the bus station mystery — part eight

This story started here.

"I’m Dr. Grassi," the older man said. "I have identification." He handed over his ID and the stub of his bus ticket. Stephanie examined them and gave him back his ID.

"I remember you on the bus,"she said. "You sat a few rows back from me."

She turned to Kelly, who stood up and said, "I’ll get a stapler." Taking the flashlight, she went behind the ticket counter and into the office.

The woman in the yellow slicker handed Stephanie her ID and her ticket stub. "Florence Coe," she said. "Mrs."

Stephanie looked at the papers and handed the ID back. "Thanks. If I remember right, you slept most of the way here, near the front of the bus."

Mrs. Coe nodded. "I’d had a long night at work. I work in a hospital."

Kelly had returned with the stapler, so Stephanie stapled Dr. Grassi’s stub to his ticket, and then did the same for Mrs. Coe.

She looked at the "rich kids." "Let’s take you three as a unit, since you seem to be one. Your identification, please?"

The two boys brought out their wallets and handed over their licences and ticket stubs. The girl shrugged.

"Here’s my ticket stub, and you’re welcome to see my wallet, but I don’t have a driver’s license. I’m only seventeen."

Stephanie nodded. "Let’s take the two gentlemen first, then." She looked at the licenses. "Gregory and Jason Brenner. Brothers?"

"Cousins," one of them said.

"And how long had you both known Miss…" Her voice trailed off as she turned to look at the girl.

"Violet Quest," the girl supplied.

The cousins hesitated for a moment, and Stephanie said, "For all your appearance of… being old friends, I know that you two met Miss Quest on the bus. I saw you notice her, discuss her (in low tones, of course), and then move to seats next to and in front of her, engaging her in conversation."

Miss Quest didn’t betray her feelings, if any, about this description. She handed over her wallet and Stephanie examined the contents.

"How do you use these credit cards if you have no identification?"

Miss Quest shrugged and smiled. "In the stores where I shop, they know me. And my family."

Stephanie then turned to the woman with the large purse, who frowned. "I can’t see that this is getting us anywhere, but here’s my driver’s license and my ticket. Hilda Powell."

Stephanie looked at the papers, and then handed the license back.

"I slept most of the way, too, so I guess I missed all the romantic goings-on."

Stephanie nodded. "I envy you both. I tried to sleep a few times but I couldn’t manage it with all the thunder and lightning." She turned to the young man with the horn-rimmed glasses. "And you, sir?"

He looked up, frozen for a moment, then he said, "I don’t acknowledge that any of this is legitimate, or that you’re any sort of real law enforcement officer."

"You refuse to reveal your name?" Stephanie asked.

"My name is Lombard," he said. "I refuse to show my ID or my ticket stub."

Kelly thought that he was trying to decide if he should stand up, to appear more determined, or whether it was better to continue to sit and to appear unruffled.

Stephanie seemed to be thinking about something else, so Kelly stepped forward. "You should read the fine print on your ticket," she said to Lombard. "You are obliged to surrender it, on request, to any employee of the bus company." She tapped the patch on her shirt pocket, and then stepped forward and held out her hand. "I’m an employee, and I’m requesting your ticket stub. Sir."

He pursed his lips, then he reached into his pocket and handed her the stub, which she gave to Stephanie.

Stephanie looked at it, briefly, then stapled it to his ticket.

Billy asked, "Is that it?"

Stephanie pulled her own ticket stub from her pocket and stapled it to the final ticket in the envelope. "That’s it."

"So, what have you learned from all this?" Dr. Grassi asked.

She looked out the window. "Two things. One is that the rain seems to be coming down even harder than before. The other is that I think I know who the murderer is."

to be continued…

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