zingmagazine10 autumn 1999







about zing


8 poets making it new
generation z
lutwidge finch
the back of beyond

I nodded my head, indicating that my old buddies Tom and Bob could stay. Then I realized that U.S. Attorney James Burns could not see me nodding. “They can remain.”

“Mr. Mendelsohn, I understand you have a question for me.”

“Yes, I have.” Then I looked from Tom to Bob, then back to the speaker phone.

“Let me pose a hypothetical situation. If an individual is arrested for drug smuggling and wishes to assist the government, uh, what will the government do for that, uh, individual?”

“I cannot specifically tell you, Mr. Mendelsohn, because I don’t know the extent of the drug smuggling operation, nor do I know the nature and extent of the assistance.”

My heart dropped down to my shoes.

“I can say this, if the assistance is substantial, the government will recommend a significant reduction in that individual’s sentence.”

This US Attorney James Burns was a straight shooter. I appreciated that. “Thank you for your time and candor,” I said and meant it.

“Is there a question about protection for your family or yourself?”

“At this point there is not,” I frankly told him.

That was where the conversation ended.

But, Tom and Bob were still staring me in the face. Even if I closed my eyes, they would not go away.

It was time for me to face the music. “I’ll help,” I said, dry mouthed. “Let’s get started.”

At that point I thought that Tom and Bob would give each other high fives. They didn’t. They were professionals.

“What occurs when you reach New York?” Tom wanted to know. He was cool but he couldn’t hide the excitement in his voice.


I put my hands under my chin and leaned forward in my chair. “I go to our travel agency on Thirty-Fourth Street and deliver the vest to Mohammed Yousaf. He’s the guy the women call ‘Tony’.”

Then Tom left the office. He reminded me of a hot shot reporter running to find a phone, calling in that story, making the front page headline.

Tom returned about ten minutes later. “The United States Customs Service would like you to make a controlled delivery.”

My new friends are teaching me a new language. I had to ask, “What is a ‘controlled delivery’?”

“Basically, it is a delivery of drugs monitored by agents,” Tom explained patiently, “from inception to conclusion.”

It sounded like something I could do.

“You’ll deliver the vest to Mohammad, all the while being scrutinized by customs agents. When the heroin is accepted by Mohammad, the agents will enter the travel office and arrest him.”
it would serve Mo right I told myself, thinking this is payback time for ripping me off.

They still needed more from me.

“My procedure is to telephone MO from O’Hare,” I told Tom, “after passing through Customs. I give MO the password sentence: ‘The eagle has landed,’ and hang the phone up. I have to make this call as soon as possible. If the call is not made, MO will most likely figure that the operation is blown. MO will hightail it to Pakistan.”

“We have to wait on the phone call to MO until Chicago Customs can coordinate with the New York Customs,” Tom tells me.

I frowned at that point, showing Tom and Bob I didn’t like all this delay. If I was going to give MO, I wanted to get it over with.

“The reason being that controlled delivery will take place in their jurisdiction,” Tom went on to explain to me.

I didn’t want to hear all that, I just wanted to get this show on the road.

Two hours later they were still ‘coordinating’ the operation. According to the clock on the wall it was 3:30 p.m.

I was tired and frustrated. I had to say something.

“I had always heard of government inefficiency, and now I see it with my very own eyes. If you people were running a private enterprise, you would be out of business in less than a week.”

Tom wanted to ignore me, but, because I’d been such a help, he had to give me something even if it was after four more hours. “The coordination is accomplished,” he told me at 7:30 p.m., “and there is an okay to call Mohammed.”

I had to make the delivery by myself. Isabel would not help and Maria was too frightened. They gave me a story to tell MO as to the reasons the women would not accompany me. A listening device and a tape recorder were attached to the phone. I had already given MO’s telephone number to Tom. I stood near Tom while he punched in the numbers before he handed the phone to me. I got MO’s wife.


“Hi, this is Mel. How are you?”

“Fine, and you?”