Bucks County Writers Workshop
Bucks County Writers Workshop

The Yellow Bus

Chapter Seven

he first rule every agent of the FBI learns is "Don't embarrass the Bureau." Could there be any situation with more embarrassment potential than a hostage situation involving a load of kids?

Special Agent Kaitlyn Galloway didn't think so. Images of Ruby Ridge and Waco kept flooding through her mind, even though she wasn't one of the multiple agents currently screaming their way after the GPS signal emanating from the hand of one of the kids somewhere down in Maryland. No, Kaitlyn was straight from her current assignment at the Philadelphia field office -- all one hundred twenty pounds of her.

When Lieutenant Deever had made the call urging that a profiler be brought into the case, he hadn't realized there was one already in residence. He also hadn't known that Kaitlyn wasn't just Quantico-trained; she was straight out of the John Douglas-Roy Hazelwood-Bob Ressler Academy of Profiling. It wasn't really called that, but that's how she liked to think of it.

Currently, she was standing in what passed for Mason Munford's living room in Arcadia, letting her sharp blue-green eyes take in everything. It was her next-to-last stop of the day and a behavioral treasure trove, much as Kaitlyn's interview with Munford's daughter had been. Gloria Munford Needham, in the midst of all her tears, had been an excellent source.

It seemed her father's behavior as of late had been raising concerns for his daughter. Munford had been talking to strange, unknown voices heard only by him. And one statement she'd said, over and over, stuck out in Kaitlyn's mind. "I told him. I told him."

When taken in combination with everything Kaitlyn was learning about Munford -- specifically, his obsessive behavior regarding school buses, his habit of collecting functioning antique guns, the manslaughter rap, the clashes with his neighbors, the voices -- there was only one conclusion Kaitlyn could reach.

"This isn't a guy who snapped," she said. "This is something deeper."

And far more sinister.

There was, however, still more Kaitlyn wanted to know and the primary person she had left to question was Munford's employer, Charles Needham, who was currently on duty at the school. Carefully, she picked her way through the piles of trash and gun magazines to the door, where her driver, a young blue flamer whose name had escaped her, was waiting for her.

"Is the school next on the list?" If he hadn't been an agent, he would have been bouncing in eagerness, but he was trying to keep his cool.

"It's next and last," she told him a quick smile. "Time to see what the guy who hired the driver has to say, although maybe if we have time we might talk to the parents of some of the kids."

It wasn't going to be a pretty interview with Charles Needham. From all she'd heard so far, the man was an ass, and that was being polite, not that Gloria Needham herself had actually used that term about her husband. Still, as both Munford's employer and his son-in-law, Needham was Kaitlyn's best bet to find out more about how Munford had been acting the past few weeks.

She also decided she could use a quick word or two with Lieutenant Deever. The officer was a main link, considering his son was the one with the cell phone. And, according to at least one report, Mikey Deever might still be on the school bus itself, wherever it was. Not only that, but something, she wasn't sure what, had gone on at an isolated cabin in Delaware, where the local cops there had converged. Curious.

"Do you think the kids'll be all right?"

She started at the blue flamer's question, as she entered the car. "We can hope. This Munford guy's got something up his sleeve and I'll bet anything it won't make those poor kids happy."

He nodded, a faint look of apprehension on his young face. He'd been a field agent for less than a month and this was the first major case to which he'd been assigned. "What do you think the perp will want to let them go?"

Pat Mullany, she thought, but didn't say it. He'd been the FBI's foremost negotiator for a number of years and there were few negotiators who could rival, even now, his success. Whether the Maryland field office, now closest to the ever moving action, could bring him in to the case wasn't clear, but the office had at least one negotiator who was almost as good. However, she was a mere a profiler, and her job was to supply as much information about the suspect as the negotiators could use.

"That's what we're going to find out," she said at last. "Starting with Mr. Charles Needham."

The blue flamer nodded, then concentrated on getting them both to the school in one piece. Kaitlyn let the scenery fly by, concentrating on two things. One, what she might get out of Needham. Two, if Lieutenant Deever's son was still on the yellow bus, where the hell was he going?

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Bucks County Writers Workshop