Detective Sergeant Gordon Brevity's phone rang – and at that same instant so also did those belonging to his wife, Goldy, her cousins Trixie, Leigh and WPC Isa Urquhart, who all jumped at the sudden cacophony of chimes, tunes, bells and buzzers; while in the Advocates' Dining Room in the Court of Session, Daphne's telephone rang, which slightly acerbated, not only herself, she having never really come to terms with carrying something she thought more properly installed in an office, or a red box on a street corner, but also a number of prominent Advocates, learned Judges and other personages of the Justiciary; in The Copper Kettle Tea-Room, Maude's phone rang, but she didn't hear it, so engrossed was she in her chat with Cecilia and Grizzel, and their close and erudite friends Lettice Pumpherston of the National Library and Tuffy Ladywood of the Museum of Scotland, both up for a day of leisure from their delightful cottage in the Borders, where Maude and Daphne had spent many a happy weekend; and back in Maude and Daphne's flat, it was Elvira Dumbiedykes – on loan from her father Gregor (Daphne and Maude's cousin) working alone through the accumulation of books, papers, charts and family trees, who put out her hand at that very first tremble which precedes a ringing, and answered what turned out to be a conference call put out from the passageway above the fateful oubliette by her cousin Jinty – Elvira was the first to hear, through a torrent of sobs, coughs, hiccups, tears and groans, the awful news that Jinty and Roxy had discovered the brutally murdered body of a young man in that self-same cell in which Daphne had been immured (albeit and only fortuitously) briefly just a few days before – and this latest felony likely to have occurred yestreen at the very latest, although the hidden location meant that daylight would never have been an obstacle to the foul deed's commission; and Elvira it was who, regarding herself as the Officer of the Watch on duty at the helm of his ship of state, who took quick command and speaking rapidly and clearly, allocated various tasks to all the others listening on their own telephones – all except Daphne who hadn't yet mastered the trick of answering her mobile phone, and Maude, who hadn't yet heard hers ringing at the bottom of her handbag, under her chair, in the busy and noisy tearoom, over the voices of Cecilia, Grizzel, Lettice, Tuffy and herself; which is how it came to pass that even after the conferencing was over and Chronus, the God of Time himself, had extracted his penance as Shylock would have claimed Antonio's “pound of flesh,” the pendulum had been set in motion while it's two central figures, Daphne and Maude – plus Angus Og of the Bog (and his mysterious Master – or was Gordon Brevity wrong, and should that be Mistress – all continued with their day in absolute ignorance of their Countdown to Destiny!
Detective Sergeant Gordon Brevity stared at the note, brought to him by WPC Isa Urquhart, whose hearing – like that of a bat, was so attuned to everything in the vicinity that she had sensed, perhaps rather than heard, the flutter of a slip of paper as it passed through the letterbox on the street door and settled onto the mat, as softly as a butterfly; Gordon read the short note aloud for the small group assembled in his office: “'Silk or Steel, whichever you employ, 'twill acerbate the debouching stegosaurus if you stroke 'is thagomizer, for 'e does not like 'em up 'im in the least” and it's signed 'Lance Corporal Jones', well known for his apophthegms on Dad's Army but not, I suspect ,the author of this little billet-doux, what do you think, girls?” and he looked in turn at Goldy, his wife (Station Sergeant Goldy Brevity), her cousins Trixie Davidova and Leigh Waters, and, of course, Isa, who stood at the door; it was Leigh who spoke first, to say that thagomizer referred to the pattern of spikes on a Stegosaurus's tail; and Trixie chipped in with the comment that debouching meant bursting out, or exfiltrating, so must refer to something enclosed or locked up – as Aunt Daphne was; to which Isa suggested that it might mean the secret discovered in the oubliette by Aunt Daphne being brought forth into the light of day and that she thought it scanned, though maybe not a poem, more a line of doggerel, but possibly significant; and Goldy, in turn wondered whether, if you consider the Stegosaurus to be the person whose secret is the thagomizer, does it then imply that he, or she, will be rather upset as a result of exposure; and at last Gordon said “and whether any action directed towards him, for I believe, Goldy, the gender is given as male, is gentle or harsh, that might be to say, positive or negative, either way he will be very displeased at his linen being washed in public and likely to take evasive or punitive action – and I would tend towards the interpretation of it being punitive,” and the ladies all said “Gosh!”
But, back beneath the bustling High Street, down through layers of granite setts, tar macadam, rubble, dirt, the abandoned detritus of hundreds of years of tenement living, including the outpourings of generations of night-time chamber-pots, down through the rocky spine that runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood, in a passage carved out of that living rock which once poured as lava from the volcano that now is the Castle Crag, two cousins lie in each other's arms – their faces ashen-white under a patina of grime, their eyes round and red-rimmed, their hair dusty and dishevelled; tears streak their faces and their harsh breathing racks their bodies, mingling with sighs and sobs and groans as they try to still the rapid beating of their hearts, to master their physical and mental anguish; for they have seen something which has damaged them so viscerally, assaulting their every sense and searing their emotions, something they will never forget, will never be able to blot out of their minds, which will haunt them until the very end of their days, and acerbating this dismay, which has shattered their usual sang-froid (for these are two smart cookies who have won their positions and status in this world dominated by men without recourse to nepotism – though they do have influential families and umpteen friends in high places) is the fact that they have recognised something in the horror - “is it real,” asked Jinty, “yes,” replied Roxy, “at least I believe so,” for their reason tries to drive out the awfulness of what they saw, so horrible was it, and simultaneously so unreal, like some climax to a sudser on television, using shock to draw tears from the numbed hearts of its viewers; “we have to call the police, or an ambulance,” suggests Jinty, “or maybe,” offers Roxy, haltingly, “we should warn Aunt Daphne,” and Jinty nods, understanding, “you think it was the same person who locked her down there,” and Roxy squeezed her head between the flats of her hands, as if trying to contain a pressure that threatened to burst it like a balloon, “it must be,” she said, and “that was the boy from the CCTV,” and Jinty replied “yes, I think so – so that means,” she stopped and looked straight into Roxy's eyes, and they both said “Angus Og!”
And on this very same day, Daphne Dumbiedykes and Maude Lyttleton had gone to the Tea Dance in St Giles Church Hall, where they not only met their dear friends Cecilia Connaught and Grizzel Baillie – named in homage to her famed ancestor – but also Dr Hamish MacAlpine-Fandango, a former Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, possessor, it was said, of the most mellifluous and velvety bedside manner employed in the Court of Session, who had more than once managed to persuade a jury to acquit a self-confessed murderer and, on one of those occasions, a particularly infamous one at that, when espousing the case of a Bill Sykes burglar who suffered a nasty fall after the dying householder managed to push away the stepladder he was using for a quick getaway, even won substantial damages and compensation for his client against the estate of the victim – something we refer to as a cloudburst, for it never rains but it pours; but, enough of this for the nonce, that is a story for another time and place; for, as the assembly geminated for the next dance, on this occasion Daphne agreed to a stately waltz with the Dean and took the opportunity to cross-examine him, on the case of Sir Parlane MacFarlane: "ah, yes," said Dr MacAlpine-Fandango, "now there was a lad o' mony pairts, as the common folk were used to term him, but you do recall that his Deanship pre-dated the constitution by Act of Parliament in 1532 of the Colleges of Justice, so it was, technically a different faculty he presided over," and Daphne nodded obligingly; and the Dean continued at the end of the turn: “he was a rumbustious sort of chap, old MacFarlane, and I shouldn't wonder if, in our present times of transparency and accountability – you know, glasnost and perestroika as Mr Gorbachev put it, though – and don't hold me to it, dear Daphne,” and he allowed his left hand to stroke Daphne's spine through her Tea Dress, which rather induced a kind of frisson, a tingle, or a shiver to run through her body, raising goose-bumps on what little flesh was naked, “but I wouldn't be honest if I didn't raise just the teeniest caveat, though without prejudice and certainly unenforceable in any Court of Law under the jurisdiction of the Faculty, it mayn't be likely that poor old MacFarlane would be elected today – except by the very slimmest of majorities, the kind you couldn't slip the proverbial cigarette paper through – though I myself have always preferred cigars, from Havana of course, which Deo Gratia is now permitted by the cousins; I've never really seen much of a point in sanctions or embargoes – call me an old Liberal Free Trader if you will, though that may be a pejorative now, especially after last Thursday, but I remember 1959 when dear old Jo, wasn't he a cousin of yours Daphne, if my memory serves me right, on your mother's side, good old Jo Grimond still had only 6 seats, and then again in 1970, under poor old Jeremy, sad to think of him after the pummelling he got in the prints, poor soul, he was a sweet man, but there you have it, plain as day, don't you agree, sweetheart – the orbs revolve and eventually we all return to where we started or in the common parlance of the psephologists (to my mind, never trust anyone who affects a silent pee) it's all swings and roundabouts and what goes up must come down for the umpteenth time, for nothing new under the sun – sobering thought, I daresay, but certainly MacFarlane would be very lucky to avoid the ignominy of a custodial sentence today, Lord, it was remarkable that he kept his head on his shoulders in those, how should I put it, less inhibited times– and I, for one, wouldn't put a half-crown on it, no matter what any of you say, eh, Daphne; dear Daphne – would you care to join me for High Tea in the Court of Session, they do a crispy toasted teacake which is absolute perfection with bramble jam, and I can tell you an interesting little nugget about MacFarlane and Griselda of Longformacus, do you recall her, Daphne, she used to be known as The Mother of Kings for all the Scottish and English Monarchy were descendants of hers – most of Europe too, and you can tell me of your interest in the former Dean, what say you, Daphne dear?"
Meanwhile, Roxy Davidova and her cousin Jinty Moncrief had been parlaying with Old Bob, the famous Edinburgh City Chambers Cat; luxurious treats from M&S bought for Jinty's own moggie, Leonardo, in exchange for his cooperation, seemed to do the trick – for his part, Old Bob had proved keen to help them; he led them along an abandoned close, they passed by empty rooms which had in times gone by housed families and small trades, down flights of dusty stairs, through long-forgotten stores which seemed to contain nothing more recent than cases of muskets dating from the Napoleonic Wars, past a stack of rough-hewn coffins (no doubt left over from one of the plagues which – being much of a muchness everywhere people huddled together in unhygienic conditions – had raged through the city in the long-ago) and a pile of water-damaged Catholic Bibles, probably confiscated by followers of John Knox during the schism of the Reformation; after squeezing through a kind of fissure in the rock, they found themselves in the passage which Roxy recognised from the day she had encountered her Aunt Maude and they had rescued Aunt Daphne from the oubliette where she had been trapped with its evidence of the dastardly torture and murder of Sister Evadne Eglantine; “this is it,” cried Roxy, dropping to her knees and scrabbling around on the rubbish strewn floor – she found the bolts, which she had safely secured after Daphne emerged from the cell, lest anyone (who on earth would come here voluntarily? she wondered) fall down the hole; sliding the bolts back, Roxy let the trap-door fall open and Jinty directed the beam of her Council-issue Torch into the black pit below; what a shock! what a horror! what a dreadful sight met their eyes, and both girls – crying aloud and shrieking at the tops of their voices, fell backward on the dusty floor, fair giving poor Old Bob such a fright that with a shriek of his own he raced away pell-mell along the passage to some secret hiding place, where he remained, trembling in a state of post-traumatic shock, until one of his wee moosie freens brought him a piece of stale cheese to nibble; for, his reputation as a ferocious mouser and ratter notwithstanding, Old Bob had struck up a rapport with the denizens of the nether regions of the City Chambers – any of them to die of natural causes and, given the size of their population, that was a fair number per annum, were delivered up by Bob at one of five designated sites, and regarded by Janitorial Staff on the payroll as evidence of his prowess – indeed a meticulous record was kept and reported quarterly to the Committee charged with supervising his performance and remuneration; so pleased with his performance was the Committee that extra food supplies were regularly distributed about the extensive premises and Bob (and his co-conspirators – with the treachery of but one quisling, a deceitful rat, who had introduced a virulent form of cat flu in the hope of putting an end to Bob's underworld empire, but expired of a mutation before he was able to put his plan into operation) gleefully enjoyed the bounty; oh, yes, Old Bob was a wonderful cat and so said his employers and his beneficiaries, with a Hey, and a Ho, and a Hey Nonny No!
Back in the CID office in the Grassmarket and Cowgate Community Policing Hub (incorporating a Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator's office, and officers dedicated to Missing Pets and Children) Detective Sergeant Gordon Brevity handed his wife, Station Sergeant Goldy Brevity – named after her mother, Golda Davidova, rather than her curly golden locks – a mug of coffee and put his report on the Local Yokel case in an envelope addressed to Inspector Bruce Bruse, his superior in the Edinburgh Division of Police Scotland; having married or related officers working together was a new policy which, together with the children's area with toys, colouring books, a life-size cut-out figure of PC Murdoch from Oor Wullie, and big scatter cushions, was designed to promote an edifying, gentler, more inclusive and caring, family-friendly welcome towards members of the public (or customers/clients) who entered the open plan reception area, where Goldy Brevity's cousin, WPC Isa Urquhart – known far and wide for her extremely fetching looks and direct speech (she suffered no fools, no men, and no miscreants in any wise gladly, and was a black-belt in several martial arts) – was ever ready to greet callers with a dazzling smile, assist them off with coats, hats, shopping bags, babies; take the necessary information in a very empathic manner, managing a kind of triage system (certainly a front-runner among the candidates for the next Sergeant's vacancy to come up) – before taking them to whoever was best able to deal with their circumstances; so it was Isa who looked up in astonishment when her cousins Trixie and Leigh burst in, like a great moving tornado of arms and legs and sheaves of paper, maps, charts, diagrams, flying hair and – Isa noted instantly – rather sweet boots on their feet, suspiciously like the ones from Schuh she was wearing herself, but, thankfully, in different colours; though breathless, the girls managed to speak in unison and asked Isa if Sergeant Brevity was in, to which she replied, “yes and yes – they're both in, which do you want to see?” and having forgotten that their cousin Goldy had been transferred to The Hub, though slightly nonplussed, they managed – again in unison – to ask to see them both, adding that it would be really good if Isa could join them; and so it came to pass that for about an hour, that Friday morning, callers to The Hub found a notice behind the glass door stating that 'This Office is Quarantined due to a severe case of German Measles in the vicinity and any enquiries should be taken forthwith to the nearest Community Policing Hub at The Pleasance, where all matters will be dealt with at this difficult and, understandably, upsetting time, Thank you, signed Station Sergeant Goldy Brevity QPM' – for Goldy had indeed been awarded the Queen's Police Medal last year when, normally prudent by nature, she single-handedly talked down an armed gunman from the roof of the Queen's Chapel in Edinburgh Castle, who was holding two elderly American tourists hostage – with what turned out to be a water pistol – and demanding that his Grandfather's Croft on the Isle of Skye should be returned to him, having been made into a car park for bus parties visiting a nearby Standing Stone – which he knew for a fact to have been erected only a few years before by a local builder who discovered it in the rubble of the crofter's cottage which he'd demolished, and who had carved runic symbols on it to give it a touch of authenticity and had received a grant of £75,00 towards providing the car park, Historically Researched and Illustrative Tourist Information Board and adjacent tea-room and unisex and disabled toilets; after the event and discovering the full story behind the man's desperate actions, Goldy and the American Hostages – for whom he had provided refreshments in the form of shortbread and whisky during the incident - had spoken up for him at his subsequent trial and so stirred both the popular opinion in the country and the hearts of the jury that the erstwhile crofter was not only acquitted, but was awarded damages; and in his turn, the rogue builder was fined £75,000 and ordered to pay damages equalling that to the crofter and was also jailed for 5 years for malfeasance; the crofter was proclaimed a Local Hero in The Sunday Post and Goldy was declared a Champion of the People – which is why none inside The Grassmarket Hub saw a gaunt, tatterdemalion figure, in WonderWoman top and kilt peering through their glass door, before stooping and slipping a folded piece of paper through the letterbox; it only took a moment, and demonstrated his experience as a postie by the professional way he avoided the sprung-flap rapping his knuckles, or clattering onto the frame, and Angus Og of the Bog quickly hurried up Candlemaker Row to where a rather smart car, it's engine running, awaited him.
Upending the Case of the Bucolic Local Yokel, Sergeant Brevity devolved it from whodunit – his territory – to whatdunit – one for the Health and Safety Officer, just to show he could.
“Hey, youse yins,“cried Angus Og as he approached Roxy and Jinty, “ah ken ye, yer hurr ur ye no?” at which apparently rhetorical question, the cousins looked at each other and, as the tall, gaunt figure, in kilt and WonderWoman top seemed about to enter their personal space, Jinty said that she didn't think so – confident that he wouldn't remember her from his show at the Komedy Klub, for she had been sitting behind a burly rugby player; he laughed, “no you, hen, yer wee pal – it's Sue isn't it – Ah met ye at the Festival, ye were a Hoot,” and he began laughing again – as at some remembered joke, “Susan Calmac – Ah never forget a wummin, even if yer no inclined, if ye get ma drift,” and for the third time that morning, Roxy blushed to her roots – this was becoming a problem she would have to confide to her therapist, Ishbel; Roxy protested that Angus – though she didn't let on that she and Jinty knew who he was, was mistaken, though she could understand, it was a simple error, for both she and the weel-kent comedienne were indeed of petite stature, of similar build, wore similar clothes and had similar hair-styles and indeed were both 'no inclined' by which she had divined that he meant were not smitten by him, nor indeed any man; “ye must be hurr, dae ye no mind me?” to which Roxy asked him which morpheme of no was he unable to comprehend, and, when he looked puzzled, she explained by asking if it was the N or the O that he had difficulty with, to which he riposted “well if yer nae hurr, whit are youse daen here?” another non-sequitor, for neither Roxy nor Jinty could understand why it might be thought natural for Susan Calmac to be in Waird's Close, but not them, and then Jinty spoke out, saying that as a Senior Officer of the City she was investigating a smoke detector which had been triggered, with no smoke or fire in evidence and she might ask him the same thing, for his rubbernecking at the scene could be construed as suspicious, as this was obviously not his heimisch, at which he apologised profusely, informed them that, no, his name wasn't Hamish, and told them that he was looking for a young friend who had entered the Close the day before yesterday but hadn't been seen to emerge at the Cockburn Street end and he was just concerned lest the young man, a visitor to the Town, had taken a wrong turning and perhaps ended up in Jinglin' Geordie's – a well-known pub down The Scotsman Steps which Jinty knew could not be accessed from any of the many terrestrial branches off this particular close - though she couldn't speak for astral planes - so she narrowed her eyes as she looked him up and down and said, between gritted teeth, that there was no-one here but them, and the three police officers who were helping with their search for the errant smoke detector; at which Angus Og mumbled something approximating an apology for interfering with their duties and hastily retreated up the Close in the direction of the High Street, which was when Roxy told Jinty that indeed she had met him, not at the Festival and only for a few moments a couple of years ago, but that his attentions at the time were focussed on her friend – and yet another cousin – Isa Urquhart, at which Jinty nodded knowingly, for few men had eyes for anyone else if Isa Urquhart was in the company, though they quickly learned that men, in her own words, “ain't my bag!” and Roxy added that she also remembered his real name, for Angus Og of the Bog was but a Stage name - “he's Angus Ogilvy, and he comes from Dalmarnock, where he used to be a Postman until he was badly savaged by a mad dog and was unable to do the delivery rounds any more, but was so traumatised that he couldn't thole the idea of working in the Sorting Office either, and received compensation - it was reported in The Sunday Post, she insisted, and also The Weekly News; she added that there was a terrible fuss and the Posties Union (the name had been changed from Postmen's when women came to be employed on deliveries) threatened strike action, while the dog's owner said that Ogilvy had been teasing the poor wee puppy for weeks before it bared its teeth and sank them in his thigh - but why, she mused, would an ex-postman be involved in a plot to hide the story of Sister Evadne Eglantine and Sir Parlane MacFarlane, even to the extent of bolting Aunt Daphne in an oubliette with the expectation of she and the story dying there – it gets curiouser and curiouser, don't you think, Jinty dear? and Jinty, with a twinkle in her eye, suggested that they consult Old Bob, for she had a feeling there was something he wanted to show them!
Jinty was first to regain self-control: “ha-ha,” she laughed as the two yellow eyes which stared at them from the murky darkness beyond the small doorway began to approach and resolve themselves into those of an aged black and white feline, “it's only Bob,” she said and Roxy remembered the tales oft-told of the exploits and fearless legerity of Old Bob (or in the sawdust-floored taverns of the Old Town, Ould Boab) that famed mouser and ratter who prowled his secret heimlisch 'neath the feet of honest 'burghers and Baillies – she grappled with the shameful memory of her shriek and hoped that none of her ken had sighted or heard her momentary lapse into despair and fear, and once again she blushed to her roots, wondering what Jinty thought of her, then remembered that Jinty, too, had fallen prey to momentary terror; but Jinty was speaking again - “Bob, mayn't be able to communicate with us, but if anyone knows where that young acolyte of Angus Og from the Bog went, on the morning of Auntie Daphne's incarceration, it's surely he - do you think we could enlist him in our Hue and Cry?” and Roxy felt herself to be intensely proud of her pretty cousin's quickness of mind; she wondered aloud if the City beneath the Town should be considered Bob's Hinterland - she confessed, she said, that while she – and Jinty – were tremendously au fait with the streets above, it was surely the denizens of the dark and the night who were best placed to find their way through these subterranean passageways, but before Jinty could reply a long shadow fell across their path and a voice echoed around the close; they turned and saw, bearing down on them, a figure they recognised from the CCTV images – none other than Angus Og of the Bog!
And as the two cousins and friends, Roxy and Jinty, hurried along the narrow, cobbled, rubble-walled slope of Waird's Close, taking sharp turnings, climbing and descending seemingly random flights of steps, it struck Roxy that in centuries past this must have possessed some air of heimischness, being home for many families, as well as business premises for a variety of trades – she recalled hours spent poring over old city directories, pre-dating official censuses be several generations, finding flashes of humour in the bowdlerising by editors who entered the occupations of common prostitutes as Gentlemen's Nursemaid, and described the Old Town's many brothels as Places of Entertainment, or Gentlemen's Private Club; as they found the corner where the surveillance cameras failed to register the disappearance of the young man they had been observing, and set into the angle of two walls, a narrow space outlined by an embrasure held a narrow wooden door, stoutly built, brass-bound and studded, tightly-fitting and with barely enough space for the proverbial cigarette-paper to slip between it and the grey stone of the wall; Jinty squeaked, scanning the passageway in which they stood and the schematics she had grabbed before leaving her office, “where does it lead to/” asked Roxy, but Jinty shook her head, indicated the plans she held and said that this doorway was not shown, “but it's been here forever,” cried Roxy, “just look at it”; Jinty nodded, and hazarded that it must have been deleted - adding ominously that such action could only have been taken by someone very senior in the City Council; “we have to try it,” suggested Roxy and Jinty as the only authorised person present, reached out, took hold of the great iron ring which seemed made for the door’s handle, and turned it, expecting a shrieking scroop of rusty metals grinding, but the mechanism was well-oiled, turned smoothly and silently, and with just the whisper of different air pressures, within and without, balancing their flow, the door opened and from far within, where all was dark and muffled, deep beneath the Heart of Midlothian, there came a long-drawn-out and plangent miaowl, not perhaps, a howl, though more than a moan – a sound imbued with such an eerie reverberation that both cousins were dumbstruck for several seconds, until, together and in perfect harmony, the both screamed like banshees!
While Daphne, Maude, Trixie and Leigh were deep in their analysis of the documents which had been gathered, relevant to the matter of Sister Evadne Eglantine and Sir Parlane MacFarlane, Roxy and Jinty followed the movements of the two men Jinty had spotted on CCTV recordings from the area around the entrance to Waird's Close near the City Chambers; the older man, recognised by Jinty as Stage Performer Angus Og of the Bog had given his young companion a set of directions and sent him on his way into the warren of alleys and closes leading down on the North side of the Royal Mile, towards Cockburn Street and Waverley Station – he had then turned his steps uphill on The High Street in the direction of the Castle; the younger man's route the two cousins were able to track from the plethora of cameras erected in recent years to monitor the movements of Edinburgh's citizens (or rather, terrorists, subversives, criminals and malcontents – according to the City Council's justification for this encroachment on civil liberties) and on this occasion were grateful for they enabled close tracking of their target; “is he a shicker?” asked Roxy as the man appeared to stagger and use a wall for support, but Jinty thought he was no drank, rather an actor trying to disguise his own movements in case they are picked up on camera; “is he a Jinni?” asked Roxy as the man's form seemed to shimmer and weave through patches of shade and light as he turned into North Stairs – a short section of the thoroughfare, which dropped quickly by way of several flights, but Jinty merely indicated that on this stretch the lighting was erratic and the sudden pools of darkness followed by the patches of cynosure where intensely brilliant light sources drew the eye made for difficulty in distinguishing some objects and movements; she said that the cameras were not really up to coping with such high contrasts; Roxy suddenly grinned and asked where the cameras had come from and Jinty told her that they had originally been installed in the sumptuous and luxurious state apartments in Holyrood Palace – expressly for the security of Her Majesty, but that His Royal Highness the Duke of Rothesay had considered them to be merely for the use of Nosey Parkers and persuaded his mother to have them un-installed; so they went next to Murrayfield for surveillance of supporters outside the Rugby Ground, but a Writer to the Signet who was a keen rugby fan had invoked Civil Liberties Law and they were hastily re-un-installed and they went to the Foreshore at Cramond, but local youths used them for catapult practice, with well-softened chewing gum as the shot; and they had to be taken down again and have the lenses cleaned – which work had been outsourced to the Prison Workshop at Saughton before their erection around the City Chambers and its environs; “well I think the Old Lags have done a good job for their friends on the outside,” commented Roxy, before pointing out that the young man they had been watching, seemed to have completely disappeared from view as he turned one corner at the far left of the screen and then failed to emerge for the next camera, the lens of which was scratched and ingrained with something; “do you have time to come with me and we'll see where he could have gone?” and Jinty, never loathe to leave the confines of her office, was up like a shot and, slipping on her jacket, said that she loved Scott and Bailey and this would be a chance to do some proper detecting on the ground rather than from her usual eyrie high above the rooftops of the Capital.
Leaving the others pouring over the paperwork assembled by their Aunt Maude, Roxy hurried off to the City Chambers – a quick call to Jinty Moncrief, another cousin and descendant of the Match-Maker who had brokered the marriage between Griselda of Longformacus and Angus MacAngus, had so energised her that she reached Jinty's office in just 10 minutes, though it did leave her breathless; sitting at her desk, before a large monitor, Jinty looked askance at Roxy, and drew her to a chair beside her – Roxy squeezed in close to Jinty, she could smell her friend's perfume, a delicate mix of Heather and Almond, which Roxy found delightful; she leaned in closer, as Jinty pointed to the monochrome scene on her screen, and said that she'd seen the elder of the two figures standing at the close mouth, and that the elder was a Tummler - “a tummler,” asked Roxy, puzzled, wondering if Jinty was using the colloquial term for a drinking glass, or an acrobat,” but no, for Jinty explained that the man was a comedian she had seen at the Komedy Klub, where he targeted hen parties and cajoled some of them up on stage, and persuaded them – against their better judgement, but encouraged by their friends - to do things they would never have done sober; “ah,” said Roxy, “like Derren Brown,” but Jinty said that no, the man hadn't hypnotized anyone – so far as she could tell, it mas just through his personality, and this was what she felt the scene on her screen showed – adding that the way the older man was addressing the younger was a classic example of Mind Control; can you imagine a syzygy, she asked Roxy, then without waiting for a reply told her that it's an alignment of three celestial objects, and in his stage act, this man – she now remembered his name, Angus Og From The Bog, but didn't suppose it was his real name – got three girls to imagine that they were the Sun, the Earth, and the Moon and form a line, while he talked to them and after a few minutes asked them to demonstrate how the planets move around each other and the three girls did as he said, the Earth stood still, the Sun went around it, and the Moon round the Sun – the audience kept shouting out how they should really move but the girls kept doing what Og had told them – it was if they really believed him; “so how do you think it works,” asked Roxy and Jinty replied that she thought the man became a sort of Mama Bear with her three Cubs, and that the girls wanted to please him, and this – she again pointed at the screen - is him doing the same thing to that boy, look – like putty in his hands!
Roxy looked up sharply from her deskfast; they were all eating around the table with Daphne and Maude's paperwork before them – Trixie and Leigh followed suit; all three stared at Maude, who was examining her fingernails; she smiled and asked, “does the name Jinty Moncrief mean anything to you” and looked from one to the other; Roxy gave a start, for Jinty Moncrief was the name of a friend of hers in the City Chambers – but that couldn't be right, she blushed to her roots – as Maude continued, not waiting for any response, “Jinty Moncrief is an ancestor of ours, of all of us, and among her many talents she was a Match-Maker,” at which Daphne chortled, adding that Jinty Moncrief had also been a supplier of Wet-Nurses to the gentry of Edinburgh and had her fingers in many other pies – she gave a knowing wink; Roxy ingurgitated the last of her meal, and mouth crammed full she was unable to speak as Maude continued, “and one of her talents was to be a detailed recorder of every patient, client, customer – or whatever she called them – and her diaries, well, Account Books I should say, are in the possession of our cousin Gregor Dumbiedykes, who is also a Great-Grandchild of Dr Dean and inherited his Library, or again, I should say were, for he loaned them to me late last night – on condition, needless to say, that they do not leave the possession of the family,” and she picked up a small pile of rather battered and worn volumes which had obviously been subjected to much use, and continued “and Gregor is not so hidebound as one might expect of a Writer to the Signet, and has offered us the use of his daughter, Elvira, who is a student at Heriot-Watt and just happens to have a lot of free time this week,” at which there was a cheer from the young cousins, who all knew and were fond of their cousin Elvira; and Roxy, half choking as she swallowed a piece of pie-crust burst out that she had just remembered what her friend, also named Jinty Moncrief had mentioned to her en passent during a gossipy telephone conversation late last night, which was that shortly before Daphne's experience of temporary imprisonment in the oubliette, Jinty had noticed what she described as a gunsel, a young gentleman of the road, standing together with his older friend and confidant hard by the close which leads, by way of many twists and turnings, gates, doorways and labyrinthine passages, to the tunnels in which Daphne had discovered Sister Evadne Eglantine's final prison, seeming to peruse a map or diagram and she was this morning intending to study the CCTV tapes to ascertain what they had been doing and, added Roxy, washing down the remains of her hasty meal with a glass of Water of Leith, “I promised to call her about now to find out if she has learned anything of use to us in identifying the dastardly devil who slid the bolts to trap Aunt Daphne!”
Daphne laid the papers on the table, for Maude and the three girls to see; she indicated the separate piles – those relating to Sister Evadne Eglantine, the celebrated Scottish nun and bibliophile (not, however a bibliomaniac, for her collection was quite defined by her interest in medicine and healing, and of course her religious calling, and there were no random or impulsive acquisitions in it as catalogued by Dr Dean Dumbiedykes, Daphne and Maude's great-grandfather, curator of the Signet Library of his day and a noted collector of historic books and manuscripts himself); then those which detailed the life of Sir Parlane MacFarlane, infamous seducer of noble ladies and debaucher of young girls – and boys, it was whispered - openly atheist in a time and place where atheophobia was dominant – yet never brought to account because of it – perhaps he knew too much about those who might have pursued him – a man who relished his reputation and flaunted it everywhere he went; Griselda Longformacus was next, though less well documented than the first two, she was the daughter of Muckle-Heid Menstrie, and a renowned beauty who had caught the eye of several suitors, eventually marrying Angus MacAngus, son and heir of Angus MacIan and father of the dynasty which despite the vicissitudes of time still rules the Kingdom to this day; and lastly, evidence regarding the children of Angus and Griselda, including Sister Evadne's last testament discovered by Daphne in the deep oubliette far beneath the site of the Heart of Midlothian (Maude had applied her skills to the annotation of this evidence which came from diverse sources and – omitting the technobabble of Scottish legalese with it's reference to havers and pursuers and hereuntoaforesaids and assoilzied, art and part, and fugitation – she had turned all of the salient facts into a spreadsheet which delineated the relationships and dates of events for all those concerned), “and I even identified the shadchan who negotiated the match between Griselda and Angus - and you'll never guess who she was!”
“Oh, Frabjous Day, Callooh, Callay!” cried Ginger Goldfish, wildly quoting Lewis Carroll to the assembled cameras and journalists of the world's press, radio and television – she was about to fly to London for official duties as the First Minister of Scotland, but first had to express what could not be constrained, just as the attentions of her stylist could not master her bright cymotrichous locks – the vivid colour of which flowing waves perfectly matched her glass of Scotland's Other National Drink, giving her the soubriquet always attached to her, and which she now raised to the cameras, giving a huge smile and knowing wink aimed directly at her Cousins and Aunts, who she knew would be watching on their television sets; and, in what had once been a riparian dwelling, overlooking the Nor' Loch, now gone to make way for Princes Street's Pleasure Gardens, Ginger's Aunts and Cousins were indeed assembled and watching – having set aside the futilitarian political divisions which had been such a major part of their General Election Campaigning, and now united in both their fraternal joy for their beloved cousin's successes and their shared commitment to getting to the bottom of the intriguing story of Sir Parlane MacFarlane and his long shadow. which fell darkly across Scotland's Monarchical and Political establishments; Daphne turned to the group and proposed a Toast, “to Ginger,” and all voices were raised in unison for the response “and Confusion to her Enemies!” and drank deeply of their sparkling Irn Bru.
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