“Mayor Lockley” I whispered in order to stay out of earshot of my students, “if you wouldn’t mind loosening your grip, you are hurting me.”
His smile was still bright enough to make up for the insufficient light being given off by the flickering street lights above where we stood. His grip loosened ever so slightly as he adjusted his hand to a new position on my arm, but his hold was still strong enough to maintain control over me and thwart any thoughts of flight. I could see the white outlines of his lanky fingers slowly disappear as the blood returned the crimson tone the lower portion of my arm. Although managing to maintain a faint smile, my fear was beginning to overwhelm and overtake my body, and Mayor Lockley certainly noticed my discomfort.
“My apologies Mrs. B” he managed to say in a comforting, yet obviously condescending tone, “please, let’s get out of the cold, shall we?”
I glanced back across the street and as quickly as they had disappeared, Jake and Amy reappeared still holding hands and starting blankly at me. Now I was sure I was hallucinating. In a matter of seconds a spattering of children had appeared, disappeared and then reappeared again? It wasn’t until Jake painfully blinked his eyes that I grasped the full reality of what was happening and came to the conclusion I was in fact, not going crazy. Their plan had been accelerated. There was no way I was going to make it to Monday; I was going to die tonight!
In the distance I could hear the faint squeaking of breaks; the bus was approaching and if I had any hopes of surviving, I needed to distract the Mayor in a way that would allow me to break free from his grip at just the right moment.
“Sure Mayor, but I ask you kindly let go of me. Jake and Amy are watching and they are obviously frightened.” I watched as the Mayor glanced across the street at the children. He sensed their fear and slowly released his hand from my arm, bringing it around to the small of my back, almost lovingly. I hadn’t been touched that way in years and my brain instantly flooded with memories of my life with my husband and daughter.
The smell of diesel and noise from the rapidly approaching bus snapped me out of my past and back to my current predicament. I took a glance at my watch and noticed the bus was ten minutes early. I did not care, because as far as I was concerned, it was arriving just in time. The lights continued to flicker as the bus came to a complete stop right in front of us, providing a buffer between us the children. As the bus door opened and people started to file out single file, the Mayor grew impatient and I could feel his hand press against my back with an unspoken force.
All I could think about was getting on that bus. As the last passenger exited the flickering lights popped and the bus stop fell dark. Now was my chance! I quickly spun around and swept the Mayor’s legs out from underneath him. He fell hard to the floor and I could hear his skull crack as his head met the cement pavement with a brutal force. He let out a muffled moan, but I knew he would be in no condition to charge after me.
I snatched up my bag from the ground and made hurried on to the bus almost falling into the driver on my way up the three stationary escalator stairs. The driver barely noticed me as I ran towards the back of the bus; but she must have seen what had taken place because as I threw my bag into one of the seats, she had already closed the bus doors and began driving away.
I was safe, for now, but there was no way I was waiting ten minutes to call Agent Wilkes, not after almost being killed by Mayor Lockley. I reached into my pocket where I had placed the phone before leaving my house and, once again from memory, dialed the number. I was hoping Agent Wilkes would answer this time, as I was in no mood to speaking to Chomsky in his obviously intoxicated state.
The voice on the other end was different this time, but it still was not Wilkes. Learning from my last conversation, I immediately gave my identification number and asked to be connected directly with Wilkes. This time around there would be no doubt in my voice; my cover was blown and my life was at stake.
“That you?” Wilkes snapped unsympathetically.
“Yes, Agent Wilkes, it’s me. I am on the bus but could not wait until I was clear from town to call you. Things became, well, escalated.”
“Escalated? What do you mean?”
I proceeded to explain how the Mayor nearly took me out at the bus stop and the seemingly weird illusions of children appearing and disappearing when I felt the bus slowly come to a complete stop. I looked out the window and noticed there were no cars, no lights and no other people.
“Hey, why are we stopped?” I yelled to the driver as I placed my hand over the receiver to shield Agent Wilkes’ ear from my scream. The driver did not reply and she just sat there seemingly adjusting her seatbelt.
“Are you ok?”
“Yes, Wilkes, I’m fine. Listen, let me call you back. The driver stopped the bus and I have no idea why she did.”
With that, I hit the end button before Agent Wilkes could respond. As I ended the conversation I noticed the driver slowly get up from her seat and make her way to the back of the bus where I was sitting. Just then it hit me. Earlier when I spoke with Agent Wilkes he told me to tell the driver where I wanted to go and he would get me there safely. I looked down and attempted to get Agent Wilkes back on the phone but before I could hit send, I felt the back of her hand strike my right cheek with a surprising force that snapped my head viciously to the left. I put my hand over my cheek and looked up at the driver who was now standing over me with a gun in her right hand.
“How nice to see you again, Mrs. B,” she said as she put the barrel of the gun against my right temple “I think it’s time we had a little chat.”
Although the brim of her hat was pulled down over her eyes, there was no mistaking her face. It was Irene Thomason.