Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
“Ten o’clock. Eight o’ clock. Nine. Left. Four. Tang dynasty.”
The wavelength goes to static and I roll off the bed, lean back to kiss Tamara, then carry my clothes out of the bedroom and dress in the lounge. My daughter, Sarah, is a light sleeper and if she wakes, Samson will too. My son may be only three, but I would back him in a noise-making contest against an F18 on takeoff.
Fifteen minutes later I’m on the road. The Landie may not be comfortable, but it can get to any place I need to go.
As ten o’clock arrives, I’m four miles down the first left turn that’s nine miles from my house in a vaguely south-westerly direction. I say vaguely because clock direction does not correspond exactly to compass points, and that’s the whole idea. Tonight, I am parked in a ploughed field, wet mud sucking so I am driving in slow circles to stop the Landie sinking beyond its own power to escape.
With a searing flash, the field has another occupant. It strolls over to the Landie and I wind down the passenger window.
“How old is the vase?” The check-in question.
“Tang dynasty.” I give the response that was given to me and it nods before opening the door and getting in. Something squeaks against the leather seats.
It pauses, as if consulting an unseen guide.
“Taunton. Before dawn.”
Twenty minutes later I park at a service station and we transfer to a Maserati Quattroporte. All terrain capability is essential, but fast point to point is beyond the Landie.
As we accelerate, it looks about at the interior.
“The artisans of this are to be cherished.”
I nod. Every time I use this car, my passengers pass impressed comment.
Taunton at the cusp of dawn is ghostly in the fog that enshrouded us about five miles out.
“Stop by the next crossroads.”
I do so. The passenger door opens and closes. It is gone. Looking down, I see a teardrop cut star sapphire just under an inch long on the seat. Payment in excess, but that is why I do this. One day, I will have to leave. One day, the skies will fill with invaders. One day, I will have to tell my wife the truth and see if she loves me enough to take our half-breed children to another planet.