When the bus stopped to change drivers again, it was late afternoon. Ellen’s headache had subsided to a dull echo. Too bad the music hadn’t.
She roused herself just enough to peer out the bus window. The snow was now falling faster, flakes the size of silver-dollar pancakes. Having grown up here in the northern Midwest, Ellen remembered how quickly this kind of snow could accumulate.
She stretched her cramped legs and debated making a trek into the bus station. They were scheduled to stop for supper, but right now she could sure use something hot to drink. She had very nearly decided to escape inside, if just to get away from the loud music for a few moments, when he stepped inside the bus. Ellen’s first thought was that Paul Bunyan had tromped down out of the north woods to look for Babe the Blue Ox. Then she noticed the gray jacket with the bus-line emblem on the shoulder and realized this was their new driver.
He stood at the front of the bus, surveying them all with a gaze of pure steel. Burly wasn’t the word to describe him. More like massive. His chest was wide and the sleeves of the jacket strained over bulging biceps. Musclemen didn’t usually do much for Ellen, but she had the feeling this fellow came by his brawn quite honestly. He’d probably never seen the inside of a workout gym or health club in his life.
With cool gray eyes, he swept over the rows of passengers and settled at last on the three orange-haired rockers. Ellen saw his jaw clamp down hard.
“My name is Douglas Maddock,” he finally spoke, his voice a deceptively soft sound that could be heard even above the music. “I’ll be your driver for the next eight hours, possibly longer if this weather keeps up. I’m telling you right now, I don’t believe in pushing it in a storm. I’ll go as fast as I think it’s safe to go and not a bit faster. If you’re late to your destination, at least I’ll have done my best to get you there alive.”
His gaze traveled again, and for a few seconds it rested on Ellen where she had scrunched down in her seat. A tentative smile threatened the corners of his stern mouth, especially when he noticed her proximity to Derry’s Deviates.
Bracing his big hands on his hips, he glared at them.
“Now,” he gave them his full attention. “I don’t know what in the hell has been going on in this bus since it left Chicago, but you better know that I won’t put up with it. This means if you must play music, it will be played at a tolerable level. And I’m talking about tolerable to the rest of us. The first person who violates this will be put out of the bus, and I don’t care if it’s in the middle of the North Dakota prairie.”
Stop by for tomorrow's excerpt from Legacy of Love.