The music drummed softly as I pushed my foot down on the gas. The taxi began to move, forcing its way over the rough sidewalk onto the busy street. At least, it was usually busy. Tonight it was nearly deserted, barely a soul in sight, but I wasn’t too surprised. Looking at the clock, I rolled my eyes. Eleven thirty at night, who would be at the library right now? Flicking on my front lights, I turned onto Windam street, rolling down the street at the speed limit. This town was known for its cats; at least it should have been. Sometimes it seemed like there were more of them than people. They darted out in front of cars, climbed houses, lived in garages, it was a mess. At least, that was my opinion. Still, I didn’t like to hit the poor things.
Pulling up to the front door of the library, at first I didn’t see anyone. The rooms were all dark inside, the shades pulled down to mask the interior. I’d been to the library lots of times; there wasn’t much to hide in there, just a bunch of old dusty books. I heard rumours they had a rare books collection in the basement worth millions of dollars, but that didn’t really matter. People liked to start rumours.
Tap tap tap. A knocking on my passenger side window turned my head, and I saw the face of a young girl. She smiled at me, opening the door and getting inside.
I smiled, watching as another person opened the back down and got inside. She was a tall lady, black hair and a beautiful face. Her eyes were covered by thick sunglasses, and I couldn’t understand why.
I didn’t know there would be two of you. Is this your mother?
The girl shook her head, passing me a few dollar bills. I shook my head, putting the car into gear and looking into the rear view mirror. No one there, big surprise.
So where am I going? You can hold on to your money for now until we get there.
The girl looked at me with a contemplative face and put her money back into her little purse. Turning in the seat, she looked back at the woman in the back seat. She didn’t speak, but they seemed to understand one another without.
This may be a weird request, but we need you to take us to the Billiards Bar, and once were there we’ll need one more favour.
I looked at the girl curiously, but did as she asked. The Billiards Bar was all the way across town; I understood why they didn’t want to walk all the way there.
Turning onto the road again, I tried to strike up conversation.
So what were you doing at the library at such a later hour? You aren’t cat burglars are you?
The girl laughed, and the woman in the back seat smiled, just faintly. Turning to me, the girl responded without a moment’s hesitation.
As a matter of fact, we aren’t. We had business to attend to, but it was finished so we had to leave. We would have walked, but it was really far. And something about this night just…
The girl turned to look out the window, and I could feel the nervousness in her voice. Somehow it filled the taxi, and even my skin began to prickle with a familiar feeling. Genuine fear. This little girl was out at almost midnight, practically by herself, in a town where no one really cares about each other. Frowning, I looked back at the woman in the back seat. She was staring forward, and hadn’t moved since she’d gotten in. Ten minutes, and she hadn’t moved an inch except for a smile, and a faint one at that. Shaking my head, I turned back to the road.
Well, I hope you want me to take you home soon; it’s a little late for someone your age to be out isn’t it?
The girl just smiled, putting both hands in her lap and humming softly to the music. Sighing, I kept driving.
Finally we reached the Billiards Bar, and I went to pull up to the door.
No, don’t pull up. Go to the other side of the street and wait.
I turned to look at her, putting my arm on the seat back so I could turn all the way.
Listen missy, are we spying or something here? You asked me to bring you here, and were here.
The girl didn’t respond; she just sat and waited, staring intently at the door of the bar. I sighed and turned off the car engine, flicking the lights off to avoid wasting my precious gas. Though I shouldn’t be wasting my precious time either, I thought, frowning. What the hell are these two girls up to?
We sat for twenty minutes, nobody talking except the occasional bump in the quiet music. Tapping my fingers on the windowsill, I finally gave in to my thoughts.
All right you two, time to get out. Clearly whatever you’re waiting for isn’t coming, and I have other clients to pick up.
The girl just kept staring, spaced off into her own little world. Growing impatient, I waved my hand in front of her face, and she blinked. Not taking her eyes off the door, and spoke.
A man is going to exit that building in about one minute; we want you to follow him. We know you don’t have any more clients tonight, so don’t lie. I can smell a lie from a mile away.
I looked at her, confused, and then looked to the door. The girl seemed to be holding her breath, and the woman in the back hadn’t done very much at all the whole trip. I could barely hear her breathing. Turning back, I realized that I was holding my breath too. Why? Was it the heavy mood in the car, or maybe the sense of foreboding I had in my gut. What had I gotten myself into?
Fine ladies, fine. I’ll do as you ask, but this better not be anything illegal, and you better be able to pay. This has been a long trip.
I hadn’t stopped the pay clock when we stopped, and they hadn’t said anything about it either. Clients often argued with me when it came to waiting times and extra pay, but I was getting the sinking feeling money wasn’t an issue here. Cautious determination lay like a blanket across the girl’s face, and I found myself with more questions than answers.
I turned quick to see a man exiting the bar. Exactly one minute after the girl had spoken. Staring at her, I turned the car back on and flipped on the lights.
No, keep them off. I’ll direct you. He can’t know were following.
She reached to touch the lights, but I moved my hand in the way. Giving her a condescending look, I flicked off the lights myself and put the taxi in drive.
The man didn’t seem drunk, but he stumbled every once and a while, moving up and down alleys, as if he knew he might be followed. Every time I thought we lost him, the girl would direct me to find him again. She did it every time, without fail.
After the third time, I was beginning to get very suspicious, and a little bit unnerved. Who was this girl really? She looked only about twelve or thirteen, and was dressed in a common school uniform. I’d seen the kids walking home from school with the same uniforms, and had even driven some of their parents to the school to pick them up. I didn’t recognize this girl though, and the woman she was with was even more mysterious. Her black shades matched her black dress, tight fitting yet not too revealing. She wore black high heels that almost shone when a headlight invaded the car, and sat with her legs crossed respectfully. Other than her long black hair and soft looking face, I couldn’t tell anything about her. The only defining feature she had was one white streak in her otherwise black as night hair. I found myself staring at her for a little longer than I would have thought, but corrected myself when I felt the car moving sideways.
Can you please look at the road?
I turned again to look at the girl.
It was twelve thirty by the time the man finally stopped wandering. It seemed like he’d spent extra time getting to his destination, just to avoid being followed. Clearly he hadn’t done a very good job; we hadn’t lost track of him once. What was he so afraid of? Turning to the girl, I couldn’t possibly imagine that she was what he was afraid of. What could she possibly do to him? Even the woman in the back, though beautiful, didn’t look very dangerous.
Wait till he goes inside, and then pull up. You can drop us here.
Eyeing the man, I watched as he looked around one more time, and disappeared into the apartment building. The girl waved me on, and I drove up to the front door. The place looked run down and old, though good enough for a guy afraid of little girls. It wasn’t too far from the Bar we’d started at either; one of the perks. A few blocks maybe, tops.
Alright, this is it. Thank you Dmitry.
I looked at the girl in awe; did I introduce myself at some point? Accepting a wad of bills from her purse, I counted the money as she got out. As soon as the girl was out, her dark haired shadow followed from the back seat, always being just one step behind her. Finishing the count, I rolled down the passenger window and yelled.
Hey, there’s too much here!
The girls simply looked back and smiled, giving a little wave as she moved to the apartment door. The woman didn’t look back; she simply followed. Finally, as the two disappeared, I turned my lights back on and put the taxi in gear. Pausing, I leaned to look out the passenger window. To see if I could see anything. Seeing nothing out of the ordinary, I shook my head and drove off, dismissing the whole event as weird but nothing extraordinary. The strange woman was her mother, and the daughter was probably making sure her father got home okay. He was drinking a lot, and maybe having an affair, and didn’t want anyone to know. That’s why her mother was so quiet.
Deciding that must have been it, I paid it no more mind for the rest of the night.
Hey Dmitry, you seen the paper this morn?
I looked up from my morning coffee, rubbing my eyes and staring down at the paper thrust in front of me.
New clock tower to come, yeah, so what?
John rolled his eyes and flipped the page. The scene that met my eyes was grisly; the headline read: “man found dead in apartment, no leads found”. Looking at the body more closely, I noticed something strange. Or rather, familiar. Reading the article more, I learned that somehow the man from last night had died; the police had no leads, and no one entered or left the building other than him the whole night. According to police, the only footage was a video camera rigged up like a security cam, and it showed nothing, except…
I choked on my coffee, sputtering it all over the table as I read on. “A taxi was seen following the man for quite some time, the driver, with no passengers, being described as a tall, Caucasian man with dark brown hair.
But that wasn’t possible. No passengers? How could no one have seen the two exiting the car, the camera, the witnesses…?
Looking up as the waiter addressed me, I glanced across the street to the library. It was lit up now in the bright daylight, and people buzzed in and out like flies. Squinting, I saw a girl walking among the others. She seemed to stand out like a sore thumb. She had a…big dog or something with her, on a leash. I could almost hear her humming softly to herself, and as I watched, she paused, just for a second, and stared right at me from across the street. Grinning, she pet her monster’s black fur. No, not quite black; almost completely black with… a white streak.
Getting up out of my seat suddenly, I nearly knocked a waitress off her feet. Helping her assemble her platter, I turned back, only to see the girl gone. Gone forever.