A Bad Trade

May 19, 2012

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Note: this story was originally published on February 11, 2011.  It’s a favorite of mine, so I’m re-running it today.

As the metal door clanged shut, Dan Bell glanced up at his attorney.  She was looking a bit rough around the edges today – in stark contrast to the well groomed and carefully made-up woman he had grown to love.

“The guard is checking in a couple of new lawyers.  We have a few minutes before he comes back.  Let’s do it.”

Dan needed no further encouragement, and in a moment he stood stark naked in the middle of the attorney conference room.  Katie helped him put on the bra and Dan slipped her flower print dress over his head.  Katie dressed herself in the prison garb while Dan finished getting dressed.

“Put on some foundation to cover that bit of stubble,” she instructed.  Katie transferred the shoulder length blonde wig from her head to Dan’s and applied quickly applied a coat of lipstick.  She removed the light layer of makeup from her own face and sat down in the chair that faced the door.  Dan was slipping his feet into her shoes and fastening the clasp of a necklace when she saw the guard glance through the window.

They sat in the room for another fifteen minutes, making small talk to kill some time.  At 10:05, Dan began to put papers back into the brief case and prepared to leave.

“Just remember, Dan, the jig is going to be up at shower time tomorrow morning.  Make sure you catch that flight and get out of the country.”

She could sense the uncertainly in her brother as he readied himself for the escape.

“Don’t worry, Dan.  You look convincing enough.  Sure, you look like me on a bad day – but that’s how I looked when I came in.”

Dan smiled and tried to steady his nerves.

“Thank you, Katie.  And I’m so sorry.”

Katie smiled and nodded.  She had told Dan that the cancer would kill her within a year.  Better for her to spend her final year in prison than for him to spend the next fifty years there.

Dan signaled the guard and was soon walking toward the door to the outside world.  When he got to Katie’s Honda Civic, he tossed her purse and briefcase onto the passenger seat and glanced over his shoulder.  Nobody was chasing him yet.  He struggled to keep his emotions in check as he exited the prison parking lot at the posted speed limit.

Fifteen minutes later, Dan flopped down on the bed of a motel near the prison.  He breathed a huge sigh of relief.  Phase one was complete.  Phase two – exiting the country while passing himself off as his twin sister – would be a bit more difficult.  He stood in front of the mirror.  He definitely didn’t look like Katie at her best, but did he look like Katie at her worst?  Perhaps.

Dan was itching to change into some more comfortable clothes. He tossed the big suitcase onto the bed and opened it.

“Son of a …”

The long flowery dress he was wearing was the most conservative thing Katie had packed.  The suitcase was packed with frilly blouses, short skirts, and even a couple of bikinis.  Dan laughed when he saw an open box of condoms and a started birth control pill.  Then he realized that the TSA would expect to find those items in a woman’s suitcase – bonus points to Katie for her attention to detail.  He glanced inside the garment bag in hopes that there might be a pant suit inside – but it held only dresses.

Dan knew that Katie must be taking some perverse pleasure in his predicament.  Let her have her laugh – he was a free man again.  He considered a quick shopping trip, but decided to wait.

After ordering room service, Dan sat on the bed and inspected his travel itinerary.  The flight to Brazil was going to be mind-numbingly long.  He pawed through the overnight bag to see if Katie had packed anything to read.  He rolled his eyes when he pulled out three Danielle Steele novels.  Katie might be going a bit far with this cloak and dagger stuff.  He could always pick up a couple of books at one of the stores in the airport.

Dan’s eyes found a sheaf of computer printouts in the bag.  “Tips from drag queens.”  As he glanced through the pages, he found himself nodding at many of the tips – they would definitely make it easier for him to pass as a woman.

After wolfing down the room service burger and fries, Dan glanced at his watch – or rather, Katie’s watch.   It was noon – still several hours to kill before heading to the airport.  He decided to try a few of the drag queen tips.  After a nice, relaxing bubble bath, he gave himself a close shave.  As he glanced as his handiwork, he thought it would be a shame to hide his gorgeous legs in the long dress.  It took a moment for him to find what he was looking for – a short black dress in the garment bag.  If he was going to put on a show, why not make it a good one?

The woman who left room 406 later that afternoon was much more attractive than the one who had entered several hours later.  Dan had spent a considerable chunk of time perfecting his makeup, and was reasonably confident that it would allow him to blend into a crowd.  His fingernails and toenails were painted a bright pink, and a bit of Katie’s perfume even made him smell nice.  He hefted the bags into the Civic and headed to the airport.

Dan had no difficulty using Katie’s identification to check in, and was soon in the secured portion of the airport.  He spotted a steak restaurant and made a beeline for it.  It had been a long time since he had enjoyed a real steak.  As he waited for his meal to arrive, he reached into the bag for a book before remembering that it contained only romance novels.  He made a mental note to pick up something different before boarding the plane.

Out of curiosity, he began to read a few pages of the book.  It was definitely not his cup of tea.  As he glanced up from the book, he noticed a guy a few tables over staring at him.  The guy turned a bright red when Dan glanced his way.  Dan smiled to himself – if guys were checking him out, then he was doing a good job of passing himself off as Katie.

At 7:30, the jumbo jet roared down the runway.  Dan was relieved that the flight was on time.  It would touch down just after 6 AM eastern time and give him about two hours to clear customs before Katie secret was discovered at shower time in the prison.  That should be enough time, but it was too close for comfort.  What would have happened if the flight had been delayed?  He wondered if Katie did this intentionally, just to make him sweat – but came to the conclusion that she was just making sure he had plenty of time to make the flight.  Relax, Dan, you have plenty of time.

When the plane touched down in São Paulo, Dan made his way through customs and claimed his bags.  As he jumped into a taxi, he glanced down at his watch – ten minutes to spare.  He set the watch ahead three hours to reflect the local time.  He had the taxi drop him off at nondescript hotel that was happy to rent him a room for cash – the paper trail would stop at the airport.  After ducking out for a quick lunch, he returned to his room, collapsed onto the bed, and tried to sleep off the jet lag.

He slept like a baby until the next morning.  When he awoke, he realized that he would need to go shopping before touching base with his friend that evening.  He was certainly not going to show up for his meeting with Frank in drag. As he pondered his clothing options for the shopping trip, he decided to do a full Katie, just for kicks.  What the hell – it was just a few hours.  He strutted out of the hotel in a short pink dress and matching heels.

He returned to the hotel later that afternoon with three shopping bags full of clothes.  There were a few blouses and a pair of women’s shoes – since it would seem unusual for a woman to not buy any clothes for herself – but also an array of men’s attire.  A few minutes from now, he could dump all of Katie’s stuff, and walk out of the hotel as Dan once again.

He was lost in his thoughts when he entered the room and it took him a moment to notice the man sitting in the chair.

“Senhorita Bell?” the man asked.

“Sim,” he responded uncertainly.

“Senhor Silva wants to know if you have the package.”

“Package?  Silva?  I think you have the wrong person.”

The man laughed before raising the gun and pulling the trigger.  “Senhor Silva does not make mistakes.”

Many miles to the north, Katie Bell was enjoying a long nap in her brother’s luxurious bed.  Hours after the prison switch, Katie’s partner had gotten the judge to sign the papers granting a new trial for Dan and ordering his immediate release.  At 3:45 PM, Katie had walked through the gates of the prison to her freedom.  Free from prison, and free from the long arm of António Silva.

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. John Ludena
    May 20, 2012 @ 20:05:31

    Found your site after reading your “Debt Comes Calling” short story on Man vs. Debt and I have to say that I absolutely love this short story style of writing! That ending took me a for spin. Only after reading it a couple of times and then reading the title, did all the pieces finally fall in place and I understood exactly what the story was about.

    Keep up the great work.

    John Ludena


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