Tuesday, 26 August 2008
"Το τρένο πήγαινε αγκομαχώντας." The train moved fitfully. It was one of those trains that seemed to stop at every insignificant station, even though no-one actually got on at any of them.
Not that I was paying much attention. I was too busy engrossed in the thriller that I was reading.
Someone entered the carriage, and sat down opposite me, the tip of his shoe hitting mine.
"That's okay". I went back to reading my book, which was getting more exciting by the minute.
"Where are we?"
"Texas", I answered vaguely, and looked up.
The stranger was in his late 40's, with a moustache. He seemed, well, a bit creepy. But friendly enough.
"Good book?", he asked.
"Yes. It's a thriller. 'Strangers on a Train'"
"I saw the film. It was very... interesting, don't you think?"
"Oh, definitely, though the book is quite different."
"But it still has the same idea? Swapping murders? Criss Cross!"
"Yes, of course."
"You know, it's funny, but I have a murder to swap."
"Really?", I asked. I thought it was best to humour the poor fellow.
"Oh, yes", he answered, leaning forward conspiratorily.
"A few years ago I agreed to kill someone. It sounds stupid, but I was younger, and probably drunk. Anyway, this chick was working with me in a fast food joint in Chicago. She was okay. A bit shor..., erm, not tall, but okay. She had this fear of growing old, and she asked me to kill her."
"And did you?", I asked, smiling.
"Well, she asked me to kill her the day before she turned fifty. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I'm not so sure now."
"Well, no-one wants to commit murder."
"Oh, I don't mind that, just, I'm worried about getting caught. I mean, she might have told someone about our agreement, and I'd be the first person the police would suspect."
"If I were you", I advised, "I'd forget about the whole thing."
"Well, that's where you could help me."
"What do you mean?"
"No-one would suspect you. You're not involved with her, like I was. You could do it. I'd be out of town, and so I'd have an alibi. In return, I'll whack someone for you."
I was speechless. Mainly because I couldn't think of anyone I'd like murdered. Not that I thought for one moment that he was serious. Then I had an idea.
"You could rob me."
"Rob you? That's crazy."
"No, I take out a huge bank loan, say £100,000. I leave the cash in my flat and go for a vacation, to Chicago, maybe. You steal the money, I claim it on my insurance, pay back the loan, and you mail me the cash later. Then I'm £100,000 better off."
I said all this jokingly, so I was rather shocked when he said, with a deadly serious voice, "Okay", and handed me a card. Not with his name on it, but with a woman's. Bianca someone or other. Along with an address. Presumably this was the girl he'd agreed to murder.
There was also a date on the card. 10 November 2022.
I looked up, but the man had disappeared.
I didn't know what to think, and I'm still worried. If I go to Chicago and do away with this Bianca person, it'll be terrible if he doesn't keep his side of the bargain and get me my £100,000. On the other hand, if I don't go, I might be in the flat when the creep breaks in.
Life is full of dilemmas...
With apologies to Patricia Highsmith, Alfred Hitchcock, and Bee