For Obvious Reasons

Contributor: John Laneri

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Tyler Jackson first visited my office several years back complaining of headaches. Since then, I've treated him for various problems, none of which were serious. Generally, his complaints have been stress related, which I gathered went along with his work as the Chief of Customs in the Houston area.

One afternoon several months ago, after examining a rash on his arm, he asked, “Hey doc, would you be interested in doing examinations for the customs service?”

Tyler was a big man with a confident attitude and a lean fit body.

“What kind of exams? I asked curiously.

Scratching at the rash, he went on to indicate that the customs service periodically used physicians to perform physical examinations on arriving passengers. He specifically indicated that he would want me to examine people who were suspected of harboring undeclared items or substances within body cavities.

“Why me?” I asked. “I thought you had your own staff and facilities.

“We do, but they're strictly eight to five – union rules. Sometimes we need outside people, especially at night. The service pays extra good money, so it's worth you time. I thought of you because your office is close to the airport.”

The arrangement did seem reasonable, so I agreed. A few extra dollars here and there were always comforting.

Several weeks later, at two am in the morning, the phone rang. It was Tyler.

“Hey doc... Sorry to wake you but we have a couple of suspects that just arrived on a red-eye from Paris. We need your expertise.”

Intrigued, I quickly dressed and headed to the office.

Once there, I came face to face with Tyler as well as two other agents, one male the other female, both of whom were busy escorting a man and a woman along with their sleepy-eyed, three year old daughter into my waiting room.

Both suspects were cuffed. I noticed that the husband appeared calm, even a bit frightened, but the wife, an aggressive woman with a loud voice, needed to be dragged on her heels as she shouted profanities and threats toward each of us.

By then, I was glad that consulting for the customs service avoided routine office hours. The woman could have easily cleared out a waiting room full of patients.

Tyler moved beside me and pointed toward the couple. “These two are suspected of harboring a couple of five carat diamonds acquired in Paris. We've thoroughly searched their clothing and bags and ended up with nothing. Our source close to the scene indicated that a sale went down a few hours before the flight departed, so we're fairly certain they still have the stones.”

“I take it the sale was black market.”

“Correct... sales of this nature usually involve stolen goods. We've been watching them for some time and received word earlier tonight they were coming in.”

With that said, I directed everyone to the examination area then indicated to Tyler, “I'll start on the husband with an emphasis on orifices. If nothing is found, I'll get abdominal x-rays. I take it your female agent is here to chaperon the wife.”

“And, watch the girl too, even though she's been sleeping throughout most of the ordeal.”

I started with the husband. He was mid-forties, overweight and hypertensive. While he acted put out, the examination went smoothly. His wife on the other hand, an angry woman in her late thirties, began screaming and kicking the moment we walked her into the exam room. Fortunately, the female agent was able to control her thrashing long enough for me to complete a thorough, but exasperating examination which included a barefoot directed to the side of my head.

From my perspective though, the examinations and x-rays were negative.

While the woman was dressing, I joined up with Tyler who by then was scratching at another rash on his arm. “As best I can determine, both suspects are clean. Sorry... I know you wanted more. But, I can't find anything to justify your suspicions. And, by the way,” I added, as I pointed to his arm. “Your rash is most likely stress related.”

“I suspected the same,” he replied evenly. “But, that couple bothers me.”

“You think they're guilty.”

“Absolutely... but setbacks frequently point us in other directions.”

Turning to him, I asked, “What do you mean?”

He glanced at me and smiled. “Now, we know who has the diamonds.”

Thrown by his remark, I pointed to the child. “Do you want me to examine her too? She looks fairly sedated.”

He started for the door, saying “We're through for tonight. We need a court order to pursue her. Parental consent would be helpful, but it's a technicality they've clearly refused for obvious reasons.

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John is a native born Texan living near Houston. His writing focuses on short stories and flash. Publications to his credit have appeared in several scientific journals as well as a number of internet sites and short story periodicals.
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