Chapter One

No Matter What

Chapter 1. 

Janet was not a great one for gambling but for some reason she decided to buy two tickets in an art union. May be it was the pictures of children in need adorning the stall selling the tickets at her local Westfield or may be it was a moment of weakness, on the other hand it could have been a desire for one of the prizes. First prize being a house on the Gold Coast, second prize would be a fancy sports car and third prize was a holiday through Asia. She didn’t need a house on the Gold Coast or a fancy sports car and she never showed any interest in travel so I believe it was the faces of the needy children that lead to that purchase.

She didn’t give the tickets a second thought after she bought them, when she arrived home she put them in a bowl she kept on her dining room table just for these type of things, small change, receipts, business cards and other things of a similar ilk.

A few months passed when she received a text message from the Art Union telling her she had won third prize. At first she did not believe it as she had never won a prize in any thing before. It sank in when she read her e-mails and saw the details of her prize, three weeks all expenses paid holiday through four Asian countries. The prize could not be given away or sold to any one else so she only had two options, go on the holiday or not.

Holidays in parts foreign were not something that held a great attraction to Janet, she saw them more a kin to torture than pleasure. Hotel rooms, different languages, unfamiliar food, all of which filled her with trepidation. She rang her brother to talk it through but she already knew what he would say. Paul was far more of an outgoing person, always up for adventure and experiencing new places. He told her it was the opportunity of a life time and to grab it with both hands and hang on tight. He pointed out that there would be so much to see and experience that she just had to be brave and go.

After a great deal of thought and indecision she eventually decided to go.

This was a step into the unknown for Janet, she was a quite retiring person who had never been out of NSW let alone the country. She had never married or done any thing that involved a risk. She worked as a clerk in a solicitor’s office and if she was not at work she would be at home with her cat. For her to even think about going on this holiday was unexpected let alone her deciding to actually go. Everyone who knew her were more than surprised to find that she was going and just about all of them expected her to change he mind and not go. Her work colleagues were running a book on how many days, before the departure date, she would change her mind. No one had put money on her going.

But go she did. The day came and her brother took her to the airport and without the slightest hesitation she bordered her flight. She had spent the months leading up to departure studying the cultures of the countries she would be visiting and the interesting places to go. She looked back and waved to her brother and just for a few seconds he thought he saw total fear on her face but it was soon replaced with a broad smile. Paul watched her walk away and wondered whether he should have gone with her but he knew that this was her time to shine and experience things new.

In her forty years on this planet Janet had never been on a plane and as it accelerated down the runway she asked herself the question that she would ask herself many time over the coming weeks and that was, ‘what am I doing here?’ She would get use to air travel over the next few weeks with many more flight in a variety of air craft, but she would never get use to the take offs. After a long flight she finally got to her destination, the landing proved to be a little less scary than the take off but the real adventure was the taxi ride to the Hotel. Push bikes, motorbikes, cars, trucks all seemingly going any where they wanted but somehow managing to not hit each other. Janet felt a great sense of relieve to be in her Hotel room and a great deal of excitement and fear about what the next day would bring.

A new day and the real start to the great adventure that she had set for herself, a day of sight seeing of both spectacular natural landscapes and ancient man made ruins. Today would set the pattern for the weeks to come. She thought herself prepared, she had a translation gadget as well as a map and some local money but she still sat on the end of the bed for some time trying to summon up the courage.

After all of her worries she had an interesting day without any problems as many of the locals spoke English and everywhere she went was an established tourist site so there were many fellow travellers around. She even found herself striking up conversations with other tourists so by the time she returned to her Hotel a lot of her apprehension about this trip was starting to dissipate.

Two and a half weeks of looking at natural wonders and ancient ruins was starting to wear a bit thin for Janet but she thought, there are only a few more days before she would be flying home. She was packing in preparation for today’s flight to the last country on her itinerary. Of the four countries that made up her holiday this one was the one she would rather not go to. Unlike the countries she had already visited which at least had a veneer of being a free and open society this next country was a dictatorship. But it did have a thriving tourist industry and as long as she didn’t wonder off the tourist track all would be well and any way it was only for a few days and there would be some spectacular sight to see.

She had only packed a few things when the phone rang, it was the desk clerk wanting to see her. She made her way down stairs to see him only to find him saying he had not rang her, she took it to be some sort of communication problem. So she asked him to organize a taxi for one hours time and wandered back to her room. While she was away someone dressed like a hotel maid entered her room and replaced one of her bags with an identical one and carefully partially packed it so it looked like nothing had been disturbed. Janet returned to her room and continued packing, she had become quite good at the whole process of packing and unpacking being by nature a very organized person. By the time she had finished it was time to go so she made her way down to the front of the hotel and the taxi took her to the air port. She found this part of the holiday experience to be no fun at all. In fact she found it quite stressful. It was too chaotic for her but she endured it and soon found herself holding the arm rest of the plans seat with a vice like grip as the plane thundered down the runway.

It was only a few hours to her next destination so it was not long before the plane came in to land. Another part of the holiday experience Janet found a bit of an ordeal was going through customs, she had learnt from this trip to travel light, bring nothing through customs other than what was necessary. So she only had two bags, mostly clothes. Any souvenirs she purchased along the way she posted to herself so as to keep the luggage down to a manageable amount but also it made the getting through customs a lot easier. She was lined up waiting her turn when the drug dog was lead by. It was a lovely little terrier, she had seen the signs saying ‘don’t pet the dogs’ but she had to use all her self control not to reach down and pat it when it came over and sat at her feet. She had no idea that this was the signal to say it had detected drugs. She was immediately  taken to another room were her bags were searched more closely, where they found a large amount of drugs in the lining of one of her bags. The Police questioned her about her movements, her bags and why she was in their country. All Janet could do was keep saying, ‘she knew nothing about it.’ She was arrested for drug trafficking and taken to a holding cell, then later transferred to a prison.

Janet found herself alone in what could only be called hell. Despair and fear overwhelmed her. She sat in the corner of a large cell which contained about thirty women, in a state of total withdrawal. As she sat there she could not take it all in. How this could happen? She curst the day she bought the tickets in the art union and her brother for persuading her to go on this holiday. Another prisoner came over and talked to her, she sounded American. She told her that it will be fine, it will work out and that they rarely treat foreigners badly as it would be bad for the tourist industry. They took her away the next day and Janet never saw her again. It was days before an embassy official came to see her to tell her that her brother Paul had been informed of her situation and that legal representation had been arranged but it was more than obvious that she would not be getting much help from them as a drug dealer was not someone the tax payer would be helping.

Paul came to see her the next day. He had tried to see her the day before but she was only allowed one visitor per day but he had seen the lawyer assigned to her. The lawyer thought it was a cut and dried case and that she would be convicted and the best she could hope for would be life in prison but the death penalty was a real possibility. They sat looking at each other at a complete loss as to what to do next. Janet asked about her cat, Paul had to tell her that Colin the cat was in a cat home. So we are both in jail Janet joked, they gave a half hearted laugh.

The lawyer had suggested that a bribe to the governor of the prison would help with living conditions. It was not something considered wrong or unethical it was just part of the way things were done. The lawyer would organize it, all that needed to be done was to pay the lawyer the equivalent of $10,000 Australian. It was so out in the open that it would be done via a bank transfer. Paul organized it but it halved his resources. Paul realised that this would take a lot of money so he reluctantly headed home with the intent to sell his house and to organize a better solicitor.

Paul approached the solicitors Janet worked for and one of them agreed to take on the case for a fee of course. With his house on the market he headed back to be with Janet, he could not do any thing but at least he could give moral support. The court case was just about upon them when the solicitor took Paul aside to tell him that it was a hopeless case and to be prepared for the worst. The court was more akin to a skit from Monty Python than a court of law. There was no jury, just a military judge, everything said by the prosecution was taken as truth and anything said by the defence was dismissed. It only took a day for Janet to be found guilty and sentenced to death.

Janet seemed resolved but Paul would not give in. He met the solicitors both local and Australian but they said it was hopeless. He asked about an appeal, but they thought it to be pointless. He told them to appeal and to take every legal avenue open to them but the most important thing for them to do was to drag it out as long as possible. The governor of the prison wanted another $10,000 to keep Janet in the better part of the prison, which he was paid. Paul went to see Janet to tell her he would not be able to see her for a while as he had to go home to raise more money. He told her to be strong and not to give up hope. He impressed on her the need to remain positive and to be ready, reminding her that he was the big brother and that he always fixed things.

Paul flew home and Janet was alone. She would have to be strong to get through this but she could not see how her big brother could possibly fix this one.                     Copy right Jim Pope 2021