Rounding out this little parable of ethical relativism, you might even have time for tea. Excuse the grammar goofs, please. Tough time seeing right now.
[Andy Bey \\ Someone To Watch Over Me]
Part II: the echoes of hollow laughter in marble halls
“Hold your legs up,” the Bexar County sheriff’s deputy told Harwood, and once his legs were shackled the deputy pulled him roughly from the van. Once he was out on the pavement the deputy began pushing Harwood through the sally port into the inmates entrance, but no one noticed rough treatment down here in the basement – and no one cared if they saw anything out of place. They waited for an elevator with other inmates and deputies, and when the elevator came they all rode up in silence to the fourth floor holding block, and he was quickly locked up in a small holding cell.
He’d had a jerk-water public defender who hadn’t objected once to questionable evidence presented at his trial and Harwood then knew his trial was a slam-dunk, a show trial. The DEA had rammed the case through pre-trials and before a judge in record time, and from then on he knew he was being made an example of how not to fuck with the Feds, and physicians were the intended audience. What had surprised him was Quintana, and how the cartels had simply dropped him like a hot rock. Still, he’d decided on silence, banking on the cartel having people on the inside who’d keep him relatively safe. And who knows, maybe the’d even be able to keep him alive.
Today’s appearance was for sentencing, but by this point he really didn’t give a shit. He’d gone from being a physician in a lucrative American practice to taking care of illiterate peasants in Mexico’s central highlands, and now it looked like he’d spend the rest of his life in federal prison. Not exactly how he’d seen things working out once upon a time, but what hurt most of all was leaving McKinnon down there, because just before the Federales came for him she’d told him she was pregnant.
So now it looked like everything he could have possibly done wrong in this life he’d managed to do, because on top of everything else he’d have a kid he’d never know…and maybe that hurt most of all. But yeah, he’d moved the cartel’s product for years. He’d been part of an intricately planned and executed supply pipeline that was moving Mexican heroin and Chinese fentanyl through San Antonio to Dallas, New Orleans, and Atlanta, and yeah, he’d made a shitload of money along the way but that was the game. Moving product through hospitals had worked, and worked well, for more than a decade, but someone somewhere along the distribution pipeline had ratted out the scheme. Probably a very bloody jailhouse confession, but none of that mattered now.
Another deputy came for him a few hours later and walked him down a marble hallway to a courtroom, and then he was pushed through another door into the courtroom. And there he was.
J. Alan Wentworth III, the federal prosecutor ramrodding his case through the system. Wentworth was short, fat, baldheaded and bespectacled – a paragon of every modern virtue imaginable. He was playing the game, alright. Throwing sevens every time, and always with an ace up his sleeve. He was asking the court to consider the death penalty, or at the very least life without parole, because if they didn’t come down hard on physicians law enforcement would never get a handle on the problem…
The problem with your thesis, Mr. J. Alan Wentworth III, is that law enforcement is in on the scam at every fucking level, from cops on the beat to the guards in the jails; all of them were feeding at the cartel’s trough – but there was no way Harwood would be allowed to say this in open court. This simple truth was so readily apparent even a dime-bag dealer could figure it out: pay anyone enough and they’ll look the other way, and every fucking time, too…but Wentworth had a quota to meet, a conviction rate to maintain, and that more than anything was dictating the outcome this afternoon. Harwood was just a mid-level executive in a thriving international manufacturing and distribution operation, but instead of working for one of the big pharmaceutical outfits he’d chosen to work for the cartels. Too bad anti-trust laws didn’t apply, because the irony was a little too rich.
Harwood wasn’t exactly surprised when, a half hour later and due to the aggravating circumstances of his crimes, he was sentenced to life in prison at ADMAX Florence, the notorious and justifiably dreaded super-max facility in central Colorado. When asked by the court if he had anything to say prior to sentencing he declined to speak, and so was simply escorted from the courtroom straight to the elevator – this time by a nattily dressed US Marshall to a black Ford Explorer.
Harwood was driven to the basement parking garage at a nearby office building and led inside a basement level office, and then right into a restroom. Not at all sure what was happening now, the marshal handed Harwood a gym bag and the keys to the Ford, then the cop turned around and walked out of the restroom, and he left Harwood standing there – almost in a state of shock. Not knowing what else to do, he opened the gym bag and found an envelope, two changes of clothes and some toiletries, as well as a new pair of Adidas running shoes. He opened the envelope and found an airline ticket, cash, credit cards and a French passport.
“Quintana,” he muttered to himself with a smile, then he changed into the street clothes and dumped the orange jumpsuit in a dumpster on his way to the Explorer. The NAV system was already programed for the airport and he put on a ball cap and sunglasses the cop had left on the driver’s seat and he drove right to the airport. Once there he parked the car in the long term lot and went straight into the terminal. He checked the envelope and found a boarding pass so went right up to and then through the TSA security screening and then he walked out to his gate, for an AeroMexico flight to Mexico City. His assigned seat, he realized, was in the business class section, and he suddenly felt as if he was inside a particularly nice dream.
When his flight was called he halfway expected a dozen DEA agents to come crawling out of the woodwork…but no, nothing happened, and that was positively surreal. He walked out the Jetway and boarded the 737Max and a flight attendant brought him a Bohemia and a slice of lime, and he did his best to ignore the people boarding the flight because he just knew that any moment now he was going to wake up and this was all going to turn out to be a really nasty trick of the mind.
But no, the main door was about to close – when, apparently, one more person ran into the cabin, and Harwood watched as Quintana boarded and came to the seat next to his own.
“Mind if I sit here?” the number three man in the Sinaloa Cartel asked.
“No, please,” Harwood said, then he watched as Quintana put a small carry-on in the overhead bin.
Then he sat and took the offered Bohemia from the flight attendant, and Harwood watched as the main door was pivoted into the closed and locked position, and he looked out the window as the Boeing was pushed back from the gate. When he could stand it no longer, he turned to Quintana and smiled.
“Did you have a nice visit?” he asked the capo.
“Yes. And you?”
“I’d have to say, all in all, that it was an interesting trip.”
“Perhaps someday we’ll have time to sit over dinner and talk.”
Which meant, Harwood understood, now was not that time. He nodded and smiled and looked out the window as the Boeing turned onto the active runway and dashed into the evening sky.
He ate his dinner in silence and watched intently as the jetliner lined up to land in Mexico City, and just before Quintana left him he advised that he not forget his two bags in the overhead bin, and Harwood thanked his friend then watched him leave. He pulled the bags down and walked out the jet and through immigration and then he opened Quintana’s parting gift.
Another envelope on top…
A ticket to Paris on Air France, departing in an hour and a half. Enough cash to live comfortably for several years. Documents to provide a completely new identity along with the academic degrees and transcripts of post-grad work to back everything up.
And then there was a note from Quintana.
‘Silentium ac fides super omnia.’
There wasn’t a whole lot else to say, was there? He’d never talked, never sought a plea bargain right up to sentencing, and maybe that had come as a surprise to Quintana. Maybe that was why he’d risked it all to come up the States, to see this through to the end. To see what kind of man this Harwood really was.
Maybe. Maybe not. Harwood would probably never know the answer to that one, would he?
He walked over to the First Class lounge and went inside, checked-in for the flight and saw that he was indeed flying alone. Not knowing what else to do he sat and watched jets come and go until his flight was called, then he walked out and boarded the 777 and made his way up to seat 1A.
A simply gorgeous flight attendant came by and introduced herself, offered him a glass of champaign and a warm towel for his face, then she smiled and sashayed up to the galley. After three months behind bars the sight of such a woman was enough to leave him in puddles of despair.
He heard the main doors close a few minutes later and looked down at his hands.
How long had it been? Three months since he’d last operated on a patient? Three months since he’d given up on ever doing anything like that again?
Three months since he’d seen McKinnon?
How would she look now? Would she be showing?
Dare he even try to get in touch with her? Wouldn’t the DEA be monitoring her every communication? Especially now that he’d managed to flee?
The jet pushed back and taxied out to the active, then it turned onto the runway and lumbered into the sky, turning to the northeast to fly up the east coast of North America on its way to the Old World. He saw Washington DC down below just after his second dinner of the evening, then New York City and Boston before the long crossing. His seat was turned into a cozy little bed and he slept the miles away, waking up in time for a lite breakfast and a mid-morning arrival in Paris.
He waited until almost everyone else had deplaned before grabbing his bags and heading out the Jetway into the terminal. He made his way to immigration and as he was now a citizen of France he walked right through the ‘Nothing To Declare’ line and then out to queue of people lining up to ride into the city.
And then he felt an arm slip into his.
“Well hello there,” Patty McKinnon said, a coy little smile crossing her face. “Fancy running into you here.”
“Yes, small world.” She leaned into him and they kissed with a ferocity that might have escaped most of the people standing in line, but hey…this was, after all, Paris. And they were home.
This work © 2017-2022 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com and all rights reserved, and as usual this was a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s (rather twisted) imagination or coincidentally referenced entities are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. In other words, this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.