Leon was looking miserable on the college bus that the anthropology class had chartered (not without the professor's assistance) for the field trip to the newly discovered Indian camp.
Sitting next to him, Willow looked at him with pity and a certain dread, while Isis, in the front seat, turned away every five minutes with a calculating look and a grimace of restrained anger.
Annoyed, Willow lifted her body forward and noticed that the student next to Isis was wearing a headset:
“Can you at least stop that? It's not helping at all...”
Isis knelt on the seat, leaning back. The animated chatter of the class drowned out the exchange of words.
“If he turns now, we're dead, everyone on this bus is going to be slaughtered, and whose responsibility is it going to be? Mine. I have to stay allert...”
“The responsibility is not only yours, Isis. We are in this together, from the beginning. We are a team!”
The harsh whispering was interrupted by a loud groan from Leon, now in a fetal position, arms wrapped around his belly and his face covered with a thin layer of sweat.
“That's it, I'm going to text Andrei," Isis took her cell phone from her pocket and began pressing the tiny buttons, while some of her classmates turned to Leon doubtfully. One of them shouted at the professor, making others laugh:
“Hey, Professor Max, another one going down! Let's stop!”
“No, no, we can't stop anymore," the professor got up from the seat next to the driver, leaning on the backrest in the hallway. “We've already been two hours late in this prank. Who's feeling bad? Oh...”
Worried, the professor was about to get down and talk to Leon when everyone felt a jolt. The class screamed excitedly and Isis did her best to support the professor who fell on top of her.
“Crap, what was that now?”
“I think a tire went flat...”
“Yeah, the tire went flat, buddy," the driver took a rag from his pants pocket to wipe the sweat from his forehead. “I need everyone to get off the bus.”
“That was all I needed.”
While the professor shouted above the class's voices for everyone to get off the bus, he had his ear glued to his cell phone, calling the dean with the latest information and hoping that this wouldn't weigh heavily on his final year evaluation, after all, he was still a temp in college.
The guys got off the bus amusedly, the concern for the delay was far away, because yes, this could come in handy to take the next day off, since everyone would arrive at the entrance of the college around...
“Yes, Mr. Jefferson, we are scheduled to arrive at 10 PM now. In the main courtyard, yes. Yes, yes, I really apologize for the delay, but the tire went flat here and, Alex! Alex! Alex! Will you stop it! Let that thing go now!”
“Leon, I've already warned Andrei that you're not okay," Isis looked disgustedly at Alex, who was playing at throwing a dead squirrel at Nicole.
Leon didn't seem to hear, sitting down in the grass by the side of the road, cowering and still moaning. Willow continued talking to him, but Leon seemed somewhere else.
“Isis, we have to do something.”
“Do what? Willow, we're in the middle of the road, there are still a few miles to go before we reach Dimdale. The only thing possible was to inform Andrei, which I have already done," Isis approached them both and continued in a low voice when two girls from the class came closer to them to get away from the dead squirrel. “Andrei said we were in the vicinity of their town, I told him what mile we were, and he said he was already starting up the truck.”
Willow's huge eyes almost shed tears, and Isis wanted at all costs not to have to say "I told you so," because she had warned them that Willow's idea wouldn't work, that some things had to follow the way nature intended for them, and we had to accept that, no matter how much it hurt.
The professor approached the three of them and touched Leon's shoulder gently.
“It's Leon, isn't it? Some students told me that you are sick, is that right?”
“Yes, it is. He has a rather fragile health condition,” Willow took the lead as Leon began mumbling words through gritted teeth in pain.
“Yes, Professor Max, it's a calamity, you know. The kind you only see on TV and think could never happen to someone you know,” Isis crossed her arms, following the script that Leon and Andrei had asked for when it was necessary. “He has to redo several medical exams monthly. It ends up being very stressful for everyone...”
While Max listened intently to Isis talk, Leon stumbled to his feet, his torso halfway up the ground, holding his belly with one arm, grumbling about the trees and the moon, and Willow trying to get him to shut up and sit down. The girl was practically hanging onto him to make him stop walking to the first bushes in the grove of tall trees that surrounded the entire road.
“As you can see, Professor Max," Isis gestured with her hand to her two friends, looking sympathetically. "This strange and unknown disease, besides all the medical and laboratory tests, ah, one can even become mentally unstable sometimes...
The professor sometimes looked at Leon and Willow in a half-fight inside one of the bushes, and sometimes turned to Isis.
“If I had known that his health condition was so fragile, I wouldn't have indicated this field trip for him.”
“Ah, professor, and exclude him from the company of the class! After all he has to go through every month?” Isis put her hand on the professor's shoulder. “I remember the first time, we were visiting him in the hospital, he looked me deep in the eyes and said that the only thing he wanted was to have a normal life, like a normal young university student...”
“ISIS! WILL YOU STOP TALKING AND HELP ME!”
Willow shouted from the middle of the bush that Leon had managed to get out of, but Willow seemed to have trapped one of her legs. Her friend was already disappearing behind the first trees when Isis excused herself and the bus driver called out to the professor:
“Hey, Mr. Max! Looks like we got a little help here!”
The professor ran to the driver and to two other men who had stopped behind the bus after seeing the signs the driver had left a few feet down the road.
“You could cut the professor some slack, ouch! Damn it," Willow glared at the ripped trouser bar and then at Isis, who shrugged her shoulders, both hands clutching a half-fallen, half-standing, and entirely dazed Leon.
“It was you who said that I should learn to have more empathy, that otherwise, people will think I am a psychopathic serial killer.”
“When you say things like that, you sound cynical, Isis. Besides, you know very well that Leon didn't say that the first time we visited him.”
Isis giggled and put her arm around Leon's neck.
“Yes, I distinctly remember he said he was going to ki-...”
“HANDS UP! EVERYBODY, EVERYBODY!”
The words of the two men, along with the shouts of the class, made Isis and Willow lose their concern about Leon for a moment. The two exchanged glances and moved closer to each other as the men, whom the driver had thought were good people, searched each of them, stealing items that might be worth something in a pawn store.
Isis took her cell phone out of her pocket and threw it into the bushes, Willow did the same. Some of the girls started to cry, which made one of the men even angrier and shout louder. Leon, completely out of his mind, started moaning again and bending in half; Isis supported him again, feeling an itchy burning sensation in the palm of her hands. She wanted to knock those two men out, but the fact that they had guns pointed at the driver, the professor, and the rest of the class, made her think twice.
The man who was stealing anything that would fit him was already heading towards the three of them, when Isis felt Leon's whole body shake, from head to toe. He quickly turned his face to the side (at which Isis jumped forward somewhat awkwardly) and threw up in the bushes.
But what Isis found curious, was not the vomit, it was the bright look the robber got when he saw Leon in that state. In a leap, he grabbed Leon in one arm, the gun pointed in Willow's face, and started dragging the boy to the car. His partner ran too, yelling for them to go quickly.
Willow screamed for Leon, screamed for them to let his friend go. However, the two men got into the car anyway, the tires squealing on the asphalt. Isis went to the bushes to get her cell phone and call Andrei.
Her head was a whirlwind now. In those days she could deal with vampires, various demons, witches, and werewolves (come on, her friends were part of the last two groups), so devising strategies to fight these things wasn't difficult, honestly, deep down in her heart, Isis loved a good fight, she felt an unparalleled strength when she encountered the supernatural, which brought her enormous self-confidence.
So when Leon's body began to recoil from the spell Willow had done, nothing could be more normal for her to deal with that situation, communicating to Andrei, misleading the professor, and keeping Leon within her field of vision until Andrei arrived and took him away preferably.
But what now? Those two imbeciles got in the way of her plan of action, and it made her bubble inside. Not to mention that she hated Willow's screams. After finding her cell phone, she dialed Andrei, looking over her shoulder at her friend kneeling in the grass, her hands on her face. She swallowed hard when Andrei answered.
“Change of plans.”
“What do you mean, change of plans? What happened? Did he turn?”
“No, he's really, really bad. But the worst thing is that he was kidnapped.”
The line suddenly went dead.
“He was what?”
“Uh, kidnapped,” Isis heard a strange static and put the cell phone away to hear a swear word on the other end.
“What do you mean kidnapped?”
“Two guys were armed. They stole several things and took Leon with them.”
“Why the hell did they...”
“I don't know, but as soon as the man saw Leon getting sick, he didn't think twice about taking him. They wanted a hostage for sure.”
“Look, I have to call the police, Andrei. Me and Willow, I think we're the only ones left with cell phones and we're all in the middle of the road. The car was dark brown, they continued in the direction of your town.”
Some calmer students realized that Isis was on the cell phone and started to ask if she was talking to the police. Isis turned her back to everyone, feeling her heart beating fast. She was never very good with words, Willow was right about that.
“Sorry, Andrei. It's not quite dark yet, maybe 15 minutes of sunlight? “
Andrei was silent on the other side. Isis walked back to the bush and looked coldly at the black bile that Leon spewed out.
“I hope there's time. He's in pretty bad shape.”
“Yeah, I hope so too.”
Isis hung up and called the police.
“911, what is your emergency?”
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