I sidled luxuriantly onto the train, sporting a crimson tuxedo. Fortunately, no-one noticed me. To distract them further, I snatched at the false nose of a bystander – it was Comic Relief Day, and those ersatz tomatoes were ubiquitous – and hurled it through a hole I deftly but violently kicked – following the method of my erstwhile Feng Shui Master, hundred-year-old-if-he-was-a-day Chi Kung Li – in the window of the hurtling express, yelling convincingly, “After it – the secret plans are inside!”
The gullible compartmentful of tr3ble-ag3nts all followed, rushing, sucked out auspiciously by the shrieking jet-vortex of incriminating paperwork as the cabin explosively depressurized. By holding onto the beard of a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in an advertisement in a copy of that day’s Metro, tucked securely behind the upraised tray of a neighbouring seat-back – the free newspaper which I had lodged there mere moments before – I, suavely, remained safe. I made a mental shorthand note of gratitude to that crag-visaged though gentle nineteenth-century liberationist and 16th president of the United States, with a wry conceptual nod too to the present-day graphic artists who had irreverently, though so opportunely for my cause, harnessed his solemn likeness to their sales campaign in aid of an improved disposable safety-razor.
There was not a moment to lose. Consciousness was ebbing away. Clichés were proliferating. Deftly scooping a helping of discarded caffe latte from a cup in the litter-bin with my other foot, from which I had swiftly and adroitly shed in rapid succession the shoe and sock (conveniently, mine are elasticated not laced, and of the finest silk, respectively), and conserving precious oxygen with an olbas-oil imbued Paisley handkerchief compressed to my nostrils (not for the first nor last time, thanking the forethought of my Ukrainian landlady and dresser, Mrs Arbuthnot – also a herbalist, wine-maker and embroiderer of some distinction in her spare time) I paused, counting inwardly the critical centi-seconds as the falling barometer expanded the residual cream exponentially in volume while simultaneously boiling it into a stiffening meringue.
Judging the moment perfectly, I plugged the intricately shard-barbed aperture of the carriage window hermetically with this pleasantly-buoyant object just as it rigidified (that would pose a pretty puzzle for the StatzPolizei when they arrived to investigate, and no doubt their Kommandant would be amusingly enraged, though I trusted by then to be several continents away!) and as the tornado died, I turned my thoughts languidly to contemplating my next breath.
A ju-jitsu jab with my elbow at the button of the linking door, allowing a replenishment of air to flow from the adjoining carriage, and the atmospheric ambience was returned to normal. A whirl of errant luggage descended about me as gravity was restored, and as I expertly flicked back my disordered quiff, one elegant morocco case at my feet – with a silver monogrammed ‘LA’ embossed upon its hidden side – clicked open to reveal – the missing sapphire corselet of Lady Amberleigh!
A uniformed man entered suddenly, his punch at the ready. At the end of his arm I glimpsed the glint of steel. I was faster, and ducked viciously with a back somersault in the style of Shaka the revered former ancestral king of the Zulus, although without the traditional decorative jingling anklewear and leopardskin cape, as the newcomer barked out in a strangely insidious murmur, “Kirkcaldy tickets, please.” With those words, he had escaped death by inches.
I patted my breast pocket, out of customary affection, then delved into the secret compartment in my wristwatch (Thank you, Q!) for my return ticket – only to remember that I had used that very same slim, cardboard oblong with its serendipitously-rounded corners to slide back the deadbolt when breaking into the lethal Soho enclave of Baron Grünewald the night before. It, like he, must by now be mere yellowing ashes amid the cobweb-festooned and smouldering embers of the Glen Torridan Hotel. For the fifteenth time since my last meal, I cursed the flammability of vintage Scotch whisky when caught in a crossfire of high-powered lasers. Warming glow, indeed! Against my better judgement, I chuckled inwardly awhile.
And of course the last of my cash, a pocketful of loose change, had been desperately flung into the face of the mutant cheetah then at my heels (a trick taught me by that tribe of the ǃKung, or ǃXũ as it is also spelled in English, also called the Juǀʼhoansi, people of the Kalahari Desert, living in Namibia, Botswana and in Angola – although they use mangetout, which they carry with them in a beaded neck-pouch for that very purpose) as I vaulted over the electrified boundary fence (of which the voltage was scenically regulated in an effervescence of sparking death according to the Tesla, not Edison, system, rendering my usual counter-measures diabolically ineffective! but of which, providentially, the lovely Miss Συηαρτε had forewarned me, though at the cost of her life – the fiend! But he had paid), thus making good my escape. I had no money – not a penny.
The guard (for it was he) deepened his resolve and drew a furrowed expression across his face (a curious performance, which took him several minutes – and during which I noted, analytically yet automatically and even absent-mindedly, that in his painstaking draughtsmanship there appeared to be traces of the influence of El Greco – but I was too polite to draw attention to!, or even to appear to notice!!, this unique!!! idiosyncracy!!!! which he so unguardedly affected).
“Sir – your ticket?”
I sighed. I could see that it was going to be another one of those days…
© 2010 armadillozenith / Graham Peter King
1-In the original manuscript, for added effect, this piece appeared in a variety of text-sizes and fonts not all supported here.
2-‘Comic Relief Day’ – in the United Kingdom, Red Nose Day is a fundraiser by charity Comic Relief. Plastic red noses, such as clowns may wear, looking like tomatoes are sold then to be worn by any individuals who so wish.