It was Pru Montelimart who telephoned and roused Theresa Somerville from the utterly unconscious sleep of the truly exhausted; she tried to find the alarm clock, but everything was a muddle, a tangle, and confusion, for she was surrounded in the circular bed in Maude's old flat by the Famous Four (rump of the Five, now reduced in numbers by the honeymoon of Maude, their missing Member) but eventually found her mobile, tucked – surely uncomfortably – into Lettice's oxter – and answered it to be overwhelmed by Pru's outburst – it must be remembered that Pru is highly emotional; she is the mother of eleven daughters, whose story was once splashed across the pages of The Sunday Post, her short account of her uneventful life until she married Giacomo Montelimart, an itinerant juggler and fire-eater who was a nine-day-wonder at the Festival a couple of decades ago and became Professor of Circus Skills at Heriot-Watt at the time when Universities were casting desperately around to find new ways of putting bums in lecture halls; they lived in a basement flat in the New Town, and Pru had, over the six years of the marriage, three pregnancies – the first produced the five oldest girls (Cola, Lola, Pola, Nola and Rola), the second resulted in the next five girls (Bara, Dara, Hara, Kara and Mara) and the third, and last, gave her Sweet, little Joan, known throughout the extended family as The Bairn as she is the youngest so far – and unless the Brevitys do something, she may be the last: well, Pru said, one of your readers just called me to say that you referred in your latest post to Daphne's mother, Lady Chantelle marrying Sir Duncan, but in a previous one you'd named Daphne's father as Sir Donald, it seems there's quite a furore among your readers, trying to fathom out the relationships and someone says you've got muddled over Daphne's family – but really, it was all so very simple, and so Teri promised to clear the matter up for her two or three loyal followers: and she grabbed her laptop, which had been used as a pillow by Cecilia, and typed: Sir Duncan Dumbiedykes was the elder of the two sons of Sir Daniel Dumbiedykes, the famous Scottish Vexillologist, whose studies of flags of all places, purposes, and meanings, is the acknowledged Bible for any New Nation, requiring it's own, unique, National Standard (why, he is descended from the designer of Scotland's own Lion Rampant, no less) born just five minutes before Donald; he married first Caramella Clintmains, and had a son, Gregor– who was to become Daphne's cousin; on the untimely death of Caramella, resulting from her fall from a tree while attempting to rescue Simba – the ginger tom – he went into mourning, and, on his return from that state some weeks later, met and married Lady Chantelle Lillico, the amateur golfer; unfortunately, on their honeymoon in South Africa, Sir Duncan was eaten by a lion; his grieving widow returned disconsolate to Dumbiedykes Hall where she was consoled by the younger twin, now Sir Donald and after a proper period of mourning and courtship, they married and their union brought forth Daphne, who – Deo Gratia – is still with us, and her twin brother Duncan-Donald, named after both of Chantelle's Dumbiedykes husbands – indeed, it was he, who founded the company which bore a reference to his own name, namely Duncan's Doughnuts, which promised great success and fortunes until it was most heinously sued by an American corporation with a vaguely similar name (though spelt quite differently) and slightly similar product; now, it is a truth universally acknowledged and that all honest lawyers were united on, that Duncan-Donald had Right on his side, but, that in the face of Might, Right doesn't have a snowball's chance in Hell of triumphing, and so it was – the Americans hired the slimiest, foulest, most lubricious member of the Scottish Bar (one Martin Elginbrod, leading expert on the Roman, French, Scottish and American Laws of Torts and Intellectual Property – his family motto is “We Claim All and We'll Prove It” - whose name is still whispered with trembling lips and tremulous voice in the lower reaches of Dumbiedykes Hall, and is included in Roget's Thesaurus as an alternative word for Philadelphia lawyer) and sure enough, their Big Bucks trampled over poor, honourable Duncan-Donald, and squashed him into the mire – that he died of a broken heart, in a secure unit, believing himself to be the Messiah nailed to his cross – for thus he stood and walked and talked, arms flung wide for the few years left to him – as clear a victim of Jerusalem Syndrome as any seen by Professor Iscariot, Clinical Psychologist and advisor to the service at Carstairs, who even wrote a book – a classic of it's kind, and available at all good Bargain Bookshops – on the life and times of the fragile psyche of Duncan-Donald Dumbiedykes, entitled Unquiet Thoughts; Teri read this aloud to the Four, who all seemed quite nonplussed at the idea that anyone should need to bet told in such detail what they, aside from Maude, Daphne's best and oldest friends, believed that anyone even slightly familiar with one of Edinburgh and Scotland's oldest and most illustrious family dynasties – seeming to imply that anyone who wasn't, really wasn't worth knowing – would know all of this already, it being the sort of thing which every Scottish child absorbs with her (or, indeed, his mother's milk) along with the relationships within The Broons, or the friendships centred on Oor Wullie will be completely au fait before going to Primary School, as much a part of everyone's heritage as Edinburgh Rock, Arbroath Smokies, Hawick Balls and Kirriemuir Gingerbread; nevertheless, Teri then called Pru back and over the squabbling of eleven teenage girls managed to read it again, this time to her cousin, who, Teri thought, rather wearily, said that she supposed it would fill in the gaps for anyone who didn't already have them filled, but that she was trying to make eleven packed lunches for the girls school boxes tomorrow, seeming to imply that she would never have had the time to write so much about nothing very important for, as she finally said, I don't suppose it really matters to them anyway, does it?
Despite the cavortings of the previous two nights – the Hen Party of The Famous Five (and the strange incident of the Glaswegian Sentry) then the many and various occurrences at the Wedding Reception following her Marriage to Daphne – Dr Maude Lyttleton (for there had never been any suggestion that either she or Daphne would drop her Maiden Name) rose bright and early on the following afternoon; she and her Spouse, who had known one another since they were five years of age and started at their Infant School – though they had in fact been aware of each other previously, being cousins through their Mothers, but it was that awareness of very small children who haven't yet quite grasped all of the niceties of familial or societal relationships and are as happy playing on the pavement with the chimney-sweep's sooty daughter as with their aunt's immaculate child and spotlessly-dressed offspring under the feet of the servants in the kitchen while their parents enjoy a nip and a natter in the Drawing Room above their heads – enjoyed a light lunch for, truth be told, anything more than sweet tea would have lain very heavily on Maude's troubled tummy at this early hour after her many fortifications of the past forty-eight hours), and then stowed their luggage (which Theresa and The Famous Four had prepared earlier) in Daphne's little Morris Minor and set off on their Honeymoon, accompanied by the cacophony of a shivaree, as they dragged several saucepans, an old copper kettle, umpteen tin cans and two dustbin lids, which their packers had also prepared for their departure – this assembly burst free of the car as they swung through the roundabout at the bottom of The High Street and was left behind for the scavengers who loiter in the vicinity of Holyrood, hoping for largesse from any passing MSP or Royal Equerry; as both of the ladies were heavily engaged in those matters which had developed rapidly after the brief incarceration of Daphne in the deep, dark, and potentially final, oubliette far 'neath the Heart of Midlothian, this was to be just a short break – a few days golfing while relaxing in the pretty village of Gullane, just a short drive (no puns, please forgive) along the coast from their Home Town; neither had played the game very often, or at all seriously, in the years since their infancy when it was usually played by street urchins using a stick to drive a stone into an open manhole and then scamper before the man came out of his hole, although Maude had enjoyed several weekends with The Famous Four – who then became The Famous Five – Sans Mans, which was, they all felt, the best and only proper state of society conducive to the Friendly, Female, Fun and Frolics, which were, for them, the real purpose of a bright, young woman's life on earth; of course Daphne might have so easily become consumed by the Game (she could never, in her heart embrace it as a Sport which, to her mind, involved moving at a faster pace than ambling, regardless of the purpose of that movement, or whether it was individual or as a member of a team) for as everyone will remember, her Mother, as Lady Chantelle Lillico before her Marriage to Sir Duncan, was of course (please stop these irrelevant puns, darling) an Amateur Champion at a time when so many Clubs (stoppit, Teri) would never dream of admitting Lady Members, and had in fact soundly beaten Bobby Jones in a Private Challenge shortly before he won the Open for the first time, in 1926, but of course her father, Daphne's Dear Papa, had his own 18-hole course at Old Lillico House not half a dozen long drives from Peebles and discreetly not indicated on any of the direction pointers, which spared the family the disruption of day-trippers wandering across the fairways and meant that Chantelle and her Maid, Serafina, who was also her Caddy, could play around the course twice, at least, on a fine day – Serafina herself was a natural born golfer, having never had any instruction other than Lady Chantelle demonstrating the proper grip, and their games were real needle-matches, with the result often not certain until they approached the 18th Green; but poor Daphne was never a fan of exertion, other than that involved in digging holes in the ground with her father, and carrying ancient artefacts up rickety ladders to expose them to the light of day for the first time in thousands of years; just as Serafina took naturally to golf, so Maude was likewise born to be an archaeologist – although as she matured she became less interested in objects and more in her researches through early printed books, handwritten parchments and the recorded – though often forgotten – lives of all classes during the Mediaeval period (her own speciality being Late-Early) and these she pursued with far greater diligence than even her mother pursued Serafina across the Links; and so, with many a thought in their heads, the Happy Couple set off for the short drive out of Edinburgh and into East Lothian and, after a few stops at dainty, wayside tea-rooms for refreshments and the use of their conveniences, finally arrived at Forth View Guest House where they were booked in for several nights, very handily situated for the Golf Links, not so far really from Musselburgh (as they hoped to spend a pleasant afternoon at the Races on Saturday) and just a short walk from 'The Jolly Boatman', a spit-and-sawdust pub of which Maude had heard some interesting tales about it's clientèle from several of The Five, who had also recommended a boat trip to The Bass, a giant Rock standing a little out to sea and slightly to the East, though she conceded that (other than the tale of the Hermit, St Baldred, who seemed to have had a touch of Jerusalem Syndrome when he prophesied that – as the Messiah – he would save all who joined him on this one Holy Rock, before the imminent End of Time, which inexplicably didn't end, and he was left alone once more when his five followers abandoned him) almost her own knowledge of it rested upon sweet John Grieve singing a mournful ditty about a Solon Goose that dwelt 'on the Desolate Bass' on a BBC Hogmanay show quite a few decades ago – they had in fact given Maude the name of a local sailor (Miss Phemie Lauder) whom they described as a great sport and full of fun and mischief, which certainly piqued Maude's interest, as did the fact that she was a member of the same family that had included Harry Lauder as one of it's best-known members – yes, she rather fancied getting to know the rambunctious Miss Lauder, perhaps over a Noggin in the Boatman, where she might be prevailed upon to sing 'stop yer ticklin', Jock' - who knows?
The Dumbiedykes-Lyttleton Family, together with its Davidova-Goldfish-Moncrief-Urquhart-Somerville-and-Waters Branches and the many Twigs thereof, were overjoyed to Celebrate the Marriage of Dr Daphne Dumbiedykes to Dr Maude Lyttleton on Wednesday just past, at the Sounding of the One-o'clock-Gun; the Ceremony took place in the Temple of Athene on Calton Hill, Officiated by Miss Jinty Moncrief, niece of the Happy Couple and a Celebrant Licensed to Officiate at Weddings and other significant ceremonies (what in the Trade are referred to as Hatches, Matches and Dispatches) in accordance with the Laws of Scotland and the Rites of the Free Unitarian Congregational Church of Athene and All Souls in the Combined Parishes of Morningside, Duddingston and Newhaven and all Districts contained Therein; an Assembly of the Family Within The Parish was convened for the purpose of Witnessing the Marriage and Bestowing the Gifts of Athene on the Happy Couple; in place of Wedding Presents, Gift-Aid to Alzheimer UK were respectfully requested; attested hereunder by Miss Jinty Moncrief, DD; now, following the Wedding, a Reception was held in The Pleasance, where family and friends, guests from far and wide, past and present students, and representatives of academia, the arts, archaeology, history and politics, medicine, neuroscience and linguistics mingled freely; entertainment was provided by The Gay Gordons Make-shift Ceilidh Band (with Gordon Brevity on the Fiddle, Goldy Brevity on Accordion, the effervescent WPC Isa Urquhart on Spoons, Ginger Goldfish on Kazoo, Roxy and Trixie Davidova harmonising on Paper and Combs, Leigh Waters kept everyone in tempo on Drums, Elvira Dumbiedykes provided a thumping beat with herTea-Chest Bass, Teri Somerville waved her hands around the Theremin to great effect and Jinty Moncrief provided Vocals) and Maud and her friends – Cecilia, Grizzel, Tuffy (who had been so tipsy on the Hen Night with Maude that she forgot her own name and told anyone who would listen, on the stagger up to the High Street, that her name was Bunty) and Lettice – in their pink uniforms as The Famous Five's Hair Salon Quintet, belting out Andrews Sisters numbers, interspersed with choruses of “I Belong Tae Glesca”, which of course might had placed them in some jeopardy after the previous night's kerfuffle outside the Castle, but, as Daphne commented to Teri – “will those girls never learn” and the entire evening was admirably held together by comedian Suzie Calmac as MC, who also demonstrated her skills with a performance of erotic Shadow Puppetry to rousing applause; revellers revelled, danced, cavorted with each other in the happiness that reigned, even Dixie O'Hooligan and Bunty Longformacus (dressed as Polly Peachum, having come straight from The Lyceum Theatre and her performance in The Beggar's Opera) had a Ball; somewhere in the crowd, Martin Elginbrod QC might have been glimpsed, relating to Bernie Westwater the tale of a client of his who, on an impromptu visit to St Giles, had a mystical experience – some might say a case of Jerusalem Syndrome – in which he felt himself to be so taken over with the spirit of John Knox that he eventually came to believe himself the New Messiah, the Second Coming of The Lord, and was moved to devote the rest of his life to walking up and down the Mound in Sackcloth and Ashes and urging his fellow citizens to Repent, for the End is Nigh, until he was placed in a secure unit for his own safety, at which Bernie yawned, and said that she knew the person, for he was her Uncle, at which Elginbrod urged her to have another glass of Irn Bru, fortified with a measure of fine Single Malt from his silver hip flask – would he have done so, or indeed fawned over her so much, had he but known that Bernie was a cousin of the O'Hooligan Twins and her interest in him was purely a Honey Trap to ensnare the gullible goat and keep close tabs on him; and the festivities went on until the wee small hours of today – a few sore heads are expected, particularly those of The Famous Five who managed to consume more alcohol than most – and ne'er a drop of Irn Bru was seen to pass their lips!.
Daphne answered the phone on the fifth ring, managing to check caller id first: “Theresa, is everything all right, is it Maude,” she managed before Teri Somerville gave her tinkling laugh and reassured Daphne that, despite being rather tipsy after her Hen Night with the other members of the Famous Five, she was quite tickety-boo, indeed, having spent half-an-hour brushing the spaniel Drusilla's coat and giving her ears a good seeing to; all of which helped Daphne relax, although it did nothing to assuage her guilt over her several hours' dalliance with Hamish MacAlpine-Fandango that evening; Teri had pieced together from the accounts of the Five that they had been somewhere, seen someone, or someone else, had a glass of sherry, and maybe some Irn Bru, gone on to another somewhere, eventually being requested politely – but firmly – to go home, and had been chastised by a policeman for roaring out “I Belong To Glasgow” at the Guardsman on Night Patrol outside the Castle, much to his chagrin for he was a Weegie and thought they were deliberately poking fun at him; it seemed, explained Teri, that a fear of the scorn of Edinburgers had been inculcated into the poor man with his mother's milk and on through childhood, adolescence and was still deeply ingrained in him as a young adult (albeit one in uniform and armed with a rifle) and his distress culminated in him firing a shot into the air which – luckily for the Five – was a blank, but it brought senior officers running and the ladies were rounded up and interviewed by them, Special Branch, the Anti-Terrorism Squad and eventually officers from Police Scotland, which fortunately were Gordon and Goldy Brevity, so they were able to vouch for the Five, stand surety for them and have them released into my care – they're all sleeping it off now, so will be tickety-boo in the morning and in fine fettle for the Wedding; “well, Glory Be, “said Daphne – I was afraid they might have contracted Helicobacter pylori in one of the dives they are known to frequent, along with sailors, helicopter pilots and motor-cyclists and not a few lap dancers, if my information is correct,” and Teri laughed, the tinkling sound charming Daphne again and she thanked Theresa for her care and attention and wished her a fond “'Goodnight, Vienna,' as my old House Mater used to say after tucking us in and before switching off the light.”
Meanwhile, at the Jeanie Deans Tryste, the long anticipated and rather feared – because it came about after the hiatus of Dixie O'Hooligan's absence from Edinburgh, following an acrimonious rift between them – reunion of Dixie and Jeannie Deans (or Bunty Longformacus, or Bernie Brigantine. or rather yet, Bunty O'Hooligan, for, yes, the two were indeed sisters, had taken place; a great white whale had swum through their relationship – taking many shapes and forms, but ultimately becoming, for each sister, an obsession impossible to throw off; for Bunty, an obsession with discovering their roots, their pre-natal history, their true identity and descent, while for Dixie, it was a conviction that they should regard their birth as year zero, and for her, nothing existed prior to that event, nor mattered; Dixie, one full minute older than Bunty, had taken the responsibility of being the elder and acted as bellwether for this summit, which she had feared would produce a pentimento, would reveal long-hidden, long-forgotten, truths about themselves as each layer of their lives would, when scraped aside, leave them naked and exposed; she had dreaded this, but forced herself, by an enormous effort of will, to make the approach to her twin and return to the city of their birth for this showdown, no matter what the psychological cost to either of them; that their father was undoubtedly a charlatan neither had doubted, indeed their mother – their 'sainted' mother as the sisters always referred to her – had, on her deathbed, just those few years ago, revealed certain facts to them, facts which, in Dixie's case, had driven her to leave Edinburgh, vowing never to return and for Bunty, caused her to divide herself into many different identities and create a myth about herself which to this day caused her name (or names) to be mentioned with fear in the hearts of many a prominent citizen, for her intelligence network far excelled those of Police Scotland and the Masonic Order combined and gave her power previously undreamed of by the wee lassie from Wester Hailes; but now, the first brief contact in Deacon Brodies having produced this informal meeting between the twins and each had shown herself willing to set aside the differences which had led to their break-up, and a willingness to build – brick by brick – on the foundation they had established – they were united, of course – in a desire, nay, a determination – to discover the identity of Angus Og's assailant; this would be their first joint operation since the severance of their birth-bond, and they were united in their love for the tall man who had been such a firm friend and confidant to them both; whatever it took, wherever the trail might lead, they would discover, and destroy, the person or persons responsible for so foul an act; and now Dixie sat in the Ladies at Jeanie Deans Tryste and made plans for her opening moves.
1. As the chums staggered up from Johnstone Terrace towards the High Street, clinging to each other to obtain sufficient balance that they would not topple into the Park below, Bunty became aware that obsolescence had caught up with her shoes, she realized that the 6” heels had disintegrated, so she removed them and chucked them into a caisson in the nearby cemetery, at which point Grizzel and Lettice began to harmonise that song of the douce wee podunk in the West of the country, far, far from Edinburgh, and made famous by Will Fyffe, “I Belong To Glasgow”, and when Maude, Cecilia and Bunty joined in for the chorus, even the pigeons wheeling above them seemed to Hoot at the fun and frolics of the Famous Five below.
Daphne looked at herself in the full-length mirror and what did she see – an urbane old woman, looking tired and rather frayed (if not actually afraid) – the days, and nights of her youth, when, a blonde bombshell, she could cause a youthquake in any Arab Bazaar, or Hotel popular with Foreign Correspondents and visiting Historians and Archaeologists alike, from Baghdad to Prague, Bucharest to Berlin, were firmly of her past; she had excelled at University, chosen to become an archaeologist like her father, Sir Donald Dumbiedykes, and followed on camels the route of the caravanserai across the North African Deserts, lodging in wayside taverns with muleteers and smugglers, at Foreign Legion Forts and in Bedouin or Berber tents; taken the Golden Road to Samarkand, and ridden on horseback across the Russian Steppes; travelled the Trans-Siberian Railway and the Orient Express in the days before tourists and Thomas Cook eliminated the hardships, romance and travail from Travel and packaged it into a bite-sized itinerary (one page each from Baedeker for France, Germany, Austria, Italy, the Balkans, Turkey, Greece, and The Holy Land - all in seven days, six nights, half-board; now, the most she could face was a day-trip to Gullane, or if feeling really adventurous, a weekend in Bearsden with her brother Daniel and his 'Happy Family' and an afternoon trailing round the Glasgow shops; earlier, Hamish had paid elaborate court to her, sworn that he had been smitten by her when they were both still at school, she at Marcia Blaine's, he at Fettes; he had loved her from afar and when their careers took different paths, followed reports of hers in both the public prints and academic journals; bought first editions of all of her published books - and read them all; and now had sworn undying fealty, all the while kissing her hands, her arms, her face, pressing his body against hers and exploring every access point to her soul, and more; oh, he was full of enthusiasm, his fingers seemed able to push half-a-dozen buttons at once, his tongue eagerly forced it's way wherever he wished; but, when push came to shove, when his manhood rose to it's full height, apparently invincible, his body let him down – he was no ardent, youthful lover, he was six months older than she and his prowess only a memory fed by too much alcohol, and wilting as soon as it was asked to perform; the whole experience felt like an oneironaut – one of those waking dreams when, like Alice Liddell, one finds the blend of past and present, reality and imagination, become a miasma, with no real clues as to what is Up and what Down, which is Here and which There, in or out; not that Daphne felt any true disappointment – the thought of him penetrating her body made her feel quite nauseous; she almost saw herself stained by her deception – she was no Mata Hari, she was a respected historian, an academic with her own standards and right now they did not bear scrutiny when she stared straight at her reflection; she already had the love of Maude, her own Dearest Maude, Maudie who adored and trusted her – and had she sought to betray that trust, all for a nugget of information promised by Hamish; it was a dangerous idea – born out of desperation to know the answer to a question that had dominated her, and informed all of her actions over the last fortnight and more; she now felt cheapened, looking as worthless as an old antimacassar, stained with brylcreem – and unmentionable bodily fluids; tomorrow was to be her Wedding Day – when she and Dearest Maude would have their union legally regularised, and spiritually blessed; the nugget she had received from Hamish certainly had its value, and it was assuredly unique, and other than Hamish, she truly believed that no other shared it's knowledge – but for the nonce it would have to be stored away in the vast warehouse of her mind, carefully catalogued and cross-indexed, and waiting to be accessed when the time was right; she locked eyes with her reflection, said “you're not really so bad looking, for an Auld Biddy – you've still got what it takes to turn some heads, but now it's time to shake a leg,” glanced across at the snoring former Dean, prostrate on the other sofa, gave a chuckle as much as to say, “well, old bean, I certainly aroused your ardour, but now I've got to Love You and Leave You,” so rising, slightly shaky, but still able to control her movements, she drew her cloak over her shoulders, paused at the door and looked back one more time, and as she left his Chambers, blew Hamish a kiss and bade him a fond farewell, with the sweet words: “Goodnight, Vienna.”
Dixie O'Hooligan, wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and set her pint glass back on the table; sitting in the Jeanie Deans Tryste on St Leonards, just a stone's throw from the Commonwealth Pool – where as a schoolgirl she had briefly held the Scottish Junior Record for the 400 metres Breaststroke – Ha! that was a laugh, she'd not had her breasts stroked for more than a year – but now she was back, and this clandestine meeting with Jeannie Deans (she must ask why the chameleon-like woman had chosen to put a second 'n' in the middle of her first name, maybe it was simply that she had never read Scott's novel The Heart of Midlothian – certainly, Dixie couldn't recall it being on the curriculum at their school – and only encountered the name spoken, not read, or just a preference for that spelling) was the first stage in regaining her foot-hold in Auld Reekie – such a shame it doesn't smell the same, “nae mair reekin' Auld Reekie.” she said quietly, and then laughed at herself, talking to herself, and an old man at the bar turned to see what was so funny but, seeing only a slip of a girl, he turned back to his Black-and-Tan; now, two years had passed since Dixie left Edinburgh for good and yet here she was, back for good – well, maybe not – for the good of her health – well, maybe a yes to that, for this had been her home for longer than any other city – for the good of someone else – probably for Bunty, but definitely NOT for Elginbrod, that slimy, weaselly, self-aggrandising mala fide of an Advocate (or Advocaat as Angus always called him to his face (wankvocaat behind his back) owed her a lot, and she knew a lot; and as she started to sip her second pint of Caledonian 80/- Dixie, always a dedicated follower of fashion in her own ways, reflected on the quirks of personality which had made Bunty (Jeannie Deans' real name) such a trendite, always anticipating and taking advantage of changes in fashion of every kind – dress, music, art, business, recreational drugs, sexual proclivities; she could poise herself ready to exploit new and increasingly sophisticated demands, while she (Dixie) always seemed a heartbeat behind; today was a prime example – she had seen Angus Og outside the bar, looking in and had also spotted Bunty's swift head movement which had warned him off, she had then gone out of the door at the other end of the bar, along the passage to the toilets, she had whistled 'In The Hall of The Mountain King' to let Angus know of her presence and had then heard a thud, well, more a crack, then a grunt – she had looked in the gents, empty, and coming out had been shoved aside by someone in dark clothes coming out of the disabled toilet and so, on regaining her balance and looking in, she had seen Angus with a shoe impaled on his head; it was SHE who had screamed, a cry which drew Bunty and had given Dixie just enough time to slip her a note, before leaving by the emergency exit through which Angus must have entered; she knew from Bunty that her monitoring of the police radio networks was keeping her abreast of the investigation and that Angus was (hopefully) recovering in hospital after an emergency operation to remove the heel embedded in his brain, she prayed that he would recover (and though not a believer, it was a prayer from the heart) and she also vowed to find the person who had tried to kill him and, if she was first, her retribution would be the worst!
Shortly after the incident of the blackcurrant cordial and the Polar Bear, the two Brevitys sat side by side, facing Martin Elginbrod QC, and the images taken from CCTV cameras lay on the desk between him and them – signifying a vast gulf which had to be bridged from one side or the other;
Elginbrod had pulled the wad of cotton-wool from his mouth and tossed it in a bin, all pretence of dental treatment gone, as he sat and stared at the images - the very incarnation of mala fide; Gordon Brevity knew that Martin Elginbrod could not be trusted to do or say anything which was not in his own, personal, interests; his statement, including some answers to questions put to him, was noted down by Goldy Brevity in her Moleskine book – a gift from her Aunt Maud for her last but one Birthday (she tried not to think of the years celebrated) and used only in significant cases: “well, of course I don't know her, not really, you see just a nodding acquaintance you might say; her name, well, I think it's Bunty, she's more a friend of a friend, well, of an acquaintance really, and actually, it was a mere coincidence that we both happened to be there this morning, so just sharing a few words over a quick drink, really, yes, that about sums it up,” and he beamed, looking and sounding more confident now he had had time to prepare himself; and he waited, and Gordon waited, and Goldy waited, and then Elginbrod carried on: “to be quite honest I can't really recall what we spoke about, just inconsequential stuff, you know, in a bar, passing the time of day, what does one talk about – the weather, rugby, golf, something in the news I suppose, I really don't remember;” and when Brevity asked why he had gone through to the back of the bar, so hurriedly, “he smiled and said “oh, I had just remembered that if I wanted to catch my dentist I'd have to leave, and didn't want to go without saying goodbye – even to someone one knows so very slightly, it would have been impolite, I feel; but she wasn't in sight, and I could hardly go into the Ladies, so had to accept the possibility of seeming rude, or giving offence, and I came back through and left the place – now I really don't know if there is anything I can add, officers, so, if you'll excuse me – I can pop along to your Station in the morning and sign the statement,” but the Sergeant wasn't finished – he asked Elginbrod if he remembered the girl, this 'Bunty' as he called her, talking about a soliciting charge for which she said she'd been arrested outside the First Minister's Residence, and he replied: “oh that, I can't say I was listening really, my tooth was causing a fair bit of pain and it wasn't easy to concentrate, especially on something which doesn't directly involve one,” and when the Sergeant suggested that several of the witnesses grouped around Elginbrod and Bunty had been journalists who recalled, independently of each other, that the girl had been asking the Advocate for his advice and he had advised her how she might wish to plead and when she'd said she wasn't going to be 'going down'– and here Goldy referred to a typed statement she had with several others, and advised Elginbrod that he had been heard to advise 'Bunty' to plead 'Not Guilty', to ask for the matter to be amended and forwarded, and await confirmation before offering evidence, now which part of that was his failure to concentrate because of the pain in his tooth, at which Elginbrod bridled and asked for substantiation of what was merely hearsay and inadmissible, and when Goldy produced a recorder, helpfully used by the journalist – a good friend of her cousin Jinty - who always kept it handy in his oxter, in a little pouch (in reporters' parlance, his hidden derringer) for just such an opportunity as this morning's, and she played a brief extract, in which the Advocate was clearly heard to say just exactly the words Goldy and quoted - Elginbrod tried to reign in his fury and become conciliatory: “well, you appreciate that an Advocate's consultations with a client are strictly confidential, quite often we are, you might say, enfranchised, to participate in some matter as a representative of a party who wishes to retain some distance between themselves and the business in hand (of course, that is often the role taken by Solicitors,” he said with a slight distaste, indicating the elevation he felt from such lower creatures. “ but nobless oblige is but one of the responsibilioties of attaining a high position in the world, and one does what one can to help those less fortunate,” and Goldy asked if the setting, a busy lunchtime pub, frequented by the press was normal for his confidential discussions with those 'less fortunate,' “it was her choice,” said Elginbrod, rather huffily, but enabling Gordon Brevity to say, quite softly but with chilling clarity, that he took that as an admission that the meeting between Elginbrod and Bunty was pre-arranged and his previous statements that there was nothing but a casual acquaintance between them was untrue, and Elginbrod said that he had better say nothing more until his solicitor (his younger brother, also Martin Elginbrod), was present – Goldy finished her notes, closed her book and she and her husband rose, and Gordon advised Martin Elginbrod that he would not be charged, at present, with being an accessory to the grievous bodily harm and attempted murder of Angus Ogilvy, or Og of the Bog, by Bunty – he asked what her surname was and Elginbrod said it was “Longformacus, but you didn't get that from me,” and after a few more words the two Sergeants left for the drive back to the Grassmarket and Cowgate Community Policing Hub; in the car, Goldy turned to Gordon, her face a display of confusion, and she asked him why he hadn't charged Elginbrod today, and Gordon explained that it was a strange sensation in his heart and toes, quite unrelated to anything the Advocate had said - possibly a case of telesthesia - but it convinced him that, while Elginbrod was undoubtedly guilty of many things, one of them wasn't as accomplice to Bunty Longformacus in the vicious attack on Angus Og and he went on saying that it wasn't that girl who stuck her heel into Og's head, anyway - don't ask me who it was, I don't know, but it wasn't her, I'll stake my wife on it,” and Goldy stared at her husband as if he was mad!
“Oi, Ginger,” was the cry of the vulgarian, “goanie geeza nuvva juggy yon Untie Mapanties,” cried Cecilia, never frugal with alcohol, as Grizzel, who could not be be reproached as a mala fide, having honesty and grace as her middle names, held aloft an empty Asti Spumante bottle, to aid the barmaid's comprehension, and Cecilia bellowed the holophrase, which boomed through the bar like a lowing coo: “NOO!”
By this time, Dearest Maudie, together with Cecilia, Lettice, Grizzel and Tuffy, was ensconced in the bar of the Lyceum Theatre, and all five friends were getting quite quietly inebriated; they had taken a taxi from the Copper Kettle Tearoom, having eaten their fill of scones and pastries and drunk enough tea and coffee to keep the scones and pastries well afloat in their tummies; now they were on their third bottle of Pinot Rigio and were celebrating Tuffy Ladywood's Birthday which had occurred just two months before, with toasts and cries of “for she's a jolly good fellow,” which none of them could deny; which was when, through a slight haze, or smearing of the lenses of her spectacles, Maude rather thought that she recognized one of the small knot of actors standing at the bar, drinking either whisky or Irn Bru – in this light, thought Maude, it was quite difficult to distinguish between the two; the actors appeared to be wearing their costumes for the current production of Gay's The Beggar's Opera, alternating with Brecht's The Threepenny Opera, performances of which Maude and Daphne had seen on consecutive nights just a week ago – oh, gosh, she reflected, so much has happened in the past week, it feels more like a month since we were last here, and she began to concentrate her attention on the one particular actor (or actress, the now non-pc appellation which, to be honest, came more readily to her mind and lips in the context of the theatre, than the non-sexist replacement, which she always felt more masculine in its tone) and tried to identify her familiar – and very strikingly attractive - face, and now reclining on the bar-counter, in a divine parody of dear Marlene Deitrich, and lo! for some curious reason she could not identify, she recalled meeting lovely John Gielguid when she was a very young student at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, before she realised that 'play-acting' (the pejorative her mother always applied to the stage) was actually, to be brutally frank with herself (not that she'd ever encountered a truly Brutal Frank deo gratia) was not quite her forte and devoted her energies and talents to History and a professional, as well as romantic, partnership with her beloved Darling Daphne, and she wondered where Daphne could be now, thinking that she will be disappointed to find she had missed this opportunity of an afternoon with some of their closest and dearest of friends; now why had Sir John popped into her head, as he had once popped into her bed – not for sex, she almost laughed out loud as he recalled the incident, quite like something out of a French farce, because the poor man wanted a Director to think he was straight and had come up with the proof of it, apparently seducing one of the pretty young girls from the Academy- when everyone knew that the boy, aged up by his make-up and wig, playing the Sexton in Hamlet (she gave an involuntary shiver as she remembered handling Yorick's skull backstage and having it whispered in her ear that it came from a murderer, hanged a few years earlier) was his true inamorato - but the Director never looked into the room and so the charade was all for naught, but still brought a smile to her lips and she remembered that the actress she had recognised was Bunty Longformacus, playing Polly Peachum in both productions and giving spirited, committed performances in each – they were the kind of roles Maude would have loved to play, if she had been talented enough, for she was, still, an extremely feminine woman, who loved to wear silks and satins, felt extremely comfortable in her afternoon Tea Dress, so different from her usual working clothes which, though not so rugged as those Daphne was obliged to affect – for how could one work on archaeological digs in a flowery print frock and sheer stockings – oh she rather liked the stridulation made when silk-legged thighs rubbed together as one walked, and how the sound could be increased in volume, just one of the many skills she had acquired at the RSAMD – were still chosen for practicality more than looks and style; Maude missed the backstage life, the wardrobe with its rack upon rack of costumes and clothes, shoes, boots, hats of every hue, suits of chain-mail (silvered string knitted by an army of out-workers) - which any dealer fingering the fabrics and paste jewellery, and giving not a whit for their place on the stage, in the people they clothed and the characters they helped create, would have valued them by sheer commercial floccinaucinihilipilification, as worth but a few sheckels a pound-weight, so sad, so sad – then the smell of greasepaint and all the wonders of modern make-up; was that it, she wondered and her eyes sought out the girl she had recognised earlier, found her and concentrated intently on her face- yes, she was sure, it was not really from the performances she had applauded last week that she recognised her – though that was still true - it was from the day that Daphne had been trapped in the oubliette far below the bustling High Street, when Maud had been sitting on a bench tackling a crossword; she remembered glancing up and noticing the girl – dressed very differently now, but with the same dramatic make-up, hurrying from the direction of the City Chambers, checking a wristwatch and then taking out from her handbag a mobile phone and answering a call; to Maude, she had seemed distracted, intent, and very determined – speaking quickly into her phone and then making another call, before turning on her heel and hurrying away in a slightly different direction from whence she had come; there was something in the little cameo that disturbed Maude, which had caused her to fold up her newspaper, replace it in her bag, and make her own way towards the door through which Daphne had entered the warren of store-rooms, closes, ancient dwellings and cells, down endless flights of stairs, in search of Daphne and desperately hoping all the while that she would be in time – she had encountered her niece Roxy Davidova and together they had followed a route which eventually led them to the trapdoor in the floor which was double bolted and, once opened, revealed her adored soul-mate - in what could, so easily have been her swan song, the very thought of which brought involuntary tears to Maude's eyes; so was this girl, Bunty Longformacus (that name, how strange, thought Maude) involved somehow; she closed her eyes briefly, opened them and scanned the group of actors and actresses, in vain – Bunty Lonformacus had gone!
Angus Og of The Bog lay in the Hospital Bed, in a private room, with a police guard placed just outside; his head was swathed in bandages, he was intubated, attached to a drip, heavily sedated, but somewhere deep inside his fertile brain, there was a film running – it was like Nosferatu, F W Murnau's early version of Dracula, crossed with M – Fritz Lang's chilling tale of a child murderer, influenced by the crimes of Peter Kurten, and cutting across this dark Germanic montage, the garish colours of a Hammer Horror, a slasher, the screen in his head awash with blood – but was it his own blood, he did not know, for he was too pre-occupied with identifying the one face from the kaleidoscope of images that flickered like a demented strobe, the one face he had recognised from his glance through the pub door – it wasn't Jeannie, his guardian angel, though he had made eye-contact with her, he probably loved her, even if she was involved in some real heavy stuff, but somehow kept all her different selves in their own boxes, whether she was being Bunty or Jessie, or Annie what did it matter if none of them were her real name, she was real to him, so, no, it was someone standing behind her, but how close it was impossible to say; he was sure he recognised the face, it was someone he knew, or had met, or had embarrassed in his act at the Komedy Klub – the Komedy Klub, where he lapped up the adulation of the crowd, that was where he had seen the face, but not the wee lassie who was with the Suzie Calmac lookalike, when he was looking for Robbie, though he did remember her, she was at the Klub, and the other one, he had met her before somewhere, with a really dishy bird, oh a stoater, he'd love to do his performative act on her, getting her to think what he wanted her to feel, using that technique he'd learned years ago 'I believe what I say when I hear myself say it' but he couldn't recall where, but the face, he wasn't sure if it was a boy or a girl, the faces were spinning like a roundabout, here we go round the mulberry bush on a cold and frosty morning, what was this all about what was happening - he remembered something hitting him on the head, oh that was a brain-crusher but after that, just this swirling place, he didn't know if he was standing or sitting or lying down or flying as the images swooped and swept past making him feel quite dizzy – Dizzy, was that it, Dizzy Gillespie, Diz Disley, Bix Beiderbeck, was it a musician, a jazz musician not Bix, Bing Crosby, Bing or Bix or Diz or Dix or Dixie – that was it – Dixie, Dixie Who? oh why was his mind so jumbled, it must have been the knock on his head it was like that time he was delivering mail in Dalmarnock and a slate fell off a roof and hit him on the head, he'd been knock out and woke up in Casualty, but this didn't look like Casualty, there weren't any nurses or doctors, among all these faces and it was strangely quiet, just Peter Lorre whistling 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' – yes, that's what he'd heard outside the door, or maybe inside, just before he felt his head explode in a shower of stars, like a Roman Candle he'd loved when he was a kid, not just the bangers his friends preferred, Roman Candles were his favourites and the whistling came just before the crack, like a banger in his head, but why isn't anyone helping him, he should call for help but he didn't seem to have any lips or tongue or mouth or face or anything just his eyes watching these faces why was he in this cinema anyway with all these faces spinning around and making him feel sick and dizzy, Dizzy, Dixie – if only he could remember, it was on the tip of his tongue, he tried to stick his tongue out, to touch it, but it seemed to have gone to sleep, maybe he was sleeping, after that crack on the head he felt that he needed a good sleep, and then maybe he'd remember who Dixie was, if he could just close his eyes and shut out all the faces but nothing seemed to be working, he remembered that book on cryptozoology he read when he wanted to be a philosopher, ha ha what a joke, he hadn't studied enough, too busy scraping money together for food and shelter, but he couldn't put the lights on or ask for help, he knew Dixie was there but how could he prove it if he couldn't even remember the last name, if you can't see or hear or touch someone, how do you find them if he couldn't even remember the last name in the book begins with a 'z' unless it's written backwards, was that wrong for him, he should ask someone but he was the only person here, except for the whistler – maybe it was Whistler's Mother, he seemed to have lost his voice but he could still hear the whistling, so his hearing was ok, and his eyesight, but he'd rather shut out all the swooping faces and get some sleep and then find Dixie tomorrow if he could only remember which was really quite daft because he had a great memory, he used it in his act, and he never forgot a face see, even that wee Calmac burd, he knew he'd met her if he could only mind where, this was getting silly, he tried to stand up but the seat seemed to be a recliner and he felt that he was lying down and so couldn't stand, maybe he'd been knocked down it couldn't have been a mugging, not in Deacon Brodies, it was a good pub, he'd never had any trouble there but something had hit hi, something to do with the whistling postman – hey, that was him, used to be him, that was what the folk on his round called him because he was always whistling was it him who was whistling 'In the Hall of the Mountain King', that was probably what it was and he'd maybe slipped and banged his head in the toilets, why was he in the toilets he hadn't even drunk his beer, he didn't have one, he'd seen Jeannie through the door with her big shot advocaat what a wanker, and she shook her head and he'd gone round to the back door and it was unlocked as it was supposed to be but he hadn't gone into the bar he'd gone into the disabled toilet and maybe it was the door that had hit his head, maybe someone trying to come in pushed it too hard but it was bright in the toilet all white tiles and basin and stuff but now the lights were out, except for the faces, how were they glowing with no lights on they must be back-lit or something and he felt himself take a deep breath and hold it and he thought no, not a good idea, not when I've had a crack on the head it might have concussed me, so I should keep breathing but he found it very hard to do anything and as he watched the faces seemed to recede and get smaller and the darkness seemed to get darker and the face right in front of him was Dixie and he could almost touch it if he had any arms because it was moving away again and it was fading like the others and getting smaller and smaller and further away and becoming just a tiny wee star in the blackness and he remembered of the night sky and it was Dixie and he suddenly remembered Dixie's surname just as that very last face went dark and now everything was black and
As cynical as any Police Officer can become, the stalwart Station Sergeant Goldy Brevity could write a pathography about any of the superannuated big fish of Edinburgh's small pond who, confronted by the march of progress, give a bleat of, “but it's aye been,” as they bury their faces in their own oxters!
What a strange and remarkable co-incidence, if – unlike Detective Sergeant Gordon Brevity – one believes in such a chance occurrence, took place on the stairs leading to two quite separate sets of Advocates Chambers; coming down the stairs from the chambers occupied by Martin Elginbrod QC and his Elginbrod Faculty, were the two Sergeants Brevity, while coming up and about to take the passage leading to the chambers of Former Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Dr Hamish MacAlpine-Fandango QC, were the former Dean himself and, on his arm, Sergeant Goldy Brevity's aunt, Daphne Dumbiedykes; the former couple were frustrated at having wasted an hour waiting for their potential witness (or possibly an accessory to the attempted murder of Angus Ogilvy or Og of the Bog) only to be told eventually that he had made an unplanned trip to his dentist in Morningside and had then gone home, but he would be happy to see the two sergeants if they made their way to his home in the Braid Hills area; the latter pair seemed slightly tipsy and only able to climb the stairs and walk along the passageway by clinging to each other for support; indeed Goldy felt that her aunt's dress appeared somewhat disturbed and her eyes were definitely unfocussed, while the former Dean seemed to leer – not what the two police officers would ever have expected from so elevated a member of the justiciary, particularly in the company of Aunt Daphne; and after some stilted and rather embarrassed exchanges, the two parties went their separate ways; and firstly, if we follow the Brevitys, we will hear Gordon tell Goldy that the advocate Elginbrod was known to have been married three times – each wife was a Junior in his Chambers, each bore him a son, who was duly named Martin (though each had a different middle initial), and each marriage ended in divorce with a large settlement to the lady (including a sinecure as 'Consultant' with, I'm sure, off the books ex-gratia bonuses) and custody of the son to Elginbrod himself, and so his progeny all live together with their father and their domestic care is in the hands of an able Housekeeper and small staff of servants; that Elginbrod kept two small establishments close to his chambers; one was occupied by a young lady, still in her teens, named Maggi May, the other by a young man, in his early twenties, named Jordan Jones; Elginbrod spent a regular amount of time at one or other of these two establishments on an almost daily basis; there was a possibility, not yet substantiated by evidence, that Elginbrod had made the acquaintance of the young woman and man, through a procuress called Jeannie Deans, although no actual proof of the involvement of Jeannie Deans (or even of her existence) had ever been turned up, although he was convinced that there was definitely jiggery-pokery in Elginbrod's relationship with her; at which point in his briefing of his wife, Sergeant Brevity opened the door of his car and the two officers climbed in for the short drive to the Braid Hills, during which and in answer yo an enquiry from Goldy, Gordon admitted that much of his information came from a Phreaker hacking in to Elginbrod's telephones, at which point Goldy put her hands over her ears to shut out further revelations, and just said “Isa,” at which her husband made no reply; and if we retrace our steps and hasten up the stairs to catch up with Hamish and Daphne, just in time to slip through the door behind them, before it swing shut automatically and the locks click into place, we are able to follow them into a small, comfortably furnished, sitting room, where Daphne sinks into a welcoming sofa and Hamish turns to a cocktail bar, to fill two glasses with generous amounts of Laphroaig Malt Whisky from the Isle of Islay, just off the eastern coast of Skye; he hands one glass to Daphne and joins her on the sofa – and joins is the only term, for the soft plumpness of the sofa tends to compel it's two sitters towards an intimate closeness, in which they seem almost to be sitting on each other's laps, with arms and legs entwined, hands going wherever they can and drinks balancing precariously on the arms of the sofa, indeed – so delicate and private is their conversation – their faces are fairly well pressed together, lips murmuring into ears and occasionally brushing across each other, so that it is not easy for us to catch much beyond a mention perhaps of 'Parlane', another of 'Eros', certainly 'Gaucho', and was that 'unfounded rumours' or could it have be 'remove my bloomers' but no, that means nothing in the context of this tale, we must have misheard, so, let us draw a veil of gossamer over this private tête-à-tête involving mature and consenting adults and rejoin Gordon and Sandy Brevity as they are shown into Martin Elginbrod QC's spacious sitting room by his Argentinian housekeeper, and a young Maid, possibly from Romania, asks the two officers whether they would like tea, coffee, cocoa or Irn Bru – Goldy requests Camomile Tea if that is possible and the maid nods, while Gordon opts for the more manly Irn Bru, always his preference; and just as the drinks arrive, the maid is followed into the room by Elginbrod himself, apparently a wad of cotton wool padded into his mouth, and he sits facing his visitors with an expression of completely bemused innocence on his face; until Detective Sergeant Brevity shows him the prints which the exemplary WPC Isa Urquhart has made of screen-shots from the Crime Scene and Elginbrod, seeing them, loses his composure and drops his glass of blackcurrant cordial to the floor, where it lands on a rug made from the complete pelt of a Polar Bear, staining it dark red as if it has just been shot dead by a trapper!
And Daphne Dumbiedykes allowed the former Dean, Dr Hamish MacAlpine-Fandango to entertain her with his ready supply of quips and bons-mot, all spoken in the honeyed tones of an Advocate at the very peak of his powers of persuasion, but 'you won't get into my knickers, however hard you try, Sonny Jim,' thought Daphne to herself as she buttered another toasted teacake, added bramble jam for good measure and slipped it into her mouth, while fluttering her eye-lashes at the smitten Dean; and then asked him in a breathy tone, that he hadn’t yet touched upon his promised nugget apropos Sir Parlane MacFarlane – at which point the rubicund Advocate surreptitiously placed his left hand upon Daphne's knee, under cover of the snowy-white tablecloth, gave it an affectionate squeeze and said “I was saving that for afters, if you'd like to join me in my chambers for some fine old Port I've been hoarding towards a special occasion entre nous, but if you would rather I was bolder I'm sure I could put my hand on something which will delight you,” and Daphne tried furiously to affect a maidenly blush, but the feel of his hand was like having a wet haddock resting on her knee and struggling for breath, so she simply fluttered her lashes again and said that he could proceed at his peril, for this was surely a certain case of caveat emptor, and smiled warmly; as his hand began making a snail's pace ascent of her upper-leg, Daphne wondered to herself how could it be that certain types of women seemed to find the male gender in some strange way appealing – for she had no such vulnerability herself, and nor had her dearest love, her cousin Maude – and though it might have baffled actuarialists, the same variance also applied to the majority of their nieces – only Ginger Lyttleton and Goldy Dumbiedykes (she often found it difficult to recall their married names and blessed Scots Law for it's steadfast adherence to a woman's birth-name) had attached themselves to males and this thought brought her mind back to the hand which had moved a whole inch during her musings, and wondered – not for the first time in her long and adventurous life – what it would be like to permit this hand free access to the prize it sought; on a whim, she made eye-contact with Hamish, and began to listen, for she had tuned out his voice for a good twenty minutes, but the mention of “the site of Parlane MacFarlane's House stood on that very spot,” and dared a murmur of interest, which the former Dean took to be a double encouragement, for as his hand crept another quarter of an inch, he said, “it was believed to extend much further below the street level, as above it, with tunnels running down into fissures in the rock itself, and more than one oubliette for MacFarlane's enemies (or those who knew too much to be allowed their freedom) and former friends even – it was not unlike Allan Ramsay's in appearance, but obviously more palatial, extending up and down the High Street under neighbouring properties, even to the extent, I understand, of his having secret access to several, including Longformacus House in fact and there are accounts extant of some nefarious rowdyism – nothing, I hasten to add, on a par with Gilles De Rais, for we Scots seem condemned to restraint in our debaucheries and, though Sir Parlane may well have been debaucher-in-chief, he was still only a dabbler by comparison with some of our continentals; oh, I grant, he was ruthless when he felt it necessary for his own purposes, but he seems to have derived his pleasures chiefly from the seductive arts and practised them with a vigour well into later life; I only wish I had his stamina,” he gave a little squeeze and moved his hand higher, and winked, a form of communication which Daphne herself was unable to reciprocate, for she was one of those unfortunates who can close both eyes simultaneously, but neither one alone; and Daphne heard herself say that the thought is father to the deed – and could not for the life of herself account for this appalling lapse into cliché – but Hamish seemed not to mind – indeed his hand moved further up her leg, his index finger, rather like a snail's antennae, probing further than the rest, and seeming to draw the remainder after it; Daphne surprised herself by acknowledging that this particular activity happening both under the table-cloth, and under the skirt of her tea-dress, was not as repugnant as she would have expected – particularly given her long acquaintance with Hamish – although she conceded that this was not the first time that a male hand had caressed her inner thigh, but the other occasions had happened in her innocent youth, when comparatively inexperienced, and in warmer climes, where lust is said to run molten through the loins of adolescents and young adults (she remembered the Sultan of Zanzibar, a muscular young warrior with jet black hair on his head, his face, and peeking out from the waistband of his billowing 'harem pants'; the Grand Mufti of Mesopotamia, a sweet-talking cleric with a passion for pale complexioned. blonde girls and women, particularly with the accents of Morningside and The Braid Hills; and, of course that Greek Apollo, working on the Dig on Crete, a body full of energy, strength and rippling masculinity of a sun-dappled kind rarely glimpsed in Edinburgh, for all it was called The Athens of The North, who, coming upon Daphne in a tunnel underground, where the air was musky with sweat from toiling archaeologists and their labourers, had pinned her against the wall, kissed her fiercely and with a sense of ownership burrowed his hand between her thighs – oh, Daphne still tingled at the thought of that Adonis, that Heracles, with that hand and it's determination and afterwards, above ground, his muscular body glowing by the light of a silvered moonbow, truly he was Eros incarnate – she had never told Maude of the encounter, considering her Life Companion and Soul-Mate a little too delicate for such carnal details, and justified it to herself as being unsought and therefore unnecessary to broadcast; and all the while Hamish was growing bolder and he leaned closer, to speak confidentially (conspiratorially even) and this allowed his perseverating hand to reach that bit further up her thigh, so close that she could almost remember the Greek boy's thrusts and pressures and she looked Hamish full in the face and saw his paunchy cheeks, his puffy eyes, his balding head, his rather too-full lips, his bulbous nose, and the reverie evaporated like summer mist and – to deflect an omnishambles of an unlikely seduction which could never hope to reach a satisfying conclusion for him and to spare Hamish any embarrassment, for she did feel an affection towards him, carried through the years since he was a rather under-weight schoolboy hanging around her school gate with a group of similar friends (boys with acne and grubby fingernails and socks that forever slumped around their stick-like ankles, who unconsciously demonstrate their immaturity in thinking the smart way to approach girls is to pull their pigtails and call them 'specky' or 'skinnymalinks', or 'ginger') when she and hers, but principally Maude, stepped into the Edinburgh afternoon – she grasped his wrist with a hand that had hewed rocks on Mount Ararat, hauled boulders on the shores of the Red Sea, and reigned in a stampeding Camel in the Sahara; Hamish winced; Daphne reminded him that he had promised her a nugget, which she took to refer to something she had never known before – old gossip was lacking in piquancy, old hands lacked the dexterity of youth; Hamish winced at the verbal jabs which hurt every bit as much as the nails which cut into his wrist; he coughed and had the grace to look a little shamefaced, then she saw a brief flash in his coal-black eyes – which reminded Daphne that the Fandango had reputedly been a Gaucho on the Pampas of The Argentine who had swooped on the lonely wife of the Reverend Archibald MacAlpine and swept her away from a sterile marriage with his calloused hands and nut-brown face, its coal-black eyes and flared nostrils – Hamish was the grandson of that elopement, divorce and marriage, which had cost his grandmother acknowledgement in Forres and a welcome in Edinburgh, but she outlived her detractors and established herself as a writer of romantic fiction for women, featuring rollicking seamen, proud gauchos, hirsute fur-trappers, daring explorers, nut-brown faces aplenty and, often as not, lonely wives of Presbyterian Missionaries and which earned her enough to support her gaucho and send her two boys to Fettes; Hamish was the son of the younger boy, a quarter Gaucho and as Daphne held his wrist she looked deep into his eyes and saw a spark of that ancestral spirit which had won the heart of the Minister's wife from Forres and she asked him, laissez-aller – believing that she had nothing to lose but all to gain from throwing caution to the winds and scattering clichés like rose petals in a boudoir (oh, how Maudie loves rose petals) quite, quite directly, if they had a deal, in which case he might receive a nougat for a nugget – at which Hamish nodded fiercely and, as she released her hold on him, slid his hand into the softness of her inner thighs, towards what Daphne – as a lifelong legacy of her days at the Marcia Blaine School for Girls – still thought of as, her Bloomers!
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