the stranger who handed me the briefcase by M. Jai Jenkins

The Stranger who handed me the Briefcase.

BY: M. Jai Jenkins

I was sitting in my hotel room, flicking through the local stations. Nothing was on TV. This is why I hated working out of town. Just before I decided to call it a night, I remembered that my iPad was in my laptop bag and I can watch something on Netflix. Then, startling me; there was a knock at the door. Assuming it was a mistake, I ignored it. Then the knock came again, moments later with more force.

          “What the hell”, I said aloud, not wanting to be disturbed. I got up off the bed and put on my robe. Approaching within a foot of the door, the person knocked again but this time louder. Bothered by their persistence, I never looked through the peephole before yanking the door open with obvious irritation.

There stood an oddly dressed middle-aged man, lacking facial expressions. He never spoke a word, he raised his arm and extended it: attempting to hand me a briefcase. I wasn’t sure what to do. We stood in silence for about 3 seconds. I finally caved and reached for it; still unsure of who he was and if it was intended for me. As soon as the weight was shifted to my hand, he turned and walked away.

This had to be a case of mistaken identity, I thought. I wondered was it a bomb. I raised it to my ear, nothing was ticking. I wasn’t taking it into my room, so I stepped into the hall to yell after him. I raised my hand to my mouth and as soon as my words were on the verge of jumping over my tongue, I heard the hotel door close behind me.

I was locked out of my room and holding a briefcase from a stranger. I went down to the front desk, to get another key. I had no ID, but the attendant who checked me in, was still working. The man was gone and as I waited in line for a few minutes, I contemplated if should I leave it at the front desk. Before I approached the counter, I looked down and seen my initials on the brass plate, atop the briefcase. Maybe it was meant for me. I retrieved the key and took it back upstairs to my room.

Reaching my room, I noticed the door was slightly ajar. I entered and seen the place had been ransacked. Feeling violated, I decided to get my belongings and leave but once I was fully dressed: I noticed my wallet was missing. My exhausting search for it, was an exercise in futility and finally: I left the hotel altogether.

My befuddled face and a depressing walk must’ve resonated to a taxi driver outside the hotel, who asked was I OK. I shook my head no and explained that I lost my wallet, without telling him too many details. My Business attire, laptop bag, luggage and the briefcase must have deemed me trustworthy, as he offered me a ride. I thanked him and got in. I had already decided to cancel my meeting tomorrow and asked that he take me to the airport.

He was reluctant to travel so far for free but finally, obliged. I got inside and within minutes, could feel my body relaxing. I fought hard to stay awake but lost within minutes. Several weird dreams later, I abruptly woke up and stared at the ceiling for a moment, thinking about all that’s happened. This night couldn’t get worse, I thought. Realizing we weren’t moving, I sat up to address the driver but he was gone. The car was off and all the doors were ajar.  

In a panic, I hopped out the car to look for the driver but it was pitch black outside. He had left me in the middle of nowhere; pulled off to the side of a desolate road. No cars, nor lights were within sight. Only a massive cornfield. My bags and the briefcase from the stranger were missing. The keys were gone too. Climbing back into the car, I sat in the seat and tried to make sense of everything but I couldn’t.

I decided to get out and walk. Not sure which way to go, I traveled the opposite direction the car was facing. The rustling of the trees, crickets chirping, and distant howls from coyotes; made perfect for an eerie movie scene. I walked nearly 3 miles before I seen a house. I didn’t want to bang on their door, startling them and possibly getting shot: so I decided to hide in their barn until sunrise.

The driveway had at least two dozen cars in it. When I reached the barn’s back door, I could hear music. This was not good and I decided to leave. Moving back towards the cars, I heard a woman’s voice yell out from behind. I froze, as the young lady who spotted me, was walking toward me. I wanted to run but didn’t know where to. Smiling, she asked was I nervous and reassured me that it will be fine.

           “I can tell it’s your first time”, she said confidently, as she grabbed my arm and lead me back to the barn. When we entered, I noticed bodies everywhere; scattered throughout this dimly lit structure. Upon closer examination, I noticed almost everyone was naked. Some were engaging in intercourse, some dancing, others smoking joints and talking and drinking. Feeling her tug at my jacket, I then realized; I had stumbled upon a swinger’s orgy.

I stood there, mouth wide open and completely engulfed by the visual. When I regained my senses, she was trying to remove my pants. All I could think about was my wife, so I told her give me a moment to warm up and then I am all hers’; praying that that is enough time to plot my escape. Hungry, I went into survival mode and proceeded to raid the kitchen for food and to bide time to devise a plan.

Moments later, she returned with a friend. Both reaching for an arm, they attempted to lead me in the common area of the barn. Panicking inside, I somehow calmly asked did they want to spice things up and take this fun outside.

They agreed to the back of a pickup and we went outside. I looked inside the truck and noticed the keys still in the ignition. I jumped in and pulled the door behind me, locking it. Turning over the ignition, I shifted gears and pulled off on two completely naked women, who were no longer friendly but cursing and yelling, as I sped away.

As a newfound criminal, I realized a lot of things suddenly. The main thing was to avoid highways but I needed to know which way I was headed. I pulled over at a dim and barely occupied corner store. I found a map and with help from the man at the register, seen I was less than 80 miles from home. I knew my best chance from here, would be to follow the river. Running out the store’s door was a horrible idea though; it attracted the attention of the Sheriff, who was driving by.

Seeing his brake lights illuminate, I hopped in and pulled off before he could complete his U-turn. I made a couple quick turns with hopes to lose him and for a moment, believed I did. The pitch-black background in my mirror, was replaced with flashes of bright red, blue and white. Getting closer; I tried to alternate between watching him and the road ahead, but panic and velocity won when I saw a huge deer standing in the middle of the road. I missed him and hit the embankment and jumped the guardrail- sending me soaring into the river.

I managed to survive by climbing out the truck window; then swimming the freezing waters towards shore. I was about 8 yards from reaching the edge, when I was blinded by an excruciatingly bright light. How the hell did police get here so fast? Something suddenly yanked me backward, impeding my ability to move freely. Being pulled out the water and aboard the deck of a mid-sized boat, I had given up on my short life of crime.

When my vision came to, I noticed they weren’t cops but gypsies. They gave me a blanket, hot tea and I generously thanked them for their hospitality. As we drifted a while, they educated me on their lifestyle and inquired about my crash. While telling them how I ended up in the river, I noticed that there was a briefcase sitting on the seat adjacent to me.

It was identical to the one the stranger handed me at my hotel door. As I focused in on it, I seen my initials. My heart skipped a beat and all my adrenaline from crashing the truck, all came raging back. In one motion, I rose and dove for the briefcase: grabbing the handle before diving overboard and back into the river, once again.

Narrowly escaping the giant hook, they used to rescue me, I swam with all I could muster. I managed to make it to the riverbank moments later, exhausted and near frozen. Not knowing if they were in pursuit, I kept moving and eventually found a place to shelter and gather my bearings. As I sat in disbelief of my early morning thus far, I stared ahead at the flashing lights of a distant intersection. I recognized the main road and soon realized; it could lead me home.   

Dawn was upon me and the city was getting louder. I ignored it and kept walking. Legs nearly numb and dehydrated, I finally made it to my neighborhood. The Sun, now climbing towards its peak, beamed down. Sweating profusely, it burned my eyes as I tried to decipher if the image ahead of me was a mirage. The blurred sight of my house gave me a jolt of strength. I made it to my doorstep but couldn’t get in. My keys were in my luggage that was stolen, along with my phone; I couldn’t even call my wife. The only way to get in was to break in my own house.

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