Gordon Brevity cast aside the newspaper in which he had been reading about a Gubernatorial Election Campaign in Kansas when he descried the immaculate Isa Urquhart returning to The Grassmarket and Cowgate Community Policing Hub – casually, he asked that unimpeachable WPC, “I don't suppose you can guess how many Governors of Kansas have been impeached,” to which statement she quickly riposted, “no, I can't guess, because I know; it was Charles Lawrence Robinson, he was the first Governor and the only one impeached,” adding darkly, “so far,” and Brevity asked her if she wanted to join the Edinburgh Police Pub Quiz Team for the Quiz Night at the City Bar tomorrow night, but she demurred, not mentioning that she had a Hot Date with Imelda which took precedence over the honour he was offering her, but she did suggest that Professor Carolina Moonbeam of the Forensics Department had mentioned to her the other night, and here she blushed deeply – a quite unusual experience for herself and for the DI to witness – that she had been on a Team in her previous workplace and was looking for one here in Edinburgh, “and I know she would concentre your Team brilliantly,” and Isa recovering quickly from her flush, flashed him a wide smile, “she has the most arcane knowledge of the human body and it's intricacies it has been my pleasure to discover,” and leaving him agog, she went into the other office to type up her report!
The tenacious WPC Isa Urquhart had found a Witness – she grinned, as she told DI Gordon Brevity how, after scanning the multitude of CCTV cameras in and around Waverley Station, she became aware of a figure sometimes hovering, well-nigh out of sight, just at the side of a frame, at other times walking smartly away, and at even others, barely intruding from a position right on the very edge, just an ear, a toe, a lock of hair, perhaps a nose or a knee – and from all these disparate components, Isa had assembled a collage and, after hours of diligent work, and the unravelling of a rigmarole, had followed the thread of a route and managed to track the person to a nearby business: she picked up her bag and – with Brevity's “good luck” ringing in her ears, set off; Miss Imelda Frangione, glanced up in surprise when the open face of the WPC, her sweet smile belying the shrewd analytical detective's mind behind it, looked around the side of a screen which sheltered her work-station; Imelda experienced a flutter of anxiety when Isa introduced herself – who does not experience some trepidation and concern at an unexpected visitation by an officer of the law – but it was tinged with a frisson of excitement and she visibly relaxed when Isa swept the cubicle with a glance and said “what an owlful place you have, Miss Frangione,” and Imelda immediately recognised Isa as a true kindred spirit – and after the interview, as they stood outside (for Imelda was still a recalcitrant smoker) and it had been arranged that the Witness would pop into The Grassmarket and Cowgate Community Policing Hub in the morning to sign her statement after Isa had typed it up, something was very clear from the way their pupils dilated whenever their eyes locked, and before she had left to walk swiftly back to The Hub, Isa had Imelda's mobile number in her phone, and a date for tomorrow night in her diary!
While you fribbled your pennies away,
In the helix of minimum wage,
She was already a tableau vivant kore,
On the vaudevillian stage!
Bernie (or Bear Woman) spent the rest of the day exploring – the grog hadn't been so strong after all, but it had relaxed everyone and it seemed that, as there was food – in a store-room she discovered, with various kinds of animals hanging from wedges hammered into the rock-roof, away from vermin – there was no need for hunting today; she gathered from what she saw and picked up from scraps of conversation, and the speech of her carers was scrappy at the best of tines, that there was a kind of mixed economy: mainly hunter-gathering augmented by some basic farming on the terraces she had glimpsed on the hillside, beyond the fingers of rock which partially formed a kind of enceinte protecting the natural forecourt of the Cavern; and indeed there was a second store where grain was piled, but Bernie was forced to admit to herself that she knew fuck-all about agriculture, or hunting or cooking or pre-history (or pre-anything, for she'd hated being pre-pubescent and that had made up her mind on that score) Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, any-kind-of-lithic cultures and societies; she had no idea what year this was supposed to be – if, and it was still a pretty big IF, this group she was now with were living in the past, was it Stone Age, well it must be because there wasn't anything in the way of metals about, even the women's needles seemed to be fish-bone or something similar, but did that mean they were living as Neanderthals or Early Human by choice, or force of circumstances, and how do you tell the difference anyway, 'cause these weren't great hulking boneheads but they weren't quite 'normal' whatever that means, 'modern' really, and she had no idea if there was any mixing of the races – are they really races anyway, or entirely different species, or just kind of dead-ends that the next try improved upon – or overlapping of cultures or what – she knew that Neanderthals were here (logically, this must be Scotland) first, but how long before the Early Humans came up from Africa and trekked to the edge of the World, she couldn't guess – and didn't a few Ice Ages drive everyone away to the South of France or whatever it was called then and she knew the last one had receded about 12,500 years ago so, if it was earlier, there's be nothing recognisable after all the glaciers, but if it was less than 12,000 years ago, why, she might just be able to work out where she was (where I am dammit, and she stamped her feet like she used to when she was having a tantrum) – well, places probably didn't even have names: if people were stuck with Ugg, Ogg, Egg, Igg for the guys, Amm, Emm, Omm, and Umm for the women, and Ee or something like it for the kids, why bother racking your brains to name places – Big Hill, or Little Hill, or Faraway, were probably as much as you were going to get; to tell the truth to herself, Bernie – or Bear-Woman (three syllables no less) could feel herself edging towards the hysterical; she didn't believe this was happening, she couldn't believe it, this is all fucking MOOT 'cause there must be another answer, and she felt the stitching around her neck – this is modern, she thought, it's new and very recent, something happened to me, I just can't remember what and somehow I've been brought here, kidnapped or something like in The Prisoner when he wakes up in The Village and he's Number 6 and everyone behaves as it's all normal – 'cause I don't believe it's possible that a cataclysmic event could catapult me backwards – or forwards, don't forget some kind of post-apocalyptic dystopian future scenario, Honey – in time, some kind of defence mechanism, that’s just im-fucking-possible; maybe it's like they're living in a little bubble, parallel with, but separate from, the rest of the world; and she laughed – maybe they've been here forever, just unnoticed by everyone else, like those Japanese soldiers who were discovered on a Pacific Island, decades after the War, who'd no communication with the outside and thought the war was still being fought; she felt like weeping, unable to get her head round it all; if it's a dream, I'll wake up; if it isn't, I've got to get myself out of it and she may have been thinking of the oft-quoted lines from Lovelace's To Althea, from Prison which she had learned by heart at School: Stone walls do not a prison make, Nor iron bars a cage; well, it's not Big Brother or I'm a Celebrity, so it's either a dream, or a make-believe reality with a bunch of weirdos, there's nothing in between – which was when she noticed Emm watching her from the entrance to a tunnel she hadn't been along yet, the place was a warren, yes, that's it, like an enormous warren or burrow: crikey, next thing I'll be a rabbit in Watership Down; but she followed Emm and caught up with her at the entrance to a chamber, where lots of furs were strewn around, making it like nothing other than a great nest; oh shit, she thought, so this is where he intends to fuck me, I really don't want this, I don't know if I can go through with it, for the very idea of sex with a man, any man, made her physically sick, and her neurotic mind jumped forward to the possibility of pregnancy – in a place/time where their idea of medical facilities is probably to stick a leech on your neck to draw out the sickness – and then she saw the expression on Emm's face – she's been displaced, by me, I'm his New Woman and she's the Old One and she's been ditched, oh shit, and I don't even want him, this is too bloody crazy, which was when all the emotion welled up and she began howling and weeping and hitting her head with her hands, while Emm came and held her close and began to soothe her like she would a distressed child, which, in fact, was exactly how Bernie felt; and that was how it came to be that Emm took Bear (as she called her, following Ugg's lead) out of the cave, by a kind of back door at the end of a long tunnel, and Bear (let's stick with that for now) got her first proper view of where she was – and recognised it, she felt her strength being drained from her body, felt a wave of something like faintness wash over her and she sat down with astonishment, because it was a view she had seen before, from a place she had been before, and it was the same as it had looked before, but it was completely different!
Martin Elginbrod crumpled the note into a ball and hurled it away from him; he looked again at the envelope – no stamp, no postmark - his name and the Chambers address printed in block capitals gave no clue as to where it had come from nor who had sent it; he had no time for this – neither for chauvinistic wantokism, nor sycophantic proteanism, however entertaining it might be during The Festival – he was a man of Business, of Action, with one driving purpose; furiously he banged his hand on the bell and, moments later, his Chief Clerk Riddle Rankine entered – Elginbrod held up the envelope: “who put this in,” he demanded; Rankine was unperturbed, “Zinny lifted the mail, sir,” he replied, “anything not obviously business she put through here. As per”; it was normal procedure in the Chambers, for occasionally Elginbrod received personal mail here and he had issued strict instructions to his Clerks - he would rather find something irrelevant on his desk than have his underlings open what he would prefer them not to see and engaging in their conspiratorial gossip – anyone he found doing that would be out on their ear without a testimonial from him, and he'd even spread enough disinformation about them to screw their chances of another post above shit-shovelling at the abattoir; so, dismissing his Clerk, he retrieved the note and flattened it out on his blotter, and as he did so, noticed the faint writing on the reverse, realised that this might be a clue to it's origin, with the message to himself being written on the reverse of the original note – if he could identify the sender of that he would be half-way to the recipient who was the second sender and he wondered about this 'Miss Teri' who was unable to dine, probably some sad spinster with gluten, dairy and nut allergies, who disapproved of drink, and smoking indoors or scampering skyclad on beaches and hilltops - women like that should be put in the stocks and available to every red-blooded man to shag, he'd lay odds-on that, though the feminist whores might cavil at the idea, they and all their Lesbo chums would secretly delight in being used so, for he truly believed that no woman, whatever her protestations, did not enjoy being fucked, gently or forcibly, it made no difference, all they really wanted was a hard cock inside them; he used his mobile for the call and soon heard the gruff voice and before it had finished barked out: “I'm waiting – you know I don't like to wait,” and he felt the cringing at the other end – good, he thought, when you cringe you don't dare to disobey, and wondered, not for the first time, how such a pathetic, grovelling creature could have risen so high, but reflected that he probably treated his own staff as Elginbrod treated him and was like as not perceived as an Alpha Male; “no word from the Hospital, I've got a nurse hooked and I'll get something out of her,” and Elginbrod smiled to himself, revelling in the contempt he felt for all women, lesser beings intrinsically inferior to him, “if she has anything, bring her to me, in her uniform, I've got a soft spot for nurses – well, a Hard One actually, oh and there is another little task for you – no argy-bargy and quick as you can,” and he passed on such information as he had, but was quite dismissive of The Man's suggestion that the name Teri, might be a reference to someone from Hawick and he hung up, wondering, despite himself, whether The Man might be right, he was a Detective after all and despite his many failings, he could still have a life-long detective's nose for these things; and then he remembered about the Nurse – now that would be a sweet little bonus for him; a dedicated lovelace, he always enjoyed these unexpected pleasures, having a woman he'd never set eyes on and taking whatever he wanted from her, particularly her self-respect; he knew The Man would do what it took to get the information, although he didn't know yet if it would help him find his two missing toys; ok, so much for that, he rang for Rankine again: “what's our schedule for today,” it was time to expend some of his prodigious energy in his true vocation and make money!
Georgie Corcoran threw down her Scotsman and turned to her sister Corky, with a puzzled expression across her azure eyes: “what on Earth does it mean, Corky?” and indicated, with a sweeping gesture, the scattered pages, “when they say that, and I quote, 'Miss Theresa Somerville is unwell' and replace her column with a picture of me, looking frumpy and outré in a mop cap and a forties apron from Look Back in Angst – I look like a slavey who's been denied manumission – I should never have agreed to that photograph going out, it completely undermines the image of me which my Followers on Twatter hold so dear, there's is something quite opprobrious about Mungo, he is rather lower-born than he makes himself out to be, he's a phoney,” and she collapsed from the effort of producing so many words ad lib – for Georgie was not Georgie without a script, but Corky just laughed and said “it's an allusion, darling, a reference to Jeffrey Bernard when he was a Spectator columnist and it was used as a prevarication on the days when he was too drunk to pen his articles, remember, Keith Waterhouse wrote a play about Bernard with that title, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell? it's just a euphemism, really,” but Georgie looked blank, “was I in it?” she asked querulously,” and Corky laughed, “no, sweetie, you weren't in it,” at which Georgie snorted and grumbled, “there's something fishy in the State of Denmark,” “rotten, darling,” replied Corky, “what is?” demanded Georgie, “the State of Denmark, the line's from Kismet, by that Wullie Shakeshaft, remember? you were Othellia.” and her sister glowed with happiness, “I died so beautifully, didn't I? the audience gasped with admiration and I got five Curtain Calls, and seven bouquets, what a performance I gave, even that lovelace Django Duncanson came to my dressing room and threw himself at my feet – he kissed my shoes - he said I was a Diva, the new Bernhardt, do you remember?” and Corky laughed, “every day, darling, every day.”
Dear Mr Porter, the very thought of a Draconian Boycott of Yeasayers Charity Shop is tu, tu much for Miss Teri to bear so she has Absquatulated, and therefore regrets, that she is unable to dine today!
It's all rather Fine,
For eight Yeasayers in nine,
To Boycott a Draconian racket,
But if one Absqualate,
With my kid sister Kate,
I'll punch him, right up the Bracket!
Her scream had been cathartic – not only did it seem to bond her with the others, the fact that they had rushed from sleep to her aid, even though it might have been for their own self-protection – as a shout of 'Fire' prompts people to action; but it was as though the scream had communicated so much to them, so much that her words seemed only to hide; and so it was no real surprise when, later, after she and Ee had managed to sleep a while longer, that one other women, Umm, came and drew her from the shelf-bed, and instead of giving her a shell of water, or a hunk of roasted meat, led her through the rock passage towards a large clearing, the opening, beyond which was a blue sky and an expanse of green hillsides, rolling down towards a distant sea with some kind of basic xeriscaping – not quite like the extensive terraces on the tea plantations of India and Ceylon, quite rudimentary, but showing that someone had worked out a way to grow here, up on the hillside, with the river down below and so otherwise a lot of back-breaking work would have been necessitated to raise water up here, while the valley below looked pretty rocky and unwelcoming and, she shuddered, exposed, remembering the spears she had seen last night; and other members of the family were seated on the floor, cross-legged, or squatting, tearing off chunks with their teeth and grinning up at her, that she realised that she truly was now one of them, part of the family, and though she still wondered where they were and when someone would come looking for her – for surely her phone – if she'd had it when she was found by them in this cavern-mouth, for as she looked around she realized by its vague familiarity that this was where she had lain when she was first found by them, it would have still been giving off a traceable signal to the network, so that it could only be a matter of time – but after the scream it didn't seem to matter when, or even if, she would be found and reclaimed by her 'real' life, her 'former' life, her 'past'; and she knew that these people, old and young, men, women, children had accepted her for herself, with no pre-conditions, asking nothing of her but simply accepting her as the person who now sat where Umm indicated, between Ee and the space where Umm herself now sat; behind the men who seemed to take priority, and she wondered what the 'pecking-order' was and whether she was ranked as one of the women, or one of the children, or as a guest, not really part of the Group – are they a Tribe, or a new Clan, she wondered, maybe they're trying to get back to a simpler life – an extreme form of The Good Life, until the men stopped talking and Ugg got to his feet and, holding out his hand towards her, indicated that she should join him; taking her hand in his, Ugg led her over to the mouth of the Cavern and pointed out various features of the view – as if saying that this swathe of countryside belonged to the family; she almost giggled for it seemed so much like a prospective suitor in one of Jane Austen's novels, demonstrating his wealth and possessions, his Estate, though she couldn't imagine herself in such a setting and Ugg was as far from Mr D'Arcy as you could get, with his nut-brown, weathered face and body, his lank and matted hair, his brown and crooked teeth, but as he suddenly turned and looked up (for though he was possibly the tallest in the family, Bernie herself was a good head taller than him) she saw in his eyes, with a clarity that she had never experienced before, that this was what passed for a proposal within the group, and also understood that he was giving her a unique offer – of something that he would normally just take as his right, as Leader of the Pack, and that she, a woman, had no right to refuse; it was not in fact a request, simply a statement; 'this is mine, as you are mine,' but she also saw that he was extending to her a courtesy that none of the other women would have been given – not the right to decline, but the right to accept what she could not refuse, for she also knew in that instant that refusal was not an option here, in this family, in this cavern, wherever they were, that being shirty would not be accepted; her sexuality, the fact that she was Lesbian with no interest in or desire for sex with men was simply something which did not exist – or, if it did exist, was separate from what was; what women did in their own privacy, while the men were away, was their own business, but while the men are here, they rule, and Ugg rules over all; she suddenly felt very scared, alone and vulnerable – something was wrong, seriously wrong; this was no play-acting, no group of friends or colleagues living out the past like the three who do all those Farm programmes on TV (Mediaeval Farm, Victorian Farm, Wartime Farm) no, this was real; but impossible; impossibly real, or really impossible; and she thought of the Outlander books she had read so avidly – could she have slipped through some kind of wormhole in the net of time and space, found herself in a past long gone, and if so, could she ever go back to her own time, or was she stuck her, and she like some sort of thwarted Paul Pry (make that Polly Pry) with so many questions, none of which could ever be answered, none of which mattered, because here she was, is and will be; and suddenly, momentarily re-living the slam to her body which had made her collapse and feeling her blood pump away, she felt so utterly bereft and abandoned, and something brought her attention back to Ugg, he was speaking to her, speaking softly and, somehow, she didn't know how, she understood his words though the language was beyond her comprehension and it was her brain which instantly translated like the interpreters do at the UN and in her head she heard Ugg say, though the words in English didn't match the sounds his lips formed, and as she heard, she felt herself surrender to the inevitable: “you mine, you belong me, here, you stay, live here now, you called,” and she realised that no-one had asked that before, or if they had she hadn't understood: “Bernie,” she replied; “Bare-knee,” he asked, looking amused, “no, Ber-ni,” she tried to pronounce better for his ears, “BEAR,” he stated, and grinned, “Bear Woman, that you now,” and he introduced her by that name to the others, who all laughed and clapped and cheered; just like we do, she thought, and amended to, just like we will do, sometime, and a couple of the women heaved a great clay pitcher to the middle of the floor and she realised that this was something made – either by them or acquired by them from another, and using crude wooden bowls, shaped by hand and probably sharpened stones, one of them began scooping out liquid and passing the bowls out and she soon had one in her hand and sniffed, and tasted with the tip of her tongue and then drank – for it was grog all right, god knows how strong it is, but who cares, she actually laughed and her laughter was met by smiles and grins, and she knew that she had been accepted by all.
It was the nightmare that woke her, and her screaming which woke everyone else; she hadn't had that kind of dream before, and she felt that it must belong to whatever had happened to her and which had resulted in the stitching around her neck – because of her youth, well, that was relative and something of a moot point, her skin seemed to be healing quickly and she wondered how she'd be able to take the stitches out; she hadn't seen anyone with a pair of scissors, or a sharp knife; she had come to the conclusion that she must have stumbled on a place where people were living a life from the past, either for historical research, or as a lifestyle commitment, like the guys she met once who were setting off to Ireland to live on The Lake Isle of Innisfree in some kind of homage to Yeats – she'd never heard how they got on, whether they were even allowed to go there, for it must surely be a protected site because of it's place in Yeats' canon; but what period these people, this family, were living in seemed to be quite primitive – although she had heard that the Quakers, or the Shakers, or some Mennonite people eschewed bought implements or tools, only using what they made themselves, and forgoing the benefits of buttons (too showy) or zippers (too erotic) and so far she hadn't seen much in the way of clothing other than furs, with various pieces seemingly cannibalized from larger ones and joined to others with no concern for colour or pattern matching, but she thought she might have glimpsed some woven fabric on the older woman, who had a noble resplendence in her bearing and demeanour and something of the lorelei in her eyes – no matter; thoughts seemed to go round in circles or ellipses in her mind – of the cause of her injury there was no hint or clue, though she did have normal recall of her cousins and her life at home; and while she had no knowledge of what had brought her to this place, she did remember waking, or half-waking, lying on the floor of a great cavern, dressed in her normal clothes, in pain and distress and feeling as if she had been knocked down by a bus; someone had tried to help her to her feet but she had been so fragile, that she could neither stand or walk, so she had been carried, though by one person or more she was unable to say; she must have been undressed and put onto this bed of sorts, where she had lapsed into some sort of lachrymose delirium all sweats and gallons of tears, with a kind of dressing around her neck, and even now it was impossible to say for how long; she had been off the shelf-bed a few times. crouching in a distant corner to pee, but had to be helped back on to the rock shelf; because of the location, she could never really say whether it was night or day, for the light never varied too much, except that when the people had a fire, just out of sight round a rock face, there was a degree of lightening the gloom, but when it was dark, it was all-encompassing; as she became stronger, over a period of days, or weeks, she was uncertain, she spoke with her rescuers more, but they either didn't understand her language or maybe her cracked and rasping voice was too difficult for them to make out the words she tried to form, and so she progressed no-where with her questions and got precious few answers – she asked which day of the week it was, how long she had been with them, where were they in relation to the City Centre, and got baffled looks and fearful glances; she was beginning, however, to work out their names, though whether they were Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist. or anything else, she had no idea and guessed that they were nicknames rather than proper ones; the older man seemed to be Ugg, and the younger. Ogg (she smiled, for he looked nothing like Angus Og of the Bog, except for the wild hair; and the women – she had counted three so far – seemed to be Umm, Emm and Omm – and she supposed that Emm must be from Emma or Emily, but she had no ideas about the others; and as for the children, only Ee was sufficiently in her presence for her to identify – and since the night she had been singing a version of Let's Call The Whole Thing Off that she had been making up as an exercise to help evaluate whatever damage she had sustained to her brain and memory, Ee had slept with her; at least she now knew that Ee was a girl, but her size was no help in trying to work out her age, for she was small, as indeed they all seemed to be, from her vantage point of the rock bed, with it's fur covered straw mattress; but the nightmare was the most vivid and fearful for as long as she could recall – and principally consisted of her being in deep water, neither hot nor cold, keeping herself afloat with arms and legs, and then as she tired she began to sink and that was when she saw them coming for her: a shoal of the biggest and most horrendously vicious fish she could imagine – she truly could not imagine anything like them, for they looked like nothing so much as giant red-eyed piranhas, all intent on eating her and she was so tired she could not rise to the surface, so tired and weak she could not swim away and they simply surrounded her giving her no escape and, unable to breathe, her lungs were bursting, and when one, looking like The Daddy of Them All lunged for her face and it's teeth were bared and directed at her eyes and she didn't care about drowning, so she just opened her mouth but instead of gulping down seawater and flooding her lungs, a piercing scream came out, which shocked her to the core, and woke Ee with a start and brought others running, one with a brand from a fire they must keep burning through the night, and soon had what seemed like the whole family standing around, anxious and distressed from the fright of her screams, still sleepy and dazed but also happy that she was herself as fine as could be if a little pale and with bloodshot eyes and she realized several had weapons which must be with them for protection – but from what?
You say Frittata, and I say Pro rata,
You say budgie smugglers, and I say budget jugglers,
Frittata, Pro rata,
Let's call the whole thing off;
You say he's august, and I say that he's bust.
You say that it's quiddity, and I say liquidity,
August, He's Bust,
It's Quiddity, Liquidity'
Let's call the whole thing off;
But, if we call the whole thing off, then you and I
And then we'll sigh
And we'll make up, cause I,
Intend my dear, to stick around,
Hush, my darling, make no sound . . . . .and she opened her eyes and, in the blackness as dense as velvet, she could feel, rather than see, a slight movement, an eddy in the air, as it moved like a candle flame and she strained her eyes, but it was her ears that picked up the slight intake of breath, while she held her own and waited, and the blackness before her face seemed to change from Lamp Black to Dead Black and then she felt the softest touch of a nose tip against her own nose and the tiny movement as the other nose began to pass to right and left, rubbing hers, and she put up her hands, and found them either side of a head, not a great grizzly head like the man of the family, nor yet the bushy locks of the woman, but rather, the tangle that her touch identified as reddish and she pulled the child down beside her and wrapped her arms around the small body as it snuggled in beside her, and she stroked it's back and felt it's breathing become regular and slow and she was able to slow hers to and, when they were in rhythm with each other, she, too, returned to sleep.
Which broke the ice – and Bernie found that her 'carers' – for want of a better term, and she wasn't perhaps ready to admit the truth of what she already suspected, in some dark recess of her mind, a truth which her conscious mind wanted to keep shut away lest, in discovering it too soon, the shock might undo the good that her 'carers' had been doing – did speak; they were neither deaf nor dumb, but their speech – such as it was, and it was very rudimentary – did not contain recognisable words which carried any meaning for Bernie, but she was content with this as being in some way caused by the trauma she was only now just beginning to come to terms with and recover from; she did not doubt that at some time, her memories would return, but not yet; for now, she was content to rest, accept drink from the cave dwellers and reflect on the damage which had been done to her body and mind, despite having no memory of what had happened; she knew that hydration, at this stage, was more important to her body than solid food, even the thought of which made her nauseous; and strangely, even though the vocal sounds uttered by this family – for she began to perceive that they were indeed a family, with several generations present – were simple gibberish in her ears, at some deeper level she could understand them as if they were speaking in English; and in the telling of her tale, she expressed their communications in her own, English tongue, while attempting to retain something of the simplicity of their utterances; but first, she had to satisfy herself that there was nothing sinister here: like the good convent schoolgirl she had been, along with her cousins, The O'Hooligan Twins, Bernie had acquired that perplexing amalgam of History, Legend, and Religious Divide, which has characterised the centuries since Scotland emerged from the mists of antiquity as a proud land, with it's own customs and laws, quite separate from those of her Southern neighbour, England; and one of the historical legends which cannot be categorically proved to be either true of false, is the story of Sawney Bean who, with his wife and many children and grandchildren, is said to have hidden themselves away from the Law-givers and takers, in the wilds of Ayrshire, there to prey upon unwary and careless travellers going to and from Dumfries, whom they waylaid, robbed, murdered and, in many cases, ate – the infamous Mrs Bean's Cookbook has some recipes for such things as Eyeball Soup, Genital Junket and Finger Food which used both fingers and toes to produce 10 little succulents from each body; and so it cannot be denied that she did wonder if this group, this family or clan, was of a similar nature and disposition, then dismissed the thought as uncharitable, for they seemed to regard her with kindness and concern, rather than sizing her up for dinner – then she wondered if they might be vegetarian, or eat anything they can find, like beetles and earthworms and in one of those synapses that she had no control over, it crossed her mind that Americans call them angleworms for no good reason that she could think of, and she wondered what her 'carers' called them and she knew that as time passed, though she had no proper means of measuring it, at the same time and pro rata to that passage, she would become weaker without sustenance and she resolved that the next time they gathered to gaze at her – and fleetingly wondered what it was about her they seemed to find so fascinating – probably just because I'm a stranger, they probably don't get many visitors here, wherever here is, it feels far away from home and she wondered what form their etiquette might take and ticked of the different kinds she could think of, with strangers, with the elderly, with the aristocracy, in letters, at mealtimes, on escalators, oh and don't forget netiquette, though that probably wouldn't apply here inside this strange building for these walls must be soooo thick there won't be any signal and that made her feel about herself and her temporary bed for her phone and she wondered if the 'carers' have it and would they know the mnemonic ICE meaning In Case of Emergency and call the number under that word which would mean they'd get through to Dixie in which case . . . . . where is this place, somewhere in the Pentlands probably, there are plenty of old farm buildings around and even lime kilns, but how did they get me here and who stitched my neck – and why – to hell with etiquette, I’ll just have to ask them – but what is that language, maybe they're Romany, do they have their own language, oh shit I feel like crap, and as she was closing her eyes again she was just aware of the child coming close and looking deep into them before the image faded and she slept.
But there was one other totally unaware of the events which were to take place and would make Edinburgh the talk of the world for the next few days; she lay for a long time, aware only of the darkness and a kind of numbness which suffused her whole body; she remembered a vicious assault which had probably only lasted a few seconds, but to here mind seemed to have gone on for an eternity – she had no recollection of where or when it had taken place, so extreme had it been that it seemed to have closed down her memory, along with other parts of her sensory system; indeed, she lay in this all-embracing darkness for a long time before she realised that her eyes were shut; but she opened them very slowly, afraid – with a deep dread such as she had never known before – but with no knowledge of the source of that fear, other than it had something to do with the calamitous blow that had struck her – where, somewhere; once her eyes were partly open she became aware that the darkness was no longer so absolute; it had substance and depth, with little swirling eddies and shimmering in places, occasional movements which took the form of slightly darker shadows making small adjustments; but so far, there was no sound – not that she expected any, for she expected nothing; in that sense, she felt like a new-born babe besoming aware that it had left the safety and warmth and security that had been it's home for as long as it could remember anything; but she was not a new-born, though she could not have said what or who she was; and who was to say that this was not home – she could not remember any previous place, so she simply accepted that she was herself and she was where she was and that was all there was to know; the pain was not so severe as it might have been and at first she could not locate it, but that was because it was like a single voice rising slightly above the general babble of a crowd and if she listened hard she might be able to work out where or was; yes, she found it, it was around her neck and somehow, without consciously doing it, she became aware of her hand – which one, she was unsure – moving towards the pain and then her fingers were brushing across some kind of fabric collar that was wound around her neck, but the pain was now more specifically at the front, or slightly to the left and when she tried to press, it was worse, so she dropped her hand back, and it rested across her body, and she closed her eyes for a few moments and slept for three hours; and this time, when she woke, though to her it had passed as swiftly as the second hand of her watch moving one tick in it's passage around the face, but this time, she opened her eyes more fully, and some of the shadows were different – they had strange shapes and forms and she didn't understand what they were; if she was alive, and she wasn't too sure of that, and she wasn't too sure of anything, and she was hopelessly unsure of who she was and why she was wherever this is; and it was during this disassociated time that her world tipped on it's axis and she found her brain at loggerheads with her senses for while she was gazing at the different shadows which were her entire frame of reference, the face appeared right in front of hers: it was a child's face, but no cherubic, rosy-cheeked face, full of good-humour and happiness – rather ir was a pinched, sallow face, with scratches and unruly dark hair and dirt – such dirt as she had never before seen smeared across a small child's face; she didn't know what kind of dirt it was but it repelled her and she instinctively drew her head back, trying to gain some distance, but her head banged against something hard and sharp and sore, and she winced, and that only triggered a spasm in her shoulders which did something to her neck and the dull throb which seemed to be her normal state, was seared by a flash of white lightening that blotted out everything for a few seconds and before she could see again, she could hear the child's excited pleasure at her reactions; and when she dared open her eyes again, there were more faces around the child's all staring at her, and all dirty, and unkempt and some of them bearded and all of them displaying curious interest in her; and although she thought was rather rude, she felt inhibited by both her restricted movement and the exhaustion which weighed heavily upon her – if they think I'm so interesting and, obviously, amusing, it just shows how little they've got in their own lives; and then she immediately felt guilt for that thought – whoever they were, they seemed to be concerned for her, they had obviously found her somewhere and brought her here for shelter and care; they must have bandaged her neck on account of whatever injury she had sustained, and given her the peace her body needed for it to recover from whatever trauma had befallen her; and from somewhere in a distant recess she remembered a Chemistry class at school when the Science Mistress had spoken of the waters of crystallization and used that as an example of dehydration which can be affect any organic or inert entity and she wondered if she was perhaps dehydrated and in a fever, when the small child's face in the centre of her vision was replaced by a large shell, such as she remembered years back student flats using as ash-trays, but this one held a liquid and, as it passed over her – she now realized – cracked lips and parched tongue and began to trickle down her throat, she understood that she must indeed be dehydrated, so she emptied the bowl and held it out for more – but the child who seized it didn't come back, and as she slumped back on whatever kind of bed it was that she lay on, the other faces drifted out of view and she sank back into sleep; the next time she woke and opened her eyes, much of the absolute darkness and gloom had gone and there was a suffused and reflected light filling a larger portion of her view; the source – the sun, she supposed – was out of view, but the light crept quite a way in towards where she lay; and now she could see that she was in some kind of roughly hewn house, or cavern, with blocks of stone and a stone floor, or maybe compacted dirt, but it was a chamber devoid of soft furnishings – of any furnishings – or decoration and she realized with a shock that she wasn't lying on a bed at all, but rather a kind of stone shelf, cushioned in what felt like fur, over something soft, like moss or grasses, and the blanket which covered her was also a furry pelt, and she felt for her clothes – she didn't have any, just a pelt wrapped around her body; and the wrapping round her neck – it came away easily when she tugged, and it seemed to be some kind of plant, flattened and softened and then, with her finger-tips she felt the span of raised skin which crossed from below her left ear round to just beyond the point beneath her chin, and the butterfly stitches which held the two sides together – what the fuck is going on, she wanted to cry out, but no words formed in her mouth; where am I, who am I beholden to, who are these people – so laconic, so silent in fact, she wondered if they even had a language at all, or were a bunch of mutes who's congregated here for safety and shelter, or – Oh My God – her thoughts leaping around and the suppressed hysteria mounting inside her almost pro rata as she felt she was completely losing it – all control, all her grip on reality; she groaned, and fell back, tears pouring from her still-swollen eyes, and, when she could see through them, the blurry faces were back, seemingly concerned for her distress, seeming to sense her confusion and the pain she was suffering, wanting to help; the child's face came close and she slowly raised her hand until she could stroke the unkempt hair – was it a boy or a girl, she wondered, and then the child's hand reached out and carefully wiped her tears away and then held up another shell-full of - water she supposed - and she drank it, and she thought, what the fuck, and surrendered to an acceptance of everything, to slough off the restraints that the paralysis of analysis had brought her and to live with the consequences, whatever they may be, and when she smiled, smiles appeared on all the other faces and the child leaned closer and their two noses rubbed together in greeting.
And meanwhile, elsewhere in the City, Bunty and Dixie O'Hooligan sat in the waiting area of A&E at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, waiting for news of their cousin, Bernie Westwater; it was a tense and distressing wait for them – one of the Doctors had come out to tell them the nature of Bernie's injuries, and she had been grave as she explained how close the knife-slash athwart her throat had come to her trachea and an artery; it was clear that her attacker had intended, not merely to immobilise her, but rather to kill; this filled both sisters with anger and a determination to wreak their revenge – not just on the perpetrator, but also his employer; oh, they knew full well the identity of the person for whom The Man was working – they had studied the images sent to them by The Economic Migrant, and had a bigger and better grasp of what had happened than even the Police; after all, they knew that The Man had been at the two apartments off the Cowgate, from where Elginbrod's sex-slaves had been freed by The Shottstown Ladies Quick-Draw Club; they knew that a number of SOCOs had been there working under The Man's orders and that he had given something to a Forensics Assistant who had broken down under the strain of working under pressure from The Man while trying to keep that hidden from his Boss, Professor Carolina Moonbeam; they knew that The Man had left his car in The Grassmarket and climbed on foot to Elginbrod's Chambers and they had watched the video streamed to them by The Migrant and had witnessed the verbal flagellation the sadistic QC had subjected his hireling to, before dismissing him with orders not to return without knowledge of where the Slaves had been taken, and by whom, and to be back with that information before close of business that afternoon; and they observed the meek obeisance of The Man – normally a person who relishes his position of authority and power over others - made to his Master; they knew that Bernie, guided by The Migrant, had been following The Man from a distance, avoiding two other women who – for their own reasons – were also on his trail, and that Bernie had moved between The Man and the amateur trackers and had closed on him as he entered Waverley Station, and they had seen the CCTV images of him holding Bernie tight in the Lift and trying to end her life there; they knew where he had gone after leaving the Station and knew also that they were close to confirming his identity – close, but no cigar so far; and they were debating whether to finish him off first, or Elginbrod, on their own – or to nudge the Police in the right direction and provide them with sufficient evidence to send them both to Jail for the rest of their lives – which, they were sure, would be pretty short once the other inmates knew who they were and what they had done; it was a hard decision, and they hadn't yet managed to call it, for their primary focus was on Bernie – she had to pull through – and the trill of Bunty's phone came like a bolt of lightning, giving them both a start; she checked the screen, “it's Uncle Jock,” she whispered to Dixie, and they both quickly stepped out into the sunshine, and she took the call on Speaker: “Bunty, I take it you and Dixie are at the Hospital, I've just heard – how's Bernie?” and she quickly filled Lord Linkumdoddie in on the present situation - “I know who it was,” said he, after hearing the description of The Man Bernie had been following, “and the other two women, well, one of them is Teri Somerville, Maude and Daphne's niece, and I know Sammy Linger slightly, she's ok; but I'm not able to say any more, it's a kitchen-sinky enough situation, without throwing my Frankie's handbag into the mix – your 'Friend' is not the only one who listens at keyholes; meet me in the 'Midships' at 6.00 and we'll have a blether, Justice for All,” and he rang off – the sisters would certainly be in The Half-Way House at 3pm, to meet with Lord Linkumdoddie and the others of The Justice League of Auld Reekie, for they knew the coded references, and they went back to their vigil for Bernie, for at this present moment, only her survival and return to health and fitness would mollify, or even beatify, her two loyal cousins – well, that and utter extermination of Elginbrod and his henchman like the couple of cockroaches they are!
On her return to The Grassmarket and Cowgate Community Policing Hub, and typing up the joint Statement of her cousin, Theresa, and her 'Reader', Sammy, the intriguing WPC Isa Urquhart analysed the route taken from Martin Elginbrod's Chambers, to and down through The City Chambers to Cockburn Street and the Malt Shovel Inn and thence to Waverley Station; on her map she pinpointed 10 exterior CCTV cameras covering the route, three in the pub and two on the Overhead Walkway in Waverley Station and, of course, the one in the Lift and then seven in the Concourse area of the Station itself: of these, she started with that in the Lift and felt quite distressed watching the vicious attack on Bernie Westwater – it was only a thirty second segment, beginning with the figure of a large, heavy-set man entering the Lift, and then reaching out and dragging in the much slighter figure of his victim; he silenced her with his left hand clamped over her mouth and despite her struggles was able to pull a flick-knife from his pocket, which he used to slash her neck – presumably intending to cut her throat and probably kill her; when the lift reached ground level, he let her drop and stepped out, reaching back to press the close door button; after 10 seconds, the lift began to rise again and shortly after that she saw her cousin Teri enter and begin to work to save Bernie's life, before being replaced by a woman paramedic; and each time that Isa watched the incident, she cursed loudly with the repeated horror and fury that swept over her, despite her training and her discipline as a Police Officer, she realized that it could have been her dear cousin or her friend – what's all that 'Dear Reader' stuff Teri kept saying in reference to Sammy, who said she was a 'Reader' at the University – she's a bit old for a Student, maybe that's what they call Mature Students; and it seemed to be something to do with Teri's Blogging, maybe it referred to people she met through that; hmmm, wondered Isa, is it like Internet Dating, but Teri's surely far too trusting if she's doing that – surprisingly, for someone so sophisticated and knowledgeable, but what did she really know about this Sammy, she'd only met her today – and Isa decided that she would have a talk with her cousin and senior officer, Sergeant Goldy Brevity, Gordon's wife; Goldy will know how to speak to Teri about her personal safety and meantime I'll find out what I can about Miss Samantha Linger; and by the time the DI looked in to see her, Isa had made an assemblage of all the shots which showed The Perpetrator and his Followers, from Martin Elginbrod's Chambers until he seemed to be swallowed up by the crowds on the Station Concourse - “right,” said Brevity, “I've spoken to the Chief and Goldy and I are calling on Martin Elginbrod this afternoon, though I doubt if he'll tell us very much, he's the man who copyrighted 'It's Yersel,' and I hear he's raised an action against BBC Scotland, claiming that he was being mocked on River City last night, over that particular piece of skulduggery, but we'll try; you should also come and take notes, Isa,” and he noted the usually scrupulous WPC give a tight-lipped smile – she would be a dangerous woman for Elginbrod to cross, he thought grimly, a pity we can't let her have five minutes alone with him; and that was when the door opened without a knock and Professor Carolina Moonbeam – Head of the Forensic Science Department – hurried in, clutching two evidence bags: “I don't say we've got him,” she said, all in a rush, like her movements, “but at least we know what we're dealing with, and raised the first bag, which contained a single red hair: “this is the hair that Simon Symms was working on when he should have been doing the analysis of samples from the Street Girl's murder site, and it is very interesting - it is a particular shade of red and has an internal structure which places it's owner as living, or certainly being born in, the Bathgate area, as only 0.005% of the population have that particular shade and structure, and they all have a Bathgate connection – maybe something to do with the Shale Bings; and we also have a match with the DNA,” and she gave that broad, beaming smile, so warm and generous and completely genuine that so disarmed anyone who had come to complain about her Department; Isa found herself suddenly warming to the woman she had previously thought of as aloof and distant, and a surprising tingle ran up her spine and made her shiver; “it matches that of a woman in Livingston – or at least, there five years ago – Louise Tannahill; she had been viciously assaulted by her husband after he found her in bed with another woman, called her inter alia a strumpet, tart, whore and pervert and both his wife and her friend required extensive surgery after receiving life-threatening injuries; I don't know where these men get off on the idea that their wives are their own 'Private Property' and of course, they're even more furious if their threat (as they see it) is another woman rather than a man – though that would be bad enough in their eyes, but I really think that his abuse would have been exculpatory if she had been able to retaliate and plug him between the eyes; I'm not joking - she's in a Ladies Quick-Draw Club, I've seen them in action at Displays, they do charitable work and have an eleemosynary clause in their Mission Statement, and some of them are pretty hot; anyway, I know you are busy, so all the details we have are here'” and she handed the bag and papers to Brevity; “now, this other one is a partial print from the Lift at Waverley Station; not quite enough to be any use in Court, if you catch the bastard – oops, sorry for that. I have no idea where it came from,” and as she saw that both Brevity and his gorgeous WPC looked confused, she quickly added: 'oh, it came from the close door button, which is rarely used, and it contains just a shade of a droplet of blood from the victim, Miss Westwater, but I mean we don't know for sure which finger, and we don't have enough of it to make a positive identification, but we've run it through the comparisons and have a list of five hundred possibles all in Scotland and seventy-five of them in Edinburgh – but that seventy-five contain the names of some rather prominent people, so I think you'll have to simply use the list as a starting point and still find some other evidence to link the person to the crime; before you make contact with them, and I'm not joking,” and she smiled an even broader smile, as she produced a third bag with a photograph of a footprint: “and this is the piece de resistance,” she said, positively glowing,” for we have a positive match of the heel of this print, to that very same Size 13 Boot which placed it's wearer in the tunnel under the High Street where you found the body of that young lad who was brutally murdered and hidden in an Oubliette – it's got the 5 pence coin embedded in it!”
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