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27


NOT A TRACE LEFT

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by D. Nisbet
The Boeing 737 banked slowly to the left heading almost due West following the line of the Forth on its gradual descent to Edinburgh Airport. It shuddered as the fuel supply to the massive Pratt and Whitney engines was gradually reduced to slow its forward momentum. He had a window seat as the city unrolled in the clear spring air showing its landmarks proudly, the dull black of the Castle rock, the green sward of Holyrood Park with the Palace gleaming brightly beside it. He drank in the architectural symmetry of the new town, its beauty much more noticeable from their elevated position. All too soon they flashed past the twin bridges spanning the river, each so different from its neighbour, one a sturdy relic of its solid past, the other slim and supple, a marvel of modern design and the calculations of stress factors. They landed with a gentle bump and the scream of jet engines thrown into reverse pitch. How long had it been since he had set foot on his native soil? He did a quick calculation over 20 years, a quarter of a lifetime.
He collected his overnight bag and made for the rent-a-car counter. The girl behind the counter looked fresh and smart in her tartan outfit. "Yes, Sir?", she asked turning on her best smile. "Mr C. Ferguson", he replied "I called ahead from London ". "Oh yes", she answered all brisk and business-like. "I have a 2-door Escort ready for you in the car park. If you could just let me have your identification we can complete the formalities fairly quickly". He handed over his passport and Fiona, for that was the name on her company badge, efficiently completed the few details needed on the form. "Will it be cash or credit?" she asked coming to the bottom of the form. He handed over the dark blue plastic strip hesitating over the hackneyed phrase "American Express".
At last he was on his way, moving carefully through the unaccustomed gear shift reminding himself that they drove on the left side of the road here. His confidence grew quickly and he decided to take a chance and drive through the city centre on his way east. The rush hour was over and the traffic was light. He had time to take in the beauties of the gardens below the Castle although many of the old names had gone from the shops
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