The beauty of being young and naive is that one tends to believe they are the center of the universe, no more so than when said person is the head of a burgeoning little empire that allows him to basically do what he wants, when he wants, with who he wants. We forget the machinations of the rest of the world, that there are things afoot that we know nothing about. To be successful in the game you need a modicum of intelligence and business acumen and a bit of luck. Luck will always play a part because a moment of bad luck can more than pour sand in the gears, it can completely fuck them.
The Ecstasy of the Inglaterra was so high quality that Veronica desperately wanted to bring some back with her. She did her best to lobby me for the opportunity but i explained to her that getting caught with any amount on trip like this is not what she wanted to deal with and of course she countered that it wouldn't be much, just ten or so pills that she could put in a bottle of aspirin or in her birth control case. It would be easy she said and who would know? This being my specialty i told her that the risk to reward wasn't worth it and that seeing as i had bought her ticket and had much to lose if she got popped, which i didn't think she would, but that if she did the questions would arise of who bought her ticket and why and the last thing i wanted to do was have to explain that to the Fuzz or to the Waitress. There was also the little matter of John Q. Law wondering how some guy who slogged away in a warehouse could afford to buy a last minute ticket for a girl and whisk her off to London. Add in the fact that in order to do this i would be springing for said pills and the answer was, i adore you girl but no. To her credit she understood but was bummed that she would not have the opportunity to partake a few more times in the best Ecstasy she had ever taken.
As we made our descent into the Steel City we discussed in earnest what would happen on going back to our lives. We agreed we'd give each other a few days to see what we thought, clear our heads from the intensity of the trip and go from there. She said we should disembark separately from the plane just in case someone showed up to surprise me. I explained i had driven myself out and that the Waitress had driving issues and unless i had explicitly asked or needed a ride she wouldn't be there but i also agreed and told her i appreciated her looking out. I told her i'd give her a ride home and she said she could take a cab but i'd hear nothing of it. If everything was clear i'd take her home and then handed her cab fare just in case. We were holding hands as we touched down. She smiled at me with a hint of melancholy in that the adventure was officially over.
I got off the plane first and gave a look see to make sure the coast was clear and it seemed to be but we still kept a healthy distance from each other just to make sure. I had checked a bag so she hung back as i waited for it and then, still separately we made our way through the lines at Customs. Once we had cleared Customs we stayed roughly ten to fifteen yards apart, her walking in front of me while i scanned the crowd to make sure i didn't see anyone i knew. Of course it wasn't anyone i knew who i needed to be looking for but as we had brought nothing back i wasn't too concerned about anyone else. It was right about the time it looked as things were all clear that two gentlemen in suits approached Veronica and asked to speak with her.
The men had identified themselves as law enforcement and everything about them reeked of cop. As i saw them detain her i slowed up and tried to listen but i couldn't really stop and so i wandered off to the other side of the concourse and preceded to pull out my trusty Star-Tac mobile and pretended to call someone. I watched. There was a few minutes of conversation and then the men smiled and let her walk away. When first approached i could see the surprise and concern n her face but soon enough she was smiling and talking away and i could tell she had worked her magic on the pair. She saw me waiting. My look was quizzical and concerned and my head nod told her all clear. We hit the exit and made for my beat up Chevy Geo and i asked what the hell just happened. She wasn't exactly sure.
The agents identified themselves and asked about her trip. Veronica said they were pleasant and serious and seemed to be looking for something. They asked what she was doing in the UK and she stated she had went there for a wedding. They asked who bought her ticket and she said a friend had helped her. They pressed and she stated that the reason it was such short notice was because she wasn't sure if she could make it but that it meant the world to her friend Astrid and that at the last minute it had all come together and she had hopped the plane and left. She said it was a thrill to see such a great city, how she had never been abroad before and that she couldn't wait to go back. At that point the men said that the reason they stopped her was due to an investigation into something to which they weren't at liberty to discuss but that it involved women travelling alone on short notice. They asked if they could search her bags and she said they could. They asked if she had brought anything back and she stated she hadn't, that it had been such a whirlwind that she hadn't really even realized that. When she told them all she had was her carry-on and purse they nodded and decided they didn't need to search her bags and that she was free to go on her way. She smiled and thanked them and walked away.
Veronica had seen me waiting on the other side of the concourse and clandestinely watching. That was a bit strange, i said and then added, now are you glad you didn't have an aspirin bottle full of E? She gave a slight smile and said yes she was, that knowing she had nothing on her gave her nothing to fear really. She then told me about the conversation, how she didn't know how or why she came up with the whole wedding story and that it seemed to just come flowing out of her without her even thinking. I told her she had skills and that she would make a fine criminal. I told her that after watching her deal with the situation, her composure, her quick thinking, that though i didn't think it was possible to be even more smitten with her i was. She took my hand and we walked to my car. We got in and looked at each other, as if this was the last pure moment of a brilliant trip that was now about to be tainted by everyday life. We leaned in and kissed for a few minutes and then i backed out of the space and drove to her place.
Pulling up in front of her building i asked if i could come up. She said no. We had discussed it and she felt it would be best for me to go home, that we'd talk soon enough and see where we would go from here. She stated she needed to take care of some stuff at her place and that she had left in such a rush she didn't even know what kind of mess she had left. That she couldn't wait to get her dog from her neighbor who had been watching him and that she needed some time to decompress and think about things on her own. I understood. It's what we had agreed upon. She leaned over and we kissed one last time and then she got out, grabbed her bags out of the backseat, then disappeared into her apartment building.
As it turns out my bright and shiny asshole was not the center of the universe but just a very miniscule part of it. Imagine my surprise when a year or so later i was reading the paper when a story jumped out at me. Unbeknownst to me there were other aspiring entrepreneurs in my fair city who had devised all sorts of ways to smuggle contraband into the country. There was a jewelry store downtown that was owned by a nice Russian gentleman who it seemed had more than an interest in just diamonds but also liked to import large quantities of E from Europe. His method it turns out sounded somewhat familiar or at least part of it did anyway. The modus operandi was to fly a woman alone to Europe purchasing the ticket only a few days before she'd leave so there would be short notice. Once there the woman would meet up with his connections and arrange to basically be the mule for the deal. The woman would arrange for a painting or two to be shipped back and inside the paintings would be thousands of pills of Ecstasy. It was a crafty and well-thought out plan and said Rooskie would usually send the women to different cities to meet the connections. Funny thing was that after he was popped the jewelry store closed for a month or two and then opened back up.
On reading the article i knew then and there who those well-dressed gentlemen who stopped Veronica were. Call it dumb luck as the Ecstasy was so good that there was a fleeting moment when i was thinking of bringing a bit back cuz really? who would find a few stray pills? While ten pills was nothing the real problem would have been the investigation into said trip (not to mention the legal hassle) but it would have shut down machine. Stiv was high strung and paranoid to begin with, any undue attention and he would have been beside himself, granted his greed would have had him brainstorming ways to keep the money rolling but the facts were i his lynchpin to the outside world. Without me he had nothing. He needed my "book of business." Credit to Veronica being the nimble and charming dancer whose quick mind averted any further looking into the trip at hand. Call it dumb luck and dodging the invisible bullets that can take down an operation like the one i was currently overseeing. On arriving home i did my own acting job, pretending that i was glad to be back. I unpacked and talked about the trip but luckily the Waitress wasn't all that interested and concerned about it. A few hours later i called Stiv and told him to start the engine, vacation was over, now it was time to deal.