Thursday, 7 February 2013

The 13.07 from London Victoria

I hadn’t noticed the suitcase at all when I sat down. I’d been so pleased that the train had arrived early, that I could take my choice of seats in the empty carriage and sit reading my book in peace until it was time to leave.

“Erm… Excuse me, is that yours?”

I turned round, not sure if the question was meant for me, and saw a short balding man, pointing to a battered leather case on the luggage rack.

“No, no…” mumbled an elderly gentleman, who’d taken the seat just behind me. He sounded embarrassed, apologetic, as though the case really should have been his, or as though, at the very least, he should have been able to explain why it was there.

“Is it yours?” the short balding man turned to me.

I looked up again at the faded blue suitcase, with its brass locks, and the sort of thick handle you could just imagine clasping comfortably. I hadn’t seen luggage like that for a very long time; all angles and corners, no wheels and pull-handle, no hard plastic, or zip-pockets. This was a suitcase made for the days of long slow journeys, for a time of uniformed porters and heavily laden luggage trolleys. A suitcase made for a luggage rack on a very different sort of train.

“No, not mine” I answered with a twinge of regret.

“Oh dear, oh dear” he began to bluster, looking back to the still open train doors, then up to the rack, then around the carriage. “oh dear, oh dear, oh dear”

He looked around again, uncertainty etched into his frown.

“I’ll have to report it… you can’t just leave a case…there’ll be a delay…  it’ll cause all sorts of problems…”

He looked like a man who’d been brought up to do his duty, the sort of boy who always snitched on his class-mates, the sort of man who’d never leave work early on a Friday afternoon. He leaned forward, peering out of the door, searching for someone in authority. If he’d had a whistle in his pocket, he’d have blown it, shrill and hard.

Then a young, bearded, wild-haired man jumped on. Shoving past the short balding man, without a glance at the elderly gentleman and oblivious of me, he headed straight for a seat by the window. The seat just under the luggage rack.

Blustering, balding man turned back into the carriage, “is it….” He started to ask, just as the young bearded man reached up towards the suitcase.

And as the words died on his lips, as the elderly gentleman watched silently from his seat, as I looked on from across the aisle, the young, bearded, wild-haired man reached up and flicked open the lock.

15 comments:

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

I'm hoping there's no bomb in that suitcase lol. Oh I know the kind you mean though....lovely substantial pieces.

The Elephant's Child said...

I adore those suitcases - inconvenient as they now are. We have a couple stuffed underneath beds. Are you going to let us know what is in it? Please?

Joe Pereira said...

Young guy+old suitcase= you can't judge a book by it's cover??

Philip Dodd said...

Aaaarrrgh! What happened next?! That was great.

Mary-Colleen said...

More please! So evocative, so descriptive, so suspenseful!

Chantel said...

Oh, you leave us hanging!

I really cringe at the rudeness of youth. Yet he had patinaed taste...ah, please do tell on...?

Dicky Carter said...

I love one of those battered old cases - lots of character. Nice little tale, I instantly disliked the "grass."

Nessa Locke said...

I kept thinking, "it's a bomb!" which reminded me of the t-shirts the bomb squad wears around here. On the back they say, "If you see me running, try to keep up."

Anyway, I'm glad your abandoned luggage was a non-event.

The Idiot Gardener said...

Fantastic little vignette. Just the right amount of words. You didn't say too much, nor too little.

Starlight said...

What happened next?! I hope you'll continue this story, it's brilliant.

Baglady said...

Lovely. A touch of Agatha Christie there, I thought.

questions said...

Sharon - I just came across your blog, and had to let you know that these stories are wonderful. You seem to capture so many of the endearing (very human) moments of someone's life, I love it. Looking forward to reading more of your writing!

jayneonweedstreet said...

Inside was a large bundle of yellowed papers tied carefully with a twine. Placed next to the bundle was a small brown sack still crisply folded.....

Sharon Longworth said...

Thank you, as ever, for all for your comments on this - I'm delighted that it intrigued some of you; and hope it didn't frustrate too much.

Hillary said...

I echo Baglady: "a touch of Agatha Christie". And since I adore Agatha Christie, I thought this was awesome. Wish I knew that wild-haired man and wish I had such a mysterious, other-wordly piece of luggage...