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 With the top down and the wind blowing
 Posted: Mar 20 2018, 09:36 PM

Curator of Marines
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Group: Admin
Posts: 68
Member No.: 1
Joined: 29-July 10

Status: Offline

Rating: U
Spoilers: None
Pairing/Characters: John Vickery, Emma Vickery, Jonathan Padstowe
Disclaimer: While the Vickerys are mine, I've borrowed Padstowe from the inestimable Latin. She lets me play with her toys when I ask...
Author's Note: This is an AU with a modern-day setting. Vickery's dark green Audi convertible. Emma's VW convertible

All the people that you know, yeah
Will turn their heads as you go by
But you'll be hard to recognise
With the top down and the wind blowing, blowing

~ Crowded House

"God damn it!" Vickery slammed on the brakes, but it was too late and the deer was unavoidable. There was a slow and inevitable collision and the deer rolled off the bonnet into a crumpled heap in the road.

"Hell and damnation." He paused to check himself over. Sore where the seatbelt had snapped on, preventing him slamming into the windscreen. Airbag hadn't deployed, thankfully. No neck strain. Nothing to the legs.

He fumbled for the seatbelt catch and released himself, grateful that the car was a convertible and the weather meant he'd had the roof down. He stood up, stepped across to the passenger seat and exited carefully on the passenger side before reaching for the phone in his pocket and dialling 999.

"Police emergency. Which service do you require?" The female voice was calm and reassuring.

He sighed. "Police. I have just been in a collision with a deer on the A31 just past... Stoney Cross, heading towards the M27." There was a marker nearby and he gave its number. "I'm fine, but the deer is in rather a mess. No passengers."

The car was also in rather a mess, when he looked at it. He suddenly realised that the strains of Bryan Adams' 'Summer of '69' were wafting into the air still, despite the urgency of the car's orange hazard warning lights, which had come on automatically. He reached over the passenger door to shut his iPod off and pocketed it before scrambling over the crash barrier.

Traffic had slowed to a crawl to get past; he had not been the only one trying to avoid Salisbury on the Friday before the August Bank Holiday. Well, that was going to slow the police down in trying to reach him.

"A response car is on the way. Do you need me to stay on the line until they reach you?"

"No, thank you. I'll need to arrange for the vehicle to be recovered, though. And you'll need to get someone out to deal with the deer, too. What a start to a Bank Holiday weekend."

"Very well. If anything changes, please call back."

"I will do – thank you. Hope your weekend goes better than mine seems to be."

He ended the call, took a moment to recover himself, straightening his beret, and rang home. His father answered.

"Pater! I'm going to be a bit late home, hit a deer on the A31. Car's a wreck, I'm fine – just waiting for the police to show up. No, a decent-sized buck. Not one off our land, worse luck. Yes, that's the problem with them being Crown property. Police are on their way. No chance of being able to get through to the insurers till Monday, though. Yes, I'll need to call the AA. No, I'll be fine – I'll get a taxi or something, no need to send anyone out. No, I'm the wrong side of Salisbury for Emma to come out – the traffic's impassable both ways by now, I should think. Might be late for dinner, but that can't be helped. These things happen, after all. No, I'm perfectly fine – I was slowing for traffic and it jumped out right in front of me. I'll tell you the story properly when I get there. Look, I need to go – still have to phone the AA. Yes, Father, you too. Goodbye!"

He rang off, then scrolled through his contacts to call the AA, digging his membership card out of his wallet.

"Good afternoon! Yes, I need to arrange recovery of my car – collision with a deer on the A31. Just past Stoney Cross heading towards the M27 – traffic's a bit backed up, though. If you could get it to Fallbrooke – King's Somborne in Hampshire, that is – that would be marvellous. Yes, thank you – it's a dark green Audi convertible." He gave the registration number and nodded. "Half an hour? OK – thank you."

Well, that was all the calls he needed to make. He finally hung up and pocketed the phone, then shook his head and took it out again, turning the camera on and photographed the scene and the damage as best he could, staying on the safe side of the crash barrier. The car couldn't possibly be written off any further, but there was no point in tempting fate and having a car run him down because some driver couldn't see.

It was still daylight, at least, which was some small mercy.

It seemed a far longer wait than it probably was before he heard the siren over the sound of the passing cars – even though it was obvious that the cars on the other side were slowing to take a look at what had happened, the A31 was a busy dual-carriageway and there was a constant roar of traffic.

The police car finally drew up, blue lights flashing, and parked at an angle across the road to encourage the flow of traffic around it and two coppers got out. One of them began to set up what had to be a 'POLICE – SLOW' sign and the other came towards Vickery, putting on his hat as he approached.

"What happened, sir?"

Vickery led him to the the scene. The deer was very obviously dead, and the front of Vickery's car was a mangled wreck of twisted metal.

"I was slowing for traffic ahead - obviously that's cleared now – and it just jumped out in front of me. There was no way of avoiding it. I've arranged for the car to be recovered, but, well." Vickery gestured to the deer. "Crown property, and that means I've had to call you out – there was no other car involved, thankfully. I'm lucky I wasn't going any faster at the time or I'm sure it would have landed in the passenger seat."

"Just what you want on the Friday of a Bank Holiday! I am sure you will understand that I need to ask when did you last have a drink?"

Vickery blinked; he had expected the question but he still had to think. "Last night – I had a glass of wine at dinner." He bit his tongue to keep from asking, 'Do you really need to do that?' as the policeman got his breathalyser out. Of course he did; it was a road traffic collision and standard operating procedure was to check every driver involved in an RTC, just in case.

He couldn't help being relieved when the light showed green as he stepped back.

"Well, that's clear, sir. You can keep the tube as a souvenir, although I'm afraid we're not allowed to offer the deer."

"My CO might've had something to say if it wasn't," Vickery said, taking the plastic tube and shoving it into a pocket as a big day-glo yellow ambulance drew up. "Seriously?!"

"We need to make sure you're OK and haven't done anything to yourself," the cheerful young paramedic told him as she hopped out. "At least, I take it you're the driver?" she added, coming to hold his head to stop him from nodding.

"I've been walking around – I'm fine. It hit the passenger side, luckily for me – the airbag didn't deploy. And it was pretty slow, too – I was slowing for traffic ahead. Although, I think I may be developing some bruising or something from the seatbelt."

"That's not uncommon," she said. "Would you mind taking your beret off, please? We just need to check you over, make sure that you haven't done anything to yourself. Even a slow crash can lead to injury, after all."

He swallowed a retort at that, and removed his beret, feeling a little strange to be in uniform without it.

"Going home for the weekend, then, I take it?" the paramedic asked, feeling his scalp and down his spine.

"Yes. They've promised a sunny weekend – a miracle, if you ask me – and I was planning to take advantage of it. It's not far, though – well, not really. About an hour's drive, and on a nice day..." He couldn't help shrugging.

Eventually, her examination seemed to be over. "You're very lucky – I can't see that you've done anything at all, though you might want to be a little careful of that bruising, but that shouldn't last for too long."

The paramedics were still packing their things up when the AA turned up. Or rather, the recovery vehicle sent by the AA, which was a flatbed truck – much better for the recovery of wreckage than the usual van they sent to a break-down. Vickery reclaimed his holdall from the boot before the car was winched onto the truck.

"Where to, mate?" the driver asked.

"Fallbrooke House, King's Somborne," Vickery replied. "My insurers will collect it from there – if I can get them out before Tuesday, anyway."

"Hop in, then," the driver said, indicating the cab's passenger side door.

The rest of the drive home was spent in a conversation about the weather and football, which was not a sport Vickery followed, particularly, but it was better than nothing, and he could at least hold his own.

He directed the driver onto the estate from the King's Somborne gate – coming from the other direction meant driving past the house itself and there was a tricky turn at the end into the old stable yard.

"Nice place," the driver said admiringly as he saw the house.

The car was unloaded without a hitch and Vickery had just finished signing the requisite paperwork when Emma came running out.

"John! You're a dashed silly idiot – oh! What a mess!"

"It is rather," Vickery said, swinging his holdall over his shoulder. "Come on, we can sort this out tomorrow – I hope!"

It turned out that it was only going to be Vickery and his sister at home that weekend; Robert had taken his girlfriend to Venice (apparently; Emma was of the opinion that he was going to propose to her, and not before time!) and their parents were required at the local country show, which their father was opening.

"You know the routine – all the home-made jams and chutneys and what-have-you. Mater's judging Best Pets for the kiddies, as well, and Pater's going to be in his element looking at all the various farm animals, not to mention the riding, although he's not going to be judging that."

"You're not entering that yourself this year?"

"No – I've been too busy with work, though I'm going to give myself a break over the weekend. All work and no play, after all... I might take Sonnet out for a hack, though. Clear the cobwebs and all. Besides, I'm concentrating on the big events – a local country fair's gymkhana can hardly compete with Burghley, can it?"

"I suppose not, and it'll give someone else a chance at a blue rosette, I suppose. Hey!" He fended off the cushion she threw at him.

Overall, it was a nice relaxing weekend, apart from not being able to go anywhere – but then, it wasn't as though Vickery had planned to leave the estate – if he had wanted to go anywhere, he could just as easily have stayed on camp and gone driving from there. Rides around the estate, and with a picnic in the grounds planned for Sunday, it was quite as relaxing as he had hoped it would be. There was one grey cloud, though.

"They won't be able to get a courtesy car to me before about ten on Tuesday," he said, hanging up after a long phone call to their insurance company on Saturday morning.


"And I need to be back on camp by then. Preferably by Monday evening, in fact."


"I can always take a taxi, you know." He wrapped his hands around the mug of coffee she placed in front of him.

"You could, though it'd be a waste of money. You can always borrow Angelica."


Emma rolled her eyes. "My car. I'm freelance, I can work from here just as easily as I can from a table at Monty's or anywhere else."


"What is it with the monosyllabic questions today, John? Monty's – a chain of coffee shops supposedly owned by Rawdon Montgomery, the film star. And don't tell me you don't know who he is! The star of The Lies of Locke Lamora, the biggest film since I don't know when."

"All right, the guy you have a crush on owns a chain of upmarket coffee shops. It's got to be better than a stuffy little office next door to your sister's fiancé, and mountains of paperwork that don't ever seem to decrease."

"Your fault for joining the Royal Signals and getting conned into doing whatever sneaky-beaky stuff they persuaded you into taking on. You'd have done much better to have joined the Greenjackets, you know."

"Hey – at least I joined the Army and didn't swan off to become a foreign correspondent for the BBC or something else equally insane."

"So you'll take Angelica, then?" Emma looked the picture of innocence as she lifted her own mug of coffee.

"I suppose I'll have to; I haven't got any cash on me to pay for a taxi and I haven't heard that Uber cover as far out as this."

The reason for Vickery's reluctance was simply that his sister's car, although an otherwise perfectly acceptable Volkswagen Beetle convertible, was a beautiful bubblegum pink. She had bought it for its colour which was calculated to make her two older brothers wince every time they saw it.

"Well, then. That's settled," Emma said decisively.

"And just how are you going to get your car back?" He refused to let the ridiculous name pass his lips.

"I'm sure I can arrange to drive your courtesy car to Blandford and meet you to do swapsies," Emma said, with an elegant shrug Vickery was certain she had practised in the mirror. "Or if they'd rather not do that, then I can get a lift down from Robert or Mater."

The rest of the weekend was far better than the Friday had been, and Vickery tried not to roll his eyes as he accepted the car-key from Emma. At least she hadn't hung anything fluffy from it, he thought – or if she had, she had removed it before letting him have the key.

He threw his holdall into the boot – at least there was room for that – before folding himself inelegantly into the driver's seat. There were distinct disadvantages to being nearly six feet tall, he thought as he slid the seat back and adjusted the rear-view mirror before turning the key.

He pressed the button for the automatic system to fold the roof down; today was just as sunny as Friday had been, which was a minor miracle considering what British Bank Holidays normally offered in the way of weather. As the canvas slowly folded down, he adjusted his beret. He had decided to wear uniform on the drive back, simply in defiance of having to enter the gates in the driving seat of a bubblegum pink car.

It was a decent drive – really, he would be quite happy to have a VW Beetle himself, if not for the colour of this particular one. He plugged his iPod in, and rolled his eyes as Bryan Adams came on.

"Those were the best days of my life
Ain't no use in complainin'
When you got a job to do..."

Ah well. He hit the button to start the track from the beginning and ignored Emma's cheery wave as the car crunched over the gravel of the stable-yard (or what had been the stable-yard when the house was first built) to head for the road through the village and thence back to camp.

Emma headed back into the house and grabbed the nearest phone handset. "Hi, Jon, it's Emma here. Listen – John's just left. You'll want to be there when he parks up – make sure you've got a camera. No, I am not going to tell you why. Just do it – and send me the pic, won't you? He'll be about an hour, I think. Love you too, sweetie!"

The drive today, unlike that on Friday, was uneventful. The sentry on the gate managed not to goggle too noticeably, much to his credit, and Vickery pulled into the parking space by the guardroom to get a permit for the car.

He had to double-check the registration number, of course, but the corporal behind the desk did a commendable job of keeping a straight face when he realised the colour of the car in question as he handed Vickery the temporary car pass requested.

It was only when he pulled up in the officers' car park by the Mess that he realised he might be in trouble. Captain Padstowe, Army Intelligence Corps and based at Blandford Camp for a two-year posting, was leaning nonchalantly against a column of the Officers' Mess porch.

"Oh, dammit," Vickery muttered and waited for the car's soft top to unfold over his head. He couldn't stay in the pink monstrosity all day though, and took a breath before exiting, as gracefully as possible considering his height.

"You swine, Padstowe," he said, straightening up to realise his friend had a camera in his hand that was pointed straight at him.

"Blame your sister, Vickery," Padstowe replied, as Vickery went to retrieve his bag.

"I would, but she's not here and you are. Make yourself useful, why don't you?" He swung his bag at his friend, who skipped out of the way.

"I'm not a porter, John."

"Oh? I can't think why else you'd be waiting outside and making the place look untidy."

If, later that day, a printout of a uniformed Captain Vickery getting out of a bubblegum-pink convertible was pinned up to the Mess noticeboard, Vickery merely rolled his eyes and offered to take Captain Padstowe with him when he went down to the car dealership to look at cars. After all, a pink VW Beetle was one thing, but surely Padstowe's own beaten-up Ford Fiesta was unlikely to make it through its next MOT... if it even made it to its next MOT. And the plastic tube from a police breathalyser that found its way onto Padstowe's desk most certainly couldn't be blamed on Vickery. It wasn't as if anybody had seen who put it there and that it had only turned up after that particular weekend was chalked up to complete coincidence.

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