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“This is a customer service announcement,” Paul looked up at the ceiling of the station. “All customers are advised that anyone using a camera will be immediately dealt with. Please refrain from using any recording equipment anywhere on the station.”
Paul looked at the man next to him and at the other passengers. Everyone else was looking around too, looking for answers in their fellow travellers’ faces.
Paul slipped his phone into his shirt pocket.
“This is a customer service announcement. Due to a security situation, no trains will be departing the station until further notice. Customers are asked to remain on the station concourse.”
There wasn’t the usual collective sign that accompanied a delay announcement. No one had expected trains to depart from this nightmare. Paul noticed that a young man in a blue cap was filming the situation. Was he one of the strange security people? Paul’s question was answered immediately as the phone was slapped from the man’s hand and went skittling across the tiled floor. One of the soldiers punched the man in the face with a black gloved hand, punched him in the stomach and then kneed him as he fell to the floor, another black uniformed man crunched the phone under his large black boot.
Paul could hear the breathing of the man next to him and some sobbing from behind him.
“They’re coming for me,” the man said. “Here take this.” Paul felt the man touch his hand.
No one spoke, no one moved. The soldiers moved like teachers judging a musical statues competition. They studied the faces of the passengers. Who or what they were looking for was anyone’s guess.
It was Paul’s turn. The soldier’s fiercely blue eyes studied his face. Paul vaguely recognised the man behind the mask but with only the eyes and the bridge of the nose to go by it was difficult to place him. Neither man blinked until the soldier grunted and moved on. Paul took in a huge gulp of stale station air. The soldier was now studying Paul’s neighbour. The stare went on longer and longer. Paul didn’t dare look around to see what was going on.
He winced at the crunch of bone and cartilage and felt moisture splatter his cheek. The soldier stopped the man from falling and cuffed him and dragged him away. Paul felt brave enough to take a tissue out of his pocket and wipe the blood off his face. Other people were being dragged away, bloodied and dazed; men, women, all ages, all colours. Paul managed to count twelve people in total but there may have been more. The station cleared of soldiers, even the plain clothes ones had gone, but still nobody moved.
“The delayed 18.30 First Great Western Service to Bristol Temple Meads is now ready for boarding on platform 1.”
Instead of signalling the usual rush, the announcement barely raised a murmur. More announcements were made and people started moving slowly towards their trains. No one had got their phones out to see if the signal was back. Paul’s train was announced and he too made his way to the platform.