Mr Noble was sleeping with his feet on the tiny desk, in his cramped booth, in the small town of lesser Ripot. Although against regulations, none suffered for his lack of diligence for the terminus was devoid of all but a few shivering rats. It was rarely used by the town folk and never before six am; and as such Mr Noble thought it was impossible that his slumber would be disturbed. In this, he was wrong.
The disturbance; when it came; took the form of Adam Kessler’s military surplus boots stomping up the path. Both boots and man would be handsome if they were better kept and occasionally polished. He walked through the small building and stood before the posted timetable. With increasing anxiety he entirely failed to understand those cryptic state tabulations, he shook his head as if trying to wake, and then cautiously approached the booth.
“erm… when’s the next bus then?”
“Good morning young Adam, what brings you here at this ungodly hour?”
“I’ve, umm, got to leave. Today.”
“Well I hope you haven’t had news then, often folk travel due to tragic news.”
“Well no; no; it’s nothing like that. Just time to move on, you know.”
“Well that seems rather a shame, from all accounts you’ve been doing rather well here. Your work on the estate house gardens has been much admired and the other staff like you well enough. “
“Seems everybody knows my business”
“Well my missus; she serves the tea at our betters bridge circle you see. And she heard your lady Thornton say that in all the years she’s lived here she never had no one better to clip her hedges than you were. And apparently you have a magic touch in the vegetable garden.”
“Well my missus said that the ladies talked something awful about the extraordinary size of your marrows.”
“So when does the bus come?”
“Well that would really depend on where your going, you heading back to the city son?:
“I don’t care, the next bus!”
“Well, I don’t know about that, the next one is the 5.20am on the east country route, not much out that way for a young man, and surely no better employment.”
“I’ll take it, right to the end, just a one way ticket.”
“Righto Sir, I’m sure you know your own mind.”
So both men waited: the one in his booth, the other on the hard cold bench against the opposite wall; one gradually returning to sleep, the other obviously agitated. Neither expected a third personage to appear but never the less one did in the form of the perfectly attired Mr Decker carrying a narrow wooden case made in fine chestnut. With the unquestioning confidence of one accustomed to command he approached the ticket booth.
“Is the five-thirty on time today, my good man?”
“Ahh, Mr Decker, what an uncommon surprise - what bring you to my little terminus, surely your responsibilities at the house forbid much travel?”
“It is those very responsibilities that require I be here: Lord Thornton is arriving on the five -thirty and thus my enquiry as to its timeliness.”
“It left the city on time last night. A surprising time to travel for so distinguished a gentleman, his need must be pressing indeed.”
“Yes, rather a surprise for the staff I’m afraid, we were not expecting his return for some weeks but a telegram came late last night. And still that was not the strangest aspect of his missive, he required that I clean and polish his father’s shotgun and bring it to him here.”
“Ah! Most odd, but the rich must have their peccadillo’s, mustn’t they?”
Having carefully placed the gun case between them Mr Decker sat his stiff frame alongside Adam Kessler and slowly cracked the joints on his neck.
“You’ll be leaving us then Adam?”
“Yes Sir, I think it’s the best thing, on the 5.20am.”
“Let us hope that your bus is not late”