“Sorry mate, love, hope you find them soon.” the cabbie said as Tom and Danielle stepped out of his taxi.
“Me too.” Tom said. He stopped a couple of steps away, and turned back. Pulling the last note from his wallet- a twenty- he handed it, and one of his business cards, through the window. “If you think you’ve seen the Bentley again, can you give me a call?”
“Yeah. Of course I can.” The taxi in front had started to move, as another left the rank with new passengers, so Tom stepped away and let their driver move forwards.
They were back on Albert Square, after detours around town that had failed to find the Bentley. They had said they would continue the search on foot, but they both needed some time to get their enthusiasm back.
It was dark, and the evening crowd was starting to appear. The Town Hall was lit to highlight all its Gothic pretence, but no-one paid it much attention. Danielle had walked over to the memorial to Prince Albert, and climbed the tall steps to survey the square. “What should we do now?” she asked Tom when he joined her.
“I don’t know. Hang around for a while, to see if they come back? We could find somewhere on Deansgate and watch the traffic go by.”
“It feels so hopeless, we were so close. You know, that was the first time I’ve ever seen him. The weird thing is, it looked like he recognised me. How did that happen?”
“We’ll find him, and you can ask him then.”
Danielle’s smile was thin and brittle. “I do hope so.”
Tom was searching for some more comforting words when there was a violent sound behind them. They swung round toward the noise of bending metal and smashing glass. There had been a collision at the junction, right by the tram tracks. A double decker bus rocked violently after hitting a black cab side on. The tangled vehicles slowed rapidly, coming to a stop as Tom and Danielle watched.
It was one of those moments when they took in dozens of details all at once. The bus had run through a red light to ram the cab, and stopped in a ridiculously short distance. The taxi was jammed under the front of the bus, folded in ways such a sturdy vehicle never should. A body lay on the road ahead of the bus, splayed in a way that could be comical under other circumstances. The front window on the top deck was smashed, suggesting where the body had come from.
They started walking toward the accident, slowly, as they were still in shock. Others were closer, or moving faster. A group was already crowded around the doors, trying to operate the emergency release.
The emergency escape door at the back of the bus crashed open, and a young woman tumbled out. She struggled up from a clumsy roll, and began staggering away. Her expression was pure terror, and her pale top was stained with blood. Another body had followed her out of the door, but only made it halfway. This one hung limp, red trails running down the side of the bus from multiple wounds.
“Something’s wrong here….” Tom stopped. Danielle went on a few steps before noticing and halting herself.
There was movement on the inside of the bus now, and as they tried to make sense of it, they realised that the insides of the windows were spattered with blood as well. Some of the passengers, on the top deck, were cowering at the back. Others were fighting. One group appeared to be defending the back seats, whilst the other was trying to get to it. On the ground floor, bodies were pressed close together, clamouring to get off as soon as the door was opened.
Danielle pressed Tom’s arm, and pointed at the girl who had tumbled from the bus. She had tripped by one of the square’s benches, and was trying to use it to lever herself back up again. They turned in her direction, sprinting now.
As they drew closer, the girl raised a hand to ward them off. “Stay back! Don’t touch me! I might be one of them!”
Tom ignored her instructions, and reached out to find a hand hold under her arms. She struggled away from him, dropping onto her butt and shuffling backwards. “Don’t. Please. I don’t want to hurt you.”
Danielle urged Tom to take a step back. She crouched down, trying to make herself less threatening, and, keeping her voice level and calm, asked, “Why would you hurt us?”
“Those things. They bite you and attack you, and when you’re dead, you come back and you start biting and attacking. They’re like zombies. They’re just like zombies!”
Not knowing what to say, Danielle turned her gaze to Tom. He, in turn, was looking at the bus. The second body had dropped from the emergency exit now. It lay in a confusion of limbs that could only indicate death. But then the arms and legs started twitching, as if their very confused owner was trying to remember how they worked.
Another of the passengers dropped out of the emergency door. They landed on the struggling corpse and toppled off it. Somehow, the prat fall didn’t become a full collapse. The man ran several steps flat footed, somehow getting his feet to catch up with his upper body, then came to a halt.
He stood still, swaying slightly, expression somehow vacant and loaded with malice at the same time. The horrible visage wasn’t helped by the fact that his face was white, but for blue circles around his eyes, a red nose and an evil painted on smile. He wore white, baggy, shimmering clothes marred by splashes of blood in different shades from glistening crimson to dull, drying rust. The worst of the blood was around his crotch, where the outfit, and bits of the body beneath, had been violently torn away.
“Like that! You go like that!” the girl cried out.
Danielle straightened to stand beside Tom. With all the questions the situation was throwing up, the only one she could think to ask was, “Is…. Is that an emasculated clown?”