Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Bag (#1023-6)

The flight landed on time. As soon as the seat belt sign was turned off, he got up from his seat, an aisle seat, he always got the aisle. He collected his cell phone, put it in his front pocket and put on his business suit quickly. There was no hand luggage to be collected. He quickly joined the crowd that was opening the overhead bins and started moving towards the front. He brushed aside few blokes and moved ahead. He got as far as the 7th row from the front gate and then stood their anxiously waiting for the gates to open. He always flew the low-cost airlines that had no business class. The gates opened and he walked briskly to collect his luggage. He was the fifth passenger from his flight to reach the baggage carousel. The baggage hadn't arrived. He observed a man, someone who was seated in the same flight as his, someone who had reached the carousel before him, standing to the right of him. The suave suit, a spicy perfume, short hair, and a clean shaven sparkling face immediately gave impression of an executive. The carousel started to move, he standing right at the mouth of the carousel.

The man to the right checked the third bag that had come out, a medium sized black suitcase and then let it go. He looked at every bag that appeared at the carousel intently waiting for his own bag. The movement was slow, the bags dropping out once every ten to twenty seconds. The black suitcase took a full turn and appeared again. The handsome man looked at the bag again, this time reading the tag carefully with eyes wide open and then let it go once again. It smelled fishy but he ignored it. The next time the black suitcase appeared, the man checked it once again, looked around this time and then once again let it go. He was confident now that the man next to him was up to something. That's when his bag appeared, a dark green colored duffel bag. He picked it up but decided to stay there to observe the man. The black bag appeared once again. This time however the man pounced upon it like a cat and before he could think the handsome man was on his way towards the exit, a spring in his step. He paced himself and got his cell phone out. "I'm going to be out in 2 minutes".

He never took his eyes off the man. The man came out of the airport and walked towards the prepaid taxi counter. He walked nimble footed and was only a few feet behind the man as he watched him get into a taxi. Two Five Four Six, that was the taxi number. He printed the number in his brain as he saw the taxi sped away. He rushed towards gate number seven where a car was waiting for him. The car's trunk was open. He dumped the bag into the trunk and rushed towards the back seat of the car.
"Two Five Four Six. That's the white colored cab we need to find. Quick."
The driver nodded slightly but didn't show any expression at this strange request. The car zipped out of the airport and before it joined the main highway they had caught up with the taxi. He lit a cigarette and said, "Let's just keep on moving behind him."

He picked up the newspaper lying on the back seat. While scanning it he chanced upon a section. The news mentioned a racket operating across the major cities. This gang the news said was slipping luggage from the airports. It was only a couple of days back that the police had been able to relate the sporadic incidents. Every time a passenger had reported a lost bag to the airlines, they had found a similar bag that was left. Every time the airlines came to a conclusion that the bags must have been exchanged, they tried to get in touch with the owner of the bag that was found, they failed, as at times the phone number on records didn't work or the person who picked the phone never took the flight, they ended up paying for the lost baggage and ended up with a bag, a bag that always contained nothing but old cheap clothes. The first such incident was reported a couple of years ago and no one till now could connect the dots. It was only when an airline reported this incident to the police and the investigations started that they found a pattern to these bag exchanges. They also believed that an insider was involved.

He kept the newspaper aside as the taxi that was couple of cars in front took a sharp left turn towards a narrow street. They followed and saw the taxi halt in front of a housing complex. He asked the driver to stop about a hundred feet away from the taxi. He saw the suave man come out, get the black suitcase from the trunk and pay his bill. He came out of his car, clenched his fists and walked briskly towards the man, newspaper in his hand. "Excuse me".

The man turned around. "Yes". He handed the newspaper to him and pointed a finger to the news that had rattled his brain.
"I'm sure this is going to interest you."
"What is this about? Are you a salesman?"
"Read it yourself mister and you would know."
"I would have but unfortunately I lost my glasses at the airport. If you'll excuse me now."
The man started to move towards the gate.
"Hold on", he said.
"This news is about the lost...."
Something clicked in his mind that made him stop in his tracks. The man continued to walk. He turned around cursing, shook his head and moved towards his car.
"Damn it. It’s the second bad news of the day. Here goes my commission that I thought I would make."
Somewhere, a newlywed couple was fighting with the airlines for a green bag that they had lost.