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Taha and Albuquerque
by KJ Hannah Greenberg


Before taking his seat, Taha patted his coiffure. He looked around. A girl holding a dog’s harness looked worth sidling up to. On one of her wrists was a thin, gold bracelet studded with semi-precious stones. Her other arm was stacked with plainer bangles.

Coughing as to distract the hound, Taha ever so intentionally stepped on one of its paws and then sprang to the front of the bus. He needed that canine helper hobbled.

Taha clutched his stomach. Someone had elbowed the second most sensitive part of his body. In response, he lifted his pendant out from under his shirt, rubbed it, and recited a few words of Aramaic. As the bus crested the next hill, he switched seats. Even fine jewelry was not worth certain risks.

Albuquerque Quisling Jones rubbed her synovial hinge. When training with Kathy, her biceps and forearms had absorbed most of the blows. The dojo workouts were supposed to have been more thrill and simulation than preparation for real life. Nonetheless, her elbow jabbed into that aggressor’s stomach had moved him away from her and her guide dog.

Charlie licked one of Albuquerque’s fingers. It tasted the same as the ice cream his mistress had dropped, by mistake, on the cement walkway of the shuk. He limped as he moved them forward, down the aisle. He wanted Albuquerque to lift him onto a seat.

When the vehicle’s internal lights flickered, Albuquerque, who was blind, took no notice. The hair on the back of Charlie’s neck, though, bristled.

People shouted. Some took to fisticuffs. The driver sealed the bus’s doors while retaining his position within his booth. He pulled onto the nearest road shoulder.

A sheet of Plexiglas descended from a secret compartment rendering him entirely separated from his passengers. While he was sorry that one of his riders had lost an IPhone and that another had been deprived of her watch, the victims would have to wait until the police arrived to have their goods returned or reported missing.

Taha had no interest in waiting. He had even less interest in meeting the police. So, he pointed the business end of a machine pistol at the Plexiglas. The plastic was meant to protect against people, not bullets.

A uniformed soldier noticed the raised weapon. Signaling with a raised eyebrow to another sapper, who had, minutes earlier, been soundly asleep, the two tackled Taha, pinning him to the floor in the small space between the drive’s booth and the stairs. A third soldier rushed up, took the discarded gun, emptied it and then disassembled it.

When Taha struggled, the two soldiers that had felled him broke his wrists. They sat on him. In Perisan, he asked for mercy.

In the second segment of the bus, the one hinged to the first by means of an accordion-like sleeve, Albuquerque fingered her loot. Maybe she could gift the watch to Gil. Inadvertently, she touched a button on her newly acquired IPhone. Loud music issued.

The girl quickly touched a neighboring button. The music stopped.

A young women seated in the front of the bus started toward the vehicle’s back. The loud sound had been her missing phone’s ring tone. As she walked toward the back, she eyed the passengers.

Some of the riders wore black hats and were reading from religious books. A tattooed fellow had fallen asleep across a complete row of seats. Saliva dribbled from his mouth. A family with seven small children filled three rows. A blind young lady and her dog filled another.

Most of the other seats were empty. Huffing, the IPhone owner returned to her seat. She considered the tattooed fellow the possible culprit, but was afraid to wake him. As for the nasty fellow at the front of the bus, the one who was quaking and who smelled of urine, he had become an impromptu seat for three soldiers. He might readily murder the entirety of the occupants, but was probably not the type to bother with petty theft.

After the police arrived and hauled away that criminal, and after the bus driver lowered his Plexiglas, the bus resumed its route. The large family got off. The tattooed fellow deboarded. The religious passengers, too, found their stop. Only the blind girl and the soldiers remained.

When the bus stopped at the outskirts of a base, the men of war and the woman who had been robbed of her phone left the bus. Her father, who worked in the base’s office, was the person she was supposed to be visiting. Maybe some of his underlings could help her retrieve her lost phone.

Finally, Albuquerque and Charlie stepped off at the stop nearest a certain gated community. Armed escorts and a Bentley Continental GT waited. She told her care providers and body guards nothing of her day’s adventures, saying only that she was tired of carrying around her bags of grapefruit and oranges and that she thought somehow Charlie had hurt his paw.



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