David Stobart had been with British Intelligence for twelve years now. A thick set man, he was what women would call - ‘Rough and Ready’ although he carried his large frame with some degree of poise. With short cropped hair, well-worn clothing and overcoat he certainly looked like a dockyard worker; or at least he hoped so! At thirty-two years of age David was starting to wonder if he would ever settle down in life. He liked women and they certainly seemed to like him, but he had as yet to find someone who had similar interests to himself. The main love of his life and it always had been, was computers. Most women seemed to lose interest in him rapidly, when he lost himself to a computer programme for a couple of hours on end.
David had only last month completed a course at Devonport dockyard in Plymouth, so that he would be fully conversant with all manner of welding techniques used in Naval shipbuilding.
‘This job is really glamorous,’ he thought. ‘My feet are freezing and my lips feel like they’re going to stick together any minute.’
He looked down the station platform as a rumbling noise caught his attention.
‘At last,’ he thought, ‘ I hope the carriages have some kind of heating,’ as he frantically rubbed his hands together to generate some warmth. ‘Still, when you get sent to the Artic circle…’
The old steam locomotive rumbled imposingly into the station and stopped abruptly with a screech of metal and a blast of steam from underneath. It consisted of only half a dozen carriages and seemed fairly empty.
David selected a seat at the rear of the third carriage, sitting with his back to the toilet and carriage door. Things seemed quiet now that the cold war was over. Ahead of him, halfway down the carriage, an elderly woman struggled to place her heavily laden suitcase into the overhead locker. At the front of the carriage an irate couple were trying in vain to stop their young boy from causing havoc as he ran up and down the carriage screaming. At last he gave everyone some peace, as he became engrossed in drawing a face on the steamed-up carriage window.
The train was slowing… David began to brace himself as it uttered its by now familiar screech and came to a halt. It had only been fifteen minutes and they were already at the Russian border. How David hoped that the train had been full at this moment, as a Russian in military uniform boarded the train.
‘At least they haven’t come mob handed,’ he thought, ‘and this one’s yawning. I hope he’s in a rush to get away and off duty.’
Dragging his feet the soldier approached the couple further down the carriage.
‘God, I hope my papers stand up to scrutiny,’ he thought.
Just what options he had, if discovered, came flooding into David’s head. He didn’t want the operation to fail at the first hurdle, especially after all the months of planning.
The young boy at the other end of the carriage, broke off from his window painting and began to pull at the soldier’s rifle, as he began to scrutinise the couple’s papers. Cursing under his breath, the soldier thrust the papers back at the couple, pulled his rifle in towards his side and stomped off towards the carriage door and station platform. David lifted his hand up and wiped the beads of perspiration from his brow.
‘ How I love young children,’ he thought to himself.
The train rumbled on through the night, passing through Kandalaksha, Severodvinsk and Konosha as David slept.
Jumping up with a start from his motion induced sleep, David grasped at his nose as he opened his eyes. Standing in front of him, with a huge grin on his face, trying to push a straw up his left nostril, was the young boy from down the carriage.
‘I take it all back about loving children!’ he thought, as he gave the boy a glare that would melt a block of ice.
The boy hesitated for a brief moment and then decided that perhaps he might be wiser trying the old woman halfway down the carriage after all.
The train journey was going to be a long one, with still over twelve hundred kilometres to go until David reached Vorkuta. He began to repeat the details of the operation over in his mind. His military training had made him very meticulous.