The Rumble Rally
Episode 18 - "Kaput in Klagenfurt"

To avoid too much unwelcome attention, competitors in the Rally had been boarded in various convenient locations in the centre of Klagenfurt. Gabriel and Lavinia had been accommodated in a pair of suites in the Palais Salzamt - not, however, adjoining. Count Backwards had initially been offered a servant's garret in a less salubrious establishment, but after "explaining his importance" (menacingly) to the concierge, he had been upgraded to the presidential suite. He had taken to promenading up and down the Grand Boulevard, twirling his moustaches in a sickeningly smug manner.

Pitstop had found accommodation of her own, but was not socializing. A few of her fellow competitors had thought to invite her for drinks. The black look they received spoke eloquently.


The telephone tinkled on Lady Lavinia's hotel bedside table. She unhooked her earring and put the receiver to her ear.
"Hello? Lavinia Kydd-Leatherette speaking."
"Meine Dame? Your long-distance call to London is waiting."
"Thank you, please put them through." Lavinia waited with bated breath. She had waited anxiously for this news - she hoped that her solicitors had turned up some information about the Baroness von Bathory. They did not disappoint her - they had done their research well - but as Lavinia listened, her face grew paler and she found she had to sit on the Louis Quinze stool, for her legs would not support her.
Phrases flashed blackly in her mind: many relationships . . . widowed four times . . . mysterious circumstances . . . nothing proved . . . dubious financial position . . . political unrest. . . . After her solicitor had finished speaking, Lavinia calmly thanked him and replaced the receiver. She had been about to dine with her half-brother in about an hour, but now she needed to see him most urgently. She swept out of her room like an auburn gale.


Gabriel was shaving when he received a knock on the door. He froze; his first thought, for no particular reason, was of his terror in Venice. Then he shook his head. "They don't knock, Gabriel; they float through the door," he chided himself, but he opened the door very gingerly. Outside was a perfectly ordinary bellhop, bearing a pasteboard card on a salver. Gabriel took it and scanned it as he absently pressed 5 marks into the boy's hand. It was from Buffy. He was invited to dinner, but the language used was rather more like a command. Apparently they had "matters to discuss."
He telephoned Lavinia's room, but there was no answer.
"Oh well," he muttered, "I can send her a note."



The Baroness had also engaged rooms at the Palais Salzamt (in order to keep an eye on her "prey") and had arranged dinner in a private salon, with private waiter service and a string ensemble in a curtained alcove. She stood regal in a gown of crimson trimmed with ermine, awaiting her guest, who, with impeccable manners arrived precisely on time.
"My darling, Gabriel," smiled Buffy, extending her fingers for him to kiss; she waited until the doorman had left the room, then kissed him lightly on the lips - she had applied her "persuasive" lipstick once again, but a little at a time, she thought. "I decided we really should take such opportunities as we may to get to know each other better. Champagne?" Gabriel accepted a glass. He was still at something of a loss with Buffy, and couldn't understand how he had gotten himself into this situation. Were they really engaged? How did that happen? Buffy continued.
"I have ordered a special dinner for us, my dear. We have so much to discuss, after all."
"Er, yes . . ." began Gabriel, but Buffy continued.
"After all, a state wedding doesn't organize itself,'' and she laughed musically. Gabriel necked the champagne and collared the bottle. His throat was suddenly very, very dry.


Miss Kitten Caboodle would have given anything for a drink of any kind. She had been dumped, bound hand and foot by Gabriel (with only a curt, murmured apology), in the basement of what appeared to be - from the smell of it - a disused laundry. Even Kitten's suggestive undulating in her bonds had failed to move him, earning her no more than a smack on the behind. He had left her prone on the floor in the dark, covered with an old sheet. Now she squirmed in order to activate her two-way radio/compact's distress signal. Since it was in her hip pocket, a few painful bumps against the floor set it softly beeping, and she knew it was transmitting.

After what seemed an age, she heard the door to the cellar open and a heavy and cautious tread descend the stairs. She heard the beeping of a locator and suddenly the sheet was thrown back and a flashlight shone in her eyes.
"Why do I employ you again?" came the nasal sarcastic tone of her employer, and Kitten breathed a sigh of relief.
"I very nearly had them. I came so close on the road!" Kitten tried to justify herself as she was untied.
"I know," replied her boss. "It actually came close to being a good effort. And for that reason, I'm going to give you one last chance. My intelligence tells me that Lady Lavinia's brother Gabriel . . ."
"Her BROTHER??!" exclaimed Kitten. The Hooded Claw continued, frowning.
"Yes, of course - do your homework! Where was I? Oh yes, Gabriel is soon set, for reasons best known to himself, to be wed to the Baroness of Bones (the idiot). It will be a state and society occasion. This gives me - or rather YOU - the best opportunity you could ever have to get rid of the whole wretched lot once and for all."
Kitten digested this revelation: Lavinia's brother - no wonder they were so close. "How do we get everyone in one place though?"
"Leave that to me," replied her boss cryptically. "Speaking of everyone - what happened to P-Pitstop?" He had to spit the name out, for some odd reason.
Kitten thought it best not to lie to her boss, given his "forgiving" nature. "I don't know," she said frowning. "I haven't seen her in ages . . ."


Pitstop had left Klagenfurt behind. As the other racers had arrived, she had half a day's advance on them already and was riding for Vienna. She thought of taking it easy, but that was never her way and she had no intention of being the hare to anyone's tortoise. But she wasn't on the road alone . . .


Loud of voice, and even louder of check golf-wear, Charles "Chip" Woodward III found his patience was wearing thin. The heir to a famous automobile dynasty, Chip was used to having things done "just-so, lickety-spit," and the mechanic at this out-of-the-way gas station was driving him to despair. Oh, the Austrian was efficient enough for anyone's money (and Chip had plenty of that), but he was so painstaking he was slow: he'd been pouring over the engine of Chip's Marquette roadster and so far had not diagnosed the source of the strange knocking sound.
"Jeeze Louise, buddy," said Chip in Long Island tones around a mouthful of gum. "Can't you see it yet? Much longer an' I'm gonna lose my position. Look, how much more do ya want to get one-a your pals out here for a second opinion?"

"Have patience, mein Herr," replied the attendant, holding up his hand in polite refusal as Chip's hand went again to his wallet. "This engine is a finely tuned mechanism. Assuredly I shall get you back on the road in good time. I think I may have . . . ha! Ja . . . So!" He reached deeper into the engine bay and began tugging at something.

At that moment a throaty engine noise caused Chip to look around. A bright (Soviet) red American Austin auto pulled up behind him and growled to a stop. The driver, in Red Army uniform, stepped out. Woodward recognized him: Krzysztof Kozhakhmetov - a Soviet major who had a gift for making himself unpopular, as he now demonstrated.

"You!" He addressed the mechanic's posterior. "Fill my car. And you!" He pointed a riding crop at Chip. "Move that American junk-pile out of my way!"
Chip stood, hands on hips, and stuck out his lantern jaw "That 'junk-pile' your drivin' is American, buddy. Wait your turn - you're Ruski, you should be used to queueing." The Russian went as red as his car and strode over to stand nose to nose with Chip, who anticipated a fight - he was ready and looking forward to it.
"Er, mein Herr?," the aged mechanic said diffidently. "The source of your problem. An inexpert attempt at sabotage. It was wrapped around your crankshaft." He held up a length of oily chain.
"Ya don't say?" Chip scratched the slight bump on his temple - a souvenir from a childhood softball game when his would-be sweetheart had expressed her opinion of him with a fast ball that knocked him flat. What a girl! What was her name again . . . ? Kozhakhmetov was prodding his chest with the riding crop.
"Move your car, you capitalist exploiter of the workers!" the Russian hissed.
"In a pig's eye, ya borscht-eating pinko!" returned Chip and spat his gum on the other's boots. It was the Russian who threw the first punch . . .

Pitstop passed the garage at an even 100 m.p.h. She noted the two cars parked there and the serious dust-up currently ensuing. She was curious as to how they had got ahead of her - clearly someone somewhere was cheating. Well, she thought, the rules are somewhat elastic. What truly awful dress sense one of them has . . . and strangely familiar. Tragic check outfit, no style, quite unlike . . . Pitstop angrily stifled the thought and revved her engine.

As she drove, she checked her mirror. She had long got used to the absence of her reflection, but after the Marchesa's advice, she felt the pain less keenly. She focused on the dust cloud on the road behind her - another competitor in a Porsche saloon. As it got closer, she was able to read the number plate: V V Z 1. Ah, thought Pitstop, Violencia Von Zeil.

Violencia Von Zeil peered fixedly at the lone figure ahead of her. She had heard of the woman Pitstop and had researched her, but she had been able to find out very little about her: the American's history was apparently cloaked in shadow. That she was dangerous, Von Zeil knew, but that mattered little to the Saxon: Pitstop was a rival that needed removing from the race - one way or another. Violencia stamped her size nine jackboot on the gas.

Pitstop was aware of the steadily gaining Porsche and anticipated trouble of a not very subtle kind. Whether the German knew it or not, she was known among the other racers as "The Blunt Instrument," as much for her methods as her features (which were less than pretty). It was said of Violencia that she took what she wanted, including partners, regardless of their own wishes. Pitstop knew her opponent certainly would let no one stand in her way to win the Rally. As with Von Lumpenkarl, she knew it would come down to herself or Von Zeil. Pitstop doubted that a mere wrecking of the other's car would be sufficient to stop her. She studied the road ahead as she decided on the best course of action. From behind her, she was able to hear the engine of the Porsche: Von Zeil was getting closer.

Far to the rear of Von Zeil, Charles "Chip" Woodward III and Kozhakhmetov had "sorted out" their differences - leaving the former with two black eyes and the latter with concussion on the garage forecourt - and the American was back on the road, making up time and distance. His Marquette roadster was a match for the Porsche, and soon he had the German in sight; ahead of her was the lone figure on the motorcycle. It seemed to Chip that the broad had acted foolishly in her choice of transport, which he believed had no place in an auto rally. The English Lady Lavinia now - there was a real driving dame. Perhaps he should speak to her brother about an introduction . . .

Von Zeil dropped down a gear and accelerated. The most direct way was the best way: she intended to ram Pitstop off the road.

Pitstop looked ahead: the road was descending into a gully, with steep walls of rock rising on both sides - a potential deathtrap for somebody, and she could guess exactly how her pursuer might attempt to take her out of the race. Pitstop sneered behind her mask. She was not going to be smeared like so much jam across an Austrian cliff. She gunned her engine, and the Enfield's roar echoed off the rock walls.

Von Zeil smiled a yellow-toothed totenkopf grin. This would be even easier: she could see the road would narrow; all she needed to do was edge close enough to the biker to force her into the cliff. She glanced in her mirror and frowned. The American in the loud suit was behind her. No matter, she thought, he cannot pass me here.

The three racers sped into the cutting; walls of rock leapt precipitously skywards, reducing the light to a twilight gloom. Von Zeil switched on her full beam, aiming it at her target. Pitstop ignored the glare in her mirrors and accelerated, and the German followed suit. Chip wove about behind Von Zeil, seeking a place to pass, but there was none. Von Zeil began to edge closer to Pitstop's rear wheel. Pitstop could see that the road ahead of her narrowed to the width of one car, and there would be no room for the Enfield. The question was could she reach it before Von Zeil slammed her into the wall. She was doubtful. She forced every ounce of speed from her trusty bike.

Von Zeil still had plenty of horse power under the Porsche's hood. She, too, could see the black spot ahead, and she determined to make use of it. Humming "Die Walkyrie," she closed on the fleeing woman. Pitstop knew she had no space and desperately sought a way through - and then she saw it: just before the black spot was a fall of scree, and it had shelved into a bank, sloping up to the cliff wall.
"OK, Speedworthy, you bastard," she muttered, "Let's see just how well you taught me," and she bent low over the handlebars and pulled the accelerator back hard.

They reached the cleft. Laughing maniacally, Von Zeil swung her wheel hard over to mash Pitstop against the cliff - and suddenly she wasn't there! Suddenly, impossibly, the woman was riding not on the road, but racing along the rock wall! Von Zeil's jaw dropped "Gott in Himmel!" she swore. Pitstop was horizontal, parallel to the ground, and streaking like a bullet along the sheer side of the cliff!

Fatally, Von Zeil could not tear her eyes from this spectacle. Her offside wheel hit the scree bank, jarring the steering wheel out of her grip. Her great speed was her own undoing! With a scream of tortured metal, the Porsche snapped around, pivoting on its front axle, then flipped and barrel-rolled down the road, fragmenting as it did so. Pitstop watched the flaming debris skitter and slide along below her as she steered lower down the rock wall, concentrating on her speed and trajectory, until, once more, she was on the flat. The shattered pieces of debris whizzed past her, but none touched her.

She raced out of the cleft and into the sunlight, breathing a silent prayer of thanks - to whom she did not know. A road sign flashed past on her right: 15 k.m. to Vienna. She revved the engine of her trusty Enfield and roared ahead. Behind her, Chip and subsequent competitors had to find alternative routes around the remains of Von Zeil. A grand reception was due to be held that night: many of them were going to be late . . .


Character Profiles

© Pandora Pitstop •Site maintained by Mark (Thunzie) Paton