Bruno's trunk wouldn't fit on the bus, though. He shielded his eyes against the glare of the snow and surveyed the road back to the Greta Garbo Home for Wayward Boys and Girls. It was a long haul. He slid his belt off, lashed it through the handle of the trunk, and began to pull. Once started, it wasn't too bad on the crusted ice. He trudged forward, his breath forming great clouds before him, his stomach gnawing from hunger, the trunk slithering behind him. By the time he passed Monogram Avenue, icicles had begun to form on his eyebrows. At Carrera Street, his earlobes were throbbing. Past Ninco Gardens, the stabbing pain in his forehead became almost too much too bear. Cars swept past him, spraying him with fresh ice and slush. As he turned the corner of Fly Street, the full force of a blizzard caught him chest-on. Only the thought of Lana's arms, and the poor, poor slot racing deprived kids waiting at the home kept him going. They were depending on him. He was their last chance. He urged himself onward. What would the great Fergie of the North do? he pondered. This was his sort of territory. Disembowell a walrus and warm himself in it's pelt, probably. He looked around. No walruses. A stray dog cowered in an alley off Revell Close. Probably a friend of Derek's. He couldn't possibly...
But it was thoughts like this that kept Bruno going until he finally reached the Greta Garbo home, snow and ice six inches thick covering his whole body, his teeth chattering uncontrollably, and icicles like garden rakes hanging from his eyebrows.
Lana and the kids gathered round him excitedly. 'What did you do?' 'What have you got?' 'What is your plan?'
Pumped with testosterone, Bruno flexed his tired muscles one last time and cracked off his thick coating of ice. 'My plan? My plan is to get this place going again! Trust me kids. I need two work parties. Hey- Brad! Brad, you round up some of the kids, get down to old Gloria Mundi, and strip her. We want the batteries, all the electrical system, any aluminium and steel panels you can rip off the bodywork- anything you can peel off her. She's had it, but she can still play a part in the Home's revival. OK Brad? Get going!' 'Sure, Mr Bruno. All I needed was a purpose- an aim in life to keep me out of petty crime and vandalism. I'm on it! C'mon guys!'
'Great stuff. Now I want another crew to help out here. You lad- what's your name?'
'My name's Jack, and I live in the back..'
'OK, OK- Jack, round up some more kids and come with me.'
Bruno started wandering around the Home, tapping the walls and scratching with his fingertips. 'Here. This'll do nicely. Solid MDF. Already got a nice thick coat of grey paint. Jack- I want this partition wall down. You'll need crowbars, jemmies...'
A kid with funny old hair piped up. 'Got plenty of those, boss. I keep 'em under my bed for breaking and entering. But that's all behind me now- you've inspired me to follow the straight-and-narrow, sir!'
'Good man!' said Bruno.
Lana looked at him, puzzled. 'Bruno- are you sure you know what you're doing? You've taken the last of our money, now you're pulling the place down- will this really save the home?'
'Trust me, Lana. I do know what I'm doing. Well at least half of it. But I'm too busy to talk now. We've got work to do- Hey- you, you with your hands on your head! Can you handle a router? And you- what's your name- Melody Mend? You sure look pretty to me. But do you think you can lay your hands on a whole lot of aluminium cooking foil? Anyone here know any geometry?'
A skinny looking lad pushed forward through the crowd. 'Yeah. I'm McGoolies. Always had a knack for geometry, so they call me Helix. Helix McGoolies. What can I do for you?'
Bruno scratched out a rough diagram on the lino floor. 'Something like this, I think.' Helix McGoolies' eyes widened with delight. 'You got it boss!'
By the evening, Brad Spitt had returned with his wrecking crew and all the parts of poor old Gloria Mundi in a couple of wheelbarrows, to find a six lane raceway already up in the rec room. All it needed was the power from Gloria's battery. And some cars.
'Man!' said Brad, high-fiving Bruno with enthusiasm. 'But what we gonna race?'
'That's where you come in, Brad. In my trunk you'll find a lathe, a dremel, everything we need. Those bits of Gloria's bodywork will make up into some good chassis. We can turn up some wheels from this aluminium bar... I'm going to teach you kids that you don't need money to go slot racing! We can build it all ourselves! All that expensive gear, all those collector's ready-mades you left at West Hamley? You don't need it! Here- half-a dozen Puma Evo-12s, some 36 tooth gears- that's the only thing I got at Harry Hobbs'- but it's all we need!'
'Are you sure, Bruno?' A breathy voice came from the hall. Everyone turned to see Claudia Schiffer framed in the doorway, her glossy PVC trenchcoat collar still turned up high and white snow on her shoulders after the long walk from West Hamley. 'I think this might help you fellows...'
She held in her hand her precious Monogram Lola G.T.
'What were you going to do for bodyshells? Tyres?'
'Claudia, Claudia! Thank heavens! It's so good to see you!' Bruno yelled, and kissed her on both cheeks. Lana's eyes narrowed. 'Yeah- I have to admit I was a bit stuck on that one- I havn't really got the WHOLE plan worked out, but that's fantastic! May we?'
'Of course. Go ahead.'
In a few seconds, Bruno had popped the top of the Lola and stripped it down.
'Acey- in my trunk... a couple of cans of silicone rubber- and those catalyst bottles. Now I'll need some help here. Lana- any mixing pots we can use in the kitchen?'
The next day they were racing again. The whole of the Greta Garbo Home were back at the track, as if the last week had all been a dream- or a nightmare. Six little resin cast Lolas sped wheel-to-wheel on their freshly moulded silicone tyres, powered by the hot little Puma motors in steel flex-o-floppy chassis of a design cooked up between Bruno, Helix, and Acey Diode. The track, until recently the wall of the canteen, was propped up on old trestle tables, and provided a fast, but challenging course with plenty of radius changes and some wonderful long tail-out curves. The kids were happy. So Lana was happy. So Bruno was happy. Claudia? Well, Claudia could get back to modelling any time she wanted, earn the money to pick up another Monogram Lola, but somehow she didn't feel the need. Here was good. She'd done a good thing. What a Christmas!
'The orchestra played on while the ship went down, eh?' A rasping little voice cut through the excited atmosphere like an electric carving knife through a turkey. Bruno spun round and saw no-one. Then he felt a tug at his waist band, and he looked downward. A tiny, gnarled, grey-headed old man in wire-rimmed spectacles glared up at him.
'Rent's due tomorrow. If you don't have it, the bulldozers will be in on the 27th. Just thought you needed a little reminder.'
'Mr Ecclestone! No! You can't do this! Have you no heart? Can't you see the love the children have put into all this?' Lana was on her knees, sobbing.
'The answers are yes, I can, no, and no. It is of no consequence to me.' £6,000 tomorrow.... or the Greta Garbo Home for Wayward Boys and Girls is history!'