Chapter 21: Gag Me with an Elevator


When all the bail determinations were finished, we were taken back to our cells, this time by a more direct route. Then there was another eternity to suffer through before my papers were finally processed and I could leave.

At one point, a guard came to the cell and unlocked the door—but he had come for Hard Guy, not for me.

It seemed like hours went by. Lunch came, which I don't remember very clearly. It seems as if we were served chipped beef on toast—or "shit on a shingle," as some call it—but I may be remembering incorrectly. What I do recall clearly is my cellmates having a serious lunchtime debate over whether the liquid in the styrofoam cups was meant to be coffee or tea. No one could make an authoritative determination.

I was only partway through my abominable meal when another guard came to the door of the cell. "Shunn!" he called. "Let's go!"

"Yes!" I said. I pushed my plate over to the fellow next to me. "Here, finish this. I'm outta here!"

And this time I really was. Sort of.

Tag from bag of personal effects
A facsimile of the tag from the bag that held my personal effects.
The guard took me back out to that old familiar upstairs waiting area. I signed some papers at the processing counter, and my personal effects were all returned to me in a big plastic bag. A tag wired to the bag identified the contents as mine. "Okay, that's it," said the cop behind the counter. "I'll buzz you through that door over there. Then you'll go to the end of the hall and take a right, and you'll find an elevator there that'll take you down to the lobby. Then you're free."

Ah, the beauty of freedom. Just take the elevator down, hop in President Tuttle's car, and off I would go, free. I could taste the sweetness of it already.

The exit door buzzed, and I opened it. I walked down a hall filled with offices, then took a right as I had been instructed. The elevator was straight ahead, as advertised.

As I entered the small lounge area in which the elevator was situated, I saw that Hard Guy was sitting there on a chrome-and-vinyl couch. There were two women with him, one to either side. He had an arm around each one. The women were dressed more provocatively than my lady detective had been the previous night, and their make-up and hairdos fairly screamed out the name of the world's oldest profession! I was suddenly very curious to know what Hard Guy had been picked up for.

(I'm not being sarcastic there at all. Prostitution is legal in Alberta, as long as tricks aren't actively solicited. If you want some, you have to make the approach yourself.)

As I pressed the button to summon the elevator car, Hard Guy leaned over and whispered something to one of the women. She giggled. He was smiling nastily. I wondered what he had said.

The elevator arrived. I stepped into the car, eager to be gone, and pressed the button for the lobby. Just as the elevator doors began to close, the woman whom Hard Guy had whispered to yelled, "Look out! There's a bomb in the elevator!"

I turned red. The elevator doors closed, cutting off the miscreant trio's cruel laughter.

When I exited the elevator, I found myself on the street side of the Remand Center (rather than on the alley side, where I had entered the previous evening). The lobby I faced was wide and vast, with at least a dozen couches and twice as many employees servicing visitors from behind a long marble counter. I looked around, trying to spot President Tuttle, but I couldn't see him. By the clock on the wall it was just past one in the afternoon.

I found a restroom where I could put on my tie, my belt, and my name tag—all of which were wadded up in the plastic bag I carried with me. When I emerged a few minutes later, looking only somewhat more respectable, there was still no sign of President Tuttle.

This was beginning to annoy me. Where in the world was he?

I dug some coins out of my plastic bag and found a pay phone. I dialed up the mission office. "Canada Calgary Mission," said an elderly voice. "Elder Eby speaking. May I help you?"

Besides young elders and sisters, there is a third class of missionaries to whom you have not yet been introduced—senior couples. When they reach retirement age, most older couples in the L.D.S. Church are strenuously encouraged to serve missions together—though relatively few of them actually go. The few who do are generally not held to the same long proselyting hours as the younger missionaries, and sometimes they are called to work as office staff. This was the case with Elder and Sister Eby, a sweet old couple who hailed from somewhere rural, to judge from their hayseed accents.

"Elder Eby, this is Elder Shunn," I said. "Do you know where President Tuttle is?"

"Well, he just went out to lunch, I believe."

"What do you mean, he just went out to lunch? I thought he was here, waiting to pick me up."

"Where exactly are you, Elder Shunn?"

I tried not to let my frustration show. "I'm downtown. I just got out of jail. There's no one here to pick me up."

"It's good you got out, Elder. Are you doing okay?"

"I'm fine, but I'm stranded here with no one to pick me up."

"Well," said Elder Eby, "all I know is that President Tuttle came back after your hearing because they said it would take some time to get you all processed and released. He's really a very busy man, you know, Elder Shunn. There are a lot of things that demand his attention. We still have a leadership conference going on, you know."

I sagged against the phone. "Is there anyone else there who can come get me?"

"I'm the only one here, and I have to stay and man the phones. I'll send someone down as soon as I can, though."

"Okay. Thanks very much, Elder Eby."

Bomb threat sends crews into action
Photo from the front page of the Calgary Herald City Section, February 24, 1987. Click for more.
I hung up. I was still in jail, if you stretch the meaning of the word to include not being able to get to where you want to be.

I had no idea how long it would be until someone came for me, and I didn't dare take a bus to the office because I might not get there until someone had already left to come and get me. To kill time, I walked down the street and bought a copy of the Calgary Herald, which I took back to the lobby of the Remand Center to read.

There it was, on the front page of the Herald's City section—a huge color photo of a jetliner sitting on a runway at the Calgary Airport. It was nearing sunset in the picture; a ruddy radiance bathed the long line of fire engines and police cars parked behind the plane. There wasn't a full story with the photo, just a lengthy caption, which read as follows:

Bomb threat sends crews into action
Emergency vehicles lined up behind a ... plane which was delayed 1½ hours at Calgary International Airport Monday night because of a bomb threat. The flight, with 118 passengers listed, was bound for the U.S. No bomb was found in a police search. Donald William Shunn, 19, of the 3100 block of Heritage Dr. S.E., was charged with public mischief in the incident.
I was stunned. I was outraged. I was frightened. What business did the papers have printing my address? What if some psycho who'd been on the plane decided to track me down and exact vengeance for the delayed flight?

 Article: 'Bomb threat a hoax'
Article from Calgary Sun, February 24, 1987. Click for more.
I went back out to the newspaper machines and bought a copy of the Calgary Sun, the city's other daily. The Herald was a respectable paper. The Sun was little better than a tabloid, with breathless, exclamatory headlines and a girl in skimpy lingerie every day on page three (in full color on Sundays). I found my story—"Bomb threat a hoax"—back on the seventh or eighth page. The Sun article gave my exact address.

Disgusted, I sat in the lobby fuming for the better part of an hour, until Elder Eby wandered through the front doors looking bewildered and rather lost.

“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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