And There Was Ninja Moustache (Chapter 5)

After Rory’s prison escape, we drove to his uncle’s house, where we caught a few hours’ sleep. Uncle Des woke us at six, and we dined on toasted cheese sandwiches. (Rory ate six of them and kept raving about how good they were. They were okay; Rory had barely eaten in five weeks, so anything would have tasted great to him.) Following breakfast, Uncle Des presented Rory and I with a gift each: to Rory he gave a fabulous blond wig, and to me he gave—or rather had already given, while I slept—a wash-off tattoo on my forearm. As I am not seven-year-old I was not thrilled with the gift, but I thanked Des anyway. When I checked my new fake tattoo, I noticed it was identical to the real tattoo on Rory’s forearm. Combine that with my shorn head, which matched Rory’s prison-issue hairstyle, and I realised with a sickening surge of dread that I was now the doppelgänger of an escaped political prisoner.

Rory shaved his beard down to a robust pair of sideburns and donned his wig. We dressed in  casual wear—me in short sleeves, and two-inch soles on my shoes to bump me up to Rory’s height—and then Des drove us to the airport.

Red uniforms speckled the airport like a rash: The Special Police were out in force. Every exit, every checkpoint, every boarding area—anywhere with a door or gate—was watched by shotgun-toting soldiers. And all of them were on the lookout for a six-foot three white man with a buzz cut and a tattoo of Optimus Prime on his arm. Police and security officers saw me coming from way off: they pointed at me and nodded to each other and made urgent reports into their two-way radios.

“Step this way, sir. Just a random security check.”

Random. I endured no less than eleven “random” checks on my way to gate 6. Each time a gruff officer would check my passport, ask me what I was doing in New Zealand, check my passport again, and then hand it back to me with a glare of disdain. The whole time (except when guards escorted me off to a room to be strip-searched) Rory kept by my side, hiding in plain sight. No one even looked at him.

An hour and a half after arriving at the airport, we made it to the boarding area—Rory with a carefree smile as he joked with airline staff, and me with a sweat-drenched shirt as I went to order a double whisky at the bar. Soon we boarded the flight to Brisbane and took off.



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