If Felix ‘Forefinger’ O’Pretty was being honest with himself, protective custody hadn’t been the calming sinecure he’d been led to believe. He accepted that, set against some of the gnarled veterans of the criminal fraternity, he wasn’t the smoothest lockpick in the set and his tendency to drink and then talk too much had led to him using up two of the promised three new personalities the Met Police had offered him when he turned Queen’s Evidence against Harold ‘Firstfinger’ Nightpoultice. That followed the failure of the South Barchester Mega RamRaid which led to all twenty four tractor drivers being arrested while carrying ATMs in their scoops, the failure being his responsibility having sourced adulterated red diesel on the cheap. Several fingers had pointed at Forefinger and he’d become a marked man, even before he was given the possibility of a nark’s redemption.
On both the previous occasions Forefinger had avoided being repatriated to his former employer – his whereabouts having been uncovered following some loose-lipped imbibing – by the simple expedient of adopting a disguise before being squirrelled away. On the first, he had sequestrated, under duress, a Santa Claus outfit from a reed thin part-time window dresser from Pontefract who’d popped outside the rear-doors of Thrumbells and Gloin’s department store for a line of coke and a strawberry fancy before readying himself for the next influx of gluntinous pre-adolescents. On the second, in his desperation to flee the unattractive package holiday opportunity offered by Melvin ‘Bigfist’ Twinpricks he negotiated a loan of a Little Bo Peep costume from a gender bi-curious Postman on a break from a data protection conference in Llandudno.
He had promised himself, and his police handler to foreswear alcohol in return for a new identity on a small Scottish island. But in Forefinger’s life, promises made and promises kept had a habit of being mismatched and once again various assigned members of Firstfinger’s transportation division began sniffing around Forefinger’s new home, late in the fertility festival season.
It seemed therefore that Forefinger was hanging on by his nails. He was in the last chance saloon, he was told by the exasperated police sergeant charged with the task of moving him on. If they managed to pull off his extraction, then he was destined for somewhere dusty and despotic and the Met would wash their hands of him. He agreed to the terms.
‘Be in the square at midnight, Saturday in costume and we will get you away.’
All through the week he plotted and pondered. The finale of the Fertility Fayre would take place in the square at midnight, the participants circling the fire in a frenzy of lust. Percent cover. All he needed was a costume. He spoke to Haggis the grocer, seeking ideas. ‘Now, yer in luck. Speak to Neeps the greengrocer. He’s short of an faggot.’
Thinking that playing some inappropriately named gay sex object was the least of his worries, he approached Neeps and undertook to present himself for ‘dressing and anointing’ at ten o’clock.
He had to admit he was mildly curious what the ‘anointing’ might involve and hoped it wasn’t an excess of lube as he approached the changing tents. An hour later he emerged dressed as a supersized fire-lighter – admonishing himself for his subconscious homophobic assumptions – but regretting the anointing which appeared to comprise some sort of oil based fuel.
He followed the crowd mimicking such movements as he could see through the branches, while trying to identify the police snatch team. So it was that he missed the fact that shortly before midnight, a group of large masked men, at complete ease with their identities being covered carefully surrounded Forefinger and in diverse and subtle ways eased him so that the bonfire blazed right behind him.
As the church clock struck midnight and the crowd bayed for a sacrifice to the gods, Forefinger was surprised to find himself first in the air and them in the flames, exploding in a snap and a crackle and a pop the likes of which any self-respecting breakfast cereal would have been proud.
To one side sharing a rather good fifty year old malt Harold Nightpoultice and the police sergeant clinked glasses.
‘I expect you’ll have to write a report,’ said the former.
‘Can’t,’ said the later. ‘Hurt my finger and I can’t type.’
‘Just a couple of fingers.’
This was written in response to this week’s #writephoto prompt