About twenty years ago, I was completing my university studies and was working mornings and evenings with a local youth charity. My manager at the time had arranged to give a presentation to a group of employees in the highland city if Inverness. However, she had double-booked herself and asked if I could go in her place. I happily agreed, thinking that it would only involve a brief train trip. I was wrong. My manager had pre-booked a bust ticket! That meant a journey of over three hours through the picturesque but isolated Cairngorms National Park.
The trip was lovely and the scenery stunning. Stirling merged into Perth then Perth into Pitlochry. As I sank into my bus seat, complete with curtained window and complimentary cup holder, I lost myself in the pages of a cheap paperback book. Occasionally, I would drift off and wake with my face sliding on the cold glass of the window. But at some point, as the bus weaved its way through the craggy mountains, I realised that the dramatic landscape outside was quite devoid of civilisation. If anything happened to the coach party out there, no-one would ever know. Then, in the typically morbid spirit of any crime fiction fan, I considered how terrible it would be if anyone on that solitary bus was actually a killer. Glancing nervously around at my fellow commuters, I studied their faces for traces of psychopathy, and concluded that they all had potential (it was Scotland after all). I then hit on an even more worrying possibility. What if everyone on the bus, including the driver, were killers? It would be a mobile crime scene. And what if that bus picked up a naïve passenger who felt safe because there were plenty of other people on the bus with them?
The following day, I delivered an undoubtedly dreadful presentation to some poor bored souls. Then I packed up my rucksack and clambered back on a bus to Stirling. This time it was an evening journey and the rumbling bus slid through a shadowy landscape of jagged silhouettes. However, throughout this entire journey home, I purposely didn’t nod off and, even as I read the final pages of my novel, I kept one beady eye on the driver…just in case.