Lord of the Ring.
The bungling smuggler with more luck than should be allowed in one day.
Markus was an immensely likable guy. A cheeky chancer, with a glint in his eye, and a nose for mischief. He’d been born in Australia, to Anglo-Aussie parents but had come back to the UK at the age of fifteen when his parents had separated.
I had met him some months earlier when he was working as a chef at my local gastro pub, and he could often be seen grabbing a swift pint in the bar on his breaks, resplendent is his chef’s whites, with the words Buddhist Punk spray painted on the back in flouresant pink.
It was coming up to the end of the century, when Markus had gone out for a beer with an old mate from down under. He had a proposition for him. How would he like a free trip to New Zealand for New Years Eve, to be one of the first people on earth to see in the new millennium? His mate explained that he was travelling back down under for a massive party, just outside Auckland, and he wanted Markus to come along. Of course, there was a small catch to this generous offer, but he reckoned Markus was up to the task. Markus had to assist him with ‘importing’ some very profitable merchandise.
On the day of the flight, Markus had rendezvoused with his friend at the airport. 22 hours in the air was not going to be comfortable; not with chronic constipation. However, his bowel discomfort was not due to anything he had eaten. Upon meeting up, Markus noticed his travelling companion was wearing a new pair of Nike air-wear trainers. However, even from head height, something didn’t look quite right about them. ‘Don’t tell me, you’ve hidden your stash in those shoes?’ His friend assured him it was fine, and they would sail through immigration.
A day later, bleary eyed, they touched down in Auckland. It had been a somewhat uncomfortable journey, but Markus felt much better about his hiding place, than he did about his friends. As they headed for immigration, he decided it was best to hang back from his travelling companion, and not join the same queue.
30 minutes later, Markus was standing on the concourse, having sailed through customs and collected his case. His queue had moved quicker than that of his friend, so maybe he had just got stuck behind someone that customs had taken their time with. As 30 minutes became closer to an hour, Markus spotted an immigration officer exit an interview room, carrying a pair of brand new Nike air-wear trainers.
It was at this point that Markus suddenly had a realisation. He had no idea where they were going. His friend was the one who knew the exact location of the party, and where they we staying, but all Markus knew was that it was just outside the city.
Before he could shake the flight fatigue, and get his head together, customs officers appeared around him, and marched him off to detention. It was obvious that, having been collared himself, his ‘friend’ had opted to cooperate, in the hope of lessening the impact of his own situation.
Over the next six hours, Markus played dumb. He refused everything but a search of his baggage, and stuck to the story that he knew nothing of his friend’s concealment. The cops had just smiled and said they would wait until he needed the toilet. At 10.30pm on millennium eve, banged up in a Kiwi immigration holding cell, an officer walked in and sat down across the table. He informed Markus that, due to it being millennium eve, and they were reduced to the minimum of a skeleton staff on this particular night, they had no option but to let him go.
Markus headed over the airport to the Holiday Inn, and booked himself a room. What the hell was he going to do? He was in New Zealand, with no contacts, no idea where they had been heading to, and a weight of pills groaning to be released. He decided to relieve himself of the discomfort, before anything else. However, once recovered; and due to the stress of the previous 36 hours, an indulgence felt like a necessity, rather than a reward.
At 5.30 am on the first day of the new century, Markus had formulated a plan in his grinning, spinning, head. He would head back to the terminal and get a flight to Melbourne, whereupon he would turn up at his father’s house, and make out he had flown 12000 miles to surprise him for the New Year. He would have a place to stay, he’d be a brilliant loving son; come all this way to see the ol’ man, and he could probably off load all the pills and turn a profit.
30 minutes later, he was standing at the Quantas desk of a deserted Auckland airport, and buying a ticket for the 9.10 am flight to Melbourne. The desk girl looked him up and down, before retaining his card, and asking him to wait a few minutes. The reality suddenly dawned. He must have been mad to think this was a good idea. Only 8 hours ago he had only just escaped being busted due to lack of staff, and now he had returned to the very same airport, pilled up, and still packing. Within a minute, two burley Quantas staff appeared by his shoulder and asked if he would accompany them to an office. Markus began to sober up very quickly, and rued the logic of making plans when you were buzzed off your face. What the hell had he been thinking? He resigned himself to his fate and wandered in to the office like a man condemned.
The smartly dressed guy from Quantas sat down on the other side of the desk and looked him dead in the eye. This was the end.
‘Sir, I would like to inform you that you are the first person to buy a ticket on Quantas in the new century, and as such, I am here by authorised, on behalf of the airline, to give you a cheque for $20’000, and your flight to Melbourne is courtesy of Quantas. Happy New year.’