South Bank Blue
by Roger Busby
Charlie saw the tyre kicker come down the Old Kent Road swinging her Jimmy Choo Saba bag, the sun turning her blonde hair into a golden halo which picked her out from the usual street scene south of the river...........
"Can I help you"
"Maybe..I'm looking for a car"
"Well you came to the right place"
"What's the story on this one...."
"I don't see you in the beamer," Charlie put on his best smile: "How about the MR2 over there....more your style, don't you think?"
"No, not me at all....I don't do sports cars."
"Well how about an RV? Nice Shogun, safe as houses for the school run, trip down the shops."
"Chelsea tractor?" She laughed, "No thanks."
"Well maybe if you told me what you have in mind...."
She looked him in the eye. "I was thinking more of a get-away car"
"You know, like....from the scene of the crime."
Charlie laughed: "You're having me on."...........
Charlie smiled "And guess what....it so happens I've got one around the back."
"How did I know you were going to say that."
"Seriously, just been serviced and valeted ready to come out here on the lot, nice clean motor."
Charlie took her down the aisle between the rows and showed her the powder blue Subaru: "See....straight out of a rally stable, so it's got the pedigree. This one's a bargain, just shy of ten-k with a three month warranty thrown in. You could race the Dakar in this baby."
"Well good....now you've got my attention....you'd better show me what it'll do."
"You want to try it out?"
"That's the general idea....can't take your word for it now can I?"
"Hang on here....I'll get the keys."
When Charlie returned to the office Smokey was in deep conversation with a bling dipped cousin.
"Lady wants a test drive....the blue Subaru."
Smokey looked out of the window. "Tyre kicker?"
"Maybe....maybe not. Could be a butterfly."
"You'd better charm the pants off her Charlie," Smokey said. "You need a sale unless you aim to live off your fat and I don't see much of that!"
Charlie took the keys from his desk and went back to the lot........
She smiled and nodded:" I'm getting the picture. What's your name?"
"Charlie," he said, "Charlie Gittings."
He swung off the lot and turned into the traffic on The Old Kent Road.
She said: "Let's go up to the Elephant, Charlie Gittings, show me what she'll do."
"Not much chance in this traffic." Charlie braked for the speed cameras: "Why don't I pull over and you can have a go, see what you think."
"No....you drive....you probably know all the rat runs around here."
They were passing between the grey concrete cliffs of the Heygate estate with the Elephant and Castle interchange coming up ahead when she said: "Pull over there for a minute....just past the crossing."
"It's a red route....no stopping."
"Be OK, keep the engine running....I'll only be a sec."
Come on..come on............
.......................The burst of gunfire spun him around. His first thought was a news clip from Iraq coming from the TV turned up loud..only there was no TV. The hairs rose on Charlie's neck: "What the hell!"
She came across the pavement fast and jumped into the passenger's seat, the stubby Kalashnikov in her lap. Her eyes locked into his, delivering the challenge
"You choose, Charlie, floor it or get nicked."
"What?" His head spun.
"We just robbed the man."
"Jesus!" He stared at the gun, bug eyed
"Hit it.Charlie!..show me the getaway."
Charlie swallowed hard, gunned the motor and the Impreza hunched down and leaped into the traffic. He hit the Heygate, racing through the estate, taking the corners fast but without squealing the tyres. Driving like he meant it.
Beside him the tyre-kicker started to laugh; reached into her zebra striped Saba, pulled out a fistful of money and threw it into the air. Banknotes swirled around inside the car like confetti.
- Roger Busby, January 2012
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