Miles and Reese are two characters that flit around the periphery of the Dereham novels. We first meet them in Sorrow Mystica, where they are habitués of Copsehill, although sceptical of the Dereham mystery. They might yet become secondary but important characters in the as-yet unwritten German Overalls. Reese himself plays a small but pivotal role in Crossing the Line, when he meets Archie in Reading.
The following scene takes place on Copsehill, in 1972, just after Peta, Archie and other assembled skywatchers have spotted a UFO, known locally as a red rambler.
Peta noticed the two hippies sitting atop the gates that barred the rough roadway to the copse at Copsehill. They were separate from the assembled skywatchers, a part of the gathering but apart from it. Miles Stephens and Reese Johns. They kept themselves to themselves most of the time, although were always friendly.
Miles struggled to roll a joint in the dark while trying to keep his long blonde hair out of the way. “Did you catch that, Reese? Old Patterson said the News of the World are up here on Saturday. He said it would put Dereham on the map.”
Reese laughed quietly. “It’s already on the bloody map, isn’t it? Otherwise how did all these skywatchers find their way here?”
“Intuition? Lured by the siren’s song? Guided by the light?”
“Do you think we should tell Dyson?” Perhaps, as the purveyors of this fine news, he’d finally allow us to join his merry band of hoaxers and japers.”
Miles smiled. Not only had he succeeded in constructing his joint, he also knew Reese had a point. “Yeah. Terry’s a bloody tit in that department. He likes to keep his activities secret and hush-hush. Like he’s in the bloody military or something. And yet not so secret that we don’t know about it.” Miles lit the joint and toked at it, then looked into the dark sky. “Do you think he was behind that display a few minutes ago?”
Reese shook his head. “I think not. It was far too good for him. He can’t make them go round corners yet. You never know, that might have been one of old man Patterson’s real yoo-fos.” He emphasized the last word in a broad West Country accent, parodying his own country burr.
Miles passed the joint to Reese. “You mean to tell me you actually believe that was a UFO? Good Lord, young man! You’ll be signing up with Patterson’s lot next!”
“Men from Mars and all that stuff? I should jolly well say not!” Reese paused, thoughtfully. “But, what did we just observe, Mr. Sceptic Man?”
Miles shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. After all, it’s not as if we had a chance to capture it and subject it to our sceptical scalpels. Helicopter? Lights shining on the underbelly of a nightjar? A secret military test-bed?”
Miles playfully thumped his friend on the arm. “Well, why no sound? It’s a clear, moonless, still night.”
“What difference does there being no moon make, buffoon?”
“I don’t know. It’s just that the stars seem bright, the very atmosphere pellucid, without her cracked and scarred face frowning down on us.”
“Very pretty,” Miles said.
“You know what I mean. That red rambler was dazzling, man! Scintillating! A coruscating crimson in its nocturnal wanderings!”
Reese handed the joint back to Miles. He inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly. “Indeed,” her finally said. “It did glitter and sparkle in its night-time weaving.”
“And still you refuse to come to the point, my good man. Why the absence of sound you would expect of any terrestrially-designed aeroform?”
“Well, if it were a night-jar, you wouldn’t expect a sound.”
“But it would sing. Wheep, it would go. Wheep. Wheep.”
“Call that a song? It’s enough to make me weep.”
“Yes, but that’s what we would hear.”
“How the fuck do you know?”
“I saw a television programme once. I learnt its call. The skylark was too bloody difficult, man.” Reece paused. “Wheep,” he said. “Wheep.”
“Sounds like an alien, to me. Are you sure you weren’t watching Dr Who?”
“No, that would be Meep. Meep meep.”
“Don’t talk shit, man!” Miles paused. “That’s a fucking aardvark.”
Reese started laughing. “How would you know?”
“I saw it on a television programme. Once.”
“Nonetheless, young jackanapes — why no sound?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps it was a secret military test-bed using anti-gravitational and geomagnetic energy drives reverse-engineered from a crashed flying saucer. Anyway, all this ratiocination is making me cotton-mouthed. What time is it?”
Reese looked at his watch, a rather expensive one with a lot of dials. He squinted for a moment. “It’s just gone ten, I think.”
“You should have bought one with fluorescent hands,” Miles pointed out.
“Yeah, but does have a rotating bezel! Pass me your lighter, will you, good man?”
Miles re-lit the joint, and then passed over the lighter. Reese flicked it a couple of times before the dim flame sparked into life. “Yes. Five past ten. We might get to the nearest pub if we get a move on.”
“Only if you get the first round in,” Miles said.
“Oh, no, not again! It’s always my bloody round! Still, I’ve got your lighter.”
“Yeah, but I’ve got the joint.”
They jumped down from the gate. Just as they landed, the shrill electronic sound of a UFO detector sounded.
“Bit bloody late,” Miles said loudly.
Some of the skywatchers overheard him, and chuckled.
Miles and Reese began to thread their way through the skywatchers. As they passed Peta, both glanced at her.
Further down the hill, Miles said, “Foxy.”
“Meep, meep,” Reese said.