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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The police came for Coxie on a regular club night. No-one was surprised, least of all Coxie. Inspector Thumb had given him a tip-off. Nothing else he could do, see. Not his department. So Coxie had spent his last few days manfully trying to put his affairs in order. He put on an old suit- worn but comfortable, since he wasn't sure how long he'd have to keep it on in the cells.
There was a sullen silence in the club room as two fresh-faced uniform officers cuffed him and took him out to the sad little Panda car sitting out in the yard, its blue light flickering unpredictably on half power, as if it was embarrassed to be there.
Lil gave him a big kiss and wiped a tear from her eye, bringing a substantial amount of Boots No1 mascara with it. 'I'll wait for you Coxie- I promise, I'll wait... I'll be in Marbella- waiting!'

As the blue-and-white car puttered off over the gravel, the remaining club members gathered together in the lounge bar of West Hamley Slot Car Club. Some distractedly poked at cars with oilers and screwdrivers. Pretending to be busy.
'Well. It had to happen' said Eric, gloomily.
'What do you mean?'. Claudia jumped up angrily.
'I warned him. It would all go avocado-shaped'
'What would?
'Uhm... not sure. I just know everything turns out rubbish in the end. At least it always does for me. But Coxie never listened to me.'
'Come on guys' said Bruno, briskly. 'We don't know what's up. It'll hit the papers soon anyway. But we'll always support Coxie, whatever they say he's done, right? And now we have a problem. The annual race with Loose Chippings SCC comes up in a week. And we don't have a team captain.'
'Aww Bruno- how can you think of things like that... at a time like this?' wailed Claudia.
'Pull yourself together woman. I'm thinking about Coxie! He's the man who dragged us up the league tables single handed. Where were we two years ago? Bottom club in the entire South-West Barmshire third division. Now we're only two points away from the national slot racing team championship. We could clinch it at Loose Chippings next week. Or we could just sit here feeling sorry. Sorry for Coxie, but mostly sorry for ourselves. But it's what Coxie would want. It's what he needs- We have to beat Loose Chippings .. for Coxie!'

There was a general mutter of approval. Only Eric, taking off his bent and smeary glasses and drawing a big calloused hand across his face, moaned loudly. 'But how do we do it? Without a captain? Without Coxie? And what is he supposed to have done? Maybe he's one of them pscyclepaths like on PSI Camera Acton and he's killed fifty people in slow motion. What about that?'

'Listen to me Eric. All of you.' Lil Cooper-Archer had quietly walked back into the room. She'd spent quite a long time in the Ladies rest room, repairing her face.
'It's a frame-up. Someone in West Hamley has it in for Coxie. I aren't pointing fingers at anyone. But somebody here doesn't want him to lead West Hamley Slot Car Club to the National Championships....'

The chill that Bruno had been working hard to dispel descended on the club again. Members looked from one to another, and Eric looked into the dark window to see his own sagging features reflected back at him. 'It's not me', he whimpered.

A deep, cigar-choked voice rose from the back of the room. 'What was that about Marbella, Lil?' Everyone looked at Clint. He didn't say much. But usually, when he did, it was important.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Meanwhile, if only they'd known, things were just as bleak over at Loose Chippings. Well, it was usually bleak there, but now it was bleaker. Bleak central. It was a committee meeting at the club. Normally an occasion for verbal, physical and psychological abuse of people and equipment. But it was quiet now. There was a lawyer present.

Terry Lean, their respected- well, let's be frank, feared and respected- no, let's just leave it at 'feared' captain was in trouble. Not this time something he could sort out personally with a mild threat or two. He was in uncharted waters. Last week, at the championship meeting over at Little Primley, he'd casually referred to his opposite number, the Primley Captain Jose Esposito del Featherstonehaugh as (here the lawyer consulted his notes) 'a big girl's blouse'. Now unfortunately, Jose was a well known homosexual and campaigner for gay rights. Also the presenter of a daytime TV series 'Check Your Facts', a lively quizz-show cum topical discussion. He was not to take this lying down. Terry was formally accused of sexism, to which he had thoughtlessly replied 'Sexism? Yeah! I love it. As much as I can get, me'. When it was pointed out to him that his was a bad thing to say, he'd told a reporter who just happened to be listening that it didn't matter because Jose was 'playing for the other side' and deserved all he got. 'All's fair on the track, mate. If you can't take it like a man, you'd better roll over'.

Things truly were out of hand. Terry was, after all, not only Loose Chippings Team captain, but the captain of the UK National Slot Team, shortly to take on Freedonia in the first leg of the 'Global Slot Challenge 2012'. It was in the press, it was on the TV. Posh papers were calling for his resignation, and even he cheapest ones were clearly embarrassed. His job was on the line. And he still did not understand why.

Now the lawyer brought news from the Board of the National Organisation of Car Racing, English Division, familiarly known as Nocred, that Terry was fired from his job as National Team Captain.....

And it didn't end there. Ronald Coltwhistle, the National Team Manager, hadn't taken the news well. He hadn't been consulted, he said. He needed Terry to lead his team. Without him, all his carefully planned strategies were useless. 'Back home in N.Z.', he quipped, 'we forgive and forget. Everyone's got a sheep in the closet, as we say'.
As the newspapers began to make enquiries about the sheep in Coltwhistle's own closet, things went up another level. 'Not fit to manage our national team!' screamed the headlines. 'Sheep-Lover Coltwhistle Go Home!' 'A British Manager for the British Team'.

It couldn't last long. And it didn't. Coltwhistle handed in his resignation, and caught a plane home to his wholesome wife and family in Wellingtons. They all wear them you know.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
So where were we... The British National Slot racing team without a captain or manager and facing Freedonia in the 2012 World championship... West Hamley's own manager and captain under arrest and struggling for the National Club Championship against Loose Chippings... Whatever next?

Well, Clint had got the ball rolling at West Hamley. 'Tell me about Marbella' he said again to Lil Copper-Archer. With no more emphasis, just the same, calm, worn-leather authority in his voice. He walked slowly across the clubroom, his high boots cracking the floorboards, jangling some loose change from hand to hand, his gaze fixed at middle distance. 'Why will you wait in Marbella?'

Lil couldn't take it. Flakes of hardened skin re-juvenating cream cracked from her cheeks as she struggled to smile. She stared coldly into her lipstick-plated gin glass. She shifted awkwardly on the high stool, while Clint whistled a plaintively haunting tune and cracked a whip idly.

'I'd better come clean' she said, her voice low and shakey. 'The water's still warm in the shower room, Lil' said Eric helpfully.

'You know how Coxie pushed through the new rules about the stock motor class last year?'

'We're listening, Lil' butted in Bruno.

'Well. Coxie and I, we... we had an agreement. A mutually supportive agreement... with the factory in China'.

'The factory?' gasped Claudia.

'The reason we all had to buy sealed boxes of fresh Falcon motors for each race meeting... The famous West Hamley Falcons?' Bruno had already pieced together in his mind what had happened.

'Yes, Bruno. It's true. Coxie imposed a new rule, new single-make motor for each race, every class, every heat, to ensure a fair race, a level playing field; no cheating..'

'Except there was some cheating going on, wasn't there Lil?' said Bruno brusquely.

'Not cheating... just a fair commission from the factory, Bruno. Coxie and I got 10 % on each motor. It's not a lot to live on- not a lot when you consider the years that Coxie and I have put into making this club what it is today- the best known fictional slot car club in the world!'

'Put that way, I suppose not' said Claudia. 'We're all grateful for what you've done for us. But it doesn't answer Clint's question- why Marbella.... and for goodnes sake, why has Coxie been arrested?'

'Let me finish dear. The little arrangement involved setting up an offshore account. We couldn't put the payments through the books normal like. It wouldn't have been right. And of course, we'd have had to pay....'

'Tax?' said Bruno, bitingly.

'Yes.... Tax. The Falcon factory put all our money into a nice investment in Spain. A little bolthole for our retirement. An English style Slotracing Pub in Marbella. Except everything there's under investigation too. Seems no-one else has been paying tax for some time, and, and .... oh- it's all too complicated. I havn't got a head for business you know. I can barely add up... And they think we did it on purpose- it's all just a dreadful, deradful misunderstanding, but... but Coxie's been done by the Fraud Squad!'
 

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Over in Loose Chippings, Terry Lean's lawyer was working overtime. Triumphantly he announced what he said would be a bullet-proof defence. All Terry had to say in court was that he was hard of speaking- the lawyer was confident he could rustle up a cheap doctor who would sign the necessary incomprehensible medical reports. What he had meant to say was not that that Jose Esposito del Featherstonehaugh was a 'Big girl's blouse'- heavens forfend! but that he was a 'Biggles blouse'- in fact a highly complimentary phrase relating to the heroic Second World War fighter ace's leather flying jacket or 'Blouson'. Terry grunted and smiled. He had no idea whatsoever what was going on.

In West Hamley, Eric, Claudia, Clint and Bruno had all had official letters summoning them to Jury service. 'Make yourself available at Upper Hamley Crown Court the following week', they all said.

'Odd' was the solicitor's only comment. 'It's all perfectly random you know. Just co-incidence. You'll probably all be sitting in different cases- disputed parking fines, M.P.s expenses, that sort of thing.'

Clint offered a rare comment too, his horse whinnying outside as he spoke, low and soft. 'Funny. Terry Lean and Coxie both on trial at Upper Hamley next week. So's the Freedonia match and the Club championship. Whut in Boot Hill's goin' on??
 

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Waiting nervously at upper Hamley Crown court on a bitterly cold Monday morning, a motley crew of jurors were being marshalled into place by besuited officials. Clutching their scalding cardboard cups of bitter coffee, Eric, Claudia, Clint and Bruno stayed quiet, each sensing that it was probably not wise to acknowledge each other.

'Two cases this morning' announced another man in a cheap suit. He read two lists of names. Those on the first list were instructed to follow him to court no.1. The others were to follow another official, tightly bound in a suit several sizes too small, into court no.2. 'It's like Wimbledon' someone muttered, and got very sharp looks from the two suits. It was all to be very, very solemn.

The man in the little suit led his flock to Court no. 2. They sat obediently in the jury box, barely glancing at each other. It was the most boring episode of a crime thriller any of them had ever seen. Until a funny little chap in red robes, with a deeply lined face roughly the same colour, framed by a flowing curly horse-hair wig, sat down at the top desk and tapped it with a little wooden hammer. 'Good morning, ladies and gentlemen' he said in a funny high-pitched voice. 'I am Judge Mint, and we are here this morning to hear a very serious case of , uh, sexual discrimination. Two grown men who should know better are in dispute about who said what to whom, and an awful lot of money is involved. Which is primarily the concern of my legal friends over there'- acknowledging with a brisk wink the rows of lawyers filling most of the court. It is your job to decide that the nice man with a proper name is totally innocent of any of the indignant and overwrought charges brought by the somewhat hysterical and unreliable character with the funny name. Do you all understand? And I may add, if you are not aware, that the future of British Slot racing lies in your hands. Clerk of the Court, bring in the accused!' He aimed another brisk stroke at his desk, hit his thumb, squealed, and put his thumb straight it in his mouth, with apparent relish and familiarity.

Eric, Claudia, Clint and Bruno found themselves together in court no 1. Still, by unspoken assent, not even looking at each other, they found themselves scattered evenly amongst the other eight jurors sitting down on their veneered plywood bench, when cheap suit gestured for them to stand up again. Another chap in a long wig, red robes, and this time, with a matching red beard and an unlit pipe clenched between large gleaming teeth. He waved the court to sit, leaned back in his ornate armchair behind the top bench and roared. 'I am Judge Lightly. I am here to preside over a case of supreme unimportance, concerning the pathetic attempts of one poor individual to make himself a little bit of extra pocket money, as is the right of every Briton, and not be hounded to death for showing a little entrepreneurial initiative. I intend to be in the pub by lunchtime.' His deep baritone voice echoed richly round the cheaply panelled walls of the court, and he glared at each member of the jury in turn for several heart stopping seconds, the whites of his eyes visible all around the black, unfocussed pupils. 'Understood?- Bring in the falsely accused!'
Clint's spurs jingled angrily. Claudia knew that his intuitive sense of natural justice was stirring. She dared a quick glimpse of Eric, who looked terrified. Bruno, a few seats away could see the entrance to the sinister iron-barred dock, and was the first to recognise the haggard, unshaven face of the prisoner. He could barely stop himself from calling out. 'Coxie! We'll get you out of this!'
 
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