PART ONE ~ In from the cold
The wind howled like a Banshee beckoning the dead as Old Man Winter blasted the land with a torrent of white snow. Rivers and streams were quiet and still, covered in icy sheets like frosted glass. On the roads motorised chariots and lumbering juggernauts rumbled forever onwards, hauling their passengers and cargo through the squall. And yet amongst the turbulent weather and clattering traffic was a solitary horse of steel, its bright orange paint glowing like embers beneath the grease and grime. Its rider shivered uncontrollably as he tried to navigate his way around solid mounds of snow, brazen in his attempt to avoid deadly patches of black ice. Ahead a truck swerved and caused a wave of muddy slush to cover the road in its wake.
“Mmm, ma, mmm, ma, mmm,” Dazzle cursed the truck driver in front of him, it was a great insult too, if only the thick scarf wrapped tightly around his face hadn’t ruined the dramatic effect. He looked down at his cat Moonshine, who was clung to the specially made carry case on the tank and looked like the victim of an over-eager taxidermist. “Sod this,” Dazzle mumbled “time to get off this bloody motorway before we become road kill”.
Riding a custom motorcycle in a blizzard, Dazzle and his feline sidekick could be mistaken for being a few beers short of a six pack, but they had been caught out by the adverse weather whilst on a very important mission. They had been tasked, by Arabian Billionaire Ali Stone, to track down the last remaining bottle of Lochness Dew 1901 Reserve. A scotch whisky that was as rare as a brass monkey’s bollocks and five times as expensive. The legend goes that it was mixed with the tears of the Loch Ness Monster and distilled in a cask carved from a solid Oak – the very tree where William Wallace bid his sweetheart a final farewell. But that was just hearsay and Dazzle wasn’t one to believe in tall stories. The whisky was to be given to their mutual friend Captain Coldicott at his birthday bash that evening and to him that’s all that mattered.
A couple of miles rolled by before Dazzle spotted a welcome sign that said ‘Services’. Dazzle would normally avoid motorway service stations like he would a plague-ridden leper with swine flu, but under these circumstances he made an exception. After all, being charged a small fortune for a coffee that tastes like groundwater may sound bad, but it’s a hundred times better that winding up flattened like a frozen steak tartare on the hard shoulder. They made for the exit and followed the road that headed towards the cafe but as he was slowing down to park he realised to his horror that his feet were frozen to the foot pegs!
His heart jumped a few paces as the look on his face turned to that of confusion. This was followed by a desperate panic before he eventually accepted the situation and the inevitable happened. Dazzle and the bike hit the floor with a clang. ‘Luckily’ Dazzle’s left leg cushioned the fall, but at least the impact had freed his feet from the icy grip of the foot pegs. Moonshine was ok, because cats always land on their feet; he turned and looked at Dazzle.
“Maaow!” said Moonshine and fixed Dazzle a pissed off look.
“I know mate, but at least you landed on your feet!” Dazzle’s voice was short and to the point.
“Meeoop,” replied Moonshine, which in Catlish means “So did you!” Dazzle looked at Moonshine and growled like a dog;
“Just don’t tell Bunny.”
Bunny, Dazzle’s long suffering wife, would only worry about him if she knew he’d just had a spill on his motorcycle. Bunny’s worries aside, the motley crew back at his gaff, Boneshaker’s Bar and Grill, would find the whole story hilarious, so Dazzle swore Moonshine to secrecy. He’d latter concoct an elaborate story of how some spotty youths had pushed the bike over while he wasn’t looking – much less embarrassing.
Back on his feet Dazzle inspected his ride. It was a beautifully engineered machine even though it was mostly fashioned mostly from junk and spare parts. Any bits that couldn’t be fixed Bunny, being a trained engineer, fabricated to order before being expertly squeezed (botched) into place by Dazzle. Although he was no mechanic Dazzle knew how to put things together and any mechanical issues were taken care of by his mate Pete Beat the local mechanic and panel beater. The chopper had been dubbed ‘The Goblin III’, on account of it being the third incarnation of Dazzle’s original design. The first two had been put together entirely by Dazzle without much outside help, and needless to say they had suffered for it, so this time he had swallowed his pride and asked for help when it was needed – he hoped with this machine it would be third time lucky. So after admiring his handy work he assessed the damage; a slight scratch on the bars and foot pegs, a slightly bent clutch lever and a bruised ego. It wasn’t a bad result; after all it could have been a lot worse. Satisfied The Goblin was more than fit to get him home; Dazzle picked up his luggage and limped into the café, Moonshine tootled along after him.
The Café was packed with motorists taking refuge from the snow storm. Truckers sat in groups telling tales from the road, parents struggled to keep their tired but excited brats under control and business men were conducting board meetings on their mobile phones. It seemed the sudden cold snap had caught everyone out. Then in the corner Dazzle noticed a grizzled figure with grey stubble, scruffy white hair and battered old leathers. On the table a dirty white flip-face helmet, hi-visibility vest and a document wallet gave the game away – he was a despatch rider. Dazzle had known a few despatch riders in his time; his Old Man had been one for a while, as was one of Boneshakers regulars, Billy the Baptist before he turned his hand to truck driving. This breed of biker knew the roads better than anyone and a run from London to Glasgow and back was all in a day’s work for some despatch riders. The trouble was the longer they spent in their chosen vocation, the more cliquey they got, and those that had been doing it a very long time were a very strange bunch indeed. Nevertheless a biker was a biker and it would be rude not to at least acknowledge a fellow rider.
“’Scuze me feller, is this seat taken?” Dazzle asked. The despatch rider glanced up from his coffee and shook his head.
“Nay, you go for it ladeo,” the despatch rider replied in an accent Dazzle couldn’t quite place “the names Ron, Ron Bigby.”
“I’m Dazzle and this here’s Moonshine, pleased to meet ya,” Dazzle shook Ron’s hand then removed his helmet, his long dark hair fell over his shoulders. His face was bright red and his nose was running; cold weather flatters no one. He wiped his nose and cleared his throat before continuing; “We’ve been freezing our nuts off out there. I thought we would be the only clowns mad enough to be riding out in this weather, what brings you out in this blizzard then Ron?”
“Well Dazzle, I’m a dee-spatch rider see. Goes all over I do. Been doing it for years I ‘ave. Do you know, last time I stayed in one place for more than three days mobile phones were the size of bricks and that grey man John Major was banging that Edweeena Currie. Goes with the vocation you know, the dee-spatch rider’s code and all that. You see we’re like sharks, stop swimming and we’s sinks to the bottom.”
“Really Ron?” replied Dazzle; “But I bet the business has changed a bit since you started though?”
“Bet the business has changed he says! Changes! Changes? I’ll tell you about changes. You know when I started in this game people were screaming out for fast dee-spatch riders. It was the fastest way to get a letter from one place in the country to another. Riders in them days had a sense of direction that would put a homing pigeon to shame. We didn’t use maps, maps were for wimps, and those statalite navigation devices were not even on the drawing board! Since them glory days they’ve tried every trick in the book to get rid of us. First were those fux-machines, sure they started off slow but by the time those yuppies were in charge they were everywhere. Then came t’interweb, that was nearly the death blow, turning pages into digits and sending them all over the place. You know our union tried to stop it, but those Tories crushed us just as they’d did the miners.”
“Yeah, I suppose it all had a bit of an affect on the industry Ron?” agreed Dazzle.
“Bit of an affect he says? BIG affect! I’ll tell you about the BIG affect. It ruined us. Turned us into rotten little rats fighting for the same scraps. Fighting to survive we were! Now they calls us motorcycle couriers. Damn modern gadgets, you know everyone now harps on about a ‘paperless office’. Paperless office! What next, stapleless staplers? We dee-spatch riders got one up on technology with one thing though. The t’interweb can’t transport human organs!”
“Human organs?” Dazzle asked.
“Human organs,” replied Ron.
Once Dazzle had cut through Ron’s poor grasp of modern terminology, with his “statalites” and “fux-machines”, it turned out Ron was now mainly employed to transport donor organs to operating theatres all across the country. In fact it turns out that Ron was the best in his game. He was the courier of choice when the Duchess Of Cambridge underwent her secret boob transplant (long story that took an hour and a half to explain, Dazzle wished he had never asked). Basically Ron was the ‘Go-To’ guy that anyone who was anyone would call up if they needed body bits delivered in a hurry. In fact Ron had just finished transporting a pair of feet designated to the winner of ‘I’m a Celebrity Ballet Dancer’ who’d had an unfortunate accident with a sit-on lawn mower.
Outside the blizzard was still at full strength. This was bad news for Dazzle, with Captain Coldicott’s party starting in a few hours it was unlikely that he’d get back in time with the whisky. Ali Stone had promised Dazzle and Bunny two weeks at his penthouse in Las Vegas with all expenses paid should Dazzle manage to find the whisky and get it back in time for the night of the party. Should Dazzle fail he’d not only encounter the wrath of Bunny, who was already packing the suitcases, but he’d also miss a stonking party. Dazzle had spent three hellish days searching the length and breadth of the country for the mythical Scotch, so he wasn’t willing to fall at the final hurdle. He looked at Ron with a quizzical expression.
“Mind me asking Ron, but how do you manage to get around in this weather?”
Ron looked at Dazzle and gave a wink as though he was letting him in on a state secret.
“Ah ha, I gots a secret weapon. Bloody marvellous it is. My own design and everything. Should ‘av patented it really. You see Dazzle; snow weather is too much for Ron Bigby.” There was a pause as Ron leaned toward Dazzle in anticipation; “D’ya gets it? Snow weather?” Ron chucked at his own comedic talents. Dazzle laughed out of sympathy and politeness.
“So what is this secret weapon then Ron?” Dazzle asked.
“Glad you asked ladeo. Grab yer things and come with me.” Ron stood up and gestured for Dazzle to follow him. Realising he was being led into the bitterness outside Dazzle threw his scarf around his face and turned to Moonshine and said;
“I am just going outside, I may be some time.”
…to be continued
[Part Two] – link will become available when the next part is published on Friday 13th March