Part 1 - Chapter 4 - A Chance Encounter

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I hated ratting on Jacko, but after what he had told me the night before, I worried the fool might actually try to hurt somebody. I had to tell Mama. As a result, she decided to walk with my younger brother to school for a few days until he got used to the idea of me not being there.

I woke up at five on Monday morning to catch a bus that would take me across town so I'd be at the academy by seven. The bus stop was only a couple blocks away, but the schedule said that the first pickup was at 5:15. I had to transfer downtown at Casino Center for the next bus that would take me to Spring Valley. That bus was supposed to stop near the front of the academy at 6:45, so at least there wouldn't be any walking at that end. Travel time was over an hour and a half. Same thing in reverse returning home on Friday afternoon. What a waste of time.

The bus stop located up the street from our apartment had one of those clear plastic canopies surrounding a bench. It hardly ever rained in Vegas, but the structure served as protection from the early morning desert wind.

On my first day, four other people waited with me beneath that canopy. A guy who carried a hard hat under his arm, probably bound for a downtown construction site. The other three were chatty women. Listening in on their conversation, I found out all three worked housekeeping at the Plaza Hotel and were on their way to work. None of them paid me any mind which was fine with me.

Right on schedule the bus growled to a stop in front of us, its air brakes chuffing. The folding doors squeaked open, and I found myself staring into the driver's face, a middle-aged lady with the complexion of a Navajo. I showed her my pass and walked down the aisle. Plenty of open seats. I took one toward the rear, because I didn't like sitting up front. Too many eyes at my back made me twitchy.

By the time we arrived at the Casino Center transfer station, the bus had filled up, but not so full that people had to stand. Too bad that wasn't the case when I boarded the Spring Valley bus. It was standing room only. I held on to the overhead metal pole as we rolled down South Main Street and across Las Vegas Boulevard, The Strip.

I tried to not look directly at anyone. The generally accepted rule of the street was to not make eye contact with strangers. Someone could mistake you as being belligerent and call you out for it. I didn't want no more trouble. I did plenty of looking though, sidelong glances, acting like I was looking out the window while checking the people near me, scoping out anyone who I would need to avoid.

Traffic was a bitch on The Strip, so city busses didn't go there. Instead, they drove south on Paradise Avenue behind all of the big casino hotels. Most of the passengers worked in those places so they began getting off. Made it a little easier to breathe.

Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a lady in the seat beside me having a conversation with an Asian guy. The two of us, the lady and I that is, stood out from the rest because of being the only white folks on the bus. The others were mainly Hispanic with a few Asians and Blacks mixed in. She stood out even more than me because of the peculiar way she acted. While talking with the Asian guy, she held out one of those recording devices. Definitely not a streetwise thing to do. I wondered what she was up to.

She was good looking. Not drop dead beautiful, but someone I could appreciate. I figured her to be around eighteen or nineteen, maybe just graduated from high school. She wore her dark hair in loose curls that hung past her shoulders. Her glasses were the kind with the large lenses and thin frames. She also had on black jeans and a tight UNLV sweater. She looked really familiar. I was sure that I'd seen her before.

I didn't hear much of her conversation with the Asian guy because of all the other people around me talking and the background traffic noise. The guy eventually got off at the Convention Center. When the bus started rolling again the passengers had thinned and I was the only one left standing. The seat vacated by the Asian guy was available.

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