I knew something was going to happen when I first saw him. There I was,
standing at the bus stop having been to my creative writing class. It
was half nine at night and it was quite warm for an October evening.
The class was at a place in the city centre, and the bus stop was on
one of the busy main streets. There were quite a few young people
passing by, popping into the many student pubs that have sprung up over
the last few years. I stood outside one of these places, alone, waiting
for the number 95 to arrive. I had been there about five minutes when I
saw him saunter across the road. Medium sized, he had black hair and
thick eyebrows. I would say he was in his forties. Wore a leather
jacket and blue jeans. I think what made me take particular notice of
him was his expression. He was smiling. It is something you tend to
notice, people smiling in the street. Especially when they are on their
own. More often or not you might see smilers with a mobile phone
pressed against their heads. But this guy had no such prop. Perhaps he
was thinking about some joke or amusing incident. As he reached my side
of the street he walked over to stand just a couple of feet way from
me, on my left. This unnerved me. Strictly speaking I was not waiting
at the bus stop. It was about twelve feet in front of me, near the
pavement edge. I might have been waiting for someone. If I was him I
would have stood next to the stop, to make it clear that was why he was
hanging about. His chosen position invited some speculation as to why
he was standing so near to me. I thought he was bound to start speaking
to me. But I was wrong. We both stood there in silence, watching the
youth of the city pass by. After a couple of minutes I was starting to
feel tense. The bus was due any moment - and, oh, here it is. As it
neared I went over to the stop to put my hand out. My unwanted
companion did not move. The bus drew up and I got on and paid for my
ticket from the driver. I wandered down the aisle and picked out where
I would sit. There weren't many on the bus, so there were plenty of
seats. I sat half way down, next to a window. As I did I looked up
towards the front to see that my companion had boarded and was paying
the driver. He walked down the aisle and sat next to me! I felt uneasy
again. There were plenty of empty seats on the bus - why choose the one
next to me? Especially if there were plenty of empty seats for him to
sit on his own. So there we were again, in close proximity, in silence.
I could feel his body heat against my thigh. He smelt of tobacco and
his breathing was heavy. As the bus moved off I stared out of the
window, wondering what was going on. Was this some sort of pick-up? Had
I accidentally given him the eye while standing on the street? Was he
going to say anything to me? I was not enjoying the suspense. After a
few minutes the dreaded words emerged.
" I've never seen town so busy on a Tuesday". He had a strong local
I muttered a reluctant "Yeah".
"I was a student. Never had the money to go out every night. Not like
they do now".
" Were you a student?"
"Yeah - a long time ago", I said, with a forced laugh at the end.
"Uni or Poly?"
"So was I. Don't know why they changed the name of the Poly. It
"Still - it was a great time. What course did you do?"
Oh no, I thought, this question will force me to speak to him. Can't
get way with "none" or "I can't remember".
"Medieval literature", I croaked.
"Did you?" He sounded more surprised than impressed. "Did that help you
get a job?"
"Not immediately. But I have always found it useful - can you excuse
me, this is my stop".
He stood up to let me past him. I did not look at him directly but I
noticed that his face was quite lined. He may have been older than I
first thought. He was still smiling.
"Bye", I said as I started to walk down the aisle.
He didn't say anything. To my horror I noticed he was following me
towards the door. I pressed a button to tell the driver to stop. The
bus came to a halt and I got off and began walking down the road in the
direction of my house. I knew he was following me. I quickened my pace
and crossed over to the other side of the road. There was hardly anyone
about and it was dark. I started to panic. I lived on my own - what if
he saw me enter my house? I passed the top of my road and walked
briskly to the local pub. Have a quick drink, I thought. Lose him and
then go home.
I pushed open the door and was relieved to see the lights and people. I
ordered a drink and went to sit down. The door opened. He walked in. He
didn't look in my direction - just went straight to the bar and asked
for a drink. He had his back to me, but as soon as his drink was placed
on the bar he picked it up, turned straight towards me and walked over
to my table. He sat down and looked at me.
"So what work did you get after Uni?"
I was so stunned I was speechless. He was looking straight at me. Cold
grey eyes. Still smiling.
" Admin.", I whispered.
"Is that what you do now?"
"What do you do now then?"
"Waitress. In a restaurant".
"In that place on Haddon Row? What do they call it - Leo's?"
How did he know that? I was really frightened now.
He reached into the inside of his jacket and pulled out a wallet. He
opened it to reveal a card with his photo on it.
" Karen Dawson. I am arresting you on suspicion of claiming Job
Seeker's Allowance whilst in full time, paid work You do not have to
say anything But it may harm your defence if you do not mention when
questioned something which you later rely on in court. Anything you do
say may be given in evidence."
I sat in silence. I looked at him. He looked at me. He was still