I burst into the waiting room expecting to find God knows what, but instead, there was the stationmaster sitting up at the table drinking a cup of tea.
“What’s going on here?” I said glaring at the young couple and the old man in the Mac. “You said he was dead.”
“Well…I…you see…” he stammered.
“Nar, it be my fault,” muttered the stationmaster. “I told ’em to get you back in here.”
I stared at him. “And exactly why would you do that?”
He put down his teacup and pointed at the clock. “It be quarter past.”
I raised an eyebrow. “And?”
“The Ghost Train.” He leaned forward and said in a slightly scary voice, “It be coming back.”
“Pshaw!” I shook my head. “Nonsense. Your silly ghost train is nothing more than a story to distract people from…well, from…” I waved my hand in a what’s-the-word sort of way.
“Smugglers,” put in Mary.
“Thank you darling. Yes, to distract people from the smugglers.”
But the gnarly-faced old man simply shook his head.
Arthur poked me in the ribs. “Tell ‘im about the whatsit.”
“The whatsit. You know, the thingummy.”
“Oh.” I nodded. “That’s right. We know about the box. With the slide show.”
The stationmaster put a hand to his ear. “It’s a-comin.” He pointed to the windows.
I turned slowly as the vibration in my feet told me that the thing that clearly couldn’t be happening, did in fact appear to be happening again.
Mary grasped my arm. Arthur grasped Dickie’s leg. The young couple grasped each other.
The lights came from the left, and just as before, a flash of yellow lit up the windows, and the ghost train thundered into the station.
“Don’t ye be lookin at it, mind,” screamed the stationmaster. “Or it’ll take your eyes…”
“I’ve had enough of this,” I yelled above the roar, and ran out onto the platform. The stink of sulphur hit my nostrils and choking smoke swirled around me, blocking any chance I might have of seeing the train (if there was one).
“Johnny, oh Johnny,” squealed Mary, grabbing hold of me.
We stood there, transfixed by the noise and stench of the apparition, the vision passing swiftly through the station, its ghostly roar diminishing as clouds of billowing smoke shifted and drifted away, leaving us standing in a murky haze, and gazing once again down the track and an empty line.
“Did you see it?”
I prised my wife’s fingers away from my groin and looked at her. “Mary. For fuck’s sake, open your eyes.”
She did so. “Sorry, darling. Did you see it?”
“Why’d you close your eyes?”
She shrugged. “In case the villains were using some evil device that would blind me.”
“Oh, I see – so it’d be fine for me to be blinded?”
“But you’re a doctor.”
“Of course.” Once again, I clambered down onto the track and walked along in the direction the ‘train’ had gone. But there was nothing to see. Back on the platform, I was brushing myself down, when Mary touched my arm. I followed her gaze. Coming along the platform towards us was a dark figure, trudging through the gloom as if in pain. “Who the bloody hell’s that?” I said.
“Arrgh!” Said a voice beside me. It was the stationmaster. “It be old Ted Holmes, dead and gone, comin back ter haunt us…”
I stared at the oncoming figure and must admit to talking several steps backwards, just in case. “I say – you there!” I waved a finger at the ghostly shape. “Who are you and what d’you want, damn you?”
“I must say, that’s a nice way to welcome an old friend, Watson. Any chance of a cup of tea?” Sherlock Holmes lifted his hat. “Ah, Mary. Solved the mystery yet, have you?”
I heard a noisy exhalation emanate from my wife’s ruby lips, followed by a less-than-complimentary phrase, which I shall not soil these pages by repeating. “I’ll put the kettle on,” she muttered, and disappeared into the waiting room.
“Holmes!” I gushed, shaking his hand warmly. “I’m jolly glad to see you, old chap. Listen, you’ll never believe what’s been happening.”
“First things first, Watson,” he said ushering our companions inside. Then, tugging my sleeve, he leant down and muttered, “Have a care, old friend. There’s trouble afoot.”
“You mean the smugglers?”
“Smugglers my arse. Nazis, Watson. Bloody Nazis.”