The Rumble Rally
Episode 5: “Are We There Yet?”

And now back to our story…

We last left our three lovely Rally entrants - Lady Lavinia Kydd-Leatherette, Miss Kitten Caboodle and Pandora Pitstop - in the clutches of fellow Rumble Rally participant the evil Count Backwards. He had captured them by using a phony shop front as a trap. Now they are tied up together in the back seat of his antiquated car being taken - but where they haven't a clue.

A giddy Count Backwards franticly steers his massive female-laden billet proof jalopy down the secluded single-track country lanes of deepest, darkest Welloffsfordshire in the opposite direction of the race's starting line. "It's a shame I'm the marrying sort, otherwise I could think of something interesting to do with you three," Count Backwards smirks as he shifts the gearing up and down to suit the hilly roads and curvy lanes. "Beside I still want to make my official start time for the race. As for you ladies, an early withdrawal will just have to satisfy." He lets out a strange little laugh more suited to a child with a new toy than an evil megalomaniac.

"You could at least tell us where you're taking us, Aubrey," pleads Ms Pitstop.

Count Backwards winces at hearing his real name and replies," Well, I thought dinner at the Ritz and then a nightcap at my place. But as it's such a lovely day, how about a spot of slow torture in a deserted warehouse? Just the two of us, eh?"

As attractive as this proposition may have sounded to some, Ms. Pitstop is quite alarmed by the very real possibility of such an outcome, especially since Aubrey's alter ego Count Backwards seems to be consuming him. "Perhaps," she thinks, "I can appeal to his good-natured side (was there one left?) and rely on our past partnership to negotiate a way out of this mess." But how could she coax out his "Aubrey" side and win his trust? She needs to figure out how to get to his heart while avoiding his head. She suddenly wishes she was somewhere else and without her fellow captives who would only get in the way of her persuasive technique. Also, there is something about Miss Kitten she just doesn't trust; she seems all too familiar to her, like they had worked together somewhere before. Visions of a woman bearing an uncanny resemblance to Kitten dressed in a skimpy "squaw" outfit with a set of balanced throwing knives keeps popping into her head. Oh yes, and there is a lot of blood too.

"Don't worry, I think I have a plan," shouts Miss Kitten trying to hear herself above the noise of the wind rushing past her ears in the speeding open-topped car. In reality she doesn't but it helps her ego to look like she is in control of the situation. But despite her seemingly calm exterior she is as nervous as a cat and jumps with a shudder every time the car's decaying exhaust backfires. Miss Kitten also thinks that the lack of sufficient seat restraints is completely unacceptable; it is downright dangerous and totally irresponsible. No doubt she has a fraudulent lawsuit in mind to add to several other charges she's like to bring against Backwards. "No time to digress now," she continues to think, "I've got to try to keep cool and figure out not only my escape, but how to eliminate these others too. Starting with Backwards; I've got enough on him to keep him locked up till Hell freezes over and holds an ice sculpture competition for the under fives. I could just as easily shop him to Interpol for that dodgy arms dealing scam a few years ago in that strange little gambling resort in that misguided little kingdom. I've still got plenty of evidence tucked away thanks to Lady Lavinia, who needs to learn to keep her blackmail material in a better hiding place, silly bint." She starts to consider the textbook escape examples she studied back at the Mata Hari Polytechnic and assess what weaponry is to hand.

At the same time Lady Lavinia is only just beginning to enjoy herself. With a wild look in her eyes she secretly wishes the car would go faster and faster; such is her danger fetish. Tightly her lovely rope-bound hands grip the back of the old, tatty leather driver's seat, turning her knuckles white. Suddenly she takes time out of enjoying the danger of her predicament to glance around at the forward interior of the car and dashboard. There is something incredibly familiar about this monstrosity of a car; she had definitely seen it before. It is then she notices the tarnished silver monogram in the centre of the dash: LLL. Lord 'Lucky' Leatherette! Her father! Now completely oblivious to her situation and fellow captives, her mouth falls open with an expression of complete shock at the realisation that this was the very car her father had driven and won numerous accolades at pioneering motor races and rallies all over Europe many, many years ago. She also recalls that it was after one mysterious incident that he gave up cars and moved into breeding racehorses. She never did know what that was all about. She now begins to recognise the shape and styling of the old racing car from photographs in her father's private study.

Cue "wibble wobble" effect, which informs you, dear reader that you are now entering a brief flashback sequence.

A race commentator's voice can be heard over the "tanoy." "Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the 1923 100 Mile Camarthen Handicap here at Brooklands. We have a maximum capacity crowd here, so may I remind you all - for safety's sake, please keep off the track! We're in for a real treat today as we have the return of the winner of both the French and Belgian Grand Prix and last year's International Trophy winner, the young Lord Leatherette, 5th Earl of Welloffsfordshire, in his 10.7 litre supercharged Mephistopheles Izusa. Welcome back "Lucky: and good luck with today's race!"

1923 was a triumphant year for Lord "Lucky" Leatherette as he continued to successfully compete in international rallies and grand prix races all over Europe. But his favourite car, a 1922 Mephistopheles Izusa, had an "Achilles heel," which was the 1:4 gradient at the top of the hill climb. Its performance on this hill test was never fully satisfactory. But despite this mechanical failing, "Lucky" and his '22 M.I. Special, "Chugger-zoom" dominated the motor racing scene for many years to come.

He maintained a genuine zeal for competitive racing and foreign adventures, but this changed after he and his mechanic and best mate Jermyn Tattenger III were lost in a dark misty mountainous region somewhere in Europe during the 1931 Prague to Paris Rally. The car struggled through some steep, heavily wooded terrain on stage 10 and was never seen again. "Lucky" was found wandering the streets of a Northern Italian town three weeks later half starved, completely disheveled, and distraught. His mechanic was never found. "Lucky" never spoke about what happened during that rally and retired from motor sport. At the inquest held later that year, Lord Leatherette was deemed too fragile to testify, and the case regarding the missing mechanic remains open and unsolved.

Cue "wibble wobble" effect again as you are now exiting the flashback sequence.

Lady Lavinia shakes her head, trying to rouse herself from her state of shock. If this was Daddy's car, then how did this guy come to possess it? She just had to ask, and so she did.

Count Backwards slams on the brakes, astounded by her question, and turns around to face her. "If you must know m'lady," Count backwards says sarcastically, "I bought it off a peasant after my own car mysteriously wound up in the Potzdorf yacht harbour, as if you didn't know. Things were getting pretty hot for me in town that year after you fleeced me, then all hell broke loose once the Empress Dowager threw the towel in." (Count Backwards came across the dilapidated automobile when trying to find a way out of Carpania after a military coup plunged the tiny country into a violent political turmoil).

Lady Lavinia shrugs her shoulders and says, "This is my Father's car. He was a champion driver some years ago." She sniffs at him indignantly.

Count Backwards raises an eyebrow. "Well he couldn't have been so good if he drove it into a ravine!" With that he steps on the accelerator; the violent surge forward throws the girls back into their seat, informing them who is presently in charge.

Off in the distance a rumbling noise can barely be heard above the din coming from the aero-engine of Count Backwards' car, but no one pays it any attention. Backwards continues to drive in an erratic and perilous manner. The road surface is slightly damp and covered in wet leaves in the cool autumn air. Its gradient rises and falls 'round corners and bends, then continues to rise as they travel deeper into the hills of Welloffsfordshire. The '22 M.I. Special struggles to maintain the speed Count Backwards demands of it up the incline. With a gasp and a thundering bang from the exhaust, the car suddenly gives up and seizes. Count Backwards displays his encyclopedic knowledge of profanity as the car slides backwards down the hill. He attempts to "bump start" it in reverse as it gains momentum.

Just then a group of rebellious looking rakes speed 'round the lower bend on a variety of vintage and modern retro-styled motorcycles.

"Whoa dude, check it out!" shouts the lead ruffian in a rather fetching pin striped Davida helmet, pointing ahead at the three tons of metal bearing down on them.

The girls in the back seat of the car hunker down in their seats and collectively cover their eyes with their hands. Backwards holds the wheel tightly, continuing to expand his vocabulary while looking over his shoulder. With another bang like cannon fire the engine bursts to life, but the gears are still in reverse. The car roars past the bikers, scattering them about the road and into the ditch and hedges. Backwards expertly steered the car backwards (naturally) round the bend and down the road still unable to get it out of reverse.

"No way man, he nearly had us. Everyone cool?" asks one of the leather-clad ruffians, brushing himself down. The letters "BIR" adorn the back of his classic black leather jacket. They all seem OK but their bikes are a mess.

"Yeah man, like he came from outta nowhere! Did ya see how he took that bend goin' backwards? It was awesome!" exclaims another as he hauls his bike from the ground. (The tax disc on the bike claims it's origin as The Magic Kingdom). He has a similar logo on his jacket; in fact, they all do.

"Yeah, too right mate. Strewth, I nearly messed me strides!" says one who may have been Antipodean as he inspects the damage to his ride. "I'd definitely give a Castlemaine XXXX for this!" he says gesturing at the dents in his petrol tank.

"Man, that dude is gonna pay, BIG TIME for this!" the chief hooligan says through gritted teeth. "D'ja see what he did to my tin wear? Oh man, he totally ruined my chrome! Everybody, mount up we're on a mission!"

The lads quickly mobilise, get their bikes running, and chase down the road after the car, the mad driver and his three lovely captives. Little did Count Backwards know but he had just tangled with the Brash Ironic Ruffians, motorcycle desperados with a difference.

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