Fifty Fuckin' Grand. That's how much money I had. How much was the cocaine worth? Fifty grand? That didn't matter. What mattered was that I was rich. I took out that packet from my jacket pocket, and opened the Spanish Newspaper wrapping. Not completely, but just enough to see what's inside. Lots of money. Dollars. Fifty thousand of 'em. I was rich. I was happy.
I re-wrapped this packet and got going. Where was I going to stay? I had to look for a Bank, where I could get some Peruvian Nuevo Sols. I remember the conversion. I'd not give all the liberty, of course. I took out seven grand and kept it in my pocket. This I did in the the public toilet, of course. I made sure nobody was following me.
I walked for at least another kilometre. I didn't spot any bank. There was an old lady, standing on the footpath. Long white hair, short and slightly fat, this woman was looking at the traffic signal. Although people were crossing, she didn't. I walked up to her hoping to ask her for a bank. Before I could even say anything, she turned. She was pointing to her left, the place where I'd just come from. I looked that way, I saw a bank there. It was pretty big. I wonder why I missed it...
I turned again to say thank you. She wasn't there. Someone tapped me on the back. I turned. It was the man from the airport and the shuttle. The hiss. 'Sphere.....' It ached my ears. All he'd ever said was that. Never anything more. He vanished right before my eyes. Poof. Nothing else. These hallucinations began scaring me.
I walked into the bank. There I saw the counter, the third on my right. There was someone at that counter, getting his UK Pounds back from the Nuevo Sols. I got mine. Twenty-three thousand Nuevo Sols. I thought that'd be enough. Although I'd never been here, I knew what to do and where (Yeah, except the bank.).
I walked confidently, not really knowing where I was going, but confidently. I kept walking till I found a hotel called the Venseuro. It looked expensive (Fifty Fuckin Grand, baby!), but I didn't care. I was told that the tariff was an equivalent of two hundred and fifty dollars. I stayed. I had only that one bag with my essentials. I'll probably keep the money in the bag once I'm in the room, I thought. I was given a room (1312) on floor 13. Unlucky floor, I thought. I was working out the situations I'd encounter when I'd keep the money in the bag. I wouldn't have the bag with me always. What if someone was indeed following me, and they knew I had fifty grand(about a hundred and sixty grand Nuevo Sols)? What if, when I'm out, someone broke into my room and stole the money? Anything was possible. So I decided against keeping the money in the bag. Well, when the money would be with me, and people knew that, they would attack me, I thought. That way, however, I would be around the money while the people came to steal it. It's better than not knowing I was being robbed, while I was enjoying elsewhere. Done-the money stays with me.
I had to enjoy in these few days. I had a week, before I'd have to go back to the States. Where? Machu Picchu first. I'd go to some bars, some casinos if Peru had any, and I'd enjoy. I’d realized I was miles away from there. The receptionist, when I'd asked them, told me it was 503 kilometres. Then I knew coming back here was senseless. I had my passport, I'd go wherever I want. Tutka wouldn't know, I thought. Besides, what could he do. Italia had the cocaine. He wouldn't care if I died. I decided to sit down, and plan. South american tour maybe? It was winter, touring the Andes would be fun. Also, I'd wanted to go to Argentina, or Brazil. So, I went down to the travel guide. It was a kiosk, I could enter whichever place I'd wished to go to, and it'd tell me everything. ETA, distance, anything. This was what I got. I wrote down everything on a piece of paper which read:
I) Quebrada de Humahuaca- 2.6k
2) Laguna Verde- 2.2k
3) Huayhuash- 334
Pros of Humahuaca- It's an absolutely mind fuckin’ beauty.
Cons- It takes me two and a half thousand kilometers away from the States. More time needed to return.
Not goin’ here.
Pros of Laguna Verde- This lake as absolutely beautiful.
Cons- same as the cons of Humahuaca.
As much as I want to, I can't go here.
Huayhash- the second most beautiful trek in the world according to Nat Geo.
I'M FUCKIN’ GOIN’ HERE.
Besides, Huayhash was close to Lima, a six hour drive at the most, and I could come back here. I'd go to Machu Picchu first, come back, and then go to Huay, and then come back, and fly back to the States. My week was decided.
Now for the fifty grand (Fifty. Fuckin’. Grand). The travel wouldn't take much of my money. I'd surely have north of forty grand, let alone thirty five. Today was Day 1, seven pm. Too late to go anywhere (not that I'd wanted to, but still).I just wanted dinner and a good night's sleep. Before I'd completely stop thinking about what to do and what not, I planned my itinerary.
Day 2- to and fro Machu Picchu.
Day 3-do whatever the fuck.
Day 4- same as above.
Day 5- to and fro Huay.
Day 6- eat, sleep, repeat.
Day 7-to the States.
It wasn't fixed, though, obviously. The two days labeled ‘do whatever the fuck’ could be any two days. I owned these days. Nothing, I repeat, nothing, will stop me from doing this (barring the police).
I rented a taxi for a day, and after breakfast, I set out for Huay. I'd read the history of the place, and it interested me too much. Coming here, to Peru, and not watching and trekking on the Huay? Never.
Mid way to the Huay, the driver got a call. He stopped and got off. I decided to eat the snacks I brought from my bag. I, of course, had the money packet with me. Something was wrong. I could feel it in the air. My mind was telling my that. There he was again. That same old man, but only this time, he had the hair of the woman who showed me the bank.
‘You and your mind are different. They're entities. Different entities. In the sphere…’
The hiss again. The ache in my ears again. He stopped when the driver turned back, obviously. He vanished too. He vanished because he was my hallucination. He was in my mind.
‘We have to go back to Lima. To the Vensuero.’
‘Why? I guess I'll be the one deciding where to go.’
‘It's not me. The manager called me up. He said that there's been a bomb blast. In the hotel. The police want you there. That's all he said.’
I had to go back. I didn't like the idea, but I had to. Even after being told to come back, if I went further away from Lima, the suspicion, if any, would all fall on me. I had to go back. I told the driver to turn right back.
Mid-way, the Man with the Snake-Like Voice reappeared. The driver couldn't see him through the rear view mirror, the way he was sitting. He didn't say anything this time around. He laughed, and mouthed ‘Sphere….’
It took about an hour or so for us to be back at the hotel. We'd only covered a hundred kilometers. The hotel was messed up. The police walked towards me, as calm as ever, like nothing had happened. It was surely the thirteenth floor-the epicentre. The floors above were blown up, debris all around. The floors below were intact, but covered in soot. The police shook my hand.
‘Mr. Hill. Sorry for the inconvenience caused, we understand you were headed for Huayhash. Thing is, when a bomb blasts, and a guest living on the floor of the epicenter is not in the hotel, it means something. Not saying we suspect you, no. We don't. We just have some protocol we have to follow, and by the protocol, you had to be here. Thanks for coming back, Mr. Hill. You may leave for Huay once we find any sign of terrorist involvement. We may need to call you, in between, though. Interrogations and stuff‘
‘No that's alright officer. You're just doing your job. I guess I have to co operate, huh?’
Then he got a call. It was his senior, surely. His manner of talking, his body language, everything changed. It became more respectful, more sincere.
‘... Alright sir. He'll be in the States before you know it.’
He walked towards one of his subordinate officers. They both walked towards me.
‘Get in the car. You're under arrest for snuggling cocaine into Peru. You're being transferred to the States.’
My journey after that was quite boring. Handcuffs were the only thing which suggested I was under arrest. Otherwise, here I was, in a helicopter, flying to the States with policemen. I felt like I was in a war all of a sudden. Guns all around, looking over an ocean, flying in a helicopter. Then I saw my handcuffs again. Well, fuck.
I felt special, even as a criminal. I'd become famous. I'd flown over these very seas and lands, with cocaine in my shoe. The officers with me now had my return gift-fifty fuckin’ grand. Gone. I felt special because every time the helicopter entered a new country's airspace, they'd say “Smuggler Arrest”. After saying those two words, they'd be free to use the airspace. Of course, the ATC would check whether the helicopter was indeed taking a smuggler back to the States, by talking to the States, but that was none of my concern. Those two words were enough to describe me now. I was guilty, but I felt proud. I was now, officially, a criminal. Character wise. Behaviour wise.
Everything happened quickly.
The trial was the next day, and till then I was in a cell in a police station. I was given ten years, in the same Federal Prison I was in over a year ago. I, Jordan Hill, am back in a Federal Prison. The very same prison I'd been in, over one year ago. Alan still had only under a year left.
'I'll go to California sometime. Vegas, too, maybe. I ain't goin' back to Austin, man. Anywhere, but not Austin.'
I knew what to do.
‘Alan. We need to break out.'