Posted by: Chris Wright | September 21, 2008

The Race – Part II

“You’re looming again Peregrine, I will not tolerate being loomed over…”

Great Aunt Augustine, as grimly determined to hang on to her vast fortune and crumbling estate as she is reluctant to see her only living heir prosper. One hundred and seven years old, patrician, perfectionst and practically blind, she is equipped with a monocle screwed into the socket of her one good eye. She fixes me with a basilisk stare.

“You want to drive an automobile to Brighton…and what, pray, has that to do with me?”

“I thought, Dearest Aunt, you might be prepared to sponsor…?”

“Sponsor! You mean lend you money?”

It was not going well, the old girl was tighter than a cat’s withers and it was going to take more than warm words to prise the requisite monies from her vice like grip. Desperately I considered my options, Bog Mahoney had taken to following me everywhere, cracking his knuckles meaningfully. He was even now to be seen crashing through the shrubbery, peering in through the windows of the drawing room.

“Well, more of a gift….”

“A gift!..” she raised an eyebrow as if the concept was entirely original, “..and what would I get from this…gift?”

“A fridge magnet and a special commemorative biro?”

As the words fell foolishly from my palsied lips, the temperature seemed to drop by several degrees. From the corner of my eye I saw Bog, peering through the glass, drawing his finger, with menace, across his throat.

“You there!”

The old girl had spotted him, the afternoon was unraveling faster than tuesday’s favourite at Kempton Park

“Yes you..” Bog with comical bad timing was gurning horribly “I simply cannot abide these lower orders…” she muttered, beckoning him towards the french windows. The brute shambled into the drawing room, pausing to remove the bowler from his head. My spirits rising at the prospect, this was going to be good, there was only going to be one winner and it wouldn’t be the estimable Bog.

“And what the devil do you think you’re playing at, lurking in my shrubbery?”

“To be sure, mum, I’m only after seeing Mr Oatenshaw.”

“Don’t you ‘mum’ me you impertinent cretin! Well, here he is, what have you got to say for yourself?”

Bog mumbling, distractedly tearing the rim from his bowler.

I shrugged “I’ve never set eyes on the fellow”

“Be quiet Peregrine! Now you..” she jabbed at the hapless Bog with her parasol “..I want you off my property in one second’s time or I’ll set the dogs on you. Do you understand? Now bugger off!”

Bog backing nervously away trips over the footstool and arms flailing like windmills begins the slow descent. Grabbing the tablecloth as he goes down, Bog sprawls across the parquet like a felled ox, Earl Grey dripping down his rubicund features. Scrambling for his broken bowler and the shredded remains of his dignity, a ferocious barking and clattering of claws on the parquet as Timmy and Tessa, the Doberman twins burst into the room, skating across the polished surface. I draw my finger meaningfully across my throat as he turns and sprints across the lawn, the twins tearing at his flying coat tails. With a creditable leap he reaches the top of the garden wall, Timmy, teeth fastened firmly in his capacious haunch, snarling and tearing at the overfed flesh.

“What an absolutely ghastly little man…a friend of yours Peregrine?”

“Good heavens Aunt, I hope you don’t think I….”

“Be quiet! Now fetch me my chequebook..”

I leaped to my feet, the chequebook and pen relayed to the old girls side in a second.

“Now, the truth – how much do you owe these men?”

I blanched, the old girl was sharp as a tack. “About ten, give or take a couple of hundred…”

“Well you’re a complete dead loss Peregrine, but I suppose you know that. You remind me ever so slightly of dear Bertie…here is my cheque for one thousand pounds – if I see you here again without that money, plus interest at twelve and one half percent, I’ll set the dogs on you myself, do I make myself clear?”

Timmy, head cocked, blood smeared across his frankly unfriendly features, issuing an unmistakably hostile growl.

“Now tell Seward to bring me my scotch on the way out – I’ll take the Laphroaig with a dash of water.”

As I walk across the lawn, the precious cheque folded neatly into my pocketbook I look back, the old bird is knocking back the scotch like a trooper, and good grief, that’s Bertie’s twelve bore she appears to be vigorously cleaning. I pick up my pace, step briskly onto the gravel, the race is on.

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