Beth’s note: John was one of three second place winners in the Writing Etc. Travel Writing Contest. Enjoy his entry!
Special Agent by John Poindexter
I was a Special Agent for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations assigned to the division on Yokota AB Japan. Being chosen for special duty in Italy, I had to fly through New York.
The fun started in Tokyo as the Japanese police x-rayed the baggage and saw my service revolver. I was asked if it was a toy and I stated, “No, real.” They had to have a meeting, until I showed them my business card (written in Japanese) and then they saluted me and let me and my bag go on.
Arriving in New York, I had 15 minutes to go from one end of the terminal to the other. This was shortened when a Customs Agent told me I could not go through without my luggage. I told him that it was booked straight through to Rome. He wanted to argue over the fact that all baggage had to be checked by Customs prior to going to the next destination.
It was closing in on my departure time, when I finally told him that if I missed my flight I would have him arrested and then he could explain why to his superiors. Another Customs Agent came over and I told him what the problem was and he informed the first one that I was allowed to go on through.
Now, I am running to the other end trying not to miss the flight that is leaving within five minutes. I made it to the gate just as they were starting to close the door.
When we arrived in Rome, we were immediately told by the police, who were holding machine guns that we were to enter this bus to go to the terminal. After clearing Customs there, I found that my flight to Naples had already left and as I was talking to the attendant about the next flight, they noticed a tag barely sticking out of my bag. This tag was what the Japanese had placed there for a weapon being in it.
Immediately, I am surrounded by Italian State Police holding their Uzi submachine guns on me. The bad part was I could see that the safeties were not on. They escorted me to a room they called the “International Area”. I was told that I would have to buy a metal box to lock my gun up in and that I could get it back next week from the American Embassy. They gave me a receipt and allowed me to go sit and wait for my flight to Naples.
Arriving in Naples later that evening, I informed the team Chief of my encounter in Rome and he said not to worry as I was not the only one that had lost their weapon. I told him that I would just wave this receipt at the Red Brigade for the next week. He then handed me a blue bag that contained a special assault shotgun.