Authors: Terry Deary
âGood morning, little girl,' he said softly. âYou will get tired standing there. Come into the compartment with me.'
I turned round, icicle stiff and icicle cold.
Locomotives and lies
I was safer in the corridor, I knew. A fly is safer in the sky but it still buzzes into the spider's web, doesn't it? I stepped into the compartment. He slid the door shut and pulled down the faded brown blinds.
âThere,' he said with his handsome smile. âThat will keep the cold air outâ¦what is the word you English use?'
âDraughts. And I'm not English. I'm Scottish.'
He bowed his head. âOf course. I am in Scotland. I must remember. A good place for walking in the giant hills.'
âMountains, as you say.' He smiled a cold smile. âI got on the train at your little station. There was a lot of things happening on the platform. What was that?'
âTwo German spies were arrested by the Home Guard,' I said.
He sighed then turned his pale, hooded eyes on me again. âAnd you got on the train at there, did you not?'
âYou watched me climb on the train and then you jumped on. Why did you leave it so late? You could have hurt yourself.'
âI was watching the arrest. I didn't hear the guard blow his whistle,' I said.
âYou were watching me. Are you following me?'
âNo,' I said loudly. âOf course not.'
âWhere are you going?'
âEdinburgh. To stay with my aunt and uncle,' I lied. âHe's a policeman,' I added, wild as a Highland sheep.
The spy's eyes never moved from my face. âAnd will he be there to meet you at the station?' He placed the suitcase across his knee and clicked the two catches. I was sure he was reaching for his gun.
If I said âyes' then he would shoot me on the spot and throw my body from the carriage window.
I tried to speak. âIâ¦ Iâ¦'
I was saved by the ticket collector. âAberdeen,' he cried from the corridor. I heard his footsteps coming nearer. âNext stop Aberdeen.'
The carriage lurched as the locomotive slowed. The fields and hills outside gave way to rows of grey granite houses and greyer roads.
The spy reached into his case and wrapped his bony fingers around something inside.
Aberdeen and apple
My mouth went dry. I looked out of the windows and saw the backs of shabby houses move past, slowly now. He had just seconds to pull that gun from his case and shoot me and throw me out of the window.
He spoke quietly. âIt is a long way to Edinburgh.'
âDid your family send you with anything to eat?' he asked. âYou have no bag.'
âNo,' I croaked.
âI have plenty of food. I know you English are short of food in this war. The German submarines sink your food ships and leave you starving.'
âI'm not English. I'm Scottish,' I said, scared into talking stupidly.
âI forget,' he said.
The train brakes screeched and the carriage rocked as it drew up to the platform and stopped. He couldn't shoot me now, I thought. Someone might come into the carriage. But he pulled his hand from his suitcase and I gasped. In his hand he held an apple.
It wasn't a rosy or a golden apple and the skin wasn't shiny. It was green and a little bit wrinkled. I discovered I really was hungry.
âAberdeen,' the ticket collector's distant voice cried as doors clattered open and steam hissed.
The spy's voice was low and kind. âHere, young lady. You can have my apple.'
I took it and felt juices in my mouth. I raised it to my lips. I hadn't eaten an apple since the war started a year ago.
A door near the end of the carriage banged open. A boy called out, âMarie? Marie?' He sounded like my brother Jamie. I'd answer him after I'd taken a bite. âMarie?' he called and the door to the compartment next door slammed open. My mouth opened.
âEnjoy it,' the spy breathed.
The door of our compartment slid open so hard the blind wound up with a whoosh. Jamie stared in and saw me. âNo, Marie!' he cried. âRemember Snow White!' He jumped forward and knocked the apple out of my hand. It rolled on the floor.
The spy picked it up. He looked cross. My brother grabbed my wrist and dragged me out of the carriage.
âIt's poisoned,' he said. âAnd I don't have seven dwarfs to bring you back to life.'
That made sense. The spy wouldn't shoot me with loud bangs if he could poison me quietly.
Like I said, Snow White saved my life.
Smiles and sandwiches
Jamie dragged me towards the guard's van. A man in a faded blue uniform with a face like Aberdeen granite helped me into the dusty brown van. There were parcels and baskets on the floor and a hard wooden bench to sit on.
âWait there,' he said before stepping out to wave a green flag and send the express on its way. He climbed back as we rolled out of Aberdeen station. âNow what's all this nonsense?'
âMr Murdoch here doesn't believe me,' Jamie said quickly. âHe thinks we're just trying to steal a free ride to Edinburgh. He says he'll put us off at Dundee and let us walk back home.'
So I told my story and the guard listened with his lips set hard. âHe says he's a walker,' I argued, âbut he has a suitcase. He isn't wearing walking boots, he's wearing shoes. He doesn't seem to have a map. He only knows he's somewhere on the north-east coast of Scotland. And he tried to poison me with an apple.'
âSo why aren't you dead?' the man asked.
âI didn't eat it.'
âSo how do you know it was poisoned?' he asked. Good question.
I looked at Jamie. âDid you tell him about the other two at Portgordon?'
I looked at Mr Murdoch the guard. âWe saw two spies on the platform at Portgordon. The police and the Home Guard there believed us and took them away. They were wearing the same sort of clothes and had the same salt-stains round their ankles. But this man came along later. The police missed him. You can check with the police at Portgordon.'
Mr Murdoch nodded slowly. âI may just do that,' he said. âThe last stop is Dundee in an hour. I'll give them a call. But if you two are lying to me I will wait till we are on the Tay Bridge and throw you in the river.'
Jamie blew out his cheeks. âNo, you won't.'
The old man leaned forward on his seat and hissed, âNo, I won't. I'll wait till we get to the bridge over the Firth of Forth and throw you in there. It's deeper.'
Then he did a really scary thing. He smiled at us. âI have a packet of sandwiches. The wife always makes too many. Would you like some?'
âAre they poisoned?' I asked.
âOf course,' he said.
âThen I'll have two,' I said.
Jamie and I returned his smile.
Storm and sausage
As soon as the train stopped at Dundee the guard hurried across the platform.
Three minutes later he hustled back into the guard's van and said, âNext stop Edinburgh. The army will be waiting for him there. Well done, you two.'
He leaned out of the van, waved his green flag and gave a long, loud blast on the whistle. Then he passed us a brown paper bag and said, âThese are for you.'
We opened the bag and found a bottle of lemonade and mutton pies. We drank from Mr Murdoch's tin mug and the hot pies vanished down our throats.