Martin whirled, the briefcase banged against the metal door and echoed throughout the room. “Errrr, me?”
“Yes. Are you OK?” asked the uniformed policeman. “You’re white as a sheet.”
“Uhm, yeah. No…err, yes! I’m all right. All right?” Martin stammered. His fingers. examining the dent the briefcase put in the stall door. “You startled me, I didn’t expect anyone in here.”
“Well, I apologize for that. I couldn’t help but notice the briefcase attached to your wrist.”
Martin pulled open the stall door.
“You seem to be nervous. Let me help with that,” the officer said, reaching for the door as Martin tried unsuccessfully to back into the stall. The chain caught on the latch. He tugged hard, not knowing what it was caught on.
“If you’d allow me to help, I’m sure it would be much easier for you to use the toilet.”
“No! No, thank you all the same,” Martin answered nervously. The chain slipped off the latch, he crashed against the toilet. Blushing as he stood, he unbuttoned his overcoat. “I think I can handle this myself. I do appreciate your offer. Now if you don’t mind. Please close the door.”
“Certainly. I’ll wait. A police escort couldn’t hurt a thing, you know?” the officer said to the closed door. “I’ll help you get through the terminal. What airline will you be taking?”
“Ohhh no, what am I going to do now?” Martin mumbled, being careful not to let the officer hear. “Does he know they’re paging me? Is he aware someone is looking for me? Does he know what I have in this briefcase? Will he take me into custody? This can’t be happening. Not now. Not when I’m so close.”
“Mr. Shewbreak. Mr. Martin Shewbreak. Please go to a white courtesy phone, immediately. Mr. Martin Shewbreak,” echoed through the bathroom.
“Why? Why?” Martin screamed at the top of his lungs. His mind reeled as the paging voice bounced around inside his head, louder and louder. Hands wet and clammy. Beads of perspiration smattered his forehead. “Ooops, I think I just made a big mistake!” Martin yelled, remembering the policeman standing outside his stall door.
“What are you yelling about?” the officer asked. “Is there anything wrong? Can I help?”
“Yes! Yes, perhaps,” Martin said sheepishly. “It seems I’ve inadvertently slipped the chain between the toilet paper holder and the wall and reattached it to my wrist. I can’t turn around and I can’t reach my key.”
“Unlock the door, I’ll try to help.”
“It seems that I cannot unlock the door either. I can’t reach the knob.”
“OK, OK, don’t panic. I’ll get the custodian, remove the door.” The officer’s voice trailed off as he went out the doorway.
“Hmmmm, that worked pretty well.” Martin patted himself on the back, thinking he’d just pulled off the Houdini escape of the century. “Now, I must leave here before he comes back, with the janitor.”
Martin opened the door, peered around the edge and eased out of the stall. Bolting for the exit, his well-worn tan overcoat brushed against the door latch. The door slammed. The coat ripped, right up the seam in the middle of the back. “Arrrrrrr! Now what?” Martin screamed at his predicament. He was stuck to the stall, the door was jammed and the policeman is on his way.
“What to do? Oh heavens, I don’t have time to unlock the bracelet and take the coat off. I’ve got to get out of it…now!” Reaching into his trouser pocket, the pocketknife he’d carried since he was 17 was opened. It was quite dull, but it sliced the seam at the shoulder, allowing the overcoat to fall on the floor. “Now that looks really peculiar,” he remarked, surveying the sleeve of the overcoat bunched around his wrist. “It definitely looks like I’m trying to hide something.”
Footsteps echoed in the corridor. Martin knew they were coming and hurried out of the left lavatory door just as the policeman and janitor entered the right door.
Glancing at his watch, he trotted to the stairs. “Got to find a place to hide. Still an hour until my flight. I must be more careful. That was too close!”
Sauntering into an airport bar trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, he spied a chair toward the dimly lit rear. Several people watched him walk in, pointing at the sleeve as he maneuvered between tables. Chuckles and guffaws followed. In his haste, he’d forgotten the sleeve.
“This is just not working,” Martin mumbled, sliding into a chair and leaning it back on two legs. “I was sure this would be easy, it shouldn’t be this difficult. Maybe I’m too paranoid.”
“You’re not alone, many paranoid people come in here,” a dainty voice answered. “And it is easy. It’s the mindset that makes things seem difficult. Oft-times it is so simple, it makes one wonder.”