Banquet of Souls, 4th Course, “Bus 1309”
How about a second helping?
What follows is an excerpt from the fourth story from my new anthology, Banquet of Souls.
“Thirteen-oh-nine to dispatch.”
Karen instantly raised her red-haired head up from her monitor, startled by the unexpected interruption. She watched Ted slowly look up from his own computer, his lined forehead furrowed in confusion.
“What did he say?”
Karen turned back to her scheduling screen.
“I think he said thirteen-oh-nine,” she distractedly muttered. “Since when do we have a thirteen-oh-nine?”
Ted tapped the switch to turn the microphone on.
“Who is this?” Ted snapped with an aggression that immediately grabbed Karen’s attention.
“Fourteen-oh-two to dispatch.”
Ted sighed deeply and tapped on the mic.
“Roads are getting pretty icy, and I just got caught in a white out. Had to pull over. Gonna be five to ten minutes late.”
“Shit,” Ted said irritably, running both hands through his thinning, dark hair. He tapped on the mic. “Copy that.”
The dispatch room window overlooked an expansive, paved staging area and multi-bay bus garage. Karen walked over and watched the snow blowing nearly horizontally in the fading light of day. It did not look good.
“Maybe they’ll call a state of emergency.”
“Yeah, it’d be nice to get home before six tonight.” He tapped on the mic.
“Dispatch to all drivers. Anyone out there try to call us but said ‘thirteen-oh-nine’?”
But for the light hiss of the radio, silence.
The phone rang. Karen walked over and picked up the receiver. “County Rural Transport Dispatch.”
A woman’s voice, obviously elderly, asked, “Are the buses running late?”
“Where are you located, ma’am?”
“Yes. That particular bus just contacted us and told us he had to pull over because of the snow and slippery conditions.”
“How am I going to get to my doctor’s appointment? I made this reservation three days ago!”
“We’re doing the best we can.” Karen shot a quick look at Ted, rolling her eyes. “It looks like we might go into a state of emergency. If that happens, then we need to pull the buses back. I suggest that, if you can reschedule your doctor’s appointment, then you probably should. Just call us back tomorrow and resubmit your new reservation through the recording line.”
Karen hung up the phone with a deep sigh. “She knew the storm was coming days ago. And now she’s asking how she’s going to get to her doctor’s appointment.”
Ted grunted. “The older the rider, the more entitled they feel. We’ve got to hold their knobby little hands every step of the way.” He puckered his face as if he had just bitten into a lemon and broke out his now-familiar, high-pitched, whiny-geezer voice. “I’m old. You gotta help me. I need help with this. Can’t you help me? I’m ninety years old. Blah-blah-blah. Gimme-gimme-gimme.”
The goofy routine got a laugh out of Karen every time.
“Thirteen-oh-nine to dispatch.” The mystery voice was back.
Ted slid forward over the desk and hit the mic hard.
“Listen, there is no bus thirteen-oh-nine. Who is this?”
Ted looked up at Karen. “Your new boyfriend wouldn’t be pulling a prank, would he?”
“Carl? Hell, no! Of course not. His voice is deeper and he doesn’t prank. Ever.”
“Just checking.” He returned to the mic. “I don’t know who you are, but if you are on this frequency and not a part of the transportation system, we’ll report you. You are interfering with the operations of public transportation. Do you hear me?” Ted barked.
“Does this sort of thing happen often?” Karen asked.
“You’ve been here for what, maybe a year?”
“Then you know that usually when something like this happens, it’s usually a slip up from a driver not remembering his bus number, or occasionally another rural carrier would be calling on the wrong frequency.”
“Could that be what’s happening now?”
Ted shook his head. “I don’t think so. We ask who it is and they don’t even try to answer.”
“What do you think is happening then?”
Ted stared blankly over the top of his computer screen. “I think someone is fucking with us.”
Karen looked confused. “Why? Why on earth would anyone do that? Some sort of prank or something?”
Ted hesitated. Finally, he turned back to Karen.
“We used to have a bus with that number.”
12 courses of fear and horror! Banquet of Souls is available now at Amazon Books https://goo.gl/Cs427c
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