Miller was never the kind be shocked. Indeed, after all she’d seen and experienced, anything that could surprise her in the slightest had to be something of a miracle. She wasn’t shocked when she was misjudged. She wasn’t shocked when she was mistreated. Similarly, she wasn’t the least bit surprised when a man masked in a heavy helmet and visor had a silenced gun pointed at her behind the school bus she had driven – only moments after she had dropped her son home. Miller simply gazed at the man who was hiding his face and she glanced at his gun every now and then. The two of them said nothing for a long time. Miller wondered why the masked man didn’t say anything – a command, a threat, anything – because she was sure that if he didn’t, someone – the odd passerby, perhaps – would notice them.
“Get in the bus,” he said quietly.
Miller looked at the school bus, idly remembering that she had to return it to the school premises soon, before she nodded – her face bare of any expression – opened up the front door of the bus and sat on board. She didn’t take the driver’s seat. She assumed the masked man would want it. And, sure enough, the masked man climbed into the bus, shut the door behind him and took the driver’s seat. He took off his helmet before starting up the engine. He was a tanned man of a very serious expression, no hair on his head but an ample amount on his strong chin and jowls. She didn’t say anything as he began to driveaway from the place Miller had left Eliot. She was glad that she’d left him before this man had confronted her. He was oddly quiet as well. Miller watched the scenery slip by as the peculiar man drove.
“I always end up with ones like you,” he muttered without addressing Miller, absent-minded, “So sick of it.”
Miller paused. She didn’t quite know how to respond to that. “Ones like me?” she queried at last.
“Outcasts,” said the man, “Black sheep, like the rest.”
Miller nodded to the remark like it was supposed to make sense. It didn’t. Not really. But she nodded anyway.
She nodded because she hoped it would give her answers.
Miller knew that look on the man’s face. She recogised the set of his brow. She could judge the tone in his voice. It could hardly be mistaken for something other than what it was. The reluctance. The sheer, blatant, undeniable reluctance. She didn’t know the reason for it – it could have been self-pity for all Miller cared – but she was determined to use that look and that tone to her advantage. She was determined to give this man as many reasons not to do what he was so reluctant to do as she could muster.
“Who are you?” she asked.
The man shook his head, grinned – chose to casually ignore her.
“Where are you taking me?” she continued.
The bus slowed and stopped at a red light. He looked over at her – at her chest first and then her face, “You might want to put your seatbelt on, sweetheart. It’s going to be a long, bumpy ride,” he sat up straighter, tightening his grip on the wheel, “Enjoy it while you can – it’s all down hill from there.”
“From where?” Miller asked, clipping in her seatbelt. She noticed this man had an exotic accent.
The engine purred as they started moving again.
The man maintained a calm silence – only allowing speech every so often. Miller asked him questions, tried to bring him out by turning the volume up on the radio and playing obnoxious music – but, it seemed, he could not be moved. It frustrated her. She bit her tongue, trying to contain her annoyance and anger towards his indifference. He knew he was getting under her skin. She knew he knew. Miller unbuckled her belt. His reaction was immediate. Without even looking at her, he pulled out his gun and pointed it at Miller.
“Put your belt back on,” he warned her.
“Not until you tell me what this is,” she replied.
He drove onto a muddy track. The long, winding country road was empty and void of witnesses. He made a sharp brake, shut the engine and leapt on Miller. He put the cold barrel of the gun to her temple.
“You don’t give me orders,” he said, his voice a gruff whisper.
Miller didn’t struggle. She barely moved as he adjusted himself on her lap, pushing an elbow into her shoulder. She looked at him.
“You’re right,” she said, pushing the side of her head towards the gun, “So do what you’ve been asked to do.”
He licked his lips, “And what is it you think I’ve been asked to do?”
“You’ve been sent to kill me,” Miller told him.
The man looked into her eyes – her shocked yet unafraid eyes – and said to her, “Not here,” removing the weapon from her skin.
“Here, there – what difference does it make?” she asked him as he fastened her into her seat, “You’re a killer and you’ve been sent to kill me.”
He tore a long strip from his shirt and tied her hands together, “It doesn’t have to be this way. This could have been easier for you.”
“If you mean that I should be calm and obedient – I have lost those qualities,” she told him, “Isn’t that why you’re here?”
The man curled his lip and then tore another strip from his shirt. He jerked his head from a side, “Have it your way,” he said, tying the strip across her mouth to the back of the headrest. She didn’t protest. He looked at her. Curled his lip again. And went back to his seat.
He shook his head, started the engine and the bus began to move once more.