CRASH! My glass of wine slipped out of my hand and spilled, glass shattering all over the tiled floor. The waiter came rushing over to clean up the mess.
“Oh my gosh,” I exclaimed, “I am so sorry!” The waiter glared up at me as he scrubbed the wine up from all over the floor.
“Yeah, okay,” he said. I put a $20 bill down on the high table and ran out of the O’Hare Airport Chili’s, blushing. I had a flight to catch to Kaohsiung soon anyways. The flight was leaving the airport at 9:00 that night. As I was walking to the gate, I noticed a tall Caucasian man following me ever since I had I walked out of Chili’s. I decided to go to the bathroom that was near the gate to my flight to see if I could lose him. I stayed in there for about ten minutes and as I walked out, I did not see him anywhere. I went to sit outside the boarding door.
I was suddenly awoken by a man on the intercom, “Now boarding first class on TigerAir Taiwan flight 331 to Kaohsiung.” I got up and started walking towards the door.
“SIR!” a man’s voice boomed, “SIR! EXCUSE ME, SIR!” I jumped at the loud and sudden voice of the man that I noticed had been following me before.
“I have a favor to ask of you, sir,” he said as he was running up to me. He was very tall and had a husky build.
“What?” I said, bewildered. I noticed that he was carrying a small, black wooden box.
“I have to send this package to a friend in Chaozhou Township and I do not have enough money to pay the shipping costs from the United States to Taiwan,” he claimed, “The township is about half an hour outside of Kaohsiung City Proper. Would you mind if I gave you his address so you could drop it off for me?”
“Ummm, I don’t know if I can do that,” I said, skeptically.
“What do you mean?! The package has already gone through the security check, so you know that it is safe,” he told me.
“Okay fine,” I said. He did have a point, “What’s his address?”
“Oh thank you, sir! His address is No. 201, Zhicheng Rd, Chaozhou Township, Pingtung County, Taiwan 920,” The addresses in Taiwan have always confused me, “You need to get it to him before 19 February.” It was the 14th.
“Okay, I’ll see what I can do. Can I get your contact information so I can contact you if I am not able to get the package to your friend.”
“No,” he said abruptly. He then promptly ran away from me after handing me the package. I was confused but didn’t really think much of it. Although it was odd how he just ran away, he probably just was in a hurry to get home. It was a little bit concerning how he did not give me his contact information. I boarded my flight and stuffed the package in the carry-on compartment above the seat.
“Welcome to TigerAir Taiwan flight 331 to Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Please fasten your seatbelt as we will be taking off soon. Thank you for flying with TigerAir Taiwan.Huānyíng dào kōngqì táiwān fēi 331 zhì gāoxióng qǐng xì hǎo ānquán dài, jiāng jǐnkuài qǐfēi,” the flight attendant stated in English and Cantonese. We took off from O’Hare at 9:10pm.
“Would you like a glass of champagne, sir?” a flight attendant with bright, red lipstick asked me.
“Sure, that would be great,” I replied. As soon as she walked away, I saw a news story pop up on the small TV screen that was attached to the seat front of me.
“Men arrested at Abu Dhabi International Airport and Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport for trying to sneak bombs onto flights,” the BBC story read, “Both men were trying to get on flights to eastern Asia, one to Hanoi, Vietnam and the other to Naypyidaw, Myanmar.” I started to panic as a million questions began to run through my head. What was in the box that the man gave me? Did he give it to me because I was heading for east Asia? Was it a bomb that was supposed to be a part of the foiled terrorist attacks on east Asia?
“Here you go, sir,” the flight attendant said abruptly to me as she handed me a glass of champagne. I jumped as she talked to me, since I was in such deep thought. She also handed me the complimentary first class dinner of shrimp dumplings and sweet and crispy pork buns, two Taiwanese classic dishes.
“Oh! Thank you,” I said to her as she sat the tray down in front of me. I could not even think about eating right now. I was too panicked, even though Taiwanese food is my favorite. I sat through the rest of the 22 hour flight in fear of something happening with the box. Nothing did. We landed in Kaohsiung in the early afternoon. It was a bright and sunny day in the city, but all I could think about was the box. I wanted to get rid of it as soon as possible.
I got a cab outside of the airport after grabbing my luggage and the black box. He took me to my hotel, the Chateau De Chine Hotel Kaohsiung. I dropped of my bags in the room and headed out to get a rental car from the Hertz down the street. I brought the box with me. I ended up with a small sedan. I headed out to Chaozhou Township. After about 30 kilometres of rice paddies, I finally reached the small and rundown capital city of Chaozhou Township, Pingtung. When I turned onto Zhicheng Rd, I noticed that the apartment was in a particularly run down and impoverished part of town.
I pulled up to the apartment block and walked up to number flat 201 and knocked on the door. It swung open almost as soon as I knocked on it.
“What the heck took you so long?” the man said to me.
“What?” I was confused. I just landed two hours ago and it was still a couple of days before I had to drop the package off at his flat.
“Come in!” he said, “Quick! Before somebody sees us.” He grabbed my shirt and yanked me inside his apartment. What was this man’s problem?
“I have your box,” I told him.
“That is…” he hesitated, “...great”. He smirked as he talked.
“Yeah. So here you go,” I handed him the box. He grabbed it out of my hands and put it on the coffee table behind him.
“You can leave now. Thanks for dropping off the package,” he said. I walked out of the door, wondering if I should have asked to looked into the box, but that would have been an invasion of his privacy. I tried not to think about it and headed back to the hotel.
When I arrived back at my room, I turned on the television to an English news station. A shocking story was running along the bottom of the screen, “Explosions rocked the financial districts of Hong Kong, Macau and Bangkok at 4:30 in the afternoon. Source of explosions is still unknown. Possibly part of the foiled terrorist attacks on other southeast Asian cities.” I started to worry. I realized that I probably gave a bomb to someone so he could set off somewhere in Taiwan as part of the east Asian terrorist attacks. I called the police. I had a long conversation with the officer and then he told me to go the Tainan City Proper Police Precinct as they were the ones who dealt with bomb issues in southern Taiwan. I immediately left the hotel and headed for Tainan.
I had another very long conversation with the lead officer in Tainan. His name was Chao An. I told him about the man in the airport and the package he gave me as well as the man that I gave said package to. I gave him the address and the name of the officer that sent me to Tainan to report this situation. Apparently they could not find the man that I gave the package to and they had released a warrant for his arrest after I gave his description.
I decided to try and take my mind off the whole situation and take a day trip to Taipei the next day. I had not received any updates with the bomb and there had been no other explosions in any other cities in east Asia. The trip was only two hours by high speed train and I was excited to get out of Kaohsiung. It was nice to get back to the big city feel that Taipei has, since I had lived in Chicago and Kaohsiung was a fairly small city. The people running to get to work and school on time and the cars constantly honking, I never realized how much I missed it. While I was hanging out in a Star bucks, enjoying my Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato in Taipei City Proper, there was a loud crashing sound, sounding like it came from about three blocks down Minshen East Road.
Then smoke. Screaming. People running. The bomb, it was here. The man must be here. I ran out of the Starbucks, calling 110, the Taiwan police number, and rushed towards the area of the explosion. I got voicemail, so I was unable to reach the police. I stopped on the sidewalk and pulled out Officer An’s card and called him.
“I heard about what has happened in Taipei,” he said, frantically, “We couldn’t find the man in time.”
“Yeah, I figured. I’m about two blocks away from the explosions and I am walking over there to see if I can find the man,” I told him.
“No. That is not a good idea. There could be more bombs and--” I hung up the phone. I did not care what he had to say. This was my fault. The people that were and injured killed in the blast, that was all me. I was the one that brought the box to Taiwan and if I could help anybody that was hurt, it was the least that I could do. Why did I take the box from the suspicious man? Why did I not look inside? Why did I not call the police when I got to the terrorist’s house. So many questions. So few answers.
I arrived at the explosion site. The bomb must have been set off on Jianguo Elevated Toll Road, because the bridge that crossed Minshen was gone. Buildings had lost their entire fronts, exposing the flats inside. I did not see any dead people, but I was still about a block from the place where the bomb was set off. I did not want to get any closer. Huge billboards from the top of the 20 story buildings were scattered across Minshen East and I could see that people were trapped inside cars underneath them. I began to run over to one of the cars when suddenly there was another ear-splitting crashing sound. Another bomb had gone off near me. I flew backwards, at least 200 meters and slammed down on to the grassy median in the middle of the road.
Bright lights. People rushing me down a hallway. That was the next thing I remembered as I slipped in and out of consciousness. I woke up later in bed at Taipei Chang Gung Memorial Hospital. I didn’t remember what had happened, just that I was having a hard time hearing. I realised that I was unable to move and started to panic. The doctor came in about half an hour later and sat down next to me.
“I have some bad news, I’m afraid,” he said, “You broke your spine during the blast, and you will not be able to feel anything under your neck for the rest of your life. You are paralyzed.”