Chapter 9: The Mounties Get Their Man

            

Now, before we go any farther, I should perhaps clarify a couple of things. First, you should know that, when I phoned in my bomb threat, I never expected that Elder Finn's flight would experience anything more than short delay. I admit that I was thinking no farther ahead than President Tuttle's arrival at the airport (which, as far as I knew as I stood there in the sterile Customs area, still had not occurred), but it still seemed to me that the delay would be relatively insignificant—no more than half an hour, in any event.

Second, I made the call less than half an hour before the flight was due to leave. Where would you have pictured the airplane with less than half an hour until takeoff? My thoughts exactly! The plane was surely on the runway, perhaps taking on luggage, maybe preboarding a few passengers! As it turned out, this was not the case, but I'm sure you can understand my thinking. (And yes, this point will become quite important later on in the story. Persevere!)

It was six straight up as my new friend Constable X led me through the Customs area and into a dim passage away from the corridors leading to the boarding gates. We entered a small but comfortable office a short way down this passage. Farther down the passage I spotted a sign that read: "Calgary Police Department, Airport Precinct."

The constable's office was dim, with dark blue-gray walls. A man was just sitting down at a typewriter stand beside the constable's desk as we entered. This fellow gave me a baleful look and muttered something about how it should have been time for him to be going home, thank me very much. The constable waved me to a chair, then seated himself behind the desk.

I knew I was in trouble.

It was only instinct telling me this, not logic (my higher functions were short-circuited for the time being, as you have seen), but I later reasoned out what my instincts were telling me. Two unlikely events happen within a half-hour of each other—some nut calls in a bomb threat on a flight to Salt Lake City, and some Mormon missionary shows up at the Customs gate with a cockamamie story about another missionary running away. These incidents aren't related? Yeah, right. That and a nickel won't get you a cup of joe at the donut shop next door to the precinct. Coincidences happen, sure, but this? I was right to be nervous.

"Now, Mister, ah--?" said Constable X.

"Shunn," I said. "Elder Shunn, actually. I'm an ordained minister."

"I see," said the constable. "Now, could you tell me what you told the Customs people out at the gate, please?"

So I rehashed the bit about Finn wanting to leave his mission and so on and so forth. The constable listened attentively, while the man at the typewriter took notes.

"So then," said the constable when I had finished, "you've been in contact with people from your . . . mission?"

I nodded slowly. "Yes, I have."

"And how did you contact them?"

"Well . . . by phone."

"Ah, I see." Constable X stroked his neat little mustache and looked at the desktop. "And you called them from here? From the airport?"

I didn't speak for a moment. "Yes."

"Mm-hmm. And . . . did you make any other calls from the airport here this evening?"

I shook my head with false nonchalance. "No." Then again, more decisively: "No."

The constable pursed his lips. "Perhaps I should inform you that we're currently conducting a criminal investigation here at the airport—a serious criminal investigation. Now, if there were any way you could help us resolve the matter at hand, any information you could give us that would help clarify things, I'm certain that all of us involved would be very grateful, and that the fact that you helped us out would be remembered." He spoke matter-of-factly, never raising his voice. "Now, may I ask again if you made any other phone calls this evening?"

And in a small voice I said: "Yes, I did." Because I knew he knew, and it just didn't seem that there was anything else to do.

"How many?"

"Just one."

He leaned forward, seeming more interested now. "May I ask who you called?"

I sighed. "Western Air Cargo," I said.

"I see. And what did you say to them?"

Somewhat resentful of the careful questioning, I said, "I think you already know what I said to them."

Constable X shook his head. "I need to hear it from you," he said.

I sighed again. "I said, 'There's a bomb in a suitcase on Flight 789.'"

The constable showed neither surprise nor satisfaction. "I see. And is there, in fact, a bomb on that flight?"

"Not as far as I know," I said.

He shook his head sadly. "You know," he said, "if you had come forward immediately with this information, it might have made some difference. But now things have gone too far for that. Do you realize that, even as we speak, there's an airplane out on that runway from which a hundred passengers have been removed, while crews with bomb-detection equipment and dogs go over every inch of it? There are a dozen police cars out there, and a half-dozen fire engines, and I don't know how many men, and even though I'm reasonably certain now that there really isn't a bomb, it's too late to call off the search. Most of those passengers are going to miss their connecting flights, and the cost to the airline is going to be huge. That's what you've done."

He sighed, apologetically almost, and said: "And now I'm afraid I'm going to have to place you under arrest."

“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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