“Come in, Terry,” said Sarah. He did.

She was sitting comfortably in a lounge chair, her phone on the coffee table in front of her. He struggled to get a read on what she was thinking, or how the call may have gone.

“Chickened out, have you, girl?”

Sarah gave him a small, but knowing smile, but otherwise didn’t move. “Nope,” she said. “I’ve rung, and we’ve got 48 hours.”

Her answer didn’t fit with her body language. Something wasn’t right. She looked tense and worried. “You’re kidding,” he guessed. “You chickened out, right?”

Sarah didn’t bite and didn’t move. “Sorry to disappoint you, but no. It’s just like I said. He agreed to another 48 hours.”

Terry slumped down into the matching armchair opposite her, but she continued to gaze vaguely past him and out the window. “What did you do?” he prompted. “Offer him your first born?”


Terry could see that she was anything but jubilant. She was back in that worried, thoughtful place he had found her in earlier that morning. A change of tack seemed in order.

“No, what?” he asked.

“Just no. I didn’t have to promise him anything,” she said flatly, still giving nothing away.

He waited, knowing more would follow when she was ready.

“You know something, Terry?” she added cautiously. “I’m more than a bit suspicious. It was too easy. He didn’t even put up a fight. It was a very odd conversation. It’s like he knew we were going to ring, and he had his answer ready. Does that sound weird, or is it just me?”

Terry let her statements trickle down, permeating slowly through all manner of checklists, questions and doubts. He looked at it from every possible angle. Sarah was doing her version of the same thing.

Finally, and without moving, he said, “Perhaps they’ve got to him already. I can’t think of another explanation.” he added.

She chuckled. “I reached the same conclusion. I wish I’d taped the call, so you could hear it too. It was Dan alright, but not the Dan who woke me up at 3 o’clock yesterday morning. He was so docile, it was demeaning. I wonder if he was trying to tell me something.”

Terry stood up and moved to the coffee making facilities and switched on the jug. They didn’t need more coffee, but he needed something to do with his hands while they tried to unpack Sarah’s observation. “You think we should read something into his unusual response?” he asked as he continued to prepare a couple of cups.

Sarah had rediscovered her worried face. “Was he warning us? Is someone else who wants to stay under the radar interested in what we’ve discovered? Did someone overhear us in the restaurant?”

“Directional microphones are pretty good these days,” Terry replied, still waiting for the water to boil. “Someone could have heard everything we said. And if that’s possible, then someone could be listening to what we’re saying now.”

“Well if they’re that good, are we better off staying here or going somewhere else?”

The jug clicked and Terry did the honours. He carried the two cups across and placed them on the coffee table in front of her. She nodded her thanks as he slumped down into the matching chair.

“Well,” he said, “this room is booked from this afternoon on, so we’ll have to move out either way. We can always try somewhere else.”

Sarah took a mouthful of coffee and put the cup back on its saucer. “Why not?” she asked. “It’s the company credit card when all is said and done. Dan made no mention of money, so I assume he’s still fine with us using it. If we discover something big, Dan will get his money’s worth. Yes. Let’s go for it, Terry, and let’s have some fun! After all, we’re in the exotic east, aren’t we?”

“Good choice,” he agreed, mirroring her actions with his coffee cup. Then he added, “I’m starting to feel like the walls are closing in on me here. Rattle your dags and pack up your bags. We’re outta here on the morning tide.”

She was already out of her chair and heading for the bathroom. “Give me 15 minutes, and I’ll see you in the lobby. Are you happy to pay the bill?”

Terry nodded his agreement and headed for the door. When he reached it, he stopped.

“I think we may be entering interesting times, girl,” he warned. “We need to be careful and cover each other’s back. See you in the lobby.” With that he left before she could think of a suitable reply.

* * * * * * *

Three hours later, Sarah and Terry were soaking up the nostalgia and a very expensive Gin Sling in the famous Long Bar at Raffles Hotel.

“You know,” Terry said, “I’ve been thinking about that girl who gave you the necklace. What did Fran say? She said perhaps you look a bit like this person, whoever he or she was.”

“And?” Sarah replied, waiting for the punch line.

Terry sipped a little more of the famous cocktail and placed the glass on the table. Despite his attempts at distracting them both with other activities, nothing stopped them thinking about the angel and what to do next in their hunt for the elusive miracle worker.

He said, “What if we went to a place the angel had been to see if anyone reacts the same way the girl with the necklace did.”

Sarah thought about it. “You know, for a guy, you have a few really good thoughts,” she finally decided.

He allowed her lightly tipped barb to pass unnoticed and continued. “So my question is how close is the nearest place we know the angel has been?”

Sarah tried to recall the map on the front page of the Straits Times. “Thailand,” she said. “The place I went to with Hamish.” Her gaze fell to the table.

He noticed it immediately. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to dredge up bad memories.”

She gave him a wan smile. “I know you didn’t. But, hey, the memories are great. It’s what made them only memories that still hurts.” And she meant it. Great memories were pretty much all she had to cling to—at least for the moment.

Terry pushed on. “How long would it take us to get up there, assuming you’re okay with us going?”

Sarah trawled back through some of those memories before answering. “If I remember right, it’s about an hour and a half flight from Singapore to Phuket, but there’s a change in time zone. Then it’s two hours by road to the beach, assuming the road is open, and we can get a car. But I have no idea how many flights are available or how often they go.”

Terry became more animated. “So we could get there today?” he persisted.

Sarah sipped some more and thought some more. “With all the pieces in place, yeah, we probably could,” she said, still sounding doubtful. “And we’d have to overnight it at Phuket because it would be dark when we got there.”

Terry was on a roll and wanted to stay there. “But our miracle worker operates mainly at night, doesn’t he? All the better to mirror his situation. We could spend some time in Phuket later tonight and be back to the airport to sleep. We’ll be ready to move in the morning if you get a new dream.”

“I guess so,” said Sarah, sounding unconvinced.

“What do I need to say to convince you?” he asked.

“Why are you trying to?” she countered.

“So you don’t want to go?” He deduced.

“I didn’t say that,” she objected.

Terry wasn’t worried by their exchange. They had shared these exchanges before. He had learned not to push her where she didn’t want to go. Instead he started to hum the tune ‘Gee, ain’t it funny how time slips away’.

Finally, the pressure worked. The desire for answers overcame her resistance. “Okay, okay, I surrender. Okay? Let’s do it—assuming we can get flights. But what about our bags at the hotel?”

“We can pick them up and store them at the airport, then go on travelling light. Can you drop down to a backpack for a couple of days? Or we could pick up what we need when we get there.”

“Right. Let’s get going then.”

* * * * * * *

“Please ensure your seat belts are firmly fastened and your tray tables are stowed away.” Terry was happy enough to oblige. Anything that meant he could soon find relief from the torture of occupying a seat clearly designed for midgets had to be a good thing. Sarah, on the other hand, had just been woken up by the announcement. Terry had always envied her ability to sleep on long haul flights—any flights for that matter.

Sarah stretched her arm across and shook his to get his attention. “We’ve got to go back,” she said.

“What?” Terry turned and gave her a look that demanded to know what he had done to deserve being punished again so soon. What he saw gave no evidence of mischief on her part. Terry wasn’t sure what he was reading in her features, so he simply waited to see what came next.

“We’ve got to go back,” she repeated. Her serious look said more, but he couldn’t decipher what it was. “I know where we have to go next.”

Terry nodded and tried once again to rest back in his seat, which was, of course, in the required fully upright position. “Tell me,” he said to the back of the seat in front of him.

Sarah also sat back in an attempt to promote the circulation to her back and legs. “It’s none other than the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

Terry was surprised, but he managed to disguise it. “Why so, girl? Give me something to go on here? Convince me.”

Sarah didn’t know how to answer him. How could anyone who hadn’t seen the same vision understand it. And she didn’t want to share her discovery with everyone within earshot. But she knew she had to justify her statement. Terry wasn’t the sort of guy to just take her word for it.

She took a deep breath, and in a low voice, began. “I saw an amazing image of those storms affecting parts of Southern California. It was far more graphic than what we’ve seen on the news. I just wish you could have recorded what I saw. I’ve never seen or experienced anything like it. I had total control over what I was seeing. I could zoom in and out.  I could see it from any angle and any distance.”

She paused and leaned forward towards him, changing gears in her need to convince him. “As they sometimes say, ‘just like being there, only better’. It was just so incredibly real. I’m sure my dream is telling us where to go next.”

She slumped back into her seat again and closed her eyes to avoid direct eye contact with her partner. How would he respond? How could she manage this if he didn’t believe her? She could only wait in her darkness, listening to him moving in the adjoining seat and imagining the look he would be sending her way.

“So,” she heard. “California. Have you got a visa for the States? I mean it’s not like we’re the angel. We can’t just turn up and hope to be welcomed with open arms.” Terry wasn’t looking for reasons to disbelieve her. She knew him well enough to know he was only trying to sort out what needed to be done to convert her crazy idea into reality.

“You’re right,” she said. Then she thought of something and brightened up. “But they did allow us onto one of their ships, which must count for something.”

Terry agreed. “Yes, you’re probably right, girl.” Her enthusiasm was infectious. The more he thought about it, the more sense it made. “And if we’re right with our suspicions about what was happening on the carrier, those gnomes who suddenly became interested in you won’t want you stopped from following any leads, would they?”

That’s the nature of infection; it can spread quickly. She carried on from where he left off. “That’s right. And take that a step further. If someone has put the heavy on Dan The Man back in Wellington, surely they can also make any other obstacles disappear.”

Terry checked their forward rush. “You mean get into bed with the enemy?” He was clearly not convinced.

“It depends on how we do it,” she said. “Look at the way Dan gave us pretty much carte blanche to stay here. Way out of character, right? Let’s suppose he is, shall we say, ‘under the influence’ right now. We’d have to make the request without our suggesting we know what is happening at his end.”

Terry mulled her answer over in his mind before answering. “You mean a double bluff? We talk to Dan in a way that lets him know we got his subliminal message yesterday, and we understand he can’t say too much without compromising himself. But he will know we need his help, even if whatever he does will be known immediately by the gnomes. He needs to know we know that too and act accordingly.”

Sarah couldn’t suppress a wide smile. “What a mouthful. I won’t ask you to say that again, but yes, that’s exactly what I mean.”

Terry barely heard her. He just continued to think aloud. “If our visas come through, we’ll know Dan is mixed up with some real heavyweights. Which means some of those heavyweights will be watching our every move. Are you ready for that?”

Sarah considered for a moment. “If I knew what they wanted or why it was so important to them, then maybe I could tell you. Right now it doesn’t worry me too much. I mean it’s not like we’re terrorists or anything like that, are we?”

Terry sat in silence for perhaps half a minute. Then, somewhat ominously, he said, “Maybe that depends on how you define a terrorist.”

Her look asked the obvious question, so he carried on.

“Well, if you think of a terrorist in its broadest sense, he or she threatens your security and way of life, right?” She nodded. “Think about our angelic friend. Isn’t he doing that? I know he isn’t killing or maiming innocent people, quite the opposite. But it’s not hard to see how those in power could see this guy as a threat. He comes and goes as he pleases. He brings a message of hope to the largely hopeless—much the same as most terrorists. He can’t be controlled or predicted. He has his own agenda, which may not agree with those in power. Shall I go on?”

Sarah blanched at his explanation. It was something else she had never really thought about. All she could say, “No. I get the picture. I may not like it, but I get it.”

The bulldozer ploughed on. “So how would any concerned government respond?”

She could see only one obvious answer. “They’d want to get him under control—if they could. They’d try and track him down. And they would use anyone they could to find him.”

Terry pressed on. “Sound familiar? I don’t know why, girl, but somehow you are linked into this. Maybe you stumbled over something. Maybe you were always meant to be a part of it, but let’s not even go there now. Whatever the reasons, you’re the best bet for a lead to this angel. Someone, perhaps more than one, has figured that out, although heaven alone knows how.”

They both sensed the need to pause for breath. Then Sarah said, “You know, if we do succeed in finding him, some unpleasant people may show up there as well.”

“Yep,” Terry said. “Nothing else makes sense. They need you to find him. What happens then is anyone’s guess.”

Sarah didn’t like the sound of that. “You think they will smooth the path and make it as easy as possible for us to find him?”

“I think it’s a good bet. A call to our mate Dan should give us a clue.”

Sarah’s doubts were mounting inside her. Should we be a party to any of this? I mean what if we end up being responsible for something bad happening to a guy who only does good? It’s not our job to help these people find him.

The wheels of the Boeing 737 touched down at Phuket International. They both checked their watches.

“It’s after midnight back in Wellington,” Sarah observed. “Do you think we should ring tonight or wait until tomorrow?”

Terry shrugged. He’d been woken in the middle of the night often enough and had no problem with others suffering the same fate. In his mind, it went with the job.

“That’s the problem with time zone differences,” he replied. “If we leave it until the morning, it’s already afternoon back home, and a lot of time is wasted. We may not be able to get a flight, and we could end up wasting another day. That could make a big difference at the other end.”

Sarah sighed. Maybe her concerns about what could happen to the angel were getting in the way of her professional instincts. “You’re right, Terry. As usual. I’ll ring as soon as we get inside. Depending on flights, we may not even stay here for long. But what about clothes? You said travel light. Even your camera gear is back in Changi.”

Terry gave no sign he was worried. “I wouldn’t worry about that,” he said. “That’s why we have credit cards. You know the window of opportunity may not stay open for long, so we need to go as soon as we can. You need to think of what you’re going to say to Dan—assuming you can get hold of him. You know Dan. If something is up, he hardly ever leaves the office.”

She simply nodded and started to think her way into that problem. She was used to scripting questions in her mind when preparing for an interview, but Dan was a bit different. She needed the right balance of tact and urgency, not to mention the ability to extract useful information and direction from his torrid and sometimes obscure responses.

* * * * * * *

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Terry gave Sarah no time to process what their boss had said. As soon as she hung up, he demanded, “Well, what did he say?”

Sarah understood his impatience, so she made allowances for his abrupt question. “He said it wasn’t the first time the news media wanted to move people quickly, and they had ways to help make that happen. I don’t know how they do that, and I don’t really care as long as it works. Then he said for us to wait by the phone, and he would get back to us as soon as he could.”

The two of them had progressed through customs quite easily because they didn’t have to wait for any luggage and were now wandering somewhat aimlessly in the main concourse of the airport. Then Sarah added, “He did suggest we check out available flights, even if it meant going direct from here.”

Her answer mollified Terry, but only slightly. “At least that sounds hopeful,” he said. “There should be options for outgoing flights for tomorrow, but connecting flights to the US? I don’t know. But there’s not much point in leaving the airport. It’s the easiest place to get tickets, even if it’s the most expensive.”

Sarah gazed around, but barely saw the scene which confronted them. Her mind was somewhere else, somewhere many thousands of miles away, somewhere so dramatically etched onto her mind’s eye.

“Not even a lot of point in seeing if we can get a rental car, I suppose?” she murmured.

Terry was still a man on a mission, focusing on what he needed to achieve it. “It won’t hurt to check. If we can’t get out till tomorrow, we may still have time to do what we originally planned.  We might even get a few hours of shut eye. That wouldn’t be a bad thing, eh? Who knows what else you’ll come up with?”

“It’s a mixed blessing,” she said. “Part of me wants to go to bed right now and hope like hell I get another dream like I had on the plane. The other part of me doesn’t like all the weird stuff. It wants me to play it safe and go back to the way things were before all this started.”

Terry parked Sarah and himself in two vacant seats. He had heard her doubts, but something nagged at him.

“I’m no expert on any of this,” he said. “I’m only guessing because I’m not getting what you’re getting. But I don’t think you can go back. It’s too big for that. I don’t mean you couldn’t choose to walk away right now, but there must be forces at play here we can’t begin to imagine. I’m not talking about a few spooks watching us drink coffee and record the happy moment for some gnomes at Langley or wherever they come from. No. The angel is doing things that are way beyond our ability to comprehend. That’s what these people fear. And what about your dreams? Where are they coming from? Will they suddenly stop if you decide to go home?”

“I’m hearing you,” she said. “But I just don’t know. I’m not sure I want to know.”

Terry nudged her again, albeit gently. “Don’t ask me why,” he said, “but even if we’re figuring this out as we go along, even if we’re running on intuition, best guesses and a company credit card, it seems to be working. If it’s worked so far, we must be doing something right. So why stop now?”

That’s easy for you to say, you great lump. You’re not the one who’s living out the dream—except it’s more like a bloody nightmare. “Yeah, why stop now?” she asked no one in particular. “Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps because strange men in trench coats want to watch my every move? There’s nothing odd about that, is there?”

Terry heard the pushback, but largely ignored it. He knew Sarah well enough to know how far he could go. “Most women would love to know a whole bunch of James Bonds were watching their every move. What’s the matter? Losing your sense of adventure?”

His challenge failed to perk her up. “No, not much,” was her best effort at avoiding the advancing quicksand of misery threatening to envelop her. “And you’re not helping. I hate just sitting here waiting for the damn phone to ring. It reminds me of my social life when I was 16. I hated it then too.”

He had gone far enough, so he elected to keep his peace. “Let’s try for a rental then,” he suggested.

Sure enough, Phuket boasted the ubiquitous Avis counter. Yes, cars were available. But no, they made no commitment to hire. Everything depended on the all-important phone call.

For a change of scene, they decided to step outside into a mild 22 degrees and a gentle sea breeze that drifted in to keep them company and what looked like a hundred taxi drivers waiting in the forlorn hope of one decent fare before they knocked off for the night. Nothing much was happening in town, perhaps because there was nothing much left for it to happen in.

“If we do go down the coast, why not take one of these guys,” she suggested. “It can’t cost much more than a rental, and we won’t have to drive on these roads at night. I think they need the money more than Mr. Avis.”

Terry agreed. He wasn’t keen on driving into the unknown in the dark. “Yeah, why not? Where is the place you stayed?”

“Have you still got yesterday’s paper? I can’t remember the name. It’s Ban something, but so is every village along that coast. I only remembered it on the map because of the shape of the island. Oh, Terry, I’m not sure I would recognize it in the dark either.”

“Well that’s a big help,” he wanted to say. “All this way, and no further ahead.” Was Sarah coping? Was her memory lapse real or a reaction to the pressure she was under? Instead, he said, “Well, until we get Dan’s call, it doesn’t matter. Let’s check flights to Los Angeles and then find somewhere where we can get a decent cup of coffee. I need one.”

At the Thai Airways International counter, they learned a flight to Bangkok was leaving in a few hours’ time, with seats available, and an onward connection to LA early the following day. But whoops, the only seats were in first class. What a shame, they agreed. They might even manage a bit of sleep on the long haul over the Pacific. Terry hoped so because he wasn’t likely to get much of it tonight.

A few minutes later they were seated in the restaurant on the 3rd floor. He had ordered a good-sized steak while Sarah opted for a salad that she picked at timidly as if afraid it might fight back.

She was startled when the call finally came. She grabbed the phone and almost shouted into it. “Sarah Long.”

“What are you sounding so stressed about, Long? Up there enjoying a holiday in Phuket on my money and my time, yet you’re sounding stressed? What do you think I feel like right now?” Vintage Dan Williams.

She quickly recovered her composure. “Hi, Dan. What have you found?”

“Probably what you know already. There’s only one flight out that will connect you with an early flight to the US tomorrow. It’s Thai Airways and it goes through Bangkok. A guy from the embassy will meet you with all the paperwork you need when you get in tonight. Apparently, the government appreciates the media’s interest at least some of the time. And I hope you appreciate that it cost me a few favours.”

“We appreciate that, Dan.” And then, grateful he couldn’t see her, she added, “There’s obviously no truth in all the rumours we hear about you.”

“What bloody rumours,” he snarled back into the phone.

She ignored his predictable reaction. “Have you booked at your end, or do we need to do it?”

“You’ll have to do that; it’s too late for us to do anything on line. And Long…”


“Be careful. You and Gunn look after yourselves.” For a moment, she thought he was actually being thoughtful and did care about what happened to them. But the moment didn’t last long.

“You’d better bring back the story of my dreams, or you’re both in brown smelly stuff for the rest of your careers—if you dare still to think of them as careers.”

“We love you too, Dan.” She replied, almost sickly sweet. Then she reverted to her normal tone to say, “Thank you. For everything. I really mean that.”

“See you, Long,” And the line went dead.

She looked across to Terry who had the obvious question all over his craggy face. “Relax. He’s done it. Go book the flights. We’re off to the happiest kingdom of them all.”

“And the visas?” asked Terry.

“It’s all under control. Someone from the embassy in Bangkok will be there to meet us with all that. I wonder what the embassy person will think of all this?”

Terry wasn’t wasting any time. “Who cares?” he said as he stood up without finishing his steak. He held out his hand and added, “Give me your passport and then finish that salad while I go get the tickets.” She obliged as his chair scrapped back to allow him to mooch off to the Thai Airways counter once again.

Sarah felt a whole lot better and attacked her salad with much more enthusiasm. If he doesn’t come back soon, she thought, he’ll lose the last of his steak as well. Things were definitely improving.

* * * * * * *

They say one day is a long time in politics. It’s also a long time to be sitting in an aeroplane, even in the incredible luxury provided in Royal First Class.

A guy in his mid to late 20’s, who introduced himself as Con Butler, met them as they emerged from the gate in Bangkok. He seemed a nice enough guy and remarkably pleasant, given it was eleven o’clock at night. It must be one of the perks of the diplomatic service—running around after half-clad television hacks who decided they wanted to disappear to the USA and didn’t have the necessary paperwork.

Sarah and Terry simply crashed in the airport lounge. But they didn’t forgo the chance to pick up a few extra items of clothing, so they could look reasonably respectable among the high rollers in first class. After all, what choice did they have? You can’t let the side down, can you? And besides, they knew they would need something to wear when they arrived in California.

Just after three in the afternoon, they landed in Osaka, Japan. It was a chance to walk as far as another lounge. By that time during the trip, exercise was definitely needed. An hour later they trooped back to their gilded cage and settled in, hoping for a decent sleep. Now they were thousands of feet high somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Both of them had dozed off in their elaborate comfort, but neither really slept soundly for any length of time.

After checking his watch and realizing a day had passed since leaving Phuket, Terry lay back to continue watching his personal video player. He sensed Sarah stir and removed his headphones while waiting to see how long she would take to revert to full consciousness—95 seconds.

“Welcome back, sleepy head. Been far?”

Sarah shook herself and stretched out to speed up the process of waking up. “You might say that.” She took a few moments to remind herself of her surroundings. This was definitely the way to fly. “Where are we now?” she wanted to know.

“Sitting in first class on Flight TG7…”

His smug response earned him a firm fist on the shoulder, followed by an abrupt, “You don’t work for Bill Gates, do you?”

He tried to sound offended, but it didn’t really work. “Not so’s you’d notice. And he certainly doesn’t seem to be working for me either if recent experience is anything to go by. You look like you could use some coffee.”

He knew her too well. She nodded. “Sure could.”

Terry pressed the call button, and the roving attendant appeared and took their order,  departing just as quickly and silently.

Sarah raised her chair back into the sitting position and gazed out the window to see a whole lot of nothing. “I’ve lost track of all the time zones. How long to LA?”

“About five hours or so. I guess that would put us somewhere near Hawaii.”

“Oh, yes,” she said sleepily. “I could use a day or two, or more, on the beach.” She closed her eyes again and pictured herself lazing on the golden sands of Waikiki Beach with Diamond Head in the background. It felt warm. It felt good. But just as she was getting into it, she was rudely awakened by the reality beside her.

It said, “So no dream about our angel going to Hawaii any time soon?”

Her tropical paradise rapidly faded. Once the last palm tree and sun umbrella were gone, but not fully forgotten, she felt compelled to open her eyes again if only briefly. “I should be so lucky,” she said. “Sorry, no joy on that front. It’s still California. But I suspect I have some future options tucked away in the back of my head.”

“You’ll have to explain that one, girl. I’m just a simple guy who still struggles with Microsoft. You seem to have gone a long way further than that.”

She rested back into her seat and closed her eyes again. “I’m not sure I can. I get to a sort of half-way house where I think I’m still asleep, but I’m awake enough to know I’m dreaming. I can see things and hear what is happening.  Although it’s not a coherent whole, it is a mix of different things: pictures, stories, even understanding—if that makes any sense.”

“No, but go on.”

“The problem is that as soon as I try and figure it out or hang onto it, I lose it. I’m fine when I roll with it. It’s when I try to control it. You know, it’s when I want to stop and start things or make sense of them that everything fades.”

As if by magic, a steaming cup of coffee appeared on the rest between them. She nodded her thanks to the attendant, who smiled and disappeared again. Sarah brought the cup to her mouth and sniffed the aromas. It was a sensational sensory moment. Finally, she sipped, and yet another of her senses came to appreciate it.

“So can you remember anything of the last one?” he said, giving her the opportunity to take another mouthful, which she did, surrendering her senses to the amazing brew before answering him.

“I saw flashes of different places. One was an aboriginal community out in the deserts of Australia, another looked like a slum shanty town somewhere in Asia, I don’t know exactly where. There was a horrible picture of a prison riot. I don’t know why, but I think it was somewhere in South America. There were others too, but I really can’t remember them.”

“What do you think they mean?” Terry probed gently.

“I wish I knew,” she replied. “When I ask those sorts of questions, things began to fade. It’s frustrating—if it’s possible to know you’re frustrated while you’re in the middle of a dream. If I stop to record what I’ve seen, I lose the rest of it. If I stay with it, I don’t get it recorded, and I lose it anyway.”

Terry mirrored her position, relaxing back into his seat with eyes closed, hoping he would see something of what she could see. It didn’t work. He tilted his head towards her and said softly, “Don’t beat yourself up, girl. It’s probably something you have to learn how to work with. I mean it’s not like anything you’ve done before, right?

She lowered her cup to its saucer and said, “You know, that’s very understanding of you. You can be quite perceptive on a good day, can’t you? When did you learn that?”

“You might be surprised,” he said, quite poker faced.

“You’re right; I would be.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want to overload your surprisary, girl.”

She burst out laughing. “My what?”

“You mean you women don’t know everything about everything?” His tone reflected his phoney surprise.

“Cheeky toad,”

“Be careful what you say about us toads,” he warned. We might be a prince in disguise, just waiting for a fair princess.”

“Don’t hold your breath, Kermit. It’ll be a long wait before you get that lucky.”

“If we call a truce here, I shall refrain from any obvious references to Miss Piggy. Agreed?”

“Okay, I guess so.” She acceded but did add, “Just when I was getting into the spirit of things.”

They sat quietly digesting what had been said, and in her case, another mouthful of coffee. Then Terry said, “You know, your comment about getting into the spirit might have been on the money. Could you be getting some sort of spiritual connection?”

“You know I’m not into the flaky stuff, Terry. I don’t even bother with horoscopes. Just a waste of time if you ask me.”

Terry gave his usual nod of agreement.

“Sure, and I agree with you. But some things are a bit harder to write off. I mean, how does the angel do what he does? How come you’re getting all these strange dreams? Can you think of any other explanation?”

Normally, Sarah was good at finding explanations, but in this case, she had tried, but came up dry. She decided to give up trying, long enough to swallow the last of her coffee.

“Maybe the answer will come to us in the next 24 hours,” she said wistfully. “And if nothing happens while we’re in Uncle Sam’s backyard, we might look a bit stupid. But the good news is that all these gnomes who are apparently interested in our every move will look pretty damn stupid too.”

Terry wasn’t so sure. “Maybe, but none of that helps to answer my questions about this guy. Who is he? Where does he come from? How does he do what he does? And then there is the biggest question of all for me. Why?”

Sarah was still fighting her way through her own more personal questions. “Nor does it tell me what all those dreams were about,” she added. She stopped long enough to consider a new possibility. “Perhaps they are places where he’s been before, or he plans to go to them in the future.”

Terry could live with that possibility and thought it could be useful to explore it further.

“The places you described to me had a common denominator. They all involved people in what we would call squalid conditions—the sort of places the angel goes to, brings comfort and then moves on.”

His voice petered out, not knowing where his exploration might go next.

Sarah wasn’t much help. “Just think how many places on the planet would qualify,” she said only half aloud. “Even the angel couldn’t hope to help everyone who needs it.”

“So why does he bother?” Terry asked. “That’s part of my big ‘why’ question.”

“Good question,” she replied. “And I’ll bet we’re not the only ones asking it.”

They reverted to silence, both sensing they were no further ahead. And neither of them was happy about it. Eventually, Terry broke the deadlock. “Well, we still have a few hours. Why not see if you can find your way back to your half-way place again. Who knows what you might find out this time?”

“Not a bad idea. I’m actually quite looking forward to these naps. I never know what will come out of them.”

“I’ll leave you to it,” he said, unbuckling his seat belt and standing up. “But don’t get lost in there. I’m kinda used to having you around. Meanwhile I’ll go and help myself to the buffet. See you in a while, girl.”


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