She was confused. Why had she got off the train here? She didn't know this place. Why had she got off the train with that man? This town must be big as the railway station was quite big.
He was confused. Why had he got off the train? The train had been diverted through Griddlestone, but Griddlestone was not a scheduled stop for this train. Why had he got off the train with that little girl?
He was confused. The young man's rucksack was heavy. Why was the platform not full of people. It was empty, except for himself and two people walking towards him – a man and a little girl. Who were they?
WUMPH! A loud explosion. It rained ball bearings, nails and broken glass. There was a big flutter of birds leaving the area. WHITE‑OUT – a cloud of dust like thick fog.
He was not confused, just puzzled. He was the chief constable for the county, he lived in Griddlestone and had assigned himself to the case – most of the senior staff were on vacation, it was that time of the year.
He had seen the site of the explosion. Platform 4 had a hole in it, as if the platform edge had been bitten off by a huge monster. The empty train on track 3 also had a large hole. The two persons lying under a bench were not dead and were being helped by paramedics.
The young man with the rucksack was probably a terrorist, albeit very unsuccessful, and was now very, very dead. Sitting on the station master's desk was the little girl. The chief constable asked her questions, but she did not answer any of them, she did not say anything, her hair was full of broken glass. She was probably in a state of shock.
A man entered the station master's office. “Chief Constable, sir. We have identified the man found lying on the platform where the bomb exploded. He is a policeman, DS Gary Pearson, stationed in Big City, railway police. He is on a week's leave and travelling on his police railway pass. He has no known connection with Griddlestone.”
“He's been taken to hospital, several surface wounds, but nothing life-threatening. He is in a state of shock. He repeats the words 'Thank you!' frequently. He may be trying to thank the young girl; perhaps we can question him tomorrow.”
“We found a bag containing clothes on the platform that would fit the young girl. There was also a go-anywhere railway ticket issued this morning in Bigtown; nothing else.”
Another man entered the station master's office. “Chief Constable, sir. I have a video clip of the young man recorded by a TV camera about five minutes before the explosion. I mean, we think that it's him, same clothes and same rucksack, a very heavy rucksack.”
“We checked with the records department – not known – suicide bombers don't tend to be repeat offenders. Permission to release this clip to the media, sir? Someone must recognise him.”
“Granted!” The chief constable looked at the little girl. She was wearing a tutu, a dancer's outfit, it was covered in dark scorch marks. But there was something else dark coloured on her dress: a black, three-sided brooch.
The Black Triangle Group, perhaps? He thought again; the Black Corner Group. What was special about them? He rang the info department in Big City.
“Good afternoon, Chief Constable! The Black Corner Group is dedicated to violent people; about one in ten thousand of the population. The group tries to direct its members into violence against objects and not people. They regularly hold parties to knock down old, unwanted buildings or trees. Sounds harmless doesn’t it?”
“The other 10% of their activities not so much; they identify people who are ‘very nasty and very evil’ and kill them. They are very successful at this, very efficient one could say.”
“Yes, sir. I mean kill them. Not very much ‘law and order’ I’m afraid, but there is nothing we can do about it. The official policy is to ignore this activity, but don’t tell the public that.”
“Sir, you say you have a young girl, perhaps a young woman, with you who doesn’t speak. Does she wear a dancing costume? And refuses to sit on a chair? Blond? Pretty?”
“Yes, yes, and a black, three-sided brooch…”
“Jackpot sir! She is Betty, the supremo and founder of the Black Corner Group. She is very dangerous, she can read minds and has ‘terminated’ more than a hundred ‘very nasty and very evil’ men. I suggest that you call your local Black Corner Group and ask for someone to pick up Betty.”
“This is John Kapon from Eastpro TV outside the main railway station in Griddlestone. About an hour ago there was a big explosion. The station has been emptied and cordoned off – no one is going in or out, just one ambulance.”
“The police are not saying much, but they have released a short video of a young man with a heavy rucksack. Here he is. Do you recognise him?”
“And this is Tom Johan who witnessed the explosion.”
“Hello John. I was waiting for my train, I normally wait down on platform 5, but a lot of trains were being diverted through Griddlestone and everyone was waiting by the departure screens on the station concourse above the platforms and tracks. My train was already twenty minutes late.”
“An unannounced train stopped on platform 4 and just two people got out, a man and a girl. The train left and seconds later a big explosion. Everything went white. The station staff were very quick to push everybody out of the station, then came the police.”
“I’m waiting here in line to catch a shuttle bus to Griddlestone North Station – all the trains are stopping there apparently.”
She was confused. Why was she sitting on a desk like a lump of lard in some office in the railway station? Who was the headman trying to communicate with her and failing? Why were parts of her body shut down and not functioning?
She could feel sharp pains from the back of her legs and the back of her neck as if she’d backed into a spitting friteuse – probably from the explosion. The flaps on the sides of her head hurt. Where was she? And where was she going next?
“Hi, I’m Dave, head of the Black Corner Group here in Griddlestone. Hello Betty, hello Chief Constable.”
Betty saw the black, three-sided brooch that Dave was wearing – her heart rose.
“Hello Dave, before you take Betty away I want you to see a video clip and answer some questions. Sergeant, show the clip.”
“The camera is above platforms 4 and 5, a man and a girl leave the train stopped on platform 4 and walk towards the exit away from the camera. The train goes. A young man walks towards the two and the camera. He passes them by, but suddenly he falls onto the track and explodes.”
“That’s the end of the clip, the camera was destroyed, but here are the last five seconds in slow mo...”
Dave interrupts “Yes, that’s Betty jumping up and punching the young man in the side of the head. He falls onto the track, Betty dives to the ground and grabs the man’s ankles. BIG EXPLOSION!”
“I’ll tell you what. I’m going look directly into Betty’s eyes and try and plant some very simple questions in her mind.”
“Did you kill the young man?” After a while Betty nodded her head.
“Was the young man very nasty and very evil?” After a while Betty nodded her head.
“Did you know that the young man had a bomb?” After a while Betty nodded her head.
“Thank you Dave, that has been very helpful. I’ve arranged for an unmarked car with dark windows to take the two of you to wherever. Sergeant, take them to the loading bay.”
She was confused. Why had the train stopped at Griddlestone North Station? It was nearer to home than the main station. Mary walked home, Dave would have a mug of hot tea ready for her. But no, there was a pair of very dusty and very small dancing boots on the front steps and nobody in the kitchen.
However Dave was in the bathroom washing a very small, young woman in the shower. “Is that the… It is, isn’t it?”