Jordan jumped but remained seated. His heart nearly sprung out of his mouth. Melvin shot to his feet, his hand fumbling in the folds of his ridiculous overpriced cloak for the stiletto. His face was a portrait of utter panic that would have hugely satisfied Jordan thirty seconds ago… but now?
“Who is it?” Jordan called out, his voice hiding the fact that his heart was jogging along at a decent clip. He glared at the kid, who froze on the spot mouthing a sentence at him. What do we do? or something equally banal. Jordan motioned downwards with a sharp chop of his hand. Sit, that command said. Melvin sat. Jordan held an index finger over his mouth. Shut up.
There was a metallic rattle in response to the question. It sounded like keys, but was lost in a loud smash of thunder. In a fluid motion, Jordan was at the door, thumbing the lock, opening the sliding door a little.
The train conductor smiled. “Sorry to be disturbing you, gents,” he said affably. He went as far as to touch the brim of his grey uniform cap. “We had some extra passengers board us at Wareton…”
“So there is a station at Wareton?” Melvin murmured. He was still sitting in his bench seat with his hand caught in the folds of his cloak.
“No,” the conductor said. “No. We just pull up a wooden plank or two. No luxury out here in the boondocks. Had they not been waving their fairy lights, we’d have shot right by them…”
“Fairy lights?” Melvin commented, but before the conductor could begin to explain, Jordan spoke:
“Sir, excuse my friend, he hasn’t done much travel outside Tor. You were talking about extra passengers?”
The conductor nodded. “We had to do some shuffling of some of our allocations… and… well…” He stepped aside, motioned with a wave of his hands. “You boys have got some company.”
A timely spear of lightning greeted that statement. It was the perfect piece of unscripted theatre. The stranger came in, bowed over a large and battered suitcase. He shuffled, left-right-left, the soles of his boots scraping over the threadbare carpet of the carriage floor. In his wake, he left footprints, a mixture of mud and water. Rivulets ran from his black cloak, dripped from the hood hiding his face, pooled at the floor around his feet. He went as far as the centre of the carriage—no more than three feet forward—and stopped, out of breath.
The conductor, after ascertaining that there was only one passenger to be bunking in this particular carriage and that he only had the one piece of luggage, smiled broadly at all three of the men before doffing his cap in a cheesy salute. “See you all at Ma’arnar,” he chirped. He planted his cap firmly in place, turned and disappeared.