I meet them at a little bar in the airport. “Have you been in Mexico for long?” I ask.

I am white, and pale to boot. The man nods at me easily.

“Two weeks,” he says. “We needed a vacation.”


“Mazatlan. The oil spill.”

“Ah. Of course.” I let it hang there for a moment, all awkwardness. He can’t be awkward. Not in front of his wife.

“How about you?” he asks me.

I smile. “Acapulco.”

“Oh yeah? I hear that’s quite the place.”

“I hear the same about Mazatlan. I’ve never been.”

“Oh, yeah, it was really something. Wasn’t it honey?”

“It was,” the lady says. They are in their early fifties. She takes good care of herself. He doesn’t.

“We stayed right on the beach, looking out over the water, with little boats going all over and people all over the beach. Everything was so quiet, so tranquil…”

“Not like New York?” I ask, smiling.

He falters a little. “How’d you know that-”

“I open my eyes wide and laugh. “Not you too?”

Now we are old friends. “Oh yeah? Whereabouts?”

“Hackensack,” I say, slightly ashamed. “But I work in the city.”

“Hey, how about that! Small world.”

We are in the international terminal of a small airport. There is only one flight to America for the next six hours, and it isn’t going to Texarkana.

“What are you doing down here?” he asks.

“Business,” I say, winking. “Well, business in the mornings. Beaches in the afternoon.”

“That’s a nice way to work,” the wife says.

“I’m in real estate development. We’re thinking of building a resort there.” I raise my eyes like I’m about to take communion. “So I guess that laying on the beach kind of counts as work.”

“Nice work,” says the husband. “Beats my-”

“Here!” I say, “let me show you what we’re building!” I reach down under the bar and begin to fiddle with my bags.

“Now I really don’t think-” the husband starts, afraid I am about to try sell him a timeshare.

I come up with an accordion-folded brochure. I unfold it into the size of a poster. Their objections fade in their mouths. They are entranced by the picture.

I should hope so. It’s the biggest resort on Ibiza, and the nicest.

“There’s that,” I say, going back down to the bags, fiddling with this zipper and that. “Going to have six hundred rooms and a salt-water pool.”

“Salt-water pool?” the wife asks.

“Oh, absolutely. They’re going to be all the rage in a few years. At least, we hope so.”

“But what are they?” she asks, timidly.

“Oh! Right, of course. The pool on the first floor of the hotel, level with the ocean. There’s a canal leading out to the ocean. At high tide the water comes in and mixes with the pool water, and you can swim right out to the ocean. At low tide it drags the water out with it, leaving enough to keep the pool filled. It keeps everything fresh and clean.”

I come back up from the bags.

“Sounds enchanting,” the wife says, made nervous by the idea.

“I hope so,” I say. I open up another brochure. “This is what it will look like from the sea-”

“It’s beautiful,” the wife says, before she can even think of it.

“Mexico’s a land of opportunity,” I say.


We get on the plane about an hour later. I’ve managed to get a drink into her and two into him. She is the more drunk because of it. The flight is nearly full and we aren’t seated together. I tell them I’m sure we’ll see each other on the ground. It’s good to have friends going through customs.

“Oh yeah?” the husband asks, preparing himself to get angry if treated with less than scraping dignity. “It take a long time?”

“Maybe half an hour,” I say, moving off to the end of the airplane. “Make sure to go to the bathroom first. Always a good move.”

“Thanks,” the man says. The wife echoes him, though more sincerely.

The flight is about seven hours. I break a pill in half, take both halves, and wake up when the wheels hit the runway.


I see the couple as we disembark. “I think it’s time to find the bathrooms,” the wife says.

I follow them. “I’ll meet you guys outside,” he says. He is sober and dozy and grumpy because. I hope that will do well for him.

I go into the bathroom, open my suitcase, and begin to shave.

I’m almost sorry I’ll miss it.


I come out about half an hour later. Exactly half an hour later, in fact. The customs lines are very quiet. I breeze right through.

A drug-sniffing dog gives my bag a hard time, but not too hard. The dog’s nose searches it, and two pairs of white latex gloves, but find nothing. “Mexico,” I say. “You know what it’s like.” They look at me dirtily, but let me through.

Out in the hallway, the wife is in hysterics. She is holding a cell phone in one hand and her passport in the other. She is sobbing. There are eight – no, nine – nine cops standing around her. Six are in uniform. Three are identifiable only by their posture and mein.

She is shouting. She is quite upset. Her husband is nowhere to be seen.

“What happened?” I asked a mother with two little girls on her lap.

“Her husband,” she said. “They pulled something out of his suitcase and took him into some room. They came out fifteen minutes later and said something to her, and she’s been screaming ever since.”

“I sat with them in the waiting room,” I said, sounding mystified.

“Maybe you want to go help her?” she asks acidly. She is trying to keep her children happy despite the noise.

“I should,” I said. So I do.

I walk over to her. “Ma’am?” I say. “Ma’am? Are you alright?”

She looks at me, and stops for a moment. Her face is red and wet with tears.

“Do you know this woman?” asks a plainclothes.

“A little,” I say. “We met waiting for the plane. What’s going on?”

“Sir,” they said, “I’m going to have to ask you to move along.”

“Is she under arrest?” I ask.

“No, but you’re going to-”

“What happened?”

“They took Larry!” she sobs. “They say they found drugs!”

“Sir,” says one of the cops, putting his not-insignificant bulk up in my face, “you have to-”

“Is she under arrest?” I ask.

“Sir, you have to-”

I lean around the cop. “Are you under arrest?”

She looks around her with glass eyes. “I don’t think so.”

“Then let’s get out of here.”

The cop’s belly is actually touching me now. “Sir, you have got to-

I whirl onto the cop and stick my nose about an inch in front of his face. “Is she under arrest?”

“Sir, move back.”

I stare at him.

“Sir,” he repeats, but doesn’t seem to have anywhere to go from there.

“Is she,” I say quietly, “under, arrest?”

“Sir, please move back-”

“Come on,” I say to the wife, “let’s get out of here and get you a lawyer.”


“I’m a lawyer,” I say, very loudly, “and unless you are prepared to arrest this woman, or otherwise place her in detention, I am going to take her outside for a breath of fresh air.”

I take two beats. I sidestep the cop and take her arm. I pull on it. She follows like a dolly behind a little girl.

“Sir,” one of the cops tries, half-heartedly.

“See you all in court,” I say. I try not to let them see me smile.


She’s bawling. I hail a taxi, and put her in the back seat.

“What’s happening?” she asks me. “What are they doing to Larry?”

“They’re probably just trying to scare you into admitting something. They’re jerks. They’ll try anything if they don’t have a case.

“Really?” she says, half-incredulous, half nothing but credulousness.

“Yeah, this has happened to me before. I’m sorry I wasn’t there at customs. It sucks, but you get used to it.”


“Yes. Really. Now listen, do you have money for a taxi?”

Blank stare.

“I… I think so.”

“Okay. Where do you live?”

“5150 West-”

“Don’t tell me, tell the driver.”

She gives her address to the driver. He nods all the way through. His turban is polka-dotted. New York does just keep trying.

“Now you’re going to go home,” I say, “and call a lawyer. Do you have a lawyer?”

She sniffles, nods. “There’s Patty… and Iszy, he’s very good-”

“Right. Just call one of them. Tell them what happened. I’m sure they’ll clear it all up very soon.”

“Oh… okay.”

I go to the curb and grab her suitcases. The cabbie makes the trunk open a little; I open it the rest of the way. I put the suitcases inside, opening one of the zippers and taking out a little bag. I close the zippers, the trunk, and the car door.

“Call me when you get home!” I shout through the window. I double-slap the roof. The cab rolls away.

As the cab drives a way I can see her in the back seat. She gets a very sudden look on her face. She doesn’t know my number. Even more, she doesn’t know my name.

Her mouth opens into a wide circle, and then she disappears.

I hope into the next taxi, and tell him to take me to the Ritz. I lean forward until the bag is pressed to the back of the driver’s seat. I pull the drawstring, and let the contents spill out into my hands.

The plane ticket wasn’t cheap. Neither was the baggie of cocaine. But it’s surprising what one can get for diamonds. All the more so when they’re already across the border.

I put them back in their bag, and pull the string.



~ by davekov on 14 June 2010.

3 Responses to “Arbitrage”

  1. Two hours, start to finish. I’m finding my stride.

  2. lol – “definately finding your stride”

  3. Very Nice blog and so Fun, I can learn much from this Blog,

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