This is the story of our narrow escape:
Robert and I headed to Bradley Airport, Connecticut, on the morning of December 25th, Christmas morning. It was quite a depressing way to spend Christmas morning, but I got the feeling from Robert that he never had a particularly good experience at home anyway, so perhaps he wasn't missing much.
Our first Chicago flight is canceled because of bad weather, so we have four hours to kill. We buy breakfast at Dunkin' Donuts and sit with our coffees to wait, discussing what foods contain trans-fats. Robert laughs to himself because he's eating a bacon croissant, full of trans-fats, and he'd spent the past few days telling me how unhealthy they were.
Later, we sit by the giant window, overlooking the runway, filming a few questions before we fly. It was supposed to be a very simple journey, connect through Chicago to a smaller town, then get our ride from there to the safe house. He would be underground before the military even realised he was missing. But something went wrong.
While we're sitting and talking, Robert's name is called over the loudspeaker, asking him to go to the ticket counter. Robert suddenly looks up, at the speakers, scared. He asks me what he should do. After a few moments of deliberation, he decides that hs has to go to the counter, it might just be a question about our changed tickets.
We picked up our bags and walk back through security, Robert is worried that this is it. Somehow they had found him, and they were here to arrest him. He walked outside the airport first for a cigarette,
"If I'm going to be arrested, I want a last cigarette" he chuckles.
"Alright,"he sighs, as he stubs out his cigarette, "I guess this is it. I was going to get arrested anyway, so this just makes it a really short journey."
The plan was for him to wait in hiding for 30 days, then his name would be struck from the active duty roster, then he could turn himself in and do his time in prison, but without the danger of being sent - in handcuffs if necessary - back to serve in Iraq.
He walks back inside, approaching the ticket counter. Surprisingly, the guy behind the counter doesn't seem to know why Robert's been called:
"No, I didn't call you. Hey!" he turns to the other man at the counter behind him and calls out "did any of you call this gentleman? No?"
Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe they just wanted to check that he had picked up his new boarding pass. Relieved, we walk back to security and start to take of our shoes, our jackets, our belts to slide them through the x-ray machine again. Half way through, with my shoes and belt off, we hear his name again over the load speaker.
This time, as we quickly collect our things and walk out to the departure lounge for the second time, we finally see what we were expecting: two state troopers, standing in front of the airport exit.
"Yep, this is it" Robert says to me, without too much regret.