CROYDON, NEXT STOP
Watching carefully, Giles edged closer towards the doorway, her ears straining for her signal.
On the platform, a man with blonde dreadlocks, a scraggily beard and a tattered, red-chequered jacket, stepped up to the doorway and peered inside at Giles and Barker. His eyes were warm and welcoming but, as they focussed on Barker, they seemed to cloud over and, in that instant, he withdrew a few steps away from the train as though it were giving off some tremendous heat. He didn't move any further, but his eyes did glance intermittently up and down the platform. The swirl of passengers embarking and disembarking the train swarmed around him and, all the while, he glared past Giles towards Barker whilst his face contorted into a singular yet unmistakable snarl.
The sharp beeping returned and the green buttons flashed yellow once again. The man took one last look up the train, closed his eyes and slowly stepped forward and clambered in through the doorway. He inhaled sharply as he came alongside Barker, the grimace on his face unmistakable and the object of his disgust undeniable.
Giles took her chance. She grabbed hold of Barker's hand and pulled him forcefully off the train. As they clattered on to the platform, the doors slid silently closed behind them and the train began to move away.
She didn’t wait to see what became of the dreadlocked man. From the way he was dressed he was probably just some hippie that had as much disliking for Barker’s policies as Giles did. But she didn’t want to take the chance. She strode straight towards the exit ramp, Barker striding in her wake, and within minutes the two of them were moving along the concourse towards the exit barriers.
Giles hesitated. The barriers were closed.
‘Do you have a ticket?’ she asked, turning to Barker. She slowly pulled out her warrant card and nodded apologetically towards the barriers. ‘I can probably blag my way through, but two of us might draw too much attention…’
She looked around as the other passengers passed them by. Already some of them were throwing glances in their direction: some excitable, others in disgust. A slow rise of admiration intertwined with discontent began to slowly bubble up as more people became aware of the politician walking in amongst them. A couple up ahead, hearing the commotion, had even stopped to grab their camera phones to take some selfies of themselves with Baker in the background.
This is getting dangerous…
Giles turned back to Barker. He nervously glanced around at the parade of curious onlookers before turning his gaze back on to Giles. He seemed confused for a moment but, as his eyes focussed on the ticket barrier up ahead, they brightened in an instant and his face began to glow, courtesy of a self-assured smile. He shoved his hands into his pocket and searched for something but, after a moment or two, he paused - slowly retrieving his empty hands as he gazed sheepishly up at Giles.
‘We didn’t have time,’ he said slowly, his hand rubbing at his chin as he tried to hide the shame in his face . ‘I’ve never…’
‘No time for that,’ Giles interrupted. ‘We’ll just have to improvise.’