"What's the matter with our tour guide?" one person asked. "Why have they switched to someone else?"
"Maybe she is afraid of heights," someone answered.
"Why is the driver going so fast? We want to watch the scenery," another moaned.
"Probably behind schedule, needs to make up time. We have to be back at the ship before it sails."
Black smoke drained from the back of the bus as it tried its best to accelerate up the steep, narrow and winding road. Some of the passengers stood in the aisle and others at their seat. Those close to dementia were wide-eyed with jaws hung slack. Most of the passengers were seniors and not used to high levels of excitement.
"Are we in a race?" asked a little old lady. "I've never been in a race before."
"Shut up," said Panama. "I think the driver is having a heart attack or something."
"Oh dear, will we be all right?" she asked.
The bus pushed forward, precariously hanging to the edge of the road. Ahead, they saw smoke, large and black, spiraling upward, an imperfection on the blue sky. The bus slowed, everyone pressed to one side with wide eyes and dropped jaws. Far below, hanging to the jagged rocks, a Formula 1 hung precariously. The bus moved on. There was a schedule to keep.
Jeopardy stopped the car and stood up. From this position, she could see over the edge of the cliff. Clinging half way down the rock face was a Formula 1, in flames. 'How did this happen?' She quickly dropped back down into the seat and floored the gas pedal. The car leapt forward. One corner after another, she raced after the bus and soon she had it back in sight. She saw one Formula 1 behind the bus. It lingered there for a few more minutes, and then pulled out as if to pass. The car seemed to adopt the speed of the bus as it drove alongside keeping a steady pace. Suddenly, it leapt forward, passing the bus, disappearing around the next corner.
Jeopardy moved ahead, pulling next to the bus. She saw something attached to the side and instantly recognized it - a magnetic IED. She wondered how much time she had. Reaching out her arm she tried to grab the bomb. After her first attempt, it was obvious that the assailant had a longer reach. A sharp left by the bus pushed her away. The sharp smell of burning rubber attacked her nostrils. At the next right curve, she forced the car back to the bus. Leaning as far as possible to the right, she again reached for the IED. Wrapping her fingers around it, she gave it a pull. It was attached harder than she expected, but on the third attempt it gave way.
The bus made another move to the left, again pushing her away, forcing her across the road to rub against the rock face on the other side. Sparks flew as the rock cut into the metal leaving a line of red paint along the wall. With a twist of the wheel, she pulled the car under control, driving back to the other side of the road. Then, she tossed the bomb over the cliff. It exploded in mid-air. As the bus drove around the next corner, Jeopardy found a spot on the other side of the road to park the car. She took off her helmet and wiped the sweat from her brow. Within minutes Lady Brenda appeared with the motorcycle. Without a word, Jeopardy put her helmet back on and jumped on the rear seat for the return to Sorrento. There was no need to follow the bus. The town was a dead end.
A drone passed overhead filming the sequence of events. The silver projectile wasn't large, more like a camera with wings. It was hardly noticeable against a blue sky, to anyone that would bother to look up. The faces on the receiving end were not happy. Why was it so hard to kill one agent, and now they knew who was interfering with their plans? There was still time -the cruise was not over.
When the last of the race cars had passed, the bus slowed down to a normal and safer speed. Everyone wondered what had happened and what the noise behind them was. Borders, in the rear seat, noticed the antics of the last car that had now disappeared. He wondered if it had been a bomb attempt, but Panama was on board, which put that idea in doubt. Was there someone else at play? He shrugged off the thought. The reduced speed had put a damper on the screams, but not the questions.
As they reached the outskirts of Salerno, they saw a roadblock manned by police. Relief showed on the passenger's faces. Soon, the door opened, and three men came aboard. A heated exchange ensued between the driver and the three men. The passengers waited, silent, watching their behavior. Finally, they seemed to have reached a consensus, and one of them turned to speak to the passengers.
"May I have your attention, please? There seems to have been a big misunderstanding. The driver is a stunt car driver who sometimes works as a tour driver. I am the director of a movie, and we are filming on this road. Today he was supposed to drive a load of passengers along the Amalfi Coast Road and we would film the racing cars going by."
He mopped his brow and continued.
"The driver was supposed to stop this bus in Sorrento and take another that was full of actors. He made a mistake and went ahead with the tour bus. I hope you will forgive us for the misunderstanding.
"We thought we were going to die," said someone.
"I thought we were going to go over the cliff," said another.
"I think we should be paid," said a Scotsman, getting everyone's attention.
"Yes, yes, said the director. "Each of you will be given 500 euros."
Within seconds, the fear of death vanished and smiles flashed across faces. Everyone tried to speak at once.
"I can tell my grandkids I was in a movie," said one old lady.
A man said to his wife. "I knew I should have gotten a haircut."
"What's the name of the movie? Someone asked.
"When do we get the money? Asked the Scotsman.
"We can pay everyone immediately," said the director, as he stepped off the bus to get the funds.
As soon as everyone was paid and signed the paperwork, the bus was turned around for the return trip to Sorrento. There they could stop for dinner and do some shopping, made much easier with the extra 500 euros.
Filled with noise like the chatter of magpies, the bus lumbered back on its return trip that was a lot less exciting. The movie was the only topic, and it would be for days. Everyone was extolling their part in the movie as if it had been written solely for them. "Did you see me pretend to scream," said one woman.
"Did you see me point at the car," said another.
Borders was skeptical. He knew it was an assassination attempt. Everything was too convenient. They had been saved by someone in a race car. He thought it might be one of the English spies, but immediately realized the idea was ridiculous. He couldn't imagine either one of them driving a Formula 1.
"There is one of the race cars," said someone, causing everyone to look out the window.
It must have broken down," someone else added.
The multi-colored car looked forlorn, parked by alone to the side, squashed up against the rock face. For now, it would sit, waiting for a tow truck, a most humiliating ending for a champion car.
The rendezvous was at the bus station, a building, hardly recognizable as such from the street. It looked like a pension, plopped in the middle of a suburban landscape, complete with homes, large trees, and hedges. The cobblestone parking was small, resembling a courtyard. Any bus driver foolish enough to go forward into the yard would find it quite difficult to turn. The wise driver stopped on the street and backed between the hedges and into his spot. There was room for four busses. The business side of the building faced the busses where they stared at each other. In front of the building, the two Englishwomen, were seated and enjoyed an ice cream.
"What happened?" asked one of their new friends. "Where were you?"
"We started talking to another group," said Lady Brenda, "and before we knew it, you were all gone. But it worked out all right. They were going in the same direction, so they dropped us off here. You should try the ice cream, it's delicious."
Everyone walked to the town square where they separated into small groups and pairs and went exploring on their own. By the appointed hour, they had all returned to the bus, most of them slurping on an ice cream. The return trip was one of quiet fatigue. Some fell asleep while others stared out the window. They were met at the ship by armed guards who inquired as to what they saw on the Amalfi Coast Road. There had been reports of a bomb. Some told them it was part of a movie, while others said they saw nothing. The guards shooed them onto the ship.
YOU ARE READING
Mediterranean MissionMystery / Thriller
Mason Borders, operative for CSIS, has been given a new mission. He has to track a terrorist on a Mediterranean cruise. The ship will stop at a number of ports along the way. Any of the ports from Barcelona to Istanbul could be the target. While Bor...