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Ballard, it has been established, works for a TV studio that makes commercials. He uses their regular car rental service to try out all kinds of cars now. Then he drives around the various highways of the airport zone, taking in the flyovers, bland hotels, 24 hour supermarkets, traffic islands and new apartments. The cars seem alive to him with the previous drivers.
Like the other cars I had hired, this one was covered with scratches and heel marks, cigarette burns and scuffings, translated through the glamorous dimension of Detroit design. On the pink vinyl seat was a deep tear large enough to take a flagstaff or, conceivably, a penis.Driving about the surreal artificial landscape by night, and experiencing the traffic around his crash site, proves too much. Ballard picks up an airport prostitute - who waits on a traffic island of all places - and takes her to the deserted open roof of a multi-storey carpark.
His blowjob is suddenly interrupted by a flash of light and then a noise and commotion below. An airport bus has rear-ended a taxi and the bloodied driver is being pulled out by the light of police headlamps. But Ballard turns to see the original flash was in fact from a camera. Vaughan has been stalking him again. This time he recognizes him as the famous TV scientist.
As he reached the balcony his face was lit by the headlamps of the police car. I realized that I had seen his pock-marked face many times before, projected from a dozen forgotten television programmes and news magazine profiles - this was Vaughan, Dr Robert Vaughan, a one-time computer specialist. As one of the first of the new-style TV scientists, Vaughan had combined a high degree of personal glamour - heavy black hair over a scarred face, an American combat jacket - with an aggressive lecture theatre manner and complete conviction in his subject matter, the application of computerized techniques to the control of all traffic systems. In the first programmes of his series three years earlier Vaughan had projected a potent image, almost that of the scientist as hoodlum.Now it is Ballard's turn to follow him deeper down the rabbit hole.