Mark walked into a bar and ordered.

He was an alcoholic and if he showed up drunk to court one more time, the female judge would declare him unfit.

“Scotch, rocks,” the bartender said.

And Mark left his drink to walk into the rain. A taxi was parked up the block and he ran for it.

“Where to?”

“City Court.”

“Will you share a ride for discounted fare?”

“I guess.”

A businessman entered, carrying a leather briefcase. He had all the looks of sophistication, while still being plain.

“Downtown,” he said.

Mark looked at his cell phone. “WHERE ARE YOU?”

“You never escape your ex-wife, even if you divorce her.”

“I wouldn’t know,” said the man. “Never been married.”

“Good for you. What’s your line of work?”

“IT. Trust me, nobody’s life is perfect. I’ve got a boss who lets me know it 20 times a day.”

“If only we had our freedom.”

“You can be free, but most men are unwilling to pay the price for it. Do you think the cabbie wants to be driving us around?”

“Hey cabbie, what do you like to do?”

“Fish.”

“Why do you drive a cab?”

“I need to pay the bills.”

“You see, everybody’s the same. They’re doing something they don’t want to do for a few moments of freedom in the yard. They’re in a prison of their own design. You have to escape your mind to get out.”

“You sound like you know what you’re talking about,” Mark said.

“I watch a lot of YouTube philosophy.”

Gridlock was an understatement. The cars weren’t moving, and the rain stopped.

“I guess I’ll walk.”

“You owe me 48.58,” the cabbie said, and Mark gave him a 50.

“Nice talking to you.”

“Likewise.”

Mark grabbed his briefcase and ran towards the city courthouse. His lawyer and ex-wife were waiting.

“Any longer and they would’ve granted me life-time custody,” his ex-wife said.

Mark opened his briefcase and pulled out his papers, but they weren’t his. CONFIDENTIAL was written across all of them. I took the wrong briefcase!

“Mr. Tscheulin, would you care to make your opening statements?”

“Your Honor, I seem to have lost my briefcase. This one isn’t mine.”

“You see judge, he can’t even take care of himself, let alone our 8-year-old daughter.”

“I see what you mean. Young man, your military service aside, it’s not looking too good for you. Do you have anything that can sway me otherwise?”

Mark looked at the judge. “I love my daughter mam.”

“I’m afraid that’s not enough. Sole custody granted to the mother.”

“No…No!”

“Mr. Tscheulin, I will have you thrown out of my courtroom for contempt if you raise your voice!”

Mark ran to the bathroom to throw up and then he remembered the papers that weren’t his, marked confidential.

He needed his briefcase. Maybe he could spot the cab in traffic. What was the number again? 339? Mark rushed outside and scanned the pollution. And there it was; not 20 feet away.

“I took the wrong briefcase?”

Mark expected to see the plain man, but it was a fat woman.

“Excuse me?”

“Sorry.” He looked around and then his cell phone vibrated.

Mark answered.

“Bring my bag to the dolphin fountain in central park and don’t talk to anyone. We will make a trade.”

“I’ll be there in 10 minutes.”

There was the fountain and there was his briefcase. He was nearly there when a New York Times truck pulled between him and the fountain.

Then his ears started ringing, the tree was on fire, and the newspapers scattered all over the street. Mark had almost picked up a briefcase bomb.

2 thoughts on “Part I The Wrong Briefcase

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