Chapter 12: Confess, Shunn!


It probably seems odd that I should name this chapter what I have, in light of the fact that, at this point in our story, I have already confessed my crime. Ah, but something I didn't realize when I made that confession was that I would subsequently be required to confess again and again.

Remember me, by the way? I'm the rather terrified young fellow sitting in the backseat of an unmarked police sedan as two undercover detectives drive me into the city.

But not too far into the city. Before very long, we pulled into a mostly residential suburban development on the outskirts of Calgary—but not an actual suburb, since it was inside the city limits. Calgary doesn't really have any suburbs—or at least it didn't when I was there. It's all alone out on the plains, and it covers a truly staggering amount of square mileage. What in any other metropolitan area would be suburbs are all enclosed within the Calgary city limits, and there's not much of anything—besides farmland and oil fields—beyond. For a city of 750,000, it has an unusually low population density, thanks to its unusually large area.

In a lonely, rather undeveloped part of this pseudo-suburban sprawl stood a small police station—a low, boxy, modern red-brick structure that looked like it should be housing some small high-tech firm out in an industrial park. The front of the building was, of course, accessible to the public, but a high cyclone fence extended out from each side, enclosing a large parking area to the side and in the back. The car pulled to a stop just outside a gate in this fence. The male detective rolled down his window and stuck a card into a slot, and the gate slid smoothly aside. We drove through and the gate closed behind us again.

The detectives took me into the precinct building through a back door. The building seemed mostly deserted, with only dim lights glowing in most of the corridors. They led me past a thick door—made of wood but fitted with an intricate locking mechanism—and into a cramped brick hallway with coarse carpeting on the floor. Several offices were situated here, all in a row, most with open doors—but on the opposite side of the hall was a row of doors that were closed. And locked.

I was permitted to make a phone call before anything else happened. I didn't really want to explain the mess I'd gotten myself into to President Tuttle, but my dread of that was nothing compared to my dread of being jailed—and if I were going to get out of jail that night, then someone would have to travel downtown and post my bail. So I called the mission office.

And I got no answer.

I tried my apartment. No answer. I tried Elder Van Wagoner and his companion. No answer. I tried the sisters. No answer.

It was after eight in the evening. Where were they all?

I had no idea at the time, but now, of course, I know that everyone I tried to call was out hunting for me, afraid they would find my battered and broken body stuffed down behind a dumpster in some alley. I suppose it's flattering that everyone was so worried about me, but their misplaced concern was certainly doing no good for my peace of mind.

When it became clear that I wasn't going to get through to anyone, the detectives unlocked one of the doors opposite the row of offices and sent me into the room beyond.

They had explained that I would be held at their little "suburban" precinct for a short time while they did a little paperwork and arranged a slot for me on the docket at the bail hearing that night. Only a short time, I was assured. Then we would head downtown—to the real jail. Oh, boy. I couldn't wait.

The thing they didn't explain was where exactly I would spend that "short time."

The room they locked me into was no larger than four feet by eight. It contained one chair. It didn't look like a cell—it looked more like a strangely shrunken office, with bland, textured wallpaper and more of that industrial-strength carpet that would take the skin off a rhinoceros if one happened to trip and slide across it—but it sure as hell felt like a cell.

I sat there. And I sat there. And I sat there some more. I waited. I stewed in my own juices. I followed the second hand on my watch on its maddeningly slow sweep around the face of the dial. I counted the holes in the ceiling tiles. And I prayed pretty darn fervently, mostly along the lines of "Get me out of this one and I'll be good for the rest of my life." (For some reason, I only ever seemed to pray fervently when I wanted a quick way out of trouble.)

I also recited aloud the topics covered in all 138 sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. (This is one of the four "standard works" of the Church. The other three are the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Pearl of Great Price.) Every month, the Calgary mission came up with a new set of scriptural trivia for the missionaries to memorize, and for February it happened to be the topics of each section of the D & C. I also sang the lyrics to a rather jazzy tune I was in the process of composing for my girlfriend Katrina, called "Turn Off the Storm." I wondered if Katrina would still love me now that I was a criminal.

After about half an hour of this stark raving boredom, the cell door opened. The female detective brought in a chair and closed the door behind her. She was still wearing the intensely short dress I'd been so hard-pressed not to notice earlier. (My guess was, she'd been posing undercover as a hooker.) Readying a pad of paper and a pen, she sat down in the chair opposite me. She told me was there to take a verbal confession from me.

This was when I really started to sweat. Not because of the confession, but because I was locked into a tiny room with a woman. Not just any woman, either, but one with killer legs almost one hundred percent on display. I hadn't been alone with a woman for close to six months. To say that this made me uncomfortable would be an understatement. I thought for sure I must be breaking some obscure mission rule just by her being there, regardless of the fact that I had no choice in the matter. (Can you say "unreasonable cultivation of guilt"? Can you say "Mormon legacy"?)

Of course, the detective was totally businesslike throughout my confession. When we were finished, she let me use the telephone again. But once more I couldn't reach anyone I knew. After assuring me that I'd be on my way downtown to the bail hearing soon, the detective gave me my own pad of paper and a pen, asked me if I wouldn't mind writing out yet another confession, and locked me back into the cell.

Well, this new confession kept me busy for a while longer, though I was damned if I could understand why I had to go through this all so many times. (It later turned out to be a way for the cops to check for consistency between separate tellings of my tale—a test to see if I would trip myself up, I guess.) But after a while I finished the new confession and signed it, and the female detective came and took it away, and I used the phone again, and again I got no answer, and then it was back to more waiting.

I was slowly going mad.

Then at about nine-thirty, the door to my cell burst open. An absolutely huge police officer filled the doorway. His nametag read "Officer Wolfe." He had dark hair and a mustache and shining eyes and a wide grin, and he said, loudly enough to shake the roof, "Elder! Looks like you got yourself in a little bit of trouble!"

“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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