“He’s standing right there!” Naomi hissed. “Leaning against that blue car. It’s the same car, the same guy. He’s the one who tried to run me over!”
“I can’t see,” said Emily. “Get out of the way and let me look.” She pushed Naomi’s shoulder back against the seat of the car to open up a sightline, but the traffic light had turned green, and the car in front of them was pulling away. The car behind them honked. “Can you see the license plate?” asked Emily.
“No, it’s blocked. Turn down that way and get us closer!”
“I can’t; it’s a one-way street.” The car behind them honked again. “Sorry, sorry!” said Emily, waving a hand apologetically in the rearview mirror. She hit the gas and the car lurched forward. “We can loop around the block. Hold on a minute.”
Naomi craned her neck as they rolled through the intersection, trying to get an angle on the car’s license plate and watching the man as he stood beside his car, leaning casually against it with one arm stretched over the roof. He was on the small side of average, thin, with a dry face, thinning hair, and South American colouring. Something about the slight curve to his back, the sideways angle at which he was holding his head, and the way his small, black eyes were constantly darting around gave off an almost birdlike vibe. As Naomi watched, a crow flapped down onto the hood of the blue car and started cawing raucously. The man stared at it intently, and just before the edge of a building blocked him from Naomi’s sight, he opened his mouth and tilted his head further to the side.
Well, that was odd.
“I think he was about to…”
“About to what?” said Emily. She turned down Yates Street so they could loop around and come up Johnson from behind the blue car.
“Er, talk to a crow. That sounds pretty crazy…”
Emily shrugged tensely. “We live in a crazy world.” There was a nervousness in her voice that Naomi had never heard from her usually happy-go-lucky friend.
Naomi glanced at Emily to make sure she was okay, and Emily instinctively caught her look and returned it. Their eyes met for only half a second, but Naomi felt the impact immediately as a swell of anxiousness rolling through her stomach. Suddenly what they were doing seemed like a really, really bad idea. “Em, don’t… Please… Stop the car! Leave him alone! I don’t want to see that guy ever again. He creeps me out. Please, Em, please, take me home!”
“Hey, whoa, calm down!” said Emily, alarmed. “It’s okay. You’re okay.” She pulled the car into an open parking spot along the curb and grabbed Naomi by the shoulders. “Look at me, Naomi! Look at me. Come on. This is my fault. Just look into my eyes…” She turned her friend’s head, forcing Naomi to meet her gaze, and after a few seconds Naomi began to settle down and relax. “Take a few deep breaths,” instructed Emily.
The cool air of the summer evening filled Naomi’s lungs and carried her the last few steps of the way back to normalcy. “Whew. Ah. What was that?”
“I’m so sorry,” said Emily. “I guess I let my own nervousness pass through to you, and that always magnifies the effect. My emotions haven’t gotten the best of me like that in a long time. I can… help more, if you want.”
“No,” said Naomi quickly. “…No, that’s okay. I’m fine. Don’t worry about it. We all lose it a bit, now and then.” Like skipping all the way through dinner, she reminded herself, and her stomach gurgled to reinforce the thought. Her whole system was a wreck today. What she really needed was some comfort food, a bit of fun, and a good night’s sleep. But first, there was the matter at hand. “Let’s go. We’ve still got to track down that license plate number.”
Emily seemed like she wanted to say something else, to do more to make up for her mistake, but instead she put the car back into gear and pulled out along Yates Street again. She turned right onto Government, then right again onto Johnson. “Which side was he parked on?”
“The left,” said Naomi, “three cars back from the intersection. Right over… Wait.” There was a white truck where the blue car had been. “He was right there!”
“I think I see him!” said Emily. She pointed out a blue sedan in the middle of the next block. It had its left turn signal on, getting ready to turn off of Johnson onto Blanshard, the next street past Douglas. Emily sped up to give chase, but the light just in front of them chose that moment to turn yellow, then red, and she was forced to stop. “No! Grr. I hate traffic lights. Can you see his plates?”
Shading her eyes with her hand, Naomi peered after the car, following it as it made its left turn. It wasn’t too far away to read the numbers and letters, but… “There’s a crow standing on the bumper.”
“It’s just standing there, blocking the license plate. I can’t see past it. There’s a J in there, and a 2 I think, but I can’t see the rest.”
Emily smacked the steering wheel with her fist. “Could’ve had it… I hate crows. Even more than traffic lights. Stupid birds.”
Naomi sighed. “You don’t think that guy might’ve…” Her phone buzzed. “Oh, Candace is wondering where we are.”
“Right, Candace… I almost forgot. I guess we should probably still meet up with her, eh?”
“I guess.” Naomi texted Candace back, apologizing for the delay. “She says she’s waiting on the lawn in front of the Empress Hotel now.”
The light turned green, and Emily turned down Douglas Street, back onto their original route.
Atop a streetlight in the intersection behind them, a crow rustled its wings, bobbed its head, and took flight, trailing a hoarse caw behind it.