Chapter 10: Mischievous Me


Constable X read me my rights as I sat there in shock. I don't recall the words, but I remember thinking how strange the Miranda-style rights were in Canada. Very much like the rights you hear read in the States, but just different enough to make you feel as if you have fallen into an alternate universe. Very disorienting and Twilight Zone-ish.

(As an aside, a Canadian friend of mine in Brooks, Alberta, once told me the secret of Canadian culture—or the lack thereof. "We borrow everything from the U.S.," he said, "change it just enough to mess it up, and then call it Canadian." This also reminds me of an apocryphal story that someone Canadian once related to me. This person told me that Maclean's—the Canadian analogue to Time or Newsweek, not to be confused with McCall's—once ran a contest to find a Canadian counterpart to the phrase "as American as apple pie." Entrants, of course, were to fill in the blank in the phrase "as Canadian as . . ." The eventual winner? "As Canadian as possible.")

"You're being charged with public mischief," the constable told me when he was through with my rights.

That didn't sound so bad, as criminal charges go. "What does that mean, exactly?" I asked

Constable X put on a pair of reading glasses and opened a book that was on his desk. After searching for a minute or two, he said, "Public mischief is the 'willful and deliberate interference with the lawful use and enjoyment of public or private property valued in excess of one thousand dollars.'"

I had to agree with the appropriateness of the charge. Jet planes no doubt cost a mite more than a thousand smackers. "What sort of a sentence does that carry?" I asked anxiously.

The constable raised his eyebrows. "You know, I couldn't tell you. I've never arrested anyone for public mischief before. You're my first. But I can't imagine that it would be very stiff." Now that the difficult and stigmatic part of the visit—my confession and arrest—was over, he seemed much more friendly, even relaxed, like we were just new pals chatting. "Let me remind you, as it said in your rights, that you don't have to say anything more to me. If you'd like to give a full confession, that's fine, but if you want to wait for a lawyer, then you can do that, too."

I didn't have a lawyer, of course—though I figured the mission could get one—and I certainly didn't want a public defender. "No, I just want to do whatever it takes to get this all over with," I said. "I'll make a confession."

"You're sure?"

I nodded.

"Okay, here's a form." He handed me a pen and a legal-sized sheet of paper. "We're going to ask you to write out everything that led up to the phone call you made. If there's anything you feel you should explain—your state of mind and so forth, including anything you think are mitigating circumstances—then you should feel free to do so. Then you'll have to sign it and one of us will sign as a witness."

Before I started, I asked, "What's going to happen to me from here on out?" It was a question much on my mind.

"Well, I hate to do this," said Constable X, "but I'm afraid we're going to have to lock you up here for a bit when you're through with the confession. Some detectives will come pick you up later this evening and they'll take you downtown, where you'll go in front of a bail magistrate. I don't see any problems there, considering why you seem to have done what you did. Assuming you have someone who can post bail, you should be free before the night is over. Public mischief really can't be a terribly serious crime. I wouldn't worry very much."

Thinking back over the last few years of my life, this may be the reason that I always assume any carefully laid plans in which I am involved will end up not working out. Because that is not at all what happened.

Not that this was entirely Constable X's fault. In retrospect, I find myself fairly certain that he chose to charge me with the seemingly minor crime of public mischief after he had heard my confession as a way of sparing me most of the ordeal that followed. It was a kindness—or rather, an attempted kindness. I just wish he'd been a trifle more familiar with the associated penalties.

It took me about half an hour to fill in both sides of the legal-sized form. I related—in extremely abridged fashion—pretty much the same tale I've been telling you. When I was through, Constable X, somewhat apologetically, led me down the hall and into the airport police precinct. There were half a dozen desks scattered throughout a long, low, fluorescent-lit room, and a dozen or more uniformed cops were lounging around drinking coffee. They watched me balefully as I followed the constable through the precinct room, not hiding their hostility. Contempt was thick in the room, as if they were all angels and I was Satan being led away to the bottomless pit where my Millennial chains awaited.

I was taken to a holding cell and locked in. The door was thick, made of solid metal, and the cell was painted a bilious yellow. It was shaped like a thirty-sixty-ninety triangle, with a bench along the short side and the door and a large window set into the hypotenuse. The window was covered on the outside by a Venetian blind, which was drawn. There was a toilet near the small angle of the cell, opposite the bench. Fortunately, I didn't have to use it; I was acutely conscious of the fact that anyone could pull that blind and peer in at me.

Badly frightened despite the constable's assurances, I stewed there in the cell for forty-five minutes. I was praying that somehow God would get me out of this mess. I probably even promised him that I would never make another bomb threat as long as I lived. (That's a joke, son.)

At about seven-forty-five by my watch, the cell opened and Constable X entered, accompanied by two detectives. One was a man with black hair and a thick mustache, and the other was a blonde woman in her thirties wearing an extremely short and provocative dress beneath her open trenchcoat. She had nice legs, though she wasn't blindingly attractive. Constable X introduced the detectives, then shook my hand, wished me good luck, and left.

The male detective said, "Now, we're going to have to take you out to our precinct for a bit while we do some paperwork on you, and then we'll be taking you downtown for your bail hearing. You'll need to walk between us out to our car. Out of respect for your calling, we're not going to cuff you, but we have to warn you that you are under arrest, and if you try to run we'll have to consider it resisting arrest, and then we will cuff you and charge you with another count. Do you understand?"

I said yes, and we left. We had to run the gauntlet of the hostile precinct room again, but before long we were walking briskly through the dark and empty airport concourse. I stayed squarely between the two detectives, looking straight ahead, while they made small talk back and forth as if I weren't there.

Their car, a brown sedan, was parked in an emergency zone just outside. They let me into the back seat, and before long we were rolling through the night, back toward the city and my night-court appearance.

“Terror on Flight 789” is a very early, much shorter preliminary draft of what would eventually become my full-length memoir The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary. If you enjoy this story, you'll like that thoroughly revised and expanded version even more. Available now!

About This Story

“Terror on Flight 789” is a very early, much shorter preliminary draft of what would eventually become my full-length memoir The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary. If you enjoy this story, you'll like that thoroughly revised and expanded version even more. Available now!

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