The rail station was less busy in the afternoon. From her position in the booking hall Inez could easily scan the crowd for her mark.

She preferred working in public places. The echoing concourse would distort the mark's wire, should he be wearing one, and their visibility would inhibit his behaviour if he was inclined to cut up rough


Inez waved and simpered girlishly as Edward approached. She wondered if he would recognised her,


Edward knew Inez by sight but, obeying Morty's instructions, did not acknowledge this.


Morty trusted Inez so Edward had to trust her too. However he did not respect her. She seemed ridiculous, amateurish and unworthy of her place in their hierarchy.


Today, Inez was dressed eccentrically. Her clothes were fashionable but badly cut and mismatched while her navy hat and seamless kid gloves would have been appropriate at a wedding. The make-up she had chosen was garish and clumsily applied. Tinted glasses hid her watery non-descript eyes.


Edward was being sent up-state for a few days. Morty had told him to dress smartly but not showily and to pack an overnight case. He knew that Inez had his tickets and that he was to hand over the ticket wallet when he was met off the train at Albany.



Inez spoke quietly, forcing Edward to lean in to hear her. From a distance their tableau resembled a college boy saying good-bye to his aunt.


She passed Edward his tickets and as he pocketed them, palmed a small bottle of perfume from her sleeve.


“Look what Morty gave me. Smells lovely huh?”


The chemical spray stung his eyes and nostrils.


“Here Eddie.” Inez passed him an opened wet-nap. “This'll soak it up.... Now take my arm; I'll walk you to the train.”


“It's hot for April, don't you think Eddie?” she continued cheerfully. Bless you, you're running with sweat; best wipe your face again.”


The irritation worsened. His throat tightened.


Inez smiled brightly as they reached the barrier guard. “My nephew's feeling a bit rough. Hungover I imagine. Which is coach A please?”


After a few dozen yards Edward began to gasp. Inez pinched him hard in the side and hustled him as quickly as possible to the front of the train.


The ever-thoughtful Morty had booked all the seats on the front two tables.


Inez pulled down the blind and manoeuvred Edward into the forward window seat. He lolled sideways, mouth open. She took a miniature of scotch from a pocket; some she tipped down his throat, the rest she spilt on his shirt front. Her non-stop small talk covered his shallow, husky breathing.


A whistle blew.


A woman and baby entered the carriage. Inez, having removed her hat and glasses ambled down the aisle towards them.

“My, what a beautiful child!” she gushed, with just a trace of a Southern accent.


Inez alighted and walked sedately to the station powder room where she washed her hands thoroughly before reviving her make-up.





Submitted: May 06, 2020

© Copyright 2023 Phil Child. All rights reserved.

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