Here is the beginning of a mystery story, in part inspired by ‘The Girl on the Train’ (awesome book). Not sure what to title it so will just leave it blank for now!
The man was there everyday. But then one day, he wasn’t.
I put my coffee cup down on the fold-up table and used my thumb to soothe the red scratch of heat that crept across my palm. Heatproof cups, my arse, I thought. I nodded at the man a few seats away, the one with the peeling briefcase who always sat in seat 23W. He gave me the usual clipped smile.
The train started to move away from the station, with a violin shriek. I peered out of the window, looking for the man with his little hut. It was made from corrugated metal sheets, left over from the recent re-construction of the station roof, and he had furniture made from wood and parts of an old bicycle. I always greatly admired the man’s handiwork, thinking, snobbishly and ridiculously, that if I ever became homeless, I would be as completely rational and practical as he was, and why couldn’t they all think like that? Rather than just sitting there, begging. I really hated myself sometimes.
The little hut came into view. It was on a grassy mound just outside of the fence protecting the tracks, where the man could sit and watch the trains. It even had a working door.
The man was always sitting out on his wooden stool, sometimes even writing or drawing something on a paper pad. But today, he wasn’t there, and that was the first weird thing.
The hut had a great dent in its roof. It made me sad to see, because the man was probably so proud of his little hut. And the door, the door was open.
The man always had his door shut, and he even locked it with a bicycle lock. But today, it was wide open, smashed back on its hinges, and the insides – plastic bags, empty food tins, sheets of the paper pad – were vomited all over the grassy mound.
I sat forward in my seat, knocking the coffee cup slightly so a thin pool formed a moat around its base. I looked around the coach. No one else from the normal commute looked remotely concerned. I wanted to tell someone. I didn’t want the responsibility of what I’d seen on me.
I tried to catch the eye of the peeling briefcase man in seat 23W, but he had headphones in and was watching something on his phone. After glancing around for a few more moments, I realised how faintly ridiculous I was being, and settled back into the chair. The man was fine. He was probably inside the hut right now, maybe having a clear out of old rubbish. Soon, my thoughts wandered to the day ahead, the chat that I was to have with Michael about my performance in sales, the pretty new secretary, the chicken wrap I had for lunch.