The baby on platform 17


not a particularly welcoming place to have a baby

One o'clock in the morning was usually a quiet time for the night staff at the main line station. The last trains had run, the drivers had packed up and gone home and the mail was not due to arrive for another hour or more. Pete, the station manager was settling down with a cup of tea when there was a knock on his office door. Outside stood a young man in working clothes, worn and patched but well cared for, carrying a battered suitcase and bag of tools.
            "Excuse me, I'm sorry to bother you," he began. "My girlfriend and I have come up from the country to visit our relations and missed our connection. We've tried all the hotels we can find but they're all closed. Have you anywhere we can sleep before we go on?"
            "What a ..... nuisance!" thought Pete. "Why can't people organise their lives better?" Still, no point in turning them away. They might not get on too well on the city streets, and the girl was obviously pregnant anyway.
            "There's a coach at the far end you can sleep in. It was vandalised last month by a load of football supporters. You can stay the night in there as long as you move along first thing. I don't want my supervisor coming in and finding you."
            Pete led the couple to platform 17 and there stood the coach. The glass was missing from most of the windows and the upholstry torn out of the seats, but it was far enough away from the bustle of the station to offer a chance of some rest. Wishing them a curt "Goodnight" Pete returned to his office and his interrupted cup of tea.
            About an hour later he was on his usual nightly round checking that all was well. But all was not well in the gents' toilet on platform 4. There was no sign of Bill the cleaner and nothing to show where he had got to. On platforms 6 and 9 it was the same. There was no sign of any of the cleaners except for young Harry in his usual corner on 14, eating a Mars Bar.
            "Where have they all got to then?" Pete demanded. "Why isn't there any work going on?"
            "Gone to see the baby, haven't they?", answered Harry.
            "Baby? What baby?"
            "the one in that coach on platform 17. I thought you knew about it boss. It was you who said they could sleep there."
            "I didn't know she was going to have a baby. Not so soon, anyway."
            "Lovely baby, he is," Harry went on. "Made a bed for him out of those slashed seats and wrapped him in a couple of mail bags, lovely and warm."
            "I put that couple in there to keep them out of the way and now the whole station knows about it. How did you find out?"
            "It was this monk, what came around. At least I think he was a monk or something. He was wearing a long robe sort of thing. He said there was this new baby on platform 17 and we could go and see him if we wanted. Said there was something special about him and it would be worth getting a sight of him."
            A baby on platform 17. Not the sort of thing you wanted to happen every day. Pete hoped fervently that the management didn't find out. Things could become a trifle awkward.
            The next couple of hours was a busy time as the mail began to arrive and had to be directed on to the right trains. The early shift came in and the mail trains left one by one. Just as things were beginning to settle down, Pete was hailed by what he took to be a city gent wearing a well cut overcoat and carrying a briefcase.
            "Excuse me. I've been looking for you for some time. Could you please tell me where I can find the baby?"
            "Well there is a baby, but I'm not sure if I can allow you to see him. Anyway, how did you know he would be here?"
            "My friends and I have been studying the indicators. They have been predicting it for some time."
            "Well..." said Pete, "you'll find him on platform 17 in a wrecked carriage, but would you mind telling me...?" but the man and his firneds had gone.
            A baby on platform 17 - a baby expected by three smartly dressed businessmen. Something very strange indeed was going on! Then Pete caught sight of Bill back on platform 4, leaning on his broom and rolling a cigarette.
            "Oi, Bill!" he called out, "Time you finished that by now. What have you been up to?"
            "Sorry, mate," said Bill, "but the bloke said we ought to go and see the baby. Said he had a great future ahead of him. Going to put everything to rights, change things so that poor blokes like me get a fair deal. Make a new set of laws so everyone has to act fair and square. Things'll be cleaned up when he grows up and no mistake. I'm just off to clean the lavs now. Sorry I'm late, but somehow I feel I want to make a really good job of them today."
            "A baby who'll grow up to put everything to rights," thought Pete. "The city gents seemed sure of it too and they ought to know. Mind you, if there's anything in it he'd better watch out. He could pose quite a threat to the powers that be. Somebody like that could end up getting himself killed."