“And then what happened?” Adam leaned back in his chair and studied the group around him.
“Then the police arrived and took our statements,” Mrs. Johnson said.
“I have copies of your statements here,” Adam opened a folder. “I would like the rest of you to read them out loud and then we’ll discuss.” He passed them around and everyone looked at their own words. “Liz, we’ll start with you.”
Liz, one of the chaperones, sighed and squinted at her page. “We were on the way to the zoo. Mrs. Johnson was leading us in songs with the kids. Then the driver braked and tried to avoid a pileup in the intersection and we hit a pole. We checked on the children and they were okay aside from being shaken up. But then there was an explosion and all the windows blew out. I think I hit my head. When I came to, all the kids were gone. We got off the bus and the other drivers were arguing over who was at fault, but the kids were nowhere in sight. I didn’t see any – I didn’t – I couldn’t find my son. I think I fainted. I woke up in an ambulance with a cop sitting beside me.”
“Okay. Jacob?” Adam gestured at the next chaperone. Jacob was staring at Liz as she cried quietly into a tissue. “Jacob?”
“Hm? Yes.” He shook his head and stared at his paper. “Mine’s the same to start off. Going to the zoo, singing with the kids, we crashed. But I felt an earthquake when the windows busted. We shook around and I thought the ground was opening up beneath us. Then it stopped and the kids were nowhere on the bus. I checked under the seats and everything…but my little Ruthie wasn’t there. We got out of the bus and I remember lightning in the sky but there weren’t any clouds. I must have imagined it. The kids were gone.”
“Jen?” Adam looked at the next chair but found it was empty. “Where’d she go?”
The others looked around.
“I think she left during Liz’s statement,” Mrs. Johnson said. “She looked very upset.”
“I see. Okay, Doug then.”
The bus driver shifted in his chair. “I didn’t see an accident when I swerved.” He looked back at his paper. “Approaching the intersection I saw strange flashing lights and I braked. The bus started to pull and I over corrected. We hit the pole. Then there was a blast of sound and the windows broke. The kids were gone.”
“Wait,” Mrs. Johnson said and looked around again, “Where’s Tina?”
“Tina. The other woman missing her child.”
The others exchanged a look.
“There wasn’t another woman missing a child,” Adam spoke slowly. “The only kids that disappeared were on the school bus.”
“But..the woman’s…howl of anguish…I’ll never forget it. It cut through me like a knife.”
Liz, Jacob, and Doug frowned at each other, but Adam looked curious. He let the silence hang for a moment longer before continuing. “So, there are a few points we can all agree on. The crash, the sudden smashing of the windows, and the kids missing.”
“Wait!” Jen had reentered the room. “I remember the scream too. I remember the woman.”
To be continued…