Last time, our hero Bull Mayday and his gal Myers had just escaped the scene of the crime with the pilfered loot and the ransom the cops had brought on account of the shady criminal-cum-Police Chief Gaunt. Now, Bull just has to slip out of town and keep hold of Myers, and he'll be Scott Free...
We were out of town so fast, they couldn't have caught us with hellfire.
"That was some pretty slick work back there," I said to Myers.
"Thanks Bull. You weren't so bad yourself," she said back with a naughty smile.
It occurred to me then that I didn't know Myers' first name, despite our fruitful partnership. "Say," I said, "what's your family call you?"
"Excuse me?" she asked.
"Your first name, Myers, what is it?" I implored.
"Oh," she said, her face going serene. "It's Mary."
"Mary Myers eh?" I asked. Mary Mayday, I thought to myself. Sounds kinda silly.
Our bus came around the corner down the street. I pulled a stack of ten-goldquartz bills out of my bag, so that I wouldn't have to open it in front of the bus driver. I pulled off two of the bills, and gave one of them to Mary.
"I can't wait for you to meet my dog, Marv," I said to her.
"Marv Mayday?" she said, scrunching up her nose to. "Here's our bus!"
The door to the bus hissed open and Mary hopped on. For some reason, I felt like the driver knew what was up. That he had seen me riding downtown for work at Dog Lover's Magazine before. That he would call the cops, because I wasn't supposed to be dressed like that, to have swagger like that, to be with a dame like Mary. But then I gave him my bill, and he gave me my change, and he didn't even look at me once, so I knew I was sweating nothing.
The bus lumbered down the street, packed with passengers. My two bags were pressed against the front of a huge mug in a yellow coat, and Mary's one bag was pressed into his back on the other side. I could see her reflection in the bus window: she was cool as a cucumber. How'd I get so lucky? What a wonderful dame. Everything was sure gonna be alright now, I thought. I've got the dough, the broad, and the clout. Goodbye, Daat Praen. Goodbye, forever.
Then suddenly, the bus lurches to a stop. I fly across the bus, knocking my elbow into the glasses of an old lady, who starts to holler and hit me with her purse. I'm trying to dodge her anger and a voice comes over a loudspeaker outside
"Ladies and gentlemen," the voice says, "This is the Jaidourean Police Department. We have reason to believe that a known criminal is on board the bus. Please be patient while we have you all file off the bus in an orderly, single line."
I couldn't see Mary's face, but I knew that personally, I was losing it. Every worry I could dream strobed through my thoughts like a nightmare. One by one the people ahead of me stepped off the bus, until I couldn't deny it any longer: it was time for me to go. And so... I denied it longer, by sitting down in one of the empty seats and letting others go ahead of me. Shaking with anxiety, I saw Mary go past.
"Mary!" I called to her, pulling her onto the bench next to me. "What are we going to do?"
"Well, honey," she said, with a small frown and a nod of her head, "You're going to give me the dough."
"And then what?" I asked, eager for the next piece of the plan. What a rube I was then.
"And then," that bastard Gaunt said as he stepped up into the bus with his pistol drawn, "You will get put away for a long, long time."
"But... How could he have known we were on this bus?" I asked Mary, bewildered.
"Well...," she said, standing up slowly and reaching for her own quickshot. She didn't have to say anymore. I knew it all, right then and there: Mary was in on it with Gaunt all along. She was a plant in the dirigible, she knew to hide in the sewer, to take the ransom they had manipulated... What a ruse. What a brilliant ruse.
"Mary," I said holding up my hands in surrender, "You broke my heart. But I can't blame you. As for Gaunt, you son of a bitch, I'm gonna do everything I can to take you down."
"Listen here, pipsqueak," Gaunt growled. "I can kill you this second, and say you tried to shoot me. Gimme one good reason why I shouldn't."
I couldn't think of one, and so instead I acted fast, diving for the open bus window. I figured that I could at least proclaim my truth to the small crowd outside before I died. Thankfully, I leapt rather well, clear out of the window, to land in the street outside. I was immediately crowned with a halo of police quickshots, but I was out in the open, where no one could accuse me of trying to injure Gaunt. I had bought time, seconds, maybe. But I had to think that those seconds were going to be enough to save my hide...
UP NEXT: ALMOST THERE, or, THE END OF THE TUNNEL