The dictator regarded the face in the mirror with satisfaction. “A fine face, doctor. You have surpassed yourself. A firm, strong, face! Yet not too outstanding. With this face, one could merge with a crowd, but it is not nondescript. No, it is a very good face.”

The plastic surgeon stood on the other side of the great desk. He seemed apprehensive.

“No need to look so nervous doctor. You have done a fine job.” He tried out a smile, regarding the result in the hand mirror. He noticed that it was a distinctive smile; one side of the mouth lifted higher than the other. “Ah, an interesting smile! That is nice. 1 will be a great success with the ladies, no? But here, I am forgetting my manners. It is time for your reward. Ten million Pesos, was it not? But before I give you the money won’t you join me in a drink? Come, I insist. This is a very special drink. 1 had it made especially for the palace.” He walked round the desk and gave the doctor a glass of wine, already poured.

“Drink up, Doctor. Drink to my wonderful new face!”

With a trembling hand, the surgeon raised the glass and drank. A paroxysm of anguish distorted his face and he fell to the floor. He twitched for a few seconds and then was still.

The dictator quickly donned the mask that had concealed his face for weeks. He rang the bell for his personal assistant. The man entered the room.

“Hey, Ramos. Remove this carrion and then prepare the helicopter. We leave in an hour.”

The dictator stood among his suitcases and watched the helicopter lift and swing away, back towards the border. He regarded the dwindling speck with interest. There was a sudden flash of light and the speck disappeared. It seemed a very long time before he heard the distant explosion. The dictator smiled his new smile with satisfaction and picked up his suitcases. He started the long walk to his new life.

FACE TO FACE

Confident in his new identity; new clothes, new passport, new face, he relaxed in the first class comfort of the big jet. South America was far behind, the fleshpots of Europe beckoned, the dictator was dictator no more. Just a private citizen, a rich private citizen. He dozed happily as the plane prepared to land at Frankfurt airport.

Senior Customs Officer Schultz readied his crew to deal with the incoming flight from South America. Warning them to be extra careful, he positioned himself at his vantage point. Here he would carefully watch the faces of the passengers as his officers rifled through their hand luggage. The sniffer dogs would be checking the baggage handling, but there would occasionally be a cocaine smuggler brash enough to bring a kilo on their person, or in an artfully concealed compartment. Even so, there was a lot of tension involved and Schultz was an excellent reader of body language.

The passengers were the usual excitable crowd, travel weary and anxious to be on their way. All except one. He appeared exceptionally pleased with himself, amused even and happily flung open his travelling case. The young customs officer quickly looked through its contents and nodded his okay. The passenger smiled.

Senior officer Schultz gave a start, his eyes widened. He pressed the emergency button to summon the armed security squad. The steel doors at the end of the customs hall slammed shut and six guards, armed with submachineguns appeared from nowhere. Wordlessly Schultz indicated the passenger so complacent In his borrowed face. It was not often that one had the opportunity to capture the world’s most wanted terrorist. Schultz had recognized that smite. He had seen it once before, at Munich.

If the dead surgeon were able to see that arrest he would have been gratified. The original owner of the face would be pleased that it had been put to good use. He was feeling his age and was happy to be retired and living in South America.

THE END

 

(c) Copyright H.St.V.Beechey, 1993