Muriel Turnpike, aka Glenys Trim a woman novelist not yet long-listed for the Crime Writers’ Association Daggers award, caught the 6 p.m. shuttle from Paddington to Swindon. She called the train a tin can full of human ants — on board and fidgeting in their seats.
She eased into her chair in Coach C opposite a dark-haired guy in a suit, who looked like James Bond. He was scribbling in a notebook, figures mainly. She thought he was probably planning his next mission. On the table between them was a takeaway from Costa. She wished she had remembered to buy one from the kiosk managed by the man with a black patch over one eye. And a twitch. Perhaps they were co-conspirators.
Sitting next to her was an elderly man wearing a trilby and sunglasses, and opposite him was a young woman who was plugged into the wall socket. Headphones and a tablet computer. Samsung, was the motif.
He coughed. The woman looked at him. He nodded, she smiled. A secret message? James Bond seemed disinterested, but Glenys sensed he was on full alert ready to act on a directive issued at the highest level.
The man coughed again. James Bond smiled, picked up his coffee and offered it to him. ‘Take it,’ he said. ‘Ease your throat.’
Glenys nearly screamed. Don’t. It’s probably poisoned.
She was relieved when the man shook his head, delved into his pocket and pulled out a pistol. Or was it a tube of wine gums?
It was. Maybe a practice run? Next time, then.
She glanced to her right across the aisle. Two couples, foreign students by the logo on their scarves, were discussing their day. More correct, three were and one wasn’t. The other, a busty blonde girl, kept glancing at James Bond. Perhaps she was incognito — a female agent from Russia? Or was her guy, an alpha male whose loud voice dominated the conversation, an assassin? Could be, resting on the rack above his head was a guitar case.
It looked heavy.
She was most disappointed when they vacated their seats at Reading, taking the guitar case with them. The newcomers, three sporting the Evening Standard, scuttled into their seats and retired behind their papers.
The other didn’t.
He looked the part. Terminator came to mind. A gap between his front teeth and fists like clams. Dressed in a t-shirt and track-suit bottoms.
Watch out, James.
He must have heard her. At Swindon, James Bond followed her down the platform. She felt a shiver of excitement at being stalked. She ducked into the Ladies toilets. When she peered out again, he had vanished. Of course, he would be waiting for her in the car park. An Aston Martin at her disposal. She licked her lips and hurried to meet him.
Philip Stein, aka James Bond, was an accountant. His journey to Swindon, as usual, was untoward. He walked across to the pub opposite the station and ordered a beer.