My fence is in France. I’m almost certain that his buyer is too. I’ve told him I have two rugs. I decide to take them myself. Maybe I will notice something, maybe I can learn something. If I can trace his collector I can sell the other seven to him myself.

I have an AirB&B in the 6th, a student flat near the École des Mines. The owner’s a tall German girl with Vietnamese looks, Turkish heels. She offers to leave me beer or weed at very little markup. I ask for a six-pack. It’s waiting for me in the fridge. She’ll be very happy when it’s waiting for her when I leave.

There’s no good place to hide the rugs. I didn’t think there would be. Instead I put them on the floor like they belong there. No burglar is going to notice. Worst thing they’ll do is step on them. And people have been doing that for two hundred years.

I have four hours. I’m hungry. I don’t want to go out and I definitely don’t want some delivery guy knocking at the door. I look through her pantry. Have a bowl of dry cereal – her milk smells off. I must have seen movement because I look up. The lighting sconce above me has shifted to the side.

Something drops from a little hole in the ceiling.

I look away and close my eyes. It doesn’t help.

The flashbang blinds me. Deafens me. But it throws my senses so far out of my head that it doesn’t really matter. I bent double over her counter, roll down, hit the floor. Then there are armored men above me. Putting very large guns in my face.

I’m going to jail.

*** *** ***

They put me in an interrogation room.  I ask for an attorney and then shut up. I don’t know why they’ve arrested me. I don’t know if they have the rugs.

“We have the rugs,” the detective says.

“My attorney, please. Madame.”

There might be a story that would involve me having those rugs and being innocent at the same time. Until I know what they know, I can’t craft that story. It is probably uncraftable. But it’s worth a hope when the alternative is to say “I’m guilty.”

The rugs are from Lelydorp. It’s one of the oldest mosques in the hemisphere. The prayer rugs on the temple floor are new. Underneath those are slightly older rugs. At the very bottom are rugs that were made by slaves. When they were freed they carried the rugs from their plantations to the outskirts of the capital and built their new lives and their new state upon it.

They should never have known that they were missing. Nobody should have.

I groaned. My fence must have cut me. Either the cops will pass the two rugs to him at a hefty discount, or he’ll step in later and offer to help me win my freedom – in exchange for the other seven.

“Nothing,” I said. And again, “I want my attorney.”

*** *** ***

The detective leaves me to rot. I wait for my attorney to enter alone. Instead she comes in, with another officer in tow, and shackles my other hand to the table.

A man comes in. He’s wearing a long coat though it’s only October. He always seems to be smiling. Even when he isn’t.

He puts his briefcase down on the table, opens the latch and draws out a manila folder. Opens the folder. Takes out a page. Holds it up. Compares me to a picture.

“Yes,” he says in English, “that is him.”

He looks at me like a hunter who approached to his fallen prey only to find it cancerous and twisted.

He hands the file to the detective. Then he leaves.

*** *** ***

I spend three days in prison, confined to my own little cell. On the fourth day I am taken away in shackles.

I am taken to an airport. A private plane is waiting for me. As is the man in the long coat. As are two men in a uniform I don’t recognize, holding batons at the ready.

The French detective uncuffs me, pockets the cuffs. The uniformed men spin me around and put their cuffs on me. The man in the long coat says nice words of thanks as I’m marched up the narrow stairs and onto the plane.

I am seated in a chair. I am shackled to it. There’s a bag nearby, with a hole for me to breathe through. Right where I can see it. Nice touch.

The officers come in and sit in front of me and behind me. The man in the long coat comes in, takes a seat across from me. It’s a very nice plane. I wonder how much I’m paying for it.

The stairs are retracted. We begin to taxi. We wait on the tarmac. The man fidgets. I just wait.

We are cleared for takeoff. We are in the sky. In half an hour we are out of French airspace.

“Now?” the man asks.

I shrug.

He sends the uniforms back to the rear cabin. They don’t say anything. Either they’re professionals and they don’t care, or they’re provincial street cops with fake uniforms and they don’t even understand.

The man leans over me and, with little grace, unlocks my cuffs.

He sits back down. Thinks better of it, stands up and takes off his coat. He folds it neatly and puts it on an empty seat.

“This was an excellent bargain you made,” he sys. “A good insurance policy. Wise investment.”

“What did you tell them?”

“That you had killed two men in Encarnación. That you had been convicted already. That you escaped with the help of dastardly elements who themselves had already met justice. That you would be executed within ten days of your extradition. That Paraguay did not wish to be deprived of its justice while waiting on a lengthy French trial whose results could not possibly change your fate.”

I rub my wrists. “You offered for the Detective to come and observe?”

“Offered? I insisted. She declined. Ten days was too long-”

“Yes, that was well done.”

He bows his head. “This has been quite enjoyable.”

“And profitable,” I say, after biting my tongue.

“Yes. Five hundred thousand dollars. Plus expenses, which will be minimal. As I said, an excellent insurance policy.”

“We are going to Paraguay?”

He beamed. “We will stop in Martinique. The flight plan is filed. As a French overseas possession, they will observe the plane on the ground, and see how you do not disembark.”

“Very nice,” I say. I mean it.

“I thought you would approve.”

He leans back. “There is cold lobster and French pastry. And more than enough wine – though nothing chilled.”

I stop listening. I look out the window. I can’t stop rubbing my wrists, though they don’t hurt.

Five hundred thousand dollars.

I start thinking about the other seven rugs.


~ by davekov on 4 October 2017.

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