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James Gilbert glimpsed the white cross at the apex of the curve and jammed his foot into the brake pedal. The new Jaguar's brakes were much stiffer than he expected and the sedan fishtailed across the rain-soaked blacktop. He clamped the leather-wrapped steering wheel in his fists and steered into the skid, struggling to maintain control. It would do no good to miss it, to have an uncontrolled crash further along the road. He had to be bang-on or he'd just be another corpse by the side of the road, just another gash on a tree trunk to mark with a flimsy white wooden cross.

He pulled the Jag onto the verge, palmed runnels of sweat back into his hairline, and huffed out a deep sigh.

This was a new one. A fresh envelope, perhaps his alone to consecrate, if Vantage had not beat him to it. Vantage had an uncanny sense for these things. He was all-seeing. He slept not three hours in twenty-four.

Gilbert's headlights groped at the drizzle. Looming boughs of rain-drenched firs and the unbounded abyss of a moonless night stretched before him. No cars approached. The crash scene was his and his alone.

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