Sir Parlane MacFarlane peeled himself away from the sticky welter of entangled arms and legs, for he had an idea and needs must express it before it flitted away like the night moth that had passed and was hidden by daybreak: he felt that exultant tingle which told him he was a bellwether, that his vision would ripple out from this chamber and down through the generations yet to come and be a lasting monument to his vision and his daring – he shook Dominic awake and hushed him, for none must disturb the slumbering babe, Goldilocks, whose very delights had inspired him: “take pen and paper, Dom, and inscribe in your finest chirography, the one none can interpret but thyself, for this is the most dangerous secret imaginable and we must keep it close to our breasts and those whom we may choose, after careful and most exacting consideration, to admit to our number,” and he dictated, while Doubleday's pen scratched and the encrypted letters appeared as by magic upon the parchment!
Sir Parlane MacFarlane threw off the torpor which had cloaked him in procrastination since his chance encounter with the delightfully inventive Black Velvet MacCaroon, the unparalleled and most skilful whore in Embra and, turning a deaf ear to her appeals to him as her “Liege Lord” which would have her clamped into the maiden should such unentitled titling reach his Royal Master's ears – and MacFarlane never doubted that His Majesty King Alexander had ears everywhere and in every Close-Mooth, the length of The High from The Castle Rock to Holy Rude, he shoved open the door to find a blizzard swirling around his legs and he cursed the inclinations which drove him to these peripatetic excursions when better – or, more sensible, or, less virile and cock-driven – men were asleep in their beds in the arms of their wives, or the scullery-maids in their employ, rather than stravaiging through snow-billows in search of fresh holes to plug, “but such is life,” said Sir Parlane, reaching out to catch the blond curl escaping from the hooded cloak worn by the small child walking hand in hand with His Manne Dominic, and when Dominic replied to the raised, questioning, eyebrow of His Master, “aye, sir, 'tis she of whom I spake,” Sir Parlane enveloped Goldilocks in his own cloak and wheeched her down the next Close and through the back passages and so by the rear entrance into his own MacFarlane House and up to his bed – from which Marie Doubleday was swiftly ejected, that he and Dominic might have their play with their new toy!
We woke this morning to the news that David Bowie is dead – quite a shock; all the more so for those of my Aunts who were his contemporaries, and a feeling of numb sadness for the rest of us;
even the Syrians – who had experienced so many untimely deaths first-hand – were quiet and restrained, and I recalled the day when a gang of us children had been playing on the Eildons in the summer heat and had come across an adder, it's diamond-patterned back recognisable to even us city-girls, which had bitten a small boy from Selkirk (why he was there alone, I never did discover) and how I had been inveigled into accepting the onerous task of running back to tell Aunty Crist of our discovery for she always knew 'what to do' and always did – the others bringing the boy down more slowly, for as mugwumps we felt no animosity towards this intruder from that distant Burgh, while the locals in our regular game had plenty of names for the residents of Tokyo or the Pail-Merks from Gala – and finding her sitting alone in the kitchen, it must have been Cook's day off, peeling potatoes and listening to Major Tom on the wireless; and even to this day, that song brings back feelings of ineffable sadness, wondering how the boy, trembling and afraid to move when we came upon him, would have fared had we not, sitting there, all alone and as far from assistance as Major Tom.
The return of incessant rain not only disappeared the Snowmen but also put constraints on all but the unfortunate few peeps who had no choice but to leave our Refuge and venture forth in search of food; I was the ignominious one, drawn by lot, and provided with a list of all the Sunday Papers - apparently among the very barest necessities of life for some of my Aunts and Cousins and was just about to step into the deluge, when I felt a tug at my coat-tail and turned to find a tiny Syrian boy who begged me to try to obtain a copy of the latest edition of Empire – apparently he used to get the Turkish edition at home but hasn't seen it for several months – a true cineaste in the making, he told me he has 36 issues of Empire (Turkish) in his suitcase along with several pairs of socks, two pairs of underpants, five tee-shirts, one jumper, one pair of jeans, a yellow anorak he was given in Greece, one pair of pyjamas and the clothes he is wearing; I waved away the money he offered and told him it was: “my treat.”
“Winter does seem at last to be in the offing,” said Daphne to me this morning, over tea and toast served on Aunty Christ's willow pattern china, as she gazed out at the snow-crusted lawn, and the riot of the small peeps footprints from last night; and she sighed: “they have fled from a strife of which we sowed the seeds and now reap the whirlwind,” and I knew she was thinking of the carving up of Arabia after what she still refers to as 'The Great War', and the creation of artificial vassal states and kingdoms owing fealty to the European Empires; “you should read The Seven Pillars of Wisdom,” she said, indicating the shelf where T E Lawrence's life's work stood, “if you want to understand the desire for hegemony in those parts, the British need to control and determine the fates of peoples around the globe, without heed of cultures and histories that existed before we ever ruled the waves,” and I sat, waiting intently, for this was the place where her father, the great Egyptologist, had spent most of his life, and where Daphne had first met Maude, when they were two children on holiday from Edinburgh, cousins who had been kept apart because of a family feud which had divided their parents' generation, though no-one now remembers what it was about, except that a salmon was involved, and an emerald tiara!
Cristobal Sylvan Ermelyne Dumbiedykes had been named by her Suffragette parents in honour of the leader of the Movement, Emmeline Pankhurst and her two daughters, Christobel and Sylvia: unfortunately, registration of her birth had been the responsibility of her dyslexic father who dismissed the Registrar's attempt to correct his misspellings as Bourgeois Interference with his Civil Liberties and the Inalienable Rights of a Father to name his own Daughter; and so Aunty Crist was lumbered with what she considered a good enough name for one of sybaritic inclinations, but which gave the majority of those peeps, who found themselves obliged to address her in writing, considerable difficulty in ensuring the correct 'wrong' spellings, including her nieces and nephew, and particularly Theresa, the author of this piece, who is always particularly. Punctiliously, conscientious and, therefore, often gets herself into such a muddle that she finds herself weeping over the keyboard and wishing her belovedly rugose Aunt could raze the superfluity and simply be called Sally!
“I think you need to see this,” said Aunty Crist to the shivering Chrysanthemum MacGillicuddy, seated beside her on the sofa; she pressed play and the image of the philandering academic appeared, waxing lyrical about all of humanity being directly descended from Adam and Eve and how his spade work on the Eildon Hills had produced conclusive proof; “and what do you say to those sceptics who may simply pooh-pooh what you are suggesting as a load of dross?” asked Catriona Renton, the prettiest roving reporter on BBC Scotland's screens, and Professor Andrew MacAndrew gave her his famous 'stare' which had been known to curdle milk and reduce students to vomiting, but the doughty reporter returned it with her insouciant, but very genteel, sneer – normally reserved for shady businessmen and murderers – accompanied with the cross-eyes, achieved by staring at the tip of her nose, and this produced a stuttering, fluttering and foaming spittle which was projected from the Wise Man's lips, some landing on the camera lens (which caused some viewers of Reporting Scotland to look out of their own windows for possible snow) and his retort gave rise to considerable chortling and guffaws from Copshie Holm to Tillicoultry and Port William to Wick: “I can Poo Poo every bit as loudly and effectively as them!” he said, and then corrected himself, “I mean pooh-pooh, of course, not Poo Poo,” clapped his hand over his mouth and fainted, his fall, having all the terpsichorean movement and timing which put it on a par with Dell Boy's famous tumble into the cellar on Only Fools and Horses was captured in it's entirety by Camera Girl Lettie MacAloon, of whom much more will follow, no doubt; and Aunty Crist switched off the TV on which they had been watching the recording of the creep's literal downfall and turned to pretty Chrysanthemum who simply said: “serves the Bugger right,” and as a wave of affluenza swept over her, fell sobbing into Cristobal's protective arms.
Aunty Crist was disappointed when she heard that Teri had failed to submit the story about Professor Andrew MacAndrew and his inappropriate stalking of Chrysanthemum MacGillicuddy, of whom she had fond memories from her work as a student helper on several archaeological digs over the past couple of year: “a dear sweet girl, and what hair! so Titian,” she had said, “but let's not kvell over past loves and their sweet memories – and to be punished for Andy Pandy's misdemeanours! so unfair; and you say he used Photoshop? I'd have thought that quite out of his league, the man is a technological Luddite, detests computers because he cannot work them: 'too impersonal' is his shibboleth, I've heard him say the same about a Thermos Flask and Tippex, but he likes to get personal with his students, does he? well, let us leave that for the nonce, my dears, 'twill soon be Twelfth Night and we must make plans: and involve our guests as much as we can, particularly the ones with little English, they seem quite bemused with the television programmes; a Feast is what we need, so let's get all the women together and make our plans, the menfolk can be our pack-horses and gophers – and that includes you two,” she indicated the remaining Wise Men, for MacAndrew had wisely picked up his bags at the gate and made his way back to Edinburgh by train from the Tweedbank Terminus, and at the very same moment that MacAndrew boarded his train there was a loud ring at the doorbell and, when Cristobal answered it, she was delighted to find Chrysanthemum MacGillicuddy standing on the step with a portmanteau and a Selkirk Bannock – Aunty Crist forgot all about the photoshopping Professor, who had been defriended by all his acquaintances, desperate to demonstrate their loyalty to the victim of his stalking and distance themselves from the bullying behaviour of such a bogart: “Chrysanthemum,” she cried, sweeping the girl into an embrace and swinging her into the Hallway, “you still bear that myrrhic fragrance and are so unputdownable that I want to bear you at once to meet the rest of our guests,” and at once she did so, placing her on the accommodating sofa in the Lounge and while one of the cousins poured a cup of strong and alcoholic coffee for her, and another fetched her a blanket, for she had been drenched by the incessant rain, and a third gave her a footstool and a fourth offered her a tray of shortbread and mince pies, and a group of the Syrian children crept in and sat on the floor around her – for there was something exotic about her hair and her complexion and the fullness of her lips and the blush upon her cheeks, all combined with the redness of her hair and the shapeliness of her body, so that she seemed to be the physical embodiment of her given name, which awed them; and Teri dashed off her copy, after fashioning a means of attaching it to yesterday's and, determined not to drink any whisky before she had submitted it THIS TIME, scampered along to Aunty Crist's Study where she rattled it off on the keyboard, did a hasty spell check and clicked on Submit before . . . . .
“The problem with Andy,” said Professor Laudie Lauderdale, as the other two Wise Men sat with Daphne and Maude in Aunty Christ's television room, discussing their colleague who had just fainted during a live interview with Catriona Renton on Reporting Scotland, among much mirth and irreverence, “began when he became fixated on a Student – Miss Chrysanthemum MacGillicuddy – and doxed her contact details on the internet, along with photo-shopped pictures of her in the salubrious settings of his marital home where he still lives in uxorial harmony (or so everyone believed) with his wife of over thirty years, Jemima Umpherston – you must know her, the daughter of Lord Umpherston, the Hanging Judge? co-chairman of the Hanging Committee for the RSA Exhibition?” and when both Daphne and Maude nodded, for they had once been very close friends of Jemima Umpherston before she had thrown off all her Sapphic relationships, upped and married a rather fragile and extremely poor, though rather handsome – if you like that kind of pale, aesthetic and rather effete man – scholar who was commencing on his life's work, a challenge to the accepted Theory of Evolution propounded by Charles Darwin, in which he, MacAndrew that is, claimed to have definitive proof that the Human Race was descended directly from Adam and Eve; and Lauderdale continued: “of course Miss MacGillicuddy, a rather fetching redhead with a the fiery temper so common among her kind, accused him of breaching both her Civil Liberties and her Human Rights and that, furthermore, he had broken every rule on Data Protection which we all have to sign up to and threatened to have his guts for garters and slow roast him over a large brazier in The Meadows and invite every woman in the department to come an feast on Long Pig at the Autumnal Equinox; but of course, she was sent down and suspended for a Term for maligning a respected Member of the Faculty; but we,” he indicated and included his fellow Wise Man, Professor Geordie Jenkinson, “organised a petition calling for her re-instatement and that is due to be presented as soon as this vacation is over; personally, I think poor old Andy has rather cooked his own goose and that interview just goes to show how far gone he really is!” and everyone in the room concurred and by a show of hands it was decided unanimously that Professor MacAndrew would no longer be admitted to Aunty Christ's establishment, so his colleagues went off to pack his bags and leave them at the gate with a note advising him to return from whence he came.
“For a Wise Man, he does talk a lot of Tosh!” cried Daphne, tossing an old sock at the TV, where the rather prepossessing, if pompous, Professor Andrew MacAndrew was still expounding on the origins of Magnificat Man, while Catriona Renton nodded and tried to look suitably impressed, and Daphne continued: “next, he'll say that the Dinosaur Bones were created by God for a bit of fun, to see how far astray we would all be led by Mr Darwin, at which point Professor MacAndrew, with some alacrity said: “and obviously, the Dinosaur Bones were placed in the ground by God, to have a little fun, seeing how far humans with their lack of True Faith would follow the illogical theories of Satan, in the form of Charles Darwin,” and Maude blew a raspberry, while the other two Wise Men, who had been enjoying an origami crafternoon, chucked paper aeroplanes at the set, and everyone laughed!
“The redintegrated articulated skeleton discovered on the Eildon Hills in Melrose has quashed hitherto strongly held belief in the descent of Magnificat Man from Apes,” said Professor Andrew MacAndrew of Edinburgh University yesterday, “for it indicates a direct line of descent from Adam and Eve, and you can put that in your pipe and smoke it!”
“A Guid New Year Tae Yin and A'” echoed through the Hall; “Huzzah!” cried Daphne, “Magnificat,” trilled Maude, as Detective Inspector Gordon Brevity became the First Foot at Aunty Christ's Melrose Home – tall and dark and carrying a coal briquette in one hand and a bottle of the finest amber liquid in the other, somehow managing an impression of maladroit naivety which belied his superlative abilities as a juggler; “this is truly a sign that the Year of Our Lord 2016 shall be the wondrous annus mirabilis Thomas the Rhymer predicted; you are familiar with the prophecies, Gordon?” “oh, yes, Aunt Daphne, in fact I have here a gift for Aunty Christ's Library, Elizabeth Burton's The Life and Times of Thomas of Ercildoune: The Rhymer, which I noticed on my last visit was one she didn't have,” “well, that is great prescience on the part of the most brilliant detective in Edinburgh, since Mr McLevy,” said Goldy, his wife, who had just put her head round the door, “come in, me beloved, before we all die of diphtheria!”
“Aha!” said Tavish, “you have already explained, dear Bernie, that you were following Duncan Doubleday, on that particular watchnight, because your cousins Dixie and Bunty had rescued Martin Elginbrod's two Sex Slaves and were aware that Doubleday was a confederate of Elginbrod's and was himself – not in his capacity as Deputy Chief Constable, but rather as a member of the same Paedophile Ring and confederate, in the same way as his ancestor Dominic Doubleday was to his Master, Sir Parlane MacFarlane, of Elginbrod's; he may be an evil man, he is an evil man, of that there is no doubt, but he is also an experienced Police Officer, acknowledged for his probity, with a long and distinguished career, so he would be well aware that he was being followed; by, the by, my dear, did you notice that he was also being followed by two other young women, one of them a cousin of yourself and the Twins?” and Bernie looked startled, and tried to cast her mind back to that fateful day; she had been placed at the Cockburn Street exit from The City Chambers, Dixie and Bunty at other doors, for none knew which way he would come out – he had been followed into the building by one of the Shottstown Ladies Quick Draw Club, who had alerted those in the vicinity so that all possible exits were covered like a reticulate dragnet; he had crossed over to The Malt Shovel and she remembered two women, one took a seat at a table outside while the other went in and stayed in for a while, then Doubleday had emerged and she had fallen in step behind him, but had she herself been followed? she could not recall; he had entered the Station and entered the waiting passenger lift and she had followed him in – the rest was dark and she did not want to remember, but someone had found her, had known her name, and that someone's quick thinking had brought the Paramedics who saved her life and, “Oh My God!” cried Bernie, her hand to her mouth, “it was Teri – Teri Somerville!” “yes,” said Tavish softly, “I do believe that you owe Theresa for your life, and that is a debenture it is never possible to redeem save through the actions which you perform subsequently,” and Bernie turned her tear-streaked face to him and nodded: “I understand – we must discover what Doubleday wanted to keep hidden and why he tried to kill Tammy and I, and who else is in this Ring of which you spoke!”
“It was at the Spring Gaudy,” began Tavish, then remembered that life for University women might not be the same as for men, so explained: “the Gaudeamus, for Men of the College; anyway – that's when I first noticed this Doubleday; he was attached to Elginbrod, the Advocate's son, or should I say the son of the then Advocate, for the Son is now the Father, and he is now the Advocate; anyway Doubleday seemed like an appendage, an arbuscle; and I wondered if he had crept out of a wormhole, from some other time and place, for in bearing and manner he was like some Mediaeval Squire, belonging to a Knight – though don't get me wrong, he displayed great probity; never drank alcohol so far as I know, he joined the Edinburgh and Leith Police as soon as he graduated, and pounded the Beat down Leith Walk and through Salamander Street and The Docks; your boots turn white with salt there and they are a devil to buff up to the Sergeant's satisfaction, but Doubleday was nothing if not hard-working; he applied himself, earned his stripes, went into CID, made Inspector, then Onwards and Upward till he became Deputy Chief Constable, would have been CC the following year, when old Dougal MacDougal was due to retire, but then some bugger came up with the idea of a Unitary Force - and there you have Police Scotland; an outsider parachuted in and Doubleday bangs his head on the glass ceiling as DCC with not a hope in hell of getting the top job, in His Toon; ah, but it would make any man bitter, but one who's already on the Outside because of his proclivities? whose closest associate shares those proclivities and is probably the richest man in Edinburgh, though few would guess it” and when Tavish paused, Bernie seized the moment – and asked him directly: “what is the connection with us, Tavish, spit it out!”
As he let himself out of the ground level door, Sir Parlane MacFarlane emerged into a night so stelliferous that, even in the narrow close which ran down to the stews of the Cowgate, everything was exposed with a clarity unusual in the smoky town, already earning it's nickname of Auld Reekie; keeping his cloak wrapped around and half covering his face, just in case a party of The Watch with a mittimus for his arrest should catch him abroad, he turned onto The High with it's roof line having the embrittlement of carious teeth, against the brilliance of the starlight behind, and was just stepping around a puddle, from which the Moon shone up at him, when a petulant hand plucked at his sleeve: “why if it isn't my Lord MacFarlane, looking for a Doxy to warm yer loins on this cauld nicht?” and he turned towards the speaker – one of the whoors who plied her trade at night, where the Merchants' and Lawyers' wives came Marketing by day, and he smiled at the thought that Commerce kept no trading hours, only the goods for sale changed: “if it isn't Velvet MacCaroon?” he peered closer, into the shadowed face, half-hidden by a hood; yes, there were the bright eyes, the whites brilliant against her black skin, and despite the exertions of earlier and the cauld which could freeze a man's balls off, he felt the usual stirring in his cod-piece, and moved closer to her: “I'd stop for no other street whoor but you, at this hour, Velvet, but I am short of time, so let's be quick – a silver three-pence for you to swallow me,” and Velvet took his hand and drew him into the close-mooth, and to a dark room, but one he knew so well that he quickly seated himself on the edge of her bed; she unfastened his britches and his member sprang into her practised hands, and as her lips closed around it, Sir Parlane lay back to enjoy the expert fathomings of her tongue, deciding to delay his orgasm for perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes, that she might well have to earn her coin with more energy than she would have expected, but he knew that it would certainly be worth it, for both of them!
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