chapter 1
chapter 2
chapter 3
chapter 4
chapter 5
chapter 6
chapter 7
chapter 8
chapter 9
chapter 10
chapter 11
chapter 12
chapter 13
chapter 14
chapter 15
chapter 16
chapter 17
chapter 18
chapter 19
chapter 20
chapter 21
chapter 22
chapter 23
chapter 24
chapter 25
Chapter 8
Mr. Fugg.

Biffer and Skin rode onto the forecourt of 'Wood's Garage', waved to Carole in the reception, and parked their bikes in the yard at the back.
    Mick the mechanic was there in his customary pose: head stuck under the bonnet of a car. The two boys sauntered up and peeked over his shoulder.
    "You wouldn't be looking for anyone to be solving your problems by any chance, Mick?" joked Biffer.
    Mick looked up and grinned. "I know what the problem is alright. High tension leads. But it looks like the whole distributor is worn out. Look!" He put his hand in, grabbed a small spindle and gave it a sharp wiggle. "Hear that knocking sound? That's the distributor bearings. No, the whole thing will have to be replaced. The customer is not going to like it, but that's just tough." He stood up and arched his back. "What have you two been up to, then? The boss has been looking for you."
    Skin grimaced "Oh, we just got tied up. Where is he anyway?"
    Mick indicated with a nod. "In the repair shop."
    Mr. Wood had a car up on the hydraulic ramp and was busy underneath replacing the clutch plates. He spotted Biffer and Skin and glanced at his watch. "Better late than never, I suppose" he grumbled, wiping his hands on a cloth.
    The two boys made their apologies. "Mick said you were looking for us," said Biffer.
    "Yes, I have two cars I would like you to polish, this one and the Audi in the yard. It seems that you two are getting yourselves quite a reputation. Every customer I have in here ends up by saying 'and oh! By the way, can you get your two boys to give my car a polish and valet service?' My two boys, pah!"
    Both Biffer and Skin tried their hardest to refrain from smiling. Mr. Wood practically never gave out compliments and this was the nearest he would ever get to it.
    "But I also have a problem," continued Mr. Wood. "Dave phoned in sick this morning, so I would like you two to look after the pumps as well. That shouldn't be too difficult." He threw a bunch of keys to Skin. "Here! Take the Audi out onto the forecourt and when anyone comes in for petrol one of you can break off and serve them."
    Skin looked pleased. He enjoyed any opportunity to get behind a car wheel, even if it was only to drive it a few yards.
    Mr. Wood seemed to read his mind. "Make sure you drive that Audi with care," he growled. "The owner is an important customer of mine. And don't go anywhere near the road, do you hear? You are not old enough to drive on the public highway, as you well know."
    Skin drove the Audi out onto the forecourt and parked next to a mains water tap while Biffer went to fetch a bucket, a sponge, a stiff brush and a chamois leather for each of them.
    Skin and Biffer had washed, polished and valeted many cars over the past few months and, working as a team, were very good at it. It was hard graft but the results were worthwhile. The customers obviously thought so, too, for they were always amazed to see how their old cars became to look almost brand new and showed their appreciation by giving the two boys a generous tip over and above what Mr. Wood paid them.
    Biffer and Skin took it in turns to serve anyone who drove in wanting petrol. One car pulled up alongside the pumps and the driver gave two large blasts on the horn. It was a magnificent beast, a bright red Jaguar XJS convertible with the hood down.
    "I recognize that beauty," said Skin, with more than a hint of appreciation. "There can't be many of those hereabouts. It looks very much to me like the one that is normally parked in the drive of 'Impala Lodge'."
    He dropped his polishing rag and eagerly headed over. A man stepped out of the car and looked around impatiently for attention. He was of medium height, but muscular. In fact his immaculate white shirt and dark waistcoat seemed to be having trouble containing the massive body inside.
    "Excuse me, sir, can I be of assistance?" asked Skin, politely. The man turned and looked Skin up and down with an air of disdain. He had the sallow complexion and slanting eyes of an oriental. "Yes, there is a slight possibility you can," said the man, sarcastically. "Fill my car with petrol and check the oil and water. And yes, one of the headlamps needs replacing. I have an appointment with my accountant across the road and will be back to collect the car within the hour." With that he reached across to the passenger seat for his jacket, slipped it on and marched off.
    Skin looked after him and pulled a face. "Ugly gorilla," he said, and then grinned. The man did look rather ape like with his bowlegs and long arms.
    He called across to Biffer. "Can you give us a hand, mate? Check the oil and water while I fill it up with petrol."
    When Biffer lifted up the bonnet he gave a long, low whistle. "Come and look at this, Skin. Have you ever seen an engine like it?"
    Skin was impressed. The engine compartment of the XJS was extremely large, but every cubic inch was packed with equipment.
    Biffer was slightly bewildered. "O.K. this is obviously the radiator cap but where on earth is the dip-stick?"
    Skin stood back and laughed. "I've got no idea, mate. But that's not my problem is it?" He grabbed the car-keys from out of the ignition, unlocked the petrol cap and began filling up with fuel. This task seemed to take an age. The digital readout almost reached one hundred and thirty litres before the pump eventually shut down, indicating that the petrol tank was full.
    "How's it going, Biff?" asked Skin, going round to the front again.
    "Yeh, the oil level's OK. But the rad. needed quite a bit of water."
    "There was one other thing," said Skin. "The geezer reckons that one of his headlights is dickey. Can you check for me which one it is?" He jumped into the driving seat and switched on the lights.
    "No," called out Biffer. "They are both working O.K. Try the full beam."…then…"that's it, the nearside ones on the blink. I'll fetch a sealed unit from the stores."
    The two boys soon had the car fixed and Skin drove it over to the far side of the forecourt, out of harms way. He was just about to get out when something on the passenger-side floor caught his eye. He picked it up. It was a plastic credit card with the name 'B. R. Clarke' embossed on the front. Skin had seen many customers pay for their car repairs and petrol with these cards and knew them to be important. What should he do? Without thinking, he opened up the glove compartment to put it inside for safekeeping. But immediately saw something strange. More credit cards: maybe a dozen or so in a neat pile. Skin picked up the cards and began to inspect them. Each one had a different name on the front. And none of these names was remotely like - 'B. R. Clarke'. How very peculiar. He returned the cards to the glove compartment, including the one he had found on the floor, and slowly closed the lid.
    Skin got out of the car and went to ask Carole, the receptionist, to make out a bill for the petrol and light unit. "The guy says he will be back in about an hour," explained Skin, making a bee-line for the fridge. "Put me down for two bottles of drink, will you, Carole."
    Carole fished out the ledger from under the counter. "What are they Skin? Tobago-C's?"
    Skin looked hurt. "Carole. Are we not Buccaneers? Do we not set out for the docks each evening, steal aboard a Portuguese Man-o-War and sail to the balmy tropical shores of Jamaica? The Caribbean sea is our playground, Carole." He held up the two bottles. "And 'Tobago-C' is what we drink."
    Carole shook her head, laughing. "Be off with yer, Skin. Sometimes I think that you live on a totally different planet to the rest of humanity."
    Biffer was pleased with his drink and the two of them found some chairs and sat on the forecourt to enjoy the autumn sun and watch the world go by.
    "What shall we do about dinner?" enquired Skin. Food was very important to Skin. If he was not actually eating a meal, you could be sure he was planning the next one.
    "How about fish 'n' chips?" suggested Biffer. "We could go to the park and eat by the canal."
    Skin grinned. "Sounds good to me."
    The two boys were just finishing off valeting the Audi when up drove Mr. Wood with the other car, an old-fashioned, sit-up Rover. He climbed out and proceeded to stride around the Audi giving it a close inspection.
    "Mmm, not bad," he admitted, reluctantly. "Mr. Bennet will be very pleased with this."
    Biffer and Skin stared at each other in amazement. Things were definitely on the up.
    "What plans have you two got for this afternoon?" asked Mr. Wood. After receiving a negative reply, he went on. "Mick is refurbishing a Triumph TR3 engine this afternoon if you would like to get involved. Mick is a first class mechanic and you can learn a hell of a lot from him." Then as an afterthought, "I won't be paying you, of course. This is just for your own benefit. Well! What do you say?"
    The two boys were absolutely delighted. After this piece of good news they attacked the job of polishing the Rover with added vigour, discussing all the while the merits of a TR3 versus other sports cars.
    It was Biffer who spotted him first, striding across the forecourt, making for the Jaguar. "Hey up," he said. "The return of the ape-man."
    Skin quickly went to head him off, but the man totally ignored Skin and virtually brushed him aside in his impatience to get into the car.
    But Skin kept his cool. "Would you like your bill, sir?" he asked, firmly.
    The man turned but paid no attention to Skin's outstretched hand holding the bill. "Just put it on my account will you, boy" he said, dismissively. But on seeing the blank look Skin gave him the man huffed in annoyance. "The name's Fugg. George Fugg. I'm a director of 'Cyber Electronic Company' based at 'Impala Lodge'."
    Skin stood back. Mr. George Fugg, Director, jumped into the Jaguar's driving seat and slammed the door shut. The mighty 3.5 litre engine sprang into life. He spun the wheel one way, reversed in a tight arc before spinning the wheel the other way and roaring off across the forecourt, skidding and sliding onto the road.
    Biffer shouted across, laughing. "What did you do to annoy him, Skin?"
    Skin shrugged and started walking towards the reception. But his mind was ticking over. "I'm sure that none of the names on those credit cards was G. Fugg," he thought.
    Carole was typing at her computer.
    "Does a Mr. George Fugg have an account with us, Carole?"
    Carole looked up. "So that's who it was making all that noise out there, was it? Yes, he has an account with us, worse luck. A right ignorant pig is our Mr. Fugg. I'm thinking of getting Mr. Wood to strike 'Cyber Electronics' off of our accounts list if he carries on like he does. Every time he comes in here he winds me up something rotten. I call him Thug not Fugg."
    Skin nodded. "Yes, that's just the impression I got, Carole."
    When the Rover was shiny enough not to seem out of place in any showroom, Biffer and Skin told Mick they would be back after lunch and cycled off to their favourite fish 'n' chip shop.
    Mr. Crabbe, the owner of the chippie, cooked fish 'n' chips just the way the boys loved it. The fish was large and succulent and covered in a crispy golden batter. The chips were long and fat and also crispy and golden on the outside, but on the inside soft and feather light. And Mr. Crabbe always threw in plenty of sachets of H.P. sauce. And Mr. Crabbe didn't mind in the least how much salt and vinegar was lavished on his fish 'n' chips. Mr. Crabbe was the hungry boys' friend.
    The two boys took their fish 'n' chips into the park, sat on a bench facing the canal and ate noisily. They ate the lot, skin and all. It was not until they had both washed their hands and face in a nearby drinking fountain and sat back on the park bench fully satisfied, that either of them spoke. And it was Skin that did all the talking.
    "Biff," he said. "Where are we heading? I mean, look at us. We live in a squat, go to a useless school where the teachers can't teach and the pupils don't wanna learn. Got no parents…"
    A crested Grebe broke the surface of the water in front of them, his head and slender neck a darting snake. He paddled hither and thither for a few moments and then was gone.
    "…O.K. We've both got a paper round but we also know that that will lead us nowhere. And we are learning to be car mechanics. But I certainly don't want to end up being a car mechanic for the rest of my life, do you?…So Biff, where are we heading?"
    Biff had no answer.
    Don't worry boys. Your lives are about to change in a very dramatic way. In fact the ball has already started to roll if you only knew. Hold onto your hats and enjoy the ride.

chapter 9