Chapter 13: (Things Will Be Great When You're) Downtown


I knew immediately that this great bear of a police officer was a member of the Church—it was obvious from the familiar way he called me "Elder." But, unwilling by this time to believe that something good might finally be happening to me, I went ahead and asked the dumb question anyway: "You're a member?"

"Of course!" roared this good-humored giant. He seemed to be having a hard time keeping from laughing. "I'm Officer Wolfe. I heard what was going on with you, and I had to come back in make sure you were being taken care of right!" Then his demeanor changed to concern. "How are you holding up?"

"Pretty good, I guess," I said, but my voice betrayed me by quavering—and I started to cry.

Well, Officer Wolfe turned out to be just as cuddly as he looked. He gave me a big hug while I let it all out. Then we talked about things for a few minutes, and Wolfe laughed and laughed. When he found out that no one from the mission knew I was in jail, though, he took me to one of the offices across the hall. "Do you want to call your mission president yourself, or would you rather I did it for you?" he asked.

"I've been trying all evening, and I haven't been able to get him," I said. "But if he's there—yeah, I'd rather have you talk to him first."

Wolfe asked for the president's name, and found his home number in the phone book. I, of course, had not known President Tuttle's home number offhand, or I might have tried it earlier. Wolfe had Tuttle on the phone in short order.

"President," said the officer, relaxing in his chair, "this is Officer Wolfe of the Calgary Police Department calling. Are you missing one of your elders? . . . Well, don't worry. I've got him right here in my office with me. Yes, he's fine . . . but I'm afraid we've got him in custody. . . . Public mischief. . . . Well, it seems he was trying to keep his companion's plane from leaving on schedule so you could get there to talk to the guy—by calling in a bomb threat to the airline. . . ." He couldn't keep the amusement out of his voice. "Pretty creative thinking, wouldn't you say? . . . Yeah, what's going to happen is, he's being taken downtown to the Remand Center pretty soon, and he's going to go up in front of a bail magistrate. There shouldn't be any problem, as long as someone's there who can post bail. . . . Shouldn't be all that serious, no. . . . Mm-hmm . . . Just a second." Wolfe covered the mouthpiece. "Do you want to talk to him?"

I nodded, and Wolfe passed me the phone. "Hello?" I said timidly.

"Elder Shunn," said President Tuttle in a friendly, warm way. "Are you okay?"

"Uh-huh." I managed to say it without starting to cry again.

"Are you scared?"


"Don't worry about anything. I understand why you did what you did, and it was a good thing you were trying to do. You may have gone about it the wrong way, but I know your heart was in the right place. We're going to get you out of there, don't worry. I'll be downtown for your bail hearing, and I'll bring Elder Snow with me."


"You hang in there, Elder Shunn. You're going to be just fine."

"All right."

I passed the phone back to Officer Wolfe, who spoke with President Tuttle for a bit more, then hung up. Then I had to go back to my cell.

Fortunately, it wasn't long before the detectives came for me again. By now it was pushing ten, and I was plenty worried about making a bail hearing in time. I mean, how late did the things run?

"Don't worry," said the male detective when I asked. "The hearings will still be going on by the time we get there, and for some time after that."

Officer Wolfe was there as the detectives escorted me out of the precinct, wishing me luck. I hated leaving him behind, because I have to admit that I felt safer with him around.

We followed the same drill as before—walk between the detectives, be good, follow instructions, don't bolt, and no cuffs. I climbed into the back seat of the car. The streets were quiet, and it took no more than ten minutes to get downtown. Once there, we drove down a narrow alley behind a gigantic concrete block of a building, at least five stories on a side. We parked near some other police vehicles, then got out of the car. I looked up. We were deep in the alley, and there was only a narrow strip of dark sky high above—five stories high, to be exact. The feeling was claustrophobic. It was like being at the bottom of a canyon cut through rock by a tiny stream over eons of time.

We were finally downtown—that magical destination the name of which people had spoken in reverent tones all evening—that El Dorado, that Xanadu, where everything was going to be made right. At last.

The detectives led me into the building through a heavy door with a small barred window. Inside, the light was dim and buttery. There was a service window to one side, protected by a strong chain-link screen, and beyond that a storage area. The detectives and I both had to fill out papers at the window, and I had to hand over my wallet, my watch, my belt, and all the contents of my pockets to the duty officer there. My cash and change were counted and noted, and then I had to sign the listing of my personal effects. The duty officer sealed them all in a big plastic bag, to which he then clipped a tag. The bag was filed in one of the many rows of pigeonholes behind him.

Then the detectives wished me good luck, and they were gone. Another officer, this one not friendly at all, led me down a couple of dim hallways, then unlocked a whitewashed door that opened into a painfully bright area with a couple of benches, some lounging guards, and a few rooms leading off into who knew where. We went though this area to a barred gate that led into a short row of cells. Through the new gate we went, and then down the row a short distance to a rather large holding cell, maybe twenty feet by twelve, fronted entirely by whitewashed bars.

There were benches attached to the side and back walls of the cell. In the corner was a metal partition, screening a toilet. A light bulb in a mesh cage burned overhead. The walls were dingy white.

There were four or five folks already in the cell. Lovely people—really. Ragged clothing, dirty faces, bad hair, beard stubble, ranging in age from what looked like sixteen to maybe forty. They were all smoking cigarettes. They all looked mean.

And they all looked at me with what seemed to be hostility as I—with my clean clothes, clean nails, clean face, and neat haircut—was locked into the cell with them. I felt like a lamb chucked willy-nilly into a den of hungry wolves.

If I still had any illusions about this being Kansas . . .

“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!

Powered by Movable Type 4.38