It has been a distracting couple of weeks here in the UK, sometimes it has felt like the world has been on fire. Light, perhaps, at the end of the tunnel, except broadband issues then arrive. It’s not been easy to do the post today, but I made it and the latest chapter of The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms is now up! Yay!
Have good weekends, one and all.
Chapter 74, An Amazing Guy
Crouched behind the Imperial, Persistent Smith watched two anonymous silhouettes backlit by the dawn glow emerge from the water and wearily make their way up the slipway. When he recognised one of them he stepped out of cover. ‘Over here, Tim. It’s me, Smith.’
Tim’s companion was a tall athletic woman. She looked very tired. Even so, she began combing her hair. It was the longest hair Smith had ever seen and it glowed pale gold.
Not knowing what else to say, Smith put on a fake Chicago accent. ‘Who’s the dame?’
Tim was in a daze. His clothes were soaked, his sopping leather jacket sagged heavily from his shoulders. Smith’s words and big, eager face slowly registered. ‘This is Foxy Bolivia. She saved my life.’
‘Hey,’ Foxy said. ‘Got anything to eat?’
Smith dug around in his fleece pockets and offered a half-melted bar of chocolate and the broken remains of a few biscuits.
‘Thanks.’ Foxy grabbed them all. ‘Starving.’
‘How come your clothes are dry?’ Smith said.
‘BecauseImafrippinmermaidallright?’ Foxy said from a mouth crammed with broken biscuits.
‘Sorry. I just wondered.’
‘Sure thing. No problemo.’
Tim stood in his socks in a puddle of sea water. He looked at Smith and tried to order his thoughts. Foxy Bolivia was a mermaid but the surprises kept coming. ‘Smith, it’s good to see you. How did you escape?’
Smith puffed an imaginary cigar. ‘They haven’t made the cage that can hold me.’
‘Of course not.’ Tim shivered. ‘I’m freezing.’
‘Wait here.’ Smith darted away and returned with two pairs of overalls from the alcove he’d used as an emergency latrine.
Tim stripped off his sodden clothes, careful to retain the pendant. His old jacket was ruined, the leather slimy and stretched, the sleeves reaching past his fingertips. He pulled on one pair of overalls and dried his hair with the other. His skin tingled as he grew warmer. He’d spent who knew how many hours underwater and felt like he’d run a marathon. Some food would be good. Ham egg and chips. He salivated. ‘Any of that chocolate left?’
‘Sure.’ Foxy handed the uneaten half of the chocolate bar. She looked fine, in fact she looked great. Her skin glowed with health, her clothes were perfect, her hair shone.
Tim devoured the chocolate in two bites. ‘We need to get out of here.’
Smith pointed to the Imperial. ‘I found the car.’
‘That was good work,’ Tim said. ‘Actually, it was great work.’
‘I know. Let’s get in.’
Smith extracted the keys from the exhaust pipe with a flourish.
Tim gave him a weary grin. ‘Smith, you’re quite an amazing guy.’
Smith looked steadily back. ‘Yes, I think I probably am.’
Foxy climbed into the driver’s seat. She twisted the wheel enthusiastically. ‘I want to drive.’
‘You can do that?’ Tim wondered about the pedals.
‘Humans do it all the time. How hard can it be?’
Foxy slid across the front bench, Smith climbed into the rear. The engine throbbed into life. The windscreen was coated in dew.
Tim operated the wipers, held the wheel and looked through the windscreen down the long black bonnet. He’d spent a lot of time and effort looking for this car. Barefoot and wearing a shabby old boiler suit, now he was behind its wheel. The search had shown him strange and terrible things. He looked at Foxy beside him. Wonderful things too.
The metal of the accelerator pedal was cold under his foot. He pressed down and the big car surged away down the quayside. Tim swung around in a fast one-eighty and headed towards the exit.
The engine had a superb tone. Tim listened then said, ‘The timing needs advancing by one half degree and the plug in cylinder three needs the gap setting.’ He frowned. ‘How do I know that?’
Foxy tapped his chest. ‘The pendant. It wasn’t just Sea Cucumber, it taught you the language of machines.’
It was true. The Imperial felt like a natural extension of his own body – exhaust, transmission, valves and gears.
‘Look.’ Foxy pointed at the Mercedes parked beside a warehouse.
The Imperial was doing fifty and still accelerating.
Tim dropped the clutch, span the wheel and hauled on the handbrake. The rear side of the heavy Imperial fishtailed hard into the Mercedes and slammed it into the side of the warehouse with a thunderous metallic bang and splintering of glass.
‘Yay!’ Foxy twisted in her seat. Behind them the Mercedes rocked from the impact, its windscreen was crazed, one of the tyres was flat, a hubcap spun madly across the quay. ‘Tim Wassiter, you bad man!’
Tim’s mouth twisted in a lopsided smile as he brought the Imperial back in line. ‘Two and a half tons and not a hint of understeer.’
Smith slid around on the bench seat giggling with excitement. ‘How fast can this thing go?’
‘Let’s find out.’
The big black car roared through the dockyard gates and tore through the empty dawn streets of Southampton. Out on the coast road they sped towards Brighton at over one hundred miles an hour, their headlights blazing to challenge the rising sun.
To be continued…