5:45 PM, September 24, 1983
Mike Taylor cruised up Stanford Road, the truck’s radio volume turned up full blast to overcome the raucous engine noise. Mike was in a mellow mood. One of his all time favorite songs, Manfred Mann’s “Mighty Quinn” blared out of two tinny speakers in the front dash. Mike passed the spot in the road where the Sheriff’s Department said the school bus was located.
Was it possible the cops had been able to get one of their regular contractors to do the job and forgot to ring him back? If that were the case, Sal would be plenty mad. He’d certainly bill the County for sending Mike on this wild goose chase. Mike had already taken the abrupt right-bend in the road, beyond where the bus was reported. I’ve gone this far. Might as well drive another half-mile to the very end, just in case someone got the location wrong.
Mike reached the dead-end on Stanford Road and failed to spot any sign of the school bus. He turned the tow truck around, intending to drive back to Twinsburg, but after driving on the same stretch of road for approximately three quarters of a mile Mike received a shock. There it is! How in blazes did I miss it before?
Mike could only assume that when he had reached down to change stations on the radio, he must have taken his eyes off the road while passing it. That or I’m going senile. Mike pulled up ahead of the bus and off to the side. He hopped out of his rig into a heavily shaded portion of roadway from a thick stand of oak trees. There was a slight mist hanging in the air. It felt like the temperature had dropped about ten degrees since he had started out from Twinsburg.
Mike perused the dirty, beat-up, derelict bus. It said “Boston Township School System” in faded letters. The “OWN” and SYS” portion of the lettering had worn off and was no longer visible. To Mike’s best recollection, there hadn’t been any schools operating in the Township in nearly ten years.
He checked the back tires. They contained very little tread. However, the tires did appear to hold sufficient pressure to handle a tow. If he could just pry open the door and pop the gearbox into neutral, he’d be all set.
He was walking back to his rig to retrieve a crowbar when something caught his eye. A light was coming from inside the bus. It had the unmistakable illumination of a match, followed by the lesser glow from the tip of a cigarette. He didn’t want trouble with hobos or kids though he knew how to handle himself in rough situations. Mike was a Vietnam War veteran and an amateur boxer in his younger days. He also kept a firearm inside the truck.
Mike walked back and retrieved the revolver from the glove compartment and stuffed it into the back of his jeans. He also grabbed the crowbar. He swung the tool through the air a couple of times to get a good feel for it, lunging finally at an imaginary target. He’d use the crowbar before considering employing deadly force.
“All right, pal. I don’t know who you are, but you’re leaving that bus one way or another.” Mike’s command yielded no response. He banged on the door of the bus with the crowbar for emphasis. “You hear me? Out! Now!” Still no response. Mike felt unnerved. Had he simply imagined the burning match and cigarette?
Mike walked slowly to the front of the bus and peered through the windshield. Nothing. He continued to circle the bus, keeping a close eye on each window with every step. Mike reached nervously for his revolver, resting his free hand on the handle, but keeping the gun hidden in his jeans. When he got to the rear of the bus and peered inside, Mike observed a lone male occupant sitting in the last seat. The man was facing straight ahead. Mike saw only the back of his head. His hair was long and matted. He looked filthy. The bum wore a dilapidated Army jacket and ignored Mike. He took another drag from his cigarette.
Mike was getting pissed off now. He relaxed his grip on the revolver and struck the back of the bus hard with the crowbar. “Hey, you in there. You hear me? Get out! Right now!”
The bum turned around to face Mike. In that instant, Mike received a horrific shock: instead of seeing the stranger’s eyes, Mike saw empty, blank sockets. Where his nose should have been, Mike saw only an empty orifice. The thing stared at Mike for several seconds, then nonchalantly exhaled. Cigarette smoke poured from both eye sockets and the nose hole.
For a few anxious, silent seconds, Mike Taylor stood there, frozen, terrified. He soiled himself, dropped the crowbar, and fled.