Saturday afternoon I dressed and packed, deciding to leave early for the airport. Suddenly there was a call from a cousin, whom I had met a day earlier, saying he had to come to the hospital after a car accident. I rushed out, took a taxi and went to see him. Fortunately, the doctor said he would be fine in a day or two. I returned to my friend’s apartment to pick up my suitcase and leave for the airport.
In that case, I reasoned, it must be with the building’s caretaker, who spotted an unattended suitcase and took charge of it. Or a resident reported the item to him and the caretaker gathered it. I felt sure that, in either case, it would be safely in storage, for it was a well-guarded apartment building. Then came the shattering discovery that it wasn’t in storage either. The caretaker searched high and low with me. No suitcase. I had to leave for the airport without the suitcase.
It was a disaster. The clothes I lost and the gifts I had bought for friends was a financial loss, no more. But the loss of a large number of documents and work papers was a major concern. It was professionally awkward and embarrassing. It took me more than two months and enormous expense to retrieve store cards, change credit cards, get a new passport, get an extra pair of glasses and sunglasses, order new suits and shirts, pajamas and shoes.
Ten weeks later I again had some work in Chicago and Dietrich invited me for a drink. He listened quietly when I told him of my misadventure and the mystery of the missing suitcase.
Pensively, he commented, “Since you are sure you didn’t take the suitcase with you to the hospital – why would you! – and it wasn’t in the apartment, it must have been left in the foyer. Yet the caretaker did not find it. An outsider cannot get in and certainly cannot leave with a large suitcase.”
He pondered with furrowed brows, “Where could the suitcase be, I wonder.”
I was about to say that it was a closed chapter when Dietrich stood up and beckoned me to follow. He walked out of the apartment into the foyer and looked at the entrance of the three other apartments on the floor. He thought for a few seconds, chose the nearest apartment and rang the bell.
A young woman opened the door ajar.
“Karen, this is my friend who stayed with me three months ago. He lost a suitcase on this floor, a black Samsonite. Any chance you could have seen it.”
Karen opened the door a little more to let us enter and then pointed to a corner, “This thing was blocking my way to the elevator. I pushed it there.”
It was my suitcase.
Dietrich’s jaws tightened, “It never occurred to you to report it to the caretaker? Not in three months! Do you realize the misery and loss you caused, quite unnecessarily, for my friend?”
We left brusquely as Karen kept muttering apologies.
I flew back home with the suitcase the next day. Three days later a note arrived by mail from Karen.
“I got your address from Dietrich. I am sorry for what I did. I know regrets are no use. Please try to forgive me. It may help you to do so if you know that a man I expected to marry for seven years told me that very morning that he was leaving me for another woman. I was not myself.”
I was not Sherlock Holmes but I could have said “Elementary” to Dr. Watson. The curious case of the missing suitcase was finally solved.