Claire saw the man board the bus and hoped desperately that he wouldn’t take the open seat next to her.
Of course, he did. Why did she always attract the weird ones? He could have sat anywhere else. There were only seven other people. She caught the driver’s eye in the rear-view mirror, but he could do little more than shrug sympathetically.
“Hi,” said the man, extending his hand and leaning towards her, getting uncomfortably close. “My name is Michael Keaton.” He didn’t wait for her to respond before he clarified unnecessarily. “I’m not the actor.”
“I’m—,” Claire hesitated, thinking of a fake name. “Alice.”
“Of course you are. Yes, of course you are,” repeated Michael Keaton. He seemed to be sounding out the words in his head as he spoke them. He shifted in his seat, awkwardly readjusting something in his coat.
Claire looked out the window, trying to send a clear message that she didn’t want to talk. Michael Keaton turned his attention to another passenger, a man sitting a few rows back.
“I’m Michael Keaton,” Michael Keaton told his new friend. “I’m not the actor.”
“Uh huh,” grunted the unimpressed commuter.
Michael Keaton was undaunted. He kept up the conversation. “Alice, here, and I, we go way back,” he said.
Claire glanced over at the mention of her alias. Michael Keaton made a sudden move. He grabbed her arm and pulled her to the door at the side of the bus. With one smooth motion he triggered the emergency-open button and jumped out with Claire as the driver brought the bus to a shuddering halt.
“Come with me!” he yelled for everyone’s benefit, and then said something else to Claire very quietly, hushed so only she could hear. “It’s not safe back there. I’ll save you.”
He gently released her arm, and opened his jacket. Claire saw what he’d been harboring in there.
“His name is Batman,” was all Michael Keaton could say before the man from the seat behind punched him square in the jaw.
Claire sank to the curb as the shock wore off and didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Batman wriggled out of Michael Keaton’s pocket and scampered over to lick her face.
“That’s Batman, he’s my dog,” a stunned Michael Keaton was busy telling the driver and other passengers who stood over him. “Batman, and my friend, Alice.”