the bus station mystery — part one

The bus pulled away from the station, swung around slowly, and headed off toward the highway. Viewed through the driving rain, it was quickly reduced to a pair of small taillights, and then darkness.

"So, that’s it, right?" Billy said, leaning out over the counter so he could see Kelly across the empty waiting room. She was standing behind the ticket counter and looking out the window. She didn’t bother to answer him.

Mr. Randall poked his head out of the hall that led to his private office. "Nobody leaves," he said sharply. "Just got the call — forty-two is on the way after all."

Billy shrugged and laid out what he needed to make a fresh pot of coffee. If the last bus had been any indication, number forty-two would arrive late and carrying very few passengers — but those passengers would probably want something hot to drink.

It felt very different than running away from home.

She looked out the window of the bus, though she couldn’t see very much. The storm seemed to be getting even worse, if that was possible. It reminded her of the times when she’d gone out on emergency calls with her father during dangerous weather.

Of course, she could have turned back. She could have allowed the storm to provide an excuse for changing her mind.

There were very few people on the bus. She wondered how many others might have postponed their trips or canceled their plans entirely.

But when you’re really scared to do something, you need to be suspicious of any escape hatch that suddenly presents itself.

Her father had told her that. And, as with some of the things he had told her, she had decided that it was true.

Looking out at the weather, feeling the bus shake as it came up a hill and a sudden blast of wind battered it, seeing how few cars were on the road, she wondered if they were going to make it all the way to their destination in any case.

Bus number forty-two was already twenty minutes late when Mr. Randall came into the waiting room. He was wearing a trench coat.

"I need to head home," he announced to nobody in particular. "Forty-two is the last for today — you can shut down and close up after that. Kelly is in charge. Good luck."

As he said the last two words, he was already most of the way out the door.

Billy slouched behind his counter, leaning back against the little board that divided the two donut display cases. He heard a snort of laughter, and he leaned forward to see Kelly standing behind the ticket counter, her hands on her hips, looking wide awake and ready for anything — apparently in contrast to his own unheroic posture.

Then, as they saw a pair of headlights turn off the road and into the bus station parking lot, Kelly relaxed and stuck out her tongue, aware that her square-shouldered stance had made her breasts stick out, and of course Billy had been caught looking in that direction. Again.

They couldn’t see much through the rain-streaked windows, but they saw the headlights swing around the building, much more slowly than usual, pull into place, and then turn off. A few moments later, the big glass doors swung open and the first passenger came in.

to be continued…

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