Donald Weaver was on the Blue Line North-bound – already halfway to his destination in Wood Green – when, for the first time, his eyes settled upon the dead girl sitting opposite.
He gazed in mute horror, his mouth fell partway open. The newspaper he’d been holding fluttered into his lap.
She was young – mid-teens – with short, spiky black punk hair, peppered with highlights. Make-up also varying degrees of black, likewise the v-neck tee-shirt, the leggings and the scruffy pair of Doc Marten’s. The only spot of colour besides her hair was the dark copper line ringing her neck, where her throat had been slit. Her mouth – like his – was hanging open, and her filmy blue eyes were staring at him.
Donald felt his thoughts turn to glass. His chest tightened.
The dead girl stared.
Suddenly, he realised . . . A prank! An early Halloween tryout, or a costume party, or maybe she was just an attention –
“I’m dead,” the girl said. Her voice was a whisper, but he heard it clearly above the rumbling carriage.
Donald managed, “Christ.”
Her eyes were ringed with mascara (Panda pits, his wife, Mary, called them, with the disdain particular to woman who have themselves sampled, but outgrown such phases), and black streaks ran down her cheeks; but there was something else, he noticed: Among the streaks were embedded perhaps half a dozen glinting chunks of glass, like jewels, except blood was trickling from them. Her skin was yellowish, and here and there he saw patches of dirt, and bruising.
He glanced around. The carriage was full. Not a single person was looking at the young dead girl (or him, or each other). She sat flanked on one side by a young woman wearing headphones, and on the other by an old woman trying to send a text. The young woman was nodding her head to a silent beat, whereas the old woman was frowning, wizened features poking from her cardigan like a turtle. And the corpse between them said, “I was murdered.”