The Station

Cara drags her holdall off the tube, if she can just get past this idiot who seems to think staring at her tits is a better use of his time than getting out of her way. Maybe the low cut T-shirt wasn’t the best choice but it’s so bloody hot on the underground, loose fitting is the only way.

She checks her watch, pulls her red hair free of the holdall strap and joins the rush for the exit. Ten minutes to climb the escalators and get the train.

***

A hooded man is on the bus, close to the same station. He nurses a rucksack on the seat beside him. Traffic is at a standstill and he begins to ask the question. He wasn’t supposed to be early, neither was he supposed to be so late. He is sweating heavily but can’t push back the hood covering his head. He’s desperate to get away from the stuffy bus, but as the boss said, he mustn’t stand out. The traffic light ahead turns green, and the bus crawls to the stop.

Finally he’s in the fresh air. He wants to run, but knows he has to stay relaxed.

***

Harry drags his suitcase up the steps, regretting those extra bottles from duty free. The purchases were compulsory given the cheap prices on long-haul. Deirdre follows behind taking one step at a bloody time. They’ve got seats booked on the 9:15 train but it’s nearly that already. This trip of a lifetime’s cost enough already, he really doesn’t want to pay for new train tickets as well.

They make the foot of the escalator. Hordes of people pass by. A girl clatters him with her holdall. At that moment he wishes he could run with them, but the suitcase is his ball and chain.

***

The station is packed, his favourite time, easy work for a man of Trevor’s skill. Most eyes are fixed on the information screen, people focussed on their destination. Other eyes descend to mobile phones or take-away food, no one sees him. It helps that he picked up a suit from one of his previous lucky dips. The previous owner was a bit fat but a belt sorted out the slack.

No delays this morning, which is a disappointment, the tighter the crowds, the less people see. Still three mobiles, ten oyster cards and a couple of wallets, not a bad return for the first hour, though, he would have liked a bigger prize to make it worth his while getting up early. Thankfully they haven’t put those platform barriers up yet. That would really scupper his game.

He checks the uniforms on the concourse. The nearest one is buried in conversation with two tourists. He heads for his selected train, daily jackpot on its way.

***

Through the gates, Cara batters past anyone in her way. She needs this train. It’s the first day of her new life in the North. She’s struggled for a job every since uni and this top class hotel job is a godsend. The first shift is tonight and she can’t afford to be late. The hordes of advertisements along the grey tunnel are wasted on her as she stakes a claim on her space.

***

At the same time, the hooded man steps onto the concourse, past the disgusting smells of Burger King. He checks the board in front as he takes a moment to see where he needs to be. Platform 6, train departs in three minutes, later than he intended but enough time to do what he needs.

***

Come on Deirdre Harry wants to say, but doesn’t dare. If he can’t move like he used to, she has no chance. The days when he could down ten pints and run a marathon the next morning were left in the 1970’s. Harry checks his watch as he drags the suitcase up the last few steps. They’ve been travelling for 48 hours and just wants to go home.

***

After chucking her holdall in the luggage Cara finds her seat and spreads out as much as she can. She prays that she doesn’t have her weirdo magnet with her. Picking up her I-phone, she activates her don’t invade my personal space aura, and curls her legs under her body. She hopes the train will be leaving soon.

***

The hooded man slips the rucksack off his shoulders carefully and places it tentatively on the rack, just behind a holdall and a similar rucksack. Another bag in the mass of bags. No one would guess its contents. Satisfied he’s done his job, and no guard’s in sight, he steps back onto the platform and walks away.

***

Trevor stands behind the toilet door and waits for his moment. He steps out; grateful no one is there and has time to peruse the candy shelf before him. The electric door clicks beside him, making him jump. A bald suited man steps through the entrance. Trevor tries to not to panic as he remembers his speech.

***

They find the platform but it’s already past the time. He can see Deirdre panicking now. Surely they’re so close it won’t go without them. The guard can be seen in the distance checking the platform for stragglers

***

‘Is this the train to Cambridge?’ Trevor asks the bald man.

‘No, Doncaster this one, wrong train mate.’

‘Shit,’ he says, sounding appropriately stressed.

He quickly takes two bags off the top, one a holdall that’s easy to grab and one of two potential rucksacks. Normally he would have gone for the two but the bald man might be suspicious. Trevor’s story holds as he steps off the train and makes his way along the platform. The rucksack is heavy, a good solid laptop by the feel of it. It’s a close one, but the early start has been worth it.

***

‘We’re too late, the doors are closed,’ Harry says, turning to his wife as she catches him up on the platform. She doesn’t look good with all this rushing, but what could he do. He looks again up at the train door and with massive relief sees a smiling female guard open it.

She waves the couple on. Harry wants to kiss her, they can go home.

***

Cara smiles as the train moves. Her tactic has worked and no one has taken the seat beside her. Bound to be a good day after all.

***

The hooded man is back on the street now, heading away from the station. He picks up his mobile phone ready to send the required text. Another few seconds yet. He’s unaware of the suited man close behind.

***

Trevor takes out his phone, time to ring the boys and off load this gear. Not watching where he’s going, he collides with the hooded man.

***

Harry and Deirdre are struggling to stand up, moving the bags round in the rack to make space for their suitcase.

***

Juggling the phone, the hooded man resists the temptation to smack the idiot who bumped into him, but remembers the boss’s warning. Grabbing the phone again, he sends the text.

***

The street explodes in a mass of breaking glass and flying debris.

 

© S.G.Norris