The Rumble Rally
Episode 15 - "An Alpine Ambush - Part Two"

The Church of Saint Jude on the outskirts of Turin was unusual in the choice of it's patron, but Father Marco, the young curate who ministered, was quietly pleased to have this church in his pastoral care. He had always liked Jude, patron of Lost Causes, because Father Marco always felt the Saint cared for those poor souls who slipped through the net, and Marco, a gentle and kind man was happy to do the Saint's work here.

Today as he entered the dim peaceful interior he had an uneasy feeling, a strong feeling of dread. Having seen the motorcycle parked outside he hoped the owner wasn't a member of the local gang of disaffected youths that caused so much trouble. He was pleasantly surprised therefore - and not a little relieved - to note the figure of a young woman, sat by the confessional, head bowed in an attitude of prayer. She was dressed in bike leathers but had acquired a black lace mantilla from somewhere with which she had covered her hair.

Father Marco approached her and a sudden chill went up his spine. He shivered, 'Are you here for Confession, my daughter?' The woman looked up, and there was something about the look in her eyes that made Marco quail inwardly, but he also saw there a desperate hope. If anyone needed the Saint's help, it was this wayward child.

'Bless me Father for I have sinned. It's been…. Well, it's been a while,' she said in a low voice.

Almost hesitating Marco said gently 'Come into the Confessional, my child, God's grace is granted to all.' He had a foreboding feeling about this woman. Her eyes, he thought, looked empty and strange.

Hope warring with pessimism, Pitstop entered the box and remained silent until the Priest prompted her. She cut to the chase. 'I'm losing my soul, Father.'

'My child, your soul is in God's keeping,' Marco began reassuringly,'If you truly repent-' 'I have been cursed, Father!' she cut in harshly, 'My soul has been damned. I can feel it draining. Touch my hand.' She put her fingers through the grill.

'My child, really you are troubled but-' 'Touch it!' she commanded. Reluctantly Father Marco did so - he felt he could not refuse. He gasped in shock and let go quickly. Her skin felt like ice! He steeled himself now fascinated with the phenomena that sat before him.

'Tell me of it, my child,' he said, very seriously. He believed her now. In a broken voice, sticking only to the pertinent facts Pitstop recounted the events of her meeting with Maman Noir and their aftermath.

'Maman Noir!' Father Marco gasped in horror and crossed himself three times.

'You know her?,' asked Pitstop. 'Then please Father help me. Save….save my soul!' Pistop pleaded.

Marco then did something he had never done before. He slid back the screen and looked directly at the supplicant. 'My child,' he said, very levelly and seriously. He knew what he was about to say could have fatal consquences for them both. He could tell this woman was a killer. She was also desperate. 'My child,' he said again ,'The Church has known of Maman Noir for nearly a century. In our eyes, if The Fallen One has an agent on this earth, then she is it. It breaks my heart to tell you this, but it is not in my power to fight this except with prayer. I cannot break this curse.' Pitstop gave a strangled cry, like a vixen caught in a snare. It was only by sheer effort of will she resisted grabbing the priest's throat.

'But my child,' continued Father Marco, 'I will write a letter to His Holiness, I will seal it and it will grant you an audience. He must be able to help you where I cannot.'

And he led a dejected Pitstop into his office where he was as good as his word. She thanked him coldly and he walked her in silence to her bike. He watched her ride away from his church. 'Jude, my friend,' he said ,'Go with that poor child - but I don't envy you the ride.'


Lavinia was extremely uneasy. She felt decidedly uncomfortable about their predicament. It was not just the fact Chugger Zoom had broken down (through sabotage), but their position on the mountain side that bothered her: towering cliffs on one side, and a yard from Chugger's wheels, five hundred feet of empty space. Her half-brother hobbled around to sit next to her on the bonnet, and put his arm around her shoulders. 'You all right, sis?' he asked sympathetically.

'Do you think they have avalanches here?' she replied, expressing her main fear.

'Lord, no,' Gabriel lied, 'Not in these mountains. Safe as houses these. I studied them in geography in Barchester.' Lavinia gave him an appreciative smile. 'In between the three F's,' she said, looking back to the mountainside. 'Gabriel… what's that up there?' pointing to the clifftop. Gabriel shaded his eyes and squinted.

'Where, I can't see….oh, hang on..' for something was flashing, either something metallic, or maybe a lens. He simply couldn't tell. 'I'm sure it's nothing,' he concluded with a voice devoid of conviction. 'Let me have another look at that engine…'

At that moment, a few stones skittered down the slope. Lavinia grabbed her grandfather's army issue field-glasses from the boot. 'Gabriel,' she said warningly ,'I can see someone moving about up there.' 'Picnickers. Or a shepherd. Ignore it Livvi,' said her half-brother once more beneath the car ,'Pass me the spanner? Thanks. Fan-belt's been cut too… can you, er, spare a stocking?,' he said, embarrassment in his voice. There was a swishing of skirts and Lavinia's hand appeared under the car with a balled Aristoc Harmony Point. Gabriel took it gingerly and began to feed it around the engine. There was another rockfall, larger this time, with bigger rocks - and then another. 'Hurry Gabriel!' Lavinia urged. More rocks were beginning to flow down the slope and bounce onto the road in a steady stream.

Suddenly over the noise of the rockfall, the sound of neglected diesel engine reached them, and around the curve in the road, a FIAT tow-truck hove into view. Lavinia ran into the road, simultaneously waving, hitching her skirt, swooning, and clasping her hands to her bosom and batting her eyes. The truck pulled over, the door opened, and out stepped the last person she expected to see: Count Backwards.
'Sh**!' said Lavinia.

'Sh**t!' echoed Gabriel, emerging from under the car and grabbing for his swordcane.

'Sh**t!' said Backwards, and held up both hands, before embarking on a machine-gun rapid explanation. 'Listen-kids-no-time-I-did-for-your-car-now-I'm-here-to-help-Look!-tow-truck!-Gabriel-help-me-hitch-up-avalanche-blood-death-murder-don't-kill-me-I'm-on-your-side!' It was the word 'avalanche' that helped. Lavinia, having a clearer head than her brother was alive to the possibilities of this unlikely but timely intervention.

'Gabriel!' she snapped, 'help Backwards hitch up! NOW!' The two men leapt to action, surprisingly working well as a team when danger threatened. Chugger was hoisted by its front axle and the three piled into the cab of the truck, Lavinia in the driving seat. She crashed first gear and stamped on the accelerator. None too soon, as through the windscreen they spied what looked like half the cliff-face descending towards them. 'Hang on boys!' shrieked Lavinia and the truck shot forward…


Pandora Pitstop was taking the shortest route she could south. She wanted to get to Rome without delay for her audience with (and she still barely believed this) His Holiness The Pope. In her breast pocket, next to the other 'absolution' document, was Father Marco's letter of introduction. Had she any mind for idle speculation, Pitstop might have considered their juxtaposition oddly fitting; but these days she was in ill humour and in no mood for triviality. For her, life was much too serious for games.

The shortest and speediest route for her, meant these winding mountain roads, augmented by shortcuts over perilous goat tracks where necessary, but being fearless and a consummate biker, this she all took in her stride. As she crested one peak and paused the bike to take her bearings, she noticed something of immediate concern.

The road that she was about to join wound in hairpins on this face of the mountain: some two hundred feet below her she could see discern a small group of individuals with a couple of vehicles - a tow truck and a car. Above them, but below her was another individual, and it was the actions of one that caused Pitstop alarm for the following reasons: firstly she recognized him as Caspar von Lumpenkerl - a rival competitor with a bad reputation; and secondly, because he was in the act of operating his car jack against a large boulder, with the clear indication of causing a deliberate rockfall. It was obvious to Pitstop that were he to be successful, the road below - her route south - would be impassable, and anyone unfortunate enough to be on it, would be buried. She took one last look, then turned her Enfield and sought a way down.


Caspar von Lumpenkerl watched with satisfaction as the avalanche he had unleashed buried the road below him. His view was obscured by the billowing dust and sand, so he didn't actually see the end result but, he congratulated himself, that was one major rival removed from the race. He brushed dirt from his hands and picked up his jack, turning back to his Custom Citroen Traction Avant. He found himself facing a slender leather clad form on a classic bike. He had not heard the rider's arrival over the tumult of the avalanche. He wondered how much the rider had seen, but the rider's body language was not encouraging. The rider removed the leather face mask and von Lumpenkerl was initially surprised to see she was female, then the penny dropped - of course, another rival: Pandora Pitstop.

Perhaps, he pondered, he could have a double killing today, but how exactly, and could he have some fun first?

Pitstop watched him, judging the distance, her eyes not leaving his, watching for his 'tell' - the twitch that would telegraph his move.

'No doubt you saw,' von Lumpenkerl said casually, 'Nothing in the Rules against it, pretty girl' and he sneered very nastily. Pitstop said nothing, betrayed no emotion or change of expression as she watched him edge closer, weighing the jack in his hand. He wasn't close enough yet.

'Cat got your tongue?' the German taunted her, 'scared of me? You should be.' His hand twitched and Pitstop noticed the ring on his finger - it was a match to the one she had lost years ago that night on the Orient Express. She squashed the memory flat and concentrated on the present. Members of the Guild did not as a rule eliminate each other however Pitstop's membership had lasped. Caspar was fair game.

Von Lumpenkarl was gradually closing the distance between them, subtly altering his grip on the car-jack: he was close enough to spring, but his confidence was shaken by Pitstop's lack of response. It caused him to rush his attack, and Pitstop was ready. She swayed aside as her attacker hefted the jack, allowing him to fall past her with his own momentum, and delivered him a savage kick in the side. Von Lumpenkarl sprawled in the dust, retching and releasing his hold on the tool. As Pitstop approached, her attacker grabbed a hand full of dust and flung it at her face. The woman had anticipated this however, and her goggles were already in place, and she came on. Von Lumpenkarl scrambled for his car, firing up the engine with its custom autostart. Pitstop sprinted for her Enfield and leapt astride it as the Citroen disappeared over the ridge. She roared off in pursuit. She couldn't let him escape, and she had a plan.

Ordinarily, and especially over the terrain, the Enfield should have easily overhauled the Citroen, but Pitstop had to admit, grudgingly, Von Lumpenkarl was a superb driver: he was fast and took risks. Nevertheless she remained at his back bumper as they raced around the mountain hairpins, Pitstop weaving and evading his attempts to outbrake her and force her off the road.

They were approaching a junction - Pitstop had to force him to take the right fork - to do that she had to cut across his front, and the only way to get ahead was pass on the cliff side: to fail now was death - she set her teeth, revved her engine and the bike screamed forward. Von Lumpenkarl checked his mirror as Pitstop shot past and he swung his wheel, hoping to ram the woman over the edge. He managed to clip her back wheel, but whatever dark angel watched over her kept her on the road - he nearly lost his road, but wrenched the steering wheel back. He watched and sneered in satisfaction as Pitstop wobbled, then went down, the bike sliding away into the left fork of the junction. As Von Lumpenkarl took the right fork he extended his finger in vicious triumph. He motored around the curve at full speed, only too late returning his attention to the road - and the rockfall that blocked it: the rockfall of his own making. He barely had time to scream.

From her prone position Pitstop heard the explosion. She smiled grimly, then stood, unhurt and returned her bike to it's wheels. Bar a few scratches, the Enfield was fine. Pitstop pulled out her map, checked her bearings, and headed south for Rome….


Pope Pius XI carefully read through the letter from Turin. He was astonished, but had not risen to Pontiff by being exciteable. Furthermore, he knew Father Marco personally for a sensible honest man and a good Catholic priest. He read the letter again, to be sure he understood it, then looked up at the Cardinal standing before him, curiously wearing what appeared to be driving gloves with his robes of office. 'Show the young woman in, please, Father Scarletti' The Cardinal laced his fingers together and flexed 'cracking his knuckles. He then bowed smiling rather sadistically and departed, to return with the black garbed woman, who walked proudly, but with a tense set to her shoulders. The temperature of the audience room lowered considerable with her entrance. Pope Pius XI was reminded of the soldiers who used to come for blessing: she reminded him of those, she had the air of one who was going to war. 'Please sit down, my child,' he said in a kindly manner, as a chair was placed for her. 'Your holiness,' Pitstop began, 'I have come-' 'Yes, I know why you have come - Father Marco has told me in his letter. A singular problem from the Middle Ages, come to today. You have convinced one of my best priests and I am prepared to take what he says as literal truth. Furthermore, I can see and feel it in you.' Pitstop shuddered 'You can?'

'I am Pope, my child,' Pius said mysteriously, but smiled gently. Pitstop narrowed her eyes and leaned forward 'Can you help me?' and added 'Please?' Pius steepled his fingers and sank his chin on his chest as he considered his answer 'This is a question of Faith, child. I can bless you, absolve you of your sins, baptise you to Christ, welcome you into the Church and it's protection. But the greatest effect will come from you - it must, if you believe in Christ's love and miracle He will free you. This is in itself not a question of buying indulgencies...' He looked at Pitstop and asked her frankly 'Do you believe in Christ and will you come to him?' Pitstop gave him a sidelong look 'Are you asking me to become a nun?' she asked, laughter on her lips. 'If it came to it. Freeing you from a curse may take a long time.' Pitstop gave a noise of disgust and slight despair. Pius continued 'you have already been given your answer by the Witch, in any case.' Pitstop remembered the words too well: until you enter into a contract with a sworn enemy... 'But I tried that,' she said exasperated. 'But did you think it would be easy?' it is the Holy way - forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us' Pitstop stood. 'This is all you can do isn't it, Holy Father?' taking his silence for assent she continued 'You will not shut me behind walls, cage me, confine me. My soul is my own, my life my own and I will take them in my hands and wrench them back if I have to go to Hell and back to do it!' She turned on her heel and stamped out. Pius watched her go, Cardinal Scarletti drifted up to his elbow. 'Poor child,' said Scarletti sarcastically. 'Indeed,' said Pius smirking ,'Is your car ready?' 'Yes Father.' 'Good,' said Pius, making the sign of the cross on his Cardinal's forehead and handing him a solid gold St Christopher's medallion, 'Currency, should you need it. Now go and win the Rumble Rally for the Vatican, the fabulous prize must be ours. And, you now have one less competitor to worry about. She will be too busy worrying about her own Fate.'

Cardinal Scarletti paused, turned and looked back at Pius and asked, 'Could you have helped her?' Pius smiled knowingly and replied, 'Yes, of course, I AM Pope after all.' Scarletti shrugged his shoulders, turned again and left the audience room.

Racers & Odds

In a desterted dock area at the unfashionable end of the least salubrious marina of the Port of Monte Carlo, a sea mist was rising. Amid its nebulous swirls, just discernable among the mooring posts and bales, a figure waited: trenchcoat done up tight to the upturned collar, the trilby pulled low. Wreaths of Gauloise smoke laced the air. The figure appeared to be waiting.

Presently, a somewhat slighter shadow slipped out of the darkness, and in soft Oriental tones murmured:
'A V8 is preferable on warm nights…'

The other's cigarette tip glowed and he responded: 'If the hood gives concealment'.

The Oriental bowed and held out his hand expectantly, and a folded and sealed paper was slipped into his grasp. The trench-coated stranger melted into the shadows. The Oriental glanced about him, then cracked the seal and unfolded the paper. This is what he read:

Ldy L. Kydd-Leatherette
Miss K. Caboodle
Ms P. Pitstop
Count Backwards
Fr Scarletti (Vatican)
Late entrant
K. v Lumpenkarl
‘Accident’ (Alps)
F. Antomas
‘Accident (Paris)
Constanza ‘Poison’ Negro
Sir Derek Micklethwaite
Fabrizio Carlos Sarducci
Krzysztof Kozhakhmetova
Late Entrant 40-2
(Glorious Soviet Army)        
Sydney Chiverton-Smythe
(Piccalilli of Picadilly)        
Mendigo Malo Hernandez
Awaiting Parts
(Domingo Estate)        
Ms. Violencia Van Zeil
Seamus McLaughlin
Awaiting whiskey
(O’Haloran’s Howlers RC)
Randolph Thompson-Vickers
(Thompson-Vickers Arms)
Ms Dragana Wolfsteiner
En Route
Ivan Mijuskovic
Eric Oberstoetter
Charles ‘Chip’ Woodward III
(Goodenuff Super-wides)
Piers Templeman
Harry Swigger
(Ballarat Bruisers)        
Hideo Takamori
En Route
Fan Song
En Route


The Oriental's lips pressed in a slim line. Clearly there were contenders that needed to be removed to improve his chances. He disappeared into the night.


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