Which is how it came about that this morning, Lulu, Jasmine and I, were standing outside the front door of a former council house in Priors Walk, beside an assortment of children's toys and a fair old brumous morning it was, the hoar-frost still showing in the shadows as yet unreached by the spreading fingers of sunlight, a perfect blue sky and pink clouds to the east, with a stunning view across the Tweed towards Gattonside – I could even see my Uncle Norman, his big Russian fur hat looking like an Afro postiche at that distance, crossing the river by the Swing Bridge, well, properly, the Chain Bridge, but only tourists would think of calling it that; the door was opened by Rilla Balquhidder, who I knew vaguely as we Melrosians know vaguely everyone who lives in the town, it's so small, from being at school with them, seeing them in shops, pubs, or even, in extremis, in Church – or Churches, we've got three: the Parish Church on the hill overlooking the Greenyards (another place you might know people vaguely if you're into Rugby, which I'm not) is Church of Scotland; Holy Trinity, next door to us in High Cross Avenue is the Episcopal Church in Scotland, and just along on the left is a former C of S church which is now St Cuthbert's Roman Catholic Church, oh yes. in Melrose, there's a lot of Religion going on, though the old Congregational Church which was just across the main road from us is no more – you can still tell from the shape of the building and some of the architectural features which survive that it was once a church; Rilla didn't seem at all fazed by us, though of course she was a friend of Jasmine's and, as she took us through to the living room, she explained to Lulu and me that she really couldn't understand the interest Sam and Tavish had in her son, while admitting that he was quite precocious for a two-tear-old – although as he was her first and she herself had no siblings, she had really no first-hand knowledge of what children of that age were supposed to be able to do that could be of interest to people outside the family: "well. I've read all the books about children's development, but my own legal training is of no help, so count me out as an adjudicator; Rary, my husband, has three younger sisters, though he admits that all they seemed to do which directly affected him, was break his own toys – probably so that their parents would buy them new ones of their own!" she laughed, then said, rather self-deprecatingly: "if you can get anything useful out of him, that's good enough for me – Sam says that he has remarkable talents, for a child of his age, and it helps him and Tavish practice interviewing children who have witnessed things they may not understand and don't yet have the language to say what happened and if speaking with Little Levy helps you to solve crimes and put bad people away, that's surely a good thing; and he seems to enjoy meeting other adults, so much of his time is spent with wee ones of his own age and just having me and Rary here probably becomes a bit boring at times. anyway, here he is," and she introduced us to the wee boy, who gazed seriously at us, then cuddled a rather tatty teddy bear, but after his mum had left the room and her footsteps died away at the far end of the hall, he looked at us each in turn, then said, in the voice of a toddler who has swallowed several dictionaries: "don't expect much sense from me today, I barely slept last night – I had to go to Gor with my friend Luc to rescue another friend who'd been abducted; we were there for three weeks, and it was pretty full-on!" and Jasmine asked: "how could you be away for three weeks?" he replied: "it could easily have been longer if we hadn't got a lucky break, but all we had to do on our return was wind back to the middle of last night – it's not as complicated as it sounds, well, to us it's not, but I appreciate that it's rather beyond your present capability and I'm not going to explain it to you just now; you might want to read me a story about a ranivorous rook that catches frogs from a babbling brook for his wife to cook in the inglenook, but I rather suspect that what you really want to see me about are controllable Worm Holes, rather than the random ones, am I right?"
For anyone who doesn't know it, the Guidebook says that 'the Church of Our Lady of Longformacus in the village of Longformacus in the County of Berwickshire, is dedicated to two Ladies: Lady Griselda of Longformacus and her cousin, Sister Evadne Eglantyne, a nun, tortured and beaten with a kurbash till her body was a relief map of cuts and weals, martyred and murdered by Sir Parlane MacFarlane in an oubliette deep under MacFarlane House on the High Street of Edinburgh in the 13th Century; many legends are told of the iniquities of that depraved baronet – with an almost insatiable appetite for lamb gigot as much as for inflicting pain in his sexual excess – but shining through them all is the virtuous nun and her remarkable cousin who vowed never to rest until she rid the world of the murderer! for centuries, historians have sought out the truth, but it is only now that modern science has been brought to bear upon the mystery and recent discoveries promise to bear fruit;' Lulu put down the book and looked hard and deep into my eyes: "your Aunts believe that Sir Parlane has been able to control and make use of a network of Wormholes in the Space/Time continuum, to go backwards and forwards and appear in different times and places to pursue his evil ends – he is still doing it and so is his manservant, Dominic Doubleday, and of course their family lawyer, Martin Elginbrod - you do know that he was one of the secret financiers of Brexit? he even copyrighted that word, Brexit, and every time it's used, in print, or speech, in the media or in Parliament, the royalties roll in! that's how MacFarlane and Doubleday can act with impunity. wherever and whenever they appear, the slush-fund is available to them; no-one knows quite how it works, but the only way of stopping them will be use their own method, slot into the puzzle. like those plastic toys kids get, sliding squares about until the whole picture is revealed, but actually, of course, it's a four dimensional Rubik's Cube – are you willing to have a go at it? my chum, Jasmine Juniper-Greene has been working on it in her own time – she's an analyst with the Scottish Secret Service, you know Sam Smiles and Tavish Dalwhinnie, and I understand from Jasmine that a wee boy, Little Levy Balquhidder, right here in Melrose, has been advising them; he's somehow got a Portal into the Wormholes which could be used to find out where the bastards are; the only way to stop them is to join them – not simply in our own Past or Future, but in the Past and Future that are right here and now – it might be hundreds of years ago or way in the distant yonder, but if we can follow them and catch up with them, perhaps entice them into an embroglio like a spider does to the fly, I know a thing or two about men, how to use their own quiddity against them and that if we can get them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow and their vanity will propel them where they shouldn't go; we might have a chance to put paid to them for ever! do you want to come with me, have a shot?"
Lulu and I took our coffees onto the patio, where we could hear the aubade of the birds attracted by my Aunts' feeding stations on and under the trees; the air this morning had a severe chill about it and the threat of snow, The Pest from The West! becomes more believable; I had missed the blood moon this morning but Lulu, who never seems to sleep, had seen it when she and the Gurrrrls and Father Mungo were packing the van in that dead zone of the night when most of the world is lost in slumber, and which gives those souls who do come out then a real sense of zip and zing: "where did all that stuff come from?" I asked, and Lulu gave me one of those squints, like a card-sharp sizing up an opponent: "do you want it verbarian or just substantive?" has she swallowed a dictionary, or has Father Mungo been tutoring her? he used to be a senior Professor at the Catholic Seminary in Durham, but either the lack of young men closed it down, or made him seek pastures new, with better pickings; but hey, don't pick on him, we all have our own Crosses to bear and at least since Lulu moved in with him he seems to have found in her what he was always searching for among the boys – someone unshockable and immune to his protestations, who just has to snap her fingers and he jumps to obey; it's actually quite funny when you know what's going on, it blossomed after she drove him down to some kind of Grapplers' Reunion in England a year or so back and h came back invigorated and devoted to her: "well," she said, "troo fizz - there was this stone pomander thing on top of the lintel in the Jekyll Family vault and it got accidentally knocked down and broke and also damaged the door, so we had to go in so that we could find out if the door was easily repaired or it would involve a joiner and maybe a locksmith and, while we were in there, Mungo sat on a wooden chest - he called it a kist, but I thought he was pissed - and it broke too, it just fell apart, a combination of woodworm, dry rot, wet rot and the ould fellah's weight; and that's where all the stuff was! – well it was Dora who noticed a mention of Griselda and she showed me and I showed Mungo and that was it! everything packed as best we could, all pile into the van and here we are; I just hope to fuck it's worth it, he says it's gold dust – all that stiff about the Ring of Gold Trial at the Old Bailey – but I just hope we can find out what happened to Griselda, after her experiences in London, did she ever get back to her own time?" and we sat smoking, our coffees growing cold, with a deep sense of the weight of Time that sometimes closes right in and you feel that if you reached out a hand you could touch someone from long, long ago, or centuries yet to come, at least, that's how Lulu and I felt this morning.
And as suddenly as the light came back on, the hortative voices resumed, and Lulu sidled over to me; in something of a stage whisper – subtlety not being her forte – she told me that Father Macaneny had discovered a cache of documents hidden in an old family vault in The Church of Our Lady: "it's the diaries o a London doctor, an his sister, wha had a practice in Drury Lane in the 1860s an 70s, seems they rescued a damsel in distress name of Gracie Long aka Griselda of Longformacus wha was ane o the witnesses for the Croon against a bunch of High Society ne'erdaeweells wha had the wherewithal tae hire top briefs an QCs an wi'oot Gracie's sworn testimony the scumbags wis likely goanie be acquitted, only a butterfingered solicitor's clerk jist happened tae drap a bundle o documents intae the area beneath the Doc's front door an the gate to the stairs doon bein padlocked, it didny cross his mind for a second tae climb ower intae, as he said in an affidavit: 'private property,' so he went hame for his supper an it was only next morning that he fund the bundle neatly placed ootside the area stairs, so he picked them up an, wi perhaps only the slightest kind o a wink towards a tiny twitch in the net curtains, carried on tae the chambers whaur he worked – and whit dae ye think the bundle contained?" and after the shortest possible moment, she continued: "list efter list o a'thing the defendants wis accused o, in the defendants ain statements tae their lawyers, confirmin every crime they wis charged wi! un-be-fuckin-lievable, but true!"
I had just finished the annual purgatory of completing my Self Assessment for HMRC when I heard the most exuberant racket from downstairs, a co-mingling of many voices all roaring and bellowing at the same time, each layered over or under the others, almost a choral descant and certainly hortative and entirely incomprehensible so that I had to go down to discover what on Earth was afoot: inn the kitchen I found my resident Aunties, May and Cristo, joined at the table by Daphne and Maude and with them Father Mungo Macaneny – gargantuan ex-grappler and occasionally-de-frocked priest – and Lulu and three members of her Gullane Gurrrrl Gang, who had evidently transported several packing cases (originally tea chests) jam-packet with books and papers of all sizes and colours; a slew of them was spread across the table, and people were picking them up, willy-nilly and searching for, then reading out, something they seemed to find extremely important, but all were doing so at the same time and no sense of order could be found; so I switched off the lights, and everything went both dark and silent, until there was a wheezy "be'jasus!" from Fr Mungo, and a "fer fucksake!" from Lulu who asked with pluck and gumption: "whaur's yer fuse-boax? ah'll check if ony's tripped, eh?" and she switched on a powerful torch, which scanned the pale faces round the table and came to rest on me, caught in the spotlight, like a winter fish, my hand still on the switch: "you?" she cried and I switched the lights back on!
Sir Wilfred spoke on the telephone and both Tim and Quentin could tell, from his hortative tone, that it was The Dame on the other end: "whatever his faults may be - and I have no doubt they are legion - he is a banausic teetotaller and when he is toppled, there will be such an effusion of cannibal stinkwood, that his body will be left to rot into the forest floor! but let's not become so focussed on the bright side that we miss the essential point, which is - he doest not give a fig for Ulster, so he and those rag, tag and bobtail followers of his will happily trot along in his wake, seeing neither cannons to the right of 'em, cannons to the left of 'em, nor even cannons to the front of 'em and into the jaws of death will he ride 'em; not quite the words of the poet, but you catch the point, Ma'am, so shall we proceed accordingly? yes, Ma'am, no Ma'am, three bags full Ma'am? ab-so-bloody-lutely Ma'am, thankyou Ma'am . . . . ." and he actually blew a kiss before hanging up and turning to the others; after a few seconds, with the tension growing, Sir Wilfred clapped his hands and said: Thunderbirds are GO!"
"What you need to remember, Tim," said Sir Wilfred, "is that The Dame is by nature predaceous, remember how she won the leadership out of the jaws of victory? little Master Goven, school sneak, a bit of a butterfly, but with the loyalty of the born assassin, he despatched Doris with one stab, and that thrust pushed him above the farouche throng, with all their roars and boos and waving of Order Papers, but he had no concept of snatch and run, he was the kind to drop his weapon and raise his hands in surrender with a bleat of 'it was me wot dunnit, m'lud, as gawd's me judge it were a fair cop,' but that's not The Dame's way. look at this video, young Quentin's put together: it was silent, just snippets of The Dame being interviewed, speeded up; "see her head, Tim, and her eyes, never still, she looks to right and left, up and down. well, those are her tells – which indicate when she is telling the truth and when she is telling a barefaced lie – can you spot which is which; Quent, run it again, and you Tim, no deep thought, just your gut instinct, decide for each clip whether it's Truth or Dare!" and Tim did, said what he thought each one was, and ended up with twenty True and 3 False; but when he told Sir Wilfred the totals and then identified which he saw as False, the Cabinet Secretary and Quentin had quite a chuckle, before Sir Wilfred said: "wrong 100% of the time, she really is a proper caution!" and they went through to the kitchen, leaving Tim trying to work out what Sir Wilfred had meant and how he could have been so wrong – it just didn't add up!
The gypsy music, which allowed Timothy Michaelmas-Daisy to sense the origins of the kletzmer he so loved, died away and the rather sprightly figure of Sir Wilfred Heath-Robinson too, came to a stop and ended the verbunkos he had been dancing with Ms Natalie Rhombus and caught an unexpected glimpse of Tim in the mirror; he spun around and to Tim's surprise, threw open his arms to embrace the Secretary of State for Brexit and hold Tim much closer than he would ever have expected, but least of all, now, after the staggering 230 vote majority against The Dame's Proposal etcetera etcetera: Tim felt it was his bounden duty to break away from the embrace and bring to the room the agony that had been eating away at him, especially after the Vote of Confidence, which the Old Lady had won easily with just her own MPs and the Orangemen, but not one single Member from the Opposition parties had stood out against his or her Whips to lend support to the beleaguered government; then he noticed the xanthic pallor of the Cabinet Secretary and the dark smudges beneath his eyes, themselves red-rimmed, and he bit off the words he might otherwise had spoken; as Ms Rhombus, one of the Beddingshire MPs lit a pink Sobranie and the smoke drifted in the airless room, Sir Wilfred clapped his hands and Quentin Quibb put his head around the door: "more champaign," cried Sir Wilfred and threw himself into the large sofa which stood below the Downing Street window, through which Tim could see Dan McGann of The Sun shouting out his Headline Questions at any MPs walking towards The Bunker; "'tis the season to be merry, Tim, all the cards are falling as we planned, the bait is being snapped up and we will have everything in place by Monday and then . . . . ." which to Tim's ears all sounded rather nomothetic, abstract and as unlikely as that there really is a Santa Claus, although when Sir Wilfred had worn his red costume for The Staff Christmas Party he had looked the real deal – 230% for sure!
Which was when he started 'signing' the street paintings as Banczhi! of course, that just added to the mystery, as he had intended; now, instead of simply wondering who did them, the question on everyone's lips was: "who is Banczhi?" it was risky, of course: although only a very few knew who he actually was, and those were absolutely trustworthy, there were also the casual, paid, helpers – the street Arabs – the kids who, for a few coins, kept a look-out for the police or anyone who might alert them, they had no loyalty except to whoever paid them and a reward being offered by the City authorities, and several newspapers, would have been more than Dada slipped them, but, thankfully – and here Dada was worried that his cernuous petit-bourgeois antecedents were showing – they neither had the ability to read nor, even if they could read, never read newspapers! so Banczhi kept on with his under-cover-of-darkness work; and after working all day on designs and set-painting for Cabaret Voltaire, he went out after dark with two co-conspiritors, to stencil his latest creations onto fresh canvases, and, one of his best, featured a large jabroni police officer and the unmistakeable figure of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand, upbraiding several children for playing knots and crosses on a wall outside the Police Headquarters! and next morning a grainy photograph seemed to show Banczhi at work; it appeared on the front page of Neue Freie Presse under the headline They Seek Him Here, They Seek Him There, Right Under Their Noses, Everywhere! and asked the question: if our photographer can find him, how is it that the Police are still scratching their arses and stuffing their faces with strudel? of course, it was a fraud, for Banczhi (or rather, Dada) had taken the photograph himself and the slightly out-of-focus artist was actually a passing drunk who, for a nip of best Laphroaig from Dada's hip-flask, had quite happily posed in the field of vision as the artist at work and, even if in the sober light of morning he recognised himself and had any memory of the night before, it wasn't Dada, or Banczhi, himself who had spoken to him and posed him, with a paint-brush, for the photograph, that had in fact been Tristan, who delighted in any liaisons dangereuses and of course, for him, as a Romanian, there might have been the danger of being expelled if the Authorities decided to cut up rough; and so the project of bringing Art onto the Streets continued unabated, and included a growing number of imitators, who only muddied the waters for, unless their wage budget was doubled or tripled, there were never going to be sufficient numbers of police on the streets at night to seriously threaten Dada or restrict him in his self-imposed task!
And, at the very same moment, albeit in 1913, Dada Heidler, felt himself at a crossroad - his work for Cabaret Voltaire was receiving praise in the Vienna artistic circles and even being recognised in the newspapers: against all expetations, the bourgeois press was steadily building up the reputation of Jakob Goldman's experimental Theatre which combined outrageous comedy, inexplicable drama, with ludicrous poetry and allicient song; writers, composers and designers clamoured for an opportunity to participate in the nouvelle vague, the New Wave, which eschewed traditional narrative and plot, but steadily gained audiences tired with the predictable and traditional alternatives to be found in long-established theatres and opera houses;the darkly handsome Tristan Tzara was dashing off poems, manifestos and plays (in which established actors and actresses were queueing up to audition); Dada was working full-time, designing sets and costumes, which his girl-friend Magda worked long hours to turn into scenery and bespoke clothing for the players and the number of actors desprate to be cast was fast outnumbering the number required; often, two complete productions were in rehearsel while a third was still being performed to packed houses; Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings had arrived from Germany and both were working furiously to expand the repertoire; Dada had created a range of large stencils which enabled him to quickly - with support of several assistants and a number of street urchins acting as paid lookouts - create amazingly realistic paintings on walls and other blank spaces throughout the city (as well as eeny-weeny motifs which his followers tried to identify, from cryptic clues published in the newspapers) and all of these were anonymous, and a growing number of fans, as well as the city authorities, vied to be the first to find and admire, or obliterate what had been done overnight; only a small band knew the identity of the artist and they held the secret of his name to be sacred and only wild horses would induce any of them to divulge the identity of their leader and inspiration; the Emperor himself was not only the butt of many of thesre humorous and seditious creations, nut also an unexpected fan: Franz-Josef insisted that he be informed as soon as possible of any that appeared and that nothing be done to disfigiure or disguise (usually by the applicaion of consideranle amounts of whitewash) and he had taken to having a photographic record of each one, with himself included in the image, usually standing to one side, and he also insisted that before covering or removing the artwork, an official application be submtted to him for appproval - and being a very busy man, Head of State with Affairs of State to be considered and responded to, it was little wonder that such matters, not involving issues of Life and Death, tended to move further and further down the list, accompaned by his murmuring of mea culpa before quickly moving on to some more pressing matter; so it was that more and more of Dada's anonymous works survived and became accepted decorations of the City!
. . . . . a bass chord was struck, as the door of Number 9 opened and Hank Javid appeared, then Duke Hunt on lead guitar; a drum roll and from Number 11 came Jock Goven on rhythm and a moving contraption complete with full drum kit and Fluff Mumble battering his drums and cymbals more Animal-like than even Animal; while from Number 10, the backing singers: Andrea Woesome, Amber Bead, Karen Broadley and Halfpenny Mordaunt started "doo-wop-a-doo-wop" behind her as Theresa picked out one mic and kicked the rest over, did a high kick that exceeded Angela Rippon's on Morecamb and Wise all those years ago and then, snapping her fingers she belted it out:
"well, I'm a walk-on girl,
and I walk my own line,
if I feel clement,
it's in my own time;
no need for a dunaker like sleazy Greave,
he doesn't want this country to leave,
no need for a Boris, in our House
when I've got my very own Micky Mouse,
there's a real done deal
for MPs to approve
and whatever you feel,
you better get in my groove;
we want you if you're young.
or even if you're old,
or Jerry and the Peaceniks,
will kill Brexit cold,
so Tuesday is the day,
to sort the sheep from the goats,
and we can turn away
all those migrant boats;
it's the very last chance
to keep Britain for the Brits,
and every vote counts
so long as it Brexits!
tonight the Super Trouper
lights are gonna find me
Shining like the sun
Smiling, having fun
Feeling like I'm number one!"
and as the last notes faded and an entranced Press Corps watched like a mass of corpses, one voice rang out, that of Dan (Invisible Man McGann): "Prime Minister, does the End of The Pier Show show that you're about to leap before you've looked?" and Mrs Maybe-Maybenot shot him a withering look which on television screens the length and breadth of Britain looked like that of a dead woman walking into oblivion!
And as the faces above him swam and altered, he thought: "no, there can't be two dormice, there's something wrong – it's either me or him!" and he caught sight of Quentin's contraption, but the screen had changed, now it was like a television and showed the front door of The Bunker, with a microphone standing beside some sort of improvised lectern, and he realised what was about to happen: "Mad Hatter, can you hear me?" and the Mad Hatter, vaguely resembling Sir Wilfred, bent closer and said in a brumal sort of voice, soft as falling snow, yet crisp as frost: "it's all alright, Jim, Lad, you see, The Queen of Hearts has baked a huge Charlotte Russe and if the Nasties don't fall into line she's going to boycott their Winter Frost Fair on the Thames – did you hear, Jim, lad, the ice is now twelve feet thick and the locals are dancing with yokels from the backwoods round a blazing fire and everyone is throwing their passports and all other Identity Cards we've conned them into over the years – Bus Passes, Driving Licences, Credit and Debit Cards, Supermarket Loyalty Cards, anything with a Chip and a Pin or a Passport-type Photograph! now we won't have a scooby Who's Who! or What the Buy, or Where they Go! everyone in the country, whether home-grown or imported, will be completely anonymous, absolutely wiped clean, washed out, laundered better than anything the Mafia in the Banks and Hedge Funds and on Trading Floors can do; all reborn, able to go where they like, with whomever they want and the Government can't control them, nor can anyone else!" and as he danced around his voice grew to a crescendo! "no Referendums, no Elections, no Taxes, no Check-outs, no Money, no Traffic Wardens, no Police, no Border Controls, no Civil Servants, no NHS, no Army, no Navy, no Churches, no . . . . ." which was when Timothy screamed: "you can't abolish the NHS! for God's Sake man, that's a Bridge Too Far!" and they fell back, as if he was a Leper, come to infect them all, and then the screen caught his eye again and he stood stock-still and watched, and the others crowded round him and watched too, as the PM, Mrs Maybe-Maybenot came out of the most famous door in the World, and before the door closed, the most famous cat in the World slipped inside; the PM stood before the small lectern, now with a bouquet of microphones, and a girl crept into shot and attached another to the bouquet and crept out of shot again; the PM gazed earnestly around at the journalists, photographers, cameramen and women, from all over the world, indeed, the Known Universe, she nodded to a few, smiled, even gave a tiny wave of the hand, and took a breath, looked directly into the BBC camera and then . . . . .
Quentin Quibb was nursing a hangover, and still seemed to blotto to be capable of work, while Sir Wilfred Heath-Robinson fed him Alka-Seltzers, when Brexit Secretary of State Timothy Michaelmas-Daisy crept into The Bunker by the back door: "Happy New Year," he said and held out a bottle of Laphroaig and one of his mother's Dundee Cakes (from Harrods) which he had sneaked out in an S&M bag, thinking that would arouse no comment if he was glimpsed by the TV cameras lurking in the undergrowth, or Quentin's partner, Dan McGann, the Headline Man, whose ethics refused to permit him to decline a good story even out of loyalty to Quentin; but Dan was at home in bed even worse for the wear, Timothy the only one who seemed chipper at the start of what should worry him – the Meaningful Debate leading up to the Meaningful Defeat followed by the Meaningless Plan B – surely less likely to be remembered for it's good lines than Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space; indeed, Quentin seemed to have aged rapidly, from his pre-Festive-Season boyishness to a fair lookie-likie for Bela Lugosi! "make some coffee," said Sir Wilfred and Timothy happily obeyed, and it was when he was in the kitchen that he heard a faint knocking from the other side of the cellar door; hesitantly, he opened it and was rather surprised to find the Conservative Members of Parliament for the three Beddingshire Constituencies: North (Sir Pompus MacFarlane), Mid (Mr Digby Doubleday) and South (Ms Natalie Rhombus) looking like they had climbed over a slag-heap, so besooted were they: "hey, come in, would you like some coffee," asked Timothy, then adding: "how long have you been down there?" but other than to hand him their dirty coats, the three walked straight through to Sir Wilfred's office; it was only when Timothy, assisted by one of the Police Officers – who had had to put down his weapon to carry a tray – came in with the coffees, that Natalie recognised him: "I thought you were one of the minions, sorree," so he laughed with her, and now that she at least knew who he was, he again asked: "how long had you been down there?" but by this time Quentin had dimmed the lights and was setting up one of his strange contraptions, with numerous boxes, presumably different pieces of computer technology, connected by a spaghetti-junction of cables and wires, topped off by a wide-screen monitor that was blazoned with the words Chardonnay Presentations which meant nothing to Tim: "belt up in the back," quipped Quentin, and Timothy realised it was directed at him, so he sat down and watched and tried to listen as the remarkably agile Lugosi, darted around, drawing attention to This or That, or The Other, "which dare not speak it's name!" the gist of the Presentation was that a) the PM's Chequers Proposal – unchanged since she had withdrawn it before Christmas and delayed the rest of the Meaningful Debate and Meaningful Vote, would be defeated; b) would it be a total rout, or just a slight rout; c) what can Plan B possibly be? and this was the crux of it: "we have to go outside the box," said Quentin "and Sir Wilfred will explain, he's the Master of the Political Syllogism!" at which Sir Wilfred put on his reading glasses, put down his notes and gazed myopically at them: "okay, bottom line – the PM is going to ask the question: 'does anyone want a Hard Border between Northern Ireland and the Republic?' chorus of 'Noes!" so she then says: 'I have spoken with the Taoiseach, Mr Leo Varadkar and we have agreed a Plebiscite on the Unity of Ireland, in which electors in the whole Island will vote, so that, to quote Robert Emmett: "Ireland long a Province May be a Nation once again!" so let us do the decent thing and let his epitaph be at long last, written!"' and Sir Wilfred said: "cries of 'No Surrender!' from the Orangemen, deafening cheers from the Opposition, the PM announces that the Referendum will be held next week, as will a Second Referendum on Scottish Independence and then a second EU Referendum, a so-called People's Vote on her Proposal the week after – but what she doesn't tell them is that Irish Citizens will, like all other EU Citizens, be unable to vote in either the Brexit Referendum or UK General Elections which follow – think of it, most of them vote Labour! and if the Scottish Referendum produces a majority for Independence, with one sweep, we guarantee a Tory Majority in England and Wales for the next 100 years! and even if it goes against, with Roxy Davidova rallying the Unionist Troops, we'll have Great Britain under our party for generations!" and Timothy fell over backwards, lay on the floor, trying to focus on the anxious faces staring down at him, but could see only stars – delirious, siderosous? he felt that he must have slipped into another, parallel, Universe, in which Sir Wilfred was the Mad Hatter, Quentin, the Dormouse, Sir Pompus, the Cheshire Cat, Doubleday, the White Rabbit, Miss Rhombus, the Queen of Hearts and himself, the Dormouse! through the Looking Glass or down a Rabbit Hole into Wonderland, it made no odds – everyone was Stark, Staring, Mad!
"The problem is," said (Sir) Faslane MacFarlane MSP, in the most secluded corner of the upper room in The Wee Windaes restaurant, on Edinburgh's Royal Mile, "the sausage-dog, this, whatsisname, Hector! if he's allowed to give evidence it could result in the vindication of these," he took a sip of coffee and glared at Duncan Doubleday, Chief Constable of Police Scotland and Martin Elginbrod, the most successfully venal bent lawyer in the city, "three snoopers! who's representing them?" and Elginbrod examined the menu while Doubleday tapped at his phone, before saying: "it's Egbert Shadbolt, he lives in Morningside too and his wife's also a member of the Neighbourhood Snoopers, he's giving his services free, gratis and for nothing!" and MacFarlane muttered "bugger me backwards," while Elginbrod's face blanched, making him look more aglopened than his partners in crime had seen before: "he's the Clarence Darrow of Embra, he'll push for disclosure of what the Snoopers saw!" and MacFarlane's face was like thunder: "surely that's not permitted? it's the fact that they were Snooping into other people's private residences," and Elginbrod nodded, "mine," and MacFarlane continued: "but it's their actions that are on trial. not what they saw!" and Doubleday shook his head: "aye, but he'll argue that it's what they saw prompted them to call the rozzers, if only they hadn't phoned!" and MacFarlane said: "if only you'd pulled down the blind before doing what they saw – okay, Duncan, you're the one with the size 13 boots, beat for the walking of, so nip into the Call Centre and write up a call to the cops from Martin as coming in before the one from the snoopers, say he noticed them watching him and phoned in and it's his call the cops were responding to!" but Duncan shook his head: "it's all digitised and each day's records are uploaded to the Central Computer and one, I wouldn't have any good excuse to go in there, and two, I wouldn't know how to do it anyway!" so MacFarlane turned to Elginbrod: "okay, Martin, it's down to you – it's your blooper, you're the one who got us into this mess and you're going to have to get us out of it," and the lawyer looked askance at him and hissed: "how?" so MacFarlane smiled grimly: "there's a Wormhole in your garden shed, isn't there?" and the other nodded, warily; "okay, go into it tonight and access the wormhole, go back to before the Snoopers made their call and phone the Call Centre to report Smookeekers up on Braid Hill, watching you; that'll do the trick nicely, and then we're home and dry!" but Elginbrod blustered: "how do I work out the time?" but was shut off by MacFarlane: "make a guesstimate, Martin, isn't that how you lawyers earn a crust? jist dae it!" and in Drumchapel, Glasgow, the 13-year-old Economic Migrant took off his headphones and made a call from a disposable mobile phone: "Goldy, it's me, the Target is going to go into a Wormhole in it's Garden Shed this evening, and travel back to yesterday evening and place an earlier call complaining about Smookeekers, to get that logged into your system before the ladies make theirs," and without any small-talk he switched off; the bug Budge had attached to the Brief's coat as they squeezed past each other on the busy Royal Mile was worth the £50 he now transferred to his Embra pal's account!
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