Red emergency lights popped on along the center of the car. Outside a mild yellow light barely lit the world around them. Her hand found the smooth fabric of Smith’s suit. She tugged him back to his feet and pulled him along toward the back of the car. The people around her murmured their discontent as they regained their feet, but no one cared enough to panic. Decorum of the working masses kept them from making too much of a stir, no one could afford to be banned from the circuit. Even the gangs mostly respected the peace in the subway.
“Shouldn’t we wait here?” His voice had a bit more weight to it.
“Wait for the clown to catch us, or for your panic team to come in blazing?” Mallory hissed.
“They wouldn’t do that.”
“Today is just a day of wonders.” She let go of his collar. “Listen, if you think you’re better off on your own, then you’re more than welcome to take off. I’m going this way and hoping that Bozo didn’t get a good look at my face.”
“You could take a different train.” Smith offered.
“I have to get off the train somewhere, don’t I?” Mallory shrugged. “Follow me, or don’t. You weren’t going to pay me anyway.”
“Yes I was.” A tinge of indignation crawled into his voice.
“How? You don’t even remember my name, do you?”
“Uh.” Smith scrunched up his face in concentration.
“It doesn’t matter.” She turned back toward the far end of the car and began to wade through the milling people.
“Wait.” He rushed to follow her. “Melanie.”
“Nope.” She didn’t look back.
“It started with an ‘M’.”
“Look.” She turned around. “Mister Smith, the longer we spend together the more I begin to wonder who you are. The clowns did a smash and grab on your car. A car.” She emphasized the word.
“Yeah.” He shrugged.
“Listen, you ignorant…” Mallory took a deep breath and tried again. “You’ve got a car, a driver even, and a panic button. That means big money.” She waved a hand at him. “I don’t see big money when I look at you, so that means two things.” She held up two fingers. “One, you’re close to someone rich and they think that they can leverage you for a ransom.” She put down one finger. “Or two, and the more likely, that you’re not exactly the most clean person out there. Since you didn’t have any security beyond a driver, I’m guessing you thought that your big bad reputation would keep you safe from something like this.” She looked up at him to see the color from his face had drained. “Am I close?”
“They sure are.” He pointed over her shoulder.
She turned to see three clowns advancing from the rear of the car.
“How much are you going to pay me?”
She flinched. “Damn.”
Mallory took a step back and hunched a little lower. Her eyes scanned the car. Bozo hadn’t made an appearance from the other direction, but that didn’t mean he was out of the picture. What she knew for sure was that there were three clowns heading straight toward Mister Smith and the car was too crowded for a hasty retreat.
“The door.” She pointed toward the closed doors nearby. “Try to open them.”
“What about you?”
“They aren’t looking for me.”
Mister Smiths’ eyes went wide. “You’re leaving me?”
“No, you idiot, just open the doors.” She took another step back and melded with the crowd.
Mister Smith looked at the trio of clowns as the slowly made their way to him. He looked back to where his reluctant guardian had been, but found no sign of her. Biting back a curse he rushed to the doors and began to try to pull them apart. The doors resisted the movement even though the electronic locks were disabled for an emergency stop to enable quick evacuation. His breath began to quicken, his hands slipped on the door.
“Smith,” a familiar voice hissed incredibly close. “Don’t look for me. Just calm down and open the doors.”
“I thought you left me.” His voice cracked as he spoke.
“I can’t take on all three head on, you moron.” He could hear the sigh in her voice. “Now open the door and get out there. Don’t touch the yellow rail.”