CHAPTER 1 PART 1: ERIC




FRIDAY, AUGUST 26 - KANSAS CITY, KANSAS

THE STICKY HEAT OF the late Kansas summer made activity of any type nearly unbearable. But there was a saying in Kansas. A saying that a great many people took much delight in repeating with whimsical, knowing smiles carved into their sweating faces.

“It’s not so much the heat,” they would say. “It’s the humidity.”

Eric White had never liked that particular saying. In fact, just hearing it made him want kick random people in the street.

Yes, of course the humidity made a difference. When it came to heat, the added humidity made it feel worse. It was a fact he couldn’t deny. Regardless, under that humidity there was the heat. Take the humidity away and it was still hotter than the Devil’s hair straightener. So as far as Eric was concerned, hot was hot. And there wasn’t much he hated more than being hot.

Except maybe the "It’s not the heat it’s the humidity" people.

Yet, as he sat behind the wheel of his assigned Kansas City Metro bus, as it trundled slowly down 95th Street plodding along toward Metcalf Avenue, he did have to admit to himself that the air tonight was intolerably humid. In fact, the air was so thick with moisture that Eric had no problems imagining that he was piloting a submarine instead of driving a bus.

His underpants were sticking to him in places he usually avoided talking about in mixed company. His shirt was so soaked through with sweat that it was like wearing a swimming pool. He wanted to take the thing off but if someone caught him he’d get written up. He hated the shirt. When dry it was thick and stiff. There was an oval name patch sewn over his right breast that tended to chafe at him, as it was doing tonight.

To make things worse, the air conditioner no longer did anything but blow more heat into the bus. He’d opened all the windows; he’d done so within the first fifteen minutes of starting his route. But what little air blew in through the open windows only managed to push the heat around. This, in turn, did nothing but change the nearly empty bus into a rolling sweat lodge that it was his lot to spend the night driving around through Overland Park.

The only thing that kept him going, the only bit of light that twinkled away at the end of the long, boiling tunnel, was the knowledge that he was nearing the end of his route. The end of the route meant the end of his shift. In fact, he had just one stop left. One final stop, one final passenger.

Said passenger didn’t seem to mind the heat all that much. He rode slumped over in the last row. The guy had boarded an hour or ago with a large crowd of people out by the hospital. The guy had shuffled in with the rest of them and had gone straight to the back. There he’d spent most of the ride with his eyes closed, kicked back on the rear bench that stretched the entire width of the bus.

Eric glanced at him in the big mirror above the windshield and smiled.

The guy hadn’t moved since he’d passed out just moments after taking his seat. Eric figured that he was sleeping off what must have been an epic night of drinking. But then again, the guy was alone and Eric found that odd.

Drinking yourself into an unconscious stupor without the comfort of friends around to draw on your face and take photos of you with certain unmentionable areas of their anatomy is usually a surefire sign of a problem. But then, Eric wasn’t one to judge. Live and let others make stupid mistakes. That was his motto.

So, with that in mind, Eric dismissed his comatose passenger and focused instead on the end of his shift.

To be continued . . .



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