The taxis lined up like white-shelled bugs, yellow trim gleaming under harsh airport lights. It was 5am and passengers straggled through customs, pushing trolleys, dragging suitcases, faces pale with exhaustion. I was pretty tired myself after a long night shift. I should have knocked off an hour earlier but with the theft problems in the baggage area, I’d been working overtime.
I followed the drift of humanity to the sidewalk where drivers stood at attention next to their taxis. “Morning, Max!” one of them called as I walked by. They were a friendly bunch on the whole but there was one who didn’t sit right with me. I’d first seen him about three months previously and it wasn’t something I could put my finger on. His name was Noah and he was smallish, slightly built, sandy brown hair, a light sprinkling of freckles. He always smiled when he saw me … but I didn’t trust him. It was a gut instinct I’d developed after years in security.
I meandered back inside wondering if there would be any robberies today. We’d had a rash of them recently with jewellery and valuables disappearing out of locked suitcases. I’d personally overseen the installation of extra cameras in the baggage areas but the thefts had continued. I’d gone as far as personally supervising the offloading of bags from flights and following them to the carousel – and still goods went missing.
I rubbed my eyes, tired as I went back to the security office. I was missing something but couldn’t figure out what it was. Officers sat hunched over screens, gazing at the feed from surveillance cameras. One was focused on the taxi rank and I picked out Noah as he lifted the bags of an affluent-looking woman. Even through the screen I sensed something amiss - he epitomized the perfect taxi driver but I knew he wasn’t. He reminded me of the day I picked up a water bottle and took a swig, discovering it was full of vodka. Noah had the same effect. The packaging was right but something inside him wasn’t.
Before hitting the sack at 8am, I made a call to the detective who’d been working the case with me. “Just a gut feeling, Ned, but could you do a background check on a taxi driver for me?”
When I started my next shift, another theft had been reported and Ned was waiting in my office. “Noah Jamieson,” he started, “His record’s clean but he has a brother who’s done time – a cat burglar apparently. Was a gymnastics champion at one stage and then learned the art of picking locks.”
I sighed leaning back in my chair. “So I was wrong.”
Ned smiled. “I haven’t finished. We’ve reexamined the cases and there’s a common factor we didn’t see before. They all travelled by taxi - and the driver they described sounds like Noah.”
“And we were focusing on the airport staff ...”
“We have an agent in place this morning. We’re hoping she’ll figure out how he’s doing it.” Ned walked over to the bank of security screens and pointed out a beautiful woman with sleek hair, stylishly dressed with expensive-looking jewellery. Just then, Noah caught sight of her and a smirk spread across his face as he headed over to offer his services.
“Now we wait,” said Ned. “He’s being tailed and the agent will call and let us know if the jewellery’s gone from her suitcase.”
We swallowed stale coffee and paced until Ned’s mobile beeped thirty minutes later. “The necklace is gone, the bags are still locked and he’s heading back to the airport.”
A grin spread over my face. “I think I know how he’s doing it.”
Noah was parked in the line of gleaming taxis when I knocked on his window. Fear glimmered briefly before his mask slipped back into place.
“Need a taxi, sir?”
I smiled, sensing the discomfort behind his calm veneer. “I’m not going anywhere but I’d like to check your cab.” He shrugged, face paling slightly.
“Pop the trunk for me, Noah.”
I looked into the dark depths and saw the area was smaller than I would have imagined. “I think there’s a removable compartment back there.” I told Ned, “And inside you’ll find one cat burglar who has perfected the skill of picking suitcase locks in the dark.”
The headlines the next day screamed the news. “Gut Instinct Catches Taxi Driver and Cat Burglar Duo.” I rewarded myself by sleeping in.
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