Summer Girl, Winter Boy(9)

By: Barbara Elsborg


Piero lifted her case from the trunk and put it on the curb.

He hugged her briefly and stepped back. “I hope you find whatever it is you’re searching for. Maybe you’ll regret turning me down.”

For a moment, his eyes turned into glittering slits in his face and then he was back to smiling Piero.

“Thanks for being such a good friend for the last three months, Piero. I’m lucky I bumped into you.”

“Now you feel lucky? Just as you leave?” He laughed. “Bye, Summer.”

After he’d driven off, she rolled her case into the terminal. The air-conditioned chill sent goose bumps skittering up her arms. She needed to grab something warm from her case before she checked in. Rather than open it in the middle of the busy concourse, she detoured into a restroom and used the spacious handicapped stall.

When she unzipped her tatty black case, she frowned. This morning, she’d folded her toilet bag inside the t-shirt she usually slept in and tucked it on the right-hand side. Now it lay on the left, and not so tightly wrapped. Summer stared at it. She hadn’t made a mistake. Accurate observations were her lifeblood.

Not hard to conclude someone had been in her case. She wondered if Piero had slipped in a present for her, but she checked and there was nothing she didn’t recognize. A lump formed in her throat. Nothing had been taken out, nothing obvious put in, but what about something not obvious? She was in a country where drug smuggling was as normal as exporting coffee.

She took her things out one by one, examined them carefully and piled them on a drop-down baby-changing table. Then she checked the case, running her fingers around every zipped compartment and over the lining. When she discovered a section of the lining appeared to have been tampered with, her heart thumped hard enough to give her an instant headache. She tugged at the material and pulled it open to reveal a long, narrow package strapped to the length of a strengthening bar. Her insides went icy cold.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

A further search revealed another thin package attached to the other bar. Summer didn’t want to touch them. It had to be cocaine and she didn’t want it on her fingers. But she couldn’t leave it in her case. Fuck. She peeled off the tape holding one of the packages and tried to rip the thing open over the toilet. It was wrapped so securely she couldn’t tear it.

Panic welled in her chest. What if there was more that she hadn’t found? She couldn’t risk going through security carrying drugs. But how could she get rid of the suitcase? What about her clothes?

She opened her backpack and went through that too. Nothing had been taken and nothing added unless it had been sewn into some panel and she couldn’t detect it. If she made a mistake, even if she got through the checks here, she’d come under scrutiny again in Mexico, then America, then England. Dogs would sniff drugs out in an instant. Oh fuck it.

Dogs. Her gaze was continually drawn to the unexpected present from a guy who didn’t do cuddly. Retrieving a pair of nail scissors from her toilet bag, Summer snipped away at a seam on the toy until she could tease out the stuffing. A groan escaped when she found the first package. Her fingers made contact with another and she threw the dog down into the empty case. Fucking Javier.

She leaned against the wall of the stall and tried to figure out what to do. With a bit of effort using the nail scissors, she could dispose of the drugs down the toilet though she’d have to find somewhere to dump the packaging. Going to the airport police was not an option. Aside from the fact that she didn’t want to cause trouble for Piero’s family, it would cause even more trouble for her. The police were likely to conclude she was a mule who’d lost her nerve. Had Javier tried to warn her as she’d left? Maybe he’d been put under pressure to use her.

Except…

How had the drugs gotten into her case? It had to have happened this morning and when she’d come down to breakfast, Javier had already been there and he’d stayed until she’d gone back to her room. It was Piero who hadn’t appeared until she’d almost finished eating. A swell of despair and disappointment rolled over her. She was too trusting.

The best thing to do was dump the case on the basis that she might not have found everything, only that wasn’t so easy. All those warnings about unattended luggage meant she couldn’t just walk away from it. And what was she supposed to do with her things? Plus if she had no luggage to check for an international flight it would look suspicious. Shit. Summer dragged her fingers through her short pink hair. Think. And be quick because you’re running out of time.