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 Baker. His eyes were warm and welcoming but, as they focussed on Baker, 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 Baker 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 Baker, the grimace on his face unmistakable and the object of his disgust undeniable.
Giles took her chance. She grabbed hold of Baker’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 Baker’s policies as Giles did. But she didn’t want to take the chance. She strode straight towards the exit ramp, Baker 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 Baker. 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. One couple a few paces ahead of them had actually stopped and pointed at Baker before taking out their camera phones to take some snap shots.
Baker had noticed it too.
Without hesitation, he gave a confident nod and plunged his hands deep into his pockets, his fingers scurrying around from something in the deepest recesses. The confusion registered on his face for just a moment and then his hands withdrew, empty and clenched tight. He smiled sheepishly 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.’