I recieved a much forwarded email entitled “A New Form of Kidnapping”. Supposedly, a woman finished shopping, went out to her car and discovered that she had a flat. She got the jack out of the trunk and began to change the flat. A nice-looking man dressed in a business suit and carrying a briefcase walked up to her and said, ‘I notice you’re changing a flat tire. Would you like me to take care of it for you?’
The woman was grateful for his offer and accepted his help. They chatted amiably while the man changed the flat, then put the flat tire and the jack in the trunk, shut it and dusted off his hands. The woman thanked him, and as she was about to get in her car, the man told her that he left his car around on the other side of the mall, and asked if she would mind giving him a lift to his car.
She was a little surprised and she asked him why his car was on other side.
He explained that he had seen an old friend in the mall that he hadn’t seen for some time and they had a bite to eat, visited for a while, and he got turned around in the mall and left through the wrong exit, and now he was running late. The woman hated to tell him ‘no’ because he had just rescued her from having to change her flat tire all by herself, but she felt uneasy.
Then she remembered seeing the man put his briefcase in her trunk before shutting it and before he asked her for a ride to his car.
She told him that she’d be happy to drive him around to his car, but she just remembered one last thing she needed to buy. She said she would only be a few minutes; he could sit down in her car and wait for her; she would be as quick as she could be. She hurried into the mall and told a security guard what had happened. The guard came out to her car with her, but the man had left. They opened the trunk, removed the locked briefcase and took it down to the police station.
The police opened it (ostensibly to look for ID so they could return it to the man). What they found was rope, duct tape, and knives. When the police checked her ‘flat’ tire, there was nothing wrong with it; the air had simply been let out. It was obvious to them what the man’s intention was, and obvious that he had carefully thought it out in advance.
This might be the true story it purports to be, but I doubt it. It has all the earmarks of an urban legend. Besides, whoever came up with the story was not a writer — writers cannot get away with such slipshod plotting. She remembered seeing him put a briefcase in the trunk? Why the memory of it? Was it so commonplace for strangers to put briefcases in her trunk that it never struck her as strange until later? And why did he put the briefcase in her trunk? If he was bent on kidnapping her, you’d think he’d need the knives and other paraphernalia to keep her subdued while he did whatever he was going to do to her. And how did the police check her tire? Visually? Many punctures are hidden within the tread. Besides, a perfectly good tire can go flat if a bit of stone gets between the rim and the tire — that has happened to me. And why was it obvious what the man’s plan was? I often carry a brief case full of rope, duct tape, and knives. Well, perhaps not. Still, it’s apparent that the story was not “carefully thought out in advance”. (Excuse me for being picky but isn’t “in advance” redundant?)