Follow The Money
It was just past midnight when she arrived at the cordoned off station. There was a yellow Ka parked by the front. She looked under car's body but there was nothing. She was still in the game.
One of the phones in the booths started to ring, accentuating the silence. The only other noise had been the breeze sifting through the poplars that lined the approach road.
She pulled at the door. Inside it reeked of stale cigarette and piss and the light made her wince.
She swapped the receiver to her right hand and wiped off some sticky residue on her jeans.
"Yes." Her mouth was dry and her face wet with perspiration.
"You're late. Proceed to the adjacent phone booth and take the keys that are in the return coin slot."
The voice was electronically disguised and whoever it was sounded like they were deep under water.
"Then you will take the yellow car parked outside to Balderman Airport. There you will receive further instructions. I remind you that mobile phone use is prohibited. If you fail to comply with our instructions all payments due to you will be rescinded."
"But this exercise was supposed to be over by six."
The line had gone dead.
She put the phone down and cursed. At the door of the next phone booth she hesitated and looked about her. There was a peculiar squeaking noise that quickly grew shriller to be replaced by grumbling roar as a train thundered past. Through a mesh fence, she glimpsed human shapes inside the bright urgent ribbon of light then it was gone. There was a fizzle of track and then was silence again.
Inside the other booth, she took the electronic key from the slot then hurried to the car.
The car wasn't new, but the interior was immaculate and smelt of disinfectant. There was an envelope on the passenger seat. Inside there was a photo of a café with a seat ringed in red biro.
At the airport she parked the car and made her way to the main concourse. She ordered a coffee and sat at the designated table.
"Sabina Fraction?" the hooded figure asked and scuttled away. Next to her cup were another car key and a mobile phone. This rang and a different voice from earlier told her to proceed to the lost luggage office.
"Ask for Anna Mulligan's belongings. Show the ID which will be the file on the mobile phone you have been given."
Sabeena hurried over to the lost luggage office. She told the man behind the counter her assumed name and showed him her electronic ID. He waved the latter away and trudged behind a screen.
She turned and saw a woman about thirty years old dressed in black gym clothes with long dark hair tied in a pony-tail. She was carrying a rucksack on her back.
"Anna Mulligan for the moment."
The other woman's face wrinkled for a second before she nodded and stepped back.
The man returned and dumped a rucksack on the counter.
The woman took Sabeena by the arm.
"Come on. Get your bag and let's get going."
They strode down the concourse through the crowd and passed the shops and maneuvered away from the armed police and soldiers strolling by, their semi-automatics glinting in the all-pervasive light.
Sabeena struggled with the rucksack.
"This is heavy. What's in it?"
"Don't ask don't question. That's the motto." They approached stairs that led down to the railway station.
"Come on or we'll miss it."
"Hey wait hey!"
Sabeena weaved through the crowds and caught up with the woman.
On the platform, Sabeena looked round trying to get her bearings.
"Where are we heading?"
"London," the woman said.
"What's your name?"
"What?" The noise of breaking and departing trains drowned out their words.
They clambered on the carriage and Natasha gave Sabeena her first class ticket.
"Put the rucksacks up there," she indicated the luggage racks above their seats, "I'll get some drinks. Oh yes. Give me the car key that feller gave you in the café." This done, she hurried down the busy train.
Sabeena sat down. The message on the phone read 'Alight at Paddington. Go to Holborn Hotel, Grove Street to collect monies.' The device blipped then went dead.
She sat back seat and stretched her legs. She glanced out of the window and past her double reflection saw Natasha. She was talking into her mobile. There was a cigarette in her hand.
The train gave a jolt and began to move. For a moment there was the sensation that the station itself was going past. But the train picked up speed and Sabeena was on her own again.
The tannoy announced their destination and interceding stops and the bright lights of the station gave way to urban nightscape. Just before the main junction outside London, two bombs exploded in the first class compartment of the train. Out of two hundred and ninety passengers, only one hundred and fifty survived. The last few seconds of grainy CCTV footage showed Sabeena, her blonde hair shielding her face, asleep in her seat gently rocked by the train's movement. The headlines that weekend captioned the still; 'Now Radicals hit Train' 'Sleeping Beauty in Rail Terror' 'Civil Liberties to be curtailed in Government crackdown on dissent'.
After a while, events resumed something of their former normalcy and a man was driving down a road lined with poplars when his engine cut out. There was no mobile signal to be had either.
He got out of the car and noticed a telephone booth in front of a cordoned off railway station. He opened the door and phoned home.
His eye was caught by a card stuck in-between the frame and plastic of an advert.
"Earn lots by volunteering to help your emergency services! Playing roles in accident scenarios Call Crisis Action."
He pocketed the card. He could use the money.