Foolish Decision

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
What would you do if you were offered a sum of money to look after a brief case for two days? There could be anything in the case but the money would make your life so much easier. What harm could taking the money and the case do? Couldn't hurt could it?
(Original idea from Minding the Box by Hullabaloo22, Cheers!)

Submitted: September 21, 2016

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Submitted: September 21, 2016

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John Starkey shuffled onto the bus. He flashed his weekly ticket and found a free seat. The bus jerked and jolted forward and headed off across Salford. He sighed. Friday night at last. The best part of the week was finishing for the weekend. Not that he had any grand plans or anything. He tried to ignore the holes in his shoes and his sopping wet socks. He would definitely need to buy a new pair of work shoes, after pay day, of course.

He hopped off the bus at his stop. The lights from the pub over the road beckoned enticingly. He rummaged in his coat pockets. He had some change somewhere. Hopefully he’d have enough for a pint.

‘Excuse me.’ Came a voice.

John looked up to see a man standing in front of him. He was somewhere in his late forties. He wore a long black coat and a serious expression. He carried a leather brief case.

‘Yeah?’

The man leaned in close and spoke so only John could hear him.

‘I need you to do me a favour. I want you to hold on to my brief case until Sunday.’

‘No way.’

‘I will give you two thousand pounds. Half now, half when the case is returned.’

‘No. Nope. Not interested.’

‘Are you actually turning down two grand for looking after this case? It’s not a puppy. You don’t have to feed it or walk it.’

‘What’s in there?’

‘I really can’t say. It’s locked so you won’t be able to open it.’

‘No deal.’

‘Imagine what you could do with the money. Take the case and half the cash. What have you got to lose?’

John glanced down to his leaking shoes. The money would certainly come in handy. He could get some new shoes, pay his credit card bill, and should even have enough to give the boiler the service he’d been putting off for months.

Another thought struck him. He could always take the money and the case and not return it. If he changed his mind he could ditch the case and vanish with the first half of the money.

‘Forget it.’ the man said. ‘I will find someone else.’

He turned to walk away. John placed a hand on his arm.

‘Hold on, mate. There’s nothing dangerous in there, is there?’

‘I just need you to hold onto it. That’s all. What do you say?’

‘I’ll do it.’

‘Good man. I knew you’d make the right decision.’

He handed him the brief case and an envelope thick with cash.

‘I will meet you back here this time on Sunday.’

‘Okay.’

‘Thanks again.’

The man turned and walked away. John took a deep breath. He walked quickly home.

Back at home John paced his living room. The envelope of cash lay on the fireplace. He couldn’t bear to look at it. He stared at the brief case as though the longer he looked he would have some insight as to what it contained. He felt dizzy. What had he been thinking? The voice in his head told him he’d made a very bad decision.

After trying to concentrate on crap television for a few hours he gave up and went to bed. He left the case and the envelope where they were. With a bit of luck someone would break in and they’d be gone in the morning.

He lay in the darkness staring at the ceiling. His mind was racing. What was in the case? Was it a bomb? Drugs? Blood money? A pang of guilt hit him. Should he really be doing this? No good would come of it, that much was certain. Perhaps some awful event would occur because he had kept the case safe for this man. If it was gangster’s money then he would be assisting bad people do their business. He drifted off to sleep telling himself that he’d hand the case over to the police first thing in the morning.

He woke just after eight thirty the next morning. He stretched and rubbed his eyes. Then he remembered about the brief case. The panic of the previous evening had subsided. He felt more philosophical about it all.

Dressed in tracksuit bottoms and a faded Beatles t shirt he made himself a cup of tea and flaked out on the sofa. He watched a cookery programme on BBC One. As the television chef did amazing things with her wok John’s mind went back to the case. Was he being hasty by thinking of going to the police? Was he panicking unduly? What harm could come from seeing it through? Maybe he should just wait it out. While he wasn’t exactly happy about the situation, if he had the nerve to hold on and sit it out then he would double his money. He glanced at the envelope on the fireplace. Like a gambler not counting his winnings before his bet came in, John tried not to think about the money. Only once this strange business was done would he relish in his new found, albeit moderate wealth.

That evening he watched Saturday night television and munched on frozen pizza. Whenever nerves kicked in he would remind himself that whatever caper he was involved in would be over in a matter of hours.

Sunday dragged like a dog refusing to walk. The day passed so slowly. Each time he checked his watch he would sigh and mutter ‘Come on’ to himself.

Finally it was time. Right, he said, let’s do this. He snatched the case and stuffed the envelope in his pocket. He marched out of the front door.

Standing on the street, brief case in hand, he suddenly felt very vulnerable. Here he was, waiting for a man he hardly knew, holding a case that contained goodness knew what. A thought occurred to him. What if he was arrested by the police? Wouldn’t he be accountable for whatever was in the case? If he told them that a man gave him the case to look after he would sound like those guys you saw on police documentaries. When caught driving a stolen car they would insist that they’d bought the vehicle in good faith from a bloke in the pub.

Any time now, he said aloud. He looked up and down the street. Very soon the guy would turn up, hand him another envelope and take his brief case. Job done. Any time now.

He waited. And he waited. After thirty minutes he suspected the man was not going to show up. After forty five minutes he was pretty sure he wasn’t going to appear. What should he do with the case? He cursed his own stupidity. He should have stuck to his guns and told the guy to get lost.

Just after an hour later John was in a taxi on the way to the police station. He knew he would get in trouble but they had to believe him, didn’t they? He wasn’t the type of person this kind of thing happened to. And the fact that he had turned himself in had to count for something.

The officer on the desk smiled politely as John approached.

‘What can I do for you?’

John took a deep breath. He felt sick. He leaned on the counter to stop from falling.

‘I was given this brief case on Friday by a man in the street. He was supposed to collect it today but didn’t show.’

The officer fixed him with a stern expression.

‘Could I take a few details?’

John told him his name and address.

‘And if you could hand over the case.’

John handed over the case. The officer handled it very carefully.

‘Take a seat and we’ll be with you as soon as we can.’

A short while later John was shown through to an interview room. He was told to sit down. A police officer, a man in his fifties, took the seat across the desk.

‘So, Mr Starkey, tell me about the brief case and how it came to be in your possession.’

John explained everything that happened. The officer nodded as John spoke. When he had finished the officer leaned forward.

‘Obviously your actions were extremely reckless. I don’t know what you were thinking. You were putting yourself and the general public at risk. Don’t you watch the news? There could have been absolutely anything in that case.’

‘I know. I agree. I should have just rang the police straight away.’

‘Yes, you should.’

‘What happens now? How much trouble am I in?’

‘That rather depends on what is in the case.’

John said nothing. He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.

‘Excuse me one moment.’ The officer said.

He returned a few minutes later carrying the brief case. John took a swig of the glass of water in front of him. The officer placed the brief case on the desk.

‘We’ve managed to open the case.’

‘What’s in there?’

‘See for yourself.’

John held his breath as he clicked the locks open and pushed up the lid. He stared in confusion.

‘It’s empty. I don’t understand.’

‘And have you counted the money you were given?’

John shook his head. He had been so anxious and full of regret that he hadn’t counted the money. He hadn’t even looked at it, nevermind count it.

The officer waved a hand. John nodded. He opened the envelope and poured the contents on the table. Instead of the paper money he was expecting the table was full of pieces of newspaper cut to the size of bank notes.

‘Newspaper? What’s going on?’

‘We’ve had several reports of identical incidents across the city on Friday. You do know what Friday was?’

‘No.’

 ‘April Fools day.’


© Copyright 2017 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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