With a gasp of shock Georgia reads the final page of the thriller she’s been deeply immersed in for most of the journey. Through the grimy train window now, she sees nothing but dreary November darkness. Not a thing to alleviate the boredom of this endless journey from London to Truro.
With a sigh, Georgia looks at her watch. Should be arriving in Exeter soon. She’s on her way home for her cousin Naomi’s wedding and to be perfectly honest, she’s dreading it.
It’s to be a grand affair in Truro cathedral and Georgia has been commandeered as chief bridesmaid. But why get married in November? The very idea makes Georgia shiver.
Huddling deeper now into her black, padded jacket, she’s acutely aware of the cold. The railway company is evidently economising on heat.
Thinking once again of the wedding, she grimaces at the thought of the dress, Naomi’s choice of course. It’s a ridiculous concoction in bright yellow satin with enormous puffed sleeves, a hideous mismatch with Georgia’s golden blonde hair.
As the train slows down now approaching Exeter station, the man in the seat opposite prepares to get off, shuffling and gathering up papers, fitting a lap top into his briefcase. Off to some boring business meeting, Georgia supposes. Though she would willingly trade places to avoid wearing that awful frock.
She and the man exchanged a few words on leaving Paddington, so Georgia smiles vaguely to acknowledge his going. The man nods briefly and steps out on to the station platform.
‘’Hey. Wait you’ve left something.’’ Only seconds after the man leaves, Georgia notices a large, brown envelope left behind on his seat. But it’s too late. He’s already vanished into the gloom.
Now what should she do? The envelope is thick, stuffed with papers. It could be really important. Reaching across, Georgia picks it up and is surprised to see that it’s open. The flap is tucked inside but it’s unsealed. Should she take a look? Probably not she thinks. But nevertheless she can’t resist a quick peek. Then, lured on by what she sees, her eyes widen as she begins to read more carefully.
There’s mention of some place called Hanslope Park in Buckinghamshire, reference to the Diplomatic Service, plans and maps and an aerial photograph. Georgia gasps. This is straight out of John Le Carre; MI5, spies and all that kind of thing.
So what was the chap, sitting opposite her all the way from London, doing with stuff like this? He didn’t look like a secret agent, certainly no James Bond. Just an ordinary chap with mousey brown hair and a receding hairline. And why did he leave the envelope behind?
Maybe she’s just been reading too many thrillers and is letting her imagination run riot? But no, that isn’t true. Even Georgia can see that this lot could be pure dynamite and certainly shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands.
A wave of anxiety washes over her. Perhaps she could just leave it where it is. It may be better not to get involved. Georgia hesitates, tempted to chuck the envelope under the seat and pretend not to have seen it.
Then, on second thoughts, she stuffs it into her large shoulder bag and resolves to take it to the police station tomorrow, like the upright citizen that she is.
Meanwhile the rattle of the refreshment trolley reminds her that she could really enjoy a coffee.
A little later, in a carriage further along the train, another young woman of around Georgia’s age, height and build, fiercely punches a number into a mobile phone. She’s wearing jeans and a black leather jacket, an outfit not dissimilar to Georgia’s.
Running slender fingers with black painted nails through her cropped, peroxide blonde hair, the woman looks furtively around.
‘’What’s going on? I am sitting on ziz train for hours now,’’ she snarls into the phone in heavily accented English. ‘’There are no sign of your man. No documents. Nothing. Is another screw up, I think.’’ Ending the call abruptly, the woman glares into the passing darkness.
When the train finally pulls into Truro station, Georgia gathers together her belongings and thankfully prepares to disembark. While unknown to her, at the same time, concealed in the shadows of a station building, a man in a black raincoat and a trilby speaks into a mobile phone.
‘’Suspect apprehended. Just getting off the train now. OK, boys. Let’s go.’’
As Georgia stumbles on to the platform, heading for the exit, she feels a large, heavy hand grip her shoulder like a bulldog clip and another two, heavily built men block the path ahead.
‘’Just a moment now, Miss. Stop right there. We need you to come along with us and answer a few questions. Don’t make a fuss now.’’
In the chilly greyness of the November night, Georgia’s heart is pounding with fear.