'I glimpsed a tiny Saurian
Wriggle through the Coppice;
She seemed bereft,
And vilified, though to my eyes,
She had made her sacrifice,
As all must do on this dead Earth,
Who've loved and won, and loved and lost,
And loved and do not count the cost,'
wrote Theresa on her postcard which she then handed to Eunice, the Telegram Girl, who promised to pop it in the box on her return to Gullane, for she was a genuinely kind-hearted and helpful girl, notwithstanding her being in thrall to Lulu, who occasionally worked as a driver and handy-woman for Izzy Dalkeith in her antiques business and also held sway over the twins Dora and Nora, who, now dressed as rather risqué Pirate Girls, were acting as stewardesses and showing passengers where they might stow their hand-luggage and dispose of used tissues and reminding everyone that smoking was only permitted on deck and to please use the boxes dotted hither and thither for their stubs and generally making themselves useful, ever under Lulu's watchful and proprietorial gaze (even though she was not even a member of The Lady's crew, never mind an Officer-of-the-Watch) – Hussy that she is – but I rather like something about her, a virility in her bearing, her hauteur, her stance though she is far too Bold for me.
Now, as is usual on planes – when the stewardesses, always looking delicious in their fitted uniforms, explain with superb grandiloquence and many extravagant arm gestures, which lift the hemlines of their dresses so interestingly, to the olio – their passengers being an eclectic mix of many different peoples, cultures, religions, genders, comprehensions, and lusts – the emergency procedures designed, one would be forgiven for thinking, by a chiropterologist intent on imparting his knowledge of the nocturnal activities of bats to a small boy who is only intent on sucking his thumb, their words fall less like manna from heaven on their captive listeners, but more like the grain cast by the sower in Christ's parable – some on stony ground, some among weeds, and others where the birds of the air will gobble them up and only a few, a very few indeed, on fertile soil where they will send their roots down in search of sustenance and their shoots upwards towards the light and so it was on The Lady where Cristal Caddy – First Mate of the doughty tub – performed this task for the assembled passengers and Skipper Phemie despaired when, one after the other, hands were raised seeking clarification or more detailed explanation about the dangers of icebergs and killer whales, when the decks should be swabbed, where the sailor-girls rest-room is and the hazards of neglecting to belay the aft mainsail or batten down the hatches; and eventually she simply muttered to her strapping Mate: “sod this for a game of sodgers, Matey, just tellem which is the fucking front and which the buggering back and explain about Port and Starboard, if they need a piss just sit them on the rail and tell them to pee into the sea - and send a little prayer to Neptune, and we'll fuck off out of here – oh, and make sure they've all got their life-jackets on the right way round, I don't think some of them have the sense they were born with,” this last as she noticed one of the Famous Five attempt to put her feet into the armholes of her life-jacket and tumble to the deck as she overbalanced!
Now, we are fast approaching a nautical adventure which has been hinted at previously but from which we have strayed – as stray we always must – in order to make some attempt to keep the various strands of our, admittedly, at times, rather shipwrecky (to continue our oceanic theme) narrative progressing as a flotilla may, upon the seas of life; so, before we get carried away on our digression, let us turn away from the party of golfers we have been accompanying, for golfers miss the best sights to be found in this seaside town and port, and let us follow that young woman with the twinkling legs who skips down this cobbled lane, lined with quaint and picturesque cottages of the kind oft-called 'Sea Houses' as they were built many generations ago to shelter those who earn their livings on the foamy brine – yes, that again – and as we turn another corner, Lo! see the vista that opens up before our very eyes and describe the scene as best you may: it is a busy harbour, bustling with countless pennant streaming fishing smacks, trawlers, lobster-catchers, dirty British coasters with their salt-caked smoke stacks, motor car and foot passenger ferries, yachts and dinghies with sails of every colour; the quays and promenades are filled with fishermen and fishwives, trawlermen unloading their catches of the silver darlings, see them spill across the decks. and dealers from all the cities of Britain and beyond are buying and loading their fleets of vans which race off to the finest hotels and palaces with their trays of fish packed in ice; and alongside these scenes of industry and commerce, there are the crowds of sightseers, craning their necks to glimpse any celebrity who might be passing – titled heads of every state in Europe have passed this way, Hollywood Stars, Prime Ministers and Presidents, along with small boys and girls in sailor suits and hats, skipping and dodging between the legs of passengers and crewmen, heaving, rolling and lugging steamer trunks and all other manner of luggage on board one of the mighty leviathans of the sea – ocean liners flying the flags of every state in the world and every great steamer company and all eyes are on the Daily Steamer to Marseilles, due to move off within the quarter-hour with her full complement of passengers and crew, and Lo! she exclaimed to herself, spotting a familiar face among the hustle and jostle, for there is Captain Phemie, waving maniacally as she stands, feet wide apart, four-square and indomitable on the deck of her trusty boat – The Lady – her sleek lines trim and sparkling, her aspect freshly painted, as so too is The Lady; and so the feet nimbly hasten, up the gangway and skip aboard the sweetly spruced-up vessel, where ne'er a barnacle can be seen, for every saxicoline that had clung tenaciously to her keel has been hauled and become jetsam and Phemie, her boat and her crew – for Miss Cristal Caddy is now officially her Mate; and as she pipes her visitor aboard, she – the boarder, Theresa that is, turns and beckons the crowd waiting on the quayside to follow and Phemie bawls out: “this way for The Bass, me Hearties!”
'Who was the doula, what was her name, whence did she come, at whose behest, who assisted at the birth of this behemoth, so richly caparisoned with all the fine accoutrements of rank, of status, of splendour, of power, this fantastical creature of which we make no mention, preferring to choose to display ignorance, rather than acknowledge the truth of the pachyderm whose vast bulk fills and squashes us against the walls, the doors and windows, of this room we inhabit and pretend to call our own?'
And so it was that,on the very next day after the exchange of telegrams, and to the particular delight of the rather sweet Telegram Girl, who had made it all possible, The Fabulous Four arrived in Gullane, for a long-awaited reunion with their sorely missed Fifth, the one-and-only Maude, and the town hadn't seen anything like it since the time Ramon Navarro and his entourage visited many moons ago – in addition to the Four, who were delighted to see Daphne in the Pink, and to renew their friendship with Phemie and to meet Izzy, and all the Caddies, there were also The Scribes who had been devilling away on their researches on behalf of Daphne and Maude and now needed to let their hair down, and quite unexpectedly, Teri and her new Squeeze, Nikki, roared into town on Teri's motorbike and so did her cousin Rosie with her heartthrob Mhari and locals began to wonder nervously if they were going to be invaded by Hells Angels until the girls took off their helmets and at the sight of their pretty and happy features all hearts melted and they were quickly embraced by both the Town and the Trippers; and to top it all, Jubbly, having won her case against Angus (the cheating brute) appeared, disentangled from Kenny, sent a cutting telegram to her Chiropractor dispensing with his services which were no longer required, accompanied by Carmella and her Nannie, FiFi, who clung like a Klingon Friend to Jubbly and wouldn't let her stray more than a short arm's-length; and The Jolly Boatman was fair jumping when they had all squeezed inside and the Bar Manager (Albert Nobbs) whispered to Daphne that she would like to make an announcement and Daphne called for everyone to Shush and hold their Wheest for Alby , so she stood on a chair while her rather buxom Barmaid, Dusty wrapped her arms around Alby's legs for safety and pleasure combined, and said: “it's a great day for Gullane and particularly The Jolly Boatman to have so many delightful and renowned women under its roof and All At The Same Time,” to which there were loud cheers and applause, “and for this special occasion and to celebrate the recent marriage of those two renowned historians and educators, Daphne Dumbiedykes and Maude Lyttleton, we have managed to track down a historic photograph taken in this very room many years ago – before, in fact, any of us present were born, and it has been framed and affixed to the wall and I will ask Daphne and Maude to unveil it – for it shows three famous patrons of The Jolly Boatman and they are His Celestial Highness The Agha Khuker (Professor Renji Subhutteaux), Professor Sir Lancelot Lyttleton and Professor Sir Donald Dumbiedykes – and none of you needs me to tell you who they were, do you,” and a roar of 'No Way' echoed through the room and as Maude and Daphne pulled the cords and the photograph of their Fathers and their shared Godfather came into view there was further applause and cheering and someone sang out: 'Three Nabobs Sat upon a Wall,' to much cheering and everyone began to talk at once – which, together with the amount of alcohol and Irn Bru being drunk caused a richt tohubohu as they are wont to say in Gullane, while Jubbly whispered to FiFi that the omens were favourable and that would tend to portend some rumpy-pumpy tonight, and Phemie squinted out of the window at the moon and muttered darkly to Izzy that 'tubs'll yaw in the wild waters aboot the bass the nicht,' and in the furthest corner of the room, away from the lights and the singing and the fun and frolics, a dark-haired woman wearing sunglasses, a black beret, and a black leather trench-coat, nursed a glass of mineral water and lime and spoke into her mobile phone, while her eyes constantly moved around the room, identifying and memorising all the happy, flushed and excited faces present.
And as for the dubious O'Hooligan Twins – why, they were in an appropriately named pub, enjoying a lock-in with the Shottstown Ladies' Quick-Draw Club in Penicuick, to whence the two very young sex-slaves kept in a state of lethargic abulia, paralysed by indecision, and numbed by a cocktail of cleverly selected and administered drugs, by the vile Martin Elginbrod, had been taken by a small party from the Club who had, while Elginbrod himself was occupied in occupying Bernie Westwater, stolen into Edinburgh through the Stygian dark of night and liberated them from the two imprisoning apartments their owner had placed them in and wheeched them off on galloping steeds into Deepest, Darkest Midlothian and placed them in the safe-keeping of Big Mama Lou who was, after filling them with home-made Scotch Broth and crusty bread, watching over them as they slept that utterly unconscious sleep of the totally exhausted which really only comes after being kidnapped, womanhandled, transported those miles along lonely roads and plonked down in a warm steamy kitchen with an enormous woman who feeds you soup to die for, gives you a foaming, hot, scented, bubbly bath, wraps you in warm, fluffy towels, pats you dry and helps you into a cosy one-size-fits-all unisex onesie, and tucks you into a fresh, crisp bed in an adjoining room with a choice of soft toys and hot water bottles to comfort you for the ten or fifteen seconds it takes for your eyes to close and your gentle snores to fill the room; oh, such dreams those children dream this night; can it really be true that they are no longer possessed by the Master who has been their only companion for, oh it seems, forever, since they were bought from their first homes, his in the Czech Republic and hers in Romania, and brought to these few containing rooms in a place they knew not and from which they were never permitted to emerge – they did not even know each other; while far away, a tiny fumarole close by the surely extinct volcano of Edinburgh, emits just the tiniest hint of steam, is it enough, we ask, to indicate the forces beneath the surface which may be gathering for a cataclysmic venting of such wrath as made the citizens of Pompeii scream and cower and run – or is it just Elginbrod, back home and giving himself a nightcap and wondering which plaything he shall indulge himself with tomorrow - only time will tell!
And as for Tabby Shanter, well, although she was retired from her University post – a useful cover for many years – she would never truly 'retire' from her self; nor had she ever forgotten little Teri Somerville who had been close to her daughter, Tammy; but over the years things always moved forwards, never back – Tammy was now with Bernie Westwater, a cousin of the rather dubious O'Hooligan twins, Dixie and Bunty, and her job at The Scotsman was an excellent position for her to bring particular matters to the fore; the latest, a picture spread on the theft of the Stone of Scone from Westminster Abbey had suggested itself in last year's Referendum on Scottish Independence and, though it had resulted in a majority No Vote, the subsequent sweeping win in the General Election for Ginger Goldfish's Nationalist Party at the expense of the traditional majority party in North Britain (as her employers tended to regard Scotland) had rather upset the apple-cart; she disliked the use of such clichés by her immediate superior – in truth, she disliked him and not only because he had once, carelessly, almost as though it was his droit de seigneur as her Section Head, fumblingly tried to seduce her but her rebuff of him had been swift and absolute and he had never dared make that mistake again for she had made it clear to him that the dossier of photographic (and very graphic those photographs were) evidence of his various proclivities which were not restricted to grown women could be p[ublished and would be, if anything untoward were to happen to her - even such as dismissal; so why was she now remembering Maude Lyttleton – of course, she had told Maude that she connected her with Lady Mede in Piers Plowman and Maude had laughed and said that he was such a cheeky scop, William Langland and in the course of their little tête-à-tête, she and Maude had found that they shared a secret desire, to eviscerate one particular man – among so many, it seems penny-pinching now, to choose but one – and he a rising Advocate from a highly striving family, past members of which had been Gentleman Ushers to the Queen, Grand Masters of the Masonic Order, a cuckold of James the Second (or Eighth you're a Royalist Nationalist Jacobite) and all sharing the one name, the same as the founder of their Dynasty and inherited out of the Stygian darkness from whence He sprang: Martin Elginrod!
It was later that same night, when they were cuddled up in Maude's great round bed – they had come to Edinburgh on the two motor bikes in the afternoon, because Teri felt guilty about abandoning Maude's cats to the erratic care of The Famous Four, but on arrival had found that one of the pretty waitresses from Gennaro's Bistro had taken good care of them – that out of the Stygian darkness that enveloped them, with the curtains drawn tight and all the lights out and the only previous sounds those of the four of them breathing softly, or murmuring in that sated and utterly relaxed persiflage that only lovers truly have, Nikki asked about the telegrams, and while Teri was trying to think what Nikki could possibly mean, Rosie and Mhari reminded her that Ullo had said she was able to read the code; and Teri remembered: “yes, that's right – I can't recall the coded messages, but what Ullo translated them as was 'Dear Aunts, Griselda of Longformacus cited Parlane MacFarlane paternity Matilda; Filbert of Longformacus Paternity Suit against Parlane MacFarlane; Remitted to Dark, who what where when why? Famous Four plus coming to You, The Scribes, End' and Daphne's reply was 'Message Received And Understood, Hasten Here, No Time To Lose; Father Finnegan at Our Lady of Longformacus, Saint Griselda of Longformacus Archives, Aunts Daphne and Maude, End'; and the others clapped and cheered with delight, mingled with wonder that Ullo, so recently become a part of the Extended Clan, was so sagacious at code-breaking – I shouldn't be surprised to learn that she is highly trained in espionage or studied under one of the former savants from Bletchley, said Teri, herself having been approached at University by a rather mysterious lecturer who never seemed to take any classes in her subject of Tautology in Tense Romance Linguistics, but popped up everywhere and seemed to know everything about everyone – she'd even been at that Party, when Celeste O’Keeffe seemed to glow with an inner light and, when Jasmine Ahmedzai stood in front of her, the rest felt that they were in the umbra of a detached celestial body, obscuring the silvery Moon; now what was her name, Shanter, something Shanter, began with a T – Tabitha, Tabby Shanter, that was it, and she had a daughter Tammy, about the same age as me, I wonder who she really was and what Tammy's doing now – oh, goodness, I haven't thought of her for Yonks, and I was so fond of her back then.
Bernie Westwater stood under the fierce blast of hot water and scrubbed herself, outside and in, to remove as much of Martin Elginbrod's DNA as she possibly could; the first thing she had done on returning to her own flat had been to phone Dixie and give a report on her date with Martin Elginbrod – detailed and thorough, neglecting nothing, not even the most intimate details of the man, where he'd been and what he'd done; the kind of meticulous reporting that she had been trained to do, it distanced her true self from the person she had been while with Elginbrod, removing the psychological evidence, the words and thoughts which her mind had recorded and stored, now she was divesting herself of the physical traces and washing them down through the plughole at the end of her bath; this was the part she always enjoyed, alternating scalding heat with freezing cold and then, while she towelled her body, running a lovely, deep and foamy bath for a relaxing soaky soap, which would ensure an untroubled sleep; if she did it properly, Elginbrod's presence would be erased – his clumsy groping, his slobbery kisses, his need for a Viagra before entering and thrusting – unfortunately, the erectile dysfunction medication meant that part of the evening took longer than she would have wished, and he was certainly meticulous – squeezing every last drop of his nocturnal emission from it and managing to fuck her in all three orifices, not to forget her hands and face, which just meant that the cleansing also took a little longer; she suddenly laughed – levity was never far beneath her business-like façade – as she remembered the sight of him, standing naked after their coupling had finished and while she was quickly and efficiently dressing, and getting her first (oh, God, and Last, I pray, Hail Mary Mother of Jesus) sight of him standing there, belly hanging down, his man boobs (bigger than her own – does he take hormones, she wondered) - and the sad little shrivelled prick, and her eyes had found a tattoo, of all things, just to the right of his left nipple (probably done when it would have been over his heart, before he expanded) and which looked like a sturdy penis rising from a little bush of pubic hair and it occurred to her that if she narrowed her eyes it could look like a gravestone, some kind of hierogram, with grass growing at the base and an epitaph, but he was just too far away for her to read the words, and as she bent forward to zip up her boots she could just read the first line 'Here Lies Martin Elginbrod . . . . .' - oh, how very appropriate, considering where his little prick had been that night; and she was still grinning at the thought when, wrapped in a fluffy white bathrobe, with a towel around her head, she was sitting on the sofa, watching the BBC News Channel, when the door opened and her True Love came in, after working late, much later than usual, kissed her deeply on and in the mouth, and handed her a copy of the morning paper: “page 8, it's quite a splash, you'll be proud of me” and Tammy threw herself onto the sofa and threw her arms round Bernie.
Tavish Dalwhinnie slid an early edition of the next morning's Scotsman across the table to Linkumdoddie - “page 8,” he said, sotto voce, “I think you will find it interesting, my old friend”; and, indeed it was true that their friendship, despite the banter – some of it quite vituperative, which they often displayed in public, went back decades, to a day he, John George, a student at Edinburgh University, would never forget: Christmas Day 1950, the day on which he, and Dalwhinnie – who had met each other for the first time – drove the anonymous white, and rather battered, van in which the Stone of Scone was transported from Westminster Abbey to a field in Kent where the actual 'thieves' or 'liberators' depending on one's point of view, were camped; none of the four principals knew their names, they were all from Glasgow Uni – John was introduced to them as Laurel and Tavish as Hardy by their recruiter, a History Professor; and when he turned to page 8, Linkumdoddie was instantly taken back through the past 65 years to that bitterly cold morning, it's skies heavy with snow clouds, for in the photo-spread he saw the van, with two shadowy faces visible through the windscreen, a group of four figures in duffel coats manhandling (well, one of them was a girl, but he couldn't think of a pc term for the labour they were undertaking) a large and heavy object into the van while two others – presumably the drivers, held the doors open, and the third showed the two faces in the windscreen again as the van moved off, with the others, a group on the pavement, watching; the rest of the spread had photographs and short biographies of the four principals and a fifth who joined them at the camp-site, but nothing on the two mystery men from the van – in fact it posed that question, 'who were those two white van men?' and promised readers the answer tomorrow; Jock looked up at Tavish and noted the beaming face and the chuckle in his voice as he said “looks like we're coming out of the cold, Old Chum”; but Jock wanted to know where the photographs had come from, for he'd never seen them before, how did this, and he looked at the reporter's byline with it's now seemingly obligatory octothorpe - #tammyshanter – how did he find them, and Tavish laughed again. “he's a lassie, Jock, Tammy Shanter; not strictly a reporter, she's in the Research Department and had been doing a bit of trawling in British Government Archives, down at Kew, and she put in a bunch of disclosure requests under FOI and one of them was for information about the Stone – and that's what came back, a chemist's folder for holiday snaps with half-a-dozen black and white prints, originals, not even copies, and guess where from, you can't, can you, well it was MI5;” and jock felt himself getting quite heated, as his mind tried to process all this nonsense – why on earth would MI5 hold documents relating to the theft of the Stone, all those years ago – but Tavish was speaking again: “you would expect their Doormen would be rather like Cerberus, burly with big hands to stick in your face, but according to Tammy, MI5's a sweet girl in her early thirties, who couldn't be more helpful - you know, if I were like you and inclined towards young ladies, lassies really, I imagine I'd take a shine to our Tammy – she even itemised all the stuff on the back of the prints, which, if you read Tammy's article, isn't quite so risible as you might think – for instance, they seem to show MI5's code-name for their informer in the Nationalist Group who stole the Stone and went on to infiltrate further, and I'll tell you for free that they named him Parlane MacFarlane,” and Jock began to feel as though he was in a Roundelay, with the refrain of Parlane MacFarlane coming up again and again after every verse, “he seems to have sent them the photos, but he didn't take them, and before you ask, you're looking rather flushed, Old Dear, are you ok,” Jock nodded and took a large sip of his whisky, “well then, the spy in the cab, and I only say that because the snaps seem to have been taken from the back of a London taxi, they show the outline of the window and someone in the Picture Library's a bit of a taxi Spotter, or something like that, and they have the initials ME,” and Jock said that he knew it and before Tavish had time to say the name himself, Jock pulled the rabbit from his hat and snapped back: Martin Elginbrod, and Tavish, quick as a flash, responded: “yes, but the Father, not the Son, eh?”
After he left Jinglin' Geordie's, where the young folk were in the midst of heated discussions, Jock George, Lord Linkumdoddie went into The Halfway House next door, where he was soon joined by Frankie – having finished her shift at the other pub; she kissed him on the lips and sat beside him, where a glass of Irn Bru awaited her: “ma mither telt me no tae get mixed up wi older men like ye,” she looked him in the eyes and grinned, “an ye were older than hur tae”; he laughed and squeezed her hand affectionately; “I was old enough to be her father,” he said, “so I'm old enough to be your grandfather”; “och, stoap mitherin oan,” she giggled and squeezed his hand back: ye ken a luv ye, Jockie,” and he nodded: *it's reciprocated, and I'm sorry if I use words with too many syllables for you”; “och, ye cheeky auld goat – is it yer place or mine the nicht,” she asked; Linkumdoddie checked his watch: “I've got someone to see in here, in 15 minutes, pop up to mine and I'll see you there in an hour, maybe sooner”; “okie doakie, ah'll hae sum denner waitin fur ye,” and Frankie gave him a kiss and sashayed out of the bar, drawing admiring glances from three lads standing at the bar; “yer oan a promise there, M'Lud,” called one of them – a Solicitor's Clerk he knew well: the Legal Fraternity of Edinburgh was like a many-headed Hydra, popping up wherever you went: just as well I have no real secrets, he thought and then called out to the young fellow: “how's your Da, Iain, I've not seen him around The Court for a while,” for Iain had succeeded his father who had succeeded his father who wee Jockie George had run about barefoot in the heather with, when that iain's father had the next croft over from Jockie's Grannie; now Auld Iain McIain had really been a truculent brute of a man, who's treatment of his wife at a time when what went on between four walls was regarded as a matter for a man and his wife an' wha' daur meddle – until Wee Iain, Jockie's pal, turned 16 and beat his father to within an inch of his life and sent him packing, never to be seen in the Glen again; everyone knew what had happened, even the local Bobbie, but no-one in those parts would have spoken in condemnation of the son who had defended his mother; and when he, like Jockie, won a scholarship, his mother and the weans went with him and none of that family ever went back; Linkumdoddie sighed, there had been a lot of water under the bridge since those days, and wondered why his thoughts seemed to be turning back on themselves, but here was Tavish Dalwhinnie coming through the door, looking every inch the louche Edinburgh Criticaster, with his hobnail Ghillie shoes, checked socks, tweed plus fours and jacket, cream shirt under a caramel waistcoat with a pink cravat and his mane of auburn hair above a bearded, drinker's face; he asked the barman for a glass of Laphroaig and pulled out a chair to sit at Linkumdoddie's table; “sic a sicht, Tavish, you'll be giving your Gay fraternity a bad name in that ensemble; are you auditioning for Brigadoon, is it, or have you been transferred to the Farming pages?” at which Dalwhinnie snorted and said he'd eaten better men than Jock George for breakfast, to which his dear old friend responded by asking, “and did you get their cumuppance doon yer throat an' a'"! which produced such a burst of laughter between them and the rest of the drinkers – mostly other hacks from The Scotsman, that for the next five minutes everyone was coughing and hardly able to draw breath, and even the smokers didn't try to move out into the close.
“There is certainly something Plutonian about Martin Elginbrod,” said Uncle Jock to the four cousins, who formed the nucleus of The Justice League of Auld Reekie; “but I am not claiming that he has made a pact with the Devil – I am sure he doesn't believe in the Devil, for if he did, he would surely sign Auld Nick up for ME Enterprises – the Holding Company which manages all of his business interests and quite separate from his legal practise – did I ever tell you, Rankine, Felix, that ME Enterprises has all the publication rights for the Court of Session and the High Court – they supply the stenographers and the sound technicians for every court in Scotland and the reports which appear in the newspapers or in the broadcast media earn them a handsome royalty; Elginbrod is certainly a hard worker and very punctilious, you can't fault him for his attention to detail and he employs the very best technical people in Scotland; he leaves nothing to chance and as the umpteenth head of the family business, he is, like his forefathers – or many fathers – before him, is known for his longanimity – I recall Zhou Enlai, the Premier of China (though he had retired from being Foreign Minister by then) telling me that it was too soon to tell whether the Acts of Union between Scotland and England in 1706 had been a success – he considered Scotland a Beacon in the Age of Enlightenment and was a great fan of Rabbie Burns.....” and Felix burst in asking his Uncle if he had actually met the famous Chinese leader: “oh, yes, Felix; in fact he was sitting just where you are and Henry Kissinger was in your seat, Dixie – it was in late 1970 when the early feelers were being put out for Nixon's visit to China; and six months or so before Kissinger made his own first, and secret, trip to Beijing; they had agreed on the need for an initial contact on neutral territory and Edinburgh was an obvious choice; but I can't go into all of that now; my point is that, as with the Chinese, Elginbrod plays a very long game and leaves nothing to chance; but there is one unusual side to him, a sidereal one,” he paused and Rankine chuckled and said that it was true – Elginbrod reads his Horoscope in every Scottish morning newspaper before the Office opens for business; this morning, in fact, the theme had been about keeping his ears open in places of power, and Rankine had discovered that he was planning to bid for the recording rights for the Scottish Parliament and its Committees; “that's right,” said Linkumdoddie, “there is pressure on Parliament to put the transaction recording, written and electronic, out to tender and I am meeting with Ginger Goldfish in the morning to ask her, either to resist, and prevent this happening, or if she cannot, to at least put safeguards into the process; she is a niece of my good friends and rather distant cousins, Daphne Dumbiedykes and Maude Lyttleton, and we know each other well enough to be able to move beyond the strictly business and speak openly about the worries I have; so far as live and recorded television broadcasting is concerned, that is not in the pot, as it were, for the nonce, at any rate; but mentioning Ginger brings me to another point, Bunty: I wonder if you should make contact with members of Daphne and Maude's close family circle – you are already on its fringes – because I believe you might well find that you have common interests: I am thinking particularly of matters concerning the activities of Sir Parlane MacFarlane and Griselda of Longformacus and the involvement of MacFarlane in the death of Sister Evadne Eglantine, I know that Elginbrod has a similar interest, but with very different motives” there was an almost stunned silence as his young friends absorbed what he had said, broken by Bunty when she suggested that it might be useful if Uncle Jock could perhaps see a friend of theirs – one Angus Og of The Bog, and Rankine – while acknowledging that as Chief Clerk he had access to all of the legal work which went through the Chambers, he had no involvement in Elginbrod's other business activities, other than he could glean surreptitiously, but he did know that Elginbrod had two young lovers whom he kept in flats not far from his Chambers – he had given the girls – he indicated Bunty and Dixie – as much information as he had and Bunty said that The Economic Migrant was on the job, monitoring all of Elginbrod's communications and that their cousin Bernie had managed to get herself picked up by Elginbrod at Daphne and Maude's Wedding Reception and has a date with him tomorrow (she had cancelled the first one complaining of a severe migraine) and he has been calling and texting her a lot, so he seems to have swallowed the bait; and Dixie told them about The Shottstown Ladies Quick-Draw Club's arrangements to kidnap the two sex-slaves and put them into protective custody at their Clubhouse in Penicuik; Uncle Jock was pleased to see that the younger generation was demonstrating its ingenuity – and it was just at that moment that the door opened and he glanced up to see the newly promoted Detective Inspector Gordon Brevity and his wife, Station Sergeant Goldy Brevity enter, accompanied by Goldy's cousin, the sublime WPC Isa Urquhart; Linkumdoddie rose from his seat and beckoned them to join the group – “I don't think you all know each other particularly well, although I am sure that your paths have crossed a great many times, perhaps obliquely, perhaps tangentially, but I feel that it will be useful to introduce you all and give you the opportunity to get to know each other,” and he invited the officers from The Grassmarket and Cowgate Community Policing Hub to sit with the Justice League of Auld Reekie and called to Frankie, the barmaid he was so fond of, to send over drinks for everyone; and she gave him a wink, and he winked back and nodded.
Now it will, of course, be remembered that Lord Linkumdoddie, when he was plain wee Jockie George, biding in the cottage where his Grannie had been born, in a heathery glen in the West Highlands, a cottage with no name, just the number 5 painted in a large white numeral on the dark age-and-weather-hardened front door; what happened to cottages number 1 to 4 wee Jockie never knew, except that his Grannie used to tell him tales of the olden days and of whole families evicted from their homes to make way for sheep – The Damned Clearances, she called them, and wee Jockie learned to hate the Wicked Duke who had treated his tenants so harshly and burned out their homes so that no others might move in; old Grannie George knew a lot of Burns' by heart and on dark nights when the small boy and his old grannie sat by the peat fire, sipping cocoa and listening to the wind howl through the glen, she told him stories, recited poems and sang the songs – the Old Scotch Sangs Ma mither Sang Tae Me; and she called him by a strange name she had culled from Burns – Linkumdoddie, which she said meant “Bonnie Wee George” (Dod being the name commonly used in Scotland for anyone Christened George) for she was mother and father to the boy, and aside from from her own brother's family in South Uist, and Jockie's mother's sisters' families last heard of in France and trying to get visas for Britain or America, though no word had come from them, her closest living relation since her son and his young wife had been sent to a Concentration Camp in Poland when the boy was just two and who now knew whether they were alive or dead – John for his membership of the German Communist Party and his wife for being a Jew, at a time in the mid-thirties when anything could be declared a Crime Against The State, and anyone punished for that very anything, for this was in the frightening years of the Civil War in Spain and before the Second World War and the British Government seemed desperate to abase itself before the Fuhrer and his demands – but not so very long after that War, when he was an up-and-coming young Advocate, accepting any brief which came his way, but also beginning to feel that access to the Law was only easy for people with money and that wasn't fair, or just, and that he needed to be true to ideals which had cost his parents their lives and opposed to the ideas which had destroyed them, and certainly no dittohead, simply being a mouthpiece without either a mind or a conscience, John George, no longer so wee but still filled with the memories his Heilan' Grannie had given him, was able to trace the movements of his parents through the Nazi system: they had been separated almost immediately and passed through a series of Camps, each worse than the previous until they both perished in Gas Chambers within six weeks of each other in the Winter of 1944/5 – John managed to visit both Death Camps and obtained some ash from each (not his parents, probably only wood-ash, but that didn't matter, for individuals were just drops in that ocean of blood, but he kept these ashes, in memory of all who had met the same fate, in a small, black reliquary, a petrous box which he had been given by one of the survivors whom he had met and most significantly, a man who had known both his parents before they were rounded up with him in the frenzied days after the Reichstag Fire; the man, broken in body but never in spirit, said that the only day he should perhaps rue in his life would be the day he joined the KPD as a sixteen-year-old delivery boy. but he refused to do that, believing that the worst day for humankind was the day Adolf Hitler had been conceived, like some sort of Satanic version of the Immaculate Conception of Christ and to blame any decision or event in his own life would be taking responsibility away from the perpetrators – like saying a woman who smokes in public is asking to be raped; and John George believed that he could identify with the Christ Martyr as representing the Martyrdom of all peoples of all religions or none, simply because they are different from someone else; so when Jock George, Lord Linkumdoddie as he had become on his elevation to the High Court, heard from his nephew Riddle that Martin Elginbrod had called him a Pinko, he laughed and said that No, he was a Red, and from his German-Jewish Mother he was also himself a Jew with the same blood in him as that shed by Jesus on the Cross and like his Old Grannie, a member of the Free Church of Scotland and an Elder in his local congregation – “so Elginbrod can put that in his pipe and smoke it, for all I care”; and he had arranged to be in Jinglin' Geordie's that evening and while seeming just to be an old man sipping a Hot Toddy and doing the evening crossword, he had listened carefully to the discussion of his nephews and nieces at the adjacent table, and eventually he said to them: “I will tell you a few things you may not know about yon Elginbrod,” and his young relations drew their chairs closer to his and pinned back their lugholes, as he advised them to do!
It could hardly be described as a putsch, not even the beginning of a putsch, but had Martin Elginbrod QC, the suave, elegant, debonair, articulate, unruffled and always courteous Advocate, been aware that at the close of business, his Chief Clerk, Riddle Rankine had strolled along the High Street, turned into Buccleuch Street and down The Scotsman Steps – his usual route to Waverley Station for his train home; but this time, he turned into Jinglin' Geordie's, a pub halfway down the narrow close, and at a back table joined his cousin, Felix Rosenstiel (Jubbly Johannsen's Solicitor, and two other cousins, the O'Hooligan Twins, Dixie and Bunty, Elginrod's ears would have begun to twitch – all the more so had he glanced around the bar and noticed the elderly man seated alone at a different, but extremely near table, sipping a steaming Hot Toddy, for this was none other than Lord Linkumdoddie, Chief Justice in the Family Division of the Court of Session and – oh how small a world is Edinburgh – Uncle Jock to each of the four cousins seated almost in his lap; now – contrary to Elginbrod's outburst earlier, Linkumdoddie is certainly no dittohead, he is a man of extremely independent mind, dedicated to serving not merely the Law, though he would always strive to ensure that it is upheld, in spirit if not always quite exactly by the letter, but more so Justice, and had Elginbrod realised that the purpose of the meeting of the foursome was to begin to disinter certain facts about Elginbrod's life and works, beyond such as were already within their combined ken, and that these four were certainly not neophytes in the discovery of nefarious goings-on, and the tantalising truths which all of us – or, at any rate, those of us who are of a similar disposition to or indeed ilk as, Elginbrod – for between them, and with some discreet guidance from their Uncle Jock, freely given and gladly too – they had years of experience in digging beneath the many layers which, with time and perhaps even a whiff of sulphur in the air that they breathe, certain prominent citizens had effectively cloaked themselves, and dragging them, yelping and mewling into the bright light of publicity, not, it should be added, for their own material benefit, but rather because like their Uncle Jock, they love the idea of Justice, which is perhaps wryly, with tongue in cheek, they have secretly dubbed themselves, The Justice League of Auld Reekie!
Almost incandescent with fury, Martin Elginbrod, not normally one to show emotion, raged at his Clerk, Riddle Rankine, "he's an imbecile, a superannuated dittohead, that arselicking, shitshovelling fogdog of a pisspot, Linkumfuckingdoddie, what's he thinking of, she's a fucking Lezzie, furcrissakes, giving her custody of the brat, her husband's disconsolate, had to cancel his holiday in the Caymans with his secretary, it's so unfair, and abusing me and casting aspersions on my submission and my clothes, not to mention my fees, see if you can dig up anything on Lord Fucking Linkunstinkumdoddery he's a Pinko, a fucking Commie, there's a good chap, this time tomorrow - I want to bury him!"
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