"A million Hospitals opening tomorrow! with fifty million Doctors and fifty million nurses!" Riddle Rankine snorted: "the man's obviously, certifiably, bonkers!" he pulled the car into a parking space, saying: "this is Elginbrod's car I'm using just now, and this is his private parking space; his private Archives are in an oubliette under the High Street, accessed from one of the old closes that were built over hundreds of years ago – I found a set of keys in his safe, and this," he produced a little black book: "it's a kind of Index, not very explanatory, but it seems to have belonged to the Elginbrods for centuries, certainly it lists files going back to the year dot, most of them concerning Sir Parlane MacFarlane, so who knows?" and Jasmine and Teri climbed out of the car after him and followed the Chief Clerk into a narrow close which led down the side of the Lawyer's Chambers until he stopped beside an old, weathered door, and selected a key, which turned the lock and let them into a narrow stairwell; as they descended, Rankine continued speaking: "and what are all those pensioners going to work at?" and Jasmine suggested: "maybe some of them will be the SA and SS he's going to be using to put all his enemies, not to mention refugees, in the Concentration Camps!" at which the Chief Clerk gave a hollow laugh: "yeah, right! smart thinko on his part, and everyone who works for the BBC and probably all the Opposition MPs – and the Queen signing his Special Order? whoever went to Balmoral was probably holding the hand that held the pen that signed the Order that gave the Fat Controller the powers of Cromwell – and Balmoral's probably in Lock Down, for the safety of the Royal Family, who are now under House or should it be Palace Arrest! he's completely bonkers!" but he stopped beside a low doorway and selected another key which unlocked it and they all ducked down to enter a narrow winding passage, with Rankine now using a torch, as no electricity had ever come this far into the past: "mind the buttress, or you'll get hipped," he said and then, in the plutonian gloom, with the damp walls glistening in the light of his torch, asked them: "can you guess where we are?" but both Jasmine and Teri had lost their senses of direction with the many twists and turns, so Riddle said triumphantly: "we're in the Heart of Midlothian, the marker on the site of the old jail is embedded in the cobbles right above us, and as the girls both looked up reflexively, Riddle added: "and below us, is the Archive," so they both looked down and saw a kind of manhole cover set into the flagged floor; Riddle selected another key, inserted it and turned, then pulled the hinged cover up and shone his torch into the vault, and indicated the rungs of the iron ladder which led down.
On the car radio, en-route to the High Street and Elginbrod's Archives, they could hear the Prime Minister, Boffer Johnson being interviewed by the Scots presenter Andy Macnamara: "oh well, we're going to announce TODAY that on Monday MORNING there will be a MILLION new hospitals opening, with 50 MILLION new Doctors, 50 MILLION new Nurses, and a lot of ancillary staff but no unnecessary MANAGERS, a million NEW Police Officers on the streets, supplemented by a million SPECIAL SERVICES men who will round up all the contumacious Illegal ALIENS and FOREIGN Nationals in the country and take them to special Residential CENTRES where their minds will be CONCENTRATED on learning the ERRORS in their ways and how we BRITONS expect them to behave in OUR country, and to persuade people throughout the country to be LOYAL and Productive a Special ARMY of another million men who will monitor every CITIZEN to identify any HUMBUG and DISOBEDIENCE and stamp them out – the Humbug and Disobedience, I mean, not the Citizens, HA HA - and we will be abolishing the outdated OLD AGE PENSION and putting our 12,112,000 retired people BACK to work, which will save the Government BILLIONS and enable those formerly unemployed meeple to contribute BILLIONS in Income Tax and feel that they are productive and useful members of SOCIETY and contributing to the economy rather than just being overpaid lazy COFFIN-DODGERS, and we are going to build a WALL along the Border between Northern Ireland and the REPUBLIC to put paid to Terrorist incursions AND Smuggling, and a million new workers will build a million miles of SEA DEFENCES along the entire coastline of Great Britain to prevent Illegal Alien HORDES from invading our Elysium from the Neptunian waves o'er which they come in LANDING CRAFT and Inflatable LILOs, and every City, Town and Village will have an APPOINTED Gauleiter to ensure that even the MOST recalcitrant recidivist WILL comply with ORDERS - I spoke to the Queen, her CELESTIAL Majesty, last night and she has SIGNED a Special Order Proroguing Parliament AGAIN to ensure that QUISLINGS, Cowards, COLLABORATORS, Defeatists and SURRENDERISTS can no longer prevent the Vast Majority of the Population who VOTED LEAVE in the Referendum getting THEIR way and TOMORROW we will announce that WE have Unilaterally LEFT the European Union and THIS is my very good friend General Tommy Robinson with the Special Order for the ARREST and DETENTION of YOU, Mr Macnamara BUT, have no fear, you will not be ALONE, for at this very moment all staff of the BBC ARE being arrested TOO, and replaced by a million LOYAL BRITONS dedicated to Defending TRUTH, Liberty, PROGRESS and the IRON WILL of the PEOPLE!"
Over, and after the meal, Riddle Rankine gave the two visitors a run-down on the legal practice of Martin Elginbrod before and since his disappearance – he gave no indication of the wealthy and successful lawyer's present whereabouts – telling them that the two junior Advocates in the practice, and the three solicitors, all had healthy case-files and that business, for them, was booming; Elginbrod, indeed all the Elginbrods who had practised in Edinburgh over the past eight centuries, had been particularly skilful at establishing Copyrights, ever since the second of the line had moved down from Elgin in the 13th century and established himself on the strength of his late father's epitaph: Here lies Martin Elginbrod,
Have mercy on my soul,
Lord God, As I would do were I Lord God,
And Thou were Martin Elginbrod
which had been licensed for reproduction many thousands of times and the royalties were still rolling in; he explained that by Elginbrod successfully registering Brexit on the day of that word's first appearance in print, one of the Assistant Clerks was now employed full-time on that alone, combing newspapers and magazine's, monitoring television and radio stations, both in Britain and all the other national signatories to the International Agreement on Intellectual Property, despite the simple fact that Elginbrod himself had not coined it: "that was a guy called Peter Wilding, who was the founder of a Think Tank dedicated to keeping Britain in the forefront of Europe, maintaining British Influence in the European Union – I believe he regarded Brexit as a pejorative term, based on the earlier campaign for Greece's possible Exit from the Eurozone with the portmanteau word Grexit, I don't know if anyone made money out of that one, but Wilding would probably be spitting tacks if he knew how much Elginbrod has raked in from Brexit Jeannie snorted, said she was having an early night, promised to see the others in the morning, and left them with the washing-up; and that was when Jasmine asked Riddle how long he'd been at Elginbrod's? he peered at her over the top of his glasses, which had slipped down his nose: "fifteen years, if you count the part-time clerical work I did while I was still at school, it was my uncle Izzy who got me in, he was Chief Clerk and the position of Chief Clerk tended to run in the family, ever since Levy Ratkind first worked for the third Elginbrod in 1299 – he was a Uranian Ashkenazim whose great grandfather had come over the Urals to escape the pogroms and found acceptance in Caledonia – naturally, displaced populations tend to coalesce, and the Uranians made their home in what became The Cowgate, on the southern side of the ridge which runs from the Castle Rock down to Holyrood, they also Sottished their name to Rankine; the Law then was enforced with contumacy – you had to be driven and enraged to take your persecutors through the Courts, and the first Rankine's intellect meshed well with the 3rd Elginbrod's greed – they soon developed a working practice which relieved deep pockets of handfuls of their cash – it was a bit like Forward Trading in the Stock Markets today: if you can see what course a gentleman's life is taking and make projections in what came to be known as Uranian Astrology, because it had it's birth pains in that close-knit community, you can insure against his rising and falling; so Lawyers were able to establish their hegemony in Embra long before Bankers and Stock-brokers came on the scene and their word became the doxa; no-one questioned it and soon enough it had Aye Been! and when Lawyers got rich, by biting the backs of the Wealthy, so their Clerks got comfortable riding on the Lawyers' backs; so I started in here as a part-timer, filing and forwarding, and that was about the time that Elginbrod – the father of the present one – brought the two divisions of the business, the Solicitors and the Advocates under one roof in Elginbrod Chambers, just a few steps from Parliament House and therefore had absolute control of every Brief at every stage – I don't know why no-one had thought of it before, I mean it makes perfect sense, doesn't it?
At Newtongrange, a group of uniformed Salvation Army members boarded the train, several with their musical instruments, others selling The War Cry and a trio who began singing: "Rock of Ages, cleft for me. . . . ." at which one sprag, infused with contumacy, shouted: "geeza fuckin break or ah'll break yer heid. . . . ." until the drummer towered over him and asked: "goanie repeat that in front o thae wimmin and weans, buster, an gie me an excuse tae break your heid?" at which the heckler sank as far down in his seat as possible and mumbled an unintelligible apology, at which he was sold a copy of the magazine for which, having no change, he handed over a £5 note: "ah've nae chynge ether, buster," said the drummer, "but ta fer the voluntary donation," and he was left to sulk in silence; now, as the train neared Edinburgh, Teri wondered what the Chief Clerk of Martin Elginbrod's legal chambers would be like – a saturnine, Dickensian figure perhaps, like the present Leader of the House of Commons, a cross between an Undertaker and a tailor's dummy? but as it happens, he was none of those, for they were met by a jolly, plump, flustered, young man, in dungarees and a dusty overcoat, who explained that he'd just got into the basement where Elginbrod's Archives were stored and it was a filthy place: "so I've got you some protective suits, my wife's a SOCO with Police Scotland, she's made a lasagne for tea, we're putting you up in the kids' room, the girls are staying at their grannie's tonight, I hope that's ok, we'll start on the Archives in the morning, here's the car, it's just a short drive but the rain's chucking it down now, did you have a good journey?" and he carried on like that till they reached his little family home in The Colonies and introduced Jasmine – who he already knew - and Teri to Jeannie, a jolly, plum, flustered, young female version of himself, and when they were all seated round the kitchen table, poured four large glasses of red wine and gave the first toast, which was that of The Justice League of Auld Reekie: "Gie us the Een tae see in the Derk an cause Confusion tae wur Enemies!"lasagne – and told the two visitors to "dig in and eat up!"
Which, of course, is how it came to be that just a couple of hours later, Teri and Jasmine were on the train to Edinburgh, where they would be met by Riddle Rankine: "you know, of course," said Jasmine, as the train left Tweedbank, "once Sam and Tavish have made up their minds, whatever they've decided is quite indefeasible and they will brook no contradiction, even though you might come up with an embarrassment of evidence which flies in the face of their conclusion, they will pick it to shreds, poke over it's entrails, push and pull until they find something – and they always do find something – which proves them right!" and she laughed: "but you'll learn the ropes, after all, isn't historical research your speciality?" which for some reason made Teri feel a bit frowsy and frumpy, until Jasmine produced a silver hip flask and two small silver cups: "this is Tavish's, he said you like Laphroaig, but didn't know if you've ever tried their 100% proof," handing one to Teri: "it's his version of giving you the Queen's Shilling – once you've accepted his Malt, you're officially a Spy!"
"So what's the score with Elginbrod?" asked Teri, as she, Ludmilla and Jasmine made their way to the cottage in Darnick that was the local base for the Scottish Security Service; Jasmine laughed: "he was followed from Jinglin' Geordie's by The Justice League of Auld Reekie a few months ago, all the way to the top of Arthur's Seat—Riddle Rankine and Felix Rosenstiel heard him having some kind of drunken conversation with himself, and then he suddenly launched himself – ran full pelt down the hill in the direction of the Salisbury Crags, with them in hot pursuit, looked like he was going to threw himself off, but an old Irish fellah came out of nowhere and did a rugby tackle, brought him down and they overpowered him; they've been keeping him under wraps in one of their Safe Houses, supervised by Angus Og of the Bog!" and Teri laughed: "the Stand Up, the one with the anthropoglot cockatiel?" which Jasmine confirmed: "yepp, pal of Susan Calmac—you know Elginbrod was suspected of complicity in the attempted murder of Og a few years ago? he was whacked in the head by a shoe with a stiletto heel, lucky to survive; anyway, they've still got him under wraps—they have a pretty tight organisation and we've never been able to find out where he is, not that we've tried hard; there's no love lost between Elginbrod and either Sam or Tavish, but they should both be in so we can ask them," which was when they reached the gate and descended the short flight of old, worn stone steps into the little sun-trap, where, indeed, they found the two senior case-officers sitting in the last rays of the setting sun, reading newspapers and puffing on their pipes; two pint glasses, one half full, the other half empty, stood on the table and Sam Smiles, just reaching for one, looked up as he heard the three young women reach the bottom of the steps: "talk of the banshees," he said with a wide grin, and a jovial wink: "how'd you get on with the nippers?" and Jasmine said: "great, guv, they've given us some good leads and Ludmilla's going to follow them up, but we were wondering about Martin Elginbrod—he's still MacFarlane's lawyer, isn't he?" so Tavish sucked thoughtfully on his pipe and squinted back: "his family have been lawyers for MacFarlane's family since the 13th Century—although, of course, if Ludmilla's right, and all the appearances of MacFarlane's supposed descendants, since then, have been just Sir Parlane, with occasional name changes, popping up here, there and everywhere, to plunder, pillage, commit lèse-majesté, rape nuns and vestal virgins, maybe there might be confirmation of that in Elginbrod's archives; let me call Lord Linkumdoddie, I've known him since Uni, and he's in The Justice League of Auld Reekie, Hell, he founded it—I'm not going to ask him where they've got the scumbag, because I don't want to put him in a position where he might feel he has to lie to me, but I'll tell him what we're thinking; Riddle Rankine is the Chief Clerk at Elginbrod's chambers so if anyone's going to know where Elginbrod keeps his secrets, it's him," and taking out his mobile, he strolled to the shade of an old apple tree but before he could make his call, a strange cacophony burst from the phone – Tavish smiled apologetically for his ringtone: "it's Johnny Beattie's Glasgow Rap!" then answered and nodded to the others, mouthing: "it's Jock Linkumdoddie – either he's psychic or he's got us bugged," and Sam laughed: "you know, I wouldn't put it past them, we've not had this place swept for quite a while."
By eventide, and after enjoying a light supper of char siu en famille with the Balquhidders, it was clear to the three investigators that both Little Levy and Wee Winnie, mercurial, immensely knowledgeable about the Universe, it's wonders and it's errors, pure and simple, weirdly complex and as unfathomable as The Creator had intended, far outstripped their adult visitors – that much was axiomatic, and it also held the tantalising promise of the solution to their problem: what is the latest location of their quarry? for they now had definitive proof that the various manifestations of MacFarlane and Doubleday, together with their third, previously unknown partner in crime, recorded only sporadically as The Red Etin, a certified shape-shifter, were all one and the same and not different generations as had been previously thought; but their exact placing could be anywhere in Time and Space, from the earliest stirrings of humanoid life on Earth, to some point far, far into the future; but even with the assistance of the two young children (or, more accurately, their Spirits, as old as Time itself) and even if the Time and Place were identified, how on Earth could they be reached and either apprehended or eliminated forever? "aye," said Levy, "that's a question, and another question, but what in the name o the wee man is the answer?" and it was Wee Winnie, lying lazily in her cot, sucking her thumb, and on the verge of sleep, who mumbled: "methinks Martin Elginbrod will know that one!"
Little Levy Balquhidder was singing his favourite one about corbids: "three craws sat upon a wa', sat upon a wa', sat upon a wa-a-a-a'; three craws sat upon a wa' on a cauld an frosty morning. . . . ." to his sister Wee Winnie, who tried to clap in time, when he caught sight of the three young women coming up the garden path, their faces suffused with the light of the morning sun: "this will be your chance to impress the Tellurians, Columbine," he said, momentarily forgetting to us her new name, as Winnie reminded him with a stern look; Jasmine, Ludmilla and Teri were shown in by the children's mum, Rilla, who told them that she was just going to pop down to the Co-op for some milk, and left, at which Levy introduced his baby sister to the visitors; hearing that Jasmine and Ludmilla were working with Sam Smiles of the Scottish Secret Service in trying to track down the elusive MacFarlane and Doubleday, Winnie asked – in that piping voice which was the best that she would be able to produce until her vocal cords developed - "so the ones your cousins arrested when the mountains collided are an earlier form?" and Teri acknowledged the truth of that question, or statement – the intonation was still immature – and Jasmine said: "and we're hoping that you two can help us figure out where the latest location is," at which Levy and Winnie exchanged glances and it was Levy who said: "how should we know? we're only a pair of bairns, a long way short of the hebetic stage!" but Ludmilla snorted, and said: "pull the other one, it's got balls on it," which had everyone rolling about until Winnie managed to squeak: "methinks Levy is right, it's going to be fun working with youse three!"
After an extended, unexpected, enforced and quite painful hiatus - the result of a lightning strike at QQ - I'm back again; for my cousins, Isa Urquhart and Milly Millican, the appearance of themselves from twenty years in the future, along with the replica of the Eildon Hills, has been traumatic and bewildering: it's not quite the same as with the two Professors Sir Clement Dane, who are the same age, both a tad gorbellied, with broken veins on their faces, and a tendency to fallaciloquence, which doesn't endear them to the locals, but just as difficult to adjust to - strangely, and contrary to what I would have expected, neither of the older Detectives has any memory from their own youthful experiences of receiving this encounter with their older selves, so maybe there is some truth in the concept of parallel universes; anyway, they have all been working together in processing the various people who travelled from Prince Edward Island in 2084 back to Melrose in our own time, along with the recreation of our local tourist attraction: Sir Parlane MacFarlane and Dominic Doubleday are in custody at Hawick Police Station, their two bodyguards - Digby and Percy - have been identified by DNA as the two Russian Oilygarchs, Paderewski Varolov (Percy) and Dmitri Dosvedanya (Digby) who went missing after attempting to steal the Journal of Sir Parlane from the Danes and the Very Reverend Angus MacAngus, are being held in Melrose and awaiting a representative of the Russian Embassy in London before they are taken to Edinburgh on charges of attempted murder and theft; the DA from the Bronx, Ms Crystal Shann-Delyeer and her friend Flora Dora are staying at The Ship Inn, courtesy of Rusty Nails and Doughty Douglass - they both originated in the same period as the newly arrived Isa and Milly and have no desire to return to present day New York, so have resigned themselves to staying here unless someone can figure out a way to transport them to their own time; the three New York journalists, Hyman Kaplan, Rose Mitnick and Sadie Moskowitz, who were assisting Isa and Milly on Prince Edward Island, are working on a book and movie deal about their experience; and the Neanderthals - of yes, we mustn't forget them - continue to live in the replica of the Eildons and have been helping the Scottish Borders Mountain Rescue Service survey the original hills, to create a 3D map of the interior, the caves, tunnels, entrances, detritus even, of their home in 32,018 BC and their Head Man, Nigel, has been elected to Melrose Community Council; my aunts, Daphne, Maude and May, and a team from Scottish Natural Heritage are working on a scale model of the now Double Eildons and planning the archaeological work which has been proposed to the Scottish Government; so while I have been in the doldrums since my eye operation, everyone else has been working away like beavers - but Ludmilla Lermontova and Jasmine Juniper-Green have been keeping me up to date with their investigations into MacFarlane and Doubleday - they are determined find out exactly where, in the Past, Future, or Present, that pair of murderous deviants have reached in their own chronology: when I expressed my doubts as to the possibility, they showed me a Time-Line they have constructed, demonstrating the sequence of appearances in different years, different centuries, different places, since their Time/Space travels began back in the 13th Century; quite honestly, it makes my mind boggle, for I don't have their grasp of the intricate minutiae of Worm Holes and the Wrinkling of the Space/Time Continuum, and the jumps MacFarlane and Doubleday made from their Martial roles in Roman Scotland, to 19th Century London, to pre-World War II Germany, in Glasgow after the war, and to Antarctica during it, or St Petersburg at the time of the Russian Revolution, even Minto and Liverpool in the 1840s, but it's nice to have anyone willing to spend some time with me; but then I had an idea: "show it to Little Levy Balquhidder, you know, the little boy who is in regular contact with The Creator? he's got a new baby sister, Wee Winnie, and I understand that her Spirit is the one he calls Columbine - Jings-oh! if anyone can verify your Time-Line, that pair are the very dab!"
They didn't come in mob-handed, just twos and threes, a mix of young men and women, some older, most casually dressed, a few obviously straight from work, they spread themselves about the bar, it was almost like a spontaneously yet artistically choreographed piece of cinéma vérité although no-one was filming it, yet, and soon had Boffer and Fishy effectively surrounded, which was when they closed in, flashbulbs began popping and the questions came flying: "can you tell us, Prime Minister, are you making a Faustian Electoral Pact with the Wrexit Party?" it was the booming voice of Dan, the Invisible Man, usually heard in Downing Street while Cabinet Ministers are going in or out of Number 10, and it was the spark that lit the fuse and set everything off – soon people were shouting, shoving, tables were overturned, glasses smashed, fists flew, Fishy's mouth wide as the Blackwall Tunnel, Boffer like a frightened rabbit dived into a cupboard, thinking it was an exit door, and fell out backwards with his arms full of mops and one foot stuck in a bucket, cracking his head on the floor when he landed – the regular punters finished their drinks and left, or took them outside, gathering in the narrow lanes around the pub, rather enjoying the eustress, and even recording it on their phones, although none noticed the Strategist par Excellence and his front man as they made their way to where the tandem stood, securely chained: "right Charlie," said Domino Compost, "I think we got our desideratum, can you plonk me down opposite Downing Street?" and with a quiet nod, Charlie pushed off and they were soon lost in the traffic; once he was dropped off, Compost discarded his false beard and, having earlier thrown away his fauxhawk wig, he was admitted to Downing Street, although the police officer who had originally spotted the apparent vagrant with the Gonzo T-shirt and red Doc Martins, now informed the Control Room, where a quick scan of CCTV from Whitehall and Facial Recognition Software – which could see through the hair and beard – identified him as Domino Compost and his journey on the tandem, with a man recognised as Charlie Farley – Compost's closest known associate – at the front, originally following the PM and his bodyguard, then peeling off, was tracked to Bedford Street and the pair were confirmed to have entered the Lamb and Flag a few minutes before the PM; CCTV inside the pub showed that Farley appeared to have sent off a number of SMS messages and a quick hack found that photographs of the PM and the Leader of the Wrexit Party had been sent to all major UK newspapers, press agencies and broadcasters and a call from Compost's own mobile had been made to one journalist who had tweeted the venue, after which about forty reporters and photographers had converged on the pub and the Rest, as they say, is a Mystery; mayhem broke out, the PM's bodyguard had become involved in a scuffle with Fishy Fingers' man and both were taken to hospital, the PM had become entangled with several mops and a bucket, had received a black eye and concussion, and was in hospital, Fingers tried to jump out of a window – through the glass – and lost quite a lot of blood, and he was in hospital, and the Number 10 switchboard was jammed by calls from the media; meanwhile Compost had entered the Bunker from the Cabinet Office, gone down to basement level and through the connecting door to Number 10, collected his laptop and rucksack, grabbed his spare phones and left by the Horse-Guards exit, and no-one knew where he had gone or that he had even been in, except Larry, the Downing Street cat, whose olfactory glands tingled with the strange mixture of scents and danger!
In his Gonzo T-shirt, torn jeans and battered red Doc Martins, Domino Compost, Political Strategist Extraordinaire, might have been taken for the vocalist in a cowpunk band, even to the scowl on his face as he watched Boffer Johnson and his Close-Protection Officer stand side-by-side at the bar, seeming to be almost strangers, a monochrome bas-relief against the colourful background, not even making the pretence of small-talk, for Johnson's eyes were on the door, while his bodyguard scanned the faces in the room, then Compost saw the relief on Boffer's face as the door opened to admit two men, as like Tony Hancock and Sid James as peas in a pod: "the fat fucking bastard," Compost whispered to Charlie, "so much for a bottle-episode, it's gonna be a full-production show-stopper, he's only meeting up with Fishy Fingers – the dirty little traitor, I'll have his guts for garters, you see if I don't; take a snap of them, Charlie and send it to all the Cabinet," and as Charlie, pretending to be talking on his phone, took a number of shots of Boffer and Fishy greeting each other, Fishy accepting a pint of Best. then the two of them moving across to an empty booth, while their Minders remained at the bar and eyed each other suspiciously, Compost dialled a number and when the familiar voice answered, said: "the PM is meeting with the leader of the Brexit Party in the Lamb and Flag, right now," and hung up; that'll be the sharks among the minnows, he thought to himself, now we'll see who can swim the fastest!
The man in the Gonzo T-shirt, leaning against a lamp-post opposite the entrance to Downing Street saw the gates open to allow two police officers pushing bikes to pass through, nothing special in that, he thought and spat into the gutter and suddenly refocused, using the opera-glasses concealed in his hand, yes! one of the officers was from the Number 10 Specials, the other, a rather tubby red-head, he had never seen before, at least, not in uniform, so he zoomed in on the face – yes! it was Boffer Johnson, the PM in a ginger wig, so he was right, the bastard was definitely up to something. so Domino Compost, Super-Strategist, raised his hand and a moment later, Charlie pulled the tandem in beside him, complete with a spare helmet strapped to the ear seat; it took a moment for Compost to discard his own fauxhawk wig and jam the helmet onto his shaved head: "follow those two Noddies," he said and swung his leg over, as Charlie began to pedal; was the PM's disguise germane to whatever nefarious activity he was embarking on, on merely a subterfuge? time would soon tell and as the tandem shadowed the two cyclists up ahead, towards Trafalgar Square, but cutting off to the right and taking a shortcut to the Strand, it became obvious to Compost that they weren't heading for a Police Station, so where? and then it came to him: "Bedford Street, Charlie, we can head them off," and Charlie cut across two lanes of traffic, heading towards Covent Garden - appropriate, thought Compost, if the first fruit of Boffer's betrayal is produced here! they parked the tandem, double-chained to a set of railings and then made their way on foot, managing to slip into the pub without catching sight of Boffer and his bodyguard: inside The Lamb and Flag, an historic hostelry which was once a regular meeting place for a variety of Left-Wing groups, mainly because it was so close to the long-time headquarters, on the corner of Bedford Street and King Street, of the Communist Party of Great Britain; but the red-flag waving Bolsheviks, together with Socialists, Anarchists, Ban-the-Bombers, Irish Nationalists and an assortment of other Fellow Travellers, had long gone and given way to an eclectic mix of Hippies, Yippies, Yuppies, Guppies and Buppies, Greens, Beans and Vegan Tree-Huggers, Muggers, Gay Buggers, Tea Baggers and Lezzy Shaggers, so no-one turned an eye as Domino and Charlie walked up to the bar and, as the place wasn't yet as crowded as it would be later, were able to order two pints and find themselves a table from which Domino could keep an eye on the door by way of a small, craftily placed mirror; so it was just a minute later that Boffer and Sergeant Sargent of the Special Protection Unit pushed their way in and after a brief scan of the room, moved towards the bar.
The lone man squatted against a tree just a few yards from Downing Street, while one of the armed police inside the gates kept a weather eye on him – much longer and he'd be told to move along – his long fauxhawk hair and beard gave him an infuriating itch, but he had a very important reason for keeping out of sight and in a disguise completed by the Gonzo T-shirt, torn jeans and battered red Doc Martins, so couldn't scratch his face or scalp for fear of giving himself away: he didn't trust his employer, the braying buffoon, Boffer Johnson, probably destined to become the briefest serving Prime Minister in British History (not quite the shortest, not quite the fattest, maybe even not quite the stupidest – though that was moot – but certain to be remembered for the same reason as Lady Jane Grey) and needed to confirm some of his suspicions, so if he was taken for a poor homeless beggar on the streets of London, well, he'd only be one in a good many thousands and no-one ever noticed them – except for having to step over them when coming out of the Royal Opera House, of course – but he guessed that one of the officers would have seen him by now and wondered what he was up to, so Domino Compost stood up, lit a cigarette and swinging his Tesco carrier, casually crossed the road.
And while in 1914 the émigrés were spending their third day facing the German level crossing, where the two armies still seemed to be passing each other, marching north and south between the gates that blocked the railway lines, with three trains queued behind their own and another four visible on the far side, just disappearing out of sight beyond the trees – although it might have easily been in a parallel universe – late last night, down in the crypt beneath the Palace of Westminster, in the infamous Floozies' Bar, the three Conservative Members of Parliament for the Beddingshire Constituencies - (North) Sir Pompus MacFarlane, (Mid) Mr Digby Doubleday (and South) Ms Natalie Rhombus – were drinking to the Good Health of the new PM and Confusion to his enemies, and Natalie was saying: "of course he's got a Plan, and a very cunning one if you ask me," which raised Sir Pompus' eyebrows – one far higher than the other – and he chortled: "not on your Nellie Duff, my dear girl, it's The Wraith wot's got the Plan, old Boffer's never had a Plan in his puff, and saying he wants to unite the country, that's a laugh, nothing esemplastic about Boffer!" at which Digby looked askance, as only he could: "a waif? a ghost? in Number 10 – have you seen it Sir P?" which brought a withering look to the Elder Statesman's tanned features, and he snorted: "it's not a bloody ghost, Diggers, it's that Domino Compost, you idiot!" and Digby took a gulp of his beer, belched and said "aaaah, gotcha, Sir P, the Strategy Supremo, well he did bloody good with Rats Vote Leave, if anyone can get Boffer out of the shit, he's yer man," and leered at Natalie: "how bout you, Nat, ever done the old horizontal Tango with a Waif?" at which Sir Pompus hissed: "it's Wraith, you cretin, not Waif, that's like a street kid," and Digby winked, "gotcha, Sir P, a fancy kinda Rent Boy!" and received a kick on the shin under the table and after a few seconds yelped, the distance for a message to travel from his lower leg to his brain making his reaction always a little out of sync, which often meant that people would stare at him, wondering why he had yelped; "the trouble is," said MacFarlane, lowering his voice and his head, so that his friends had to move their own heads lower and closer to hear him above the buzz of hilarity that was always present in here, and he explained: "he's sometimes so many moves ahead that he misses what's happening behind him, if you get my drift," and Digby grinned: "like a goal-scorer putting himself offside, cos he knows where the ball's gonna go but the backs have moved out of the penalty area cos they've not seen it coming – is that wot you mean?" and Sir Pompus' closed his eyes in order that he could compose himself, then shook his head: "you could put it that way, Diggers, although I'd rather you didn't – it's more to do with the nature of Boffer himself, he'd be no use at Poker, if he's got a good hand, and you could say that Domino dealt him a very good hand indeed, he can't sit still, keep his lips zipped, let the others play the way he wants them to, no, he can't sit still and keep that stupid grin off his face, he keeps looking at his hand and laughing and everyone can see he's got a flush or a full house, can practically identify his cards because they can read his rubber lips as he says to himself, "three aces and two kings," or "ten, jack, queen, king, ace," so nobody bets against him and he keeps piling cash on the table and when everyone folds he realises it's his own money he's pulling in and then he starts blaming the other players, he just can't help it; just like he let everyone know, weeks ago, that he was setting up to blame the EU if he got his No Deal, everyone and his dog could see it, except Boffer himself; and the same with Proroguing Parliament, splitting the Party to get rid of the Remainers, forcing a Confidence Vote, trying to bully the Opposition into a General Election, even the man on a Clapham Omnibus could see what was going on, but Boffer just couldn't let it work it's way through, he was too busy shouting that he'd got a great wheeze that would enable him to trounce the Socialist Revolutionaries and European Unionists with a single stroke," and Natalie sighed: "and he really put Lizzie in a spot, didn't he, sending that long drip Jacobo Moggie up to Balmoral to get her autograph?" and Digby woke up: "what on Earth was Moggie doing lying down on the Treasury Bench?" he asked apropos of nothing, but Nat giggled, "psycho-analysis," she said, and Digby shook his head: "the Chamber's really not the place to ask for Colonic Massage!," and Sir Pompus groaned: "the fogey's got far too much of the ascesis for my taste, like Walter Pater and his aesthetes, bloody Pansies, the lot of them! of course, all the Moggies are a bit strange," referring to inhabitants of Mogerhanger in his Constituency by their demonym, which was the origin of the Leader of the House's family name, but Natalie defended Jacobo: "probably had a stiff neck, from trying to face two ways at once, it's a very demanding job he's got," and "that's right," cried Digby, seizing on this adscititious cause, "like that Roman God, wotsername? oh yes, Janice!"
At first a few climbed down to the tracks, then some more, until at last all the passengers were stretching their legs and watching the armies pass each other on the level crossing: "it's the Kaiser' unbirthday celebrations," joked one of the musicians: "they're going to inthronize a prize porker as Emperor," laughed one of the set-painters; while Heinz Beinz, an essential part of the Cabaret's non-performing company, a bricoleur-of-all-trades who could glaze a window, re-line a smoky chimney, mend a fault in the plumbing, climb up a slender ladder and re-hang the Stage Curtain, shoe a horse, and of course, extemporize a campfire for the cooks from the train to start sizzling sausages, black pudding, cutlets and other delicacies out in the open; and that's what attracted the officer, a Captain in the Hussars, to ride up from the level crossing and ask a few diffident questions about the train and it's passengers – he was interested in numbers, but made no mention of papers or passports, never asked for names or occupations, or even the purpose of the journey; and he never glanced in the direction of the engine, with it's larger than usual complement of firemen: clearly, the workers who drove or signalled or served on a train were beneath his lofty view, merely cogs in the machine; at length, munching on a Wienerschnitzel one of the cooks had offered him, the Captain rode back down to the gates and gazed north and south, apparently unsure which direction his troupe had taken, tossed a coin, caught it, and headed north: "silly fool," the driver shouted down, "we saw 'is fellers come from the north, 'eaded south, lessen 'e's decided it ain't worth the sweat, an jest goin 'ome!"
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