Triple Flash

Three sets of short flash fiction (100 words), Uriel's Foolishment, Abner and Honey. It's quite a feat to fit in a plausible story into 100 words, but it can be done.

Uriel’s Foolishment

Cold breath coiled into the morning mist. Naked silverbirch trees stuttered against the breeze. A carpet of honey and wine coloured leaves softened his approach like a silent invitation.

He glanced up at the keep, saw the shadow at the window; the King’s bedchamber overlooked the woodland.

Uriel’s clammy-tinged fingers tightened around his sword. The King’s dead kestrel dangled from his leather belt, next to the sword sheath.

The troubled face in the window caught sight of the dead bird, then his falconer.

Uriel oozed from the protective clasp of the haze.

The King would be headless by nightfall.


The sound of time tickled the stagnant silence and wrested the fear from his frozen expression. A droplet glistened beneath the winter sun and dribbled down Abner’s unshaven face. It looked more like a tear than a globule of sweat.

The shadow standing over him blocked out the haze, yet cradled within his tormentor’s face he saw a churlish demon, burnished with unspeakable malevolence.

The German officer’s eyes were blackened pearls; gleamless, empty.

Betrayed by his cousin, Abner faced the officer’s gun. His knees grew cold. He waited for his mind to implode, to saddle him with instant death.



Dark, wide, peacock eyes blinked.

His smile burned through the dimly lit candescence cast by a row of candles along the fireplace. His shadow flickered as though momentarily shuddering.

The soft glow caressed her demure face. She was skinny, small breasted, but he didn’t mind.

A masterful flick of the wrist, a hint of lime, and the drink fizzed. An offering, to ease him into her trusting cloud. Her eyes appeared vague, already lost.

A dark rancour slowly crept across his skin as he closed the door to the bedroom. ‘Let this be our little secret...don’t tell the other children...’

Expressive Poetry

I wrote End of the Line for last month's Writer's Talkbalk entry for the One Word Challenge, and the terrible events of 7/7 inspired me.  The word we had to use was 'silence'.  I tried to imagine that silence in the aftermath.  What would it feel like?  Oppressive, fearful...a relief? 

Expression in poetry works the same as expression in prose, and free verse allows you to do this to great effect.  The title of the poem has a double meaning: end of the line, meaning death, and also the end of the line on a railway track.

End of the Line

Dirt and vapour and the taste of iron filings

Settled on his tongue.
The saintly glow of fire swelled
In his mind, and despite the diminished light
It brought him to with a jolt.
Somewhere in the peripheral
Papers fluttered like stricken birds
Tossed and ushered by a breeze
Reluctant to fall or cease.
A dark swirling cloud of dust
Danced in the gaping hole
Where the doors should have been
Spinning out the aftermath
Of innards, splinters and sparks.
But all David could hear was the
Gabble of his heart rubbing against
Cracked ribs; the demure trickle of life.
He touched his face; dried parchment skin
Stretched taut and wetted by blood and grit
Muscles cramped like singed hairs
Forced pain into every knotted fibre.
Death stalked like a shrouded figure
Yet he was mindful of the terrible sound
That swept in and stifled him.
The sound of silence.
Pinned, unable to move, he turned his head
Gazed at the curling corners of a map.
Colourful lines in lined patterns mesmerised
And the words, through the haze:
Welcome to the London Underground.


Transmit and Receive is a sort of ghost story, written after I wrote an article about one of the men who served aboard HMS Repulse in 1941, and who, sadly, perished with hundreds of others when the ship was bombed by the Japanese.  In essence, the story is based on true events, but explores the possibility that modern technology could tap into the past.  This story is dedicated to the man who gave his life almost 70 years ago, and inspired the story.

This short story is included in the anthology Something From The Attic (shown on the right), available from Pill Hill Press.

Transmit and Receive

The sun flickered behind a cloud, almost made it translucent, and a bright corona seeped across the cobalt sky. Thick, hazy sunbeams struck the water.

The silence grew heavy, listless, as the water parried and bristled against the side of the ship. Hundreds of faces glanced skyward, waiting and watching. The brightness made them squint and most raised their hands as a barrier against the glare.

Still nothing.

The heat had steadily been rising and shimmered in the distance like a fuzzy beer fuelled dream. Across the ocean, the remains of the British fleet burned beneath the pale, distended haze. Thirteen minutes earlier, the Japanese bombers had descended like angry hornets, dropping bombs in quick, ordered succession before making off into the azure sky. Thick, oily bands billowed up and soiled the vista. Three ships had spilled their innards; hundreds of men had been burned alive or had slowly drowned in the gallons of oil spilling across the surface of the ocean.

Able seaman Francis gripped his Vickers gun, felt a clammy film of sweat gild his fingertips. Unnerved, he wiped them on his shirt as though removing a terrible dark stain, readied himself. He looked up at the sky. Clouds drifted over, unhurried by the sense of foreboding and fear which clung to the surface of the ocean like an oil slick.

He’d never heard silence like it, a state not even broached by the hiss of the water, a sound they’d found so comforting over the last three months. Even from this distance, the scent of death parched his throat.

The bombers would come again. They all knew it. They came in waves; around thirteen minutes apart, attacking from a distant point across the Pacific ocean, then splitting into smaller attack groups before assailing them and bombarding them from all directions.

Francis was desperate for a cigarette, but daren’t leave his station, not now, not this close. He glanced round at the others standing at their ack-acks on the deck above, quite still, as though afraid to move. They too, watched the sky.

His ship was the only one left. No match for the countless bombers.

A churning sense of fear filtered across the deck; the smell of misery sullied the whole ship.

Francis wiped his brow, thought about his mother and his three sisters. A strange sensation permeated his conscience. Something within his very being knew that he would never see them again. The sensation crackled in his mind, singed the precious memories. His heart slowly flooded with sadness.

He had barely had time to write the date in his diary: 10th December 1941, before the first siren sounded the approach of the Japanese bombers.


This sound, scratchy and distant like a memory, made Francis turn to his mate, positioned just behind. “Did you say something?”

The young gunner shook his head. “No.”

Francis turned back to his gun, wiped fine beads of perspiration from his brow again as he peered at the horizon through the gun sight. He gripped the gun, ready, his heartbeat pulsing steadily in his fingertips as though tapping out a mayday signal against the cold iron of the gun handle. He took in a breath, but then he heard the sound again. A female voice, distant and yet strangely close. He turned; looked about, half-convinced the stress of the first wave of attacks had sent his mind into meltdown.

He looked up at the speaker mounted on the wall next to him, his pale blue eyes misted by uncertainty. He looked at his mate. “Tell me you heard that.”

His shipmate frowned. “Nothing but the silence, old chap.”

The fragmented female voice broke the silence again. “Can you hear me? This signal is terrible...”

“There!” Francis said, pointing at the speaker. “Just then, an English accent. I definitely heard it.”

The gunner peered up at the speaker. “I think you need to see the ship’s doctor...there’s nothing from the speakers, not yet.”

Not yet meant a long, stilted wait for the Captain’s word to man all stations. To ready themselves for the final battle. For every minute that passed, each man’s heart grew faster, heavier, louder.

Francis stepped away from his gun, stood tiptoe to listen to the speaker. “Allo? Can you hear me?”

The sound of static crackled softly through the air.

“Get back to your station, seaman,” the gunner said. “The Captain will have our hides.”

Francis ignored the young gunner. He listened to the static, heard the blips and hiccups in the transition of the sound, and the longer he listened the more attuned he became to her voice. “She’s transmitting.”

“Who is?” the gunner asked, looking round surreptitiously. “I don’t hear anything.”

Francis pointed to the speaker. “The woman...I can hear her in the static.” He frowned. The lines in his face had grown deeper these last few months, made him much older than his twenty-three years. “I’m receiving, but I can’t transmit.”

“You’ve lost your marbles, man. It’s a speaker – no one can hear you.”

Francis looked up at the speaker. The dark grille pricked his curiosity. “Allo? I can barely hear you and I can’t transmit.”

Hello. Who’s this?” the female voice asked.

Francis straightened, eyes dilated. He stared at the speaker, surprised. “She heard me...that’s impossible...” He turned to the gunner, kept his voice quiet. “Tell me you heard that. That was loud and clear. A woman’s voice.”

The gunner looked at Francis with a blank expression. He slowly shook his head. “I don’t hear anything. What’s with you?”

“I’m telling you, I can hear her.” Francis cocked his head towards the speaker. “This is Able Seaman Francis Millford. Who are you?”

Oh, I’m sorry; I’ve called you by mistake.”

“No no, don’t go. Who are you? It’s been a while since I’ve heard a female voice. We don’t get much female company around here except on leave.”

The cold whistle of static enveloped a short pause and then the woman’s voice broke through. “Sorry to have disturbed you, Mr Millford.”

The static returned and seemed louder. It seeped into his mind like waves washing against the rocks, jarred his thoughts and suffocated the droplet of rudimentary happiness at hearing a female voice.

“Damn,” Francis said. “Come back. Allo?”

The gunner snorted. “Get a grip and get back to your gun. Any minute now we’re going to have a sky full of Jap bombers.”

Francis reluctantly returned to his ack-ack. He eyed the speaker, curious, bewildered. He couldn’t figure out how a transmission had seeped through the ship’s system, or how she could hear him. He wondered whether the woman was trying to get through to the Captain, or whether she was a foreign spy, entangled in the airwaves. Just because she had an English accent didn’t mean she could be friendly.

He dismissed it, looked out across the water. A jaded light caressed the clouds. Dark distant specks freckled the horizon. The Japanese bombers were coming, bellies full with rage.

Hello?” the female voice said.

Francis turned as though physically yanked. He gazed up at the speaker.

Hello?” she asked again.

He left the gun and stepped over to the speaker again. “Allo? It’s Francis.”

The woman’s static encrusted voice broke through the palliative silence clinging to the deck. “Oh sorry, I’ve called you again, my mistake.”

“Who are you trying to reach? Is it the Captain you need to speak to? You’re on the wrong frequency.”

Captain? No, I don’t want the Captain...wait, are you a crew member?”

Francis smiled and his voice lightened. “Yes, able seaman Francis Millford, HMS Redoubt.”

Oh I see. I’m trying to call home,” the female said, brusque.

Francis placed his head against the wall. The ship’s cool outer skin soothed his sweat-peppered brow. Home. Such a powerful word that sank down his gullet like a shard of glass and sliced him from the inside out. Home, the little two-up, two-down red-bricked house he shared with his mother and three sisters in Liverpool.

Home, where he would rather be, instead of floating on a tin can in the Pacific. He imagined standing in the ripe fields just outside his home, catching rain spotted gusts of wind against his face and breathing in the potent grip of cool air that filtered down from the hills.

His voice wavered. “Where’s home?”

“London,” the voice replied. “I’m really sorry. I really don’t know why I’ve called you because my friend is on speed-dial.”

Francis frowned. “Say again? What’s speed-dial?”

I’m sorry, I have to go.”

Francis looked back across the rail; saw that the black flecks in the distance had grown bigger, advancing in tight formation. His heart belted against his sternum, fear returning to flood the caverns within. Salty streams hurried down the side of his face, his body’s response to the latent fear inking his insides.

An imaginary clock ticked silently in his mind; a countdown to the inevitable.

“Listen, tell my mother, Agnes Millford, tell her...tell her we’re all in fine spirits here, we’re on one of the fastest ships in the fleet.” He hesitated, something caught in his throat. “Tell her that I’ll be home for the New Year, tell her that won’t you?”

The female voice changed. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand--”

The flecks in the distance now obscured the clouds as midday approached. The blackened shroud crept forward, undulated and churned out vapour trails in spiteful spurts.

“Tell her, please just tell her,” Francis urged. “I don’t have much time...”

Okay okay...Agnes Millford, I got it.”

A different sound boomed across the tannoy and sliced through the silence like a rigid heavy cleaver. “Attention! Enemy aircraft approaching. Man all stations!”

Francis stared across the side of the ship. Something trickled into his guts. His anus tightened.

The gunner gestured. “They’re coming. Get back to your station, Millford!”

I really do have to go,” the voice said. “I’m sorry to have disturbed you again.”

The sound of a hundred aircraft engines swept across the surface of the ocean and resonated against the ship with a contemptible thud. The sound pulsed against his skin. He shuddered as a rolling cloud of vapour oozed forward.

“What’s your name?” Francis asked, watching the sky darken. “I need to know.”

Another pause.

The blackened cloud approached quickly, blotted out the sun and darkened the entire ship.

It’s Aimee,” she replied.

Francis smiled, closed his eyes for a second. The sound of his heart calmed a little, no longer thumped hard against his chest, nor pounded in the side of his temples. Somewhere outside of his fear, he heard the multiple sound of gunfire; the scream of engines overhead, the whistling of strafing bullets against the ship’s skin and the sharp clank of shells against the deck as the AA’s discharged. Then he heard the explosions and then the screams, the distended cries of men ripped from their stations and flung into oblivion.

The guttural tear of metal formed a gash through the hull, and yet Francis remained huddled against the wall, eyes shut, and in his mind, he was walking through the tall grasses, heading toward home, the little red-bricked building at the end of the street.

His voice remained calm. He opened his eyes. “Aimee? Tell them we fought well. Tell them that, won’t you? Tell everyone.”

The static fizzled into the void, crushed by silence.

* * *

The connection pitched and squawked in Aimee Rutter’s ear, startled her. “Shit.” She glanced at the phone. The signal stuttered. She peered at her watch. It was just a minute after midday.

“I said you wouldn’t get a signal out here,” John Rutter muttered to his wife. “Not in the middle of the Pacific.”

She looked at him with a silent scowl.

“Who were you talking to anyway?” he asked, flicking the newspaper.

Aimee looked at her phone. “Wrong number. Some man called Francis, a crewman on another cruise ship.” She stood up, looked out across the stern. The horizon remained barren, an empty sky and an empty ocean separated by a hazy horizon. They were on a cruise ship in the middle of the largest ocean on the planet, alone, looking forward to the upcoming Christmas festivities. “He said he was on one of the fastest ships in the fleet...what was it...oh yeah...Redoubt.” Quietly perturbed, she gazed at the empty vista. After a while, she turned to her husband and her expression drooped. “He said to tell everyone that they fought well. I don’t get what he was talking about.”

John Rutter placed his newspaper down. “Fought well? What was the name of the ship again, HMS what?”

“Redoubt,” she said.

His lips slowly turned into a wry smile, and then, without warning, he laughed at her. “Redoubt! I think someone’s pulling your chain, babe.”

She moved away from the rail. “What do you mean?”

He eyed her disquieted expression. “HMS Redoubt aint a cruise ship. It was a large battle cruiser, part of a big British fleet, joining the Americans and ambushed by Japanese bombers 10th December 1941. She was practically bombed in half and sank to the bottom of the Pacific right beneath us, just after midday, along with three other ships. Thousands lost. No survivors.” He raised a furtive eyebrow. “Sounds like some weirdo is having a laugh with you.”

Aimee stared at him for a while, unsure what to believe. Her brows lowered, puzzled yet defensive. “Francis isn’t a weirdo. He told me to tell his mother he’d be home for New Year...”

John Rutter tutted, raised the newspaper and continued to read.

Aimee sighed as though defeated by her husband’s logic, and yet the sound of Francis Millford’s voice seemed as clear as the water that shimmered in the swimming pool beside her.

She looked down at the date and time on her mobile phone. Her throat tightened when she realised.

It was 10th December, approximately seven minutes past midday.

She quickly pressed redial, rang the number again, put it to her ear.

But all she heard was static.

Dedicated to Able Seaman CF Young who heroically died in battle in the Pacific, aboard HMS Repulse, 10th December 1941.


I wrote Fear to examine the human condition of suspicion.  We're all suspicious people, but sometimes events happen that turns us into highly suspicious and sometimes prejudiced creatures, when in fact there is no reason for it. 

In the wake of terror attacks on the West, we have become more alert, but in so doing we have inadvertently and unfairly pushed forward our misconceptions about people.  Fear is about those prejudices and misconceptions and how they prey on our ability to sort reality from irrational fear.  The scenario is perfectly possible, especially if we let fear get the better of us, but the consequences are far greater.


Fear. That oppressive clamp around the heart and mind, invading the empty spaces with loathing and spreading like a disease through every cell.

Their fear started to grind every nerve ending, and it clung to the floor like a pervading creeping fog, an invisible vapour that coiled around ankles and chilled the flesh, despite the rising heat.

Evan shifted nervously in his seat, looked up.

Two dark skinned men stared back at him, their eyes moving in silent communication with each other. They had boarded the train two stops ago, shoulders heavy with rucksacks, their expressions deeply coloured and guarded. They grew nervous as more people boarded the train at the next stop.

The train quickly filled up, leaving many people with no choice but to stand in the aisles or take up empty spaces in the corridor by the toilets.

Evan glanced to his right and exchanged tense looks with the four men huddled by the window. He could see dread in their eyes, as though a dark maroon stain had clouded them all. One of them turned away quickly, stared at his reflection in the window.

The countryside flashed by in a green-yellow blur. The air remained oppressive, and it crackled with an imaginary hiss, enough for Evan to hear it above the whispers.

The heavily pregnant woman sitting opposite Evan rubbed her swollen stomach. Her smile was fragile, feigned. Nerves pulsed beneath her pale skin. She’d seen the two men acting suspiciously by the doorway, too.

Evan smiled back, but it was an empty gesture. Movement made him look up.

One of the dark skinned men scratched his beard, whispered to his friend.

Evan watched intently. His eyes narrowed as the constricting rush of fear trickled through his veins. They looked Arab, he decided. Muslim, for sure. And every flick of their eyes smeared Evan’s perceptions with an impenetrable dark cloud, and he was sure that any second now the Muslim would press a button or pull a cord and send the insides of the train catapulting through the grey cloud outside.

Beads of perspiration teetered on his brow. Brain cells gurgled with unbearable pressure.

The two men whispered, looked around anxiously.

Evan’s mind vibrated with imaginary voices and words. Lip reading had never been his forte, but even he could see they were not speaking English.

One of the men moved from the doorway and walked towards the next carriage.

Evan craned is neck to see, but the man quickly disappeared into the throng.

The pregnant woman saw Evan’s face tauten. She sat up.

The young Muslim stared at Evan, his expression cold and hard as though hewn from stone. His eyes were dark, almost black beneath lowered brows. Veiled. He viewed Evan with as much suspicion as Evan cast the young man.

Staring at each other had become a game.

Whispers floated into the strained atmosphere. Evan turned in his seat, heard people talking, their voices lowered. Some pointed at the young Muslim man. It was like a ripple; more pointing, more whispers, more strange looks, all flowing out and coating the inside of the carriage with a layer of thick distrust.

Evan’s heart stuttered within his ribcage. Something dribbled down his face. He wiped his brow, saw perspiration glistening on his fingertips, but in his fevered mind, he imagined blood on his hands.

He blinked, slowly found the young man’s face.

The young Muslim’s features had changed. Something else now squatted in his expression, and he fiddled nervously with the cord dangling from his rucksack, as though it had caught in the zip.

Evan’s gaze focused on the cord.

‘No more stops...’

The sound of her voice brought him to. He looked at the pregnant woman, the soft deep lines in his forehead creasing into a frown.

‘No more stops now until we get into Euston,’ she whispered.

Ample time to blow the packed train to shreds.

A breath caught in Evan’s throat. He swallowed hard, waited a moment for the anxious swill to settle.

The woman looked up at the emergency button on the panelling above them. Pressing it would stop the train, but it wouldn’t stop the men from detonating their bombs.

‘They’ve been acting very nervously since they got on,’ Evan whispered. He glanced at his watch. ‘Almost eleven o’clock. Maybe they’re waiting for the right time.’ He looked at the man sitting beside him. ‘We can take him down, overpower him. There are two of them and dozens of us.’

The man shifted nervously beside Evan, looked away.

‘What’s the matter? You’d rather die than do something about it?’

The man ignored Evan, stared out of the window.

An incredulous cloud descended. ‘Oh I get don’t want to get involved, you’d rather turn a blind eye. Being a selfish coward is better than being a dead hero, right?’ He turned around, looked at the people sitting around him. ‘What’s the matter with you people?’

The cloud dusted their minds with guilt before dissipating, but the carriage remained silent.

The young Muslim heard Evan and stepped back from the growing venom.

Evan saw him, leaned into the aisle, watched as the dark skinned man edged towards the next carriage. He glanced over his shoulder at Evan, eyes clouded.

Evan peered at the others sitting beside him, fear icing their expressions with an arctic hue. They were all cowards. Dead cowards.

He got up, edged his way past those standing in the aisle.

The Muslim saw him. His fingers tightened around the cord.

Evan felt his insides chill, ice crystals frosting up his veins with dread as he moved forward.

The Muslim slapped the button on the compartment door and it slid open. He stepped in, hurried through the carriage as the door closed behind him. Evan watched him through the glass panel. The man looked back briefly.

Evan pressed the button to open the door, followed him.

The young man exited the carriage, moved into the next one, heading towards the busiest, crowded part of the train.

Another kind of fear lodged in Evan’s stomach then and it made him move faster, pushing people aside as he broke into a trot.

Ahead lay the toilets. The young man made for the compartment door.

Evan couldn’t let him get to the crammed front carriages. ‘Stop him!’ He scrambled over people and piles of bags stacked in the narrow aisle. ‘Stop the son of a bitch. He’s got a bomb!’

These words. Like a blunt needle into the skin, delivering a cold poison.

Evan’s face flooded with heat as the carriage erupted into cries and shouts. He pointed. ‘He’s got a bomb, stop him!’

Confusion and terror began to congeal within the confined carriage, studding the atmosphere with a strange electrical charge that surged through the train like a sound wave.

The young man ran into the corridor by the toilets. The people who had been sitting on the floor scattered like frightened animals to escape the melee.

Evan raced forward, but then stopped suddenly. He looked down to his right, saw a child cowering in her mother’s arms. On the table in front of her, he saw a pile of magazines and a pair of scissors that she’d used to cut out pictures.

The strange look on the child’s face made his insides shudder. She seemed afraid of him.

He grabbed the scissors, quickly followed the Muslim towards the corridor.

The compartment door closed and the ticket inspector stood by the door, saw Evan running towards him. ‘Hold it there...what the hell is going on?’

Evan grabbed the man by the collar and threw him in the corner. ‘Out of the damn way!’ He punched the button, almost physically pulled the doors open.

The young man stood by the compartment doors, cornered. Dread poured from his skin, streaked his face. He faced Evan, chest heaving, one hand outstretched and the other tightly gripping the cord.

Evan inched forward, fingers tight around the scissors. ‘Don’t you dare pull it, you bastard.’

The young man’s brow furrowed slightly. He spoke softly in Arabic, shook his head.

Evan had no idea what the man was saying. He pointed. ‘Put the bag down.’

Faces in the carriage compartment either side of them pressed against the glass door panels, watched them.

The young man muttered something else, kept on shaking his head.

Evan stepped forward. ‘Let go of the cord!’

The man kept repeating the same words over and over. He stooped as though his legs had given way.

‘Let go of the fucking cord!’

The air hissed and cracked around them. The sounds seemed loud in Evan’s brain, like cracks of thunder. He slapped his hand against the emergency stop button, and a moment later the train stuttered. The sound of grinding metal rumbled and reverberated beneath them.

The young man’s knuckles whitened as he gripped the cord. But his eyes frightened Evan, wide, full with intent. Or was it fear?

Evan knew any second now the man would pull the tiny cord dangling from the rucksack, and they, the carriage, and everything he ever knew would be ripped apart by the blast, leaving the skin of the train peeled open and spilling its guts onto the rails. He thought then of the pregnant woman, her unborn baby ripped from her womb, the little girl in her mother’s arms, both stripped of flesh by the force of shockwave. Their imagined screams tormented him, clawed at his senses, shredded his nerves


the whispers urged him to end this. End it. Stop the bomb.

Evan blinked against the salty fluid dribbling into his eyes. His heartbeat felt like a tin drum.

The young Muslim looked down at the cord in his hand.

A split second. That’s all Evan had, all it took, as he threw himself forward.

The scissors sank into the man’s neck. Instantly he let go of the cord, screamed and stumbled back before slumping to the floor.

Evan bent down and withdrew the scissor blade. Blood bubbled and spilled from the wound.

The Muslim gurgled, fingers scrambled to find the cord.

Evan stabbed him in the chest, plunged the scissor blade as deep as it would go, then again, heard the metal scrape against one of the ribs.

The young man’s wide eyes locked onto Evan’s face, the veins in his eyeballs swelling with blood. A mixture of fear and disbelief etched across the man’s contorted face.

The sweat from Evan’s brow splashed onto the young man’s skin, spread like a stain.

The grimace on the young man’s face slowly faded until eventually he slumped back, still.

The train finally came to a stop.

Evan looked down at the dark coloured cable poking from the rucksack. He reached over, carefully unzipped the bag and peered inside. There were several books, all in Arabic, and at the bottom of the bag, he saw a rectangular instrument. Curiosity made him reach in and pick it up.

His heart juddered. Silence crowded him.

Faces pressed against the glass.

He held up the box, read the letters across the top of it: PERSONAL ATTACK ALARM.

He stared for a long time, as though wresting the letters from the surface of the box, but somehow his brain wouldn’t translate, numbed instead into open-mouthed disbelief.

The door opened. The ticket inspector stood in the doorway, saw Evan sitting astride the dead man, holding a box in one hand and a pair of opened scissors in the other.

Evan looked up. ‘I...I thought he had a bomb...I thought he was going to blow up the train.’ He looked around at the faces staring back at him. Their silence thundered through his senses. ‘I thought he was going to kill us...I was sure...’ He looked down at the Muslim’s blood smeared across his hands, thick, and still warm.

‘I was so sure...’