A pothole greeted the bus’s front wheel, jolting Alex awake from her sleep. Disoriented, she looked around the crowded bus and saw nothing out of the ordinary. Fellow Marooners just off to work at past seven in the morning. Some were eating, a few were reading the newspaper and others were either sleeping or daydreaming. Alex looked out the window and squinted against the morning sunlight of November, which was uncharacteristically harsh and bright. Weather like this belonged to March or April.
Alex yawned and just as she was about to shut her eyes and cheat a couple more minutes for a quick trip to the Land of Dreams and Nightmares, she felt her internal radar go off. Her eyes made another quick scouting of the bus. Again, nothing stood out. Either her paranormal radar was going rusty or she was getting paranoid. Sitting up straighter, she casually looked around. Nothing yet again.
“G’morning, ma’am,” came a lazy drawl just behind her.
At that, Alex froze. She felt tendrils of something unspeakably evil skim the back of her neck. Choking back her sudden fear, she willed herself to not turn around.
“Good morning, young man,” said an elderly lady’s voice.
“Say, am jus’ new to this towen. Would ye be so kind as to point me to the postal office?” said the voice.
Alex felt her skin crawl. At the same time, she wondered what she should do next.
“But of course!” the elderly lady said cheerfully. “It’s the third stop. The post office is in the corner and just behind the Great Maroon Bank.”
“Thank ye,” was the reply, all polite and seemingly harmless.
Alex’s stop wasn’t until the seventh one but she stood up, anyway. She got off her seat, stood in the middle of the bus and held on to the railing. She found herself looking down at the elderly lady, who was smiling at the tall, dark-haired man sitting beside her.
“My name is Jacob,” He told the old lady. “Am jus’ here visiting my relatives. I have alwes been told that Maroon is a lovely place. They were right. I’ve been here for less than a day and I am already in luv with this island!”
The old lady laughed, delighted. “Oh yes! Maroon is a beautiful place. You should go farther down south, where the beach is wonderful. And if you want an old world charm, you can visit the Plaza. I’m sure your relatives would be happy to show you around.”
“I will certainly do that,” he replied. “Thank ye once again, ma’am! You are very kind.”
Alex was sure the old lady was blushing. She had to act fast. She didn’t know what this man’s business was but she couldn’t just stand there and wait for something bad to happen. “Excuse me,” She tapped the wiry old lady, her own fingers landing on impressively plump shoulder pads. The old lady turned around and surprise was written all over her face. Alex gave her what she hoped was an innocent yet charming smile. “I’m sorry but I overheard your conversation. I’m new to this town as well and would just like to know where is the best place to immerse in artworks?”
The old lady gave her a friendly smile. “My, my. You youngsters seem to be gravitated to this place. I’m not really sure what kind of art you prefer but there are different museums in the main city. Sculptures, paintings, photography. Does that sound about right, dear?”
“Oh, I was planning to go see some sculptures,” Alex said enthusiastically. “Thank you so much for the recommendation! The main city is where?”
The old lady clapped a hand over her cheek. “Oh no! You rode the wrong bus, my dear girl. The city is on the other side. You should’ve taken the West Route.” She looked at her with pitying eyes that made her feel as if she was a three year-old who got lost in the supermarket and couldn’t find her mother.
“Really? Darn it!” Alex shook her head. She glanced at the man beside the lovely (but gullible) old lady. He was suddenly busy staring out the window and she had the odd feeling he didn’t want her to see his face. But why?
“Old Road stop! This is the Old Road stop!” The bus driver called out.
“Oh, this is my stop now,” the old lady stood up and smiled at her. “You can go down here too. There’s a bus going to West Route.”
Alex smiled back at the old lady but kept an eye on the strange man. “Thank you! Maybe I will. Shouldn’t you say good bye to your friend?”
“Of course!” The old lady turned and said cheerfully, “It was nice meeting you, young man! I better get going now. Good bye!”
He continued to look out the window. “Bye, ma’am. Thank you for the wonderful suggestions! I hope to see you again soon.”
If the old lady was puzzled by this, she didn’t show it. She simply nodded, said her good bye to Alex and then started to get off the bus. Alex followed her and as her sneakers hit the ground, she glanced back and finally saw the stranger’s face. He was looking right back at her, his beady eyes dark and full of resentment. Then with a knowing grin, he gave her a wink. As the bus pulled away, she heard his laughter merging with the sound of the bus’s engine.
Alex forgot to breathe for a moment and she could do nothing but stare at the white and green bus, still hearing the evil, mocking laughter. It was him. Literature had depicted him as a fictional character but she knew better. And he seemed to know who she was.
As if on cue, her mobile phone rang and Alex knew who it was before she answered the phone. “Lorcan, I saw it. Him.” She choked out.
“Alex, where the hell are you? It’s past seven and I need my travel itinerary,” the voice on the other end was definitely not Lorcan. Okay, so she wasn’t psychic after all. She may be many things but being psychic was not one of them. This man on the other end, though, she knew exactly what he was. A pain in the ass.
She took a couple of seconds to collect her sanity and another few more seconds to collect her patience. “Sealtiel! Guess what? I am actually on my way to work only to find out after half an hour that I rode the wrong bus.” She waited for the inevitable eruption of temper that seemed to walk hand in hand with Jason Sealtiel.
“Alex,” Jason said in a tone that she knew would indicate he was rolling his eyes right that very second. “Get back here as fast as you can. I have a series of meetings today, the first starting in forty minutes. I need to go over my travel itinerary before that. Okay?”
Alex sighed. “Yes, okay. I’ll be there in a jiffy.”
“Good,” Jason said and then he hung up.
Alex made face to her cell phone and headed for the right bus. If it weren’t for her binding contract, she wouldn’t even go near that Jason Sealtiel, not even with a ten foot pole.
Read the other parts of this ongoing series: