‘You want a light?’ James Macky asked the tall guy in an undersized trench coat next to him with a half-smoked cigarette drooping from his lips.
‘Nah, I’m trying to give up,’ the guy replied. Macky nodded as if it went without saying that every man was attempting to quit something. Running his long fingers through his damp, short, greying hair he looked at his watch again. The bus from the enlistment camp was predictably late.
Macky let out a frustrated sigh as he felt the familiar vibration in his hip pocket and debated whether to ignore it or not. Probably only Riley, he thought, with some moan to grip about. He pulled the phone from his pocket and clicked answer. ‘Hello, Ma’am.’
‘Where the bloody hell are you, Macky,’ replied the clipped tones of Riley, the training camps’ commandant. ‘Have you not heard we have a recruit coming that needs to be looked after?’
‘I’ve heard rumours, Ma’am.’
‘So, where the bugger are you?’
‘At the bus stop, Ma’am.’
‘Oh, good, well done,’ replied Riley, ‘Just you look after that girl.’
The phone went dead. The trench coat guy smirked. ‘Riley, always a day behind everyone else again.’
‘To be fair, there has only been rumours, Riley can’t act on rumours.’
The rain was getting heavier, Macky’s coat was beginning to smell of wet labradors. The idea of walking back to tech base with a slip of a girl through end field didn’t appeal.
‘Fact! The enlistment camp won’t have kitted the newbies with suitable clothing,’ said Macky.
‘Do they ever,’ said his companion, ‘I got to walk eight of ‘em back to the training quarters.’
‘I don’t envy you.’
‘I feel for ‘em. Full of social ideology and coming to this.’
‘Aye, hardly a grand welcome,’ said Macky, ‘two old guys in soggy uniform and they’ll think we should have been retired out in the dark ages.’
‘Chance would be a fine thing.’
‘Lights, I think our charges are here.’
The ramshackle jalopy that made do for a bus shook to a halt. Macky stared at it as if expecting it to collapse into a heap of weary and worn engine parts.