Chapter 30: Inquiring Minds Want to Know


On Monday, March 9, I heard from my father that he had transferred a healthy sum of money from my savings account to my checking account—so Snow and his new companion Elder Hering and I drove downtown to get my fine paid.

A word about Elder Hering, and about threesomes in general. Anticipating the fact that I would soon be leaving the mission, President Tuttle had transferred Elder Hering into Calgary to be the third leg of our temporarily three-legged companionship. Elder Hering was a small fellow with a pinched, intense face. He was in his late twenties, far older than most male missionaries. He was also only a few months from going home, and he had never been a senior companion. To be subordinate to Snow, a district leader who had been out only six months, must have been a bitter pill for him. Hering had served in the U.S. Army—but they certainly hadn't taught him much in the way of hygiene there. He showered only rarely, and his garments had somehow gone from pristine white to pencil-lead gray.

Threesomes are strange things. I've been in a couple of them, and they don't often work very well. If you think that two Mormon missionaries on your doorstep is an imposing sight, then try three. And then there are the interpersonal relations. Sometimes two of the elders will get on well, leaving the third out in the cold. Sometime two elders will hate each other, leaving the third stuck in the middle.

Of course, sometimes all three get along pretty well—and this is what happened with Snow, Hering, and me. At least that's how it seemed to me. But more about that later.

After writing a check in U.S. funds from my American checking account and depositing it in my Canadian checking account, we all went to the courthouse. There, at an unimposing little frosted-glass window with a speaker grille, I wrote the biggest check I've ever written in my life—two thousand dollars Canadian. At the exchange rate of the time, that came out to a little over sixteen hundred U.S. dollars—still more than any check I've ever written.

There was surprisingly little fanfare to the whole exchange. I wrote the check and passed it to the unimpressed woman behind the glass, who passed me back a little bit of cash-register tape—my receipt. I still have that receipt tucked away somewhere, just an innocuous little strip of paper with a $2,000 total at the bottom. No indication that this was money being offered in payment of a fine that was ordered as a result of a felony conviction. Just a dumb old receipt.

I think I've been gypped in the memento department.

I felt rather empty leaving the courthouse—a little sick, even—but it wasn't many days hence when my father received a check from Loren Reed. Reed had gone out and solicited donations for my mission fund, as he had promised, and sent my father something around $2,150 in Canadian funds.

We turned a profit.

Don't ever tell me that crime doesn't pay.

But I digress. Back to March 9th.

Later in the day I was summoned to President Tuttle's office. He had received an envelope from Salt Lake City. Inside were my transfer papers—my destiny, my fate. I opened the envelope with trembling fingers, and out came another disappointment. I was on my way to the Washington Spokane Mission. I would fly there on the upcoming Thursday.

Ripped off again. With the entire United States to choose from, I was being sent to what struck me as the least exotic place in the whole country. I'd wanted to see the East Coast, or the South, or New England. Instead, I was staying in the West.

But I smothered my disappointment. President Tuttle congratulated me and told me I would be missed, and then Snow and Hering and I went on our way.

My immigration inquiry was scheduled for the next day. The way it had been explained to me, the inquiry would be conducted much like a trial, with an adjudicator, a prosecutor, and a defender. I would be permitted to have counsel present, or I could serve as my own defender.

Snow, Hering, and I arrived at the Canada Immigration building a few minutes before the inquiry was scheduled to begin. We were shown to a small room paneled in acoustic tile and harshly lit by fluorescents. A small dais rose at one end of the room, and two tables, each fitted with a microphone, faced it. The adjudicator was in the room already, and he told us that my companions could only remain if they were going to function as counsel. I said they were, and we all seated ourselves at the defense table.

When the prosecutor, an Immigration agent whom I will call Agent Q, arrived with his assistant, the adjudicator called the inquiry to order. He explained from the start that I would definitely have to leave Canada, having been convicted of a felony as a resident alien. The purpose of the inquiry was to determine how I would leave the country—whether I would be deported or simply receive a departure notice. Deportation would mean being forcibly placed on a plane back to the United States, never being able to return to Canada again, and possibly being denied entrance to other foreign countries on the basis of my immigration record. A departure notice would mean being politely asked by the government to leave of my own free will by a certain date, and then being eligible to apply for reentry three years from the date of my conviction.

Needless to say, the departure notice sounded best to me.

The adjudicator next outlined the course the inquiry was to take. First, each side would present its case. Next, each side would provide a brief summation of its arguments. Finally, each side would make a recommendation as to the disposition of the case.

The prosecution was to go first in each phase of the inquiry. Agent Q, as investigating agent, had researched the case well, and presented more facts about my crime than I knew myself. I didn't have much to add when it came to be my turn to speak, other than to stress the extenuating circumstances in my case—circumstances which had led Judge Fether to sentence me to time served and to state that he believed I would never be in trouble with the law again. I also pointed out that the Church had already made plans to transfer me back to the United States for the completion of my mission, and that I would be leaving for Spokane in two days—setting my back to Canada, as it were.

The prosecutor gave his summation, after which I gave mine—and unintentionally jumped the gun. "On the basis of these facts," I said, "I move that I be issued a departure notice."

"You've spoken out of turn," said the adjudicator. "Your recommendation is not supposed to come until after the prosecution have made theirs."

Agent Q, who had just catalogued all my sins in a harsh and unemotional way, stood up at that point and said, "Your Honor, my recommendation, on the basis of the facts I've presented, is . . . well, also for a departure notice."

The adjudicator raised his eyebrows. "Both sides seem to concur," he said. "I find in favor of a departure notice then. The defendant is required to return to the United States by this no later than this March fourteenth, this coming Saturday. Case closed."

The inquiry complete, I spent a rather pleasant half-hour with Agent Q as he drew up the requisite paperwork. Contrary to the hardline image he had projected during the inquiry, he was very friendly and affable sort of guy, and he wanted to hear all about my experience in jail. "You know," he said, "I have to go down to the jail all the time in my line of work. Every time those doors slam shut behind me, I get the eeriest feeling in the world, even though I know I'm only a visitor. I don't like being locked up. I can't imagine what it must have been like for you, not knowing whether or not you were even going to get out."

When the papers were finished, Agent Q shook my hand and wished me luck in Spokane. Quite a nice fellow.

As I left the building with Snow and Hering, I reflected that the Church had beat Canada Immigration to the punch. Elder Rex Reeve had told me that they didn't want my "criminal reputation" in Alberta to interfere with my missionary work, which was certainly a logical reason for transferring me. But the fact that I was already planning to leave the country on my own was undoubtedly a benefit to me in the inquiry. It meant I would be able to visit Canada again someday.

The three-year limit has long since expired, and I must confess that I haven't yet done the paperwork necessary for readmittance. It's a huge mess of red tape, and it involves seeking a pardon from the Canadian government. One of these days, I'll get around to doing it all.

Until then . . . well, there are worse places to be than the United States of America. That's for damn sure.

“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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