Tom looked down at his anime figure with a sorrowful look. He didn’t want to sell it, but he needed the money and saw no other way. It sold for 400 dollars at auctions, but he knew he could get more from his coworker Dave.
“Well this sucks. Was hoping to be able to keep you longer but I need the money”
He put the figure in his briefcase and went to work.
“I have to get a new case, this one’s all scratched up.”
On the way to work, he kept thinking about how he was going to get all his orders done. Tom worked in the I.T. department of an accounting firm in the city. There were a lot of problems with the network in his building, and he was just getting a hold of everything after starting over a month ago.
He likes to check what work is waiting for him on his phone before he gets to his desk so that he is on top of his projects from the get go but today, as he was entering the building, he bumped into another man.
“I’m sorry” he said
The two men dropped their briefcases when they bumped into each other. Tom went to hand the man his when the other man snatched it from his hands and with a scowl left walked out of the building.
“That was rude” tom thought but no matter. He had a lot of work to get done today, so his mind went back to that.
Tom went into the elevator after picking up his briefcase. He always liked the way up to his floor. It’s one of the moments in his day that’s peaceful, if for a second or two. The doors opened and there was Dave.
“Morning Tom. Did you bring the goods?” Dave couldn’t wait for today. He’d been looking for this figure for months and convinced Tom to sell it to him.
“Yea I got it. Could you turn down that smile a bit. This might be great for you but its like a funeral for me. I love this thing.”
“Sorry but you know how long I’ve been looking for this Emilia figure. Re: Zero is my favorite show.”
Tom put his briefcase on his desk. “Yea I know”
As he went to open it, he realized it was locked. He grew a confused.
“What’s wrong, can’t part with it?” Dave started to look worried that Tom would change his mind.
“No its just… It’s locked. I never lock it.”
Tom picked up the case and realized there were no scratches on it. A look of shock came over his face when he noticed.
“This is the wrong case.”
“So where is the right one?” Dave asked.
“I knocked into someone on the way in this morning. This one must be his.”
“So where is he?”
“He was walking out as I was walking in”
Dave grabbed a screw driver and walked towards the case “OK then let’s see what’s in this one.”
Tom knew he should stop him but was curious himself and at this point didn’t think that he would ever see this man again. The first latch opened and then the second. Dave flipped opened the lid of the case to see stacks on cash arranged neatly in the case. The two of them stood there, mouth a gap, looking at all the cash now sitting on Tom’s desk.
Dave grew a giant smile and said “I will gladly take this if you say it’s not yours.”
Tom quickly shut the case and locked it.
“I’m going to see if this guy is down stairs.”
“But you just said he was walking out when you bumped into him”
“Well maybe he realized he has the wrong case like I just did. No harm in checking”
Tom ran to the elevator and hit the lobby button 3…4…5 times. He didn’t like that he had this much of someone else’s money in his hands. He had never seen this much in his life besides in movies, and knows what happens to the characters in those movies. The best thing to do now is look for this guy and if he’s not down there, leave it with security. They must have a lost and found here.
As he stepped out of the elevator, he notices a security guard walking up to him.
“Good morning sir, could you come with me please?”
Tom looked at the guard suspiciously wondering why he needed to go with him, but he agreed and began to follow.
“Where are we going?”
The guard turned to him the whole time careful not to show his face.
“Your I.D. didn’t scan properly when you entered the building this morning. We were about to come find you when you came down.”
At this point, Tom noticed that he had never seen this guard before. All the guards he knew were old, retired police officers and this man looked to be around his age, right out of college. Tom followed the guard to the back of the building.
As the guard put his hand on the door handle, Tom felt a serious shock pulsing through his body. The guard turned and through him over his shoulder. Tom instantly dropped everything when he was shocked.
Now being carried out the back of the building, he could see a second man carrying the case in one hand and a Stun Gun in the other. The guard threw him in the back of a van, put a bag over his head and tied his arms and feet together. When he fought back, he was zapped and after two or three more times he was unconscious.
Tom woke up groggy and tied to a chair. The ropes were tight enough to cut off the circulation to his hands and feet. He looks around and sees that he’s in an abandoned classroom with one light on, in the center of the room. Then, a voice came over a loud speaker.
“Finally you are awake. I expected more from people in your agency.”
Tom was still finding his bearings when he noticed a man sitting behind him. He lit a small handheld blow torch and proceeded to heat up a fire poker. Toms eyes widened more than he thought they could. He started screaming as the voice over the loud speaker was speaking.
“Wait what’s going on? There’s no need for that, I will do what you want!”
The man stood up from behind him and began to walk toward the loud speaker. The fire poker glowing a bright red at this point.
“We know that you will, but we have some questions for you first” replied the man over the loud speaker.
“If you do not answer our questions, or we believe that you are lying to us, my associate will be forced to discipline you. Which is something you Americans need anyway so it’s a win-win for you.”
The look of panic on toms face grew as he began to realize his situation. He was tied to a chair, people much more skilled than him were keeping him hostage, and he knew there was no way that he was going to escape without being burned.
“Question one, do you know what’s in the….”
The louder speaker cut off along with the only light as well. The only thing in sight was the glow from the fire poker. Then, a crashing noise like metal banging on stone. Tom watches the fire porker turn towards the sound. The man began swinging it wildly, the hot iron glowing brighter during each swing, until there was another loud bang and it fell to the ground motionless.
Tom became even more terrified not knowing what was going on around him. He screamed when he felt something touching his hands.
“Don’t be afraid, I’m here to help. Are you alright?” the new voice asked.
“If you’re getting me out of here, I am fantastic.”
His rescuer cut Tom loose and put a pair of night vision goggles on him. Tom’s eyes needed a minute to adjust to the green light but after a few seconds he could see the fire poker lying on the ground in a bald mans hand and a vent cover lying next to him. There was blood pooling next to the mans head and a smear of it on the vent cover with droplets connecting the two.
“Follow me.” Tom turned to his right and followed a woman to an open vent. She was wearing all black and had her long dark hair in a bun. After helping him into the vent, she led him to another room and then out a window on the first floor. As he stepped outside, the sun blinded him and Tom ripped off the goggles.
“Ahhh that’s bright!” Tom starts rubbing his eyes.
The woman starts giggling. “Sorry, forgot to tell you to take them off when we got outside.”
When his vision came back, Tom saw the woman who had rescued him. She was about five foot eight, a little taller than he was, and fit. She was talking to three men in suits all around 6 feet all. After they were done talking, the men walked past him into the building. Tom turned and noticed an abandoned warehouse.
“I Know this place. We’re only two or three blocks from my job?”
The woman walked up to him. “Yea not that far. You were only gone for about an hour now.”
Tom collapsed on the ground and began to get his thoughts together. “The man you hit with the vent cover. He was the one in the security guards’ uniform from this morning. I’m sure of it.”
The woman sat down next to him. “And the man you bumped into this morning was in the next room using the loudspeaker. But don’t worry they will be in custody soon.”
Tom turned to her “So what happened? What did I just go through?”
The woman stood up and offered her hand to help him up. “All you need to know is that everything is over now. This will never happen again.”
A black town car pulled up to the building as Tom was getting up. The woman looked over at it and smiled.
“Good our ride is here.”
The driver gets out and opens the rear passenger side door. The woman walks Tom to the car, he gets in and the driver shuts the door. Looking around the car, he is till in shock over what he just went through. He turns to see the rear driver’s side door open and the woman get in.
“Nice and comfy?” she asks.
“Yea this is a nice car.”
The driver gets in and starts driving away from the building. Tom noticed that there were no cop cars, ambulances, or caution tape around the building.
“I have to ask, who are you guys?”
The woman bends down and picks up a briefcase. She opens it and inspects the contents.
“Well the lock has been picked but nothing is missing.”
Tom looked embarrassed “I didn’t pick it, my coworker did and I went down to try to return it when I saw what was in it.”
The woman nodded enthused “wow. Most people would have thought there was no way to return it so finders’ keepers, but you tried to do the right thing.”
Tom looked at the floor of the car “I just didn’t want any trouble”
While stopped at a red light the driver reached over to the front passenger seat and grab another case. Then handed it to the woman in the back. Tom noticed the scratches on it almost instantly.
“I think this one belongs to you and since you tried to do the right thing it only makes sense that I try too.”
As she handed Tom the case, all he could think was “God I hope she didn’t open it”.
When Tom opened it, a manga fell onto the floor of the car. The look of panic on his face was worse than when he was tied to the chair. The woman picked it up and started reading the cover.
“I like this series too.” She saw the giant “Volume 27” in red across the cover of the book “but you are much further ahead than I am. Don’t spoil anything for me.”
Tom was so surprised that she knew the series, that all he could not come up with anything to say.
“Also, I made sure that your Emilia figurine was safe. I would never let anything happen to her, she’s just adorable trying to save her world don’t you think?”
It was one of Toms favorite shows, he knew all too well.
The car pulled up to his building and the driver got out and opened Toms door.
“Well, here’s your stop.” The woman pointed to the open door.
Tom got stepped out of the car, still in shock from the mornings kidnapping. The woman moved over as the driver shut the door. As Tom stood on the curb and watched the driver go back behind the wheel of the car, the rear window lowered.
The woman looked at Tom “I almost forgot, there’s a little thank you for helping us in your briefcase. Feel free to get in touch with us if you ever need anything.”
The car began to pull away from the curb, she rolled her window up.
“But I still don’t know who you are?!?!?”
Tom Turned around and went into his building. He noticed that the security guards were the same one he remembered. On the elevator ride up, all he could do was smile thinking about how bizarre his morning was. When he stepped onto his floor, he saw Dave sitting at his desk.
“Did you actually find this guy?”
Tom put his briefcase on his desk “You could say that.”
Dave’s eyes began to widen as Tom opened the case. Tom took out the figurine and saw an envelope that he did not recognize. He put the figure to the side and Dave started fawning over it.
“She’s so beautiful! I can’t believe I finally have her!”
As Dave was having his moment, Tom opened the envelope. Inside there was a stack of cash, a business card, and a note.
The note read…
I must apologize for everything that you went through today. I was the one who was supposed to run into the Russian agent and switch cases with him. We were ready to be chased, everything was set up, but I was late to my mark and you happened to bump into him first and grabbed the wrong case.
Enclosed is 5,000 dollars for therapy fees. If you need some help, you can now afford a good psychiatrist, and if you decide not to go keep it anyway. It’s the least I can do for getting you involved in this. If you ever need anything from the FBI, feel free to get in touch.
Agent Sasha Gray”
Tom smiled and looked at the business card. It seemed like a dream but looked real enough for him to believe. He turned it over and written in cursive was “call me” with a heart next to it.
Dave snapped out of his trance to get the money out of his jacket pocket. He extends his arm to hand it to Tom.
“Here you go, money well spent.”
Tom put the figure back in his briefcase, close it and said “Sorry, not for sale.”