Thursday, July 17, 2008



I bumped into her in the corridor at Orly airport as she was running through a door.
I was close enough to observe her face, her makeup was almost invisible, she was wearing an expensive fragrance, and she looked quite attractive. We both worked for the same airline.
“Oops! I am sorry,” we said together and laughed.
“I haven't seen you before,” I said.
“New here, only three months, but leaving soon to become cabin attendant with Pan Am”.
“How nice” I said, “I’ll bump into you somewhere in the world.” We smiled again and walked away.
I had taken about ten steps when I heard her voice behind me.
“Hey, why not in Paris? Paris is a part of the world too.”
I smiled and said “touché”, waved goodbye and left.
Two weeks later, while disembarking, I saw her at the foot of the steps. “Hello Arki,” she said
Before I had a chance to say a word, she held my arms and gave me three cheek-to-cheek kisses. Her fingers felt as if she was pulling me towards her, but her arms did not move and kept a distance.
I was surprised of course; I did not know why I earned the kisses.
“And you are?” I asked.
“Marie-Madeleine” was the answer, “I am glad I met you Arki, I am sorry, cannot talk to you now; I’ll speak to you later”, she said and left.
It was unusual. A young woman whom I didn’t know was waiting for me. She had no business being there, she addressed me with my nickname, disregarded, basic manners and ignored the airline hierarchy.
Two hours later, when I was ready for a nap, the phone rang.
“Hi, it’s me,” the voice said, “Marie-Madeleine. I have finished my shift and I want to see you, if I may?”
“This woman is on a fast track, it doesn’t make sense.” I mumbled to myself.
“Where are you?”
“Here in the lobby; I decided to stop on my way home, may I come up? Please”, she said in a sweet voice.
“She is too attractive to be ignored” I was thinking “let see what she wants”.
“Come on up” I said.
I jumped into my pants and while buttoning my shirt, she knocked on the door.
I was thunderstruck; the contrast between the airport Marie-Madeleine and this one was inconceivable. I would not have recognized her if I had passed her on the street. She assumed an alarming sexy posture, her hair was spread over her shoulders, she wore a mini skirt and the two upper buttons of her blouse were open. She looked provocative and contemptible. The change in her was frightening, I felt insecure.
“What the hell‘s going on?” I said to myself regretting inviting her up.
She looked determined as she moved in.
I backed up, to move away from her. The room felt congested.
“What do you want?”
“What do you mean?” She was taken aback.
“What do you want?” I repeated.
“Come on Arki, you are not a child, you know what I want.”
“No, I don’t”, I said. “I am not a child, but I am not Apollo either.”
“Look Ricco,” she said, “I was smitten… Love at first sight,...Can’t stop thinking about you.”
She sounded false; she called me Ricco and did not realize her mistake. I did not correct her.
“I have everything a person wants. I have houses in Geneva and Cannes. I have anything money can buy. What I cannot buy is love, true love. I never had a real partner with whom I could share my life. I fell in love with you the moment I saw you. You are the man for me. Please give us a chance.”
Why do I need to know about her money? Even the word ‘love’ sounded phony. It felt as if a con man were trying to sell me the London Bridge or a ticket to the moon. Nothing in her entire speech sounded sincere
“Let me show you what a woman in love can do to her lover,” she continued while unbuttoning her blouse.
Her provocative body language became increasingly difficult to handle, like being caught in an under-tow pulling me helplessly into a vortex. I did not know what to do or say. “This ‘siren’ with her sweet voice is luring you into the deep briny sea,” a voice was whispering inside my head. I was dizzy and about to surrender. “Don’t give up,” I heard the voice again, “get rid of this sea nymph”.
“Please go away,” I said weakly.
She did not move. Her arrogant smile made me angry.
She felt my vulnerability. “Please Arki, one little kiss for the road”. It felt like an extra kick after the knockout. I almost lost my temper.
I was about to push her out, but stopped short of doing it realizing it was a bad proposition to touch her one way or another.
I grabbed her pocketbook from the desk, opened the door, and threw it into the corridor. It was unusually heavy and she moved swiftly after it. I locked the door against her. I felt an immediate relief but could not get her out of my mind.
What did she want?
Three months later, the purser Ricco was on my crew. I wondered if it were he, she had mistaken me for. I stopped him and said: “Hi Ricco, Marie-Madeleine, sent her regards.”
Instantly Ricco became white as if he had taken a chlorine bath.
“What’s wrong Ricco?”
“I don’t know any Marie-Madeleine.”
“You must be kidding, how do you think I found you?” I bluffed.
Ricco reluctantly said: “Not now, later”.
Later was at the poolside in the Rome Holiday-Inn. Mellowed by a drink, Ricco started to talk.
“I met her a few days after she was employed. She initiated what seemed to be a harmless affair. I had a great time with her; she took me to exclusive out-of-my-league places and always paid, and in cash. Her pocketbook was always loaded.
One day my wife planned a family visit to Paris. I asked Marie-Madeleine not to call me during my wife’s visit. She had a different idea.
She was at the foot of the steps when we arrived and said, ”hi Ricco, welcome to Paris, let me help your wife through customs and immigration.”
She was courteous and formal.
“We’ll pass through the VIP lane and we’ll wait for you on the arrival ramp”.
I was rendered speechless; I wanted to bury myself alive.
Twenty minutes later, Marie-Madeleine became my wife’s best friend. To her offer to dine together, my wife happily agreed. Marie Madeleine took us to a Michelin guide recommended restaurant, asked the sommelier to serve a rare wine, and insisted on paying. Besides my small problem, it was a lovely evening.
While drinking the coffee, Marie-Madeleine said to me, “may I ask you a favor? I owe some money to a friend in New York, could you please help me and take it to him?”.
“Of course he’ll do it” said my wife on my behalf. I was committed.
The man in New York, was the type you do not want to meet in a dark alley. He was suspicious, unpleasant and abusive. I became very concerned about Marie-Madeleine’s taste in friends. Before he left, he gave me a small parcel, “stockings”, he said, “make sure she gets it.”
Back in Paris, I called Marie-Madeleine. To my surprise, she said: “I am busy tonight, and as you leave tomorrow, I want you please to mail it to my P.O.B.”
I did not like it.
“I can walk and give it to your door attendant,” I said’.
She insisted I mail it.
I was furious, not only was I humiliated as a messenger boy, she also did not want the door attendant to see me. It occurred to me for the first time, I was never invited to her home. I was livid, I mailed the parcel and decided not to run any more errands. She called later in the evening and informed me she was on her way to see me.
Her behavior was very patronizing and humiliating. I told her my decision not to make any more deliveries.
She was quiet, and pretended to be insulted and angry. Then, with a venomous tone, she said, ”Oh yes! You will do me favors; you don’t want your loving jealous wife to know about our little secret, do you? In addition, I will keep the cover of the parcel you have mailed, with your name on it. This will ensure your cooperation.
“What was in that parcel?”
“Legitimate stockings if you want to know, to check you out, later it will be the “real thing” the white Colombian stuff.”
I was about to faint.
“A sprinkle of that certain white powder, and your stockings box becomes exhibit A.’ she said smiling.
It was obvious; every step of our so-called love affair was a line she gave to hook me.
“I never touch the stuff” she continued, "what I do is cutting off the coupons while suckers like you are doing the smuggling. I am a generous person and you will be paid well but if you’ll betray me, I’ll easily prove that you are the pusher and I am the victim.” She knew what she was talking. Marie Madeleine had a law degree from the Sorbonne her mother was a magistrate (investigating judge) and her father was a rich contractor highly involved in politics. The entire Paris police department was under her spell.
“I was in deep shit” continued Ricco “and didn’t see my way out.
I asked crew assignment to schedule me on one-day flights.”
“My Mom is sick” I wrote in my request, and did not fly to Paris.”
“And? Did you get rid of her?” I asked
“Hell no, when Marie-Madeleine realized, I am not coming to Paris, she called my wife and asked if she may come for a two weeks visit. “I am in between jobs, and it’s a good time to take a vacation,” she said over the phone. “Of course you can stay with us” my wife said, “we have an extra room”.
Marie-Madeleine arrived at my house. She was friendly and full of smiles. She did not discuss ‘business’, her silence was very alarming.
One morning when my wife was in the shower, she came to my bedroom wearing a silk nightgown and said, “Come-on, we have enough time for a ‘quickie.’” I was shocked and speechless. “Trust me” she encouraged me, “with your wife so close, you’ll feel as high as doing drugs” she said.
“You can not imagine how furious I was. I wanted to strangle her. I was also afraid of what she might do if I refuse her. At that moment I knew, I’ll never manage to get her off my life, unless, I confess to my wife and report about the drugs, bearing the consequences. I tried to stall her, to gain some time, luckily, the phone rang and saved my life.
I got courageous the next day and spoke to the vice president of security. My plan was to talk to my wife only after Marie-Madeleine’s departure.
The V.p of security thanked me for talking, removed me officially from any Paris flights, and promised to investigate.
Before her departure, she said to me with a tone of a threat, “I will see you in Paris soon, won’t I?”
“Sure” I said.
The ‘narks’ came to my house three hours after her takeoff, with a search warrant and armed guards. They combed the house with a toothbrush. Bust open pillows, squeezed out toothpaste, cut open upholstery, and opened canned food. They took us to the station, interrogated us separately for two hours. Later, they made me repeat my deposition in front of my wife. It was too humiliating. There was nothing more to hide.
My wife felt more betrayed by Marie-Madeleine than by me. To my surprise, she was on my side and supportive. They released us a few hours later. I learned later Marie Madeleine was detained by the police at the airport. They found nothing on her. She was released after the French ambassador called the foreign office.
The damage to our house was so immense we had to move to my in-laws. Now three months after the search, we are in the process of restoring our house and salvaging our marriage.
Sometime after our chat, Ricco took a leave of absence. I was very careful not to mention Ricco or Marie-Madeleine’s name.
Only two and a half years later, Ricco’s name was back on the crew list. A few weeks after his return, on one of his flights to Paris, Ricco was seriously injured. A hit-and-run car knocked him down.
Ricco spent six months in hospitals with multiple fractures and repeated operations.
When Ricco was back at home, I paid him a visit.
He was still on crutches, but in a good mood.
After a few words of courtesy, the obvious question came up:
“Was your accident related to Marie-Madeleine?”
“I don’t think so,” said Ricco. "It was not my scheduled flight. I replaced a sick purser, it happened in a neighborhood I never been to and the car came from around the corner. It could not have been coordinated. The connection was suggested, but never pursued. The magistrate investigating it dropped the case for “lack of public interest.”
“How is Marie-Madeleine?”
“You’ll be pleased to know, she is in jail, serving four years. Unfortunately she is about to be released.
The Interpol, the Mossad, and the French intelligence. did a great job bypassing the Paris police department. They found enough evidence to indict her. The trial was in Chamonix far away from Paris. I was not called to testify, but they kept me informed.”
“So if it wasn’t you, who testified against her”?
“Well, many people did”.
“Many people?”
“Yes, scores of them”
“How come?”
“They found about twenty couriers, full fledged suckers like me and sexually blackmailed. They were granted immunity, and happily incriminated her.
The defense lawyer described Marie-Madeleine as a ‘warm loving and caring person, a volunteer at old people homes, a member of prestigious clubs, in which she collects money for the old and lonely people’. He brought some letters in which she was described as an angel.
The prosecution, on the other hand, proved, that while visiting the old people she ‘borrowed’ their social security cards and used them to rent post office boxes.
She used the boxes for the exchange. Her messengers placed the money envelopes from outside of the box and picked up the merchandise in another. She only touched the money.
Every second weekend she drove to Geneva to stash away the loot into a Swiss bank.
The investigators found some of her clients, co members of exclusive clubs, rich cocaine users, who paid dearly for her services.
When the supply exceeded the demand, the extra drugs were distributed by pimps in Place Pigalle.
Some marked bills were found in her possession, while trying to cross the border to Switzerland. She was charged for smuggling money out of France and pushing cocaine. She was indicted, sentenced, and jailed.
After a long pause, Ricco asked, “tell me Arki, what was your involvement with Marie-Madeleine?”
Ricco sat attentive and was very amused by my story.
“As you see Ricco” I ended, “she tried to lure me into her trap, out of negligence, she used the wrong bait
She could easily fool me, by letting me think I seduced her, and then eat me up for breakfast.
After a long pause, I heard Ricco mumbling, “You’re a Lucky dog,” he said, while dispensing more scotch into my glass.

Word count 2600.

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