the bus station mystery — part six

This story started here.

Stephanie stood in the middle of the waiting room. "I asked Kelly to get the ticket stubs from the bus, but first I want to ask Mr. Randall some questions." She turned to face him. "You'd never met Mrs. Nugent?"

He shook his head, still looking somewhat stunned. "No, none of us had. His co-workers, I mean."

"And had you ever seen her -- without knowing who she was? Around the station here, for example?"

He shook his head. "Not that I remember. A lot of people come through here every day." He straightened his back a little and breathed in.

"As far as you know, you were the last person in your office?" she asked sharply.

"I don't know--" he began, frowning, but then the big glass doors opened and Kelly came in, a thick envelope in her hand.

"Here they are," she said. Stephanie took the envelope and peered inside.

Kelly stepped into the office and came back with a green company jacket.

Stephanie looked up from the ticket stubs and regarded the jacket dubiously. "Are you offering me a job?"

Kelly laughed. "No, I'm offering you a jacket. You're soaked."

Stephanie smiled and pulled off her sweatshirt. "Thanks," she said, putting on the jacket, which was large on her. "I--"

"Wait a minute," said the woman with the large purse. "Hang on. I have two questions. One is that... Well, I appreciate that you're Teen Sheriff or whatever, but why don't we just wait for the cops to come and solve this officially?"

"The police can't get here until the storm lets up," Stephanie said, "and that's probably going to be a while. Either the murderer is one of us, here in this room, or there's a murderer in or around this building somewhere. Of course, it's possible that the murderer has left the area by now, but..." She gestured at the front windows and the storm outside.

"Travel conditions are not ideal," the older man said, sipping his coffee.

"Wait a minute," the younger man said, taking off his horn-rimmed glasses and looking around at the windows. "You mean somebody could be out there, with a gun, ready to shoot us?"

Stephanie shrugged. "That's possible, but I don't think it's likely. We've all been here for a while, very visible in this well-lighted room, and nobody's shot at any of us yet. And we don't have any reason to think the murderer has a gun in the first place."

Mr. Randall looked up. "I think we should move into the office, the big office." He gestured at the ticket counter. "It will be safer--"

The older man stood up. "Okay, wait," he said to Mr. Randall. "One of us may be a murderer, right? One of the people in this room, right? And there are three people here who knew the dead bus driver, and at least knew about his wife. The rest of us didn't know anything about them, as far as we know. So, I'm thinking you, the Black girl, and the Chinese guy -- you shouldn't be deciding shit right now. The deputy girl here seems to know what she's doing, which puts her a few steps ahead of everybody else. Now, I'd really like to see more investigating and less wasting time." He looked around the room. "Is that okay with everybody?"

Billy quickly discarded any idea of clarifying that he was half Japanese and not at all Chinese, and instead he said firmly, "There is another person in this building, who isn't in this room, and he knew Cody very well and he may have known Cody's wife, too."

For a moment it was clear on the faces of Mr. Randall and Kelly that they had completely forgotten about Harvey, the mechanic, and then all the lights went out.

"Nobody move," Stephanie said firmly. "This is probably just an electrical problem, because of the storm. Who has a cigarette lighter or a flashlight? Are there candles?"

The "rich girl" lit a lighter and held it out in front of her. "This will get rather hot in a minute," she said calmly. "Are there flashlights, or candles?"

Stephanie looked at Kelly, who said, "There is a flashlight or two in the office..."

Mr. Randall stood up. "I'll get candles -- Kelly, you should get the flashlights, and the batteries, and check on Harvey."

Kelly frowned. "That makes sense, but I didn't know we had candles."

Mr. Randall smiled. "They're small, but we have a whole box of them. For when we have the birthday parties."

to be continued...

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