The Woman with the Suitcase

By Elizabeth Barber

She had a suitcase with her. Jack noticed that before anything else. Expensive. One of those pure leather ones you didn’t see very often. Well, not in their town anyway. He watched her go into the coffee shop. From top to toe, she looked expensive. Bet she had some good stuff in that case. It was a gift if only he could get his hands on it. He hadn’t had a good scam going for ages and this would make up for it.He noticed she was gripping the handle tightly. The whites of her knuckles showed. Luckily the coffee shop was full, so he had a good excuse to ask if she minded if he joined her. She’d chosen a table behind a pillar.

            ‘What? Oh…no. That’s OK,’ she mumbled. She seemed distracted.

            The waitress came over. ‘What can I get you?’ She looked from one to the other.

             ‘Latte for me, please,’ he turned to the woman. ‘Can I get you one?’

             She jumped and frowned at him. ‘Why?’ she said.

             ‘Well, I was getting one for myself, just thought I’d be polite.’

             She shrugged. ‘O.K. then. Cappuccino.’ She seemed to relax a bit.

             There was an awkward pause. ‘Going away?’ He smiled and pointed at the suitcase.  

            ‘Er…yes, I hope so.’  She didn’t smile.

            He’d try again. ‘Nice suitcase,’ he said, glancing down at the shiny brown leather. She gripped the handle even tighter.

              She looked towards the door. Two men in dark suits walked in.

              She stood up quickly and pushed back the table. ‘Would you watch my case for me for a minute?’ She slid it along the floor to him. ‘Keep a tight hold on it, won’t you?’ She gave him a quick smile, then hurried round the back towards the Ladies.

             Jack couldn’t believe it.  One minute she was hanging on to it for dear life, and next she was leaving it with a complete stranger. Obviously hadn’t been around as much as he had. But what a stroke of luck! There was clearly something valuable in it. He didn’t even need to follow her out of the café now and wait for a chance to grab it.

             He checked she’d gone, then stood up quickly. He held the case tightly, just as she’d said and headed for the door. The two men in dark suits stepped in front of him. He raised his eyebrows, quizzically, his heart pounding.

             One of them pulled out a badge. ‘Special Branch,’ he said quietly.

            Jack broke out in a sweat. The handle was digging into his hand now.

            The tallest man looked down at it. ‘Your case, Sir?’ he said.

Jack dropped it as if it was on fire. ‘No…oh no, I’m just looking after if for someone. She’s gone to the toilet.’

The two officers exchanged a look, then one of them went over and spoke to the waitress. Minutes later, he returned.

‘There’s no one out the back,’ he gripped Jack’s arm. ‘We’d like you to come down to the station, Sir. We’ve a few questions to ask you.’

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