A helping hand

Noir

Noir (Photo credit: Ontario Wanderer)

He stepped down from the train onto the snow encrusted platform, impeccably coiffured and dressed in expensive Italian clothes. The steam from the engine swirled around him, mingling with the surrounding mist. He stood waiting for the other passengers to clear as the train noisily forced its way out of the station. Unlike the other passengers, if he felt the cold, he gave no outward sign.

Surveying the single platform, he marked the Soviet propaganda posters and the taped up windows. His gaze fell upon a vagrant sleeping on a bench under a pile of untidy newspapers. He took slow deliberate steps across the platform and sat down next to the supine figure.

“You don’t smell any better” the man announced as he removed his wide rimmed hat.

The vagrant sat up sending the newspapers sliding to the ground. “All part of the act old chum, all part of the act – how long has it been?” he replied as he scratched his unshaven chin.

“A hundred years – same as last time Jim” the man said as he pulled out a cigarette case.

“Doesn’t time fly Captain.” the vagrant said as he took one of the offered cigarettes.

The Captain tried and failed to bring his lighter to life. “Technical problems sir?” Jim asked cheekily, chuckling at his own joke whilst pulling out a box of matches from somewhere. The man smiled in reply, taking a big drag of the cigarette before blowing out a series of perfectly formed smoke rings.

“How are things going?” Jim asked – genuinely curious.

For the first time, the Captain looked at his companion, “Not good. Sometimes I wonder about this planet. Do you know they haven’t even got nuclear power yet?”

“I see – well behind schedule. What are we going to do?” Jim said, concern lacing his voice.

The Captain stubbed out his cigarette in the snow whilst blowing out a long jet of smoke. “Nothing else for it, we’re going to have to give them a helping hand.”

It took a while for Jim to take it in. “Oh. Who’s it going to be this time?”

“It’s either you or me this time Jim, you or me. I’m feeling generous… and… tired. Let’s toss a coin. Don’t worry, I never win.”

He reached inside his coat, pulling out a silver coin. “Heads or tails Jim?”

“Tails” barely audible.

The coin span through the air before settling in the snow at their feet. They looked down in tandem before sitting slowly back. Wordlessly, the Captain handed Jim his briefcase and then a pistol.

“So long Jim.”

Jim didn’t respond as the Captain stood up and walked slowly down the platform. He’d barely taken 10 paces before a single gunshot pierced the otherwise still night air. He froze for a moment as a single tear dribbled down his cheek, before resuming his walk into the mist.

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