Slowly waiting he paced around the station making sure he did the final checks before the subject arrived. He had already been here a few hours and he knew every nook and cranny of the building he had been tasked to. He knew that he would only have one opportunity, so to minimise the risk of losing that, he had allowed plenty of time.
His eyes darted around while he walked slowly, jostled on either side by foolish passengers who hadn’t allowed themselves enough time for the train. Or they may have left work late. Or had to take a phone call on the way to the station. Or had walked into an old friend. He was used to looking at all the scenarios. He tried to focus on the ones that he had planned several weeks for, rather than the lives of the other passengers’.
He looked at the ticket he had bought in advance. He was predicting that the subject would go straight on the train, preoccupied with the need to travel, rather then admiring the cool sunlight outside. Everything rested on this being his destination. If it changed, there would be no second chances, no backup arriving on another train.
It was down to him alone and as the clock chimed the realisation of the magnitude of the task that he meticulously planned the finest details for was finally starting to settle in. What had been a carefully planned exercise, safe when observed on a whiteboard, now turned into his dangerous reality.
He forced himself to breathe as he ascended up the escalator to his vantage point at the top of the station. From there he found a spar bench and took a newspaper out of his backpack. He scanned the articles in a half-hearted attempt to look like an insignificant commuter.
Newspapers weren’t his thing, it was the 21st century. If he wanted the news he could find everything he wanted on the phone screen in front of him.
As a man of efficiency, wasting time was one of the things he hated most about his job. Time was one of the things that couldn’t move backwards. Could never be recovered. Therefore it shouldn’t be wasted.
However, in his line of work, long stakeouts were commonplace, and a waste of time when a whole day was wasted monitoring one location, only for the subject to appear in another. However, he had trained his skills for this job, and continued to train them every day, so not to do a job that utilised those skills would be a waste. And in his opinion, downright wrong.
He stood up, ashamed. He was meant to be completely focused on the job instead of philosophising about life. That was simply not appropriate. Putting the paper into his bag, he started to walk close to the railing, looking down, waiting to see the subject walk from under him. He paced up and down making sure he covered all areas of the ground below him.
The jostle of the other passengers had died down, with fewer facilities being located on the upper level. He was angled opposite the balcony now, waiting to see the subject pass from under him any minute. If all went to plan he would rush from one train under the floor and appear on the other side for his next train.
He walked side to side across the floor checking his watch at increasingly regular intervals. He assumed the train would be delayed. He had no communication from anyone in the office, he was completely isolated from the outside world. But right on time, the train pulled in.
He stopped. Startled. Instead of a black hooded individual with a suitcase as planned, a well-dressed man wearing a suit even, walked off the train. He carried nothing in his hands and casually walked with commuters. This was the man who had planned his trains so well they were less then a minute apart. This was a man who was engaging in an high-stakes already disrupted plan with a mounting pressure to get to his destination. But the man before him didn’t appear any of those things. However, this was definitely the subject. The face matched, the hair matched, the height matched. It was all there. But something wasn’t.
He went back down the escalator, keeping his eyes trained on the man in front of him. He was approaching the train as predicted, everything was going as planned. His pre-bought ticket slide through the barriers and they both approached the platform.
They both got on the train at adjacent doors, the subject, it seemed harsh for some reason to call him that now he wasn’t matching the profile, didn’t appear to notice him at all.
He found a seat facing backwards so he could see into the next carriage. Resting back into his chair he put his bag down and relaxed. He knew it would be a while until their stop came, so he just thought about the previous events. Something was wrong, the man seemed far too casual for someone undertaking a task of this magnitude.
He didn’t get it, curiosity had sparked within him and now he wanted to know more. The film of the few seconds where the subject had walked under him at the station, as he casually stood on the escalator, as he waited patiently in the queue to board the train. The thoughts just kept running through his head. It just didn’t add up.
He decided to get up and go to the toilet, at least then he’d have an excuse for being near the carriage. He hated train toilets, not because of the atrocious smell or the yearly cleaning schedule. But because they were confined, had one exit and an easily pickable lock on the door.
He started walking the journey which was only a few meters, but for him felt like miles. Each step needed a conscious effort to lift up, move forward and then go back down again.
Finding the toilet engaged he waited to one side. He looked back into the carriage and couldn’t see the man anywhere. After a few minutes of waiting, he started to turn around wondering who on earth took so long in the toilet. As soon as his hand went to open the doors back to the carriage, the door clicked. He looked around but saw nobody leave.
“Hello Jason,” said the subject, standing in the doorway, now in his dark hoodie, suitcase in hand. “I’ve been expecting you,” he continued, “shall we sit down?”