A New Twist on Kidnapping
(Flat Tire at the Mall)
Netlore Archive: A female shopper's gratitude turns to horror when she discovers that the 'good samaritan' who offered to fix her flat tire has a briefcase full of knives, rope and duct tape.
Description: Forwarded email / Urban legend
Circulating since: June 2004 (this version)
Status: False (see details below)
Email contributed by Richard R., June 17, 2004:
Please read this, a new twist on kidnapping, a very smart survivor.
About a month ago there was a woman standing by the mall entrance passing out flyers to all the women going in. The woman had written the flyer herself to tell about an experience she had, so that she might warn other women.
The previous day, this woman had 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 man dressed in business suit and carrying a briefcase walked up to her and said, "I noticed 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, and then put the flat tire and the jack in the trunk, shut it and dusted his hands off.
The woman thanked him profusely, 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 and visited for a while. He got turned around in the mall and left through the wrong exit, and now he was running late and his car was clear around on the other side of the mall.
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 told the man that he could 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, took out his 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 what the man's intention was, and obvious that he had carefully thought it out in advance.
The woman was blessed to have escaped harm. How much worse it would have been if she had children with her and had them wait in the car while the man fixed the tire, or if she had a baby strapped into a car seat.
Or if she'd gone against her judgment and given him a lift.
I'd like you to forward this to all the women you know.
It may save a life. A candle is not dimmed by lighting another candle.
I was going to send this to the ladies only; but guys, if you love your mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, etc., you may want to pass it on to them, as well.
Send this to any woman you know that may need to be reminded that the world we live in has a lot of crazies in it.... better safe than sorry.
PLEASE BE SAFE AND NOT SORRY! JUST A WARNING TO ALWAYS BE ALERT AND USE YOUR HEAD!!!
Analysis: Far from being a "new twist" on kidnapping, this is a reiteration of an urban legend dating back many years. Compare it to the email variant that circulated in 1998, or this word-of-mouth version collected in 1999:
A young woman was leaving a local shopping mall only to find that she had a flat tire. A well-dressed young man carrying a briefcase came up to her and asked if she needed help changing her tire. She told him she would call AAA but when she did she was told it would be over an hour before a truck would be dispatched to her site. The gentleman urged her to let him fix her flat and she finally allowed him to do so.The specifics vary but the basic plot is always the same: woman exits shopping mall to find her car has a flat tire; well-dressed, briefcase-carrying good samaritan insists on helping her, then asks for a ride to his own car; sensing there's something amiss, the woman flees; later, when she opens the briefcase left behind by the "good samaritan," she finds weapons, duct tape, rope, chloroform, etc. inside.
When he was finished, he asked if she would give him a ride to the other side of the mall, as his car was parked there. Looking at her watch, she realized how late it was and apologized to the young man saying that she needed to get home as it was her daughter's birthday and her husband was at home with the two children awaiting her arrival. The man went on his way.
When she returned home, she told her husband what had happened at the mall and about the man who came to her aid. The husband went out to look at the tire and saw that the man had inadvertently left his briefcase in the trunk of the vehicle. The husband brought it into the living room and he and his wife opened it to see if they could find the man's name and phone number.
Upon opening the briefcase, they found only five items: a rag, chloroform, duct tape, a body bag and an icepick (which was probably used to cause the flat tire).
None of which is to say that such a thing couldn't possibly happen - it could, and certainly people have been kidnapped in shopping mall parking lots. This story is a fiction, however, and a well-documented one at that.
For further discussion of this urban legend and its variants, see Another Close Call at the Mall.
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Sources and further reading:
The Knife in the Briefcase
Word-of-mouth variants from the late 1990s.
Another Close Call at the Mall
Commentary on 1998 email variant of "The Knife in the Briefcase."
Last updated: 05/07/05