Category Archives: 2012-07-30 to 2012-08-19 – At the bus station
I come thundering around the corner, dripping sweat. My car wouldn’t start: I ran all the way here. I pluck off my fedora and fan my face. It’s too damn hot today. I pray I’m not too late, that I haven’t missed my chance. I tune to the right frequency and hear spotty banter, chit chat. Everyone’s in a holding pattern. No-one’s spotted her yet: I still have my chance.
I put my hat back on and try to act casual as I make my way across the bus station tarmac to the ticket office. To my spot. Where I would be best positioned to keep watch.
My heart is finally slowing down as I scope out my surroundings in more detail. The ad screen behind me is too loud, so I pay the few bucks to mute it. I can claim back on expenses later, anyway. Probably. Maybe.
A quick visual and I spot two, three, maybe four familiar faces. The guy outside the diner. Newspaper, briefcase. So obvious. The ticket inspector waiting at lane 5. He’s good, real subtle. Something about the way his eyes are moving, though. Enhancements, maybe? Looks a little more sophisticated than anyone in his job should be. And the cleaner, far end. Uniform’s all wrong. Looks like he should be bell-hopping at the hotel down the road, not sweeping the floors here.
Intel says she’ll be coming here tonight. I check my scanner: due now. Due right now. Due in thirty seconds, according to predictions by our best analysts. I ping my recorder to make sure it’s on and rolling and initiate a scan. I start filtering out unwanted targets. Not her. Not her. Not her. Not even close.
I get that feeling that I sometimes do. Call it a hunch. Call it instinct. I leave my post and walk around behind the diner. And there she is. Beautiful. Incredible. Intel warned us that she would be pretty. They didn’t say she’d take my breath away.
10 wheeler. Diesel and electric hybrid. Two decks, bar on both. Solar panels on every surface that isn’t a window. My god. She’s a monster. A beautiful, amazing, monster.
I send out the call over the network: I’ve spotted her. She’s mine. The responses come in. Acknowledge. Acknowledge. Acknowledge. Curse, spit, curse. Acknowledge. Acknowledge. I pull out my pad and key in the sequence that Intel gave me. The pad connects, checks, changes, and I now have a ticket for her. The Luxuron Plus. “The most advanced, sophisticated, luxury road travel vehicle in the world.”
Now it’s down to me. Get aboard, take notes. See what else she has that we don’t. Find ways of taking her ideas, making them better. There’s no way that we’re settling for second place this year. We will be best in class.
She pulls to a stop and I board, settle into my seat. I’m welcomed to her inaugural journey with a glass of champagne. It is delicious. Industrial espionage can be hard work. Today? Not so much.
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”