Jumped............or Pushed ?

Donald Nelson


Jumped...........or Pushed?

The man approached the guard from behind and threatened to shoot her in the back. He told her not to try anything funny because he had worked on the railway and knew the procedure. She did not think there was anything funny about the situation and told him so. He asked if she usually travelled alone in the guards van and she told him that sometimes other railway employees got in on their way to start their shift at the other end of the line. She hoped this would put him off but he took a British Rail tunic and cap from the sports bag he carried. He put them on telling her that if anyone did join them she was to tell them that he was a trainee and she was showing him the ropes.

She told him that it was time to go and he let her leave the van to check the carriage doors and blow the whistle. Before she did this the man told her he knew where she lived and if she ran he would find her.

The guard hoped that someone from the station might have seen the man getting in to the guards van and come to investigate but the platform was deserted. She got back into the van and pressed the buzzer twice, a signal to the driver at the other end to set the train in motion.

As the train pulled away she stared out at the platform and wondered if this could have happened a couple of years ago before the cutbacks, a streamlining and efficiency programme they called it, cutting out the dead wood, but the only thing that was dead now was the station. Gone were the porters, replaced by a few luggage trolleys with dodgy wheels and the ticket clerks replaced by a machine that when working was very efficient at providing you with your ticket but not so hot at handling out timetables, directing strangers to the High Street or replacing the light bulb in the ladies waiting room (closed until further notice due to repeated vandalism).

She asked him what he wanted, he told her what he didn't want, to hurt her. She found this hard to believe since there was a gun pointing at her. He saw the look on her face and repeated that he didn't want to hurt her but would if he had to.

She wondered why she was not afraid and hoped that she could stay calm. She told him he had not answered her question. She felt if she kept him talking she might find out what he wanted. He told her that if she did as she was told then there would be no cause for concern.

The guard began to take mental notes of the man's appearance. Around five foot eight, mid fifties, dark brown hair, brown eyes, slightly overweight and no distinguishing features or visible scars or tattoos

The telephone buzzed and she lifted the receiver, it was the driver, he told her they were running on time and suggested he buy her a drink after work. She told him she would need to ask her husband and three kids first and tried a cheery laugh but her voice came out flat.

Her husband and kids. She tried not to think any more about them. Again she wondered why she was not afraid. There seemed to be nothing threatening about this man. He seemed a rather sad character and she decided that his actions seemed more of a cry for help than anything else. She also knew, from many years working with the public, that peoples mood can change in a split second. She tried to remember her training on dealing with aggressive passengers. She didn't think there was anything included in the course about being held at gunpoint.

The guard told the man that she would need to go and check the tickets along the carriages. She hoped that she may be able to alert someone of her situation if he let her go.

The man told her that anyone without a ticket can get a free ride today and she was to stay where she was.

The man was now sitting on a fold down seat with the gun dangling between his knees and his hands clasped loosely round the butt. He had not spoken for ten minutes and only seemed alert when the train pulled into a station.

The guard spoke to him once again. She asked him what his job had been on the railway but he did not answer and just looked at her blankly.

At the third station a young woman with a baby in a pram and a large box in a black refuse bag asked if she could travel in the guard van as the pram could not fit through the carriage doors. She looked at the man and he nodded. They travelled in silence, the gun now hidden by the sports bag on his lap, for two stops and the woman with the baby got off.

The guard thought of her own children again and once more tried to engage the man in conversation. She told him that she had three children. Two at primary school and one about to start school after the summer holiday. She thought of asking if he had children but decided against it. The man again looked at her expressionless. His eyes held no emotion.

The guard decided not to say any more and anyway if he did know where she lived then he would probably have been watching the house and would know about her family. She came to the conclusion that he had not been watching her and he was just saying this to make sure she did as he said, although she didn't want to take the risk.

The guard looked at the man  and wondered if she should tell him there were only two stops to go but decided that he probably already knew.

She needed a distraction from the silence in the guards van and asked him if he wanted a cup of tea, she had a Thermos in her bag. He shook his head. She asked if he minded if she had one. He stared at her for a few seconds but did not answer. She took that as permission and poured herself a cup.

She thought that maybe she could throw the tea in his face and grab the gun but immediately felt embarrassed at such a dramatic thought coming into her head. She sipped her tea, it was lukewarm. She made a mental note to buy a new flask next payday.

A slight wave of panic came over her, she was being held on a moving train at gunpoint for a reason she did not know and she was thinking about shopping. She was angry at herself. She was losing concentration, she must keep her mind in what was happening..

The man looked at her, sensing the change in her mood. She stood with her back against the carriage wall, tea in one hand and holding onto a hand rail with the other. The train swayed as it took the curve approaching the final station and slowed to a stop.

She asked the man what he was going to do now. He did not answer but stood up and dropped the gun to the floor. He opened the door and stepped out. An express train rushed past. She opened the door on the other side of the guards van and stepped on to the platform.

Donald Nelson