280 Stops

A novella for the Internet about the 11 bus.

- nine -

Ms. Jesminder Lal

Outward appearance

Thirty something, power dressing business operator. Crisply glamorous: tailored (designer?) suit, Jimmy Choos, this season's lipstick and... has that blouse been starched?

Inside information

Two nights ago Jesminder was carjacked, at gunpoint, for her Audi A6. The police say the attack was part a pattern that is emerging, that the robbery was no doubt planned: she was a target.

What she is doing or thinking.

Her hand drifts down to the oversized designer handbag, pressing on the laptop, the purse... but no keys. No keys there. Not anymore. Pressing on it, the bag. Like they pressed. They pressed that hand gun to her, to her side. So she knew. "These are professional operators, I doubt Ms. Lal that you were ever really in danger."

Her hand presses on the bag again. "They can see" she thinks, "they can see I've something here. I need to relax. Relax my hands. Or I'm a target". She relaxes her hands.

She used to ride this bus every day to the Grammar School. Her father was so proud. Now he's scared and so she had to sleep at his house. Because she was a target. She used to love this journey, this bus, when it crackled with teenage laughter, sweets, and hormones. They ruled the world then. They were invincible. Now she is a target.

Someone grabs her arm. A man in office clothes and a scarf. She can't catch her breath to scream. He thrusts a camera towards her. On the LCD screen there's a photo of a cat. "It'll be ok, see?" he says. And then she breaks, and the laughter and the tears come at once.