In an effort to get my stalkers to give me some peace…

I work for Surer Risk, a 60-year-old insurance company specialising in mining and mineral extraction. It was set up by the Foreign Office in the 1950s to help British mining interests abroad. Since then it’s diversified but it’s still basically an insurance company. Insurance. Not international sabotage or weapons sales or genocide or anything. No skeletons here.

I’m a senior operative in the Asset Retrieval department. When a valuable object is stolen or goes missing, the company that’s insured it wants to retrieve it, so the claim won’t have to be paid or (if the claim has been paid already ) then the object legally belongs to the company and can be sold. This is what I do: I track down missing property. Mining gear, industrial prototypes, unrefined diamonds, that kind of thing. Once in a rare moon it might be a piece of art or jewellery, or a vintage car. And I’m good at it.

I’ve loved this kind of thing since I was a kid. Dad used to bury stuff on the Heath and draw us big, intricate maps to find them, to make up for the fact he was hardly ever home. The map would arrive in the post with stamps from Hong Kong or Brazil or South Africa, and we’d bunk off school to trace out where this new treasure was. A watch, a Swiss Army knife, a kilo of chocolate, and once a big Scalextric set buried two feet down, wrapped in bin-liners and lashed with tape to protect it from the damp earth. Best days ever.

That’s my job: I dig things up. Most of the time metaphorically. Rarely there’s actual spades involved. But that’s it. It’s all legal and above-board. I’m one of the good guys, for heaven’s sake, I find stuff and return it to its owners. I do not believe that Violette Summer’s final cache exists, I am not trying to find it either for my bosses or for myself, and I think that anyone who goes hunting it is an idiot. Now will you leave me alone.

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