a story about smuggling...
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a short story by sean shannon collier...

A Smuggler`s Tale

"Once upon a time, or maybe more than once, or maybe not at all . . ."

     The campfire sought to be one with the sky. Reaching up with colored fingers, grabbing hold of the night, then letting go again. Sending up angry sparks with each failed attempt. Casting its light upon a face. A tired and determined face. The face of a man under tremendous pressure. The face of a man sitting uncomfortably on a rock, contemplating his plan.

     "What plan?" He just wished he had a plan! He held his face in his hands for a moment, thinking back, wondering where he had gone wrong. He should never have tried that crossing. Broad daylight! What was he thinking? And the dogs; he`d spent so much time masking the scent. How did the dogs know? Well, whatever they smelled, he smelled a set up.

      He lost half the shipment. "Half the shipment!" They spent two years producing it under terrible conditions, and he lost half of it in one day. He lifted his face from his hands, then looking around at his fellow soldiers, he thought of the ones he`d lost today. They were shot in the head. Their bodies were piled up and soaked with diesel, to make them burn more easily. He felt an aggravating sting in his eyes, and pushed it back. He had a job to do. His Master had said there would be days like this.

     Using radio would be too risky, so communication with the others was out of the question. They were on their own. It was time for plan B. "If only there was a plan B!" He held his face in his hands for awhile, as the campfire continued its fitful dance with the night.

     He then looked around at his comrades. He knew he was in the right company for a mission such as this. He watched them as they checked their gear. Each of them de-scenting their backpacks to hide the smell of the booty they contained. The Master had paid them an unbelievable price; they were determined, and they were the right men for the job.

     He decided they would split up. Each of them taking a different route. If just one of them made it, it would be worthwhile. The Master would still reap incredible profits. The users on the other side were starving for more of his product. It was the good stuff. The high it produced was phenomenal, giving the users supernatural abilities, and new users were springing up everywhere. That`s why it had the governments of the world in such an uproar. The punishment for being caught with some of the Master`s stuff, was immediate death, unless torture was in order.

     He spit in the fire, then stood up and began kicking it out. He knew it would be days before any of them would have the luxury of a campfire again. His men, his friends, immediately started helping him. Somehow, the one they called "Fuzzy" caught his pants leg on fire. Just slightly at first, but it quickly started climbing his frazzled clothes. It was as if the fire sought revenge for being stomped at. Fuzzy started frantically putting himself out and the others helped. They had him put out in a few seconds, but they just kept putting him out anyways. Slapping and punching and laughing out insults. They liked Fuzzy. He scored a few good blows, and his friends backed off.

     Remembering their mission, they kicked out the last bits of the fire. Silence and moonlight joined hands. The winter wind even ceased, as if afraid to make a sound. They looked to their leader, and he informed them of his plan.

     "Splitting up!" . . .They all knew it was the only way, just like they knew they might not see each other again. Being the motley crew that they were, there was another round of shoulder punches and friendly insults, then they were off. Each of them walking into the night. Each of them on seperate paths, stepping off different routes to the same place. Seemingly alone, but they were never alone.

"A cold winter morn, two days later . . ."

     The little clearing where the men had shared a campfire was again filled with people. Different people. People from the military. People with dogs. Their commander held something in his hand. A piece of the booty that was purposely left behind by the man he had working undercover. The man the smugglers called "Fuzzy." Snowflakes danced around his face as his unreadable stare fixed on the booty in his hand. He smiled to himself, a smile that only he could see, as he read the tiny inscription on the front of the contraband. It was three little words. . .that he hated so much.  The Holy Bible.