"Ah ken you," said Rab Ha' the Gala Glutton, staring sharply at the Engine Driver, "ye're Wattie McNab, ye're a bloody Sunday Driver, ye huv a wee clapped-oot Mini and crawl up the straight past Elibank at 20 mile an oor! ye shoodnae be allowed oan the road, never mind the Rail Road! maunderin like an auld wummin – an ye wear a Hat when ye're oot in thon wee sardine tin, daen yer best tae thwart emdy in a hurry – jist cos ye've naebdy tae visit yersel, cos yer Jeemmy Nae Pals! – – hoo the fuck did ye ever get tae become an Engine Driver? oh aye, ah geddit! cos yer the very spit o Arthur Askey in The Love Match, thon's hoo ye goat it, hoo wee ur ye onywey? ur ye kneelin doon or ur ye three fit tall? in the name o the Wee Man, there shud be a law against it, against midgets and dwarves and geriatric coffin-dodgers bein allowed tae get intae the Drivers Cab or," and he took a deep breath before delivering his final retractation: "takkin a 1959 Morris Mini Minor oan the Public Highway. . . . .in a Hat!" but Driver McNab had heard enough of Rab's hobbyhorse: "aye, weel, in atween force-feedin yer face an forcibly-evacuatin yer bowels, Rab Ha', ye've never done a day's work in yer life, which gies ye plenty time tae hae a guid gowk at them as does; it's weel kent that yer the Phantom Fingerer o Auld Gauly Toon, the Knicker Snatcher wha wanders aboot in the wee sma' oors tae plunder ony washin left oot ower nicht," at which Fat Rab adopted a butteraceous tone: "aw cumon, Maister McNab, ah wis only joshin ye, ye ken ah've a lot o respect fer Engine Drivers, ah wanted tae be ane when ah wis a wee laddie, but thon Doctor 'Death' Beeching closed the Waverley Line an ah hud tae gie up ma ambition, an onyhoo ah wis acquitted fair an square when thon lassie Friday, a Wuddentop wha thocht she wis Nancy Drew tried tae entrap me, ye'll mind that," and McNab nodded, sagely: "aye, WPC Gertie Mountcastle felt yer collar aw richt, but ye slipped yer sleeves and did a runner up The Brae, leavin yer jaicket ahint ye, an it wis only cos yer trial wis in Jethart ye goat aff, why, even the Sheriff could see ye wis as guilty as sin – some story that, leavin yer jaiket oan the back o yer chair in The Legion while ye went fer a Jimmy Riddle, an forgettin a' aboot it efterwards, sayin ye went hame in yer shirt sleeves, whiles The Beast fae The East brocht the Arctic Winter Blasts tae the Borders – if ye'd been tried in Gaulie like it used tae be ye'd hae been convicted, nae doot aboot it, sae dinnae gaun aboot proclaimin yer innocence – Jethart Justice? my eye!
"Ah wudnae gie hoose room tae a lawyer, ah wudnae pish on ane wha wis on fire," snarled Rab, with decades-worth of pent-up hostility, an then his voice took on a genial tone as he fished a pickled onion out of his poke: "see's here a chunk o thon Blue Monday Stilton, wee man, it's goat hints o chicory an notes oh the heliosphere packed intae it that goans great guns wi a pickled ingin," and a cry came from several lady passengers sitting near Rab, for they had prior knowledge of the effects of pungent cheese and vinegary pickles on his solar winds in the confined space of the last train to Tweedbank Junction!
After Newtongrange, a number of people having left the train, the man wearing the yellow Panama found a seat and seemed engrossed in the Evening News, although Teri spotted that he was holding it upside down and was wearing a Friday face, probably because what he was seeing didn't make much sense to him, and Teri whispered to Jasmine: "it says in Wikipedia that Chernozemski was killed by the mob after the assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia in Marseilles in 1934," but Jasmine chuckled: "oh, that old chestnut – it's the Woozle effect – they murdered the wrong man, and when one of Vlado's accomplices was caught and gave up his name, the authorities exhumed the body they'd buried and sent fingerprints to Sofia and Belgrade, asking if they were of Chernozemski, so one of his IMRO comrades who was a senior Bulgarian Police Officer, simply confirmed that and it became official; actually, he kept changing his name – he had umpteen cover identities - and it was he who carried out the daring attack on Prince Paul of Yugoslavia in Berlin in 1939 and killed him, he almost got Himmler too – by some fluke, Himmler broke his ankle that morning and it was actually a menial in the Gestapo, one Uncle Hans Steckrübe who took his place in the car and was blown up and shot alongside the Prince," when she paused, Teri asked: "why did you call him Uncle? was he your uncle?" but Jasmine blew a raspberry: "no, honey, that was his code-name – he was a paedophile and a couple of American agents, J Alfred Prufrock and Holly Martins got compromising evidence on him and were blackmailing him for information that he had access to in the Gestapo and SS – actually, the final details of the motorcade came from him, but it was only afterwards that they found out he had been forced to sit in for Himmler, that was quite a blow, I can tell you!" and Teri nodded: "it must be, when a source gets blown away, literally, and I suppose none of that would be exoteric, it's the kind of stuff that gets sealed away in the Secret Archives for a hundred years," which Jasmine agreed: "so don't you go blabbing it in QQ or anywhere else," and Teri crossed her heart, quite the self-deprecating, modestly spoken and ironically-aware image of an eiron, which Jasmine didn't believe for one moment, and turned her own glance towards the back of the train, where there was now no sign of Tris Kaidekaphobia, only his crumpled newspaper left on the seat!
The last train from Waverley to Melrose was packed, with a lot of passengers standing: Ter and Jasmine recognised a number of faces from Melrose, flushed, happy, including one young lad who worked in the Co-op sitting on a hogshead of Heavy; then Jasmine nudged Teri: "I don't want to worry you, but there's a guy down by the middle doors, I recognise his mug-shot and I think I glimpsed him yesternight when we were leaving the station with Riddle, I've just checked on my phone, and I'm sure his name's Triskoff, Tris Kaidekaphobia, the thirteenth son of a thirteenth son, grandson of Vlado Chernozemski the famous political assassin – seems to have been the family business for thirteen generation – and he's bad medicine – but this one's an assassin-for-hire, although he's never been convicted anywhere," and as Teri's face paled, Jasmine whispered, "I've messaged Sam and Tavish, and asked them to have firearms back-up in place when w reach Tweedbank; I'm no Eeyore, but there are a lot o people on the train and although we'll lose some passengers at Gala, there will still be a lot when we arrive at the Terminus, and if there's any shooting, it could be a bloodbath," and as Teri squeezed her hand, Jasmine received another text: "oh, good, a couple of armed undercover cops will board at Gala, I've told Sam where on the train Kaidekaphobia is and sent them a pic so they know what he's wearing – the black shirt, white tie and yellow Panama make him quite distinctive, but if I push you down, drop to the floor, slip under the table, and stay there till I tell you to get up," and Jasmine slid her right hand into her bulky handbag and took hold of her own service revolver, Be Prepared had always been her motto ever since she had been a Brownie and Girl Guide!
"2018," said Jasmine, "not long before Isa and Milly – the older ones – went over there, so the stuff they're up to back in the 1820's must have been just before they arrived here," and Riddle commented, drily: "certainly looks very like it, you really have to ensure they're kept in custody, don't let Peter Boo wheedle anything out of the Sheriff," at which Teri said: "at the risk of sounding like an Eeyore, I feel like we could be on the verge of losing them – if they could escape from custody in the Bronx, how easy would it be for them between Hawick and Jedburgh?" but Felix had an idea, and produced a scriptor from his pocket: "looks like a pen-holder, but don't let appearances fool you," he said as he opened it and showed them a tiny pin: "it's a tracker, if you can get someone at Hawick Cop Shop to hide it in their clothes somewhere, in the sole of a shoe, or suchlike, you can use this to follow them." and from the little case he produced what looked like a small screen, when he switched it on, it displayed a map of the area of the High Street far above their heads, with a pulsing red dot in the centre, "and if you prefer, it can be changed to Satellite," and at the touch of a button the map changed to an aerial view of the same place, and Teri pointed at the image on the outside of box: "what's that bird with the eyestripe?" but just as Felix was telling her: "it's an Osprey, my pal Oscar Fingers O'Flaherty makes them in Leith, he does surveillance drones as well," there was a creak and a metallic clang above them as the iron hatch fell into place and the lights went out; they heard bolts being slid into place and then footsteps fading into the distance: "quick!" snapped Riddle, "the other way out, let's hope he – or she – doesn't know about it!" and as they pushed through the small doorway, Teri thought to herself: "fat chance of that. . . . .!"
It wis sae obvious an at the same time utterly unbelievable, an it struck me wi sic force that ah felt ah'd been a gloomy Eeyore, a little titch wi the ane idée fixe in ma heid, a stuck-in-the-mud pedestrian when ah should huv been soarin roon the Himalayas wi the Swami an the Eagles; in man mind ah pictured the engraving, as it presented itsel tae moi, an in ma imagination ah turned it roon, like upside doon, an saw it as it really wis:
Sir Parlane MacFarlane
Hereditary Chieftain of
The Clan MacFarlane
Prince Edward Island
January 1st 2038
an the Swami cried oot tae Wee Wullie, wha wis headin back tae the Saloon wi a tray o empty glasses: "please, if you pray, Master William, to be so kind, as to indulge our oology, a dish of boiled eggs and hot buttered toast, to fetch and a fresh pot of the strongest tea aboard," and Wullie gied us a wink and a thumbs-up!
"Well," said Felix, "they went to the Saloon for luncheon, then returned to the Forecastle, but were disturbed quite soon after," and Jasmine asked: "by what? or whom?" and Felix read on: "the Swami telt me mair aboot the encounter amang the mountain valleys an passes in Afghanistan, when he rescued the young Scotch subaltern cried MacFarlane – addin that the faimly resemblance was owerwhelmin an that iffen he didna ken better, he's swear they wis yin an the same: 'o, Sir Principle to me his blandishments offers, as if I a trained monkey were and greedy for tit-bits,' when oo wis interrupted by a loud 'Halloo!" an the faces o MacFarlane an Doubleday appeared ower the rail "why, such a cosy little nide these two partridges have discovered for themselves,' said the Baronet, offering cigars to me and the Swami – which we baith declined, then his hip flask, which we baith accepted, and when ah'd handed back the flask, he sits hissel doon atween us, wi Doubleday loungin ower the rail; then MacFarlane gied us a lang exposition oan the unworldliness o Tapleyism, commentin that seein the world thru rose-tinted spectacles cood easily be a naive person's undaen, an hopin that oo never suffered such a fate," then, wi Doubleday smirkin, they left us tae ruminate, until the Swami said: "you notice, my wee Mental Detective, the clue unwittingly he exposed?' an ah stared at him, gobsmacked, an replied 'nah, Swami, ah didnae see owt?' and the Swami chuckled an tousled mah hair, then promised to teach me the art of whit he cried CRUD an when ah askit him whit it meant, other than a Country Pancake or Coo-Pat, he laughed and explained that when I Can Read Upside Down, I would learn many more secrets, an then telt aboot the engraving on MacFarlane's hip flask, an fair cood huv blown me ower wi a feather!"
Which was when Teri's mobile rang – but with none of the style that Riddle's had just The Flight of the Bumble Bee – and she said: "it's Debbie Downer, in Melrose," and answered the call: "you'll never believe it, Teri," said Debbie, "I was handing some old hand-me-down's into the Chest, Heart and Stroke shop at the bottom of the High Street, when who should accost me?" and Teri shrugged: "who?" and Debbie began to whisper, urgently, as if she was afraid of being overheard, although Teri had already put the phone on Speaker: "Ranulph Ochan'toshan, that weasel, he's got a hearing in the Sheriff Court tomorrow to have the charges against MacFarlane and Doubleday dropped, some Edinburgh Solicitor, Peter Boo, remember him, the one who got Ochan'toshan released on bail?" and Teri nodded: "yes, and nothing's happened since, but Peter Boo was in the group who got out of Milan with Roxie, why is he acting for those creeps?" and Debbie continued: "seems Solicitors and Writers to the Signet can't refuse a client, some shite about professional ethics and the right of representation, anyway, he's going around telling anyone he can grab – or grope – that they are being made scapegoats for the deficiencies of Police Scotland, piece of kack if you ask me, but mark my words, they'll probably walk out of Court free as birds and scarper, pronto, leaving Isa and Milly in the shit – you know what lawyers are like," which Teri did; she thanked Debbie and said she and Jasmine would try to get down to Jedburgh in time for the hearing, then turned to Felix: "what happened next?"
This mornin ah fund the Swami relaxin oan a deckchair an runnin a lang string o beads thru his gnarled fingers in the forecastle, wi naebdy else nearby, so ah sat doon an read a few pages o Johnson's Dictionary; soon enuff ah heard him clear his throat an say: "well, well, Master Jeemy, tracked me down for a chat at long last have you?" an ah coodna help but look up sherply like as if ah wis guilty o sumthin an had bin fund oot by the Beak or the Bailiff but he jist gied me a friendly enuff smile, sae ah askit: "is it true ye're possessed o satyagraha, Maister Swami?" an he chuckled: "touché – beat about the bush you certainly do most not, so welcome to my dojo, humble as it is, you truly are," an ah coodna help glancin aroon, fer the Forecastle didna seem much o a gymnasium tae me – but though ah've read a lot an ken a lot o theory, ah must admit there's lots ah've never actually seen wi ma ain een, but he kent this tae: "metaphorically speaking," he explained, "the last time I physically fought, long, long ago was that, now more sedentary my position is for old man am I, action left best is to young Tiggers as such you are, Jeemy – this concerns, I take it the Redoubtable MacFarlane and Doubleday, does not it?" an there was somethin soor in his voice that made ma een smert, like as if ah'd breathed in caustic soda, an he nodded without expecting me tae voice a reply, which wis when ah realized that speakin wisnae necessary, fer he cood read ma mind like an open book!
The Chief Steward, Maister McMuckle, wis a richt auld Gummidge this efternin – when Wee Wullie, the Cabin Boy drapped a glass o grog, the Steward jumped like a bomb had gone aff richt ahint him an threatened tae hae him dragged tae the machicolations, whaur the guns wud be if this wis a warship, an use him as a human cannonball, but his misexpression – fer it wisnae Wullie's fault, he'd been accidentally tripped by the Swami's walkin stick – and when abdy heard aboot the tongue-lashin he gied Wullie, it didna redound ower well fer the Chief Steward: Captain Handy summoned him tae the Bridge and gied him baith barrels fer yellin like a banshee at a wee laddie an actin in a manner that brocht discredit tae the uniform; an then he said in a quiet voice that only McMuckle an ah cood hear, fer ah wis oan the roof, listenin hard wi ma lug pressed agin it, he said: "ye had a hard time oan The Pleurisy, when ye'se cam under fire fi the Yankees in '12, but pull yersel thegither, maun, oor no at war wi the Colonies noo an Wull's a guid laddie isnae he?" and the Chief Steward agreed heartily, which ah wis able tae tell Wullie, when ah fund him in his hammock, an richt enuff, the Chief Steward dealt wi it manfully and the pair o them shook hauns an McMuckle gied him a penny piece; aw's weel that ends weel, or sae it seems tae moi.
Well, it wud jist be ma misfortune tae huv nae opportunity for a private conversation wi the Swami theday, an the weather bein foul, there wisnae even the distraction o Shug's delphinestrian exhibitions, sae maist passengers remained either doon below decks or – if adventurous - spent some time in the Saloon; perhaps the only advantage in bein a child, bairn, nipper, wean, powhead, tadpole, sprat, or ony ither o a hunner pejoratives, is that o invisibility: no literally, of course, but in the perceptions o grown-ups; sae whiles a sat curled up in a corner wi a copy o Blackwoods, readin a very humorous article arguin the case fer Universal Time aw ower the Kingdom, an must admit ah did laugh oot loud a few times, ah also observed that instead o the usual pittin the Saloon clock back when the midday sun is owerheid, theday, when the gales everted the clouds an we got sicht o a sickly-lookin sun, the Steward hud tae pit it forrard, cos the Cutty Sark had actually been blown backwards! – an ah owerheard the amarinthine Swami remark tae ane o the waiters that he hoped the voyage wudnae tak fowerteen or fifteen weeks! ma heid started poundin at the thocht o bein stuck in a boat fer between three an fower months – it might be quicker oan a Dolphin!
While all the other passengers and the rest of the crew were watching Shug's daredevil display of delphinestrian, I crept down to the passenger cabins and picked the lock on Maisters MacFarlane an Doubleday's door – another example o the benefit o a voracious reading regimen (ah devour aw an ony words an iffen they're new, mak it ma object tae discern their meaning: Maister Johnson's Dictionary has it's uses but no fer every obscure word, but ah brocht twa ithers alang as weel - borrowed fi Minto Hoose Library - an ma Thesaurus which is gey handy tae; pickin locks cam fae an article in Blackwood's Magazine atween a recipe fer Haggis an a review o Lady Punchestown's second volume of Irish Ballads; onyhoo, aince ah wis in it wis a metter o answerin the wh-questions plus the aw-important HOW? – no that ah really expected obvious or instant answers tae be divulged in ma first search, ah coodny spend lang fer they could come clatterin doon the gangway ony time, but efter findin a poke o dried girolle mushrooms, quite tasty, ah cam across a notebook written in the hand o Sir Parlane (drat, ah did thon yesterday, it's sumthin a heard Swami Officer say, ah'll hae tae find oot whit he kens) Sir Principle, with places an dates, some in the past and ithers in the future, but ower far aff tae signify intended visits, cos they’ll baith be deid an buried by then – unless they ken the secret o Methuselah, or auld Gaffer Grimble at Minto Hoose, he must be twa hunner if he's a day, ha ha! – ah made full use o ma memory practice, had a guid stare at each page an got them aff pat in ma heid, the next question is that great big HOW? how dae thae fit thegither an whaur did the twa gentlemen return fae? ah checked the walls, ceilin, cupboards and drawers, under the beds ans even the porthole – ah could micht fit through it at a pinch, but na them, an even if ah did, the only wey is doon intae the sea, there's naethin tae haud on tae tae climb up; so if aw the likely answers ur impossible, whitever's left, nae metter hoo unlikely, must be the solution; methinks the dates an places in the notebook are highly significant, an the first thing tae dae is check up on whit ah can find oot aboot the PAST, it may provide a signpost tae the FUTURE! ah didnae wait tae hear them comin, wi the notebook memorised, ah slipt oot the cabin an made ma wey tae ma ain, which is jist a wee niche atween twa corners, a truckle bed, a box fer ma belongins, some hooks fer ma claes, an a board on ma knees fer a desk, the Carpenter kindly fitted a bracket fer a caundle above ma heid so's ah kin read in bed, nae porthole fer such an insignificant passenger as me, but aince ma een are runnin ower a printed page, ma cramped surroundins fa' awa an the hale world opens up in ma imagination an am the maist contented wee laddie in the Universe!
They listened as Felix read out the entry in Murray's Journal: "Twelfth day aboard The Cutty Sark,, Shug, the maist darin o the shiphands, demonstrated his skills as a delphinestrian – no on a real dolphin, jist the carpenter's saw-horse, but he assures us that when to creatures appear he will mak guid his promises (aye, weel, ool see if he does, he luiks fairly brave, sorry fer the doontoner, Shug, but brave is as brave does) the ladies ower their sea-sickness, spend mair time on deck, starin westward intae the bricht. blue yonder – nae sign o anither boat, but – cept fer Mistress Jamieson's maid, Nancy, wha aye gazes tae the Orient, whence lies Liverpool, she's hame-sick; doon a crack in the boards, ah fund a wee token engraved in whit ah think is the futhark, or Runic langwidge, Maister Officer telt me he recognises a resemblance tae auld Sanskrit, but he micht be pullin ma leg; this efternin, ah couldna find Sir Parlane nor Darcus onywhaur – their cabin wis empty, wi nae hidin place – then a bit later ah heard a thump, like men's bits stampin oan the flair an a few meenits later, they baith cam oot, stealthy-like, but didnae see me cos ah wis in ma wee berth, keekin at the key-hole; verra, verra, VERRA curious, ah wunder whaur they'd been tae – methinks a serious investigation is ca'ed fer: Jeemy Murray Mental Detective oan the joab!" you could have heard a pin drop!
"Yes," said Riddle, while "no," said Felix, but "on the other hand," said Riddle, and "you may have a point," said Felix, then laughing, Jasmine said: "shuddup with the anacoluthon an tellus bout all this stuff," indicating the filing cabinets, rolls and bundles of legal documents, ring binders and packed shelves, much of it dusty and mouldering: "there's a pursy kind of look to it," said Teri: "flat-pack, self-assembled, I take it no-one else knows about this place?" which Riddle confirmed: as far as he could discover, all the indications were that it had been used only by generations of Martin Elginbrods: "probably since the Tolbooth was burned down, but I think the way we came in was a later addition, probably by the grandfather of the one I work for," which Felix confirmed, and showed them the schematics on his tablet; "so what is all in here?" asked Teri, and Felix explained that it all related specifically to Sir Parlane MacFarlane and Dominic Doubleday, and he showed them the little black book: "look here, the last entry is a reference to that filing cabinet, the newest one," as he took a set of small keys from his pocket and opened it: "this is a festschrift lauding Elginbrod by a host of purported academics and legal eagles, it's a vanity thing, all written by himself, but here is a note about your two targets – they'd been in Glasgow after the war, WWII, then something happened and they turned up in Antarctica – Project Tabarin, during the war – and from there, they were in Germany, Berlin, before the war; and in France before the Revolution, visiting the Marquis de Sade; they seem to switch between several of those Place/Time loci, you know, backwards and forwards, and visited Denholm near Hawick in 1843 and made their way to Liverpool and took a ship for America, but if they are switching, it's going to be difficult to determine where and when is their – Present – no other word for it!" and Felix chipped in: "in Denholm they seemed to make an impression on a wee boy, Jeemy Murray, who grew up to become Sir James Murray of the Oxford English Dictionary; and I just happen to have on my person a Journal of his, which he kept from 1840 to 1880, and he describes meeching off school and going wish them in search of Tom Jenkins," and Jasmine said: "but they must have some kind o 3D map, like the London Underground, showing the connections, so they can come and go between points – there's obviously nothing very haphazard to their jumping!" which was when Felix said: "and I just might be able to help you there – it's in Murray's Journal!"
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