And as Tammy hurried along in the direction of the Hospital, she pondered – though not normally given to reflection, perhaps as a contrast to her mother, Tabby, who seemed to spend all her time reflecting on just about everything – turning and twisting every little incident or utterance in order to examine it from all angles and even, through her magnifying glass, endeavouring to elicit as much information on it's provenance as could possibly be found; Tammy knew that her mother was not a 'spy' - or at least, believed she did – but what was the real difference between a spy and a spy-catcher? for they both occupied the same shadowy world and were learned in the same arcane languages and behaviours; it seemed to Tammy that it was simply that they each sat on opposite sides of a fence – the spy, outside, trying to get in, like a fox after the chickens, while the spy-catcher was the last form of protection after the fence had been breached; but what if the spy was one of the chickens, born and raised inside the fenced-off farm, having all the same cultural references as the spy-catcher; how could such a one be identified and outwitted? her head swam with the intricacies of this Chinese Puzzle – for, despite her antipathy to too much self-reflection, she could also see, quite plainly, that the spy within might be working – not for the fox outside, but for the betterment of her fellow chickens; to save them from the destruction intended by The Farmer; oh, why was life so difficult, she wailed internally, knowing that this conundrum was precisely why she disdained the reflective nature of her mother, had felt set-apart from other children her own age – never able to take them home for tea or to meet her Mum and be subjected to a barrage about their parents, their uncles and aunts, their jobs and their political affiliations – preferred the mundane, the ordered, the dependable, why she had become a Librarian – studied at Strathclyde University, then worked in University Libraries before coming to The Scotsman, where her responsibilities included the Research Section and where she found that some of her mother's blood had destined her to develop an innate knack for developing exposés which had led to her work on 'The Stone of Scone Heist' and her rapid promotion, under the rather lascivious eye of Sorcha Macaliskey and why she was right now hurrying as fast as her little legs could carry her, on and on, towards the hospital where her True Love, Bernie Westwater, lay a-bleeding; she caught sight of a figure ahead of her – heading with an even tread in the same direction and, despite herself, could not help but follow the stranger, for every turn he – it was a man – took, was that which she also would take; Tammy wished she had taken a bus, it would have been much quicker but, despite her eagerness, she had felt that she needed time to compose herself, to prepare for sitting beside Bernie's bed in the ITU, with all it's monitors and tubes and cables - some of which were to maintain Bernie's life with ersatz bodily fluids and matched blood, others to trace or track it; the man was still ahead of her, his pace never seemed to vary but, when Tammy was delayed in crossing a road because the lights had changed after the man, there he was, still the same distance ahead of her; clearly he wasn't following her, so was she beginning to develop some of the paranoia that had always been her mother's companion – the glances out of a window, under her car, the care she took in entering or re-entering an empty house – even after a five minute walk to get her morning paper; Tammy supposed constant exposure to her mother's behaviour – even before she ever knew that Tabby worked for MI5 and certainly before she had known that Uncle Tavish, as she'd always known Dalwhinnie – she felt cheated, betrayed by her mother, by the puckish lothario now revealed as her father, and the only true person in her life clung on by a tenuous thread, she needed to be by Bernie's bedside and she waved down a passing taxi, instructing the driver to hurry to The Royal, just a short distance now by car; she had forgotten about the man who had walked ahead of her and didn't see him hail and board another cab, giving the same destination as Tammy; nor did she notice him disembarking just behind her – though he took a different entrance, for he was familiar with the building and knew shortcuts of which most visitors were oblivious, as a result, by the time Tammy reached ITU, the man – wearing a white coat now, and with a stethoscope around his neck, was almost as invisible as the rest of the staff – doctors, nurses, technicians, mingling with the distraught visitors always found there, so when she entered Bernie's room, with her full name – Bernice Westwater, written on the whiteboard above her bed, with a printed 'Nil By Mouth' notice beneath it, she paid scant attention to the figure in the corner, writing notes and checking various sheets on a clipboard – for it was the bed she looked at, blinked, shook her head, and looked again: empty; “where is she,” she asked the room, and the man turned, said that she's been taken for a scan and it didn't register with Tammy, that with patients in Bernie's condition, the bed, doubling as a trolley, would have taken her to Radiology, for by this time the man was at her side, one arm solicitously around her shoulders, and saying softly that he would take her along there, and, obediently, she did as he said without demur and went with him – but not to Radiology!
Tammy Shanter was beside herself – the attempted murder of her friend, her dulcinea, companion and lover, Bernie Westwater had plunged her into a spiral of despair and it had only been through a great exertion of willpower and the encouragement of her mother, Tabby, that she had managed to complete her work on 'The Stone of Scone Heist' which she hoped and prayed would prove to her colleagues on The Scotsman that it was on merit that she had been promoted to Chief Investigating Reporter, over several more qualified heads than her own, and not just because The Editor, Sorcha Macaliskey fancied the pants off her – it was no secret that Ms Macaliskey had used the 'casting couch' to great personal benefit in her own rapid rise through the ranks and had made it transparently clear that she intended to allow others to reap similar rewards (but not that she was restricting such advancements to pretty girls, like Tammy – for Ms Macaliskey was well-known for swinging both ways, and her own stable of young stallions was testament to her broad-mindedness: neither gender nor orientation, race nor colour, creed nor religion would ever be a bar while she occupied The Editor's Chair; her personal enthusiasms and stamina could be perceived in the sign which hung, bold and brassy, on her office door: Tantra in the Morning, Tantra in the Evening, Tantra at Suppertime, it was her personal mantra and she expected all of her underlings to bring the same zest for life into their work – as she famously said during the Press Strike of 1984: “If you can't be upstanding under fire, there's no room for you in my Bed,” and though some interpreted this in a specifically sexual context, others have pointed out – most recently David Sparky, her biographer, in his long Analysis piece in The Observer: 'it must be remembered that in The Print, meaning all the trades whose primary function is the writing, printing and publishing of Newspapers, the 'Bed', always and only referred to that part of a printing press which held the metal type from which the text would be printed, and Ms Macaliskey is a Print Journalist to her short and curlies and don't let her ample femininity fool you – she has the nose of a foodie for news and the stories of today and tomorrow, and she has Balls of Steel,' and he would know, having been an on/off lover of hers for some 30 years; and now, seemingly at her own instigation, a thunderbolt had been unleashed, a veritable huwasi that raged around and inside Tammy's pretty head, and it's ramifications fell much further and wider than she had ever foreseen: when she looked out of the window of the bedroom she had shared with Bernie for the past three years, she did not recognise the cityscape which stretched before her – it was instead a Fata Morgana: like some fabled Babylonian City of Spires and Minarets, Hanging Gardens and Crenellated Towers, a Xanadu, a mirage so real and detailed that she could even count the coloured panes in a window on the far side of the Pleasure Gardens below, and at another window, she saw the individual hairs in the sweeping crimson locks of a courtesan, brushing and brushing them for her next visitor – she missed Bernie and wept bitter tears; she would go at once to the Hospital and whisper of her woes into Bernie's ear, for the Consultant had advised her that even in the deepest of comas, the sense of hearing could still convey the sounds of outside to the slumbering brain; yes, she would go now, and she jumped to her feet, glad to find some motivation some purpose other than her miserable self-pity; but she was in for a big surprise, or rather, quite a shock!
That morning, yes, that very next morning, after the excitement of the Quiz Night at The City Bar and the resulting shaming of Tavish Dalwhinnie – what a foolish man to fail so transparently to cover his tracks and so bring the wrath of the entire Scottish Establishment down upon his head, resulting in full centre-spreads on the scandal in every Red Top and in-depth analysis, with biographical details which he would far rather have kept cloaked in mystery – including the disclosure that, along with Jock George now Lord Justice Linkumdoddie, to whom he was something of a Sancho – after Don Quixote's companion, for in appearance they resembled Cervantes' famous creations even to this day: Jock, tall, thin, Ascetic, while Tavish is small, tubby, a true Hedonist – he (under the code-name Ogdoad, perhaps because in his build he rather resembled the figure 8) had been one of the two, hitherto unidentified, drivers of the white van used in the 'Stone of Scone Heist' (everyone having by now adopted Tammy Shanter's nomenclature (and The Scotsman having successfully fought off a hostile attempt by Martin Elginbrod QC to backdate a registration of that wording in order to claim Copyright for himself and make a fortune out of poor Tavish's disgrace), but perhaps the most unlikely item to come out of it all, and one initially appearing only in The Weekly News, sister paper of The Sunday Post, then picked up by My Weekly – giving a more romanticised impressionist portrayal of Tavish as something of a Jacobite Hero, a modern version of Allan Breck Stewart, including a knitting pattern for the Cardigan, or Sleeveless Woolly, which is regarded as his sartorial hallmark – and then in The Sunday Post itself, where, contiguous to an article on the 'Benefits of Cauliflower in the Diet', was found the exposure of Dalwhinnie as an MI5 officer almost since starting at University and making public his close and hitherto well kept secret life as the lover of Tabby Shanter, an Extra-Mural Lecturer at Edinburgh University, his long-time MI5 Case Officer, and the father of her daughter, Miss Tammy Shanter herself, the former Librarian at The Scotsman and now Chief Investigating Reporter who. in her dishing the dirt on Tavish, seems to have been unaware that he was in fact her Daddy - but to get back to that morning, the glowing WPC Isa Urquhart strolled into The Grassmarket and Cowgate Community Policing Hub and casually chucked a copy of The Edinburgh and Leith Police Gazette onto DI Brevity's desk, almost causing him to upset his morning coffee, brewed specially for him by his wife, Sergeant Goldy Brevity, using Krakatoa Beans, his all-time favourite for the strongest wake-up morning cuppa – “look at page 3, Guv,” said the irreverent WPC, struggling to contain her excitement; Brevity moved his coffee mug out of harm's way and opened The Gazette, wondering what could be so interesting on page 3, normally the location of freakish 'Mug Shots' with details of the offences perpetrated by the possessors of those Mugs; and found himself looking at the back of an ear, protruding into the photograph of a couple of Police Cadets receiving commendations for their good work in fostering Community Relations by building a Maze, from junk and cast-away rubbish, in conjunction with a Youth Club in Danderhall; the photograph showed the two baby-faced constables grinning inanely in the direction of whoever the ear belonged to; but Brevity could not understand Isa's evident glee, until she said that Imelda, her latest squeeze, and so far the only witness, had identified the ear as belonging to the person who had tried to murder Bernie Westwater in the passenger lift at Waverley Station – a fluke co-incidence, for she had by the merest chance, just happened to have been in Isa's flat, asking about dog licences, had felt faint and been laid down on Isa's bed to recover, and on rolling over, spotted an old copy of The Gazette tucked away under a rolled-up carpet beneath Isa's bed and shouted out, for Isa, who was having a shower, “it's him!”
And that was when the other idea, so quixotically, fantastically, impossibly idiotic – the one that had zipped through her mind and been quickly scoffed at and ignominiously kicked into touch – resurrected itself: this could be The Future, that's more likely, and she remembered Woody Allen's Sleeper; might she have been cryogenically frozen and stored for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years (stick as many ampersands between the zeroes as you like, her mind couldn't compute anything), only to wake up now, completely disorientated and lacking any memory of the injury which had probably been the reason for putting her into a medically induced coma; anything could have happened while she slept and that would explain why everything looks the same, only different, because it is the same, only different – the buildings and bridges and roads have gone, succumbed to natural forces of weather and decay, maybe accelerated by some kind of disaster, something cataclysmic which is why the people who are here have no technology and are reduced to ancient ways of living; this made much more sense to her than being jerked back into the past and passing through some interstice caused by folds in the weft of the space/time continuum– no, now she thought about it, her new idea made much more sense; she had read somewhere that Time Travel (Forwards) is what we do all the time, and it can seem quickened by sleep, a coma, or cryogenic stasis; yes, she was certain, it explained everything neatly, but also caused her a bitter wave of grief, a fucking tsunami, for all her friends would be long gone and forgotten, and she turned to Emm who was still at her side, and she threw herself into Emm's arms, weeping and sobbing as all the confusion of recent events poured out of her and she broke down, with an afebrile convulsion - simply unable to cope on any level with what had been forced upon her: mentally, emotionally and physically, and her wail echoed around the valley, and Emm held her tight and safe and whispered in her ear, “all will be well, all will be well.”
Where had they come from – those memories of her Mother, when she was a Tableau Vivant Star at The Windmill Theatre during the War – oh my, she had the longest legs Bernie (as she was then) had ever seen, strong and shapely and they carried her elegance when she moved, like a ballerina and was renowned for her ability to stand, still as a statue in some Attic scene sculpted by Phidias – it must be the shock, all of the many shocks which had beleaguered her since waking in the cavern: and she was still trying to piece together the puzzle; but the view from the hillside had really thrown her mind into a turmoil; is this cognitive dissonance, she wondered when you know how something is but the information your senses provide – in this case, her eyes – is at odds with what you already know; and she looked at the detail: the trees were different - though no botanist, she couldn't really tell if the species were the same or not, they just looked different; she could see the sweep of the river, and the lie of the land on either side, without the three bridges at Leaderfoot; and the whole panorama – there's Black Hill over there, to the right, and Gala Hill to the left, and she looked up towards the top of the hill she stood on, but it was difficult to be absolutely sure, so – followed closely by Emm (who seemed to have taken on the role of Bear's Minder) who held her right hand and kept in step with her – she made her way to the left, and gradually traversed the hill until, yes, confirmation: the Middle Eildon stood high and mighty, the largest of the three hills which the Romans would later name Trimontium and build their huge Camp to the North, between the hills and the River Tweed – as it would be named at some future time; why here, and how was it possible, Bear racked her brains and looked down towards the sparkling water, just glimpsed between trees, with no town and Abbey of Melrose on the nearer South bank, no village of Gattonside on the North, no Suspension Bridge yet, to link the two; and to the North West, no white houses at Langlee to mark the start of Galashiels; the same, only different – was she in some kind of pseudo pre-historic version of The Truman Show, was that possible – how else could such a people and place exist, so real, so perfect, so impossible; she had come here first as a child, a family outing with the O'Hooligans and Ogilvys, when the adults and the smaller children made a sweeping ascent by the path, to the shoulder between the two larger hills, while the bigger kids, Bernie (as she was then, and until today), Bunty, Dixie, Angus and the others, took the direct route from the town centre: out to the west by the Cemetery, then straight up the North Hill, which after the initially gentle slope, steepened and, though they were only climbing a mixture of grass and broom, yellow with flowers already, and trying to avoid nettles and thistles which the sheep who grazed here then hadn't reached yet, becoming almost vertical, was mostly a job for both feet and hands, climbing and pulling till they all emerged on the flattened top which had once been (or was yet to be) a fort of the Votadini (is that who I'm with, she wondered, or do they come later, why did I never pay attention to the stories and tales and legends when I was a kid, why did I think it was just a load of old stuff and nothing to do with me, what a fool) and later a Roman Signal Station, part of the relay system which had ploughed straight ahead from The Wall, over what would become The Cheviots, and like an arrow from there to here and then beyond to the Forth; Bear sat down and put her head in her hands, with Emm sitting beside her and still clasping her right; she could feel the heat of the Sun beating down on her head and shoulders, uncovered as they were; she could feel the Westerly breeze bringing with it a smattering of fluffy white clouds which presaged a change in the weather – there, see, on the farthest Western horizon, the dark smudge, barely a murmur in the distance, but it would come sweeping towards them, bringing stormy weather, and her chest tightened already, for he astraphobia always overcame her, smiting her down with migraine and a need to curl into a ball in the darkest place she could find; her mind reeled in the now-turbid air, while her senses kept up a constant barrage of information, all to the effect that this was, is, REAL and not a dream or an hallucination and she'd better get used to it – forget any help from her missing mobile, from her family and friends, if they even missed her yet, or the police, for none of them would know where to start looking, she couldn't even remember herself what she had been doing before she woke in the cave with her neck stitched and had no idea whatsoever about how long ago that was; certainly days rather than hours and maybe even a couple of weeks; she touched the scar and stitches with her fingertips – healing nicely, she'd soon be able to take them out – but that must mean she'd been in a hospital, in August of 2015 after something bad happening to her, something her subconscious had either built a wall around for her own safety, or the memory part of her brain had taken such a thumping, but either way, it was lost just as much as she herself was lost: there would be no Seventh Cavalry to the rescue, no Blues and Twos coming flashing through the valley, all Bernie had were her own wits and wiles, strength and stamina and if it meant submitting to Ugg's carnal pleasures well, worse things have happened at sea and it might not be what she'd choose for herself (a quick glance at Emm confirmed that she would be Bernie's choice of preference) but no worse than spending time with that creepy Martin Elginbrod – WOW – she'd forgotten all about him, or suppressed all the incidents of that slimy night, which she now saw in sharp focus; okay, my memory's fine on that, now I just have to work my way forward from there, one day at a time, and she grinned at Emm and tapped her own head: “it's all in here, Lovely, I've just got to re-connect a few links and we'll know where we stand,” and as she gazed Westward, over the Peeblesshire ranges, she didn't catch the strange look Emm gave her!
Among the Teams (each a Foursome) competing in the Pub Quiz in The City Bar that night, was, of course, as has already been intimated, The Blue Jocks (DI Bruce Bruse, DI Gordon and Sergeant Goldy Brevity and Professor Carolina Moonbeam); The Revenue (Traci MacGillivray, Annabelle and Jeremy MacGillivray and Piers Galveston); The Justices of the Pease (Lord Jock Linkumdoddie, Lord Alexander Samarkand, Hamish MacAlpine Fandango QC and Lady Marion Boyars-Romanov); O'Hooligans' Rool (Bunty and Dixie O'Hooligan, Angus Og of The Bog – looking rather gargoylesque with his two black eyes, broken nose and his head still swathed in a Turban of white bandages – and in place of Bernie Westwater, a substitute, Felix Rosenstiel); The Scribes (Roxie and Trixie Davidova, Jinty Moncrief and Elvira Dumbiedykes); The Fantastic Four (Tuffy Ladywood, Grizzel Baillie, Cecilia Connaught and Lettice Pumpherston); Mrs Worthington's Daughters (Georgie and Corky Corcoran, Felicity Dalwhinnie and Rosebud Lippschtix); The Castaways (Daphne Dumbiedykes, Maude Lyttleton, Jubbly Johanssen and Isadora Kuwschinski) The Golf Caddies (Ello, Ullo, Cristal and Conchita Caddy) and Lulu's Girl Gang (Lulu McMuckle, Dora and Nora McMuchty and Eunice Murdoch); and a late entry, The Press Gang (Tavish Dalwhinnie, Tammy Shanter, Montmorency Glencoe and Tarquin MacWhirter) – with these, and perhaps another two teams I've forgotten to note, together with scores of highly partisan and extremely vocal supporters (though there was not one single incident of a supporting spectator calling out an answer) The City Bar was stretched way beyond the limits of its normal capacity and the rooms upstairs were requisitioned, and further space acquired by redistributing barrels and cases in the cellar (to which no team even tangentially connected with the Law or Taxation was located) and the bar and waiting staff were fair run off their feet, while the Quiz Inquisitor for the night, Miss Sammy Linger, not one to feel either intimidated or beleaguered by such a polite mob, on finding that the speaker system was only working above and below the Bar, fairly bawled out the Questions – beginning with “for what medical reason might someone considerately bring home 'thebacon'” - which went some way towards her being identified as the only daughter of Samson Linger, a former Town Crier of Leith, whose statue still stands at the bottom of Leith Walk, welcoming travellers to the ancient seaport (or turning his back on it, according to some local wags, who have stuck a traffic cone atop his head); the adjudicators, Riddle Rankine and Kenny Cramond, who quickly and deftly checked the completed answer sheets and calculated the scores, both fell down the stairs while returning to the Bar-room with the results and, in the confusion surrounding the arrival of an ambulance and their being swiftly and safely transported to A&E at the Royal Infirmary, all of the sheets went missing, the contest was declared a Draw, every Team won a bottle of 25-year-old Invercockieleekie Single Malt and the evening was described as an unmitigated disaster by Tavish Dalwhinnie writing in the next morning's Scotsman – an opinion which had to be withdrawn and a fulsome apology printed when it was shown the 1) although he had been there, 2) his copy had been delivered at 6.00 in the evening, before he arrived at The City Bat, 3) he arrived a full hour before the first Question was asked, 4) therefore long before any verdict could be considered, let alone given, 5) the missing papers were found later taped under the table at which The Press Gang had been seated; and 6) The Press Gang were found to have the lowest score of the competition; and . . . . . . . . oh, yes – as this writer, having been present at the discovery of the marked and tallied sheets and therefore an earwitness to their being read LOUDLY by the articulate Miss Linger, to all and sundry in the vicinity – the Official Result was: a Victory by One Point for Lulu's Girl Gang, ahead of The Economic Migrants!
Now, wrote Teri this morning, it seems that, in attempting to tell the tales of Bernie Westwater, Martin Elginbrod, The Man with the Size 13 Boots, and The Grassmarket and Cowgate Community Policing Hub Officers, in tandem with The Justice League of Auld Reekie, The Revenue and other interest groups, all of which – were I indexing these tales in a Wikipedia entry would, after the first reference to The Adventures of Daphne and Maude, be followed by ibidem, after ibidem, or more succinctly: ibid, ibid, ibid like the call of the Greater Lesser Spotted Stripy Shady Lady Wood-Pecking Nut-Cracking Nightingale of Berkeley Square – left the party of Day Trippers high and dry on The Bass Rock, or, to quote a deplorably coarse but oft-used expression, which, if I had uttered it in my Mother's presence would have black-affronted her – to wit Up Shit Creek Without a Paddle – so, prompted by my sweetheart, Nikki Marianella, I feel obliged to sail to their rescue: and as it so happened that a dreadful storm blew up on that hitherto fine and sunny afternoon, the party found themselves beleaguered on that tiny isle and dependant upon the hospitality of The Bass Rock Tea-Room and Hostel where, together with Effie Dalkeith, her indefatigable kitchen staff, mischievous waitresses and energetic housemaids, all were accommodated and a thoroughly enjoyable night was spent, with all the hatches battened down and while the storm raged, The Lady rode the swell in her sheltered anchorage and not a single man was present to spoil the fun; and as the storm roared on for the next week or so, and all communication with the outside world was non-existent, the assembled women and girls played many games of Postie's Knock, Blind Dame's Buff, Hunt the Thimble and Monopoly; marathon Tag-Teams played interminable games of Cluedo and Trivial Pursuit in different quarters of the establishment at any hour of the day or night, and pairs, trios and foursomes could have been seen moving from one entertainment to another, while the wine cellars of the establishment became depleted, and the Doughty (not to say Doughy) Cook was obliged to produce many variations of Sea-Gull Pie or Roast Goose to feed her flock; and The Flock Upon The Rock thus entered into the consciousness of the Nation when they were eventually located by a boarding party of the only all-female Lifeboat in Scotland on the 14th day of their tribulations; who were quite surprised to see the happy, smiling and obviously well-fed castaways they had come to rescue; The Lady was scrubbed out and dried out on that first sunny morning since the storms began, and by the afternoon, with all hands on deck, and the Trippers, Tea-Room and Hostel Staff, and a stray cat which had been washed out to sea and found itself adopted by Effie, made their weary, dishevelled and thoroughly shagged out return to Gullane, to be welcomed at The Jolly Boatman where they told such of their tales as were fit for a company which included males of the species and many of them were interviewed for Reporting Scotland by that sweet and delightful reporter, the lineaments of whose face so please my eye, Catriona Granton, and so all became Famous for 15 Minutes as is the Way of the Modern World!
But the seed had been planted on good ground and it took root so that when DI Gordon Brevity happened upon the distinguished bluestocking, Professor Carolina Moonbeam at the High Court that afternoon, where, quite unanticipated and simply coincident on the vagaries of time and tide, she was giving evidence in the case of The Crown v The Marquess of Queensferry who was charged with the unlawful burial in the Pentland Hills and without a permit of his Butler, one Thomas St John Abercrombie, between the 7th of November 1957 and the 1st of July 1962 and with causing one Ricardo Delmonte to personate the said Mr Abercrombie, between the 7th of November 1957 and the 1st of July 1962 on which date Mr Delmonte, having died of an overdose of barbiturates on the 25th of June 1962 was buried as Mr Abercrombie in Mr Abercrombie's family plot at Fairmilehead, Edinburgh, in contravention of Section 15, subsection 12b of The Burials and Cremations Act 1921, amended 1954, which states that only the person named on the Death Certificate may be interred or cremated as the said person; and as The Marquess was very elderly and extremely frail, his Advocate, professional spieler and renowned teller of porkies on behalf of the Ruling Classes and his own pocket, Martin Elginbrod QC spent most of the session arguing that it would be unjust, inhumane, distressing to a nonagenarian, “nay, almost, but for three weeks, a centenarian” and an abuse of his client's Human Rights under Section 27, Sub-section 12 of The European Human Rights Act, for him to be subjected to the cut-and-thrust (at which Professor Moonbeam, already in the Witness Box and sworn 'so help her God' that the evidence she would give would be honest, decent and truthful, burst out laughing, much to the discomfort of Mr Elginbrod and the initial annoyance of Lord Justice Alexander Samarkand who was 'minded to send her down' for 24 hours until being advised by the Crown Officer representing the Procurator Fiscal that Professor Moonbeam suffered from a form of Tourette's Syndrome brought on and exacerbated by being required to wait in long queues for buses running late, or in draughty witness boxes while Counsel waxed and waned lyrical and interminably, at which Lord Samarkand expressed some sympathy for the distress to which the 'cute' (yes, he actually said 'cute' and you can check in the official record that he did) Professor had been subjected and excused her for the afternoon and asked one of the Ushers to escort the 'cute' Professor to the Judge's Chamber at the rear of the Court and cosset her with a restorative cup of tea and a fruit scone from His Lordship’s personal supply, and, when the Usher left her, Professor Moonbeam topped up the tea with a nip of malt from her hip flask and texted Brevity to join her for a sip; and that was how it came to pass that Gordon Brevity signed up Professor Moonbeam as the Fourth Member of The Grassmarket and Cowgate Community Policing Hub's Quiz Team –which competes under the name of The Blue Jocks – it having been discovered at a rather merry Carol Party one Christmas that both Brevity and DI John Rebus, the two Male Members in the Team, regularly wear Police Uniform Issue Blue Boxer Shorts and an anonymously submitted photograph appeared as evidence of that assertion in The Edinburgh and Leith Police Gazette and ensured the only sell-out in the history of that publication (the majority, but not quite all, of the print run still lying under Gordon and Goldy Brevity's Bed in their Portobello flat) and a mention on both Reporting Scotland and Have I Got News For You!
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!
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