Oh, fickle are the ways and fortunes of men, indeed, reflected Sergeant Brevity later, as he, Goldy and Isa sat in his office, drinking camomile tea and nibbling shortbread; before Gordon was the pile of statements taken from the DB or BNJ bar (Brevity found himself adopting Trixie Davidova's abbreviations) and he asked the others what they had noticed and it was the irrepressible WPC who said that it hadn't been Trixie's scream the barman heard, because she was adamant that she hadn't screamed, so it must have been the prostitute; “have we got any information about the shoe,” Brevity then asked; and Goldy said that it was from Schuh, black boot-shape and strappy, like a frame, with a 5” stiletto heel; to which Isa – a regular wearer of designer shoes and au fait with all recent trends – said that there was no way the young girl had been wearing it, she pointed out that in the CCTV shots of her going through the rear doors her shoes were visible, and they were actually Cherry Deer 'Bambi' shoes from Irregular Choice, and her own pair cost her £75 in a charity shop, but new they were £125; and although it was possible she had another pair in her bag, which, briefly visible, was quite capacious, however, reflected the philosophical Constable, the one embedded in Angus Og's head was pretty large and the bag might not have managed to contain a pair; Gordon nodded although, he commented “if the shoe is a weapon, she might only carry one for that purpose, we have to keep an open mind,” and the rather risqué WPC retorted: like Angus Og, and got a frosty look from Goldy; Brevity then told them that DI Bruse had instructed him and Goldy to interview Martin Elginbrod that afternoon and find out what they could about the girl, and that after a few calls, Brevity knew that the Advocate was due in his Chambers by 3 o'clock, so he and Goldy would visit him there; “do you know the story about Elginbrod's family?” he asked, and both Goldy and Isa shook their heads and Goldy asked if they came from Elgin – a natural assumption – but “no,” replied Gordon, “they seem first to be from Huntly – at least so far as records exist, before that, who knows – they are descended from the famous Martin Elginbrod (famous, that is, for his epitaph, which he is believed to have written himself) and I bet you know the apophthegm, surely:
'Here lies Martin Elginbrod,
Hae pity on my Soul Lord God,
As I would yours, if I were God,
And you were Martin Elginbrod' -
the family – lawyers from the year dot, got involved with printers during the reigns of James IV of Scotland and Henry VIII of England – they invested in Printworks, usually as unnamed sleeping partners, which gave them freedom and flexibility, and they represented printers charged with sedition, blasphemy, heresy, stealing other printers' work, publishing novels, plays, theologies, poetry, histories, ballad-sheets and a series of 'Last Words' uttered by the condemned immediately prior to their executions (by many and varied means) and sold for anything upwards of a Farthing to the spectators gathered to watch the execution, which made a handy souvenir to take home afterwards, and even for not paying the writers – and they also acted for writers, courts, guilds, churches, magistrates, bailiffs, executors, maligned injured parties, and the State – both Secular and Temporal – suing those same printers, taking briefs (and money) from both sides in civil actions, theological pursuits, and criminal cases – oh they were real shysters and made a great deal of wealth out if it. The Act of Anne in 1710 and then the Copyright Act of 1842 helped them to consolidate, and the Martin Elginbrods (or should that be Martins Elginbrod – I'm never quite sure) of those times – I should say, there has always been a son, or a nephew, named Martin Elginbrod, so the line of inheritance is passed directly from one Martin to the next – were smart cookies, and one of the things they did was establish copyright of the Epitaph, in the name of 'Martin Elginbrod and his successors also named Martin Elginbrod without break in perpetuity' so as long as there is always another Martin living whenever one dies, so the copyright is retained by the family, a kind of laissez-aller, giving them freedom to print their own money – unlike everyone else, whose copyright only lasts for a period of years after the author's death – they got away with that for the epitaph and proceeded to acquire other, longer, more commercial writings which they also copyrighted in the family name, it sounds crooked – it certainly is – but somehow it's perfectly legal – so they've been milking the cow for generations; I really don't know why he bothers to practice at the bar, it can't be for the money, but the family, and they are all in the business, have wide interests in just about every aspect of life here in Scotland, and also internationally; so why was he in that pub, with a young streetwalker, who is now a suspect in the attempted murder of Angus Og – and who is the girl, I ask myself,” and the entranced Isa, slightly agog at the amount the Sergeant knew about everybody in Edinburgh, and wondering how much he also knew about her – and the private life she had out of uniform, then said that she had analysed shots and sequences showing the girl from different angles and noticed something she thought strange: in every image, every frame, the girl was holding an e-cigarette close to her right ear, she never took a puff, but the tip was glowing red all the time, and that bothered the redoubtable Isa, who had taken recourse to that form of nicotine replacement therapy in her effort to quit smoking and she had only ever seen that type of e-cigarette where the tip glows, usually red or blue, when you inhale, but in this case it was all the time, so she wondered if it was actually something else, and she had spoken to a friend of hers at the BBC and discovered that there is a small directional microphone, which could fit into an e-cigarette body, and which always glows red when it is switched on so that the presenters, or actors, know it is recording – her friend was sending one over to them; “so who was she recording,” wondered Gordon, “her Advocate,” but Isa shook her head, and said that she had checked all the lines and angles of intersection using some software from another friend, and it seems as if it was always pointing at one or other of her cousins, sitting in the booth quite nearby, they were who the girl was listening to, “but why, I wonder again, said Brevity, and Isa offered that, she had a strong feeling that the bodacious girl wasn't really a streetwalker with a grudge against Angus Og, but involved in something with much higher stakes than had initially appeared to them, “top marks to you, Isa, I think you're even righter than you know,” said Brevity, nodding to her, “oh, and by the by Isa – I know spell-check is a very handy thing, but, see when you write long, complicated sentences, with lots of conjunctions and parentheses and things, just mind that the closing bracket's the right way round – our Inspector Bruse is a stickler for that, and anagrams, of course – but don't take offence, hen,” he grinned – like a Cheshire Cat – and nodded, again, “I can never work out the difference between a comma and a semi-colon, as the Guv'nor still casts up to me,” or the difference between scrambled eggs and an omelette, quipped Goldy, gathering up the tea things and indicating by a nod towards the clock that it was time for the two Sergeants to head off to Martin Elginbrod's chambers.
Sergeant Brevity noticed the soi-disant prostitute leave the bar in the direction of the toilets, then saw that she was followed by Trixie Davidova, at the same time as Teri Somerville came in from the Ladies and joined the party – all of whom were also her cousins too, for she was another niece of both Daphne and Maude (all of which Gordon Brevity knew because his own wife Goldy was also a niece of the two Historians and he had met all of them at family gatherings (indeed, the irreverent WPC Isa Urquhart was another such – not so surprising really in the small village of Edinburgh) which to him felt like upmarket Carry On comedies; but suddenly he snapped to attention for, though there was no sound, he seemed to be watching a Carry On movie, or something involving the Keystone Cops – penned by a fictioneer in the style of a Brian Rix farce, complete with double-takes, visual puns, tides of movement, and with degrees of emotion from puzzlement, confusion, wonder, excitement all the way to shock and horror, for he saw the Advocate, who he now recognised as Martin Elginbrod, a highly successful lawyer from an old and wealthy family, whose clients included underworld figures many of whom had never been convicted or done time, suddenly move, very quick on his toes for such a large man – he disappeared through the door towards the toilets and came back, almost instantly with perplexity written large on his face – along with a sheen of sweat not there before - and a middling amount of comprehension slowly dawning; he then left the pub at a run before Trixie re-appeared, crying and shouting; her cousins rose to their feet in concern; the barman reached up and pulled down the grills cutting off the bar, and began making a phone call on his mobile; Jinty and Roxy pushed through the doors while Trixie was speaking to Elvira, Teri and Leigh; the other customers saw or sensed that something was up and while several gathered near the bar, most of the others left quickly, distancing themselves from whatever had happened through in the back; Brevity called Isa to his desk and watched as Trixie dialled a number and held her phone to her ear, Isa's own phone rang and when she answered it was obvious to Brevity that it was she whom Trixie had called – just then Roxy and Jinty re-appeared, looking shocked, faces ashen, and Isa told him that Angus Og was in the ladies, with a shoe stuck in his head and blood everywhere – she then explained, a stiletto heel like an ice-pick in his head – and as they watched, they saw Trixie relaying what Roxy told her – Og was still alive, unconscious but still breathing; as Isa called for paramedics and uniform back-up, Brevity ran into the front office, collected Goldy and they headed out to his car for the short drive up to the High Street and Deacon Brodie's Pub – or The Baillie Nicol Jarvie as it was temporarily named; in the few minutes it took them, they found that the pub, on the top corner of The Mound, was already surrounded by uniformed officers, and an ambulance was just pulling up; the two sergeants made their way inside and found six of Goldy's many cousins in a state of shock – particularly Jint and Roxy, who had already, this morning, found a young man murdered in the oubliette under The Heart of Midlothian – the same place where their Aunt Daohne had been briefly incarcerated less than a week before; and it was they who had seen Angus Og recorded on video at the City Chambers, apparently directing the young man down Waird's Close on a path which had led him to his place of execution; as paramedics wheeled Og out of the pub, still with the woman's stiletto shoe impaled in his head, Brevity sat with the young cousins (while Goldy spoke with the bar staff) and asked them what had happened - “we'll do the formal interviews later, down at the Grassmarket, and we'll need some fingerprints for elimination, because Trixie and Teri both came through the doors leading to the toilets, and maybe others of you – the same applies to the bar staff and the guests at the reception upstairs; but just run through what you remember,” and they did, each taking up where another left off, and together with what he had already witnessed on CCTV it gave Brevity a good impression of the events in the bar – though it did not explain the presence of Martin Elginbrod, nor his young companion, who had not been seen, nor caught by any of the cameras attached to ti the walls below the crown moulding around the bar-room since going through to the ladies shortly before Trixie had found Og; Goldy learned from the barman that there was an emergency exit to the street, through a door and a short passage to an outer door, between the Ladies and Gents toilets; that area was not covered by CCTV; she had checked and, though both doors were shut, the outer door had a bar which was down, indicating that this was indeed the likely route the prostitute, and perhaps murderess, must have taken – she had sent several uniformed constables up to the Function Room, but it seemed unlikely that the girl had gone there, as she would have been trapped, with no other exit; “well,” said Brevity, “I'm getting on to DI Bruse right now – and I'll get Isa to send him copies of the CCTV footage, including Martin Elginbrod and his young lady, before we interview him, and forensics will dust the exit door for prints – and the girl's glass for possible DNA – oh, and Goldy,” he remembered what he hadn't done, “can you get someone over to the Royal, to guard Og and let us know when – if – he wakes up. They're probably operating soon, but after that we'll need to know anything he can tell us,” and Goldy grinned her Davidova/Dumbiedykes/Lyttleton etc grin, wider than the Firth of Forth, as she told him it was all arranged – the Uniformed Branch was on the job!
As Detective Sergeant Gordon Brevity sat in his office, his eyes gazing with rapt attention at scenes culled from every public and private CCTV system within the City – many of them surreptitiously hacked by that impudent WPC Isa Urquhart – he felt confident that he would see he whom he sought: viz the gaunt mysterious Angus Og of the Bog (aka Angus Ogilvy, pensioned off postie from Dalmarnock and now a rising star in the City's Komedy Klub Circuit); he paused one scene and called to Isa to let this one stay a moment – it was the exterior of a familiar Public House but it was emblazoned with a name he had never associated with it, so he asked Isa to take a look, but she was none the wiser, and suggested they have a look at the interior scenes; quickly she found and fed four different angles to the Sergeant's screen and explained that Top Left is the bar from the entrance, Top Right is the same scene reversed, Bottom left is across the room looking towards the door to the toilets and the stairs to the Upper Function Room, and Bottom Right is that same scene reversed; Gordon pointed at one of the shots and told Isa that four of her cousins were there, right now; and near them a slutty-looking prostitute – identifiable by being dressed de rigueur for the streets, though to Gordon's taste a definite antaphrodisiac – was apparently having a case discussion with her Advocate (or simply propositioning the man, it was hard to tell with no audio), quite oblivious of the young cousins all talking at once in the privacy of their booth at the rear of the room, though Sergeant Brevity could not guess their subject; suddenly Trixie came into shot, from the double doors behind the booth: “what a Hoot,” said Trixie, returning from the Ladies to join her sister and cousins in the booth, and the four others turned their attention from the sluttish-looking girl at the bar to Trixie, expectant looks on their faces; “just met my friend Teri – the writer who's working with Daphne and Maude on their Memoirs – well, she's a guest at the Wedding Reception upstairs, that's where all the music and noise is coming from, or at least she thought she was a guest there, but she doesn't know anyone and I think I've worked out why;” and Roxy, cheekily asked – 'you' – as if nothing more surprising could be said; “yes me,” continued Trixie, “it seems she was invited to attend Georgie Corcoran and Felicity Dalwhinnie's Evening Reception in the Baillie Nicol Jarvie Inn and she came here, so I said this is Deacon Brodie's and she said she knew and I asked why she'd come here and she said she thought they'd made a mistake or rather a kind of a joke, and I asked who and she said Georgie and Felicity and I asked how and she said it was to do with Rob Roy apparently and I asked what did she mean and she said Georgie's been working on an adaptation of Rob Roy for BBC Scotland but when the Producer,” and Roxy asked who was the producer and Trixie said, “it's Mungo Macpherson of all people,” and they all laughed knowingly, and she continued, “well he wanted to set more of the action in Edinburgh so the character of Baillie Nicol Jarvie was to be moved here from Glasgow and become a Burglar and Thief in the night,” and Jinty asked if Mungo wasn't confusing him with Deacon Brodie and Trixie said, “yes, that's what Georgie said, but Mungo was adamant, he read them the riot act and became quite hysterical, saying it was for quote artistic unquote reasons – which really meant HIS reasons so now Rob Roy has Baillie Nicol Jarvie as an Edinburgh Councillor and thief in the night and Mungo wanted him to have this pub as his own, with the signs changed to say Baillie Nicol Jarvie instead of Deacon Brodie,” and Leigh asked if either Baillie Nicol Jarvie or Deacon Brodie had a pub and if so was this it, and Trixie gave her a look that said “No Comment” and continued, “so they had new signs made and erected for publicity shots and they're still up because shooting starts tomorrow, just on location scene setters, without the actors, and if we'd all been strangers instead of locals and regulars we'd have bothered to check that this was the right place, but as we didn't need to we didn't and nor did Teri, so none of us noticed the different name outside, gainsaying the true name of the place, but because of all the publicity shots around Felicity and Georgie's office or Writing Room, or whatever they call it, of this place, but with the name of BNJ, I only abbreviate to save time,” and everyone laughed because one thing Trixie never saved – or more accurately, one of the many things that Trixie never saved – was TIME, and they all shouted GO ON and she did, “so when the invitation came and she saw the picture of this pub with the BNJ signs up she assumed naturally that this was the venue, but as it's an entirely different couple upstairs, called Dusty and Rusty, or maybe one of them is Busty, and Teri didn't know a soul among the guests and none of them knew Georgie or Felicity, which is really quite surprising, but it seems they were all Rugby Bufters, so I suppose that's understandable, but anyway it seems that it's Teri who got it all wrong and now she's trying to cadge a lift to the real BNJ Hotel and Bar,” where's that, asked Elvira, reaching for her car keys, and Trixie said “Aberfoyle,” and Elvira dropped her car keys back on the table, and Trixie continued, “except that it's not, well it is and it isn't, if you see what I mean,” but no-one did, and she thought for a moment that the sluttish-looking girl at the bar with her Advocate was looking rather strangely at her, in the same way as Roxy and the others, almost as if she was following Trixie's account, but then Trixie dismissed this idea for, unless she was a lip-reader the girl was too far away and surrounded by so many men, that really, she couldn't have heard what Trixie was saying, so she re-focussed on her friends around the table and said “it's not a Hotel, it's been converted to luxury apartments – not flats – apartments, but it's called Baillie Nicol Jarvie Court and there's no way Georgie and Felicity could be having their Reception there, so obviously Teri came here, but she's now so confused, she can't tell a Baillie from a Deacon, or a Jarvie from a Brodie, and she says next thing she'll probably see Jeannie Deans walk in alive as you and me,” and the friends all hooted, and the sluttish-looking girl gulped down her vodka, touched her Advocate on the arm and hurried through the double doors towards the Ladies, and Trixie, rising, said, “excuse me, I think that girl's going to be sick,” and dashed through the doors after her, and almost simultaneously, Teri Somerville came through the doors and came over to the group and sat down where Trixie had been and said that she'd sorted it all out, that she'd simply got the day wrong, that Georgie and Felicity's nuptials are TOMORROW and the Evening Reception is here at 6pm and you know, she added, that she should have realised she'd got herself in a pickle because if it had been today, she'd have been 6 hours early instead of 30, and the friends all hooted and Teri joined in, and they were all laughing so happily and loudly that not one of them heard the scream that came from the direction of the Ladies, out by the rear of the pub!
The modern Police Detective,
Requires no eyrie high,
For sacrilegious cameras
Let him peer and pry;
A laissez-faire authority,
Thinks privacy is Bunk;
A Copper's nark's now pensioned off,
The lens his new quidnunc.
Roxy and Jinty – as much for natural politesse as their own concepts of duty – waited until DS Brevity, their cousin Isa (his WPC), and the Forensics Team had secured the oubliette and it's connecting passages and the Medical Examiner had confirmed that the young man below was dead and authorised the Ambulance Crew to remove his body to the Mortuary; they then made their way to The Baillie Nicol Jarvie pub, one of the city's famous historical drinking places, this one named after a notorious figure – councillor and city officer by day, burglar and worse by night – there they were joined by Trixie, Leigh and Elvira and all four cousins, needing to catch up with each other's news but also not desiring to show the world that they were more deeply involved than merely casual bystanders who happen upon something which takes their attention from their responsibilities, adopted an air of masterful inactivity, abandoning their appointments and routine duties for the rest of the day, while seeming to disinterested drinkers that they were just a party of wee office lassies intent on deferring a return to their humdrum employment; still cowed by shock, Roxy and Jinty could not stop talking about what they had discovered, but, though they tried to keep their voices low and contained within the furthest booth from the door, they were not so much overheard as actively listened to by an unlikely couple of barflies: the man was in his late 50s, wearing the formal black jacket and waistcoat, pinstriped trousers, collar and cravat of an Advocate; the woman – well, little more than a slip of a girl – could have been his daughter as easily as a streetwalker, or so her dress appeared to suggest – it was scanty in the extreme, but just (barely) within the relaxed dress-code of the establishment, which is to say it drew many glances, but in it's way, this merely served to make her invisible – for who would suspect that a girl of this cut was in fact a criminal mastermind, whose underworld network, with it's fingers in many corrupt pies, from drugs, to people-trafficking, luxury car boosting to order and the supply of expensive (and cultured) pearls at the very top of the sex trade as escorts to princes, politicians and oligarchs at the most exclusive Royal Mile hotels, all the way to corner dealers and hookers on the meanest streets, turning tricks in exchange for their next fix and with a working-life-expectancy reckoned in months, rather than years; she had specialists able to undertake anything a client required – you need a love or business rival disappeared, a million-pound burglary haul fenced, want telephone's tapped, or bribes offered to policemen, secrets bought from civil servants, celebrities' maids, or rent boys who possess the real names of their clients, filched from pockets or wallets during assignations in certain public toilets; if you've got dirty work needing done, the only question was 'how much can you pay?' and if the price was right, you had a deal with one of the many go-betweens representing the interests of Jeannie Deans – was that her real name, you ask – why bother, for she had another twenty in Scotland alone and both she and her affairs were like a series of Chinese Boxes: a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; many may guess at her identity, her appearance, her location or her presence, but none who speak of her know a thing and any of those who knew and spoke are already inside concrete bridges over the City Bypass, or have been fed to pig or fish farms the length of Scotland long since; 'tis said that the Scotia Triangle (with it's Southern base a line from Berwick to Stranraer and it's apex John-o'Groats) and in the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Isles many opportunities for providing quiet locations for arrivals and departures, for business opportunities, for money changing hands without any need to trouble the Revenue, are controlled by Jeannie Deans, and a safe haven exists for those who wish to fade from view for a time, or for ever – oh yes, rest assured that Jeannie deans held Scotland in the palm of the same small, soft, white hand, with scarlet pearlised nails, which presently held an e-cigarette close to her ear, quietly relaying to her – through the rousing beat of a callithumping ceilidh band (The Tattie-Howkers, no less) entertaining a wedding party in the upstairs room, eternized the name of Scott's original Jeannie Deans with rollicking choruses of The Heart of Midlothian Reel, much to the amusement of the other lady of that name in the bar below – the conversation her cigarette's directional microphone collected from the booth which enclosed and sheltered the five cousins, and all the while Jeannie Deans salso held an animated discussion with her advocate on the justice of a hefty fine and custodial sentence expected to be given to her next morning, for soliciting a press photographer outside the First Minister's official residence – a fictional offence, but one which kept a few nearby drinkers captivated by it's wealth of detail, which could (and no doubt will) appear in the next morning's red-tops, for several stringers were in the rapt audience – oh, Jeannie thought that it would be a hoot to see Ginger Goldfish's face in the morning, as she added more embellishments to her narrative, that had now reached the point at which, she said, the front door opened and a man she recognised from TV invited her in; and as she paused, for dramatic effect, registering with barely a flicker of her eyes that the attention of every man within fifteen feet of her was hanging on her words, through the glass of the street door, she saw a gaunt face appear, the eyes of Angus Og locked on hers and she knew that he was about to enter the bar, so gave just the briefest negative shake of her head and he was gone!
Detective Sergeant Gordon Brevity's phone rang – and at that same instant so also did those belonging to his wife, Goldy, her cousins Trixie, Leigh and WPC Isa Urquhart, who all jumped at the sudden cacophony of chimes, tunes, bells and buzzers; while in the Advocates' Dining Room in the Court of Session, Daphne's telephone rang, which slightly acerbated, not only herself, she having never really come to terms with carrying something she thought more properly installed in an office, or a red box on a street corner, but also a number of prominent Advocates, learned Judges and other personages of the Justiciary; in The Copper Kettle Tea-Room, Maude's phone rang, but she didn't hear it, so engrossed was she in her chat with Cecilia and Grizzel, and their close and erudite friends Lettice Pumpherston of the National Library and Tuffy Ladywood of the Museum of Scotland, both up for a day of leisure from their delightful cottage in the Borders, where Maude and Daphne had spent many a happy weekend; and back in Maude and Daphne's flat, it was Elvira Dumbiedykes – on loan from her father Gregor (Daphne and Maude's cousin) working alone through the accumulation of books, papers, charts and family trees, who put out her hand at that very first tremble which precedes a ringing, and answered what turned out to be a conference call put out from the passageway above the fateful oubliette by her cousin Jinty – Elvira was the first to hear, through a torrent of sobs, coughs, hiccups, tears and groans, the awful news that Jinty and Roxy had discovered the brutally murdered body of a young man in that self-same cell in which Daphne had been immured (albeit and only fortuitously) briefly just a few days before – and this latest felony likely to have occurred yestreen at the very latest, although the hidden location meant that daylight would never have been an obstacle to the foul deed's commission; and Elvira it was who, regarding herself as the Officer of the Watch on duty at the helm of his ship of state, who took quick command and speaking rapidly and clearly, allocated various tasks to all the others listening on their own telephones – all except Daphne who hadn't yet mastered the trick of answering her mobile phone, and Maude, who hadn't yet heard hers ringing at the bottom of her handbag, under her chair, in the busy and noisy tearoom, over the voices of Cecilia, Grizzel, Lettice, Tuffy and herself; which is how it came to pass that even after the conferencing was over and Chronus, the God of Time himself, had extracted his penance as Shylock would have claimed Antonio's “pound of flesh,” the pendulum had been set in motion while it's two central figures, Daphne and Maude – plus Angus Og of the Bog (and his mysterious Master – or was Gordon Brevity wrong, and should that be Mistress – all continued with their day in absolute ignorance of their Countdown to Destiny!
Detective Sergeant Gordon Brevity stared at the note, brought to him by WPC Isa Urquhart, whose hearing – like that of a bat, was so attuned to everything in the vicinity that she had sensed, perhaps rather than heard, the flutter of a slip of paper as it passed through the letterbox on the street door and settled onto the mat, as softly as a butterfly; Gordon read the short note aloud for the small group assembled in his office: “'Silk or Steel, whichever you employ, 'twill acerbate the debouching stegosaurus if you stroke 'is thagomizer, for 'e does not like 'em up 'im in the least” and it's signed 'Lance Corporal Jones', well known for his apophthegms on Dad's Army but not, I suspect ,the author of this little billet-doux, what do you think, girls?” and he looked in turn at Goldy, his wife (Station Sergeant Goldy Brevity), her cousins Trixie Davidova and Leigh Waters, and, of course, Isa, who stood at the door; it was Leigh who spoke first, to say that thagomizer referred to the pattern of spikes on a Stegosaurus's tail; and Trixie chipped in with the comment that debouching meant bursting out, or exfiltrating, so must refer to something enclosed or locked up – as Aunt Daphne was; to which Isa suggested that it might mean the secret discovered in the oubliette by Aunt Daphne being brought forth into the light of day and that she thought it scanned, though maybe not a poem, more a line of doggerel, but possibly significant; and Goldy, in turn wondered whether, if you consider the Stegosaurus to be the person whose secret is the thagomizer, does it then imply that he, or she, will be rather upset as a result of exposure; and at last Gordon said “and whether any action directed towards him, for I believe, Goldy, the gender is given as male, is gentle or harsh, that might be to say, positive or negative, either way he will be very displeased at his linen being washed in public and likely to take evasive or punitive action – and I would tend towards the interpretation of it being punitive,” and the ladies all said “Gosh!”
But, back beneath the bustling High Street, down through layers of granite setts, tar macadam, rubble, dirt, the abandoned detritus of hundreds of years of tenement living, including the outpourings of generations of night-time chamber-pots, down through the rocky spine that runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood, in a passage carved out of that living rock which once poured as lava from the volcano that now is the Castle Crag, two cousins lie in each other's arms – their faces ashen-white under a patina of grime, their eyes round and red-rimmed, their hair dusty and dishevelled; tears streak their faces and their harsh breathing racks their bodies, mingling with sighs and sobs and groans as they try to still the rapid beating of their hearts, to master their physical and mental anguish; for they have seen something which has damaged them so viscerally, assaulting their every sense and searing their emotions, something they will never forget, will never be able to blot out of their minds, which will haunt them until the very end of their days, and acerbating this dismay, which has shattered their usual sang-froid (for these are two smart cookies who have won their positions and status in this world dominated by men without recourse to nepotism – though they do have influential families and umpteen friends in high places) is the fact that they have recognised something in the horror - “is it real,” asked Jinty, “yes,” replied Roxy, “at least I believe so,” for their reason tries to drive out the awfulness of what they saw, so horrible was it, and simultaneously so unreal, like some climax to a sudser on television, using shock to draw tears from the numbed hearts of its viewers; “we have to call the police, or an ambulance,” suggests Jinty, “or maybe,” offers Roxy, haltingly, “we should warn Aunt Daphne,” and Jinty nods, understanding, “you think it was the same person who locked her down there,” and Roxy squeezed her head between the flats of her hands, as if trying to contain a pressure that threatened to burst it like a balloon, “it must be,” she said, and “that was the boy from the CCTV,” and Jinty replied “yes, I think so – so that means,” she stopped and looked straight into Roxy's eyes, and they both said “Angus Og!”
And on this very same day, Daphne Dumbiedykes and Maude Lyttleton had gone to the Tea Dance in St Giles Church Hall, where they not only met their dear friends Cecilia Connaught and Grizzel Baillie – named in homage to her famed ancestor – but also Dr Hamish MacAlpine-Fandango, a former Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, possessor, it was said, of the most mellifluous and velvety bedside manner employed in the Court of Session, who had more than once managed to persuade a jury to acquit a self-confessed murderer and, on one of those occasions, a particularly infamous one at that, when espousing the case of a Bill Sykes burglar who suffered a nasty fall after the dying householder managed to push away the stepladder he was using for a quick getaway, even won substantial damages and compensation for his client against the estate of the victim – something we refer to as a cloudburst, for it never rains but it pours; but, enough of this for the nonce, that is a story for another time and place; for, as the assembly geminated for the next dance, on this occasion Daphne agreed to a stately waltz with the Dean and took the opportunity to cross-examine him, on the case of Sir Parlane MacFarlane: "ah, yes," said Dr MacAlpine-Fandango, "now there was a lad o' mony pairts, as the common folk were used to term him, but you do recall that his Deanship pre-dated the constitution by Act of Parliament in 1532 of the Colleges of Justice, so it was, technically a different faculty he presided over," and Daphne nodded obligingly; and the Dean continued at the end of the turn: “he was a rumbustious sort of chap, old MacFarlane, and I shouldn't wonder if, in our present times of transparency and accountability – you know, glasnost and perestroika as Mr Gorbachev put it, though – and don't hold me to it, dear Daphne,” and he allowed his left hand to stroke Daphne's spine through her Tea Dress, which rather induced a kind of frisson, a tingle, or a shiver to run through her body, raising goose-bumps on what little flesh was naked, “but I wouldn't be honest if I didn't raise just the teeniest caveat, though without prejudice and certainly unenforceable in any Court of Law under the jurisdiction of the Faculty, it mayn't be likely that poor old MacFarlane would be elected today – except by the very slimmest of majorities, the kind you couldn't slip the proverbial cigarette paper through – though I myself have always preferred cigars, from Havana of course, which Deo Gratia is now permitted by the cousins; I've never really seen much of a point in sanctions or embargoes – call me an old Liberal Free Trader if you will, though that may be a pejorative now, especially after last Thursday, but I remember 1959 when dear old Jo, wasn't he a cousin of yours Daphne, if my memory serves me right, on your mother's side, good old Jo Grimond still had only 6 seats, and then again in 1970, under poor old Jeremy, sad to think of him after the pummelling he got in the prints, poor soul, he was a sweet man, but there you have it, plain as day, don't you agree, sweetheart – the orbs revolve and eventually we all return to where we started or in the common parlance of the psephologists (to my mind, never trust anyone who affects a silent pee) it's all swings and roundabouts and what goes up must come down for the umpteenth time, for nothing new under the sun – sobering thought, I daresay, but certainly MacFarlane would be very lucky to avoid the ignominy of a custodial sentence today, Lord, it was remarkable that he kept his head on his shoulders in those, how should I put it, less inhibited times– and I, for one, wouldn't put a half-crown on it, no matter what any of you say, eh, Daphne; dear Daphne – would you care to join me for High Tea in the Court of Session, they do a crispy toasted teacake which is absolute perfection with bramble jam, and I can tell you an interesting little nugget about MacFarlane and Griselda of Longformacus, do you recall her, Daphne, she used to be known as The Mother of Kings for all the Scottish and English Monarchy were descendants of hers – most of Europe too, and you can tell me of your interest in the former Dean, what say you, Daphne dear?"
Meanwhile, Roxy Davidova and her cousin Jinty Moncrief had been parlaying with Old Bob, the famous Edinburgh City Chambers Cat; luxurious treats from M&S bought for Jinty's own moggie, Leonardo, in exchange for his cooperation, seemed to do the trick – for his part, Old Bob had proved keen to help them; he led them along an abandoned close, they passed by empty rooms which had in times gone by housed families and small trades, down flights of dusty stairs, through long-forgotten stores which seemed to contain nothing more recent than cases of muskets dating from the Napoleonic Wars, past a stack of rough-hewn coffins (no doubt left over from one of the plagues which – being much of a muchness everywhere people huddled together in unhygienic conditions – had raged through the city in the long-ago) and a pile of water-damaged Catholic Bibles, probably confiscated by followers of John Knox during the schism of the Reformation; after squeezing through a kind of fissure in the rock, they found themselves in the passage which Roxy recognised from the day she had encountered her Aunt Maude and they had rescued Aunt Daphne from the oubliette where she had been trapped with its evidence of the dastardly torture and murder of Sister Evadne Eglantine; “this is it,” cried Roxy, dropping to her knees and scrabbling around on the rubbish strewn floor – she found the bolts, which she had safely secured after Daphne emerged from the cell, lest anyone (who on earth would come here voluntarily? she wondered) fall down the hole; sliding the bolts back, Roxy let the trap-door fall open and Jinty directed the beam of her Council-issue Torch into the black pit below; what a shock! what a horror! what a dreadful sight met their eyes, and both girls – crying aloud and shrieking at the tops of their voices, fell backward on the dusty floor, fair giving poor Old Bob such a fright that with a shriek of his own he raced away pell-mell along the passage to some secret hiding place, where he remained, trembling in a state of post-traumatic shock, until one of his wee moosie freens brought him a piece of stale cheese to nibble; for, his reputation as a ferocious mouser and ratter notwithstanding, Old Bob had struck up a rapport with the denizens of the nether regions of the City Chambers – any of them to die of natural causes and, given the size of their population, that was a fair number per annum, were delivered up by Bob at one of five designated sites, and regarded by Janitorial Staff on the payroll as evidence of his prowess – indeed a meticulous record was kept and reported quarterly to the Committee charged with supervising his performance and remuneration; so pleased with his performance was the Committee that extra food supplies were regularly distributed about the extensive premises and Bob (and his co-conspirators – with the treachery of but one quisling, a deceitful rat, who had introduced a virulent form of cat flu in the hope of putting an end to Bob's underworld empire, but expired of a mutation before he was able to put his plan into operation) gleefully enjoyed the bounty; oh, yes, Old Bob was a wonderful cat and so said his employers and his beneficiaries, with a Hey, and a Ho, and a Hey Nonny No!
Back in the CID office in the Grassmarket and Cowgate Community Policing Hub (incorporating a Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator's office, and officers dedicated to Missing Pets and Children) Detective Sergeant Gordon Brevity handed his wife, Station Sergeant Goldy Brevity – named after her mother, Golda Davidova, rather than her curly golden locks – a mug of coffee and put his report on the Local Yokel case in an envelope addressed to Inspector Bruce Bruse, his superior in the Edinburgh Division of Police Scotland; having married or related officers working together was a new policy which, together with the children's area with toys, colouring books, a life-size cut-out figure of PC Murdoch from Oor Wullie, and big scatter cushions, was designed to promote an edifying, gentler, more inclusive and caring, family-friendly welcome towards members of the public (or customers/clients) who entered the open plan reception area, where Goldy Brevity's cousin, WPC Isa Urquhart – known far and wide for her extremely fetching looks and direct speech (she suffered no fools, no men, and no miscreants in any wise gladly, and was a black-belt in several martial arts) – was ever ready to greet callers with a dazzling smile, assist them off with coats, hats, shopping bags, babies; take the necessary information in a very empathic manner, managing a kind of triage system (certainly a front-runner among the candidates for the next Sergeant's vacancy to come up) – before taking them to whoever was best able to deal with their circumstances; so it was Isa who looked up in astonishment when her cousins Trixie and Leigh burst in, like a great moving tornado of arms and legs and sheaves of paper, maps, charts, diagrams, flying hair and – Isa noted instantly – rather sweet boots on their feet, suspiciously like the ones from Schuh she was wearing herself, but, thankfully, in different colours; though breathless, the girls managed to speak in unison and asked Isa if Sergeant Brevity was in, to which she replied, “yes and yes – they're both in, which do you want to see?” and having forgotten that their cousin Goldy had been transferred to The Hub, though slightly nonplussed, they managed – again in unison – to ask to see them both, adding that it would be really good if Isa could join them; and so it came to pass that for about an hour, that Friday morning, callers to The Hub found a notice behind the glass door stating that 'This Office is Quarantined due to a severe case of German Measles in the vicinity and any enquiries should be taken forthwith to the nearest Community Policing Hub at The Pleasance, where all matters will be dealt with at this difficult and, understandably, upsetting time, Thank you, signed Station Sergeant Goldy Brevity QPM' – for Goldy had indeed been awarded the Queen's Police Medal last year when, normally prudent by nature, she single-handedly talked down an armed gunman from the roof of the Queen's Chapel in Edinburgh Castle, who was holding two elderly American tourists hostage – with what turned out to be a water pistol – and demanding that his Grandfather's Croft on the Isle of Skye should be returned to him, having been made into a car park for bus parties visiting a nearby Standing Stone – which he knew for a fact to have been erected only a few years before by a local builder who discovered it in the rubble of the crofter's cottage which he'd demolished, and who had carved runic symbols on it to give it a touch of authenticity and had received a grant of £75,00 towards providing the car park, Historically Researched and Illustrative Tourist Information Board and adjacent tea-room and unisex and disabled toilets; after the event and discovering the full story behind the man's desperate actions, Goldy and the American Hostages – for whom he had provided refreshments in the form of shortbread and whisky during the incident - had spoken up for him at his subsequent trial and so stirred both the popular opinion in the country and the hearts of the jury that the erstwhile crofter was not only acquitted, but was awarded damages; and in his turn, the rogue builder was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay damages equalling that to the crofter and was also jailed for 5 years for malfeasance; the crofter was proclaimed a Local Hero in The Sunday Post and Goldy was declared a Champion of the People – which is why none inside The Grassmarket Hub saw a gaunt, tatterdemalion figure, in WonderWoman top and kilt peering through their glass door, before stooping and slipping a folded piece of paper through the letterbox; it only took a moment, and demonstrated his experience as a postie by the professional way he avoided the sprung-flap rapping his knuckles, or clattering onto the frame, and Angus Og of the Bog quickly hurried up Candlemaker Row to where a rather smart car, it's engine running, awaited him.
Upending the Case of the Bucolic Local Yokel, Sergeant Brevity devolved it from whodunit – his territory – to whatdunit – one for the Health and Safety Officer, just to show he could.
“Hey, youse yins,“cried Angus Og as he approached Roxy and Jinty, “ah ken ye, yer hurr ur ye no?” at which apparently rhetorical question, the cousins looked at each other and, as the tall, gaunt figure, in kilt and WonderWoman top seemed about to enter their personal space, Jinty said that she didn't think so – confident that he wouldn't remember her from his show at the Komedy Klub, for she had been sitting behind a burly rugby player; he laughed, “no you, hen, yer wee pal – it's Sue isn't it – Ah met ye at the Festival, ye were a Hoot,” and he began laughing again – as at some remembered joke, “Susan Calmac – Ah never forget a wummin, even if yer no inclined, if ye get ma drift,” and for the third time that morning, Roxy blushed to her roots – this was becoming a problem she would have to confide to her therapist, Ishbel; Roxy protested that Angus – though she didn't let on that she and Jinty knew who he was, was mistaken, though she could understand, it was a simple error, for both she and the weel-kent comedienne were indeed of petite stature, of similar build, wore similar clothes and had similar hair-styles and indeed were both 'no inclined' by which she had divined that he meant were not smitten by him, nor indeed any man; “ye must be hurr, dae ye no mind me?” to which Roxy asked him which morpheme of no was he unable to comprehend, and, when he looked puzzled, she explained by asking if it was the N or the O that he had difficulty with, to which he riposted “well if yer nae hurr, whit are youse daen here?” another non-sequitor, for neither Roxy nor Jinty could understand why it might be thought natural for Susan Calmac to be in Waird's Close, but not them, and then Jinty spoke out, saying that as a Senior Officer of the City she was investigating a smoke detector which had been triggered, with no smoke or fire in evidence and she might ask him the same thing, for his rubbernecking at the scene could be construed as suspicious, as this was obviously not his heimisch, at which he apologised profusely, informed them that, no, his name wasn't Hamish, and told them that he was looking for a young friend who had entered the Close the day before yesterday but hadn't been seen to emerge at the Cockburn Street end and he was just concerned lest the young man, a visitor to the Town, had taken a wrong turning and perhaps ended up in Jinglin' Geordie's – a well-known pub down The Scotsman Steps which Jinty knew could not be accessed from any of the many terrestrial branches off this particular close - though she couldn't speak for astral planes - so she narrowed her eyes as she looked him up and down and said, between gritted teeth, that there was no-one here but them, and the three police officers who were helping with their search for the errant smoke detector; at which Angus Og mumbled something approximating an apology for interfering with their duties and hastily retreated up the Close in the direction of the High Street, which was when Roxy told Jinty that indeed she had met him, not at the Festival and only for a few moments a couple of years ago, but that his attentions at the time were focussed on her friend – and yet another cousin – Isa Urquhart, at which Jinty nodded knowingly, for few men had eyes for anyone else if Isa Urquhart was in the company, though they quickly learned that men, in her own words, “ain't my bag!” and Roxy added that she also remembered his real name, for Angus Og of the Bog was but a Stage name - “he's Angus Ogilvy, and he comes from Dalmarnock, where he used to be a Postman until he was badly savaged by a mad dog and was unable to do the delivery rounds any more, but was so traumatised that he couldn't thole the idea of working in the Sorting Office either, and received compensation - it was reported in The Sunday Post, she insisted, and also The Weekly News; she added that there was a terrible fuss and the Posties Union (the name had been changed from Postmen's when women came to be employed on deliveries) threatened strike action, while the dog's owner said that Ogilvy had been teasing the poor wee puppy for weeks before it bared its teeth and sank them in his thigh - but why, she mused, would an ex-postman be involved in a plot to hide the story of Sister Evadne Eglantine and Sir Parlane MacFarlane, even to the extent of bolting Aunt Daphne in an oubliette with the expectation of she and the story dying there – it gets curiouser and curiouser, don't you think, Jinty dear? and Jinty, with a twinkle in her eye, suggested that they consult Old Bob, for she had a feeling there was something he wanted to show them!
Jinty was first to regain self-control: “ha-ha,” she laughed as the two yellow eyes which stared at them from the murky darkness beyond the small doorway began to approach and resolve themselves into those of an aged black and white feline, “it's only Bob,” she said and Roxy remembered the tales oft-told of the exploits and fearless legerity of Old Bob (or in the sawdust-floored taverns of the Old Town, Ould Boab) that famed mouser and ratter who prowled his secret heimlisch 'neath the feet of honest 'burghers and Baillies – she grappled with the shameful memory of her shriek and hoped that none of her ken had sighted or heard her momentary lapse into despair and fear, and once again she blushed to her roots, wondering what Jinty thought of her, then remembered that Jinty, too, had fallen prey to momentary terror; but Jinty was speaking again - “Bob, mayn't be able to communicate with us, but if anyone knows where that young acolyte of Angus Og from the Bog went, on the morning of Auntie Daphne's incarceration, it's surely he - do you think we could enlist him in our Hue and Cry?” and Roxy felt herself to be intensely proud of her pretty cousin's quickness of mind; she wondered aloud if the City beneath the Town should be considered Bob's Hinterland - she confessed, she said, that while she – and Jinty – were tremendously au fait with the streets above, it was surely the denizens of the dark and the night who were best placed to find their way through these subterranean passageways, but before Jinty could reply a long shadow fell across their path and a voice echoed around the close; they turned and saw, bearing down on them, a figure they recognised from the CCTV images – none other than Angus Og of the Bog!
And as the two cousins and friends, Roxy and Jinty, hurried along the narrow, cobbled, rubble-walled slope of Waird's Close, taking sharp turnings, climbing and descending seemingly random flights of steps, it struck Roxy that in centuries past this must have possessed some air of heimischness, being home for many families, as well as business premises for a variety of trades – she recalled hours spent poring over old city directories, pre-dating official censuses be several generations, finding flashes of humour in the bowdlerising by editors who entered the occupations of common prostitutes as Gentlemen's Nursemaid, and described the Old Town's many brothels as Places of Entertainment, or Gentlemen's Private Club; as they found the corner where the surveillance cameras failed to register the disappearance of the young man they had been observing, and set into the angle of two walls, a narrow space outlined by an embrasure held a narrow wooden door, stoutly built, brass-bound and studded, tightly-fitting and with barely enough space for the proverbial cigarette-paper to slip between it and the grey stone of the wall; Jinty squeaked, scanning the passageway in which they stood and the schematics she had grabbed before leaving her office, “where does it lead to/” asked Roxy, but Jinty shook her head, indicated the plans she held and said that this doorway was not shown, “but it's been here forever,” cried Roxy, “just look at it”; Jinty nodded, and hazarded that it must have been deleted - adding ominously that such action could only have been taken by someone very senior in the City Council; “we have to try it,” suggested Roxy and Jinty as the only authorised person present, reached out, took hold of the great iron ring which seemed made for the door’s handle, and turned it, expecting a shrieking scroop of rusty metals grinding, but the mechanism was well-oiled, turned smoothly and silently, and with just the whisper of different air pressures, within and without, balancing their flow, the door opened and from far within, where all was dark and muffled, deep beneath the Heart of Midlothian, there came a long-drawn-out and plangent miaowl, not perhaps, a howl, though more than a moan – a sound imbued with such an eerie reverberation that both cousins were dumbstruck for several seconds, until, together and in perfect harmony, the both screamed like banshees!
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