The Man In Black

Hell is the London Underground in a heat wave. There’s no ventilation down there; they rely on the movement of the trains. If you get stuck on a stationary train for more than five minutes, lakes of boiling lava and the stench of brimstone start to seem attractive. Thank God it was the weekend. Packed nose to armpit in the weekday rush hour in this heat, those that didn’t turn suicidal turned homicidal.

At Kings Cross the doors hissed shut. As the train lurched forwards a passenger sat opposite me. He was … distinctive.

He was in his fifties, at a guess, and wore a suit. Who wears a suit on a Sunday afternoon in London in July? Black polished shoes, a black suit, black homburg and a black T-shirt. The T-shirt was a nice touch. Wearing a suit with a T-shirt would have been distinctive enough, but this one had a gory picture of a skull and snakes. Between his jacket lapels I could make out the middle four letters of some heavy-metal band. He sat bolt-upright, as though he didn’t want to crease his jacket, a slim leather briefcase perched on his knees. He might have bought the briefcase for his first day at work. It had that well-worn look posers in the city pay a fortune for.

He leant forward.

“Excuse me.”

He had the clipped tones and precise pronunciation of a 1950’s BBC news announcer.

“Yes?”

“Is this the train for Paddington?”

“I hope so,” I said. I pointed to the large bag at my feet.

He smiled. “Holiday? The West Country is nice this time of year.”

“Business.”

He nodded. “Me too. I detest working on a Sunday, but in today’s climate, one must take work where one can.”

“You’re working today?” I smiled at his appearance.

“Indeed. Oh, the shirt? It’s my little act of rebellion. Besides, it’s a rush job, and I didn’t have a shirt pressed.”

“Your boss won’t mind?”

“I’m self-employed, and my clients don’t stipulate a dress code.”

“Okay.”

The train slowed into Gloucester Road. He sat back, still ramrod straight, as people got off the train.

“Lots of people leaving,” he said. “I believe it’s the Dali exhibition. I hear it’s very popular.”

I shrugged. Art wasn’t my thing, unless there was a profit in it. The price of everything and the value of nothing, but that was what business was all about.

The train pulled away. He looked down the carriage. Less than a handful of people remained, all staring fixedly in front of themselves like good little commuters. My new friend leant forward again. He unbuckled the briefcase.

“What do you do?” he said, “If that’s not too rude a question.”

“I’m an entrepreneur,” I said. Technically it was true, and it sounded a lot nicer that what the police called me. “I can wait till Monday before I start to work.”

He smiled politely at my joke.

“What do you do?” I asked, more to pass the time than from interest.

“I offer retirement plans,” he said, reaching into the bag.

“Do you get many rush jobs for retirement plans?” I asked, amused.

He pulled out the pistol, the silencer making it look ungainly, hidden from everyone else’s view by the briefcase.

“Yes,” he said, and pulled the trigger.

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

2 Responses to The Man In Black

  1. Gwen says:

    awesome, I was not expecting that ending. Good job!

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