The magnanimous WPC Isa Urquhart felt that, despite her adventitious apprehension of the dewy-eyed person claiming to be both Dr Frangible Arbuthnot – of whom she had certainly heard, even corresponded with by email regarding his developments of the Rorschach Tests, but never encountered in person – and The Gadfly – for who in the Scottish Crime and it's Detection World, together with the related spheres of Law and Justice, Philosophy and Religion, Fine Art and Quantum Mechanics, had not heard of this semi-mythical Super Hero who had unmasked so many of the most dastardly figures inhabiting that Dark and Immoral Sphere of Influence which trades on human misery and the corruption of so many Souls? - and she now felt herself to be in a Catch-22: for by unmasking (as it were, though he presently wore no mask) The Gadfly, she could in fact put his very life in danger, not to mention the incalculable damage unleashed upon to the forces of Laura Norder - so named after the previous-but-one Lord Chief Justice, Lady Laura Norder of Kilmardinny - and to what beneficial end; but should he have information pertinent to the Case of The Car in the Bushes, was it not her duty to investigate him with all the incredible and esoteric powers at her disposal? and so she hummed a merry ditty from The Pirates of Penzance as she drove to The Cowgate and Grassmarket Community Policing Hub by the rather circuitous and scenic route, at this very moment taking herself and her passenger past Seton Sands and heading towards North Berwick!
When the emergency services arrived – first, an Ambulance, which followed the route of the car which had ploughed through the hedge, across the field to the car where it stood, nose first in the bushes; next a Fire Engine which took that route also; and then a Police Panda which followed the other two; and before The Gadfly could follow, a SOCO Van which blocked the gap in the hedge, and just like a birdsmouth in the carpentry of constructing beams and rafters, acted as a birdsmouth to prevent unwonted movement around the opening which also became definably closed with yellow 'Crime Scene' tape; and it was then that Dr Frangible Arbuthnot noticed that the cows were gone, that there were no signs that they had even been present, and that as the SOCOs made their way towards the car, carrying their bags and boxes of cameras, rulers and evidence bags, a couple looking quite camelious, having their backs laden with tents and protective clothing, one of the uniformed WPCs from the Panda was hurrying back towards him and he began to realise that all was not as it had been; the insouciant WPC Isa Urquhart invited The Gadfly to sit with her in his car and he noticed that she sat in the driver's seat (of his car, and removed his keys from the ignition) and asked him to explain exactly what had happened and writing down in her notebook exactly what he told her had happened; and he began to feel like the hapless accused in a kangaroo court; after which she asked him, with that casual inscrutability for which she is highly esteemed by the Justiciary of Edinburgh, why he was wearing a Pink Tutu and nothing else, he informed her that as well as being Dr Frangible Arbuthnot of Edinburgh University and a member of Professor Carolina Moonbeam's Forensic Science Department, highly regarded for the development of that department's particular and quite revolutionary adaptations of the Rorschach Test which had helped the Constabulary to apprehend many malefactors and practitioners of malfeasance, and a renowned logophile in his own right – said rather primly with his hands on his bare knees and it was all the naturally humorous WPC could do to maintain her professional sternness – he was also The Gadfly, Edinburgh's own Super Hero which was when WPC Urquhart cautioned him, produced her handcuffs and fastened them around his wrists and radioed to The Cowgate and Grassmarket Community Policing Hub that she had a suspect in custody and would bring him in straight away!
And so it was that Dr Frangible Arbuthnot, passing by on his way to visit his clandestine inamorata Miss Mona Lott, understudy to Dame Parma Violet Hammnett currently appearing in The Gadfly by George Bernard Shaw at The Festival Theatre, just happened, while considering the sorry lot of the poor who find themselves in the Welfare Trap through no fault of their own and wondering if he could construct a variation of the Rorsach Test - which was his daily bread and butter, as it were – which might address this most difficult of conundra, to see the vehicle glide sedately off the tarmac, push through a thinned-out hedgerow, cross a field and come to rest in a tangle of branches and leaves on the other side, at which point Dr Arbuthnot felt and smelt danger in the air, which was why it was not he who climbed out from his rather old, battered and gouged Citroen 2CV, but rather the Pink Tutu-clad Super Hero, The Gadfly, and it was this renowned Defender if the Faith and Scourge of Hoodlums and their Molls whom he diligently drove from the Mean Streets of this Noble City, home of John Knox and Morningside Maisie, from Westerhailes to Craigmillar, Colinton Dell to Duddingston, who pushed through the flattened hedgerow, crossed the field – meeting the gaze of somnolent cows – and arrived at the car presently lodged in the bushes on the far side; it was The Gadfly who heaved open the driver's door, with a great groan of distorted metal scraping on the frame, and with an affectious cry of “hello there, me old pal, me old beauty, what are you doing here?” peered inside at the driver: a big-built man, with a strongly-featured face, presently disfigured by the blood which was still running from a severe trauma to the crown of his head, high over the tops of his ears, indeed The Gadfly quickly assessed the situation as grave and told the semi-conscious driver that he would telephone for an ambulance from The Steading, just a short distance along the road; but the driver, evidently trying to speak and failing, producing only a mumbled jumble of sounds, managed to drag a mobile telephone from his jacket and thrust it at The Gadfly, who pressed the buttons for 999 and requested an Ambulance and Police – and perhaps the Fire Brigade, lest the unknown driver need to be cut out of the vehicle – and he advised the driver of what he had done, then took himself up to the road, so that he could direct the emergency vehicles through the hedge, there being no gate at that end of the field, and all this time the cows steadily chewed their cud and watched him, with an apparent appearance of superficially studied indifference, but who could have known what shared thoughts floated between the half-dozen Belted Galloways as they surveyed the scene and the human actors who had disturbed their ruminating, but also reached a decision among themselves and as The Gadfly stared along the road, manfully resisting a wave of lassitude, which caused even his normally ebullient nature to sink a little through lack of sugar in his bloodstream, keeping Lookout for vehicles approaching from the direction of Edinburgh, and munching on a Cornish Chicken Tikka Masala Pasty for the umami which fair tingled his taste buds, swept over him so that he missed what happened next in the field and would spend the following seven or eight years of his life on a futile re-winding and re-playing in his mind of the exact sequence of events in and around the field insofar as he was able, but always coming to the correct conclusion that he had missed something and for the life of him he could not quite work out what it was!
Dr Frangible Arbuthnot may have been a nictitating klecksographer by day, but after nightfall he was transformed into The Gadfly, Auld Reekie's very own Super Hero, famous from Niddrie to Portobello, South Gyle to New Craighall!
The nictitate had started with one eye, but as he drove it spread to the other, and he noticed in the mirror that blood was still running down his forehead and into his eyes; he swiped it with the back of a hand which helped a little, but he felt his mind was getting addled, because he kept forgetting to change gear and at one point he drove straight through a red light – he wasn't bothered about that for he knew no officers would dare pull him over, he would be absolved of any minor moving traffic offences – He was the law here, after all; was he going into the city, or doing a mauka? the Pentlands seemed to be looming over him and they had been behind him before, indeed the whole world seemed to be tilted and if it went much further the car and himself would fall off and his vision was getting blurred, maybe he should go into the Steading for a drink to sober himself up, no, that was the wrong way round, maybe a black toffee, and then he was aware of the car slowly veering off the road and suddenly he was in the middle of a field – how the fuck did he get here, he should be near his house by now, but instead a cow was staring at him and the world seemed to be turning rosy, no matter how much he swiped his eyes, maybe it was inside his head and he thought that if he just shut his eyes for a few moments he could stop thinking altogether and . .. . .
In the crepuscular light of the inner tunnels, where occasional tallow torches shed a smoky glow through the gloom, Bernie noticed that Tammy had developed a nictitation - rapid blinking, seemingly involuntary - probably a result of the attempted garrotting which had left a vicious weal around her neck, but her grip on life was tenacious and, when she described the incidents immediately prior to The Man's brutal throttling of her, Bernie wished she could toast her lover's admirable resilience in something more Lucullan than spring-water from the Cavern's own reserves – it seemed that alcohol had not yet been invented and Bernie wondered if that might be worth addressing and a legacy she could bestow on future generations!
Bernie – that is, She Bear – started, as The Hunter, Thomas, laid his had on her shoulder; she was kneeling in what she thought of as the Sick Bay with the two newcomers: Tavish, who was now conscious, but still recovering from a gunshot wound – two actually, with an entry to the right of his sternum and the exit just to the left of his shoulder blade, right at the spot he couldn't reach with his hands, the acnestis; Bernie wasn't a Doctor, not even a Nurse, so she didn't know what internal damage there may have been, but as both wounds had been stitched up and dressed, she presumed that any necessary surgery must have been completed and he was over the worst of it, though she had no idea how long his recovery might be, without any medication here, not even painkillers, though Thomas had told her that he believed there were some plants around the Hills in which their network of caves ran, that might be useful, though he was no apothecary himself; she looked up at the face of her only friend here, a Mediaeval minor landowner who was destined to find fame – though largely posthumous – as a poet and prophet, a recondite man, a scholar, mocked by some for his claim to have spent ten years in Fairyland and giving rise to the dismissive saying, 'He's Away with the Fairies' - as most of his prophecies would only be revealed to be correct many centuries after his death; now he looked into Bernie's eyes and spoke softly, so as not to disturb her patients: “there is another, a young woman, someone has tried to garrotte her, it is a miracle she still breathes and lives, though faintly,” and Bernie rose and followed Thomas through the network of tunnels, which must have been formed as lave cooled following the last, most violent eruption, that had pushed the surrounding rim of the volcano into a small group of three hills, all that remained, being made of harder rock than the others which had once stood but been weathered away over the millennia before Humans came to walk and camp on their sides and tops; and when they reached the big Cavern, and saw, she took an involuntary ingurgitation, gulping with the sudden shock, then she ran to the girl, or woman, she had instantly recognised, a sudden williwaw gusting through the Cavern with a chilling drop in temperature: “she's Tammy, she's my, my, er, my best friend,” she had almost said Lover, but knew not how Thomas would interpret that!
When he got to the top of the stairs, he listened for a moment at the door and, hearing nothing, unlocked it and cautiously entered, which was when Tammy swung the brick down and into the back of his head, that action being the fruit of her own entelechy, the unique and individual survival instinct which had forced her to gouge out the mortar surrounding the brick in the wall, that particular brick, using a nail that she had extracted from the table, by a dogged persistence worthy of her illustrious parents, Tabby and Tavish and summoning every ounce of her own strength, weakened by the scant food The Man had occasionally brought to her, but driven by her own sheer determination never to consider herself Doomed; The Man dropped to his knees, but instead of then falling flat out on the floor, lashed out with the arm nearest to Tammy and caught her off balance, then, as she fell sideways, dropping the brick, he threw himself across he body and in one movement, drew the knife from his pocket, clicked it open, and slashed her throat, a gasp of flatulence escaped her body as all her muscles lost tone and collapsed; still dazed, he pulled himself up onto his knees, got one foot under himself and levered his bulk upright – he didn't even look at Tammy, just lurched through the doorway and staggered down the staircase, holding with two hands to the bannister, blood dripping from his battered head, a trail that led all the way; he'd dropped his knife, he realised as he reached the bottom, and the key, and left the door open – but he locked the great oaken door and stood for a couple of minutes before making his trepid way to the track where he'd left his car; he'd come back tomorrow and dispose of her body – probably pitch it down the well too, it was deep enough and narrow enough, to avoid being searched casually, yes, that's what he'd do, if only he could remember where he had to go, or why, or what day this is, what time, wasn't he supposed to meet someone, but he was too, too, too, too, tired, and he failed to notice the little coriaceous key fob that had dropped at his feet as he fumbled with the lock; still bleeding heavily, he dragged himself into the car, reached into his glove compartment and withdrew an emergency medical kit, from which he took two sealed foil packs containing syringes; with his teeth he tore them open and first used the Morphine to deaden the pain and then adrenalin to boost his concentration; he put a dissolvable Warfarin tablet under his tongue, that would slow down his blood loss, and now it was important for him to be as far away as possible from The Tower; as feeling returned to his extremities, the cold of shock retreating, he started the car and drove out of the Dell, back into the City he knew so well and ran so determinedly, Master of his own Universe again!
When The Man moved, it was only prograde, there was never any going back with him, always forward as though throughout his life he was running for touch in a rugby match, holding the ball close to his chest and bowling over his opponents like skittles – and so when he encountered the landloper, wandering around the Tower where Tammy was imprisoned, he smiled like a benign confidant as he approached, the vagrant smiled back and said “Hi,” - and that was his last word as The Man, without ever breaking his stride, slammed into him, causing him to emit a ragged eruction as his breath was forced out in a belch, then broke his neck with a single twist and kept going, dragging the limp body like a sack of rubbish and dumped him down the disused well, then replaced the cover which the tramp must have removed; he fished the key from his pocket and opened the door – it was time to decide what to do with his prisoner and, at that moment, her fate hung in the balance, for he was beginning to feel that she was an encumbrance he could well do without!
“Ah-choo! oops, sorry for that bit of consternutation, Lovey, now, where were we? oh yes, this 'inarticulate mortice'? is that a ruddy lock wivout a tongue? cause if it is, we're gonna be busted, Matey, we def-in-ately ain't not got one o' them 'ere, no way an' if you can prove I'm a liar, I'll let you 'ave it half-price, can't say fairer than that now, can I? an' calling me 'de sultry one' ain't gonna 'prove your chances one, little, teeny, tiny, bit 'cause we've got mangles wiv angles, an' bangles wot jangles, we've got brushes wiv bristles, an' 'ammers, an' chisels, we've got tyres wivout treads, and springs for old beds, we've got lamp stands, an' saw bands, and fingerless gloves for all sizes of 'ands - but, yes, we ain't gone Bananas, nor got locks wivout tongues in 'em too!”
"The microburst of compassion which totally ferhoodled the local xenophobes was an effective emollient that neutralised the threatened xenocide and restored the culture of peace and harmony throughout the UK," said Teri, closing her report on Channel 4 News!
A knock at the door took Sammy into the hallway, as Teri tapped the screen of her laptop, hoping to find the right emollient for a touch of eczema in her left ear, but most of the descriptions of the merits of the various 'home remedies' she discovered seemed to her to verge on the ignis fatuus, while the rest were blatantly shite; she heard voices from the lobby and called to Sammy: “whoozit?” and received the reply: “itza Polis!” and so enquired politely: “whit fur?” and Sammy sweetly responded: “itza rammy inra Close!” to which she mellifluously sang out, “soonz like a zombocalypse!” and received in return a darling voice she recognised: “naw! itzra ebullient WPC Isa Urquhart, kin ye spare a cuppa mulk fur ma man's purritch ra morn's morn?” and Teri rose to greet her favourite Cousin: “this stuff can wait till later,” she said to the room at large and pressed 'save'! And it was hours later when. Isa having left and Sammy running a bath, Teri returned to the laptop, found what she had written earlier, added an update, and clicked on 'Submit'!
And The Hunter told his Tale, while Bernie – she had introduced herself to him and he, Thomas, to her – sat at his feet and listened: “I came from a village, not very far from here, where I lived with my Goodwife and three Daughters, in a fine house, well, it's a Tower, but nothing overly grand; it was my Great Grandfather built it and it hasn't changed much since his time – just different people living in it I suppose, but it's gone now, everything has gone, there is no sign that there ever was such a place as Ercildoune, or my Goodwife and Daughters; I looked for it, once the Cave Folk trusted me to venture forth and return, but becoming The Hunter helped, for I have a useful purpose and contribute to the food store; so when I walked to the place where my house stood, I could see no sign of it, not a stone, nothing! and the village is gone too – not simply razed to the ground as was done in the wars of times past, though that is heartless and dreadful to behold, but eradicated completely – you would never think a people once lived there, my heart was torn and I sat there and wept, for my Goodwife and my Daughters, not knowing what terrible event had occurred and taken them away, and so I came back here, for so far as I can tell, this is all there is; and I apologise for such a rambling circumlocution, I have not spoken of these things in all my ten years here, indeed, nor have I said so many words for so long I am struggling to find the words to express what I mean, too” and Bernie reached up and took his hand and said: “I do not know if this will be an emollient for you, for I have lost those I love also, or if it will only cause you further bewilderment and torment – and you must excuse my circumlocution, for I do not know of any simple way to say what I believe I know to be truth, because I don't know if we are in the Far Future or the Distant Past, but I believe you came here in the year 1250 or thereabouts,” Thomas smiled, “you are a Witch? it was the Year of Our Lord Twelve Hundred and Fifty Two – how can you know this?” and it was Bernie's turn to laugh, “because I've read Sir Walter Scott's Ballad – 'True Thomas'," and she quoted: “'True Thomas lay on Huntlie Bank, a ferlie he spied wi' his e'e, and there he saw a lady bright come riding down by the Eildon Tree,' I think that's how it starts,” and Thomas' mouth hung open: “who says this? I know of no Walter Scott, though Michael Scott passed a night under my Father's roof the year before I was born – but he was on his way to Rome and I never met him; there is some truth in it, the last I knew of was on Huntlie Bank, that much is true, but never a ferlie or a lady bright was seen by my eyes: I was set about by a band of ruffians, who wanted to rob me – though I had but little upon my person, save only a few coins worth perhaps a Mark and some bread – but they did not believe me and the last I remember was that I had been knocked to the ground, and a mighty man stood over me with a great club in his hand which he swung down towards my head – a searing pain, then darkness, and when I opened my eyes I was here; at first I thought these were just travelling folk who were sheltering me, but once I was able to move about and see my own hills in the distance – I wondered, for never has anyone been in a Cavern in these hills; is this what you wished to learn?” and Bernie took his hand and nodded - “do not fear that you underwhelm me with your tale, for yes, Thomas, it all fits, you, me, Tavish and perhaps this other man, have suffered a life-threatening event and woken here, what confuses it is: you look more like a man in your thirties, not forties – there are no mirrors, or looking glasses here, and I doubt you will have found your reflection in the Tweed, or a pond of much use; my Mum used to watch a movie – okay, rewind, my Mum liked a story about a mysterious Valley, called Shangri La, where everything was perfect, only the people never grew older than they were when they arrived in it – I don't know if this applies to the children, but otherwise it's kinda similar; Tavish and I come from the 21st Century 800 years after you, in Years of Our Lord, and you say you have already been here ten years; there's something in quantum physics about this but I don't understand it – but so far as I can remember, from the Ballad, you are supposed to have spent ten years in Fairyland, and return to your own time with the gift of Prophecy, and got the nick-name 'True Thomas' either in later life or after you died, perhaps a conflated epicedium, because your prophecies came true – does any of this make sense to you?” and Thomas laughed, a deep throaty laugh: “well, if this is Fairyland, I've just lost my Faith in them; and I don't understand a lot of what you say, it's too much for my poor head to take in, it was easier to think you a Witch, but if you can explain it all to me more slowly, and maybe after we attend to these fellows, I will do my best to understand what you say, for in truth, this place is a very strange one to me!”
Teri laughed at the memory: she was eighteen, had left school and it was her last summer before Uni and was on a family holiday on the West Coast of Scotland, a little town, stiff with Presbyterian rectitude, pinched mouths and tight arses, where the Wee Free Minister, like an Old Testament Prophet, called down the Hounds of Hell, snarling barghests to devour th tiniest of Sins that might quiver the pellucid air; where the weekly Dance was dry (and every man carried a hip-flask in his back pocket and every girl had a quarter bottle in her handbag) – it was held on a Friday night, in the local Cinema, from 8pm till 1am (though the boys all claimed that 8-1 was the ratio of girls to boys and their chance of copping a feel or getting a hand wank was 8-1 on, there were various other odds but getting laid was even money) and the music was provided by a local Ceilidh Band and a Showband, over from Ireland, who played al the current top 40 hits in the same jig-time rhythm; Summer Visitors, from Cities in Scotland and even England, were the big attraction, and the local girls detested Stacy and Me and our friends and relations, like Ginger and Isa – who was by far the youngest – Roxie and Trixie, Goldy, Elvira and Leigh, Rosie, Jinty and Pru and the others, while the boys sent dagger eyes at Gordon, Malcolm and the twin boys, Ronnie and Robbie and their chums; so while the local lads virtually forced us girls to dance with them, and the local girls clawed and bit their way to seize one of the visiting boys, actually dancing was fraught with danger, as local couples, ostensibly Waltzing or doing a Slow Shimmy, raced around the hall like Dodgems, charging and bumping any couple which contained a visitor (the locals never letting their grip relax for an instant) and many ankles were raked by stilettos, and many dancing pumps and the toes they contained were crushed under tackety boots (polished specially for the occasion); any perceived coquette from among the holiday girls could well have received a dirk between the shoulder blades, so, as we never got a chance to sit out a dance, and our only escape from the carnage was a quick visit to the loo – always crowded with girls who were our arch enemies, but smiled if we offered them a ciggie or a swally from our bottles, and even got into some chat with us, that was where I first set eyes on Morag MacKinnon!
“What do you want a Hat Check for?” asked Tam, relaxing on Dolores' plump cushions – his favourite place to be, other than his bath or the electric chair he spent much of his time in when at his Ramsay Garden apartment; “don't be silly,” she laughed, “a little hook – háček – it's Czech; I try to avoid as many syllables as possible, each one I save equals a second in my life, and at our age that's worth a lot”; Tam ran his fingers through her wild blonde/grey hair, saying: “your reputation for probity in all matters is undeniable and, whereas I have a pronounced tendency to multi-syllabic constructions, mostly for your very own delectation,” and he began to falter as her belly bubbled with the effort of controlling her own natural tendency towards full-bodied laughter, until he, too began to chortle: “you'll send me to Jotunheim if you don't control yourself, darling woman, so, tell me, where do you want me to put this little háček,” and when she saw what he was holding towards her she slapped him playful: “I said a little hook, it's not for dangling the carcass of a Reindeer from, but I do have another use for this one,” as she reached out her hand and grabbed his offering!
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