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Stepping Out for a Quick Cup of Coffee

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The Private Detective comes into the station to ask Da Chief for some information regarding a well-known case. The chief resists commenting on an ongoing investigation, just as official regulations demand. But while verbally telling the gumshoe that he's out of luck, Da Chief very obviously lays the appropriate file on his desk. They stare at each other for a minute before Da Chief says something akin to, "I'm going to go get a cup of coffee. Whatever you do, don't read this Top Secret file that just happens to be about the case you were asking about, and just happens to be on my desk, do you hear?"

And as soon as Da Chief is out of the room, the Private Detective starts reading the file, just like Da Chief knew he would.

A staple of cop shows, but occasionally seen elsewhere, Stepping Out for a Quick Cup of Coffee is when someone (usually Da Chief) uses an ostentatious display of deliberate carelessness in order to allow someone else to skirt procedure, without making him technically guilty of assisting the violation. It can also be used to allow someone to leak confidential information without technically violating confidentiality (such as a lawyer or doctor constrained by attorney-client/doctor-patient privilege). Compare Could Say It, But....

While this does happen occasionally in Real Life, it isn't an excuse...since most organizations' official confidentiality policies make no distinction between "just happening to leave important information unattended in public view" and deliberately showing it to someone. The former is treated as being as bad as the latter, both to deter people from falling into lazy habits and to nullify precisely this excuse, since confidentiality procedures are taken VERY seriously and exist for a reason. (Leaving the information locked away and secretly informing someone how to break in and steal it is probably a better way to cover your ass. But don't do that either.) If a police officer tries this, both parties are in big trouble.

See also Cops Need the Vigilante for when the cops actively enlist civilians to work outside the law. Also compare I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That (an authority figure ignores an infraction while making it clear that it was noticed) and Fake Static (a character pretends to not hear inconvenient orders or statements over a "noisy" communications channel). Overlaps with I Need to Go Iron My Dog if the excuse is blatantly transparent and absurd. Could involve Let Off by the Detective if a cop is doing this to let a suspect escape. Not to be confused with Going to the Store, which is about someone making a phony excuse because they want to leave a setting, or the occasional result of that trope, Parent Never Came Back from the Store.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach: In the Captain Amagai anime filler arc, the captains are baffled when Ichigo and Rukia apparently turn against Soul Society (they're protecting a high-ranking noble child from a plot to destroy her family that's being kept secret from the Gotei 13). The captains are ordered to hunt them down which is a problem for the Sixth Division as its captain is Rukia's brother, Ichigo's friend, and an even higher-ranked noble than the affected family. He abandons the mission to Renji, an ally of Ichigo and Rukia's, locking himself out of the loop so he can turn a blind eye to anything Renji might do.
    Byakuya: You are in charge of the search party. Something wrong?
    Renji: Captain, what are you going to do?
    Byakuya: About what?
    Renji: Ichigo and Rukia! There's got to be some sort of explanation for this! They'd never do something like this without a good reason!
    Byakuya: And what of it? I have no compassion for those who threaten the peace of Soul Society. I will repeat myself: I am leaving the search party to you.
    Renji: Oh?! You're leaving it completely to me?! Understood, sir!
  • In Getter Robo Go, the main villain is holding the world hostage in exchange for handing over the Getter Robo. The Getter Team decides that they're going to head out to the front to fight him, but to avoid the rest of their organization being punished, they're going to claim they're stealing the Getter and are only acting as a Renegade Splinter Faction. However, they fail to keep the operation stealthy... at which Hayato, the commander in charge of the base, as well as most of the support staff, all agree to claim that they did everything they could to stop this wanton theft, even as they hand over supplies and weapons and say their goodbyes. They even go so far as to send out a security team to launch a quick Five Rounds Rapid at the Getter while it takes off.
  • Silver Spoon: Hachiken, while working on the Mikage farm, is offered a wide variety of fresh foods. When it comes to milk, though, he is sternly told off by Grandpa Mikage, who points out that it is illegal to sell unpasteurised dairy products. He then points out that the law says nothing about the portion farmers keep for themselves, and that he couldn't be held responsible if someone were to open the bulk cooler and take a sip or two while he...goes out for a bit.
  • One Piece: Dr. Kureha insists that her patients only leave her care in two cases: when they die or when they make a full recovery. When talking to a pair of patients that haven't fully healed yet but have just done her a big favor, she spells out that she isn't going to let them leave—but she is going to leave the door unlocked while she is busy doing something that will occupy her attention.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Ultimate universe's adaptation of the Clone Saga, Peter and Jessica Drew (his Opposite-Sex Clone) find themselves trapped in a warehouse, with Nick Fury and a bunch of SHIELD soldiers there to arrest them. Before that can happen, Doctor Octopus comes waltzing in and smugly informs them all that he got off scot-free from all of the crimes he did and was able to more or less pervert Peter's life and all he stood for, by being signed on to run the CIA's cloning program and making a bunch of Spider-Man clone soldiers. Because of his protection with the CIA, Fury can't touch him. So Fury orders all of his soldiers to take a five minute coffee break, leaving no one to stop Peter and Jessica from beating the shit out of Doc Ock. Bonus points for Peter actually asking for Fury to invoke this trope, just so he can have a chance to beat Doc Ock up before being arrested.
  • In Star Wars (Marvel 1977), Luke Skywalker is confined to base after shooting down his wing guard; he's having a crisis of faith and wants to escape the hostility of the Rebels, so Lando lets him borrow the Millennium Falcon... by saying he has to report Luke coming into the hangar, and he will - after he goes and has his cape laundered.
  • Spider-Man: During the first, extended Hobgoblin story arc, Spidey wants police information on crook Lefty Donovan, whom he suspects is the Hobgoblin (actually, he's Hobgoblin's Dragon). He goes to speak to Detective Lou Snider and asks to see Donovan's criminal history. Snider tells him that's information only for cops, as he places the information on his desk, and then steps out of the room, saying he had something in his eye.
  • A combination of this and Could Say It, But... shows up in one issue of The X-Files comic. Scully is doing an autopsy on a person who died under seemingly miraculous circumstances. A woman and a crippled child come in to see the body of the "saint."
    Scully: I can't let you in. However, I am going for coffee in a few minutes, and, well, maybe I'll forget to lock the door.
  • In one issue of Justice League Quarterly, the manager of the corporate superteam Conglomorate tells the heroes that their sponsors won't let them fight an actual supervillain, because of the risk. However, if she went for coffee and when she came back they were gone, well, there's not much she could do about that.

    Fan Works 
  • RWBY: Reckoning: As Darrel's just been busted impersonating a student assisting in a police investigation regarding Tukson's murder, the inspector in charge says that Darrel needs to be arrested for impersonating a junior officer of the law, and for disturbing a crime scene. However, the mountain of evidence incriminating the White Fang takes priority, he needs to take it and make sure it's secure. As he's leaving, he asks Darrel not to run. He really hates that.
  • In Families and Familiars Harry needs to send the Black lordship ring to a currently-imprisoned Sirius, but it's against Gringotts regulations to ask for a lordship ring other than your own. When Harry asks for the Potter lordship ring, Griphook "accidentally" brings the Black ring as well, then announces that Harry's account manager has another customer to deal with and both of them exit the room, leaving Harry alone with both rings and post-owl/familiar Hedwig.
  • In This Means War the director of Gringotts is called away from a meeting with Harry, "accidentally" leaving information on Minister Fudge's financial dealings in plain sight on his desk.
  • In Trust Is a Relative Thing Harry tries to order books on occlumency and related subjects during his first year. On Halloween he receives a parcel with an accompanying letter.
    Those books on your list are restricted for sale by the ministry. But oddly enough I was buying some books from an estate sale of a retired auror and I found a stack containing those books and a couple others. Tucked inside one of those books was a letter stating he wished for those books to be bequeathed to you, but apparently he misplaced the letter to his solicitors to that effect. Who am I to get in the way of a wizard's last wishes. Since I in good faith paid his estate five galleons for the books I have billed your Gringotts account for the same.
  • In Stopped in Time the Ministry of Magic institutes a marriage law pairing light wizards and witches with dark ones.
    Harry: Do you have a list of all persons being affected by this?
    Minister Shacklebolt: I do. I can't let you have it, but if a copy was to be made of this list there would be nothing I could do if I didn't know it.
    [Shacklebolt leaves said list on the table and turns his back]
  • In The Stark Truth Harry, Fred and George are kidnapped from Avengers Tower by Snape and Dumbledore and end up in the Hogwarts hospital wing. Once Harry wakes up they decide to leave.
    Madame Pomfrey: The Headmaster ordered me to keep you here and in bed, but I all of a sudden have the need to use the bathroom. Excuse me, gentlemen.
  • In If I Knew the Consequences I Wouldn't Have Done It aurors arrive to search Malfoy Manor and the elf who lets them in is not exactly loyal.
    Cobby: Cobby must not tell master's secrets, Cobby must keep aurors from looking at dining room floor. Cobby is a good elf and keeps master's secrets.
  • Missing (Sherlock Holmes): Holmes uses his network of informants to figure out the identity of a dead man presumably related to Watson's disappearance and runs off before the police can obtain a search warrant. When one of the young Yarders protests, Lestrade tells him that looking the other way with Holmes occasionally is part of the job and purposely avoids either of them finding out what Holmes disappeared to do. He even says that if Holmes isn't "done" by the time they catch up, he'll duck into the nearest pub for a pint to give him more time.
  • In Crafting Magic Madame Bones asks a Saint Mungo's Healer if it's true that they and a cursebreaker removed Harry's scar. The Healer states that she can't violate patient confidentiality while tugging on her hair and pointing at a potted plant.
  • In A Christmas Guardian II Snape asks Madame Pomfrey about Harry's medical history.
    Madame Pomfrey: I've just remembered I need to check in on Miss Brockelhurst – you may find some interesting reading on my desk.
  • New Blood (artemisgirl): Snape is curiously absent at cleanup time the day he teaches the contraceptive potion, conveniently allowing all the girls in the class to "steal" a stash of it for themselves. Hermione's suspicions are solidified when the handful of students whose potions weren't brewed correctly are assigned a detention to try again until they get it right; normally that's just a fail, but it seems Snape wants to be sure every girl gets a chance to "steal" the potion.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles: Madam Pomfrey does not approve of the Triwizard champions being given a Draught of Delirium, and suggests purging it early. Fleur is confused and asks if that isn't against the rules.
    The Mediwitch raised her eyebrows and looked pointedly around the tent. She conjured a bucket and set it on the floor beside the girl before moving to the entrance to 'check the weather.'
  • Forging the Sword: After what the Diary did to Ginny, Ron really wants to learn Occlumency, but it's dangerous to tamper with your own mind, so books on it are restricted from minors. Percy has one, and is sympathetic to Ron's motivations, but can't legally share it with him.
    Ron: If Ginny knew occlumency, she might be alive right now.
    Percy: Fine. I actually do have a book on it already in my trunk. But I cannot legally lend it to you.
    Ron: But Percy!
    Percy: Ron. I cannot legally lend it to you. From my trunk.
    Ron: Right. I understand.
    Percy: Good. Now, I have a Prefect's meeting in twenty minutes. I imagine I'll be pretty busy this week — too busy to work on an extra side project — until, oh, next Tuesday.
  • Harry Potter and the Escape to New York:
    Snagtooth: The rules of the treaties are clear – if the British Ministry has sealed something, then we cannot just hand it to someone else with our comments on what may or may not have happened.

    However, should young Mr. Wells discover an item while he is in the course of going through the paperwork of his own new vault, then he would have discovered the papers by himself. And if you just happen to slip the interesting papers into the file by accident, well...accidents happen, even here at Gringotts.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Done in Absence of Malice. The District Attorney tells his secretary to wait for five minutes into his meeting with a reporter, then call him. During his meeting with the reporter, he casually mentions that the information is in the folder he's holding, but that he can't show her the file. When he gets the call from his secretary, he steps out of the office, leaving the report sitting on his desk. The reporter, still in the office, takes the bait and reads the contents of the folder. The reporter's paper runs the story the next day, which is exactly what the District Attorney wanted.
  • This was done in the 1987 Dragnet movie. Joe Friday goes to get coffee so that Pep can use Torture for Fun and Information on a captured mook. This works at first, but when the perp tries to clam up again, Pep comments that "some donuts would go real nice with this coffee".
    Pep: Well... Emil... I guess it's just you and me and... your balls... and this drawer.
  • The Dark Knight: After a bit of fruitless interrogation of the Joker by Comissioner Gordon:
    Gordon: If we're gonna play games, I'm gonna need some coffee.
    The Joker: (sarcastically) The old Good Cop/Bad Cop routine?
    Gordon: Not exactly.
    Gordon leaves. After a moment, the lights turn on, and Batman is revealed to have been behind the Joker the whole time. He immediately slams the Joker's head into the table.
  • A variant at the end of The Jackal. Declan, the IRA terrorist helping to find The Jackal, doesn't get his early release in exchange for helping take him down and stop him from assassinating the First Lady of the United States (note that Declan agreed to help the FBI just on the chance of early release after initially trying to bargain for a certainty). His handler Preston is personally against the decision, though he notes that Declan will get transferred to a minimum-security prison. In the movie's final scene the two of them stop at a coffee bar and Preston says that he'll go in to get a cup of coffee, and that he'll be back in...30 minutes. Declan understands that that's his cue to just walk away a free man once Preston goes inside.
  • In Thor, Heimdall does this at the Bifrost Bridge to allow the Warriors Three and Lady Sif to travel to Earth without him having disobey Odin's orders. After confirming with them what they plan to do, he loudly announces that he is bound by honor to the king and cannot open the bridge for them... and then walks away, leaving the proverbial keys in the ignition.
    Fandral: Complicated fellow, isn't he?
  • A variant happens in The Gamers: Dorkness Rising. The GMPC paladin wouldn't allow the characters to torture an NPC, so they fool him into thinking there are more evil doers outside.
    I shall spread the buttery justice of Therin over the toast of your inequity!
    The succulent jam of light shall sweeten the sourdough of your evil ways!
    The creamer of light will dull the bitterness of your evil unholy coffee taste!
    The spatula of purity shall scramble the eggs of your maleficence!
    • Later on, when they have a demon in their custody. They threaten to torture him, but the demon points out that a paladin won't just stand by for this. The paladin's response:
    Paladin: My, what fine yet rustic architecture.
    • And then he walks off to check it out.
  • In the 2004 version of Jackie Chan's New Police Story, Jackie and his sidekick are in a jail cell, with the entire police force sympathizing with him. Their guard makes a show of announcing that he needs to go take a piss, "carelessly" dropping his keys on the floor as he walks out. His partner (who is also his daughter) makes a big show of chasing him out, nagging that he drinks too much coffee, kicking the keys into the jail cell just in case Jackie didn't get the hint. Once Jackie and his partner unlock the door and try to quietly sneak out of the station, they come face to face with Da Chief, a vocal critic of theirs. Who turns around and walks back into his office without comment.
  • In The Notebook, when the ailing Noah wants to visit his equally ill wife Allie. The nurse on duty gently but firmly tells him that it's not allowed. . .then declares her intent to go and get herself some coffee before very pointedly turning her back and walking away.
  • In Spectre, James Bond has just been grounded by the current M (played by Ralph Fiennes) for going off the reservation and been caught raising a ruckus in Mexico City. Bond had been in Mexico at the behest of the previous M (played by Judi Dench) and needed to do more behind the current M's back. He's been tagged with a GPS tracker, so he goes to Q and asks a favor. Q is reluctant at first as he reports directly to M, but eventually comes around and, while not agreeing to anything explicitly because M's Chief of Staff Tanner is also present, notes that the tracker needs twenty-four...forty-eight hours to calibrate properly. Bond smiles and comments that he'll send a postcard — Q simply replies, "please don't."
  • Stallion Road: Larry is dying of anthrax, but he has a serum that has been shown to be effective against anthrax...on horses. Rory begs Dr. Stephens to use the serum, but Dr. Stephens says that he couldn't possibly give untested horse medicine to a human patient. Rory says that she could do it. Dr. Stephens pauses for a bit, then talks about how most of the big advances are made by amateurs because professionals have too much to lose. Then he says "I think I'll take a little walk around." While he's gone, Rory gives Larry the serum, offscreen. Larry lives.
  • The Star Maker: Joe has been arrested and is being taken to jail by Marshal Mastropaolo. Their car is stopped by the Mafiosi (this is 1951 Sicily), who want revenge on Joe. After realizing that there's no way to get out of it, the marshal suggests to the detective with him that it might be good if they strolled over to the inn they just passed and get some coffee. Joe takes a brutal beating.
  • The Suspect: At the end, Col. Min tosses a paper to Ji, on which is written the address where Ji's daughter is being held as slave labor in China. Min then parks his police car outside a convenience store and says, very intently, that he's going inside to buy some cigarettes. Sure enough, when he comes back out with his smokes, Ji has slipped the handcuffs and escaped.
  • We're the Millers: As a DEA agent, Don cannot allow them to leave once he finds out they are drug smuggling. Especially since they endangered his family with Pablo Chacon chasing them. He states that he will have to fulfill his duty of arresting them...just as soon as he finishes turning around to hug his family.

  • Happens in Thomas Pynchon's Inherent Vice, except that cop Bigfoot Bjornson does this at a Greasy Spoon with the protagonist.
  • In the Mercy Thompson series Blood Bound, Tony tells another cop to do this when Tony realizes who is involved with the situation.
    To the other cop, "Hey, John. Why don't you grab us both a cup of coffee?"
    "How long should I take?"
    "This won't take more than ten minutes."
  • In Hornblower and the Hotspur, Hornblower's new steward, Doughty, is due to hang because he struck an officer in a rare fit of anger. Hornblower ends up arranging a series of seeming coincidences such that Doughty is unrestrained, unguarded, and most of the crew's attention is directed forward when Hornblower leaves him alone in his cabin at the stern of the ship with the window open, and an American ship, the USS Constitution, a short distance away. When Bush finds him gone and tries to report it, Hornblower stalls him with other matters until there's no possibility of doing anything to retrieve him. (Incidentally, the real Constitution really was at Cadiz during that week, and took on new crew during that time, in an impressive display of Shown Their Work.)
  • In Proven Guilty, Harry needs to illegally pick a lock, so tells Murphy (a police detective) to "look at that zeppelin" while he does so. She concedes to necessity and turns her back, but isn't happy about it.
  • One Monk novel, Mr. Monk and the Dirty Cop, plays this when Monk and Natalie visit the police station to confront Randy, now an acting captain instead of a lieutenant, for arresting Stottlemeyer (who had been framed). Randy even does that "get a cup of coffee line" and leaves the case file out on the desk for them. Natalie catches on immediately; Monk needs to have the whole thing spelled out for him before he understands that Randy meant the opposite of what he said.
  • A sad variation occurs in the Lord Peter Wimsey novel The unpleasantness at the Bellona club. When Lord Peter has unmasked the murderer, their mutual friend Colonel Marchbanks tells them that he will now put his loaded pistol in this unlocked drawer, in preparation for a hunting trip tomorrow. The murderer takes the hint, and commits suicide as soon as Wimsey and Marchbanks have left the room.
  • Lost Light: FBI agent Roy Lindell is not allowed to share the Martha Gessler missing person file with private detective Harry Bosch. So Lindell makes a big show out of leaving the file on his desk while going outside to grab a smoke, so Bosch can look at it. The reason Lindell does this is that Marty Gessler was his girlfriend and he wants Harry to solve the case.
  • The Executioner. In Chicago Wipeout, Mack Bolan goes to an anti-corruption lawyer who's been crippled and ostracized for his efforts, and asks for the names behind the Chicago Mafia. Aware that he would be naming these people for a Vigilante Execution, the lawyer can't do it, as he's served the law all his life. Bolan respects his choice and goes to leave, but then the lawyer starts going on about how he wishes someone would just steal his file with all the information he's compiled, as he's sent it to every crime commission in the country to no effect...
  • The Science of Discworld: In the second book, the Librarian cannot help the wizards due to the complicated rules regarding L-Space. So he leaves a pile of books, and tells Ponder Stibbons he's just going out for a jiff, during which he expects the wizards to not read those books, and if they hear him coughing just before he comes back, it's because he has a cough, and is not a warning about his return.
  • Tales of the South Pacific: In short story "Dry Rot", the CO of the dinky little island sets out a bottle of whiskey, says Joe the enlisted man is not to take a drink from it, and then says he's going to take a walk for 20 minutes. He comes back 20 minutes later and is astonished to find that the supremely innocent Joe didn't pick up on his hint and didn't help himself to any whiskey.
  • The Lady From Zagreb: Minoux is incarcerated in a prison where Bernie Gunther's old friend Ernst Kracauer is deputy governor. Kracauer tells Bernie that he can offer no help, then says he has to go to the bathroom and suggests Bernie have another glass of brandy—from the bottle that is sitting on the desk next to Minoux's open file.
  • In Death Warmed Over, Dan and Sheyenne plan a break-in to acquire dirt on Harvey Jekyll in a divorce case. Robin opts to spend the whole evening in her office to prepare a brief, "unaware" of what her co-workers are up to... although she does warn them not to get themselves shot at.

    Live-Action TV 

  • Discussed and Averted on Babylon 5. The security chief, Garibaldi, has been shot in the back by his second in command, who is later found out and arrested by the station personnel. The other security guards offer to "keep an eye" on the prisoner while The Captain "goes for a walk", an offer which Captain Sheridan declines.
  • In the Batman (1966) episode "Hizzoner the Penguin", the Penguin and Batman are running for mayor of Gotham City. At the end-of-episode cliffhanger, the Penguin makes a show of disapproving of his henchmen putting his opponent into a Death Trap and announces that he'll have to report it to the police... but, alas, he doesn't have a dime on him so he'll just have to walk to police headquarters and report it when he eventually gets there.
  • In Breaking Bad, when Mike asks Saul where exactly Jesse went, Saul refuses to tell him due to him not wanting to break attorney-client privilege. When Mike threatens to break Saul's legs, Saul writes the address down and leaves it in his desk, before leaving and asking Mike not to go through his desk. Subverted, as the address he gives Mike is completely wrong, and sends him on a goose chase.
  • In an episode of Burn Notice, Sam and Jesse convince an employee that they can get him hired at a much nicer job, but on condition that he lets them have his employer's personnel files. He settles on this trope as a way to appease his conscience.
  • A variation occurs in one episode of The Closer. When a detective at a rape treatment center tells Brenda and Provenza that she can't let them see the examination results of one of their patients, Provenza suggests that she might want to read her notes out loud to herself, and it's not like it's her fault if they happen to overhear.
  • Done for doctor-patient privilege on CSI when the team is hunting a serial killer who re-dresses his victims in the clothes of a cancer patient. Hairs on the clothes lead the team to a specific clinic, and a doctor who recognizes the clothing plays this trope straight, asking only that the patient file on his desk still be there when he returns from his coffee break.
  • Daredevil (2015): In "New York's Finest," Karen Page drops by assistant district attorney Blake Tower's office to confront him with evidence that his boss, District Attorney Samantha Reyes, is crooked and will backstab him the moment trouble strikes her. Karen's visit is so that she can request his copy of the Punisher file. Tower acts unmoved, telling her in no uncertain terms that she is not welcome, she should never contact him again, and he's going downstairs to call security now—all while gathering up the files and handing them off to her. After he leaves the room, she pinches a couple more files off his desk as well.
  • On Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, there are several instances where the titular character begs Horace, the local telegraph operator, to reveal the contents of telegrams that he has sent or received (usually because of her efforts to help someone who might be the topic of one of the those messages). He refuses, as he's taken an oath to ensure people's privacy. But in one instant, he hands her the notepad that the message was written on (he's destroyed the paper, but the imprint of the message is still there), and in another he declares his intent to go for a walk, leaving Dr. Quinn alone in the office and thus able to snoop until she gets the info that she needs.
  • El Caso: Jesús Expósito is still convinced that Pepe Garcés didn't kill himself, and tries to compare the letter of the alleged suicide note to his handwriting. He heads to the police station and asks his friend Commissioner Montenegro for Garcés's forced confession of "The Rosary Killer"'s murders:
    Montenegro: I can't give you Garcés's confession. But if someone searches for it in the files, there's nothing I can do about it.
  • In Elementary, Sherlock and the police need a file, but the man who has it can't give it to them due to confidentiality. Sherlock takes the man aside, says he knows he's using meth, and if he hands over the file it will remain a secret. He even recommends a rehab center. The man puts the file on his desk, and goes to the bathroom.
  • A variant, without the "stepping out" part, is used in Forever: When Henry Morgan and Detective Martinez determine that a man who poisoned a king-in-exile is an employee at a foreign embassy, ambassador informs the pair that he is unfortunately required by the rules to be an Obstructive Bureaucrat and thus he cannot reveal the identity of the employee in question. As the pair depart, the ambassador lets Detective Martinez know that she had left her newspaper behind, which just happened to be on top of a file containing the name and photograph of the employee being sought.
  • Horatio Hornblower: Horatio allows his steward, under sentence of death for striking a superior officer, to escape by leaving him alone in his cabin, commenting "You're a useful man. You can cook... and you can swim." Later when he is seen swimming to safety on a nearby American ship (which happens to be the USS Liberty), Horatio says something along the lines of "Oh, damn, I left the window open. Silly me." He even ensures that his men won't fire at Doughty, warning them not to shoot in the direction of the neutral American ship he is swimming towards.
    • The original book version goes into a fair bit of detail regarding how Hornblower arranges a complex series of coincidences to ensure Doughty was left alone and unguarded, in a room with an open window, with the attention of the watch crew focused elsewhere, less than 70 yards from the U.S.S. Constitution. Hornblower was understandably very stressed about the possibility that Doughty would be spotted too soon, or that Bush would realise how Hornblower had arranged it all (and be duty-bound to report it).
  • Deconstructed in an episode of JAG: An up-and-coming attorney, Lieutenant Singer, arranges for Mac to find a file with information she wasn't authorized to see for a case she was working, which results in Mac getting thrown off the case (allowing Singer to take the lead on it).
  • A non-police example comes in the form of Kamen Rider Gaim in which, after he gets practically threatened by Mitsuzane into giving him a Sengoku Driver, Sid "leaves" one on his couch complete with a working Lock Seed, "trusting" that Mitsuzane would return them to him.
  • One episode of Law & Order has a lawyer who has confidential attorney-client information which holds a clue to helping the detectives solve the murder. His client isn't a suspect or even related to the crime investigation at all - but the detectives need the information, so the lawyer conspicuously leaves them alone in the room for exactly five minutes (he even says how long he'll be out), and they read it. Not admissible in court, obviously, but it's just one tip-off in a long line of clues, so it doesn't become an issue.
  • In the Law & Order: Criminal Intent episode "Courtship", a psychologist hands over his file on the detective's lead suspect (known only as "Client X" at this point) with a casual "I never gave you this", and then leaves his own office, allowing the detectives to read the file.
  • In Longitude, Captain Man and the ship's master both insist that the approaching headland is not the incredibly dangerous Lizard, and Man point-blank refuses to notify the admiral. After Harrison uses his timepiece and calculations to prove that it is, Man simply says that he's going below. This leaves the first lieutenant and the master free to covertly signal the flagship so that they can correct course before it's too late.
  • There was an episode of Malcolm in the Middle wherein Reese ran away from home and joined the army with the help of a fake ID. When Lois goes to fix the problem ( i.e. forcibly bring him back) the army refuses to release information on his whereabouts. Fortunately, Lois and his drill sergeant bond over their similar personalities, causing him to offer this gem:
    Drill Sergeant: "I really do wish I could help you. I wish I could just open this drawer up [opens drawer] and show you the information you need. But I can't. [gets up to go to the window] It's got me so frustrated that I just want to stare intently out this window for, oh, say, a hundred and twenty seconds."
  • Monarch: Legacy of Monsters "Secrets and Lies": After the results that came of telling General Puckett about Godzilla in 1954, which Bill and Keiko found less-than-desirable, the Monarch trio's token military member Lee Shaw agrees to "trust" that the fledgling Monarch will tell him anything that Bill and Keiko feel his military superiors need to know, in regards to any information about future Titan discoveries that he'll be bound to pass on to his superiors in the military. That way, Lee can't be court-martialed for lying if the truth ever gets out.
  • NCIS. When Franks located the location of the killer of Gibbs's family before he was working with him, he stated that he certainly couldn't tell Gibbs this, before leaving the folder on his desk and heading to the bathroom. Sure enough the killer was mysteriously already killed by a sniper round when the FBI tried to arrest him.
    • Happens again when a lawyer Gibbs and Vance are talking to very conspicuously leaves them alone in her office when she's called away. Vance even lampshades the situation before they both starting searching for the information they need.
    • Vance also pulls this one on the bad guys, leaving Alejandro Rivera in the room with a file and leaking the location of a safehouse where Gibbs is hiding. He promptly heads off to shoot it up, only to discover that he's actually killed his sister (and head of the drug cartel) instead.
  • In Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide, Ned and Moze decide to run their own talent show because the school's talent show is restricted to "appropriate" talents like classical music or tap dancing. Ned then requests Prof. Monroe's help to use his classroom as a stage room. He responds that as a teacher he can't allow it... but as a "supporter of the arts", he could "accidentally" forget the keys in the classroom and then someone could use them "without his knowledge". Ned thanks him for it, but the professor still maintains the I Was Never Here attitude.
  • In New Tricks, Sandra Pullman does this after a celebrity chef she believes (but cannot prove) murdered her husband pulls a Hannibal Lecture on her.
    Pullman: While we can't prove anything, it's possible that someone carelessly left the file lying around in a public place, where a journalist could find it.
    Journalist: ...and where would this place be?
    Pullman: [places file on the table] How should I know?
  • The Odd Couple (1970): In "That is the Army, Mrs. Madison", Felix reports Oscar destroying a telephone, getting his weekend pass cancelled right after he and Blanche got married. Guilt-stricken, he makes up for it by bringing Blanche to the base and purposely leaving a chastised Oscar "sitting alone in his bunk" when he knows Blanche is about to come in. He lampshades it, saying that he had to report the thing that got Oscar in trouble, but if he doesn't see this, he doesn't have to report it.
  • Shtisel: Akiva steps out of the classroom to let his students disobey the principal (his father) and watch the Independence Day air show.
  • A variation in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine occurs when Sisko has to warn Cardassia of an impending Klingon invasion without breaking the treaty with the Klingons. So he calls in Garak, a former Cardassian spy turned tailor in exile, to take his measurements while he just so happens to be discussing the Klingon force in detail with his senior staff.
  • In an episode of Titus, after finding out Amy was raped as a little girl by a family friend and confronting the perp in the bathroom, the school principal (who'd heard the whole thing) says he'll call security... and that it'll take him about 5 minutes or maybe 30... in the end he tells Titus and his family to let him know when he's done calling them.
  • In Yes, Minister, Hacker and Sir Humphrey want to make sure their confidential memo about transport policy finds its way to the press. So Humphrey has lunch with a journalist, and 'accidentally' leaves a copy of the memo on the table. A later scene involves Hacker about to have a private meeting with another journalist with a copy of another file, with the clear implication that the same thing is about to happen.

  • In one episode of Snap Judgment, a funeral home owner told about a woman who desperately wanted to say goodbye to her lover, but the deceased woman's mother (who didn't approve of the relationship) explicitly banned her from the event. He explained to the woman that, as legal next-of-kin, the mother had the right to decide who attended, and she'd probably stay there until the home closed at 8:00. He then mentioned that he hoped he didn't forget to lock the door after sending the mother away, because he usually stayed in his office doing paperwork until 9:00 or 10:00, and would have no way of knowing if someone came in during that time.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Early editions of Dungeons & Dragons. Paladins used to have to follow extremely strict Lawful Good rules, including not torturing prisoners (or allowing them to be tortured). It was stated in early writings that paladins couldn't allow themselves to be "led away" from the party for a while so the rest of the group could torture a prisoner for information.

    Video Games 
  • In Chrono Cross, Nikki's personal storyline involves his desire to learn a song that will make the monsters haunting Marbule tangible, so that they can be destroyed. The only person who knows this song is Marbule's Sage, who is now a janitor on a cruise ship. The Sage initially refuses to teach it to Nikki, but (after Nikki proves he honestly wants to help) declares he has to sweep the upper decks... "while I hum myself a tune".
  • In Jade Empire, the Minister of Tien's Landing is strictly prohibited from enlisting the aid of adventurers in stopping the Assassin plot at the dam. But if he were to leave the key lying around and someone were to find it... (One of your possible responses is "Hey! Did you just give me a key?")
    • A later quest has a technician realise that your character is planning on arranging an "accident" for a higher-up. Because everyone beneath that higher-up will benefit from his removal, the technician quite willingly announces his intent to go tend to another location and to not return for the rest of the day.
  • Escaton of Might and Magic VIII does not want to do what he is doing, but his programming keeps him from stoppingnote . His solution that we actually see is not quite this tropenote . The version that the game tells us are told in taverns all over Jadame, on the other hand, has him put plot-relevant magical keys on the table in front of him, tell you that if they disappear while he isn't watching, "how will he know how they went missing?", and then turn around to study the wall.
  • RuneScape: In the quest "Diamond in the Rough", Spymaster Osman takes you and Ozan to the room from which the two of you tried to steal a jewel in a previous quest, for very good reasons. Osman officially can't let you do that, and he was surprisingly lenient last time he caught you. He gives a hint as to where the real jewel is (the previous one having been fake), then leaves, locking the door behind him. He was kind enough to retie the rope to the skylight from your previous visit.
  • One side quest in Hero of the Kingdom involves discovering the identity of a corrupt soldier. The records keeper who possesses this information refuses to tell you outright, but "accidentally" drops his records book after you pay him a sufficient sum.
  • In Halo 4, Captain Del Rio orders Commander Lasky to prevent the Master Chief from leaving the Infinity to pursue the Didact. Lasky informs the Chief of this and then mentions that, just in case the Chief had gone already, Lasky had ordered a Pelican readied to pursue him. A fully fueled, armed, and prepped for launch Pelican that was currently moving into launch position in the landing bay they're looking at. And then he strolls away.
  • In Tex Murphy: The Pandora Directive, the pathologist at the morgue is "taking a long lunch break" so Tex can have the place for himself.
  • In Resident Evil 0, a version of this occurs in the ending. Rebecca Chambers, who for the whole game had been tasked with arresting Billy Coen, a murderer, takes his dog tags from around his neck and places them on her own, declaring that he had died in the chaos and become another zombie. Billy salutes her and manages to escape to parts unknown.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Ivan's route in Lucky Dog 1 Ivan is forced to rescue a kidnapped Rosalia alone while the rest of The Mafia fight a rival gang. Gian wants to go with Ivan - worried that he's going to get killed - so Bernando, charged with the task of watching Gian, gives an unsubtle command to his guards to look in the opposite direction so Gian can "escape". Of course, when Gian gets in trouble for this Bernando swears blind no such thing occurred and that Gian just happened to jump out of the slow-moving car in Ivan's at precisely the right moment.

  • Selkie: Agent Brown agrees with Todd's statement that Selkie deserves to know what she is, but he's only authorized to give out information related to physical care needs. However, what he can do is call in Dr. Pohl to help with those "physical care needs," and look the other way when Pohl gives Todd a handwritten note with the desired information.

    Western Animation 
  • In Pepper Ann, Milo feels that he lost his creativity and can't participate in an art contest. Pepper Ann tells him that she's too busy to help him out, but she leaves behind a paper note. As Milo wasn't taking the hint, she has to go back and whisper "The note! Read the note!".
  • In "Spiderman And His Amazing Friends'' Iceman has been captured and forced into an arranged marriage with an Ice giant princess who doesn't really want to do this. When Iceman suggests if he wasn't around she could just marry her childhood friend instead she says she couldn't let him but shows him an unguarded way that he could happen to sneak out through.

    Real Life 
  • It is believed by many that several leaks about upcoming UK government spending cuts were made on purpose since all these leaks happened in the form of a government minister (usually Danny Alexander) walking out of Downing Street with a bundle of files with the relevant portion on top, uncovered, and surrounded by long lens cameras. To quote Yes, Minister, "The ship of state is the only one that leaks from the top."
  • The British pulp novelist Stephen Frances (aka Hank Janson) claimed in his memoirs (unpublished, but quoted in a biography of him) that while he was living in Spain, a local Spanish cop who liked him did this to him practically word for word when some British cops who had a grudge against him sent a letter to the Spanish falsely accusing him of being a criminal.
  • Not Always Right: