Spontaneous Motion

The latest connection, now waiting at platform 12, had not been due to depart for 18 minutes, Vince reassured himself, as he waited at the coffee bar counter with absolutely nothing about his manners equating to patience. This was a budget journey, or at least the return ticket had been very reasonable, not that he intended to, but he hadn't figured the cost of coffee at every change into his calculations and it wasn't as if money was no object. In fact money was quite possibly the fundamental objective for his latest excursion, once again bound to continue now he was armed with the vast, disposable coffee cup and enough sugar to pep up a stranded hiker for an afternoon or longer. There was no time to protest that he didn't want the sugar, no desire to do so either. Instead, he shoved the crumpled copy of The Guardian under his left arm, slung his holdall over his right shoulder and affected something between speed walking and running towards the stairs, over the bridge and on to the train, which, for all that it had looked as if it would shoot off of its own accord, waited until he located an empty seat, dumped his belongings and then himself, before rattling to life and pulling away from the station.

The guards were lax on these cross-country trains, making it entirely plausible that one might hop off and on at various midland locations without ever encountering a request to yield a ticket. Three stops and an empty coffee cup existed before the uniformed man made it as far as Vince's carriage. He dug in amongst the sugar sachets and located the flimsy cardboard twins marked 'Outward' and 'Return'. The guard arrived to his right and he passed over the former, taking the moment to examine its counterpart. Why was he even keeping it? The guard nodded and returned the ticket. Vince pushed it back inside his pocket and settled back in his seat.

Of course, it was easy to explain why he'd paid for a return journey. It was ludicrously cheaper than a single, he recalled, squinting to read the price printed on the top right corner of the ticket, too small to read when held at arm's length. The woman who sold it to him didn't question the purpose of his journey - wished him a good trip, in fact. It was understandable that she might assume it was a holiday, given where he was heading, or the destination declared by his outward bound ticket at any rate, because he wasn't going there, probably. That was the first trick to disappearing completely: no prior plans or intentions to be accidentally leaked, deliberately gleaned or suddenly discovered. If anyone did realise he was gone, they might, with a certain amount of determination or the employment of a highly skilled PI, retrace the route he had taken, but he would be gone long before they caught up with where he had once been. Examination of CCTV may offer further clues to his previous whereabouts, literally a ghost in the machine.

Vince carefully folded the return ticket in half, then half again, until it was a tough tiny replica of itself and dropped it into the dregs of foam settling in the bottom of the coffee cup. At the next station he would alight, throw the cup away and if the train was still there, board it once again. If not, then the decision was made: the first leg of his journey was over. He watched the cardboard sink and spread as it absorbed the stealth liquid of frothed milk, then pushed the cup away, turning from it in some kind of disgust. The carriage was all but empty - the other passenger was using the toilet at the farthest end; the guard had yet to come back this way. Vince folded his arms against his chest and closed his eyes.