Short Story: ‘The District Line’ by Anon.

The Founder x The Orbital Storytelling Competition | Anon.

 

Daily routine was important to Nick; alarm going off, hitting the snooze button, showering, applying gel to his receding hairline and eating a hearty bowl of All Bran while catching the end of the weather report on Good Morning Britain.

Everyday he would catch the 8:10am train, grabbing a cappuccino from Starbucks. He had it down to the minute. At 8:47 he would arrive at Hornchurch station, allowing 13 minutes to finish his drink and make the steep climb up to the thirteenth floor of Police Headquarters.

 

Today he caught the 8:15.

***

A black cat cut across Ella’s path on her way to the tube – she loved cats, she wasn’t superstitious like Mike. Mike had lived with her for nine years now,and he still wouldn’t sleep without leaving a trail of salt around their bed. It used to intrigue her, all the things that were supposedly out there in the shadows, but now it just pissed her off. She’d started to hide the salt in hope that he would stop and they could just resume a normal life, but he would just run to the shop and buy a new box. Now she was full of resentment and had a large hoard of salt under a loose floorboard in the bathroom.

 

***

 

Lizzie as usual was running late. Her phone had died so her alarm hadn’t gone off. She really should buy an actual alarm clock. Wiping the excess of last night’s makeup off her face she flung the wine bottles in the recycling basket, then crept into her bedroom, where last night’s date snored ferociously. She cursed as she remembered her phone was dead; no Uber today, she’d have to take the train. Her heels clapped loudly on the concrete as she embarked down the draughtysteps at Upney station. She could already hear the scorn of her boss and the disappointment in his voice,

 

Late again Elizabeth…’

 

As she stepped towards the third carriage she felt a wave of nausea hit her, she wasn’t ready for the stifling heat and putrid smell of the London Underground.

 

***

 

Ella raced down the stairs; grateful for always wearing flats as the blonde woman next to her lost her heel to the escalator’s grasp. How many shoes and items of clothing were swallowed up daily by these electric beasts she wondered, wishful that she lived in the wonderful times of Bronte and Dickens, when life was simpler. Ironically her shoe fell off. People stampeded past her, the shoe unattainable. At last she grabbed it as the doors of the train started beeping. She lunged into the third carriage, knocking a man’s briefcase to the floor, documents spilling everywhere, Detective Nicholas Plum neatly written next to the stamped capitalised word:

 

‘CONFIDENTIAL’.

 

She bent over to help, whimpering apologies but only managing to knock his drink onto his charcoal suit trousers before he demanded she left him to it. From the sweet sickly smell she thought it must have been a cappuccino.

It was Ella’s way to cause havoc wherever she went. It hadn’t always been like this. She’d been an A star student throughout school. She wanted to change lives. But she quickly learnt that the world changed you once you were alone, unguarded by family and deadlines.

As a child Ella Nelson was always the Mum in her friendship group. She had consoled her friends through toxic relationships, parent’s divorces and false pregnancies. Her friends loved her dearly. Ella had never been one for teenage boys. Her best friend, Kate, reprimanded her weekly, saying she ‘needed to get out there.’ Ella had so wanted to tell her the truth, but in school a secret would never be secret for long and Kate loved gossip: she was the queen of it. Ella had always been slightly jealous of Kate, with her long curly auburn hair, her fair complexion and her long slim legs; compared to her own short mousy hair, freckled skin and ‘thunder thighs’, as the boys had called them. Perhaps that’s why she’d chosen to teach primary school children. At least they didn’t call her names or say she was too ugly to be Kate Samson’s friend.

 

But he had chosen her. Not Kate. Her.

 

***

 

Nick could see her sitting there as he stooped, snatching the last piece of paper from underneath the large black pram wedged into the corner of the carriage. She was fanning herself with today’s issue of the Metro, flickering apologetic glances towards him, yet quick to withdraw her gaze. The baby gurgled at him as he stood up, pleading for a new playmate, saliva shining from his chubby chin. Nick wasn’t in the mood today so quickly turned away. The baby started howling and a dispirited mother shrunk into her seat, a look of embarrassment plastered on her flushed face. Dirty looks were thrown at him, as the baby refused to quieten down. He hated days like this. If only he had skipped Starbucks today. Now he was going to be late and there was so much work to do. Especially with twelve murders.

 

***

 

Lizzie was sick before she got to the station. She used to have a phobia of throwing up, but now she was used to it. People never believed her when she said that exposure helps you through your fears, but here was proof. Grabbing a tic-tac from her back pocket she continued towards the District Line. The queues for the barriers were long today – but as usual Tom was there in his high-vis, thank god she was sleeping with him.

Tom took her out every Friday to a queer pub in Shoreditch. She never knew why he specifically chose there, it was miles from both their houses, but he always liked walking through the park afterwards. There was a little clearing there, behind the bushes that they’d visit on their drunken walk home. She was always careful not to use the word ‘relationship’. Maybe he knew that she saw other people. She wasn’t going to ask. The two things that she knew about Tom were that he loved arse and had a ferocious temper. But then again, they all did. Lizzie was never commended for her taste in men. Once at a party in college she’d been playing Never Have I Ever and got so drunk that she’d made out with every guy there, including her friend’s boyfriend. From then on she was the college slut, the girls shunned her, the boys adored her.

Tom slapped her on the arse as he let her through the ‘Workers Only’ barrier. He reminded her of Matt, her ex. She had lived with Matt for two years; the sex was to die for. They did it in every position. He made her feel alive. She loved him. That is, until that night.

 

His phone had kept ringing…

 

They’d been out the night before, Matt and Lizzie, and the constant noise was making her head scream. She had meant to hang up but a busty woman was blaring at her from the screen. Without a thought she answered.

 

‘For fucks sake, why didn’t you pick up? I’m at the hospital Matthew. I’m on my own with your fucking baby inside me. If you want it gone that much, the least you could do is be here you bastard. I had to tell them I was Mrs Everson. I don’t care what you tell that bitch Lizzie, but you had better be here before I…’

 

She had hung up. He was next to her,

 

‘Who was that babe?’

 

To this day Lizzie has no memory of what happened next. She had woken up in the hospital. A broken rib, fractured pelvis and fifty stitches. The doctors said she could never have children there had been complications. She never saw Matt again. There was already a warrant for his arrest, abuse, they said. She couldn’t believe it, she wouldn’t. But the evidence was there. That was when the drinking began.

As she waited for the train to roll in she took a sip from her bottle. She knew to never have transparent bottles; she couldn’t risk it. She noticed that her hair smelt like last night’s chardonnay as she tried to fix her heel; it had got caught in the bloody escalator again.

 

***

 

The train had only been going for about two minutes before it rolled to a stop. A woman next to the Stranger was desperately applying powder to her face; she’d clearly been out the night before as her hand trembled while covering up the darkness under her eyes. From her coat pocket protruded an identity badge, ‘Elizabeth Prey, N.H.S. Councillor’ printed boldly above a picture of a young woman, heavily laden with makeup, a soft optimistic smile creasing her bold blue eyes. This woman was clearly older than the picture and that sanguine smile was nowhere to be seen.

With a flush he looked away, she had seen him staring. From the corner of his eye he saw her meticulously applying a blood-red lipstick before the train jolted to life, causing her shaking hand to slip. She cursed loudly, startling the balding man next to her who was unsuccessfully trying to clean his shirt.

 

That’s when he saw her jaw drop in fear.

 

***

 

The train ground to a stop and with an alarming beep the doors swung open, revealing an empty void. Lizzie waited in horrified anticipation for the underground monsters to snatch them all from the carriage. But no one else seemed to react this way. She could hear the muffled grumbles of other commuters who were furiously staring at their Rolex watches. As a child Elizabeth Prey had been scolded daily by her mother during the 20 minute commute to and from school. She had been terrified. At every thump and bang the trains made Lizzie would squeal and cry, to the shame of her mother. She had grown out of her fear, but today her heart pounded in her chest. Something’s out there!

She took a nervous swig from her bottle,the lid dropped through her fingers. She could see people staring at her but as she bent over to pick it up blackness clouded her vision. The bottle smacked into the ground with a resounding thud; the blood-red contents pooling across the stain spotted surface.

 

***

 

Nick had given up hope of cleaning his shirt as the train reeled to a stop. As he stuffed the paper cup into the overfilled bin he noticed a blonde woman who would not stop staring at the open doors, her whole body was shuddering. It was as if she had seen a ghost. She was clutching a purple bottle to her chest; he guessed that it wasn’t squash. Perhaps he should talk to her?But from experience Nick knew that people didn’t take kindly to a stranger’s advice, even if he was with the police.She was still trembling as she took a loud gulp, trying to screw the lid on before it slipped through her fingers. Nick looked away, aware of the crimson blush that was spreading across her cheeks. With a gasp he realised she had fallen almost comically off the train followed closely by a gaggle of ‘rescuers’.

The tunnel was damp and lively as rats scurried away from Nick’s feet. Something was dripping onto his shoulder; another stain he’d have to remove, he thought to himself. Worried murmurs and cries brought him back to reality. He flashed his badge, barging his way through the crowd, snapping orders of,

 

‘Police … ouch … out of my way … Sir, out of my way please…’

 

Once in the middle of the crowd he found Elizabeth Prey, as her N.H.S. identity-badge stated, unconscious and bleeding from a gash in her head. Fuck it, he thought as he ripped the sleeve off his stained shirt and tied it tightly around the wound. He’d just have to go to John Lewis tonight and buy a new one – maybe he’d treat himself to a new tie as well? After all it was only 8:53am and he was already helping someone. Perhaps this would be the year he finally got a Christmas bonus, rather than that know it all Sergeant Diabolos.

The woman began to stir in his arms, and he sighed with relief. As he felt himself relaxing the train doors began to beep and carnage broke out as everyone furiously fought to get back onto the train.

By the time Nick realised what was happening, the doors had sealed shut. Himself, his patient, and two others, a man and a woman, were now barricaded in the tunnel. The woman was hurling herself against the door, crying out an undecipherable string of curses before tripping backwards, pulling the fellow with her. The train’s engine roared to life and began to slowly squeal along the rusted tracks, leaving the four of them alone in complete darkness.

Nick could just hear the other woman laughing madly to herself as blood dripped from his hands to the floor.

 

***

 

Ella had jumped off the train as soon as she saw the woman smack into the ground. She had a first aid qualification but by the time she had fought her way through the commotion, the man with the coffee had got there and was using his shirtsleeve as a bandage. He kept shouting that he was a police detective, not an officer, she noticed. She rifled through her handbag trying to find the mini torch Mike had bought her three Christmasesago. He had told her that the stream of light would banish anything supernatural and send it straight back to Hell. She had huffed at this remark and they had argued all night about his idiotic superstitions. They broke up multiple times, but it had of course ended in sex. Everything had returned to normal in the morning when she dropped the gift into her handbag in case she ever needed a normaltorch.

She found it at last and held it triumphantly in the air. This victory lasted a second, before she realised the battery had died. For the hundredth time she cursed Mike.

From the corner of her eye she noticed the police detective’s head twitch towards the train before she heard the beeping echoing through the tunnels. Shit, the doors. She was too slow.

Panic erupted through her as claustrophobia began to kick in, stepping back she tripped over some wiring, latching herself to the stranger beside her as they thudded to the floor. She couldn’t but help think of Shakespeare’s ‘Venus and Adonis’ where Venus pulled Adonis on top of her as she begged him not to hunt the boar that ultimately killed him. She couldn’t help but think that, were Mike here, he would have made some grating remark of the irony of it all, she couldn’t help but cackle. At least Mike always made her laugh.

 

***

 

Lizzie came round five minutes after the train had pulled away. A man’s face hovered closely above her saying over and over again,

 

‘You’re okay. Don’t panic, I’m a Detective!’

 

She just wanted to tell him to shut up, his voice sent whipping pains through her skull with every syllable. He was trying to get her to sit up. Another voice, a woman’s, told him to wait or she’d be sick. He didn’t listen and vomit convulsed madly up and out of Lizzie’s body, straight onto his lap. The woman came over and spoke with a softer voice, yet Lizzie could still feel it vibrating in her eyes. Why wouldn’t they just leave her alone? The woman told her to stay still, that she’d hit her head and had a bad gash. So that’s where the pounding was coming from. But Lizzie couldn’t keep still; she had to get away from these people. The darkness was suffocating her. She staggered to her feet and with a panic realised the train had gone.  She needed a drink. She needed him. She began to run, not caring where as long as it came closer to intoxication.

 

***

 

The Stranger had crept off during the commotion. Upon the smashing of her bottle he had concluded that she was clearly an alcoholic. He didn’t need that sort slowing him down. Even if her eyes still haunted him. What was it about her? Besides she had that balding Detective with her and that other woman. He just needed to focus on getting himself out of here. He could do it alone. He knew that.

 

But fate didn’t.

 

***

 

Something changed in Ella when the woman ran away. She had only tried to help. It was the stupid bitch’s own fault if she got lost. But with a sickening dread she realised that they were all lost. She knew they were somewhere between Upney and Upminster. But where?Who knew what detours the tubes took to avoid collisions? These tunnels are an intricate maze beneath the hustle and bustle of London.The stranger she had brought to the ground with her had disappeared and the detective was rubbing his face leaving streaks of red across his brow and cheek. He looked quite manic, like the boys in ‘The Lord of the Flies’, she thought. She began to run in pursuit of the other woman. Maybe she wasn’t stupid? Maybe she knew a way out of here? Ella wasn’t going to wait to find out.

 

***

 

Nick was fed up of people running away from him. Why did no one trust him? He had been demoted for that very reason. The report said he ‘lacked the ability to deal with citizens, but had a great understanding of protocol and investigation and therefore would benefit from a desk role where his knowledge could be put to better use.’ Nick missed the field, but whatever case he was put on always ended in a disaster. It was the ‘Toys ‘R’ Us Case’ that ended it though. He had no choice but to sit quietly as his superiors found a way to avoid charges. They had to get him off the field before those bloody news reporters caught up. He had hoped to make up for it with the recent murders case but he was getting nowhere with that. All he knew was that each victim had left to go to work or school and had never arrived. Their bodies were found in local bins, doused in salt. The Bin Men were always traumatised. After all, they were trained to resist the grossness of people’s trash, not trashed and mangled up bodies.

Nick realised he had wandered off in his thoughts and he had no clue where he had just come from or where to go next. The two women had disappeared into the shadows and the other man was nowhere to be seen.

 

***

 

Lizzie’s imagination contorted every shadow and object around her. Her head wouldn’t stop bleeding. Whatever bandage had been used had fallen off in her flight from the others. She wondered where they were now. What if they’d escaped?She should have stayed with them. But her head injury had jogged her memory. That night had begun to come back to her. She could see him now. She could see Matt. It was all coming back – the fear, the desperation … the attack.

 

        He sneered at her, maliciousness carved into every notch of his face. Knocking the phone out her hand he seized Lizzie by the throat with one hand; the other grabbed the bottle of wine from the counter. Lizzie begged Matt to let go, tears dripping irritatingly down her face, but his grip only tightened. He glugged the wine and smirked his reddened teeth at her, that smile had seemed so soft and loving, it was what made her fall in love with him – and the sex of course, then he shattered the bottle across her brow. He shoved her onto the sofa and hit and hit until the world began to blacken, blood and wine stinging her face…

 

She remembered it all, even the satanic glint in his eye as he pinned her down telling her to ‘take it’ as if he were giving her a gift.

 

***

 

Sergeant Diabolos was in Nick’s head. Nick stormed back and forwards angrily mulling over the past. He knew he should try to find the others but he couldn’t shake the thought that Diabolos had been there that night. It surely couldn’t be a coincidence. Nick always had a suspicion that he had been set up. But there was no evidence, he had to take the blame while Diabolos was promoted.

That night Nick had been called out with his team to investigate a potential drug dealing location near Upminster. They had quickly assembled and were filing silently through the old ‘Toys ‘R’ Us’ warehouse. He had stood on something that crunched loudly, reverberating around the empty shell of the warehouse. He had crouched down and seen that it was a glass eye, from a china doll perhaps? Then something had shuffled quickly ahead of him and then, nothing…

 

The police report said that: ‘Nicholas Plum is currently under investigation for an accidental bomb detonation in the abandoned ‘Toys ‘R’ Us’ store in west Upminster. Three members of his squadron perished along with twelve year old, Timothy Perkins, who had been exploring the warehouse for a dare with four friends. Two other boys, twelve and thirteen, were injured and were taken to The Princess Royal University Hospital, along with Plum, where they are currently being treated. Commendations go to Sergeant Oliver Diabolos for his quick response and bravery.’

Nick had been prescribed pills for sleep walking two months before the incident, but he knew he never slept on the job. Not that his word stopped people believing it. Had he been drugged? By the time Nick had woken up in the hospital it was too late to get tested. But how did the bomb get there? Who set it off?

 

***

 

The Stranger was lost. Everything was just a black void. There was no in front, no behind and no left or right. Just blackness. He hated the dark. It reminded him of college. He had always been different. He hated people and always preferred to be alone. That’s why he was such a good funeral director, he didn’t need to socialise with anyone, except the dead.

But at college, no one would leave him alone. Each night the boys would sneak into his room. They’d pull pranks on him. Sometimes they’d just put his hand in warm water to make him wet the bed – he dealt with that quickly by purchasing those special sheets. But other times they’d undress him and tie him up in the girl’s dormitory corridor. They’d come out of their rooms in the morning laughing and screaming. No one ever helped him. The janitor would always cut him free with a small chuckle and an annoying ruffle of the hair wishing him goodluckfor the next night.

Despite this he had graduated top of his class. He was rather rich and it amused him when he saw someone he collecting bins or trying to sell copies of the ‘Big Issue’. He’d always go up to them and rummage through his wallet sliding obviously past his stash of £50 notes to find the £2.50 it cost for the magazine. He had the power now. And one night the perfect moment arose.

        He had seen her walking through the streets, a slutty little dress barely covering her. He could see the soft bulges appearing underneath the hem with every stride she took. She hadn’t changed at all. Perhaps she was still dating Matt Everson? He hoped so; Everson would dump her for sure. He knew what to do, and without any pleasure bar the thrill of payback, he did it.

The police had been called, but one thing that his classmates had taught him was how to slip into the shadows. She hadn’t even recognised him, the little bitch. Now at least, she’d never forget.

 

***

 

Lizzie had run. She knew she couldn’t run away from her memory, but she had to try, she just had to get out of here, out of the dark that lured the flashing images to her every thought. Snap. Her shoe had broken again. Fuck. Angrily Lizzie kicked them off. One clattered off the wall, the other thudded against something soft. Perplexed by the noise she made her way over. Slowly she knelt down and blindly fondled the floor until she found her shoe and next to it something that felt like a sack. Yet surely it was too large? Was that polyester?Tracing upwards she began to feel a cold leathery material. But there seemed to be a cap of fluff, almost like hair. For a dreadful moment she thought she had stumbled upon a nest of rats. But then she felt two indents across the middle and the rise and fall of a nose and dry lips.

 

It was the stranger who had stared at her on the train.

And he was dead.

 

 ***

 

The air hummed with electricity as Ella fled through the tunnels. She could have sworn someone had been stooping over a lifeless body, like a vampire making its kill. She could almost feel the fire chasing after her down the forest. Today she was Piggy. Today she would die. The others would laugh at her memory, like the boys on the island, and everything with Mike, the drama, the lies, and the trial – it would have been for nothing.

She had turned a corner quickly and froze in fear. She heard what she thought was footsteps pulse near her. Had someone been there, or was it just her blood pumping heavily in her head?

        It was the summer term of her GCSE’s; Kate had convinced her to go to some footballer’s party. Ella and her had plotted and schemed for weeks, convincing their parents that they were staying at each other’s. Of course they believed her. Ella had never lied to them before, she had basked in her newfound bravery.

        Kate was desperate to hook up with Matt Everson, the hottest guy in school. Ella was to be her wing-woman. The night had started off wonderfully for both, however Matt had turned out to be a creep and Kate had fled the party in tears. Someone told Ella that George, the school nerd, had taken Kate home. A little drunk, Ella had wandered off towards town in search for Kate, but she had disappeared. She had kept walking until she reached the pub. Sobering up she realised that Kate had gone home. She hoped she had made it safely. George was a good guy, she was sure of it.

        Ella had the fake ID that Kate had got for the party so she decided to test it out. Miraculously it worked and she sipped at her schnapps – until he came over. Ella had had a crush on him for over a year now. She wondered what he was doing in a pub on a school night. But then again, so was she. They talked for about an hour before she claimed she had nowhere to stay. She was too drunk to go home. He told her that she could stay at his place. She had heard he lived alone. She of course said yes.

        She slept in his bed basking in his scent all night. She woke up to the sound of bacon being cooked. It smelt delicious. The perfect food for a hangover she had heard people say on TV. He then drove her to school, dropping her off a few streets away so they wouldn’t be seen. They couldn’t be seen together – not ever.

It wasn’t until the end of Ella’s A-Level’s that the relationship between Eleanor Nelson and her Mythology teacher Michael Kent was discovered and reported by best friend, Katherine Samson.

 

Ella began to scream.

 

 ***

 

Nick could have heard the scream from a mile away. Maybe it was a mile? He’d been walking for at least 20 minutes now. His heart palpitated wildly as he sprinted towards her. It wasn’t the councillor, he could tell that. This scream was too high pitched for a drunkard’s vocal chords. It must be the other woman, the one who ruined his shirt. He could feel his muscles swelling in pain as he sprinted. It had been so long since he’d been on the field. The office job had made him fat.

Turning the corner to his left, he flew through the air. Something had tripped him. His ears rang as he sat up. Was that chainmail being dragged across the floor? Maybe he should stop watching ‘Game of Thrones’ so much?But no, he did hear it, only it wasn’t chainmail, it was someone’s teeth chattering. Nick tried to stand but he had sprained his ankle. He crawled toward the noise. The chattering persisted until he drew closer to his obstacle. He could feel the tension as they held their breath.

It was her, he knew it. He was suddenly blinded as she yelled ‘go away evil spirits’ then a sigh of relief as she realised it was him. She babbled on at him while she grappled with her torch. Her voice trembled so much he thought he kept hearing her say ‘Piggy’ … ‘Piggy’. She was delusional with fear. They had to get out of here, and somehow find the others.

 

***

 

Ella had curled into a tight ball to fight off the visions when Nick found her. Mike would have argued ghosts were tormenting her, but she knew it was her imagination running wild. Yet, she couldn’t control it. The Lord of the Flies had always had a big impact on her.

She knew Kate resented her for what had happened with Matt that night. It should have been Ella taking her home, but Matt had beaten her to it. He had told that guy at the party to lie. It always made Ella shudder. Why had she believed George had taken Kate home? George was too nerdy to even get an invite to the party. If Matt hadn’t done it, Kate wouldn’t have hurt her – she may have even helped Ella.But then again, if she had taken Kate home like a good friend, she would never have had that night with Mike Kent. That night meant everything to Ella. At least it did back then.

The detective had hurt his ankle. Great, she thought sarcastically. Once he had coaxed her out of her ball they slowly made their way to what he thought was North. She knew he was a police detective, but she had no faith in anyone. Down here it was just blackness. Direction didn’t exist, only movement. But something had quickly appeared from the shadows. There was no time for panic, she heard the heavy breathing and heard the detective call out a name – Elizabeth? Elizabeth Prey?

 

***

 

Lizzie ran and ran. She had to put as much distance as she could between her and the body. She could hear the district line rattling beside her in a neighbouring tunnel. If only she could get on it. She was out of breath and could feel her feet bloodying up from the hard uneven ground. She promised herself that if she got out of here she would stop drinking. She’d get her own councillor. It was time.

Ahead of her a beam of light revealed a staggering shadow emerging. Was that a torch? She stopped sharply with exasperated fear. Something was shouting at her, but her blood was pumping too loudly to hear anything. It looked like a monster and she cowered and cried out. She couldn’t run anymore. This was it. She wouldn’t escape. She’d die down here with the stranger and no one would ever know.

The shadow then became two. She recognised the limping silhouette; it had a sleeve ripped from one arm of its shirt. It was the police detective and the other woman. Lizzie ran to them and all three looked at each other with looks of hopelessness and defeat. At least they wouldn’t die alone.

Lizzie huddled with the other two. Her sweat had chilled her and she couldn’t stop shivering. She tried to tell them what had happened but as she did a train rattled by again in the parallel tunnel. It was slowing down. This was their only chance. Lizzie and the other woman, Ella, supported the detective, Nick. They ran as fast as they could under his weight. They wouldn’t make it, she thought. Lizzie desperately wanted to drop him and save herself, but she knew she couldn’t. No one deserved to be down here alone. They reached the train. They were so close. Ella banged on the windows, screaming for help. The people in the carriage leapt in fear as they saw the three of them. She saw someone pull the emergency stop lever and they waiting anxiously as the conductor strolled casually through the carriage, ready to tell off a troublemaker for pulling the lever.

He started backwards when he saw them, but immediately sprang forward to open the doors as they tumbled in. The familiar stuffy air of the train submerged them. The heat made Lizzie dizzy. Her head was pounding worse than ever. Her vision spotted with sparking black dots.

The last thing she heard was Nick laughing sardonically, ‘Thank God for signalling issues, eh?’

***

 

        ‘Breaking News: Today three people were discovered in the underground tunnels on the district line. They have been identified as Eleanor Nelson, Elizabeth Prey and Detective Nicholas Plum. They are being investigated for the mutilated dead body discovered buried under a pile of salt; matching the pattern of the other twelve murders from the past four months. One witness states:

 

        “I saw her, that Ella Nelson woman, she drew my attention the moment she got on the train – she’d knocked that fella, Nick whatsit, his papers and drink flew everywhere, that must have been their signal. There definitely was something about them, he even made a baby cry the wee little thing.”

 

        Reporter: Of course what’s more shocking is how these murderers got away with it for so long. Eleanor Nelson was a primary school teacher at a school that has asked not to be named, Elizabeth Prey was a Councillor for the NHS and Detective Nicholas Plum was a detective of the London police force. A sergeant from Plum’s office had this to say,

 

        ‘We are in shock at the station. Especially since he was assigned to investigate these murders. However, he did have a track record of purposeful destruction and we at the police office thoroughly regret giving him the benefit of the doubt. I always had my suspicions about him, everything he did caused danger to others. We will do everything we can to prevent this happening in the future. It is expected that the jury will give these suspects a life sentence, potentially at the maximum security prison in…’

Mike turned the television off. Surely this was all a mistake; Ella could never have done this. But he kept thinking back to the salt. He knew she always hid it, but he never assumed she was using it, let alone to get away with murder.

He slowly walked into the bathroom, sliding the bathmat away from the loose floorboard. With a deep breath he lifted it up and shuddered as the nails creaked against the wood. There was nothing in there, only a small trail of salt around a crumpled piece of paper. Hesitantly he uncurled it and gasped –

 

‘She’s innocent, and she’s next.

Thanks for the salt.’

 

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