Life’s mysteries


I have often thought that the way we get out of bed in the morning sets the tone of the day. Maybe it is our stars, the alignment of the moon during the night, or the way we approach another day with our early morning thoughts of what happened to us yesterday. Here is a story of one woman and two men and an incident in the forthcoming day. As is gentlemanly, I first introduce the woman.


Sophie Westford.

She is an ambitious twenty two year old who is temporarily working as a junior customs’ officer in the nearby international airport. Her present daily task is examining suspicious passengers’ luggage as they proceed through the hand baggage check on their way to their departing planes. The job is boring, tedious and she considers it below her capabilities. Spending the day with gloved hands going through peoples wash bags is not what one would call exciting. In three months she has been on the job she has found, twenty nail clippers, five toenail files, various bottle of suspect substances and a variety of other objects that could, with a stretch of the imagination, be considered dangerous. We wouldn’t mention the dirty underclothes, smelly stocks, and all those ridiculous items that people insist traveling with. She is bored, craving for the day when something exciting would happen.


She heard the alarm bell. As she turned over to stop it ringing, she was very tempted to roll over and continue sleeping. It had been a rotten evening; she needed some time to assess what was happening to her. Why not call in sick? She lay there thinking back on deception she had suffered by her current boy friend. He was the sort of man she had always imagined she would marry. He was tall, good looking, and funny with a charming habit of never taking things too seriously. They had been together for two years and she was convinced he was about to ask her to marry him.


He had just come back from a week’s climbing holiday with some male friends of his. In an excited voice she had gladly accepted his invitation to dinner at some posh restaurant. She remembered dressing carefully for the evening’s outing humming the old saying “ absence makes the heart grow fonder.” She sensed at their brief kiss in the restaurant’s entrance there was something wrong. They never got to the main course, the bastard told her that on his holiday he had fallen in love with another girl. She didn’t even stay to argue, plead, or punch him in the nose. She stormed out of the restaurant, went straight home and fell asleep crying.


Instead of falling back to sleep in a fit of misery she beat her hands on the pillowcase. “I will go to work and show the sod I don’t care.” This was said in a determined angry voice. She got out of bed in a foul mood, showered, covered her face with makeup to hide her swollen eyes and left for work.


Harry Denver.

He is Sophie Westford immediate boss. A senior custom’s officer in charge of the A section at the airport. Harry was middle aged, balding with an aggressive nature that had not helped him in his career. In fact he never understood why, at his age, he had not had the promotion he felt was long over due. He had four children, money was tight and on top of that his wife had an insatiable appetite for buying all the glossy magazines. He was always being bombarded with question like “ did you know Mr. so and so earned five millions last year, or Miss X announced she is having a baby?” It drove him mad. Not only did he think it was a waste of money but it gave him excruciating tinges of jealousy. It was as if his wife June was pointing a finger and saying I never read about you. Well last night he had laid down the law, no more ridiculous magazines. We haven’t the money. June had had the audacity to scream at him, then why don’t you earn more money? That night he slept in the lounge and left early for work in a thunderous mood.



Richard Dyer

He is an author, storyteller, and traveler with a tendency for living it up. He is comfortable married with no child. Little flirtations, ex-marital, were acceptable providing they were never brought up at the dinner table. At forty he is still a good looking chap with a full head of hair, bright blue eyes and an engaging smile that exposed gleaming white teeth. His success as an author, one might say, was satisfactory. His publisher was constantly surprised by the detail descriptions of his characters and human quality of his stories. Little did he suspect the author lacked the imagination to create all those personalities. Richard’s secret lay in a little invention he had spend time and money on developing. Not even his dear wife knew about it; if she had her esteem for him would have sunken to depth of repugnancy. The invention consisted of an attaché case with a powerful microphone sewn, with expert precision, into the seams of the top cover. It was so scientifically hidden that not even an airport x-ray machine would pick it up. Coupled with the microphone, he kept in his inside pocket a recording machine encased in a thin steel wallet that worked on a short wave radio frequency with the microphone. Richard Dyer’s ideas for his novels and stories came from sitting in airports or cafes listening in on other people’s conversations. Many of these conversations were of no interest but occasionally a jewel of human suffering; anguish and love came floating his way. The cellular phone had considerable increase the material for a novel or short story. Image hearing one-way conversations for which he had to complete the other half. Often he found himself laughing at his trade secret.


Today he was going to Geneva on a hunt for some new ideas. He thought he would stay over night and take Catherine, a recent conquest, out to dinner. He shaved carefully; dressed in a casual sport jacket and slacks. With care he placed a shirt, clean underclothes and a tie in his attaché case. He completed his packing with a couple of magazines and the beginning of his latest novel that he intended reviewing on the plane. Before leaving he made sure his recording machine had full batteries and that his shoes were polished. Finished, he went into the bedroom; kissed his sleepy wife goodbye and told her he would be back for dinner the next day. Closing the front door he was confronted with a glorious day; he skipped down the front steps feeling in a good mood.


The incident in which our characters early morning tone of the day played an important part and changed their lives.


Sophie and Harry arrived at the airport at the same time and met in the cafeteria where most of the staff usually took their early morning coffee.


“Morning Sophie, you don’t look so good.”


“I could say the same about you. My boy friend ditched me last night.”


“Ah! That’s too bad. Good looking girl like, don’t worry you will soon find another one.”


“ Well at the present I have not desires to go near a man, I could shoot them all”


In sympathy for her feelings he said. “ We all have are little problems, last night I had a row with my wife, she is obsessed with the glamour and glitter of the famous. Our house is full of stupid magazines we can ill afford. It bugs me off. Gosh, if I were younger and not tied down with family I would try and replace your boy friend.”


“Thanks Harry that cheers me up a bit.”


By this time the cafeteria had filled with the noise and bustle of the members of the early morning shift. Harry made his rounds and started pushing his employees out to their various posts. Once he saw every body was in their respective place he retired to his small office situated on one side of the three checking counters in Section A. The office had a large window overlooking the custom area enabling him to survey, at a distance, each of the three control areas. He made a point of making sure Sophie was on the station nearest to him. She was young and inexperienced; also an attractive view was never to be sneezed at. He noticed she was particularly agitated and dealt with most passengers in an off hand and aggressive manner. The customs procedure was simple: once a passenger had passed through the X-ray barrier it was up the three customers offices in each section to arbitrarily ask a passenger to step aside for a further control of their hand baggage or a frisking. Harry noticed that today Sophie targets seemed always to be younger men. He thought, no doubt, it was the effects of her last night’s drama. He was just about to leave his office and go and talk with his assistant at the far end of the area when he saw a good looking middle aged man come through Sophie’s barrier. An inter voice instinctively told him this could mean trouble. He walked to the door of his office in anticipation that Sophie would ask the passenger to step aside. His prediction was right.


“Please step aside, I would like to examine your attaché case.” Sophie voice was harsh and aggressive. Harry watched and made a mental note to talk to her about politely addressing passengers.


Mr. Smoothie stepped aside, a broad arrogant smile on his face.


“While you are at it I would love a body frisk.” This the passenger said with all the male chauvinism one could muster in a few words.


Sophie face started turning red.


“Passport, please.” Her words were loud and spoken with an irritated edge that caused a fellow officer to turn his head in her direction. He asked if everything was all right, to which she replied in the affirmative. The passenger handed it over in such away as she had to lean forward slightly to retrieve it. She opened it and read the name, Richard Dyer, author.


At this point he leaned forward and in a soft voice said. Good photograph don’t you think? Any chance we could meet one day?


Sophie could not believe her ears. Here in front of her was a male that represented to perfection all the things she detested in the opposite sex. She knew, on the occasional time this sort of conversation took place many of her colleagues laughed it off, some were even flattered. Mr. Smoothie had picked a bad day and definitely the wrong woman.


“Mr. Dyer, may be you have not noticed but you are speaking to a custom’s officer.” She paused in order to control her emotions. “I take great offence to your question and ask for an immediate apology.” In her fist she clenched his passport.


Richard Dyer stood there looking intently at this attractive woman who’s face was decidedly changing color with darken clouds of anger. He paused before replying, several refections rushed into his mind. He was not accustomed to been spoken to like that after a flirtatious move. He was tired of being controlled by these inferior customs’ individuals who thought they had some divine right over the traveling public. Third, all this woman needed was a smacked bottom and throwing on a bed, after that she would feel better. He looked at her hand gripping his passport.


“Oh! It was just a joke.” He said trying to calm her down.


“Well, Mr. Dyer if that it what you call a joke then I feel sorry for you. Wait there I am going to call my boss.” She turned and moved towards Harry’s office.


Although it was only a whisper, anybody in the near vicinity would have heard it, “silly bitch.”


Sophie turned, she saw Richard Dyer with a fatuous smile on his face. She nearly made the mistake of leaping at the man with her fists flying. Instead under a storm of hatred she walked the few remaining steps to Harry office. Harry was at his door.


“Sophie, you needn’t explain I hear everything. Give me his passport and come with me.”


They both returned the short distance and stood in front of Richard Dyer. Before Harry could speak Richard Dyer in a haughty voice said.


“Good, at least I am in front of someone who, no doubt, has some authority. I want to file a complaint. This young, inexperienced woman is harassing me for no well founded reason.”


Now it was Harry’s turn to see red. The famous Harry Denver’s hot temper was on the boil. What’s more the man was an author no doubt privileged to be written up in one of his wife’s hideous magazines. Before he spoke an inner voice said, “Calm yourself Harry, may be we can really stick it to this idiot.”


“Sir, my assistant was only asking to inspect your attaché case. She has every right to control it. Follow me to my office.” Having said this he turned, and accompanied by Sophie made his way back to his office. Richard had no option but to follow, as he did so he slipped his right hand into his inside pocket and switched on his recording machine. At the entrance Harry stopped, turned, and asked Richard for his attaché case, telling him to remain outside the office’s door. Once inside he moved to the far side of the room and placed the case on a table. He then turned his back to the door and asked Sophie to do likewise. Carefully he opened the case and swiftly examined the contents, as he suspected there was nothing suspicious. He turned his head towards Sophie and in a soft voice said.


“ This case is clean, but the guy is a bastard of the first order. Let’s give him a lesson he won’t forget. Much to Sophia’s amazement he took out a knife and ripped the inter lining of the lid of the attaché case. He then went over to his desk and unlocked the middle draw. Carefully he took out a two small files containing a white substance. Turning to Sophie he told her to ask Richard Dyer to come in.


The first thing Richard noticed was his opened attaché case with the torn lining. Before he could say anything Harry spoke.


“Mr. Dyer we have a problem. My colleague Sophie Westford had every reason to ask you to open your case.” At this point he opened his hand to revile the two files. “What are these?”


Richard Dyer stood there flabbergasted; this was better than any novel he had ever written. Before he spoke he wallowed in the sheer ecstasy of the moment. Then with all the arrogance and cockiness he could muster, he said.


“Well, how interesting, I have a little surprise for you both.”


He started to reach into his inside pocket to pull out his recording machine. In a flash Harry thought he was reaching for a gun. It only took him a perfectly landed blow to chin to knock the bastard cold. As he fell to the floor Harry was on top of him like a lion in for the kill. Within seconds he had retrieved the thin metal case clutched in Richard’s hand. As he examined it he immediately realized it was a recording machine. He switched it on.


The two customs’ officers stood back as they heard the recording of Harry’s voice whispering to Sophie. Sophie looked at Harry with fear in her eyes.


Harry merely said. “ More of a bastard than I thought he was.”


He opened the machine and removed the tape, shred it into bit and burnt it in his ashtray, and then replaced the emptied machine in Richard’s inside pocket just as the prostrate form on the floor was starting to groan. He looked at Sophie; nodded his head and raised his eyebrows. Without saying anything he took the telephone and called the frontier police.


“ This is Harry Denver, senior customs’ officer at section A. I am holding a drug trafficker suspect in my office. I suggest you come quickly.


Once the Police and reports had examined the scene it was obvious Harry and his young assistant had acted with “ sang froid” and there was no doubt, given the circumstances, the recording machine could have been mistaken for a gun. That night in the local evening paper the headline news read:


“In their line of duty two customer offices put there lives at risk to apprehend a drug trafficker.”


Harry’s wife was in seventh heaven. Two weeks later Harry received the long awaited for promotion. Sophie’s boy friend called her pleading for reconciliation.


Richard, accompanied by a high priced lawyer was hauled in front of a judge. He was sentenced to eighteen months probation with the obligation to attend a three weeks drug abuse disintoxication program.


Several months later Richards Dyer’s latest novel reached the best sellers list.


short stories
An Unusual Request
Bewitched and be wildered
A cry from the heart
Fate played a devilish hand
Frustration with a capital F
A roll of the dice
Living in the shadow of death
A lesson well learnt
The wedding
A pleasant ride, a pleasant talk
Sweet revenge
Drum beat, heartbeat
Skin deep
They came, they left no trace
The window cleaner
A delayed meeting
Hold on tight
In the name of my parents
Strange events
Sequel to Frustration with a capital F
A strange and beautiful love affair
The doll's dilemma, a chage of style
The poster hanger - It had to happen
They had nothing in common
A misplaced letter
Life's mysteries
An ode to cheese
The marshes
Waiting in vain
Day follows day
Sounds of the future
The dream of flight

writing in Paris, copyright 2005