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The airport was hot and crowded and Ben couldn’t see Morgan anywhere."Exactly how long can it take a woman to go to the bathroom?" he wondered. A quick glance at his watch summed it up nicely. "Too damn long." Angling his head around the sudden surge of people passing by his seat at the gate in hopes of a glimpse of Morgan exiting the ladies room, he was rewarded with nothing more than a pair of mahogany skinned teens dressed like prostitutes entering the undoubtably cramped airport lavatory. This was taking way too long. Small airports drove him crazy. But he could hardy expect expedience in this third rate banana republic. He was lucky to be catching this last flight back to the states on such short notice.

“Sorry I took so long.” Morgan's unexpected voice jolting him from his musing.Ben watched her slide into the seat beside him, “I barely even realized you were gone.” He replied with a smirk.

“Have they called our flight yet?” she inquired, ignoring his attempt at sarcasm.

“Should be any minute now.” Ben answered, giving up on any attempt to lighten the mood. They were both simply too tired to keep up any pretense of banter. As if on cue, a deeply accented voice shouted from the only ticket counter that flight 526 to San Diego was boarding. Rising to his feet, Ben grabbed for their two bags of luggage while Morgan slipped her knapsack over her shoulder. Following her to the boarding area, Ben was reminded just how thankful he was that they were finally on their way home. This trip had been far less relaxing than either one of them had expected.

They were only three people from the head of the line, when someone
bolted from the midst of the constantly shifting crowd towards the line of boarding passengers, tripping over a poorly placed bit of stray luggage crashing into Ben. Fortunately the heavy luggage helped to balance him and he didn’t lose his footing. Morgan turned to see what the commotion was about only to have a dirty green duffel bag thrust into her arms. The woman at the other end of the duffel was obviously both a native and distressed. Her long hair was disheveled and her nostrils flared with each word of her native tongue that rattled out of her panting mouth like tired gunfire. Morgan understood a mere handful of words of the local dialect, but the pleading and ungency in the young girls eyes made Morgan accept the offered duffel almost reflexively. The girl definately needed help, but what kind?

The girl cast a quick glance over her shoulder as if someone were hot on her heels, and spoke once more, pleading with Morgan one last time in her breathless voice, before plunging back into the seething mass of people crowding the backwater terminal.

"What was that all about?” Ben asked looking after the young girl.

“Ben.” Morgan’s frantic whisper forced him to turn and look at first her then down at the duffel bag she held in her outstretched arms as it began to move. It was something of a rocking motion. Back and forth. Ben and Morgan both felt the hair rising on their flesh as they watched it rock. Meanwhile, they had held up the line quite a bit, and the irked customers behind them let them know with a colorful splash of curse words from a variety of different dialects. Ben grabbed Morgan's hand and pulled her out of line. He couldn't believe this. Was this trip from hell ever going to end, or just get more and more complex? Morgan looked frightened at the magical bag (which had mysteriously stopped moving).

She asked him, "what do you think we should do with it? Should we open it and see what's inside?"

Ben wasn't sure. After all, the woman that handed the bag to his wife seemed rather dirty. Besides that, who knew what she was rambling about in her foreign tongue? Perhaps she was warning them against opening it. He really didn't feel like having an adventure right now anyways. Ben just wanted to get on the plane and go home. There had been enough delays and waiting periods to last him a lifetime. He thought that someone else should be dealing with this problem.

"Morgan," he said, putting his hand on her shoulder,"how about we just give it to an airport official and get outta here? This is their country, let's let them deal with it. After all, we have no clue what that woman was talking about. Hell, there could be something dangerous in there...okay?" She looked resilient. He already knew she wanted
to look inside, and she validated his assumption with her response.

"No Ben. I think she gave it to us for a reason. Let's check it out. I mean, I know you're tired, I'm tired too. But maybe this is important. What could be dangerous about this thing? I mean, it could be anything. It could be alive."

"It could also be a bomb,or some dangerous chemical. This isn't our business Morgan." At that, she thrust the bag into his hands. It was fairly light and it felt soft somehow. Almost like it was something alive. A short moment passed by and Ben started to change his mind. Maybe he would open it after all. Something about this worn down bag was telling him he should. That woman, she didn't seem threatening or dangerous.
She seemed desperate and needy. All she really wanted was help, not help for herself though, she wanted help for whatever was in this bag. You didn't ask for help for an inanimate object, did you? He placed his hand on the bag's rusty silver zipper and started to pull gently. It was stuck. He tugged a bit harder and Morgan tried to help
make the process easier. Just that moment, however, Ben felt a heavy hand on his shoulder.

"I need to ask you to hand over that duffel bag, sir," said a heavy voice from behind Ben. He turned around to see two security guards standing behind him. They were both rather large men, not the type that could move real fast, but the type that could seriously pack a punch if they caught up with you. Their uniform badges identified them as "Williamson" and "Munoz". They seemed polite enough, but also stern. Ben didn't want to start anything with them and so he addressed them respectfully.

"Can I ask you sir why it is that you would want to confiscate my bag?"

It was Williamson who spoke before and it was him who answered now, "we have reason to believe that is not your bag, sir. There is a terrorist cell active in this area and we think they may have smuggled one or more bags containing questionable material into the airport. We must ask that you hand over the bag."

"Oh, how concerning," interjected Morgan, "do you have a description of any of the suspects?"

"Actually, Miss we do. The main suspect is a young native girl. She is
considered armed and dangerous. Is that who gave you the bag?" Morgan and Ben exchanged alarmed looks. Ben couldn't believe how close they had been to injury. If that zipper wouldn't have stuck...he shuddered and handed the bag over to the officers. Ben warned
them about the movements of the bag to which they hardly seemed to flinch. He was surprised and a bit concerned about their nonchalance in dealing with such a serious security matter and wondered why they seemed to express no concern about the movements in the bag. However, he was tired and chalked it up to a foreign policy. Morgan put her arm around him and they walked to the boarding deck together.

Morgan and Ben both spent their first few days home relaxing and talking, trying to forget their terrible visit to the little South American islands. Too much flying around on dirty planes, talking to locals who hardly knew the language, and then there was that strange brush with death...the duffel bag. The beat-up green bag was on Ben's mind often during those first few days back, he even tried to bring it up once or twice with Morgan but she simply kissed him gently on the lips and told him not to worry so much. He tried to dismiss it from his mind though it persisted. However, the days past and Ben forgot all about the desperate native girl and her green duffel bag. He started work again and so did Morgan. Eventually, life was normal again.

About a week after Ben had completely forgotten about the green duffel bag and it's mysterious movements, he sat down to watch the evening news as part of his normal routine. They had a special report on about some endangered species of parrot. Ben grumbled, but didn't switch the channel. It had been a long day and he was more interested in zoning out in front of the television than actually learning about anything in the world around him. He sat there, caught up in his own thoughts as the
female anchor talked about some parrot from South America that was greatly endangered. He heard a few words about the species only having two males remaining in captivity and there being none left in the wild, to the knowledge of orinithologists. The government was opposed to cooperating with the United States' scientists due to political
differences and there was some effort by an environmentalist group to smuggle three female babies to the USA for breeding. This was where Ben's attention completely trailed off until Morgan walked into the room with a cup of tea and promptly dropped it all over the floor, shattering the cup with a glass pang.

"Ben," she gasped, "look at the television! It''s the girl!" Brought
back from his drifting, Ben focused his vision on the picture before him. It was the young native girl from the airport, but what was she doing on a report about endangered parrots? Ben shushed Morgan and listened intently to the rest of the news report.

"Her name was Jennifer Xalvadora and she was an active member of a strong South American environmentalist group committed to transporting the three baby Spix macaws to the USA for breeding. She was passionate and loved these birds," explained the same female anchor as the picture switched to a picture of her with three small blue parrots. They were downy puffs of sky blue and white, not even old enough to fly. She cuddled them in her arms, and they looked snug in her embrace. "Unfortunately, " she continued, "these birds are now dead. The final surviving female Spix macaws were killed sometime in the past two months after a failed attempt by Xalvadora's group to
smuggle them to the States. Apparently, a group of poachers was tipped off to the group's attempt and found Xalvadora in the airport with her birds. Somehow, the parrots fell into the hands of the poachers who may have been dressed as airport security to throw Xalvadora off. There was also an American couple said to be involved that are
wanted for questioning by the South American government. Hopefully, these men can be brought to justice, and in the meantime, bird lovers and environmentalists everywhere will mourn the doom of these great birds."

With that, the news cut to commercial leaving Ben and Morgan in a stunned silence. Ben felt tears at the corners of his eyes and millions of "what ifs" in his head. He looked over at Morgan and saw the same mixture of guilt and loss in her eyes.

"Come on," he said to her, getting up from the couch, "let's see how we can get in contact with the real officers down in South America..."

"God grant me distraction."

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The following comments are for "Terrible Intentions?"
by Darkshine Raven

You think some of you who are scoring Kitten and I's writing could leave a comment or two about what you gave us and a short note as to why? Just, you help us improve where we can. I mean...I've got 14 votes...3 comments. A bit of a descrepency I fear. Thanks! =D

Pen, Jessica- Thank you for your kind words. I suppose I just saw the possibilities of the story in a different light than Kitten.

Bob- I see what you mean about the conversation between the "officers" and the couple. I have an issue with dialouge for some reason. I try to avoid it in my writing. I need to work on that. But thank you for your compliments as well. =D

( Posted by: Darkshine Raven [Member] On: September 25, 2003 )

I just loved this story. {Foreign tongue}

I sort of figured it was species or something. just loved it



( Posted by: JEANNIE45 [Member] On: September 25, 2003 )

There were bits in this story that I thought were pretty good, but overall I have to say it lacked tension, particularly toward the end. The news broadcast didn't really put the punch into the end. The story was told to them as much as to the reader... maybe if they'd been arrested or something, and found out the story that way it would have had more impact?

The writing is fairly good all the same, but I'm going to award the victory to Kitten.

7/10 for you. :-)

( Posted by: Spudley [Member] On: September 26, 2003 )

birds of a feather

I must say that I didn't see this plot twist coming, as I read your entry first. Very interesting plot twist. I have to agree that you could have dialed up the tension and suspense a notch or two to better effect, and that the dialogue needs a little work. It's still a good story and I'm looking forward to seeing what else these little contests may bring out of your mind. But as Spud said, I'm gonna give this one to Kitten by a narrow margin.


( Posted by: Bartleby [Member] On: September 27, 2003 )

switched personalities?
I thought that Morgan would have been the one to keep on thinking about it and that Ben would have been the one to say" see I was right" and forget about the whole deal.
good story I really enjoyed it

( Posted by: snuffystuff [Member] On: September 28, 2003 )

I'd just like to say it was a delightful contest, Darkshine, and congratulations on your success.

Being the other author, I won't comment too much since we had very different views*grins*, but I will say that the only true bother for me was the dialogue. Even then, though, I agree that you have the skills, and are a very capeable writer. I hope to see more from you *smiles*


( Posted by: Kitten Courna [Member] On: September 28, 2003 )

Jeannie- Thank you very much. The Spix macaw is indeed a type of parrot that is very, very endangered. There are none left remaining in the rainforests and only a handful in captivity. I wanted to include raise awareness about their poor situation. I love those birds, and if they disappear..well, I don't want to think about that. =D

Spudley- I agree about the tension. I think I was kind of trying to highlight their obliviousness by having the story told to them as well. Perhaps it they would have been detained entering the United States? Did even think of that!

Bart- Here again I agree about the tension...and dialouge is not my strong suit. I'm very glad I could give you an unexpected twist though. Nice to know you can surprise your readers. I look forward to being in Write-Offs in the future, I love this opportunity to learn and grow as a writer. For example...I can go work on my dialouge now! =D

Snuffy- I'm glad you enjoyed my story! I think you are probably right, although the point was that they both forgot about it. I probably didn't ake that clear enough though.

Kitten- Thank you so much for your kind words! *blushes profusely* =D We did indeed see this story in a ery different way, but I think that's the beauty of it. I loved your story and personally feel you are a very strong writer. I guess we learned here that plot rules as king over...uh, good writing, which I kinda suspected from the get go. It was a joy to be in this competition together and I certainly hope you got as much from it as I did! =D

Did anyone at all see my commentary about Americans, terrorism, and fear? Heh, I guess I slipped it too far under the radar. It's there though. Heh. Thank you everyone for your help and kind words. It's all my pleasure. =D

( Posted by: Darkshine Raven [Member] On: September 29, 2003 )

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