Chapter 19: If Justice Is Blind, Then It's Really Missing Out!


Shortly after breakfast was over, and after all our used utensils had been collected and carted away with the rest of the garbage, a guard came to the door of the cell and called my name. "You've got a visitor," he said.

My heart leapt. Maybe Elder Snow had made it in to see me after all!

The guard unlocked the door and led me around a few corners to a small visitation room—where I was to be disappointed once again. Waiting for me inside the room was a man wearing a neat beard and a fairly nice suit. He stood up when I entered. "Who are you?" I asked as the guard locked us in the small room together.

I have forgotten his name in the time since, but the fellow introduced himself as an agent from Canada Immigration. "We're notified every time a foreign national is arrested on our soil," he said. "I've come to explain a few things to you, and to inform you of what the consequences of this little . . . incident of yours may be."

We seated ourselves at opposite sides of the small table that took up much of the room. "Mr. Shunn," he went on, "you're currently a guest of our country, here on a work authorization. The fact that you have been charged with a serious crime puts your status as a legal alien resident in jeopardy. A final determination of your future status in Canada won't be made, however, until after you've gone to trial."

He paused, giving me a significant look. "Which brings us to the matter at hand. You have a bail hearing this morning at ten-thirty. There is a certain possibility that you'll be released on bail and then be free until your trial. Once free, you may feel that your best course of action will be to run home to the United States, in order to avoid the possibility of going to prison.

"I'm here to urge you very strongly to stay in Canada until your trial.

"If you should happen to leave the country, and thus do not show up for your trial, there will probably be no legal recourse for the Canadian government. You will have gotten away clean. However, a warrant will be issued for your arrest in this country, and if you ever attempt to enter Canada again, and if your name if checked against out computerized records—which would be a gamble on your part, because we don't always check—then you would be taken into custody on the spot, and you would be treated not just as a terrorist but as an international fugitive from justice."

The agent's monologue had taken on a hostile edge, one that completely bewildered me and certainly did nothing to endear him to me. I mean, there I was, not even tried yet and being taken to task for crimes I hadn't even thought of committing yet! "However it happens," he continued, "an arrest under those circumstances would be extremely bad news for you. If you were traveling alone, then no one would have any idea what happened to you. If you were traveling with friends, you would be very embarrassed in front of them. The bottom line is that it's in your own best interest to stay in Calgary until your trial."

I refrained from asking him what made him think I would have wanted to come back to his crummy country anyway. "Listen," I said, "I plan to stay. I'm not exactly stupid or uneducated. I have important work to do in Calgary, and I'm not about to go running away from it." (See how well I had learned my lessons?)

The agent seemed taken aback. I guess he had grown too accustomed to dealing with subliterates. He tried to do some hurried backpedaling. "Well, all I came here to do was to apprise you of the possible consequences of any of your actions, as the law requires."

"Is that all you have to tell me?" I asked.

"Uh, yes," he said. "Unless you have any questions."

"Yes," I said. "If I'm found guilty in my trial, what then? Am I going to have to leave Canada?"

"There would be an inquiry by Immigration to determine that—but the chances of it are pretty good."

Damn. "Okay, that's all I wanted to know," I said, standing up. Then one more question hit me. "Oh, by the way, would you happen to know what time it is?"

Nonplussed, he looked at his expensive watch. "It's about five minutes to nine," he said.

"Thanks." I knocked on the door, and the guard opened it up.

"Hey," said the immigration agent. "Good luck at the hearing."

Now I was nonplussed. "Uh, thanks," I said. Then the guard escorted me back to my cell.

An hour and a half until the bail hearing. It seemed like years left to go.

After lounging for another half-hour or forty-five minutes, though, I heard a guard come down the hall announcing something about free legal aid. Most of the inmates in the cell stood up or swung off their bunks. A big line began forming in the corridor. The guard unlocked our cell. "Whoever wants or needs it, come on."

I wasn't sure exactly what was going on, but I joined the line nevertheless. If nothing else, it was something to break up the monotony of imprisonment. After a minute or two, the long line of us moved off down the corridor. We emerged a short time later into the waiting area with the counter where I had given up my belt, tie, and name tag the night before.

One by one, my fellow inmates were beckoned and led into small rooms, from which they would emerge a few minutes later. I sat on a bench and waited. After a long wait, my own name was called.

I was led down a hall a short distance and then into a small consultation room. The door closed behind me. There was a table in the room, and seated on the other side of it was a petite and terribly attractive young brown-haired woman, dressed in a conservative business suit. I could have stood there staring at her all day, but she indicated the empty chair and I sat down. "What is your name?" she asked.

"Donald William Shunn the Second," I answered, a bit nervously.

She shuffled through the papers on the table in front of her.

"Can I ask you something?" I said.

Her shuffling stopped and she gave me an aggrieved look. "What?"

"What exactly is this all about? What am I here for?"

She took a deep breath, as if annoyed by the fact that she had to deal with idiots like me. "I'm a law student at the University of Calgary," she said. "We come here for practice, giving legal counsel to people who need it."

"Now, then," I said, "I already have a lawyer. Does that mean I don't need to talk to you?"

"That's right," she said, clearly unhappy with the way this was going.

I stood up. "That's what I thought," I said, "but I wasn't quite sure. I'm sorry I wasted your time." I paused at the door. "It was worth it to get out of the cell for a few minutes, though, and to see a friendly face in this rotten place."

Not that she had been friendly up to that point—but she was smiling as the guard opened the door to let me out. "Glad to help," she said.

As I was taken back to the cell, I reflected that in some ways it was unfortunate that I had private counsel.

“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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