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Bitterman. A name – like his victims – not chosen entirely at random. A name that gave those victims a more than sporting chance, he felt, to determine the true and terrible nature within the benign everyman he presented to the world at large. He was hiding in plain sight, and if people nowadays were too wrapped up in themselves to spot the danger, he could offer them little sympathy. Bitterman. Harold Bitterman. The Harold was of no particular significance, chosen simply because it had a nice ring to it. No more, no less. But the lord alone knows that this nice ring he percieved it to have was at least partly attributable to its being an amalgamation of the words harmless and old which, when succeeded by the surname Bitterman, had a wry incongruity to it: harmless old bitter man. And had this occurred to him on any but a subconscious level it just might have brought a genuine smile to his careworn lips, a very rare thing indeed.


A flight of stairs lead down to the area of the station where tickets must be procured, before a parallel pair of steep, narrow escalators conveyed valid ticket holders to and from the train platform further below. As he neared the middle of these stairs Bitterman beheld, with no inconsiderable ire, that two of the station's three ticket machines had been declared out of order, and at the last remaining machine a very long and disorderly queue was continually growing longer and ever more disorderly.

Even the most astute detective, utilising CCTV images to piece together the last movements of this or that missing person, say, would be hard pressed to see anything untoward in the footage of an elderly gentleman clutching the handrail to steady himself as, more slowly than most, he made his weary way down the stairs. But were that detective to freeze that frame and zoom in closer, and perhaps closer still, his professional curiosity may well be piqued by the white of that gentleman's knuckles and the burning fury in his eyes. For with every step that Bitterman took - lower and lower, nearer and nearer to the bedlam below - his grip on that handrail grew tighter and tighter and the temperature of his blood rose proportionately higher and higher. If there was one thing he truly hated - and Bitterman truly hated a great many things - it was a disorderly queue.

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