The city-linkup train was late. Again. Charles Cadbury regretted leaving his house at 07.13 on the limited premise that for once the 07.45 would roll into Stonehouse station on time. At home, he could have cleaned the cat bowl and put it back in the kitchen cupboard instead of leaving it dripping naked on the draining board.
Right then, he was sitting alone on a warped wooden bench on a less than warm autumn morning fretting at how unfair life was. And the smell was getting worse. He would complain. Again. Had he been the train driver instead of a fully-paid up season ticket holder…
…The sound of clanging behind him raised him from his reverie. He looked round. Seventeen feet away towards the beginning of the platform (he’d calculated the distance) five men, all dressed in glow-bright overalls, were digging up a manhole cover. More accurately, one was, two seemed more interested in watching the commuter lemmings, one was looking up at the sky, and the other, sporting a pony-tail, was patting his pockets.
Intrigued, and keeping one eye on proceedings, Charles dipped into his briefcase, pulled out a fruit and nut chocolate bar, unwrapped it, and bit off two squares. His attention was diverted by the sound of a whistle. He glanced at his watch. 7.45. The train would be three minutes twenty-two seconds behind schedule. He would complain. Again.
The pocket man had lit a cigarette. Horrible habit. Charles could see a waft of smoke dissipate in the cold breeze. He shivered, carefully rewrapped the bar, and returned it to its resting place. As he began to rise one of the men shouted. He looked across to see the cigarette flicked into the hole where the manhole cover had been…
…The Stonehouse Evening Gazette reported the incident:
At 7.46 this morning at Stonehouse station, an unidentified male passenger was tragically killed. Five workers survived the explosion. Our reporter said they had been investigating a customer complaint and had just dug up a manhole cover. Station officials suspect that a pocket of methane gas was ignited, possibly by the commuter’s cigarette, which hurled the cover like a fiery rocket into the unfortunate victim.
The station was closed for two hours while a forensic team examined the site. City-linkup apologised for the unprecedented delay, adding, ‘Our thoughts right now are with the deceased.’