Jon Shingler sat in the waiting area of Gate 22 Terminal B doing the first brave, imaginative, risky, crazy act of his life. He glanced up at the monitor above the desk manned by two smartly-attired staff.

UX051 Caracas

He was doing it! He was actually doing it! He should have felt on top of the world. But he didn’t. Instead he felt shit.

Shit scared.

Somewhere between thirty and forty, living with his mum and dad and with a considerable sum in the bank due to never having had anything to spend his money on. He went to work every day, did overtime when it was offered and either played on his console or the pub darts team or swam in the pool when he was not there. He liked his mum’s lasagne and he disliked change. So… why was he here?

It was all Dave’s fault. Dave from work. Dave whom he shared a pint with from time to time. “You need a woman,” Dave had told him. ‘A bit rich coming from you, a man whose life has just been ruined by a woman who left you for someone else, took your kids and threw you out of the house that you’ve been paying for since 1998,’ he thought. But he didn’t say it. Jon never said anything controversial.

But it was true, he did need a woman, he longed for one. He’d tried of course, with several girls over the years, but it had always been a disaster. “That’s because you’re looking in the wrong place,” Dave had said, (and he should know). Stan agreed. They’d been talking in the library and Stan was one of the trusted prisoners who held a privileged position. Stan’s was to help the librarian, Jon. Dave was an officer. Stan was doing fifteen years for drug importation, a yacht full of cocaine that he’d loaded up somewhere in the Caribbean and then had been unloading in a small cove on the Portuguese Atlantic Coast when the police had caught him. Although he looked like your granddad on a Sunday afternoon, Stan was a multi-millionnaire. He’d done that trip many times.

“The girls here are not worth chasing,” Stan had continued, “but abroad, now there is where you can find some real ladies. Elegant, graceful, truly feminine, not like these ones here covered in tattoos and fat from too many donner kebabs.”

“And where’s the best place for Jon to find a woman like that?” Dave had asked. “Thailand?”

“Thailand? Huh, Thailand is nothing. No, the country that beats all others by a mile is Venezuela. Go to Caracas, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven!”

And so here he was, about to catch a plane to Caracas. He’d registered on a dating site without telling his mum and was scheduled to meet Maria Rodriguez (22), Carmen Gutierrez (26) and Alejandra Guevara (24). Where would this lead? He was too scared to think.

“Will passengers seated in rows one to twenty please come forward for boarding,” announced one of the smartly-attired officials. He glanced at his boarding pass. 33F. He was about to return his gaze to his phone when something caught the corner of his eye. It was a woman, a blonde, no… it couldn’t be!

Terri Fletcher was an officer in the prison. Not a very good one. She was the type who flirts with inmates one minute and then sends them down to the block the next. She was not particularly bright but pretty in a Benidorm kind of way. But what was she doing here queuing up for a plane to Caracas? And why was the passport in her hand blue and not maroon?

The answer was obvious: it wasn’t her. It was someone who looks like Terri Fletcher, that’s all. Yet the more he stared, the more he was sure that it was. One thing was for certain: she hadn’t seen him. Without even knowing why he did it, Jon put on his sunglasses and walked up to her from behind. The passport was American. He sidled past. The boarding pass in her hand said FEDERSON/JANICE on it. Yet it was Terri Fletcher.

Sitting on the plane as they prepared to take-off, he wondered. Perhaps he’d been mistaken after all; why on earth would a brainless tramp like Terri Fletcher even want to Caracas anyway? She’d probably never even heard of the place. Yet he knew that face and her mannerisms, it was her. And so why the new name and passport?

He collected his bags from the conveyor belt keeping her in eye. His arrived first so he went through Customs and then sat on a bench in the Arrivals Hall and waited. Several minutes later Ms. Fletcher-cum-Federson also stepped through looking nervous and disorientated. A man waved and stepped forward and the angst vanished from her face in an instant. She hugged the man and then kissed him passionately. They were an item. ‘But who is he?’ Jon thought. They turned and walked towards the exit and Jon recognised him. He was on D-wing… or had been a day or two ago. Holding back he surreptitiously filmed them with his mobile and then followed. They got in the first taxi from the rank and set off. Jon jumped in the next. “Follow that car!” he ordered. Thankfully the driver had seen enough Hollywood movies to understand.

Jon followed them to Hotel Chacao where he filmed them getting out of the taxi and checking in before telling his driver to go on to the hotel that he’d booked via the internet. Hotel Avila wasn’t so nice as the Chacao but Jon didn’t care. Two hours later, after he’d freshened up and put on the shirt that his mum had bought him for Christmas, he met with Maria Rodriguez. The Terri Fletcher was intriguing but appointments made should always be kept – his dad had taught him that. Letting people down is just plain rude.

Maria was nice but he wasn’t sure that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Besides, although she was pretty, compared with most of the girls around the hotel she was nothing special and she didn’t seem to make up for it in either personality or English language skills. Plus several of those girls in the hotel had already made eyes at him. No point in rushing; Stan had been right.

Once Maria had left, Jon called Dave. “Hiya mate, how’s it going?” his friend had asked. Once he’d got over the formalities, questions about the flight, weather and girls, Jon casually asked how work was.

“Mate, you wouldn’t believe it! We’ve had a break-out, it’s in all the papers! Marcus Simpson off D-wing, don’t know if you remember him, but he was some big-time gangster and drug dealer down in London. He was on litter patrol when he climbed over the fence. He had help; an officer who he was shagging, Terri Fletcher, you know her, blonde piece, bit dumb but quite tidy. She helped him throw over a rope ladder than he’d made and stored in one of the wheelie bins. She’d let the other prisoners sneak off for a smoke behind the sheds so they were alone when it happened and she climbed over with him. They only found out an hour or so later!”

“Shit! And where are they now?”

“No one knows, vanished into thin air. The papers reckon they’re hiding out in London somewhere, or maybe gone to Spain.”

Jon ended the call after that, said he had an appointment with a girl. Which he did, except that she didn’t know it yet.


Jon Shingler was sitting in the lobby of the Hotel Chacao drinking a coffee when Señora Federson exited the lift wearing sunglasses and a hat. She was alone. Jon had watched Señor Federson a.k.a. Simpson leave ten minutes earlier for the appointment that he had fixed for him in the Plaza Bolívar. He gestured to her and she came over. “Señor Gutierrez?” she asked in a very English accent.

“Some call me that, just as some call you Señora Federson,” he replied taking off his glasses.

She gasped. “You’re the guy from the library, what the…?”

“Listen Terri, and listen carefully. This is not the first time that I’ve done this, nor shall it be the last. We were onto you months ago, bugged his cell. I’ve films of you leaving Heathrow and arriving here. Look! These photos will go first to The Sun, then to the police unless…” He paused and noted the fear behind her sunglasses. “Unless you help us.”

“I don’t, I can’t…”

“You can’t, but Simpson can. He’s worth £40million that the police know about and God knows what else besides. We only want £2million of that; one for protecting you and one for protecting him. And don’t even think about killing me; my accomplice has had all the photos and videos emailed to him and is listening to this conversation as we speak.” He tapped his mobile for effect and she gasped again. “One wrong move and the police will be here in minutes. Now, we appreciate that getting the cash will take time, so we’ll give you forty-eight hours during which time we’ll be keeping an eye on you both just in case you try to leave. Drop the money off – unmarked bills by the way – in P.O. Box 104 in the main post office – here is the key – and that will be the last that you here from us.”

And with those words he got up and left in order to be on time for his appointment with Carmen Gutierrez.


Jon Shingler gave neither Terri Fletcher nor Marcus Simpson another thought after that. If the ruse worked, it worked. If not, then not. He met with Carmen Gutierrez and with Alejandra Guevara and then with several more girls whom he’d struck up conversations with. Then he met with Alejandra again and again. A week later he went to the main post office and retrieved the package from Box 104. Back at the hotel he checked it. £1.8million. Close enough.

That evening he proposed to Alejandra. He also phoned home to resign from his job. He could stay in Caracas as long as he wanted now.

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