Rich shook her hand, feeling oddly formal, and returned to his coffee, a faint frown still playing on his puzzled face. “You haven’t told me yet who sent you,” he reminded her at last, having come to no conclusions when he tried to decide what to say that wouldn’t make him sound completely stupid. “And you didn’t say why you knew I would be here.”
Linda drank some of her own coffee and then looked at him with a wicked grin. “I’m afraid I can’t tell you that. I can, however, offer you a form of transport much more comfortable than a second-class seat in a long distance train, and somewhat cheaper as well. Go on, return your ticket: I’ll give you a lift, I’ve got the limo waiting outside. The others are there, of course, but they thought I was the least alarming and so should be the one to come and meet you. Well, I must say, it was a privilege. No, more than a privilege, an honour.”
“You have a limo?” said Rich, having only caught one part of the conversation. “You must be pretty rich.” He paid for the coffee—smiling at the waitress, who went into seventh heavens of delight—and returned to the ticket office without even thinking to tell Linda he accepted the offer. But perhaps she had already known that he would, since she sat there with that smile on her face.
Minutes later he was at her side, money jangling in his pocket that he had grudgingly handed over only a little while previously to the grim-faced man behind the desk at the ticket office. “You have a limo,” he repeated. “It’s parked outside and there are people waiting in there who told you I would be in this coffee shop, even though I didn’t know that myself until about a minute before I walked in. And they’re possibly alarming, so they sent you instead.”
“Accurately summarised,” said Linda gently. “Now come, they’re impatient to see you.”
“That’s always nice, I suppose,” said Rich, looking up at the clock and picking up his rucksack which lay abandoned on the floor. “Is it far, where we’re going?”
“What a stupid question,” said Linda, sounding disappointed. “I thought you knew where you were going? You bought a ticket for the train there, after all, even if you didn’t tell your parents.” It was true, he had, but Rich hadn’t dared to believe that they would really give him a lift (in a limousine) the entire way to Durham, which would take almost six hours by car.
“You’ll really drive me there?” he asked.
“Of course,” replied Linda. “I wouldn’t have offered if I was lying, would I?” She took her coffee cup with her as they passed through the automatic doors, although a bin was provided for the polystyrene mugs. “Come on!” she urged him. Together they pushed through the crowds, slipping through huge glass doors and out into the street, where the city was waking up. It was full of people, pushing and shoving against Linda, who seemed entirely unconcerned, and Rich, who seemed the opposite: his face was white and there was sweat on his brow.
“We’re going to be crushed,” he said fearfully, not having been to London during the rush hour before. “We’re going to die.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Linda impatiently. “Hurry up.” Sure enough, there was a black limousine parked just metres from the station. She opened a door and held it aside. “After you, Rich,” she said.