Being Inspired, maybe - 113

A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, then, the words:

I walked slowly out of the VIP lounge and joined the throng of passengers heading towards the disembarkation point.

That it lacked organization and that there were a number of Chinese all trying to get off as quickly as possible, causing a degree of orderly panic helped.

As a Chinese lady towing her son brushed past me abruptly, I saw Nancy out of the corner of my eye, allowing the throng to push her towards me.

Plan c, of a dozen.  In the unlikely event of a search, pass off the USB to her.  She had, as far as I was aware, several avenues for getting the USB ashore, or anywhere given a situation like this.

I had moved suddenly sideways and backward, in anticipation of someone getting too close using the crowded semi-panic conditions to pick my pocket, just thwarting a hand as it reached out, not of the woman but the child.

It elicited a glare from the child when he realized I was on to him, but by then that part of the crowd had moved on.

A hand on my back signified Nancy had reached me, and a glance sideways saw her from and then the passing of the USB.  Then as quickly she was so in me she was gone.

I looked for her, but she had disappeared.

No time to worry about that, she had her instructions and her methods.

I continued to be swept towards the exit, taking about six or seven minutes before I was going down the range at to a checkpoint where there were at least a dozen soldiers and four men in suits.

Most of the Chinese were given a cursory check, but the Europeans were being taken to one side and given a more thorough check.

Some of the women were vocal about their treatment, but the words were like water off a duck’s back.  They either feigned not understanding English. Or just ignored them.

The tour guides were doing their best to reassure them that the check was routine but failing.  I could see they, too, were surprised.  Usually, this type of check was before boarding the vessel.

When it was my turn, being ushered out of the line to stand between two soldiers with sweeping wands, I asked, in Chinese, "What has happened?"

It took the supervisor in a suit, by surprise.  He answered, "Routine."

"Isn't that before embarkation, not on disembarkation?"

The soldiers completed their sweep, pine shaking his head indicating nothing had been found.  I'd deliberately made sure I had nothing of metal on me other than the belt which was small enough to indicate there was nothing hidden in it.

"Routine," he muttered, “move on."

I did as I was told, heading to the car park where it was chaotic with tour guides were trying to assemble and account for all their charges, a lot of whom were still caught up in the maelstrom of disembarkation 

Busses were lined up, people heading for them, others waiting for taxis, and a few private cars.

"Name," a Chinese man dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform called out.

I walked towards him warily, not knowing if this was some kind of trap.  My instructions had been to take a taxi back to the hotel, and then depart for the airport, job down.  I might or might not see Nancy again until the plane, or London if victims tr cars dictated separate travel arrangements.

"My name is (name)."

He nodded and handed me an envelope.  I leaned against the car, much to his consternation, and read the note,

"Your remit has been changed due to the unavailability of the officials you were to meet, and as a result of this, we think it best for you to return until we can rearrange new appointments.
Accordingly, we have arranged flights, ticket enclosed, and the bearer of this letter will have collected your case from the hotel and will take you directly to the airport."

"I am to go with you," I said, waving the letter.

"Yes, sir.  Your baggage is in the car as requested."

He opened the rear door for me, and I got in.  He closed the door, looked in the direction of the disembarkation point, then got in and drove off.

For at least fifteen minutes I was worried that the driver was one of the Chinese police taking me to an offsite interrogation center, but that fear was eventually allayed when we reached Shanghai international airport.

He opened the door for me and unloaded my bags onto a baggage trolley and then bid me goodbye and wished me a happy flight home.

I got through customs and immigration without a hitch, and then spent an hour at one of the eating establishments, then several cups of coffee before moving to the gate, just before the boarding call.

I decided to avoid the airline lounge just in case Nancy was there, and I didn't want to raise any suspicions that there was anything between us other than we were just traveling companions.

Onboard, I watched and waited to see if she made this flight, and, up to a few minutes where it appeared they were about to close the door there was an announcement by the captain advising we were waiting on a late passenger, who was en route to the gate.

Five minutes later, Nancy appeared, red-faced and apologetic, but it helped that she was traveling business class.  She was in a different seat this time, back a few rows and to one side, and made no eye contact as she passed me, other than that of a passenger getting to her seat.

The door closed, the cabin staff ready to go, and not long after that, the plane was rolling back.
I inwardly breathed a huge sigh of relief.  How Nancy got the USB out was a question I'd ask later when we were back in London.

In the meantime, perhaps I could try to get some sleep.  After, of course, that glass of French Champagne, a silent celebration of another successful mission.

© Charles Heath 2020


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