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Chunga's Revenge

The return of Inspector Thumb, pt.6

A hush fell over the club as Coxie called the numbers for the first heat of the Cat Ass Trophy. A couple of locals, a few also rans from out of town, then 'X'. Who was this? Did anyone know this entry? Had anyone noticed a stranger?
The white-faced kid snuck up to the podium and plugged in a fearsome looking throttle. Black casing, monster cast aluminium heatsink. Way bigger than the kid's soft and spindly hand. The weight of it brought his arm down to the track level, and his whole insect-like body sagged even further. Then from his other hand appeared his entry. Slid onto red lane, the shovel nosed Shadow was glossy and black as night. The car just seemed to merge with the track- as if it had no real presence at all. More like an absence, a black hole of a car. And from the start of the race, everyone watching knew it had the pull of a black hole. It lay close to the slot, and never let go of it. It was as if it generated its own gravity. Its speed down the straight was phenomenal. No-one in that heat came close. The unknown kid was a fast qualifier, a cert for the main.
The first run came to a quiet conclusion- the watching crowd was stunned. Thumb shuffled uneasily from one foot to another, partly out of nervousness, partly because he couldn't easily find a comfortable stance since Argent's last energetic massage session had got a little out of hand. And Fergie knew he too had his work cut out. It wasn't going to be the walkover either of them had imagined. Thumb's discomfort increased when he caught a glimpse of the underside of the kid's car as he lifted it off the track at the end of his run. No braids. Roller bearings. The kid had picked up on Thumb's frictionless guide design somehow. He was one of the others that the mysterious email had warned him about. Thumb plucked listlessly at the seat of his trousers, and plunged himself into thought- until Coxie called his number for the next heat. The first public test for his own, the original, frictionless guide.
As he stood on the podium himself, he felt soft hands working on his neck and shoulders. The effect was marvellous. The tension rushed out of his body as if someone had opened a tap in the soles of his shoes. It was Argent, of course. His new friend. Across the track, Lil Cooper-Archer watched through half-closed eyes. This was unexpected. All her adult life she'd worshipped the man from Scotland Yard. Followed the newspaper stories about the 'Scalextric Detective'. Cut them out and hidden them in a secret drawer where Coxie would never find them. Did this mean the end of her hopes? No. Of course not. Lil was not that sort of woman. Something would have to be done.
While she silently plotted, the second heat ran its course, this time with Thumb the easy winner. His time was a little slower than 'X's, but there had been no pressure on him, and he'd driven the whole race with a relaxed smile on his face. He was happy. The frictionless guide worked beautifully. He could feel the car through the throttle, bursting to get away down the track- there was simply nothing holding it back, apart from his own thumb on the throttle. He resisted the temptation to gas it- just a few bursts to satisfy himself while no-one was watching too carefully. He didn't want to show his hand too soon, but he laid it absent-mindedly on Argent's lap as he sat down. Argent gazed languidly at his superior officer, while Lil loosened another button on her blouse and steered her way through the crowd towards them.
She hooked her thumbs into the waist of her low-cut jeans, edging them down her hips a little further as she stood in front of the two policemen. Then she bent low towards Thumb, the draught running through her blouse reassuring her that the pose was an effective one. 'That was a beautiful drive, Inspector. So calm, yet forceful.' 'Well,' Thumb replied, in an unexpectedly throaty voice, 'I had everything in hand.' He lifted his right arm slowly to demonstrate, only to find with a sudden queasy realisation that it was entwined in Argent's. What was happening to him? This was terrible! Here he was, poised on the brink of his life's ambition- the Cat Ass trophy within his grasp, and the landscape he'd dreamed about so often- the twin peaks of Lil's upper body looming in and out of focus before his eyes like the front fenders of a Ferrari P4. All his for the taking. And here he was in a compromising situation with his strangely sensual sergeant! Beads of sweat broke out beneath his hat band. He stood up quickly, jerking Argent clumsily out of his chair. Argent fell against Lil, his outstretched hand making intimate contact with her. 'Not you, you sap, get off me.' Lil squealed. 'I want him. Inspector! Don't throw yourself away! Be mine!' Thumb, all of a sudden, was speechless. As was the small crowd that had gathered round them. It was his move now. The tension was back and it was unbearable. If ever he needed Argent's sensitive kneading it was now, but….What could he do? What must he do?
Just then Coxie's officious voice crackled through the PA from the other side of the track. 'Heat 3. On Blue lane, Fergie O'Halloran.' This was something everyone wanted to see. Not least the three strangely formed individuals who were watching every move, thousands of miles away across land, sea and sand, but in close and immediate contact via the medium of a sophisticated series of webcams.
'Better than East Enders, ain't it?' said the boy with the head of a camel.
'Not as good as Bullitt though' replied the Fish in a Hat.
'But it's going to get better- much better' said the Three-armed man.
For most of the people gathered in West Hamley Slot Club, it promptly did. They'd never seen a show like this before. The slap of wooden snow-shoes on the hard concrete floor heralded the arrival of the huge Canadian at the driver's podium. His deep-frozen racing snowmobile billowed clouds of condensation as it sat on the start line. Six Huskies snapped to attention along the back straight, ears pricked and tongues lolling. As the power came on, the miniature caterpillar tracks spun into a blur, and the thing just plain disappeared. It was hard to see if the mountie was doing much with the throttle- it was buried in his immense mitts, but it just seemed to take off at full chat and stay there. It was a blur that could only be seen by the trail of condensation it left behind. Drivers of lapped cars felt a slight twitch in response as the slipstream of ice particles blasted by. Fergie had claimed a new outright track record for the heat before the rest of the pack had got into their rhythm. Coxie's announcement stunned the crowd, and left Thumb in a state of total emotional trauma. Fergie hadn't so much broken the track record as annihilated it. Decimated, destroyed, vaporised it- darn near reduced it to absolute zero. Within a few minutes the car was back in it's super-cooled container, ready for the final.
'Where does it hurt, Love?' Thumb heard the voice, but didn't respond, so consumed was he in his own pain and disappointment. He'd spent the last few months of his life spinning in virtual space, lost, abandoned and buffeted by painful electronic blows, tormented by surreal voices and images, while dangling from an ever diminishing thread and forced to ponder his own mortality. Then in an instant he'd found himself back in his office, but in a subtly changed enviroment and with an unspeakably changed officer. Too many shocks. It was too much for his normally phlegmatic soul. All he'd had to cling to was his great idea, his race winning frictionless slot guide- and the best chance he'd ever had at the Cat Ass Trophy. That and some hugely comforting massages. Now it was falling to pieces again right before his eyes. He even wished he was back in virtual space, with no-one to distract him but his own thoughts.
But now he realised his eyes, just now brimming with tears, felt a gentle, warming pressure. He tried to open them, but couldn't. A pair of hands had worked their way under his Scotland Yard-issue trench coat and were playing games with his kidneys. It was undeniably pleasant. But whose hands? He moved his head slightly from side to side and felt the pressure on his closed eyes change subtly. His cheeks were nestled tightly between two soft pillows. He breathed in happily and deeply. The perfume was familiar, and it wasn't Argent's new 'Narcissus for men'. And he was fairly sure that Argent didn't have huge soft pink bosoms. He was safe in the arms of Lil, and he didn't care who knew it!
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