didn't matter. He'd said Italia. That was all that mattered. He was my man.
He looked around for anyone who had eyes on us. I followed his face but then I saw his hand. Left hand, with six fingers. Surely my man. I kept the packet in his hand. He used one arm to keep it in, and the other to take another packet out. I outstretched my arm and he kept the packet in my hand. Did fifty grand weigh this much? I didn't know. What if it wasn't fifty grand? Would Tutka give me the money? Would Tutka even exist when I go back? Hmm…
Italia turned away. He walked a few meters, and got into his Limo. That was a cue for me to get to leaving. Money in my hand. Fifty grand. Fifty. Fuckin’. Grand.