Posted by: Chris Wright | September 13, 2008

The Race – Part I

This splendidly chilly Autumn day, sun wearily lighting the cobbles, the mews ringing with the sound of a powerful engine spluttering into life. The type 35 Bugatti, painstakingly restored, coughs, chokes and dies. The clatter of spanners flung and bastard bloody Bertie red faced and foul phrased, venting his spleen.

Sliding into ‘The Royal Oak’ for a snifter, “Morning Mr. Oatenshaw”, simpering Soames, uxorious and crafty, the hard faced witch of a curtain twitching wife homing in.

“I’ll take a glass of your finest malt, stick it on the tab, there’s a good chap”

Soames wincing as the wife goes for the jugular “The tab” she hisses, “Ask him about the tab”

Coughs, glances back, the evil eyed scold urging him on. I knock back the Glendronach, slam the glass on the bar, spin on my heel and make for the door. She darts out from the bar and plants herself in my path.

“Mr. Oatenshaw, there is a matter I’d like to discuss…” She is grinning like a fool, the gombeen hand outstretched as per bloody usual.

I wearily reach into my coat, extracting the calfskin wallet, peeling a wad of tens. She shuffles them like a croupier and stretches out the hand once more. I stare in disbelief at the fingerless misers mittens, at the finger and thumb rubbed quickly together.

“One hundred and thirty eight pounds you’ve drunk in here…”

“My dear Mrs. Soames” I turn up the charm, effecting my most winning smile “Would you send a man to work without a drink in his belly?”

Flinty eyed and stone cold sober she stares straight back at me “Don’t you dear me, you ponce! I’ll have another fifty before you leave my pub..”

I reach once more into the coat, the wallet, which, somewhat lightened yields a further twenty, snatched from my fingers without ceremony. “Thirty pounds before you’ll have another drink in this pub..” Puffed up like a natterjack she marches across the room and rings the cash into the till, offering a handful of IOU’s for my inspection. I peruse the scrawled signatures, marvelling at the penmanship and count the cost of my extravagance, the Pauillac Grand Puy Lacoste had been a particularly fine companion to an excellent roast lamb only a couple of weeks ago.

With a flourish, I bowed low – “Well good day to you Mrs. Soames, I shall, as ever, look forward to our next encounter with eager anticipation, the sap shall rise…”

“Bugger off” she replied.

I’d put five hundred down with the Chinese in Soho and another five in covering bets with various bookmakers around town. My turf accountant Scannion had estimated my deficit at nine; Bog Mahoney, as he called himself had visited me last evening, his frame blotting out the light as he issued graphic descriptions of the bodily harm he had visited upon Scannion’s defaulters in the past – I’d stopped him as he described the sound of an eyeball collapsing under the pressure of his horny thumb. If the Oatenshaw visage was to grace another womans chamber, I was damn sure it would be with both eyes intact.

The cobbles contusing my feet through paper thin soles, I contemplate incipient ruin for a few seconds before striding briskly out to beard Bertie on the thorny subject of the Bugatti. He emerges oil streaked and red faced, offering a grimy paw which I pointedly ignore.

Bertie blathering about crankshaft torsional vibration, primary and secondary balance. My head was reeling, the words lining up but in the wrong order – I hadn’t the faintest notion what he was talking about. The nitwit rambled on, a veritable torrent of bad news.

“Its the camshaft” he offered, “crankshaft whip too…”

“and in plain english that would be….?”

“We’re buggered….Sir”

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