“Ah come on love!”
She fiddled nervously with the pamphlet, gave the rough sleeper a strained smile, and moved her weight from foot to another.
“Ah come on, just one kiss! That’s not too much to ask is it? Where’s your Christian charity?”
She laughed and took a step behind her stand which proclaimed “The real truth! The healing power of the Bible! Ask us!” positioned as it was every day outside Cardiff Central train station.
“What are you doing?”
Mike shut his eyes, then without turning around said;
“For the last four days the same wino has been trying to crack onto the same blond Alpha course Christian. It’s brilliant. He’s never going to get anywhere, but I admire his persistence. He’ll stop in a few minutes when his mate brings him his Cider.”
“Well I’ve got something else for you to admire.”
Mike had to stifle a sigh.
“While it’s quiet I need you to check the platforms for abandoned bikes Mike. There’s been a few reported since - you know - Bristol.
‘Bristol’ hung ominously in the air like a mosquito ready to bite.
“I need to know numbers and locations. Any bikes that look like they’ve been there a while. We’ve all got to multi-task with the cuts.”
I’m a Revenue Enforcement Officer not a...whatever it is who checks on left bikes.
“Fine. Where do I start?” asked Mike
“Platform one, but keep your radio on cause I might need you to jump on the Turnstiles to check tickets if it gets busy.”
I’ll jump on your head if you don’t shut up.
Mike didn’t want to go to platform one because it meant having to walk past the poster for the new Manic Street Preachers album. He hated the big fat smug face of Shaun their drummer.
Fuck it, I’m going to get one of those limited edition Twix/Twixes that I’ve heard so much about.
“What you up to?”
“Nothing much. Bloody Trev has asked me to check the platforms for abandoned bikes. Any monkey could do that. I’m a Revenue Enforcement Officer.”
Mike had popped into the Spar on the station’s forecourt to have a moan to Brenden.
“A Ticket Inspector.”
“Revenue Enforcement Officer, pay band C. He asked me to go and check platform one, but I think I might go and check platform zero instead.
Brenden sucked air through clenched teeth.
“Rather you than me.”
“You know, platform zero.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes I do, cause ghosts are bollocks, who’s supposed to haunt it?”
“It’s a lady who went mad when her husband was killed in the First World War, she held her baby girl and lay down on the tracks in front of an oncoming train. It’s said she calls to others…”
“That’s quite clearly bullshit, cause the platform was only built in 2007. Actually I think that might be the plot for The Woman in Black.”
“It’s just what I’ve been told.”
Brenden looked down and began to rearrange some Green Extra chewing gum on the counter.
“Yeah, well. You got any of those limited edition Twix?”
“Nah we’ve sold out.
Mike tutted, rolled his eyes and stepped out of the shop.
He checked his emails on his phone. Did he know his bank could owe him money from PPI? Delete.
Instant approval on a Credit Card.
Then there was the notification from Facebook, Alex from the old band had sent him a message, he’d formed a new band, mostly covers, but with a few pub gigs already booked. Did he want to pick up the sticks again?
Pub gigs. Mike snorted.
There was a time back in the early nineties when his band - Northstar - had a buzz off the back of two Peel sessions. Mike and the rest of Northstar had been royalty in Subways, royalty - back when Subways was an indie club just up from the station, not a chain of sandwich shops. Mike had seen the Manics at the bar, all four of them, trying to look elegantly wasted but trying too hard, and poor doomed Richey looking uncomfortable in his own skin. Shaun the drummer had said something to Mike that night - he couldn’t remember what it was, he was pretty drunk - but it had offended him.
Mike had thought at the time. He’ll be flipping burgers when we’re headlining the Stadium. Things hadn’t quite worked out that way.
Bollocks to it, I’m going to start on platform zero.
Mike walked across to the far end of the forecourt, climbed the stairs to the platform and was greeted by Shaun the drummer out of the Manics looking pensively into the middle distance.
Jesus, I didn’t realise that they’d put the poster up here as well.
Mike tried not to look at it but couldn’t help but register one of the reviews.
“A career high! Five stars - Mojo magazine.” Bollocks.
Mike looked the platform up and down. No sign of ghosts, just a confused looking bloke, and no sign of any abandoned bikes. The bloke looked lost, or pissed, or probably both. He was a commuter, Mike could tell because he had his tie slung over his shoulder, a sign of running for a train and not being aware of a fashion faux pas. The other tell-tale signs were the dark rings under his eyes and the grey pallor of his skin which spoke of too many early mornings, Gregg’s pasties and late nights on platforms waiting for the delayed train home.
Better get the first strike in.
“Can I help sir? Where you going?”
“Uh...Bristol...or coming back..."
The Bristol train didn't even leave from here, it was platform two, but before Mike could tell the commuter began to speak again.
"Yes...I.” he looked around the platform. “I’m just looking for something, I’ve...lost something.” Mike shrugged.
“My, uh, my Boardman, my black Hybrid Boardman."
Mike had no idea what a black Hybrid Boardman was.
"I could have sworn I left it here this morning. I bought a new Kryptonite lock for it only yesterday.” “Do you…” the commuter looked around “...do you ever have the feeling that you’ve lost something really important and you…” he licked his cracked lips “...and you can’t quite remember what it is?”
Mike stared at him blankly and decided to ignore the question.
“Sorry mate, I can’t help you.”
“Okay, thanks.” The commuter walked off.
Mike walked back down the platform, he looked back but the commuter had gone. Mike walked down the stairs and with a deep sigh made his way to platform one.
I haven’t seen Alex for ages. It might be a laugh. I don’t have anything to lose. It would probably do me some good to be behind a kit again. It would get me away from Sharon and the kids. Bollocks to it, I’m going to give him a ring.
Mike walked past the ever present train spotters and gave them a nod, but they were arguing about something and didn’t notice him.
As he walked to the bike racks between platforms one and two, the train to Bristol was due, and his mind went back briefly to the commuter. Mike got his notebook out and at the same time found that he was actually looking forward to ringing Alex and being in a band again.
He looked at the first rack, but then his gaze was drawn to a bike on the furthest rack. It had fallen over and no one had bothered to put it upright. The bike lock held it in limbo, not quite touching the floor. The lock was heavily rusted as was the chain and the rest of the bike, but even with the decay eating away at it Mike could read that it was a Kryptonite lock. What paint work which wasn't rusted was black and printed on it was 'Hybrid Boardman'.