South Of The River | by Tony Wilkes, winner of the P.G. Wodehouse New Comic Writer Award

South Of The River

by Tony Wilkes, winner of the P.G. Wodehouse New Comic Writer Award

The passenger door slammed shut behind them, muffling the alarm bells outside. "Drive! Just drive, go!"

In the driver's seat, Miss Simpson was aflutter.

"What should I do, Mr Trumble?"

"I should comply, Miss Simpson, I believe he has a gun to my head."

Miss Simpson put the car in gear and lurched nervously forward, the vehicle stuttering as the revs increased. Their unwelcome guest was antsy, to say the least.

"Come on, get out of here, go!"

"We will make progress as we can," said Trumble, "but today is Miss Simpson's ninth driving test, she is doing her best."

The intruder pushed his gun further in the back of Trumble's cap. "I'm not messin' about!"

"I don't believe you are," said Trumble carefully, eyeing the rear view mirror, "only I suggest next time you rob a bank you pay attention to locating your getaway car, and not a Ford Cortina with a large red 'L' on it."

Miss Simpson drove on, loosening the grip on her St Christopher only long enough to change gear. Sirens started in the distance. Their guest glanced out of the rear window.

"You ain't quick enough, put your foot down you old bat!" he said, waving his gun in the driver's direction. Trumble slapped the gun down and shot him back a stern look.

"Don't you point that thing at her, she is a primary school governor!"

Taken aback, the intruder returned his aim to Trumble.

"Mr Trumble, are the police chasing us?"

"I believe they are chasing the car behind, Miss Simpson." he said, peering at the side mirror out of the corner of his eye. "Whether that car is chasing us, I do not know. I hope we don't find out."

Their guest wound down the rear window, leaned out and gesticulated at the car behind, beckoning it closer.

"Tommo! Tommo!" The gears crunched.

"Mr Trumble, I can't find fourth."

Trumble paused, exhaled, and took charge. He put his right foot down on the dual controls, and the car began to accelerate away.

"Okay Miss Simpson, I have assumed control of the pedals and the gears, please just focus on the steering wheel."

Right foot up, left foot down, into fourth, left foot up, right foot down.

"Thank you Mr Trumble," she said, spread-eagling her legs either side of the footwell. "Is there any particular route I should take?"

"Just the forward direction for now, thank you Miss Simpson."

The car behind had now drawn parallel, weaving on the wrong side of the road. The intruder yelled at the top of his voice.

"Tommo!"

"[inaudible]"

Engines and wind noise drowned out the response. He took a breath and shouted louder.

"…Tommo!…"

"[inaudible again]"

The message had to get through. "Tommo! Tommo, I'm in the wrong car!"

Tommo energetically waved his fist and pointed to the front, and to the left, and then tapped the side of his head, repeating the move a few times to let it sink in.

"…[inaudible!]…[inaudible!]…"

"Tommo! Tommo, get to Clapham!"

His message delivered, he wound the window back up. "Right you two, head for the bridge, I ain't getting' – "

A blast of shotgun shattered the rear window. The occupants ducked down, save for Trumble's brave hand steadying the steering wheel. Two more blasts, one peppering the driver's window leaving it a fractured Swiss cheese. Their guest raised his head, wiping blood and shrapnel from his cheek. "Holy… Tommo, what was that for?"

Trumble sighed quietly to himself. "This is an awful lot of bother for a handful of guineas…."

The other car braked heavily and pulled in behind them, while the intruder's eyes followed it gormlessly, his gun at his feet. Noticing the lack of attention, Trumble leaned across and whispered to his co-pilot.

"Miss Simpson, when I hit my hand on the dashboard I want you to take a sharp right." "How sharp?"

"As sharp as your mother's rhubarb."

She gripped the wheel tighter, and steeled herself in preparation.

The getaway car drifted left towards Covent Garden. Their own car was headed for the perimeter of Regent's Park. Specifically, the perimeter fence of Regent's Park. Trumble's right foot was pushing more and more on the accelerator.

"Mr Trumble… I am becoming rather… tense."

Trumble cautiously watched in the rear view mirror – their assailant had twisted right round to scope out the trailing police cars. "Oh for Christ… don't follow us, follow him, he's got the bloody shotgun!"

Trumble saw his chance.

He slapped his hand on the dashboard. Miss Simpson, as good as her word, yanked the wheel to the right, while Trumble jammed on the handbrake and curled his left arm behind his seat to unlatch the passenger door. The quartz-perfect timing led to their guest's inertia barrelling him right out of the car, through the wooden fence and into a rather dense thicket.

Everyone was finally stationary.

The police car pulled up beside Trumble's Cortina, and an officer stepped out.

"Miss?" The policeman knocked on the door with his knuckle. "Hello, miss?"

Miss Simpson peeked upwards, her bottom lip tucked fearfully beneath the top one, and slowly wound down the remains of the shattered window.

"…yes, officer?"

"Can I see your licence please, miss?"

• The author, Tony Wilkes, will be reading this story, along with other selected entrants, as part of the Chortle Comedy Book Festival in Crouch End at 12.30pm on Saturday November 7. Admission is free. Click here for more details of the festival.

Published: 24 Oct 2015

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