Just another train journey
It lay, innocently, under the seat. A small anonymous black package with two straps that looked as though they were designed to thread a belt through. Too big for a camera I thought, but what else do men carry on their belts?
Men, yes surely it’s men for whom these carriers were designed – when did you last see a woman with something like this on her hip? Other than perhaps the female conductor on this train perhaps, but this is not a discarded or forgotten piece of Southern railway paraphenalia. I thought harder. There had definitely been a woman sitting there. Statuesque, indeterminate age, hair tied neatly in the Sloane-y ponytail that she might have retained since the 1980s, she had been wrapped in a mid-grey cardigan-style coat that looked as expensive as her leather briefcase cum handbag. The slightly scruffy black package did not belong to her.
I couldn’t remember when she had got on the train, but she had got off at Portslade. I was surprise, I’d assumed she’d be leaving at Brighton.
Now I remembered; I didn’t know when she had got on but nor did I remember when the previous occupant of the seat had left. He had joined the train at Barnham, a scruffy looking man of indeterminate age, short grey beard and hair, heavily rimmed specs, old greyish jacket and trousers that had definitely seen much better days. He was carrying a canvas bag from which he’d extracted a foil wrapped pack of sandwiches. I had done my best to avoid his eye, burying myself in my book so successfully that I had failed to see him leave. He was, on the face of it, a more likely owner of the abandoned package.
As my imagination took hold I began to wish that I had never looked towards the floor. Why had I? I usually read or look out of the window on the train (whilst also noticing my fellow travellers). I don’t believe in fate, but once an idea has lodged itself it is difficult to ignore. Had fate directed my eyes to the floor? Was the package more sinister than I had originally thought? My mind started to race. I thought that the 7/7 bombers had used rucksacks. Don’t explosives take up quite a lot of room – too much room to be accommodated in the scruffy black package on the floor? On the other hand, what could it be designed to accommodate?
We had just left Hove. Fewer than four minutes before we pulled into Brighton. Where would a terrorist detonate a bomb? Presumably inside the station where it would wreak most havoc and destruction. My rational mind suggested that platform 1 would not be the platform of choice for a terrorist, but why let one’s rational mind get in the way of a good story?
We pulled in to platform 1. I found myself wishing that there wasn’t an old lady struggling with a suitcase and a young mother grappling with a toddler and a buggy delaying me from leaving the train. As I left there was nobody from Southern rail to be seen. I crossed to platform 8 and departed for Falmer.
I wonder what was in that package.