Slasher’s Plan (with Crocodiles)

Flo turned towards the piano:

“Sam!” The pianist had been joined by Mouse Jackson on tenor sax and they were murdering Star Man. “Shhhh!”

“But Les Chats… And Mrs King’s engine,” said Ferdy, now that he could be heard, “How on earth can we get to it?”

Slasher leaned forward, “I might have an idea. Remember Bazalgette’s cathedral and my escape on the Bovril Boat? Well no-one’s ever seen Les Chats down that end of the sewer.”

“Why?” asked Boz.

“Well there’s rats the size of Tamworth boars.”

“You’re telling us the Chats Souterrains are afraid of rats? Wooses.”

“…or the crocodiles.”

“Crocs!” squeaked Phoebles, “The idea of going back to Abbey Mills is bad enough. Them marshes are dead spooky.”

“We’re all agreed then,” quickly chipped in Slasher, “The Duesy’s garaged in an old warehouse up the road, but you won’t all fit in. We’ll take the Cord too.” There was joint mumbling and a shrugging of shoulders.

“OK, no time like the present. Off you all go and get kitted up.” Slasher checked the magazine in his Red9. Everyone else, except Aunty Stella, departed without much enthusiasm. She slung her carbine across her back and clipped the sabre to her Sam Brown.

Sam paused his piano playing momentarily. “Don’t worry Mrs S, I’ll get the pot-boy to stable your horse.”

Soon the others began to return, Ferdy first, having added a pair of gumboots to his usual flying gear, then Ginsbergbear in a moss tweed Norfolk jacket, matching trousers, deerstalker and green Hunters. Boz had a goatskin jerkin over his sailor suit and sea boot stockings turned over the top of his black wellies; Augusta King chose close fitting black suede waistcoat and trousers over a Prussian blue silk blouse with Doc Martens and matching eye patch. Her ke-tri was strapped between her shoulder blades and hair pulled back into a tight bun. Zelda had on a black PVC ankle length Dover coat, oilskin sou’wester and shocking pink wellingtons with white polka dots. Phoebles appeared in a white rayon pierrot costume with black pompoms, scull cap and waders. Finally Master Dorje came down in his yak coat and a tall orange hat crested in golden horsehair, leaning on a twisted rowanwood staff. Somehow getting dressed up had raised everyone’s spirits.

“Where’s Flo?”

“Here,” as the street door opened, apparently on its own.”

The soaring blank walls of the warehouse were dark, soot stained London brick, ironwork rusting and windows barred. The huge double-doors had once been painted red, now faded and pealing to reveal an equally weathered grey undercoat. Slasher took a key to a large, new padlock and slid one of the doors back on its runners. Inside he felt along the wall for the light switches and, one at a time, florescent strips pinged on. The cavernous space was filled from floor to ceiling with crates, boxes of flat-screen TVs, laptops and assorted white goods. A pyramid of suspiciously corroding drums were stacked in one corner and nearby several vehicles hid beneath tarpaulins. Slasher pulled off two of the tarps to reveal his Graber Duesenberg in its weird opalescent paint job that was gold or red depending on the viewing angle, and a maroon Cord 812 Phaeton with white-wall tyres.

“There’s bags of hardware and ammo in the boots. Flo and Augusta squeeze in with me. The rest of you into the Cord. Best you drive Ferdy, Phoebles would just bend something and the last respray cost an arm and a leg.”

They tore up the Mile End Road, zig-zagged between the tidal mills at Bow and eventually pulled up outside the wrought iron gates of Abbey Mills pumping station. Beyond the neo-gothic pile stretched a daunting expanse of eerie, featureless salt marsh. They tooled up from the assorted small arms that filled both car boots, mostly choosing AK-47s, bandoleers of 7.62x39mm ammunition and tucking Model 24 stick grenades into their belts. Zelda picked out a Franchi SPAS-15, loaded two spare mags with Remington Express 12 Gauge 2-3/4″ 9 #00 Buckshot cartridges and emptied the rest of the box into her coat pockets. She also pocketed a box of experimental flechette loads.

The gates were locked.

“Over the top,” cried Slasher. With little more than a pause from Ferdy and Master Dorje our heroes swarmed up and over the railings and rushed the pumping station’s front entrance.

“These door’s are locked too,” observed Dark Flo, “Can you pop through the cat flap, Phoebles, and open them from inside?”

“I’m not a cat burglar,” complained Phoebles.

“I know petal. But just this once, it’s in a good cause and we won’t tell anyone.”

“Sod this,” said Zelda, blowing the lock apart with her 12 bore ‘Chiave dell’Incursore’.

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Forget the Fish

“There’s stuff going on we don’t know about.” observed Boz.   “Now, what about those poor coleyfish?”

“Forget the fish.” Snapped McGoogs, “You heard; our Derbyshire venture is officially sanctioned.   We’re doing the caves.”

Ferdy called up the Silvertown Airways control tower, situated in the Royal Docks, on his smart-phone and asked to speak to his chief pilot, Beryl Clutterbuck.   She was mid-channel, returning a Handley Page H.P. 42 from their aerodrome on Guernsey, but was able to be put through via the radio.

“Beryl, we need the flying boat for a trip up north.”

Once Ferdinand was off the phone they finalised some of the minor details and Phoebles voiced the reservation of the majority.

“Well, I suppose that’s settled then, but…”

To toast the venture they downed their tots of single malt and took long draughts from their pints.   Slasher licked his left paw, sprinkled a little salt on it and then in a series of swift, smooth movements, sucked the salty paw, slugged back the shot of tequila and bit hard on the lemon. For a brief moment his eyes screwed and his nose wrinkled.   Then his composure reasserted itself, “I’ll be going up to Derbyshire in the Duesenberg.   See you up there”

The 1934 Graber-Duesenberg SJ Cabriolet, shimmering ‘Outrageous Illusion’ red/gold paint job, upholstered in light tan mohair, white walled tyres, was parked, half on the pavement, opposite the Den.   It glistened colourfully against the backdrop of monochrome bonded warehouses and depositories along the narrow highway.   Slasher sauntered unnoticed, as if his Lycra one-piece rendered him invisible, through the growing crowd that had been drawn by the antics of Larry’s dirigible and its stunning tortoise-shell chauffeur.  Phoebles’ yellow, Multi spotted pantaloons, conversely, were drawing less than favourable remarks from pointing urchins with their noses pressed to the Catnip Den bay window.   A burbling roar of supercharged Duesenberg echoed off the surrounding walls; the straight 8 cylinder flat-head bored out, souped-up and the tank full of jet fuel.

“That thing’s a bomb on wheels!”

There was a grinding of gears, a high-pitched whine from under the bonnet and the Duesenberg sprang forward.   McGoogs was away through the narrow, cobbled lanes of Limehousesailortown.

The remaining foursome returned to the bedsit to pack their kitbags whilst Dark Flo prepared sandwiches of Herrings In, nautically known as HITS, on white bread, piled on a blue and white Staffordshire Ironstone plate decorated with a Flying P windjammer under full sail.   She wrapped the lot – plate and all – in cling film and placed them in a small hamper along with a bottle of Pusser’s Rum and a packet of Russian Caravan tea.

As the boys came down she was adding a sealed tin of Soma Catnip to the supplies.

“How did you get that?” gasped Ginsbergbear, “That stuff’s rarer than rocking horse dung.   Never leaves the Sub-Continent.”

“The bell-hop in the Eden Hotel in Kathmandu bunged me a bit from under the counter in gratitude for a particular favour.   Cut it with your Black Alamout Catnip Shag or Phoebles’ stash of White Goddess.   There’s not much of it and it’s expensive.”

At this they became aware of the rhythmic thrub of a dozen unsynchronised piston engines.   The Dornier Do X was doing a circuit over Bozzy’s Catnip Den and the gang rushed out onto the balcony to watch it landing on the London River in a shower of spray like an obese drake on an oily duck pond.

The gigantic silver flugschiff had had the clapped out air-cooled Jupiter engines replaced with six pairs of only slightly second hand 610 hp Curtiss Conqueror water-cooled 12-cylinder inline engines and now sported an art deco Silvertown Airways logo below the portholes along the length of the hull.

Beryl’s voice crackled over the Marconi Marine Nautilus transceiver that sat behind the bar.

“Come aboard, when you are ready”

Waving goodbye to Dark Flo they dropped the kitbags into a dumpy clinker build skiff that was tied to a ladder out back of the den.   The hamper and crew followed and an invigorating five minutes was spent tugging on a cord wound round the head of a recalcitrant Seagull outboard.   In a sudden cloud of blue smoke and with a tuc… tuc… hick, tuc… tuc-tuc-tuc-tuc-tuc the motor sprang into life and they were weaving their way out into the river, trailing a rainbow scar of two-stroke across the surface of the water.

Beryl met them at the starboard stub and deftly caught the thrown painter.   She was tall, slender and clad, somewhat incongruously, in a sheepskin-flying jacket over her flowered cotton frock; neither matched her sky blue fur-lined ankle-boots.   Inside the hull a small crew of Kronstadt sailors was lined up for inspection.   They saluted Boz as he came aboard and their Starshina (Chief Petty Officer) piped a high-pitched whistle that hurt Phoebles’ ears.

“Commodore Desai, would you like to pilot the old girl for the first part of the trip?   I will operate the throttles in the machine centre,”Flugschiff Dornier "Do X", Maschinenzentrale suggested Beryl, addressing Ferdy, “And we can swap round once we’re over Rugby.”