8:29am – A two-carriage train stutters into Dalgety Bay train station. 14 minutes later than its intended arrival time. A mass of commuters begin their slow traipse towards the doors in anticipation of their opening. Forming clusters. Ragged triangles of bodies judging their every step and move, waiting to burst onto the train and claim any available or seat or space in the daily space-deprived, sweat-inducing carnival that is the rush hour Fife to Edinburgh train service.
Trees, fully in bloom, resplendent in their greenery, in their foliage, surround the station’s northern platform. Unmoving. Silent. Ornamental.
Eventually the doors shunt open, signalling the stampede of bodies to follow. The crush. The swirl of selfishness as every man and woman nudge, bump and shove their way onto the train with varying degrees of success.
8:30am – With every seat already claimed long before, the aisles and gangways burst at the seams with standing passengers. The areas between the doors strain under the weight of bodies. Cheek to jowl, toe to toe; glum looking commuters come into contact with one another. Space to move, air to breathe; both are minimal.
As the train slowly sets off the merest jolt sets in motion a perilous balancing act for the standing passengers. With nothing to hold onto for support, the vast majority of these poor souls bump into one another. Those standing in the aisles judder, scrambling frantically to latch their hand onto the roof racks for support. All the while looking down at the seated passengers with more than a hint of resentment. And no little anger.
8:32am – The temperature throughout the train rises. Sweat begins to form and drip from many of those clustered together in the aisles and gangways. Annoyed sighs and murmurs audibly begin to trickle into the air.
8:33am – The rain speeds past its next scheduled stop of Inverkeithing. Several dozen passengers are left disgruntled, many hurling profanities at the passing train, as they linger on the platform. Those on the train look in with a mixture of bemusement and, for some, relief. No announcement accompanies this impromptu decision.
The temperature continues to rise. Jackets, shirts, dresses begin to lightly stick to the skin of some of those standing. Disgruntled, sleep-deprived, unsmiling sardines forced together in a joyless journey.
8:35am – A passenger, a bespectacled male in his mid-to-late forties, cries out in pain and collapses in the space between the end of one aisle and the area between the doors. The mass of huddled bodies means no-one sees a blood-strewn penknife being withdrawn from the unfortunate victim’s lower torso.
Screams break through the carriage as blood is seen spilling from the collapsed man. He drifts rapidly into unconsciousness. His breathing laboured to the point of barely being there.
Panic begins to spread. Shouts of ‘Stop the train!!’ and ‘He needs a doctor…’ intermingle with others suggesting someone, anyone, makes their way towards the driver and/or conductor (should the latter even be on the train) to inform him or her of the situation.
But no-one budges.
All seemingly too worried about giving up their space. All too concerned about losing an inch in this, by now, daily battle. The hysteria swiftly dies down. A few disgusted expressions emerge on the face of some before fizzling out to blend in with the mass of sheepish, slightly-ashamed-but-not-nearly-enough, faces turning down towards the floor.
In the aisle the stabbed man, lying in a dark pool of his own blood, splutters his last breath. Unaided or assisted in his death throes.
8:37am – Another passenger screams and collapses to the floor. Again with blood seeping from the torso. Again, the withdrawn pen-knife is not seen. This time the victim is a younger blonde woman, aged somewhere in her twenties. Blood trickles down her dress as she crumples to the floor not far from the dead man. The carriage maintains an icy, surreal silence. A muffled beat and vocals can be heard as her earphones fall lazily from her ears. Blood splutters from her mouth as she lies in agony.
A smattering of gasps and screams are heard throughout the train but just as swiftly die out. Glances are exchanged. But no action is taken. Aside from a slight shuffling of feet as the others adjust their footing to make space for the victims.
The woman attempts to cry out but can muster no more than a gargled noise that dissolves into silence.
8:39am – The train slows down as it approaches the North Queensferry station. There seems to be a collective brace amongst the passengers, possibly ready to spill out of the train as soon as the doors open. Fleeing in terror, in an attempt to get help.
But no, as the train stops and the doors open no-one moves. Paralysed less by fear and more by an irrational determination to complete their journey. A handle of passengers attempting to board the train are rebuffed, ignored even. Their angry remonstrations are met with silence. The doors close. An uneasy shared silence again tightens its grip within the carriage as the train slowly moves off towards the Forth Bridge.
8:45am – The train careers past Dalmeny station, again paying no heed for the multitude of passengers waiting to board. Angry, shocked faces are seen only in a blur as the carriages speed by.
Within the train three more passengers lie dead on the floor close to the first two victims. All three stabbed in quick succession. Two younger suited men and one woman in her late fifties. The floor swims with blood. The stench of death permeates the train. Still a bizarre, stifled silence holds dominion. But the faces. Once sheepish, many are now contorted in absolute fear. Silent tears stream from the faces of some. A gripping terror places its spectral hands around all.
8:49am – As the train rattles past the airport another passenger is stabbed. This time this particular victim (being seated at the end of the aisle) slumps forward onto the table in front of them, blood spilling from their side. The heavily bearded man, somewhere between his late twenties and early thirties, collapses to the floor of the aisle, his corpse careering against the legs of those tightly-packed together between the seats.
This time the bloodied-knife is spotted disappearing back into the mass of bodies by some. Violent cries greet this latest killing. Staggered lurches of fear escape from the throats of those up and down the train. Screams of ‘Help!!’ ‘No no no’ and other such exclamations pepper throughout the carriages.
8:50am – Slowly, methodically, a small middle-aged man – bags skirting his eyes, his posture hunched ever-so-slightly – steps over the corpses and calmly sits himself down in the now-vacated, and blood-drenched, seat.
He casually places the bloodied knife on the table in front of him. For all to see.
He closes his eyes and slumps back into the air. A satisfied sigh accompanies this move.
The other passengers look on in disbelief.
Panic spreads. The volume rises.
Screams, shouts, cries, screeching fill the carriage as a contented smile spreads across the man’s face.
9:01am – Grief-stricken commuters file off the train at a busy Waverley Station. Many run, fleeing for safety. Others throw-up on the platform as soon as they step off the train. The stench of the dead victims, the horror of the situation, being too much for them to contain in the depths of their throats. The murderer remains on the train, sitting calmly as all others depart.
The British Transport Police rush onto the train almost immediately after the last passenger departs and apprehends the unresisting offender. He calmly gives his name as his arms are held tightly behind his back, the murder weapon pushed from the table. Les Mahagow. 54 years old. A long-time resident of Dalgety Bay.
As he is led from the train in handcuffs, surrounded by four policemen, he is smiling as he passes by the devastated passengers. Smiling calmly and with supreme satisfaction.
‘I finally got a seat’ he can be heard saying. ‘Finally. That’s all I’ve ever wanted. Just a seat. Not crammed in, not standing, just a seat. I never ever get a seat. Never. But now. Finally. Finally. That’s all I ever….
…all I ever…
“LES! FOR FUCK’S SAKE. THAT’S YOUR TEA READY! STOP PLAYING WITH YOUR TOYS AND GET YOUR ARSE DOWN HERE! LES!!!’
Les’ attention is abruptly shaken. He stares down at the model train set beneath him. It runs the length of the attic. A sprawling, expansive model, complete with hills, trees, commuters and even a miniature replica of the Forth Bridge for good measure. The room is dark but for a small lightbulb draining its way down to the finish. He removes the old-style conductor’s hat from his head. Still in a trancelike daze. He looks at the train on the track below. The two carriage train. He can almost feel the sweat clinging to his body, virtually smell the scent of blood hanging in the air.
“LES!! THAT’S YOUR TEA READY!! FOR GOD’S SAKE!”
“Erm…’ he dusts himself down and switches off the light, allowing himself one last look at the train set. ‘I’m…coming. Erm…just coming.”
“I said I’m just COMING!” his volume increases towards the end of his answer as his throat begins to regain some semblance of liquidity.
‘Just coming, aye’ mutters his wife as she strolls across to the cooker and turns the hob dials off. ‘I better you bloody are you dirty get. Away up there playing with your little fucking toys. A big child that’s all you are. Pathetic.’
She hears her husband’s footsteps slowly drifting down the stairs as she lays the two plates of food on the table of the adjoining dining room. She flicks on the small portable TV on in the corner of the room, automatically switching the channel to BBC1 for their annual nightly dose of Reporting Scotland.
She hears her husband’s footsteps slow to a halt as they approach the kitchen.
“C’mon Les, your tea will get cold if you dither any bloody longer!” she says as she shovels a forkful of food into her mouth.
‘Tonight on Reporting Scotland…’
She listens with one ear for her husband as she keeps her gaze fixed on the TV. Still no sound. She shrugs, disinterested.
‘…and, Murder on the Fife Circle. We have the latest from the scene as several commuters were tragically murdered on their way to work this morning…’
“Jesus…” she mutters, laying the fork down slowly next to her plate.
She stares at the TV. Transfixed by the horror of the story.
A flicker in the periphery of her vision catches her eye.
She feels a shiver creep through her as she looks up to see her husband standing motionless in the doorway.