Weekend Wind Down – Dangerous Driving

Dai carefully unfolded the hanging and held it up for Aelwen to inspect. She put her head on one side and her brow drew into tight lines, as if she were a critic appraising the latest offering from an acclaimed artist.
The thing was lovely. From the carefully beaded knotwork pattern that bordered the edge to the gloriously vivid designs. It glittered in the light as the brilliant colours of the glass beads were both muted and set off by the softer metallic looking ones in silver and gold effect.
Satisfied, Aelwen then felt the hem where the carefully placed weights were sewn in disguised by quilting and the braided fringe.
“What are they made of, the weights?”
“In the past we’d have used lead,” Marta told her, but today we use stainless steel.” She reached over to a box and pulled some of the contents out so Aelwen could see. “Here take one.”
Warmed by the spiced tea (a local blend of fourteen fruits, herbs and spices, half-price Saturnalia special and an extra discount for the dominus if he’ll take two packs—so he did), they paid for their purchases. The hanging was wrapped in tissue paper and popped into one of the paper bags that the workshop had printed with their own name and logo (probably onsite, Dai decided), the Llewllyns took their leave.
As Dai was guiding the all wheel out of the gate, he caught sight of Marta, in the rear view, back in the doorway of the workshop and waving enthusiastically. She looked red faced and took a few steps out into the yard. Dai lifted a hand in farewell and a moment later they were around the corner and beginning the precarious descent.
They were about halfway down when Aelwen said, decisively, “I liked that shop and the spiced tea. But not the dogs. And do you think mam will like that hanging?”
“I think she will love it.”
Aelwen smiled then her face fell.
“I wanted some pictures to show where we went to get it.”
Dai heard the tone and knew what the outcome would be, but tried anyway.
“If we go back we’ll be very late, cath fach. And your nain is cooking for you, remember.”
The silence and the drooping head were more than he could bear. Then he saw a pull in a short way ahead, which offered a stunning vista from the zig-zag road. He was already decelerating as he said, “Why don’t we get some pictures of the view here? That would be much more spectacular?”
It was touch and go if the alternative would wash with Aelwen, but maybe the thought of her grandmother’s baking fresh from the oven was enough to sway the balance, because she nodded as Dai parked up.
The wind was cold, but not bitter. Not yet carrying the smell and taste of snow. Instead it brought hints of coal smoke from the hearths of the cottages below, looking like dolls’ houses with toy goats and chickens in the garden. Aelwen fussed around for a couple of minutes like a professional portrait photographer, positioning Dai and getting him to help her with the settings so she could zoom in to show the more distant mountains, capped by cloud.
But they were eventually back in the all wheel and driving back along the narrow mountain road.
Dai didn’t think anything of it when he saw a rugged and long-lived allwheel barrelling up the slope towards them. There were a few isolated farmsteads along potholed tracks which turned off the decently surfaced road. But when it showed no sign of slowing, he silently cursed the arrogance of the locals and their assumption of right of way and aimed his vehicle for the passing place between them.
Incredibly, the allwheel coming up accelerated, almost as if it wanted to cut him off from reaching the wider bit of road. Suddenly aware that he had no other choice to avoid the mad driver, he speeded up too, and for a moment it was as if they were playing a game of chicken. He just pulled out of the way as the other vehicle reached them, but at the last moment it slid and there was a shriek of tortured metal and a scream from Aelwen as the two vehicles graunched together.
Aelwen screamed again and Dai swore, fighting to turn the allwheel back onto the road as the cliffedge approached at a frightening speed.

From the latest addition to the The Dai and Julia Mysteries, Dying for a Present, a novella by E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago.

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