Briefly a Case

There is a briefcase. Somewhere in the world. There is a briefcase. It may not look like a briefcase. It may be different. Disguised as a rubber duck in your bathtub. A box of special, Scrumpt-diddily-umptious Great-Auntie Kathy’s Homemade Butterscotch Cookies. The blades of the fan you’re using at night to keep yourself cool because your air conditioner broke and it’s the middle of summer in Texas. But it is a briefcase. So keep your eyes peeled. It could pop up anywhere.

There is a girl. The bell has just rung, signaling the end of the school day. She is hanging out in the yard. She has nothing to do after school. She is listening to her iPod. She sits for a couple of minutes, maybe fifteen or so. She grows bored of the yard though, so she pushes herself up from the ground and begins to walk toward the exit. She isn’t paying attention, so when she trips over someone tying their shoe, she falls to the ground, banging her mouth.

“Ouch!” She says, rubbing her jaw as she pushes herself up from the ground. “Watch yourself.” She glares at the person she had tripped over, a gangly brown haired teen, maybe a year older than her.

“You tripped over me!” He cries coming up to his full height, a good foot taller than her.

And with that, in a perfect motion, she swings her leg, taking him down. He hits the hard concrete ground, banging his head and passing out.

She ignores his broken body, ever so gracefully stepping over him, but she doubles back because she sees something on the ground. He wasn’t tying his shoe. He was writing something with chalk.

You are formally invited to a gathering of finders. New York City, in front of the Museum of Natural History, the fifth of May, 2013, 7:00pm. Refreshments will be served.

There is a boy. He sits at his computer. He is hacking into his school. Changing his grade. He hacks into things often. He finds secrets. Secret secrets. Secret secrets he shouldn’t know. He continues hacking into the school, and finally reaches the innermost level. He quickly changes his grades, and for good measure, helps out a few of his friends too. He starts to close out of the school, erasing his footsteps, but stops to think for a moment. His younger sister has control of the TV, his homework is finished, and well, what else is there to do? He easily hacks back to the farthest level. He browses around for a bit, looking through personal files on his teachers, and snickering.

“Dinner!!” He hears the voice of his mom from downstairs, calling out through the house.

He doesn’t leave his room. Instead, he moves away from his computer for a moment and pries open a loose floorboard. Underneath is a large bag full of gummy worms. He grabs it and brings it back over to his computer, placing it to the left of the keyboard. He chews on a purple and red gummy worm.

“Dinner!!” she calls again, her voice echoing through the house.
Soon, though, he grows bored of learning his teachers secrets, and heads back to his own file. He scrolls down the page a bit to the very bottom, glancing at various grades, and changing them along the way. He arrives at the bottom which has a few comments about him from teachers. He reads through them. They’re all bad. The last one is odd, though. It’s a different font and it’s not a comment about him.

You are formally invited to a gathering of finders. New York City, in front of the Museum of Natural History, the fifth of May, 2013, 7:00pm. Refreshments will be served.

He eats another gummy worm.

It is the fifth of May, 2013. One girl, and one boy are headed to New York City, to the front of the Museum of Natural History.

The girl is taking the train. She lives nearby.

The boy is going by plane. He doesn’t.

She is due to arrive by 6:15. He will arrive by 6:00. They are both alone.

She steps off the train at precisely 6:15. She is a bit dizzy from the ride. She gets sick easily. All she has with her is a backpack. It has a change of clothes, a couple of snacks, and a toothbrush. She walks down the platform, nearly tripping over a middle-aged couple’s suitcases. She continues down the platform until she reaches the center of Grand Central. She finds her way through the maze of hallways, finally bursting out into the crisp spring air. She makes her way through the crowds of people on the street, finally breaking through to the edge to hail a cab. Not being a New Yorker, it takes her about ten minutes, but finally, a taxi pulls up next to her, and she gets in.

“Museum of Natural History, please.” She tells the driver, settling against her backpack into the seat. He drives quickly and skillfully through the jammed up streets of New York, before letting her out.

“Thank you.” She tells him, pressing the money she owes into his hand. She doesn’t know to tip, so he gives her a dirty look.

She turns her back on the cab and heads toward the museum. Following down the path, she finally comes to stand in front of it. Nobody is there. She checks her watch. It’s only 6:50. More people should arrive soon. She sits down.

He drags his suitcase up the padded navy blue ramp, cursing when one of the wheels sticks. He has just exited the plane. His flight was approximately 2 hours and 23 minutes long. He slept the whole time. He is ahead of everyone else who was with him on the flight. He made sure to get a seat closer to the front so he could leave before everyone else. He’s slightly claustrophobic. He quickly moves away from the plane, reaching the hub of shops in the center of the airport. He stops at Pizza Hut because he hasn’t eaten anything all day except the meager bags of pretzels supplied on the plane. He orders a personal pizza. He begins to sit down to enjoy his food, but when he takes out his phone to see if he’s gotten any texts, he notices that it’s already 6:10. He has to be at the museum by 7:00. He closes the pizza box. He moves his fingers across the screen of his phone, searching up a cab company. He uses the phone number he finds on their website to call them, and by the time his cab arrives in the parking lot, he’s been waiting there for about fifteen minutes. It’s 6:30.

“I need to get to the Museum of Natural History by 7:00.” he instructs the driver as he gets into the car. “Extra if you get me there earlier.”

He can hear the driver snort in the front, but he doesn’t care. He lies back into his seat, relaxing as the car starts moving. About 45 minutes later, his cab pulls up next to the museum. He’s panicked now that he’s going to miss this gathering, so he hands the driver about $40, even though he only owes $25.

“Keep the change!” he shouts as he pulls his suitcase out, nearly pulling the handle off.

He curses the cab driver; he let him out on the wrong side of the museum. He keeps moving. He runs the long way around the building, so it takes him twice as long, but he finally gets to the front, running down the path, nearly tripping over a vine in his way. He finally gets off the path, coming from the dirt ground, to concrete. He stops for a moment to catch his breath, clutching his stomach. He eventually composes himself and looks up into the eyes of a girl.

“Are you alright?” she asks, a look of concern in her eyes. She feels a bit weird. Why is she helping this boy? This isn’t like her.

“Yes, sorry. I was just in a rush to get here.” He’s still breathing heavily.

“Okay, good. I’m glad you’re not like, having a nervous breakdown or something.” she laughs.

He gives a small chuckle in response.

“So were you just hoping to get to the museum or…?” There’s a small glimmer of hope in her eyes.

“Actually no. I…urhm…received an invitation to a gathering in front of the museum. I don’t know if you’ve seen anyone…” he glances around behind her back.

“Oh! I’m so glad you’re here! I was beginning to worry.” she breaks into a smile.

“Oh, have you organized the gathering or what?”

“Me? No. I was ‘invited’,” she uses air quotes. “too. I’ve been here for about 30 minutes though, and I haven’t seen anyone.”

“Oh.” His face falls. “Maybe we should go inside and ask. Whoever invited us here probably needed to get their permission first.”

“Good idea.” she says. “Let’s go.”

“Wait.” He calls out. “What-

She grabs her backpack from the bench she had left it on and slings it over her shoulder, while he drags his suitcase behind him. She gets to the door first, and holds it open for him for a couple of seconds; his suitcase is caught on dip in the concrete. He finally gets to the door.

“Sorry,” he mutters under his breath. She doesn’t hear him.

They walk inside, she is leading, and head over to the front desk.

“Excuse me, miss?” she walks up to the desk.

“Yes, what do you want?” The lady is distracted by something on her computer screen.

“Oh, we were just wondering if you knew of any event happening in front of the museum around this time.” she says it very quickly.

“An event?” the lady glances over at the two of them for a second, but quickly becomes preoccupied by the screen again. “Sorry, not that I know of.” She pauses for a second time. “Besides, private events aren’t permitted on the museum premises.”

“Oh, alright. Thank you anyway.” The girl sighs and beckons the boy. “Let’s go.”

They exit the museum and go back out to sit in front.

“What are we going to do?” he asks. His shoulders are slumped forward, discouraged.

“I don’t know. We’re going to have to leave soon, it’s getting dark.” She looks up at the sky.

“But–” he is cut short as a large mass of people come strolling down the path. Several of them are holding up tables covered in what could only be referred to as refreshments, and the rest are chatting with each other. They all hold briefcases.

“Do you…?” the girl stutters.


“Do you think…?”


“Let’s go.”


They leave their stuff sitting behind them and run up to confront the group.

A short man, mildly resembling an eggplant leads the group. He comes to a stop when the two children come up in front of him. He coughs. He clears his throat. “Ehh-hemmm. Yes? Can I help you with something?”

“Um, yes.” the boy pipes up. “We were wondering if you were…urhm…a gathering of finders.”

“Ahh! Yes. Of course. I should have known.” He gives a mighty laugh. “Yes, please. Join us.”

“Oh, thank god.” The girl sighs. “We’ve been waiting here forever.”

“Oh, right. Sorry about that. We had a little mix-up with…a couple of things. Well, a couple of things and a lizard. Well…really a couple of things, a lizard, and a box of cookies. But…that’s over now.”

“Ohh…I see,” the girl stares at him.

“Yes, yes. Quite.” He laughs again. “Now, let’s not stand here blathering about. We have a gathering to attend!” He does a quick little motion in the air, signaling the herd of people to keep moving, and then continues down the path, chatting on about an assortment of things, including boysenberries, comics, and if anyone has ever actually considered how well they know the back of their hand.

When they get down to the entrance, the people holding up the tables put them down next to a high stone wall, while the rest of the party guests stand out of the way. When they’ve finished setting up, the majority of people congregate around the food, although there are a few strays here and there.

At one point, two buff security guards come outside and start ordering them to clear away the tables and leave or pay to enter the museum, but when the eggplant man offers each of them a drink and then keeps secretly refilling it as they take sips, they are soon too drunk to order anyone to do anything, and they leave the party alone.

“Good, now that’s taken care of.” The eggplant man wipes his hands and walks over to the girl and boy. “So…any questions about what your job is?”

The girl and boy glance at each other.

“Urhm…” the girl clears her throat. “Job?”

“Yes…your job…” he looks at them like they’re crazy.

“What job?”

It takes a moment before eggplant man recognizes them. “Oh! YES! Of course! You two are the new recruits, correct?”

The boy looks at him oddly. “Recruits? Recruits for what?”

“Come! Take a seat with me. I’ll explain everything.” The three of them walk over to the bench, eggplant man not thoroughly walking, but bouncing.

“Alright. Let me start at the beginning.” He takes a deep breath. “Weareanorganizationlookingforthisthingthatisabriefcasebutitmightnotlooklikeabriefcasewhichiswhyitishardtofindbutthatisokaybecausewehavealotofpeoplelookingbutweneedyourhelpbecauseyeah.”

The girl blinks. “Yes.”

“Any questions?” His smile is too enormous to quantify.

“Ummm…” The boy hesitates. “What?”

The eggplant man sighs. “Do I really need to explain it again?”

“Well, no. It’s just what, why, and how?”

“Okay, I’ll answer those in order. For my answer to the what, just remember what I said earlier in slow motion. Why; because you’re a particularly good finder. This of course refers to you.” He looks pointedly at the boy. “Did you know you have quite a file with the CIA? For you,” he looks at the girl. “because you’re a particularly good fighter. And finally, how. All I can say is use your talents.” He says all this very fast, though not quite as fast as before.

The girl stares at him. “So what you’re saying is you want us to join up with your gang to go find a briefcase that isn’t a briefcase because he’s a good finder and I’m a good fighter.”

“Correct! DING DING DING.”

“Right.” The girl hesitates for a couple of seconds. “I’m in. Sounds like an adventure.”

“Wonderful! Perfect! And you?” He turns to the boy.

He looks at the girl. “Are you actually serious? You’re going with this guy?”

She shrugs. “I needed a bit more entertainment in my life.”

“But…look at…them…”

The eggplant man stands up. “ARE YOU INSULTING ME?”

“Sorry, no, no. I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Good.” He looks a bit ruffled, but he sits down again.

“But I still don’t think I want to do this…” The boy trails off.

“Oh c’mon.” The girl looks at him, an unusual light in her eyes. “It’ll be fun.”

“I…I…I guess…but it could be dangerous.”

“Your friend here will take care of that part, won’t she now?” The eggplant man pats the girl on her back.

She laughs. “Right!”

The boy sighs. He looks at the girl and eggplant man. He looks at the rest of the party; they could be a circus crew; then he looks at his hands. “Okay.”

“Oh wonderful! Wonderful! Fantastic!” The eggplant man clasps his hands together. “Now, there is one thing I need you to do for me. I know that in the past, you haven’t used your talents for good.”
The girl and boy both shuffle in their seats.
“But I want you to try to use your skills for good in the world. To help people, not harm. Can you do that for me?”
“Yes.” They nod simultaneously. The girl isn’t looking at the eggplant man when she speaks, and the boy coughs as he stops talking.
The eggplant man doesn’t notice.

“BRILLIANT. Now one last thing. I mentioned this before, but the briefcase could be literally anything. Disguised as a rubber duck in your bathtub. A box of special, Scrumpt-diddily-umptious Great-Auntie Kathy’s Homemade Butterscotch Cookies. The blades of the fan you’re using at night to keep yourself cool because your air conditioner broke and it’s the middle of summer in Texas. But it is a briefcase. So keep your eyes peeled. It could pop up anywhere. Just remember…it’s only briefly a case.”

Isabel Rudner, Age 12, Grade 7, Math and Science Exploratory School, Silver Key

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