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Lab Work

     Doug glanced down at his Rolex and relaxed in the seat of the Boeing 767. First class gave him plenty of room to stretch out his six-foot frame. Good, he thought, I’ll be back in Miami in plenty of time. A flight attendant brought a warm towel and poured a beer into a chilled glass.

            He was satisfied with the trip to Amsterdam. The methadone lab he went to inspect, situated in an old townhouse-style building in a neglected part of the city, was in full operation. There would not be a problem producing enough product for the large order Doug had placed. Doug wanted the entire load in one shipment to New York, but Luger, the burly blond Dutchman who ran the lab, insisted on splitting it into two shipments. Security at the New York airports was tight these days. The last thing Doug or Luger wanted was the Airport Police wannabes to spoil the delivery. The INS, they could be handled, Doug assured Luger.

            The pilot turned on the “fasten seatbelt” sign as the jet went into its final approach. Doug hated flying, especially landing. His ears always popped, and he felt a queasiness in his stomach. He closed his eyes and tried to remember his schedule for the rest of the week. Tonight, he promised to take his son to the Marlins’ game. His colleague Frank managed to get some backstop tickets. Wednesday, he needed to see a guy in the Bahamas. Another flight, actually two in two days. Why couldn’t anything be in driving distance? He’d be home Thursday night for his daughter’s dance recital, and then he’d spend the weekend fishing at Key West with some potential heroin suppliers. Not an awful week, all told. The following week, he’d head to New York to supervise that first shipment from Amsterdam.

             He felt the plane lurch as it hit the runway. When he opened his eyes, the plane was taxiing towards the walkways, long fingers sticking out of the limbs of the Miami International Airport. An older European couple gathered their things together, babbling in another tongue. Doug smiled as he listened. He knew enough German to know the woman was not thrilled with her companion. Doug patted his pocket to feel for his passport and pulled it out. He checked the name. Steve Byer. Sometimes it was hard to keep the aliases straight. He would hate to go through customs and mess up his name.

            He watched as the customs officer flipped through the passport and stamped the correct page. “Anything to declare?” she asked, not looking up.

            “No ma’am, just good to be home.”

            “Welcome home, Mr. Byer. Next!” The officer pushed the passport back into Doug’s hands.

            He took two steps away from the counter when a man approached. The smell of him arrived a few seconds before the actual man. Doug looked around to find a quick way through the crowd, but the man homed in like a pigeon.

            “Rick! My man! Back from a business venture? Man, I hope you brought some samples.” The man swayed as he spoke and he wasn’t making eye contact. He spoke to Doug’s lapel.

            “I’m sorry, sir, you must have me mistaken for someone else,” Doug said, trying to get past him and away from the Customs desk.

            “No, you know me, Rick, it’s me, Lonny. We partied at the mansion last week. You had some good stuff.”

            “You must have me confused with someone else. I’ve been in Europe,” Doug said.

            “Is there a problem, Mr. Byer?” asked a large Customs officer who materialized at Doug’s shoulder.

            “Just some confusion. I’m sure no harm is done,” Doug said. Lonny had taken off at the sight of the uniform. The officer hesitated a moment, then motioned for Doug to go. Doug walked a few steps and took a deep breath. Too close for comfort there. It was hard enough bringing samples back, but to have someone ask for some in front of the Customs agents was akin to asking for a strip search.

            Out in the bright sunlight of the Florida afternoon, Doug tried to remember if Jenny said she would park the Ferrari or the Jag in the short-term parking lot for him. He preferred the Ferrari, but so did Jenny. Maybe, after this shipment arrived in New York, there’d be two Ferraris. If not the New York stuff, there was that business coming up in Columbia next month.

            As he walked towards the short-term parking lot, he heard footsteps behind him. He spun around. “Go home Lonny. I have nothing for you.”

            “Man, c’mon, just a little hit.”

            “No. Go to your regular guy. I’m a wholesaler.”

            “What was with the Mr. Byer shit, anyhow, Rick? You got a fake passport? Who did it, must be good to get you through without a search.”

            Doug handed him the blue book to inspect.

            “Looks real man. Nikko do this one?”

            “No, it looks real because it is real. Manufactured by the US government.”

            “How’d you do that?”

            “Fake birth certificate.”

            Lonny laughed. “Ok man, stay cool.” He sauntered off, hitting up a well-dressed couple for change on the way back to the terminal.

            “Sweet Jenny,” Doug said, as he spotted the white Ferrari in the regular place. Jenny left a note on the seat. “Mechanic said it needed some more work, but the parts are on order. He can finish while you’re out of town next week.” Doug stuffed the note in his pocket and got in the car. Even in the heat, the fragrance of the leather seats was intoxicating. This car was not made for Miami gridlock, it needed the Autobahn. Maybe next time he was in Europe, he could find a company that rented Ferraris rather than Volvos and Mercedes. He started the engine and drove out of the parking lot and onto the freeway. He managed to make the 10 mile drive to the office in just under an hour.

            He pulled the car into another lot and carefully parked next to a hunter green Jaguar. The sun was still shining brightly causing a blinding reflection on the generic glass building. He sneezed as he got out of the car, stretched, then walked into the building.  The first set of doors opened into a large, bright lobby. He took an elevator up a few floors and entered another lobby. At the end of the lobby was a set of beige doors with no markings, just a card reader. Doug swiped a mag stripe card through the reader and opened the door.

            This lobby was smaller. “Welcome back, Doug,” the receptionist said. “Frank said come by when you get here. He needs the money for the Marlin tickets.” Doug nodded and went down the hall behind the desk. He went into a small office, dominated by the floor-to-ceiling windows. There were two desks. A woman was sitting at one of the desks, typing into a computer. She was small but muscular, and the fluorescent lighting did not flatter her dark skin. As Doug walked, she looked up and smiled.

            “Hey, Jen, thanks for the Ferrari,” Doug said.

            “No problem. I blew out the motor on the Jag when we went after Cruz last night.”

            “We finally get that asshole? He was getting sloppy.”

            “Probably the pizza. We listened to all of the surveillance tapes again. During the three months we’ve been watching him, he’s ordered 84 pizzas. All Meat lovers. Ugh.!” Jenny was a vegetarian. “We chased him about thirty miles out of Dade County. Naturally, the locals wanted in on the bust, but Frank pulled rank. Told them we needed more busts to keep our funding.”

            “So they might want us around a bit, huh?”

            “No, they really wanted Cruz. If you ask me, they can keep him. He’s just a two bit hood. I don’t think he’ll roll on Juiano.” Jenny spun her chair and pulled some papers off the printer and stapled them. “Oh, call your wife. Your brother needed a truck, so they came and got yours. You’ll need her to pick you up tonight.”

            “Great.” Doug walked over to his desk and powered up his computer. He looked at the telephone to see if there were any flashing lights signifying waiting messages. It was a six-line phone, the button for each line labeled the purpose for each line: Line 1 – Doug Thurman, 2 – Steve Byer, Line 3 – Rick Stone, Line 4 – Ash Enterprises Line 5 – Pittman Pharmaceuticals, and Line 6 – Escalardo Produce. A plethora of identities. Doug often had to pause to make sure he answered each line correctly. On his monitor, Doug found a yellow sticky note from another colleague who needed to borrow the Rolex for a meet. Doug settled into his chair and adjusted the keyboard. “I’ll call her as soon as I start the prelim reports. I’ve decided that DEA really stands for Document Every Action.”

            “Amen, brother.”