(First published in the National Flash Fiction Day ‘Flashflood’ June 2014)
The quiet carriage, with its view of the driver leaning casually against the controls didn’t have the crowd Peter needed to lose himself in.
But there was less chance for a knife in the ribs.
He concentrated on looking inconspicuous, acutely conscious of the papers taped to his chest, crumpled and clammy now after his flight. He could only pray the ink hadn’t run.
He looked back at the driver, at the unnatural angle of his head and a chill of disquiet shuddered down his spine. With no driver to negotiate the complicated track system it was only a matter of time before the train derailed.
Tension thrummed through his body and a bead of sweat trickled down his face. The poor bastard next to him must be near dead from exhaustion not to notice, but that was what years of fear and repression under Hitler had done. These people had shut themselves off from the horror around them, but it wouldn’t stop them from denouncing him to save their own skin.
That was what he and others like him were fighting so hard to stop, why the papers plastered to his skin were so desperately important and why nothing must prevent him from completing this mission.
It was also why he couldn’t sit by and watch all these people die without lifting a finger to help.
As he moved, his neighbour’s hand shot out and clamped around his arm, pinning him back into his seat.
Icy blue eyes glared into his. “Do not move.” The man hissed.
Peter strained against him. “You don’t understand.”
“Yes. I do.”
The man shifted his arm to display the design on his inner wrist.
The Unbroken Circle. Suicide vigilantes, they only received the tattoo when assigned to a mission they wouldn’t return from.
The man nodded. “The guards in the next carriage must not reach their destination.”
“Kill them then.” Peter gritted his teeth. “You don’t have to involve the rest of us.”
“It must look like an accident.”
“Look,” he tried, “we’re on the same side. I’m on an important mission.”
“As are we all, my friend. You will stay here with me.” The arm clamped back across him.
“Bloody fanatics.” As he threw himself against the other man, the door at the far end of the carriage snapped open.
Hope flared briefly in his chest, then fizzled out and died.
It was the Sector Commandant, flanked by two officers.
They were looking for him.
Blue-eyes shouted and launched himself down the carriage, as did several others who had been seated quietly.
Peter took advantage of the furore.
It didn’t last long. The guards from the next carriage soon overpowered the dissidents.
“Driver,” ordered the Commandant. “Stop at the next station to dispose of these prisoners.”
Peter turned and saluted, bringing his fingers to the brim of the driver’s hat, then leaned casually back against the controls.