the bus station mystery — part seven

This story started here.

Kelly and Stephanie stepped behind the dark ticket counter and Kelly squatted, waving her hand around in the various open compartments under the counter.

"I’m pretty sure there’s a flashlight under here somewhere… Ew!" She pulled out her hand and wiped it on her pants. "I do not want to know what that was…" She reached into the next compartment and pulled out a flashlight.

"Taa daa!" she announced as she turned it on. The light flared briefly, and then started to flicker and dim.

"Quick," Stephanie said, peering into the next compartment. "Let’s find batteries!"

A couple of minutes later, there were fresh(er) batteries in the flashlight, and a couple more in Stephanie’s jacket pocket. Kelly pointed at a closed door. "That’s the way to the garage." She made a face. "If I had to guess, I’d say we’ll find him asleep, or gone, but…"

Stephanie nodded. "This is not the time to make assumptions — that’s for sure. Is it just a big garage area, or are there rooms, or what?"

"A big garage — enough room for six buses, I think, though there won’t be that many right now. Fuel pumps, toolboxes… other stuff. I’ve never spent much time back there, to tell the truth."

"Okay, let’s…" She smiled. "I’m getting as paranoid as the guy with the glasses, like somebody will shoot at us the minute we step in there. Let’s go."

Kelly opened the door, and they went into the garage. It was open to the elements, so it was colder than the rest of the building. The rain was still coming down outside, and Stephanie was suddenly aware of how she’d got used to tuning out the sound when she was in the waiting room.

They looked around. It was spooky with no lights and only the flashlight to see by. There were three buses, one of which was apparently being worked on — the hood was open and there were tools all around — and there was the strong smell of gasoline and cigarettes.

"Harvey!" Kelly called.

A few minutes later, they were back in the waiting room.

Apparently, while Stephanie and Kelly had been out of the room, Mr. Randall had made another attempt to get everybody to move into the office, for safety, but this idea had fizzled out.

The birthday cake candles had proved to be a bit tricky, since there was no way to prop them up — until Billy had suggested they use donuts in place of cakes. That had worked well, so everybody sat in the gloomy waiting room, illuminated by a few candles, stuck into donuts, on the small tables which were bolted to the floor in between the plastic chairs.

Harvey looked as though he was disgruntled at having been awakened when there was no work for him to do. He seemed determined to understand as little as possible about what was going on, and he soon fell asleep again, after clarifying that he had never met Cody’s wife and he’d always thought Cody was a jerk.

Stephanie said, "I’m hoping that you all have your ticket stubs. If anybody doesn’t, we’ll have to do a search." She shrugged. "They would have to be somewhere in the bus, or here in the station — where else would they be?"

"What about the staff — the people who work here?" the older man said. "They–"

"The employees all confirm each other’s identities. For the passengers, we don’t even know who everybody is." He started to reply, but she kept going. "You said you wanted to see some real investigation — well, this is often what it looks like. Slow, and methodical, and not cutting corners or making assumptions."

He nodded and leaned back in his seat. "Fair enough."

She smiled. "Why don’t I start with you. Do you have your ticket stub?"

He reached into his jacket pocket.

to be continued…

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