the bus station mystery — part four

This story started here.

"Who are you?" Kelly demanded.

Stephanie pulled out a card and showed it to her. "Sheriff’s deputy, Huron County." She was continuing to examine the body of the dead bus driver. Billy had taken the passengers back into the building, and the two women were alone on the bus.

"Wait a minute," Kelly said. "Let me see that." She squinted to read the laminated card in the gloom. "According to this, you got this ID when you were fifteen years old, which seems unlikely. And it’s expired."

Stephanie shrugged. "I put the wrong card in my wallet."

"And, unlike the passengers, you know that the phone is dead, so I can’t check up on you."

"Are there other phone lines?"

"We’ll deal with that later." Kelly sat on the arm of one of the seats. "Now that I’ve questioned your credentials–" She handed back the ID card. "–what are you finding?"

Stephanie grinned. "Now that you’re wondering whether you should have let me touch the body at all."

Kelly looked suddenly upset. "Look, I… I know, I’m only a ticket clerk, but… I’m responsible for those people in there — to protect them from this storm, and from…"

"A murderer." Stephanie’s voice was calm. "Yes, this man was murdered. And I have quite a bit of experience, and I also want to protect those people in there,and you, and me."

She looked at Kelly, who wiped her eyes with her sleeve. "I know," Kelly said, "that we’re supposed to not mess up the crime scene, but, in my opinion, that’s less important than trying to make sure nobody else dies. The cops aren’t coming now–"

"And when they do come, you don’t want to have them find all of us dead, our corpses in a series of very carefully preserved crime scenes."

Kelly nodded. "Exactly." She smiled. "Is this where you do like Jan Sleet and say, ‘And I know who the murderer is!’ and then point him out? That would be nice."

Stephanie laughed, moving to sit on the chair arm across from Kelly. "No. I’m just a trained investigator — not a genius amateur detective."

"Fair enough. What have you… " She frowned at Stephanie’s expression. "What…"

Stephanie stood up, looking over Kelly’s shoulder. "There’s a car coming. "

Kelly looked around quickly.

Billy hesitated for a moment before sitting down. He knew he wasn’t supposed to sit when there were passengers in the station, but he wasn’t going to stay on his feet for however many hours it was going to take for this to be over.

He sat down, a little distance away from the passengers. He’d thought at the beginning that everybody would introduce themselves at some point, but that hadn’t happened.

The older man was sitting, reading a magazine, apparently not concerned about the situation. The younger man with the glasses was reading a book.

The two women were sitting and drinking coffee. The woman in the yellow rain slicker stood up and looked around, then she walked toward the restrooms. She came back after a moment and sat down again. "There’s a pay phone in that back hall," she said, "but it seems to be broken."

The other woman reached into her huge purse, which was on the seat next to her. She pulled out a large quantity of yarn. "I know," she said "I tried it before. They need to let us use the phone back in the office." She looked up from the yarn, which she was trying to untangle. "I’m Hilda, by the way."

"Florence." She looked around. "I guess that girl is the one to talk to — the one who went outside. She said she’s in charge."

Hilda made a very small gesture toward Billy. "He works here," she said quietly. "He must know where the phone is."

Florence stood up and caught Billy’s eye. "Where is a phone I can use? I need to call my daughter."

Billy thought of claiming that he didn’t speak English, but it was probably too late for that. As he stood up, slowly, he saw the lights of a car approaching.

The younger man looked up from his book. "Oh, look," he drawled. "It’s a rescue. Hallelujah."

Kelly and Stephanie watched as a pair of headlights moved very slowly down the ramp from the street, through the parking lot, and around the terminal building toward them.

"Come on," Stephanie said as she walked to the bus door and stepped down to the wet pavement. Kelly followed her, feeling that everything was getting further and further out of her control.

She wasn’t sure if she felt better or worse when she recognized the car that was pulling in next to the bus.

Mr. Randall reached the door at the same time they did.

"Damn bridge is out," he said, taking off his hat and wiping his wet hair. He held the door so the two women could precede him into the building. "Couldn’t get home — they were closing it when I got there. Ten minutes earlier and I would have made it. I–" He looked around at the passengers, and at Kelly. "Forty-two couldn’t leave, huh? Have you spoken to the passengers? I can take over — that’s okay." He drew in a deep breath, preparing to address the room.

"Cody Nugent, the bus driver, has been murdered," Stephanie said, stepping in front of him and pulling out her ID. "Stephanie Monroe. Sheriff’s deputy, Huron County."

That stopped him. He froze for a moment, and then he said, "Have you called the cops? The police?"

"The phone is dead," Kelly whispered, gesturing at the ticket counter. "We haven’t–"

"Did you check my phone?" He shook his head at them. "You should have checked all the phones." He turned — the passengers, who were all watching this, apparently forgotten — and walked down the short corridor to his office.

They heard him open the door, and then shout "Shit!"

to be continued…

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