This was the longest train trip of the holiday and would be the last one for Pat Walker. Things would change at Santiago, out of necessity. She’d not had a chance until now, but she knew Santiago had to be the place.
What she had to remember here was to sit in the correct carriage, otherwise she would end up in Vigo, Ferrol, or Oviedo. Ferrol was where the dictator General Franco came from, and so had right-wing connections Walker found hard to bear.
The station in Leon is a terminus, there are no through trains; trains arrive and then return the same way. Walker checked her ticket and climbed into the carriage; she had folded her rucksack inside her travelling bag. She placed this on the rack above her seat, next to the window, and then helped a woman with three young children place their bags onto the rack opposite.
An old lady smiled at her, but a younger man regarded her with suspicion. He seemed to be weighing up all the passengers in this carriage. This man interested Walker as she realised he was not Spanish, but more likely came from North Africa. Walker was sure he was heading to Santiago de Compostela, yet he appeared to have no bags with him. She would have to watch him, and the thought crossed her mind that the man might be from the American embassy. Were they on to her already?
The train inched out of the station and Walker settled down to read her book, which she kept in an inside pocket of her new travelling jacket, a purchase that had pleased her. She might even fly back to the UK from her final destination wearing it. In the book, the assassin was almost in place and had everything he needed. Walker felt in a similar position and allowed herself to become involved in the book.
An hour out of Leon, the inspector came along the carriage checking people’s tickets. Walker stood up and pretended to be looking for something in her bag as the RENFE man did his job. She glanced at the North African’s ticket and saw he was going to Santiago. She wondered why, but let things take their course as it wouldn’t be a good idea for her to be on another train where someone wound up unconscious in the toilet. She realised the police algorithms would find her name on both passenger inventories in a nanosecond.
Walker sat down and continued with her reading, though she drifted off sometimes as she thought about her target, who was riding in the carriage ahead of her. Santiago was the final destination of the party of six before they flew to Frankfurt and then back home.
At Ourense, the North African got up and headed to the platform as he’d done at all the other stations, ostensibly for a smoke, but Walker noticed that this time he was clutching a phone and his cigarettes. Walker followed and eavesdropped on the conversation, which alarmed her and energised her in equal measure. This could either hinder her or help her, depending on how Walker responded. If the police knew of the plot, then Walker could get clean away and be sure that blame would fall elsewhere. On the other hand, the number of plain-clothes police might increase.