“Keep Raven safe.”
“That is my first priority.”
I caught my pack in my left hand, cradling my injured right and said, “Come on, Raven. We have to run. We’ve got second class tickets.”
I started off at a half trot, heading back down the side of the train to the gray-striped second class coaches. Raven was caught off guard, and came stumbling after. Will was left looking foolish. Raven snapped, “Ian, what are you doing?” Then the train’s brakes gave a burst of air and the doors started to close. I tossed my pack in and caught the edge of the closest one, motioned Raven aboard, and followed. The train had already started moving; we waved to Will as we passed.
“Of all the clumsy . . .,” Raven began, but I cut her off.
“Later. I’ll explain later. Right now, let’s get settled before our visitor comes.”
I was already moving down the aisle. Second class cars have six-passenger compartments. These were curtained and unlighted, but when I opened the doors there was enough light to see into them. Most of the occupants were sleeping, or trying to. I found what I wanted on the third try, and motioned Raven in. She started to object that the previous compartment had been empty. I hustled her in anyway, and tossed my pack up into the overhead rack. She stood in angry indecision. I tossed her pack up and gestured to a seat. She sat down, furious, but unwilling to make a scene in a compartment full of half-sleeping strangers. I took the only remaining place, slumped down, and braced my feet on the opposite seat.
We sat in silence. Raven was still angry; I was just waiting. Then the door slid back again and the businessman who had sprinted after us at the last moment, looked in. I said, “Sorry, old chap. ‘Fraid the place is full.”
He just looked at me, then closed the door and moved on. I caught Raven’s eye and said, “That visitor.” Her eyes got very wide. I nodded and said, “We’ll talk later. For now, the idea is that we can’t fall asleep. We’ll watch each other for dozing, and stay ready to move fast.”
As it happened, it was not all that hard to stay awake. I only had to lower my hand into my lap whenever I started to doze and the throbbing was more effective than caffeine. Thinking helped, too. I kept thinking of what would have happened to all those tendons if Skinny’s knife had cut just a little deeper. Whenever Raven’s head nodded, I kicked her in the leg. Maybe harder than was strictly necessary. I still wasn’t happy with her.
When the train slowed for Avignon, I put my foot against Raven’s leg and pressed gently. Her eyes met mine, and I silently mouthed, “Be ready.” She nodded. I waited until we were fully stopped, then rose, slid the door open and stepped out into the aisle. I stretched, scratched, and yawned; the man with the newspaper was not in the aisle, nor peeking out of a compartment. If he had been, I would have gone to the W.C. and tried again at Livron. I stepped back into the compartment, ignoring the muttered complaints of our fellow travelers, tossed Raven her pack, and grabbed mine. We reached the platform just as the train started to move. Whether he saw us get off, I could not tell. Whether he cared, I did not know. The windows of the train were opaqued mirrors in the light of the platform.
Ten minutes later, the southbound train for Nice pulled in. We found an empty compartment and stretched out to sleep. more tomorrow