The Red Cloche
That night, Jane was relieved when the timetable still showed the 23.55, her last train home, departing from Platform 17, not its usual one.
Jane boarded the train when a voice addressed her. “May I sit here, please?”
Jane saw a pallid woman, wearing an elegant red cloche, pointing at the empty seat beside her. Jane nodded, pleased to have company for once. The two started chatting. The traveller was friendly, told Jane that she had been catching this same train every night for the last year, while engaging her in a delightful conversation about this and that. Soon, her companion’s gentle voice soothed Jane and she fell asleep.
She came awake with a jolt, realising that the woman wasn’t there anymore, although her red hat was still perched on her seat. Jane took it with her when she alighted. Her phone rang and her mother’s worried voice came through, crying in relief as she answered. “You are safe, love, such good news!”
Realising she was still at Waterloo Station and hadn’t gone anywhere, Jane hung up, puzzled, noticing the worried faces around her. She visited the station guard’s office, intending to ask for explanations about her train, track her companion and give back her cloche. Mayhem reigned in the room. News were blaring on a television about the derailment of the 23.55 train from Waterloo, with many casualties. Jane was shocked but managed to speak to a guard, describing her encounter, her words tripping untidily in her mouth.
“You are mistaken, Madam. After Platform 16, there is only a dead-end track,” the stunned guard remarked, while asking Jane to describe her companion. When she mentioned the red cloche, the man paled and pointed Jane to a paper cutting hanging from the wall.
The article had the same date as the current night of her encounter, only it was from the year before. Jane read only the beginning which stated that a train had run over and killed a woman. She recognised her red-hatted travelling companion in the photo smiling from the cutting. Good news indeed.