The Nick Of Time
(and other abrasions)
A Heart Full Of Dust
Al Bruno III
It was just starting to snow.
Jason Magwier leaned against the fountain, chain smoking menthol cigarettes and trying to look like just another tourist. But he wasn't some idle tourist, he had an agenda.
There was a bus in the visitor's parking lot, squat and yellow with a dragging muffler. He smiled thinly and breathed smoke from his nose, in a way it amused him to see how far the Hammond Institute had fallen. In another way it made him sad, Seth Hammond had been a valuable ally- but like most heroes his taste for glory had far outpaced his taste for bloodshed. It had been a tragic loss to the Cause but Seth had been a pawn and pawns were replaceable.
The assistant headmaster was looking frantically this way and that, one of his charges was missing. He could almost hear the argument going on in the man's greasy head, wait and abandon his timetable or leave behind a student who was, to put it kindly, troublesome?
Magwier tapped ashes from his cigarette and whispered stage directions under his breath, “That's it, look up the boulevard. Now look down Fourth Street. Shake your head, curse to yourself. Ok, deep breath. Call her name once...twice...three times. Order all your other little sheep back onto the bus. Get on yourself...wait...wait. One last look back. No that wasn't her. Close the door. Drive away.”
The yellow bus' suspension squealed as it slowly rolled out of the parking lot. He watched it disappear down a side street.
The sun was setting, the streetlights flickered to life one by one up Redbeard Lane. He wiled away the moments by smoking and counting snowflakes. Fifty snowflakes and the rest of his cigarette later he heard the abandoned girl come running up the street.
Jason Magwier’s heart began to hammer in his chest, it always did at moments like this. He let the cigarette slip from his fingers and put on his warmest smile.
She was coming.
He wondered what her name might be this time.