Twelve years ago, Chocoholic and I took a river cruise in China. We traveled on the Yangtze River and to various destinations by Chinese air carrier, covering a lot of fascinating territory in the huge sprawling country. It was a wonderful trip. Our last stop was Beijing. The weather was clear but very cold. Chocoholic wore his warmest coat, an old one with sheepskin lining. At the end of the trip, we took a bus to the airport, a vast modern complex of many enticing vendors but seemingly few people. We waited in a short line to go through security. Chocoholic went before me. It’s always a big deal with him as he has to empty his pockets, untie his shoes and remove his belt. I took his coat, helping him to move a little faster.

There was a faint click against the floor. I glanced down and saw, to my horror, a 0.22 caliber bullet called a short. It had fallen out of his pocket. I immediately knew that we were in trouble if an official saw it, but no one was looking at it or at me. I calmly put my foot on top of it, checked again to confirm no one was looking, used the act of folding the big coat to obscure any overhead video camera and gently rolled the bullet under the x-ray machine, moving as little and as naturally as possible. After putting the coat on the conveyor belt, we cleared security in short order.

I didn’t tell Chocoholic about the bullet until we were back in the US. I had visions of his face looking much like Brad Pitt’s ruined face in the 2001 movie SPY GAME starring Robert Redford. Mr. Pitt’s character suffers a terrible beating in a Chinese prison. The movie has long been one of my favorites. Redford’s character is a clever American spy nearing retirement, underestimated by his younger arrogant superiors who are clueless about tradecraft. It was directed by Tony Scott and distributed by Beacon Pictures and Universal Pictures.

Why the bullet in the pocket? When Chocoholic walks at the lake, he carries a little derringer that he inherited from his father. He relies on it mostly as a noisemaker. I assume the bullet had been there for years, trapped in a crevice or fold of the lining. On the China trip, we cleared airport security at least five times before the bullet finally made its untimely appearance.