6.24 The Briefcase

During my time downtown, I’ve definitely had some interesting experiences. I lived on the third floor of a condo building and one of my favourite things was sitting out on the balcony and people watching from above. Amazing the things people did when they thought no one was watching. From a couple that had such a shouting match that one of them punched the cement wall to people urinating in the street to someone in full Spider-Man uniform, anything could happen. One night, late, I was sitting on my balcony. I faced south, there was a street directly below me and then train tracks. A black SUV pulled up to the side of the road, a man got out holding a briefcase, walked to the cement wall separating the road from the train tracks and hid the briefcase behind some bushes. He got back into the SUV and drove away.

I was contemplating heading down to street level to check this out when another man came walking around the corner. He was obviously drunk, unless his normal gait caused him to stumble in a zig-zag formation. The man crossed the street, stopped, looked around like he just remembered something. He checked his phone and looked up and down the street. Stepped towards the bushes along the cement wall beside the train tracks. He almost seemed to fall over a few times as he routed through the bushes looking for something. Every once in a while he stopped, checked his phone, looked up and down the street. He moved further on and kept going through the bushes.

Finally, he found it: the briefcase. He flipped the numbers on the combination, clicked the latches and opened it. A bright light jumped from the briefcase and the man quickly closed it. He took out a pair of handcuffs from his jacket pocket, one side of them clasped on to the briefcase handle, the other over his wrist. He continued stumbling on down the road.

I did the only thing I felt I should: I started following him. By the time I hit the street, the man wasn’t very far and easy to spot. His drunkenness made me almost invisible to him. We walked a few blocks north and on to Queen Street. He stepped into a Queen West bar named the Done Right Inn and I stopped outside to see about the situation. The man had shimmied up to the bar and already had a beer in front of him. The briefcase dangled between his thighs. I guessed he needed one more drink for whatever he was up to.

Inside the bar, I sat a few seats away from him and could keep an eye on any movements through the mirror-covered walls. I ordered a beer and pretended I was just having a night cap before heading home. I thought about how all the other patrons had no idea what was happening between the man and I, that these two lonely-looking people had a connection that really only I knew about. The man finished his beer, threw some bills on the bar and walked past me on the way out the door. I waited a minute and then did the same.

Again, it wasn’t hard to find him, although he seemed to have picked up some speed. He was already across the street and heading east. When we got to Bathurst Street, he stopped again, looked north and then south, and stumbled north. I followed him around the corner and kept a further distance because there were less people around.

After a few blocks, he ducked into an alleyway. I stopped to consider what it was exactly that I was doing. This was ridiculous and I was feeling reckless. I had followed this guy from outside my place, this guy who had a briefcase that shined a bright light inside, followed him to a bar, across many blocks and was about to go into a dimly lit alleyway. Smart, very smart.

The only light in the alleyway was cutting in and out. I saw no sign of the man with the briefcase. Behind me, some garbage cans fell over and I jumped out of my skin as a raccoon slowly waddled away. As a pop can rolled down the alley, the man with the briefcase came out of nowhere and shoved me up against the slimy brick wall. “Why’ve you been following me?” His breath smelled like stale beer and shots of whiskey.

Before I could answer, he let me go and backed away, his eyes fixed on the entrance of the alleyway. The guy from the black SUV stood staring at us. They started arguing about where the briefcase was supposed to be delivered to, the two of them shouting at each other. The shouting ended with them pulling out guns and having a standoff. Great. I backed away, but they were blocking the exit to the street. I quietly got as far away from them as I could and crouched down against the wall. Before any shots could be fired, police cars shining their lights swerved and stopped in front of the entrance to the alleyway. Seemed like an entire squadron appeared and quickly surrounded both men, who dropped their guns and were taken into custody. Relieved, I appeared from my hiding spot and was jumped by three policemen. They handcuffed me and took me away with the briefcase man and SUV man.

So, the moral of the story is don’t follow strangers across the city into an alleyway, because then you, like me, might get arrested and find yourself writing your blog entries from jail.