It was carnival night and most of the crowd was masked. There were twenty Captain Jack Sparrows, three Marie Antoinettes with shepherdess’ crooks, carrying their lambs, there were Spidermen, Keystone Cops and Mr Spocks, half a dozen ladyboys and gay Telletubbies with handbags. A Captain Ahab stumped along on narwhale-tusk peg leg and an agitated Ginsbergbear, in beatnik brown cords, hurried through the jostling press of revellers. Then… there was a figure standing at the foot of the big wheel, in shadow but for a slash of pulsing neon light cast across his lower face and breast. He was wearing a red and black striped polo neck jumper beneath his drape jacket, a black Lone Ranger mask and, of course, the grey homburg. Without exchanging pleasantries they mounted wide wooden steps up to a ticket office that stood next to twin turnstiles. The Ferris wheel looked considerably more impressive close too – in fact it was massive. Slasher McGoogs paid for the two of them at the kiosk and ushered Ginsbergbear into one of the cars. They had the compartment to themselves.
The wheel began to turn slowly, but when their car reached its zenith it stopped abruptly. The flimsy car swayed and Slasher McGoogs, his legs spread wide and a psychotic glint in his eyes, slid open the door. The lonely, haunting, plunking tones of a distant zither drifted in.
“You should come over here and look down. It’s really spectacular.”
Ginsbergbear was in the far corner, as far from the open door as possible, knuckles stretched white as he gripped the rail. He could see the lights of Park Lane and Oxford Street from where he was and had no intention of moving.
“What’s going on? Why have we stopped?”
“I bribed the operator. I feel that an atmosphere of uncertainty and intimidation will enhance the conversation that we are about to have.
“Now… your friends. Their activities are getting in my way and attracting undue attention.
“I want you to tell them to stop looking. I need a little space… and time.”
Ginsbergbear gabbled, “What the…? Why me? What ARE you up to? Why aren’t you dead? What on earth gives you the idea they will listen to me?”
“…No, you make them. Tell them yourself. If we’re causing you so much inconvenience then you’re going to have to trust us with some answers. No one is fooled by this accident story. Meet us somewhere safe-ish and explain yourself.”
Slasher did not appear enthusiastic, but eventually hissed a response, “Limehousesailortown is an Establishment no go area. The Den, tomorrow morning.”
On a waved signal from McGoogs the wheel started to turn again and the instant their cab reached the ground Slasher sprang from the car, vaulted the barrier and disappeared into the crowd. Ginsbergbear spent a few minutes with his head between his knees and then pulled a large meerschaum bowled calabash from a pocket in his baggy corduroy trousers, packed it with a charge of Black-Alamout Catnip Shag and sucked in several deep breaths, holding them until the world around him started to appear less unfriendly. He pulled out his i-phone and called Boz.