by Anton Wills-Eve

<a href=””>Disaster</a&gt;

I love one word prompts, they offer such unlimited scope to enjoy yourself.


The worst scenario now for Giovanni was the prospect of his Mafia ‘friends’ working out how he had escaped. What would they do to him if they ever caught him? But how could they? Jacob’s sister Barbara had assured him they would never trace a man who had changed his name, his country and his looks. She had done a very good job on him. So he went into the main waiting room at the railway station in Bologna and sat down to kill 25 minutes until his train arrived.

He put his small green suitcase down beside him and started to read the e-book on the tablet he had with him. Barbara had even given him her own pocket computer, so nobody could trace him through that. He was still fidgety, though, and was surprised to discover the book on the reader app was in French. He didn’t speak French, but it was too late now. He started to read ‘Malaise en Malaisie’, a two dime thriller that might have been romantic, pornographic, a ‘whodunnit’ or all three for all he could make out. But, in case he was being watched, he ploughed through it as the pages scrolled forward on an automatic turner. He was intelligent enough to realise that the main good guy was called Jean-Claude, his romantic helper must be Francoise, the arch hood was obviously Mephisto, well he had to be, and his moll seemed to be called ‘Ma Belle Etoile’. A bit of a mouthful in a crisis, Giovanni thought, but he wasn’t actually very bothered about the story. But he was a bit worried about a cute young girl who sat opposite to him and seemed to be watching everything he did while trying very hard to appear uninterested in him. 

As luck would have it his train was delayed, then cancelled and finally announced as arriving about two hours later than it should have done. Our fleeing hero was feeling hungry and decided to get a sandwich out of his case. The sandwich box, a thermos flask and some night clothes and wash things were the sum total of the possessions he had brought for the journey. The case could be stolen for all he really cared as nothing in it would identify him in any way. He munched hungrily on some pastrami and bread, and sipped a little coffee, as he became ever more engrossed in the book which became less comprehensible by the page. Indeed Mephisto  appeared to be about to shoot Jean-Claue, or it could have been the other way round, and the two women were knifing each other – at least he thought that was what they were doing – and the approaching climax had got him quite excited by the time his train pulled in.

Hastily Giovanni put the tablet in his small suitcase, shut it and ran onto the platform to catch his train to the Swiss border and freedom. But to his horror his pretty ‘apparent stalker’ jumped up and followed him. Who was she? Giovanni was taking no chances. He changed seats three times, but each time the girl moved to a position from which she could see him. He just prayed they would make the border before she could alert any Italian contacts. But no such luck. As the train started to move slowly out of the station at Turin, the last stopping point in Italy, the girl was up like a flash, snatched the suitcase, whisked open a door and jumped onto  the very end of the platform.

Giovanni was lost. Why did she take the suitcase and not worry about him? Well, she hadn’t bothered about him so he just sat back in his seat and relaxed for the first time that day. In the early evening he was very glad when he got out at Geneva and went through Swiss customs with no problems and nobody watching him. He was safe. And there, ahead of him by the taxi rank, was Barbara waving to him. He kissed her on both cheeks and asked her what they did now as she was the one who spoke French and would get him on to his next destination, London by plane. His English was fluent and his future safe. But Barbara looked at him stunned.

“Giovanni, where is your suitcase?” she asked, almost in a panic stricken voice. “You left it on the train!” Then he explained what had happened and wondered what on earth was so important about his only bag. Barbara asked him to describe the girl. When he had finished she  swore quite immoderately.

“You put my tablet in the green case? You idiot!  The girl you described is one of my best friends, Louise Martin. We have a bet on about which of us would read Coco Manche’s latest thriller first. I downloaded it last night and thought I had beaten her. You fool, now she will read it before I do. I lose a 500 euro bet. Honestly Giovanni, you are sooo stupid”. But our hero asked her to take out her mobile phone and text Louise. 

“This will win you 500 euros, Barbara , my thanks for your help. Just tell her  this. ‘On page 217 Jean-Claude is facing Mephisto at gun point. In the next room Francoise and La Belle Etoile are fighting each other’. You couldn’t know that if you had never read ‘Malaise en Malisie’ as I have , could you? Louise will admit defeat.” Barbara stared at him.

“But you don’t understand French. How could you have read all that?”

He smiled. “I don’t and I can’t. I only managed to follow those names, and the odd word here and there. Louise must have seen what I was reading and seen me put it back in my case. I hope I haven’t spoiled the plot for you, but then I may have got it completely wrong and only picked up the names. But she’ll still believe you’ve read it first!”