It had happened about half an hour previously, a few miles south of Waterloo. It was the nightmare scenario, two high speed trains, one accelerating away from the station, the other just starting to decelerate as it made its approach. The closing speed taking both into account was in excess of two hundred miles per hour.
Early pictures from the scene showed a cat’s cradle of twisted metal, flames and smoke. Early estimates put the number of passengers across all the carriages involved in the multiple pile-up at something in the region of five or six hundred, possibly more.
As I stared at the pictures I suddenly realised I’d actually been holding my breath again for at least the last minute or so. Clearly it was becoming some sort of default reflex at times of stress.
Then everything kicked in.
For the next few moments I was back in war zone mode again. Then, all it took was a sudden burst of sniper fire and suddenly I was running. Everyone else would be running away from the action, I’d be running towards it. Now I was running again. Like then, I knew I couldn’t think. I just had to do. No hesitation, no second thoughts.
First; the note, composed in less than a minute. One minute later, I was out of the loft carrying a small holdall.
Another minute on again and I was wheeling the Duke away from the underground garage.
A moment before I’d sprayed over the rear number plate – typical boy-racer trick. Every wannabe Rossi would do it before taking their bike out for a burn. The paint was reflective and all a speed camera would see was a blur as the bike flashed past.
I didn’t fire the bike up until I’d got at least a hundred or so metres away. Next, a blip of the starter, not even the hint of the customary twist of the throttle before I hopped on and headed for the Limehouse link.
In the darkness I could hear distant sirens up on the surrounding streets. Coming out of the dark into the daylight, a small army of ambulances sped past in all directions. Ten minutes later I pulled into a small car park just round the corner from the station concourse.
A bored operative manning a small booth at the exit took no notice as I rode in. Another problem number out of the way. The last thing I wanted was a bike freak who wanted to talk about all-matters Ducati.
An exclusive extract chosen by author Rob Gittins from his new
Investigating Mr Wakefield
WAITING TO HAPPEN
Then, the next problem, the ticket. The charging system in the car park was simple. You punched a button on a machine as you entered, the entry time on the ticket determining the charge. My ticket was clearly useless; the time was stamped on a central strip, a good hour or so after the time of the crash. But there were a couple of other bikes at the far end. I stood by one of them, one motorcycle freak admiring the prized possession of another. Tucked just behind the left hand grip was its ticket. I smoothed my hand over the grip, retrieved it, the entry time again stamped clear, a couple of hours before. I switched that ticket for mine and headed back to the Duke.
As I stowed my helmet in the pannier, a woman passed. She’d just come out of the station with a small child in tow and was cursing the station staff having just been told some blockage on the tracks had temporarily suspended all services. All eyes swivelled her way as she ranted and raved. Her daughter had a dance lesson, the other side of Croydon, her exam was only a few weeks away, now what was she going to do? She was what I always used to look for, the minute I arrived at the scene of any conflict, a distraction, something to divert potentially hostile eyes away. I took my small bag out of the side pannier of the Duke, headed away, making sure I wasn’t in sight of any of the nearby CCTV cameras, making for the next stop, a small café a street or so away.
And then, as I seated myself at a quiet table away from the counter, I slowly felt myself start to relax. Up to that point I’d been on automatic pilot. I was in control of the decisions I was making, but it still felt like some force apart from myself was guiding my actions. Or maybe that was some sort of defence mechanism already kicking in. Perhaps I was already constructing ways of attempting to evade responsibility for all I was doing.
But with the Duke abandoned in that station car park I could no longer avoid it. Now it was time to take stock, to go over what I’d done so far and what I would have to do from this point on in order to fully realise my intentions.
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“A sudden burst of
sniper fire and suddenly I was running”