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Fiction Suspense Drama

Dolls to London

Monday, with the sun playing hide and seek amongst the white billowing clouds.

The phone rang as I picked it up and I looked towards the harbor.

“Chef officer Paul Summers speaking.”

“Ah! how are you?”

“Fine Joe, but busy, we are expecting a large cargo ship arriving from China with a dubious cargo.”

“It’s expected when? “

“I think in about four days it was delayed in Gibraltar.”

“Good.”

“What do you mean good?”

“Well I have a favor to ask you. Could you go to London tomorrow for two days. The British have a serious customs problem from a boat out of our New York port. It needs a senior officer from our side to sort it out.”

“What’s the problem?”

“The cargo does not correspond to the paperwork. The ship carrying the cargo has not been correctly registered. But what’s more concerning is that in some way a member of the Royal family is involved. Hence our presents are needed. You know how the British are when complications could concern the Royal Family.”

“Let’s see if I go Tuesday I will be back on Thursday. Could do, but on condition you let me have an extra day's holiday in August. I am going to Alaska to fly-fish.”

“Agreed, a British customs officer will be at Heathrow to meet you.”

As I put down the phone I thought once the famous British royal family might be concerned the world’s administration community walked around any problem as if the ground was covered in egg shells. I called my secretary and asked her to make the necessary travel arrangements. The next call was to my wife letting her know the news. She told me to be sure to be back by Thursday as we had planned to visit my father for the weekend. She added don’t forget darling the admiral does like plans changed.

Tuesday morning I was in the departure lounge dressed in the full uniform of an American customs officer with medals showing. As I sat there awaiting the announcement of the flight that seemed to be fifteen minutes late. I looked around at my fellow passengers. As always there were samples of the old, the fat, the thin, the young, the smartly and casual dressed. An occasional good looking woman. I thought the world was full of all types of humans that have the ability to think for themselves, imagining how they would like to live their lives, and the majority having a deep fear of death, maybe it’s the fear of the unknown. Amongst all these people what intrigued me the most was a group of school children chaperoned by a tall, handsome woman, no doubt, their teacher. What caught my eye was that the group contained ten children with six of them carrying duffel bags. Poking out of their duffel bags was a doll's head.

But what really attached my attention was the head of the doll. She had long blond hair dressed in plates that framed her face. The face had a seductive attraction with cupid lips, blue eyes and a sprinkling of freckles across her nose. Surely this was the doll I and my sister played with all those years ago. I even remember the Christmas when she received it as a present. At the time I was a teenager but for some unknown reason I instantly fell in love with her. She was my idea of the ideal girl to be loved and cherished. That Christmas day we spent hours discussing a name for her. Finally we chose Emma. Can you imagine I even took her to school (permission granted by my sister) to show my friends. At the time they thought me a bit bizarre but agreed, no doubt, with tongue in cheek, she was most attractive. This fascination for Emma lasted until I finally found the girl I married. Of course Emma came to my wedding and I gave her a last great kiss. I am not sure if my sister still has her in safe keeping. In a funny way Emma represented an extraordinary strong bond between us. Any argument, there were many, we always consulted Emma.

On each duffel bag the girls were carrying there was some writing but it was at a greater distance that I could not read the words. Without even thinking about what I was doing I went up and approached the teacher. I just had to see Emma again to touch her.

“Excuse me, I have something to ask you.”

The teacher looked up on hearing my words. Her face and eyes showed complete surprise to be face to face with a senior customs officer.

“Is there some wrong officer?”

“No, no, I just wanted to talk to you about these dolls the girls are carrying. You see, many years ago my sister was given one for Christmas. At the time I was a teenager and fell deeply in love for the doll. It must have been something to do with puberty. We called her Emma. I remained in love with her until I got married. So you see I could not resist coming over to see her more closely. I hope you don’t mind. I didn’t even know the company still exists.”

“Of course I don’t mind. The company in question has changed hands a few times; it is now owned by a group of foreign businessmen. In fact I have a nephew that works there.”

“I see on the duffel bag they have renamed the company as I seemed to remember it was called Jessica before. I also note the bags destined for a dolls festival in London. Is that the purpose of your visit?”

“No, we are doing the company a favor in carrying their dolls, like that they will not pay transport cost and customs duty.”

“May I just handle one for old times sake.?”

“Why not. I will ask Marie to pull a doll out for you to see.”

As Marie handed me the doll I was surprise not by its face but by the size of its body, Emma’s beautiful face was as attractive as it had been all those years ago, but her body, arms and legs were considerably larger than the Emma of my year, it was through she had been grossly over fed. I tenderly stroked her face and gave her back. I was lost in thought as I watched Marie place the doll back in her duffel bag making sure the face appeared. I reached over to give Emma a pat on the head and at the same time helped Marie put the bag desides the others. It was quite heavy, about 15 kilos. The duffel bag must have contained a few dolls. I turned my attention to the teacher. She was an attractive woman with ginger hair and pale creamy skin. Her hair was done up in a tightly formed bun. She was dressed in sensible clothes of good taste with a brightly colored scarf around her neck. She had for a woman of her age group a certain aura of innocences about her and when she smiled one could imagine the beauty of a young woman.

“Thank you for letting me handle a doll, it brought back many wonderful memories. I was surprised to see that the doll's body was much larger than the doll we had. Odd as its body does not compliment the dolls charming face.

“Please, may I introduce myself. I am a customs officer named Paul Summers.” I extended my hand in greeting. She took it saying she was pleased to meet me and her name was Rosemary Worth.

In the back of my mind something was troubling me. I asked her if I could sit next to her while we waited for the announcement. She smiled at me and said. “Of course it would be a pleasure to be talking to a smartly dressed officer of our country.” As I sat down I told her I thought one of my brother’s children went to her school. “Did she have Christine Summers at the school?”

She laughed. “What a coincidence...yes. She should have been on this trip but unhappily she is confined to her bed with a nasty cold. I also should not be going as I am the principal of the school. We are only going for four days to see the sights. I just wanted a four day holiday to get away from all the administrative workload I have to deal with.”

“You are not going to the doll’s festival?”

“Not at all. The girls are in their lower teens and have no interest in dolls; their interest lies in the opposite sex. As I said before we are just doing a favor for the company in return they are paying our airfare and hotel plus a generous donation to the school. In fact their generosity is the reason this trip happened. I am sure you know the expression never look a gift horse in the mouth. She gave me a charming smile.

“I am curious. How did this arrangement come about?”

“About three months ago we had a family reunion where my nephew was present. I was talking to my father about the school's problems of finances and my tiresome task of always looking for donations to keep the school afloat. My nephew overheard the conversation and told me his company was being represented in London at an important dolls festival in two months' time. He was sure if your school organized a trip to London on the date of the dolls’ festival his company would be willing to pay for a trip of ten students providing they took a few dolls across the pond as personal luggage This resulted in several telephone conversations with my nephew. There would be six duffel bags weighing around 15/18 kilos delivered to the airport on the day of departure. His company would purchase 11 return tickets and pay for a hotel of our choice for three nights. They would also be prepared to donate a handsome sum to the school.” I sat there enjoying the conversation but disturbed by the arrangement.

I looked over towards the girls that were huddled together excitedly discussing something. I took another look towards the duffel bags placed in a pile besides the group. It was obvious the girls were taking no interest in the dolls. They were assigned to carry them. I had a strong suspicion that the dolls were being used to carry drugs. I thought if I was a British custom official I would certainly stop the girls and examine the duffel bags. Their story about doing a favor for a company sounded odd in exchange for generous financial considerations. If my suspicions were correct the consequences for the school would be dramatic.

I turned to Rosemary. “The girl certainly looks happy. Tell me what happens in London. The company has arranged taxis or peoples’ mover for us to take to our hotel. They said somebody will be there to pick up the bags. They all said it would be strongly advised not to go through customs as a group with six similar bags the same. This would certainly involve them in tedious questions and the chance of being required to open the duffel bags. My nephew assured me that as the company was sailing close to the wind in employing schoolchildren to carry their merchandise. It was much better to try and prevent any questions. In Heathrow there are many channels for passing through customs he suggested we split the group up and space our passage.”

“I can see the company is very, very protective of your well being. But I suggest once you all pick up your luggage before going through customs as a group you wait for me. I will lead you through customs without any question asked. It would also be my pleasure to make sure your transport is there to take you to your hotel.”

“That’s very kind of you, but surely you have other commitments. Do you think this is necessary​?”

“True, but the people meeting me will fully understand. Knowing British customs I think it is important I take you all through as these duffel bags with dolls will definitely require questioning.”

Just as I was about to ask Rosemary about the school an announcement was made for the first class passengers to board.

“Please take my request very seriously. It will prevent any difficult situation that might arise with customs. Group the girls with their baggage in the baggage area and wait for me. This is an important request. I have many years experience in the field of customs.”

As I boarded the plane I thought these were a group of innocent people exposed to a danger that would have a lasting effect on their lives. Rosemary Worth was a delightful woman, uneducated in the ways of the world, seduced by a free short holiday for her and her student, pleased with a donation she did not have to go begging for. Totally unaware of what dangers might lurk behind accepting the company offer without questioning their generosity, after all it came through a family member.

When the plane was about an hour out of London I called the stewardess and said I needed to speak with the captain. Five minutes later he appeared. As I presented myself and I could see I had instance respect for my seniority. I told him I needed to make an urgent call to customs in London. Without any question he took me up to the flight deck and handed me a phone. I phoned the officer I was meeting in London and informed him of my strong suspicions. It was agreed that my group of visiting school children would be met at customs and passed through without questions. I would guide them to their waiting transport after they had handed over the duffel bags to the person that should be present to them. All this would be watched by an undercover customs officer. As I ushered the children and Rosemary into their transport and wished them all a joyful stay. I walk back to find my contact. He thanked me. It was quite a haul, we have advised New York to check up on the company. As agreed there is to be no mention of girls being involved. We found the drugs by apprehending a suspicious man loading dolls into a car badly parked at Heathrow

The next two days were spent sorting out the boat's problem and sweeping any relationship with the Royal family under the carpet. In a bizarre kind of way I think the heist of the drugs made the atmosphere very congenial. I greatly appreciated the British customs covering up any tract of the child’s part in the event. I left London on excellent terms with the customs team I was working with.

Once back in New York I heard all about a discovery of drugs stuffed in dolls. By chance a man had parked his car in an illegal place and was loading the dolls into his car. It was reported that they never found out from which plane the dolls came from. They reported the American company shipping the dolls to the US authorities. Apparently this company, now hauled before the federal police, had employed this dolls method for transporting dolls twice before.

Two weeks later I received a letter from Rosemary Worth written on the school's note paper. It read as follows:-

Dear Officer Paul Summers

I have the great pleasure, in conjunction with the trustee of the school, to invite you as our guest year end speaker on June 28th at the school. The ceremonies commence at 14.30 hours in the afternoon. We would like to invite you to a luncheon beforehand at 12.30. I do hope you can come.

On a more personal note our talk at JFK was both enlightening and extremely necessary. I was greatly impressed by your foresight and wisdom. The girls and I had a wonderful time in London.

I look forward to your acceptance

Yours faithfully

Rosemary Worth

Principal.

July 28, 2023 10:18

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