512 Words


M. Stanley Bubien

I leaned on the empty table and waited, surrounded by decaying brick walls and a locked steel door. The sun shone through holes in the ceiling, and I took it in---it'd been days since I'd seen it---passing the time in recollection.

"Cooperate," my lawyer had advised in a hissing, tinny voice over the telephone.

"No problem---I'll do anything to get out of here," I replied. "They're sending an American, right? I don't trust these Ecuadoreans. Nothing I say matters unless I grease their palms too."

He chucked through the static, saying in the humorless voice of experience, "Things never change."

I liked this guy. He knew what he was doing. After the policia dragged me from my hotel and tossed me into preventive detention seven months ago, my wife scrambled for the best legal help. But, I admit, at first I balked at the expense.

"Damn it, I'm innocent," I told her on her first visit. " I don't need the world's-greatest lawyer. There were no drugs in my room. They have no evidence."

"What if they find some?"

"There isn't any to find!"

"What about Castillon? Do you know him that well? If he is a smuggler, you're guilty by association."

In my naivete, I nearly said no---that was six months ago, before I'd been fully indoctrinated into Third World justice. But when she looked at me, I saw something in her eyes. Fear.

"Hire him," I sighed. "But no vacation next year." She had almost laughed at that. Almost.

The steel door squeaked. Two agents, James and Smith, reentered my cell.

Smith dropped my statement on the table, but instead of patting my back as he had earlier, he smacked his lips and said, "You need to do better than this, Tom."


"You did guarantee cooperation."

"I've told you everything!" I said, voice cracking with surprise. "I even authorized you to access my accounts."

He glanced at Smith, who replied, "Yes, Mr. Gordon, but this is about Castillon. Not you. We need a conviction. You can give that to us. And, frankly," he bent slowly forward and pushed the paper toward me, "Unless you cooperate, our hands are tied in this matter."

I lifted the statement. "The truth is all here."

He turned to James and nodded. James put his hand on my shoulder, saying, "Tom. Mr. Smith and I have explained our situation to you. Think about it."

The iron door clanked loudly as it locked behind them.

"Damn!" I screamed. "Damn! Damn! Damn!"

I wanted out. But, what was I supposed to do? Lie?

I had a cold sensation. I jumped up and paced, but could only take four or five steps before hitting a wall. "Damn!" I cried again, and slumped into my chair.

The paper stared at me, full of deeds I'd described. And there, half-covered by it, sat the pen.

Was there anything I'd left out?

I reached for the pen. Stopped.


If only I could think...

I reached for the pen.

The sun beat upon me through the ceiling.

Copyright ©1997 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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September, 1997
Issue #17

512 Words