“Hey, wait up!” Phil calls out to Abby. “Mind if I hang with you? I know we need to split up, but there’s still strength in numbers, right?”
“Yeah, sure! I didn’t want to walk alone anyway,” Abby responds. “So where should we go?”
“No Idea. I had a friend once who use to just ride the bus all day. He thought it was really relaxing. Maybe we can get off our feet and just chill until night.”
“I’m cool with that. My feet hurt so bad. It’ll be nice to just relax for a bit.”
“Yeah, same.” The two walk down the street and around the corner to the nearest stop to wait for a bus. They sit on the bench and chat for a few minutes. “You know what I just realised? The cops took all of our stuff. That means no money, no tickets, no bus bus passes, nothing,” Phil worried. It was late afternoon and the heat was starting to kick in, adding to his stress.
“Don’t worry. I have a plan,” Abby reassured him. Phil sat back in his seat, curious as to what the plan was. He looks to the sky for a few moments before the bus rolls up next to the sidewalk. They stand up and hop on.
“Hey, Miss Deborah!” Abby exclaims in jubilation. “It’s good to see you!”
“Hey sweetie!” replies the jolly old woman. “What are you doing off work so early? I’m not used to seeing you before night time.”
“Well it was a pretty slow day at work, so I decided to just head on home. But you see, Miss Deborah, for lunch, I went out to eat with some old friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. We had a great time and all, but I somehow misplaced my bus pass while we were out.”
“Don’t you say another word, sugar. Hop on!”
“Thank you, Miss Deborah! You’re the best,” says Abby, hugging the old woman. “But I also have a friend who needs a ride too. He’s from the south and didn’t realize how much he would need the busses up here.”
“Hmm… alright. But just this once, okay baby? I can’t be having my boss thinking I’m giving out free rides here.”
“Yes ma’am, just this once!” Phil and Abby board the bus and walk to the very back row of seats.
“Don’t let me fall asleep,” Phil asked. “I don’t want anything crazy to happen and we not be prepared.”
“I agree. I’ll keep you awake if I can stay awake myself.”
They slumped into their seats and rested their heads on the windows. Before long, they had passed out from sheer exhaustion.
Jordan followed Karen across the street to a telephone booth. She began to sweat as soon as she stepped in. The sun had been heating the small glass box like a greenhouse all day long. Spring had begun to set in. Karen stuck her finger in the change slot looking for spare coins. “Who are you calling?” Jordan asked.
“I need to call my boss and let her know what happened.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? Greg said we should stay out of sight. Talking to someone might be dangerous.”
“Maybe you’re right, but still. It took me forever to get this job. I don’t want to lose it.”
“I feel you. Just be careful.”
“I will.” Karen dials the number to her museum. It rings once. It rings again. A third time.
“Thank you for calling the Jefferson Centennial Museum. This is William speaking. How may I help you?”
“Will, Hi! This is Karen!”
“Karen! Where have you been all morning? We’ve been worried sick! You’re never late. You never miss a day. And suddenly you’re missing without a trace? What’s going on?”
“I don’t really have time to tell you right now. Just tell Susan that I might not be able to make it this week. Sudden family emergency.”
“Emergency? Are you ok? Where are you?”
“Just out by the old farmer’s market. Don’t worry, I’m safe.”
“By the old farmer’s market?” William confirms. “Does this have anything to with the police coming by to look for you today?” Karen’s jaw drops.
“What’s wrong?” worries Jordan.
“Will… the police came looking for me? What did they say?” Jordan’s eyes widen.
“Yeah! They said you were in trouble and that they needed to find you, said they wanted to help.”
“Did you tell them anything? Anything at all?”
“No, I didn’t know what to tell them. Why? What’s going on?”
“… Nothing. Just don’t talk to the police, alright?”
“Yeah that’s fine.” William pauses. “Or it would be, if they weren’t still her. Karen, they’re on the wa-” The call drops. Karen slams the phone on the hook. She and Jordan flee the scene as fast as their feet can take them.
Greg heads towards the center of town. Annette follows. Every half a mile or so, Greg stops and leans against the wall. He looks across the street, waiting. Annette isn’t sure why, but she mimics his behavior, trusting his judgement. They stand together for about a minute. Greg moves from the wall and walks down the street. Again, Annette follows.
This peculiar pattern continues for longer than either of them care to acknowledge. “Any idea why you’re copying me yet?” asks Greg.
“Not sure, but I doubt I really need to ask,” Annette replies.
“I appreciate that. You know, you’re not like the others.”
“I don’t think you know me well enough to be the judge of that.”
“Maybe not. But of all the other people you could have joined, you decided to come with me. Why is that?”
“Oh, so now you’re the one asking questions, huh?”
“Are you always this sassy?”
“I guess you’ll find out.”
“I guess I will.”
Eventually, Greg and Annette reach a small church. Greg walks up the stairs, slowly, as if hesitant. He grips the handle on the front door, but neither pushes nor pulls. He waits, thinking. Annette tries to imagine what might be going through his mind. None of it makes sense to her. Finally, he relents and pulls open the large mahogany door. He stares inward for a moment before taking a step inside. Annette waits until Greg is completely inside before following him up the stairs. She grabs the handle, pulls back and enters.
She sees Greg walking down the center aisle, stroking his hand across the wooden pews, footsteps cushioned by the ancient red carpet. She notices the church is empty, save for a single person sitting on the front row. Greg proceeds all the way to the front and sits next to the shadowy figure. Greg reaches over and puts his arm around the man. They speak. Annette is unable to hear what the two of them are saying, but she believes they might be praying. She sits in the back row of the sanctuary, desperate for rest. She looks around the room: stained glass, high ceiling, dimly lit candles, chandelier above the pulpit, ornate paintings on every wall. This is a beautiful place, Annette thinks to herself. So peaceful.
“Ready to go?” Greg asked.
“What..” Annette is caught off guard. She had lost track of time. She was so in awe with the architecture that she didn’t even notice Greg approaching. “Uhm yeah. Let’s go.”
They walk out of the church and notice the sun dipping towards the horizon. It’s almost dusk, just a few hours before they could regroup, and maybe find some answers to the endless questions filling their heads. A cool breeze accompanies the setting sun. Annette shivers. Bundling herself for warmth, she looks to Greg and asks, “Who were talking to in there?”
Greg responds, “Just someone I haven’t spoken to in a long time.”
Phil’s eyes struggle to open. He rubs away the crust from his face and yawns. It’s dark out, very dark, and cool. Looking to Abby, he nudges her gently, trying to wake her. “Abby,” he whispers. “Abby, wake up!”
“Huh…?” she groans, coming to. She looks forward. Only a few people were left on the bus. “What time is it?” She yawns, her arms reaching for the sky in a great stretch. She can hear her joints pop and crack. “How long were we out? My neck hurts.”
“I’m not sure, but it must have been a while. We should start heading back to the restaurant.”
“I agree. We should get off at the next stop. This bus only gets further from this point on.” They ease into the next stop, ready to get off the bus. As they take a few steps forward, Phil stops to look out the window. He squints his eyes trying to get a better look.
“What is it?” says Abby, concerned.
“… It’s nothin- GET DOWN!” They duck down between the seats.
“What is it??” Abby whispers again. Heavy footsteps echo through the near empty city bus.
“Excuse me miss, I’m Officer Burrows of the NYPD. I’ve been looking all over for a few people I really need to talk to. I have their pictures right here,” says a voice from the front.
“Oh no,” replies Miss Deborah, “I haven’t seen anyone like that one this bus today. May I ask why?”
“I cannot disclose that information at this time ma’am. Just know that their very lives might be in danger. Are you sure you haven’t seen them?”
“I’m positive, sweetie.”
“Can we get this bus moving!? I’m gonna be late for work!” a stranger yells from the back.
“Shut it!” the officer yells back, “Before I arrest you for obstruction!” She looks back at Miss Deborah. “See, I’m not so sure about that. I have eye witness accounts saying these people – these two specifically- were seen on this very bus here today.”
“You know, I see a lot of people get on and off this bus in a day. Maybe I missed them.”
“Or perhaps you’re covering for them.”
“And why pray tell would I do that, Officer Burrows?”
“You see, I know for a fact,” the officer responds, holding up a photo, “that this girl, right here, rides this bus, every single day.”
“Oh.. well this is the first I’m hearing of it.”
“Is that so?”
“So you wouldn’t mind if we do a quick search of the vehicle, then, would you?”
“You know, actually, I would. If you have no further business here, I request you vacate the premises immediately.” The officer waits, looks to the back of the bus, then turns back to Miss Deborah.
“You have a good night ma’am.” The officer turns to exit, but stops herself. “If you don’t mind, I think I’ll exit out the backdoor.” Knowing she could do nothing to stop her, Miss Deborah turns around and watches with anxiety. Abby stares Phil in the eyes, visibly worried. She puts her hands over her mouth and squeezes her legs together as tightly as she could. Phil closes his eyes, puts his hands together and prays. Every step is painfully slow, every inch of progress feeling like an eternity of dread.
Abby can’t breathe. Phil can’t move. Neither of them dare open their eyes, fearful of what they might see if they do. They cannot face their fate. They cannot willingly meet their end. But they must. The time is now. There i01s no more running. This is it.
“Hey Kate, we got a couple runners over on fourth street! Guy and girl, matches the description of the other two!” a voice announces from outside the bus. Quick footsteps, the pitter patter of running, off the bus and into a police cruiser. A siren. Tire skids. Fading sounds. Luck is on their side.
Abby stands to her feet, Phil following. The two walk to the front. They are shaken, but stable. “Thank you so much for all of that, Miss Deborah,” Phil says.
“It wasn’t much. But what is all this about? She almost caught you two!” Miss Deborah responds.
“We don’t really know ourselves. All we know is that you did all you could, and that’s what matters,” explains Abby. “It really means alot to us.”
“Excuse me, this bus hasn’t moved in 10 minutes! What is this!?” demands the same voice from before. They ignore it. Abby gives Miss Deborah a warm hug.
“I hope I get to see you soon!”
“You better! And stay out of trouble, you hear!”
“Yes ma’am!” Abby yells as she and Phil run off the bus and down the street. She crosses her fingers. She know it’s a promise she can’t keep.
“Wait up!” Jordan pleads to Karen as they sprinted from the police.
“Keep up!” Karen yells back at Jordan without turning around. Some way, somehow, the cops had found them. A call from Karen to a friend became an All Points Bulletin for suspicious characters matching their description. No one ever said luck was on their side.
The pair race through alley after alley, knocking over trashcans, toppling boxes, even shoving the occasional pedestrian out of the way, anything to avoid certain doom. This means hopping a fence and breaking in through the back door of a pseudo-Chinese restaurant. After kicking the door in, Jordan dolphin-dives onto the tile floor, sliding into the kitchen. Karen runs in and shuts the door behind her. She places her ear against the door and listened as officers run by the door down the alleyway. “I think we might be okay for now,” suggests Karen. “I don’t know if we can stay here though. We really need to get back to that restaurant.”
“I sincerely feel like we will be safe here until morning,” replies Jordan. The sound of footsteps approaches.
“We may not be alive in the morning, Jordan. We need to get the heck out of here and fast!” They look around for an exit. They only find a set of stairs.
“What about the stairs? We can hide up there in case they come in.”
“Sure,” Karen remarks and they fly up the staircase. “This feels awfully familiar.” Jordan smirks.
“Yeah it does. Hopefully that’s a good thing.”
“Last time, there was a dead end.”
“Last time, I saved your life.”
“I’m pretty sure I saved yours.”
“No, I remember it differently.”
“Well you better hurry up and remember the truth because you’d probably be dead now without me,” Karen says with a grin.
“I wouldn’t be running from the cops if it weren’t for you either.” Karen slows her pace, sulking. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that,” Jordan mentions in remorse.
“Yes you did.”
“No I didn’t.”
“You said it. That means you meant it.”
“Uh huh.” The two bicker aimlessly as they climb the stairs. They reach the top without noticing, continuing down a hall. Before long, they reach the end of a small hallway.
“See, another dead end!” Karen argues.
“Well all we have to do is-” Jordan is interrupted by what sounds like a door creaking open. “Hello…” Jordan says into the darkness. His inquiry is met with the sound of a shotgun being locked and loaded.They don’t wait around to see who it is.
Jordan sprints back down the stairs with Karen close behind. They race to the back door of the kitchen through which they had entered. Jordan cracks the door open and peaks out the back. “The coast is clear,” he whispers. “Let’s go while we still can!” Jordan throws the door open and dashes. Karen waits for just a moment before leaving. She goes back into the kitchen and searches feverishly through drawers and cabinets.
“Ah hah!” she exclaims, holding up a large kitchen knife. “I might need this later.’
Karen screams. The ruckus alerts Jordan, who is almost at the end of the alley. He runs back to find Karen pinned down next to a countertop taking fire from an unknown assailant.
“HELP!” she pleads. Jordan panics. He smashes his hands against his head in frustration, struggling to think of what to do next.
“What do I do??” He ponders, only for a moment, before consigning himself to his decision. He runs back to end of the alley and rounds the corner.
“Jordan, get back here!” Karen demands in fear. She lies on the floor, tears soaking her face, unable to get a decent breath of air.
A brick flies through the front window of the small shop. The alarms sounds. The deafening ring of the siren is matched with more sirens from afar: the police. Jordan dives head first through the window, landing on shards of broken glass. He fights through lacerations, picking up the brick and throwing it into the darkness at the tops of the stairs. He hears a thud, then another, much heavier thud. He races over to Karen, grabs her hand and leads her out the back door. They flee into the night, headed for the rendezvous point.
“Now who saved who?” Jordan says confidently.
“Shut up,” Karen replies.
“I guess we can call it even.”