Christ!" whispered Jasmine, "that was close!" and from the other side of the broom came: "sure was, babes, but no-one spotted you," and as Jasmine and Teri cautiously turned towards the voice, a hand offered a small telescope: "it's non-reflective, Special Ops, not that I'm advocating a chirocracy, but someone needs to remove that chilblain from circulation and we missed hop tu naa, couldn't get a bead on him in those cells at the Hawick Precinct House, but you've made a statement and it ain't gone unnoticed; as Speaker Bercow used ta'say: 'even from a sedentary position, your intervention has been recorded in Hansard and while the Government may not give a flying flamingo for what you think, those who do, have noticed and will reach out to you,' or stuff to that effect," and as the bushes parted slightly they could see the grinning faces of Crystal Shann-Delyeer the Bronx DA and her friend Flora Dora who had been among the bewildered occupants of the second Trimontium Hills when they landed from Prince Edward Island just a few weeks ago: "we're just heading back to Bonchester, got a nice little house there, thanks to the Consul-General in Edinburgh, come with us, we may be able to pool our resources," and without waiting for a reply, Crystal crawled away through the undergrowth, followed by Flora Dora and, after only the briefest of hesitations, Teri and Jazz.
Deep in conversation and apparently heedless of their surroundings, Teri and Jazz passed Mother Kelly's without comment and turned up Sinon's Passage which soon became an undulating track heading towards the Southern, yet curiously named Wester Hill, soon finding a comfortable nest below a clump of broom, which afforded them a clear view of the entire townland of Bowden and directly before them, the rear garden of Ochan'toshan's cottage; surrounded on three sides by thick beech hedging, their observation point was sufficiently elevated to enable Jasmine, with her binoculars, to see distinctly the three men seated on the patio: Ranulph Ochan'toshan, the host, in a flowing housecoat in a floral fabric which was probably silk; Sir Parlane MacFarlane in cricket whites plus a mauve cravat; and the Edinburgh Lawyer, Peter Boo, still formal in his black jacket, waistcoat and pinstriped trousers - even his Merchiston Castle School tie was firmly in place; Jasmine zoomed in on him, then: "fuck! sunstrike!" she dropped the glasses and slumped back into the bushes beside Teri.
But then MacAngus called them back, and said: "once a pedagogue, always a pedagogue, so I must apologise for not letting you get a word in edgewise, girls, but I do hope my advice proves briche if your Target as a Person of Interest is a certain Heilan Gentleman, it may be a cliché, but is none the less true – even though I seem to be a proditomaniac, doesn't mean that there aren't bastards out there keen to put me under the heather and mark my words, they have no regard for morals, ethics, social standards or the Law of the Land, they think they are above all that, so gaun canny, and mind your backs; now, go, go, they're under starter's orders, God Bless!" and his milky-eyes turned to the television screen, while Jasmine and Teri closed the cottage door behind them and paused for thought, before continuing with their mission: "ciggie?" asked Jazz, "hoo no?" replied Teri, so they sat on MacAngus's bench to smoke and watched a flight of geese, flying east across the sky and reflecting that their own course of action might be of shorter distance, but pose dangerous risks of it's own.
By the time Teri and Jasmine had managed to help Angus into his cottage and settled him in a recliner facing the large bay window, his sobbing had settled into occasional hiccups and he accepted a glass of Islay Mist Jasmine had poured him from a bottle she found in the small, surprisingly neat, kitchen: "pass me that jar of dildock, would you?" he asked and Teri gave it to him and the old cleric massaged some into the hairless area of his head: "it's the best relief," he sighed and Teri was glad that he had stopped venting his paranoia or – what was it he had denied being? - oh, yes, a proditomaniac, which seemed to be much the same, but he then said: "you probably wonder why I came here, eh? to get some peace and quiet, away from the Danes and their ranting, but d'you know what? this place, Bowden, has been taken over by that Ranulph Ochan'toshan and his mob, they practically run the place from his aerie, it's on the slope leading up to the Eildons and he's the Chairman of the Community Council, Him! he's corrupted the whole place and apparently plans to stand for the Scottish Borders Council at the next election! he's the one leading the conspiracy against me, all because I have the Journal of Sir Parlane MacFarlane that I discovered in the Ha Ha near Lesmahagow; he wants me to surrender it to him, so that he can return it to MacFarlane, they're cheek and jowl that pair, them and Elginbrod the Edinburgh lawyer, Devils the whole lot of them, I found that out the hard way – oh, don't misjudge me, girls, I wasn't always so cynical, I've been gulled and conned in my time and your dear Aunts, Daphne, Maude, May and Cristo saved me more than once, them and my dear old friend Father Mungo; it was he who discovered that Sheepshank, that's the name of my little croft, was for sale and told me about it, suggested that it would be a perfect retreat for me – alas, little did we know that The Ring of Gold had infiltrated the village! but I keep my eyes and ears open, it's surprising how much an old dodderer can glean from the passing conversations of others who assume that at my age we're all deaf and blind, Mungo usually comes over at weekends and we stagger about, like a pair of bookends, each keeping the other upright, you'd be amazed at what secrets are cast before us like pearls before swine, just because our combined age is the best part of two hundred – I'm pleased to have seen you and thank you heartily for your kindness, but don't let me hold you back: I suspect that you have a good reason for coming to Bowden but no need to explain yourselves, Mum's the Word!" and he mimed zipping his lips together: "pass me that remote, if you would, I've put a few bob on an outsider in the 2.30 at Wincanton and don't want to miss it, you can see yourselves out, and do, please, call in any time you are passing, and say the same to your Aunts, I haven't seen them since I moved in here and Mungo doesn't tell me much Melrose news, cheeriebye!" and he waved them towards the door.
Just after crossing the Bowden Burn by a little bridge, they heard a cheery voice call out to them: "why Theresa, Jasmine, surely not going to pass me by without a how-de-do?" and they turned to see the unmistakeable figure of the Very Reverend Angus MacAngus dressed incongruously as a rustic yeoman, complete with shepherd's crook and his trousers tied below each knee with nicky tams; the girls had no option but to express delight at this unexpected – indeed, unwanted – encounter: "you must come see my little croft," said the theologian, gesturing towards a picturesque cottage, complete with a pretty garden with a cow, a sheep and a goat grazing contentedly and hens pecking at the ground: "you do know," MacAngus stage-whispered as they entered the garden, "that I am no proditomaniac, but after the encounter the Professors Sir Clement Dane and I had with those two Russian Oilygarchs – or perhaps Mafiosovitch would be more accurate – I have been plagued by accusations, innuendos, brickbats, slander, libel, things you never read in the Bible, to the extent that my hair is falling out, look, see," and he showed them what at first glance might have been a monk's tonsure, but the exposed skin looked red, sore, itchy, inflamed, blistered, as if he had eczema, and he continued: "God knows I am not a vain person," which, in truth, was a barefaced lie, "but honestly, it saddens me to realise that the real world in which we live, far from academe, far from universities and cathedrals, is people by madding crowds of small-minded, pettifogging, uxurious, egregious, purveyors of lies and defamation, and if I could only lay my hands on one of them I'd tie him in a sack and throw him in the burn like an unwanted kitten, truly I would, I would indeed!" and he sat down heavily on the varnished wooden bench which stood below a bow window, coruscating in the midday sun, and wept into a large red and white spotted handkerchief.
"He's arrived," said Jasmine, watching the screen in her palm, "and he's in!" as Teri drove along the same road from Jedburgh towards Melrose, via Denholm and Lilliesleaf, she smiled back: "that was some coin of the realm trick you did back there, Jazz, dropping your pen and crawling under the table with the tracker needle," and her passenger agreed: "once I realized there was no way we would be able to stick into MacFarlane's shoe, I improvised, it was good of Maisie to let me into the row behind Boo – I owe her a pint," as they passed through Lilliesleaf, the warm sun of the St Luke's summer that the Borders was enjoying this past few days, highlighting the Autumnal colours of the trees, so many shades of green, gold and russet, Teri asked: "so where is he now?" and Jasmine enlarged the image, changing from Map to Satellite: "it's that Ranulph Ochan'toshan's cottage in Bowden, let me check, yepp, that's the one – Mother Kelly's, yuck, what a creepy name for him to give it," and Teri smirked: "wasn't that the song Danny La Rue used to finish his show with?" which got a whistle from her friend: "you're right," and then: "On Mother Kelly's doorstep
down paradise row
I'd sit along O' Nelly
she'd sit along O' Joe
She'd got a little
hole in her frock
hole in her shoe
hole in her sock
where her toe
peeped through. . . . ."
then Jasmine advised Teri to take a right at the crossroads, onto the Charlesfield road and then left, which would take them past the Noachian Kirk: "maybe we should leave the car there and go on foot, we can easily pass as tourists, but someone might spot the car is local and if we're asking questions about the village and it's inhabitants, they might wonder why – there are a number of members of The Ring of Gold living here now, in addition to Ochan'toshan and there's no point in drawing unnecessary attention to ourselves," which Teri agreed made sense; she parked beside the ancient wall, over which they could see the small church, seeming to grow out of the ground, like a rupestralian outcrop of the ancient rock beneath the grass, and climbed out, and Jasmine hung a camera round her neck, as Teri picked up a few of the tourist literature which she never threw away – there were several about the Kirk and the picturesque village which, while not a patch on Melrose, still always seemed to draw visitors – and together with an Ordnance Survey map, would give any casual observer the message that they were a pair of tourists venturing off the beaten track onto the road less travelled, but worth exploring; Jasmine checked the small screen of the receiver: "Boo is in the back garden now, if we walk past the row of cottages, there's a lane that leads to one of the paths that walkers use to ascend the South Eildon – let's have a stroll and see if it gives us a view, I've got a pair of binoculars, we might see who else is there," and Teri acknowledge this with: "sounds like a plan to me, Jazz, lead on MacJuniper-Green!" and her friend laughed: "ha, bloody ha!"
After lunch and a quick refresher session with Sharon, Sir Parlane Macfarlane and his host, Ranulph Ochan'toshan, sat in deckchairs in the rear garden, smoking, sipping Glenfiddich and idly chatting about the true meaning of Life: "your Beech hedge is a good idea," said Sir Parlane, "marcescent species with leaves all year, even withered though they are becoming, must help keep prying eyes out," and Ralphy chuckled: "oh, I chose this cottage as much for it's privacy out-of-doors as it's possible pleasures within; thankfully, all relationships are manageable here – the neighbours on either side are elderly and keep themselves to themselves, but you know, when we had all that stramash with the law a couple of years ago, the whole village rallied round in support of me, and The Ring of Gold of course; we've rather gamified life here, not only Sharon's Play School with the little 'uns, but we have Play School for adults too – she does a good Miss Whiplash turn and also has a growing number of elderly men who miss the kind of discipline their Nannies used to exert over them, - and Apo runs a Karate Club, different ages on different nights and several members of The Ring have moved in, Quentin Ingmarsson and his family are in the old Manse, the Duke of Albany uses Castle House as a weekend retreat with whoever has taken his fancy, in fact, we have effectively taken over the Community Council – I'm Chairman now and even the Very Reverend Angus MacAngus has found himself a charmingly restored But-and-Ben on the road down to the burn," and Sir Parlane asked: "I suppose he's got a basement or cellar – didn't he always seem more like an underground sort of person?" at which Ranulph laughed heartily: "you are spot on as always, Sir P, there's something of the badger about him, he's incredibly hirsute now, except for the pate, he's got more fur on his hody than his bed, oh gosh, I seem to be going a bit gaga myself, with these spoonerisms if started spouting," but MacFarlane laughed and asked: "so what sort of games do you play here, and how involved are the villagers?" when they heard the distant chime of the doorbell and shortly afterwards, Apo stepped out onto the patio: "escuse me Masters, zere iss a man say he wanna see you, Master Ranulph, name he give Boo!" at which Ochan'toshan grinned broadly: "bring him through Apo, and get him a stiff drink."
The drive from Jedburgh through rolling hills was a delightful reminder of what could so easily have been lost, had the Sheriff not been so amenable and Sir Parlane was glad that his relationship with Ranulph was both friendly and fiduciary, especially with Elginbrod disappeared which was a puzzle he would like to solve, gien the opportunity; when they arrived at Ochan'toshan's delightful cottage in Bowden, MacFarlane and Doubleday were not in the least surprised to find, in addition to the latest Filipino Houseboy and Housegirl, named Sam and Sammi as usual, a couple of very young Thai Ladyboys, Za-za and Chi-chi, a muscular Greek Valet-cum-Odd-job-man, Apo Siopesis, with Ranulph emphasising the cum and odd-job bits, and a new Lady-in-Waiting, Sharon, in place of Christiane, who MacFarlane and Doubleday had last seen in Roman Britain before they had been ignominiously dispatched by a small man who looked like a Boy Scout Leader! certainly, Sharon was cut from the same stuff as her predecessor, with a mass of red hair, a pleasantly dimpled face, and the figure of a very real woman – she was what Ranulph referred to as a Passer, with her rudimentary male organ tucked well out of sight; it was quite obvious to the new arrivals that the Filipinos and Thais had very limited English vocabulary, which was excellent – they weren't here for conversation; Sir Parlane sat on the sofa beside Sharon and sipped his Glenfiddich: "Ralphy," he called to their host, who was just handing a glass to Dominic, "div ye think wur Brief wull show his face?" and Ochan'toshan flashed a wolfish grin: "well, Sir P, I understand that his marriage has become a bit of a rocky road and his hands have been doing a little wandering since he got me released and those trumped-up charges quietly dropped, and I did suggest that I'd settle up in cash this afternoon or evening if he cared to drop by – I did tell him we were having a small celebration for yourself and Dom, and may have hinted that some pleasant company would be here too – I think he got the nod and wink," and MacFarlane gave a silent toast to Peter Boo and hoped that he would arrive, it was always good fun corrupting upstanding citizens, especially such strait-laced ones as the Edinburgh Solicitor!"
Peter Boo, the Edinburgh Solicitor who had previously represented Ranulph Ochan'toshan and found himself transported to 15th Century Milan by way of 1930s Berlin for his sins, was a little spuggy of a man, sparrow-chested and. having just become a Writer to the Signet, rather pleased with himself – if not his clients! but after the Procurator Fiscal had outlined the case against Sir Parlane MacFarlane and Dominic Doubleday and given notice of the Witnesses he intended to call, Boo rose to his feet and glanced around the Jedburgh Courtroom: "if it please Your Honour," he said, addressing the Sheriff, "I have the pleasure of defending two Canadian, nay, Nova Scotian, citizens and submit their Passports as comprising the only evidence necessary; you will see that, far from being the professional Time Travellers claimed by Mr Houston (a nod in the direction of the Procurator) Sir Parlane was born on Prince Edward Island on January 1st in the year 2000, while Mr Doubleday's birth, also on Prince Edward Island, was on April 1st of that same year; but they are obviously not 19 years of age, nor are they suffering from what might be called the Dorian Grey affliction of agerasia, but rather, to some strange quirk of the Space'/Time Continuum, they were involuntarily transported to Melrose along with a number of people not personally known to them and have spent the past weeks imprisoned by Police Scotland for no obvious purpose, other than the desire to improve the conviction rate of that body – in other words to turn my clients into Scapegoats, or Sacrificial Lambs, and my instruction are simple and straightforward, my clients deny all the charges and in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, beg Your Honour to set them free without a stain on their characters and reputations," with which he promptly sat down; their was a hush, for no-one seemed to know what would happen next, until the Sheriff banged his mallet on the table before him and said: "case dismissed, nothing to answer," then rose and passed through the door to his chamber; well, what a confusion broke out, everyone was shouting, gesticulating, trying to agree on what they had just witnessed, so no-one actually saw the two defendants slip out of the Courtroom with their lawyer and into the crisp October morning, where they were met by Ochan'toshan: "ta very muchly, Mr Boo," said Sir Parlane, "send Ralphy your bill, or pop round to his house in Bowden for the Celebrations if you like, smell you later!" and with a wave of his hand, the car accelerated away and left a bewildered Writer quite at a loss, for he had fully expected the Sheriff to simply say something like: "everyone who appears here claims innocence, Mr Boo, few are," and then call the first witness for the Prosecution, and decided to go into the nearest pub and get quietly sozzled!
"It wis thon lassie Friday," the shamelessly brass-knecked Rab Ha' continued to perseverate, but Maister McNab corrected him: "you mean WPC Mountcastle," and Rab continued: "aye, hur, she hud it in fer moi, ever since thon time at Netherdale, when me'n ma pal Deke Schmendrick wis at the gemme wi Leithen Rovers, ye'll ken Deke? used tae be in goal fer Fairydean," and McNab nodded: "lang streak o piss, him? wis keeper fer twa matches, but sacked efter Coldstream pit eleeven in the net – why, even their goalie scored, fae his own goal-mooth!" at which Rab was silent for a moment, then said: "well, Deke and moi went doon at Pie Time fur wur pies," and McNab clarified: "hauf time?" as Rab went on: "there wis jist a Baker's Dozen, we wis gey lucky, so ah bagged ma usual dozen and Deke the thurteenth, an we wis jist gaun up again when this lassie said: "nae pies left?" an the seller telt hur: "they twa goat the last thurteen," an she follered us up tae the stands an asked if she an her pal could buy twa aff us, an oo politely telt 'er whaur tae shove it, we'd nane spare, an we wis jist feenishin when the gemme restarit, an next thing the hale staund wis roarin oot: 'wha ate aw ra pies, then? thae twa greedy fat men!' which wis a cruel insult tae Deke an it wis aw thon wummin's fault that it caused wur Centre-Forward tae hesitate an miss his only chance o a goal in the hale 90 minutes! an she stertit persecutin me efter thon, it wis criminal, it wis," but Maister McNab shook his heid: "nah, nah, Rab, yer story stinks tae high heaven, either yer a damn fine actor or yer a paranoid pie an knicker snatcher, when ye slipped yer jaicket thon nicht, she hud ye bang tae rights, an nae amoont of self-justification wud hae persuaded a Gaulie jury itherwise; as ah said – Jethart Justice? nae sic a thing!" and that was when, in their corner, away from the glare of the Train Crew's lanterns, which illuminated the spectacle Teri and Jasmine had witnessed, along with the other passengers, of Rab Ha's uncomfortable confrontation with the Engine Driver – who did, indeed, resemble Arthur Askey, Jasmine whispered: "I've just got confirmation from The Economic Migrant – the pair who were looking for us in Elginbrod's Archive were Tris Kaidekaphobia, as we suspected, and Duncan Doubleday," and Teri gasped: "the Deputy Chief Constable?" and Jasmine nodded: "the very one," then showed Teri the night-vision photo the young Syrian refugee had sent; it was a bit like looking at an x-ray, all dense blacks and luminous whites, but the faces were pin sharp and the Bulgarian assassin was wearing his Panama hat; just then, there was an overhead flicker and the carriage lighting came on, producing a weary cheer from the passengers – apart from Fat Rab, the now quite knackered-looking Gala Glutton, whose sickly green face was streaked with tears of shame, sweat, and grease "oh, ho!" said Maister McNab, "the power's back oan, we'll gaun an see if she'll stert," and followed by his Guard, he trotted back to the Motor Unit in the front carriage; Rab stood, probably intending to go to the toilet and empty his stomach, and the shot which shattered the window behind him, parted the hair on top of his head, knocking him out cold like a jackhammer blow, and the bullet, ricocheting from it's brief contact with his particularly hard skull, thudded into the head-rest on Jasmine's seat, just an inch above her own head; instantly galvanised, she shoved Teri down below the table and in barely a second had lifted and fired her own revolver – although it all happened soi fast, reconstruction later by Professor Carolina Moonbeam's Forensic Team, established that Jasmine's round went through the same hole in the glass as that aimed at her, and the blood spatter on the outside of the window indicated that it had hit it's mark somewhere; fingerprints were found above the window, from which the would-be killer had hung by one hand, his right, and firing his own gun from the other; but of him, there was nothing found; as soon as she had checked briefly by glancing outside that there was no-one lurking in the shadows, Jasmine hurried to the Driver's cab and urged Maister McNab to drive full-speed to Tweedbank, without stopping at Stow or Galashiels, just in case the shooter was clinging to the roof of the train; at Tweedbank, the Armed Response Unit was prepared for their arrival and had been briefed by the undercover officers who had expected to board in Gala, that there was no-one on top of the train, or clinging to the rear; the train was surrounded on it's arrival, passengers were quickly disembarked and briefly interviewed – those whose destinations were Stow or Gala were ushered onto a waiting train at platform 2 and taken home, while the rest were greeted by anxious friends and relatives, or made their way to their own cars, and soon the station was quiet; Sam Smiles and Tavish Dalwhinnie drove Teri and Jasmine back to the Secret Service cottage in Darnick and de-briefed them, on the discoveries in Edinburgh and the incident on the train – they too had received the photographs of the underground chase and Tavish had already informed their Boss, Sir Valentine Macalpine, who was apparently rubbing his hands together with glee at the chance to take down Doubleday, who had been under considerable suspicion for several years, and officers at all railway stations, airports, shipping ports and bus stops were on the lookout for the man in the Panama hat – until one armed officer found him sitting in one of train's toilets, suffering considerable blood-loss from a wound to his left hand and arm: it seemed that when Jasmine's bullet struck his gun, it had exploded and badly shattered his hand and shrapnel from that had caused him a number of puncture wounds; his hat had blown away as he scrambled, one-handed, to enter the empty rear carriage – all the passengers having congregated in the middle of the train – and he had then entered and locked the toilet there; suffering from considerable blood-loss and severe shock, he was incoherent, indeed, looked destined for the knackers-yard, but now in the operating theatre at the Borders General Hospital and under tight surveillance by the Scottish Secret Service, he would be interviewed and charged once recovered from the anaesthetics: "you two deserve a strong drink," said Tavish as he poured four large measure's of Laphroaig and passed them around; Sam said: "the evidence you found in Elginbrod's Archive should help ensure the pair in Hawick's cells are not bailed when they go before the Sheriff in Jedburgh tomorrow, and Teri and Jasmine looked at each other and burst out laughing, Tavish looked curiously at them, and asked: "what's the joke?" at which, as one, they said: "Jethart Justice!" and were off again.
"Ah ken you," said Rab Ha' the Gala Glutton, staring sharply at the Engine Driver, "ye're Wattie McNab, ye're a bloody Sunday Driver, ye huv a wee clapped-oot Mini and crawl up the straight past Elibank at 20 mile an oor! ye shoodnae be allowed oan the road, never mind the Rail Road! maunderin like an auld wummin – an ye wear a Hat when ye're oot in thon wee sardine tin, daen yer best tae thwart emdy in a hurry – jist cos ye've naebdy tae visit yersel, cos yer Jeemmy Nae Pals! – – hoo the fuck did ye ever get tae become an Engine Driver? oh aye, ah geddit! cos yer the very spit o Arthur Askey in The Love Match, thon's hoo ye goat it, hoo wee ur ye onywey? ur ye kneelin doon or ur ye three fit tall? in the name o the Wee Man, there shud be a law against it, against midgets and dwarves and geriatric coffin-dodgers bein allowed tae get intae the Drivers Cab or," and he took a deep breath before delivering his final retractation: "takkin a 1959 Morris Mini Minor oan the Public Highway. . . . .in a Hat!" but Driver McNab had heard enough of Rab's hobbyhorse: "aye, weel, in atween force-feedin yer face an forcibly-evacuatin yer bowels, Rab Ha', ye've never done a day's work in yer life, which gies ye plenty time tae hae a guid gowk at them as does; it's weel kent that yer the Phantom Fingerer o Auld Gauly Toon, the Knicker Snatcher wha wanders aboot in the wee sma' oors tae plunder ony washin left oot ower nicht," at which Fat Rab adopted a butteraceous tone: "aw cumon, Maister McNab, ah wis only joshin ye, ye ken ah've a lot o respect fer Engine Drivers, ah wanted tae be ane when ah wis a wee laddie, but thon Doctor 'Death' Beeching closed the Waverley Line an ah hud tae gie up ma ambition, an onyhoo ah wis acquitted fair an square when thon lassie Friday, a Wuddentop wha thocht she wis Nancy Drew tried tae entrap me, ye'll mind that," and McNab nodded, sagely: "aye, WPC Gertie Mountcastle felt yer collar aw richt, but ye slipped yer sleeves and did a runner up The Brae, leavin yer jaicket ahint ye, an it wis only cos yer trial wis in Jethart ye goat aff, why, even the Sheriff could see ye wis as guilty as sin – some story that, leavin yer jaiket oan the back o yer chair in The Legion while ye went fer a Jimmy Riddle, an forgettin a' aboot it efterwards, sayin ye went hame in yer shirt sleeves, whiles The Beast fae The East brocht the Arctic Winter Blasts tae the Borders – if ye'd been tried in Gaulie like it used tae be ye'd hae been convicted, nae doot aboot it, sae dinnae gaun aboot proclaimin yer innocence – Jethart Justice? my eye!
"Ah wudnae gie hoose room tae a lawyer, ah wudnae pish on ane wha wis on fire," snarled Rab, with decades-worth of pent-up hostility, an then his voice took on a genial tone as he fished a pickled onion out of his poke: "see's here a chunk o thon Blue Monday Stilton, wee man, it's goat hints o chicory an notes oh the heliosphere packed intae it that goans great guns wi a pickled ingin," and a cry came from several lady passengers sitting near Rab, for they had prior knowledge of the effects of pungent cheese and vinegary pickles on his solar winds in the confined space of the last train to Tweedbank Junction!
After Newtongrange, a number of people having left the train, the man wearing the yellow Panama found a seat and seemed engrossed in the Evening News, although Teri spotted that he was holding it upside down and was wearing a Friday face, probably because what he was seeing didn't make much sense to him, and Teri whispered to Jasmine: "it says in Wikipedia that Chernozemski was killed by the mob after the assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia in Marseilles in 1934," but Jasmine chuckled: "oh, that old chestnut – it's the Woozle effect – they murdered the wrong man, and when one of Vlado's accomplices was caught and gave up his name, the authorities exhumed the body they'd buried and sent fingerprints to Sofia and Belgrade, asking if they were of Chernozemski, so one of his IMRO comrades who was a senior Bulgarian Police Officer, simply confirmed that and it became official; actually, he kept changing his name – he had umpteen cover identities - and it was he who carried out the daring attack on Prince Paul of Yugoslavia in Berlin in 1939 and killed him, he almost got Himmler too – by some fluke, Himmler broke his ankle that morning and it was actually a menial in the Gestapo, one Uncle Hans Steckrübe who took his place in the car and was blown up and shot alongside the Prince," when she paused, Teri asked: "why did you call him Uncle? was he your uncle?" but Jasmine blew a raspberry: "no, honey, that was his code-name – he was a paedophile and a couple of American agents, J Alfred Prufrock and Holly Martins got compromising evidence on him and were blackmailing him for information that he had access to in the Gestapo and SS – actually, the final details of the motorcade came from him, but it was only afterwards that they found out he had been forced to sit in for Himmler, that was quite a blow, I can tell you!" and Teri nodded: "it must be, when a source gets blown away, literally, and I suppose none of that would be exoteric, it's the kind of stuff that gets sealed away in the Secret Archives for a hundred years," which Jasmine agreed: "so don't you go blabbing it in QQ or anywhere else," and Teri crossed her heart, quite the self-deprecating, modestly spoken and ironically-aware image of an eiron, which Jasmine didn't believe for one moment, and turned her own glance towards the back of the train, where there was now no sign of Tris Kaidekaphobia, only his crumpled newspaper left on the seat!
The last train from Waverley to Melrose was packed, with a lot of passengers standing: Ter and Jasmine recognised a number of faces from Melrose, flushed, happy, including one young lad who worked in the Co-op sitting on a hogshead of Heavy; then Jasmine nudged Teri: "I don't want to worry you, but there's a guy down by the middle doors, I recognise his mug-shot and I think I glimpsed him yesternight when we were leaving the station with Riddle, I've just checked on my phone, and I'm sure his name's Triskoff, Tris Kaidekaphobia, the thirteenth son of a thirteenth son, grandson of Vlado Chernozemski the famous political assassin – seems to have been the family business for thirteen generation – and he's bad medicine – but this one's an assassin-for-hire, although he's never been convicted anywhere," and as Teri's face paled, Jasmine whispered, "I've messaged Sam and Tavish, and asked them to have firearms back-up in place when w reach Tweedbank; I'm no Eeyore, but there are a lot o people on the train and although we'll lose some passengers at Gala, there will still be a lot when we arrive at the Terminus, and if there's any shooting, it could be a bloodbath," and as Teri squeezed her hand, Jasmine received another text: "oh, good, a couple of armed undercover cops will board at Gala, I've told Sam where on the train Kaidekaphobia is and sent them a pic so they know what he's wearing – the black shirt, white tie and yellow Panama make him quite distinctive, but if I push you down, drop to the floor, slip under the table, and stay there till I tell you to get up," and Jasmine slid her right hand into her bulky handbag and took hold of her own service revolver, Be Prepared had always been her motto ever since she had been a Brownie and Girl Guide!
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