The Grim Samaritan loops his arm through a reinforced canvas strap attached to the jet’s open door.
“News flash,” he calls out. “I’m still leaving. Five seconds to decide if you want to–”
And Belinda cuts him off by jumping past him from the C-102, throwing the sail of her unpacked parachute into the night. As the wind catches it, the ‘chute spreads wide and suddenly looks like a mammoth jellyfish that steals her away. Her voice dopples off, “The world awaits us… even if it isn’t expecting us!” The dark is a stage-curtain closing around her and she is gone.
With a simple “Hm,” he turns back into the cabin.
The Scribbler is looking down at his hands. They are doing a frenzied, but not entirely spastic, dance, as if he is taking counting on his fingers to a level beyond Beyond. Without looking up, he says contritely, “I’m sorry if I was rude before. Sometimes… Sometimes I’m… not… myself. I get the–.” He finishes the digital equation and lifts his eyes to see the Samaritan.
“Gah! Not you, Boris… Jesus!” He turns in the epitome of a huff and stomps forward to the cockpit, taking the empty seat. “If you’re going to kill me,” he says to the grimacing pilot, “you’re going to have to kill us both.”
“Hm,” grunts the athletic Eastern European again. “Vell then.” He turns back to the rushing landscape and tries not to be bothered by it. His brain and body convert the very unsettling pattern of ‘That’s a church, that’s a bank, that’s a church, that’s a bank, that’s a… church’ into sharp-flat-sharp-flat-sharp-flaaaaaat-SHARP!
He pulls back and with a two-step half-run is up and out, knees to his chest, just barely sailing over one of the outer, shorter steeples, across the street and into a roll onto the safer landing zone of the bank roof.
Picking up the duffle he drops just before impact, he moves cleanly to the little stairwell building, checking his pocketwatch for damage as he does so.
The door is locked and, judging by the sound of it, probably chained from the inside. A worn metal sign surrounded by hobo graffiti reads: “Dugan-Tudor Lending Library. Maintenance use only. No admittance.”
“I zuppose it is not a bank, after all,” he mumbles. “Goot. Zis vill not take as long as I thought.”
Seen in the light of a Blackhound Bus to passenger jet collision, and where seconds feel like minutes, a simple costume change can go unnoticed for a while. But as the passengers gather themselves and their wits and take places on the sidewalk, whether standing, sitting or fetal, everyone eventually realizes that the Beast in Manolos is no longer in those pumps… or that suit.
Whatever custom bag she had earlier, she has exchanged it for full-on urban assault kit and from it she pulls a top-grade first-aid package. Kneeling in front of the Photographer, she briefs her on the contents and their uses.
“This… is Quick-Clot… Here’s how it works… These… are anthrax countermeasures… Leave them alone.”
She stands and disables the SCAR rifle and tosses it aside, moving to the wreckage of the jet, leaving the Indian woman to shake off her shock and do as instructed.
The Cocktail Queen escapes out through the emergency exit at the back of the bus and focuses her attention on the driver who is standing in the dead center of the intersection. He is a man devastated and he turns in slow circles as if he is pondering which way to start walking but will never decide.
Fiercely the Queen is on the driver, pushing him from the street and up against the wall of the Cathedral. “Speak. NOW!” she commands in a voice that is hers but still not one she entirely recognizes. He is lost in sadness. “Tell me,” she barks,”Tell me what you know, Sergeant Patrick!”
She drops her hold, spins away and in a lighter tone that she feels more comfortable with, primps her hair and says, “Well, then. A drink, shall I? Yes. Yes, I shall.”
After he is satisfied that, at the very least, there is no smell of leaking jet fuel, the Rabbi takes stock of his surroundings. His mouth ‘tuts’ concernedly as he looks around. The females seem all to be doing just fine without him and he is noticeably relieved at both this and seeing the Beast heading to the jet, so he doesn’t have to.
He catches the prim shape of a blazered woman coming out of the Hotel and turns away quickly to approach the silently sobbing bus-driver. He gently takes his arm and moves them both up under the eave of the Cathedral out of the rain.
Only after a first is joined by a second and a third does he realize that voices akin to whale-song are lining up just on the other side of the huge, heavy doors.
Aubry steps out from the Hotel and, channeling Mary Poppins, pops open a small umbrella. She surveys the intersection, far more unperturbed than can be normal, scanning until her vision lands on the man still crouching behind the low steps of the Cafe.
“Well, hello, stranger,” she says brightly to him, “Been a long time.” She pauses to think for a moment. “It HAS been a long time… Hasn’t it?”
But the man isn’t listening. He is far more concerned with the singing coming from the Cathedral and the low, distant growl behind him.
The Scribbler regains consciousness at the sound of a ‘thump’ on the roof of the jet. For the second time in five minutes a body slides down the C-102′s windshield. This time it is Belinda, followed by her parachute, and she waves a little wave to him as she goes by before dropping from the nose to the ground.
He turns to the remains of the pilot which have become one with the handles and knobs and instruments he hated so much.
“The math doesn’t lie, so I must have missed something,” he says to Cpl. L’Enfant as she enters the cabin. “But, still, fortunate nonetheless.”