03-02

          “Yet you knew everything else,” he pointed out sulkily. “I don’t like this. It stinks of spies and corruption and everything I’ve stayed away from throughout my life. Now suddenly it’s following me and I can’t get away! I don’t like it at all.”

          “Rich, we’ll tell you everything when this is all over, okay? But right now the most important thing is that we get this object, or we are in serious danger. And that’s not a good thing. Now come with us, back to the car, and we’ll make sure you’re completely briefed—on most things. You’ll find out our purpose and why we chose you, afterwards.

          “So you’ll make me wait?”

          “It’s the best thing for you. You won’t be able to do it if we tell you.” That was suspicious, and Rich thought about making a scene, but decided that since he no longer had a train ticket and these people were giving him a lift, it would probably be a bad idea to get on their wrong side.

          “All right. Let’s get back on the road, and we can talk about this. But remember, I haven’t agreed to anything yet!” Reluctantly, Rich got up from his chair in the restaurant. He had been wanting to stay for dessert as they looked rather tempting, but that wasn’t going to be possible, or so it seemed.

          “Well said.”

          They returned to the limousine, this time with Alan in tow. He looked uncomfortable, shifting from foot to foot as he lingered by the door, unwilling to get inside. “I don’t travel in cars,” he reminded them. “If you don’t mind, I’ll just step outside, meet you there…” Rich was dismayed, and his disappointment must have shown on his face because Alan said hurriedly, “It’s not because of you, Rich. But I never travel in vehicles.”

          “Don’t be ridiculous,” Jonathan said briskly. “It’ll take you all week. This is Durham we’re going to, you know. Up North and that? We can’t hang around. Besides, you need to help us persuade Rich.”

          “I don’t travel in cars!” he repeated. Linda put an arm around his shoulders, leaning her head against his.

          “Please? Just this once?”

          It took a further ten minutes to convince him to get inside, and another five minutes to make sure he stayed there. There were many cries of, “For goodness sake, it’s just a car!” and several protests, mostly with the words, “Oh, I don’t like this, I really don’t like this.” Rich thought he had seen people with all sorts of phobias and preferences, but no one he had ever met had been so afraid of cars, or had such a strong dislike of anything modern.

          “Let’s go,” said Davide tersely to the driver, who nodded and started the engines. They were on their way.

***

The End

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