Created by Webmaster on 16 Jul 2011 - 7:37. Pageviews : 2174
The Scuzzball Diamond Set-To
The man at the bar looked ill-at-ease, and with good reason. He was out of place and well aware of the fact. Every now and then he would pull back the cuff of his expensively tailored shirt and glance at his gold wristwatch. It was 8.29 p.m.
They were late. The man on the stool next to him had fallen off it twice and now seemed to be getting angry about the emptiness of his glass. Philo P. Kirkrnan was getting the distinct impression that this wasn't going to be one of the better nights of his life.
And then a shrill, excited voice sounded in his ear.
"That face! That shape! That posture! The slight yellowing round the eyes! You, sir, are the most woefully ill-maintained specimen it has ever been my pleasure to see!"
Philo turned to face the voice's owner, a wild-haired man with thick rimless spectacles and a huge grin, looking as happy as a baby beaver in a toothpick factory. He crossed the bar and peered deep into Philo's slate grey eyes.
"Such marvellous debilitation!" he said. "You do have trouble sleeping, don't you?"
As Philo made to nod, the man lifted Philo's lips and examined his teeth. He made strange noises at the back of his throat and then shone a light in Philo's ear.
"You'll be coughing a lot, of course, am I right?" he continued. "And that persistent little rash - it just won't go away, will it? Good! Excellent! My boy - I'm going to make you famous."
"Just what are you trying to pull?" Philo was getting angry.
The man ignored this fact. "Dr Olaf Von Trapp at your service," he said with a small bow. "Pioneering doctor. Your symptoms are really quite unique. You are just the man to prove my theory. I think I'll call it Von Trapp's Disease. What do you say?"
"I say button it, creep!" Philo was about to snap. Von Trapp soothed him by putting an arm round his shoulder.
"Of course, it means you don't have long to go, but never mind. You'll be famous and so will I. Together we will live side by side forever in the annals of medical history: Von Trapp ... and his disease. What is your name, by the way?"
"I'm getting out of here," said Philo, trying to wriggle free.
Von Trapp's hand held firm, a glint of steel flashed in the wild eyes, and the lips moved fast, framing the words that came in a clipped, urgent whisper.
"You wanna see the A-Team - follow me."
Philo did a quick double take as Von Trapp steered him towards the exit while resuming his manic diagnosis. Outside in the alley, B.A. was waiting by some crates with Howling Mad Murdock. B.A. stood against a wall with his arms crossed, while Murdock was playing with an imaginary yo-yo.
"Who are these guys?" asked Philo.
Von Trapp was too busy taking off his false beard to answer.
"I'm a garlic salesman," said Murdock, grinning. "At least that's what it says on the inside of my cap. But that's just a cover. Really I'm a weapons system analyst working on a new bomb - it destroys everything except money.
"Shut your mouth, peanut head," B.A. warned.
Philo studied the three men, then turned to leave.
"I thought you wanted the A-Tearn?" said Hannibal.
"I want good men who can do a job for me, not a bunch of flakes."
Hannibal blocked Philo's way. He lit a cigar and then stared at the match until it went out.
"You first went looking for the A-Team three days ago," he said. "Since then you've spent a total of twenty eight and a half hours in your recording studio, twelve at your home, six and one quarter in transit, four in Martin's cocktail lounge where you tipped the waitress with two five dollar bills, serial numbers-"
"Okay! Okay!" Philo held up his hands. "You're good."
"You bet we're good," growled B.A. "You got the money?"
Philo nodded, drew an envelope from his jacket pocket and tossed it onto a crate. Hannibal picked it up and rifled quickly through the thick wad of crisp new high denomination notes.
"You just hired yourself some help."
Philo took out a photograph and showed it to Hannibal. It showed four young men dressed in identical leather suits.
"The Doom Watchers, explained Philo. "They've got my baby. "
"What's the baby called?" asked Hannibal.
"Makes a change from Sam, I suppose," said Murdock.
"It's not a real baby, pinhead," said Philo. "It's the master tapes to my new record."
"Why don't you just call the cops?" Hannibal asked.
"The record needs to come out now," said Philo. "And I can't spend two years dragging those creeps through the courts."
"You got any proof the tapes are yours?"
Philo rose to his full height of 5 feet 2 inches. He puffed out his chest like a pigeon.
"Proof?" he said indignantly. "You ask me, Philo P. Kirkman, for proof? The man who wrote Skooby Dibby Goo-Goo? The creator of the immortal Wings of Change? Sole writer, singer and producer of that greatest of all pop classics, Gimme, Gimrne, Gimme?"
"That's right," said Hannibal.
Philo took out a document from his pocket. "This is a binding legal contract signed by all the parties concerned. "
"The writing's a little small."
"You want a photograph of the handshake?"
"Okay - you know where these guys can be reached?"
"They're squatting at an old movie ranch out in the desert mountains."
"Ain't that where Death's Drivers hang out?" asked B.A.
"The motor cycle gang? That's right," said Philo. "They're the Doom Watchers' unofficial fan club and bodyguards."
"They're bad cats, Hannibal," said B.A.
"So are we, Sergeant," Hannibal replied. "So are we."
The following night, while the rest of the A-Team made their own preparations for the mission, the Face Man, dressed in a sleeveless denim jacket and heavy motorcycle boots, tooled into the Death's Drivers camp on a gleaming Harley Davidson he had fast talked from a hire purchase company. B.A. had spent the day making special modifications to the powerful machine.
As Face eased off the throttle, one of the Death's Drivers came out to meet him. He had the kind of face ancient tonecutters carved to ward off demons. On top of his long dirty hair he wore a Viking helmet with two long horns.
"Ever get a sudden urge to go 'MOOOOOO!'?" asked Face.
"I see you ain't wearing any colours - what chapter are you with?" asked a girl who had come out of the shack and was eyeing Face's bike greedily. She stood 4 feet 11 inches and wore the legend GIANT on her grease-covered overalls.
"Independent - The Scuzzball Diamonds," said Face.
The man and Giant laughed so long and loud that other bikers came out of the ranch house to see what was happening.
"Any of you guys heard of the Scuzzball Piemen?" asked Giant.
"Diamonds," corrected Face. "The Scuzzball Diamonds."
Face's words set off another round of wild laughter. The Viking, tears streaming down his face, stepped forward.
"Before we find out what you want, we find out what you are," he said. "How do you like jousting?"
"I like that fine," said Face.
A cheer went up from the Death's Drivers. Face noticed that four members of the Doom Watchers were standing on the porch. The old movie ranch was built by a disused mine, and outside the mine entrance the Death Drivers lined up with flaming torches to form a narrow corridor for the Viking and Face to duel. They were each given one long stave, and they faced each other some fifty yards apart, engines revving, waiting for the signal to start.
"Now!" said Giant.
The Viking's bike reared up like a horse that has stepped on a rattler, and by the time he had got his weight forward he was nearly on top of the Face Man. Face was still trying to balance his stave when the Viking's weapon caught him on the shoulder, and he was sent flying backwards from his machine.
The Viking held his stave up in triumph as he circled for the next attack. Face scrambled after his stave, then turned to defend himself. When the Viking's bike was nearly on him, he sidestepped neatly, lashed downward with his stave, and buried the other man's weapon into the ground.
Like a jet propelled pole-vaulter, the Viking flew through the air, over the heads of the other Death's Drivers, and straight towards a small coal truck at the mine's entrance.
The impact of his bulk smashing into the truck sent it rolling into the mine, with the Viking as the cargo. There was a rumbling sound, a sharp crash, and then, long seconds later, a distant splash. Giant looked at Face with new respect.
"How d'you get to be so old being so stupid?" she asked. "It will take him hours to climb out of there. I reckon you're ready for a bigger test."
"More jousting?" asked Face. "I'd love to oblige you and all that, but I think I'm getting a touch of jouster's elbow."
"This is a straight forward chicken-run," said Giant. "Between you and me."
"If you insist," said Face, retrieving his bike, as Giant disappeared into a huge barn. The deep rumbling of powerful engines from inside the barn made him wonder what a turkey felt like as December grew close.
The door to the barn opened and a truck trundled out, took off up the track, turned, and raced towards the Face Man. Face gunned his engine and raced to meet the challenge.
As the massive truck bore down on the Harley Davidson, Face was thinking fast. There was no way he could do a controlled slide under the truck. There was no way he could do very much at all, really, except ....
Face did a wheelie, checked his speed, and with the thundering truck only yards away, activated the retro rockets B.A. had fitted to his machine. For one terrifying fraction of a second it seemed like they weren't going to work.
And then, with a full-throated howl the rockets ignited, the Harley Davidson took off, bounced off the roof of the trailer, and landed upright on the dirt road behind.
As Face struggled to control the bike a great cheer went up among the Death's Drivers, and when Face rode back, all of them, including Giant, crowded round his machine like starving dogs round a leg of lamb.
"Maybe now we can talk," said Face. "It's about Philo P. Kirkman."
One of the Doom Watchers picked up the Viking's abandoned stave.
"If you're from that bucket of ancient swill, you won't be going back in one piece!" he warned, lifting the stave above his head.
"Do 1 take it that you and Philo have some misunderstanding?" asked Face.
"Sure - he ripped us off good. Stole our music and paid us off with phoney bills. If it hadn't been for the Death's Drivers we'd have never got our tapes back."
"I thought you'd signed a contract," Face observed
"Sure - for real money. Once he slipped us the dud cash it was null and void."
"You're quite a lawyer for a pop star."
"The question is, jumping bean," said Giant, "just what are you going to do about it?"
"The Face Man listened to the distant whine of motor cycles racing up the trail.
He saw the lights of the helicopter above them. The rest of the Scuzzball Diamonds were coming in as planned.
"That's a very good question," he said.
The fight that followed would have livened up most of the films shot at the old ranch. B.A. gave his impression of a heavyweight champion grizzly bear, and Hannibal - cigar clenched firmly in his teeth - slugged it out back to back with the Face Man.
Sue and Murdock livened up the proceedings by buzzing the farm in their helicopter, dropping 'flares, small explosive charges, and the kind of gas grenade used to flush rats out of ships.
When the smoke cleared, Face lay groaning on the ground, B.A. was trapped inside a water barrel and Hannibal was being sat on by the newly wet, resurfaced Viking.
"I love it when a plan comes together," said Hannibal.
"I told you this plan was crazy!" snapped B.A.
Face staggered to his feet, rubbing a purplish scar on his cheekbone. "There's been a mix-up," he said.
"I know," said Hannibal. "I checked the bills Kirkman gave us.
"But why?" asked Face.
"You and that jazz, man!" scowled B.A. "You gonna get us killed one day!"
"You've got to improve that attitude, B.A.," said Hannibal. "And if this horned toad would get off me, I could signal Murdock down and tell you what we're going to do . . ."
Philo P. Kirkman was relaxing in the Lukewarm, salt-impregnated water of his private isolation tank when Hannibal turned up wearing a pin-striped suit. He was also sporting black hair dye, a thin black moustache, and a black Homburg. He was carrying a box full of tapes. He opened Philo's tank and threw in a towel. Philo came out,spluttering.
"Who are you?" he asked, wrapping the wet towel round his skinny frame. "Where am I?"
"I brought you something," said Hannibal. "From the A-Team."
"My tapes!" said Philo, grabbing for the box.
Hannibal pulled it away. "Uh-huh," he said, shaking his head.
Philo's face dropped. "But ... but . . ." he protested.
"You made a contract with a guy named Hannibal," said Hannibal. "Hannibal sold that contract to me."
"W-Who are you?"
"I'm what is known as a debt-collector," smiled Hannibal. "Hannibal's got kinda squeamish in his old age. Can't stand the sight of blood."
"He's not too keen on the screaming anymore, either. Or the begging for mercy. Funny thing that!"
"How one person can lose his appetite for something all of a sudden, while another person just gets hungrier and hungrier."
Philo's throat felt like he'd swallowed a pillow.
"What can I do for you?" he croaked. "Just name it! Name it!'.'
"For a start, you can pay me what you should have paid Hannibal. In real money this time."
"Sure! Of course, anything!"
"And then you can pay me what you owe the Doom Watchers."
"Need we be so drastic?" pleaded Philo. "They're nice tough-looking kids, but they've no clout. Together we could stitch them up."
"Strange you should mention stitching," said Hannibal, reaching into his pocket. "I was talking to a nurse just the other day . . ."
"Okay! All right! You got it!" Philo went over to his tv set, opened the back and counted out the necessary money from a large brown paper bag. Hannibal checked out the serial numbers, handed over the tapes, then left.
That night, while the Scuzzball Diamonds attended a party thrown in their honour at the old movie ranch, Philo P. Kirkman sat alone on the floor of his recording studio, his eyes as empty as the bottle beside him.
He stumbled to his feet and played the tape again. Once again, the voice came loud and clear from the speakers, and Philo felt a single tear welling up and rolling down his cheek from his left eye - the weak one.
He slumped back to the floor as Hannibal's voice continued:
"Mary had a little lamb, Her fleece was white as snow, And Kirkman's work was just a sham -Tough cheese, Philo."
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