The Interloper

Part 2 of the Braunville Chronicles

The footage from bus #2317 starts off as typical for a day on route 19. The mean passenger number for that time of day was about 20; the footage appears to correspond to that. By the time the bus turns to go down Remington lane, the driver appears to be in high spirits, engaging in lively chatter with the passengers.

Remington lane is a farm route that is still largely unpaved, stretching 9km from the city’s center to the campus of Wind River community college, which was the bus route’s end. About halfway along the route that day, a car was stalled by the side of the road. The footage shows the driver slow to a stop, open the passenger doors, and call out to the person or persons with the car. It is thought to be an offer of assistance(the cameras did not record audio) and the affirmative is implied when a new passenger climbs aboard. Though the footage is black and white, a description can be taken that should be fairly accurate: a young man with light, short hair and dark eyes. The man is wearing a full suit, though the temperature that day was pushing the nineties. The young man stands beside the bus driver, gripping the rails as the bus lurches back into motion. The conversation goes on for a number of minutes, with the young man laughing amiably at comments from the driver. The young man then pulls a machine pistol from somewhere on his person and holds it to the driver’s head. From the general demeanor of the other passengers, it can be inferred that this created some distress. The driver appears to maintain calm, speaking slowly to the young man. The young man himself crosses to lean against the front dash of the bus, facing the driver, speculated to be in case the driver attempted to throw him off by stopping suddenly. The young man begins gesturing with the gun, and at some point the bus turns off the usual route as what little scenery that can be seen in the windows changes. At this point the passengers huddle. Some appear to be praying. The journey takes fifteen minutes, and not once does the driver stop talking. His body language indicates he is bargaining for the lives of his passengers, while the young man takes a flippant air. Fifteen minutes into the detour, the bus appears to enter a tunnel as the footage is suddenly swept over with darkness. It continues to record until the scheduled end time, 3:00 am.

The bus was later found parked outside the Juaquina tire dump, completely empty. No ransom was ever issued for the passengers, and no passenger was ever seen again.

On review of the footage, the young man was pegged as the perpetrator of a number of petty crimes in the weeks building up to the incident. He, along with a number of unknown accomplices, perpetrated the sale of a forged artwork to the local museum. The young man acted as broker, and gave a card identifying himself as Arthur Sales. The curator noted the man’s unusually self-assured demeanor, likening him to a used car salesman. The young man pressed to close out the sale quickly, and so the curator undertook a number of tests that were normally left to museum staff. When the curator took a black light to the canvas, something unsettling revealed itself.

On the back of the canvas, the phrase “help me” was written with what looked like a fingertip. The curator said he made no comment, but the young man appeared to sense the change in his behavior and announced a hitherto unmentioned appointment and took the canvas with him. The curator looked up the painting, by a (deceased) local artist and worth about $127,000, and found it was still in possession of the artist’s estate. Contact confirmed the canvas was not missing. The number and name on the card led nowhere.

The petty thefts were equally puzzling. The young man would walk up to the cashier of a convenience store and announce his need of a cleaning supply, far in excess of what the store could stock. When deferred, he would demand what they had in stock. While the cashier would confer with management, accomplices that faced away from security cameras would secrete away various items. Some were as innocuous as juice and snackfoods, others were potentially harmful pesticides. As soon as the accomplices left, the young man, alerted to their departure by unseen means, announced he would have no need of the chemical after all and leave.

An APB with the young man’s picture failed to produce results, until a neighborhood resident indicated him as someone seen milling about Annika Pataky’s apartment three months before her discovery by police. He arrived in a Lincoln town car and exited to pet the resident’s dog. He announced that he was a real estate agent, and that he had lived in the neighborhood before the Vietnam war. When the neighbor pointed out that he was too young to have served during that war, the young man became distressed, asking if he was “drying out.” When the neighbor asked what he meant, the young man became agitated, sprinting to a local drinking fountain and rinsing his face vigorously before getting back in the car and driving away.

Investigation into his identity is ongoing.

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