The coloured lights strung out in the sky were not a figment of my feeble, tranquilised imaginings or anything to do with visiting aliens. I didn't know it then, but they belonged to Pettigrew's Travelling Circus.
The two criminal masterminds bundled me unceremoniously out of the car and up to the door of a large caravan parked in the Circus compound. Desmond beat a sharp tattoo on the door with his clenched fist and it was opened by a dapper, pot-bellied little man in an expensive, maroon coloured leather jacket.
"Allo boys", he said in a conspiratorial tone. "I see you brought the package. Good. Good. Bring it in".
They laid me on a couch and the three men started to haggle over money. It was only then that I became aware of a fourth presence in the room. In the far corner of the caravan a powerfully built man, probably in his thirties, was watching me intently. Somehow, he did not seem like the others. His face, though not particularly handsome, was pleasant with broad, open features. He seemed entirely free of the suggestion of guile and treachery that clung to the three others like a cheap scent.
His gaze was hypnotic. I couldn't stop watching him watching me. Eventually, a slow smile formed on his face but there was no mirth in it. It was the sort of pitying smile reserved for the seriously ill.
At length, he came over and knelt down at my side. He took my pulse and stroked my cheek. For the first time since I'd been press ganged by those two French busybodies I felt completely at ease with another of God's creatures. There was something about this man........a certain depth!
"Morris, this monkey is finito", he said in a heavy, Italian accent.
All right it brought my mood down somewhat but, what he said was mitigated by the tone of compassion he used in saying it.
Desmond turned on his heel and said, angrily, "That monkey is NOT finito, my friend. He is, in fact, recuperating."
"Boys, boys ", said Morris Pettigrew, rubbing his pot belly, "No need for unpleasantness. Moisten his lips with some brandy. That'll do the trick".
Davie did the honours, but he was clumsy so, as well as my lips being moistened, my gullet got a good coating as well. I felt my eyes bulge. I felt my throat burn. I felt steam coming out of my ears and fancied I heard it whistle as it did so.
My new friend was horrified on my behalf. "Careful you clown" he said, looking menacingly at the hapless, useless Davie.
"Easy. Easy" Stromboli, said Pettigrew nervously, "We all know you are the strong man here. You don't have to prove it."
Davie seemed to like walking on eggs. "Yeah, Stromboli, don't erupt will yah!" Ladies and gentlemen, if looks could kill."
An argument started up again. This time it was joined by Stromboli who was vehemently defending my best interests. Bless him! While they were all going at it hammer and tong they completely ignored me. They had also left an almost full bottle of Remy Martin propped up beside me.
I was sitting up now. If nothing else, the brandy had certainly brought me around. Curious, I took another sip. This time it didn't burn.
Since nobody seemed to bother I took another sip and then another........and then another.
Soon the world was no longer a place to fear. It was a place of delight and wonders. I gazed, glassy eyed at the caravan and its contents. Finally, my eyes alighted on a top hat and a cigar sitting on a small table next to the couch. I put the hat on my head, experimenting with different angles: formal, jaunty that sort of thing. I put the cigar in my mouth and felt quite the thing.
It suddenly occurred to me, for no very good reason that I can remember, that Davie might like to see me in my new finery. To that end I approached him from behind and tugged at his trouser leg.
The events that resulted from this innocent notion unfolded quickly and violently. Here is a brief summation of what I remember:
Davie jumped out of his skin and, with an involutary movement of his arm, sent my top hat flying.
Stromboli hit Davie so hard I could have sworn I heard what remained of his teeth rattle.
Desmond took an ill advised swing at Stromboli and disappeared backwards through the half open caravan door for his troubles.
Davie ran out into the night after him rubbing his jaw.
Pettigrew finally emerged from his clothes cupboard to survey the effects of a few moments of mayhem on his living room. Then, all of a sudden, he burst out laughing.
There , lying on the floor in front of him, was a pile of cash. In the fracas the two masterminds had left their payment behind.
NEXT WEEK : I start working for the B.BC. (Bobo's Bavarian Chimps) . My respect and admiration for Stromboli deepens
Paradise & Paupers
2 weeks ago