Excusing himself, Sir Parlane stepped out by the open doors which led onto the terrace and he found himself looking at the golden Moon floating above the trees which surrounded the lawn and he though about the many superlunary worlds he and Dominic had visited – Kombu, where intelligent life only existed in the vast oceans and the dry land was populated by subhuman beings; Schloop, a moist planet inhabited by highly intelligent giant slugs, who had developed interplanetary travel aeons before Earth's science fiction writers first described it's possibilities; and Nug, dear old Nug, on the furthest reaches of the Universe, an ancient world believed to have been the original blueprint for Earth, cast aside by the Creator in favour of this blue dot just because of the lazy hedonism of all the creatures inhabiting it's balmy islands, floating on warm seas, teeming with more fish than they could possibly consume, which is the reason for their wealth, produced by their ability to market sea-food and by-products to half the populated planets on their side of the Universe, oh, and their rejection of any Belief in or Reverence for the Creator as evidenced by three Planetary Referendums in the past five millennia, my oh my, the remembrance of Nug bringing a rueful smile to his lips, because. . . . .but no! – this is not the occasion – he plucked some flowers, fashioning a nosegay, silvered now by the Moon's brilliant reflection, which was when a vice hailed him: "oh, sir, you gave me such a start, coming out of the trees so, please forgive me for speaking, if I have disturbed your thoughts, sir, I apologise, and I beg you not to tell the Marquis I spoke without permission," and narrowing his eyes he saw that it was Maree, the maid, and realised that this was the first, the only time, so far, that he had heard her speak at all, had even fancied her for a mute and he saw her hair haloed in the light from the dining room windows and her cheeks flushed, as she stood timidly before him: "fear not, Maree, there is nothing for me to mention to your employer, but tell me, why are you outside at this time of night?" and she pulled her shawl tight and stared at him as if debating whether to tell him the truth, or something else, or simply to turn on her heel and run back indoors; her shoulders dropped as she decided: "please, sir, this is the only time of day I have a few minutes to myself and I like nothing better than to step out and feel the weather, whether it is calm or windy, dry and warm or cold and wet, sir, I care not," and he nodded, smiled and said: "believe me, Maree, I understand just how you feel – I myself need a few minutes of solitude at some point in the day, away from talk, or doing things, or even reading or writing, I call it my funsy time, and I am sure that your funsy is as precious to you as mine is to me; how long have you been out?" and she curtsied and said "five minutes, sir, I should be going back," so he asked: "would it spoil your funsy if I walk back with you?" and the smile was the first he had seen on her face, normally sullen and put-upon, "if you care to sir, thank you," so with slow steps, they walked side by side round to the kitchen door, where she thanked him with a formality that amused him, for such a slight favour, but before she turned into the doorway, he caught one of her hands, raised it to his lips and kissed the fingers, which felt raw and chapped to him, the fingers of a servant, bade her goodnight, and she was gone.
However, his attention was drawn away from thoughts of Time-Travelling Art Thieves when he realized that the Symbol formerly known as the Marquis de Sade was speaking to him: "my dear Parry, have you ever heard of an ancestor of mine, Gilles de Rais?" and MacFarlane replied: "oh yes, Donny, a victim of the Spanish Inquisition, so I've read," not feeling the time was right to admit that Blue Beard was a descendant of his and an enthusiastic member of The Ring of Gold, but he need not have worried, for Donny went on: "one might otherguess that the entire case against him, prosecuted so enthusiastically by that turncoat old Queen, Henri V Duke of Brittany – did you know he was a double-yolker? no? oh, 'tis well known in the family that he preferred to dress as a woman and insisted that he be addressed as Henriette – was sheer embezzlement on a monumental State-sponsored scale," and seeming to have lost his train of thought, Donny turned to Maggie – or was it Daphne? - and asked her whether she preferred to be fucked in the front, or back? for her part, the girl neither blushed nor looked at all shocked, and replied: "where do you prefer to take it, Milord, in your gură or your cur?" using obscene gestures to indicate that these Roma words translate to mouth and arse, at which point MacFarlane was struck by that feeling of l'esprit de l'escalier as he realised what he ought ot have said to the Symbol earlier but that now it was too late, as Donny roared with laughter and made various suggestions to Daphne, or Maggie, but perhaps there will be another chance tomorrow.
And as he watched the interplay between Eunice and Dominic, in which each glance, touch, inhalation had an otherguess about it's assumed meaning, every gesture reached higher strings, notes which the human ear could never catch, Sir Parlane thought about the paintings, stolen probably in the 1960s and now stashed here at Lacoste – where better for the thief to lie doggo with her booty? another Time and Place altogether, almost 200 years before the crime; and where better for a calvous man to hide than in a room full of other baldies – yes, he had to give it to her, aligning herself with the Marquis – now apparently to be known as an unpronounceable symbol – engaged upon a torrid, hedonistic life, who could ever imagine her to be a Time Travelling Art Thief? it was too perfect and that would be her downfall!
By the time the maid, Maree, knocked on their doors, Sir Parlane MacFarlane and Dominic Doubleday were ready and presentable: their bags had been brought up to their rooms along with their wives, and all four went down together; Maree showed them into the dining room, where they found the Marquis and Eunice Eglantine there already and MacFarlane went straight to de Sade, shook his hand warmly and thanked him profusely for agreeing to this meeting; for his part, de Sade, a man in his mid-thirties – after asking Sir Parlane to call him Donny, at which MacFarlane said that his friends call him Parry, and Dominic hearing the Boss's blatant lie, quickly looked away – behaved with the impeccability of a French aristocrat, despite being quite otherguess in his beliefs and practices, while his eyes lingered on the two Gypsy women – no, girls, for they were by far the youngest people in the room and clearly unused to being in such exalted company and Donny said softly to Parry: "there seems to be a dearth of buxom wenches hereabouts, maybe it's because I'm here," and laughed; Eunice played the part of hostess, showing each of the visitors where to sit – the Marquis, naturally, sat at the top of the table, the girls on either side of him, MacFarlane and Doubleday beside them, and Miss Eglantine at the other end, facing de Sade; Eunice explained that this was the informal dining room, which they used daily, or for dining with close friends, while the formal Dining Room (with capitals) was used for larger gatherings and whenever local dignitaries or neighbouring estate owners and aristocrats were invited, more as a social duty than for the pleasure of their company, she asked the girls their names – something neither MacFarlane nor Doubleday had bothered with and they were surprised to learn that they were Daphne and Maggie and their family name was Maro, which translated to Brown in English: "they're only fuckin Broons," whispered Dominic to Sir Parlane and they giggled like schoolboys; de Sade's English was perfect, but he seemed content to let Eunice do most of the ice-breaking and only interjected whenever she indicated that his local knowledge was required to supplement her mention of certain people or places in the vicinity; his descriptions of the local Mayor, the Duc de Gaulois, or Comte Aristide de Pomade, among others, were highly entertaining and quite scurrilous and soon everyone was laughing and visibly relaxing – even the two girls seemed able to follow the conversation although it was obvious that their own knowledge of the world in which they were now living was sketchy, to say the least, a sketchiness which de Sade was happy to fill in for them; although MacFarlane – whose own French was good – was able to follow all of this, the girls knowing no English – Doubleday's knowledge of the language was restricted to Oui and Non and a few other one-word sentences, so Eunice interpreted for him and this went well for the scheme the two Scotchmen had decided upon; as the meal progressed, Eunice and Dominic quickly developed a closer bond: he looked to her for clarification, explanation and guidance and she clearly enjoyed playing the tutor to his student as he asked her about her travels and how she had come to la Coste – not that she gave anything away about Worm Holes, Space/Time or Bridget Riley – and for her part, she seemed delighted to be admired, praised and respected as she blossomed under his flattery; Sir Parlane just hoped that Dom wouldn't pile it on too thickly, concerned that Miss Eglantine might suspect his motives in giving her so much attention, but then, Vanitas vanitatum dixit Ecclesiastes omnia vanitas, and certainly, in that respect, Miss Eunice Eglantine was the living, breathing, glowing proof, so when Dominic held out his right hand and she took it in hers, turned it palm up and began tracing the lines, it certainly seemed that they may indeed be able to look forward to counting their chickens, which was a promising prospect, when their fortunes, otherwise, were rather abeyant; MacFarlane turned to Donny and asked: "we noticed a strange squiggly symbol set above the front door, it's not familiar to me as a coat-of-arms, can you tell me what it means?" and Donny laughed heartily: "oh, Parry, dear friend, it means, only what it is, itself," and Parry (how he hated that contraction of his name!) said: "but that is tautegorical, is there any way of pronouncing it? it is in no language I know of," at which Donny leaned forward and said, confidentially: "as I said, it is only what it is, and I have chosen it as my name, to replace the inherited one I was given at birth and no longer represents who I am," and MacFarlane's memory poked him in the ribs, as much as to say: I have encountered this conundrum before, or will in Time yet to come, but I can't for the life of me remember exactly what it was, so he said: "You are now therefore the Symbol ডিসাডrepresenting the Explorer of Human Sensuality previously known as Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade?" his host smiled, then said: "I rather like the ring of that, dear Parry, let us drink to our collaboration in my Grand Scheme!"
Dominic pulled out his sudarium and blew his nose like a trumpet: "don't make so much noise, Dom," said Sir Parlane, "we mustn't be discovered in here," then, "what's that you've found?" as Dominic eased a canvas to one side and indicated a stove: "it's ane o thae athanors," he said, triumphantly, "mind Doctor Dee had ane the very spit, thon big muckle thing he used fer aw his highfalutin alchemical experiments," and MacFarlane nodded: "it was a bit ostentatious, but what about it?" and Dominic shook his head: "unless ma memry's gaunin, this is the verra same ane, it's fair identickle," and he went behind it, and clapped his hands triumphantly: "bejasus, it is, the verra verra exact same, see here." and he pointed at something scratched into the metal; MacFarlane crouched down while Doubleday held the candle close, but careful not to let the hot wax drip on his Master's head, and then MacFarlane grinned back at him: "you're right, Dom, Doctor John Dee 1550! well now, unless she's got a strong Man and Cart to do her haulage at both ends of the Worm Hole, which could well be through a bealach, if not up and down a narrow mountain track, one of the entrances can't be far away, and she must be able to direct herself to particular Times if not Places – all these pictures must have been collected over a period, even if she had one exit/entry point in London in the 60s, on a particular date, she'd still have to spend time over there, gathering her loot, and it would take one journey back with each picture, look at the size of them! you can't exactly slip one under each arm, or hide it in a rucksack – this is a well-thought out plan, but unless she is a truly dedicated collector with a passion for Bridget Riley, it has to be a scam, like intending to put them up for sale at some future date when the price of such pieces will have risen, or even offering them back to the real owners for a slice of the insurance money they got; wash your hands well tonight, Dom, I think you need to have your Future told!" and they had a good laugh over that.
Sir Parlane MacFarlane shook himself, both physically and mentally, to get rid of the gloopy and eudemonic lethargy which had enveloped him in a haze in th immediate aftermath of his realization that Eunice Eglantine must have discovered the secrets of Space/Time travel utilizing the network of Worm Holes he had discovered in the continuum; he cursed himself for assuming that he and Doubleday were the unique possessors of such knowledge: "we must not pessimize, Dom, there must be a way to turn this to our advantage, come now, show me the storeroom," and removing their footwear so that they would not be heard, he followed his valet along the corridor from their bedrooms and down several flights of stairs: "that's the door, Boss, it isnae locked," and the handle indeed turned easily, and they were soon inside; using a cigarette lighter he kept hidden in a pocket of his breeches, Doubleday lit the candle he had brought with him and MacFarlane let out an involuntary gasp – the paintings stood along two walls of the room, there must be thirty, thought MacFarlane, some he recognised, others not, but all unmistakably the works of Bridget Riley, metathesized from the 1960s or later, to this château in 1776, but why?
"In the name o the wee man, whit wis thon?" cried Doubleday, from the adjacent room; "the return of our host, I presume," replied MacFarlane, more laconically than he actually felt, for he was desperately trying to remember the dream of Plato's cave, fast disappearing down the plug-hole of his mind, because he sensed that there was something vastly important in it – though, whether there really was, he could not quite put his finger on whatever it might be: "why don't you stroll down and see," said his Master, "there's something at the back of my mind I need to get a hold of," and he heard Dominic's bed creak as weight was transferred from the middle to the edge, and then the scramble as his Man found and put his boots on: "Ah hope wur wives have arrived wi the bags, ma boots are caked wi mud an Ah dinnae want tae durty the cairpets, efter wur stay wi the Gypsies, this place is like a palace," and then the tightening and tying of laces, followed by the unmistakeable tramp, tramp of tacketty boots on the polished wooden floor and the opening and closing of the door from Doubleday's room into the corridor; MacFarlane lay his head back on the pillows; he knew that if he closed his eyes he would soon be asleep again, but the dream had fled and he didn't want to be unready if the dinner gong rang out – his stomach felt empty, there was no clock in his room and his pocket-watch had been broken several days ago; for a man who regularly travels backwards and forwards in the Space/Time Continuum, he had surprisingly little interest in the actual, official time of whatever present he happened to be in – he had, long ago, taken the decision to go by his own internal clock, sleep when he was tired and eat when he was hungry, or had the opportunity, because there was never any saying when the next meal might be forthcoming; that was the down-side of such an unpredictable way of life – vagabonds, such as he supposed he and Dominic truly were, had to rely on their wits: if they needed money, they took it where they found it, or more properly, from whomever had it and could be relieved of it, without too much to-do, for they had no real status, no home address, no bankable resources and indeed, no bank account, oh yes, a little gold and silver sewn into their clothes, for the direst of emergencies, but for the day-to-day transactions, purchasing meals or drinks in taverns, local currency was usually needed and that was always the most pressing matter; for the most part, it fell to Doubleday to acquire it, after all, MacFarlane was, or properly, still is a nobleman, Doubleday his minder, tasked with the menial, even venial duties, and good old, honest-to-goodness, theft, swindling, burglary, or more especially, demanding with menaces, fell right into his domain, absolutely no doubt about it; but the most pressing issue here and now was the unexpected presence of that woman, a countrywoman of theirs and from Longformacus to boot, who by her seeming authority over the servants – well, that simple-minded Maree, at least – implied that she had assumed the role of chatelaine, and that might present it's own problems! he had been too brusque in dismissing her offer to read his hand, or tea-leaves or tarot, or whatever form her fortune-telling foolery might take, she was probably a confidence trickster, but if de Sade was confident enough to leave her unsupervised in the house, it implied some trust which he would be unwise to forget: better to have her think she was on his side, rather than alienate her and have her as his enemy – if she has a connection to Sister Evadne, all the more so; then he heard the tacketty boots returning and was somewhat relieved to see that Doubleday was unaccompanied: "well," he said when Dominic entered his chamber: "what's up Doc?" and Doubleday cleared his throat, before: "yer wummin's goat a fuckin hebdomad – seevin auld witches, arguin aboot whit's the best debauchery fer a jaded palate, but iffen they luik at me, am offski, ah wudna touch any o theym wi a barge-pole, let alone ma pogo-stick!" and MacFarlane laughed: "for Christ's sake man, don't ne so churlish, we're guests here and remember, any port in a storm – you can always close yer eyes and let yer imagination take over," but Dominic snorted: "aye. bit ma memory's ower guid – Ah've seen thum, Boss, faces aw wrinkly, hardly a full set o gnashers atween he loat o thum, an mair whiskers oan ther chins than me an ye pit thegither! – – it's a fearsome sicht!" at which MacFarlane reminded him that they both had young wives to entertain them if there was nothing else to hand: "oh aye, Ah meant tae tell ye, when Ah wis luikin fer theym Ah opened a door an, ye'll never guess, Ah saw sum o they picters ye liked in Lundin in the 1960s, they Op Art things by Bridget Riley that meed ma een whirl, black an white wavy lines, an even signed by hur – like as no sumdy else hus bin usin the Worm Holes an stashing thur stuff here – whit div ye mak o that?" and Parlane's mind flashed – Eunice Eglantine, it can only be her!
Unburdened, Sir Parlane MacFarlane and Dominic Doubleday reached La Coste first, their wives, carrying all their luggage, being half a mile behind, which their husbands fervently hoped would cause them to take that wrong turning on the left which would lead them past the village and on into a different future; the door was opened by a young woman, who introduced herself as: "Mlle Eunice Eglantine, of Longformacus, I am the Marquis's biographer and fortune-teller, I read palms and divine the future, would you like me to do yours?" she said brightly: "not for the nonce, Mistress Eglantine," said MacFarlane, taken aback both by her presence and her suggestion, "do you have rooms for us?" at which she bawled: "Maree, Maree, come hither," which produced a lumpy girl of about thirteen who scowled at Eglantine and the two new arrivals: "show the gentlemen to their chambers and come back here." said the Scotchwoman: "are your bags coming by carrier?" she asked, but MacFarlane informed her that their new brides were following on, which caused her to smirk: "honeymooners are you?" she asked, which MacFarlane resented – his affairs were none of her business, but he forced himself to smile and agree, then turned to the servant-girl and asked her to take him and his, manservant quickly as they were both tired; then Miss Eglantine told them that the Marquis was out on business, but was expected home for dinner, which would be served promptly at 7pm; considering the half-built house they had seen outside, most of the interior seemed to have been completed and their rooms, adjacent to each other, were both clean and fresh and each had a large four-poster so, leaving the connecting door open – that they could easily converse without having to shout, they lay down on their respective beds and were soon asleep, having barely exchanged a dozen words; although not normally a dreamer – which is to say, he rarely recalled his dreams – on this occasion, MacFarlane found himself in a cave, rather like the Great Cavern in the Eildon Hills, where so mane Worm Holes meet and cross, over, under, sideways, even vertically, a veritable Spaghetti Junction, except that this dream cave was empty, save for an old Greek sitting, cross-legged on the rocky floor, talking to himself, and MacFarlane felt himself to be ensorcelled, as if this place were, indeed, Plato's Cave and he began to circle the old man, much as one of the planets appeared to orbit the Earth, until the old man caught sight of him and beckoned him over; so it came to be that MacFarlane sat quietly by the old man, attempting to find some sort of sense in his words, but they seemed nonsensical, for he had taken MacFarlane for a hastate, of the Roman army – had he returned to the times when the Roam Camp was named Trimontium after the three hills? pooh! that was nonsensical, for it was much later than Plato, whom he had met in Athens on a particularly hot day in 333BC (not, of course the date known at the time, and he laughed at his absurdity) and the thought came into his addled head that this was all something foolish to do with the Scotch wench who had greeted them on their arrival – a fortune teller – he and Dominic knew more about the future of any person alive or dead, for hadn't they travelled thousands of years ahead, as well as thousands of years behind? perhaps for amusement he should let her study his hand, but which one? and suddenly he woke, alarmed by a strange howl that seemed to echo through the château – did this herald the return of de Sade?
And that was how, just out of the window and down the aulacogen at the foot of the garden, albeit in April 1776, in the Gipsy caravan near La Coste, MacFarlane and Doubleday became the husbands of two nubile gipsy girls, with the urgent pressure of Balthazar and the challenging stares of the girls' fathers who, it was clear to both L'Ecosse, would have much preferred to slit their throats then, rather than later: "we just have to 'man up'," said MacFarlane, accept our lot and shoulder our responsibilities to these lassies, until we find a Worm Hole that'll get us out of here, and then it's Goodnight, Vienna and we'll tak the Low Road to where'er it goes and those villains can search high and low for us, we'll be well gone!" and Doubleday grinned, the Boss always had a plan, which was just as well: "ye'r na jist a inkhorn, ur ye, sir?" said Doubleday, which his Master took as a compliment of some sort and replied: "we canna live in a Plato's cave, Dom, but even we may learn a thing or twa from the Marquis, he's what I think future generations will call 'the real deal'," but Dominic replied: "well, ah read a couple o his buiks when we were bidin wi that Crowley laddie – now he was completely bonkers, if ye ask moi – but ah thocht them buiks wis awfy repetitive – dinna get me wrang, Boss, ah luv the whoorin, bit readin aboot it gets borin efter a whiley, an am urny usin ane o thae dooble intendernesses ye talk aboot," which made MacFarlane laugh aloud: "their cried double entendres, Dom, double meanings, oh man, yer education is sarely lackin!" which Doubleday acknowledged, though he had no responsibility for it, having been a bastard son of the old Baronet, and a serving wench who served the Maister in every sense, but received none of the advantages the legitimate heir had – a couple of years in the Parish school had given him the alphabet and rudiments of arithmetic, but an avid reader, he quickly, if surreptitiously, devoured many of the manuscripts the Maister left lying around and by the time he was fifteen he had a good basic grasp of history, religion and law, but knew nothing of foreign languages, other than the Latin expressions he found and worked hard to understand by working out their meaning from the context in which they were used; and in the years during which they had exploited the Boss's discovery of the Worm Holes and explored different Times and Places, Dominic had read much more – although he drew the line at the coffee table books of the twentieth century: he preferred words over pictures any day;"well, now," said MacFarlane, "it's time for us to bid our new relatives 'farewell' and hie ourselves to the Château, at least I hope it's a château and not a draughty castle; give the wives our bags to carry, come on, chop-chop!"
But by this time, PC Isa Urquhart had been relieved as Control by the Gold Commander, DI Gordon Brevity who, along with his wife, Sergeant Goldy Brevity, was now co-ordinating the Search and Rescue operation in that part of Melrose which lay on the rising Dingleton Hill area, south of the town's bypass; vehicles, including diggers and trucks were run from the Borders General Hospital, where the Staff and Visitors car parks had been cleared of cars and a stream of casualties was arriving at A&E; many off-duty doctors, nurses and ancillary staff had already arrived to help deal with the influx and two extra HEMS helicopters were helping paramedics reach injured people who could not be accessed by ambulances; additional Police Scotland officers had come from Galashiels, Hawick and other towns to assist by the time PC Milly Millican, DI Isa Urquhart and PS Milly Millican reached Melrose Cop Shop with Sir Parlane MacFarlane – struggling against the handcuffs which joined his hands behind his back – and the three All-American journalists (Dominic Doubleday was at the hospital with a pair of armed guards) and a ferry system had already found and taken to the BGH a large number of Neanderthals and the two Heavies, pointed out by PS Millican, who were both debilitated by time-travel sickness; a couple of Mountain Rescue volunteers were searching the cave network, looking for Crystal Shann-Delyeer and another woman, also believed to have been abducted and held captive by MacFarlane and Doubleday; when I reached home by a circuitous route – as all the roads were closed to non-essential personnel, which inspired a riot as customers either couldn't drive to the Co-op, or couldn't bring their shipping home – by walking along the riverside path as far as the Waverley Hydro Hotel and then cutting through Darnick to High Cross Avenue (only being allowed through by proving to the Army Cadets manning a roadblock that I live here) where I found all of my Aunties, Father Mungo Macaneny and Lulu, crowded into the living-room and watching the operation on TV; the BBC had managed to set-up at the BGH and Border Television were based the Scottish Borders Council HQ in Newtown, both had their own drones providing aerial cover, although one had been shot down by a nervous Cadet who apparently thought it was part of a terrorist attack! apparently the conspiracy theories are already wide-spread and wildly off-the-mark, blaming what had happened on eco-terrorists, ISIS, leftover remnants of the Tartan Army, an earthquake – or volcano - English Nationalists resentful of Scotland daring to vote Remain, Christian Fundamentalists unhappy with Scotland's progressive Abortion Laws and Gay Marriage, a publicity stunt by Boris Johnson which mysteriously back-fired, or some disgruntled Teris (as citizens of Hawick are known for reasons which I don't have room to explain here and now) unhappy about a number of things I don't understand or can be bothered to ponder here and now; but it was Lulu who drew me into a corner and asked: "this is some Time Travellin stuff gone wrong, but, in'tit?" – and, although I don't know quite what has happened or why and can only guess, I nodded: "most likely; I wouldn't expect MacFarlane to come back here so publicly of his own accord," and Lulu gave me a hug, which was when I noticed her dangly earrings, girandole in fact, not at all what I would have expected, and I said so: "yepp," she replied, "surprises me tae, but Mungo gave them tae me; ye know, he comes across all brusque and irascible, but I saw another side to him when we went tae the Grapplers Convention – he wants me to tak ower as his Hoosekeeper when Sister Concepta retires, and now that there's only him, where there used to be three priests, the Diocese says he dusnae warrant a Housekeeper! they've no bin tae see it, so they think it's bairn's play, huv ye seen the state o the Parish Hoose? it's totally clarty, an fer ower much fer Sister Concepta – it's ower dark inside an she canny see hauf the time, puir sowell, she diz her best but it's like tryin tae brush back the waves at North Berwick, she husnae a Hope in Hell, oops! ach but ye ken am urny ane o thae Holy Wullies, Teri; onywey, when the Removals Business is quiet, ah pop in an gie her a haun – ah sit her doon wi a cuppie an dae sum o the werk maseel, an then we hae sum peeces an a blether – she cums fae the Gaeltacht, awa oan the West Coast o Ireland, whaur they aw speak Irish, jist like the Gaelic up oan Skye an the Western Islands, so that's whaur she's retirin tae, she's still goat cousins and nephews an nieces, an maybe a wee brither, ah think, bit he'll likely be eighty-five, cause she's near ninety – an thae measly, stingy, miserly bastards wudnae gie hur a helper, it's fifteen year syne Sister Immaculata died – it's a fukn Crime!"
This is just a footnote,
A little note to say,
Something went awry,
With my sentence of today!
I took my cousin's name in vain,
I dropped it on the floor,
I put my own, where hers should be,
What did I do that for?
Normally so sedulous,
A little ambivert;
I scorn any Imperium,
My nose is slightly pert;
Of Godwin's Law I've read and read;
How Men comport themselves,
You'll never hear such names as Hitler,
Flung among our Elves;
When they conduct their business,
In our little Potting Shed,
The gentle murmur of their voices
Finds me in my bed;
It sends me off to sleep at night
And wakes me in the morn,
When they call the House to Rise,
With their blasted ALPENHORN!
There, lying on the grass, was Dominic Doubleday, being tended by a doctor and a paramedic, who had run down from the HEMS helicopter, which could still be heard, idling, on the shoulder between the North and Mid Hills; a man and woman stood nearby, beside a Quad Bike – the man wore orange overalls, with the Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue tag, while the woman wore a Police Scotland uniform; she was the one Teri and Milly were staring at, because they both recognised her as a younger Milly Millican, and it was the older Milly who spoke first: "Jesus, Teri, I looked like a school kid back then!" and Teri laughed: "sometimes you still do, Milly!" and Milly asked: "what year d'you reckon it is, then?" but Teri didn't reply, instead she walked over to the younger Milly, who looked startled, because this woman looked like an older version of Teri, who was back at the Cop Shop, and then she gasped, as she caught sight of the youngest-looking woman among the group in the cave-mouth; Teri spoke first: "excuse me, but are you Constable Millican? Milly Millican?" and Milly glanced up at the drone, still hovering above the scene, before answering: "yes, Ma'am, but who are you?" and Teri produced her Warrant Card, saying: "I'm DS Teri Somerville of Police Scotland, what's the date?" at which Milly took a deep breath and said: "it's the 3rd of July, 2019 – what did you think it was?" but before replying, Teri looked up, directly into the drone's camera lens, then back at Milly, then said: "my DS, Milly Millican and I left here in 2038, following up leads in the disappearance of a group of elderly men back in 2018 – their bodies turned up twenty years later, or at least, some of them, and there were DNA traces which strongly implicated Sir Parlane MacFarlane, who was under arrest in New York, so we went over to interview him, and this guy, Dominic Doubleday – it's a long story, but we, and three friends from America, have just travelled back from 2084 in this replica of the Eildon Hills – I think it was supposed to remain in the same place, but turn back the clock to 2038; can you call for backup? there are a lot of Neanderthals inside and a couple of Russian heavies and possibly the Bronx DA who disappeared at the same time MacFarlane and Doubleday escaped; by the way, who's running Control?" and Milly pointed to the drone: "it belangs tae the Moontin Rescue fowk," she said, slipping into her less-official form of speaking, "bu' it's PC Teri Somerville wha's in cherge at the moment, it's less than hauf an 'oor since this landit here an dozens, hunners, o hooses hae disappeared unner it, buried!" and then she called Teri on her radio: "PC Millican to Control – we've got the injured man and six walkers here, more inside, the Medics are stretchering the patient and taking him by chopper to the BGH, can we have some help to bring all these people down, over," and she looked at the older Teri and said: "there's goanie be a wheen o pepperwork efter aw this is cleared up, bit oor priority is tae reach fowk wha micht be trapped in their hooses unner aw this," her arms indicating the range and scale of the work ahead, "for aw the emergency services. . . . ." at which Teri said: "well, PC Millican, sorry, Milly, your older self, and I will help in any way we can, and for a start, can I borrow your handcuffs and we'll put them on MacFarlane, he's a slippery customer, we've been sedulous in hunting him and I don't want him getting away from us now!" which was when they heard the two men in the cave-mouth arguing; MacFarlane was seething and trying desperately to close the entrance, waving his arms about kicking, punching and shouting obscenities while the man he thought was Bonanno stood his ground and refused to give way, eventually roaring back: "shudduppayaface! cut the Imperium cackle – you might tink you're fuckin Adolph Hitler, but I'm Mussolini an I'm fuckin bigger dan you!" and Teri grinned: "it's Godwin's Law, happens every time two men get into a debate! the older guy is Hyman Kaplan, one of our friends – he's a bit of an ambivert, he can seem introverted a lot of the time, but when he's roosed, ye ken, pit yer fing'ers in yer lugs an staund back!"
Now, as it happens, DI Teri Somerville and DS Milly Millican, together with the three journalists, Hyman Kaplan, Sadie Moskowitz and Rose Mitnik were crouching in a tunnel just out of sight of MacFarlane, in the Main Cavern; none of the Neanderthals were about – they had been consigned to their sleeping caves under orders issued by MacFarlane and Doubleday and under orders to stay there until summoned; the two heavies, Percy and Digby had last been seen, green-faced and vomiting, in their own quarters, obviously the effects of Time and Space travel had unsettled them; Teri, at the front of the group was whispering back to Milly and the others the gist of MacFarlane's rant: "he says we're in Melrose, but doesn't know the date, we'll just have to pick our moment to rush him – he may be armed, so we'll have to be careful, but if he's right about the location, we may get help on the other side!" but Kaplan pushed forward to join her: "it may be premature to say it, but I feel like the Cat's Pajamas, it's like I'm thirty years younger - lemme have a go at him, maybe it's time for an afflatus!" – and without waiting for a reply, he strolled out: "hey, Buster, what's goin on here? me an my family, we got stuck in a tunnel an got lost," and Macfarlane whirled round: "who the Hell are you?" – he gasped, and Hyman stuck his hands in his jacket pockets: "I'm Benny Bonanno from Noo Yoik," he said in a Brooklyn accent, "are you the Head Honcho in this gig?" and MacFarlane was stopped in his tracks; his ventures in North America had been funded in part by Mafia Money, but although he had met several representatives of the Families, he couldn't recall whether or not he had actually encountered Benny, although he certainly knew the name Bonanno – they had met, briefly in 2018, but Benny had been a kid then and hadn't made much of an impression but now, or when they had left Prince Edward Island, in 2084, he would be, what, in his 80s? and this man certainly looked the part; okay, maybe a bit Jewish, but hey, these Italians aged like that, so MacFarlane made an instant decision: "ah, Mr Bonanno, so good to meet you, you said 'we' just then, is your family here?" and Bonanno said: "sure ting; hey, gals, c'mon out," and the other four walked out of the tunnel and lined up behind him: "wassup Benny" asked Sadie, taking his arm, "are we gonna get outa this cave?" and to MacFarlane: "sometimes I get clawstraphobiac, hunny, are ya gonna open the door and let's get some air?" at which MacFarlane wondered if he should take hold of the motlopi root, which was actually a well-disguised lever which operated the door and find out what had happened to Dominic; he reached out for it, but when his fingers touched it, he froze, unable to decide, which was when Hyman, as Benny, shoved forward, knocked MacFarlane's hand away and grasped it himself: "we've had enuff of the giallo, Buddy, I've been on the Ghost Train at Coney Island, but this is just plain re-dick-u-louse!" and when he heaved on the root, the rock slab slid smoothly into a slot in the adjacent wall, and everyone gawped at what they saw outside!
Sir Parlane MacFarlane stormed about the Cavern, shouting and roaring, his voice echoing back at him from the rock walls: "stupid, stupid bloody idiot, not fit to be the wrangler, oh why, oh why do I expect anything more – it's the wrong fucking plat, Jesus wept! we're in the wrong bloody Time and Place, even I can see that, God knows where we are, wrong! wrong! wrong! we're in fucking Melrose – oh shite, I swore I'd never come back here, it's where it all started to go wrong because of that Learmonth and bloody Doubleday, thinks he's so plummy but he's just a fucking serf, oh woe, woe, why did I trust him? it was only a case of taking these bloody hills back thirty years, God knows how far back he's taken us, and thousands of miles away to the wrong place – I dread to think of the fucking mayhem he's caused! it's Him, Him, I should just abandon him here – but he's the one who's supposed to work the bloody thing – how the fuck am I going to do it single handed? it takes two to operate the controls – I'm the bloody Captain, he's just the Mate, but the Mate's the one who does the fucking steering! where the Hell is he now?" and overcome by a wave of mono no aware that suddenly swept over him, he slumped down against a rock, part of the hidden door, cleverly designed by the Landscape Architect who had supervised the creation of this identical replica of the three famous hills, quite unaware that just a few metres away, on the outside, Dominic Doubleday was scraping frantically – and ineffectually – at the outside; dazed by his fall, he had struggled to his feet and then, unable to stand because he was concussed and kept falling down again, he had crawled up to the entrance, followed all the way by the drone, Eagle 2 and even now, he could hear, through the buzzing in his ears, the different sound approaching – the Quad Bike, with Tom and Milly and just above that – literally – the HEMS Helicopter which had just delivered an injured farm worker to the BGH; to the watchers in the Incident Room, it was a bit like seeing the Fifth Cavalry riding to the rescue!
Meanwhile, in Melrose Cop Shop, Isa was quickly established as the wrangler and Tom from the Mountain Rescue next door took on the duties of Wayfinder; all the properties on the citerior, North side of the Bypass appeared to undamaged, while to the South, the new Eildons had obliterated everything! but Tim , also Mountain Rescue, had already sent a couple of drones up – Eagle 1 and Eagle 2, and the live feed was displayed on two large monitors in the Operation Room; it was hard to make sense of it – it seemed so higgledy-piggledy, topsy-turvy, tapsell-teerie, and just plain wrong; they all knew what they should be seeing, but apart from a chimney-pot here or there, the appearance of a wall or a roof, on the lower slopes, everything had gone: "can we get a visual on the hilltops?" asked Isa, and Tim, obligingly, sent Eagle 2 up to hover above the second North Hill, and scan the second Mid Hill: "look," said Milly, excitedly: "it's got the Trig Post and the Cairn, it's not just some hills, they are exactly the same as the real ones, the old ones, like they've been cloned, even the sheep-tracks are the same, and the broom!" and she was right; and then Tom pointed to something moving on the Western side of the new Mid Hill: "do you see it? a whole section of the broom slid under the are next to it, it's the entrance to a cave, or Cavern, zoom in on it, Tim," and the image grew on the screen and it really did seem like an entrance to a large Cavern and then . . . . . "Oh My God!" gasped Milly, as two men came into view, one carrying a kind of scroll, which he unrolled and showed to the other – they seemed to be looking at a map and comparing what they could see with what they expected do see from the map; then the first man ripped the map in two and shoved the second, hard, causing him to lose his footing and roll down the steep slope, while the other strode back into the cavern and, almost immediately, the entrance was hidden by the broom which had slid back into place; Tim made Eagle 2 swoop closer to the man who had rolled down the hill – he seemed to have hit his head against a rock and lay motionless, as if was unconscious: "Tom," said Isa, can you and Milly get up there on a Quad, while I call the Air Ambulance? whoever that guy is, and whatever state he’s in, we need to bring him here so we can find out what's going on!" and Tom and Milly didn't need any second asking, as they hurried next door to get one of the Quad Bikes: giving Milly a helmet, Tom took the opportunity to say: "hold onto you hat, Kid, this could be a bumpy ride!"
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